Thursday, August 02, 2018

PM shoots down ABC over Iran attack report

Malcolm Turnbull has considered lodging another formal complaint against the ABC in a new escalation of tensions ­between the ­organisation and the government, raising further questions about editorial oversight at the public broadcaster.

The Prime Minister was left angry and frustrated on Friday by an online story by senior political editor Andrew Probyn headlined “Donald Trump could be ready to order a strike against Iran, Australian Government figures say”.

The article claimed that unnamed senior figures in the Turnbull government had claimed the US could launch a strike on Iran as early as next month.

The “exclusive” article quoted unnamed sources and claimed Australian defence facilities would probably play a role in identifying targets in Iran.

Mr Turnbull strongly rejected the claims and questioned why the ABC had not contacted the Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, ­Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne or their offices before publication. “The story on the ABC, which cites senior Australian government sources, has not benefited from any consultation with me, the Foreign Minister, the Defence Minister or the chief of the ­Defence Force,” the Prime Minister told ABC radio.

“So perhaps you should inquire of the authors of the article.”

ABC reporter Andrew Greene, a joint author of the ­article, con­tacted US charge d’affaires James Caruso, who dismissed the claim.

US Defence Secretary Secretary James Mattis has since dismissed the report as “fiction”. “I have no idea where the Australian news people got that information,” General Mattis told reporters in Washington. “I’m confident it is not something that’s being considered right now, and I think it’s a complete ... frankly, it’s fiction. “It’s the best I can give you.”

A spokeswoman for the ABC said: “The ABC stands by the story. Quite clearly, in the preparation of a story such as this, multiple sources were contacted.

“We are not going to engage in a process of elimination which may run the risk of identifying sources, as you should appreciate.”

The Prime Minister’s Office ­declined to comment yesterday. There were earlier complaints by senior Turnbull government ministers including Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and from the Prime Minister’s Office over reports by the ABC chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici.

Several of those complaints were upheld by the ABC, resulting in changes made to reports and analyses.

Another ABC foray into online commentary has ended in embarrassment and an abject apology, meanwhile, with the ABC withdrawing an article that ­appeared to compare West Australian Premier Mark McGowan to disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

The ABC withdrew the opinion article and apologised to Mr McGowan after the Premier’s ­office complained that the tone of the article and placement of the photos of the men meant the ABC was “comparing a sexual predator to the premier of Western Australia”.

The online opinion piece, by Andrea Mayes, an ABC digital news producer, focused on claims that WA Water Minister Dave Kelly “feigned a headbutt” motion towards WA Nationals ­leader Mia Davies in parliament last month.

The “feigned headbutt” claim was made by Nationals MP Vince Catania but was false, according to a ruling by the state’s parliamentary Speaker two days before the article was published.

The ABC report ­contained no reference to the Speaker’s ruling.

The article said Mr McGowan had mocked Ms Davies when, in fact, he had actually mocked Mr Catania’s claims.

The ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs unit found four factual errors and “found no evidence to support the conclusion of the analysis piece that the Premier misses the #metoo point”.

The unit ordered that the article be removed from the ABC website and apologised. The article had been earlier amended and a reference to murdered Melbourne comedian Eurydice Dixon removed as it was judged not ­relevant.

“I’m satisfied that the article has been removed and an apology issued,” Mr McGowan said.

“Throughout my career, I have been a strong advocate for women’s interests and will continue to do so. I am extremely thankful for the support I have from the women in my life ­including my wife, my mother, my colleagues and the wider ­community.”

The ABC has been dealing with complaints as the national broadcaster emphasises online news at the expense of traditional TV and radio.

In April the ABC said it would cut about 20 staff from its local newsrooms and replace them with digital-first journalists. But several mistakes and controversies over online articles have shown that ­editing processes needed improvement.

In February, deputy news director Craig McMurtrie was given the new role of executive editor.

This was after a tax policy analysis by Alberici was taken off the ABC website for a week after criticism from the government. It was rewritten to remove opinion.

In January former prime minister Kevin Rudd commenced legal action over the ABC’s coverage of cabinet documents found in discarded filing cabinets.


My Health Record: Greg Hunt’s warrant claims contradicted by police union

I have opted out

Greg Hunt’s claims that a warrant will be required to access My Health Record has been contradicted for the second time in two days – this time by the Queensland Police Union.

After taking legal advice, the union has written to its members – the very police who could gain power to access the records – warning them that investigators of police misconduct would have access without warrants.

The union also openly discussed “the advantages this type of access may have” for police investigating other crimes.
My Health Record: AMA says it will do 'whatever it takes' to ensure privacy

Access to My Health Record will not be limited to police, as the list of enforcement bodies who may access records includes the immigration department, anti-corruption commissions, financial regulators and any other agencies that impose fines or are tasked with the “protection of the public revenue”.

Hunt and the Australian Digital Health Agency have repeatedly said that “no documents will be released without a court order” but the claim has been contradicted by the parliamentary library and now the Queensland Police Union.

The revelation that access can occur without a court order has added to a growing backlash, with the Australian Medical Association calling for further safeguards and Labor, the Greens and minor parties calling for changes to legislation.

Under section 70 of the My Health Records Act 2012, the ADHA can disclose health information when it “reasonably believes” it is necessary to investigate or prosecute a crime, to counter “seriously improper conduct” or to “protect the public revenue”.

The Queensland Police Union told Guardian Australia it has “legal advice that there is nothing in the legislation that requires any enforcement body to obtain a warrant to access My Health Record”.

The union has written to its members informing them that any investigation of a criminal offence or seriously improper conduct are “legitimate grounds for investigators to access your My Health Record”.

It said that investigators of police disciplinary matters and disciplinary bodies “will be able to access your My Health Record as a matter of course without warrant, without your knowledge or without even your permission or consent”.

On Wednesday the AMA president, Tony Bartone, said he would meet with Hunt and do “whatever it takes” to ensure My Health Record is subject to the “same level” of protection as existing records, including the requirement that law enforcement agencies get a warrant.

As part of an agreement with the federal government that saw the Medicare rebate freeze lifted in 2017, the AMA agreed to “continue to encourage members to use the My Health Record, with a shared focus on data quality, clinical utility and building use of the system into daily practice”.

UPDATE:  The legislation is now being amended to require a court order for access


Australia could add 'values test' for migrants, Malcolm Turnbull says

Australia will consider adding a “values test” for those considering permanent residency in order to protect its “extraordinarily successful” multicultural society, Malcolm Turnbull said.

The prime minister confirmed what his citizenship and multicultural minister Alan Tudge told the Australia/UK Leadership Forum overnight, where he floated the idea of a “values” test to fend off “segregation”.

Tudge told his London audience “our ship is slightly veering towards a European separatist multicultural model and we want to pull it back to be firmly on the Australian integrated path”.

“Some of the challenges to social cohesion that we are facing today are similar to ones that the UK is facing – such as ethnic segregation and liberal values being challenged.”

Speaking in Tasmania on Friday, Turnbull said testing potential migrants on values made sense.

“That is certainly one of the issues that we are considering but I have to say to you that we are the most successful multicultural society in the world,” he said.

“One of the reasons we are is because we put an enormous amount of effort, in Australia, into integration, into ensuring that our form of multiculturalism is one where we can all benefit from the diversity of cultural and religious and ethnic backgrounds that Australians have.

“This is a country where 28% of Australians were born outside of Australia, over half have a parent born outside of Australia – but isn’t it remarkable that we live together is so much harmony because of the values we share and those Australian values, of democracy, freedom, the rule of law, respect for women, equality between men and women.

“All of these values are vitally important and we must never, ever take them for granted and we should always ensure that we maintain them because that is what creates this extraordinary successful multicultural society that we have.

“We look around the world, and we should do that from time to time, and you look at all of the tensions and dissent and conflict, you can see what a great achievement 25 million Australians have made.”

Senior Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese criticised Tudge’s speech, saying ministers should promote Australia while overseas.

“It’s pretty odd that an Australian government minister goes to the UK and talks our country down,” Albanese told the Nine Network on Friday.

He said Australia was an incredibly successful multicultural nation.

“Australia, I think, is a bit of a microcosm for what the world should be. People from different religions, races and backgrounds living together overwhelmingly in harmony,” Albanese said.

Tudge said Australians should never be complacent about social cohesion, and advocated “modest incremental policy” changes now rather than “dramatic initiatives down the track”.

“If we want Australia to continue its multicultural success, we must take active steps now to ensure that social cohesion remains strong,” Tudge said.

The government has already proposed an English-language skills test, for potential permanent migrants, which last month Turnbull said would aid with integration.

The government’s attempts last year to make achieving citizenship harder, including requiring all applicants to have lived in Australia for four years on permanent residency visas, as well as an advanced English-language test, were rejected by the Senate.

Immigration is shaping up as one of the upcoming election’s biggest issues, as the government faces pressure from conservative members of its backbench, and crossbenchers such as Pauline Hanson, to cut Australia’s immigration rate to ease population pressures in major centres.


That unmentionable FAT again

You are not even allowed to tell your kids that they are fat, apparently.  This brings up the issue of "fat shaming".  Telling someone they need to lose weight is very offensive, apparently. But should it be? Losing weight is very difficult and fat shaming might be just the thing needed to provide the necessary incentive.  Fat is socially unpopular so losing weight will in general be advantageous

The number of overweight children in Australia has doubled in recent years, with recent data from the Institute of Health and Welfare revealing one in four children are now overweight or obese.

According to statistics, eighteen per cent are classified as overweight while eight per cent fall into the obese category.

The deepening crisis has prompted experts and commentators to debate whether or not parents should intervene by telling children they are 'overweight', and, if so, how best to broach the subject.

With almost two in three Australian adults now overweight, parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson said mothers and fathers are part of the problem.

'When you walk into the average family room on a weeknight, parents are also on their screens – they're not as active as they once were,' he said.

But in terms of combatting the growing problem, Dr Coulson believes you can't  make people better by making them feel worse.

'Studies show that one of the worst things we can do is to tell a child they are overweight - kids who are told this are much likely to have weight issues ten or fifteen years later because they start to believe it and live it out,' he said.

Facebook users weighed in on the subject as well, with many placing responsibility with mums and dads. One posed the question 'if not parents, then who?', while another agreed by writing that open, honest and carefully worded conversations are essential.

'You don't have to say you're fat... being supportive is key. Grow up and be parents, kids are SO protected from harsh realities!'

Some had a different view and said there should be no need to speak to children about weight gain if you create a trend of healthy household habits from the start.

Asked about addressing nutrition, Dr McMillan said it's best to start early and focus on health holistically rather than weight alone.

'Teach children about nutrition and how it is important for their brain function at school and to have energy for everything they want to do throughout the day. - it's about emphasising health.

'As parents, you should never talk about your body in a negative way around your children,' she said, explaining that this can impart negative associations with food.


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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