Friday, May 31, 2019

UQ students loudly vote 'No' to Western history degree program

In a supreme example of irony, their lecturers have told them that the courses are "racist".  In fact it is they who are racist for discriminating against a study of white history

Almost 500 students crammed into every seat and aisle at the University of Queenland's under-threat Schonell Theatre to vote 'No' to the private humanities degree being offered to the university by the conservative Ramsay Centre.

They also voted loudly for students to retain ownership and management of the replacement theatre if the Schonell Theatre is demolished.

The UQ Senate last year proposed to demolish the theatre, build a new student union hub and add the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation degree to the university's program.

The two votes were taken at Wednesday night's general meeting of students, the first since the 1971 student protests against the touring Springboks rugby union team.

The meeting was called by the student union to gauge opinion on the "two big issues" involving UQ students, student union president Georgia Millroy said.

She said the strong vote gave the union a "very clear mandate" to negotiate with the university on both issues.

"A lot of students clearly felt quite strongly about these issues and when they come up in my discussions with the university, in the ensuing weeks and months, I will have a very clear mandate to represent what students think," she said.

Ms Millroy would meet with the UQ vice-chancellor in early June.

The debate needed 300 students as a quorum of the university's 53,000 students, of which almost 10,000 voted at the past student union election.

As the Schonell Theatre doors closed, 420 students were counted inside and another 30 students crammed in to the crowded theatre as the vote began.

"This shows that [some] students do actually care and do want to be involved," Ms Millroy said. "It shows students do value the power of a democratic vote."

The loudest response came as most students voted against the university administration continuing to negotiate with the Ramsay Centre.

About eight students voted in favour of the UQ Senate pursuing talks with the Ramsay Centre.

Before the vote, student union councillor Priya De described the Ramsay Centre's course as "racist" and its administration as belonging to the "go back to where you came from" arm of the Liberal Party. "They cannot stomach anyone in society – students in particular – challenging their white supremacism," Ms De said.

"These people are not academics, they are politicians," she said.

However, humanities student Kurt Tucker said the Ramsay Centre was offering $43 million to the University of Queensland to run its Western Civilisation degree course as part of UQ's humanities program.

Mr Tucker said the course offered about 100 student places, "in return for $43 million to be distributed across the humanities", he said.

Despite being described as a "right-wing heckler", Mr Tucker said the millions of dollars would employ lecturers to reduce humanities class sizes and allow some casual lecturers to be employed full-time.

"It would certainly alleviate some of the concerns that have been raised about the humanities."

Another supporter of the Ramsay Centre program said the university offered African studies and Indigenous studies and in the same way students should be offered the opportunity to study Western civilisation in one degree program.

"Why not? Are you scared some of your ideas are being challenged?" the student said.

However, a "proud" Torres Strait Islander student, who did not wish to be named, described the Ramsay Centre course as "abhorrent".

"He [the previous supporter of the program] forgot to mention genocide," he said. "He forgot to mention deaths in custody. He forgot to mention children stolen from their families."

"They aim to whitewash the black history of Australia," he said, as the large student crowd jumped to its feet and roared its support.

Earlier, three theatre and drama students spoke in favour of students keeping control of any new theatre being considered by the university because the UQ student union contributed at least $4 million to its construction. The Schonell is now largely leased as a live theatre venue for community groups.

One opera and voice student said her course was refused a practice room at the theatre. "We just don't have a proper rehearsal space to validate our degree," she said.

Student union representatives said they had to prioritise university clubs and societies in the practice space.


'Folau's law': Coalition MPs push for bolder action in a 'new dawn' for religious freedom

Conservative Coalition MPs emboldened by strong support from religious voters at the election are pushing the Morrison government for more radical and far-reaching religious freedom provisions in forthcoming laws.

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce wants laws to exempt religious beliefs from employment contracts - in effect giving legal protection to views such as those expressed on social media by rugby star Israel Folau that gay people and fornicators will go to hell.

"You can't bring people's faith beliefs into a contract," Mr Joyce said. "Your own views on who god is, where god is or whether there's a god should remain your own personal views and not part of any contractual obligation."

Attorney-General Christian Porter is expected to present a Religious Discrimination Act to the Parliament as soon as July, acting on a pre-election commitment to boost protections for people of faith against discrimination and vilification.

But some Coalition MPs believe the election results - including significant swings away from Labor in highly religious seats - underline the case for bolder reforms to enshrine freedoms other than freedom from discrimination.

Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells - who worked extensively with faith leaders to galvanise the support of religious voters before and during the campaign - said the election marked a "new dawn" on religious freedom.

She called for a standalone Religious Freedom Act that would give greater legal heft to the demands set out by church leaders, Christian schools and other faith-based institutions.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells also said the government need not await the findings of a review being undertaken by the Australian Law Reform Commission into exemptions to anti-discrimination laws currently enjoyed by religious schools.

"Whilst the ALRC is not due to report until [April] 2020, given its diverse and broad terms of reference, I believe that the recent election has reinforced the need for more immediate legislative action," she told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

"This is vitally important to not only address our concerns but afford protection against these constant incursions from Labor, the Greens and their acolytes. It's a new dawn on this issue."

Senator Fierravanti-Wells - who voted against marriage equality when it was legalised in 2017 - said the election results "had their antecedents in the same-sex marriage debate", noting large swings to the government in culturally diverse seats around western Sydney.

Banks, Blaxland, Fowler and McMahon, which voted "no" to same-sex marriage, all posted swings to the Coalition above 3 per cent - although so did many electorates that voted "yes".

Mr Joyce, a former Nationals leader, said Folau's sacking "got a lot of people annoyed" during the election campaign. "People were a little bit shocked that someone could lose their job because of what they believe," he said. "It made everyone feel a bit awkward and uneasy."

Mr Joyce said he would argue within the Coalition that any religious freedom law should include clauses to prevent employers crafting contracts that could penalise people for their religious beliefs. "That would be my input - but whether it's what other people's views are, I don't know," he said.

Such a law should not necessarily be nicknamed "Folau's Law" because it would give the sacked rugby player credit for a law that "should be designed for everybody", Mr Joyce said.

Folau has said he is considering his legal options in response to his termination.

Late last year, in response to former attorney-general Philip Ruddock's review, Mr Porter pledged to introduce a Religious Discrimination Act and appoint a religious freedom commissioner to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

On Wednesday he said religious freedom was a "key issue" in the election campaign due to "enormous concern" about Labor's plans on the issue, and indicated legislation would be a priority when Parliament resumes at the start of July.

New Labor leader Anthony Albanese acknowledged his party needed to show greater "respect" to religious views after frontbenchers Chris Bowen and Tony Burke publicly lamented that people of faith had lost trust in Labor and progressive politics.

Liberal senator Eric Abetz said the Coalition owed Rugby Australia "a bit of gratitude ... because their ham-fisted approach to Israel Folau clearly elevated the issue and concerned many, many people".

He agreed with Senator Fierravanti-Wells on the need for positively-framed legislation to establish religious freedoms but said it should be broader and encompass free speech.

"Freedom of religion is a subset of freedom of speech, and freedom of speech is the more important and overarching issue," he said.


Adani coalmine in path of more than one endangered species in Queensland

Dilemma:  Approving the mine would cost the State Labor government its deputy leader at the next election and give the seat to the Greens. Premier Annastacia with deputy Jackie Trad (in pink) above

Well fancy that. After months of dithering on Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin and refusing to intervene in an approval process that saw the company frustrated at every turn, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has suddenly found her voice again. And here we were thinking Annastacia had a case of aphasia.

Saying she was “fed up” with the delays, Palaszczuk announced deadlines of May 31 and June 13 for the mine’s bird protection and groundwater management plans respectively. You might say when it comes to the demands of anti-Adani activists, Palaszczuk is desperately trying to give the appearance of not giving a flying finch.

“Well I think everyone’s had a gutful, so that’s why we have moved — why I have moved quickly — to resolve this issue,” she stated.

Notice the nuance? Actually, it was more an extended middle finger to Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad, the leader of the dominant left faction which controls Cabinet and has constantly hindered Adani. At a press conference last weekend at the Gold Coast’s Sea World, the pair attempted to portray party unity.

With an election just over a year away, it is not just the government’s future at stake. In 2017, Trad’s formerly safe Labor inner-city seat of South Brisbane suffered an 11.7 per cent swing to the Greens. She holds the seat by only a 3.6 per cent margin thanks to the Liberal National Party’s preferencing Labor over the Greens in 2017 — a decision the LNP has announced it will not be repeating at the next election. Worst still for Trad, the national election showed this Greens incursion has increased, with some federal booths within her seat registering a swing as high as 15 per cent.

In what can only be described as a case of chronic denialism, both Palaszczuk and Trad have denied the delays in the Carmichael mine approval process had anything to do with Labor’s federal election rout in Queensland, “I think the Carmichael mine … was part of that message, but it wasn’t the entire message,” Trad told ABC radio last week.

To reiterate: Adani had planned to begin construction of the mine prior to Christmas last year, but this was delayed when the government ordered an independent review into the company’s environmental management plans for the black-throated finch. “We are now seeing more processes and actions coming in at the eleventh hour when we have been working on this for the best part of 18 months,” said an exasperated Adani mining chief executive, Lucas Dow, in December.

As if intentionally exacerbating this situation, the government rejected Adani’s management plan at the beginning of this month, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science claiming it “did not meet requirements”. This is the same department that last July appointed anti-Adani activist Dr Tim Seelig as an adviser, along with Greens candidates Kirsten Lovejoy and Gary Kane.

But all this has nothing to do with federal Labor’s primary vote in Queensland dropping to 27.3 per cent, right? Wrong. Palaszczuk and Trad have dug a hole for themselves so big it would have inspired Jules Verne, had he still been alive, to write a sequel to Journey to the Centre of the Earth. This bureaucratic and political farce is about protecting an endangered species alright, but it is the squawking Member for South Brisbane the government is concerned about, not the black-throated finch.

The party charade of trying to appease anti-Adani voters in the inner-city while attempting to convince those in the regions it is pro-mining intensified on the eve of the 2017 election. At that time, polling revealed that the Greens led Labor 51 per cent to 49 per cent on a two-party preferred basis in Trad’s seat.

Around the same time, Palaszczuk, to the disbelief of many, announced she had exercised a “veto” not to support an application by Adani for a $1 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility loan. The ostensible basis for this was that she wanted to remove any perception of a conflict of interest, as her then partner, Shaun Drabsch, worked on the application to the NAIF with his employer, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which acted for Adani.

In attempting to defend her arbitrary decision, Palaszczuk cited that she had relied on advice from the Queensland Integrity Commissioner, Dr Nikola Stepanov. But as Jamie Walker of The Australian revealed, the commissioner’s advice was merely that Palaszczuk should exclude herself from Cabinet deliberations concerning the NAIF loan. In fact, ministers had, during a crisis Cabinet meeting five months before the Premier’s announcement, resolved not to support the NAIF loan bid.

Undoubtedly, Palaszczuk had succumbed to pressure from Trad, who later had the chutzpah to criticise the federal government’s NAIF program, saying it “has not yet seen a single dollar go to a Queensland project”. Earlier that year Trad had intervened to scotch Palaszczuk and then Treasurer Curtis Pitt’s agreement with Adani which would have seen royalties limited to $2m annually for the first seven years of the mine’s operation.

“I have never been anti-coal,” Trad told the Australian Financial Review in 2015. “I actually think it’s ridiculous to think we don’t use our natural resources — it’s one of our strengths”. Yet in February this year she told parliament “markets are moving away from thermal coal, communities are moving away from thermal coal, nation states are moving away from thermal coal”.

Translation: inner-city seats are moving away from Labor to the Greens.

“What we need to do as a coal exporter is understand that, and equip our communities with the best possible chance of re-skilling, and that’s why we’re focused on other materials,” she said. Contrast this West End insouciance with the urgency of a group of Labor regional MPs that, as The Courier-Mail reported this week, is threatening to form a sub-caucus.

One wonders how long, were it not for the federal election forcing its hand, the Queensland government was prepared to prolong this debacle. Put simply, it cannot have had a viable exit strategy, for Adani has committed far too much to abandon the project. In the event the government refuses approval, it has, through its intransigence and decisions based on ulterior motives, left itself open to a compensation claim amounting to hundreds of millions, perhaps even billions.

It would be a legal battle that would take years to finalise. Of course, that will affect neither Palaszczuk nor Trad. By then they will be enjoying retirement and a generous taxpayer-funded pension.

Palaszczuk appears destined for Opposition unless she can clear the way for Adani quickly. Of course that would mean Trad would lose her seat, but the Deputy Premier need not despair. After all, there is always re-skilling.


Peter Dutton warns more illegal boats may be headed to Australia

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says the government is concerned more illegal boats are headed to Australia, after a vessel carrying 20 Sri Lankans was intercepted by Border Force.

Anthony Albanese has demanded a security briefing today from Scott Morrison as it was revealed the first boat had arrived on the shores of Christmas Island in five years, and that the vessal had set sail weeks into the federal election campaign.

Mr Dutton said the Sri Lankan arrival was “very disturbing” and that people smugglers had been marketing a change of government to asylum seekers before the Coalition’s shock election win.

“It’s a very disturbing development and, without going into all of the details, it’s not the only vessel that we’re worried about,” the Home Affairs Minister told Sydney’s 2GB radio.

“Obviously people thought there was going to be a change of government… people smugglers have been marketing this.

“But we want to send a very clear message to people here who might try and organise ventures for people offshore. “The Prime Minister and I are absolutely resolute in making sure that we can never allow people to come here by boat.”

As revealed by The Australian this morning, a naval ship intercepted 20 Sri Lankans who set sail for Australia during the federal election campaign. They were returned to Colombo on a government charter jet in the early hours of yesterday.

Mr Albanese, in his first major national security test as Labor leader, this morning said he wanted a meeting with the Prime Minister this afternoon to discuss the boat arrival.

“There have been 10 boats come, as I read it, from Sri Lanka on this government’s watch. 10. Not one,” the incoming Opposition Leader said in Canberra ahead of today’s Caucus meeting.

“There was an event in Easter, 250 people died in a terrorist attack. I don’t know, I haven’t had the opportunity of a security briefing on this.

“I am actually standing here, as not yet the leader of the Labor Party. I have been a phone call in, by the way, to Scott Morrison’s office this morning. I think it is the respectful thing to do for me to have a discussion with the Prime Minister this afternoon and I have taken that initiative.

“That is the way that I’ll have disagreements with Scott Morrison. I’ll have big ones. But I respect the office of Prime Minister. That is the respectful thing to do and that is why I did it.”

Mr Albanese opposed Bill Shorten’s moves to support boat turnbacks at the 2015 Labor conference but has since said he would support the policy.

Operation Sovereign Borders became aware of the latest vessel, which tracked across the Indian Ocean towards Australia’s northwest coast, during aerial patrols of Australian waters last week, The Australian understands.

The Department of Home ­Affairs was in touch with Sri Lankan authorities around the time officers intercepted the boat.

The asylum-seekers — including at least one baby — left Sri Lanka in the first week of May, soon after the Easter terror attacks on churches and hotels that killed 250.

The group spent “a few days” in detention on Christmas Island while health and security checks were carried out. None was deemed to have a legitimate claim to asylum in Australia, according to government sources.

