Thursday, August 29, 2019

AG plays to win back our liberty

A religious bill of rights would be too sweeping.  Small steps will work best

Following last week’s cabinet meeting, the Attorney-General said there would be finetuning to the government’s bill to bolster religious freedom before it goes to the Coalition partyroom on September 10. That gives MPs time to dust off some works by John Locke or Thomas Jefferson on the nature of rights.

The demand by a handful of conservatives for something akin to a charter of religious rights is both myopic and misplaced. If they get their way, they will be cheered by every left-wing legal academic who has been pushing for a broad-ranging charter of rights for two decades. That alone should stop these misguided conservatives in their tracks.

In case it doesn’t, here are other reasons they are wrong. There is no quick fix to bolstering religious freedom in this country. It is a long game, not for the impatient, the imprudent or the faint-hearted. Religious freedom in Australia has been curtailed by myriad laws, introduced over decades by legislators who had little interest in protecting religious freedom and did not value free speech either.

For a half-century, there has been an unsuitably named “progressive” project to treat certain groups of people, distinguished by sex, race and sexuality, and a long list of other legislated characteristics, as victims in need of protection from speech deemed offensive.

The resulting laws are regressive, up-ending what has been called a “delicate ecosystem of liberties” where freedom of conscience and freedom of religion cannot exist without the right to speak freely.

None of this will be fixed by a single new law giving religious freedom to Australians. Religious freedom can be fully restored only by going to the source of what has taken away our liberty.

And the sources are many.

They include a raft of state anti-discrimination laws that prohibit speech that “offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules” a person on the basis of a listed attribute. While these provisions are not always direct curbs on religious freedom, that is their effect when laws limit what we can say.

When Catholic Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous distributed a pamphlet setting out Catholic teaching on marriage, Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner decided he had a case to answer under the state’s anti-discrimination laws. And that remains the state of play; the woman complainant dropped the case before it was determined.

The Attorney-General’s plan to address the Porteous problem will be a major win for religious freedom in this country. But it will not, and should not, be done by passing a religious bill of rights.

The Australian understands Christian Porter has in mind a new federal provision making it unlawful to drag someone to an anti-discrimination tribunal for expressing a religious belief.

That would be an important start to unwinding the morass of anti-discrimination laws stifling freedom of expression and religious freedom.

The Australian also has been told that Porter wants laws to address the legal saga entangling Israel Folau. That could be done by providing a new act, separate to provisions in the Fair Work Act the rugby player is relying on in his stoush with Rugby Australia. These provisions could prohibit sections of a workplace code of conduct that have a disproportionate effect on a particular employee because of their religious beliefs.

These reforms, and others planned, could give the ambitious Attorney-General the chance to prove his leadership, by meshing political nous with sound legal judgment.

Politically, Porter has framed the proposed reforms as part of a new but entirely orthodox anti-discrimination law to protect people of faith. That will satisfy voters that the Morrison government is keeping its election promise.

But legally, Porter must know the last thing we need is another layer of anti-discrimination laws. It would add insult to the injury of identity politics to add another anti-discrimination law, creating another category of victim — the person of faith — requiring special protection. Given that there is no prospect of the states and territories repealing their various anti-discrimination laws, Porter will prove that he understands the hindrances to the exercise of faith if he punches sizable holes in today’s anti-discrimination laws — in other words, legislating a series of carefully targeted exemptions to present laws to bolster religious freedom, rather than cementing into society another new layer of anti-discrimination laws.

If that is his plan, keep punching, Attorney-General. And don’t lose sleep over earlier assurances that new federal laws will not override state laws.

That is a passing scuffle compared with the long game that Porter can lay claim to: the first federal attorney-general to start a long-term liberty project to unwind, with a series of tactical and targeted exemptions, anti-discrimination laws that have multiplied since the 1970s.

By contrast, the demand by some conservatives that the Morrison government legislate a religious bill of rights is wrong on so many levels. It is a concession of defeat, an admission by them that they will no longer argue from first principles.

And that first principle — that our fundamental rights are inalienable to us as human beings — is a dangerous one to throw out in the rush to find a quick fix.

This country has fought tyranny when tyrants stripped people of their inalienable rights: Hitler, communism, Saddam Hussein, Islamic State. It is not up to governments, no matter how benevolent, to give fundamental rights to people. The essence of liberty is that elected government makes the case to voters why our inalienable rights should be curbed.

Test it this way. Consider how each scenario looks in another 50 years. In the first scenario, various Australian governments (even Labor governments after the party was punished by voters back in 2019 for ignoring people of faith) have worked assiduously to return fundamental rights to Australians by dismantling, section by section, laws that unreasonably limit religious freedom and freedom of expression. Legislators understood that their project to restore liberty would take time, just as the previous project by “progressives” took decades to distort our liberties.

In the alternative scenario, the Morrison government legislated a religious charter of rights. And when it comes to power, the next Labor government passes a wide-ranging charter of rights converting all kinds of claims into rights. Crackpot cases clog up the Human Rights Commission, like the transgender woman complaining after a beautician refuses to wax her testicles. Turns out there is no human right to a sac wax. But still, we kick ourselves for not learning, all those years ago, from Canada’s mistakes.

Within 20 years, there is a transfer of power from parliament (meaning we, the people) to judges who determine the limits of our fundamental rights.

If the plan is to punch holes in existing laws, Porter’s liberty restoration project is the best chance of returning lasting freedoms to Australians. And perhaps the misguided conservatives are merely positioning themselves, asking for much more, but happy if a few minor tweaks go their way.

If, on the other hand, they are serious about demanding a religious freedom act, then, as one Liberal MP told The Australian this week, “they really have lost their marbles”.


‘Low-paid work provides dignity’: MPs urged to scrap $19.49 minimum wage, unions slam ‘appalling’ push

Low-paid work “provides dignity” and is an “important first rung of the career ladder”, according to a document distributed to MPs calling for the minimum wage to be scrapped.

The parliamentary research brief distributed by conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) argues Australia’s minimum wage of $19.49 an hour is the highest in the developed world and “undermines work opportunity and job creation” by “removing the entry rung” for young and low-skilled workers.

“Low-paid work equips workers with important experience, builds transferable skills, demonstrates a willingness to work and provides references and contacts for future work opportunities,” the paper says. “It also functions as a starting point for young people to experience the dignity of work that provides meaning and direction and fosters personal responsibility and independence.”

Using data from government submissions to the Fair Work Commission’s Annual Wage Review, IPA research fellow Kurt Wallace calculated nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers moved to higher-paid work within two years and just 3 per cent remained in low-paid work after five years.

“Contrary to suggestions that low-paid work is a ‘dead-end job’, these jobs have high upward income mobility,” Mr Wallace said in a statement. “Over half of low-paid Australian workers move to higher-paid work within a year, 64 per cent move to higher-paid work within two years and 75 per cent move to higher-paid work within five years.”

Mr Wallace added, “Australia’s stringent labour regulation significantly raises the cost of employment, making it difficult for those who lack experience to find work. The superannuation system and leave entitlements alone increase the minimum wage to $25.34 per hour worked.”

The World Economic Forum ranks Australia the 105th least flexible labour market out of 140 countries. The IPA argues the minimum wage is a large reason 38 per cent of 15 to 19-year-olds are either unemployed or underemployed and an estimated 250,000 Australians aged 15 to 24 are not engaged in work, study, or caring for children.

“All work provides dignity, skills and financial independence,” Mr Wallace said. “Low-paid work is an important rung toward higher-paid work and career success. Australia’s high minimum wage and restrictive labour regulation undermines the ability of young people to enter the workforce and experience the dignity of work.”

An IPA spokesman added the think tank did “not believe there should be a minimum wage”. “It is not a policy which is well targeted at alleviating poverty — most who are on the minimum wage are not poor,” he said. “And it prevents the lowest skilled from getting a job. Instead governments should explore alternatives such as earned income tax credits.”

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus slammed the research. “The proposal by the extreme big business advocates at the IPA to abolish the minimum wage is appalling, dangerous, but predictable,” she said in a statement.

“This group believes that workers should have no rights or protections and our society should be run solely according to the wishes of big business. At the same time, former and current IPA members who are Liberal MPs are also pushing for the removal of unfair dismissal protections.”

Ms McManus said Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter should “publicly reject any suggestion that minimum wages or unfair dismissal protections should be abolished and stand up for working people”.

“Should they not do this, it will be clear that they are allowing extreme groups like the IPA to drive their agenda,” she said. “Ideas like this are fundamentally unfair and would drive our country into recession. The only thing keeping wage increases in line with inflation are our minimum wages system and the pay rises won by unions.”

More than two million Australians got a pay rise at the start of last month after the Fair Work Commission’s 3 per cent increase to the minimum wage took effect. Unions were pushing for a 6 per cent increase at the Annual Wage Review in May, while business groups wanted 2 per cent.

Mr McManus said the IPA was using the Morrison Government’s shock election victory as an “opportunity to once again push their extreme agenda”.

“They have a list of demands which over six years the Coalition government has been ticking off, but they’re not done,” she said. “The Morrison Government has given them this soapbox with the announcement of a review of workers’ rights. It is up to them to make clear they will not be entertaining any proposal that makes workers worse off.”


World's first transgender actress Carlotta slams 'ridiculous' bill that allows people to change their sex on birth certificates - and says children should NOT be allowed to transition

Her appearance on the Australian soap Number 96 in 1972 marked the first time a transgender actress played a transgender character on TV anywhere in the world.

And Carlotta shared her opinion on a major trans issue on Monday, slamming a decision by the Victorian legislative assembly to pass a bill that allows transgender and non-binary people to change the sex listed on their birth certificate without gender reassignment surgery.

Speaking on Studio 10, the 75-year-old trans icon and cabaret performer claimed the whole bill is 'ridiculous'.

'It is a different generation today, but I really believe that unless you've had the sex change [you shouldn't] have your papers changed… because anyone can do it,' she said.

Emphasising that transitioning is far more complex than simply changing information on legal documents, Carlotta turned to host Sarah Harris and said: 'You could go in and say, "I want to be a boy", and you're not a boy. It's ridiculous!'

The TV personality, who rose to fame in the stage production of Les Girls in 1962, went on to say that she doesn't believe children should be allowed to transition either.

'I have a lot of people writing to me about little kids - a little girl wants to be a little boy, or a little boy wants to be a little girl - and they go to school dressed that way,' she said.

Carlotta added that she is 'strongly against' doctors approving hormone treatment for children before they have a true grasp of who they are.

The outspoken star said that children 'should not be put on treatments' until they have 'matured and are of age'.

'Your hormones change... they could get to 15 or 16 and decide they don't want to be [a different gender],' she added.

Carlotta acknowledged that her views reflect her own experience growing up transgender in a less permissive age, saying, 'I'm only being sensible because I did it the hard way.'

According to Carlotta, when she went overseas for her own gender reassignment surgery, she was forced to get a new passport issued to reflect the fact she had become a woman.

At that time, she was still obliged to have a separate page in her passport with her old identity, so as not to cause confusion.

She concluded: 'I do not believe that [transgender people] have the right to go and have their birth certificates changed when they haven't had the changes.'

Carlotta's return to Studio 10 comes after she dramatically quit the show last year, claiming at the time that the show's producers had treated her 'unfairly'.

Announcing her comeback last month, she said: 'I thought mummy needed to comeback with a bit of political incorrectness! Mummy's here because you know I say it how it is. I'm back, honey, but I'll behave.'


Super giant to impose 100pc carbon reduction targets

This is just virtue signalling puffery that can achieve nothing.  What will happen if the power stations fail to comply?  Nothing.  They could sell the power stations at a huge loss but what good would that do them?

Australia’s biggest energy network will face an unprecedented emissions reduction target as its owner — industry super­annuation giant IFM ­Investors — launches an ambitious project to cut carbon across its vast asset holdings.

Emissions reductions targets of up to 100 per cent by 2030 will be slapped on a broad range of infrastructure assets across the nation, including the Ausgrid electricity network, Melbourne and Brisbane airports, and NSW ports.

The move risks stoking a conflict­ with the Morrison governmen­t, which has sought to clamp down on social and environme­ntal activism by industr­y super funds.

The $140 billion IFM Invest­ors, chaired by former ACTU head Greg Combet and co-owned by 27 of the biggest industry super funds, including Aust­ralianSuper, Hostplus and Cbus, also controls or has large stakes in assets such as the Port of Brisbane, Southern Cross Station in Melbourne and Northern Territ­ory Airports.

IFM Investors will announce today a move to strip 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annual­ly from the assets by 2030 — equal to removing almost 70,000 cars from the road.

According to its Paris Agreement target, Australia will reduce emissions to 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

Following the collapse of the Coalition’s national energy guarantee last year, IFM Investors will apply an emissions reduction target of ­between 8 and 25 per cent on infra­structure projects by 2024, and of 38 to 100 per cent by 2030.

Ausgrid, which was half-privatised by the NSW Liberal government for $16bn in 2016, is the largest energy network in the country, supplying more than 1.6 million homes and businesses across Sydney, the NSW central coast and the Hunter region.

It will now attempt to reduce its emissions by 8 per cent over the next five years, and by 17 per cent by 2030. To achieve this, IFM will invest in a range of solar energy projects, launch ­effic­iency upgrades on its buildings, install thousands of energy-efficien­t lights and use low-emissio­n vehicles. NT Airports, meanwhile, is hoping to achieve a 100 per cent emissions ­reduction by 2030.

The emissions reduction prog­ram comes after the government’s $10bn Clean Energy Finance Corporation, established by the Gillard government in 2012, invested $150 million last year into IFM to help lower emissions across the country’s largest infrastructure assets.

IFM head of Australian infrastructure Michael Hanna said it made “perfect business sense” to cut emissions by “reducing costs, mitigating future business risks and contributing to outcomes that our customers value”.

“This exciting initiative represents a genuine commitment and start to aligning our assets to the Paris Agreement,” Mr Hanna said.

Clean Energy Finance Corporation boss Ian Learmonth said the reductions had “the potential to make a material impact” on Australia­’s carbon footprint. “This … sets an important example for other major infrastructure owners and managers,” he said.

Deep divisions between union-backed funds and big business surfaced this year when Josh Fry­den­berg asked the prudential regul­ator whether it had the power to ensure union-appointed super trustees did not pursue political objectives at the expense of ­members’ interests.

The Treasurer’s ­intervention came after the ACTU backed a Maritime Union of Australia ­campaign for industry funds to pressure BHP and BlueScope Steel into reversing a decision to forgo the renewal of a legacy contract­ for two Australian-crewed vessels — the last servicing the iron-ore industry.

AustralianSuper, the nation’s largest fund — where ACTU president Michele O’Neil is an alternate board director — also joined a throng of major instit­utional investors to pressure global­ commodity group Glencore to cap its coal production.

Industry funds have an equal-representation board model, meaning they appoint ­directors from unions and employer groups. Together, they have $677bn of assets under management — more financial power than the bank-run retail fund sector ($623bn), or public­ sector funds ($475bn).

Last week, the US Business Roundtable overturned 57 years of corporate orthodoxy holding that the only purpose of a corporation was to generate profit for shareholders by publishing a new “statement­ on the purpose of a corporation”. The statement sought to elevate the concerns of customers, employees and com­munitie­s. It was signed by 181 chief executives, including Lachlan Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of Fox Corporation and co-chairman of News Corp, ultim­ate publisher of The Australian.

Ausgrid, which owns the ­NSW energy distribution network, triggers the majority of its emissions through electrical line losses by transmitting power over long ­distances. While these particular costs would be too “prohibitive” to clamp down on, IFM said it would tackle inefficient street lights, which account for 11 per cent of emissions, and convert more than 250,000 to energy-efficient bulbs.

The company will also install more than 11,500 rooftop solar panels across its work sites. Excluding­ the emissions for line losses, the program will cut Ausgrid­’s emissions by 44 per cent by the end of 2024.

IFM and AustralianSuper jointly own 50.4 per cent of Ausgrid­ for a 99-year lease. IFM owns 25 per cent of Aust­ralia Pacific Airports Corporation, which owns Melbourne Airport under a 50-year lease.

It also owns 20 per cent of Brisbane Airport Corporation, which controls the airport under a 49-year lease. IFM owns 45 per cent of NSW Ports, which manages Port Botany and Port Kembla, the Enfield Inter­modal Logistics Centre and Cooks River Intermodal ­Terminal.


 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: