Sunday, May 05, 2019

None so superior as the leftist elite

It’s the tale of two stories, from a left-of-centre perspective.

The May issue of The Monthly came out on Wednesday. Its lead comment piece is by La Trobe University emeritus professor Judith Brett and titled “Self-interest groups: The Liberal Party has little left but appeals to the hip pocket”.

Brett begins by asserting that “this election campaign there seems little left to the party but appeals to the hip pocket” since even the (alleged) “politics of race have turned against it”. She concludes in a similar vein: “The party must be hoping that enough of its supporters are as morally bankrupt as it has become, happy to trade the planet’s and their children’s future for a pocket full of silver.”

Brett’s message is simple. Voters who support the Liberal Party — she targets self-funded retirees, referring to them as “self-righteous seniors” — are morally bankrupt racists. Their only concern is “self-interest”. And they are prepared to help destroy the planet to maintain their material comforts.

It’s the familiar leftist rant by someone who believes that their morality is higher than those with whom they disagree. For the record, Brett’s career was spent in taxpayer-funded universities and in retirement she benefits from academe’s generous superannuation schemes. Only the comfortable can disdain self-interest.

Interviewing Bill Shorten on Wednesday, 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales drew attention to retired carpenter Chris Phillips, 83, who “has $36,000 a year in income and he’ll lose $9000 per year” under Labor’s franking credits policy. It would seem that, in Brett’s terminology, Phillips belongs to that class of “self-righteous seniors” who are “morally bankrupt”.

Two decades ago, Brett was an editor of Arena, which described itself as a “magazine of left political, social and cultural commentary”. Then, Arena types looked back in happiness on former Labor prime minister Ben Chifley, who publicly recognised the importance of a voter’s “hip pocket nerve”. Nowadays the likes of Brett regard the Liberal Party’s “appeals to the hip pocket” with contempt.

On Thursday another left-of-centre commentator came up with a different assessment of the Liberal Party. The front page of The Sydney Morning Herald highlighted an article by Jacqueline Maley under the headline “Affluent, angry and now anti-Abbott”. There was a photo of Anna Josephson, a resident of Beauty Point, standing next to a poster of Zali Steggall. The lawyer and former Olympic skier is running as an independent against one-time Liberal prime minister Tony Abbott for the seat of Warringah.

Readers learn that Josephson lives on “one of Beauty Point’s best streets in a house with expansive views over Quakers Hat Bay”. Maley adds: “In the affluent streets of Manly, Balmoral and Beauty Point, many residents who vote Liberal are turning their support (to Steggall).” Swedish-born Josephson runs a tech start-up and her husband is into private equity. There’s another private-equity type whose wife is campaigning against Abbott. And there’s a surgeon who wants Abbott to lose. It’s a kind of “Millionaires for Steggall” clique, none of whom face the financial problems of a retired carpenter.

Warringah will not be won or lost in the suburbs of Manly, Balmoral and Beauty Point. Many “anyone but Abbott” Liberals would have deserted him in the 2016 election. Abbott will prevail on May 18 if he retains support in the not-so-rich suburbs of Warringah — which are more focused on energy prices than climate change.

Warringah highlights the problems facing the Liberal Party. There was a time when the party enjoyed the support of big business and the professions, along with small business. This is no longer so in all the cases. Some large companies no longer make political donations. Many contribute to the Coalition and Labor. The trade union movement, which essentially finances the ALP, gives no money to the Liberals or the Nationals. This despite the fact some trade union members vote for the Coalition.

In 2017 former High Court judge Dyson Heydon delivered the inaugural PM Glynn Lecture titled Religion, Law and Public Life. On Monday he spoke at the launch of the book Today’s Tyrants, which includes his lecture and responses.

In his brief speech, Heydon criticised a response to his lecture by Shireen Morris who, he said, “seemed to deny that there are progressive elites” while being “highly critical of conservative elites, past and present”. Heydon argued that the “progressive” label could be used with respect to “most of the media, many directors and leading executives of key companies, almost all academics, almost all school teachers, the vast bulk of the judiciary and many in the legal profession”.

Brett, Josephson and Steggall fit readily within this group. The irony is that if Abbott defeats Steggall, he will get across the line because of the less wealthy of the Warringah electorate rather than the more wealthy. Moreover, he would do so with the support of the least progressive of Warringah voters.

Brett’s condemnation of the Liberals on economic policy and race goes hand-in-hand with her implied claim to moral superiority and virtue. But it’s easy to condemn the alleged greed of self-funded retirees who once worked in the private sector if you have lived a secure life as a tenured academic. It’s also easy to pretend to save the planet if you reside in Beauty Point. Some carpenters in, say, Broken Hill have more urgent priorities.


Labor’s bid to ban anti-gay speech

The proposal, flagged in the ALP’s national platform policy document, has been likened to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act for its potential to ­stifle free speech.

Labor will consider expanding anti-discrimination legislation to shield gay and transgender ­people from harmful speech if elected, in a move that has alarmed lawyers and free-speech advocates.

The proposal, flagged in the ALP’s national platform policy document, has been likened to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act for its potential to ­stifle free speech, with experts singling out the furore surrounding Christian rugby player Israel Folau, who will today face a hearing to decide whether his comments denouncing homo­sexuality, among other “sins”, breached the sport’s code of ­conduct.

Questions have now arisen as to whether, under Labor’s proposed legislation, Folau could be exposed to criminal sanction. “This is a worrying platform position and it raises the spectre of a much broader 18C or a broad anti-offending provision as in the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act,” said Institute for Civil ­Society executive director Mark Sneddon.

According to the Labor policy: “When prejudice against LGBTIQ people contributes to harassment by the written or ­spoken word, such harassment causes actual harm, not simply mere offence, to people who have suffered discrimination and prejudice, and causes particular harm to young same-sex-attracted, gender-questioning or intersex people.

“Labor considers such harmful harassment is an unacceptable abuse of the responsibilities that come with freedom of speech and must be subject to effective sanctions. Labor will ensure that anti-discrimination law provides such effective sanction.”

Neil Foster, an associate professor of law at Newcastle Law School, said Labor appeared to be attempting to make a case that “harassment by the written or spoken word somehow amounts to harm of a sort which should be sanctioned by the law”.

“It looks like this is a call to introduce a federal law forbidding the causing of offence (in effect) on the grounds of a person’s sexual orientation,” he said.

Institute of Public Affairs research fellow Morgan Begg said it was “disturbing” Labor was considering enhancing anti-discrimination laws to punish a “vague crime”. “Words like ‘harass’, particularly in anti-discrimination laws, are mired in uncertainty,” he said. “The new progressive orthodoxy sees mere disagreement as harassment. The use of the law to restrict harassment is likely to produce problems in the future.”

Mr Begg pointed to the controversy around Folau’s Instagram post about religion and said there were questions over whether, under Labor’s plans, the Wallabies player could find himself being pursued for “causing harm to LGBTIQ Australians”.

“A government bureaucrat, such as Labor’s proposed LGBTIQ human rights commissioner, enforcing acceptable speech is a serious threat to both freedom of religion and freedom of speech,” he said. A Labor spokeswoman said the party had “nothing to add on this”.

Labor’s national platform document also reveals that it has no intention of changing its positions on the Racial Discrimin­ation Act, arguing that they “strike an appropriate balance between the right to free speech and protection from the harm of hate speech”.

The party risks attracting claims of hypocrisy over the stance, given its opposition to the Coalition’s previous attempts to clarify the purpose of section 18C of the act by replacing the “offend, insult or humiliate” test with the term “harass”. Previously Labor said the change would license “hate speech”.


ALP headaches over Israel get worse

Video has emerged of Labor MP Josh Wilson, the member for Fremantle, discussing the Israel Palestine conflict and describing Israeli checkpoints as “places you go to and you go to jail … sometimes they are places you go to and you die”.

Another Labor MP has been embroiled in the Israeli-Palestinian division within the party.

Video has emerged of western Sydney MP Susan Templeman likening the situation in the West Bank to apartheid.

Ms Templeman, who holds her electorate on a margin of 2.2 per cent, said that “essentially there is an apartheid happening” in the Middle East.

“Depending on if you are Israeli or Palestinian you use different roads,” she said. “You have different opportunities in life dictated on whether you are Palestinian or Israeli.”

Ms Templeman made the comments at the same event on the sidelines of the ALP national conference last December where Fremantle MP Josh Wilson made his anti-Israeli remarks as reported by The West Australian yesterday.

Mr Wilson, who launched his campaign with party elder Anthony Albanese on Sunday, was yesterday pulled into line by Labor leader Bill Shorten after The West Australian revealed he described Israeli checkpoints as “places you go to and you go to jail … sometimes they are places you go to and you die”.

Mr Shorten and Labor insiders are scrambling to control the issue.

“Josh has said very clearly that he supports Labor policy which is for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine,” Mr Shorten said.

MORE: The ALP’s Melissa Parke ploy in Curtin has backfired
When contacted by The West Australian yesterday, Ms Templeman said she supported Labor’s policy.

“I support Labor’s policy of a two-state solution, which recognises the right of Israel and Palestine to exist within secure and recognised borders,” she said.

Labor’s campaign has been thrown into chaos over the issue after former Rudd government minister Melissa Parke’s exit as the candidate for Curtin.

At a Labor friends of Palestine event last month, Ms Parke said the way Israel treated Palestinians was “worse than the South African system of apartheid” and claimed a pregnant Palestinian refugee was forced to drink bleach.

Video also circulated yesterday of deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek telling the House of Representatives in 2002 that then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was a war criminal.

Ms Plibersek has since said she stands by Labor’s two-state policy.

Former Australian ambassador to Israel and Liberal candidate for Wentworth Dave Sharma said Australia risked damaging international relations with not just Israel but also the US unless this issue was resolved.

“This is not something the US would look very favourably on,” Mr Sharma said.


A very expensive Mohammed for America

The City of Minneapolis agreed on Friday to pay $20million ($28million AUD) to the family of Justine Ruszczyk Damond who was fatally shot by a police officer when she approached his squad car after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault.

Mayor Jacob Frey and City Council members detailed the settlement just three days after a jury convicted Mohamed Noor of murder and manslaughter in the 2017 killing.

Damond, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia, had called 911 to summon officers to a possible rape in the alley behind her house.

The settlement is believed to be the largest stemming from police violence in the state of Minnesota, and roughly four to five times as large as any settlement paid out in recent years.

When asked whether race played a role in the swift settlement or in its amount - Damond was white, Noor is Somali American - Frey said this case stood out because of Noor's unprecedented conviction for third-degree murder, as well as the officer's failure to identify a threat before he used deadly force.


Shorten reinvents climate politics

He claims that warming is so urgent that cost is irrelevant

Refusing to play by orthodox rules, Bill Shorten — if he wins — will transform the politics of climate change in Australia by proving what counts is the necessity for action and that disputing the cost of ambitious emissions reduction targets is yesterday’s news.

The conventional wisdoms by which climate change politics has been conducted is on the edge of obliteration. Any Labor victory in the May 18 election rejects the debate about modelling, costs and economic downsides in favour of the principle of urgent action to fight global warming. It would crush the conservative side of the Coalition, with its ideology of climate change caution.

What counts: the action or the cost? This is the election choice the Opposition Leader and Scott Morrison have put before the public this week. Their rival positions could not be clearer. Shorten says the public is “sick and tired” of excuses and if Australia doesn’t take serious action it faces an economic disaster. His message is the nation cannot afford inaction. Don’t ask him about the economic cost of his policy because, ultimately, he thinks that is yesterday’s question.

Shorten mocks the government as “climate denying cave dwellers”. He warns our politics will stay broken until climate change is confronted. He says the modelling report used by the Prime Minister to discredit Labor’s policy on cost grounds can be “filed under P for propaganda”. And in a defining event, in the first leaders debate he refused to put a cost figure on Labor’s policy: “I don’t think that’s possible to do.”

Having no data on the cost of his policies, Shorten seeks to make a virtue of weakness. He may not have started out to transform the politics of climate change but this will be the impact of any Labor victory. The public, if it votes Labor into office, can decide over time if it wants to backtrack and put limits on the cost — and Labor in office would need to be pragmatic about the costs it imposed. But Shorten, having declared climate change is “one of the top two or three issues”, is betting his career on a sea change in politics.

