Sunday, February 28, 2021

Panic attacks as kids taught not to use words ‘boy’ or ‘girl’

Gender language warriors are making kids frightened to say “boy” or “girl”, with one Queensland doctor warning we risk a generation scared “to admit they are heterosexual”.

The warning from Logan doctor Thomas Lyons comes as mums of two transgender children who say kids need support, not gender neutral language.

Midwives are also battling to head off the push to drop “breastfeeding” for “chestfeeding” and “mother’s milk” for human milk.

“If the push to eliminate gender from society continues we are likely to see a wave of suicidal adolescents who are too anxious to admit they are heterosexual and happy in the bodies they were born into,” GP Dr Thomas Lyons said.

The medic is angry that a non-binary blanket is being thrown over the wider community when the majority of the population has no problem with the words ‘boy”, “girl”, “father” or “mother”.

“Who are these fascists who assert authority over the lives, culture and values of the majority, This coup will fail,” the doctor said.

Dr Lyons admits that the drive to outlaw gendered language became a problem for him after an experience where he had six kids visit his surgery. When he was testing their sight with a chart showing the drawings of animals and people, four of the kids refused to say the words ‘boy” or “girl” and all six were stressed and panicky.

“These children, without the knowledge or permission of the principal and parents, had been taught by teachers that the words ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ had some kind of bad magic and to utter them would somehow harm people. The children knew what they could see and hear but could not reconcile themselves with the notion that this was wrong to see boys and girls as different. Watching a six-year-old have a panic attack over use of gender identifying language is disturbing,” he said.

Adding to the debate, two Queensland mothers who have lived the reality of raising transgender children are not fans of gender-neutral parenting.

“Most children are happy in who they are and to raise them in a world without the word ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ and letting them decide for themselves is putting undue pressure on young minds,” Meagan Hayes, mother of 16-year-old transgender daughter Emma, said.

“I respect those who make this choice but it is my experience that children are what they are and nothing will change that,” the Gympie mum told The Sunday Mail.

“My daughter tried to cut off her own penis at the age of four. At that very young age she instinctively knew she was a girl and told everyone that she was a girl.

“My parenting style or any restricted use of language would not change that in any way.”

Michelle Suters from Rothwell, north of Brisbane, is the mother of four children and two step-children. Her son Nate, 17, is transgender.

“My children were all raised the same. They could play with whatever toys they wanted whether trucks or dolls. Nate wasn’t interested in dolls, he wanted to be a superhero and loved worm farms. He wanted his hair short from when he was 10. We just accepted him as he was no questions asked,” Ms Suters said.

“I am not a fan of gender-neutral parenting. Most children are happy to be either a boy or a girl. I don’t think they need to be made frightened of being one of the other. Nature has a way or making things happen as they should. All any parent can do is support and love their child for what they are or what they want to be,” she said.

Both mothers agree that gender words should not be erased but children should be taught that their opportunities are not hindered by gender and it’s OK to buck stereotypes.

But on the flip side Nate Musiello himself told The Sunday Mail that he believes that in the future people will adapt to a world without gender. “I think my generation see things a bit differently and the world is ready for the shift. The use of the words ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ were hurtful to me as I grew up. I will raise my own children gender neutral and I think small things like removing the Mr from the toy Potato Head is a good thing. Why does a potato have to be a man?” Nate said.

Social commentator David Chalke said the bid to wipe out the words “girl” or “boy” in society is ludicrous. “Parents can raise children in whatever way they see fit but to throw out these ideas to fit the wider community is a mistake,” he said.

“No child should be directed to be scared of certain words and children are too young to understand the extreme message.

“This trend is a push by a minority that should not impact the whole community particularly children. I have a manhole leading up to my attic, is that going to be a problem?”

A push for midwives to use more gender-inclusive words like “chestfeeding” rather than “breastfeeding”, “feeding parent” rather than “mother”, and “peri-natal” instead of “maternity” is gathering momentum, but the Australian College of Midwives is standing firm against the drive, determined they will not wipe out “women” from the health system.

Maternity consumer advocates state that removing words such as “mother”, “breastfeeding” and “woman” from experiences that are direct experiences of women is “completely misogynist”.

“This is something that is coming to the fore and we hear about it regularly but our stance is that changing the vernacular to remove the word “women” is going to take us backward rather than forward. Women make up over 50 per cent of the population,” Ruth King, adviser to the ACM said.


Outback road sign with Alice Springs crossed off and replaced with its Indigenous name sparks furious debate

image from

A photograph of a defaced road sign in the outback has sparked a fierce debate on social media about whether Indigenous place names should used

The image showed the names Alice Springs and Hermannsburg on Larapinta Drive, in the Northern Territory crossed out with white paint.

'Mparntwe' and 'Ntaria' - as those towns are known to the respective local Indigenous communities, Arrernte and Western Aranda - were painted onto the sign.

The road sign was also graffitied with the letters ACAB - a political acronym that means: 'All cops are b*****ds'.

The Common Ground Australia Facebook page captioned the photo: 'Across Australia there is a growing movement of reclaiming traditional place names in First Nations languages.'

'Using traditional place names in conversation, on signs and any other references is an amazing step towards recognising the sovereignty First Nations people still hold across Australia.

'When we recognise and embed language, we centre First Nations people, culture and Country.'

But not everybody agreed and the post generated fierce debate, with several unhappy at what they saw as vandalism.

One man wrote: 'I applaud the spirit of the action however I feel the crossing out of European names spoils the message.'

'At this time of what hopefully is a transition and a bringing about of new values perhaps the names should have stood together so as to educate rather than challenge.'

Many people suggested a compromise - using both the Indigenous and English or Colonial place names.

They pointed out that bilingual road and street signs are common in many countries - including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand.

New Zealand's tallest mountain, Mt Cook, was renamed Aoraki/Mount Cook in 1998.

Some place names in Australia have been renamed over time too, most notably Ayers Rock which in was re-labelled Uluru/Ayers Rock in 1993.

In Adelaide, 39 sites including many of the city's parks were dual-named by 2003 in acknowledgement of the local Kaurna people.

Bilingual signage is common too in some of Australia's biggest cities were large immigrant populations live who may not speak English at home, or to acknowledge non-English speaking tourists - such Chinatown in Sydney.


Cheering prohibited: Parents frustrated by inconsistent COVID-19 rules in schools

Over the swimming carnival season, some students have been banned from cheering their teammates, while others have not. Some parents have been allowed to watch their kids swim, while others have not.

But it’s not just sport. Tim Spencer, the president of the P&C Federation, said parents were becoming frustrated with inconsistencies in the application of all kinds COVID-19 rules between schools, especially when there were so few cases in the community.

But the NSW Department of Education said schools and parents could expect updated guidelines “imminently”.

Mr Spencer said parents had been complaining about different interpretations from different schools. “We’re certainly hearing things that are inconsistent,” he said. “There’s still P&Cs not allowed to meet on school premises, and they still need to meet virtually. “That rule hasn’t been in place since term four last year.

“The real problem is how that’s communicated to parents at a school level. The department is being reasonable in most of its applications, but it’s when there’s arbitrary restrictions - when the school down the road is doing the opposite.”

What is and isn’t allowed:

Field trips, excursions and camps are permitted
P&C meetings can be held indoors after hours with a limit of 30 people (in Greater Sydney)
For indoor events, audience members cannot join in singing or chanting
All singing, chanting, rapping and group activities must take place in large well-ventilated settings
School performances, productions, plays and concerts can continue
Interschool activities are permitted

At St Andrews Cathedral School, the usual cheer squads were suspended this year. “We followed the COVID-safe requirements of NSW Health,” said principal John Collier.

“These indicate that singing and chanting are activities which should be prohibited, as they are likely to spread a plume which if such a plume contains the COVID virus, can provide aerosol which is highly infectious.”

At International Grammar School, the carnival was staggered, with years 11 and 12 going first, then heading back to school and being replaced by years 9 and 10.

“Students supported each other through rhythmic drumming, sprays of vivid colour and some outstanding feats of aquatic mastery,” the newsletter said.

Students at Waverley College were told on Friday they would not be able to cheer at the upcoming high school swimming carnival.

Paul Galpin, the treasurer of the Balmain Public School P&C, said the COVID-19 restrictions have been a “source of great frustration. We’re really keen to be involved with our son’s school life but find the guidelines frequently prevent that.”

He said the school could not host in-person P&C meetings because the rooms were all too small. A cross-year buddy program was almost cancelled because of the interpretation of the guidelines.

“I have zero problem with a conservative approach when it comes to keeping my child safe,” Mr Galpin said. “When rules seem arbitrary and poorly thought out though it becomes a bitter pill to swallow.”

Craig Petersen from the Secondary Principals Council said the guidelines themselves could be difficult for principals to keep across. “It’s frustrating, and confusing and I’m not surprised there’s inconsistencies, particularly across sectors,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Department of Education said it was updating the guidelines for NSW schools in line with health advice. “We expect these to be finalised imminently,” she said.

“The guidelines are provided to all schools to support consistent and safe implementation. Public schools should be following these guidelines in a uniform way. “School events taking place at venues outside school grounds, like swimming pools, must comply with the COVID restrictions of that venue.”


A record dry in Australia

Suggesting global cooling. Warming would produce MORE rain, not less

Overlooking the old family farmhouse on Gerard Walsh's farm is a hill covered in hundreds of dead ironbarks.

"Two years ago, they would have all been alive and flourishing. Basically every tree has died," Mr Walsh said.

Across all of 2019, his property at Greymare in southern Queensland recorded just 144 millimetres of rain — the driest in 100 years.

"Certainly the rainfall has changed, all for the lesser," Mr Walsh said.

For more than a century, the Walsh family have been recording rainfall on their farm Coolesha for the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). "My mother Margaret Walsh, she would have done the weather for some 60 years, her parents before that," Mr Walsh said.

The long service was recently recognised with an award from the BOM.

The voluntary role has meant the Walsh family have been able to observe up close those effects of climate change on the Southern Downs region.

Rainfall at Coolesha has been below average for seven of the past 10 years, consistent with the BOM's most recent State of the Climate report.

"Income was more than halved during most of that period of time," Mr Walsh said.

Like many in the region, less rain has meant less feed for cattle and the Walshes have had to reduce cattle numbers.

Farmers in the Southern Downs are dealing with declining winter rainfall and the prospect of back-to-back droughts.




Saturday, February 27, 2021

Economics professor Ross Garnaut says Australia voluntarily keeps hundreds of thousands unemployed

Greenie economist Garnaut appears also to be a fan of Modern Monetary Theory. He says government should maximize employment and to heck with everything else. In particular we should stop worrying about inflation.

It is true that for the last 8 years the USA has allowed levels of monetary growth that would once have been regarded as inviting roaring inflation. It is still a puzzle as to why U.S. inflation has in fact remained quite modest. Modern Monetary theory simply says "That's the way it is and so what?"

So Garnaut is saying that Australian governments too could spend up big and not worry. It's a logical position if you accept MMT as a rule rather than as a one-off happening.

It's clear that there IS a limit to government spending. The roaring inflation in Venezuela, Zimbabwe and Argentina show that. And in such economies the people's savings are destroyed, which is deplorable for several reasons.

So would big Australian government spending end up with us like the USA or like Argentina? That is the issue and the answer appears to be that you can go so far and no farther. How far is too far in the Australian case remains to be seen. But, as a short-term policy, Garnaut's recommendations could be beneficial

With weeks to go before the JobSeeker rate is cut, one of Australia's most respected economists has suggested there are potentially hundreds of thousands of Australians on unemployment benefits who shouldn't be there.

Professor Ross Garnaut, a Professorial Research Fellow in Economics at the University of Melbourne, has condemned Australia's economic policymakers for the situation.

But his criticism refers to how they've been running the economy for years, not just for the last 12 months.

He's referring to the federal government and the Reserve Bank.

He says their decision to "allow" hundreds of thousands of Australians to languish in unemployment in recent years, to suppress wages and inflation, as part of the country's broader economic policy settings, has immiserated people and cost the economy hundreds of billions dollars in lost economic activity.

In his new book, Reset: Restoring Australia after the pandemic recession, Professor Garnaut says our policymakers should drop that policy and return Australia to having genuine full employment.

He says that would mean an unemployment rate of 3.5 per cent or lower — the lowest it's been since the early 1970s.

The unemployment rate is currently 6.4 per cent.

He says it's hard to know for sure, but that lower level of unemployment will probably be the point at which wages finally start to rise and inflationary pressures emerge. But we would have to test it. It could be much lower than that.

"Certainly, it is lower than the 'well below 6 per cent' that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said would trigger efforts to reduce the budget deficit," Professor Garnaut has written.

The problem with Australia's economic policy architecture
It's a scathing assessment.

Between 1946 and 1975, when Australia pursued an official policy of full employment, the national unemployment rate averaged below 2 per cent.

Successive federal governments (both Labor and Coalition) deliberately recorded budget deficits to achieve that full employment.

But since the 1980s, Australia's policymakers have accepted higher levels of unemployment, which they say are "natural" for prevailing conditions.

They developed a new definition of full employment: full employment would mean the level of unemployment that keeps a lid on inflation (i.e. that stops wages and prices growing too quickly).

The ugly term for that level of "full employment" is the NAIRU, or non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment.

When 'full employment' isn't

One of the Reserve Bank's targets is full employment, but back when that target was set it meant a very different thing to what does today.

Professor Garnaut says Australia's policymakers have repeatedly miscalculated the NAIRU in recent years, meaning they have often suspected the economy is getting close to full employment when it is far from that point.

For example, consider a situation in which the national unemployment rate was 5.5 per cent and falling, and the RBA suspected full employment (i.e. the NAIRU) was 5 per cent.

That means the RBA would expect inflation and wage pressures to start building soon, because the unemployment rate was apparently getting closer to "full employment," so it would prepare to start lifting interest rates.

However, what if, in this scenario, the economy was only going to be in genuine "full employment" when the unemployment rate was 3 per cent?

That means the RBA would start lifting interest rates prematurely, when the unemployment rate was 5 per cent (rather than 3 per cent), effectively killing the momentum in the labour market before everyone who wanted a job could find one.

Professor Garnaut says Australia's policymakers have to stop guessing where full employment could be.

"We can find out where it is by increasing demand for labour until wages in the labour market are rising at a rate that threatens to take inflation above the Reserve Bank range for an extended period," he says.

He says the difference between the actual level of unemployment and the lower level of genuine full employment represents people who are "unnecessarily unemployed."

"The number of unnecessarily unemployed people is actually larger than this, because more people would be encouraged to seek employment if unemployment rates were lower," he says.

He says the years since 2013 have been particularly bad.

"An average of several hundred thousand fewer people were employed [from 2013 to 2019] than would otherwise have been possible," he says.

"This is voluntary unemployment — voluntary for the Reserve Bank, because it is unemployment that the Reserve Bank chooses to allow.

"At current levels of economic activity, having several hundred thousand people unnecessarily unemployed holds annual gross domestic product [GDP] down about $50 billion below what it could be, and, all other things being equal, raises Australia's public deficits by nearly $20 billion each year."

Support for idea promoted by Modern Monetary Theory
Professor Garnaut says Australia should use as many resources as possible to get the unemployment rate down to 3.5 per cent by 2025, as a matter of national urgency.

He says the budget deficits needed to achieve full employment should be funded "directly or indirectly" by the Reserve Bank, "at least until full employment is in sight."

That puts him squarely on the side of people like former Prime Minister Paul Keating, and economists of the Modern Monetary Theory school, who say the RBA has the power to create money itself to finance the federal government's stimulus spending, so there's no reason why the federal government's deficit spending should be supported by an explosion in Commonwealth government debt.

Modern Monetary Theory explained

MMT attacks the obsession with government deficits and debt, and is gaining traction at a time when both are rising fast. Gareth Hutchens explains what MMT is, where it comes from and what its critics say.

As things currently stand, the Reserve Bank is waiting for Treasury to sell new Commonwealth government bonds (via the Office of Australian Financial Management) to private banks, pension funds, and insurance companies that comprise the so-called "secondary market", before buying those same bonds from those private entities at an agreed interest rate.

That traditional practice of "raising money" from the secondary market for government spending is what has led to the explosion of Commonwealth government debt over the last year.

Professor Garnaut says that's unnecessary.

"We're really arguing about angels dancing on a pinhead when we talk about a difference," Professor Garnaut told journalist Alan Kohler's Eureka Report this week.

"The only difference between the Government selling bonds into the market and then the Reserve Bank buying them is you give a margin to the small number of players in the bond market, to the banks that participate in that trade.

Can modern monetary theory knock out free market capitalism?
A white piggy bank sits in the centre of the image surrounded by rows and rows of pink piggy banks.
Modern monetary theory is taking on free market capitalism promising to end the "surplus fetish". But is it a brave new future or "voodoo economics"? "I'd say, let's take away their free lunch."

Phil Lowe, the RBA governor, has repeatedly dismissed suggestions that the RBA should be directly financing the Government's stimulus spending.

However, he's never said it's not possible. He's only said it's unnecessary.

"I want to make it very clear that monetary financing of fiscal policy is not an option under consideration in Australia, nor does it need to be," he said in July last year.

"The Australian Government is able to finance itself in the bond market, and it can do so on very favourable terms."


Another white "Aborigine"

Tammy Baarat

Des Houghton

Hymba Yumba was unlike every other high-achieving independent school I have ever visited.

To begin with, the 280 students are not called students but jarjums, an Aboriginal word for children. And is it not uncommon to find a well-behaved Labrador or two sitting in a classroom with the jarjums. Each morning the dogs join humans in a sit-down “yarning circle” that finishes with students bowing their heads and closing their eyes in a meditation session.

The students at Hymba Yumba at Springfield, south of Brisbane, were assigned by an outside firm to train dogs for the disabled, especially the blind.

“The jarjums seem to develop a special relationship with the dogs,” said principal Peter Foster, a former state basketballer who previously taught at elite Brisbane Grammar and St Peter’s Lutheran College before accepting the job as principal at Hymba Yumba.

There was a surprise element to the “dog therapy”, Foster said. The animals reciprocate to the kindness shown to them. The dogs somehow recognize children who are having a bad day and sit at their feet. “They sympathise with them. It works.”

Eighty percent of Hymba Yumba students are Indigenous and they are streets ahead of other Indigenous and non-indigenous schools in literacy and numeracy. Foster said this was due to “a massive academic program” that worked hand in glove with “a massive wellbeing program”.

Urban Aboriginals are not always aware of their own culture, he said. An education at Hymba Yumba was the “start of the journey” to explore it.

“It’s about understanding who you are and where your mob is from,’’ he said.

Foster’s deputy Tammy Baarat, a Darug woman, said the wellness programs taught jarjums to respect their parents, their community, their country and themselves.

The programs helped stem bad behaviour. Years ago, one student arrived with so much pent-up anger she tore a classroom door from its hinges. She is now a top scholar.

“Wellness is a prerequisite for academic success,” Baarat said.


Australia is set to lose a staggering 1.5million jobs within the next few years - and the economic catastrophe is NOT due to the pandemic

But 1.7million jobs will be created

More than a million jobs are set to be wiped from the Australian economy within the next few years as the shift towards an automated workforce renders some roles obsolete.

Job numbers across the nation are forecast to plunge 11 per cent by 2030 as artificial intelligence and automation reshapes workforces globally, according to a new report.

A study by global technology research firm Forrester analysed 391 occupations tracked by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and found 1.5million jobs would be slashed in some sectors as positions are replaced by digital technology.

Employees in finance, accounting, clerical roles, and human resources, who perform highly structured administrative tasks are most at risk, with automation likely to eliminate a million of those jobs first.

By 2030, it is estimated more than half of the jobs in this category will be replaced by automated systems.

While the demand for leaders to facilitate changes in organisations will remain unchanged, the need for co-ordinators in middle management is also expected to decline.

Although some industries will bear the brunt of transformation to the labour landscape, others are tipped to boom.

As automation becomes more advanced, 1.7million jobs will be created by 2030 while as many as one in three workers will transform into the online gig economy.

The next few years will see an increased demand for workers with digital skills, including tech specialists with skills in big data, process automation, human/machine interaction, robotics engineering, blockchain, and machine learning.

The growth will offset eight per cent of more traditional technology roles that can be fully automated.

The report also found employees for charities, social enterprises, and health and well-being services will becoming a significant new labour force, boasting more than 700,000 mission-based workers by 2030 as Australians seek to align person values and lifestyles with work.

'Some of the biggest challenges that firms face in embracing automation technologies relate to culture and change management,' Forrester principal analyst Sam Higgins said.

'It’s critical that policymakers and employers learn how to minimise the number of digital outcasts by measuring the ability of individuals and organisations to adapt to, collaborate with, trust, and generate business results from automation – or else over 1 million Australian workers may be left stranded beyond the next digital divide.'


Youtube streaming of NT police officer Zachary Rolfe's murder trial raised as concern in court

The cop is in court because the deceased is black. No other reason

The murder trial of Constable Zachary Rolfe could be streamed on YouTube to Alice Springs and the remote community of Yuendumu, where 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker died in November 2019.

At a pre-trial hearing in the Northern Territory Supreme Court today, Chief Justice Michael Grant said the court's administration was hoping to allow the broadcast of proceedings. He said it would be streamed to the courthouse in Alice Springs and at the school in the community of Yuendumu, about 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs.

"There would be a facilitator [in Darwin] who would close down the broadcast whenever court is closed, whenever arguments are being made in the absence of the jury and otherwise, whenever the trial judge ordered," he said.

Crown Prosecutor Sophie Callan said the prosecution would not oppose the streaming of the trial to Yuendumu, but questioned whether other members of the public could access it.

"I think the question, your Honour, is whether it's some form of private YouTube channel or access to which others could, would be restricted," she said.

Constable Rolfe's defence lawyer, David Edwardson QC, said he had concerns about whether this would mean witnesses could potentially access the proceedings.

"We'd be most concerned if the public — the wider public — could access it outside of the hall," he said.

"How would the court envisage ensuring that nobody who accessed the hall, for example, at Yuendumu, was in fact a witness or potential witness in the proceedings?" he asked the court.

Justice Grant acknowledged the concerns but reminded lawyers that any member of the public would be entitled to come to court and watch the proceedings.

"I imagine it will be possible to have a police officer located in the school hall at Yuendumu, able to give effect to any order the trial judge makes for witnesses to remove themselves from the premises," Justice Grant said.

He said he would raise the matter with court staff.

The matter will return to court at the end of March.




Friday, February 26, 2021

Brisbane flood victims awarded $440m settlement over Wivenhoe Dam disaster

Conservatives built a dam that should have ended Brisbane floods. But a Leftist government misused it catastrophically. To avoid building a new dam, the Bligh government used the flood compartment to store water. So when the floods came threre was nothing to contain them

On top of that the bureaucrats in charge of the dam failed to heed danger warnings -- because it was not in their manual. They killed a lot of people. An early discharge could have kept the flood within bounds. Morons all round

Almost 7000 people in a class action will be paid $440 million in a landmark settlement with the Queensland Government and SunWater, the dam’s operator.

The figure – the largest-ever in a class action in Australia – was announced to the ASX today by litigator funder Omni Bridgeway.

“This has been a hard-fought and extremely difficult case on behalf of approximately 6700 claimants, against determined defendants over many years,” Omni Bridgeway said.

Releases from the Wivenhoe Dam in January 2011 saw water levels rise up to 10 metres. Hydrologists determined the releases were the main cause of flooding in the riverine area of Brisbane.

The class action lawsuit represented some 6700 victims of the disaster.

SunWater and the Queensland Government have settled to split a 50 per cent share of the liability for the class action.

Another state owned enterprise, Seqwater, has not settled with the claimants, the statement from Omni Bridgeway said. Seqwater has been allocated the remaining 50 per cent liability for the disaster.

“Seqwater has been allocated 50% of the aggregate liability” by the NSW Supreme Court in the first instance, the statement said. The enterprise plans to appeal the finding in May 2021.

However, based on the current allocation of Seqwater’s 50 per cent liability, Omni Bridgeway estimate the claimants currently look to settle with the parties with a total value of $880 million.

The class action suit was previously estimated to reach a settlement between $130 to $170 million.

In light of the settlement, Omni Bridgeway said they now consider the previous upper level estimate to be “conservative”.

The settlement comes a decade after the 2011 Brisbane floods, which affected more than 200,000 people and caused $2.38 billion worth of damage.


College principal defends teen thugs who attacked tradies

Comment from a social work reader:

"And the school principal calls his thugs “vulnerable” and “broken babies”.

I expect he is a soppy leftie, and maybe worse, a cunning and manipulative one.

"I worked with leftist forensic psychs who would justify crim’s crimes, coach them into believing they were victims of society’s artificial expectations, so they would continue to be crims after release, by telling them things like there is no truth, just perception and feelings, no right or wrong, just social expectations, and if you feel it, it’s true for you, and in another society you would not be in jail, you would be considered a good citizen, even a hero….

I would not be surprised if the principal and a number of his teachers are of the same sort of character as those psychs, committing crime by proxy through manipulating dumb thugs and crims, all the while acting themselves as if they are caring and wise"

A school principal has thrown his support behind the gang of thugs filmed savagely beating tradies during a wild rampage earlier this week.

The saga began on Tuesday, when two tradesmen arrived at SMYL Community College in Rockingham, southwest Perth, to fix a broken fire hydrant.

But soon after their arrival at the school for at-risk teens, a group of up to 10 students began surrounding the men and verbally abusing them, with footage of the incident livestreamed to Instagram.

The incident soon escalated, with around six teens seen throwing punches at the men while they are trapped in a corner, amid shouts of “bomb him, bomb that motherf …” and “keep going”.

Teachers soon arrived in an attempt to break up the attack, but as the incident was unfolding, another teenager was seen smashing the front windscreen of the tradesmen’s work vehicle after jumping on the bonnet and yelling “let’s smash his car”.

The attack made headlines across Australia and shocked the country – but despite the “appalling” violence, college director Sam Gowegati has defended the perpetrators, describing them as “broken babies” who needed help.

“The reason these kids are sent here is because they’re disengaged from mainstream education,” he told The West Australian.

“These kids are already vulnerable … and they do dumb stuff, that’s why they’re here, closed off in this area so we can manage that process.”

Earlier this week, Mr Gowegati told The West Australian some students had been suspended following the brutal attack.

“It is an atypical event. We’re just trying to figure out what happened and what triggered it,” he told the publication.

“A number of students have been currently sent home to decide what their futures are going to be.”

Mr Gowegati’s comments come after the publication reported that some staff were so concerned by student behaviour that they were “petrified” of going to work, with one teacher telling The West Australian some staff were “scared for their lives”.

According to the school’s website, SMYL Community College aims to “ provide an inclusive and supportive learning community that offers an alternative approach to education and training for young people aged 14 to 17 years of age who are at risk of missing out on opportunities due to their home life, health and other issues.”


Nuclear Power Would Stabilize the Australian Power Grid

While the situation in Texas shows us the necessity of a resilient grid with a high peak capacity and a healthy mixture of energy resources, Australia has been ruminating on a decision that would allow the country to utilize one of its most abundant natural resources. As one of the world’s foremost uranium producing countries, it is strange that Australia does not use uranium for nuclear power production.

Australia does not have any nuclear power stations, and has never had one. Australia has 29 percent of the world’s easily recoverable uranium resources (procured for less than $130 per Kilogram). That is 1.174 million tons of uranium. In 2019, Australia was the world’s third largest producer of uranium after Kazakhstan and Canada.

Despite these resources, Australia has only ever had one nuclear reactor, and it was not built to generate power. It was a research reactor at Lucas Heights which was initially built as a test reactor to determine the suitability of materials for use in future power reactors. The reactor’s purpose has shifted since its 1958 construction, and it is now used for the production of medical isotopes and for other research purposes.

What’s Preventing Nuclear Power in Australia?

The Australian government’s ban on nuclear power is enshrined in two laws: the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 (ARPANS Act) and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act).

The ARPANS Act applies to commonwealth-owned entities and bans certain nuclear installations, namely nuclear fuel fabrication plants, nuclear power plants, enrichment plants, and processing facilities. In order for any commonwealth-owned entity to construct and use any of these facilities, the act would need to be amended.

The EPBC Act creates similar prohibitions for commonwealth corporations, commonwealth entities, the Commonwealth itself, or other people, which prevent them from taking “a nuclear action that has, will have or is likely to have a significant impact on the environment.” This and other parts of the act would need to be amended to create a framework for licensing projects.

The ARPANS and EPBC acts are products of a sense of national outrage arising after the United Kingdom used Australia and its surrounding waters as nuclear testing sites during the early years of the Cold War. The tests remain a sore spot between the former colony and mother Britain, but they also stained the conversation around nuclear projects with the taste of weapons development and colonial exploitation in Australia.

Understanding that these regulations are anchored in old conflicts now largely moot is the key to challenging them effectively for the good of Australians and the Australian environment today and in the future.

Efforts to Allow Nuclear Energy

In recent years, the impetus to change the law and create a pathway toward nuclear power in the country has grown. In 2019, the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy performed an “Inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia.” The ensuing report made three recommendations.

“Firstly, the Australian Government should further consider the prospect of nuclear technology as part of its future energy mix; secondly, [it should] undertake a body of work to progress the understanding of nuclear technology in the Australian context; and thirdly, [it should] it consider lifting the current moratorium on nuclear energy partially—that is, for new and emerging nuclear technologies only—and conditionally—that is, with aprovals for nuclear facilities to require the prior informed consent of impacted local communities.”

These recommendations show that the tide may be turning for nuclear, and for energy freedom more generally, in Australia.

Australia has some of the highest energy consumption per capita in the world, and its efforts to decarbonize are stymied by its categorical refusal of nuclear power. It is illogical for a country with such a bounty of a valuable natural resource to preclude its use toward this end. Were a pathway created for licensing of nuclear reactors in Australia, energy developers would have a wider range of options for new power to replace some of the country’s aging coal plants.

The ideal way to determine the most efficient energy mix is to remove as many barriers to market operation as possible, and then allow the wheat to separate itself from the chaff. This requires that there be minimal subsidies and restrictions. Australia has done just the opposite, and that is why its attempt at an “energy transition” has been unsuccessful thus far. Attempting to force decarbonization through wind and solar, while outright banning nuclear power, is counterintuitive. Nuclear is less carbon-intensive than solar, and about as carbon-intensive as wind while using dramatically less land.

Even without allowing the construction of older technologies, if Australia followed the committee’s recommendations, and allowed new nuclear technologies, the added flexibility of technologies like small modular and advanced non-light water reactors will give the country the ability to confront the impending need to add new capacity to its aging grid.


Redcliffe State High School’s trial of pronoun badges has divided the community

A state high school’s trial of gender pronoun badges has divided the community with some welcoming the new initiative and others saying the “world has gone mad”.

Redcliffe State High School’s LGBTIQ+ group launched the trial of the pronoun badges last week. It provides students an option to wear a badge with he/him, she/her or they/them on it.

A Facebook post shared by the school said: “(The) purpose is to display to everyone what those who are wearing them define themselves as. They’re also so that people know what to refer to the wearer as.”

A poll conducted by the Redcliffe Herald found 91 per cent, of the almost 2000 voters, did not think gender badges should become common practice at all Queensland schools.

Many readers said the school should focus less on this and more on the basics of education. William said: “No wonder our world ranking in math and science are going to the dogs”.

“How about teachers teaching maths, science and English and leaving all this rubbish alone. Teachers and the education system have no right or authority to start reading around with gender issues. That should only be the responsibility of the parents,” Peter said.

Philip, a teacher, supported the idea. “Regardless of what many people might think about the use of differing pronouns by people, this is an incredibly good idea,” he wrote. “As a teacher, having to recall the preferred pronouns for all my students has always been difficult. The uniform does not help you, nor does the hair style, etc.




Thursday, February 25, 2021

The media bargaining code has passed Parliament, but don't rule out another Facebook news ban yet

The highly contentious media bargaining bill, formally titled Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2021, passed both houses of Parliament. That means a radical piece of media reform — the bargaining code — will come into effect.

A joint statement from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher says the code "provides a framework for good faith negotiations between the parties and a fair and balanced arbitration process to resolve outstanding disputes".

They argue it will be good for journalism. "The Code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia."

But before that happens — or indeed ever does — there are a few steps on the path.

News businesses that want to be paid for content that appears on search engines or social media can sign up (provided they meet some conditions, including earning $150,000 per year in revenue).

At the same time, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg must consider the question of "designating" digital platforms like Google and Facebook and the services they offer, like search or news feed.

This means he contemplates whether they hold a significant power imbalance over publishers.

If he does decide to designate one, he needs to provide it with 30 days' notice.

After that ends, the platform will be designated, meaning it must start negotiating with news businesses about how much to pay them for content through mediation, or if that fails, arbitration.

That leaves Facebook and Google powerless to an arbitrator telling them how much they should pay — a risky proposition.

At the time, Mr Frydenberg said "none of these deals would be happening if we didn't have the legislation before the Parliament".

That is, according to the Treasurer, the threat of the law prompted Google to sign deals.

Not long after, Facebook indicated it wasn't happy with the way the law was drafted by blocking news content for Australians.

It has come around this week, reversing its decision to pull news from the platform.

After discussions with Facebook, including between Mr Frydenberg and founder Mark Zuckerberg himself, the government amended the law.

The announcement coincided with an about-face from Facebook, which committed to reinstating news for Australian users.

There was even a reported deal between Facebook and Seven West Media — an indication the social media giant may be committed to the new environment.


Fight erupts over Defence moves to sack special forces whistleblowers

Whistleblowers are never popular and those who apply civilan standards to wartime are particularly reviled

A small number of special forces soldiers who blew the whistle on alleged war crimes at an official inquiry have been issued termination notices against the advice of the military watchdog.

The notices have set up a clash between the military hierarchy and the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force, whose most senior war crimes investigator, Justice Paul Brereton, recommended in his recent report that whistleblowers who had done nothing wrong should be promoted while witnesses who had honestly disclosed their own wrongdoing should not necessarily be sacked.

“It is crucial that their careers be seen to prosper,” Justice Brereton wrote last November of key witnesses who had engaged in no wrongdoing.

Others who had committed alleged war crimes themselves but had later helped the truth come out by giving truthful testimony to the inquiry, should be given special consideration, he wrote.

As the Defence Force continues to deal with the fallout of the Inspector-General’s report, delegates of the Chief of the Army Rick Burr have moved to sack at least three whistleblowers from the Special Air Service Regiment and commandos.

Asked about this process, a Defence spokesperson said: “The fact that some individuals assisted the inquiry is not disputed and regardless of any recommendation the inquiry made, it is ultimately a matter for Defence as to what if any administrative action is taken.”

The spokesperson also said that while termination notices had been issued, the responses from soldiers threatened with sacking would be considered before any final decisions were made.

Defence sources in Canberra, who were not authorised to speak publicly, confirmed that the office of the Inspector-General had been forced to issue “support” letters to help a small number of soldiers who were issued termination notices.

Multiple Defence sources aware of behind-the-scenes efforts to protect whistleblowers said at least two of the soldiers who were issued termination notices allegedly engaged in war crimes on the orders of more senior soldiers, and in both cases, these alleged crimes would never have been discovered without the disclosures, the sources said.

Some soldiers suspected of repeatedly lying about their own involvement in war crimes have also been issued termination notices, but were given no support from the Inspector-General. The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have confirmed this by speaking to more than a dozen serving and former special forces insiders.

In November, General Burr and Defence Force Chief Angus Campbell both publicly praised the role of special forces soldiers who disclosed alleged war crimes to Justice Brereton, who led the Inspector-General’s inquiry.

Justice Brereton ultimately found that Australian special forces soldiers allegedly committed up to 39 murders and recommended that up to 19 current or former soldiers should face criminal investigation, possible prosecution and be stripped of their medals.

Justice Brereton warned in his November report that “too often ... have the careers of whistle-blowers been adversely affected”. He urged the Defence Force to promote “cleanskin” whistleblowers – those who had observed or disclosed alleged war crimes but not participated in any alleged summary executions. Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell is yet to act on that recommendation.

Justice Brereton also urged General Campbell and General Burr to consider special treatment for those “whose conduct is such that they cannot be rewarded by promotion, but who, having made disclosures to the Inquiry in protected circumstances when they reasonably believed they would not be used against them, and whose evidence was ultimately of considerable assistance to the Inquiry, ought not fairly be the subject of adverse administrative action”.

“Again, it will be an important signal that they have not been disadvantaged for having ultimately assisted to uncover misconduct, even though implicating themselves.”

When he announced Justice Brereton’s findings in November, General Campbell described being “deeply appreciative of people who came forward to speak with concern of what they had seen, in some cases of what they had participated in”.

“It was a very brave thing for them to do, because in the climate and the culture I have described, they would have been very concerned for doing so,” he said in comments which suggested General Campbell was aware that key whistleblowers had also disclosed their own wrongdoing.

But since then, senior officers working under General Burr’s ultimate command have, in at least three cases, disregarded the advice from the Inspector-General and issued termination notices that inform a soldier they will be sacked unless they provide mitigating circumstances.

The question of how to deal with special forces veterans who have admitted to egregious acts is not simple. Even considering their assistance to the inquiry, their alleged conduct may be so serious that it warrants dismissal. However, that is the same workplace penalty suffered by SAS and commando soldiers who have been found to have repeatedly lied about their own role in war crimes only to have it disclosed by others.

The tension comes amid confusion about how the federal police and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions will work with the new Office of the Special Investigator, which was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in November to help prosecute those accused of war crimes. The Office of the Special Investigator (OSI), led by former Victorian judge Mark Weinberg, is analysing what information from the Brereton inquiry can be used in criminal prosecutions and what must be withheld because it was obtained under a special power that gives immunity to those who confess to wrongdoing.

However, the OSI is at risk of replicating steps already taken by the Australian Federal Police, which was referred war crimes allegations by Justice Brereton in 2018. Federal police agents have spent almost three years investigating former special forces soldier and Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith, who is accused of multiple war crimes, and are also investigating serious allegations against another soldier known as “Soldier C”.

Shifting these investigations to a newly created bureaucracy is potentially fraught if it causes delays, as witnesses’ memories fade or suspects find opportunities to collude. It may also leave some already traumatised witnesses dealing with new investigators with whom they have no prior relationship or who have no corporate investigation knowledge.

Former SAS soldiers said federal police agents had taken statements and built rapport with key witnesses in 2018 and 2019. Official sources in Canberra said it was unclear how many federal agents would be seconded to the new office, although it would involve at least some of the AFP taskforces set up in 2018 to probe war crimes.


TGA bans Pfizer, AstraZeneca brand mentions in COVID-19 vaccine advertising

Pharmacies, GPs and healthcare organisations will be banned from displaying advertisements identifying whether they are using the Pfizer or AstraZeneca product in the national COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration, the federal body that regulates medical drugs and devices, has released strict guidelines stopping organisations from developing their own ads for coronavirus vaccines.

Businesses involved in the rollout are welcome to use government-approved materials to inform the public of vaccine availability but must be careful not to add “the tradename and/or active ingredient of the specific vaccine or other information that might enable consumers to identify the particular vaccine or the manufacturer of the vaccine”.

Individuals receiving vaccines will be able to get information on the brand of vaccine they are receiving, but providers will not be able to promote that they are using a particular brand, or compare one product over another.

It comes as the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout begins, with the most vulnerable groups including front-line healthcare workers starting to receive doses of imported Pfizer vaccines this week.

Australia is taking a “portfolio approach” to vaccinating the nation, with doses set to come from a range of companies including Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Novavax should that vaccine be successful.

The many options have prompted community comparisons of the vaccines, with Pfizer’s phase 3 data suggesting 95 per cent effectiveness, while AstraZeneca’s data showed effectiveness of around 70.4 per cent.

Health minister Greg Hunt has been clear that the two vaccines currently approved for use in Australia are both safe and effective, however.

“With both the two initial vaccines, the Pfizer and the AstraZeneca vaccine, the international evidence is that the safety impact for prevention of serious illness, hospitalisation, death has been determined to be up to 100 per cent,” he told the ABC on Sunday.


Geelong police officer Sergeant David Magher found guilty on two counts of assault

A Geelong police officer has been found guilty of assault after kicking a man in custody three times to the side of his body.

Sergeant David Phillip Magher was charged with three counts of assault and suspended in 2018 by Professional Standards Command after kicking Andrew Birch as he was being transferred from a divisional van to a holding cell at Corio Police Station.

After a six-day contested hearing in the Geelong Magistrates' Court, Magistrate John Lesser found Sergeant Magher guilty of two counts of assault and dismissed a third count.

Magistrate Lesser said while in his view the first kick was "unnecessary", he could "not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the kicking action was not proportionate and reasonable".

"The second and third kicks stand out as of a completely different character to the first," Magistrate Lesser told the court.

"The level of force inflicted on Mr Birch [was] entirely inconsistent with the other members at the time, who had apparently obtained a measure of control of Mr Birch.

"They stood out as gratuitous and unnecessary and could not be justified as reasonable and proportionate use of force. As a result, there can be no justification for the use of force in those two kicks … which were delivered with considerable force.

"In the heat of the moment, Sergeant Magher crossed the line from the reasonable and proportionate … to the excessive and disproportionate and unjustifiable and therefore unlawful use of force on Mr Birch."

On September 21, 2018, then 36-year-old Mr Birch was arrested outside Corio Village Shopping Centre over a suspected armed robbery involving a knife and taken to Corio Police Station.

Security footage from the police station, played to the court, showed Mr Birch lunging towards Senior Sergeant Ian Kerin as he exited a police divisional van.

Sergeant Magher, who has been a police officer for more than 20 years, then kicked Mr Birch as he and Senior Sergeant Kerin pulled Mr Birch to the ground.

Mr Birch received two more kicks from Sergeant Magher as he was lying on the ground on his stomach with his handcuffed wrists pulled straight out in front of him and legs straight out behind him.

Magistrate Lesser dismissed the first kick on the grounds it could have been used as a tactic to make Mr Birch comply but ruled the two other kicks were excessive and unjustified.

Ten police witnesses were cross-examined during the hearing. All officers involved in Mr Birch's arrest agreed he resisted arrest, spat at officers, and screamed profanities.

Defence lawyer Stewart Bayles argued the kicks were "reasonable" and "proportionate" and were used by Sergeant Magher to protect the officers and himself from Mr Birch kicking out and spitting and to stop him from escaping.

In his closing remarks, Mr Bayles told the court a reasonable use of force "should not be equated with perfect or even best practice".

Crown prosecutor Sarah Thomas argued the kicks were an "excessive use of force that was not needed to seek compliance" and were instead used to punish Mr Birch for resisting arrest.

"When you view the video the inescapable conclusion is that these were three acts of gratuitous violence … toward someone who had given the police officers arresting him a hard time," she told the court.

Ms Thomas argued Mr Birch had stopped struggling "many seconds before" Sergeant Magher kicked him the second and third time.

She said all the officers, including Sergeant Magher, appeared relaxed on the CCTV as they prepared to move Mr Birch to a cell.

"The suggestion Mr Birch was on the ground for a lengthy period of time because he continued to be non-compliant, the suggestion by Mr Magher [Mr Birch] was kicking throughout, that was simply not correct," she said.

The court was told Superintendent Craig Gillard and Acting Inspector Michael Ryan reported Sergeant Magher to Professional Standards Command after Sergeant Magher admitted he used capsicum spray on Mr Birch twice during the arrest and told Acting Inspector Ryan: "I just wish I could delete the CCTV."

Mr Bayles argued his client never said that and accused Acting Inspector Ryan of lying.

Sergeant Magher will return to court later this week for sentencing.




Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Brittany Higgins beatup

Bettina Arndt

What a week. My inbox is overflowing with emails from people bombarding me with commentary on the Brittany Higgins affair – comments they uniformly tell me they don’t dare express publicly.

It’s a very telling example of how readily our mainstream media hops onboard the prescribed feminist narrative, silencing anyone who challenges their view on how this should all play out.

For those of you living overseas, or under a rock, Brittany Higgins is a young woman who last week announced, through the media, that she was raped two years ago, when working as an adviser for the Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds.

As the story unfolded, it was used to mount a ferocious attack on the government. Note the timing – coinciding with the arrival of the Covid vaccine, which should have been a high point for the Coalition which is decimating the Opposition in the polls. It is also hardly a coincidence that Higgin’s current partner, David Sharaz, is a former press gallery journalist, now working for SBS and known to be a fierce critic of the government.

My correspondents, many of whom were women, made some very telling points:

“She may well be telling the truth, but the man has been convicted under ‘trial by media’. The same media who've repeatedly referred to the young woman having ‘been raped’ - an emotive term designed to ensure the man is denied the right to the assumption of innocence.”
“Yet another instance of allegation by public announcement which has the effect of creating a smear on all men who work in Parliament house. No proper investigation, no facts.”

“She was 24 years old - not some naive teenager. She was pissed out of her mind, and that’s how she excuses herself from culpability. He was likely pissed out of his mind – but no such excuses allowed there. She was counselled by the Minister to report it to police but didn’t follow through, which fact does not sit congruently with her alleged fear of losing her job. Now we can expect a huge compo claim, backed by all the woke activists. This crap makes me sick!”

“How close to the truth do you think this might be? Young woman starts out on Kingston ‘pub crawl’ with a date. Accepts drinks all night off another bloke from her workplace. She allows herself to get ‘shitfaced’...goes off with the latter in a taxi which stops at PH so bloke can duck into an office to get something. Rather than stay in taxi until he returns, she goes with him for non-work purposes. He signs her in going through security as she does not have her pass with her. They both finish up on a couch in a Minister's suite where they get it on. He leaves her to wear off the night’s activities & goes home to his own bed. She gets sprung sometime later half naked by a security guard. Caught in an extremely embarrassing situation, she makes the excuse ‘I was raped’. Now she is expecting politicians including the PM & others to salvage her dignity by doing what?”

“I notice that now, two years later, she has announced she wants a comprehensive police investigation - ‘in a timely manner as to date I have waited a long time for justice.’ Whose fault is that? Two Ministers urged her to go to the police, she made an initial report and then pulled out because she was concerned it could damage her career. And now this is the fault of the Ministers, The Prime Minister, the system, anyone but her. No one buys this twaddle except the female journalists conducting their ‘believe the victim’ witch hunt aimed at damaging the government.”

“I’ve been thinking about the Higgins business and relating it to the focus on sexual assault in universities. A major campus advocate is Sharna Bremner of "End Rape on Campus" – see below one of her recent tweets, responding to idea that police should have been called. As you can see, she advocates that police only be involved if that is emphatically chosen by the victim - part of being caring and kind. But the problem with that approach is that two years later the victim can change her mind and then the institution is placed in a difficult position - was there a cover up?”

Once again, ordinary people reach their own conclusions but in public remain silent, nervously watching what happens, even to those who do their best to dance to the feminist tune. A Prime Minister ripped apart for “victim blaming” as he bends over backwards to be sympathetic to Higgins, Linda Reynolds in tears in parliament after being savaged for doing the wrong thing when handling the complaint.

And barely a word about Higgin’s acknowledgement that she was so drunk she fell over even before going back to parliament. The rare exception was a carefully-worded comment piece by Jennifer Oriel, which laments our failure to stop “the scourge of rape” but bravely mentions a Royal Australasian College of Surgeons report showing excessive use of alcohol is related to about half of reported sexual assault cases. Drug and alcohol researchers point to large numbers of studies showing sexual assault is most likely to happen if both parties have been drinking.

Brittany Higgins has acknowledged she chose to speak out after seeing the Prime Minister congratulating Grace Tame, Australian of the Year, and a “survivor of sexual assault.” In turn, Higgins’ decision to speak out has inspired two other women to make allegations about the same man – both also claiming to be heavily intoxicated when the events took place – and now a fourth claiming he put his hand on her thigh whilst they were drinking in a favoured bar. And now there’s a petition which has attracted over 2000 testimonials from school girls who claim to have been sexually assaulted.

#Metoo seems to have fizzled out and been replaced by far more potent allegations about men’s abhorrent behaviour. 2021, the year of the rape victim.

Bettina Arndt newsletter:


Amendments forced into media bargaining code undermine core principles, reinforce need for tougher regulation

Statement attributable to Chris Cooper, executive director, Reset Australia:

We are concerned that the amendments to the media bargaining code announced today undermine some its core guiding tenets.

It is deeply concerning that a couple of powerful foreign corporations can create such a powerful bargaining position with the Australian Government by holding the distribution of Australian news and information to ransom.

The point of the code was not just to force commercial agreements between the platforms and news publishers, but rather to force agreements that are made under the code. If the platforms and news publishers simply bargain outside the code, the power imbalance will remain and publishers will lack the guarantee the arbitration measures provide under the code.

We are concerned that the Treasurer's amendment shifts power away from fair and objective rules and toward ministerial discretion. Allowing the Treasurer to decide whether or not the code should apply to any given platform at any given time creates enormous potential for platforms to use their outsize power and influence to gain favourable decisions.

Ultimately what we need most are compulsory audits of the algorithms these platforms using to ensure they are complying with this Code mitigating the broader harms we know they create.

Press release. Contact: Chris Cooper 0403 353 621


Fears illnesses other than COVID-19 will mar 2021 as RSV cases rise in south-east Queensland

The spread of a highly contagious virus with similar symptoms to COVID-19 has prompted warnings that 2021 could be a year of illness and disease as social distancing rules start to relax.

South-east Queensland is already facing a surge of the Respiratory Syncytial Virus, which primarily affects children between 18 months and two years.

Roger Faint, the head of the Sunshine Coast Local Medical Association, said paediatric wards on Queensland's Sunshine Coast had been relatively quiet up until now.

He said the increase in presentations was probably driven by children returning to school. "The hospital wards have not been busy in paediatric wards up until the last month or so," Dr Faint said. "There's been less diarrhea, less pneumonia, and less respiratory infection.

"As time has moved on, people got more relaxed — I suspect that's a large part of what's happening."

The Sunshine Coast University Hospital's emergency department recorded 12 cases of RSV so far this year. There were three during the same period last year and zero the year before.

Most children recover easily, but some suffer from a pneumonia-type infection that can put a small number in hospital.

Some of those will need to be treated in an intensive care ward and ventilated, because their breathing is affected.

Gold Coast University Hospital emergency medicine director David Green said an outbreak of RSV at his hospital was putting pressure on staff.

He said the rise of RSV cases was also impacting the Queensland Children's Hospital and others across the south-east.

Dr Faint said as Queenslanders begin to socialise and mix with confidence, and social distancing requirements continue to ease, there was a risk that 2021 could be a dangerous year for infections, including the flu.

"As those issues break down and we go back to our pre-COVID behaviours, then you're going to start seeing a spike of infections," he said.

Only 6,034 people were diagnosed with the flu in Queensland last year — a 90 per cent reduction on the year before, when 66,135 were diagnosed.

At least 37 people died from influenza in Australia in 2020, down from 921 the year before.

But Dr Faint said Australians now seemed less willing to go to work when they were sick. "Probably only 18 months ago, you were expected to tough it out and go to work if you've got a cough and a fever," he said.

"It may be that way from now on — we expect people to stay home and work from home if they've got a cough and a cold, just to protect our kids or protect each other."

Queensland Health is urging people to get inoculated once the flu vaccine becomes available. "It's vital Queenslanders book in for their flu jab this year," a spokeswoman said.

She said the best time to be vaccinated was between mid-April to the end of May, ahead of winter.


State Government would face a community backlash if parts of Moreton Island are made off limits

The trepidation so many Australians felt when that ban was placed on walking up Uluru may well have been justified.

Today we have learned that access to a section of Moreton Island in the control of an indigenous group could potentially be restricted.

The information is not yet clear cut. But we do know management of the southeast section of the island is set to be shared between the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation under a new law set to go before the Queensland Parliament.

The QYAC have been unequivocal about their determination to allow the general public to visit and holiday in the area, and urged the State Government to educate non-indigenous people about the reality of native title laws.

“Native title is not accompanied by education or information for the general public, and other users tend to have concerns which are not correct at law and often are very damaging to Aboriginal people,’’ a spokeswoman has said.

But the QPWS have also been unequivocal in their negotiations with tourism operators active in the area _ closure of areas of Cape Moreton are “on the table’’ under this proposal.

It was in November 2019 that the Federal Court formally recognised indigenous ownership of Moreton Island.

Non indigenous Queenslanders have constantly been reassured that native title does not mean they will be barred from the island. But the new legal regime means indigenous owners could develop a monopoly control of tourism in that area recognised by law as in control of native title holders.

That suggests, at the very least, a range of areas could be placed off limits to the general public for traditional or spiritual reasons.

The trek up Uluru was something many ageing Australians had on their “bucket list’’ until October 2019 when it was banned - a ban which appeared to be accepted by the majority, even if some did so grudgingly.

The State Government must be aware that any similar restrictions on access to Moreton Island would not be taken so lightly.

Uluru is thousands of kilometres away in a desert environment. Moreton is a boat ride away, and a regular destination for thousands of Queenslanders, many of whom cherish a lifelong connection to the island.

And if the government is hoping a four-year term is a comfortable enough buffer for the outrage to die down until the next state election, it doesn’t quite understand the nature of its own electorate.




Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Facebook to reverse news ban on Australian sites, government to make amendments to media bargaining code

Facebook will walk back its block on Australian news sites after the government agreed to make amendments to the proposed media bargaining laws that would force major tech giants to pay news outlets for their content.

The social media giant blocked Australian users from sharing or posting news last week

"The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days," a statement from the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said.

In the statement, Mr Frydenberg and Mr Fletcher said the government would make further amendments to the news media bargaining code.

Last week Facebook stopped Australian users from sharing or posting news links in response to the code.

A number of non-news pages were swept up in the ban, including community organisations and the Bureau of Meteorology.

Facebook said in a statement that it was "pleased" the company was able to reach an agreement with the government. "[We] appreciate the constructive discussions we've had with Treasurer Frydenberg and Minister Fletcher over the past week," it said.

"After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognise the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.

"As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days."

Mr Frydenberg thanked Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for engaging in "constructive" discussions over the code, saying the company had "refriended" Australia. "It has been a difficult process, but these are really important issues," he said.

The Treasurer said Mr Zuckerberg had told him that he intended to sign commercial deals with news publishers.

"Facebook is now going to engage good faith negotiations with the commercial players," Mr Frydenberg said. "They are pretty advanced with a number of parties."

He said he hoped businesses would "sit at the table" and hopefully sign off on the deals.

Mr Frydenberg also confirmed the government was looking to bring back its advertising on Facebook after withdrawing it in the wake of the news ban.

Seven West Media, Nine, News Corp and the Guardian have all struck content deals with Google to show their content on its News Showcase platform.

Facebook wants to bring its Facebook News service to Australia, but has yet to sign any deals with local publishers.

The amendments to the code include a range of changes, including that final offer arbitration — something both Google and Facebook were strongly opposed to — is considered "a last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months".

Final offer arbitration would mean if a deal could not be reached, both the news publisher and the digital platform would present their proposed deals to an independent mediator, who would then pick one and that would become binding under law.

The Treasurer will also have to give advance notice to a platform if it is going to be "designated" or included under the code, and also has to take into account any deals the company has done.


Unemployment benefits are about to undergo a major overhaul

The end of the coronavirus supplement is close, leaving jobseekers without a top-up payment.

The government has announced a plan for a modest increase to the base payment, but it falls short of what many have been calling for.

And more will be asked from recipients in exchange for the increase, including face-to-face appointments, more job searches and an intensive training scheme for the long-term unemployed.

Here's what we know so far.

The government has announced a $25 per week increase in welfare from April 1.

This means 1.95 million Australians who are currently on working-age payments will receive a boost, including those on JobSeeker, Parenting Payment, Youth Allowance and Austudy.

For individuals without children, the maximum payment right now is about $282 per week, paid fortnightly.

That will increase to $307, and other payments such as rent assistance and energy supplement will still flow.

However the coronavirus supplement — currently an extra $75 per week — will end so, overall, recipients will be worse off.

Recipients will be able to work slightly more before their payment starts to reduce, up to $75 per week from $53 per week.

The changes will have to pass Parliament before they are implemented.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash announced an increase in "mutual obligations" on recipients on Tuesday.

The government will reinstate face-to-face appoints with job services providers. She said these had been suspended during the pandemic.

The number of job searches a recipient must undertake will also rise from 8 per month now to 15 from April, then 20 from July.

Senator Cash also announced recipients would "enter an intensive training stage" after six months of receiving payments. She said this would be a short course "to enhance their skills or to do some work experience".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the coronavirus supplement — which gave hundreds of thousands of Australians a financial boost — was temporary and would have to end at some stage.

He has been under pressure from business leaders, civil society and other political parties to increase the rate of the JobSeeker scheme.

On Tuesday he said the increase was "appropriate" as the country recovered from the pandemic. The changes will cost $9 billion over four years.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said the government needed to strike a balance. "We need a system that is fair and sustainable for the people who need it and the taxpayers who pay for it," she said.

Senator Cash also raised the supposed issue of recipients declining employment to remain on welfare. She said the government would introduce an "employer reporting line". This is set to allow employers to contact the Department of Employment if a jobseeker declines a job.

Senator Cash warned any reports may be followed up with recipients questioned why they said no. "In the event that they do not have a valid reason, they will be breached for that," she said.


Anzac Day events to go ahead in Queensland as Chief Health Officer hopes life can 'return to normal'

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today announced ANZAC Day services, parades and commemorations will be held as normal this year.

Last year's restrictions saw thousands of Queenslanders stand on their driveways and light candles to pay their respects.

"Initially we were looking at alternative venues, whether we could do the march around a stadium, around the EKKA, and when we presented this to Dr Young, Dr Young said, 'Everything can go ahead as per normal, as in the past', so this is fantastic news," Ms Palaszczuk said. "This is going to mean a lot to families and veterans."

RSL Queensland President Tony Ferris said he was "overjoyed" at the news and expected this year's parade to be bigger than ever before. "The fact that we now have ANZAC Day back, it's hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck stuff," Mr Ferris said.

"The communities and our veterans will now be able to step out with their comrades and continue down the path of remembering those veterans who have served, those who have given everything and those that are currently still serving."

Dr Young said she was able to approve the return of ANZAC Day marches because of the continued lack of community transmission in Queensland. She said in April last year, there were more than 270 active cases in Queensland — and now the state has just seven.

"We do not have community transmission here in Queensland today, and we probably don't have any community transmission anywhere in the country today and that's what the difference is," Dr Young said. "So that's why we can move forward and quite rapidly really return to normal.

"We've got to start working through what we need to continue to do as we transition to a more normal way of life."

The COVID-19 vaccine has begun to roll out in Queensland, with 203 frontline workers vaccinated at the Gold Coast University Hospital yesterday.

The rollout will begin at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane tomorrow and at the Cairns Hospital on Friday.

Next week it will extend to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, the Sunshine Coast University Hospital and the Townsville University Hospital.

Dr Young said ANZAC Day events would go ahead no matter where the state was up to with the rollout of the vaccine.

"Remember these services are perfect in a COVID environment we know that the risk of spreading COVID-19 outdoors is very, very, very low," she said.

"So for the parades, the dawn services, the vast majority of those more formal events are outdoors.

"Once people go indoors the risk increases but we have processes in place that will continue to be in place."


Construction union and boss Jason O'Mara threatened businesses to establish a cartel, prosecutors allege

The ACT construction union has been accused of threatening to "run businesses out of town" that did not meet its demands, on the first day of a hearing into charges the union tried to induce cartel behaviours.

Over 40 witnesses are expected to be called by the prosecution, including former union official Fihi Kivalu who previously pleaded guilty to blackmail

The charges against the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) and Canberra boss Jason O'Mara emerged after the trade union royal commission in 2016.

Prosecutor Rowena Orr told the ACT Magistrates Court that in 2012 and 2013 the union negotiated new pay deals, first with a group of steel fixers and later companies involved in scaffolding.

Ms Orr said the five steel fixing companies involved told the union they feared they could not afford the new agreement.

She said her case would show that the union, and Mr O'Mara, then allegedly suggested they could make an arrangement with each other to set a minimum price, so they could afford the changes.

The court heard a similar arrangement was allegedly suggested to the nine scaffolding companies.

Ms Orr told the court she would call nearly 40 witnesses, including for former union figure Fihi Kivalu, who was arrested for blackmail at the Royal Commission. He later pleaded guilty the crime.

Ms Orr said witnesses would tell the court how the minimum price arrangements were discussed. She said some witnesses would also give evidence about alleged comments made by the union leaders, including threats to anyone not sticking to the minimum price. "If the union saw anyone charging below the union rate they would run them out of town," she said.

She said it would be alleged that at one point the union said it would like the companies to send their tender documents to show they were keeping to the rates.

When charges were laid in 2018, the head of the consumer watchdog ACCC, Rod Sims, said cartel activity hurts consumers.

"It's, in general terms, where competitors get together to agree prices, to raise prices, or to restrict supply and have the same effect as raising prices, and that has obvious harm to consumers."

"The penalties … are either up to $10 million per breach, or three times the profit made, or 10 per cent of turnover.

"In terms of individuals, the maximum penalty can be up to 10 years in jail."

The hearing in the ACT Magistrates Court will assess if there is enough evidence for a trial