Sunday, March 31, 2024

Hindu/Sikh case breaks ground in NSW hate-speech law review

This is not really a complex case. It is clearly a religious matter but does have political implications. Sikhism and Hinduism are very different religions. Sikhs actually believe in one true God, which seems absurd to polytheistic Hindus. So many Sikhs want a State of their own so they can run their affairs in their own way. The divide is clearly religious.

About 76 percent of all Indian Sikhs live in the northern Indian state of Punjab, forming a majority of about 58 per cent of the state's population. So they want Punjab in whole or in part for their independent homeland

Modern India is however the result of coalescing many different ethnicities and language groups into a unitary State so making an exception for just one particular goup would be politically poisonous. Absent that context the Sikh request would be a reasonable one in line with modern customs of ethnic separatism but context is sadly very important here.

On the Hindu side, Indians are very much aware of examples such the former Yugoslavia, where a unitary State split into a number of smaller ethnic states amid much bloodshed. They know that the impulse to ethnic separatism is strong and are understandably wary of it

A 24-year-old western Sydney man has unwittingly become the litmus test for NSW’s “inoperable” hate-speech laws, with a judge saying that eyes would be watching the matter given its breaking of judicial ground.

Avon Kanwal, who is of the Hindu community and Indian ­descent, is attempting to overturn a 2023 conviction of publicly threatening violence on the grounds of race for his alleged involvement in a Hindu-on-Sikh violent 2020 brawl in western Sydney.

“This will involve the first ­determination under this section (93z),” judge Jane Culver told ­Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court on Thursday.

Mr Kanwal’s appeal comes amid a rise in hate speech across NSW since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war, an apparent inability by police to lay charges on Sydney clerics giving anti-Semitic sermons, and the provision that he’s charged under – section 93z – being currently subject to a Law Reform Commission review given “inoperability” concerns.

The matter could have broader implications given criticism of the state’s 93z provisions, which are narrow in scope, and there has been no successful prosecution under the act since its 2018 amendment to include race and religion.

Judge Culver said she had to ensure she was “deliberately” examining the two solicitors, and their arguments, to “flesh out the provision’s ambit”.

“There’s been no judicial determination in this … (I’ve) put you through the hoops to assist this section’s ambit,” she said.

“I’m really trying to finely draw attention to the different aspects of the provision and the definitions.”

The Australian revealed how, since October 7, police were unable to pursue a raft of anti-Semitic sermons by southwest Sydney clerics – including reciting parables about killing Jews and praying for their death – saying that each had not breached criminal legislation.

If Mr Kanwal’s appeal is successful it could amplify calls to strengthen or broaden 93z. If the court convicts him, questions could be asked why police were unable to do anything about anti-Semitic sermons, and whether the legislation is missing “incitement of hatred” in its drafting.

The defence argued that the brawl – instigated by a feud that played out on TikTok between Mr Kanwal and the co-accused – was of a “personal nature” that had nothing to do with race.

The prosecution, however, ­alleged that Mr Kanwal was reckless in his incitement to violence, which they said was based on his opposition to the Khalistan movement in India, spearheaded by a section of Sikhs for an independent homeland, which they say is ethno-religious and falls under the confines of 93z.

Mr Kanwal’s co-accused, Baljinder Thukral, appealed the same conviction in February, which was upheld by consent given “procedural issues”.

During their sentencing in the local court, magistrate Margaret Quinn found that, with a Khalistan expert giving evidence, Mr Kanwal’s alleged incitement that led to the brawl was on the grounds of race and that Khalistan itself would also meet its definition.

Defence solicitor Avinash Singh argued that Ms Quinn’s “broad” definition of race was “wrong”, and her application of it to his client’s case.

“On the grounds of race, this element (Mr Kanwal’s alleged violent threats) can’t be proved,” he said, arguing that defining Khalistan as a race-based movement was a “legal and factual error”.

“Our submission is that the specific definition of race in the act (is what) the magistrate should have relied on.”

The definition of race enclosed in 93z includes “ethno-religion” and “ethnicity” – the defence ­argues Khalistan falls within neither of these, but the prosecution contests that.

In the TikTok videos, Mr Kanwal said that he had “no issue” with Sikhism or Khalistan.

Prosecutor Caroline Ervin, however, noted that he ended each with “hail Hariana”, a state in northern India.

“It wasn’t accepted by the expert that Khalistan was just a political movement,” she said, noting Mr Kanwal allegedly encouraged the co-accused to bring followers, and set a time and place for what turned into the brawl.

“There is a religious divide as part of Khalistan … each video is spewing derision for Khalistan.”

The matter will resume in June. Mr Kanwal is charged with publicly threatening violence on race-grounds, but also inciting the commission of a crime.


Heavy-handed Leftist government oppressing workers

A billionaire coal baron will run an anti-Labor campaign in crucial regional electorates ahead of the October Queensland election, in a backlash against rushed and ­“secret” laws he insists discriminate against his workers.

QCoal founder Chris Wallin is director, secretary and ultimate shareholder of Energy Resources Queensland, which has newly registered with the Electoral Commission of Queensland as an official third party organisation for the October 26 poll, enabling it to spend $1m on a statewide campaign.

The Weekend Australian can reveal that the political intervention by the reclusive rich-lister was prompted by the Queensland Labor government changing the law in August last year, requiring QCoal’s Byerwen mine to shut down its miners’ camp and shift all workers to the nearby town of Glenden by 2029.

Billionaire coal baron Chris Wallin will sponsor an anti-Labor campaign in regional marginal seats ahead of the…
A “Save Glenden” campaign by then-Isaac Regional Council mayor Anne Baker and the tiny town triggered the shock legislative amendments, which were tacked on to the end of an unrelated child protection bill and not foreshadowed with QCoal.

Glenden, about two hours’ drive west of Mackay on the central Queensland coast and home to about 500 people, was built in the 1980s to house workers at the Glencore-owned Newlands coalmine, but the Swiss mining giant is closing Newlands, and Labor mayor Ms Baker – who retired at the recent council election – called the government approval of the Byerwen mining camp the “catalyst for the final demise of the community”.

A court had earlier ruled QCoal should house its workers in Glenden.

Mr Wallin and QCoal say the August legislation is unfair because Glencore’s Hail Creek mine, which is about the same distance from Glenden as Byerwen, is allowed to keep its miners’ camp open with no requirement for workers to live in the town.

They also claim there is not enough available housing in Glenden, and that 55 per cent of Byerwen’s 800 workers live within two hours’ drive of the mine and 90 per cent live in regional Queensland. It would take up to an hour by bus to transport workers from the Byerwen mine back to Glenden, adding an extra two hours on to a standard 12.5-hour shift, QCoal says.

QCoal group executive James Black said the law meant workers had been “denied the basic human choice of where they live” and the government had “played favourites” between Queensland-owned and operated QCoal and the Swiss-based multinational Glencore.

“Of course we and our workers are the losers,” Mr Black said.

The Energy Resources Queensland television, radio, social media and billboard campaign will target Labor-held regional seats – including that of Resources Minister Scott Stewart’s in Townsville, held by 3.1 per cent – with a high proportion of drive-in, drive-out and fly-in, fly-out mine workers.

In one advertisement, a Byerwen worker named Tammy said she had lived in Glenden for 40 years. “People should not be forced to live somewhere that they don’t want to live,” she said.

There are two more marginal Labor electorates in Townsville (Thuringowa and Mundingburra, both with margins of about 3 per cent), and ads will also be aimed at Labor’s marginal electorates in Cairns, the Sunshine Coast and Mackay.

Under Queensland’s electoral laws, parties can spend only $95,964 in each electorate they contest during the official election period, while third-parties can spend up to $1m statewide. Already, four Labor-aligned unions have registered, as well as Mr Wallin’s company and the Queensland Resources Council.

Mr Stewart said he made “no apologies for backing regional Queensland”


What’s lacking from today’s schooling? Any grounding in the New Testament


Years ago, I was still playing rugby football, in Oxford, England, and there were lineout calls, requiring the recognition of particular letters. If the captain called a word starting with the letter “t”, the ball went to the back. If he called a word starting with “s”, it went to the front. But on this occasion, the captain called “Tchaikovsky”. The resulting chaos among the students of a great university highlighted the need for a well-rounded classical education, even for those who took their sport as seriously as their studies.

What’s mostly lacking from today’s schooling is any grounding in the New Testament, even though it’s at the heart of our culture. There’s an absence of narrative history: our story from Abraham, Jacob, and Moses, our fathers in faith, through the ancient Greeks and Romans, to Alfred the Great, Magna Carta, the Provisions of Oxford, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Glorious Revolution, an American Revolution for the rights of Englishmen in the New World and a French one based on worthy abstractions that ultimately descended into tyranny, and through the struggles of the 20th century to our own times with the illusory ascendancy of market liberalism because man does not live by bread alone. There is, of course, an abundance of critical theory that’s turned great literature and the triumphs of the human spirit into a fantasy of oppressors and oppressed and regards the modern Anglosphere as irredeemably tainted.

Above all, contemporary schooling hardly conveys a spirit of progress, even though there’s still much to be grateful for. In 1990, for instance, more than 30 per cent of the world’s population lacked access to safe drinking water; by 2020, that figure was under 10 per cent. Likewise, in 1990, more than 30 per cent of the world’s population lived in absolute poverty; that too, had declined to under 10 per cent by 2020. And in 2020, more wealth had been created, at least in dollar terms, over the previous 25 years than in the prior 2500.

Prior to the pandemic, the world at large was more free, more fair, more safe, and more rich, for more people than at any previous time in human history, largely thanks to the long Pax Americana, based on a preference for whatever makes societies freer, fairer and more prosperous under a rules-based global order. But while the Western world has never been more materially rich, it’s rarely been more spiritually bereft. Relieved of the need to build its strength and assert its values against the old Soviet Union, like a retired sportsman it has become economically, militarily and culturally flabby.

The pandemic was a largely self-inflicted wound, with the policies to deal with it more destructive than the disease itself. For years, we will face the corrosive legacy of mental illness, other diseases that were comparatively neglected, economic dislocation, the surrender to authoritarian experts; and worst of all, two years of stopping living from fear of dying.

And now there’s the ferocious assault on Ukraine; the renewed challenge of apocalyptic Islamism, especially against Israel; and Beijing’s push to be the world’s dominant power by mid-century, with all that means for free and democratic Taiwan, for the rest of East Asia and for the continued flourishing of the liberal order that has produced the best times in history so far.
In the face of an intensifying military challenge from dictatorships on the march, militarist, Islamist and communist, it might seem trivial, almost escapist, to stress the life of the mind but, in the end, this is a battle of ideas: the power of the liberal humanist dream of men and women, created with inherently equal rights and responsibilities, free to make the most of themselves, individually and in community; versus various forms of might is right, based on national glory, death to the infidel, or the dictatorship of the proletariat.

In most Western countries, people’s faith in democracy is shrinking. Mental illness, especially among young people, is a new epidemic. And while this may or may not be related to the waning of the Christian belief in the God-given dignity and worth of each person, which incubated liberal democracy, and that armoured its adherents against pride and despair, it’s noteworthy that the Christianity that was professed by some 90 per cent of Australians just a few decades back is now acknowledged in the Census by well under half.

Politics, it’s often said, is downstream of culture, and culture is downstream of religion. It’s the coarsening of our culture, exacerbated by “the long march through the institutions”, that’s at least partly to blame for the feeble or embarrassing leadership from which we now suffer, and for the triumph of prudence over courage, and weakness over judgment, that has produced virtue-signalling businesses, propaganda pretending to be learning, the elevation of every kind of diversity except intellectual diversity, eruptions of anti-Semitism, out-of-control social spending and a drug culture in parts of Western cities that can only be the product of moral anarchy.

In the long run, the antidote to this is to rediscover all that’s given meaning to most people in every previous generation: a knowledge of our history, an appreciation of our literature, and an acquaintance with the faith stories that might not inspire every individual but have collectively moved mountains over millennia.

I was lucky enough to be schooled under Brigidine nuns, and then under Jesuit priests, and the lay teachers who took inspiration from them: fine, selfless people, who saw teaching as a calling more than a career, encouraging their charges at every turn to be their best selves. Their lives were about our fulfilment, not theirs, as reflected in the Jesuit injunction of those days to be “a man for others”, because it’s only in giving that we truly receive.

Later, at Sydney University, and especially at Oxford, I had teachers who valued their students’ ability to assimilate the authorities and to create strong arguments for a distinctive position, rather that regurgitate lecture notes and conform to some orthodoxy. Indeed, this is the genius of Western civilisation: a respect for the best of what is, combined with a restless curiosity for more; a constant willingness to learn, because no one has the last word in knowledge and wisdom. The whole point of a good education is not to “unlearn”, as Sydney University has recently put it, but to assimilate all the disciplines, intellectual and personal, that make us truly free “to have life and have it to the full”.

The Oxford tutorial system, where twice a week you had to front up to someone who was a genuine expert in his field, with an essay demonstrating familiarity with the main texts and the main arguments on a particular topic, plus a considered position of your own, was the perfect preparation for any form of advocacy, especially politics, where you always have to be ready to apply good values to hard facts.

These days, as a board member of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, I’m conscious of the many elements of the Western canon that I’ve largely missed, in over-focusing on politics, with only a smattering of philosophy and theology, from a brief pursuit of the priesthood; but am still immensely grateful for an intellectual, cultural and spiritual inheritance that I’ve now been drawing down over 40 years of advocacy, journalism, and public life. I have few claims to specific expertise, save in political decision-making, and certainly no claims to personal virtue because an inevitably imperfectly and incompletely practised Christianity doesn’t guarantee goodness – but it does make us better than we’d otherwise be, this constant spur to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.

Still, example and experience are often the best teachers of all. A mother who welcomed everyone into our family home. A late father who urged me to look for the good that’s present in almost everyone. An inspirational teacher, the late Father Emmet Costello, who encouraged me to set no limits on what could be achieved. A boon friend, the late Father Paul Mankowski, my Oxford sparring partner, a kind of internal exile within the Jesuit order, who showed that a celibate priest could also be a real man. And the luminous George Cardinal Pell, of blessed memory, who endured a modern martyrdom, a form of living crucifixion, and whose prison diaries deserve to become modern classics. One day, I hope again to enjoy the communion of these saints.

I was lucky to have a reasonably broad experience beyond the classroom and beyond the confines of political life. Coaching football teams was an early introduction into managing egos. Running a concrete batching plant was a great antidote to pure economic theory, and to corporate flim-flam, and a goad to unconventional problem solving. Plus serving in a local volunteer fire brigade for more than two decades has been a wonderful lesson in grassroots community service.

My Jesuit mentor, Father Costello, had a favourite phrase – “genus humanum vivit paucis” – which he translated as “the human race lives by a few”.

Of course, there’s no discredit to being among the many who largely follow, because no one can lead unless others fall in behind. And whatever our individual role, large or small, public or private, sung or unsung, our calling is to be as good as we can be, because even small things, done well or badly, make a difference for better or for worse. Everyone’s duty, indeed, is to strive to leave the world that much better for our time here: our families, our neighbourhoods, our workplaces, our classrooms, our churches, everything we do should be for the better, as best we can make it.

Still, some are called to more; more than worthily performing all the things that are expected of us. Leaders are those who go beyond what might be expected; who don’t just fill the job, but expand it, even transcend it; who aren’t just competent but brilliant. To paraphrase the younger Kennedy, they don’t look at what is and ask why; but ponder what should be, and try to make that happen.

In my time as prime minister there were decisions to be made every day, expected and unexpected. Ultimately, the job of a national leader is to try to make sense of all the most difficult issues, and to offer people a better way forward. Inevitably, there’s much that can only be managed, not resolved, because much is more-or-less intractable, at least in the short term. The challenge is to keep pushing in the right direction so that things are better, even though they may never be perfect or even especially satisfactory. No matter how many changes you make, and how much leadership you try to provide, economic reform, for instance, or Indigenous wellbeing, is always going to be a work in progress. There’s no doubt leadership can be more or less effective depending on the character, conviction, and courage of the leader. This is the human factor in history that’s so often decisive, such as when the British Conservative Party chose Winston Churchill rather than Lord Halifax to invigorate the war effort against Nazism. In the end, leadership is less about being right or wrong than about being able to make decisions and get things done.

In providing leadership, what matters is the judgment and the set of values brought to decision-making, at least as much as technical knowledge. The same set of facts, for instance, namely the surrender of France and the evacuation from Dunkirk, would have produced different leadership from Halifax than from Churchill. It would hardly be fair to claim that Churchill’s education at Sandhurst was better than Halifax’s at Oxford. It was their character, disposition and judgment that differed. Just as the respective characters and judgment of presidents Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky so sharply differed when one offered an expedient escape from Kyiv, and the other resolutely refused it.

Still, there’s no doubt that education can help to shape character, and that judgment can be enhanced by the knowledge of history and the appreciation of the human condition that a good education should provide.

I’m sometimes asked by young people with an interest in politics what they should do to be more effective, and my answer is never to join a faction, to consult polling, or to seek any particular office. It’s to immerse yourself in the best that’s been thought and said, so that whatever you do will be better for familiarity with the wisdom of the ages.

In particular to read and re-read the New Testament, the foundation document of our culture, that’s shaped our moral and mental universe, in ways we can hardly begin to grasp, and which speaks to the best instincts of human nature.

And to bury yourself in history, especially a history that’s alive to the difference individuals make, and to the importance of ideas, of which a riveting example is Churchill’s magnificent four-volume History of the English-Speaking Peoples, that’s also pretty much a global history, given that so much of the modern world has been made in English. And which Andrew Roberts has brought more or less up to date with his History of the English-Speaking Peoples in the 20th century.

More here:


Fact is, Dick Smith has revealed the lies about renewables

The RMIT ABC Fact Check own goal against Dick Smith exposed not only the green-left bias and ­deceit of the national broadcaster and the so-called “fact-checking” outfit, but also the central lie at the heart of the national climate and energy debate. The renewables-plus-storage experiment that Australia has embarked upon is not only unprecedented but impossible with current technology.

This is an inconvenient fact that is denied daily by the Australian Labor Party, the Greens, the ABC, the climate lobby, and the so-called elites of our national debate. We are undermining our national economic security by chasing a mirage, and our taxpayer-funded media deliberately misleads us down this dead-end path.

In an age when most of us were analogue, Smith made an electronic fortune then turned his attention back to the organic and irreplaceable, focusing on conservation and adventure.

The Australian Geographic founder epitomises the admirable qualities of initiative, innovation, and environmental stewardship.

Which makes it confounding that the RMIT ABC nexus targeted him. It seems he committed the mortal sin in their eyes of supporting the only reliable, weather-­independent, emissions-free electricity generation available – nuclear.

It is an energy source increasingly embraced by green activists and leftists in Europe and the US. But not here. Whether it is due to intellectual rigidity or partisan positioning, the left in Australia are stuck in an old-fashioned, Cold War mindset of nuclear fearmongering and denial.

The ideological blinkers are so strong at RMIT ABC Fact Check that when the renewables enthusiast and environmentalist Smith made perfectly sensible and apolitical comments about the inability of renewables alone to power a country, he made himself their public enemy. The fact checkers decided to take him down, even though he was right.

This is an example of all that is wrong in our public square. Facts do not matter so much as perceived motives or ideological side.

Anyone who has spoken with Smith, listened to him being interviewed or read his comments would be in no doubt that he would favour an all-renewable energy system if it could work. (For that matter, who would not?)

But with his technical nous, environmental bent, and practical mindset, Smith asks the obvious question: if renewables alone ­cannot give us an emissions-free world, what is the most efficient and effective way to deliver that goal?

And his answer is nuclear.

Despite Smith aiming for the right goal and advocating the right outcome through the only indisputably effective means, his answer apparently is not what the woke want to hear.

Because in making his case, Smith dared to speak the truth about renewables.

“Look, I can tell you, this claim by the CSIRO that you can run a whole country on solar and wind is simply a lie,” Smith told 2GB.

“It is not true. They are telling lies. No country has ever been able to run entirely on renewables — that’s impossible.”

It is worth picking over this dispute because it is illuminating. Smith’s initial complaints to RMIT ABC Fact Check were ignored, until he appeared on my Sky News program threatening legal action and got his lawyers involved.

The eventual apology specifically retracted their claim that Smith opposes renewable energy. Little wonder, this is a bloke who charges his EV with renewable ­energy – Smith loves the technology, he is just realistic about its limitations.

Reworking their “fact check” after Smith’s threats, RMIT ABC included tortured and implausible arguments. They reported that the CSIRO denied ever having said you could run a whole country on renewables.

It is not difficult to find contradictory evidence. For instance, a 2017 article on the German “Energy Transition” website was headed “CSIRO says Australia can get to 100 per cent renewable ­energy”.

The article talked about a “toxic political debate about the level of renewable energy” that can be ­accommodated in the system.

“CSIRO energy division’s principal research scientist Paul Graham said there were no barriers to 100 per cent renewable energy, and lower levels could be easily ­absorbed.”

Years later, Graham doubled down on this, declaring; “The whole system is getting ready for renewables supported by storage.”

In 2020, on Australia’s “Renew Economy” site, we saw the headline “CSIRO embraces transition to net zero emissions ‘without derailing our economy’ ”.

And just last December, the CSIRO published an article titled “Rapid decarbonisation can steer Australia to net zero by 2050”,

There is no renewables scepticism or realism in those statements. It seems that Smith was right about the thrust of CSIRO analysis.

Yet now, via RMIT ABC Fact Check’s revised article, we learn the CSIRO has a more nuanced, and realistic stance: “Its position is that ‘renewables are a critical part, but not the only part, of the energy mix as Australia moves towards the government-legislated target of net-zero emissions by 2050’.”

Smith has flushed out an important concession to reality from the CSIRO. The “renewables are a critical part, but not the only part” formulation is exactly the point Smith was making when RMIT ABC tried to take him down.

Talk of a 100 per cent renewables-plus-storage model is fantasy for now. I wonder how long it will take the politicians to become similarly frank, and most of the media.

Perhaps even more deceitful was the RMIT ABC pretence that some countries are already powered entirely by renewables.

“There are four countries running 100 per cent on wind-water-solar (WWS) alone for their grid electricity,” reported RMIT ABC, quoting an academic report that cited Albania, Paraguay, Bhutan, and Nepal.

Right off the bat, these were ­ridiculous comparisons. These are not large, modern, or developed economies (why not compare our emissions challenge to the performance to subsistence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa?). Australia’s GDP per capita is about eight times higher than Albania’s (which had to import electricity from neighbouring countries just two years ago anyway, thanks to a drought undercutting its hydro generation), 10 times higher than Paraguay’s, 20 times Bhutan’s and about 50 times higher than Nepal’s.

The comparisons are laughable on those grounds alone, but it gets worse. The so-called fact checkers were only accounting for the electricity grids in these nations, even though huge parts of their populations and economies are not connected to the grid, and there is heavy use of other fuels for heating, cooking, and transport.

The most pertinent figures, now included in the RMIT ABC updated article show that renewables account for only a third of Albanian energy, closer to 40 per cent in Paraguay and just 6 per cent in Nepal. A long way from their previously claimed 100 per cent.

Perhaps self-conscious about the absurdity of their claims about those small, poor nations, the fact checkers had also made reference to a comparable developed economy, choosing the US state of ­California.

Stanford University’s Mark ­Jacobson noted California had “been running on more than 100 per cent WWS for 10 out of the last 11 days for between 0.25 and 6 hours per day”.

Really? As little as 15 minutes on renewable energy and that proves a modern economy can thrive on renewables plus storage?!




Thursday, March 28, 2024

What’s happening in Alice Springs?

A very uninformative article below. At least at the very end of the article they screwed up enough courage to utter the word "indigenous". The problem is in fact an Aboriginal one, with young Aborigines being particularly defiant, with their skin colour protecting them from most police action

Whites in a position to do so are already moving out. The town will eventually become a wasteland unless vigorous police action to arrest and imprison offenders is undertaken. Aborigines are in fact easy to control. They have a horror of being separated from their community so keeping them in solitary overnight will be strongly punitive and will give them a strong reluctance to repeating that experience

Violent brawls took place on Tuesday after a group of young people attacked a local pub, the Todd Tavern. Three people have been arrested so far.

According to police, the violence began when a large group of people from the Utopia district north of Alice Springs arrived in town to commemorate the death of an 18-year-old man who was killed on March 8 when the stolen car he was travelling in rolled over.

A dramatic 12-hour night curfew for everyone under the age of eighteen will be imposed across Alice Springs after violence erupted on the streets.

The group attacked other family members in the pub, which sustained $30,000 of damage after being pelted with rocks and bricks. Another brawl broke out nearby later that evening.

The Northern Territory government has declared an emergency.

Why was a curfew announced?

The two-week curfew is designed to stop people aged under 18 gathering in the town’s CBD between 6pm and 6am.

Apart from Tuesday’s brawls, a series of violent incidents have taken place in Alice Springs in recent weeks, including on Saturday when a group of about 10 young women bashed and stripped a 16-year-old girl.

Northern Territory police will send 58 additional officers to the town. There will be no criminal penalty for breaking the curfew, police said.

Why are there calls for the federal government to be involved?
“Horrendous doesn’t cut it, but I have run out of words,” the town’s mayor, Matt Paterson, said on social media. He has previously called for federal help to tackle crime in the area.

MPs at state and federal level have expressed horror this week at the levels of violent crime in Alice Springs and called for more resources and tougher laws.

The shadow minister for Indigenous Australians, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, wants the federal government to deploy the defence force to maintain order, while federal Labor MP for the Alice Springs electorate of Lingiari, Marion Scrymgour, also believes extra resources are needed and was seeking to work with the NT government.

The federal government could offer to deploy defence force or Australian Federal Police personnel to assist local authorities, though this would require the co-operation of the NT government.

Most policing and public safety measures, such as alcohol restrictions, are the responsibility of the territory government.

The federal government allocated $250 million in last year’s federal budget to improve social outcomes, safety and schooling in central Australia through a series of community-led programs.

Why are crime rates so high in Alice Springs?

The town has a long-standing crime problem, and has been subjected to a series of “crime waves” involving spikes in street violence and theft, and there have been periodic calls for federal intervention in recent years.

Widespread alcohol abuse is generally seen as a leading cause, coupled with chronic social disadvantage and intergenerational trauma in Indigenous communities.

Crime rates reached a four-year low in 2023, though they were still high by national standards, after limited bans on alcohol sales were re-introduced.


Government hostility to religious schools

So it appears that, after several more years of consultation, reviews and inquiries, Australia’s communities of faith will once again be disregarded, cast aside and left to fend for themselves in the land “beyond the wall”.

For those unfamiliar with the imagery, it comes from George R. R. Martin’s popular (and confronting) Game of Thrones literary series. In it, a giant ice wall is built to protect the land of Westeros from the horrors of the wintry north – primarily from the legendary dead army that is rumoured to be on the move. The only problem is that there are still humans who live beyond the wall, simple people, unaffectionately known as “Wildlings”. They are a free folk, a proud folk, with deep history, but fundamentally seen as lesser and cut off from the riches and protections of the mainland.

Such it seems is the view of religious people in Australia at this current point in history. Not only are we largely seen as backward and archaic by the elite ruling class, holding onto outdated superstitious beliefs, but also face repeated legislative raiding parties into our communities by state governments and activist media elements (who I like to refer to as the “Night’s Watch”).

This mentality is perhaps most evident when it comes to faith-based higher education, of which I run but a humble chiefdom. We are a significant minority in the Westerosian university landscape, and the inequality is increasingly blatant. Our Wildling students are forced to pay as much as four times the HECS fees of the city dwellers (despite our institutions often outperforming theirs); we have no access to the Maesters’ citadel (research funding and block grants), and our land rights are rapidly being eroded.

Take the example of the Queensland anti-discrimination bill introduced into the state’s parliament this month which strips faith-based educational institutions of the ability to employ staff who share their religious ethos and values – arguably the most oppressive laws in the land. We thought that those in the northern realms might at least have some empathy, but perhaps their long summers have made them complacent towards their devout Wildling brothers and sisters.

We have always felt, however, that we would be able to endure, particularly when those in King’s landing reassured us that we were indeed an important part of Westeros. We would be respected and left in peace, and when it came down to it, they would ensure our protection and survival. Indeed, the kings and queens on the revolving blood-splattered chair of political swords would even sometimes praise us from afar as we educated their children, looked after their poor and took care of their aged.

However, it now seems that, despite all the promises from the Iron Throne, that the protections will not be forthcoming. The Hand of the King (Australian Law Reform Commission) has advised that exemptions for religious educational institutions in the Sex Discrimination Act should be removed. Additionally, the High King of the eight kingdoms has now also indicated the Religious Discrimination Bill is to be dropped. Roughly translated, this means the Wildlings and their backwards ways are condemned. The long, dark night is upon us.

It is no shame to say that we hold a healthy fear of the army of the dead, or in our case the waves of frozen-eyed lawyers primed to overwhelm our educational institutions with litigation. We have already seen internationally that most cases of religious freedom involve educational institutions – where communities of individual Wildlings who hold the sacred values of marriage, or maleness and femaleness, or that life is sacred, are cast out to wander the wilderness.

One idea that has been discussed in our villages is that perhaps we should all just attempt to clamber back over the wall into Westeros, tell our communities to walk out and enrol in the already underfed public schools south of the wall. I anticipate, however, that there would not be enough food to feed us all.

The real question, therefore, is: does the Iron Throne and its multitude of cunning advisers genuinely want diversity in Westeros? By that I mean diversity of perspectives, cultures and opinion. Or are they seeking a monoculture which ensures every inhabitant bends the knee to whoever controls the ideology of the day?

If it is the latter, then the free folk will always be a thorn in the side of any ruler. Whatever the Wildling tribe – whether it be Christian, Islamic, Judaic or just individuals who covet the free life – the reality is that they won’t ever bend the knee to anyone who is not the True King of Westeros and beyond. Our allegiance and salvation does not rest with men and women – thank God.

All we Wildlings really pray for is the opportunity to live in peace, to educate our young people, freely associate, and serve where our help is accepted. Unfortunately, in this current wintry climate beyond the wall, that is by no means assured.


Rushed bill forcing hundreds of non-citizens to facilitate own deportation passes lower house

If people have been found to have no case to stay but refuse to leave what do you do?

Legislation that would force hundreds of non-citizens to facilitate their own deportation or face imprisonment has been rushed through the lower house, despite warnings it breaches human rights obligations.

The Labor government combined with Peter Dutton’s opposition shortly before question time on Tuesday to approve the new powers for the immigration minister despite howls of dissent from independents and minor parties about lack of due process.

After the bill was introduced at noon, Labor and the Coalition gagged debate after a little over two hours. The migration amendment (removals and other measures) bill passed to the Senate, where it will be considered by a two-hour inquiry hearing on Tuesday evening before possible passage on Wednesday.

The bill gives the minister the power to direct a non-citizen who is due to be deported “to do specified things necessary to facilitate their removal”, or risk a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison or up to five years.

The Greens, independents, Refugee Council of Australia and Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law have raised concerns that the bill applies to those who had “fast-track” assessment of their protection claims, which Labor criticised in opposition.

“We are concerned that those who do have strong claims, but have not had a fair hearing or review, will be sent back to real harm,” the Refugee Council chief executive officer, Paul Power, said.

At the Tuesday inquiry hearing, home affairs officials said the bill would apply to people whose claim for refugee protection had been finally resolved, but could not say how many were assessed by the fast track.

They said the bill would apply to at least 150 to 200 people in detention, people on bridging visa R including those released by the NZYQ high court decision, and an unspecified number on other bridging visas on a pathway to removal.

But the Greens senator David Shoebridge noted there was “no limit” to the minister using regulation to add visa classes to the list of those who can be given directions.

In parliament, the independent MP Kylea Tink argued the bill breached Australia’s obligation not to forcibly return asylum seekers to their country of persecution.

The independent MP Zoe Daniel warned that “if we make a mistake here” people may be taken back to their country of persecution and “murdered”.

The most contentious provision states that it is not a “reasonable excuse” to the new offence of refusing a direction that the person “has a genuine fear of suffering persecution or significant harm if the person were removed”.

The Human Rights Law Centre said the provisions “will apply to people who have serious and legitimate claims for protection”.

“They risk serious non-compliance with Australia’s obligations under the refugee convention as well as other international instruments.

“The bill deliberately separates families,” it said. “The minister can require a person to comply with a direction in relation to their removal, irrespective of the impact this would have on their spouse, children or other family members.”

The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, warned the bill meant “a mum who refuses to sign a passport application for her children to be returned to Iran where they have a fear of persecution could be put in jail”. He noted this carried a mandatory minimum sentence of a year in prison, in apparent breach of Labor’s platform.

In the hearing, the home affairs general counsel Clare Sharp said the “legislation doesn’t prevent [family separation] from happening, it’s possible”, but it may be a reason the minister may grant a person a visa.

In question time, Tink noted the bill can force guardians “to take actions in the aid of having their children removed from Australia”.

The immigration minister, Andrew Giles, noted the bill contains a “safeguard which deals with children”, that is, that children cannot be issued directions to facilitate their own deportation.

Giles claimed that the bill was “consistent with Australia’s human rights obligations”. In fact, the statement of compatibility said it was consistent in “most respects” but to the extent it limits human rights it does so “in order to maintain the integrity of the migration system”.

“What we’re doing with … this important piece of legislation is to fill a very significant loophole, that a small cohort of people who have no basis upon which to remain in Australia are refusing to cooperate with efforts to affect their removal.”

Giles said that those affected were “not refugees”. The bill’s explanatory memorandum says those who have “been found to engage Australia’s protection obligations … cannot be directed to interact with or be removed” to their country of persecution, but can be directed to do things to be removed to a “safe third country”.

The bill also creates a power for the government to designate another country as a “removal concern country”, which will impose a bar on new visa applications from non-citizens outside Australia who are nationals of a country that does not accept removals from Australia.

The power could affect applicants hoping to leave countries including Russia, Iran, Iraq and South Sudan.

Shoebridge said that “entire communities” in Australia face being permanently barred from visits from relatives from those countries.

The Refugee Legal executive director, David Manne, said this aspect of the bill was “discriminatory and extreme overreach”.

The shadow immigration minister, Dan Tehan, told Guardian Australia the Coalition was worried if the bill “doesn’t work as intended, it could force people to get more desperate and jump on boats” if their country is designated.

The independent senator David Pocock said it was “incredibly disappointing” that Labor was rushing the bill through, accusing the major parties of “disgraceful” treatment of independents who had raised concerns about the bill.


LGBTQI+ intolerance prevalent among Australian air force chaplains, inquiry told

Hardly surprising in view of what the Bible says about homosexuality. Are Christian chaplains allowed to believe their Bibles when their Bibles tell them that homosexuality is an abomination to God? (Leviticus 20:13) Asking them to defy God's word is pretty heavy

Some religious chaplains in the air force hold “unacceptable views about minority groups, women [and] LGBTQI+ persons”, posing a mental health risk to members, the royal commission into defence and veteran suicide has heard.

And part of a review commissioned by the defence department into the air force chaplaincy unit – quietly tabled as evidence to the royal commission – found tension between theology and values, “notably in relation to gender and LGBTI inclusion”.

“Some chaplains perceived other chaplains to be intolerant towards LGBTI people, women and those chaplains who express differing theological views,” the review found.

Collin Acton, a former director general of chaplaincy for the navy, said chaplains were members’ first port of call for mental health help, with other forms of help off base or harder to access.

The “vast majority [of ADF members] are ticking the ‘no religion’ box” and would be reluctant to seek support from chaplains, many of whom were ordained ministers, Acton said.

“A large portion of our workforce would prefer not to speak to a minister as their first port of call when they’re going through difficult times,” he said.

“They might be well-equipped to look after members of their own flock, but they’re under-equipped to look after the rest of the personnel.

“Religious ministers don’t sit down and have a conversation with someone about their worldview, they come with an agenda.”

Guardian Australia revealed last year that the Australian defence force as a whole has a disproportionately high number of pentecostal and evangelical chaplains. For example, there are 13 Australian Christian Churches (formerly known as Assemblies of God) chaplains for the 13 members that identify with that denomination.

Chaplains are also ADF members, so the ratio could be anywhere from one-to-one to 13-to-none, depending on how individuals identified themselves.

Meanwhile, there are five non-denominational Christian chaplains and 4,217 serving members who identify that way, a ratio of one-to-843.

In a commission hearing, the air force chief, Air Marshal Robert Chipman, said the review found there were “deep-rooted cultural challenges” within air force chaplaincy.

“And there was an unhealthy mix of theological beliefs … of a view that things that happen between chaplains should stay within chaplains,” he said.

“Both of those created conditions for an unhealthy culture to develop within chaplaincy branch and that had very significant impacts on the welfare of some of our chaplains.”

Commissioner Erin Longbottom put to Chipman that the review found “there was a conflict between faith-based values of chaplains within that branch and the requirements of a modern defence force”. Chipman agreed.

“We did find chaplains … from certain theological schools that had concerns with female chaplains or LGBTIQA chaplains and so those … beliefs that they bring as chaplains into our organisation did intersect unevenly with our Defence values,” he said.

Chipman also agreed that the review found “unacceptable views about minority groups, women, LGBTQI+ persons”.

“If there are chaplains practising in Defence that cannot abide by our values and behaviours, then they need to find somewhere else to be employed,” he said.

But Chipman said that in general the chaplains did a “phenomenal job” and “save lives every day”.

Guardian Australia has sought the air force chaplaincy review under freedom of information laws since September. The request was initially rejected because it would cause an unreasonable workload. Defence sought an extension to the deadline for a revised request to November. In February the request for “any reports or directives produced from the air force chaplaincy review” returned a directive about the implementation of the review but not the report itself.

But an executive summary of the report was provided to the royal commission.

It found there was “tension” reconciling “strong theological beliefs with Defence values”.

Chaplains dealt “‘in-house’ with unacceptable behaviour complaints within the branch” instead of through Defence processes, it found. Some complaints went without action or resolution.

“Others identified inappropriate behaviour which appeared to them to be condoned within the branch”, it found, while some chaplains said that “unacceptable or undesirable behaviour or comments falling short of unacceptable behaviour was excused within the branch where they were associated with views supported by a chaplain’s faith group but not otherwise consistent with Defence values and behaviour”.

In its submission to the royal commission, the Rationalist Society of Australia pointed to research that found almost 64% of ADF members – and 80% of new recruits – were not religious.

The society claimed chaplains viewed the position as missionary in nature and were “unable to provide non-judgmental care”, which the organisation said could stop personnel getting appropriate support.

“The religious-based nature of the capability opens the door to chaplains identifying problems as ‘sin’ and the solutions as requiring ‘repentance’.”

Acton was pivotal in a push to get a non-religious chaplains into the navy and has since pushed for secular reform despite a significant backlash from some opponents.

“I’m not saying get rid of religious chaplains, but they should be in proportion to the religious portion of our workforce,” he said.




Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Smiling but lying – if real estate agents won’t tell the truth, I will

Jenna Price (below) is a grumpy old thing. She fails to realize that real estate valuations are very uncertain, which is why auctions are so often resorted to. And note how often auction results are surprising. There'a an old saying in real estate that you only know the value of a property when the cheque clears. I have bought and sold many houses and have generally guessed well but I have had disappointments too

Have real estate agents changed, or have I? You be the judge.

We bought our first house in 1984. It was previously owned by the kind of real estate mogul who knew which suburbs were on the move. It came with a needy neighbour, an outside dunny and was right under the flight path, but we loved it. We made our first baby there and then our second.

It became clear we needed a laundry, an indoor toilet and, spare me your judgment, a kitchen which had room for both a fridge and a dishwasher. I seriously felt I was more likely to survive without a fridge than without a dishwasher. And that was before No.3.

But real estate agents could tell us, more or less, what we should pay for a bigger house in the neighbouring suburb. News in Victoria that an agency is being charged for massive underquoting must act as a warning that all agents should be fair and, more or less, square.

If only warnings worked.

Here’s what I discovered this week. My kids are on the lookout. In fact, I’m friends with an entire generation of parents whose kids are on the lookout, both for their inheritance and the prospect of leaving behind the government-sanctioned malfeasance of renting. Which brings me to this predicament.

A couple of weeks ago, a long-time friend discovered we were planning to downsize. She told me her kid and the kid’s partner were selling their house and could expect to get, according to their local agent, $1.7 million for it. Yes, it’s in one of those newly groovy suburbs, but it’s small and perfectly formed. She sent me the address. Looked great. I’m too old for groovy but whatever.

Imagine my utter lack of surprise when it turned up on your favourite real estate site, with a buyer’s guide of $1.45 million. That’s a quarter of a million dollars less than what the agent guided the sellers. I even wrote to the real estate agent just to check on that buyer’s guide because, you know, glitches happen online. He confirmed $1.45 million as the buyer’s guide. God, you’d love to be issued the seller’s guide as well, right?

In my highest dudgeon, I called the only non-real-estate-agent-real-estate-expert I know – Macquarie University’s Cathy Sherry – filled with grumpiness directed at the real estate agent.

She reminded me that the duty of the agent is to the vendor. They are engaged by the vendor. That means they have to act in the best interests of the vendor.

It’s nearly impossible to get anyone defending real estate agents in Australia, but Sherry said agents can’t ever – really – tell how many people are going to show up at an auction and how much they are prepared to spend. She says the best way to prepare yourself for what you should pay is to look at all the houses.

“Once you’ve looked at five properties, it’s not rocket science,” she says. Mind you, she did agree that my example revealed a big gap.

Now, imagine my utter frustration when one of my own children thought buying it was a possibility based on the unrealistic (and indeed phony) buyer’s guide. If you pop in the top price you want to pay (as you can on these exhausting websites), it comes up as under $1.5 million.

The problem is not the underquoting exactly. It’s the sheer manipulation of the hopes of young buyers drifting around homes which are nearly identical because they’ve been styled. (Please – I beg you – no more white walls, cream couches and AI artwork. And turn off the lights in the middle of the day. We see you.)

Buying property, unless you are a hardened investor with no emotions in the game, is a nightmare. Conveyancers. Maybe lawyers. Building reports. Banks. All under the pressure of time and fear, of not knowing what comes next. It’s a crushing combination of mundane tasks under extreme pressures of time and money. Then you have to do it all again when you fail.

Now this is not a thing where everyone got overexcited at the auction. It’s before the auction. I’ve watched a few of those and understood what happened. I’ve even been the participating underbidder (relieved when unsuccessful). But this agent knows it’s likely to go for much more, has told his vendors it will go for much more, yet is luring people in with the prospect of a bargain.

And it doesn’t just happen to buyers. Vendors often fall victim to conditioning, the practice of being told the place is worth more than it is. It’s how agents win business. Please do not imagine that because an agent tells you they can sell your palace for a huge sum, that will actually come to be.

Likewise, there are no bargains in the groovy suburbs; there is no honour in the real estate market.


New Vehicle Efficiency Standard welcomed by car industry after tweaks

The car industry has cautiously welcomed the Federal Government’s softer new vehicle efficiency targets.

The New Vehicle Efficiency Standard, which will be introduced to parliament tomorrow, includes concessions for work utes and four-wheel-drive wagons.

CO2 targets have been tweaked for utes, while some 4WDs, which originally had to meet passenger car targets, will be reclassified as commercial vehicles.

They include vehicles such as the Ford Everest, which is essentially a Ranger ute with a roof, and the popular Toyota LandCruiser, which is used extensively by farmers.

Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Tony Weber, who was controversially frozen out of government briefings and the press conference because of his strident criticism of the standard, said the new target was “a step in the right direction”.

“The FCAI has made its position clear on this issue and it’s good to see that government has moved in part to our position to get a better outcome for consumers,” he said.

Car industry heavyweights Toyota and Hyundai, who both attended the announcement, were supportive of the new plan, which will take force from January next year. Penalties and credits won’t be introduced until the middle of next year.

The Motor Trades Association of Australia was upbeat about the new standard.

Chief executive Matt Hobbs said the association was pleased the government had made concessions based on industry feedback.

He said the changes would reduce the “very real risk” of price rises and reduced access to popular vehicles.

The amended standard would “better reflect the country’s love of utes and SUVs while preparing for an EV future,” he said.

“We all intend to do our part in decarbonising the country’s transport sector. But consumers must come first, and we believe the adjustments to the policy strikes this delicate balance,” he said.

He said the proposed standard was still “ambitious and challenging” for the industry but “workable.

Toyota, which was a vocal critic of the proposed standard in its original form, welcomed the changes.

Toyota Australia President and chief executive Matthew Callachor said the company supported an “ambitious fuel-efficiency standard that is calibrated to the unique requirements of the Australian market and leaves no-one behind”.

“We welcome the willingness of the Federal Government to consult on this important public policy and to make changes that represent a positive step forward,” Mr Callachor said.

“Even so, Toyota and the industry face huge challenges that must be addressed before these significant reductions can be realised,” he said.

Hyundai chief operating officer John Kett said the standard struck “the right balance between ambition and practicality”.

“With this standard in place, Hyundai dealers will have great vehicles to sell, customers

will have great vehicles to drive, and the automotive industry will be playing its part to

reduce emissions in line with Australia’s commitment to decarbonise,” said Mr Kett.

Tesla and the Electric Vehicle Council, who also attended the press conference, backed the plan.

Electric Vehicle Council chief executive Behyad Jafari said the announcement was “a great day for Australia”.

“Everyone wants these standards in place so we can get on with providing Australians with lower fuel bills and a greater choice of particularly the most efficient, the latest and greatest electric vehicles,” he said.

Tesla policy and business development boss Sam McLean, said nobody “had left with everything they wanted” in discussions with the government.

“This is a very moderate standard that takes Australia from being really last place in this transition to the middle of the pack,” he said.

He described the new plan as “a very solid compromise”.


Fatal flaws exposed in the Net Zero transition. What is to be done?

According to NSW’s Ausgrid, the most recent AEMO draft Integrated System Plan (ISP) for electricity supply will require $325 billion for transmission to meet Net Zero emissions by 2050.

Aside from blowing the lid on this element of Net Zero’s cost, the call for submissions on the draft ISP allowed a sliver of realism to be voiced.

Electricity suppliers, including the major generation businesses, (who are also beneficiaries of renewable energy subsidies), warned the government and its appointed advisers that their time-frame for closing down coal and most gas generators is impossible.

However, businesses have to work with the government and were understandably guarded in expressing their reservations:

AGL addressed a lack of adequate reserves

Alinta discussed ‘significant challenges’ and practical issues facing the transition

Delta stressed an absence of long-term storage is a risk to AEMO’s favoured path and ventured to say that coal generators must be retained

EnergyAustralia also discussed the need for more storage and for gas to counter the risks posed by intermittent renewables

According to Origin ‘the underlying generation pathway that incorporates key risks’ should be modelled to make it easier ‘to understand the implications for the transition should these risks not be addressed’

It was left to some independent submissions to fully specify the fatal flaws in the push to the energy ‘transition’ that is being orchestrated.

A comprehensive analysis by a group of 16 Independent engineers, scientists, and professionals minced no words in stating:

‘The transition of the NEM, which has been accelerating for several years, will lead to a collapse of system reliability should any more reliable baseload power generation be retired without prior implementation of the means to maintain proper positive dispatchable reserve margin under worst case conditions.’

23 years on from when renewable energy electricity generation was declared an infant in need of temporary nurturing, Australian governments (mainly the Commonwealth) are spending $16.5 billion a year in regulatory requirements and other subsidies favouring wind and solar generators. That is equivalent to one-third of spending on national Defence.

Unlike other government spending, there are no benefits accruing.

The subsidies to renewable energy (mainly wind and solar) are intentionally designed to force the replacement of low-cost, reliable coal and gas generators by high-cost alternatives. Accordingly, the costs they entail are far in excess of the measured regulatory costs.

The annual subsidies to renewable energy have more than doubled since the last year of the Morrison government, but it would be mistaken to exonerate the Coalition from participating in the damage. Morrison went to the 2019 Glasgow Climate Change conference with a ‘Net Zero’ pledge and the Coalition had previously done much to reverse course from the climate policy back-peddling that Tony Abbott had embarked upon – indeed, Abbott’s resistance to further harmful climate change policies was a major factor in the Liberal Party voting to replace him with Malcolm Turnbull.

In this respect, the Liberals were in a similar position to that of the UK Conservative Party, currently in power but expected to lose in a general election. Some UK Conservatives are having doubts about the wisdom of Net Zero, but the party’s policy is almost identical to that of the Labour Opposition. The Australian Liberals and Nationals are seeking to differentiate themselves by pursuing nuclear as an alternative low carbon emission policy, but this faces formidable opposition on spurious safety grounds as well as massive impediments from the regulatory framework which has been developed.

Commercial and regulatory reality will likely force some reversal of current policy stances. This is already evident with governments shifting to subsidise some coal plants that are adversely affected by the subsidies to their renewable energy competition and to create special exemptions for energy-intensive industries like nickel smelting.

However, an efficient energy policy requires a more radical change of course. Although Alexandra Marshall suggests the present lamentable course in energy and other policies stems from poor political leadership, the major parties’ policies are formulated by carefully researching what the voters want. As when they buy breakfast cereal, in the absence of a crisis, few voters put effort into reviewing all the options before them. At present, the dominant voter paradigm is: greenhouse gases bad; wind/solar clean and cheap.

Changing this is difficult in view of prevailing attitudes in the media and other institutional elites. Changing it also confronts a political establishment and a profession of bureaucrats that see no attraction in simply holding the ring for private enterprise to pursue Smithian economic prosperity, especially when there are obvious cracks to fill.

It is difficult to see a new political consensus focusing on competition policy and disengaging public business enterprises from political oversight which allowed an efficient energy industry structure to be created. For the Labor Party, this would mean a return to an ahistorical Hawke-Keating belief in market capitalism. For the Coalition, it would mean politicians seeking to implement notions that they presently regard as window dressing.

More likely is Australian policy being re-formed by overseas developments.

Already Europe is seeing a backlash against socialist interventions in national elections, which are likely to be reinforced in EU-wide elections in June. But it would take a Trump victory in November to bring about an early change. A Trump Administration would abruptly reverse the many energy subsidy programs in the Biden Administration’s misleadingly named Inflation Reduction Act as well as abrogating the Paris Agreement on climate change. Australia and the rest of the world will have to follow this.

Even so, this will not be easy for Australia where regulatory inertia rules. Restoring a sensible energy policy will entail longer-term measures that dislodge the many agencies – regulatory and propagandatory – that live off the public purse. Immediate-term measures will require:

Removal of all subsidies

Defunding of many government agencies (under Gillard/Rudd, the CSIRO used to claim that half its programs were global warming oriented)

Requirements on banks, finance houses, and superannuation funds to cease discriminatory energy policies

Reform of planning laws that embrace climate change in evaluating development proposals

Use of the State Grants Commission to prevent state governments from using climate (and other environment policies) to penalise productive activities

This is a formidable program for the handful of politicians, with – unlike the Hawke-Keating government – no bureaucratic support favouring the dismantling of the economy-throttling measures on which they have built their careers.


"COVID Revisited" Conference to Shed Light on Australia's Pandemic Response

Almost four years since the pandemic began, COVID-19 continues to leave its mark on Australia, affecting healthcare and society in general. While the vaccines offered some degree of protection, controversies remain around the pandemic response. These include a case brought against pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna and calls seeking transparency from the Australian government about its pandemic measures. TrialSite has reported before on Australian analysts challenging the pandemic narrative driven by the government.

To discuss the lessons learned and examine past challenges, the Australian Medical Professionals’ Society (AMPS) is organizing a conference named “COVID Revisited: Lessons Learned, Challenges Faced, and the Road Ahead.” The event aims to provide a platform from which to discuss the government’s decisions during the pandemic and policies to guide future responses.

As time passes, the controversies surrounding the lockdown measures and vaccine mandates in Australia seem to intensify. TrialSite previously reported on a legal case filed against Pfizer and Moderna in the Federal Court of Australia accusing them of lacking transparency regarding alleged DNA contaminants and GMOs in their vaccines. This case was filed by Dr. Julian Fidge and handled by lawyer Katie Ashby-Koppens and former barrister Julian Gillespie.

Providing an update in a February 2024 Substack article, Gillespie explained that the presiding judge, Hon Helen Mary Joan Rofe, had at the time delayed a final decision on the defendant's application for a case dismissal. However, on March 1, 2024, Rofe dismissed Fidge’s lawsuit against Pfizer and Moderna. For the time being, this ruling has put a halt to any likely legal challenges gaining traction against the mRNA vaccines.

We also reported in February 2024 that Australians were demanding a COVID-19 Royal Commission to investigate the vaccine mandates and pandemic measures implemented in the country. Ashby-Koppens was among those calling for this Royal Commission. According to Gillespie, the Senate Terms of Reference Committee is currently deliberating this.

Despite Rofe’s ruling, the critics are not backing down. With the AMPS’s conference looking to help people learn and discuss better ways to handle future pandemics through the “COVID Revisited” program and the ongoing process at the Senate Terms of Reference committee, the critics believe that the upcoming conference “reflects the Australian people's wish for a review of the government response to COVID-19.”

The “COVID Revisited” conference

The conference is scheduled for April 2, 2024, and will take place in the State Library NSW Auditorium. According to AMPS, top medical and academic professionals from around the world will be in attendance, with the event garnering support from notable organizations like the National Institute of Integrative Medicine (NIIM), Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM), World of Wellness International (WOW) and Children’s Health Defense Australia Chapter (CHD).

Speaking about the conference’s mission, AMPS secretary Kara Thomas stated, "Our mission is clear. We aim to generate tangible policy recommendations that substantially influence the management of future pandemic crisis situations."

Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy, one of the speakers, provided insights into the event’s structure and its focus on examining the government's handling of the COVID-19 response. “This symposium is structured to reflect the collective views of those involved in this response,” Clancy said, “with a particular focus on lessons learned as to mistakes made and how best to go forward with the best plan to handle health challenges of similar ill when next encountered.”

He further stated, “Presentations from professionals covering these disciplines will be followed by an interactive workshop with an expert panel charged with identifying outcomes. The day will conclude with a reception allowing informal discussion amongst participants and attendees. A book including presentations and outcomes will be published.”

According to AMPS, the conference will produce a set of well-defined resolutions, to be shared widely with practitioners, public health authorities and government bodies. These resolutions will identify practical measures to ensure safe and effective responses. In doing so, they aim to reduce mishandling in crisis management that could potentially compromise Australians’ health.

Another speaker, Professor Philip Morris, highlights the offerings attendees can expect: “deep-dive sessions into key aspects of pandemic response, insights from top-notch experts in the medical and public health fields, interactive workshops fostering collaboration and idea exchange, networking opportunities with like-minded professionals and access to cutting-edge research and best practices”

Who are the speakers?

One of the keynote speakers at this event is a retired nurse, John Campbell. Campbell is based in the UK and has a YouTube channel with over three million subscribers where he shares about COVID-19-related topics. The conference will be divided into three sessions.

Progress achieved and challenges faced during the pandemic

The Australian government’s pandemic measures yielded a mixed set of outcomes. The Financial Times reported that while Australia’s initial zero-COVID strategy showed positive results in containing the virus, some critics argued that it was too strict with potential adverse economic implications.

The government’s actions included closing international borders to non-residents and, at times, restricting internal state border crossings. Widespread testing and contact tracing enabled authorities to suppress community transmission and by June 2021, Australia had recorded low COVID-19 case numbers compared to other countries.

However, these actions by the government had some negative impact on businesses and families, as business owners complained that the lockdown lingered for too long. According to a Lancet study, the Australian government was accused of discriminatory travel restrictions against specific countries, leaving many Australians stranded abroad for long periods. Moreover, as new variants emerged, maintaining zero-COVID became increasingly difficult. The Australian authorities then shifted their focus to pushing vaccination campaigns and moved from their zero-COVID policy in September 2021.

A call for investigations and open dialogue

The safety of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and the Australian government’s response to the pandemic are still being discussed in the Australian medical community. While critics like Gillespie are challenging pharmaceutical giants and calling for transparency, the AMPS has created a platform for open dialogue to discuss policies that will help guide future pandemic responses.

By bringing together experts and stakeholders, the upcoming conference aims to shed light on the lessons learned, address ongoing concerns, and chart a path forward for better preparedness.




Tuesday, March 26, 2024

‘Starving, extreme pain’: Young mum’s ‘inhumane’ treatment at Queensland hospital laid bare

The joys of government healthcare. I once had a similar painful problem: kidney stones. I took a taxi to my usual private hospital and was on the operating table within hours. The woman below could have got similar treatment if Queensland Health fired some of its many bureaucrats and redirected the funds into employing more doctors and nursesTorrens University pushes private sector path to higher education targets

Australia’s only for-profit university is besting its sandstone rivals in taking on more Aboriginal, female and poorer students, as its chancellor warns the nation will fail to meet the goals of a landmark review into higher education if doesn’t embrace a new model of private universities.

Torrens University chancellor Jim Varghese said the targets set out in the recent Universities Accord report – that 80 per cent of the population aged 25 to 34 should have at least a tertiary qualification and 55 per cent should have a university degree by 2050 – would not be possible with public institutions alone.

He has called for a shake-up of the tertiary sector, which has been dominated by government-funded institutions, arguing that without competitive private alternatives there will not be enough places. The Accord report estimates an additional 940,000 Commonwealth supported places will be required to reach the university attainment goal by 2050.

“It is not possible unless you get the private sector actively involved,” Mr Varghese said.

“Unless you have a private higher education sector working hand in glove in competition, it will become very bureaucratic, very difficult and we won’t reach that very ambitious and laudable target.”

As Australia’s only for-profit higher education institution with university status reaches its 10-year anniversary, a new Deloitte report has found Torrens University was already leading the way on the access and equity goals set out in the Accord’s final report ­released last month.

The report found 25 per cent of its students were from disadvantaged backgrounds, compared to 12 per cent of Group of Eight universities; 19 per cent were from regional areas, compared to 9 per cent at the Go8; and 3 per cent were Indigenous, compared to 1 per cent at sandstone universities.

It also found that Torrens ­University – which is owned by US company Strategic Education – had added $468.9m in value to the Australian economy and supported more than 3000 jobs, all without any investment from the government.

Torrens University president Linda Brown said it was the nation’s fastest-growing university, expanding from 165 to 24,000 students in a decade, and had built its brand by scrapping the requirement for an entry score, attracting non-traditional students and ­offering flexible study options.

She said the university also focused on offering degrees in high demand areas including health, nursing, hospitality, education and business, and was becoming a leader in artificial intelligence. “I believe that we should be allowing investors to invest in universities, all universities – people should be able to raise private money for public good,” she said.

“I also believe that individuals should put their hand in their pocket because they’re getting the return on investment and the ­benefit for that, so there should be more individual investment,” Ms Brown added. “And there should be government investment … one plus one plus one is much better than relying on funding from one source for 90 per cent of the market.”

Ms Brown said Torrens had attracted international students from 150 nationalities, warning Labor’s crackdown on student visa holders using the pathway to work rather than study could harm the nation’s reputation.

“We will manage whatever is coming, but this uncertainty or drip feeding of changes is not great for our reputation as a country for being open for business for international students,” she said.


Submissions for Draft Legislation on Homeschooling

From Left-wing unions

Submissions are closing on proposed legislation changes to Homeschooling.

On the 6th of March proposed homeschooling legislation was tabled in the Queensland state Parliament. You can read the bill here.

Qld statistics show the increase in the last 5 years


Parents see an issue with the current curriculum, which is why families are choosing to homeschool. Government needs to look at the reason why there has been an almost 300% increase in home-schooling, not try to stamp it out.

The main points of concern are:

Homeschooling families must use the National Curriculum and it will require homeschool educators to report on all subject areas in the curriculum.

There is concerning wording in the legislation

(da)for chapter 9, part 5, home education of a child or young person should be provided in a way that —

(i)is in the best interests of the child or young person taking into account their safety and wellbeing; and

(ii)ensures the child or young person receives a high-quality education;

Who decides what is in the best interest of our own children?

If this bill passes in its current form, it will no longer be the parents who look after the best interest of their children, but unelected bureaucrats under the thumb of the governments and their corporate controllers.

Any legislation which takes the rights and decision away from the parents, is a direct attack on our freedoms and aimed at creating an environment in which the government has control over our families.

Via email


Net overseas migration likely to surpass 375,000 by June, experts and Coalition say

Immigration experts and the Coalition have warned Australia is not on track to cut the net overseas migration (NOM) number to 375,000 by June 30 under current policy conditions, with questions raised over whether the government will need to further tighten rules around international students or begin targeting other temporary visa holders like working holiday makers.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures last week showing the NOM had totalled 548,000 in the year to September 30, prompting backlash from the opposition, which accused the government of running a “big Australia” policy.

But Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the figures did not capture the many policies Labor had introduced to curb the NOM to 375,000 by June.

Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan warned the NOM target was getting progressively out of reach.

“The Australians who are struggling to find a place to live or pay the rent want to hear a commitment from the Albanese government that they will meet expectations and cut NOM to 375,000 this financial year,” he said.

“They still have no answer to the question: where will all these people live?”

According to Coalition analysis, to reduce the NOM to 375,000 by June, the government would need to ensure NOM was no more than 76,600 over the remaining three-quarters in the 2023-24 financial year.

Figures also showed a total of 2,214,695 temporary visa holders in Australia as of January 31, not counting tourist and crew visa-holders, representing a reduction of 3.23 per cent since September.

The Coalition estimates that to meet the NOM estimate, there will need to be a reduction of 27 per cent by the end of the 2023-24 financial year.

A spokesman for Ms O’Neil said the migration data recorded so far was in line with all expectations, indicating confidence the government would reduce the NOM to 375,000 by June.

“This data does not capture the measures the government has introduced to get migration back down to sustainable levels and restore integrity to our international education sector,” the spokesman said.

Former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration, Abul Rizvi, said he would be surprised if the government curbed NOM at the rate it hoped to, arguing the figure would be more like “400,000 to 500,000” by the middle of the year.

He noted student visa holders – which are significantly driving up NOM – totalled 571,000 by January 24 while net student arrivals in February 24 were over 147,000.

“Total students in Australia (is) likely over 700,000 for the first time in … history,” he said in a post on X.


Canberra to blame for gas shortfall: developer

A looming gas shortfall that threatens to curtail industries and derail Australia’s energy transition is the fault of 10 successive government interventions, the Gina Rinehart-backed Senex Energy has declared, and now the country has little time left to fix the mess.

Australia faces a looming gas shortage which could emerge as soon as next winter, and while there are marginal supply boosts that can be implemented, authorities said the chasm would be impossible to bridge by 2028 without urgent new supplies.

Should new supplies not be brought online, large industries that rely on gas are likely to face a battle for survival and Australia’s energy transition away from coal could be scuppered.

Senex Energy, half-owned by mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, said the difficulties were a direct consequence of governments intervening to pick winners – though there is now a gradual acceptance that gas is vital and will be required for decades to come.

Chief executive Ian Davies said Labor and its state counterparts would need to show “unambiguous and unequivocal support” for gas.

“Something needs to change – and quickly – before the warning bells turn to a death knell for industry and lights out for households,” Mr Davies will say in an industry speech in Sydney on Tuesday. “Unrelenting gas market intervention has created this mess and it’s time for effective energy policy to get us out.”

The comments will heighten pressure on Labor, which insists it understands and appreciates the value of the gas while taking steps to bolster domestic supplies.

Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen last week said the shortfall estimates for gas had been delayed by two years, though the gas industry insists the lack of progress in improving the regulatory landscape and exclusion of the sector from key energy security policies is indicative of the government’s support for gas.

Sharpening his attack, Mr Davies said there has been sustained talk but there continued to be little actual progress.

“Following the most recent Energy and Climate Change Ministerial Council Meeting, ministers announced ‘a more robust assessment of gas market conditions and better integration of demand-side opportunities’.

“But no amount of further assessment and analysis is going to fix the problem. What we need are policies that will ensure investment in new supply and result in gas being produced.”

Mr Davies said urgent and real action was needed, the most obvious of which should be speeding up approvals of projects.

Senex submitted an application for environmental approval for its $1bn expansion 500 days ago, Mr Davies will say – which he will label “legislative bureaucracy.”

Senex has struck supply agreements with big gas users, but ongoing delays threaten the timetable.

Labor has committed to streamlining approvals for resource projects but Mr Davies will declare there is no time to waste.

“The longer approvals take, the more profound the shortfall risk becomes – not to mention the risk to manufacturing jobs and the energy transition. And the more expensive the development becomes. To date, approval delays have increased the cost of Senex’s project by more than $150m and counting,” Mr Davies will say. “We remain unwavering in our commitment to the domestic market, but it’s fair to say ongoing approval delays are making it increasingly difficult to deliver the critical gas supply Australian manufacturers and households so desperately need.”

Labor is expected to tweak legislation governing environmental approvals in a bid to accelerate the progress, but Mr Davies will tell the federal Labor government to change the way it consults all stakeholders.

“That means doing more than secret ‘lock-ups’ under punitive non-disclosure agreements with select industry groups and no formal consultation papers or regulatory impact statement,” Mr Davies will say.

“The original (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation) Act took the best part of a decade to create. It was formed co-operatively with state governments and through extensive public consultation. Fast forward nearly 25 years and the Albanese government wants to replace it with a new Act in less than 18 months with secret and selective micro-consultation.”

Recent government consultation has seen those included required to sign non-disclosure agreements, which blocks participants from discussion of potential legislation changes.

While the onshore gas industry, which services the needs of domestic customers, continues to wait for the legislative amendments the country’s offshore resource sector has secured a win.

Labor on Tuesday moved an amendment that would allow Resources Minister Madeleine King the power to define what hurdles new offshore gas projects must clear before securing approval.

The change is seen as limiting the capacity of environmentalists to mount legal challenges against new LNG projects.

The decision follows a spate of legal victories by environmentalists that have delayed mega projects, including Santos’s $5.3bn Barossa LNG development and Woodside’s $16.5bn Scarborough project.