It is just six years since Tony Abbott won office with his campaign against the carbon tax and Shorten now seeks victory rejecting the need for cost estimates and even the validity of such a debate, because only one thing matters: the penalty of inaction.

Morrison is the model of Liberal orthodoxy. He practises the climate change politics the Liberals have followed since 2009 — but those politics face their demise if Labor wins. “This election is not about whether we should take action on climate change,” he says. “I believe we should.” The issue, Morrison says, is whether you had “reckless” action with a 45 per cent emissions reduction target, or “responsible” action with the government’s 26 per cent target.

The attack Morrison mounts is that Shorten will impose his choice — “between the economy and the environment” — on the public. Put another way, it is whether the public will buy Shorten’s line, repudiate the Liberals and join the progressive sentiment: “Let’s just get on with it.”

The progressive tide for global action is leaving Shorten far behind, let alone Morrison. This week the British parliament passed a fateful declaration on an environment and climate change emergency, a symbolic victory for the activists and demonstrators who caused chaos across much of London for 10 days.

In Britain, people power is intimidating the politicians. While the declaration was passed partly because it has no tangible effect, the activists will sell the idea of Britain now moving to a “war footing” on climate. The declaration was passed as an opposition motion with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warning that without “rapid and dramatic action” the climate crisis “will spiral dangerously out of control”.

The high-profile Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg tweeted: “Now other nations must follow.” Greens MP Adam Bandt says he will move for the new parliament to declare a climate emergency in Australia. “It is time to act as if our house is on fire, because it is,” Bandt says.

Incredibly, Shorten hasn’t been asked where Labor stands. Does his pledge of “real action” on climate change mean he will follow the UK parliament’s emergency symbolism? Australian activists will duplicate the push abroad and unless government is seen to respond, the shift to civil disobedience will intensify.

If Shorten wins he will face an immense challenge from the climate activist Left, which he cannot satisfy. The message this week from Greens leader Richard Di Natale was that his party wants to work with Labor on climate change — they cannot afford any repeat of their rejection of the Rudd 2009 carbon scheme — yet the Greens must also respond to climate activism.

Shorten’s task, if he wins, will be to find and then hold a new political centre on climate change. The Coalition would be reduced to an internal crisis.

The activists now challenge the democratic system. Their premise, outlined by George Monbiot in The Guardian, is that because the political class “cannot be trusted with the preservation of life on Earth” and meeting this “vast existential predicament”, mere democratic voting cannot do the job — concentrated power of protest is essential.

A threshold is being crossed to large-scale civil disobedience and public disruption, with groups such as Extinction Rebellion calling for truth-telling on climate, and a citizens assembly.

In the US, the Green New Deal, a radical agenda promoted by newly elected Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has gained rapid momentum (and provoked immense pushback), the idea being to decarbonise the economy on a faster, more sweeping scale than anything proposed so far. The US radicals believe there is a wave of untapped public demand for tough action.

Many activists in Britain and the US demand zero emissions in six years, a growing sentiment among young people and a guarantee of huge economic and social disruption. The New York Times takes these ideas seriously and published an oped last week by anthropologist and activist David Graeber backing the Extinction Rebellion and warning the passion for change “must come from outside the system”. His message: if governments cannot go radical, then the people will.

This is extremism not too short of revolutionary. Its final logic cannot be avoided: once you say the issue is human extinction then you open the door to suspension or interruption of the democratic process to save the planet. Anyone who thinks such calls won’t be made by activists in coming years knows nothing of history.

The Australian Greens have toughened their climate stance — they repudiate Liberal and Labor targets as “woefully” inadequate. They want net zero emissions by 2040, an immediate ban on any new coal, gas or oil development, a preferred scenario of 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2030, and a termination of thermal coal ­exports by 2030.

“This is a plan to take on coal,” Bandt said of the Greens policy.

Herein lies another touchstone in the politics — the progressives have turned climate change into an anti-coal virtue test. Having a rational emissions reduction policy is not enough — you must back state intervention against coal. This constitutes a historic defeat for conservative politics.

