Friday, April 26, 2019

Anzac Day 2019: Peter Cosgrove’s parting message to next generation

Governor-general Peter Cosgrove has sought to reintroduce the Anzac legend to a new generation in his last Anzac Day address as the Queen’s representative in Australia.

Sir Peter, who will retire from public life in June, used his commemorative address at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to explain why Australians gather every April to commemorate veterans and the fallen to young people and new arrivals.

“For some here attending this moment in the national capital, and others like this elsewhere around the nation, this will be your first Anzac Day service,” he said in Canberra.

“Some of you are youngsters, some are new to this nation. From all of those newly come to this national ritual, we expect that you will all be eager to understand what it is that draws us, as a nation, to gather so solemnly.

“For those who wonder why communities assemble on this day every year at dawn and later in the morning, as Governor-general I say that in the gamut of motives from the profoundly philosophical to simple curiosity, there is a fundamental reason.

“It is by our presence to say to the shades of those countless men and women who did not come home or who made it back but who have now passed and to say to their modern representatives, the ones around the nation who today march behind their banners ‘You matter. What you did matters. You are in our hearts. Let it be always thus’.”

The crowd in Canberra burst into applause when the National Anzac Ceremony’s master of ceremonies, journalist Scott Bevan, thanked Sir Peter for his service and wished him well for his upcoming retirement.

The march at the national ceremony was led by Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith, who is currently suing the Sydney Morning Herald over allegations of war crimes and domestic violence, which the Afghanistan war hero strenuously denies.

Fellow VC recipient Corporal Mark Donaldson earlier gave the dawn service address in Canberra, where he called on young Australians to learn more about those who died.

Sir Peter will leave public life after five years as Governor-general and previous service as the Chief of the Australian Defence Forces. He will be replaced later this year by NSW Governor David Hurley.


What we are seeing at The Drum is cultural cleansing

Do you ever wonder if there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? Sorry, let me rephrase that: do you ever wonder if there is intelligent life in the universe? No doubt you too are curious about what it would make of us and our primitive attempts to make contact.

If we are to succeed in that endeavour, let us hope it is not through the Pioneer 10 and 11 space probes, which were launched in the early 1970s. Both bear a 15 x 23 gold-anodised plaque depicting a naked Caucasian couple, which was a blatant attempt to reinforce a racist, heteronormative, and binary hegemony under the guise of interstellar harmony. Nice going, NASA, you cultural and biological fascists.

Fortunately in these more enlightened times we are more woke to attempts to marginalise the wretched. And should we make contact with extra-terrestrials, it is more likely to be through the radio waves we have been transmitting for over a century. What they will first see is anyone’s guess. Imagine, for example, the impression we could convey through documentaries such as David Attenborough’s Planet Earth or When We Were Kings, the inspiring story of boxer Muhammad Ali’s triumph over George Foreman to reclaim his title as World Heavyweight Champion. But Murphy’s Law being what it is, I fear the aliens’ first impression of us will be gleaned from the self-centred, partisan and victimhood drivel which passes as informed comment today.

Which brings me to The Drum. According to the ABC website, the show, which is hosted alternately by Ellen Fanning and Julia Baird, features a “diverse, respectful and robust discussion” on “the key issues gripping or confounding Australia,” Australia being the areas within a five kilometre radius of the ABC studios at Ultimo, Sydney and Southbank, Melbourne.

An alien anthropologist would conclude from watching this show that the key issues gripping and confounding Australia were an impending climate apocalypse, as well as rampant misogyny, racism, and cruelty towards asylum-seekers. And naturally the anthropologist would also conclude the chief beneficiaries of this dystopian hierarchy are heterosexual and cisgender white males.

As with many of today’s public institutions, The Drum’s definition of diversity is taken from a social justice dictionary. Consider, for example, the program’s treatment of the Institute of Public Affairs, a public policy think tank which espouses principles such as limited government, individual autonomy, and freedom of speech — all oppressive and hateful concepts admittedly. Until April last year IPA representatives featured on The Drum at an average of once a month.

Its prolonged absence from the program is not of the IPA’s doing. As revealed by Sky News host and The Australian Associate Editor Chris Kenny on Monday, its representatives have effectively been blacklisted from The Drum, despite the ABC insisting otherwise.

This followed an aggressive social media disinformation campaign last year by leftist activists who claimed the show disproportionately featured IPA panellists. As Baird noted last year, one activist estimated the IPA had notched up 50 appearances on the show in the period between January and July in 2018, when the organisation had in fact appeared only three times. “But it is only the IPA that is shouted down when they appear on air,” she wrote last July. “So much so that it has become disproportionate and irrational.”

Kudos to Baird for admitting this, but unfortunately she herself has seemingly acquiesced in these demands. In the following months the IPA was politely rebuffed or ignored whenever its representatives volunteered to appear on the program. Last October the IPA’s media and communications manager, Evan Mulholland, emailed Baird to ask her whether the show had vetoed the appearance of the think tank’s staff. He was referred to the show’s executive producer, Annie White, who denied this, stating “We’ve had a very busy year and more than 500 people on our panel books.”

Who knew getting a gig on the show was so competitive? Let’s recap some statistics that Kenny on Media outlined concerning certain panellists from The Drum in the 12 months since an IPA representative last appeared. We begin with Per Capita, a think tank which espouses “shared prosperity, community and social justice”. It featured 10 times. The Diversity Council of Australia scored six appearances, as did Human Rights Watch and As for the far-left activist group GetUp!, it featured eight times.

Muslim entrepreneur Aisha Novakovich and founder of Modest Fashion has appeared five times. Cross-cultural consultant and fellow Muslim Tasneem Chopra secured nine appearances. Presumably it is coincidence the IPA missed out all this time while these progressive interest groups and individuals were given a free run.

When a lone gunman and terrorist murdered 50 New Zealanders in two Christchurch mosques in March, The Drum was quick to analyse the atrocity through a familiar prism. “What role has Australian media and politics played in fomenting the rise of white supremacy?” it tweeted:

What role has Australian media and politics played in fomenting the rise of white supremacy? Tonight in a special episode of #TheDrum a panel of all Muslim women will discuss the social, cultural and political influences leading up to the Christchurch terror attack

The next weekday after the attack it featured an all Muslim women panel to discuss this theme. One of them was GetUp! board member Sara Saleh. In addition to saying former prime minister Tony Abbott’s “existence” was “offensive”, she said he, together with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, had “emboldened neo-Nazis and white supremacists,” declaring all three “have blood on their hands”. For good measure The Drum tweeted Saleh’s outrageous diatribe.

Now compare that with the show’s reaction to the terrorist bombings of three churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, allegedly by Islamic State, which resulted in the deaths of 359 people. This would have been an ideal time for The Drum to discuss the very real dangers that Christians face from Islamists in the developing world. So what was the show’s response? Put it this way, in the three episodes that have aired since the attack, none of them featured an all-Christian panel to canvas this.

When the show this month discussed the concept of masculinity, even seasoned cynical viewers were surprised at the unabashed misandry. “We need to do the hard work and for all men to put their hands up and acknowledge their misogyny, acknowledge the fact that they are profiting from toxic masculinity in some way, even if they are not violent,” said panellist and co-founder of HIV advocacy group The Institute of Many, Nic Holas.

To claim all men are guilty of misogyny and that masculinity is an original sin is a contemptible slur, yet this remark was not challenged by host John Barron. Guest Jacqui Watt, CEO of No to Violence, added in response to Holas that she “echoed everything he said”. Not surprisingly Twitter exploded, with many men expressing anger at being stigmatised, which prompted The Drum to tweet an admonishment. “Some of the comments below clearly breach the boundaries of civil language,” it read. “So a reminder: be respectful.”

I am certain even the most mild-mannered of men who saw that episode were tempted to give their televisions the full Elvis treatment. It takes a special kind of narcissistic dissonance on one hand to facilitate and condone the demonisation of 50 per cent of the population, yet on the other to take offence when being on the receiving end of a few choice words from that provoked demographic.

Just imagine the reaction if a men’s rights activist was invited on the panel and expressed similar views about feminism. “All fourth wave feminists need to put their hands up and acknowledge their misandry, acknowledge they are entitled harpies who profit from toxic feminism,” he would say. After pulling the plug for a brief period, The Drum would resume with a live shot of said man being hurled off the roof of ABC head office, along with any male who added that he “echoed everything he said”.

What we are seeing at The Drum is cultural cleansing, a gradual removal of all conservative commentary in accordance with ABC’s unspoken ethos and the militant demands of unrelenting social media activists. The ABC’s doing so is a total abrogation of its statutory charter, yet its staff continue to deny the organisation’s bias despite the abundant evidence. In a statement released Monday, the ABC said “The Drum draws on a database of more than 500 people for its panels; it aims for a diversity of guests and viewpoints from a range of sources. IPA representatives continue to be a part of this mix as they have previously.”

How appropriate the show is named after a percussion instrument. As they say, empty vessels make the most noise.


"Code of conduct". That’s code for ‘conduct yourself as we tell you’

A code of conduct is becoming an employer’s power trip

Ever since the ruling classes of East Germany shamelessly nicknamed the Berlin Wall the Antifaschistischer Schutzwall, the anti-fascist protection wall, it pays to check how those with power use words, pretending to protect us by restricting basic freedoms.

Those wielding power today favour deliberately innocuous labels to describe new institutional ramparts that limit basic freedoms. And nothing sounds more innocuous than a code of conduct.

Most read like bad poetry, sweet-sounding words linking lofty aspirations about how people should treat one another in a workplace. Codes of conduct have become a neat way to virtue-signal your political correctness too. No socially progressive word or phrase is left out, usually highly contestable, offering no great guidance for the reader or the employee.

Drawn up by ever-expanding human resources departments, these slick instruments are found inside just about every company, organisation, government body, sporting club or other group made up of more than a dozen people. Codes of conduct are sprouting like weeds, rarely trimmed for meaning, only ever augmented by more and more prose pickled in sugary sentiments.

But don’t be fooled by the vanilla label. Increasingly, a code of conduct is becoming an employer’s power trip, their weapon of choice in the workplace to limit the basic freedoms of employees. And these deliberately vague terms become expensive legal battles for sacked employees. Two examples in the past two weeks. Last week, Peter Ridd, the highly respected professor of physics, won his court case against James Cook University after he was sacked for offending the univer­sity’s code of conduct.

JCU used its code of conduct to full effect. When Ridd raised doubts about the quality of science claiming the Great Barrier Reef was being damaged, he was accused of misconduct, not acting in a collegial way, disparaging fellow academics, not upholding the integrity and good reputation of JCU. It made no difference to the code’s enforcers that Ridd raised his concerns in a polite and measured manner, making clear that fellow academics were honest, though mistaken, in their work.

When Ridd raised funds online to help pay for his expensive legal battle with JCU, the university accused him of breaching the code of conduct. When Ridd sent an email to a student, attaching a newspaper article headed “for your amusement”, the physics professor of 30 years’ standing was censured for acting contrary to an earlier “no satire direction” when JCU told Ridd not to trivialise, satirise or parody the univer­sity’s disciplinary action against him. When Ridd mentioned JCU’s “Orwellian” attitude to free speech in an email to another supportive student, JCU censured him for another breach of the code of conduct.

Note that JCU discovered the offending email by trawling through Ridd’s correspondence in a distinctly Orwellian manner.

On it went. Actions and words parsed and censured, secrecy sought under JCU’s code of conduct to protect the university, not Ridd.

Last week, the Federal Court rejected JCU’s 17 claims against Ridd under the university’s code of conduct. Federal Court judge Salvatore Vasta made clear that JCU’s fundamental error was to assume its code of conduct “is the lens through which all behaviour must be viewed”. Rather than starting from the principle of intellectual freedom set out in clause 14 of JCU’s enterprise agreement with academics, a core value that goes to the mission of a university, JCU used its lengthy and loquacious code of conduct to restrain Ridd. Therefore, it did not occur to JCU, or to academics who complained about Ridd, that the best response was to provide evidence Ridd’s claims were wrong. The enforcers chose censure and sacking over debate.

Rejecting JCU’s position, Vasta found the intellectual freedom clause is “the lens through which the behaviour of Professor Ridd must be viewed”. The judge said intellectual freedom allows people to express opinions without fear of reprisal. That is how Charles Darwin broke free from the constraints of creationism and how Albert Einstein challenged the constraints of Newtonian physics.

JCU will surely appeal this decision. Other universities will also be hoping for a favourable legal determination that upholds their codes of conduct as the final word, trumping even an intellectual freedom clause in an enterprise agreement with academics.

All things considered then, we have reached a shameful state of affairs: university leaders spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to uphold coercive powers they have given themselves under codes of conduct but expending no intellectual effort in considering the need for a truly liberating charter of intellectual freedom such as that drawn up by the University of Chicago and adopted by dozens of other American colleges.

This augurs poorly for Wallabies star Israel Folau, sacked last week by Rugby Australia using its code of conduct. Folau’s sacking was, in many ways, inevitable. If a university cannot uphold basic freedoms for academics to express honestly held views, what hope for a sporting code?

