Tuesday, August 29, 2017

PM in waiting Bill Shorten has all the answers, but few ring true

He was a leader in the union movement, but he is not loved like Bob Hawke was. He is not as interesting or as imaginative as Paul Keating. He lacks the conviction of John Howard and the intellectual appeal of Malcolm Turnbull. Yet the completely predictable, politically accomplished, remorselessly ambitious Billbot — Bill Shorten — is on course to become Australia’s prime minister.

The Opposition Leader has a response to every question or every problem that is put to him. Unfortunately, too often his words fail to ring true, or they fall well short of qualifying as answers or solutions, particularly when it comes to policies on — dare we say it — jobs and growth. Inspired by Shorten’s appearance on the ABC’s Q&A, the Liberals’ new federal director, Andrew Hirst, has produced a pointed ad to underline the point.

Shorten’s tactics and positioning are paying big dividends despite the fact his actual program remains problematic. With the collapse of centre-right governments and much of the ideology that went with it, Shorten rightly judged the mood of the electorate, shifted leftwards and fashioned the policies to suit.

For years he had modelled himself as the unionist who could build bridges to business. Billionaires and millionaires were his best friends. Or his in-laws. His union did deals with companies to enrich itself at the expense of the workers it claimed to represent; then later, when he made his run for parliament, union funds were diverted to his own election campaign.

When questioned about this, he said he had answered thousands of questions about it previously. Well, no he hadn’t, actually.

The questions were put to him last week following Brad Norington’s revelations in The Australian, and he couldn’t or wouldn’t answer them, finally dismissing them by saying they had all been dealt with. They haven’t.

For weeks Labor has been running the citizenship campaign against members of the government. Penny Wong’s staff member was caught out asking New Zealand MPs to ask questions about Barnaby Joyce.

Last Friday journalists asked Wong why Labor staff had been “shopping around” information on Nick Xenophon’s citizenship. Wong claimed no knowledge. Of course not.

Subsequently, Shorten was asked his own status. He says his own word that he is dinky-di is all the evidence people need. Then, when he is pressed, without a hint of shame he accuses the Prime Minister of running a birther campaign against him, as Donald Trump did against Barack Obama. He could produce the evidence to prove his renunciation. He is either having too much fun to put a stop to it by making it look as if the government is obsessed with him or preoccupied by this issue, or he is running the protection racket for suspect Labor MPs.

Funny he mentioned Trump. The one leader who has succeeded by running against the establishment while stoking grievance and complaint was the Donald. How is that working out for everyone? When you think about it, no matter what the issue, the Trump experience should provide salutary lessons for Australians. Should Australia become a republic, as Shorten has promised, after a succession of plebiscites? Think Trump. A republic with a directly elected president, which is what every poll shows people want? Again, think Trump. Should the House of Representatives be extended to four-year terms, again as Shorten has proposed? Think at least four full years of Trump.

Whatever his shortcomings, Shorten is no Trump; however, he has borrowed from Trump’s campaign (adopting populist poses and offering seemingly simple solutions) almost as much as he has aped Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders to create his own Australian avatar.

One key difference is that Trump did not campaign against rich people. He promised to create more of them.

As noted, Shorten used to love rich people too, only to refine his narrative to become the enemy of inequality when he became leader, then even more so when Turnbull became Prime Minister.

Shorten has made the most of his amazing run of good luck as Opposition Leader. Tony Abbott’s incompetence as prime minister allowed Shorten to redefine himself, and so did a poor 2016 election campaign. Mediscare and carefully constructed policies that appeared to address problems such as housing affordability, but that were really all about raising revenue, eliminated a healthy majority and weakened Turnbull’s authority.

Then Shorten and Abbott played tag team to destroy Turnbull. While Abbott softened him up, Shorten held back when the other opposition leader was in the ring, then jumped in to deliver a few uppercuts. Shorten’s reward could be the prime ministership.

Abbott, whose own prescriptions for government are even more confused than Shorten’s, will sup on revenge.

Howard was often behind by 10 percentage points for weeks on end and managed to pull out of the trough in time for the election. Turnbull is not as good at politics as Howard was but he is as relentless and he has — barring catastrophes — almost two years to do it, if only the infighting stops long enough to enable Shortenomics to be discredited. Meantime it thrives in the face of orthodox arguments that ever-increasing taxes can damage the economy.

After Shorten claimed inequality was greater now than it had been for 70 years — typically debunked as false but glossed over because feelings trump truth — opposition Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen switched theories: “Now the government, of course, doesn’t understand that growing inequality is actually bad for growth. We do. The government thinks you have a choice; you can have growth or you can have equality. We think you can have both.”

The Billbot hardened it up to justify his plan to tax trusts: “Equality is a precondition to successful growth.”

It sounded good; however, few people understood what he meant and he wasn’t asked to explain. That happens a lot, too. Shorten-omics apparently means tax increases act as stimulus packages.

Shorten also has argued his arrival at the Lodge would lift confidence and that would boost the economy, an outcome difficult to imagine if businesses and their owners are hit with the quadruple whammy he proposes of higher penalty rates, higher top personal tax rates, higher company tax rates and a tax on trusts.

If the polls remain where they are, we may get to find out.


Australian panel would punish priests who fail to report abuse confessions

This is an old controversy but in the end people draw the line at jailing priests.  It was an attack on a priest, Father PopieĹ‚uszko, that was instrumental in leading to the downfall of the Communist government in Poland

Priests who fail to tell police about suspected child sexual abuse should face criminal charges, even when they learn of abuse during a confidential religious confession, Australia’s most powerful investigative authority recommended on Monday.

Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse — the nation’s highest form of inquiry — recommended that all states and territories in Australia introduce legislation that would make it a criminal offense for people to fail to report child sexual abuse in an institutional setting.

Clergy who find out about sexual abuse during a religious confession would not be exempt from the law.

"The right to practice one’s religious beliefs must accommodate civil society’s obligation to provide for the safety of all and, in particular, children’s safety from sexual abuse," the commission wrote in a report released Monday.

"Institutions directed to caring for and providing services for children, including religious institutions, must provide an environment where children are safe from sexual abuse," it said. "Reporting information relevant to child sexual abuse to the police is critical to ensuring the safety of children."

Current laws on reporting knowledge of crimes vary across Australia. In some jurisdictions, information received during religious confessions — which are considered highly confidential by churches — is considered privileged, and thus exempt from mandatory reporting requirements.

The royal commission has been investigating since 2013 how churches and other institutions responded to the sexual abuse of children in Australia over the last several decades.

The reporting requirement that it urged Australia to adopt was one of 85 recommendations it made in a report aimed at revamping the criminal justice system to ensure fairer treatment of victims of child sexual abuse.

The reporting mandate would apply to people who failed to tell police that they knew, suspected or even should have suspected that an adult associated with their institution was sexually abusing a child.

If such a law was actually imposed in Australia, priests would ostensibly have to choose between following criminal law or canon law, which forbids them from revealing anything they hear during confession.

In its report, the commission acknowledged the significance placed upon the confidentiality of religious confessions, particularly by the Catholic Church. But the commission also said it had learned of cases in which abusers had confessed to clergy that they had sexually assaulted children and then went on to reoffend, before seeking forgiveness yet again.

The issue of whether religious confessions should be considered privileged has long plagued governments and courts across the world.

In the United States, the Louisiana state Supreme Court ruled last year that state law does not require a priest to notify authorities after hearing evidence of child abuse from a child making a confession. That ruling came amid a lawsuit against Catholic authorities by parents who say their daughter was sexually abused by a parishioner at a local church.

Ireland introduced legislation in 2012 that made it a legal requirement to report knowledge of crimes against children, and made no exemption for priests who received information about crimes during confession. How that law has been applied since then, though, is unclear; Australia’s royal commission noted in its report that the issue has yet to be tested in Ireland’s courts.

Cathy Kezelman, president of the Australian victims’ advocacy group, Blue Knot Foundation, applauded the commission’s recommendations.

"The recommendation around religious confession is most welcome, as although Blue Knot Foundation respects the right of all religions to practice their religion, children must be protected from the insidious crime of child sexual abuse," Kezelman said. "There should be no exemption in that regard, the confessional included." ???Australian clergy have anything to say or Vatican?NOT YET.


Getting Indigenous history right

Before we start tearing down statues of Captain Cook and Governor Macquarie in a misguided attempt to atone for Australia’s racist past, we should get the facts straight about contemporary Indigenous Australia.

The political narrative behind the attempt to emulate the campaign in the United States to remove Civil War memorials is that Indigenous Australians still suffer racism, prejudice, and disadvantage due to the historic legacies of colonialism and dispossession — which the Cook and Macquarie statutes are said to symbolise.

White Australia does have a black history filled with many shameful episodes; the cumulative impact was to exclude and marginalise Indigenous people from mainstream society until at least well into the 1960s.

But since then — beginning with the end of the White Australia Policy in 1966 — attitudes to race, and the place of Indigenous people in the nation, have been transformed.

Even the ABC’s Indigenous editor, Stan Grant has acknowledged in his recent Quarterly Essay that most indigenous Australians now enjoy the ‘Australian Dream’ of the fair go and opportunity for all regardless of colour, caste or creed.

Hence, 80% of Indigenous Australians have the same employment, health, housing and other social outcomes as their non-indigenous peers, and mostly live in metropolitan areas, concentrated in south-eastern Australia.

By contrast, the 20% of indigenous people who are doing badly and have appalling social outcomes, live mostly in rural and remote areas.

These are the ‘homeland’ communities established in the 1970s under the policies of Aboriginal self-determination that addressed the legacies of colonialism and dispossession by enabling indigenous people to return to their traditional lands and live in traditional ways.

Trying to make up for our racist past through ‘separatist’ policies has ultimately made things worse. The minority of Indigenous Australians that live in the homelands have remained excluded from the freedom, equality, and prosperity that other Australians take for granted.

Knocking Cook and Macquarie off their pedestals won’t do anything to ‘close the gap’. It will simply reinforce the flawed kind of thinking about our history and its legacies that has ultimately led to misery and suffering for the most disadvantaged Indigenous Australians in rural and remote Australia.


'British settlement was undeniably very good for Australia'

Former Liberal prime minister John Howard has dismissed calls to change the date of Australia Day in favour of retaining British values brought to Australia during settlement.

Mr Howard argued that British colonisation was the best option for Australia in comparison to alternatives of that time period, The Australian reports.

'Their settlement policies, their colonial policies, were not without fault, but they were infinitely better than the alternatives from around the time, Mr Howard said.

Mr Howard retained his position that colonisation of Australian land was essentially inevitable, and the British settlement was most likely the best outcome.

Slamming campaigns to shift Australia Day from January 26, Mr Howard said the move was merely 'a Green-inspired, left-wing ­exercise in gesture politics'.

Mr Howard also asserted that an inscription on a Captain Cook statue in Sydney's Hyde Park that says Cook 'discovered this territory' should be left as is, despite calls from ABC's Indigenous Affairs editor Stan Grant to have it amended. 

Stating that 'context is everything', Mr Howard agreed with Aboriginal leader Warren Mundine who said: 'if you start mucking around with statues then you might as well start tearing down the Pyramids.'

'I thought that was a good way of putting it because if you look at all the figures of history, if you go back sufficiently in time, you will find people on both sides of politics advocating what would now be seen as racial immigration policies,' he told the publication.

He also defended his attitude against apologising to Aboriginal people during his time as the country's leader, saying modern attitudes were incomparable to previous generations. 

'In some circumstances the behaviour is undeniably evil and unacceptable. But you can't do that, you have to think of the context of the time.'

In terms of history curriculum taught in schools, Mr Howard said he disagreed with the tendency to have British contribution to Australian history 'written out'.

'I don't know how to advance the position of the First Australians by diminishing the benefits of our British heritage,' he said.


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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