Thursday, August 06, 2015

Attention-seekers using the Adam Goodes controversy to get publicity for themselves

I agree with the various people who have called Goodes a "sook" -- (a crybaby, a whiner, a whinger).  Stan Grant is another part-Aboriginal complainer who was "all shook up" over not fitting in well as a child. The big thing missing from the thinking of such people is any sense of perspective.  They assume that they are the only ones who have experienced problems. 

But we nearly all have our crosses to bear.  It's not only racial differences that can burden us. Just ask any short man about how he feels when women look right past him, for example.  And very tall women usually wish they were shorter.  And what about being fat? Is there any greater social disadvantage than that these days?  Fat is usually regarded as changeable but it rarely is in practice.

I grew up in a small country town where sport was the focus of most social activity. But at no time have I had any interest in sport.  So I was "left out" and "did not fit in" too.  But I was too busy reading books to be much bothered by that.  I could have been a whiner and a whinger about the heavy focus on sport and the way that "marginalized" people like me.  But I was not such a whiner and whinger.  I just got on with making the most of what opportunities I did have. I guess I had what people call a "thick skin".  I think I still do.  Goodes and Grant clearly do not. 

Both have in fact had excellent opportunities that they have seized to their great benefit. Why do they now want the moon too? Nobody can have it all and the amount of social support they have is more than most do. From the positions of success that they both occupy, they could surely be indulgent and tolerant -- maybe even amused -- towards anybody who criticizes them. But they are not manly enough for that

But all that is of no concern to those described below. It is for them just a party where they can declare loudly how wonderfully just and caring they are

More than 200 passionate 'warriors' gathered in Melbourne's Federation square to perform an Indigenous war dance in support of embattled AFL star Adam Goodes.

The flash mob, mainly comprised of students and staff from the Victorian College of the Arts,  threw their fists in the air and made spear throwing gestures as they vowed to 'change the world' by actively fighting racism.

The dance was inspired by Goodes own spear-throwing performance at the MCG two months ago, which ignited an ongoing booing campaign against the former Australian of the Year, prompting him to take an extended leave of absence from the AFL.

Goodes, who said he is ready to put the racism controversy behind him, returned to training with the Sydney Swans on Tuesday ahead of Saturday's match-up against Geelong.

Richard Frankland, Indigenous performer and organiser of the flash mob, said he, and his students, wanted to take a stand against those critical of Goodes, and the public celebration of his Indigenous heritage, by emulating the very dance that sparked the controversy.

'All [Goodes] did was open a door Australia was too scared to look through - not all of Australia, just some of us, but those who do look through see this wonderful beautiful opportunity,' he told ABC News.

Mr Frankland managed to command the scattered crowd's attention as he chanted: 'What are you? What are you?'  'Warriors!' the group responded as they threw their fists in the air. 

'What have you got in your hand?' Mr Frankland asked.  The protesters placed their hands over their heart and cheered: 'Spear! Shield!'

The group of anti-racism protesters then lunged forward, with their spears in hand, and loudly declared that they would 'change the world' by 'fighting racism'.

Aboriginal woman Tammy Anderson said she hoped the flash mob helped the wider public to understand that performing an Indigenous war dance is not a declaration of war, nor is it an act of aggression.

She said it is simply a physical expression of culture, similar to the Maori Haka.

'Everyone's scared of these invisible spears so we have to throw something back with our words,' she told ABC News.

The Victorian College of the Arts and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, from University of Melbourne, used their joint twitter account to organise and mobilise the group of protesters.


Three (wrong) attitudes towards ageing

 Our population is ageing. This will bring profound economic and fiscal challenges that will require significant changes in government spending. But it will also require us to change our attitudes towards ageing and the aged. There are three specific attitudes that, if changed, would go far in combating the coming challenge.

* Older workers are less valuable

A recent report found more than 50,000 people involuntarily retired in 2011 for job-related reasons. A 2015 survey showed a quarter of Australians over 50 reported experiencing age related discrimination, and one third of managers factored age into their decision making.

The government has responded by introducing incentive payments for hiring older Australians but government incentives aren't always effective in changing people's attitudes, only their behaviour.

It is in everyone's interest for older Australians to stay in the workforce longer. Someone aged 50 today could work for 20 more years, much longer than someone aged 25 is likely to stay in one job.

* Retirees are poor, vulnerable and need protecting by government

The stereotypical image of a pensioner is someone struggling to get by in public housing who may occasionally have to eat pet food. However retirees are a very diverse cohort. Some are indeed struggling to get by, marginalised by high costs of living (especially rent) or health concerns. But this is not all (or even most) pensioners. 75%-80% of pensioners own their home without a mortgage, while around 30% of single pensioners and 50% of couple pensioners have more than $900,000 in net worth.

It is condescending to think of older Australians as helpless. Just because someone has reached retirement age does not automatically mean they need government funding. If retirees can support themselves they should do so before asking for taxpayer help.

* I've worked hard and saved, I deserve a pension

Perhaps one of the more pernicious myths in retirement income policy is that the pension is a reward for working hard and paying taxes or part of some grand intergenerational bargain. It's not. The pension is a safety net for those who can't support themselves.

If taxpayers end up having to pay for your retirement anyway, they don't care if you were careful with your money while others blew theirs. The pension should not be a taxpayer-funded reward for looking after yourself.

Changing attitudes is every bit as important as fiscal reform in combating the challenges of an ageing population.


Cory Bernardi takes aim at Australian Institute of Sport over dining hall halal

Firebrand Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has set his anti-halal sights on the Australian Institute of Sport.

The controversial backbencher, who is a leading critic of the Islamic certification of food and set up a contentious Senate inquiry into the issue, has demanded answers from the AIS about its halal policies in its dining hall.

In a series of "questions on notice" that have just been made public, the South Australian politician called on the AIS to explain an information manual that says all its dining hall meats are halal certified.

The manual has stoked online controversy among halal opponents. A "Boycott Halal in Australia" Facebook page that has more than 80,000 likes calls the AIS policy "outrageous". Earlier this year readers of Senator Bernardi's blog urged him to get to the bottom of it.

Critics were particularly incensed that halal food appeared to be provided as standard but kosher food could be provided only on request and incurred very high additional costs, a point Senator Bernardi takes up in one of his questions.

"Does the AIS acknowledge that there appears to be a discrepancy in religious food requirements, between the provision of food for Muslim athletes and the provision of food for Jewish athletes?" he wrote.

But the Australian Sports Commission, which is responsible for the institute, said the manual was not strictly accurate. A spokesman for the ASC said while meat supplied in the dining hall came from a halal-certified supplier, the institute had not specifically requested halal-certified products.

"The AIS has now amended its dietary guidelines to reflect this," the spokesman said.

The AIS can cater for halal requirements on an "as needs basis" – the same approach it takes to kosher food.

Halal meat has been requested by some clients following the changes. "The AIS apologises unreservedly to people who have unknowingly consumed food that was not halal certified at the AIS," the spokesman said.

Senator Bernardi's inquiry into "third party certification of food" has attracted a flood of sometimes bizarre and hateful submissions.

The inquiry received around 600 public submissions before the July 31 deadline, many of which contained vicious attacks on Muslims and the Islamic faith. It is due to report to parliament in November.


Wind Inquiry Recommends careful regulation

The Senate Inquiry into wind farms has tabled a final report. The report recommends a series of ‘National Wind Farm Guidelines’ to be enforced against state governments which would have their eligibility to participate in the Clean Energy Certificate market created under the Renewable Energy Target threatened if they fail to comply.

The committee, which was dominated by senators who have publicly voiced their aversion to the wind energy sector, also recommended the establishment by statute of an ‘Independent Expert Committee on Industrial Sound’ (IECIS).

The committee on industrial sound would carry the remit of “conducting independent, multi-disciplinary research into the adverse impacts and risks to individual and community health and wellbeing associated with wind turbine projects”.

Earlier this year the National Health and Medical Research Council completed its own report which found that “there is no direct evidence that exposure to wind farm noise affects physical or mental health”.

But the committee took aim at a number of respected institutions and academics who concurred with the international consensus that wind farms are not harmful to human health.

The Australian Medical Association was accused of a “lack of rigour” and “slavish repetition of the findings of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s reviews,” which the committee was also highly critical of.

Instead, it recommended the committee on industrial sound become the dominant body and assume responsibility for developing a system of ‘National Wind Farm Guidelines’ in an attempt to push states to accept Federal standards on “visual amenity”, noise levels, standard buffer zones from residences, and community consultation processes.

The report is predicated on the position that “the wind sector in Australia is suffering from a crisis in community confidence” and that this must be solved through greater Federal involvement, despite recent polling indicating voters want the Commonwealth to do more to boost clean energy.

“There is deep scepticism within many local communities about the way in which wind operators are monitored and the complicit role of state governments in fudging results that find compliance,” the report said.

Under the recommendations state and territory governments would be required to “seek the advice of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound [as to] whether the proposed project poses risks to individual and community health” before granting approval.

State governments would then be unable to approve a project until the Federal Health Minister was satisfied the “risks to human health” had been mitigated.

The Federal government has already agreed to key recommendations of the report, including establishing the committee on industrial sound by the beginning of September this year and creating a Wind Farm Commissioner to handle grievances.

Labor Senator Anne Urquhart has already made her party’s grievances clear, with Labor slamming the report as “reckless, ridiculous and irresponsible”, a position which raises questions about whether the Federal government will be willing to open a new legislative battle front to implement key recommendations.

Senator Urquhart was the only Labor member on the committee and she prepared a dissenting report to prosecute the opposition’s argument that “this isn’t just an attack on wind” but rather the nation’s “entire renewable energy industry”.

“The majority report is belligerently deaf to the expert advice that wind energy is not only safe, but it is affordable and should play a critical role in Australia’s transition to a low-carbon economy,” Urquhart said

“Not one professional scientific, medical or acoustics body in the world holds the proposition that wind farms are dangerous to human health, and yet the majority report predicates a raft of onerous recommendations on this completely unsubstantiated claim.”

Federal Labor recently announced a policy of achieving 50 per cent renewable energy within 15 years and its state satellites are likely to share Uruhart’s concerns over “the Prime Minister’s blind obsession with destroying an industry that promises billions of dollars of investment and thousands of jobs in regional communities”.

The Victorian Labor government recently called on the Commonwealth to relax the Renewable Energy Target’s foundational legislation after the opposition was forced to cut it by 20 per cent, but yesterday’s recommendations could create far bigger headaches if successfully implemented.

The report recommends a project’s ability to attract subsidies under the Renewable Energy Target be contingent on its compliance with Federal guidelines on matters such as “visual amenity” and noise levels, including retrospectively with companies given “a period of no more than five years with which to comply”.

It also argues that all new projects should be eligible to trade under the Renewable Energy Target for no more than five years and that this should be subject to a requirement to “link the issuing of renewable energy certificates with confirmed greenhouse gas reduction”.

In 2013, wind power attracted 60 per cent of Renewable Energy Certificates and accounted for 63 per cent of total renewable-generated electricity.

In its dissenting report Labor criticised the Inquiry’s terms of reference for not considering “the broader imperative … to mitigate the impact of climate change”.

“In short,” the dissenting report reads, “the terms of reference have been framed so as to avoid consideration of the primary issues that must be addressed by public policy regarding Australia's energy generation mix”.


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