Monday, March 11, 2019

Tony Abbott backflips on Paris climate agreement stance

He has lost my respect over this

Tony Abbott has made an epic turnaround on a climate change agreement that has left his colleagues shaking their heads. Mr Abbott has abruptly announced: We will always have Paris.

That’s a reference to the 2015 UN sponsored agreement by more than 100 nations to reduce carbon emissions to 26-28 per cent by 2030.

It was the emissions target he approved as Prime Minister but then fought bitterly against during the prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull. But suddenly it is acceptable again.

This will be interpreted only one way: The member for Warringah has made the latest Abbott-backtrack after chatting to locals and gathering they were a carbon molecule away from ditching him after 25 years.

It was a stark and telling example of how rupturing electoral support might alter your whole approach to climate change. Mr Abbott is living up to his self-applied description as a climate change weathervane — he goes with the electoral breezes.

Although, Mr Abbott would disagree. On Friday he attempted to make the argument that other factors had changed and that he alone had been consistent. Some will struggle with the case he makes.

“I think the Government has lost its emissions obsession now that Angus Taylor is the energy minister. So I don’t think (opposition to the Paris target) is now necessary but I certainly think it’s important we get more baseload power into the system as quickly as possible,” he said on Sky News. “I’m not calling for us to pull out [of Paris] … We’ve got a new Prime Minister and a new energy minister. “We had an emissions obsession that needed to be broken, and it has now changed.”

Some might translate this as: “Malcolm Turnbull isn’t Prime Minister any more.”

The Abbott army spear carriers were so quick in following the leader there must be some serious bouts of political whiplash.

This was Liberal back bencher Craig Kelly back in August when the party factional drums were beating about Turnbull’s leadership.

“I’m not the prime minister, but I think we should pull out of Paris,” Mr Kelly, who had to be rescued by Scott Morrison from Liberals in his seat of Hughes who didn’t want him as candidate, told 2GB. “I think it’s damaging to the economy and I think it achieves nothing. There’s no environmental advantage of it.”

But on Friday, Mr Kelly — who once with careful use of redundancy condemned “moronic climate stupidity” — suddenly found cause for a truce on emissions. And with admirable frankness, he said he was changing his mind because an election was approaching.

Whatever principle had been involved in his original anti-Paris position apparently had been relegated. “I support the policies that the Liberal Party has taken to this election,” he told reporters. “I have an obligation as a member of the Liberal Party to get behind and support the policies we are taking to this election.”

The persistent bickering over the Paris targets was damaging to the Government, and not just because it might be seen as a reactionary attack on the task of lowering carbon emissions.

Prime Minister Morrison and Energy Minister Taylor still insist — contentiously — the 26-38 per cent emission reduction targets for 2030 will be me “in a canter” on existing settings, so what’s the problem?

Further, the Government wants to concentrate on sounding the alarm over Labor’s propose 50 per cent reduction and the harm it says this would cause industry. The internal Paris brawl would distract from that political debate and weaken Government authority on the issue.

There also is the broader matter of internal instability and complaints from business and industry there is little energy policy certainty.

But what emerges is the sense the dust-up over the Paris D mission targets was more about leadership than policy.

Malcolm Turnbull noted this in a tweet today quoting a 1919 poem by WB Yeats, The Second Coming. He certainly was not referring to himself returning but perhaps saw something of Liberal Party internal warfare in the poem’s final lines: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”


Julian Burnside has tough ask to win over Greens faithful

Greens readily put out their hands for billionaire money but having a rich establishment lawyer actually represent them in parliament might not be the desired image

The federal seat of Kooyong in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs is the bluest of blue-ribbon seats. It has existed since Federation and is one of only two original electorates in Victoria never to have been held by the Labor Party. Seven representatives have served there, all white males who were on average 43 years old when first elected to the seat.

To the Greens, the seat symbolises everything the party supposedly despises — a white patriarchal gerontocracy, the accumulation of wealth to the detriment of the masses, and the absence of diversity. The last thing you would expect of a party that thrives on identity politics would be to nominate an affluent, ageing, white Anglo-Saxon male. But that is exactly what it did this week when it announced Julian Burnside AO QC as its candidate. That’s right, a man who turns 70 this year and was born when Ben Chifley was Prime Minister and the White Australia Policy still operated. Who came second in preselection, Sam Newman?

Burnside is a long-time resident of Hawthorn, where the median house price is around $2.3 million. The suburb features grand mansions, old money, and Scotch College, one of the most prestigious and wealthiest private schools in the country. He was born into privilege, the son of a prominent Melbourne surgeon, and educated at Melbourne Grammar. As a barrister, he grew rich from representing wealthy clients such as corporate fraudster Alan Bond.

But according to the Greens’ website, the party speaks “on behalf of those who wouldn’t otherwise get much of a say inside parliament: children, refugees, students, individuals and families living in poverty…” Honestly, it is almost as if the party’s constituency was not society’s marginalised, but instead those insufferable types who publicly wail for the wretched in the hope it shifts attention from their bourgeois lifestyle.

Perhaps Burnside, in order to counter the perception he is just another pious toff, will highlight that, if elected, he would be foregoing the millions he earns as a barrister for the relatively paltry parliamentary base salary of $207,100. All very well, but he still carries elitist baggage. Commenting in 2007 on judicial appointments in Victoria, he said one of the problems in attracting suitable candidates was that the “pay is not great”. To put that in perspective, a lowly magistrate in Victoria has a base salary of $317,930, while a Supreme Court judge is paid $458,840 a year. If that is an example of what constitutes hardship, Burnside has much work to do if he is to give the appearance of empathising with the great unwashed.

Having long professed no interest in entering politics, he was asked this week on Sky News to explain his turnaround.

“Because,” he began theatrically, gazing upwards as if expecting celestial endorsement, “the situation is desperate”. Climate change is Burnside’s burning issue. “I think if we are worried about our children and our grandchildren, let’s save the planet for them,” he added, sounding very much like the environmental messiah. You could be excused for thinking ‘QC’ stands for quixotic clichés.

Given Hawthorn’s elevation is around 42 metres above sea level and not about to be flooded soon, I’m not sure Burnside is making the right pitch to his would-be constituents. Perhaps he would be better off stressing their coastal weekenders are threatened, or at least they will be in 100 or so years if the alarmists’ predictions are correct.

For the party he now represents, belief in man-made climate change is not so much an affirmation of science as it is an article of faith, and Burnside’s pronouncements on that subject have not always accorded. For example, in 2011, he stated: “I’m prepared to say that I accept as fairly accurate the science of global warming. But I’m prepared to start from the assumption that the science may be wrong. We don’t know.”

Only fairly accurate? Operate from the premise that the science may be wrong? This leaves him open to charges of denialism, and even if he recants the anti-rightists of the party will closely examine his historical utterances for signs of deviationism.

However, there is one tenet of Greens ideology in which Burnside has always maintained the faith, and that is the party’s ludicrous open borders policy in respect to asylum-seekers.

“The idea that we’re going to be flooded with boat people is one of the boogies that ... [shadow immigration minister] Scott Morrison tries to bring out, but it’s never happened in the past,” Burnside told ABC in 2011.

“Now I don’t see any reason why it will happen in the future. It’s a dangerous voyage.” This was both naïve and obtuse. Less than a year before in one incident alone, 48 asylum-seekers died in the Christmas Island boat tragedy.

In July 2010 — two years after the Howard government’s Pacific Solution had been dismantled, resulting in the arrival of nearly 200 illegal boats — Burnside denied there was a problem. “It is absurd to suggest that we have ‘lost control’ of our borders,” he wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald. “Our borders are close to watertight”. In the years following Burnside’s assurance, the flow of illegal boats would turn into a flood, resulting in the unauthorised arrivals of 800 vessels, 50,000 asylum-seekers, and the deaths of around 1200 people.

Just as Burnside cannot acknowledge the Pacific Solution was an effective deterrent to the people-smuggling trade, neither can he admit the Coalition’s success with Operation Sovereign Borders. His ‘nothing to see here’ tactic during the chaotic period when people smuggling resumed between 2008-13 later shifted to maintaining the problem can be easily managed.

In 2013, pressed by Sky News host and Associate Editor of The Australian Chris Kenny, he claimed that Australia could cope with 50,000 boat people per year.

Later that year he proposed the entire state of Tasmania should be an open detention centre for asylum-seekers while their claims were processed. And this is the man who, if elected, will likely hold the party’s immigration portfolio.

As one who carefully cultivates a goody two shoes image, Burnside argued in 2009 that politicians who mislead or deceive the public in their official capacities should be subject to sanctions, including imprisonment. Presumably he would say that he himself maintains these high standards. With that in mind, let’s examine his reaction to the shrill and uncorroborated reports by the ABC in January 2014 that members of the Navy had beaten asylum-seekers and inflicted severe burns by forcing them to hold on to engine pipes.

These reports were false. Host Paul Barry of ABC’s Media Watch said the organisation’s news service had “over-reached by essentially endorsing the allegations of Navy mistreatment on radio, TV and online throughout the day”. A mealy-mouthed media release from the ABC later conceded “the initial reporting needed to be more precise”.

So how did Burnside react? “Notice that reports of navy abuse of refugees came just after govt said military personnel would not be personally liable for misconduct,” he tweeted.

This was a vile and slanderous insinuation against the Navy made even worse by the fact that it came days after the ABC’s mea culpa. That tweet remains online. And just this week he tweeted his prediction that Prime Minister Scott Morrison would “send a whisper to the Navy to let a couple of asylum seeker boats through before the election”.

"Prediction:#Scomo will send a whisper to the Navy to let a couple of asylum seeker boats through before the election. Then he will try to terrify the nation that we are under attack. Could he be that dishonest?"

Who was the pompous windbag decrying those who mislead and deceive the public?

In deciding to enter the political race, Burnside may have taken too much comfort from the fawning receptions given by Melbourne’s bien-pensants. Outside the bubble his patience is tested when ill-bred and impertinent types question the wisdom of St Julian.

Last August, during a question and answer session for high school students, he told Simon Breheny of the Institute of Public Affairs to “’shove your freedom of speech up your arse, and f**k off”.

Last year I wrote of his nasty disposition when attacking Coalition members, including his comparing them with Nazis and retweeting an image of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s face superimposed on the uniform of a German SS officer. Yet Burnside constantly tweets homilies about the importance of good manners.

Get used to the intense scrutiny that campaigning entails, Mr Burnside. You might want to reflect on the words of the great Benjamin Franklin when he observed “A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one”.


Taxpayers fork out $300,000 to fly an asylum seeker from Nauru to Taiwan by PRIVATE JET to remove kidney stones - and he spent a week going to the zoo and dining at top restaurants

An asylum seeker on Nauru was sent to Taiwan to have kidney stones removed last year on a private jet - costing the Australian taxpayer $300,000. Nisar Haji stayed for three months on the island for the operation - and was flown there and back on a privately chartered Gulfstream plane.

The Indian refugee's Facebook account shows him relaxing on board the luxurious aircraft on both legs of his trip. 

On the return flight, he could be seen enjoying full access to the jet's mini-bar.

At the end of Mr Haji's time in Taiwan, he enjoyed holiday-like adventures around some of the island's top sights, according to The Courier Mail.

He was pictured at a famous rock formation in Yeh Liu Geo Park near the capital Taipei and at a zoo, and was seen taking in other tourist attractions.

The hospital where Mr Haji was put up for his surgery costs between $300-$400 a day, according to its International Priority Care Centre's rates.

His situation is not a one-off, with other refugees taken overseas for medical treatment instead of to the Australian mainland.

It is understood the man is still on Nauru and does not want to go back to India.

A Home Affairs spokesperson said they would not comment on an individual case.

The revelations come less than a month after Labor's medevac bill passed through parliament, allowing asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island to be medically evacuated to the Australian mainland on the advice of two doctors.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed those asylum seekers needing medical treatment but who were deemed a threat to Australia would be sent to Christmas Island rather than the mainland.

That category is believed to apply to a group that includes 57 men, of which some have allegedly been charged with murder, inappropriate behaviour or terrorist activity.


Identity obsession makes its way from the campus into mainstream politics

Since the turn of the century, universities in the Anglo-American world have been riddled with the bitter controversies that surround the weaponisation of identity.

Identity politics has become institutionalised to the point that some universities have acquiesced to the demand for racially segregated dormitories. Higher education ­institutes have adopted censorious language codes, supposedly to protect the sensibilities of ethnic minorities and gender and sexual minorities. Students have been warned not to wear clothes that might offend ethnic groups. Never-ending accusations of “cultural appropriation” almost always lead to a humiliating apology by the accused.

Until recently, the controversies and conflicts that surround the ­politicisation of identities tended to be confined to university campuses. But now identity politics has gone totally mainstream. In the US, the battle lines between different factions in congress are often drawn according to the dictates of rival identity activists. It seems every identity group has its own congressional caucus. What ­divides them is not ideology or political principle but the aim to gain influence for one’s identity group.

Identity activists jealously guard their patch. That they are unwilling to share their territory was discovered by Elizabeth Warren, a leading contender for the Democratic Party’s presidential candidacy. Warren took the decision to ­enhance her identity ­appeal by claiming to be part Cherokee in the belief her association with a Native American identity would prove to be a vital political asset and widen her support among Democrats. To demonstrate this, she published a DNA test that suggested she may have had some genetic links with the Cherokee nation.

Unfortunately for Warren, the very public announcement of the results of her DNA test provoked an immediate backlash from ­Native Americans who were not prepared to accept this white woman as one of their own. Chuck Hoskin, the secretary of state of the Cherokee Nation, reminded Warren that it is the tribal authorities, and not a DNA test, that ­decide who can claim to be part of that nation. He denounced the carpetbaggers who seek to hijack Cherokee identity for their own benefit.

He wrote that every day “people make claims of native heritage and Cherokee ancestry across the country” and added that these claims, “made for personal advancements by profiteers, are like a guest at my table saying they’ve had a seat there all along”. Predictably, Warren had no choice but to issue a grovelling apology for her shortsighted behaviour.

