Thursday, November 14, 2019

High Court rules in favour of Cardinal Pell on final appeal

This is already evidence that the case is an unusual one.  A conviction based on one uncorroborated allegation is very rare for a start

Australia’s final arbiter has granted disgraced cardinal George Pell special leave to appeal his five convictions for molesting two choirboys in Melbourne in 1996, and almost immediately the public defence of the 78-year-old has ramped up.

The High Court of Australia this morning ruled that it would hear Pell’s appeal after it was earlier rejected by the Victorian Court of Appeal. It is rare for the High Court to grant an appeal and the decision keeps Pell’s chances for an early release from prison alive. He has been in prison since March this year.

He is within his rights to apply for bail, but the chances of bail being granted are very slim.

Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt wasted no time in taking aim at Pell’s accusers and the judges who put him away and kept him there. He directly questioned the credibility of the two judges of the Court of Appeal — president Chris Maxwell and Chief Justice Anne Ferguson — who ruled against Pell in August. “Their credibility is now on the line,” he wrote, before taking aim at Pell’s accusers.

“At the very least, the improbability (of the crime being committed the way Pell’s accusers said it was committed) is so very high that no-one should convict a man on that evidence just because his accuser seemed to be so nice or honest.”

Bolt wrote that the third judge, Mark Weinberg, “seemed to accuse his fellow judges of putting too much faith in the demeanour of Pell’s sole accuser”.

The most senior Catholic to be found guilty of child sex abuse crimes was not in the Canberra courtroom when the decision was handed down, nor did he appear via video link.

Instead, the news was relayed to him inside his cell at Melbourne Assessment Prison where he spends his days in protective custody.

A unanimous Victorian County Court jury in December found Pope Francis’ former finance minister guilty of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the late 1990s shortly after Pell became archbishop of Australia’s second-largest city.

Pell’s lawyers argued in their 12-page application for a High Court appeal that two state appeals court judges made two errors in dismissing his appeal in August.

The judges made a mistake by requiring Pell to prove the offending was impossible rather than putting the onus of proof on prosecutors, the lawyers said.

They also said the two judges made a mistake in finding the jury’s guilty verdicts were reasonable. Pell’s lawyers argued there was reasonable doubt about whether opportunity existed for the crimes to have occurred.

Pell’s lawyers also argue that changes in law over the years since the crimes were alleged have increased the difficulty in testing sexual assault allegations.

They argue Pell should be acquitted of all charges for several reasons, including inconsistencies in the complainant’s version of events. But prosecutors argue there is no basis for the appeal, and the Victorian courts made no errors.

In their written submission to the High Court, prosecutors wrote Pell’s legal team was asking High Court judges to apply established principles to the facts of the case, which were already carefully and thoroughly explored by the state appeals court.

Pell was largely convicted on the testimony of one victim. The second victim died of an accidental heroin overdose in 2014 when he was 31 years old without complaining that he had been abused.

The surviving victim said after Pell lost his appeal in August, “I just hope that it’s all over now.”

Pell must serve at least three years and eight months behind bars before he becomes eligible for parole.

As a convicted paedophile, he is provided with extra protection from other inmates and spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.


Some of Australia’s most maligned addresses are set to become some of our most sought-after, thanks to a dramatic turnaround

A benefit of lockout laws

Australia’s ‘new Soho’ Kings Cross, Potts Point and surrounding suburbs set to boom

Kings Cross’ lockout laws are here to stay, which means one of the less-desired addresses in Australia is set to become one of the most sought after.

The former red light district’s reputation as one of Sydney’s seedier areas meant it was never top of the list of suburbs to live in or to move to.

But since the lockout laws were introduced in 2014, Kings Cross and surrounding areas have left their night life ways behind to embrace a more liveable and cosmopolitan feel.

That will only continue after a NSW parliamentary inquiry last month declared the controversial lock out laws will be retained in the Cross, putting an end to any chance of the area recapturing its crown as the heart of Sydney’s night life.

That ensures the area is set to become one of the most desirable districts in the Harbour City due to a number of factors — leading it to being dubbed Australia’s ‘new Soho’ – an area akin to its famous ‘namesakes’ in New York City or London.

Those areas have enjoyed a revitalisation through gentrification, and as a result, property values improved considerably.

Elizabeth Bay, which borders Kings Cross to the east, is one area already enjoying a dramatic surge in popularity.

Unit prices there have risen an incredible 24 per cent rise, year-on-year to the end of July, as much of the rest of the market continued to fall before the very recent upswing.

Nearby the more affordable Darlinghurst, where the median unit price is $932,500, compared to Elizabeth Bay’s $1.11 million, prices increased 6.9 per cent.

Over the same period the median home price in Sydney fell by 4.8 per cent, and this came before the future of the lockout laws were confirmed.

Jason Boon, a Director at Richardson and Wrench Elizabeth Bay/Potts Point has been selling real estate in the area for more than two decades and is ideally placed to talk about its future.

“To give you a correlation, Elizabeth Bay is like Bronte to Bondi, you’re not far from the action,” Mr Boon said.

“It’s in the middle of the triangle, of the beach, the city and the airport. It’s right in the thick of it all. It’s close to the city but not in the city. People don’t want to get in their cars. “Around Kings Cross and Potts Point, they don’t have to do that and they can still have a view of the harbour, to the beaches and to The Heads.”

“The face of the area is changing. It’s the New Soho of Australia. It’s always been eclectic and still is but it’s becoming more relevant,” Mr Boon said.

“With the lockout laws it has become more relevant. (Sydney Lord Mayor) Clover Moore has helped to change the area.

Mayor Moore she has changed the parks, lit them up with smart poles like (former mayor Rudy) Giuliani did in New York.

“Now that Kings Cross has changed everyone wants to come here. You only have to look at the buildings that have been built here and are being planned.

“The part still to change is the Kings Cross strip. There are a lot of developments planned there. It will be the biggest change in property in Australia. It will be a whole different strip. It will be very cosmopolitan.”

The area has already developed a well-known and well-respected food scene that continues to grow, and boutiques and galleries are also increasingly proliferate in the area.

Buyer’s agent Simon Cohen of Cohen Handler saw the potential in Kings Cross and its surrounds when he bought into the area three years ago. “It’s a great area,” he said.

“It’s close to the city, full of cafes and restaurants. It’s a very desirable area. You can enjoy city living there with water views, so it is very unique. Ever since it started getting cleaned up it is a different place.”

Mr Cohen’s clients have also identified the area as hot property.

“A lot of our clients want to be there and if they can afford it, we suggest they do. “It’s a great investment — you get great returns and great tenants — and it’s a great area to live.

“There is such great demand. People from all stages of life love it. It’s very sought after, there’s not a lot of stock so it can be hard to get into.”

Penthouses in Potts Point are in considerably high demand. Mr Boon said they can sell for around $35-40,000 per square metre as opposed to the rest of Sydney which averages around $20,000 per square metre.

For those who aren’t in the market for a penthouse, or even super contemporary living, there are also a number of beautiful art deco buildings and Victorian terraces in the area. And even though the night life has calmed, it still exists.

First National Real Estate CEO Ray Ellis said he could also understand the lure the area. “Potts Point is a groovy area,” he said. “It is tightly held, it’s expensive to buy into. But you can get good rental returns and a lot of people want to live there.”


Green bureaucracy blocking big natural gas developments

Two world-class liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects valued at $40 billion and owned by some of the world’s biggest oil companies, including Shell, BP and PetroChina, are at risk of being permanently marooned by a complex “economy v environment” dispute in Australia.

The Browse and Scarborough projects will only be developed if final government approvals can be obtained and that could mean satisfying the carbon emissions requirements of an international climate-change agreement.

Unfortunately for the companies behind the projects, which have taken more than 30 years to reach the point of a final investment decision, different layers of government in Australia can’t agree on whether local or international rules apply.

At a political level there is support for both Browse and Scarborough because of the economic and job creating benefits from investment.

But at an administrative level there are government officials who argue that approval is not possible for any big resource development, including oil and gas, unless the proponents can demonstrate how they will offset all emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the gases blamed for global warming and climate change.

Australia, like many other countries, is a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change which includes a set of recommendations designed to limit carbon dioxide pollution.

But, for a country which is heavily dependent on mining and oil production the Paris deal has become a logistical nightmare and, in the case of natural gas a two-edged sword because while it might be a fossil fuel it is far less polluting than the coal or oil it can replace.

Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea are major buyers of minerals and energy products produced in Australia and are keen to see a continuation of a reliable LNG supply from a relatively risk-free supplier.

But, if the civil servants working in government departments, such as the Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia (EPA), both Browse and Scarborough will be subjected to onerous emissions offset requirements which could jeopardize their development.

First hint of a standoff between elected and unelected government officials emerged earlier this year when the EPA said all new LNG projects could only proceed if they could demonstrate “zero net emissions” and needed to meet so-called Scope 3 emissions, or those emitted by countries which consume resources sourced from Australia.

The resources industry has rejected that position even if it does comply with the Paris agreement and Australia’s obligations, warning that all new resource projects face an insurmountable hurdle, especially when it came to Scope 3 because Australia cannot control what a foreign customer does with raw material even if it is sourced from Australia.

Elected government officials are slowing waking to the trap into which they have been led by not reading the fine print of the Paris agreement and by allowing civil servants, many with strong views on environmental protection, commit the country to a set of international rules which do not appear to be in Australia’s best interests.

An attempt to tone down the early EPA ruling has been made by the State Government of Western Australia but that position will soon be tested by the imminent development application for the Scarborough project led by Woodside Petroleum and BHP.

They plan to extract gas from the offshore Scarborough gasfields and pipe it to the onshore Pluto gas processing plant which is, in turn, being connected to the North West Shelf gas plant owned by Woodside, Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP, Mitsubishi and Mitsui.

The next stage in a process to create a major LNG “hub” is to develop the Browse gasfields owned by Woodside, Shell, BP, PetroChina, Mitsui and Mitsubishi.

Sorting out the ownership of the different stages of the projects has been likened to herding cats, a near-impossible task, but that process appears to have been settled, leaving the the challenge of dealing with government which is split between pro-and-anti development positions.

Last week, the Scarborough project took two big steps towards formal approval by its owners. The amount of gas in the fields was recalculated to deliver a 52% increase to now stand at 11.1 trillion cubic feet, just short of Browse with its 13.9tcf, and a contract was signed to build an inter-connecting pipeline between Pluto and the North West Shelf gas processing plants.

With design and ownership issues largely settled the LNG projects have moved to within sight of investment commitments, setting the stage for a showdown between elected and unelected officials over the question of Australia’s economic interest and its international climate-change obligations.


Labor party lost in climate fog

Most of the fatal flaws exposed by the internal review of Labor’s ­emphatic electoral repudiation were so obvious that many of us had been pointing them out ­before, during and after the campaign. None of which detracts from the hilarity of watching the majority of players and commentators who argued Labor had a plausible agenda, campaigned well and would easily win the election now also say the findings are ­obvious.

Still, there is one glaring exception — a planet-sized blind spot — wilfully ignored by the review and much of the analysis. Yet even this hopeless oversight was predictable, simply because of who the ALP chose to conduct its review.

It was dubbed the climate election by many in Labor who were eager to accentuate the choice ­between targets and plans, yet the ALP chose as one of two reviewers Jay Weatherill — he was the premier of South Australia who pushed his state to a 50 per cent renewable energy share and allowed coal and gas-fired generators to close, delivering some of the world’s highest electricity prices but leading to the lights going out in the first statewide blackout.

When one of the most contentious policy choices in the campaign was about whether to embrace Labor’s plan to more than double the national renewable ­energy target (to the same level that created chaos in SA) and ­almost double the national emissions reduction goal, how could a renewables zealot such as Weatherill give an objective assessment? For him to call out the recklessness of Labor’s federal climate policy would be for him to admit his own costly legacy.

Labor has twice gone to a ­national election with radically more ambitious emissions reductions plans than the Coalition — in 2013 and this year — and the results speak for themselves. But Weatherill is deaf and blind to this reality; if he and others have their way, the next election will offer a similar choice.

On Thursday, delivering the review he conducted along with the pedestrian former trade minister Craig Emerson, Weatherill said it was clear Labor must continue to “stand for strong action on climate change” and that this was a “bedrock principle” for the party.

Yet elsewhere in the review there is clear evidence that its anti-coal rhetoric and climate evangelism contributed strongly to the party’s abysmal performance in Queensland, NSW’s Hunter ­Valley and elsewhere in regional Australia.

To be fair, sensible people might argue this nation had long been engaged in “strong action” on climate change, so Weatherill’s aim could easily be satisfied by ­offering bipartisan support for the Paris emissions reductions targets. But we know this is not what Weatherill and other members of Labor’s Socialist Left want.

The policy “bedrock” will be interpreted as something close to the extreme and uncosted policies Labor put to the people on May 18, which means one of the most obvious lessons from the election will be rejected by large elements of the party. Only Hunter Valley MP and Labor resources spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon seems willing to urge his colleagues to see sense.

Labor has made itself a victim to its own straw-man strategy. The review finds: “A modern Labor Party cannot deny or neglect human-induced climate change. To do so would be wrong, it would cause enormous internal instability and it would be a massive electoral liability.” This is true but pointless because no major party argues this position.

By pretending its opponents proffer denial and inaction, Labor locks itself into reckless policies and indefensible arguments. It is conned by its own hyperbole, hemmed in by its own hype.

The review goes on to say that the way forward for Labor is to focus on jobs from renewable ­energy and on the “costs of inaction”. But this is exactly what Bill Shorten and others did during the campaign, especially to avoid talking about the costs of their policies.

And the reality is that renewable energy jobs have not materialised to the extent promised anywhere, and voters are wise enough to understand the costs of climate inaction in Australia are approximately zero. No matter how dramatic Australia’s cuts, they cannot improve the global environment while global emissions continue to grow substantially — our costly policies will not stop a single storm, ease a drought or avoid a flood.

The only benefit they deliver is a down payment on international action. Obviously, then, there can be no financial or economic cost to inaction.

While the climate cannot be ­altered by anything we do alone, the only price to pay for inaction would be possible diplomatic repercussions for rejecting multilateral climate gestures. The “cost of inaction” argument is an exercise in stupidity and, as the election demonstrated yet again, mainstream voters tend to be smarter than that.

On climate, the ALP review is alarmingly myopic; it effectively recommends Labor sticks with the same extreme policies and inane arguments. It is unclear how it expects voters, who have repeatedly seen through this, to suddenly fall under its virtue-signalling spell.

Yet Anthony Albanese is sticking with this rhetoric; at the ­National Press Club on Friday the Opposition Leader continued with the pretence that additional climate action will create jobs rather than cost them. And he regurgitated Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s line from the day before about how the government’s drought response failed to mention climate change — does Labor argue a higher renewable energy target can end the drought? This is absurd stuff.

At Tony Abbott’s farewell dinner on Thursday there was some well-received triumphalism from conservative forces, especially from Peter Dutton, who was received as a hero for bringing on the move to take down Malcolm Turnbull. But ­Abbott made the most incisive point; he said that without Morrison’s victory this period of Coalition government would have gone down in history as an “embarrassing failure”.

Abbott then pointed out that both he and Turnbull owed Morrison a debt of gratitude. Yes, the Morrison win means all three can bathe in some of the success of a tumultuous period that has restored border integrity, rescued the budget, axed onerous taxes, struck significant free-trade deals and ushered in same-sex marriage.

Climate is the issue that repeatedly has divided the Liberal Party and is always a chance to do so again. This is where the Prime Minister has been proven right and others, including me, got it wrong. The proposition that he should abandon Paris as a means of ­accentuating policy difference has been proven unnecessary. His pitch of “Paris and no more” has seen him pick the economic, environmental and political sweet spot where Australia is doing enough but not too much, in a cautious but prudent response.

Taking extreme action on climate is to impose certain economic harm for dubious or non-existent benefits. Best leave that to Weatherill and Labor.


 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: