Monday, April 13, 2020

Pandemic is a grave moment in human history

Tom Switzer 

Since the first responsibility of the state is to protect its citizens, it is easily understandable why, faced with a pandemic on a scale not seen since 1918, draconian measures have been taken internationally to try to keep loss of life to a minimum. These measures have been taken not just in nations with a long-standing cultural taste for intervention, but in those where liberal and libertarian ideas have hitherto prevailed.

Two challenges face these polities: first, to judge carefully when restrictions can be lifted and to strike a balance between the damage caused by the virus and that caused by economic ruin; second, to ensure those restrictions do not leave a legacy in liberal societies, but are removed so society can proceed as before.

The coronavirus pandemic is a grave moment in human history. But it should not prove to be so pivotal it changes society profoundly and permanently.

But once the main threat has passed, restoring the liberty of citizens to go where they wish on public property, when they wish, and with whom they wish may prove the least of the problems for the societies that have chosen draconian measures to combat the spread of the disease.

Far harder will be removing wage subsidies, reducing debt and re-stabilising economies. For more, read my SMH column.

In response to my column, critics said the Covid-19 crisis is an indictment of “neo-liberalism.” By this, they mean the very market reforms of the Hawke-Keating and Howard-Costello era that helped spur Australia’s nearly 30 years of unbroken economic growth with low inflation, low interest rates and low unemployment and no great widening in inequality.

Never mind that today’s economic crisis a liquidity problem caused by the extraordinary government economic shutdown to stem the spread of the virus. It has nothing to do with free markets or dodgy CEOs.

Although relief in a crisis is a proper role for government — especially addressing short-term hardship (job loss, illness) — the critics are using this crisis as an excuse to increase permanently the size of government and the burden on taxpayers.

However, the way out of this crisis is not via higher levels of government, which will only saddle future generations with skyrocketing debt and deficits. It’s via a new economic reform agenda that encourages individual enterprise and freedom, incentives to work and invest and improve prospects for tomorrow’s growth and prosperity.

In any case, all this is a reminder of how quickly things have changed since our February 19 pubic event on Coronavirus and China. Back then, no one -- including people who presumably know a lot about infectious diseases -- predicted that COVID-19 would seriously threaten western liberal democracies and trigger a severe economic downturn.

Back then, the focus was primarily on China. Coronavirus, some scholars argued, highlighted the already low levels of trust in party-state media reporting. Others disagreed, arguing that Beijing has handled the crisis better than anyone had expected compared with two decades ago.

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One of Australia's top universities will allow students to use Year 11 results to apply after coronavirus caused disruption to the school calendar

One of Australia's top universities will allow students to use their Year 11 results to apply for courses.

Students can apply to undergraduate programs at Canberra's Australian National University (ANU) for 2021 with their Year 11 scores, due to the school year being disrupted by COVID-19.

The university believes taking earlier results will lighten stress levels for Year 12 students after a tumultuous year of study.

ANU begin making offers in August, with Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt advising prospective students to apply in the upcoming school holidays.

'All Year 12 students who want to study at ANU can focus on completing their studies and preparing for university, knowing that if their marks from Year 11 meet our entry requirements they can join one of the world's leading universities,' he said in a media release.

The Year 11 results offer follows on from further successful alterations to ANU's application procedure, where students are assessed on extra-curricular activities beyond their scholastic achievements to gain entry into the university.

Students who apply with Year 11 results must go on to complete Year 12 for their scores to be valid, with accommodation and scholarships available for successful applicants.

Professor Schmidt said the new application procedures are based on research to ensure the best students are given the chance to go to ANU.

'This change was to help our students,' he said. 'Rather than have them choose their university only a few weeks before term starts, we now assess students on their academic results through Year 11, as well as their extra-curricular achievements and personal circumstances.

'The success of this new approach over the past year means we are well placed to offer thousands of talented school-leavers across Australia the chance to study with us here in Canberra.

'This is particularly important as they are dealing with the stress of finishing their studies during a global pandemic.'

Australian Year 12 students have been told they will be able to graduate this year despite the disruption to their studies caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Federal education minister Dan Tehan on Tuesday confirmed the states and Commonwealth agreed students will still proceed to finish high school this year.

'For all those students out there, for all those parents out there, there will be no year 13, there will be no mass repeating. You will get your leaving certificate this year,' he said.

The announcement followed a phone meeting between state and federal education ministers this week to discuss the impact the COVID-19 pandemic upon studies.

Mr Tehan also said the government did not want those students studying from home for part of the year to be left behind when assessments roll around, and grades may be adjusted to account for the disruption.

'When it comes to how the ATAR is calculated and assessed, the Commonwealth is going to do further work with the university sector, with the vocational education sector and will come back to the Education Council in May,' he said.

'What we all are going to do is to endeavour to make sure that this year's ATAR scores are the same as last year's ATAR scores... But we will take into account those students who have to learn from home, those who might not be able to access the technology like others do.'


Maritime union faces $3m hit for unlawful action after dispute with energy giant

The Maritime Union of Australia has agreed not to launch any unlawful strikes or pickets against multinational energy company Chevron for the next decade or forfeit $3 million under an agreement reached in a protracted dispute over the company's use of foreign labour.

If it breaches the agreement and is forced to give Chevron the compensation payment, it would be one of the largest payments ever levied against an Australian union but much smaller than the $22 million the company initially sought over the union's campaign to keep foreign crews off Chevron ships.

The fine will hang over the union as it enters into negotiations with the company on a new enterprise agreement covering workers at its offshore facilities, which include multibillion-dollar gas fields.

Federal Court judge Katrina Banks-Smith on Thursday ordered the union, which is one of the country's most strident, to pay the fine if any of its organisers or delegates have a hand in any unauthorised industrial action at any Chevron project, including its giant Gorgon gas field.

The union will still be permitted to undertake industrial action where it is allowed under legislation.

Justice Banks-Smith's decision, which put into effect a deal agreed between the union and company, ends an almost eight-year-long dispute that began when the union held up a ship called the RollDock Sun transporting freight to the Gorgon project for two days in June 2012.

The union was angry the vessel was crewed by foreign workers rather than local seafarers.

In one email to other union members quoted in the court's judgment, the union's Western Australian secretary Chris Cain said it had "been f---ing this vessel about for the last 2 days" and went on to list ways the union would use safety measures to delay it further.

The judge criticised the union for using safety as a tool of industrial conflict and issued an immediate penalty of $30,000, in addition to the $3 million potential compensation payment to Chevron.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said he welcomed the end of the saga.

"We accept the $30,000 fine, which allows us to finalise this issue and move on with developing a more constructive and functional relationship with the company under the existing industrial bargaining framework," Mr Crumlin said.

The maritime union, which is part of the CFMMEU, is bargaining for a new enterprise agreement at Chevron in coalition with the Australian Workers Union.

"This collective agreement, which is supported by the overwhelming majority of Chevron's direct employees, provides an opportunity to deliver a good outcome for the company's business requirements along with the needs of their direct offshore employees," Mr Crumlin said.

Chevron declined to comment.


State power has been recruited in an effort to destroy Cardinal Pell despite the flimsiest of evidence

Driven by hatred of the church

The nation’s High Court, by a 7-nil margin, quashed five convictions of child abuse for which Cardinal George Pell spent 13 months and 10 days in jail in Melbourne, almost all of it in solitary confinement. There, he was denied the opportunity to celebrate Mass, and had no access to the Sacraments, for months on end.

At the eleventh hour, the nation’s highest court redeemed some of the credibility the Australian justice system had lost, reminding the nation and the world that the rule of law is not yet dead. That assertion, however, remains doubtful in Victoria (Australia’s second largest state in terms of population). There, the conduct of the Pell case routinely violated principles of justice recognised as sacrosanct in every civilised society.

His Eminence’s conviction, on the unsupported testimony of a single complainant, without any forensic or documentary evidence and with no supporting witnesses, was more reminiscent of the judicial processes of totalitarian states, where trial results normally accord with the political and cultural mores of the state, and the expectations of the ruling elite.

In the Pell case, everything hinged on the credibility of the complainant, whose name remains suppressed in Australia. Nor was he even required to appear in person - even in a closed court. In the first trial, he gave evidence via video link from a remote location, comforted by a “support’’ dog! In the second trial, held after the jury in the first trial failed to reach a verdict, the complainant’s cross-examination was replayed to a fresh jury. In both trials, the Cardinal’s defence team -- and therefore the jury – was denied access to vital evidence: specifically, that the complainant had a history of serious psychological problems that required treatment.

Shortcomings in the conduct of both trials were manifold, including the failure to take the jury to St Patrick’s Cathedral on a busy Sunday morning to see the atmosphere in which the offences allegedly occurred. The Victorian Court of Appeal’s shameful decision, by a 2-1 margin, to reject the Cardinal’s appeal in August 2019, compounded the injustice. The judges in the majority based their decision on the credibility of the complainant. Only the dissenting judge, Justice Mark Weinberg, one of Australia’s most experienced jurists in criminal matters, was ‘quite unconvinced’ by the complainant’s evidence. In a 204-page judgement, he argued Pell’s conviction “cannot be permitted to stand’’ because there was a significant possibility that the Cardinal was innocent.

In its verdict delivered in Holy Week 2020, the High Court of Australia agreed.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, the state’s political leader, clearly did not. He released a brief statement after the High Court decision: “I have a message for every single victim and survivor of child sex abuse: I see you. I hear you. I believe you.’’

In that extraordinary and dangerous statement, he effectively declared a “presumption of guilt’’ on anyone accused of child sexual abuse. The people who mean the most, Andrews said, were “the victims’’.

But this is to beg the question. There was no such “victim’’ in the Pell case – only a complainant whose complaint was wrong. In this case, the only victim was Cardinal Pell, who was wrongly convicted and jailed.

Andrews’ Victoria leads the nation in encouraging so-called “gender fluidity’’ among children and teenagers, boasts Australia’s worst abortion laws -– which other states have copied -- and put liberal euthanasia laws into effect last year, causing the deaths of 52 people in the first six months.

The Premier was also responsible for mandatory reporting legislation that requires priests to violate the Seal of Confession. Incredibly, Andrews, a Catholic who has opposed Catholic teaching and discipline at every opportunity, and whose children attend Catholic schools, has never been rebuked – let alone placed under any canonical penalty – by the Bishop of any Victorian Diocese.

There is a time and place to acknowledge the damage done to minors by sinful sexual abusers. This was not such an occasion. In this gross miscarriage of justice there was no “victim’’ of sexual abuse, only a complainant.


 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

1 comment:

Paul said...

I find it deliciously ironic, and strangely (for me) reassuring that the only Judge on the Victorian Appeals Court who seemed committed to the principle of rule-of-Law over fashionable retribution was the Jewish judge. He has my future vote anyday.