Hoskins’ response to Warren illustrates the absence of the generosity of the human spirit that characterises identity politics. Its petty and possessive impulse was clearly articulated last October by Jacqueline Maley in The Sydney Morning Herald. In her column, she took exception to the behaviour of NSW Corrections Minister David Elliott for using parliamentary privilege to make allegations of sexual harassment against then opposition leader Luke Foley.

What angered her was not so much the misuse of parliamentary privilege but that a man took it upon himself to raise an allegation of sexual harassment against a woman.

Pointing her finger at men who “cloak themselves in care for women while throwing them under the bus”, she declared that “they take on the mantle of the #MeToo movement while missing its main point: women get to tell their own stories. No one else.” ­

Apparently, women own a patent on their stories and no one else can have a piece of the action.

Possessiveness of an identity is paralleled by a disposition ­towards cultural tribalism. One feature of identity politics that is often overlooked is that not all identities ­depicted are worthy of celebration. In the US, the identity of white men, especially older heterosexual ones, is regarded with disdain. According to the prevailing ideology of identity politics, a white man must defer to the sensibilities of other identity groups and “watch their privilege”. From this perspective, men may be seen but should not be heard.

In more ­recent times, Asian-Americans and white females have lost some of the prestige attached to their identity status. Jewish identity is just about acceptable as long as those who embody it distance themselves from any form of support for Israel. Australian iden­tity has also lost out in the identity stakes. From the standpoint of identity advocates, the role assigned to Australians is to apologise and continue to apologise for the misdeeds of their ancestors centuries ago.

For the moment trans identity enjoys top spot in the identity stakes. It has even succeeded in silencing those feminists who have questioned or criticised gender self-identification.

That identity politics has gone mainstream is vividly demonstrated by the speed with which all the main British parliamentary party leaders, from the Conservatives to the Greens, have united to silence critics of gender self-identification. Women officials, activists and party members have been investigated, denounced and, in some ­instances, expelled for their supposed bigotry. Leading parliamentarians have adopted the intol­erant language of campus culture warriors. A prominent member of the Liberal Democratic hierarchy, Lynne Featherstone, condemned critics of gender self-identification and warned: “You are not feminists. Your views are not welcome in the Liberal Democrats.”

One of the most corrosive ­dimensions of identity politics is its insistence that the personal is political. Identitarians contend that since what matters is identity, people’s personal and private behaviour is of political import, no less than their actions in public life. From this standpoint, people’s private behaviour is a legitimate target of public scrutiny and of political criticism.

Savvy politicians understand that a culturally sensitive or “inappropriate” remark or act of misbehaviour, even in their youth, will come back to bite them. Take the case of Tulsi Gabbard. She is a Democratic Party member of congress from Hawaii who is a potential candidate in the coming presidential elections. An Iraq War veteran, she made history in 2012 when she became the first Hindu elected to congress. A powerful communicator, she seemed to tick all the right identity boxes — except that her past ­became weaponised. She has had to apologise for working with her father in his anti-gay rights organisation when she was a teenager.

Identity activists are not prepared to excuse youthful misbehaviour. On the contrary, they regard the sins of youth as a rightful target of political condemnation. Ralph Nor­tham, the Democratic Governor of Virginia, should have known what to ­expect. He is fighting calls for his resignation after a photo of him sporting blackface at a college party went viral.

A person’s entire life can be turned upside down when the personal becomes political. The mere allegation of personal impropriety can have devastating consequences for the individual concerned. Carl Sargeant, a former Welsh communities secretary, committed suicide after he was suspended from the Labour Party following allegations of improper personal conduct. Acting on the assumption that there is no smoke without fire, an allegation of personal ­impropriety unleashed a chain of events that ended in a tragedy.

Far too many politicians are prepared to embrace and legitimise the politics of identity. Some actually believe that there is something positive about the politicisation of identity. Unfortunately, they confuse the positive struggles for equality by feminists and civil rights activists in the past with the narrow-minded practices of contemporary identity politics.

Identity activists constantly claim to be fighting for justice but they seem to devote most of their energy towards gaining cultural authority. Whereas previously activists campaigned against ­racism, today they are in the business of discrediting and marginalising what they call “whiteness”.

Just being white or the display of “white attitudes” is condemned as a secular equivalent of original sin. In a similar way, women’s inequality, which used to be the target of feminist activists, is frequently displaced by a campaign against masculinity.

Regrettably, mainstream political life has proved a fertile terrain for the flourishing of identity politics. No doubt there are many sensible political figures who are disturbed by this development. However, they have opted to keep their opinions to themselves in the hope it will all go away. It will not. Unless the politicisation of identity is actively challenged, prepare for a perpetual war of identities.


 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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