The class of independents running at this election have mostly made climate change the main priority. What unites Labor, the Greens and the independents is the view that Australia must do more, that this will benefit the economy and that Coalition obsessions about the cost of climate change action no longer engage a majority of the public.

This is a formidable alignment against the Coalition. In the unlikely event no major party has a post-election majority, the independents would back a Labor government swayed by the climate change issue.

The Greens will operate in a legislative alliance with a Shorten government if Labor wins. There seems to be a bizarre reluctance to state the obvious on this point. Shorten is too astute to repeat the blunder of Julia Gillard in 2010 when she dashed into a formal alliance with the Greens, a compromise from which her government never recovered.

But Shorten’s formula gives him flexibility. He will talk to all parties in the Senate. But when it comes to executive government, Labor will form its own cabinet and run its own policies. Shorten would need to offer the Greens concessions to secure his climate policies through the Senate but probably not much since he would have a strong negotiating position.

In summary, Shorten would govern in the executive domain in Labor’s own right. In the parliamentary domain, he would need the Greens not just for his climate agenda but his entire agenda — tax, spending, industrial relations. In legislative terms Shorten would operate in a de facto parliamentary alliance with the Greens.

A feature of the campaign is the embedded acceptance of the Labor-Greens preference alliance in contrast to the contentions arising from the Coalition’s preference deals — or lack of deals — with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party and Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.

On the Left of politics, Labor gets a shade more than 80 per cent of Greens preferences. Despite efforts by Morrison, the Labor-Greens preference alliance has not become an election issue.

Shorten rarely, if ever, has to explain why Labor MPs are elected to parliament because of Greens preferences, given the extreme policies of the Greens on a wide range of social, economic, security and climate issues.

The Greens will be fundamental to the redirection of Australia under the policies proposed by Shorten. They will be instrumental in helping to ensure much of Labor’s agenda is converted into law. How much is difficult to say, given the unpredictable Senate voting system, with Labor and the Greens unlikely to have more than 36 Senate votes in total, when 39 votes constitutes a majority. So Labor will need further crossbench support.

The Newspoll published this week showed the Palmer party on 5 per cent of the primary vote and One Nation reduced to 4 per cent. This testifies to the extent of fragmentation on the Right — a total of 9 per cent of the primary vote — and if these numbers stick it is virtually impossible to see how the Coalition can win the election.

But Shorten, enjoying apparent immunity for his alliance with the Greens, branded Morrison as operating in coalition with Palmer and Hanson, a reminder that while alliances on the Left have legitimacy, alliances on the Right, seem to lack such legitimacy. Morrison had no viable option but to strike a preference deal with Palmer, but whether that means he can extract 60 per cent of Palmer preferences remains to be seen.

Morrison will pursue Shorten on the Labor leader’s refusal to model his climate policies or put a calculation on the cost to the economy. Because the task is hard is no excuse. Election integrity requires such an effort.

Telling the Australian people you are unable to inform them how big a penalty will be imposed on economic growth and living standards because of your ambitious climate change agenda is risky and arrogant. Shorten, in effect, just says “trust me”.

Having refused to put its estimates on the table, Labor’s attack on Brian Fisher for his modelling of Labor policies has been extreme. Fisher’s latest work, released this week, estimates that Labor’s emissions reduction targets by 2030 result in a cost to GDP ranging from $53 billion to $187bn. “We don’t believe the scary numbers,” Shorten says. “We think they’re just rubbish.”

He has compared Fisher, a former public servant with an international reputation, with doctors who once defended big tobacco. Labor’s environment spokesman Mark Butler says Fisher’s work is “a complete crock of rubbish” by an author who “has spent 20 years building a career fighting every single climate policy”.

Morrison is right to try to hold Labor to account. But Morrison’s problem is that internal Coalition chaos has meant the government lacks a viable climate change agenda. He comes at Shorten from a position of weakness and the Labor leader knows this. It radiates his approach.

 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


Paul said...

The only "viable" Climate Change agenda is to have no Climate Change agenda. Any thing more than that is the perpetration of a fraud on the people.

Paul said...

It does seem that all the appeals to preserve free speech seem to come to a grinding halt when the name of Israel is raised.