Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Override hate speech laws to allow marriage equality debate, urges Christian lobby

Australian Christian Lobby says ‘low threshold’ of state laws is creating a ‘chilling effect on free speech’ in lead-up to plebiscite

The Australian Christian Lobby has called on the federal government to permanently override anti-discrimination laws to ensure those pushing for a no vote can speak their mind on same-sex marriage.

The ACL’s managing director, Lyle Shelton, said he was concerned state anti-discrimination laws in particular had a low threshold which would prevent a rigorous no campaign in the lead-up to a plebiscite.

“We need to have the ability for a free debate in this plebiscite and at the moment, state-based anti-discrimination laws have a very low threshold for what constitutes discrimination,” Shelton told Guardian Australia. “It is creating a chilling effect on free speech.”

Shelton said he wanted the anti-discrimination legislation relaxed permanently rather than just in the lead-up to the vote on same-sex marriage.

He said the case of Archbishop Julian Porteous, who last year was the subject of a complaint to Tasmania’s anti-discrimination commissioner after an anti-marriage equality booklet published by the Catholic church was distributed to 12,000 schools, was an example of why the law had a “low threshold”.

“The booklet they produced about marriage was gentle and respectful,” Shelton said. “A lot of people are very concerned that if it can happen to Archbishop Porteous it can happen to anyone.

“Already if you speak out you’re called a bigot or a homophobe. Just look at my Twitter feed. I’m constantly demonised.”

If the majority of Australians voted yes for same-sex marriage, Shelton feared the anti-discrimination laws would lead to people in favour of traditional marriage between a man and a woman being vilified and brought before human rights commissions.

“Suddenly marriage will be redefined for millions of Australians who want to teach their children through Christian and Muslim schools about the true definition of marriage,” he said.

“That will be a huge vulnerability in future, you’ll really be talking about something which for many people becomes offensive and they’ll have the law of the land behind them which will mean you only have to be offended to accuse someone of committing an offence.”

The Turnbull government is consulting those for and against marriage equality to determine how a campaign might work. Shelton told Guardian Australia that he and his office had appealed for the laws to be changed during consultations about the no campaign with the attorney general.

During a Senate committee hearing in September examining how a plebiscite might be held, the committee was told the children of parents in same-sex relationships faced being “bombarded” with anti same-sex marriage messages from the no campaign.

Shelton told Fairfax Media those in the no camp were not seeking to say anything bigoted by having the anti-discrimination laws relaxed but wanted to put forward the argument that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

The Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, said the ACL needed to “answer some serious questions” about why it needed the anti-discrimination laws to be overridden.

“The Australian Christian Lobby’s demand to have anti-discrimination laws suspended points to one of our chief fears about a plebiscite; that it will become a platform for hate and vilification,” he said.

“The Australian Christian Lobby needs to answer some serious questions including what it intends to say that will breach anti-hate laws, and how it expects eight state and territory governments to willingly suspend their anti-hate provisions”.

He said both the yes and no camps should be mature enough to work on a respectful debate.

The Australian Greens marriage equality spokesman, Senator Robert Simms, urged the federal government to reject the ACL’s proposal, saying it would expose same-sex couples to hatred.

“These laws are designed to protect Australians from acts of hatred, vilification and incitement,” Simms said. “By advocating for these laws to be suspended the Australian Christian Lobby has let the cat of the bag and exposed its intention to run an ugly and discriminatory campaign against marriage equality.”

The shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, said no one gets to suspend hate speech laws to win an argument.  “If you need to offend in order to convince, you’ve already lost,” he said.


New laws will see babies taken from addicted or abused mothers who refuse to seek help

BABIES will be taken away at birth from drug-addicted or abused mothers who refuse to seek help, under new state laws that will kick in while the child is still in the womb.

Pregnant women who abuse drugs or alcohol will be made to sign a Parental Responsibility Contract ordering them to undergo treatment for the sake of their baby.

If they refuse or show no intention of complying, the government will be able to remove the child the moment it is born and use the broken PRC to immediately start formal proceedings to place the baby in the Minister's care.

The new legislation will also extend to pregnant woman who suffer domestic violence.

In those cases, the women will be asked to sign a PRC ordering them to either leave their partner, move in with a relative or seek help through domestic violence counselling.

While the PRC process has been operating for several years, current laws state they can only be applied to a parent after their child is born rather than while it is still in the womb. This means expectant mothers with a drug addiction can continue feeding their habit up until birth.

It is hoped that under the new scheme that will no longer happen and, in best case scenarios, the pregnant women will seek treatment and immediately cease their drug habit.

Babies born with a substance addictions cry in pain for hours, suffer tremors, respiratory problems and have low birth weight.

Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward said the changes were designed to put the child first and provide the strongest possible incentive for troubled mothers to turn their lives around.

"I make no apologies for taking this bold new approach to child protection, which ensures we are putting the best interests of the child at the centre of every decision we make," Ms Goward said.

The new laws are awaiting final approval from Cabinet before they are submitted to parliament.

"Whether it is raising the stakes on early intervention or improving access to open adoption, these reforms are about providing families and caseworkers with the support and tools they need to ensure vulnerable children have a safe home for life," Ms Goward said.


It’s game over on the ABC

It is game over on the ABC. Last night’s viewing demonstrated we might as well give up on any level of accountability or any connection with mainstream values and sensible political discussion.

First, let’s start with the good news. Media Watch actually did a reasonable job — albeit a week late — detailing the terrible error the ABC made propagating the malicious falsehood that a five-yearold asylum seeker had been raped on Nauru and would soon be sent back to live alongside the perpetrator.

The program detailed how this disturbing misinformation had been promulgated widely on the ABC despite there being no five-year-old, no rape and no evidence to support the sickening claim.

Media Watch made it clear the ABC fumbled its facts by relying on one source, then somehow conflating various bits of information and then failing to carry out the most basic checks to try to verify or substantiate its claim.

As I wrote yesterday this was not just wrong but also fit into a pattern of advocacy by the ABC against border protection policies.

The trouble is that Media Watch then attempted to blame others for the ABC’s mistakes — it tried to justify this disgraceful abrogation of basic journalistic responsibilities.

Essentially it argued that because its journalists can’t get to Nauru, the ABC can’t be blamed for getting things wrong. In other words because they can’t get to Nauru they can make up malicious lies.

To support its ridiculous argument it trotted out the former paid spin doctor for the immigration department, Sandi Logan, who defended Labor’s policies up hill and down dale during the period it completely lost control of our borders.  Logan praised the ABC journalism — even though it was wrong — and repeated one of the blatant falsehoods — that there was a rape.

Logan was an active propagandist for the disastrous policies that lead to 800 boat arrivals, 50,000 people, including thousands of kids, arriving and going into detention, and 1200 tragic deaths at sea.  During that time he helped to prevent journalists from reporting openly and freely about detention centres and their operation. Now the ABC trots him out to make excuses for its misinformation.

This is disgraceful stuff and shows that the national broadcaster is operating completely without leadership or any decent standards of accountability.

An hour later, at the end of Q & A the absurdity was there for all to see. It was another hour of predictable, politically-correct banter, with one Liberal minister and a right of centre commentator taking on a Labor frontbencher, Greens Senator, green left journalist and green left host.

Then right at the end, the commentator Mark Steyn was summing up the prospects of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the US presidential race. He quipped that Guardian journalist Lenore Taylor might get her wish — a socialist president.

The audience burst into spontaneous applause. They applauded the prospect of a socialist president of the USA.

Steyn was flabbergasted. "That’s not an applause line," he admonished the crowd. Host Tony Jones laughed and suggested it was a "laugh line" while a bemused Steyn suggested he might as well get a taxi to the airport.

Then it seemed to dawn on Jones what had unfolded. "Well it wasn’t the entire audience," he protested. Perhaps he was right. Maybe the ABC had let a few non-socialists into the audience.


Prosecution of man charged under bikie laws dropped and $30,000 awarded

Queensland police withdraw charges against Glen Pitt after lawyers allege they fabricated conversations and coerced him into agreeing to a warrantless search

Another prosecution by Queensland police under controversial anti-association laws has collapsed, leading to a $30,000 costs order awarded to a man who faced up to two years’ jail for entering a mothballed bikie clubhouse.

Police withdrew charges against mine worker Glen Pitt after his lawyers, in a pre-trial hearing in the Brisbane magistrates court on Tuesday, alleged detectives had fabricated conversations with the accused Rebels motorcycle club member before he was charged 18 months ago.

Pitt’s lawyers also argued detectives had coerced and induced him into agreeing to a warrantless search by telling him they would stop him attending his daughter’s 21st birthday and that he faced only a fine for an offence bringing a minimum mandatory six months’ jail.

The case, which follows the withdrawal of charges in other high-profile prosecutions including of librarian Sally Kuether last year, marks more than two years without a single conviction under anti-association laws since their introduction in a government campaign against outlaw motorcycle gangs in 2013.

A taskforce led by former judge Alan Wilson is due next month to deliver its review of these and other laws to a Palaszczuk government that has flagged repealing and replacing them. Police and the Liberal National party opposition, which introduced laws in government in 2013, have called for them to remain.

Pitt, 44, whom police alleged was a Rebels member, was found by officers in the yard of a disused Rebels clubhouse in Virginia, in Brisbane’s north, in July 2014 after he noticed tradesmen dismantling a shed.

The property was among 43 clubhouses declared off limits to bikies, who risk a mandatory six months’ jail by setting foot in them.

Pitt was charged with attending a prescribed place while a participant in a criminal organisation.

Pitt’s barrister Ken Fleming argued in court on Tuesday that detectives had coerced the man into agreeing to a search of his home by telling him they could return with a warrant and he would then be prevented from attending his daughter’s 21st birthday party that evening.

Fleming argued a detective also induced Pitt by telling him he was facing a simple offence that would likely lead to a fine, where in fact a mandatory minimum six month jail term applied.

He told the court that police had made allegations about conversations – in which Pitt allegedly admitted to being a Rebels bikie and that the premises was a Rebels clubhouse – that could not have taken place.

After a short adjournment by magistrate Barry Cosgrove, police withdrew charges and Pitt obtained a $30,000 costs order against them.

Pitt’s solicitor Chris Main said after the hearing that cross-examination had revealed “some significant inconsistencies between statements sworn on oath by police officers and the evidence they gave on oath, which was considerably damning to the prosecution”.

“There were conversations alleged to have occurred between our client and police which we say did not occur and they could not have happened,” he said.

“We further say that some admissions that our client is alleged to have made did not and could not have happened.”

Dozens of charges under the anti-association laws – which also forbid bikies or “criminal organisation participants” from recruiting or gathering in public in groups of more than two – have been adjourned until after the outcome of the Wilson review.

They include the case of the Yandina Five, alleged Rebels members and associates, some of them relatives, who were charged after having dinner together at the Yandina pub north of Brisbane with their families.  Almost 50 people have been charged under the laws.

Main said his client had just returned to Brisbane from a stint working in mines when he noticed tradesmen dismantling the shed.  “He goes in to see what’s happening because he doesn’t know if it’s being robbed or what. Police show up and charge him,” he said.


The Science Is Settled, So Australia Will Fire 100 Climate Scientists

In an attempt to promote fiscal responsibility, some 350 of Australia’s climate scientists were given layoff notices. The argument to keep these positions was revealing. Before: they have high confidence computer models, and strong certainty that we understand the climate. After: there are many climate unknowns, and the models need a lot more work

Leftist politicians like to say the science behind global warming is “settled,” so what’s the point of having any climate scientists?

Australian officials have decided to axe 350 jobs from its government-backed science bureaucracy last week, as they switch from climate research into ways to mitigate and adapt to global warming. The announcement set off a media firestorm, and the scientists who could lose their jobs are livid.

“Firstly the overall number of people in CSIRO is projected to be unchanged at the end of a two year period, however up to 350 people may lose their positions as we change the focus of our work program,” Larry Marshall, chief executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), said in a Monday statement in response to media criticism.

“No one is saying climate change is not important, but surely mitigation, health, education, sustainable industries, and prosperity of the nation are no less important,” Marshall said.

For years, scientists have argued the science behind global warming is largely “settled” — human activities are driving up the Earth’s temperature. In light of this, Australian officials have decided to take their research in a new direction, away from the causes of global warming to technologies to adapt to it.

“Our climate models are among the best in the world and our measurements honed those models to prove global climate change,” Marshall wrote in an email to his staff Thursday. “That question has been answered, and the new question is what do we do about it, and how can we find solutions for the climate we will be living with?”

Marshall announced some 110 layoffs in CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere division, the group responsible for climate research. Marshall clarified Monday that the unit’s staff would only be reduced by 65 employees.

In total, 350 CSIRO employees would be laid off over two years. Job cuts will also come from divisions dealing with big data and manufacturing. Critics still expect at least 100 jobs to be cut from climate research.

“Climate will be all gone, basically,” one senior scientist told The Sydney Morning Herald before the announcement was made public last week.

Once the layoffs were announced, scientists whose jobs were on the chopping block fired back and argued there was much more to know about global warming science.

It’s the sad irony of the debate surrounding global warming. Politicians, activist and some scientists have long argued there was nothing more to debate in climate science — a talking point often used to disparage skeptics.

Though now, that line is coming to bite the very people it was meant to aggrandize — climate scientists.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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