Friday, September 30, 2011


My own view is that there are sufficient allowances in the law to have enabled the judge to have thrown out the case. I think Bolt was simply the victim of a hostile and illogical Jewish judge.

For understandable reasons Jews tend to be very sensitive about any hint of racism. Mordechai Bromberg should have recused himself from the case.

As it is, he is a disgrace and a burden to his community. Taking part in such an act of gross censorship against quite mild comments reinforces the Leftist and Arab claim that Jews are the modern-day Nazis. As a strong supporter of Israel I could not deplore Bromberg's activities more. He has made himself an enemy of Israel by reinforcing the claims of its critics.

Four current articles below -- JR

Andrew Bolt's response

IT IS time we put aside racial and ethnic divisions. As multicultural Australia strives for harmony, these distinctions merely reinforce existing barriers.

I am the son of Dutch parents who came to Australia the year before I was born. For a long time, I have felt like an outsider here, not least because my family moved around so very often. You know how it is when you feel you don't fit in. You look for other identities, other groups, to give you a sense of belonging, and perhaps some status.

So for a while I considered myself Dutch, and even took out a Dutch passport.

Later I realised how affected that was, and how I was borrowing a group identity rather than asserting my own. Andrew Bolt's. So I chose to refer to myself as Australian again, as one of the many who join in making this shared land our common home.

Yet even now I fret about how even nationality can divide us.

To be frank, I consider myself first of all an individual, and wish we could all deal with each other like that. No ethnicity. No nationality. No race. Certainly no divide that's a mere accident of birth. So that's the background to the calamity that hit me yesterday.

That's why I believe we can choose and even renounce our ethnic identity, because I have done that myself.

But I also believe that many people now increasingly do insist on asserting racial and ethnic identities, and that we increasingly spend money and pass laws to entrench them. I think that a terrible pity, even a danger, because surely in a multi-ethnic community like ours it's important to stress what unites us, not what divides.

As you might know, I have argued against this trend. For instance, and this is what brought me to the court, I have written about what seems to me an increasing trend of people to identify as Aboriginal, when even their looks loudly suggest they have ancestry drawn from many "races" or ethnicities, especially European.

In two columns in particular - and that's where this misery started - I wrote about people who, it seemed to me, had other options than to call themselves, without qualification or hyphens, "Aboriginal". They included nine fair-skinned Aborigines who responded not with public arguments, but with a legal action in the Federal Court to have my articles banned forever, and me prevented from ever again writing something similar.

I'm talking about people such as an Aboriginal lawyer whose father was British, an Aboriginal activist whose own sister identified as non-Aboriginal, and an Aboriginal writer whose father was born in Austria.

In those articles I wrote that I did not question the genuineness of their identification. I did not even go as far as did Professor Larissa Behrendt, one of those who took me to court, who nine years ago declared that the definition of Aboriginality needed to be tightened, or "you run the risk of having the parameters stretched to the ludicrous point where someone can say: 'Seven generations ago there was an Aboriginal person in my family, therefore I am Aboriginal'."

To be clear: not once did I say that these people had no right to call themselves Aborigines. I've always accepted that they do.

I am too worried now to quote directly from what I did actually write, but my argument - which Justice Mordecai Bromberg of the Federal Court yesterday rejected - was that such people had choices. They could choose to identify as Aboriginal, or as some other ethnicity in their ancestry, or, as I do, as Australian. Even as an individual.

Indeed, they could do as the former sprinter Patrick Johnson once put it in his own case: "I have the best of both cultures, of a couple of cultures. I mean, Dad's Irish. I'm Aboriginal as well."

As well. And, in fact, since I wrote my damn columns two years ago, I've seen that one of the people I wrote about has indeed since described herself as someone of many heritages - "of English, Jewish and Wathaurung descent".

Two years ago, I would cheerfully have argued that this acknowledgment of a multiple ethnicity was healthier, and truer, in such cases than insisting on only being Aboriginal. But not today. I no longer dare.

I yesterday learned I had breached the Racial Discrimination Act, as interpreted by Justice Bromberg, and I must now be very, very careful about discussing anyone's identification with any ethnic group or "race" in multicultural Australia.

Here is a relevant part of his judgment:

"At the core of multiculturalism is the idea that people may identify with and express their racial or ethnic heritage free of pressure not to do so."

In fact, it seems from Justice Bromberg's judgment that it is against the values of the Racial Discrimination Act for me to write columns likely to "pressure" people to give up some racial identity.

Again, I quote: "Such pressure may ultimately cause a person to renounce their racial identity. Conduct with negating consequences such as those that I have described, is conduct inimical to the values that the RDA seeks to honour. "People should be free to fully identify with their race without fear of public disdain or loss of esteem for so identifying."

To argue against their choices is apparently "destructive of racial tolerance". And, I now find to my astonishment and utter dismay, the arguments as expressed in my articles are also against the law.

CRUCIAL to Justice Bromberg's finding is that fair-skinned Aborigines such as the claimants do not choose their ethnic or "racial" identity, even though one of the nine in the court action against me conceded in court that her own sister disputed her account of their genealogy and did not consider herself to be Aboriginal.

If Justice Bromberg's view is correct, I would be even more depressed than I am already. It would have grave implications for our multi-ethnic or "multi-racial" community. Must we always be defined by our ancestry, trapped forever in some box of race? Is someone with even just 1/128th Aboriginal ancestry forever an Aborigine, and Aborigine only?

Well, yes, suggests Justice Bromberg's judgment - as long as that person felt Aboriginal and other Aborigines approved. And this must be the law, end of debate, even if many of us disagree - even though, as His Honour wrote, "the perception of many Australians of an Aboriginal person will no doubt be influenced by the stereotypical images of a dark-skinned Aboriginal person in outback Australia".

But I must not go further. I may breach the law.

True, having declared my columns unlawful, Justice Bromberg did insist he did not mean to "suggest that it is unlawful for a publication to deal with racial identification including the challenging the genuineness of the identification of a group of people".

Oh, really? Believe me, I wouldn't ever want to test that assurance after going through what I have -- two years of worry, two weeks in court, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs, just to test whether my columns could pass this muster.

And, yes, Justice Bromberg suggests I did bring all this upon myself, not because of my opinion (even though he condemns it) but because of the way I expressed it.

After all, I used "mockery, derision (and) sarcasm" in writing my columns, and this could offend and humiliate people - although, frankly, the most offensive thing said by anyone in this case was the vilification of me by the claimant's own barrister, Ron Merkel QC, who accused me of having a eugenics approach towards race - the approach which he said was behind the Nazis' Nuremberg race laws. There was even an attempt to paint me as homophobic.

I also made mistakes, Justice Bromberg said, although none seemed to me to be of consequence. Moreover, when I wrote that none of the fair-skinned Aborigines I'd mentioned had chosen their racial identity for "anything but the most heartfelt and honest of reasons", people would think I wasn't being "genuine".

Justice Bromberg also said I'd used "derisive" comments "that have little or no legitimate forensic purpose to the argument".

His Honour cited a long list of these bad comments of mine, such as "seeking power and reassurance in a racial identity is not just weak" and "it is also divisive, feeding a new movement to stress pointless or even invented racial differences". FOR expressing such views, in such language, I have lost my freedom to put my argument as I did.

And be warned: use such phrases as those yourself, and you too may lose your right to speak.

But as I say, Justice Bromberg insists he hasn't stopped debate on racial identification, unless, apparently, your adjectives are too sharp, your wit too pointed, your views too blunt, your observations not quite to the point, your teasing too ticklish and your facts not in every case exactly correct.

And even then, having jumped every hurdle and written with the forensic dullness of a Reserve Bank governor, you will run the risk of a judge deciding that whatever you've written is, after all, the very opposite of what you really meant.

Despite Justice Bromberg's assurances, I feel that writing frankly about multiculturalism, and especially Aboriginal identity, yesterday became too dangerous for any conservative. It's simply safer to stay silent, or write about fluffy puppies instead.

And so the multiculturalists win. They win, because no one now dares object for fear of what it will cost them in court. Hope they're satisfied, to win a debate not by argument but fear.


Law used against Andrew Bolt has no place in a society that values freedom of expression

by: George Brandis

WHEN, in 1995, the Keating government amended the Racial Discrimination Act to outlaw "racial vilification", the opposition warned that the prohibition went too far. Then Liberal Senate leader Robert Hill said the language of the amendment, "by making it unlawful for a person to do an act in public that is reasonably likely in all the circumstances to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people if that act is done because of the race of the offended person or persons . . . presents an unacceptable threat to civil liberties in Australia".

The government dismissed with contempt the Liberal Party's concerns about the effect of the new provisions on freedom of expression. Then minister for immigration and ethnic affairs Nick Bolkus, apparently oblivious to the Orwellian resonances of his rhetoric, described the conduct that the bill sought to outlaw as "speech crimes". He said: "They are crimes which society and government have recognised need a legislative response because the behaviour that attaches to them is such that we can do without it and it has a deleterious effect on our community."

Last Wednesday, when the Federal Court gave its judgment against Andrew Bolt in a case brought against him by a group of "fair-skinned Aborigines" relying on the 1995 amendments (in particular section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act), the prescience of Hill's warning became apparent for all to see. The opposition does not criticise judge Mordecai Bromberg for reading the act in this way. Whether he was right or wrong in law is a matter on which, should there be an appeal, a higher court will have the final say. What his judgment reveals is just how far-reaching the effect of those amendments is.

Three points should be made about the consequences of section 18C, as revealed by the Bolt case.

First, it is clear that freedom of political expression in Australia is subject to a significant new constraint, which had not existed before. It is in the nature of political argument that it is commonly offensive to those who have the opposite view.

Like most Australians, I find the flagrant dishonesty of the carbon tax offensive. I find the shameless amorality of the Malaysia Solution offensive, just as I am offended by the hypocrisy of moral posturing by a government that is prepared to trash the most elementary human rights standards.

By making the reasonable likelihood of causing offence or insult the test of unacceptable behaviour, in any political context, section 18C is a grotesque limitation on ordinary political discourse. While some have pointed out the analogy with the limitations on free speech in the defamation laws, the threshold at which speech may be unlawful because it is defamatory is much higher: the traditional formula is that it must be likely to bring the victim into "hatred, ridicule or contempt". There is all the difference in the world between that standard and making unlawful speech merely because it causes offence.

Second, it is wrong and, indeed, dangerous to regard the question as one of balancing of interests. In a liberal society, freedom of speech and expression -- and their corollary, freedom of the press -- are not interests to be weighed in the scale but fundamental rights, without which individual liberty cannot exist and democratic governance cannot work. It is true to say that they are not absolutes, as defamation law, and laws criminalising sedition or incitement of violence demonstrate. But English law has always defended freedom of speech jealously and read those necessary limitations narrowly. It is for this reason, for instance, that traditionally, the courts would not issue an injunction to restrain a threatened defamation. The legal limitations on freedom of speech and of the press are necessitous exceptions to a strongly defended general rule, not a counterweight.

Third, restrictions on freedom of political discourse inevitably lead to restrictions on political opinion itself. There is very little distance between speech crime and what George Orwell called thoughtcrime. What section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act seeks to do, by prohibiting the expression of political views that mainstream society finds unattractive and objectionable, is to penalise the holding of those views at all.

Is it really the business of government to be telling people what they may or may not think? I suppose the whole point of the political correctness movement is that the answer to that question is yes.

But the conceit that government should presume to sanction what may properly be thought as well as what may properly be said is inimical to the most fundamental values of a free society.

It would be nice to try to explain the Bolt case as an example of the unintended consequences of poor draftsmanship and legislative overreach. I fear it is nothing of the sort. It is precisely what those who amended the Racial Discrimination Act in 1995 intended to achieve. We should, in that sense, be grateful to Justice Bromberg for exposing its full implications.

Section 18C, as presently worded, has no place in a society that values freedom of expression and democratic governance. If the Bolt decision is not overturned on appeal, the provision in its present form should be repealed.


Herald and Weekly Times weighs up appeal against Bolt judgment

LAWYERS say an appeal by columnist Andrew Bolt and his publisher the Herald and Weekly Times would face significant obstacles. HWT, the News Limited-owned publisher of the Herald Sun, is not expected to decide on any action until next week.

Bolt used the Herald Sun to air his feelings. On the tabloid's front page yesterday, he wrote of his shock at the decision, saying: "I cannot believe this is Australia, a land of free speech."

Inside the paper he continued: "For expressing such views, in such language, I have lost my freedom to put my argument as I did. "And be warned: use such phrases as those yourself, and you too may lose your right to speak."

Constitutional lawyers are divided on the prospect of any appeal based on the freedom of speech provision in the Racial Discrimination Act. Lawyers and academics contacted by The Australian said if an appeal were mounted, the more likely approach would be to question interpretations of the act.

One constitutional lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous, said the High Court would first need to decide whether the matter deserved deliberation: "The High Court would be quite nervous because they've taken quite a strong line on that freedom implied in the Constitution."

Another constitutional law expert pointed towards Coleman v Power & Others (2004) as the most relevant case.

In that matter, the High Court overturned a ruling against a Townsville student, Patrick Coleman, who was convicted under the Vagrancy Act for yelling abuse about corruption at a policeman.

The Coalition has signalled it will try to amend the Racial Discrimination Act if it wins office, branding it a "terrible statute".

But the Gillard government yesterday affirmed its support for the race laws, and backed the independence of the judiciary in reaching the Bolt verdict.

Opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis said the ruling of Federal Court judge Mordecai Bromberg had exposed a legal flaw that limits free speech.

"The fact is today in Australia we are not free, and journalists, commentators, ordinary citizens are not free, to make critical or unpopular remarks," Senator Brandis told Sky News.

But the plaintiffs continued to celebrate the win, with former ATSIC commissioner Geoff Clark saying he hoped the decision would make people think about their views on racism. "Racism is entrenched in society - I'm probably racist myself in some regards - and we have to accept some things can't be tolerated," he told Melbourne radio station 3AW.

The decision was criticised by some, including Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes, who said it "strikes me as profoundly disturbing". The judge's claim "that his judgment need not affect the media's freedom to publish reports and comments on racial identity is clearly absurd", Holmes wrote on ABC's The Drum website.


Australian Judge Censors Speech About Affirmative Action and Fraud in Racial Set-Asides

Comment on the Bolt case from America -- by lawyer Hans Bader

Political “commentator Andrew Bolt ‘was found guilty Wednesday of breaking Australian discrimination law by implying that fair-skinned Aborigines chose to identify as indigenous for profit and career advancement.’ A judge ‘said he will prohibit reproduction of the offending articles,’ and ‘Bolt and his publisher must meet with the plaintiffs to discuss appropriate court orders that would reflect the judgment.’”

This is an extremely damaging blow to free speech. The problem of fraud in affirmative action programs is neither new nor rare. People who are not minorities often pretend to be minorities in order to obtain benefits under affirmative-action programs and racial set-aside schemes (The Massachusetts Supreme Court upheld the firing of two brothers who pretended to be black to receive preference in hiring). And people often push the envelope in claiming minority status when they have only a small fraction of non-white or minority ancestry. (For example, beneficiaries of affirmative action included people who were only one-quarter Hispanic, under a consent decree in the U.S. v. New York City Board of Education case.)

Australia does not have an equivalent of the American First Amendment, but that is no excuse for the judge’s verdict, since the speech restrictions in the Australian Racial Discrimination Act contain an applicable defense of “fair comment.” The judge, Mordy Bromberg, did not deny that the problem of fraud in affirmative-action programs existed, and claimed that “nothing in the orders I make should suggest that it is unlawful for a publication to deal with racial identification, including by challenging the genuineness of the identification of a group of people.” But he refused to allow the defense of fair comment mandated by the statute, because, he said, “of the manner in which that subject matter was dealt with” by the commentator.

But in truth, the principal thing distinctive about the political commentator’s “manner” was his viewpoint: he was citing affirmative action fraud to criticize affirmative action programs, rather than just to highlight particular undeserving non-minority beneficiaries of it (as even left-leaning journalists occasionally do).

The judge was offended by his viewpoint, and used that as a pretext to gut the “fair comment” defense recognized by law. As Popehat notes, people claiming to be Australian aborigines (and thus eligible for affirmative action) include people whose “face is paler than” his “Scandinavian ancestors.” The judge did find that some of Bolt’s many factual contentions were erroneous, but in truth, that was not the judge’s chief concern, as his railing about Bolt’s alleged tone (“provocative,” “inflammatory,” and “gratuitous”) and the court’s rejection of literal truth as a defense indicated (“To establish the defence of fair comment the requirement is not merely that the facts stated are true.”). The judge has indicated that he will issue “orders prohibiting the republication of the newspaper articles,” even though those articles made valid points.

In addition to being judicial overreaching, the judge’s decision flouts free-speech provisions contained in international treaties signed by Australia like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The right to criticize affirmative action is a free-speech right, even in contexts where free speech is quite limited, like the public employment setting, where the U.S. Supreme Court’s Connick v. Myers decision allows greater restrictions on speech.

For example, the California Department of Corrections attempted to fire employee John Wallace after he angrily denounced its affirmative action plan. The California Court of Appeal, however, found that his criticisms of the plan were protected by the First Amendment, and barred Wallace’s firing, in California Department of Corrections v. State Personnel Board, 59 Cal.App.4th 131 (1997).

The Australian court ruling came in the case of Eatock v. Bolt.


Mr Garnaut, climate policy should be questioned

by: Henry Ergas

ROSS Garnaut has an unusual concept of democracy. The Prime Minister goes to the country promising "there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead". Once in office, she then proposes to implement one, with the added twist of making repeal by a future government prohibitively costly. Yet, according to Garnaut, rejection of the government's proposed legislation would amount to a failure of Australian democracy on a historical scale, indeed to "a corruption of democracy" caused by "distortion of reality and abuse of truth".

But then again, Garnaut has insights ordinary mortals are denied. Talk about access all areas. For, as he told the the Joint Select Committee on Australia's Clean Energy Future Legislation earlier this week, he was assisted, in his work on the US, "by the top advisers to the President: people who report directly to the President of the United States". And how many of the great unwashed have "joined Jiang Zemin in reciting the Gettysburg Address with the fruit at the end of a meal"?

So it is even more striking that Garnaut accepts that in the US "there will be no carbon price nationwide". As for India, "for quite a while, total emissions will increase". And in China too there will be a "large increase" in emissions, albeit less than without any efforts aimed curbing their growth. Moreover, Garnaut recognises, in reducing global emissions, "there is no chance of success unless all substantial countries do their fair share".

All that, one might have thought, suggests abatement by Australia risks being both futile and costly. And that locking the country into the government's carbon scheme is at best dangerous, at worst reckless. Not so, says Garnaut. Rather, to express that concern is a distortion of reality.

Quite how stating the obvious distorts reality, Garnaut does not explain. Nor does he explain where the risks have been assessed, and shown to be worth bearing, of a scheme whose own proponents boast it would be prohibitively costly to unwind. Not that that worries Garnaut. Rather, he asserts, the government's proposal involves "reasonable economic costs".

As best one can tell, that assertion relies on Treasury's modelling. Yet no scientist would accept that modelling. Not because it is necessarily wrong but because the models and data on which it relies is secret, and hence incapable of being tested.

That is bad enough. But it has also become increasingly clear that Treasury's results depend on assumptions that were not adequately disclosed.

Three such assumptions are at the core of Treasury's recent replies to questions I put to them some time back. A first relates to the global framework for carbon emissions. Treasury, in its modelling report, assumed there would be a harmonised, global carbon price by 2016. But how was such a price established? After all, prices don't fall from the sky; rather, they emerge from the interaction of demand and supply in markets. And usually that requires some form of trading. So how was that trading going to occur, given that many key countries did not have, and would not have, any form of carbon pricing in place?

To this, it appears, the answer is as clear as mud. "The modelling does not rely on an assumption that there is a perfectly harmonised global emission trading scheme", Treasury says. But, it now admits, it does assume that even in countries such as the US, there is "some mechanism" that "allows individual firms or governments themselves to trade abatement with other countries". What mechanism? No one knows. Where is the legislation that would put such a mechanism in place? No one knows. And what happens to the assessed costs if there is no such mechanism? Again, no one knows. And since the models and data are not public, nor will they, least of all the hoi polloi who will pay the price.

In short, Treasury has assumed away the problem. Indeed, it has done so even more starkly than in its work on Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme. Then, the base case (against which the costs of the CPRS were assessed) involved a world without abatement targets. This time, however, the modelling starts from the premise that global abatement efforts are in place, even after the commitment period for Cancun pledges ends. So the costs for Australia are only assessed assuming global abatement will occur and persist.

It gets even better. As I suggested on these pages, and at greater length in a post on the Catallaxy website, the modelling involves an extreme assumption: that for all emissions outside Australia (so 98 per cent of emissions worldwide), merely increasing the carbon price costlessly allows emissions reductions, as carbon-saving innovations rain, like manna from heaven, on to carbon emitting processes.

In the Senate Select Committee on Scrutiny of New Taxes, Treasury claimed otherwise, saying the "marginal abatement cost curves" that effect this miracle were "fully costed". Now it accepts my contention was correct. How big an effect would this have? Likely large, as it implies a greater contraction in emissions-intensive industries than Treasury's results suggest. But can we know for sure? Not without the models and the data.

Finally, Treasury constantly repeats the claim that its modelling shows there would be no adverse impact on employment. But it now admits that in the model it uses, it takes employment five to 10 years to recover from a major shock, such as imposing a carbon tax. And here the price rises substantially each year. So how do we get the result that there is no impact on employment? Treasury waves this question away, saying that because employers will foresee carbon price rises, the impacts of continuing increases will be slight. But if anything, the exact opposite is true: because employers will know the price will rise each year, the immediate effects will be far greater than the present modelling suggests.

Extracting even these concessions has been like pulling teeth. Yet it barely scratches the surface of the problems. No wonder Garnaut would rather no questions were asked. And no wonder he feels more comfortable with Jiang than with the local debate.

But silence isn't what Australian democracy is about. Rather, it is about forcing truth from power, however painful that may be. Long may it stay that way.


Gillard to scrap army bands

This is ridiculous. The bands are a major support for morale

RESERVE forces were in uproar yesterday after the circulation of a leaked minute from the military supporting the removal of 14 regimental bands across the nation, ''effective immediately'', by repossessing their instruments.

The move, which will take away historic units such as the band of the 1/15 Parramatta Lancers, and all four university regiment bands, is part of a cost-cutting operation by the Australian Defence Force aimed at saving $20 billion in 10 years.

Critics, including Major-General Jim Barry, president of the Defence Reserves Association, claim the loss of morale and public relations presence of military bands would vastly outweigh the cost of supporting them.

A minute from army logistics, signed on August 24, said entitlement of the bands to instruments was to be revoked and running the bands would be handed to regimental associations. It is also understood band uniforms will be taken away.

According to the minute, signed by Colonel C. Purdey, scrapping the bands is in line with the Strategic Reform Program.

General Barry said the bands will go from Sydney University Regiment, and the University of NSW Regiment. Also on the hit-list were bands from units such as the 23rd Artillery in Sydney, the 2/10 Artillery based in Melbourne, the 4/19 Prince of Wales' Light Horse, also in Melbourne, the 25/49 Royal Queensland and the 10/27 Royal South Australian.

Remaining will be eight regular bands, and one reserve forces band - the Royal Australian Corps of Transport Pipes and Drums.

In 1998, there was a push to ditch the bands but it was blocked by the Howard government.

Stuart Robert, the opposition defence personnel spokesman, said the Coalition would not accept the scrapping. ''The government says they have a Strategic Reform Program, but it is really just cuts to the defence force,'' he said.


A queer clothing shop

GASP clothing has defended its position involving a customer dispute, releasing yet another jaw-dropping response. The statement came after a spat between the retailer and a customer, who was told that their clothes were too exclusive for her, turned into a viral email sensation.

Keara O'Neil was on a shopping trip to find bridesmaid dresses for her wedding and a frock for her hens night at the GASP Chapel St store on September 24 when she had a dispute with a sales assistant named "Chris".

Like a scene straight out of Pretty Woman, O'Neil, a retail assistant herself, claims Chris was initially helpful but soon turned nasty, making a dig at her size 12 frame and yelling out as she left the store, "Have fun shopping at Supre... I knew you were a joke the minute you walked in".

Distressed by the treatment, O'Neil then sent a letter to the customer service centre at GASP, which was answered by GASP area manager Matthew Chidgey.

In the email, O'Neil was told the fashion chain aims to appeal "to a very fashion forward consumer" and that the sales assistant O'Neil made a complaint about was a "retail superstar" who's "only problem is that he is too good at what he does". It went on to say, "As I am sure you are aware, people whom are talented generally do not tolerate having their time wasted, which is the reason you were provoked to leave the store...

"It is probably fair to assume a lot of what I have said in this email either doesn’t make sense to you, or you totally disagree with it" and we "respectfully ask that you side step our store."

Mr Chidgey confirmed today that the email was legitimate.

Later GASP, whose website advertises dressed priced from $100, released a statement in its defence. "We respect that not all consumers strive for a glamorous appearance; some prefer to simply blend in," the statement said.

"We respect and welcome all customers whom wish to visit our store, even though the intention to buy may not exist. But we ask that their opinions be expressed through blogs, social media or around a warm latte, but certainly not inside our stores."

It is understood GASP today closed its Facebook page following a deluge of negative comments concerning the incident.

Celebrity Ruby Rose was one of many taking to Twitter to add their views on the incident, writing: "I am actually laughing.. I can't believe gasp called themselves fashion forward.. Sweetheart you sell polyester dresses u ain't no Prada. "This can't be real hahahaha gasp sells the most cheap tacky clothing in Australia," she said.


Thursday, September 29, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is rightly scandalized by the verdict against Andrew Bolt -- as all supporters of free speech and a free press should be. Bolt has been penalized for exposing a racket.

Cultural identity open for discussion

by: Gary Johns

HERALD Sun journalist Andrew Bolt and his 2009 articles on light-skinned Aborigines have offended the gods of identity. The court found that Bolt and the Herald and Weekly Times contravened the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 because the comments were not made reasonably or in good faith. They offended the sensitivities of those about whom the articles were written.

Interestingly, the judge refused to order that HWT apologise. Instead, the court will make orders prohibiting the republication of the articles and consider making an order for the publication of a corrective notice. By the way, the offending articles can be held in the HWT archives for all time and read on the Federal Court website.

The nature of the complaint against Bolt by Pat Eatock and others is that the articles conveyed offensive messages about her and people like her by saying that they were not genuinely Aboriginal and were pretending to be Aboriginal "so they could access benefits that are available to Aboriginal people".

The provisions of the act used to silence Bolt are bad law. The provisions inserted by the Racial Hatred Act 1995 were strongly opposed by the Coalition on the grounds that it might impinge free speech. They have now done so. Why did the statutes remain on the books during 13 years of Coalition government? I expect better from Liberals.

Cultural identity is arguable and should be discussed in a free and open manner. If not, then Australia is entering a world where Aboriginal people, especially those of light colour and claiming discrimination (or favours) based on their race, become a laughing-stock. Is this what the activists wanted? Forget constitutional recognition, this decision has undercut goodwill.

The court decision relies on "the perspective of the ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community" to take offence. What is ordinary about someone who has spent their entire life as a political activist and has probably suffered little prejudice on the basis of their race because no one can distinguish them?

The judgment acknowledges that "a group of people may include the sensitive as well as the insensitive, the passionate and the dispassionate, the emotional and the impassive". The decision, however, has privileged the sensitive over the insensitive, the passionate over the dispassionate and the emotional over the impassive. The law has ensured that racial politics is a winner.

The ordinary and reasonable test is classically the man on the "Clapham bus", not the highly tutored and sensitised political activist. This decision will drive a wedge between Aboriginal and all other Australians. Whatever Bolt's offence, it was not racial hatred or racial vilification.

I wonder if Aboriginal West Australian Labor MP Carol Martin, who has decided to not run at the next election, reportedly after being vilified as a "toxic coconut" over her support for Woodside's gas proposal near Broome, will sue those Aboriginal activists allegedly spreading the vile imputations.

One proponent in the Bolt case made the argument that she "will have strong feelings of solidarity with other Aboriginal people who, like her, have pale skin and are exposed to challenges to their identity by reason of their appearance". She would be offended not because someone called her Aboriginal but because they failed to know she was Aboriginal. I understand the frustration.

The judgment argues that "People should be free to fully identify with their race without fear of public disdain or loss of esteem for so identifying. Disparagement directed at the legitimacy of racial or religious identification of a group of people is a common cause for racial or religious tension. A slur upon the racial legitimacy of a group of people is just as, if not more, destructive of racial tolerance than a slur directed at the real or imagined practices or traits of those people."

The issue of Aborigines identifying as Aborigines should be one of supreme indifference to public policy. As with any private association it is a private matter. It becomes public because there are public benefits in so identifying. The fact people are sensitive about the link between identity and benefit serves to underline the fact there is such a link: remove the benefits, remove the sensitivity.

The decision argued that "Bolt could have made his point without attacking the basis upon which the participants identified as Aboriginal and without attributing to them ulterior motives for so identifying". This is true, but in that case it would be better to use the law of defamation instead of playing the race vilification card.

Freedom of speech has been curtailed by the Racial Discrimination Act; the judgment said as much: "What Mr Bolt did and what he failed to do did not evince a conscientious approach to advancing freedom of expression in a way designed to honour the values asserted by the RDA."

Nothing is more sacred than free speech. Tony Abbott must repeal the offending provisions. He should start drafting now, flush out the freedom-loving Labor members, stand them up and have them counted.


CO2 study reinforces our policy, say Australian conservatives

THE Coalition has seized on a new report showing forests, plants and soil may take more carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere than previously thought.

The new study, published in the science journal Nature overnight, shows that soil and vegetation may absorb 25 to 45 per cent more carbon each year, or between 150 and 175 billion tonnes, compared to previous estimates of 120 billion tonnes.

The study cautions, however, that the extra carbon may not be retained in the soil permanently, limiting the potential for atmospheric carbon reduction.

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt said the study showed there was “stronger and stronger evidence that the right green carbon measures can reduce the volume of CO2 in the atmosphere”.

“This is another important step in confirming that land-based carbon capture and storage is both measurable and essential as a low-cost, long-term way of reducing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere,” he said.

“From our perspective it reinforces our views, 18 months after we released our policy, the scientific evidence has moved more strongly in favour of the enormous potential of land and agriculture-based emissions reductions.”

The report's lead researcher Lisa Welp, from the University of California's Scripps Institute of Oceanography, said figuring out the annual carbon uptake from the terrestrial biosphere had been one of the biggest problems in the emissions equation.

Scientists, though, were confident about current estimates for carbon sequestration in land and this was unlikely to change much in the light of the new findings, she said.

“More CO2 is passing through plants (than thought), not that it actually stays there very long,” she said. “The extra CO2 taken up as photosynthesis is most likely returned right back to the atmosphere via respiration.”

The leader of the CSIRO Changing Atmosphere research group, Paul Fraser, told ABC radio the paper would help address uncertainties in carbon modelling and allow scientists to more accurately predict global temperature changes.

He cautioned that new research did not mean there was more leeway for allowing carbon emissions to rise, saying “it doesn't mean they hold more carbon, they (plants) probably respire faster”.

“I'd love to be able to say it does mean that but we just don't know that, that's in the next few steps (of research),” he said.


Australia is better than its current politics

By BBC reporter Nick Bryant

FOR the past five years I have reported on the rise of Australia. It is an increasingly consequential country unrecognisable from the journalistic kingdom of the mind of old: a land good for the occasional "And finally" animal story, a bizarre outback crime or two and, in the eyes of many foreign news organisations, not a whole lot more.

It is a nation where the tyranny of distance no longer brings with it the felony of neglect. Indeed, that very phrase is almost as much a historical relic as Ned Kelly's skeletal remains. Now that the locus of global economic activity has shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific, proximity has become more defining than distance. The "land down under", a phrase dripping with inconsequentiality, is also likely to become redundant.

Instead, Australia is clearly in the right place at the right time, a modish phrase that during the next decade or so may even become the new national mantra.

Before the turn of the new millennium, when Bill Bryson began to research his much-read travelogue, Down Under, he started with a short trip to the local library. There, he conducted a fruitless search of The New York Times index for stories about Australia, which in 1997 merited just 20 mentions. Albania, by contrast, got 150. Fast-forward 10 years or so, and compare the coverage now. In the past few months alone, The New York Times has published 16 stories from its Sydney-based correspondent. On what might be called the NYT index - or, more accurately, the Bryson scale - Australia is faring exceedingly well. Few peaceful countries with a population of just 22 million people receive such close per capita attention. That trend is set to accelerate, as the rise of Australia and Asia continue in tandem.

So international news organisations, whose footprint in Australia is heavier than ever before, will continue to marvel at a seemingly recession-proof economy: the much-vaunted "wonder from down under", with low public debt, near full employment economy, record terms of trade, a totemic currency and a resources sector set to underwrite its prosperity late into the Indo-Pacific century. They will also report on a much-envied economic model with watchful regulators, risk-averse banks and a distaste for irrational exuberance. True, we are talking now of a twin-track boom and gloom economy, and the strong possibility that Australia has been contaminated by the Dutch disease. But most advanced economies are contending with a gloom-and-doom economy, and are afflicted by more serious maladies, the Greek and subprime contagions.

On the corporate front, companies such as BHP and Rio Tinto will continue to catch the international eye. Their profits have become key Asian and thus global indicators. So, too, will the shopping mall giant Westfield, whose annual results are fast becoming another important economic barometer, much like the length of the queue of coal ships waiting outside Newcastle, the world's largest coal export port. The Macquarie Group has also become another must-watch Australian company, not least because it is estimated to be the single largest non-governmental owner of infrastructure in the world.

In diplomacy, Australia's rising influence has become institutionalised, whatever becomes of its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council. Why, the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum and the G20, an organisation to which few paid much attention prior to the GFC, even bear the stamp of made in Australia.

Kevin Rudd's prolific travel, first as prime minister and then as Foreign Affairs Minister, may have raised eyebrows at home but it also raised Australia's standing abroad. John Howard followed the same internationalist path.

In terms of good living, Australia has become one of the lifestyle superpowers. It is a place outsiders aspire to live in and, in the meantime, try to ape. Just visit a bookshop in London, and see how many cookbooks and style guides come from Australian chefs and interior designers. One of Australia's biggest exports is an intangible that will never appear in the national accounts: its sunny way of life.

In the arts and entertainment, the cultural cringe has long superseded the cultural creep. Here, crucially, many of the country's most internationally celebrated artistic ambassadors speak - or sing - with an emphatically Australian voice. Tim Winton, Peter Carey, Christos Tsiolkas, Les Murray and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Indigenous art is respected internationally as never before, while Cate Blanchett even had the audacity to woo New York with a Sydneysider production of A Streetcar Named Desire. In recent years especially, Australia's cultural infrastructure has started to rival its sporting infrastructure. Witness the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, the new National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, the new wing of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney or the Melbourne Recital Centre.

The fall of Australia is a recent phenomenon, and is to be seen on daily display in the nation's capital. There is something very dismal and second-rate about the quality of politics right now in Canberra. Indeed, at the very moment when Australia is presenting such a confident face to the region and the world, the country's politicians give the appearance of turning away. When Julia Gillard told Kerry O'Brien that foreign affairs was not her passion, the rest of the world responded, I suspect, with much the same indifference. Clearly, she has been nowhere near as globally newsworthy as her predecessors, Rudd, Howard, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke, Malcolm Fraser or Gough Whitlam.