Folau’s contract with RA does not include a freedom of expression clause, but neither does it include a clause telling him to stop posting offensive views on social media. In another messy, expensive and protracted legal battle, the basic right to free speech will depend on whether RA’s code of conduct is the final legal word on Folau’s future.

RA could have left it to us in civil society to exercise our powers of condemnation against Folau for his ignorant and divisive comments. We could have enlightened Folau that gay people do not deserve to be in hell for their sexuality. Instead, RA became the enforcer, turning a goose into a martyr by using the same clumsy stick JCU used against Ridd.

What grates, more generally, is the selective approach to who gets hung, drawn and quartered these days. The Australian is aware that senior ABC staff have raised concerns with ABC management about divisive statements made by some of their so-called “talent”. Fairfax writer, ABC host and gay rights activist Benjamin Law happily tweeted during the same-sex marriage debate that he was “wondering if I’d hate-f..k all the anti-gay MPs in parliament if it meant they got the homophobia out of their system”. A few years ago, Josh Szeps, now an ABC host, expressed his view during a YouTube chat with Joe Rogan that it should be legal for a woman to kill her unborn baby right up to nine months’ gestation, and sometimes after birth. Are these statements any less abhorrent than Folau’s views?

Vaguely drafted codes of conduct are a conduit for double standards. And that is why they are bogus legal instruments. Every law student is taught that contracts can be voided for uncertainty. A boss should only ever have power to adversely affect a person’s employment in the clearest and most precise circumstances. It is high time that proliferating codes of conduct are exposed as dangerously vague virtue-signalling instruments with a nasty kick to them, allowing bosses to terminate an employee at will.


Shorten all tip and no iceberg on living costs

Yesterday’s recorded consumer price index movement for the March quarter of this year was a big fat zero. That’s right: according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, consumer prices on balance were flat.

I wouldn’t like my chances of persuading the people walking alongside the river close to my office that this is the case. Doubtless, many of the responses would be unprintable.

According to the figures, vegetables, secondary education and motor vehicles went up in price but automotive fuel and domestic and international holidays went down.

Bear in mind that the CPI doesn’t record the cost of living, in part because the CPI is based on an average basket of goods and services, and different groups consume different baskets of goods and services. Consider, for instance, the different consumption patterns of young families compared with retirees.

The key distinction is between the price of unavoidable purchases — electricity, health, education, childcare and the like — and discretionary or luxury purchases.

Adam Creighton, economics editor of The Australian, has discussed this topic over the years. He has noted that “luxuries have fallen in price, while those of many essentials — which tend to make up a bigger share of poorer households’ budgets — have increased. Purchases that can be put off have been falling while those that can’t, such as university fees (up 53 per cent), have tended to surge.

“The entry of China and more recently India into the global economy has slashed the cost of goods that can be traded, while the costs of services ... have risen.”

He further illustrates the point by noting that “the price of holidays has grown only half as fast as the CPI since 2007 (overseas stays even more slowly). But electricity has shot up 114 per cent, water bills and gas prices about 90 per cent and medical services 84 per cent.”

Do these CPI figures steal Bill Shorten’s electioneering thunder, given his ongoing emphasis during the campaign on the cost of living pressures felt by voters and Labor’s intention to alleviate them?

The first thing to note is that, in a technical sense, the low inflation figure recorded — only 1.3 per cent over the year ending in the March quarter — will feed into the decision-making of the Fair Work Commission when deciding on the appropriate change to the national minimum wage this year. The increase will apply from July 1. Note also that a number of welfare payments are indexed by the CPI and so only very low increases will apply.

The second issue is that it’s not clear how Labor can really address the inflationary pressures in the non-traded goods sectors, which are very often exacerbated by faulty government intervention.

The ongoing increases in cost of childcare, for instance, simply mirror the large increases in government outlays on childcare subsidies. The benefits are essentially captured by the centre owners and not the parents.

There is also a real danger that Shorten’s pledges in relation to cancer will just lead to higher incomes for providers, particularly medical imaging firms, radiologists and oncologists.

As for electricity prices, it’s a brave call to think Labor’s target of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 will lead to lower prices given that the increasing penetration of renewables that has already occurred has led to a doubling in the real price of electricity in a decade.

The truth is that Shorten is all tip and no iceberg when it comes to the cost of living. He may be able to identify the problem but he has no sustainable solutions, and some of Labor’s policies will make the cost of living pressures even worse. No doubt he will keep talking the talk.


 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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