Monday, November 02, 2020

Queensland Election: How One Nation propelled the Labor party to victory

Queensland is my home state. All four of my grandparents were born here. And I am delighted that I don't have to move elsewhere in search of a better life.

I agree with the analysis below. I am myself a One Nation voter but I too thought Leftist Premier Annastacia has been doing a great job in keeping our borders closed.

Aside from businesses in the tourist industry, life has remained pretty normal in Queensland -- while most other places were suffering heavy lockdowns. Queensland has been an oasis of civilization amid authoritarion repression elsewhere

We actually have done even better than Sweden in continuing to lead normal lives. They have had thousands of deaths while we have had hardly any

One Nation is one of two genuinely conservative minority parties. The other being KAP. KAP has it base up in the Far North where I come from. So I was delighted to see that they got 3 seats

It was a move straight out of Pauline Hanson’s playbook that helped Labor to a surprise majority government win at the election. Ironically, it came with the help of One Nation supporters.

Annastacia Palaszczuk has cruised back into office with the help of One Nation, ironically borrowing from Pauline Hanson’s parochial playbook of slamming borders shut to outsiders.

One Nation’s vote collapsed across the state, with Labor seen as a major beneficiary.

Analysts believe older One Nation voters worried about their health amid the COVID-19 pandemic turned to Labor because of Ms Palaszczuk’s tough stance on border closures to ‘keep Queenslanders safe’.

It was a domestic nod to Ms Hanson’s rise to power in the mid-1990s on a strong anti-immigration platform.

Last night, One Nation had recorded just 7 per cent of the vote statewide, down from nearly 14 per cent in 2017.

Strong swings against the party were recorded in many north and central Queensland seats including traditional strongholds such as Hervey Bay and Pumicestone, where it suffered swings of 13 per cent.

Labor legend Graham Richardson said it was no surprise that the One Nation vote moved towards the ALP. “I don’t think Palaszczuk’s ever been thrown off course, she just keeps going in the same direction,” he said. “Pauline mightn’t like it but Queenslanders obviously do.”

One Nation admitted its major focus was holding its only Queensland seat, Mirani, west of Mackay. “I think we had net zero game,’’ party spokesman James Ashby said. “The primary focus was to re-elect Stephen Andrew in Mirani.”

One Nation, whose resurgence impacted on a host of seats in the 2017 election by way of preferences, was recording a plummeting vote in seats right across the state in early counting.

Senator Hanson called for Queensland to reopen the border early in the pandemic, saying it was “destroying people’s lives’ and threatening a High Court challenge to the ‘unconstitutional’ border closure

She also urged vulnerable Australians to ‘lock yourselves away’ so the borders could reopen to provide relief for suffering tourism operators.

But Senator Hanson was largely invisible throughout the election campaign.

In the case of Peter Ridd, we’ll soon learn whether academic freedom matters

Prof. Ridd was critical of alarmist utterances about the Barrier Reef coming from his university colleagues

This week there were whoops of delight from Republicans over the appointment of conservative lawyer Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court. It will, they say, buttress democracy for decades to come. The Democrats were inconsolable, marking the rushed appointment as the end of democracy. The divide is fundamental: is it the role of America’s highest court to interpret law in humble deference to what the law says, or to change the law to suit social ­engineers who have grown ­impatient with the democratic process?

Everyone agrees on one thing: judges on the US Supreme Court can alter the country in profound ways.

By the way, two new judges were appointed to Australia’s High Court this week, although few will know their names. For the record, Simon Steward from Melbourne and Jacqueline Gleeson from Sydney, both former Federal Court judges and both in their early 50s, will serve long stints on our most influential court until they reach the mandatory retirement age of 70. Steward will join the court in December, and Gleeson, the daughter of former chief justice Murray Gleeson, will take up her seat in March next year.

Both judges will be watched closely by those who understand that the High Court can fundamentally change the direction of our country, too. Eighty per cent of its cases are mundane, having little impact on the country. The other 20 cent are the Big Bang cases. Through the intersection of law, politics and values, they can cause seismic shifts throughout the country.

Will Steward and Gleeson become roaming judicial adventurers making decisions like philo­sopher kings rather than humble judges? There are no guarantees. After all, the court’s most recent appointment, and disappointment, is Justice James Edelman. Part of the recent 4-3 majority decision in Love v The Commonwealth, along with fellow justices Michelle Gordon, Geoffrey Nettle and Virginia Bell, Edelman dreamt up a legally bogus racial privilege to exclude two men from the normal application of our non-citizens laws.

Chief Justice Susan Kiefel’s scathing rebuke of the majority should be inscribed somewhere along the hallowed halls of the High Court for the newcomers.

“Implications are not devised by the judiciary,” Kiefel said, because they are “antithetical to the judicial function since they involve an appeal to the personal philosophy or preferences of judges”.

The departure of Nettle and Bell means that, without the support from the new appointees, Edelman and Gordon might be relegated to minority dissents the next time they choose to cook up propositions to suit their preferred outcomes, and pronounce them as the law of the land.

All eyes will be on the newest judges especially if the High Court decides to hear the case involving physics professor Peter Ridd. In August, Ridd lodged a 13-page ­application for special leave to ­appeal a 2018 Federal Court decision that upheld his sacking by James Cook University. On Thursday, the High Court agreed to hear oral arguments about special leave in February next year. This is interesting. The vast maj­ority of applications are rejected “on the papers” — in other words without an oral hearing.

Next, the High Court will decide if the Ridd case is sufficiently important to warrant judgment from the nation’s highest court. There is, as former High Court judge Michael Kirby once said, no point pretending that it is a logical or scientific process. In other words, it’s down to whether the court finds a matter interesting. The test is subjective, their decision unappealable.

For the punters, the raw odds are about one in 10: last year, of a total of 445 special leave applications, the court granted leave in 52 cases.

Insiders give Ridd a 50-50 chance of making it over the next hurdle. The case, after all, is not just about the “substantial injustice” of JCU’s termination of Ridd’s career, claiming he acted in an uncollegial manner in breach of the university’s vaguely drafted code of conduct when he raised questions about the quality of climate research at JCU.

If the High Court grants Ridd special leave to appeal, the court’s final determination is likely to ­reverberate across the country. Many universities have intellectual freedom clauses in their ­enterprise agreements with academics. And most universities have ambiguously drafted codes of conduct that could be used to restrict these same intellectual freedom clauses. Where does that leave academic freedom in this country?

Ridd’s case is being led by Melbourne QC Stuart Wood, while JCU has Bret Walker SC in its corner. Ridd’s claim for special leave to appeal includes a powerful observation from legal scholar Ron­ald Dworkin that “any invasion of academic freedom is not only harmful in itself, but also makes future invasions more likely”.

There is another harm to ­society. If JCU’s infringement of academic freedom is allowed to stand, it will have a chilling effect on other academics. We will never know what research escapes rigorous testing by academics who do not want to jeopardise their jobs.

The High Court is being asked to rule on the core mission of a university: is it, first and foremost, to defend academic freedom and further research, to seek the truth by challenging orthodoxies that can become dangerously inaccurate over time?

If, on the other hand, universities are allowed to sack academics in circumstances similar to Ridd, with obvious impacts for the quality of research and learning, then Australians are entitled to confirmation of this dystopian brave new world at Australian universities from our highest court.

And dystopian it certainly is. Along with making 17 findings against Ridd, two speech directions and five confidentiality directions (even prohibiting him at one stage from speaking with his wife about the matter), JCU also issued a “no satire” direction against Ridd demanding he not make fun of the disciplinary proceedings.

No satire? It’s hard not to make fun of a taxpayer-funded university that censures, then sacks, a respected professor of physics, and employee of 27 years, a man ranked in the top 5 per cent of researchers globally for raising questions about the quality of climate science research at the Great Barrier Reef.

Only this week, this report slipped under the ABC News’s ­Armageddon radar: “Researchers have found a new reef that is as tall as a skyscraper in the waters off Cape York in north Queensland.” As Ridd told Inquirer this week, “we are constantly learning new, and incredible things about the reef”.

The shoddy, disproportionate treatment of the physics professor by JCU has become the centrifugal force to better protect academic freedom at universities, not just via the courts, but by parliament too.

Ridd’s sacking led Education Minister Dan Tehan to initiate a review into free speech and academic freedom at Australian universities in 2019 by Robert French. Nothing had been done prior to Tehan taking the portfolio. This week, Tehan tabled the Higher Education Support Amendment (Freedom of Speech) Bill 2020, which gives effect to legislative changes suggested by the former chief justice. The bill requires that universities commit to “academic freedom” — as defined by French — in return for getting registration, and taxpayer funds.

These are indeed interesting times for academic freedom, with a review under way by Professor Sally Walker into the implementation by universities of the model code on academic freedom also recommended by French.

The model code is intended to operate as an umbrella-like standard to fall over all university policies, codes, pronouncements, etc. If a particular enterprise agreement has a broader definition of academic freedom, that is great for academics at that university. If an EA offers less protection than French’s model code, then that model code will lift the standard of academic freedom protections. That will be a terrific boost for academic freedom across the country because, as experts who have trawled through EAs of Australian universities told Inquirer this week, none of the EAs offer more protection than French’s model code.

When Walker’s review is completed late next month, we will discover which vice-chancellors have dragged the chain, more cowardly corporatist controllers than defenders of robust intellectual excellence.

Their incalcitrant approach to academic freedom should firm up the minister’s resolve to stop the rot. Tehan’s next move might be to legislate that every university implement the full French model code as a requirement of university registration. Even if not legislated, the minister has a backdoor way to secure the same outcome. Under section 136 of Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act, Tehan can direct the university regulator to use the model code when enforcing the educational standards to Australian universities. With oversight from Senate Estimates, this could well transform TESQA, known as a wet-lettuce regulator, into a genuine guardian of university excellence acting in the best interest of academics, students, taxpayers and the country.

In other words, with the model code in place, either by law or ministerial directive, what happened to Ridd can never happen again. That, of course, will not help the unassuming, but determined, professor. His final appeal for justice, and common sense, rests with the High Court next year, when at least one new judge, maybe two, will be on the bench. No wonder we will be watching closely.

Bank's climate policy reveals steps away from coal to support net zero emission by 2050

But not shifting support away from family farms

ANZ has released its new climate change policy that will see the bank take steps away from financing thermal coal and towards supporting the transition to a net zero emissions economy by 2050.

Under the 10-year strategy, ANZ has committed to stop directly financing any new coal-fired power plans or thermal coal mines including expansions by 2030.

It will also "wind down" existing direct lending to coal-fired plants and thermal coal, and help existing customers with more than 50 per cent exposure to thermal coal create diversification strategies by 2025.

ANZ group executive Mark Whelan told investors via its blog Bluenotes that the new approach committed the bank to "taking strong action to support the Paris Agreement".

The big four bank has pledged to no longer provide services to any new business that makes more than 10 per cent of its revenue from thermal coal.

The bank also made changes to how it would finance the construction of large-scale office buildings, saying loans would only be provided if the buildings were highly energy efficient and had a 5-star energy rating.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack released a statement on Thursday condemning ANZ's policy for being "sheer virtue-signalling".

Mr McCormack said banks should be focused on "supporting our agricultural producers, not adding an extra layer of administration".

"Imposing largely Euro-centric standards to satisfy shareholder activists while our nation recovers from a global pandemic is grossly unfair," he said.

ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott told investors via Bluenotes on Thursday afternoon the bank was not shifting support away from farmers.

"ANZ's climate change statement is focused on the top 100 carbon emitters, and will have no impact on the bank's farmgate lending practices," Mr Elliott said.

He said the policy was about the bank's "major agribusiness customers" becoming more energy efficient and was "not about family farms".

The new policy adds ANZ to a growing number of businesses that are ahead of the Australian Government when it comes to commitments to stop the effects of climate change.

Democracy under attack from the censorious Left

Democratic politics, which can only function within a system of representative government, turns on the successful and peaceful regulation of difference. In other words, democracy is all about ­debate and discussion.

In contemporary Western societies, this concept is under attack, primarily from the left, by means of de-platforming individuals. This amounts to non-violent silencing, or political censorship.

In Australia, it exists within such institutions as universities, and can even be found within ­sections of the ABC.

Division and disagreement is essential to the proper functioning of democracies. Yet you would not know this judging from some recent contributions to the political debate. On Tuesday, federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the member for the Melbourne seat of Kooyong, delivered one of the best speeches heard in the House of Representatives in decades.

The story is now well known. Labor Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese attempted to surprise the Coalition government by introducing a motion before Question Time commending “the people of Victoria for the sacrifices they have made in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic”. The motion was introduced following the reductions to the harsh lockdown in Victoria introduced by Premier Daniel Andrews’ Labor government, which were announced on Monday. Not surprisingly, Albanese’s motion had a political message. It noted the people of Victoria had succeeded because they “have heeded the advice of dedicated public health officials” and resolved that this message be conveyed to the Premier of Victoria.

Most motions of this kind are rejected by the government. Not on this occasion — apparently to Labor’s surprise. Prime Minister Scott Morrison not only accepted the motion but said that, if asked, he would have seconded it. Morrison then proceeded, in a strong speech, to point out Victoria’s failure to handle hotel quarantine which led to close to 100 per cent of Australia’s second wave infections. He added that the commonwealth provided “$200m every day of support to see Victorians through this crisis”.

Then it was the regional Vic­toria-based Labor deputy leader Richard Marles’s turn. He saw fit to praise the Victorian government, which he declared had “been a source of crystal-clear decisions at the heart of which has been the very best medical advice which has guided us from where we were back in July to where we are right now”.

In his speech, Marles compared the situation in Victoria favourably to that in Britain. Albanese had made a similar comparison.

Following Marles, Frydenberg showed considerable passion, if not anger. He declared that the ­reduction of the virus in his home state was a victory for the people of Victoria — “and no one else’s victory”. He said that Victorians have suffered so much but that “it should never ever have come to this”. And he reminded the opposition that the proper comparison “is not with the United Kingdom (and) not with the United States; the comparison is with NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia”.

Frydenberg referred to school closures, business failures, COVID-19-related deaths, job losses and mental health impacts of the stage four lockdowns necessitated on account of the Andrews-led Labor government’s failure with respect to hotel quarantine and contact tracing.

This was modern politics at its best as the leaders of the Labor Party and the Liberal Party confronted each other on the floor of the House of Representatives. It is sometimes said that modern politics in the Westminster system is too bland. Well, this wasn’t the case on Tuesday.

But not all were happy. Katharine Murphy is the political editor of the left-wing Guardian Australia online newspaper. Writing after the parliamentary debate had finished, the Canberra-based journalist came to the view that Victorians following the debate would have experienced “alienation or possibly revulsion”.

According to Murphy, Frydenberg not only “puffed like a pool toy at full inflation” but was also “vibrating with outrage”. She added that, when responding to Marles, the Treasurer “had taken up residence behind the bike sheds and started swinging”. Murphy also made reference to “junkyard dog politics” and “the revenge of the knockdown clowns”.

And then there was more. According to Murphy, “instead of sober acknowledgment unifying the country, adolescent rancour, either sheathed or naked, prevailed”. And she accused Frydenberg of “the deliberate infla­mmation of societal divisions”.

All this demonstrates just how out of touch some members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery are. All democratic societies are divided to a greater or lesser extent. This is particularly the case with the COVID-19 pandemic, which is the greatest socio-economic disaster to hit Australia since the Spanish Flu a century ago.

The fact is that the ACT, where Murphy lives, is doing well. There is little virus around. No public servants have lost their jobs due to the pandemic — some have received pay increases. The quality of housing in Canberra is high, which makes life relatively easy for professionally educated and technologically literate types who can work from home.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, very small and medium businesses have closed down, maybe never to reopen. Schoolchildren have lost experiences that they can never regain. The unemployment numbers are devastating. Families cannot get together if they live outside a restricted area. Victorian Police are behaving in a manner which has led to the imposition of excessive force on normally law-abiding citizens. People were locked up in rooms and apartments for 110 days in a row. And so on.

But Murphy reckons Frydenberg has no right to express restrained anger at the plight experienced by his fellow Victorians in general, and young families in particular, due to the incompetence of the Andrews government’s management of health.

Andrews is on record as saying of Frydenberg: “He’s not a leader, he’s just a Liberal.” This overlooks the fact that such long-serving Australian leaders as Robert Menzies and John Howard were Liberals. Andrews also seems to overlook the fact that Frydenberg has spoken out strongly in defence of his fellow Victorians — which is what leaders are expected to do in successful democracies. A point missed, apparently, by The Guardian’s political editor.




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