Tony Abbott has also expressed a preference for being a stay-at-home prime minister. Indeed, he turned it into a campaign boast. Both leaders appear to revel in their parochialism and reinforce it in each other. The main parties are led then by figures whose limited and increasingly immediate ambitions are happily accommodated within these shores. Tellingly, Colin Barnett, Premier of Australia's most thrusting state, says he now spends more time in China than Canberra.

Seasoned observers know that ill-tempered question times and the hair-trigger ruthlessness of leadership spills have long been a feature of life within the Capital Circle. But it is the extent to which Canberra has become so thoroughly dominated by conflict that has spawned so much negative coverage within and outside Australia. That anger and hostility is being compared with the mood in 1975 throughout the Whitlam dismissal crisis. But perhaps there is also a late-1960s feel to national affairs: a post-Menzies, pre-Whitlam interlude when the country appeared to be treading water and waiting for something to happen.

Certainly, as I prepared to hang up my microphone as the BBC's Australia correspondent I was struck by how the stories in my final week so closely mirrored the headlines from when I arrived in late 2006. Howard, who continues to frame Australian politics in much the same way that Margaret Thatcher does in Britain, reappeared. So did David Hicks. The angriest debates focused still on the governmental response to climate change and the equally vexed issue of the governmental response to asylum-seekers. Indeed, there seems to be a standstillism that cannot be explained away simply by the constraints imposed by a hung parliament. It also stems from the warring styles of Gillard and Abbott, who seem locked in this continual trench warfare. That is why I have found it so hard to summon much enthusiasm for reporting on Canberra in recent times: it has made a mockery of the sophisticated, modern and consequential country that is evident elsewhere. For so much of my time here I have reported with affection on the rise of Australia. For the past 18 months, however, politics has been heading in the opposite direction.


Kiwi hatred of Australians really comes out at sporting fixtures

It's much like Canadian hatred of the USA -- except that Canadians are much better mannered

Australian rugby fans claim they have been spat on and abused by New Zealanders at the World Cup. Phil Dunne, a Sydney man who flew into Auckland with his wife last weekend, told the New Zealand Herald a "hate vibe" had become entrenched in the psyche of many New Zealanders.

"Some of the charming exchanges involved sexual comments about my wife, instructions on how we could all f--- off back to Australia and even included one charming bloke attempting to spit on us," Dunne said. "I think the hate vibe given off by New Zealanders towards us is so entrenched at this World Cup that most Kiwis don't even realise how hostile they actually are."

The story set off debate on talkback radio. Radio Sport host Miles Davis said he had observed the same "vitriolic" hatred directed towards Australians in other cities. "I saw it in Dunedin and I have got to say it's not a pleasant side of the New Zealand rugby fan," he said.

Another supporter told the Herald there were patches of real meanness at Eden Park during the Australian game against Ireland. "A Kiwi, dressed in Irish green, shouted to a group of Australian fans, 'It's not mardi gras you f---ing poofters'," the unnamed fan said.

Radio Sport listeners said the abuse was not confined to Australian rugby supporters or to the World Cup. Davis heard from two listeners who said they were abused and had beer tipped on them for supporting Australian NRL teams. "I no longer go to (Warriors' home ground) Mount Smart because I've been spat on, had beer spilled on me, I was almost run over in the car park," listener Brian sent via text message to Radio Sport.

A listener named as Alex said his wife was abused for supporting the Springboks. "There's a fair amount of it out there and it's not pleasant," Davis said.

"But anyway a lot of people think 'harden up' - it goes on elsewhere in the world so it makes it right here."


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Andrew Bolt loses racial vilification court case

HERALD Sun columnist Andrew Bolt has lost an action brought in the Federal Court in which the columnist' was accused of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act.

Bolt was found to have contravened Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Nine applicants brought a class-action against Bolt and the Herald and Weekly Times claiming Bolt wrote they sought professional advantage from the colour of their skin.

The judges ordered both parties to confer on relief arising from the action.

At issue was Bolt's assertion that the nine applicants had chosen to identify themselves as “Aboriginal” and consequently win grants, prizes and career advancement, despite their apparently fair skin and mixed heritage.

The nine applicants were led by activist Pat Eatock and included artist Bindi Cole, NSW Australian of the Year Larissa Behrendt, author Anita Heiss and former ATSIC chief Geoff Clark.

Four articles published by the Herald Sun columnist in the newspaper and his blog were “a head-on assault on a group of highly successful and high-achieving” Aborigines, Ron Merkel QC told the court during proceedings in late March and early April.

The nine people sought an apology from the Herald & Weekly Times and an order against republishing, but no compensation.

In an occasionally explosive case, Bolt’s writings about Aboriginal identity were painted as being akin to a “eugenics approach” and similar to writings that led to the Holocaust.

Bolt subsequently protested the slurs in court as “an unforgivable travesty.”

In concluding the eight day proceedings, counsel for the plaintiffs conceded Bolt's writings did not incite “racial vilification or racial hatred”, rather they “constituted highly personal, highly derogatory and highly offensive attacks” on the nine individuals. [So it was really defamation that he was guilty of?]


Greenie antisemitism still bubbling away

A JEWISH doctor who campaigned against the Greens in the recent NSW state election over their boycott of Israeli-owned companies operating in Australia believes senior figures in the party are behind his prosecution for a minor electoral breach.

John Nemesh, 55, yesterday pleaded not guilty in Sydney's Newtown Local Court to distributing unauthorised election material during the March election campaign. The Hungarian-born son of Holocaust survivors, Dr Nemesh believes his career as a medical specialist, working in hospital intensive care units, is on the line as a result of the charge, which carries a possible fine of $550 or six months' jail.

"The Greens always go on about the poor individual who's having a hard time with the system," Dr Nemesh said yesterday. "In my case, they are the system and I am the poor individual."

Dr Nemesh's posters condemned the Greens for their support of the "boycotts, divestment and sanctions" campaign.

The posters, which targeted Greens candidate and local Mayor Fiona Byrne in the inner-western Sydney seat of Marrickville, were legal and duly authorised, except they did not include the name of the printer - an omission Dr Nemesh claims was an honest mistake, given he had no motive to conceal the information. The case has been brought by the NSW police, who would have required a complaint to take action.

Despite repeated requests by The Australian, Ms Byrne and other senior NSW Greens yesterday declined to deny they had lodged the complaint against Dr Nemesh. But a spokesman for the NSW Electoral Commission said it had nothing to do with the case.

Ms Byrne shepherded a wide-ranging boycott of Israel through Marrickville Council earlier this year, although the policy was later reversed.

Dr Nemesh, a member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, was so incensed at Ms Byrne's support of the BDS that when she stood for parliament he produced posters accusing the Greens of racism and homophobia, and posted them around Marrickville. One of the posters, which cost about $2000 in total, suggested hypocrisy by the Greens in supporting gay causes while denouncing Israel, where gay rights are enshrined in law.

"I heard Fiona Byrne's statements in Marrickville, and it was all about taking action against Jewish enterprises, Jewish shops and Jewish cultural exchanges," Dr Nemesh said. "I felt so strongly that I couldn't sleep, so I very quickly designed some posters and hired some vehicles. I felt nothing was being done in terms of organised resistance."

He has now gone on the front foot by lodging a complaint with police against Ms Byrne for allegedly stealing his posters. It is a claim Ms Byrne will have difficulty denying, given a YouTube video on the internet features her and a fellow Greens activist boasting of stealing one of the posters, and offering it up for auction.

Ms Byrne did not fare well out of her hardline campaign against Israel, polls showing her support of BDS was a turn-off with voters and helped Labor's Carmel Tebbutt just hold Marrickville

The BDS campaign has grown more shrill since March, with protesters focusing on the Israeli-owned Max Brenner coffee shops.

"It's a vindication of how I felt," said Dr Nemesh of the latest controversy. "It's exactly what I was thinking was going to happen, and it happened."

Ms Byrne did not respond to emails and phone messages from The Australian.

Dr Nemesh described himself as a political moderate and insisted he acted as an individual.

He received support last night from Luke Foley, Labor leader in the NSW upper house. "The Greens are the first to condemn tough law and order legislation, yet they want to throw the book at a man for exercising his freedom of speech," Mr Foley said.


More Greenie racism

"Coconut" is a very offensive racial slur to blacks. The cause is a dispute between the Greens and the miners, with the Aborigines on the side of the miners

THE first indigenous woman elected to any Australian parliament will today announce her resignation after being vilified as a "toxic coconut" over her support for Woodside's contentious $30 billion gas hub proposal near the West Australian resort town of Broome.

Labor MP Carol Martin, 54, yesterday told the party's West Australian leader, Eric Ripper, she would not contest the next election in March 2013.

She was elected to the seat of Kimberley in 2001 after the resignation of Ernie Bridge, the Labor-turned-independent country music star who was the first indigenous Australian to become a cabinet minister.

Ms Martin has repeatedly urged opponents of the Woodside development to respect the Goolarabooloo Jabirr Jabirr people's right to do a deal with the company for the gas hub. In June, they voted 60-40 in favour.

Ms Martin's position put her at odds with members of her own extended family, and in a town of vociferous anti-gas sentiment it was widely speculated she could lose her seat over her stand.

The dispute over the gas hub has created ugly tensions in a community that prides itself on being laid-back. Ms Martin was named last week in an anonymous 10-page newsletter as "brown on the outside and full of the milk of white man's money" on the inside for not opposing the proposed gas hub.

Her name appeared on a list of nine Kimberley Aborigines, including former Australian of the year Patrick Dodson, under the heading "toxic coconuts".

Ms Martin said it was the worst slur against her in public life, and she would sue the authors if they could be identified.

The Nationals hope to win the seat of Kimberley from Labor at the next election after gaining popularity in the region through the big-spending Royalties for Regions program, under which the government promises to spend 25 per cent of mining and onshore petroleum royalties in the bush. In the Kimberley, that has included $220 million for the expansion of the irrigation area outside Kununurra.

Ms Martin told The Australian yesterday it had been a privilege to serve the people of the Kimberley, but she said she was tired of the travel between Broome and Perth, a distance of almost 2300km, and no longer wanted to be separated from her husband, Brian, for long periods. "I actually like my husband," she said.

Ms Martin said the attacks on her had been wearing. "I feel that after three terms it is time to move on, and things like that shit from last week I just don't want to put up with any more," she said.

Ms Martin is a Noongar, the Aboriginal people of the state's southwest. She lived in foster care from the age of 12 and repeatedly ran away. At 15, she went to live with her mother and siblings in Broome.

In the Kimberley, Ms Martin became a social worker and served in local government.

Her views have sometimes clashed with popular feelings. In 2009, she expressed doubts about alcohol restrictions in the towns of Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek, where fetal alcohol spectrum disorder was rampant. "I'm a social worker in my real life," she said. "I know prohibition doesn't work, has never worked historically, and if you're going to deal with addictions, you deal with addictions."

Ms Martin said she would continue to strongly represent the interests of the Kimberley until the next election.

In her maiden speech, Ms Martin said she hoped she could be an example to others. "I cannot help but feel a slight touch of disbelief it has taken so long for a person like me to get here," she told the parliament.


Australia's education export industry gets a boost

WHILE the political focus has been on boats, the Gillard government has taken a pivotal decision to reform visa policy, salvage Australia's $16 billion third largest export industry and give universities a guaranteed revenue stream as the euro-driven crisis tightens public funding.

Former competition policy guru and University of NSW vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer said: "The reforms are more positive than anyone we spoke to expected [and] they come when competitors are kicking own goals - riots in the UK and US funding cuts."

Questioned on Sky News' Australian Agenda program last Sunday Bowen was upfront. The entire purpose, he agreed, was to buttress the overseas student market now critical to the financial future of universities. Indeed, a number of research universities derive nearly 20 per cent of total revenue from this source (for example Monash University is 19 per cent and the University of Ballarat is 35 per cent). For universities, the main reforms gains involve quick and streamlined visa approvals, allowing foreign graduates with a bachelor's degree to work in Australia for another two years and elimination of tough financial tests as conditions of overseas student entry.

Branding the changes an "important reform" Bowen said Labor had got the balance right between ease of student entry yet keeping higher education quality. The fiscal and political strategies are vital yet unspoken. At their heart is funding diversity, now the decisive template for our universities and the key to success for each institution. With the Gillard government straining to reach its 2012-13 surplus pledge the higher education sector should have no expectations of significant future funding increases from the budget.

In his report Knight said a "perfect storm" had engulfed the sector: the high Australian dollar (up 40 per cent compared to the US dollar) made courses more comparatively expensive; reputational damage was done by attacks on foreign students, notably Indian students in Melbourne; with the real problem residing in vocational education and training the government had closed down about 20 per cent of providers; its further revocation of the highway from overseas student status to permanent migrant had shot one of Australia's prime attractions and there was much tougher competition from other developed nation universities. Knight found the perfect storm "real" and "serious."

Several principles underpinned Knight's report. He stressed the imperative to re-establish the Australian brand name, to uphold Australia's reputation for quality in education, to recognise that growth of the sector while important must not become "an end in itself" and that a balance must be struck between the student intake and proper migration controls. In the past the "shonkiest operators" had sold migration outcomes "while masquerading as education providers".

Evans still has concerns about quality in the VET [Vocational education and training, I think -- JR] sector with the new regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Agency, given the task of safeguarding standards. When Evans visited China last year he was taken aback to discover that closures in the VET sector had damaged China's confidence even in Australia's sandstone institutions.

VET numbers had more than quadrupled from 45,000 in 2004 to 206,000 in 2011, a ludicrous increase. While tying student outcomes to migration approval seemed smart when first implemented by the Howard government it was rorted too much. As Knight says, some students tried to manipulate the migration rules, others just tried to break them.

Looking at present enrolments overall there was a 9 per cent fall in the early months of 2011 compared with the previous year and a decline in each main source nation, China, India, South Korea and Malaysia. The numbers will stay below their previous peak for some years.

Given this challenge Labor will introduce a "light touch" visa, meaning that universities will get the students they want but, in turn, must take responsibility for the visa outcomes of their students. The onus will rest with each institution to ensure their visa approvals are not rorted. If a university cannot deliver then it loses its status in the fast-track game. The point is that Labor is showing its faith in universities as the "quality end" of the sector.

The second step is the two-year post-study work rights entitlement that Knight argued was essential given the competition Australia faces for students from other nations with their own work entitlements. Unsurprisingly, the ACTU is wary about this significant labour market offering.

These reforms seek to re-establish the foundations for one of Australia's most recent and vital non-resources export industries. They see the overseas student market as being of intrinsic value for the national interest and fundamental in the financial model for universities.


Numbskull "Chief Scientist" has never heard of Hannibal crossing the Alps with elephants, has never heard of when Greenland was green, has never heard of the days of the dinosaurs ans has never heard of vegetation growing in the Antarctic

All of the events above show that the earth has been warmer in the past than it is today. On the last point see here. Yet below is a statement recently made on the record at an official enquiry by Australia's chief scientist, Professor Ian Chubb:

"With respect to this cooling stuff, I have seen the claim, but the evidence that I have seen is that the last decade has been the warmest decade that we have ever had on this planet"

Such profound ignorance as his cannot be mere ignorance, it has to be outright crookedness.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Famous entrepreneur calls for more philanthropy

I think Dick Smith has a point below. He overlooks the very important fact that competition between Coles and Woolworths is benefiting all Australians in the form of lower prices so I don't agree that Coles should pull back from its marketing strategy.

At the risk of sounding like a Leftist, however, it does seem rather obscene to me that people with lots of money don't use a substantial part of it to help others. I give money away constantly as does Dick Smith so both of us do literally put our money where our mouths are. One might also note that both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are in the process of giving most of their money away to worthy causes

And philanthropy is much more efficient than taxes. Government inefficiency and waste is legenday whereas philanthropy will generally get the money straight to the intended beneficiary -- JR

COLES boss Ian McLeod is destroying the livelihoods of Australian farmers with a "new form of extreme capitalism", says entrepreneur Dick Smith. The criticism follows reports the supermarket chief pocketed a $15.6 million pay cheque for 2010/11.

"Where does this extra money come from?" asked Mr Smith, a former retail electronics king and one-time Australian of the Year. "This salary and most of Coles' increase in profit clearly comes directly from Aussie farmers and Aussie processors as they are destroyed by this new form of extreme capitalism."

Coles sales have soared under Mr McLeod, with a 21 per cent lift in earnings last financial year. Mr McLeod's reward was a total salary of $15.6 million for the 12 months to June, including $11 million in bonuses.

Mr Smith said the flip side of "this greed" would be a crisis in rural areas, with "country towns boarded up, more rural suicides".

"Aussie farmers are now ploughing in their crops and Aussie processors are sacking workers and closing down because they cannot sell at a price that will even cover their costs because of the huge push by Coles to buy at lower and lower prices," he said in a statement. "Why keep pushing down down prices are down - and putting more and more Aussie farmers and workers on the scrap heap?"

Last Christmas, Mr Smith labelled chief executives of Australia's big four banks greedy.

Then last month he threatened to name and shame rich people who don't contribute to the community, saying if they don't want to open their wallets they can "rack off".

Mr Smith said the rich in the US donate about 15 per cent of their income, while Australia's wealthy give less than one per cent.

Today he called on Mr McLeod to "give something back". "Ian McLeod, you've done incredibly well out of Australia ...," he said. "I look forward to hearing that you are fulfilling your obligation as a wealthy person and have become well known publicly as a major philanthropist."


Australian generosity towards those in real distress is being diminished by illegal boat arrivals

Australia takes in more asylum seekers per head than any other country. Close to 10 per cent of the refugees resettled worldwide are taken by Australia. But nothing will ever be enough for the Left. The Left WANT the divisions and tensions the boat arrivals are causing. Their "good intentions" are just a mask for the contempt in which they hold their own society

IN the debate over asylum all sides believe there is an answer: and they have it. Human rights advocates argue the only humane course of action is to welcome those who arrive by boat.

The large majority of Australians, however, do not see the asylum issue in such straight-forward human rights terms. A number of surveys during the past 18 months indicate the majority favour policy to deter boat arrivals, including mandatory detention.

An August Nielsen poll found 15 per cent of respondents considered boats should be sent back to sea and another 52 per cent that asylum-seekers should be kept in detention while their claims were assessed.

More detail is available in the Scanlon Foundation surveys, four of which have been conducted since 2007. The just released 2011 findings indicate only 22 per cent favour granting the right of permanent residence to asylum-seekers arriving by boat; 39 per cent favour asylum in Australia, but only on a temporary basis; the remaining 35 per cent want boats to be turned back or the asylum-seeker detained pending deportation.

The value of the Scanlon Foundation surveys is that a broad range of questions (81 in 2011) are asked. This enables consideration of patterns of response and the finding is that attitudes to asylum correlate with a person's values, hence attitudes are not likely to change simply as a result of new factual information.

The advocates for asylum may well respond that if that is public opinion, then it should be ignored; that what we need is leadership and political consensus to do the right thing. But what is right is not so simply determined.

For a start, majority opinion is not simply to be stereotyped as prejudiced. The surveys show that majority opinion supports the humanitarian program, which recruits asylum-seekers overseas. It is just that this support does not extend to irregular arrivals.

Second, a generous reception policy is likely to lead to an increase in boat arrivals, with consequences not simply to be ignored.

How do we know that there will be increased arrivals? We need only examine the pattern of the past decade. In 2000, 2939 asylum-seekers arrived by boat; in 2001, 5516 arrived. In the following six years, with the enactment of the Howard government's Pacific Solution, arrivals were reduced to almost zero; fewer than 100 arrived in 2005 and 2006.

Over these years the number of asylum-seekers worldwide fell, but by nowhere near the almost 100 per cent fall experienced in Australia. When the Howard government policies were changed by Labor, boat arrivals resumed: 2849 in 2009, 6879 in last year, the highest on record. This is the pattern of movement that the human rights advocates are reluctant to face.

Australia has no land borders, it is not easy to get to Australia on a small boat. As such, a negative message from Australia will deter arrivals more effectively than almost any other First World country.

Third, there are other consequences of a generous policy.

A view widely held among asylum advocates is that Australia does not shoulder its responsibilities, leaving care for asylum-seekers to impoverished countries. But Australian governments of various persuasions since the late 1970s have maintained a large humanitarian program: during the past 10 years, 130,000 have been admitted.

It seems to be a secret (for reasons difficult to fathom) that Australia resettles more refugees per capita than any other country: close to 10 per cent of the refugees resettled worldwide are taken by Australia.

In 2009, according to the UN, Australia admitted 11,080 refugees for resettlement; the US, with almost 15 times Australia's population, accepted 79,937. Canada, with a population 1 1/2 times that of Australia, resettled 12,457. No other country accepted a substantial number. For example, Britain resettled 955 refugees, Germany 2069 and The Netherlands 369.

Australia, in consultation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has established a process for assessing asylum-seekers. Under present arrangements, boat arrivals take places from those in the camps from which Australia draws its intake.

Advocates suggest that there is a simple solution: recruit a fixed number overseas and place boat arrivals in another category. But what is a reasonable intake for Australia?

The Greens and the Refugee Council of Australia advocate an increase from the present intake of 14,750 to an offshore intake of 20,000, to be phased in across five years. But how does the government budget for an unknown number of boat arrivals?

It may be that however we argue, there is no solution. Instead of solutions, it makes more sense to think in terms of balance, which will not satisfy all but is likelier to produce a larger measure of agreement than the one-dimensional solutions on offer.

There is an additional point to be considered. A policy that flies in the face of views held in many parts of the community will likely result in the re-emergence of movements similar to One Nation that campaign on issues of national identity and race and heighten opposition to cultural diversity.

An alarming finding of this year's Scanlon Foundation survey is that 44 per cent of respondents consider that racial prejudice in Australia has increased during the past five years.

There is heightened reporting of discrimination and decline of trust in fellow Australians. Trust in the federal government recorded a sharp fall, from a high of 48 per cent in 2009 to 31 per cent last year and to 30 per cent this year.

People - whether for or against asylum rights - are close to unanimous in the view that the government is incapable of dealing with asylum.

There has been erosion of individual connectedness and weakening of communal organisations, key indicators of threats to social cohesion. While not the only cause, the asylum debate has contributed to a heightening of division in Australian society.


That wonderful multiculturalism again

More Muslim aggression

IT was a bloody brawl allegedly sparked by a hamburger with bacon. Now 32 witnesses will be called to give evidence at a hearing about how an incorrect order allegedly led to a violent assault on two police officers at a western Sydney McDonald's in April.

Mouhamad Khaled, 23, his 20-year-old girlfriend Daphne Florence Austin and his father Walid Khaled, 53, have been charged over the brawl at the Bankstown fast food outlet.

In Burwood Local Court yesterday, Magistrate Christopher Longley set a hearing date in February for Austin and Walid Khaled, who have each pleaded not guilty to charges linked to the brawl.

Mr Longley was told the prosecution will call 29 witnesses and the defence will call three people.

Mouhamad Khaled is yet to enter a plea to six charges, including inflicting grievous bodily harm on a police officer, and will be dealt with at a separate hearing.

Police allege the trouble began when the group began abusing counter staff because their hamburger contained bacon. Police who were on the premises spoke to Walid Khaled about his alleged offensive behaviour. When he allegedly continued to swear, police tried to arrest him.

Police allege they were assaulted by Mouhamad Khaled and Austin, prompting them to use capsicum spray and batons. As they attempted to restrain Mouhamad Khaled he allegedly grabbed their handcuffs and assaulted them. He struck probationary Constable Matthew Sutherland on the head before swinging them at Senior Constable Alicia Bridges, hitting her.

Austin is charged with assaulting and hindering police, and Walid Khaled with resisting police, behaving in an offensive manner and offensive language. Mouhamad Khaled spent four months in custody before being granted bail in the Supreme Court. Burwood Local Court was told in August that Austin is due to give birth in November.


Cancer patients die waiting for hospital letters

CANCER patients have been kept waiting so long to receive follow-up letters from their specialists that some have died before the advice arrived at their GPs.

A backlog of correspondence needing to be typed up at Westmead Hospital means about 700 people have waited up to three years for the letters to be sent, The Daily Telegraph reported.

In one case, a Sydney doctor received a letter from Westmead about a female patient with advanced skin cancer that had been dictated by a specialist on August 21, 2009, but was not typed up until September 16, 2011. By the time it reached Dr Adrian Sheen the woman had been dead for a year.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner has now ordered a full audit to find out which patients are still alive. She has forced Westmead to hire a host of administration staff starting today and given the hospital three weeks to clear the backlog.

The problem was hidden until Dr Sheen, who is president of GP group Doctors Action, leaked the letter to the journal Medical Observer, to be released today. "It is an absolute, utter disgrace," Dr Sheen told the Medical Observer. "The family doctor is the most important thing in the community, that's the one that gets people through the health system.

"How am I supposed to help a patient when a letter arrives over two years later?" It has now emerged there are another 700 letters dating back as far as March, 2008, that still have not been sent.

The problems began in 2008 when all cancer services departments moved from various parts of Westmead Hospital to the new Cancer Care Centre.

The move gave patients access to a one-stop shop service including cancer surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, clinical haematologists, palliative care and other support specialties. But it also created a huge administrative backlog.

Mrs Skinner has ordered the hospital to slash its clearance deadline from three months to three weeks, with extra staff put on from today. "It is simply unacceptable for GPs to be receiving important letters more than two years after their patients have been referred to oncologists, without anyone even checking whether the patients in question are still alive," she said. "This debacle has come about because the previous government kept slashing staff numbers in Sydney's west, even when it was clear the system and its people were crumbling under the pressure."

Westmead issued an apology to patients, their families and their doctors yesterday. "The Western Sydney Local Health District apologises to patients, their families and their general practitioners affected by this administrative backlog," the hospital said.

It said the Cancer Network upgraded its technology more than 18 months ago with new systems now in place to ensure timely communication between the Cancer Network, patients and their GPs.

There is no suggestion the lateness of the letter caused the death of Dr Sheen's patient, however he said family GPs were often treated with contempt by the hospital system and relations between GPs and public hospitals were at "an all-time low".

The problem is the latest to engulf the state's biggest hospital. Last month the coroner blasted medical staff after a boy died of a ruptured appendix at Westmead Children's Hospital after staff there and at Liverpool failed to notice a warning in a GP's referral letter.

On Sunday it emerged Westmead staff had tagged an 80-year-old woman as a 58-year-old man. Then last week the hospital lost water pressure after "one of the hospital water valves had been inadvertently closed".


Monday, September 26, 2011

No magic pudding economy

by: Tony Abbott

In his notorious February 2009 essay for The Monthly, Kevin Rudd pronounced the death of 30 years of neo-liberalism. It was up to government, he said, to rectify the ills of a market economy.

This failure to grasp the requirements of wealth creation has characterised the Rudd-Gillard government.

To every problem, the government's response is a new tax, a new regulation or a new bureaucracy. Higher spending, borrowing and taxes have put upward pressure on interest rates and the dollar, squeezed household budgets and depressed consumer and business confidence. The resources boom has only emphasised how deeply subdued conditions are for most of the domestic economy. Although headline economic growth has remained solid, gross domestic product per person has increased by just one half of 1 per cent since late 2007 compared with annual growth of 2 1/4 per cent between 1996 and the end of the Howard government. This is why so many people are convinced that Australia is a rich country at serious risk of becoming poorer.

The government is making our economy less productive by virtually closing down the live cattle trade. It's progressively closing down much of the Tasmanian forestry industry. It's spending $2 billion to close down the brown coal power stations that have been the source of Victoria's cheap-power comparative advantage in manufacturing, and it's spending $11bn to buy and close Telstra's copper network. In other words, it's spending billions in borrowed money to put people out of work, not into it.

By contrast, the Coalition will cut wasteful spending, abolish counterproductive taxes and build a more productive economy through our six-point productivity plan, which will encourage more people into the workforce, make public institutions more effective, cut red tape, improve competition rules, get greater value from infrastructure spending and reform workplace relations to encourage more pay for better work. Cutting spending means lower borrowing and less pressure on interest rates.

Deloitte Access Economics estimated this year that a $13bn reduction in commonwealth spending would allow interest rates to be a percentage point lower than otherwise would be needed to contain inflation against the backdrop of the mining boom. Getting more people more productively into the workforce will mean a larger economy, a bigger tax base and more ability for the government to fund services without tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere. The government's budget papers suggest a 1 per cent rise in growth through higher productivity would produce an ongoing improvement in the budget bottom line of about $4.5bn a year.

If economic growth is high enough through strong productivity growth, it's possible to deliver simultaneously higher spending, lower taxes, a bigger surplus and higher wages without triggering inflation. Far from being "magic pudding" economics, this is what happened during much of the Howard government.


Footballers now attacking Julia

A GRAND-FINAL week assault by AFL and NRL clubs on the government over poker machine reform will intensify pressure on Julia Gillard, who faces increasing caucus concern over the policy, the key to her power deal with Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie.

As the clubs industry directly targets MPs in Labor heartland seats, some are considering trying to have the policy overturned when it is put to caucus in the next few months.

AFL club presidents meet today to discuss a grand-final week television advertising campaign against the reform deal for mandatory precommitment of poker machines, while the NRL has planned a similar assault.

Mr Wilkie, who will withdraw support for the government if the pokies reform does not proceed, yesterday accused both leagues of showing "a breathtaking lack of leadership" and attacked Collingwood president Eddie McGuire's description of it as a "footy tax" as "dishonest, mischievous and misleading".

Families Minister Jenny Macklin, who has carriage of pokies reform, said the government would push ahead with the move. "It is important for all of us to do something about what is a very important problem in Australia," Ms Macklin said.

The likely grand-final week assault comes as the Prime Minister battles internal unrest over the government's dismal opinion poll ratings, speculation that some MPs are considering bringing back former leader Kevin Rudd, and a likely parliamentary defeat of Ms Gillard's bid to overcome the High Court's scuttling of the government's Malaysia Solution.

One MP told The Australian there was no question the Prime Minister would honour her deal with Mr Wilkie. "But the problem she's got is there is no guarantee it will get through caucus," the MP said.

The other problem was that, unlike the carbon tax, the mandatory pre-commitment regime, which requires punters to set limits on the amount they can bet on poker machines, would not come in until after the next election. This would leave the government open to a continued campaign by opponents of the policy.

Another MP said that caucus would stick with the Prime Minister on the issue but admitted it was upsetting a lot of MPs and "there is no short-term fix for this thing".

Ahead of today's key AFL meeting, Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett said the AFL had realised that the proposed reform "threatens the viability of some clubs, and threatens the survival of the code". "This is an extraordinary attack on the not-for-profit sector that has acted in good faith and abided within the law," the former Victorian Liberal premier said.

Mr McGuire, the president of AFL premiers Collingwood, described the gaming reform as a "footy tax". "Obviously this is hugely important to us," he said. "Anything that would cost us millions of dollars would make you anxious."

Peter Doust, chief executive of NRL premiers St George Illawarra, also condemned Mr Wilkie's reform plan. Mr Doust said mandatory pre-commitment would cost his club $6 million just to implement, potentially bankrupting the famous rugby league club. "It means jobs, 200 jobs," Mr Doust said. "This is about our club fighting to survive. We will close if this system is successful."

Clubs Australia chief executive Anthony Ball said the "licence to punt" would have no impact on problem gamblers. "They will set unrealistically high limits or no limits at all, and if they get sick and tired of that they will jump online," he said. "The reality is that poker machines provide an important income stream for NRL and AFL clubs now, but also for junior sport." ....

Mr Wilkie said he remained genuinely confident that the reforms would be introduced and said Ms Gillard and Ms Macklin had acted with "good will and good faith" at every milestone. "This explains why the industry is thrashing around and throwing everything at it," he said.

Mr Wilkie said he would not compromise with a trial of mandatory pre-commitment. "There is no need for a trial," he said. "The evidence is abundant and that would be a stalling tactic from the industry."


Internet censorship for Australia still on the government's agenda

YOU cannot learn from books you'll never read or be inspired by ads you'll never see.

The insidiousness of censorship is its invisibility. Banned books don't leave outlines where they should be on library shelves. Banned political ads don't announce their presence on TV or radio with the crackle of dead air.

That's why censorship is the province of authoritarians: silence breeds ignorance, fear and shame – the most effective forms of control.

For much of the 20th century, Australia had the dubious distinction of being one of the world's most zealous censors. After a period of openness that started in the Whitlam era, the war on terrorism returned us to our love of banning. Stephen Conroy's internet filter, while deferred, has not been forgotten. The senator's spokesman says the Gillard government is still "committed to introducing legislation" that will block all "refused classification" content from an entire nation of consenting adults. This is set to happen sometime after next January.

If parents want to lock down their home computers, denying themselves and their children access to certain images and information, that's their prerogative. They should also have the right to block commercial advertising to their kids.

Sure, filters – at the home or provider levels – don't work well and many older children can get around them. But if, in the face of these facts, parents prefer technology to block content, rather than undertaking the more difficult process of educating their children about the different types and calibre of content on the web, that's their choice.

What they should not be allowed to decide is what other adults, and those adults' children, do in the face of online informational plenty.

What is the mandatory filter likely to block? We won't know for certain because the banned list is banned.

But it is unlikely to focus on the evil used to justify it – child-abuse sites. These will already be blocked, in line with a new voluntary code of practice adopted by Australian internet service providers to block all child-abuse material on the Interpol blacklist. The refused-classification list revealed by Wikileaks in 2009 offers clues. It contained the Wikileaks site, as well as gambling sites, porn sites, Wikipedia entries and pages on Satanism. Nothing illegal, in other words, but plenty that is politically inconvenient or offensive to religious morals.

Anything that "sexualises" or "pornifies" anything is also likely to wear a bullseye. Voluntary euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke's instructions on medically assisted suicide may also be in the firing line, given the banning of his book The Peaceful Pill Handbook.

Examples suggest it won't just be information on performing voluntary euthanasia that will be banned, but the mention of its name.

Last year Commercials Advice banned an ad encouraging Australians to be politically active on the voluntary euthanasia issue on the spurious grounds that it depicted, promoted or encouraged suicide. When ads with atheist messages such as "Celebrate Reason" were banned in 2008 – from the same buses that regularly spruiked biblical verses – no cogent explanation was given.

Comforting. Or terrifying, depending on how much you want this government, or the next, to make secret, arbitrary decisions about what you get to see and read.


'Verbal sewer' Facebook harming children: principal

“GET YOUR KIDS OFF FACEBOOK,” thundered the latest newsletter issued by Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School, in Tweed Heads.


Principal Chris Duncan's bold, large-print warning filled the front-page column normally devoted to his formal message to parents.

Mr Duncan said he normally wrote an 800-word article on education or school issues, but he was prompted to take a different approach after having to help a 16-year-old student who suffered serious abuse on Facebook.

“It was one of those reflex actions,” he said. “I put it [the newsletter] out and thought this is going to offend half of the school community, but the feedback I've had is overwhelmingly positive.”

Mr Duncan said he was aware of students who had been sent into an “appalling state” due to abuse they received on Facebook, with some children being more vulnerable than others.

“Some kids deal with it really well and other kids are mortally wounded by it and it's just the way different kids react to things,” he said.

“I, and all of my colleague principals around the country, deal with very distressed young people and very distressed parents who have been subjected to what I would call tirades of verbal abuse on Facebook.”

Mr Duncan said he expelled two students last year for serious online harassment online of other students, one on Facebook and the other on the school's internal email system.

He said he was not suggesting a blanket Facebook ban but urged parents to be more proactive.

“My concern is parents are not overly aware of what their kids are subjected to until it gets to the point you've got a very distressed, abused young person,” he said.

“Certainly if they've got primary school age kids they shouldn't be on Facebook for a start and with teenage kids they should be aware of what they're doing, or limit their time on the computer at least.”