Monday, March 31, 2014

What a lot of emptyheaded poop!

Leftist critiques  of Australian society rarely bother me.  They are usually about as profound as my heading above. I am speaking up today, however.  Under the heading "Racism is the fault line that runs through Australia", career journalist Warwick McFadyen has written the article below.  It is  an eloquent statement of nothing that serves only to exude hatred of ordinary Australians.

Let me start with the heading.  I know what a fault line is in geology but what is it in a society?  Is it a weakness?  Is it a division?  I suspect that McFadyen means it as a weakness but if he means that, why not say that?  Using "faultline" amounts in the circumstances only to a failed pose of sociological sophistication.

And the rest of the article is similarly insubstantial.  His chief justification for regarding Australia as racist seems to be a snort someone uttered in his presence back in the early '80s.  The snort was a reaction to a lovely comment about Aborigines from McFadyen:  He wondered about the "odds being stacked against them, and wondered how to help them".  That's it!  That's McFadyen's principal basis for declaring Australians racist!  Thou shalt not snort, apparently.

To this day McFadyen appears not to have realized that the snort was most probably as much a reaction to his paternalism as it was  skepticism about "helping" Aborigines.

And skepticism about "helping" Aborigines is well warranted.  Ever since the missionaries were evicted from the management of Aboriginal settlements, just about everything that could be tried has been tried.  Authoritarian attempts to force them into white behaviour patterns has alternated with Rousseauvian fantasies about how we should simply respect a people who are more in harmony with nature than we are. 

And under both approaches Aboriginal behaviour has slid inexorably down the razorblade to a point where  Aboriginal women and children are abused by Aboriginal men on a daily  basis.  People are better behaved in the slums of Bangladesh.

But McFadyen apparently knows best.  He knows how to achieve what no Liberal or Labor government so far has been able to achieve.  The years that have elapsed since that snort have taught him nothing.

McFadyen goes on to evoke the normal Australian reaction to the way township Aborigines behave  and implicitly condemns it.  But he offers no argument why it should be condemned.

He does however finally get to the one episode of "racist" behaviour that Leftists dine out on:  The Cronulla riots, in which young white men from "The Shire" erupted over the arrogant behaviour on their beaches towards young white women by aggressive Lebanese Muslims.  Like all riots it was no triumph of rationality and there was very little organization to it but it was the inevitable result of politically correct policing.  If the Muslims can get away with everything, vigilante reaction will replace proper police action.  But McFadyen tells you none of that.

And, entirely predictably, McFadyen claims that the old "White Australia" policy was abolished by the leftist Whitlam government in 1973.  It was not.  It was abolished by the conservative Holt government in 1966:  "The March 1966 announcement was the watershed in abolishing the 'White Australia' policy" (See here)

McFadyen then dives into the current controversy about "hate speech".  The present conservative Federal government is exploring options for modifying some very draconian hate speech laws enacted by a former Leftist government  Even the eminent Leftist lawyer Julian Burnside QC agrees that the existing laws go too far.  But don't expect McFadyen to tell you that.

If the McFadyen piece had been any more lightweight, it would have floated away.


It was only a snort, a short derisive exhalation of air. But it was enough. I was at a barbecue with friends in Kempsey in NSW. The talk turned to the town's indigenous population. I said something along the lines of the odds being stacked against them, and wondered how to help them. That's when the snort from the acquaintance of a friend entered the conversation, and ended it for me.

This was in the early '80s. I lived there for a couple of years and, in that time, I did not see one indigenous person employed in a job in any business in the town. There may have been. I'd like to be proved wrong. The "Abos" - town jargon had moved on from "boongs" - lived on the edge of town, squandering government money on housing they got for nothing just for being who they were. Useless. When they got handouts, they spent them on grog. They were ungrateful, they trashed houses they got for nothing. They were their own worst enemy.

But the descendants of Europe weren't racists. Just ask them. If you dared. They just saw what they saw, said what they said and believed what they believed. They weren't bigots either. Just ask them. If you dared. Everyone was treated the same, they would have said the colour of the skin didn't matter.

Of course, you can't label an entire town by one epithet. It would be unfair. Prejudiced even. But it was the case that what was unsaid - and bigotry is also silence - assumed the form of an atmosphere in which all breathed and lived. It pervaded life. It shaped words and actions. It allowed bigots to be themselves. It allowed the wordless snort that said everything.

Those people of 30 years ago would be happy to know that this country's attorney-general has blessed their right to be who they were. Senator George Brandis said so in the Senate last week. "People do have the right to be bigots," he told the chamber.

In one sense, of course, the senator is right. No one person, nor government, party or instrumentality should be able to mandate who or what a person wants themselves to be. To do so would be to drill into the core of a person's existence and lobotomise it. They can be bigot, bastard, barbarian - in their own home. That is their right. But outside the front door, concept collides with the real world. Not all people are reasonable, not all people are alert to the consequences of their actions. Voltaire, who may or may not have said I disagree with what you say but I'll defend your right to say it, did say this: "Prejudices are what fools use for reason." How will a reasonable person be adjudged able to judge?

Thirty years on from the snort, surely something, somewhere in the nation has changed? And it has. There has been progress in land rights, steps towards recognition and reconciliation, emergence of indigenous culture into the mainstream and awareness of the breadth and depth of history. But through the journey there has been, and still is, a fault line. It is the fracture that runs through the land, and into it falls all the ugliness of attitude to the otherness of foreigners. We are a brilliant success story of multiculturalism - when it suits. And then Cronulla happens. We march with Michael Long on his Long Walk, and then we gibe and joke at Adam Goodes' expense (and then we make him Australian of the Year).

When the White Australia Policy was given its death blow in 1973 by the Whitlam government, after being chipped away at over the previous two decades, the remnants of the policy didn't vanish, they were merely strewn in little pieces over the ground. An optimist would hope time would wear them into dust. As the political debates, explosions of emotion and argument, set off by Brandis' proposals, again have shown, bigotry, racism and prejudice have gone nowhere. You can't argue with where you are, yet we constantly are at war with ourselves, arguing over which spirit and which place has the greater claim to a kind of proprietary morality.

Brandis' proposal will make it unlawful "for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if the act is reasonably likely to vilify another person or a group of persons; or to intimidate another person or a group of persons, and the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of that person or that group of persons".

Vilify is defined as inciting hatred against a person or group; intimidate means to cause fear of physical harm. The standard will be that of "an ordinary reasonable member" of the community, "not by the standards of any particular group". But then there is this: none of the above applies to "words, sounds, images or writing spoken, broadcast, published or otherwise communicated in the course of participating in the public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter".

What? Has there ever been a greater get-out-of-jail clause?

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus tells his daughter Scout: "First of all, if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

I wonder if the owner of the dismissive exhalation 30 years ago ever considered walking in another man's shoes? I suspect not. We could feel sorry for bigots and say they are incapable of ever doing so. They're entitled to be whoever they want to damn well be. They can say what they like. It's called free speech.

It's also a poison that is carried on the wind across the land into our daily lives.


Act failing to stop black-on-black racism, says Wesley Aird

Former Howard indigenous council member Wesley Aird at his home in Brisbane yesterday. ‘Black, white or brindle, vilification should not be tolerated’. Picture: Jack Tran Source: News Corp Australia
A FORMER member of John Howard’s indigenous advisory council, Wesley Aird, says the current anti-racial vilification regime has done nothing to stop racism within the Aboriginal community.

Throwing his support behind the push to scrap section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, Mr Aird said yesterday the amendments proposed by Attorney-General George Brandis were needed to bring the act into alignment with the “expectations of mainstream Australian society”.

“No act of parliament can ever be the panacea to all our ills,” Mr Aird said.

“We know Aboriginal leaders don’t all agree on every topic, but Australia is not the sort of country that should put up with two sets or standards of freedom of speech - one for black and one for white. It’s hypocritical and simply not good enough for Aboriginal people to claim to be just victims of race hate while at the same time abusing or bullying each other over a difference of opinion.

“Black, white or brindle, vilification should not be tolerated and the Racial Discrimination Act is plainly not doing its job if elements of the Aboriginal community are free to abuse other Aboriginal people, knowing full well they can get away with it.”

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has raised his concerns about the amendments with Senator Brandis and sought legal advice.

Speaking to the Israeli-Australian Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night, Mr O’Farrell said Australia had people who had become internationally notorious as Holocaust deniers. “Anything which allows them to get through the legal hoops without them being touched I will vigorously oppose,” he said.

While the federal Coalition is moving to water down federal anti-vilification law, NSW is set to increase the severity of a law that could send people to jail for serious racial vilification.

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine yesterday distanced himself from Mr Brandis’s comment that bigots should be allowed to be bigots. Declaring that “Melbourne is the multicultural capital of the world”, Dr Napthine said there were economic as well as social advantages in marketing Victoria.

“We want to promote multiculturalism, there is no place for bigotry.

“There is no place for racial vilification, no place for bullying on the basis of race, faith or ethnicity.”

Victoria is examining whether any federal law will affect state-based anti-vilification legislation and will submit to the commonwealth that any changes should not affect state law.

Senator Brandis, who has denied he had been forced to water down his proposed amendments, has released draft changes to the Racial Discrimination Act that scrap Section 18C.

The provision makes it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate other people or groups of people because of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

The government would replace Section 18C with provisions making it unlawful to vilify or intimidate others on similar grounds, but there are broad exemptions.

Bill Shorten yesterday seized on comments made by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull in The Australian that he was concerned about protecting people from racism to argue there was a split in the government.

“We’re already seeing the dysfunctionality of the Abbott cabinet with leaks from at least four ministers,” the Opposition Leader said.

“You’ve got Malcolm Turnbull with his opaque comments that he couldn’t possibly say what he thinks because that would be unhelpful. I say to Malcolm that just keeping silent on these matters doesn’t help anyone, actually.”

University of Melbourne law professor Mark McMillan, one of the nine claimants against News Corp Australia columnist Andrew Bolt in the case that sparked the Coalition promise to scrap Section 18c, yesterday said he had not recovered.

“We got death threats, whether they were serious or not, I was accused of being a pedophile, and these were not just responses of Andrew Bolt,” Mr McMillan told NITV. “They were responses to the understanding of what Andrew Bolt presented and therein lies the hurt, and I still find it very difficult to move on.”


Senator RYAN advocates free speech

Senator RYAN (Victoria—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education) (16:30): "I have said before that I am a first amendment type of guy. I have long admired the American culture that values freedom of speech as a critical, non-negotiable and—I think even more importantly—virtually un-conditional component of a free society.

Senator Wong talks about people being attacked. I should probably declare at this point that I am a longstanding member and a former research fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs. What we have heard from the other side of this chamber—and from my good friend, Senator Cameron, who has just left—over and over again is the vilification of people merely by virtue of the institute at which they work.

There is a reason why the Greens and the ALP hate the Institute of Public Affairs—it is because it is not part of their public sector mentality. It challenges the precepts that they put up, and it cannot be bowed by the fact that it is not on the public sector drip, the way they wish all civil society was.

What we have just heard from Senator Wong and what we have heard constantly from those opposite, including the Greens, relies on a profound misunderstanding of what our society is. They seem to view our rights, particularly our right to speech and our right to discuss—our right to participate in democracy and in a free flow of ideas—as coming to us via a licence from politicians or judges.

They seem to think that, somehow, the laws in this place determine what we are allowed and not allowed to say. That is a profound misrepresentation of our constitutional and legal history. It is only in recent times that there have been such limits on things like speech. This is a profound fissure in what we view as the role of the state, and what we view as the role of the government and its relationship with the citizens of this country.

Senator Wong accused Senator Brandis of celebrating the rights of bigots. What I will say is that I condemn the bigot, but I celebrate the rights of every citizen. And that is important, because a commitment to freedom of speech only really counts when it is tested. A commitment to freedom of speech only really counts when it comes to defending something you profoundly and viscerally disagree with—and that is where my commitment to free speech lies.

It is not about the public funding of artists. I do not have to fund someone to support their right to say something. There is a profound difference between the allocation of taxpayers’ resources to give someone the right to do something, and the question of whether or not they are allowed to say something. I will defend the right of someone to speak, but that does not entail and should not be confused with the idea that I should resource them to speak.

We have heard the constant complaints of those opposite over the last 48 hours about ethnic community leaders, multicultural community leaders, and their views on this particular proposal. I said at the start that I was a first amendment type of person: I view the proposal put up by the government and Senator Brandis in the exposure draft as a compromise. I accept that my views are not typical of all those in this place, or indeed all those in this country, in supporting a very strong and almost unlimited commitment to freedom of speech.

The problem I have is that those opposite seem to see us as a nation of tribes; as a nation where self-declared leaders of communities—communities defined by race—should somehow should have a special place in the consideration of legislation that any other Australian citizen should not.

Every Australian’s view has an equal standing in this place—every Australian’s view, no matter what community they declare themselves to be from; whether it be one or many; and whether or not they declare themselves to be leaders of communities. The elected bodies in this country are the elected representatives of the Australian people. We don’t believe in a corporatist society, or in one where there are a series of tribes where, somehow, some people have more rights than others.

The ALP and the Greens seek to define this as a debate about racism when it is not. It is a debate profoundly about speech, its limits, and the role of governments, politicians and judges in limiting the rights of our fellow citizens to express ideas. How is it our role to empower certain people in Australia, in this case judges under the current law, to determine whether another opinion is arrived at or expressed in good faith? That is the current provision in section 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act.

What happened to Andrew Bolt was that a court said that his opinion was not expressed in good faith. It did not just ban the expression of that opinion; it banned its re-publication. It had to declare an Orwellian moment—that it never happened.

The point being that, of all those in this place, it was once the centre and the left of Australian politics who campaigned against censorship, yet it is the left of Australian politics who are now its greatest advocates.

Those opposite are confused between legality and licence. To not make activities illegal is not to approve of them. The great problem with speech being banned is it denies people—community leaders, as Senator Wong pointed out, and people like me, you, and others in this chamber; it denies us the opportunity to repudiate.

Some speech should be repudiated. Some speech should be humiliated. Some speech should be ridiculed. But by banning it, it goes underground. In this technological world, where we cannot control the sources of news, that threat is even greater than when these laws were first passed just under two decades ago.

Those opposite confuse this with defamation law. It is an attempt to fudge the point, because defamation law often deals with issues and imputations of fact, not opinion. But this law can ban opinion. They ask why we are concerned that one journalist who they say is powerful had their opinion banned. I say, the idea that a court said that an article had to be stripped from a major newspaper’s website, and banned the expression of an opinion, is something we should all be concerned about. I remember the days when we would all have been concerned about that.

The most extreme left-wing activist lawyer in the United States’s ACLU would not tolerate this legislation. It shows how far the Labor Party and the Greens have moved from respect for basic individual rights for this law to even be considered, to say nothing of the laws proposed by the former Attorney-General Nicola Roxon which were going to expand the grounds for legal action of one citizen against another to an almost limitless number. Again, she confused our role of setting the boundaries as to what is illegal with regulating and proscribing the expression of opinion and expression of ideas.

I am proud to say I know Andrew Bolt. I would not necessarily describe him as a friend, only because I do not know him that well. The vilification to which he has been subjected by the professional left in this country over the last two years and the use of the law to ban him from expressing his opinion has been unprecedented. It is unprecedented in Australia to ban people from expressing political opinions. I know Andrew, and he does not have a racist bone in his body. But those opposite who disagree seek to use the law to suppress his views.

More harm was done to the views of those who oppose racism by this case and the ruling by Justice Bromberg that a member of the victim group shall be the standard by which racism is measured. So there was no arbitrary test that any Australian could be certain of to know when their opinion would be legal and when it would not be legal.

More damage was done by the professional left activists and the legal censors who think it is their right to regulate speech in Australia. While I have always opposed these laws, they were not on the public agenda until for the first time the court was going to ban the expression of opinion. We were going to censor newspapers—and we did, because republication of Andrew Bolt’s views was banned.

I was invited a couple of years ago to give a speech to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry on this point. I know Colin Rubenstein and Jeremy Jones. I know their work against racism is profound. I know they have done a lot of good work, but I respectfully disagree with them on these laws.

I cannot recount all of my reasons in the time available today. But one is that in places where these laws exist, particularly in the old world of Europe where there are speech codes, there are things such as, for example, the armoured personnel carriers that I saw outside the new synagogue in Berlin just over a decade ago. They are the places with all the racial problems.

It is the new world—such as Canada, which has recently repealed some of these laws, Australia, New Zealand and the United States—which has provided a home, refuge and sanctuary for people from all around the world. In particular, the communities that have been oppressed in those countries of Europe have often found refuge in the country with the freest speech on earth—and that is the United States. I have faith in my fellow citizens that we will debate and come to the right resolution. Those opposite, sadly, do not. I do not know where it went."

That is a very powerful speech by our good friend Scott Ryan (Liberal Senator for Victoria).

I find it quite ironic that the opposition and the media have been challenging the government to name any community leader who has come out in favour of the changes to 18c. It seems to me that the leadership of the largest Australian community group has done just that. The elected government of the Commonwealth of Australia is the leadership of the largest community group in the country – also the only community group that actually enjoys widespread legitimacy.


Julian Burnside QC gets something right

Prominent human rights lawyer and asylum seeker advocate Julian Burnside says existing racial discrimination laws go too far by making it an offence to upset people.

The federal government wants to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, and remove prohibitions on public discussion and commentary that offends, insults or humiliates individuals or groups because of their race or ethnicity.

"The mere fact that you insult or offend someone probably should not, of itself, give rise to legal liability," Mr Burnside told AAP on Saturday.

"My personal view is that 18C probably reached a bit far so a bit of fine-tuning would probably be OK.

"The idea that speech `which insults a group' is arguably going too far."

Mr Burnside argued that Aboriginal academics would have been better off pursuing a libel case against conservative columnist Andrew Bolt, who in 2011 was prosecuted under the Racial Discrimination Act for suggesting "fair-skinned people" of diverse ancestry had chosen an indigenous identity for political and career reasons.

"The plaintiffs in that case could very easily have sued for libel and they would have won on the facts found by the judge," Mr Burnside said.

"The fact is they wanted to make a clear point that they were not suing in order to get money but to get vindication."

But Mr Burnside is not in favour of completely repealing section 18C, arguing Attorney-General George Brandis had made an error by suggesting in parliament that people had a right to be bigots, as part of free speech.

"It was very unfortunate that Senator Brandis ... in fact gave the green light to bigotry," he said.

"I don't think we should tolerate or encourage bigotry in the community."


Anger as number of criminals recruited to NSW Police increases

NSW Police recruited criminals who had notched up 414 convictions before they entered the force, including 40 cases of stealing, 20 cases of break, enter and steal, more than 100  drink-driving offences, plus fraud and dishonesty.

Figures obtained under freedom of information laws reveal that 595 offences were committed by 437 police officers, or about one in 40 police still on active duty. Of those offences, 70 per cent were committed before they were employed as police officers. 

There are well over 100 high range PCAs, there are more high range PCA than low level PCA.

The figures put pressure on Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, who has said that most convictions by serving officers were for low-range drink-driving and similar offences.

Former police officer Richard McDonald, who obtained the figures, said it was ‘‘just unfathomable you can let police in who have convictions for serious offences, including fraud, break and enter, drug offences and firearms’’. 

He said the number of police with convictions had risen almost 250 per cent since 2008, although police numbers had only increased 6 per cent.

Of the 260 drink-driving offences recorded by police, including those by senior officers on the force and those committed pre-employment, 202 were medium or high range.

‘‘NSW Police has been recruiting criminals found guilty of serious offences,’’ Mr McDonald said. ‘‘That’s why the number of offences has gone up. This flies in the face of [Mr Scipione’s] claim that most are low-range drink-driving offences.’’

Mr Scipione has stood by his statement on Saturday that the majority of convictions ‘‘were for a low-range PCA [prescribed concentration of alcohol] or similar offence’’.  

‘‘While I’m not happy about that [convictions by police officers], I don’t believe these warrant the end of a police career,’’ he said.

However, of the 260 drink-driving offences, only 58 were low range. Of those, 52 were committed before employment as police officers. 

Of the 174 drink-driving offences recorded by officers before they were employed by the police, 118 were for medium or high range.

Of the 35 drink-driving offences by senior constables, 32 were in the medium or high range.  Six serving sergeants committed high or medium drink-driving offences.

Other offences recorded by senior police include five cases of assault occasioning bodily harm, one case of common assault and several convictions for providing false information. Mr Scipione said the recruitment process, which had been strengthened in 2009, involved a range of checks.

On its website, the NSW Police Recruitment branch says it conducts a review of any criminal history information of any potential recruits.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

PROTECT YOUR KIDS FROM THIS MAGGOT... because Magistrate Saines won't

Larry Pickering

Geelong Magistrate Ron Saines has just thrown out all charges against this Afghan illegal immigrant. Police had claimed he attempted to kidnap a 4 year-old girl by snatching her from her father and brother.

Convicted paedophile, Ali Jaffari (pictured) was allowed to walk free by Magistrate Saines although the repeat offender is certain to resume his sexual addiction to children.

Ali Jaffari was also found guilty last year of child molestation.

Magistrate Saines said he had “trouble” finding Jaffari guilty of the kidnapping charge due to "cultural differences". And those differences could very well be legally considered a "mitigating factor" in his attempt to snatch the little girl.

Magistrate Saines also claimed the case against Jaffari, "fell short of criminality".

According to Police Prosecutor, Sergeant Brooke Shears, Jaffari was loitering at a West Geelong cricket park where a 4-year-old girl was accompanied by her father and brother.

Sgt Shears testified that, when the father wasn’t looking, Jaffari grabbed the child who began began screaming when she realised it wasn’t her father.

Sgt Shears went on to testify that:

The little girl’s father heard his daughter’s screams and turned to see Jaffari hauling her away. The father then yelled at Jaffari, “What do you think you’re doing?” The girl escaped and ran to her father while Jaffari simply walked off.

When apprehended, Jaffari informed police of his cultural view on children: "For us it is not an issue", he said.

Jaffari had been found guilty last August, in the same Geelong courthouse, for indecent assault on a young boy and an attempted indecent assault on another.

After being found guilty of these earlier offences, Jaffari was ordered to comply with a "two-year Community Corrections Order” and to perform community work.

It seems Australian magistrates have more respect for the paedophile cultures of illegal Islamic immigrants than they do for our innocent kids.

I wonder what Magistrate Saines will sentence this degenerate Muslim germ to when he not only rapes, but murders, his next 4 year-old victim.

More community service maybe?


O frabjous joy in Tasmania

Greenies decimated

The Tasmanian Greens are divided over how the party should be run.

Re-elected MP Kim Booth has questioned whether his party needs a leader now it has lost two of its five seats.

Greens leader Nick McKim says he wants to stay on in the role, but will spill the leadership once the state election results are finalised.

Mr Booth says he will meet Mr McKim and Denison Greens MP Cassy O'Connor to work through the matter.

"Effectively you need a leader when you've got a larger team...I'm quite comfortable actually not having a leader," he said.

"We'll just be able to represent our communities and get on without the job and doing what we're elected to do."

The leadership question comes as the Greens look set to lose their status as a parliamentary party.

Mr Booth has taken the fifth seat in Bass, pushing out former Labor Attorney-General Brian Wightman.

The win confirms there will only be three Greens in the new Parliament, which means it could lose its party status and extra funding that comes with it.

The party's Lyons MP Tim Morris has been edged out in the sprawling rural seat by Labor stalwart and former minister David Llewellyn.

Mr Morris says the loss of parliamentary party status would be a blow to the Greens.

"That will be reasonably significant for the party and the way that it operates in the Parliament," he said.

"Yes, that's disappointing but that's what the voters have chosen," he said.

Mr Booth says it is humbling that he will now start his fourth term in Parliament.

"I'm certainly looking forward to getting on with the work that's ahead of me, but it will be an interesting Parliament, that's for sure," he said.

"The Liberals have a got a huge responsibility now to try and look after the economy of the state, they've spent the last four years throwing rocks and being particularly negative."


Brisbane is one of the world’s ugly cities says philosopher Alain de Botton

Funny that there are over a million people who like living in Brisbane.  Philosophers are well known for eccentric opinions.  If you look at the cities he favours, they all have a lot of nice old buildings.  Brisbane has few of those.  So his criteria would seem simplistic

BRISBANE has been singled out as one of the ugliest cities in the world, and an example of “chaotic ugliness”, says one of the world’s leading philosophers.

UK writer and television presenter Alain de Botton, known for making philosophy accessible to audiences around the world, has singled out the Australian city for abuse in his latest musings.

“No one looks at the waterfront of Brisbane, the capital of the Australian state of Queensland, and feels deeply moved by the grace and sweetness of the scene,” de Botton says in post on his website The Philosophers’ Mail .

“While most people find the centre of Paris wonderful and others will delight in the winding streets of Siena, no one on the planet responds deeply to the brutal cross city expressway and chunky stained brown office blocks of the city.”

The problem, de Botton says, is that people have accepted that everyone will have different views of what is beautiful or ugly.

“We have talked ourselves into the belief that taste is always relative,” de Botton says.  “So even though almost everyone on the planet thinks that either Siena or Paris is delightful and everyone thinks that Brisbane is a bit of a mess, we don’t dare to speak.”

But a problem possibly unbeknown to de Botton - is that he used a photograph of Ipswich to illustrate how ugly Brisbane is.

The Swiss-born de Botton is in Brisbane for a talk about his latest book about the media.

In a tweet, de Botton linked to his story with the comment “why Brisbane is the ugliest city in Australia” but has since deleted this as well as a Facebook post that said the same thing.

His article has divided the public with many agreeing but many others defending the city.

However, de Botton also offered solutions. He said planning restrictions in Brisbane focused on health and safety issues such as the distance between street lights, or how tall a building should be, but nothing about whether it should be beautiful, noble, grand or elegant.

“People who have no interest whatsoever in making any city even remotely beautiful or dignified can get away with some truly terrible construction projects free of any fear of being criticised,” he said.  “And that’s how modern Brisbane comes to look the way it does.”

De Botton, who has written a book called The Architecture of Happiness, said that cities which were beautiful like Siena, Paris, Bath and Edinburgh, all had one thing in common.

“In each case the planners in the past hit upon a pretty good basic model and imposed it widely. It wasn’t the same model. But they were all good enough.

“But in Brisbane - and a lot of other modern cities - there was a fatal refusal to select any model at all. So the result is chaotic ugliness - which no one likes.”

But is it that bad? Italian photographer Dario Cali’s timelapse of Brisbane released earlier this week shows the river city in a very different light.

Not only that, hipsters don’t seem to be put off by the city’s looks either, with Lonely Planet describing Brisbane as Australia’s coolest metropolis and GQ Magazine saying it was experiencing a renaissance of coolness.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk has also jumped to the city’s defence.

“GQ Magazine and Lonely Planet got it right when they said that Brisbane is the ‘hippest’ city in Australia,” Cr Quirk said.

“Brisbane truly is one of the few cities in the world that has everything. We’ve got great weather, enviable green spaces, lively bars and restaurants, world-class art galleries and premier events.”

He said Brisbane was Australia’s New World City.  “And with the G20 later this year our city will be showcased as it becomes the capital of the world for a week.

“As a city we are distinctively proud of what we are and optimistic about our future.


Union thuggery on Queensland construction sites must be stopped, says Fair Work Building and Construction boss

HEAVY-handed union action is out of control in Queensland and the “rule of law” must be re-established, the head of Fair Work Building and Construction says.

The state has become the worst jurisdiction in Australia for unauthorised industrial action and “union thuggery”, overtaking Victoria and WA.

But FWBC director Nigel Hadgkiss has declared a sweeping crackdown in Queensland, including recruiting more staff, getting them out from behind desks and on to construction sites as well as naming and shaming union officials who try to enter worksites without permits.

The industrial watchdog has 26 open investigations, including 21 into alleged dodgy action by unions. This compares to just three investigations current in Perth.

Investigations include the Indooroopilly Shopping Centre redevelopment site, where CFMEU members were recently banned by the Fair Work Commission from strike action for five months for unauthorised industrial action, as well as 300 workers walking off a significant Sunshine Coast building site two weeks ago.

Mr Hadgkiss, who served as deputy commissioner with the former Australian Building and Construction Commission until 2008, was appointed by the Abbott Government last October to head the FWBC. He said he had grave concerns about union activities and strike action in Queensland but more staff and inspectors were being recruited and would drag contractors and union officials who breached the rules before the Fair Work Commission.

“We need arms and legs on building sites, visibility, rather than sitting in offices,” he said. “I’d much rather see them on building sites, fighting fire with fire as it were.”

Mr Hadgkiss said the agency would start uploading to its websites the names and photos of union officials who try to enter construction sites but do not have a valid right-of-entry permit.

“If they do not have a permit as such, they are a trespasser,” he said. “Contractors have a right to know who has a legitimate right to be there.”

He said Queensland was the worst jurisdiction for unlawful industrial conduct, particularly around abuse of right of entry for “safety” reasons, coercion, intimidation and no respect for freedom of association.

“I’m talking about head contractors standing over subcontractors, forcing them to have a union agreement, throwing off honest workers because they refuse to join. We’re investigating that on a daily basis in Queensland.”

Cold cases shut down by the previous FWBC administration are also expected to be reopened.

Master Builders Association construction policy director John Crittall said “Queensland is experiencing one of the worst periods of unlawful conduct in the past 30 years” and he welcomed the new investigative focus of the FWBC.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Why I will be leaving all my lights on tonight

On Saturday at 8.30pm, millions of Australians will join over a billion people in 154 countries to make a stand for our climate by turning off their lights for an hour.

Friday, March 28, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks there will be more revelations of union corruption yet


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is appalled by the high salary of the Qld. Premier.


This article by the outspoken Larry Pickering was also posted on Facebook.  Facebook took it down. Larry comments: "The article on free speech has been removed by Facebook in response to organised Left rabble.  It seems ironic that if one dares put the case for free speech over a person’s right “not to be offended”, the reasoned argument is deleted.  I understand why so many cartoons have been deleted but to delete an article that pleads the case for free speech highlights exactly the problem we face with Section 18C. of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Greens and Labor’s Left dream of the perfect egalitarian PC world where no-one is offended by anything and everyone sleeps in the same conjugal bed. Well, that’s not the way it works, fellas, and it’s you lot that have made an art form of offending people.

No-one can agree with racial vilification, although we all come across it, but this debate is inane and widens, rather than closes, "the gap".

Only a fool believes you could legislate to determine a degree of personal offence. Is “whitie c...” less racially offensive than, “boong”? Is “gwailo” (white ghost) more racially offensive than “chink”? Is “wog” racially offensive to a southern European when he refers to himself as a wog?

The terms, “Pom”, “Kiwi”, “Newfie”, “Yank”, “Jap”, “Coon”, “Abo”, “Chink”, “Wetback”, “Fuzzy Wuzzy”, “Raghead” are all racially based, but which is legally racial bigotry? All, none or some?

What about "Shortarse" ,"Fatso" and "Freckles"? Are they less or more offensive?

Those terms, and hundreds of others, will always be used, sometimes affectionately and sometimes not. It depends on how they are used, how well you know the person and in what context.

There is no law that can decide "offence"! And there is no law that can determine one’s legitimate or feigned degree of offence.

In the 1970s Labor tried to outlaw the term “Wog”, but unfortunately “Pom” and “Kiwi” were caught in the same legislative net, it was duly ignored.

Let’s not kid ourselves, existing law is all about Aborigines. But Aborigines are as guilty as we are of racially discriminatory remarks, at least in my experience. Reverse racism is rampant wherever Aborigines reside in numbers.

I have been forced to drink my beer in a "Whitie" section but you can bet the reverse would be unacceptable.

    The current law is malleable, interpretive and requires racial discrimination by the courts themselves in order to enforce it.

PM Abbott’s proposed changes to current legislation will place "free speech" above what an individual might perceive as “offensive”. And "free speech" should win that battle every time.

Andrew Bolt was legally vilified for discussing “white Aborigines” and how they use a nominated ethnicity for financial advantage.

Okay, Bolt got a few facts wrong but he was right to say this is happening and right to ask is it fair.

Legally you are not required to prove you are of Aboriginal descent, that's "offensive", you need only to declare you are, and you can then join an entitlement queue that heavily favours Aborigines.

Is that fair to those who legitimately depend on social services?

This racial anomaly is what Andrew Bolt was debating, yet it was deemed illegal for him to do so, much to "white Aborigines'" delight.

Free speech was what our forefathers fought for, it’s a jewel in our Aussie ethic. No Labor/Green Lefty or Aboriginal activist should be allowed to take it from us and we want it back!


Govt to proceed with Medibank sale

THE Abbott government will go ahead with the sale of health insurer Medibank Private as it attempts to heal the budget.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann says an independently-prepared scoping study into the planned sale has reaffirmed the government's long-held view that there is no compelling reason for it to own a private health fund.

The sale will be conducted in the 2014/15 financial year, but the precise timing and structure of the initial public offering are yet to be determined.

"The scoping study found no evidence that premiums will increase as a result of the sale," Senator Cormann told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

He was coy on what the government hoped to raise from the privatisation, but it has been previously valued at around $4 billion.

Further details will be announced in the May 13 budget.

Gross debt would be 40 per cent lower in 2023/24 than forecast by the government in the mid-year budget review and the budget would be $34 billion in surplus that year, rather than a $12 billion deficit, according to the analysis.

Mr Hockey insists his budget numbers tell the truth and "Labor's didn't".

He ridiculed the suggestion that if the coalition had kept to Labor's budget rules the budget would be coming back to surplus.

"The problem is that Labor never kept to their budget rules," he told an exceptionally rowdy parliamentary question time.

He reminded the house yet again that on more than 300 occasions Labor had promised to deliver a surplus, but they never did.

"They have no economic credibility, they got every single number wrong and they left the Australian people to pick up the bill from a very bad Labor government," he said.

Separate modelling suggests there would need to be $55 billion worth of savings in 2023/24 alone to achieve a surplus.


Pressure on cattlemen to be "sustainable"

They already are

SENATOR Ron Boswell has attacked the power of environmentalists to damage the prosperity of regional communities.

In a speech in the Senate today, Senator Boswell warned cattle producers to closely examine a campaign to force them to prove their environmental sustainability.

“The apparent growing power of environmental non-government organisations and corporations raises fundamental questions about the future role of government, science and rational resource management in Australian primary production,” he said.

Senator Boswell foreshadowed a Senate inquiry to examine the implications of an international campaign to develop sustainability criteria for beef production.

“This goes to the very essence of not simply who is running the Australian beef industry but who is running the country,” Senator Boswell said.

“Who determines how our primary industries are managed and how they are administered? Who decides how our resources are utilised and where they are marketed? Who determines the prosperity of our communities, our industries and our nation? Those are questions that must be answered.

“I believe this issue should be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport. Before I do that, I will discuss this further with my colleague, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.”

Senator Boswell said indications were that meeting basic sustainability criteria could cost Australia’s 77,000 cattle properties some $135 million in fees in the first year.

“I do not want to see Australian farming families burdened with more cost and more paperwork and more unnecessary environmental obligations to keep WWF in business and provide a marketing point-of-difference for the likes of McDonald’s,” he said.

Senator Boswell was referring to the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB), established by WWF and McDonald’s.

“On March 17, the GRSB published a document called the ‘Draft Principles and Criteria for Global Sustainable Beef’, which potentially could shape how Australian cattle producers are allowed to operate in years to come.

“We can call witnesses to the inquiry from the main players. We can thoroughly examine who will bear the cost of this sustainability scheme and who will enjoy the benefits.

“We can investigate what the implications are for rural and regional communities that depend on cattle and other primary production. Also the implications for Australia’s trade sovereignty and its ability to freely trade in primary products, products we already know to be sustainable.”

Via email from Sen. Boswell

Why feminists should support childcare deregulation

 The Abbott Government is examining childcare regulation as part of its 'cutting red tape' agenda.

We can't keep hoping that higher subsidies will cancel out the rising cost of childcare red tape - that's why we should support deregulation in the name of gender equity, writes Trisha Jha.

It used to be petrol prices and housing affordability, but the new 'BBQ stopper' occupying the minds and hip-pockets of ordinary Australians is childcare affordability and accessibility.

Fees for long day care have increased 4 per cent a year in real terms over the last decade, and demand is still unmet across service types in many areas. Despite the previous Labor government increasing fee subsidies and funding the establishment of new services, it is still difficult for parents to procure an affordable childcare place and solutions must be found elsewhere.

The Abbott Government is examining childcare regulation as part of its 'cutting red tape' agenda, alongside its Productivity Commission review of the childcare system. Advocates for childcare access should embrace this decision to consider deregulating the sector.

The benefits to women and to wider society through increased work participation and a broader tax base are many. Women, feminist organisations (such as the Women's Electoral Lobby Australia and the National Foundation for Australian Women), professional organisations and the business community all recognise that access to affordable childcare reduces barriers to employment. Employment is key to women's financial independence, and has benefits such as the means to leave negative or abusive relationships and an increased lifetime superannuation accumulation.

It is for these reasons that childcare subsidies were introduced in the 1980s, and is for these reasons that the problem of childcare access is worth investigating.

So what exactly is wrong with our childcare system? The short answer: the government.

The principal culprit is regulation, primarily through the objective of increasing the quality of services. While it may seem like a good thing at first glance, 'quality' in this context is not about health, hygiene and safety, and nor is it about children in care being happy and safe.

Instead, the federal and state compact that governs the majority of childcare services, the National Quality Framework (NQF), involves increasing reporting requirements, mandating a minimum standard for staff qualifications and lower staff-to-child ratios. These are allegedly markers of quality childcare.

A particular loser from these regulations is community and family day care (FDC). The pursuit of qualifications turns carers into educators, and limits who can run a legitimate FDC service. Competition is shut out as the costs of regulation are absorbed by larger, amalgamated providers while smaller care providers are unable to easily absorb the costs and may shut down. Reducing services in areas that may already be experiencing shortages negatively impacts both accessibility and affordability for women and their families, making deregulation in this area worthy of concern for feminists.

The costs of regulation are passed on to families through higher fees and on to the government through increased reliance on fee subsidies. A COAG report estimated that from 2009 to 2019, the additional costs of the NQF would be $1.6 billion in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, about 50 per cent of which would be borne by families. Childcare will become more unaffordable as well as inaccessible, mostly to the detriment of women.

Growth in costs has occurred, in part, due to the childcare industry, which has campaigned for quality assurances and accreditation processes. It has been accepted without complaint by comfortable and well-off parents who support the quality agenda. Prices have been pushed up for everyone by those who could afford to pay for bells and whistles, while low- and lower-middle-income earners have lost out.

Families seeking flexibility and choice have also lost out. Paperwork that detracts from supervision of children - as many submissions from providers to the Productivity Commission inquiry attest - is surely the opposite of the quality most parents would want for their children. Moreover, regulatory constraints on supply (which local councils also influence through planning and zoning restrictions) have resulted in a decline of care services like FDC. More stringent minimum standards for FDC mean parents have less options when entrusting their child into care and, often, inconvenient and expensive long day care becomes the only option.

Not having access to childcare also has regressive impacts. Higher-income women can keep up more easily with the costs of childcare, while lower-income women find that it costs too much to go back to work and bear the brunt of the resulting inequities, especially in the event of family breakdown.

The grim truth is that the childcare sector is a classic case of regulatory capture, where larger players such as Early Childhood Australia and Goodstart Early Learning shape the regulations that govern the industry. The prevalence of fee subsidies guarantees money from the government ($4.7 billion in 2012-13) and has given providers a certain degree of immunity to the usual rules of supply and demand.

For a long time, the debate over childcare affordability and availability has involved advocating higher subsidies and increased levels of regulation simultaneously, hoping the two will cancel each other out and supply will be unaffected. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Those who advocate for childcare access in the name of gender equity and feminism must decide whether they want to support the interests of providers, or the interests of their fellow working women


Thursday, March 27, 2014

George Brandis rolled on changes to Racial Discrimination Act

Federal cabinet forced George Brandis to soften his original proposal to loosen constraints on racist insults and hate speech.

In a lengthy cabinet meeting on Monday night - and amid growing backbench concerns - Senator Brandis watered down his proposals for changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

The Attorney-General was instead obliged to settle for only a draft exposure bill. This allows the government position to remain fluid and community groups to react. The changes proposed to the act in an exposure draft on release to the government party room on Tuesday contained a weakening of Senator Brandis' original proposals.

The outcome represented what one minister described as a compromise between the conservative and moderate factions. One minister said: "George has really drunk the right-wing Kool-Aid."

Another minister said Mr Brandis' original proposal was "much worse" than the agreed text and he had been forced to back down. A third minister present at the meeting said the original bill had been "terrible".

Asked if the cabinet had forced the change from a bill to an exposure draft, that minister said "things are evolving all the time" and that the exposure draft still "needs to be changed quite substantially".

The exposure draft released has proposed section 18C, which makes it unlawful for someone to act in a manner likely to "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate" someone because of their race or ethnicity, would be repealed while section 18D, which provides protections for freedom of speech, will be removed and replaced by a new section.

The changes remove the words "offend, insult and humiliate", leave in "intimidate" and adds the word "vilify" for the first time.

But a  passage  in the exposure draft that exempts words and images "in public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter", has attracted a storm of criticism for being too broad and weakening current protections.

Fairfax Media can also reveal that members of a government legal affairs backbench committee that examined the bill had flagged the need for changes to the bill and for additional consultation.

"Normally these things get rubber stamped," an MP familiar with the process said. "I can't see [the exposure draft] surviving in its current form. And I've got no doubt the legislation will be much better."

Several MPs told Fairfax that indigenous MP Ken Wyatt's warning in the party room two Tuesdays ago that he could cross the floor if changes were not made had been a significant turning point in the development of the legislation.

Aside from Mr Wyatt, Coalition MPs including Victorians  Sarah Henderson and Jason Wood have raised concerns about the changes to the act with Senator Brandis.

A second backbench MP said the proposed changes to the Act, which were prompted by a 2011 legal case involving  News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt, had been "going fine until George made his bigot comment, which completely inflamed the situation".

Senator Brandis  said this week that "people do have a right to be bigots, you know."

The government has promised to consult on the exposure draft of the bill until April 30. A spokesman for Senator Brandis declined to comment on cabinet discussions.


Give people right to free speech, says Sue Gordon

INDIGENOUS leader Sue Gordon, the retired magistrate who led the Northern Territory intervention, has backed the Abbott government’s changes to racial discrimination laws, arguing the suppression of racism only makes it worse, driving it underground.

The former head of John Howard’s indigenous council has taken a very different view from Warren Mundine, the head of Tony Abbott’s indigenous council, who yesterday told The Australian the race changes were outrageous and retrograde.

Dr Gordon said the repression of free speech was damaging to race relations and she agreed with Attorney-General George Brandis that people had the right to be bigots. “I think sometimes there is too much emotion in this topic and people need to just look at it calmly,” she said.

“I agree with what Brandis said. People do have a right in this country, you can’t suppress everything.”

Dr Gordon was backed by Anthony Dillon, a researcher at the Australian Catholic University who identifies as a part-Aboriginal Australian. In an article in The Australian today, he writes that political correctness has gone overboard.

“Political correctness, with regard to people who identify as Aboriginal Australians, has reached the ridiculous stage where one can be accused of being racist simply by questioning the motives of some people who identify as being Aboriginal,” Mr Dillon says.

The comments came as debate raged over the Abbott government’s proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act.

Senator Brandis has released a draft of proposed changes that scrap Section 18C, the provision which makes it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate other people or groups of people because of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

The move has won crucial crossbench support in the new Senate to sit from July 1, with key players flagging they are prepared to back changes to the government’s Racial Discrimination Act.

As Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said she did not believe “there’s anyone in Australia who agrees” with the changes, senators-elect Bob Day and David Leyonhjelm revealed they supported moves to protect free speech. However, the parliament’s first indigenous female MP, Senator Nova Peris yesterday condemned Senator Brandis for saying “people had the right to be bigots”.

But Dr Gordon said it was “the nature of the country that we have”. “We are not a communist country, we have free speech and if we start picking things off to suppress individuals, well it gets worse it goes more underground,” she said. Without free speech people just “take to social media and make it worse”.

“This has got nothing to do with Andrew Bolt’s case, his article was quite inflammatory, but he was expressing an opinion which a lot of people have suppressed themselves So these things still exist,” Dr Gordon said.

“I just don’t like the idea of suppressing our country even further. I know people will be cross at me saying that but you have to stand back and look at things with a bit of a clear vision.”

She said racism was always going to rear its ugly head.  “There will always be a class of people who will promote and continue racism,” she said. “I mean you just have to look at the march for March, that is one of the classic examples.”

Fraser government minister for Aboriginal affairs and founding co-chairman of Reconciliation Australia, Fred Chaney, said the government was making a mistake.

“I hope the government will heed the views of the indigenous, Jewish and other communities who daily live with the brutal realities of racism,” the 72-year-old former Australian of the Year said.

“It is difficult for well-educated Anglo Australians of whom I am one to comprehend the realities minorities face on a daily basis. At every stage of my life I have witnessed the destructive impact of the abuse of free speech on vulnerable people. Government should be cautious about licensing overt bigotry”.


Electoral committee push for mandatory business votes in City of Sydney elections

Get rid of the Green fruitcake

Businesses in the City of Sydney would be forced to vote in council elections under recommendations by a parliamentary inquiry that threaten the primacy of Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore.

A joint committee into electoral matters, dominated by Coalition and Shooters Party MPs, pushed for the measure in a draft report obtained by Fairfax Media.

The report says the government should adopt the model used by the City of Melbourne in which landlords, business owners, corporations and other non-residents must vote in council elections. The report said the model should also be considered for other council areas with sizeable economic centres such as Newcastle, Wollongong and Parramatta.

Presently in the City of Sydney, non-residents can choose to vote, but their enrolment lapses after each election and participation rates are poor. Businesses are often unaware they have voting rights.

If the model was adopted in Sydney, it would mean a flood of new business electors at the 2016 council poll, potentially boosting the conservative vote and shrinking support for Cr Moore and her progressive agenda.

The City of Sydney says there are about 80,000 individuals and businesses eligible for the non-residential roll. However just 1700 were enrolled at the last council election, compared to about 100,000 residential voters.

Under the Melbourne model, a business owner is entitled to two votes and the landlord of their building also gets two votes.

Someone who is both a resident and business owner cannot vote twice.

The council consists of four independents aligned to Cr Moore, a Greens and a Labor councillor, plus two Liberals and a business-leaning independent.

The inquiry, chaired by Liberal MP Gareth Ward, said the council derives almost 80 per cent of ratepayer revenue from business and their electoral participation should be increased.

The concept already has Liberal Party support. NSW Liberal Party state director Mark Needham told the inquiry that the "collapse" of non-resident voter rates across the state, particularly in the City of Sydney, had "effectively disenfranchised an important voting community". He called for compulsory non-resident enrolment.

Sydney Business Chamber executive director Patricia Forsythe said the council "works well with business" but added "business is so important in the income of the city that it should be a stronger voice on the council".

Opponents such as the Greens say business groups have enough sway over local affairs and only residents should be allowed to vote.

Cr Moore said the council spent $215,000 last year on an awareness campaign encouraging businesses to vote. She said the Melbourne model would be costly to administer and potentially inaccurate, and people who are not Australian citizens would be allowed to vote.

Mr Ward said rather than spending money encouraging non-residents to vote, there was an argument for making business voting compulsory. The committee is due to finalise its report on Thursday.


Left live in their own bubble

The official biographies of the background of the federal member for Franklin, Julie Collins, are sketchy. The ALP website, for instance, says merely that she "completed a Business Administration Certificate at TAFE before taking on numerous administrative roles from the age of 16". Those various roles, including personal assistant, were mainly for Labor politicians in Hobart. Now she is shadow minister for regional development and local government in the federal Parliament.

Anyone watching the proceedings of Parliament on Wednesday, during which Collins was thrown out by the speaker for impersonating a schoolgirl chortling and sledging in class, may be struck by the way the political class is increasingly divorced from reality. It applies to all parties but is stark in the current insular model of the ALP, which lost last year's federal election, just lost office in Tasmania, just lost its majority in South Australia, was smashed in the last NSW election, was smashed in the last Queensland election and lost office in the last Victorian election. It even lost its majority in the ACT in 2012.

It's been the same for the Greens, with a series of heavy defeats in federal, state and local government elections, including a disaster in one of its strongholds, Canberra, where it lost three of its four seats in the 2012 ACT Legislative Assembly elections.

Yet none of these clear messages from the electorate appears to have made a scintilla of difference to either of the parties pummelled by the voters. We know they care deeply about losing, because Labor and the Greens desperately need control of the public sector to service their bases, but it appears increasingly and depressingly obvious they are terminally inward-looking, and preoccupied with tactical skirmishing and scorched earth rejectionism.

What is encouraging this divorce from the consequences of their actions is the echo chamber created by social media. We are constantly being told the "mainstream media" is doomed and will eventually be destroyed by an insurrection on social media.

This, too, is divorced from reality because while newspapers are navigating a turbulent shift in their business models, the major mastheads are attracting more readers than ever before, thanks to the same forces causing the turbulence. According to the latest industry figures, The Sydney Morning Herald has the largest total audience of any masthead in Australia, with 4.8 million readers a month across print, web, tablet and mobile. Subscriptions of the major Fairfax mastheads - from people who pay for the print, online or tablet editions - are growing robustly and are at or near record levels.

Yet there is incessant noise that the major media is being pushed to the sidelines. What may be happening is that people are increasingly existing in their own info-bubbles, having set filters for news and views with which they are in furious agreement.

Here, too, the tenor of politics is going backwards. The street-marchers on the left complained last week that the mainstream media basically ignored their "march in March", but the major media have never been interested in student politics or the collective personality disorders of the permanently enraged political fringe.

Some politicians play to this fringe, now that it is so easy to do via Facebook and Twitter. On Monday, my column ran under the headline "King of the trolls", referring to the Greens Senator from Western Australia, Scott Ludlam.

The great thing about trolls is they have no sense of irony. They can never, ever see the bigotry in their own shrillness. Occasionally I like to remind the trolls they are cowardly anonymous scum or tell the angry ants they have anger-management issues.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG criticizes the obscenity of the Left

Dianne Trussell and human mating

I knew Dianne Trussell over a quarter of a century ago.  I was her  landlord for a while.  And she was into diving -- with airtanks and other diving stuff prominent among her possessions.  She was happy and optimistic in a fixed-smile, brittle sort of way.

I could see where she was going wrong then but said nothing.  But perhaps now I should say something.

Psychologists have been interested in human relationships for a long time and they have converged on a "trading" view of relationships.  Each partner brings to the relationship something of equal value.  The value will be subjective but is nonetheless real.  The subjective does matter.

And the valued items are very upsetting for those who believe in romance.  Both males and females value physical things highly. Women are particularly fixated on height.  Few women will tolerate their man being shorter than them. This is particularly bad for short men -- making their prospects of offering value to a woman very poor.  So many short men will end up going to  the Republic of the Philippines for brides -- because Filipinas  are usually only 5' or 5"1" tall.

There is one group of women who value the physical above all else  -- Chinese women living in the Western world.  Australia is about 5% Chinese so one sees a lot of Chinese ladies about the place.  And if the lady is attached to a man, he will normally be a Caucasian man  -- a TALL Caucasian man.  If you see one with a Chinese man, he will be a TALL Chinese man.  So lots of unremarkable Australian men get devoted wives that way.  Chinese ladies will put up with a lot in order to get tall fathers for their children.  They know how genetics works and they think ahead.

Men are slightly less rigid.  They look for an hourglass figure in a woman but insecure men will accept a relatively flat-chested woman because they don't like other men looking at her.

But the whole process often grinds to a halt because individuals overestimate the value of what they offer.  There are skinny, gangly, flat-chested  women who think that their own wonderful self is sufficient to interest a man.  So they aim for high value men -- good looking, competent men.  But such men are not interested in them.  Such men can get a much higher value woman -- probably one with a good figure.  So the woman concerned wonders:  "Where are all the men?"  And they keep up that misjudgement into their 30s, by which time most of the good-deal men of their age and circle are married off.

I remember a singles party for people in their 40s and 50s that I once went to.  I was talking to a lady who said:  "Where are all the men?"  I pointed out that there was actually a majority of nen present. She replied: "No, not THOSE men".  She was looking for men much younger than herself.

And I think Dianne Trussell was one woman who valued herself too highly.  She was mixing with divers  -- who would generally be very fit and confident men.  And such men would have a lot to offer and would want a woman with a good figure.  But Diane was flat-chested.  So she would have sparked only fleeting interest from the men she mixed with.  She was fairly tall so could have got herself a short man but her value of herself was too high for that.  Short men will have almost any tall woman who will have them.  They know how genetics works too.

I gather it is the selfsame Dianne who now does alternative things down at Byron Bay.  Alternative things are a way of coping with the fact that you are not getting what you want in life.

I knew she was fishing in the wrong pool all those years ago and it has always bothered me that I said nothing to her about it.

Backlash over George Brandis' racial discrimination repeal

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is facing a storm of protest from religious and ethnic groups, human rights organisations and sections of his own backbench over sweeping changes to race-hate laws which have pleased right-wing commentator Andrew Bolt.

Under changes proposed by Attorney-General George Brandis, section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which makes it unlawful for someone to act in a manner likely to "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate" someone because of their race or ethnicity, would be repealed.

Section 18D, which provides protections for freedom of speech, will also be removed and replaced by a section that removes the words "offend, insult and humiliate", leaves "intimidate" and adds the word "vilify" for the first time. Sections 18B and 18E would also be repealed. They include provisions that can make employers liable for race-hate speech

On Tuesday, Mr Abbott argued the changes were designed to give the "red light" to bigotry and strengthen free-speech protections, but several Liberal MPs, human rights lawyers and ethnic groups were concerned about an extraordinarily broad exemption contained in the exposure draft regarding public discussion.

"What the government is attempting to do, as carefully, as collegially and as consultatively as we can, is to get the balance right," Mr Abbott told Parliament. "This is draft legislation which has gone out for consultation with the community."

Liberal MPs Sarah Henderson and Jason Wood added their voices to growing concern among Coalition MPs during the government's party room meeting.

Liberal MPs David Coleman and Craig Laundy, who represent electorates with a high proportion of multicultural constituents have previously flagged concerns, as has indigenous MP Ken Wyatt, who warned he could cross the floor over the issue. Mr Wyatt has since softened his position.

One Coalition MP said Senator Brandis' proposed changes were sensible, but admitted MPs were aware political opinion was turning against the Coalition with another 30 days of public consultation ahead.

"This is turning into a mess, Labor now has six weeks to throw bombs and marginal seat holders are getting nervous," the MP said.

Labor, the Greens and ethnic groups all criticised Senator Brandis' "public discussion" exemption, while the Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs argued the exemption was "so broad it is difficult to see any circumstances in public that these protections would apply".

The commission will make a detailed submission and questioned why the "intimidation" provision would be limited to physical intimidation and would not cover psychological or emotional damage.

Labor's legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus accused the government of giving a "green light to bigotry" and asked Mr Abbott to name a single community group that supported the changes. Mr Abbott was unable to name a group.

The changes would not pass through the current Senate and will struggle to get through the new Senate, which forms on July 1. Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer said his party, which will share the balance of power, had yet to decide its view.

Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein, lashed the changes for removing "any protection against public insults and humiliation on the grounds of race".

"To pass the amendments as they stand would risk emboldening racists," he said.

News Corp columnist Bolt, whose 2011 legal case prompted the changes, said he thought the Abbott government had done the right thing. The proposals, he said, should "permit us to ban what is truly wicked while leaving us free to punish the rest with the safest sanction of all - our free speech".


Senate votes to block mining tax repeal legislation

The Senate has rejected the Federal Government's push to repeal the mining tax.

The legislation to abolish the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) was defeated 35 votes to 32.

The Lower House passed the legislation in November, but it had not been expected to pass the Senate which is controlled by Labor and the Greens until the changeover in July.

Before the bill was rejected, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann reminded the chamber of the upcoming West Australian Senate election.

"Today the people of Western Australia will have the opportunity to observe who in this Senate stands up for the best interests of the great state of Western Australia and who in this Senate continues to persist with trying to impose anti-West Australian taxes," he said.

But Greens leader Christine Milne says the repeal would have served mining companies, but not the people of Australia.

"The Greens will never allow the Abbott Government to boost the profits of a few at the expense of measures that benefit so many and are vital for our future economic success," she said in a statement.

"The Greens' position on the mining tax has never wavered. We want a mining tax in the form it was recommended by the Henry tax review. We believe that instead of repealing it at the behest of big business, this tax should be strengthened.

"Voters in Western Australia have an important role to play in keeping a strong Greens voice in the Senate, to stand up against Mr Abbott's short-sighted favours to the big end of town."

The MRRT came into effect in July last year, collecting 22.5 per cent on the profits of iron ore and coal producers - which has so far come to billions of dollars less than first estimated.

The MRRT was the result of a compromise between the then-Gillard government and miners, who fought the introduction of its precursor, Kevin Rudd's Resource Super Profits Tax.

Treasurer Joe Hockey used Question Time to make fun of the tax.

"In 100 years' time when tax classes are taught at university, they'll go back and say: 'Mr Professor, what was the worst tax that was ever designed?'," he said.

"And the professor will respond: 'It was the five versions of the mining tax'."


Craig Thomson: Former Labor MP sentenced for defrauding Health Services Union

Former federal Labor MP Craig Thomson has been granted bail pending an appeal against his three-month jail term for defrauding the Health Services Union (HSU) of more than $24,000.

Thomson launched an immediate appeal after Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg sentenced him to 12 months' jail, with nine months suspended, on 65 dishonesty charges.

Mr Rozencwajg said the former national secretary of the HSU and federal member for Dobell had shown "arrogance in the extreme" and a "breach of trust of the highest order" in misusing members' funds.

He said it did not matter that Thomson had used the money to pay for sexual services, but that highlighted the "selfish personal ends for which the offences were committed". He was convinced greed was the motive.

He said Thomson had committed the offences well aware that the procedures at the HSU meant it was highly unlikely he would be held accountable.

"In fact, accountability in the national office of the HSU is not something I saw much of in the evidence led before this court," he said.

"For this blatant dishonesty to continue on a regular basis over a period of years says much about the lack of accountability.

"This, no doubt, accounts for the flagrant and insouciant manner in which these offences were committed by you."

Mr Rozencwajg said Thomson had shown no remorse, and that led him to conclude that a term of immediate imprisonment was the only option.

Thomson was taken into custody straight after being sentenced and spent a short time in the court cells before getting bail. His appeal will be heard on November 24.

After being bailed, Thomson continued to maintain his innocence, saying there had been no admissions in his case.  "Today wasn't what we was looking for in terms of where this is," he said.

"I've always maintained I'm not guilty in relation to the charges that I've been convicted of, which is why we've appealed.

"I look forward to going ahead in terms of this appeal. It is inappropriate for me or for anyone else - be they media commentators or even parliamentarians - to be making comment in relation to this matter while it continues to be before the courts."

Thomson thanked his wife, his ex-wife and supporters. "I'm now going to leave you and spend some time with wife and my lawyers, in that order," he said.

In sentencing, Mr Rozencwajg said he had taken into account the defence's argument that Thomson had already lost his career and would never work in the public sector or politics again and had suffered public humiliation as a result of "intrusive" media coverage which he believed to be unparalleled.

"It is true that, to a limited extent, this is something you have brought upon yourself by engaging with the media in an attempt to convince them and the Australian public of your innocence in these matters," the magistrate said.

"No doubt this intense media focus is rooted in political machination as well as an attraction for the salacious.

"It may, however, be said that the loss of one's career in such circumstances stems directly from the trust that reposed in you; a trust which you have breached by the commission of these offences."

Thomson has also been ordered to repay the HSU nearly $25,000.

Chris Brown, the acting national president of the HSU, is pleased Thomson got a custodial sentence.

"We've been waiting over seven years to have Mr Thomson brought to account," he said. "I think Thomson definitely deserves to pay this price.

"He's only going to be in jail for three months but I think that, along with the other costs that he's had to bear as a result of this, I think would be a deterrent to anyone."

Union whistleblower Marco Bolano is also pleased with the sentence.

"The only comment I'll make on the sentence is that I think yet again Craig Thomson has been reckless in regard to his appeal," he said.

"He could get a stiffer sentence. He may very well get a stiffer sentence. That's between him and his lawyers."

HSU national secretary Kathy Jackson says there will not be closure until the royal commission into union corruption has completed its work.

"This is about justice for all working men and women across the nation not just the Health Services Union," she said.

"We took these allegations to police and we were persecuted for it."

However, there was further evidence of the infighting which continues to rock the union with a small group of members waving placards reading "members demand jail time".

Last month Thomson was found guilty of misusing his HSU credit card over a five-year period.

He was convicted of using union funds to pay for sex workers, flights for his wife and hotel stays, make cash withdrawals and buy items such as cigarettes and firewood.

After the guilty verdict was handed down, Mr Rozencwajg acknowledged some grey areas defining what constituted business use, but said it would be an affront to common sense to think the card could be used to pay for sexual services.

Meanwhile, in a character reference submitted to Melbourne Magistrates Court, Thomson's wife Zoe said her husband was a good man who was sorry for the hurt he had caused.


KNIGHTS and dames are being reintroduced to the Order of Australia honours list

Tony Abbott said the first two to receive the titles would be outgoing Governor-General Quentin Bryce and her successor Peter Cosgrove, who takes up the vice-regal office on Friday.  Up to four knights or dames will be appointed each year.

“My intention is that this new award will go to those who have accepted public office rather than sought it; and who can never, by virtue of the office they have held, entirely return to private life,’’ the Prime Minister said.

“This special recognition may be extended to Australians of `extraordinary and pre-eminent achievement and merit’ in their service to Australia or to humanity at large.

“I believe this is an important grace note in our national life.’’

Henceforth, Mr Abbott said, the serving governor-general will be the principal knight or dame in the Order of Australia.

Mr Abbott said Dame Quentin and Sir Peter had been happy to accept the honours.

He said all future governors-general would receive the honour, adding dignity and stature to it.

Mr Abbott did not say if former governors-general would receive the honour.

He did not rule out politicians becoming a knight or dame, saying he didn’t want to pre-empt who may be considered worthy of the honour.

Mr Abbott defended his decision to return to honours not used in Australia for 28 years, saying they would enhance the dignity of the existing system.

“I don’t think it’s really any surprise,’’ he said.

Knights and dames of the Order of Australia were created by the Fraser Coalition government in 1976, but scrapped by the Hawke Labor government in 1986. During that period 12 knights and two dames were appointed.

The Prime Minister said the Queen had approved his recommendation to amend the Letters Patent constituting the Order of Australia.

The chairman of the Order of Australia Council will be consulted on any such recommendation.

Mr Abbott said the change would not affect existing companions, officers or members of the Order of Australia.

New Zealand had allowed existing Companions in the Order of New Zealand to convert to knighthoods, but this would not happen with the Australian changes, he said.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is cynical about the sudden retirement of a prominent unionist

Parents cheat 85% of childcare centres: survey

Fees have got very steep because of the costs of complying with ever more government regulation

Parents have cheated 85 per cent of childcare centres nationally by "centre hopping" without paying their bills, even though they still claim the 50 per cent federal government childcare subsidy.

A survey of 700 childcare operators by industry website CareforKids found two-thirds of centres used debt collectors to chase parents. One centre reported it was $600,000 out of pocket.

Childcare centres want parents who do not pay their bills to be blacklisted, and are calling on the federal government to pay the childcare rebate direct to the centres to eliminate potential fraud.

Australian Childcare Alliance president Gwynn Bridge said bad debts were growing as childcare became unaffordable.

"The debts are really increasing," Ms Bridge said. "It seems families aren't coping financially. It's right across Australia."

Childcare fees have risen 7 per cent a year in the past decade, more than double the rate of inflation. Fees are now up to $170 a day in some Sydney suburbs.

"The cost of childcare has gone up substantially," CareforKids founder Roxanne Elliott said. "Parents are looking to see what they can do, and they're being quite unscrupulous about it."

Australian childcare is among the least affordable in the world, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, with gross fees for a two-year-old in full-time care equal to half the average wage. Only the Netherlands and Ireland are more expensive, while childcare is most affordable in Sweden, accounting for just 5 per cent of the average wage.

The federal government will spend $6.5 billion on childcare this financial year, including $2.4 billion on the childcare rebate and $2.6 billion on childcare benefits.

Assistant Minister for Education Sussan Ley said she was "very sympathetic" to the industry's concerns about bad debts.

"There's no doubt families are doing it tough at the moment, and it doesn't help that childcare fees skyrocketed 50 per cent under Labor, but there's no excuse for parents deliberately ducking their bills," Ms Ley said.

Operators said centre hopping forced services to put up fees for other parents, and was unsettling for the children who were moved from centre to centre. To stamp out the practice, they are calling for a debt register of parents who skip centres without paying their bills.

"Something desperately needs to be done, because in no other industry can you walk away without paying," said one respondent. "It's not fair these people are able to rort the system and get away with it."

But experts said a name-and-shame register would probably contravene privacy laws, and there was too much potential for it to be abused.

The industry wants the government to pay the childcare rebate, which covers the cost of 50 per cent of fees up to $7500, directly to the services instead of to the parents.

Sixty per cent of parents receive the childcare rebate directly, with the balance opting for the payment to go straight to the services.

"Make it compulsory for the childcare rebate to be assigned to the centre involved, so the parents' debt is legitimately offset by CCR and the temptation for parents to pocket the CCR and leave the debt unpaid is removed," another centre operator said in the survey.

The national convener of Australian Community Children's Services, Prue Warrilow, agreed, saying: "If the government changes nothing else, pay the childcare rebate directly to services, so at least the services get some money."

Another suggestion is for centres to ask enrolling parents for a verification from their previous centre that they have no outstanding debts.

Ms Warrilow blamed poor management by the centres for allowing parents to run up large debts, and said centre-hopping was more likely to hit smaller operators, who did not have the credit control systems of the big chains.

"No parent should be able to get behind on fees," she said. "Most centres invoice in advance. I suspect there might be some poor management practices in there."

Parents whose children attend Bunny Cottage childcare at Bexley must pay their fees by direct debit. Owner Sharon Graham introduced the direct-debit policy after "many years of bad debts", with some families running up thousands of dollars in unpaid fees.

Ms Graham said outsourcing the collection of fees to EziPay took the pressure off her as centre director.

"Having to be the money collector as well as the educator was a really difficult juggle," she said. "Outsourcing has made a huge difference in the time I spend chasing fees, and it's more transparent for families."


Why did Paul Howes really quit as Australian Workers’ Union boss?

UNION boss Paul Howes has been unable to shake the image as one of the “faceless men” that installed Julia Gillard in the prime ministership and now his resignation is being painted as just another move from a political manipulator.

The Australian Workers’ Union national secretary has been angry since February when his ideas for a “grand compact” for peace between unions and employers were painted as political manoeuvring.

Mr Howes wanted to cut the ties between the unions and Labor that has existed for 123 years, but the strongest response to his ideas was that he was positioning himself for a jump to a political career.

And the leaking of his resignation from the Australian Workers’ Union won’t do much for his temper. He had planned a controlled release in a day or so but the rumours were flying.

Mr Howes today told Sky News getting into Parliament had never been a priority.  “It has never been my principal motivation,” he told David Speers, arguing he’s looking forward to being a “little bit more faceless” for a while.

Mr Howes’ anger was fuelled in February by the broad opinions within the ALP that, after seven years leading the AWU, Mr Howes, at just 32, wanted to cast the dice and his talents at Federal Parliament.

He’d already given that path a try just after the September election in his unsuccessful attempt to replace former Foreign Minister Bob Carr in the Senate.

Mr Howes said his support for same-sex marriage was used by Labor’s NSW right to remove him from the list of contenders.
His over-prominent role in the dumping of Kevin Rudd tagged him — fairly or unfairly — as a political manipulator.

Mr Howes future already had been the focus of speculation after his romantic partnership with Qantas executive Olivia Wirth, soon to become his wife, became public knowledge.

It could be Mr Howes wants a few years earning a better salary. He’s on about $140,000 a year plus a car as AWU leader.

He might want to put some distance between his trade union career and his potential move to politics. His predecessor Bill Shorten is frequently under attack for his past union links, and Mr Howes might wish to prevent being hit by a similar prejudice.

But he genuinely believed in his prescription for economic stability, delivered to the National Press Club, to end the “blood sport” of industrial relations in Australia, and was furious it was all being seen as a career manoeuvre.

It’s a measure of his ambitions that many observers of Mr Howes think he might be up to something, and he hasn’t disappointed with his sudden decision to quit the AWU in July.


Environmentalists take government to court over Barrier Reef plans

Environmentalists will launch court action against the Abbott government and its decision to allow dredging and spoil dumping in Great Barrier Reef waters for the expansion of coal export terminals.

The Mackay Conservation Group, backed by $150,000 raised by activist group GetUp!, will file documents in the Federal Court on Monday challenging the decision on the grounds the government failed its legal obligations to protect a world heritage site by approving the project.

It is the second legal challenge to the proposed Abbot Point development. Last month the North Queensland Conservation Group launched an appeal against a separate decision to allow the dumping of dredge spoil in reef waters by the authority which oversees the marine park protecting the site.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt approved the Abbot Point project in December under strict conditions, including the dredging and dumping of three million tonnes of sludge in the reef's waters to expand coal export terminals.

The Abbot Point development is one of many resource projects proposed for the coast along the Great Barrier Reef. Industrial development and other threats have raised the concern of the World Heritage Committee, which has asked the Australian and Queensland governments to install several measure to better protect the reef or else risk it being considered world heritage ''in danger''.

The Mackay Conservation Group is challenging the Abbot Point decision through a provision in the national environment laws that allow for a judicial review by the Federal Court of any decision.

Group campaigner Ellen Roberts said the review would be the first test of national environment laws protecting world heritage sites.

"If we are successful then potentially the decision could have implications for other world heritage areas as well,'' Ms Roberts said.

Brad Fish, chief executive of the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation, said the focus on dredging had taken the debate about the reef's future away from the real issues threatening its survival.

He pointed to an article by University of Central Queensland coral ecologist Alison Jones and marine scientist and consultant Brett Kettle posted on The Conversation that said green groups had wrongly argued dredging and dumping were major threats to the reef.


Experts warned Rudd government its batts rollout was … insane

HOME insulation industry experts warned the Rudd government that rolling out its stimulus program in two years was “insane”.

Technical expert James Fricker told the royal commission into the troubled scheme that insulation representatives believed the rollout was too fast to be done safely.

Mr Fricker said those who attended a meeting on February 18, 2009 – just weeks after the scheme’s announcement – advised that the two-year time frame was “insane”.

They said it did not allow enough time for new installers to be properly trained, ­exposing them to safety risks including electrocution, falling through plaster ceilings and fire.

Mr Fricker said experts also believed the demand for insulation would exceed the ability of Australian manufacturers to maintain supply and that the rollout was too quick to allow authorities to perform adequate quality checks.

He also told the inquiry that installing foil insulation incorrectly was so dangerous it was like “sitting in a frying pan”.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s home insulation scheme, launched as an economic stimulus measure during the global financial crisis, has been blamed for four deaths, one serious injury and at least 100 house fires.

Installing foil insulation incorrectly was so dangerous it was like sitting in a frying pan

Statement reveals Peter Garrett expressed “extreme frustration”
Witness Matt Levey said foil insulation was not suspended ­immediately after the death of

Witness Matt Levey said foil insulation was not suspended ­immediately after the death of Matthew Fuller because there were conflicting views about its use.  Matt Levey, former policy adviser to then environment minister Peter Garrett, also gave evidence at the hearing yesterday, revealing that ­installer safety was not raised as a “fundamental” risk.

“What about political risk?” Richard Perry, QC, who is representing families of men killed, asked. “That was raised by the ­department as a significant risk, yes,” Mr Levey replied.

“But what about installer safety? Was that a risk seen by the department as being fundamental?” Mr Perry asked.

“Not that I recall … That is not to say they did not think there was a risk, but it may well have been they thought it was being adequately addressed,” Mr Levey said.

Mr Levey said foil insulation was not suspended ­immediately after the death of Matthew Fuller because there were conflicting views about its use.  The advice at the time, he said, was to ban metal staples.

Counsel Assisting, Keith Wilson, asked why the use of foil insulation was not immediately suspended, given there was doubt about its use.

“I think in hindsight that makes absolute sense,” Mr Levey replied.

The inquiry has heard bureaucrats devising the scheme were warned that three New Zealanders had died while securing foil insulation in 2007.  But Mr Levey said those warnings never filtered through to him or Mr Garrett.

He said Mr Garrett was shocked to learn of Mr Fuller’s death.  “Until the first fatality was reported, we certainly weren’t assuming that there was that level of risk out there,” Mr Levey’s statement read.

The royal commission hearing ­before Ian Hanger QC continues.


Working women must stop blaming men for their troubles, says Sunrise presenter Natalie Barr who has ‘never been discriminated against’

AM I the only woman who’s not angry at men? I’m a woman and I have never felt discriminated against. There. I’ve said it.

I’m not angry at men. I can’t remember being passed over for a promotion because of a man and I have never felt undervalued ­because I’m a woman.

I went to a co-ed country Catholic school and the boys were my mates. Just like the girls. Maybe that’s where it started — my view that I was just as good as the opposite sex.  No one ever told me I wasn’t. And they still haven’t.

That doesn’t mean by any stretch that I’ve been positive and confident and happy every day of my life. It just means I don’t blame men for my troubles.

When I was 20 I missed out on a cadetship at the ABC, but I didn’t for a second think it was because I was a girl.  I just had no bloody idea what I was doing; and they could tell.

Through the end of high school and university, I volunteered to work for free at the local TV station in Bunbury during my holidays.

I couldn’t have known less about TV news or being a journalist.

Every day I was there taught me something new, gave me a little bit more confidence in myself and made me realise that I had to take a leap and start applying to every news organisation in Western Australia for a job.

Work experience shaped my future and I still believe it’s one of the most productive things a kid can do.

As a result of one of those letters, a very nice person, who just happened to be a man, finally gave me a ­cadetship with a local Perth newspaper. The pay was $142 a week. That was for a D-grade cadet, man or woman.

I loved it, worked my way up to senior reporter (in charge of a man) and then headed to Kalgoorlie for my first TV job.

I worked overseas for a few years and, of this ­December, I’ll have been at Channel Seven for 20 years.

For nearly half that time I was a reporter for the 6pm news. I started off doing very low profile stories, because I was a pretty inexperienced journalist.

I don’t remember the other junior male reporters being given better stories than me.  They were learning too. Some days I got a good story, other days the boys did. They were the days where the producer yelled at you if you stuffed up a story, and I can tell you it was ­definitely equal opportunity yelling.

I yelled back when I thought I was right, and I went home with my tail ­between my legs when I missed something the other journos had in their stories.

When my contract was up I forced myself to walk in and ask for a better deal.

Not a lot of women I know jump for joy when they have to negotiate with the boss but I don’t think that’s the boss’s fault.

Isn’t it ours? I chose to take just a few months off after I had each of my boys.

I wasn’t earning much but I sat down with my husband and we decided that it was worth taking a financial hit, paying a big chunk of my wage on childcare.

Our reasoning was if I kept working and was able to climb up the ladder, I might get paid more.

I’ve always thought that if you take years off work to raise your kids, whether you’re a man or a woman, it’ll be hard to get back into the workforce and certainly at the level you were before.

It’s great that many ­people have the choice to stay home with their children, but I also personally ­believe each choice we make comes with consequences that we have to live with.

For 11 years I’ve worked with some exceptional men on Sunrise.

But if I felt undervalued and ripped off, I’d leave.

I know there are many women out there who are trapped in situations where they do feel disadvantaged, discriminated against and overlooked because they are women.

In no way am I underestimating their pain and frustration and helplessness and the need for change in ­industries where that’s  happening.

In the past few weeks though, I’ve felt that there has been a growing tide of women attacking men in general.  I’m starting to wonder if many of us need to find a better drum to beat than the one that blames men for most of our problems.  Isn’t it about time we took some ownership?

If a man got the job ahead of you, was it because he was better?  That can’t be impossible … can it?

Should we be brutally honest with ourselves and ask if we need to change the way we approach things?

I just don’t think “us” against “them” helps anybody in the long run.