Thursday, April 21, 2016

Christophobic Facebook

Respectful post on homosexual marriage by Australian clegyman immediately deleted.  Restored only after intervention by Australian politicians

Federal Liberal MP Andrew Hastie has called on Facebook to explain why it deleted a Sydney academic’s post about same-sex marriage and reinstated it only after being quizzed by free-speech advocate Tim Wilson.

The post by John Dickson, an ordained Anglican minister and founder of the Centre for Public Christianity, was removed on ­Saturday because it did not adhere to Facebook’s “community standards”.

The 500-word opinion piece, which called for a more respect­ful debate on the issue of gay marriage, had been reinstated on Sunday night, with Facebook telling Mr Dickson one of its employees had “accidentally” deleted it.

Mr Hastie said yesterday he had told Mr Wilson, the former human rights commissioner and a Liberal candidate at the next federal election, about Facebook’s censorship when he heard about it on Sunday. Mr Wilson later spoke to someone he knew in Face­book’s government affairs team and the post was reinstated.

Mr Hastie, the MP for the seat of Canning in Western Australia, said Facebook should explain its actions.  “If they have assumed a new morality, just be clear about it,” he said. “I find it troubling that Facebook would censor a respected public figure like John Dickson who was advocating in a very reasonable and winsome manner.  “If that sort of engagement is going to be censored, I would be worried about the future of debate in this country.”

A Facebook spokesman declined to say why the post was removed or whether it had been the subject of complaints.  “This comment was removed in error,” he said. “We promptly restored the comment once we realised this, and we’re sorry for the inconvenience caused.”

Last month, Facebook entered a partnership with the Australian Marriage Equality lobby group that allows users to add a prominent banner to their profile picture showing support for same-sex marriage.


The restored FB post is here

Europcar again

Only use them as a last resort.  They will blame you for everything and anything

IT’S the most frustrating part of booking a hire car: the pressure to buy extra insurance.

On the one hand, you’ve shopped around for the best price and are determined to stay within your budget.  But the prospect of getting into an accident means you could face a disastrous repair bill, and you don’t want that do you?

Until January last year, customers of Europcar were told they could avoid this by purchasing the extra insurance cover, which would cap their bill for any damage at a ‘Damage Liability Fee’ of $3650.

But Europcar failed to inform people that they would still be up for any overhead, underbody or water damage to vehicles.

The Federal Court has just fined the company $100,000 for this misleading advice in proceedings brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

And the court declared void the parts of Europcar’s 2013 standard contract that allowed the company to hold drivers liable for every little scratch on vehicles, no matter how trivial — which made returning hire cars an anxiety-ridden exercise.

Also declared unfair and void were contract terms that held customers liable for vehicle loss or damage, regardless of whether they were at fault.

“This decision is an important one, as it makes it clear to car rental companies that they cannot simply rely on contractual terms to hold consumers liable for any and all damage that may occur during a rental period, regardless of the circumstances,” ACCC Deputy Chair Michael Schaper said. “Terms in standard form rental agreements must be fair.”

The ACCC is in the middle of an industry-wide review of Australia’s car rental industry, investigating misleading pricing and charging, and unfair contract terms.

Earlier this month, Hertz Australia agreed to refund hundreds of customers amounts totalling $395,000 after charging them for damage they did not cause, in an enforceable undertaking signed after an ACCC investigation.

Hertz and Europcar were named as the worst offenders in a recent Canstar survey of hire car users amid industry-wide frustration, the comparison site’s spokesman Simon Downes told

“Some drivers claim to have been charged up to double the original quoted price, while others have been left waiting months for security deposits to be returned,” Mr Downes said.

“Other common complaints include not being able to pay by debit card, and charges for refuelling.”

The survey found that while 81 per cent of hire care users inspected vehicles before driving off, just 57 per cent read their contract properly.

“If you are driving a vehicle worth thousands of dollars it’s important to know exactly where you stand should something go wrong,” Mr Downes said.

“It’s also concerning that many people have experienced a lack of transparency over costs and potential charges. The operators should be doing everything they can to make all costs involved as clear as possible, including insurance.”

Europcar said in a statement that it had co-operated with the ACCC, correcting its advertising and contract terms “as soon as we were advised”. The statement said the misleading conduct, which it initially disputed, “was not deliberate”.

“We have invested significantly in reviewing and updating our own policies, processes and documentation so that these are as user-friendly and transparent as possible,” managing director Ron Santiago said.

“We’re extremely confident that our Terms and Conditions are now industry leading and we are always looking for ways to raise the bar and improve the experience for our customers.”