Once the vessel was intercepted, those on board were given water and life jackets. They were then taken on the navy ship to Christmas Island. Detention ­facilities on the Australian territory, 1550km northwest of the mainland, were recently reopened to accommodate refugees and asylum-seekers on Nauru and Manus Island found to need medical ­assessments in Australia.


Bungle: Gas consortium wins royalty decision against Queensland government

$422 million blow to budget

The Australia Pacific LNG Consortium, including Origin Energy, has won a landmark legal challenge against the Queensland government over the amount of royalties it pays from its $25 billion LNG export facility in Gladstone.

In a decision in the Supreme Court in Brisbane on Friday, Justice John Bond declared the royalty formula used for the APLNG project since 2015 was invalid and sent it back to the Queensland government to come up with a new way to determine royalties.

It is a blow for the cash-strapped Palaszczuk government, which had been receiving lower royalties from the $80 billion LNG industry in the early years of production due to the plunge in the international oil price.

The latest decision could strip Queensland of  more royalties, just weeks before Treasurer Jackie Trad hands down her second budget.

But Justice Bond placed a non-publication order on his reasons for the decision until early next week, giving lawyers from APLNG and the Queensland government time to ensure there is no commercially sensitive material released in the judgment.

The judgment will be watched closely by the other big LNG consortiums exporting from Curtis Island.

Lawyers for APLNG – the consortium consisting of Origin (37.5 per cent), ConocoPhillips (37.5 per cent) and Sinopec (25 per cent) – had asked the Supreme Court to throw out the royalty determination, given there is no option to appeal the original decision.

The decision will require the Queensland government to come up with a new way to determine royalties for the APLNG project.

APLNG has been paying royalties on its gas since it started to export out of Gladstone in January 2016, but it has long believed it got a worse deal than the Shell-operated QGC consortium, which started exporting a year earlier.

Responsibility for determining petroleum royalties passed from the former Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation to Treasury in 2012.

It is understood QGC's royalty formulation was made by the department but, given the strict confidentiality around royalty determinations, APLNG does not know exactly how much their rivals, including the third consortium led by Santos, are paying in royalties.

APLNG – which has exported gas on more than 250 ships from Curtis Island – said it supported the payment of royalties based on the full and fair requirements of the applicable law, but believed the "netback method" used by the Office of State Revenue was flawed. It had asked for a judicial review of the royalty determination.

Under Queensland's system, royalties are payable at 10 per cent of well-head value – the amount that could reasonably be expected to be realised if sold on a commercial basis – less deductible costs, such as operational and capital costs. LNG royalties also include the costs of liquefaction and transport.

The three LNG consortiums operating on Curtis Island off Gladstone were hit by a lower oil price in their early years, but more-recent gains in Brent prices and cost reductions have made them more profitable.

The $80 billion LNG industry was a major driver of the economy during the construction phase, but royalties from the sector have not lived up to expectations.

LNG royalties were due to jump from $187 million in 2017-18 to $422 million this financial year, creeping up to $490 million a year by 2021-22, according to state budget papers.



Australia Pacific LNG has forced the Palaszczuk government back to the drawing board over royalties from its coal seam gas production near Gladstone on the central Queensland coast.

The decision was disputed by the company, a joint venture between Origin, ConocoPhillips and Sinopec, on the basis the government breached natural justice by failing to hear part of their objections.

Australia Pacific LNG also argued the government took into account irrelevant considerations, while decision created uncertainty because important variables were left open to "subjective estimates, assessment, discretionary allocation, and matters of judgment".

Brisbane Supreme Court Justice John Bond accepted those arguments, but dismissed the company's claims the government misapplied legislation and exercised unreasonable power.

He ruled the decision was not authorised by the regulation.

"I declare that it was invalid and of no effect," he said.

Justice Bond did not make orders as to how much the company should pay in royalties, instead referring the decision, made in December 2015 based on departmental expert advice, back to the government.


 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

No comments: