Monday, August 06, 2012

Abbott flags changes to discrimination law

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott has recommitted a coalition government to removing parts of the Racial Discrimination Act that make it illegal to make statements that offend based on race or ethnicity.

Mr Abbott said the coalition, if elected, will repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which prohibits statements that offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people on grounds of race or ethnicity.

This section of the act was a "threat" to freedom of speech in Australia, Mr Abbott wrote in The Australian on Monday.  "Expression or advocacy should never be unlawful merely because it is offensive," he wrote.  "It ought to be inconceivable that a commentator offering an opinion should fall foul of the law just because offence was taken or might be expected to be taken."

The coalition would be prepared to maintain a prohibition on inciting hatred against or intimidation of particular racial groups, Mr Abbott said.

He again defended News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt, who was ruled to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act in articles he wrote on fair-skinned Aborigines.  The articles, published in 2009, were headlined "It's so hip to be black" and "White fellas in the black".

Mr Abbott said while the articles were not Mr Bolt's finest, the commentator should have been afforded the right of freedom of speech.  "Speech that has to be inoffensive is not free, just unerringly politically correct," he said.

"If it's all right for (former Fairfax journalist) David Marr to upset conservative Christians, why is it not all right for Bolt to upset activist Aborigines?"

Labor MP Ed Husic said there wasn't any room in public debate for inciting of hate.  "I think there's a place for reasoned argument ... but not one that seeks to marginalise one section of the community from the other," he told Sky News.


Tattooed thug refused entry to Gold Coast nightclub

It would be a sad days if the government dictated whom we must have on our own private premises

A HUMAN rights lawyer has attacked Queensland's anti-discrimination laws after Gold Coast identity Ken Lacey was refused entry to a nightspot because of his tattoos.

Lawyer Ron Behlau said bars, clubs and restaurants should not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of a person's physical appearance.

Mr Lacey is claiming discrimination after being refused entry to Broadbeach nightclub East because of his tattoos, which include the words "revenge'' and "respect'' inked on his neck.

The millionaire businessman, and father of the Gold Coast's notorious Lacey brothers, says he has also been barred from other venues as bouncers enforce a 'no exposed tattoos' policy.

East nightclub boss James Tweddell says the Liquor Act allows venues to refuse entry to "anyone we chose''.

But Mr Behlau, a member of the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, said the policy was discriminatory and out of step with other jurisdictions.

Last week, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission stepped in after a man claimed he was refused entry to a Ballarat bar because of his tattoos.

Mr Behlau, of Nyst Lawyers, said Queensland's anti-discrimination laws should be overhauled to reflect those in Victoria.

"Discriminating against people based on physical attributes is the thin edge of the wedge. If we allow discrimination of this kind the next thing we will see is discrimination based on piercings, hair styles and weight," he said.  "To deny someone entry in to a nightspot or a job because of a particular characteristic or attribute they hold is inherently discriminatory and should be guarded against at all costs."

Mr Lacey says a 'no tattoos' policy would see many celebrities and sports stars barred from licensed venues.


Low income earners burnt as cost of solar subsidy spirals

RENTERS, pensioners and other low-income earners are paying for their wealthier neighbours to enjoy cheaper power under the state's skyrocketing solar subsidy system.

The Queensland Consumers Association says costs to subsidise solar are forecast to triple, as the state's bill to fund the scheme continues to grow.

More than 100,000 applications were received last month from homeowners wanting to profit from the state's generous 44c per kilowatt hour tariff - twice the retail power rate - which will continue for 16 years.

By installing solar systems up to 5kW, the mostly well-heeled applicants stand to earn $200-$300 a quarter from a subsidy that is costing their non-solar neighbours more each year.

One of those who applied was Algester resident Ron Ruys, who feels badly for his neighbours who are indirectly helping to pay for a $10,000 5kW system that will earn him extra income.

"I'm going to do it and I'm going to make money out of it," he said. "But it is unfair to other people because of the subsidy. I don't think people know what the 44c means to their bill."

Energy Minister Mark McArdle has estimated the tariff would cost $1.8 billion by 2028 if the scheme remained unchanged. The July 9 deadline limiting future payments at an 8c cent rate.

The Government projects that the annual cost of the subsidy will rise from $50 to $100 for each household from the surge in applications, and another $50 for upgrades to the power grid.

Whether the increases will become a reality depends on whether the Government is successful in cutting expenses elsewhere in the budgets of power suppliers, including "community services".

Queensland Consumers Association vice-president Ian Jarratt said the threat of a $100 annual hike should be a concern for many people trying to stretch their income.

"A dollar is always more for a pensioner," he said.

The association said it voiced concerns about the scheme's cost several years ago to state officials. "Things had been done far too quickly and not thought through enough, especially about the cost to consumers who could not afford to install solar systems," Mr Jarratt said.

The solar scheme has had some benefits: creating employment for thousands of installers, reducing the state's dependence on coal and lowering carbon emissions.

Prices of home solar systems have dropped 50 per cent.

Installer numbers have increased from 78 in 2008 to more than 1100 today. The number of customers has increased from 1200 to around 180,000.

On the downside, "all Queensland households and small businesses indirectly foot the bill", Mr McArdle said.

The Government said it was obliged by legislation to continue the 44c tariff for the next 16 years, and risked lawsuits if it reneged.


Ramadan riot in Sydney

RAMADAN festivities turned nasty last night when two men were arrested for offensive language toward police in south west Sydney.

More than a dozen men of Middle Eastern appearance gathered on Waterloo Rd, Greenacre for a barbecue setup on the street for what is believed to have been Ramadan.

Police arrived at the scene about 1am following reports of loud and offensive language coming from the area.

Two males were arrested for allegedly yelling obscene language at officers.

Riot police and the dog squad also attended the incident.

Some members of the crowd were wearing 'Brothers 4 Life' jackets.


Olympic boss calls for more sport in schools

With Australia trailing Kazakhstan, you can see why

AUSTRALIA'S Olympic boss John Coates believes there needs to be a greater emphasis on sport in schools in the hope of finding the next Cathy Freeman or Ian Thorpe.

The Australian team so far has failed to live up to Coates' expectations of a top-five finish at the London Games, languishing at 24 on the medals tally after the first week of competition.

The Australian Olympic Committee president says before the next Olympics in 2016 Australia needs to "talent-build" by making sport a focus in schools.

He has called on the federal government to consider changing its policy and funding to give priority to school sports.

"Perhaps the area that needs a lot of attention - and if not, funding and government intention in terms of policy - is getting sport back into the school curricula," Coates told the ABC on Monday.

The British were making "a big thing" of that being one of the legacies they're looking towards, he said.

"They've been achieving that, a greater emphasis on sport in the schools."

Some children would benefit from the health and fitness, but the next Freeman or Thorpe may also be discovered, Coates said.

Federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy is happy with the level of sports participation in schools.

"What we're seeing over at the Olympics at the moment is that we're coming so close so many times ... and it's just not going our way," she told ABC radio.

"But we're still way up there with the best of the best in the world in sport."

Senator Lundy said it was important to continue to innovate to keep sports programs strong.

"Australia's great strength is we've always punched above our weight in sport and we need to be smarter about how we use our resources to stay right up there," she said.


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