Workers’ entitlement scheme open to abuse

And, as usual, it’s the taxpayer who’s left to foot the bill

It’s a shame that Labor’s Brendan O’Connor chose shabby politics over sensible policy last week after Queensland Nickel collapsed. Labelling the Townsville-based MP Ewen Jones “pathetic” for shedding tears over the hundreds of job losses in his Queensland electorate betrayed the calculated ignorance of Labor’s employment spokesman on a critical matter. Rather than stick the boot into Jones for low-rent political reasons, Labor’s employment spokesman might try to muster some real conviction about the importance of the Turnbull government’s pursuit of Clive Palmer.

O’Connor was determined to make a cheap political point by attacking the Coalition over a measure in the 2014 budget that hasn’t passed. That measure sought to achieve almost $80 million in savings for taxpayers by bringing the cap on paying out workers’ entitlements under the Fair Entitlements Guarantee in line with national employment standards in the Fair Work Act.

Looking out for workers is commendable. But what about looking out for taxpayers who foot the bill for FEG?

Therein lies the flaw at heart of Labor, best personified by O’Connor who appears to be clueless about the moral hazards inherent in a scheme where taxpayers pick up the tab for unpaid workers’ entitlements when companies go bust. A well-meaning administrative scheme of last resort — the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme or GEERS — introduced by John Howard in 2000 following the collapse of National Textiles — capped redundancy entitlements in line with the National Employment Standards. Under Labor, that morphed into FEG, a legislative scheme of first resort in 2012 which removed that cap.

Since its inception, taxpayers have paid out $1.88 billion to workers under the original scheme and its successor FEG. Only a fraction — $225.8m or 12.19 per cent has been recouped from those responsible for the corporate failures. And in a further snub to taxpayers’ interests, the former Labor government stripped funds from the Department of Employment necessary to recover money paid out under FEG. By contrast, the Abbott government set aside $16m in the last budget to bolster efforts to recover money paid out under FEG.

Operating like a litigation arrangement, the commonwealth funds liquidators to pursue its rights more aggressively. Given that the commonwealth has already recouped from corporate collapses more than the cost of recovery efforts, this pilot program must surely become more permanent in the May budget.

Indeed, the importance of the recovery program has been cemented following the collapse of Queensland Nickel and the record $73m that the Turnbull government will pay to sacked workers for unpaid entitlements. Moreover, it costs money to chase money. Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has appointed a special purpose liquidator to pursue potential litigation and to recover money from those responsible for the collapse of Queensland Nickel.

Why? Because the moral hazard implicit in FEG demands it. After all, the Administrator’s report to creditors released on April 12 concluded that Clive Palmer and his nephew and Queensland Nickel managing director, Clive Mensink, “appear to have been reckless in exercising their duties and powers as directors”.

The government’s pursuit of Palmer is not a political witch-hunt. There are bigger issues at stake than Clive. Chasing down those responsible for the collapse of Queensland Nickel is about curbing the moral hazard of a well-intentioned federal scheme. After all, when a company goes broke and a government fund automatically kicks in to pay millions of dollars to workers to cover unpaid entitlements, those payments sends a couple of messages. First, that the government will cover at least part of their unpaid entitlements. And second, that if a corporate boss mismanages a business, or worse, if they are a crook or a spiv and fail to pay workers their entitlements, taxpayers will pick up the tab for their financial failures.

O’Connor doesn’t need a degree in rocket science, or even in economics, to understand these unfortunate but undeniable incentives to corporate crooks. And as fun as it was for those on ABC’s Insiders last weekend to laugh at the “show us the cash, Cash” line, deeper political analysis might explore how the Fair Entitlements Guarantee is an invitation to corporate crooks to keep repeating their crooked behaviour in full knowledge that taxpayers will pay for unpaid workers’ entitlements.

Using the recovery program to protect the interests of taxpayers, former Employment Minister Eric Abetz commenced the investigation of directors involved in the collapse of Bruck Textiles in Victoria. In the Federal Court since last September, this less high profile collapse squarely raises the moral hazards at stake under FEG.

Throughout the compulsory investigation, the liquidator’s counsel, Peter Kulevski, forensically questioned Bruck’s lawyers, its accountant, chief financial officer and chairman, uncovering evidence that directors may have deliberately undertaken a corporate restructure and liquidation of the Wangaratta textile-maker to avoid paying employee entitlements. The public investigation extracted this evidence from one of Bruck’s lawyers during restructuring conversations: a file note written by Rick Catanzariti in 2013 recorded Bruck chief executive Geoffrey Parker as saying: “We need to take a number of people out. It will cost a fortune.” The people are Bruck employees. The file note also records Parker saying: “Lots of core businesses go into administration and use GEERS to supplement it.” Parker meant FEG but same sentiment.

And that’s exactly what transpired when, on July 10, 2014, Bruck sold its business and assets to Australian Textiles Mills, a related company of its parent company for the princely sum of $1. In return, ATM agreed to assume some $11m in liabilities. While many Bruck employees moved across to ATM, 58 were not offered employment. The next day, Bruck was entered into liquidation, unable to pay the entitlements of the 58 workers, leaving the government to pay $3.5m under FEG. Meanwhile, Parker became chief executive of the new textile business.

The ultimate shareholder in the textile group, before and after the restructure, is Philip Bart, who fronted the public investigation earlier this month. Remember that name? Bart was the principal owner of National Textiles which went bust in 2000 owing $11m to workers, a collapse that gave rise to GEERS.

And now Bruck has gone broke. ASIC and the federal government are investigating whether its liquidation and the Phoenix-style rise of ATM is a flagrant abuse of the FEG scheme. This is a litmus test of section 596 of the Corporations Law which prohibits transactions intended to avoid the payment of employee entitlements. Lawyers suggest that if section 596 doesn’t kick in here, the law may need changing.

While we await the liquidators report into a classic example of directors privatising corporate profits and socialising corporate loses, the Turnbull government is also determined to ensure that taxpayers don’t get fleeced in Queensland Nickel. And that may not be the end of battles over entitlements. If South Australian steelmaker Arrium goes under, the payout to Queensland Nickel workers may look like peanuts.

Which is why it’s high time Labor put some meat on its bony claim of being a prudent economic manager. To be sure, it’s laudatory to look out for workers. But what about curbing moral hazard too? In layman’s terms that means looking out for taxpayers.


Bob Hawke calls for legal voluntary euthanasia

After taking part in Andrew Denton's Better Off Dead podcast, former prime minister Bob Hawke has added his voice to calls for voluntary euthanasia to be legalised. He spoke to RN Breakfast about why it hasn't happened already and his own fears.

Bob Hawke tries to exercise his brain each day with cryptic crosswords and sodokus, but if he were to 'lose his marbles' he would want Blanche d'Alpuget to be able to 'end things' with the help of their GP.

The former prime minister recently appeared on Andrew Denton's pro-euthanasia Better Off Dead podcast.

'In my judgement, there's no moral or ethical grounds for the absurdity of having a position where a person is in terrible pain and for some quasi-religious or moral reason you're going to make them suffer and suffer and suffer.'

Hawke says the thought of 'losing his marbles' is unbearable, and considers mental exercise just as important as physical exercise.

'I do at least a couple of hard cryptics each day and a couple of hard sudokus, so I'm doing my best not to ever be in a situation where such a decision is required.'

If it were to happen, though, Hawke believes his wife, Blanche d'Alpuget, should be able to legally 'end things' via their family doctor.

Euthanasia has not been at the top of the political agenda in recent years, and Hawke suggests this comes down to fear.

'Politicians, by definition I think, are not the bravest of people ... They hear some people in the electorate or something in the media saying "we don't like that" and that's almost enough for them to say "we won't touch it".

'Despite the fact that I think the polls show that something like 70 per cent favour pro-euthanasia legislation, the fact that you've got a significant number who don't like it is enough for a lot of politicians to say, "I don't want to get involved in that controversy."

'Their first concern is saving their seat, they don't want to do anything that is going to lose them votes ... It's not very brave.'


Queensland police officer charged with rape, assault

A POLICE constable charged with rape met his alleged victim through online dating site Plenty of Fish, a court has been told.  The 23-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was granted bail in the Brisbane Magistrates Court this morning despite police objecting to his release.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Scott Pearson said the man met up with a woman through Plenty of Fish over the weekend.  He said the woman “stipulated... there would be no sexual contact”, but the man allegedly digitally raped her twice. It is then alleged he tried to choke her and after she told him to stop he replied “shut up, c**t”. He has been charged with two counts of rape and one of common assault.

The man is not required to enter a plea to those charges at this stage of proceedings. Bail was granted because he has no criminal history and no weapons are alleged to have been used.  The case returns to court on May 16.

It is alleged the officer from the northern police region sexually assaulted the woman before grabbing her by the throat.
The police prosecutor, Sgt Scott Pearson, said the victim told him she did not want to be choked, to which the accused replied: “Shut up, c*nt.”

He then allegedly told her she looked like the kind of girl who “liked to be choked in bed”.

The woman then dialled triple-zero, showed the man and threatened to call the police, the court heard.

It is alleged he then swore at her again before leaving.

The court also heard the man has no previous criminal history and has strong ties to the community.

There was no suggestion he used a weapon or caused significant injuries, his lawyer said.

His parents attended the court hearing.

He has been suspended since being arrested by members of the ethical standards command. The magistrate, Tina Previtera, granted bail on the condition the man live with his parents


No comments: