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Tag Archives: Andrew Bolt

Freedom to speak badly: one rule for protestors, another for Andrew Bolt?

Andrew Bolt’s racial vilification case and the government’s subsequent hasty threat to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act has placed ‘freedom of speech’ at the forefront of political debate. But its importance is always overlooked, or shunned, when it’s those of the Left side of politics who are exercising it. The media’s response to March in March rallies is an obvious case, writes Jennifer Wilson.

Image: heraldsun.com.au

Image: heraldsun.com.au

Peter van Onselen (pictured) devotes almost an entire page in the Australian this morning (paywalled. sorry) to complaining about the “unedifying” display of bad manners by some protestors who took part in the March in March rallies, comparing them with the infamously abusive banners held aloft by the three hundred or so activists who took part Alan Jones’s 2011 Convoy of no Confidence against Julia Gillard and her Labor government.

I would appreciate someone drawing up a comparison of the two situations, given my impression that the number of participants in the Jones rally carrying offensive placards constituted a far greater percentage of the whole than those in the March in March rallies.

As van Onselen concedes, in the Jones protest virulent expressions of rage and hatred were legitimised by the presence of leading politicians photographed under the placards. No such validation took place of the relatively few offensive banners on display during March in March.

“Calling a conservative a fascist and portraying his image to replicate Hitler is deliberately designed to undermine their ideological positioning in the same way that calling a woman a ‘bitch’ or ‘witch’ carries clear sexist intent,”  van Onselen states, in his comparison of the two situations.

I would not so readily presume an equivalence between sexist intent, and the desire to critique, albeit with a degree of hyperbole, an ideology. Sexism attacks the woman for nothing other than being a woman. Describing Abbott as “fascist” in no way attacks his gender, and is merely commentary on the manner in which he is perceived to enact his conservatism.

Placards claiming that the Abbott government is “illegitimate” are not abusive, offensive or threatening, rather they are simply wrong, and likely being employed as payback for the years of the LNP opposition equally inaccurately describing the Gillard government as “illegitimate.” What is apparent is that there are hot heads and wrong heads on both the conservative and Labor side of politics. This should not come as a surprise to anyone.

Along with Tim Wilson, Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom, (I’m sorry, I don’t know what that title means) van Onselen is disturbed not at the exercise of freedom of speech demonstrated by both rallies, but at the ill-mannered, impolite, potentially violent and “irresponsible” speech used by a small number of participants in their signage. A similar rabid element is guilty of foully derailing many otherwise useful Twitter discussions, claims van Onselen, quite rightly in some instances, though there are sensitive souls renowned for “rage quitting” Twitter when they confuse disagreement with abuse.

Van Onselen and Wilson’s desire to see public speech free from offensive, insulting and at times threatening expression is shared by many people, but quite how to achieve that remains a mystery. Bad speech must be countered by good speech, Wilson has asserted, however, taking the case of Andrew Bolt as an example, it’s difficult to see how someone with a large public platform such as Bolt, or fellow shock jocks Alan Jones, or Ray Hadley can be challenged by the people they offend and insult, who rarely have an equivalent public platform from which to counter their attacker’s bad speech with good. It is for this reason we have legislation intended to protect people from racial vilification, for example, the very legislation Mr Wilson is now intent on seeing repealed, as he believes it interferes with the absolute freedom of speech he appears to favour.

I can see Wilson’s point, however, as long as there are more powerful enunciators of bad speech with large platforms than there are good, perhaps we need other precautionary measures.

I couldn’t help but wonder, as I read the article, what van Onselen and Wilson would make of public demonstrations in other countries, Mexico perhaps, where I witnessed protests in which politicians were represented by enormous papier-mache figures with grossly exaggerated sexual organs, accompanied by banners that claimed they f*cked both dogs and their mothers and ate children. Nobody saw any cause for offence. Compared to such robust expression, the complaints seem rather prim.

Amusingly, van Onselen concludes his article with the reminder that “Protest is as an important part of democracy as are institutions designed to uphold democracy, but only when practised within the spirit of Australia’s well established political structure.” I am completely unable to see how any of the offensive signage fails to fit in with that spirit. Australian politics have, for the last few years and most certainly during Gillard’s entire term of office, been such that one would think twice before taking school children to witness Question Time, and I really don’t know who van Onselen thinks he is kidding.

The ongoing discourse about how we should conduct our discourse is unlikely to change anything. Van Onselen’s piece appears to make the claim that those who offend middle-class sensitivities undermine the more moderate message and concerns of mainstream protestors, and destroy their credibility. This may well be the case, but only because people such as van Onselen make it so, opportunistically denigrating the whole on the basis of the actions of a very few.

It is not possible to eradicate voices some consider undesirable from public expression. Otherwise we would not have to put up with the Bolts. A sign held aloft at a demonstration cannot do one tiny fraction of the harm done by Bolt, Jones and the like. If we are to conduct serious conversations about how public discourse influences attitudes and behaviours, surely we must start by interrogating the enunciations of those with the furthest reach.

This article was first published on Jennifer’s blog No Place For Sheep and has been reproduced with permission.

Fred Phelp’s son: I understand why people are happy my father died.


Author’s Note

This is a repost of a piece I wrote around six months ago. I am re posting because of the death of the evil person who was the catalyst for writing it. Also because of the current interest in the proposed changes by Attorney General George Brandis to Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. For those who are vitally interested in this subject I would first like to recommend you read two other points of view on the subject.

The first is by guest writer for The AIMN, T J Curtis who argues that we have sufficient free speech. The second is by Daniel Ward who argues that there should be no limits to free speech. That if people want to make fools of themselves then then they should be given ample opportunity to do so.

Both are scholarly and wonderfully articulated. In fact one could easily agree with either.

I think mine differs in so much as it is more an earthy expression of experiences relating to the subject. In any case it is a debate of many voices.
free speech2

“We will never truly understand the effect Free Speech has on an individual until we have suffered from the abuse of it” (John Lord).

Free Speech or Licensed Abuse

Most Australians would never have heard of the Westboro Baptist Church. It is a church of hate that is anti-almost everything socially progressive. However it saves its most vitriolic and vile hatred for gay people, Catholics and Jews. On a regular basis they picket the funerals of gay service men. Although they don’t limit themselves to gays.

In fact, WBC members say that “God’s hatred is one of His holy attributes” and that their picketing is a form of preaching to a “doomed” country unable to hear their message in any other way.

In 2011 they picketed the funeral of Matthew Synder with placards like “Thank God for dead soldiers”,” You’re Going to Hell,” “God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11,” and one that combined the U.S. Marine Corps motto, Semper Fi, with a slur against gay men. The fact that Matthew was not gay was irrelevant because the churches founder and homophobic Pastor Phelps believes that God is killing American soldiers as punishment for the nation’s sinful policies.

Now Matthew’s father Albert took exception to this malevolent behavior by a Christian Church. After all he was suffering the realisation that is every parent’s nightmare: The death of a loved child. And the personal grief must have been an ordeal in itself, let alone the added agony that these protests evoked.

So he sued Phelps and the church for intentionally inflicting emotional distress. He won $11 million at trial, later reduced by a judge to $5 million. The federal appeals court in Richmond, threw out the verdict and said the Constitution shielded the church members from liability. The Supreme Court agreed saying that ”A grieving father’s pain over mocking protests at his Marine son’s funeral must yield to First Amendment protections for free speech”.

All but one justice (8 to 1) sided with the fundamentalist church that has stirred outrage with raucous demonstrations contending God is punishing the military for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.

Some extracts and views from the judgement.

Chief Justice John Roberts said in his opinion for the court, protects “Even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”

The ruling, though, was in line with many earlier court decisions that said the First Amendment exists to protect robust debate on public issues and free expression, no matter how distasteful. A year ago, the justices struck down a federal ban on videos that show graphic violence against animals. In 1988, the court unanimously overturned a verdict for the Rev. Jerry Falwell in his libel lawsuit against Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt over a raunchy parody ad.

Justice Samuel Alito, the lone dissenter, said Snyder wanted only to bury his son in peace.

“Instead, Alito said, the protesters “brutally attacked” Matthew Snyder to attract public attention. Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case”, he said.

“Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and – as it did here – inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker”.

Roberts said of Snyder’s reaction, at a news conference in York, Pa.:

“My first thought was, eight justices don’t have the common sense God gave a goat.” He added, “We found out today we can no longer bury our dead in this country with dignity.”

But Roberts said the frequency of the protests – and the church’s practice of demonstrating against Catholics, Jews and many other groups – is an indication that Phelps and his flock were not mounting a personal attack against Snyder but expressing deeply held views on public topics.

While distancing themselves from the church’s message, media organisations, including The Associated Press, urged the court to side with the Phelps family because of concerns that a victory for Snyder could erode speech rights.

He said it was possible he would have to pay the Phelps’s around $100,000, which they are seeking in legal fees, since he lost the lawsuit. The money would, in effect, finance more of the same activity he fought against, Snyder said.

I have been following the frequent outlandish behavior of this church and its leader for some time now and I often shudder at its evilness. I also wonder at what inclines judges to make these sorts of judgments and I also despair at the elevated prominence free speech plays in making them. And how human dignity can be devalued to such utter unimportance. I am shaken by the insensitive calmness of those seeking to uphold the right to free speech.

On Q&A this week I watched George Brandis try to make a case for free speech by saying that we should be judged by what we allow people to say rather than by what we don’t. How simplistic. That people should have the right to insult, harass, humiliate or offend simply because it is their right to freedom of expression is alarming. And they need to be protected by law in doing so. This is why we endure the likes of News Ltd, Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones.

What is missing here is not the individual’s right to free speech, but the way in which he/she does so. If we live in a collective (society) then what does the individual owe to the collective? In the same way that labour comes before capital, collective rights and freedoms must come before the individual’s right to free speech. And the individual’s right not to be abused by free speech surpasses the individual’s right to use it. Maggie Thatcher is famous for her statement; “There is no such thing as society. There are only individuals making their way. The poor shall be looked after by the drip down effect of the rich” (Paraphrased)

This of course is completely wrong because the individual cannot exist outside of the collective and its morals and ethics. Therefore, for the collective to work harmoniously individuals must be constrained by the ethics of truth and decency otherwise free speech is not really free speech. It is no more than licensed hate.

In Australia (and by comparison the USA) the pedlars of verbal violence and dishonesty are the most vigorous defenders of free speech because it gives their vitriolic nonsense legitimacy. With the use of free speech, the bigots and hate-mongers seek to influence those in the community who are susceptible or like-minded.

The original intent of free speech was to give a voice to the oppressed and to keep governments honest. In the United States, the first amendment is now used as a justification to incite racism, validate hatred and promote both religious and political bigotry. In a democracy the right to free speech is given by the people through the parliament. However it is impossible to legislate decency.

Therefore, it should be incumbent on people to display decorum, moderation, truth, fact, balance, reason, tolerance, civility and respect for the other point of view.

After all the dignity of the individual (or individuals) within the collective is more important than some fools right to use freedom of speech to vilify another.

Springtime for Abbott and Processing!

Image from mamamia.com.au

Image from mamamia.com.au

A term that originated on Usenet, Godwin’s Law states that as an online argument grows longer and more heated, it becomes increasingly likely that somebody will bring up Adolf Hitler or the Nazis. When such an event occurs, the person guilty of invoking Godwin’s Law has effectively forfieted (sic) the argument.”

Urban Dictionary.

A few days ago, I rather facetiously suggested that journalists could be rounded up as “illegal immigrants” and sent to Manus Island or Nauru if they asked too many difficult questions. Someone suggested that I should remember Godwin’s Law, and that I shouldn’t be comparing Abbott and the current front bench to Nazis, because once someone started evoking the Nazis, then one has lost the argument. (Actually, Godwin’s concept was that comparisons to Hitler and the Nazis frequently trivialised what they had done when compared to what was under discussion. For example, whether you believe speed cameras are revenue raisers or a safety measure, you can hardly compare their use to the Gestapo.)

Even though I wasn’t actually comparing Abbott and the Keystone Cabinet to the Third Reich, the comment did get me thinking. Yes, it’s true that people draw parallels with Nazi Germany far too frequently and that we certainly enjoy much greater freedom in Australia. Although the VLAD laws and certainly anti-terrorism laws lack the safeguards that would prevent me using them – should I become Prime Minister or Premier – to lock up Andrew Bolt and Tony Abbott. And anyone who objected to me locking them up.

However, I find the idea that we have nothing to worry about because the Nazis ended by exterminating several million people rather naive. We should always remember that the Final Solution was the Final Solution. It wasn’t where they started. And, while I believe that we won’t end up with death camps where we exterminate large numbers of people, I think that it’s wise to step back and look at what one is arguing.

One of my enduring memories was a man being interviewed on the radio at the time that Howard announced the restrictions on gun ownership after the Port Arthur Massacre. This person had been objecting to the proposals as a knee-jerk reaction and assuring the listeners that gun-owners were a responsible law-abiding group and that there was no reason to impose greater control on these people. Criminals and law-breakers would still obtain their guns illegally, so why punish these fine citizens who could be trusted. (So far, so good!) But then the interviewer mentioned that John Howard was going to tour country areas to explain his government’s position. At this point, the “responsible” gun-owner suggested that Howard shouldn’t come to his area because there was a lot of anger and there was no guarantee he’d be safe!! Mm, so can be trusted to only use guns appropriately, except when someone has made them very, very angry . . .

And recently, we’ve had a lot of similar stuff about the military. On one hand, we accept that they’re human beings who may occasionally stray. Stories of bullying, rituals, bastardisation, and sexual misconduct have all appeared in the media in recent years, yet when some people who are “attempting to break Australian law” accuse them of misconduct, we’re told that they’re just claims and if somebody makes a claim, there’s no need to investigate it unless we have evidence. Normally claims are investigated in order to discover if there is any evidence, but this seems to have been changed to a system where the proof needs to established before anyone looks into it – this principle should make police work a lot simpler. “Unless you bring us some forensic evidence that your house WAS broken into, we’re not going to open a file on your so-called burglary.”

Now I’m not making a judgement on the guilt or innocence in the burning hand claims. I’m merely trying to ascertain how one can dismiss an accusation so quickly. But the Liberals have been good at that. As Alex Downer argued when the AWB scandal was uncovered, he’d heard the rumours about bribes and corruption, but when he asked the AWB if they were true, the AWB said that they weren’t involved in bribes and corruption, so what more can you do.

And now we have the Liberals demanding Senator Conroy be sacked for suggesting that Angus Campbell was involved in a political cover-up. For those of you who don’t remember exactly what Conroy said.

Senator Conroy – It is a movie, and we’re living it, Colonel Jessup. I mean seriously, you can’t tell us the truth, you can’t tell the Australian public the truth because you might upset an international neighbour. That’s called a political cover-up,” 

General Campbell – Senator, I feel I’ve explained the basis of my decisions

Senator Conroy – That’s a political cover-up. You’re engaged in a political cover up.

Now, apparently General Campbell was “extremely offended” by the comments. And Michaela Cash stormed out. For those of you don’t know or who’ve forgotten Senator Cash click here.

And someone commented the other day that Conroy shouldn’t go into any bars where ADF personnel are drinking. I don’t see why not. Then, for some reason, I remembered the interview with the responsible gun-owner.

Yes, we’ve entered a world where ADF personnel can’t be questioned or criticised, where we’re meant to adopt an Anzac Day/Remembrance Day attitude to the defence force all year round. We should just remember their sacrifices, be grateful and remember that they’re the ones in the front line in this war to protect our “sovereign borders”! This is not the time to show disrespect to our servicemen (and women).

So, to sum it all up.

  • We can’t compare anyone to the Nazis until they’ve killed six million, and that the argument that it was their ability to offer people up as scapegoats and to place the military above criticism that enabled them to do that isn’t something worth considering.
  • Defence personnel never do anything wrong and it would be dangerous to suggest to any of them that they do.
  • People have a right to free speech and people don’t have the right not to be offended, but only when we’re taking about racism or sexism. Journalists, for example, should be allowed to publish incorrect information without giving people the right of reply. However, when an elected Senator suggest that a general who refuses to give answers to a Senate committee is involved in a political cover-up, the general has a right to be offended and the Senator should be punished in some way.
  • Tempting though it is, if elected to be supreme leader of Australia, I should repeal the laws that enable me to lock up Bolt, Abbott and company without trial rather than use them, because if I go down that path, I can hardly be surprised if others do even worse, when they gain power. Safeguards are needed for the powerless; the powerful find ways of persecuting their enemies anyway.

FYI – Mike Godwin, of Godwin’s Law, has apparently tweeted that comparing Australia’s asylum seeker policy to the Nazis is not a trivialising comparison at all. I have not verified this so I’m only reporting rumour. If I’m not careful and continue to do such things, I’ll be a Canberra based political journalist working for a mainstream newspaper.

Tracking Abbott’s Wrecking Ball and Broken Promises

Image by theaimn.com

Image by theaimn.com

Sally McManus is the Secretary of the Australian Services Union in NSW and the ACT.

She has been a campaigner and an organiser for more than 20 years and spends a lot of time doing and talking about organising and campaigning. Her blog is a comprehensive list of policy and other decisions taken by the Abbott Government. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the entire list (although I have no reason to doubt it) but I recommend it to those with an interest in how Tony Abbott intends changing Australia.

This is the list thus far and it is updated regularly:

86. Privatises the 104 year old Australian Valuation Office costing nearly 200 jobs – 24 January 2014
85. Seeks to wind back the World Heritage listing of Tasmania’s forests – 23 January 2014
84. Withdraws funding for an early intervention program to help vulnerable young people – 22 January 2014
83. Defunds all international environmental programs, the International Labour Organisation and cuts funding to a range of international aid programs run by NGOs such as Save the Children, Oxfam, CARE Australia and Caritas – 18 January 2014
82. Violates Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty while turning back asylum seeker boats – 17 January 2014
81. Scraps weekly media briefings on asylum seeker issues in an attempt to avoid public and media scrutiny – 14 January 2014
80. Politicises the national school curriculum by appointing a former Liberal staffer and a Coalition supporter, both critics of the current curriculum to conduct a review – 10 January 2014.
79. Directs that people already found to be refugees who arrived by boat be given the lowest priority for family reunion – 8 January 2014
78. Fails to contradict or take any action against a member of his government, Senator Cory Bernardi, who makes divisive statements about: abortion, “non-traditional” families and their children, same sex couples, couples who use IVF and calls for parts of WorkChoices to be reintroduced – 6 January 2014
77. Devastates Australia’s contribution to overseas aid by cutting $4.5 billion from the budget, causing vital programs supporting those in extreme poverty in our region to collapse – 1 January 2014
76. Drastically reduces tax breaks for small business and fails to publicise it – 1 January 2014
75. Refuses to support jobs at SPC at the cost of hundreds of jobs – 27 December 2013
74. Appoints Tim Wilson, a Liberal Party member and Policy Director of a right-wing think tank to the position of Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission even though this think tank argued for the Commission to be abolished – 23 December 2013
73. Approves private health fund premium increases of an average 6.2% a year – 23 December 2013
72. Fails to provide the promised customs vessel to monitor whaling operations in the Southern Ocean – 23 December 2013
71. Requests the delisting of World Heritage status for Tasmanian forests – 21 December 2013
70. Drastically dilutes consumer protections and transparency requirements for financial planners, including abolishing the requirement they put their clients interests first – 20 December 2013
69. Scraps the Home Energy Saver Scheme which helps struggling low income households cut their electricity bills – 17 December 2013
68. Defunds the Public Interest Advocacy Centre whose objectives are to work for a fair, just and democratic society by taking up legal cases public interest issues – 17 December 2013
67. Defunds the Environmental Defenders Office which is a network of community legal centres providing free advice on environmental law – 17 December 2013
66. Axes funding for animal welfare – 17 December 2013
65. Abolishes the AusAID graduate program costing 38 jobs – 17 December 2013
64. Cuts Indigenous legal services by $13.4 million. This includes $3.5 million from front line domestic violence support services, defunding the National legal service and abolishing all policy and law reform positions across the country – 17 December 2013
63. Abolishes the position of co-ordinator-general for remote indigenous services – 17 December 2013
62. Changes name of NDIS “launch sites” to “trial sites” and flags cuts to funding – 17 December 2013
61. Abolishes the National Office for Live Music along with the live music ambassadors – 17 December 2013
60. Cuts $2.5 million from community radio – 17 December 2013
59. Weakened the ministerial code of conduct to let ministers keep shares in companies – 16 December 2013
58. Disbands the independent Immigration Health Advisory Group for asylum seekers – 16 December 2013
57. Axes $4.5 million from charities and community groups for the Building Multicultural Communities Program – 13 December 2013
56. Starts dismantling Australia’s world leading marine protection system – 13 December 2013
55. Scraps the COAG Standing Council on Environment and Water – 13 December 2013
54. Breaks its NBN election promise of giving all Australians access to 25 megabits per second download speeds by 2016 – 12 December 2013
53. Overturns the “critically endangered” listing of the Murray Darling Basin – 11 December 2013
52. Dares Holden to leave Australia. Holden announces closure which costs Australian workers 50 000 jobs – 11 December 2013
51. Approves Clive Palmer’s mega coal mine in the Galilee Basin which opponents say will severely damage Great Barrier Reef – 11 December 2013
50. Demands that the few childcare workers who got pay rises “hand them back” – 10 December 2013
49. Approves the largest coal port in the world in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area – 10 December 2013
48. Removes the community’s right to challenge decisions where the government has ignored expert advice on threatened species impacts – 9 December 2013
47. Downgrades national environment laws by giving approval powers to state premiers – 9 December 2013
46. Undermines Australia’s democracy by signing a free trade agreement with South Korea allowing corporations to sue the Australian Government – 6 December 2013
45. Damages our diplomatic relationship with our nearest neighbour East Timor – 5 December 2013
44. Repeals the pokie reform legislation achieved in the last parliament to combat problem gambling – 4 December 2013
43. Suspends the Wage Connect program, despite it being proven to deliver good outcomes for unemployed people – 3 December 2013
42. Axes funding to the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, forcing the 46 year old organisation to close – 27 November 2013
41. Back-flips twice on Gonski, reversing a commitment to a ‘unity ticket’ and failing to deliver equitable education funding – 25 November 2013
40. Shifts Australia’s position at the UN on Israeli settlements – 25 November 2013
39. Damages our diplomatic relationship with the Indonesian Government by refusing to apologise for tapping the phones of their President, his wife and senior Government officials – 23 November 2013
38. Converts crucial Start-Up Scholarships into loans, increasing the debt of 80,000 higher education students by $1.2 billion – 21 November 2013
37. Gifts two navy patrol boats to the Sri Lankan government to stop asylum seekers fleeing the Sri Lankan government – 17 November 2013
36. Introduces a Bill to impose on workers who are elected onto unpaid union committees huge financial penalties and jail terms for breeches of new compliance obligations – 14 November 2013
35. Condones torture by foreign governments by saying “sometimes in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen” – 14 November 2013
34. Hides information from the Parliament and the people about the government’s treatment of asylum seekers – 13 November 2013
33. Separates a refugee mother from her newborn baby – 10 November 2013
32. Cuts 600 jobs at the CSIRO – 8 November 2013
31. Abolishes Insurance Reform Advisory Group which provided a forum for industry and consumer bodies to discuss insurance industry reform – 8 November 2013
30. Abolishes the Maritime Workforce Development Forum which was an industry body working to build a sustainable skills base for the maritime industry – 8 November 2013
29. Abolishes the High Speed Rail Advisory Group whose job it was to advise Governments on the next steps on implementing high speed rail for eastern Australia – 8 November 2013
28. Abolishes the Advisory Panel on the Marketing in Australia of Infant Formula which for 21 years monitored compliance of industry to agreements on marketing infant formula – 8 November 2013
27. Abolishes the Antarctic Animal Ethics Committee who ensured research on animals in the Antarctic complies with Australian standards – 8 November 2013
26. Abolished the National Steering Committee on Corporate Wrongdoing that for 21 years worked to make sure the law was effectively enforced on corporate criminals – 8 November 2013
25. Abolishes the National Inter-country Adoption Advisory Council which provided expert advice on overseas adoption – 8 November 2013
24. Abolishes International Legal Services Advisory Council which was responsible for working to improve the international performance of Australia’s legal services – 8 November 2013
23. Abolishes the Commonwealth Firearms Advisory Council a group of experts in gun crime and firearms which was set up after the Port Arthur massacre – 8 November 2013
22. Abolishes Australian Animals Welfare Advisory Committee a diverse group of experts advising the Agriculture Minister on animal welfare issues – 8 November 2013
21. Abolishes the National Housing Supply Council which provided data and expert advice on housing demand, supply and affordability – 8 November 2013
20. Abolishes the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing, established to help address the challenges the country faces as the number of older Australians grows – 8 November 2013
19. Refuses to offer support to manufacturing in Tasmania, despite requests and warnings. Caterpillar announces the move of 200 jobs from Burnie to Thailand, costing around 1000 local jobs – 5 November 2013
18. Provides $2.2 million legal aid for farmers and miners to fight native title claims – 1 November 2013
17. Abolishes the 40 year old AusAID costing hundreds of jobs – 1 November 2013
16. Launches a successful High Court which strikes down the ACT Marriage Equality laws invalidating the marriages of many people and ensuring discrimination against same-sex couples continues – 23 October 2013
15. Denies there is a link between climate change and more severe bush fires and accuses a senior UN official was “talking through their hat” – 23 October 2013
14. Appoints the head of the Business Council of Australia to a “Commission of Audit” to recommend cuts to public spending – 22 October 2013
13. Cuts compensation to the victims of bushfires – 21 October 2013
12. Instructs public servants and detention centre staff to call asylum seekers “illegals” – 20 October 2013
11. Appoints Howard era Australian Building & Construction Commission (ABCC) Director to help reinstate the ABCC with all its previous oppressive powers over construction workers – 17 October 2013
10. Axes the Major Cities Unit a Government agency with 10 staff which provided expert advice on urban issues in our 18 biggest cities – 24 September 2013
9. Fails to “stop the boats”. Hides the boats instead – 23 September 2013
8. Scraps the Social Inclusion Board, which had been established to guide policy on the reduction of poverty in Australia – 19 September 2013
7. Abolishes the Climate Commission – 19 September 2013
6. Appoints himself Minister for Women – 16 September 2013
5. Appoints only one woman into his cabinet and blames the women for his decision, saying he appoints “on merit”– 16 September 2013
4. Abolishes key ministerial positions of climate change and science – 16 September 2013
3. Breaks his promise to spend his first week with an Aboriginal community –
14 September 2012
2. Takes away pay rises for childcare workers – 13 September 2013
1. Takes away pay rises from aged care workers – 13 September 2013

If you haven’t read Dickens, you’re not qualified to teach Chemistry!


“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Benjamin Franklin. (Often attributed to Albert Einstein who was quoting Franklin)

A few years ago there was a suggestion that the number of novels that Victorian Year 12 English students could be reduced by one. There was an outcry, and the proposal was dropped.

Andrew Bolt was particularly scathing about the idea that students be allowed to study a film or a play, instead of a novel, and he devoted a whole article to how we would be losing our culture if the study of Shakespeare was no longer mandated in Year 12 English. I sent him a comment – which he never published, of course – where I pointed out that Shakespeare had only ever been compulsory in Year 12 Literature, and that was several years ago. And where I made the rather important point that Shakepeare actually wrote plays and sonnetts, not novels.

Whether not studying Dickens and the Classics actually destroys civilisation as we know it, however, is a debate for another time. I just bring this up because the Bolt example is fairly typical of what happens when non-educators start talking about the education system. It’s not that I don’t think that they have a right to make input, it’s just that their input needs to be balanced against what actually happens in schools, and what anyone with any experience in education can predict about particular proposals. Take, the recent NSW suggestion to make Maths compulsory in Year 12.

Ok, I’m sure that the first reaction of a large number of people is that we need to improve our Maths skills, so this is a damn fine idea. So before we continue, I’d like to ask a simple question.

maths question

Right. I’ve just divided you into two classes of people. There are those, who are can answer that and those who can’t.

If you can, I suspect you probably think that compulsory maths is a good idea. If you can’t, you’re probably thinking either it isn’t a good idea, or why are you asking me for, I’m not going to do Year 12?

To those who can answer, I would like to say that I value your opinion, and I’ll respect it even more, if you spend six weeks trying to explain trigonometry to the kids who wanted to drop Maths at the end of Year 10.

The trouble with suggestions such as making Maths compulsory to the end of Year 12 is that very little thought is given to the actuality of doing something like this. Granted, there are a number of students who lack numeracy skills when they leave school, but another year or two of Maths isn’t going to improve them, unless there’s a totally different approach to the one that failed to give them adequate numeracy skills in the eleven years of school that they’d already completed.

While I was a teacher, I spent a number of years where I was responsible for students making a change to the subjects studied at senior level. Every year towards the end of first semester, I would have at least one conversation that went something like this:

“I want to drop Maths and pick up something else?”


“I’m failing miserably. I’ve never been any good at Maths.”

“Then why did you pick it?”

“My parents thought I should keep my options open.”

At this point I was always tempted to ask how parents thought that failing Maths at Year 11 was keeping one’s options open. Or did they think that suddenly the student would decide that a career as an engineer was suddenly a better option than one of the areas where this student was actually demonstrating a skill. (As an aside, I actually remember a parent ringing me when their son had just dropped Business Management. “English, Music, Drama? Where’s the potential career in that?” Given that the father HAD signed the permission form for the change of subject, I don’t know what he wanted me to say. Anyway, every time I read an article or see the son on TV, I think that he seems to have worked out a better career path than if he’d done Accounting, Business Management and Maths. We’re not all the same!)

So how exposing these kids to another year or two of maths is expected to improve the numeracy skills of the nation is meant to work, I don’t know. The vast majority of students who are a competent at Maths continue with it. In my entire teaching career, I never heard any kid say that they wished they’d continued with their maths, but I heard plenty say that they didn’t know why they did.

As for the logistics…

How, when they already have a shortage of maths teachers, do they intend to staff the extra classes?

But I guess problems with numeracy isn’t just limited to the general population!

Not Another Post About Climate Change!!!


How many Andrew Bolts does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: None, because it’s daytime and the past few hours have been getting lighter. There’s no proof of the need for lightbulb change, and besides, what difference would changing one lightbulb make. There’s no need to change a lightbulb until everyone else does!

On Friday, I wrote a response to John McLean’s article in “The Age” in which he questioned the IPCC. If you read the response, you’ll note that I raised questions about the funding of the “International Climate Science Coalition” and whether, when one looks at its core values, one can really say that they are scientific in nature. I also made the point that the arguments used by many who wish to dispute climate change had a very similar ring to the arguments used by the tobacco industry in the 1950s. At no point did I suggest a link between the tobacco industry and the “International Climate Science Coalition”.

As a humble blogger, I was surprised to receive the attention of both the writer of the article and the executive director of the “Coalition” within a couple of hours. The writer of the article used all his skills of persuasion to counter my arguments:

“What a pathetic piece from Rossleigh. Such attention to detail! The Age spells my surname correctly but Rossleigh gets it wrong despite the bio extract from The Age. Now let me see if I understand Rossleigh’s correctly … I think the claim is that I am wrong because I am a member of a certain coalition that can, with some contortions, be linked to the legal defence of tobacco companies. Hmmm … surely if Rossleigh figured that my claims about the IPCC, UNFCCC and others were wrong then surely those errors would have been discussed here instead of the pathetic ad hominem attack.

“I provide my URL so that any who is interested (and somehow I doubt that many people who haunt this blog will) can read my other documents including the unheard of action of a scientific journal not allowing authors the right of reply.”

I also provide Mr McLean’s URL.

Mr Harris, the executive director also seemed to think that, while it was entirely reasonable to question the motives and funding of climate sciencists, to question his organisation shouldn’t be allowed, and that it was an “ad hominem” attack. (Can questioning an organisation be an “ad hominem” attack? I’ll let the pedants work that one out.) He made a number of comments – apparently he doesn’t have anything better to do – but among them was this:

Kaye Lee, you have not answered my charge:

“Please show us exactly where it has been demonstrated that a large majority of climate experts who study the causes of climate change agree that: human produced carbon dioxide emissions is causing, or will in the foreseeable future cause, dangerous global warming (and other deliterious climate change).”

The reason no one properly demonstrates this is because the idea of consensus on this topic among these people is an urban legend and of no merit what-so-ever.

To which I replied:


Note: it does only say “very likely” because scientists often remain circumspect about possibilities. They establish hypotheses which can be disproved. They do not have “core principles” which begin with conclusions such as we find on the ICSC website.

Of course, that site was not “evidence”, because as he put it:

http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus is simply a statement by an official government body, rossleighbrisbane. Neither it, nor the sources they cite “demonstrate that a large majority of climate experts who study the causes of climate change agree that: human produced carbon dioxide emissions is causing, or will in the foreseeable future cause, dangerous global warming (and other deliterious climate change).”

Now, part of me would like to encourage you to have a look at the site and make up your own mind. But, then I know that any source one finds on the internet can be countered with another source. Or the figures disputed. And, let’s not forget that while Harris demands that one finds information to back this “urban myth”, he also concludes that it doesn’t have “any merit what-so-ever. (sic)”. So one could waste an enormous amount of time attempting to prove that the majority of climate scientists generally agree, only to be told that it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re right.

Particularly if you start from the point that we must not trust the government or climate scientists, who are accused of indulging in rhetoric without regard to facts. On the other hand, in an article co-authored with Dr Tim Ball, Harris asserts:

Coal-fired electricity must be replaced with “clean energy” to save the climate, they still say. This approach completely disregards what happened in Europe when that approach was tried: economies collapsed and people froze to death, driven into poverty by unmanageable energy bills.

And here I was blaming the GFC for the economies of Europe collapsing!

Of course, the thing that is becoming more and more obvious is that the climate deniers always try to set the terms of the “debate”. For example, unless you can prove that a majority of climate scientists agree we need to do nothing, or unless you can prove that acting now on climate change will make any difference, we might as well wait. Or show us what China’s doing! And why are you kicking that way, when the goal posts have been shifted?

But as with smoking – and I’m not drawing any links between the Heartland Institute and tobacco here – it really doesn’t matter who believes what. In the end, it was found to be harmful. (Perhaps, some may argue that the science isn’t conclusive here either!)  If you’d given up smoking when the first reports came out you’d probably have lived longer. I say probably before someone points out Uncle Fred gave up smoking and two days later got hit by a truck!.

It’s difficult not to allow the important questions to be sidetracked. What does the evidence suggest? What are the potential consequences of taking action? What are the potential consequences of inaction? What needs to be done?

In Australia, in the debate over the ETS, Abbott said that it would be better to have a simple tax. When Labor introduced a carbon tax, suddenly Direct Action is better. No wonder many people started to switch off and decide the whole thing was too hard.

And for those of you wondering about the “Direct INaction Plan”. Here’s the latest. Direct Action.

When You Have Advisers Like Newman Why Would You Need Scientists?

Image from thehoopla.com.au

Image from thehoopla.com.au

In The Australian newspaper December 31 (otherwise known as the official newsletter of the LNP) there appeared an article by the Prime Minister’s business adviser Maurice Newman. Creditable broadsheets would not have given it a column inch but that’s Murdoch for you. What follows is lying at its most blatant.

In one of those rare moments I have momentarily found myself lost for words so I have decided to rely on the commentary of others with the final word left to Malcolm Turnbull.

THE unprecedented cost of energy driven by the renewable energy target and the carbon tax had destroyed the nation’s competitiveness, Tony Abbott’s chief business adviser has declared.
Maurice Newman also says climate change policies driven by “scientific delusion” have been a major factor in the collapse of Australia’s manufacturing sector. “The Australian dollar and industrial relations policies are blamed,” Mr Newman said. “But, for some manufacturers, the strong dollar has been a benefit, while high relative wages have long been a feature of the Australian industrial landscape.”
In an interview, Mr Newman said protection of climate change policies and the renewable energy industry by various state governments smacked of a “cover-up”.
He said an upcoming review of the renewable energy target must include examination of claims made in federal parliament that millions of dollars were being paid to renewable energy projects that allegedly did not meet planning guidelines. Mr Newman’s comments follow those of Dow Chemicals chairman and chief executive Andrew Liveris, who said Australia was losing its natural advantage of abundant and cheap energy.
“As far as new investments go, our primary energy sources of natural gas and electricity are now or will soon become negatives to any comparative calculation,” Mr Liveris said.
“Average prices of electricity have doubled in most states in recent years and the unprecedented contraction in consumption threatens a ‘death spiral’ in which falling consumption pushes up prices even further, causing further falls in consumption,” he said.
Mr Newman said Australia had become “hostage to climate-change madness”. “And for all the propaganda about ‘green employment’, Australia seems to be living the European experience, where, for every ‘green’ job created, two to three jobs are lost in the real economy,” he said.
“The scientific delusion, the religion behind the climate crusade, is crumbling. Global temperatures have gone nowhere for 17 years. Now, credible German scientists claim that ‘the global temperature will drop until 2100 to a value corresponding to the little ice age of 1870’.”
Mr Newman said the climate change establishment, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, remained “intent on exploiting the masses and extracting more money”.
“When necessary, the IPCC resorts to dishonesty and deceit,” he said.
In Australia, Mr Newman said, Victorian Democratic Labour Party senator John Madigan had told parliament how politicians and bureaucrats were paying tens of millions of dollars annually to wind turbine operators that had not received final planning approval.
“It could be hundreds of millions of dollars and we have a government that is keen to rein in the budget deficit,” he said. “If you can save a million dollars that should never have been spent, we should be doing it.”
Senator Madigan said the issuing of renewable energy certificates to one of the non-compliant wind farms, at Waubra in Victoria, reflected “a culture of noncompliance arising from systematic regulatory failure that impacts every wind farm in Victoria”.
He said the issue involved “the pain and suffering of little people living in rural Australia, environmental damage, fraud on a grand scale, deception, lies and concealment”.
The clean energy regulator has defended the decision to allow the Waubra wind farm to receive renewable energy certificates.
Mr Newman’s comments came as the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission revealed that in the 18 months since the carbon tax commenced, it had received 3132 complaints and inquiries in relation to carbon price matters.

Richard Dennis of the Australia Institute had this to say:

Another day, another Big Lie. Today the PM’s chief business adviser says that the carbon price is what has harmed manufacturing and … wait for it that the record high exchange rate has been a benefit! Like all Big Lies this one is so audacious it’s hard to undo in a FB post but, let’s start with a) energy accounts for than 5 per cent of expenses for most manufacturers b) the energy intensive industries got 94.5 per cent of their pollution permits for free c) the biggest source of energy price increases was ‘poles and wires’ not the carbon price d) for exporters, an exchange rate appreciation of over 40 percent thanks to the mining boom was a bit bigger deal than a small carbon price for which they got compensated…but, as Goebels said, if you are going to tell a lie tell a big one!

The Labor shadow minister responded with this press statement:




Tony Abbott’s chief business advisor Maurice Newman has embarrassed Australia by calling the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ‘deceitful and dishonest’ in an opinion piece published in today’s The Australian.

“These extraordinary comments from one of Tony Abbott’s closest advisors prove the Coalition is not serious about taking action on climate change and does not accept the overwhelming evidence of a changing climate,” Acting Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water Shayne Neumann said.

“The Prime Minister must ask Mr Newman to withdraw his comments which damage Australia’s relationships with its trading partners, all of whom accept that climate change is real and are taking steps to reduce carbon pollution.”

“Australia is now a laughing stock for being the first country to unravel effective climate change policy, going backwards while the rest of the world is taking steps forward,” Mr Neumann said.

Maurice Newman also said the ‘scientific delusion, the religion behind the climate crusade, is crumbling’ and that 97 per cent of the world’s scientists who have revealed evidence of a warming climate and its effects were ‘wrong’.

“I’m not sure what qualifies Mr Newman to make such outrageous claims. He is not a scientist.

“The worst part about Mr Newman’s ignorant comments is that he’s only voicing what we know Tony Abbott thinks about climate change.

“The Prime Minister is not serious about taking action on climate change, which is why he and Greg Hunt have not made any attempt to develop effective climate change policy.”

Labor knows climate change is real and knows the time to take action is now. It seems Tony Abbott, Greg Hunt and Mr Newman are the only ones who don’t know that.

What Malcolm Turnbull thinks.

Abbott’s climate change policy is bullshit

While a shadow minister, Tony Abbott, was never afraid of speaking bluntly in a manner that was at odds with Coalition policy.
So as I am a humble backbencher I am sure he won’t complain if I tell a few home truths about the farce that the Coalition’s policy, of lack of policy, on climate change has descended into.

First, lets get this straight. You cannot cut emissions without a cost. To replace dirty coal fired power stations with cleaner gas fired ones, or renewables like wind let alone nuclear power or even coal fired power with carbon capture and storage is all going to cost money.
To get farmers to change the way they manage their land, or plant trees and vegetation all costs money.
Somebody has to pay.

So any suggestion that you can dramatically cut emissions without any cost is, to use a favourite term of Mr Abbott, “bullshit.” Moreover he knows it.

The whole argument for an emissions trading scheme as opposed to cutting emissions via a carbon tax or simply by regulation is that it is cheaper – in other words electricity prices will rise by less to achieve the same level of emission reductions.
The term you will see used for this is “least cost abatement”.

It is not possible to criticise the new Coalition policy on climate change because it does not exist. Mr Abbott apparently knows what he is against, but not what he is for.

Second, as we are being blunt, the fact is that Tony and the people who put him in his job do not want to do anything about climate change. They do not believe in human caused global warming. As Tony observed on one occasion “climate change is crap” or if you consider his mentor, Senator Minchin, the world is not warming, its cooling and the climate change issue is part of a vast left wing conspiracy to deindustrialise the world.

Now politics is about conviction and a commitment to carry out those convictions. The Liberal Party is currently led by people whose conviction on climate change is that it is “crap” and you don’t need to do anything about it. Any policy that is announced will simply be a con, an environmental figleaf to cover a determination to do nothing. After all, as Nick Minchin observed, in his view the majority of the Party Room do not believe in human caused global warming at all. I disagree with that assessment, but many people in the community will be excused for thinking the leadership ballot proved him right.
Remember Nick Minchin’s defense of the Howard Government’s ETS was that the Government was panicked by the polls and therefore didn’t really mean it.

Tony himself has in just four or five months publicly advocated the blocking of the ETS, the passing of the ETS, the amending of the ETS and if the amendments were satisfactory passing it, and now the blocking of it.

His only redeeming virtue in this remarkable lack of conviction is that every time he announced a new position to me he would preface it with “Mate, mate, I know I am a bit of a weather vane on this, but…..”

Third, there is a major issue of integrity at stake here and Liberals should reflect very deeply on it. We have an Opposition whose current leadership dismisses the Howard Government’s ETS policy as being just a political ploy. We have an Opposition Leader who has in the space of a few months held every possible position on the issue, each one contradicting the position he expressed earlier. And finally we have an Opposition which negotiated amendments to the Rudd Government’s ETS, then reached agreement on those amendments and then, a week later, reneged on the agreement.

Many Liberals are rightly dismayed that on this vital issue of climate change we are not simply without a policy, without any prospect of having a credible policy but we are now without integrity. We have given our opponents the irrefutable, undeniable evidence that we cannot be trusted.

Not that anyone would doubt it, but I will be voting for the ETS legislation when it returns in February and if my colleagues have any sense they will do so as well.

This first appeared in former opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull’s blog.

Fruitcakes of a Feather


I have been on an interesting journey through the world of climate change denial and I would like to share some of my travel highlights with you.

I started with my favourite video of well- known climate change denier and world government alarmist, Lord Christopher Monckton (a must watch if you haven’t seen it).  He is the pin-up boy of the mining industry, a man whose “expert” opinion is often quoted by Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt.  The meeting is in the boardroom of the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, a free-market think-tank founded by west Australian mining magnate Ron Manners. Monckton explains how they need to control the media to achieve their goals.   Interestingly, not long after this meeting took place, Gina Rinehart bought $192 million worth of shares in Fairfax (the publisher of Brisbane Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and many regional newspapers and city-based radio stations) to take her share in the company to about 14 per cent.

Monckton applauds the work of Andrew Bolt, and also Joanne Codling who is better known by her stage name, Jo Nova, which she adopted in 1998 when she was preparing to host a children’s television program.  Jo Nova is married to David Evans and she and her husband joined Lord Monckton on a speaking tour in Australia in 2011.  The advertising for the tour describes Nova and Evans as “leading Australian scientists” who will, along with headliner Monckton, explain how “the carbon tax will bankrupt Australia” and show how “the science does not justify it.”

Let’s start with Monckton, the third Viscount of Benchley, a hereditary title in the United Kingdom. Contrary to Monckton’s claims, he is not a member of the House of Lords in the Parliament of Britain. In fact, when Monckton persisted with the lie, the House of Lords took the unprecedented step of publishing an open letter to him, demanding that he cease and desist.

Monckton is not a scientist. He has a degree in classics and a diploma in journalism.  Nevertheless, the Heartland Institute lists him as an expert with their organization, where they publish his posts on climate change. He is also a frequent speaker at the Institute’s annual International Conference on Climate Change.  He is listed as a “scientist” in American Senator Inhofe’s report claiming more than 1,000 scientists disputed there’s a scientific consensus on climate change.   He has TWICE been asked by Republicans to testify about climate change before committees of the U.S. Congress

Monckton is the Chief Policy Advisor to climate change denial lobby group Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI).  His bio on their site stated that:

“His contribution to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 – the correction of a table inserted by IPCC bureaucrats that had overstated tenfold the observed contribution of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets to sea-level rise – earned him the status of Nobel Peace Laureate. His Nobel prize pin, made of gold recovered from a physics experiment, was presented to him by the Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester, New York, USA”

When Christopher Monckton was challenged about this during a visit to Australia in early 2010 he conceded that “it was a joke, a joke” and “never meant to be taken seriously”. The Sydney Morning Herald noted that despite this, he had made the same claim with a “straight face” on the Alan Jones show one day prior, and the claim remained on the SPPI website until 2012.

He also describes himself as a “chief policy advisor” to former British PM Margaret Thatcher, and frequently introduces himself as her “chief science advisor” when interviewed by the conservative media.

Monckton has been quoted as saying “I gave her advice on science as well as other policy from 1982-1986, two years before the IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was founded”, that he was “the only one who knew any science” and that “it was I who – on the prime minister’s behalf – kept a weather eye on the official science advisers to the government, from the chief scientific adviser downward”.  Bob Ward in the Guardian investigated these claims and found them to be false.

Monckton claimed that he has developed a cure for Graves’ Disease, AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, the flu, and the common cold.  This is no joke–he actually filed an application to patent a “therapeutic treatment” in 2009.

I could go on and on, including when he dressed up in Arabian clothes and pretended to be a delegate from Myanmar at the UN climate change talks (from which he has since been permanently banned), or when he described Professor Ross Garnaut as a fascist and said in a German accent “Heil Hitler! on we go”, or his launch of the fringe political group Rise Up Australia, or when he threatened to sue the University of Tasmania, but I think you already get my drift on the credibility of this “expert”.

Moving on to Jo Nova.  Nova received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Western Australia majoring in micro and molecular biology. She also received a Graduate Certificate in Scientific Communication from the Australian National University in 1989, and went on to host children’s science shows.  She loves to do the denier shuffle on her blog but seems to not care at all about the validity of her sources.

Ms Nova’s husband David Evans “attended the University of Sydney for five years from 1979 where he did science and engineering, and then spent a further five years at Stanford University at Palo Alto in California, doing a PhD in electrical engineering”.  According to his biographical note, Evans rhetorically describes himself as a “Rocket Scientist”.  While Evans use of the term was rhetorical, one article on a website for the conspiracy-minded took it literally and headed an article about Evans claiming “Top Rocket Scientist: No Evidence CO2 Causes Global Warming”.

Evans has made a number of claims about the role of banking institutions throughout history and subscribes to the conspiracy theory that “climate change is merely a cover for a massive power play”.

I fail to see how these two could be described as “leading Australian scientists” or what their qualifications are to join the climate change denial talk circuit as experts.  This excellent article from Watching the Deniers details the claims made by Nova and Evans over the years.  And they call US alarmists! Paranoia anyone?

So who pays these people to present their “expert” views?  That trail leads to people like Gina Rinehart and Ron Manners, and groups like the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC), and the Galileo Movement.

The Galileo Movement was started by two retired men, one was formerly paid by mining companies and the other is a former engineer who owns an air-conditioning company.  They apparently formed with the express intention of stopping the carbon tax.  Alan Jones is their patron and the usual suspects are named as “expert advisers”, a list which until recently included Andrew Bolt. (When Bolt dumps you you KNOW you are out there.)

The Galileo Movement are advertising an upcoming talk by radio talkback personality John MacRae, a regular on Alan Jones show, about how banks and governments are ripping you off, and Malcolm Roberts, their project manager, who “will speak for 20 minutes on government abuse of taxpayer funding through corruption of climate science”.  It seems Roberts is also heavily embroiled in the banking conspiracy theory.

So my tour has really been a circle, revisiting the same places again and again.  Gina Rinehart, Lord Monckton, Andrew Bolt, Jo Nova, David Evans, Alan Jones, the Galileo Movement, Malcolm Roberts.  The resources that are being devoted to this misinformation campaign are formidable. The arguments go “round, like a circle in a spiral and a wheel within a wheel”.  Lies and obfuscation, cherry-picking data and repeating any claim regardless of its credibility or source.

The mad monk even appeared as a speaker with the even madder Monckton in Perth.  If these are the people that our current government goes to for climate change advice, Lord save us.  And I don’t mean the feathered loon variety.

Author’s note:  This is one of a series of articles looking at the people who advise Tony Abbott.  Others include AIMN articles, Who do you admire, Has anybody seen Tony’s envoy, Putting our First People last and Tony’s tame expert.

Should the Government ban The Greens?

A few years ago, the Howard Government introduced several anti-terrorism laws.

The Sedition Laws were strengthened. Now, sedition is one of those laws that is, like beauty and bias, very much in the eye of the beholder. (I think it’s worth pointing out that the most famous sedition cases in Australian history involved the Eureka Rebellion, and the Shearer’s Strike, both well over a hundred years ago.) To quote Greg Hunt’s authorative source, Wikipedia,

“Sedition is In lawsedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority”.

Some people expressed concern that, given our “war on terrorism” how exactly do you define the “enemy”, and the Australian laws could, therefore, be used to suppress legitimate criticism of the Australian Government. The response of the Howard Government was basically to assure us that we shouldn’t worry about the actual wording of the law, because we could trust them to use it “responsibly”. I argued at the time that not all future governments may be as trustworthy.

There were a number of amendments added a safeguard and, not being a lawyer, I can’t vouch for how strongly they protect the individual’s right to criticise the government. But from my limited legal knowledge, the safeguards use a similar “good faith” exemption to the Racial Vilification Laws.

When John Pilger made comments about the occupying forces in Iraq being “legitimate targets” for the Iraqi people, many people were outraged. While I’m sure that nobody in Iraq was expecting a surge in Iraqis joining the insurgents thanks to Pilger giving his permission, it was perceived by many that his comments bordered on sedition and there were suggestions that he could be charged.

Andrew Bolt had this to say about John Pilger while the debate raged.

On Wednesday Pilger appeared on ABC TV’s Lateline to promote his noxious views. This apologist for terrorists – this moral pygmy – is … welcomed into an ABC Studio and promoted by SBS …

Not all the enemies of our civilisation are Islamic or foreigners. Many are people we pay to defend our culture, but, we find, betray it instead.

— Sunday Herald Sun, 14 March 2004

And, of course, part of the concern of media organisations was that they could be considered guilty of sedition for simply reporting what someone had said. Bolt – it seems – supported the view that the ABC were equally enemies of the state for simply reporting Pilger’s views.

Sedition, however, wasn’t the only change implemented by Howard. ASIO were given permission to hold people for questioning without charge for a period of 48 hours if it believed that they were about to commit a terrorist act, or had information about a terrorist act. Without going through all tweaking of this detention power there are two important provisions that are still the case today. Not only are you not permitted to inform anyone of the details of your interview, but you are not allowed to inform anyone of your detention. Neither is your lawyer. No, not your family. Not your employer. Nobody. It is illegal.

Of course, this makes perfect sense when you imagine ASIO dealing with the person planning to commit a terrorist act. It may even make sense if you’re talking about their next door neighbour who have been interviewed by ASIO to find out if they’ve seen anything.

The trouble is that ASIO may not always be the organisation it is now. Just as the Howard Government was not going to go on forever, what if – as ridiculous as it sounds – a future government appointed lackeys to the head of ASIO and declared that certain political opponents were “the enemy”?

No, of course, it won’t happen. This isn’t the sort of thing that happens in a country like Australia. It happens in the sort of country where people are locked up without charge. (Oh, wait, that’s us now, but that’s ok because they’re coming to the country illegally!) But my point is that the only thing stopping it from happening is the fact that we all know that Tony Abbott won’t declare The Greens an illegal, seditious group any time soon.  The actual law enables a Government to “silence” it’s critics fairly easily.

Of course, the strange thing is that it’s not these laws that’s attrecting the attention of the IPA and complany. It’s the Racial Vilification law.

And exactly, who’s been detained or jailed under the Racial Vilification Laws? I can’t find any media story that records anything more than a fine, or a demand for a retraction of incorrect information.

Who’s been detained under the Anti-terrorism laws? Well, how would we know, unless the Government decides to tell us?


Anita Heiss: Am I Black Enough for You?

Anita Heiss (image from abc.net.au)

Anita Heiss (image from abc.net.au)

A crosspost from my blog Red Bluff Review.

This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013.

Anita Heiss is an Australian writer and proud Koori woman. Koori is a general term for the First Peoples (aka Aborigines or Indigenous) of New South Wales and Victoria.

Am I Black Enough For You? is a memoir interweaved with an account of a controversial racial vilification court case. It is ironic that the latter has spawned this book. We should be grateful to the Herald and Weekly Times’ political commentator and blogger, Andrew Bolt, that he has unwittingly enabled us to:

“…come to appreciate without criticism or concern, the diversity and complexity of Aboriginal identity in the twenty-first century, and that the power of self-identity and representation is a right we should all enjoy.”

Anita’s story is a window on what defines her identity. Family is central to her being; especially her parents – aboriginal mother Elsie and Austrian immigrant father Joe. You’ll have to read the book to discover the incredible people who make up the rest of her kin.

Her Aboriginality is solidly connected to country, namely Wiradjiri land. She also has strong links to Gadigal country through as a long-term Sydney resident. She is keen to point out that she is an urban dweller who is no fan of camping in the great outdoors.

Anita is definitely a 21st Century citizen of the world. She travels extensively both inside and outside Oz. She has most of the modern neuroses including concern about body image and a love of shopping (her Westfield Dreaming). Her personal and professional networks are huge, especially her “tiddas” [sisters]. Her support group includes a life coach. Her biggest hero is Oprah Winfrey whose “self-faith and optimism” get a big tick. In fact, at times this book feels a lot like a self-help tome. Her blog was an outcome of Oprah’s Oz visit in 2009. It is ‘largely about gratefulness – hers and others – but she also posts about things important to her including books, reading, literacy and Aboriginal arts and culture’.

Anita is not just an author of non-fiction, historical fiction, poetry and children’s books, she writes a sub-genre of ‘chit-lit’ (commercial women’s fiction), dubbed ‘choc-lit’ by one of her mates. She has been an academic – her PhD was in Media and Communication focusing on Aboriginal literature and publishing. Her ongoing interests include indigenous literacy and reconciliation.

Her experience as an activist and in social commentary certainly came in handy when Andrew Bolt decided to indulge in some of his own. On 15 April 2009 he penned a highly contentious newspaper article (It’s hip to be black) and blog post (White is the new black). Anita was one of several prominent people whom he accused of being “professional” aborigines who identify as such to help their careers. She joined a group who took legal action against Bolt and his publisher under Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act:

(1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:

(a) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and

(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.

It is the so-called ‘vilification’ section. Heiss describes Bolt as:

…an outspoken denier of climate change, the Stolen Generations[link added], and now, the right of for Aboriginal people to self-identity.

Many have gone a lot further in questioning his issues with race. Their case was upheld in September 2011 but has continued to be controversial. In fact, it is very topical at present as Australia’s new Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised before the recent election to repeal this section to “champion free speech”.

Moreover, the Attorney General, Senator Brandis, has made the very controversial appointment of Tim Wilson as ‘freedom’ commissioner at the Human Rights Commission (HRC). In his role at the right-wing think tank IPA (Institute of Public Affairs) Wilson has argued in the past not only to get rid of Section 18C but also to abolish the HRC itself. Free speech should make for some spirited discussions around the table there. He famously tweeted in 2011:

Anyway, there are plenty of views in Am I Black Enough for You? and Anita’s blog as well as elsewhere online. She sees it as being about “finding a balance between freedom of expression and racial discrimination” but there are plenty ready for an argument about that.

Despite the serious nature of the issues raised, this is a most readable and enjoyable book. Anita’s direct and open style, coupled with her sharp sense of humour, make her upbeat approach to life highly infectious.

By the way, my answer is Yes!

Please Leave My Aunty Alone Mr Murdoch

Image from abc.net.au

Image from abc.net.au

The alarm at 6am every morning awakens me to the ABC news. It has been that way for as long as I can remember. Before I retired I listened to AM on my way to work. I have an ipad now and what a remarkable instrument of technology it is. I read what attracts me on the ABC web site. Then I paste a couple of thoughts into Facebook, peruse THE AIMN and other blogs. Lastly I do a quick headline appraisal of the Fairfax, Murdoch press and some American sites.

My wife and I are avid viewers of the ABC. On the political front we watch Insiders, Media Watch, Q&A, 7.30 and The Drum. For News we are in the habit of watching Channel 10 5PM nightly news before switching to The Drum, ABC news at 7 and then 7.30.

From that you might conclude that I am biased toward the ABC. You would be correct. I am attracted to a lot of other ABC programs. There are flirtations with other channels such as Sevens Sunday News and programs that feature music or entertainment in particular.

I am attracted to the ABC for two reasons. Firstly in relation to News and Current Affairs it is unsurpassed. Be it the written word or visual media. Secondly their programing (in the main) avoids an American influence. I might even be the only Australian who has never watched an American sit com. I have been part of and watched the Americanisation of Australia all my life and frankly I detest it.

Oh sorry, there is a third. It’s called, an alternative. Let’s take a look at them. In my news reading my alternative is either the Murdoch Press or Fairfax. I was once an avid reader of The Age. Even to the point where to miss a day would result in me thinking that my day had been greatly devalued. It is no longer the world class paper it was. With writers like Henderson, Costello and Vanstone and the influence of the large lady, it has taken a turn to the right. The Herald Sun is Australia’s largest selling newspaper but to call it a newspaper is tantamount to calling a toilet roll a glossy magazine. Their top 10 stories usually includes 6 of a sporting nature.

Personally I think that all Murdoch newspapers are where the truth goes to die.

Similarly the visual media offers very little in quality balanced Current Affairs. There is Meet the Press (A News Ltd production.) Or The Bolt Report where his dreadful journalism is transformed into visual bile. Where even people like Henderson are taken aback by his blatantly loaded biased questions.

I haven’t mentioned talkback radio because where I live we don’t receive Melbourne radio. However, when we lived in Melbourne I listened to Jon Faine. Melbourne Radio is fortunately devoid of the hatred of the likes of Jones and Hadley.

In short I don’t always agree with what I read see or hear on the ABC but for me it is overwhelmingly the fairest and most balanced of all Australian mainstream media.

The ABC has periodically had to withstand attacks from individuals and vested interests. (I remember Keating and Hawke saying it was biased when it suited them.) None however as brazen as the current one. I have read many articles on the subject in support of the ABC. And they are to be commended for doing so.

However, none address motive.

This current attack was started by the Australian Newspaper (known in the trade as the official newsletter of the Liberal Party) a couple of weeks ago. It centred on a perceived bias the ABC allegedly has. Personally I struggle with that perception. Under their charter they are obliged to give a balanced view. Even when the force of evidence is heavily weighted to one side.

Fancy the most biased media outlet in Australia complaining about the bias of another.

At one stage they were so hysterical they were arguing that the ABC should not be promoting Twitter and Facebook on its on line sites while at the same time featuring a social media share button on every story on the page.

Then The Australian came into procession of a leaked document revealing the salaries of a number of ABC staff members and wet themselves with delight. They produced story after story about no one else’s business. In the end we found that collectively a few ABC employees got a combined annual salary equal to what Kyle Sandilands earns in one year.

In the last election the ABC gave limited coverage to the Labor Party in terms of policies where it could be argued that they were competent but battered them in terms of politics where they were abysmal. Climate change is another example of the Charter working against Labor. 98% of the world’s scientists say it is real yet the ABC has to give equal billing to those who say it is not. How silly is that?
I even take issue with the frequency of appearance of Peter Reith on The Drum. He must be the most nauseatingly biased former politician ever. And when Q&A can’t get enough right wing audience members they go to the Christian Hillsong Church for bums on seats.

The attack was quickly taken up by Bolt with cries of outrageous bias while at the same time ignoring his and his Masters behavior during the recent election. In Australian political history there has been nothing like the bias shown by the Murdoch Press. How is it possible to accuse the ABC of bias when two outlets own 85% of the print media and three of the four TV channels are commercial?

Unashamedly the attack was then taken up by the government. It accused the ABC of poor judgement in doing a joint story with The Guardian about phone tapping in Indonesia. Unprecedented were the words used to describe Tony Abbotts attack on the independent broadcaster. Others joined in. Cory Bernardi went on AM and to show their fairness the ABC gave him an undeserving 15 minutes of which Fran Bailey took the Tea Party sympathizer apart. The speaker Bronwyn Bishop had her say in the party room. Why was the speaker even involved in the debate if she is independent and unbiased? Malcolm Turnbull and Ian McDonald then followed suit.

So why all the dislike of Aunty? After all it is a much loved, trusted, and well run institution which in some areas is technologically streets ahead of its commercial rivals.

In fact it could be argued that Aunty is very much woven into the fabric of Australian culture.

Is it because conservatives don’t like successful public enterprises? Like the Clean Energy Finance Corp. It is making around $200 million a year. It got a stay of execution last Tuesday. What sort of Government would ditch a company making that sort of profit? Ideology gone mad I would suggest.

Bernardi insists that the ABC should take advertising. He seems to overlook the fact that it is the lack of revenue from this source that is killing print media. That and deplorable content. And he wants Aunty to also take a slice. On top of that he reckons we should pay for online content. When Fran Kelly asked if we should pay twice he didn’t answer. He did indicate though that there was virtue in commercial media because it was ‘’funded by advertising revenues”, while “the ABC is funded by the taxpayers”. Bernardi’s main gripe seemed to be that the ABC was encroaching on online media space again ignoring the fact that Aunty just happens to be light years ahead of the commercial outlets. And they don’t like that of course.

A recent study found that among Australian adults, 64 percent regard ABC radio programs as “good” while only 51 percent give a “good” rating to commercial radio. (The “bad” ratings are 11 percent for the ABC, 35 percent for commercial radio.) The contrast for television is even higher – 78 percent “good” for the ABC comparing with 44 percent for commercial stations.

Similar differences are found for trust. For coverage of the recent election campaign, the ABC was highly trusted, followed by the Fairfax media, and the Murdoch media came a very poor third.

The IPA (The right wing think tank) is influential in Coalition ranks and has the same aim as Murdoch. They both want to see the ABC defunded or commercialised. In doing so they want to eliminate what they see as left wing political bias and increase their own.

It is estimated that editorially Murdoch gave the conservatives about 30 million dollars’ worth of free advertising in the last election. Now he wants his pound of flesh. We have seen the first salvo shot at the ABC. I wonder what they will take aim at next.

As it stands the Prime Minister is making a mess of everything he touches at the moment so it may not be politicly astute to bury the ABC just yet but I’m sure it’s in his head to do so.

But I also think there will be an uprising when he tries it.

This statement by ABC Managing Director Mark Scott pretty much sums it up:

“We have come under concentrated attack from News Corp,” he said. “Some aspects seem quite obsessed by us and I think there are some who have an ideological opposition to public broadcasting. I think there are some who think they would make more money if the ABC wasn’t what it is today.”

To quote Amanda Meade of The Guardian:

With those remarks Scott got to the heart of the issue. The newspaper is ideologically opposed to a public broadcaster. It believes the ABC is taxpayer-funded competition for an already stretched commercial media, and has expanded far beyond its original remit with ABC Online, digital channels, a 24-hour news channel and an overseas channel, Australia Network, which should – News Corp believes – rightly be run by Sky News.

There are three areas of motive. The competition motive. The power motive or the ideological motive. One or all could be at play here but because Murdoch spends $25 million annually to prop up The Australian I think I will settle on a mixture of all three.

It is not often we see two entities, a government and a commercial news outlet the size of News Corp, combine to manufacture a reason for the demise of a government independent body.

Then again Tony owes him one.

Message Control

I think we all agree that Labor shot itself in the foot by using the media to broadcast their internal squabbles. Conceding that, far greater forces were at play.

The other seemingly obvious cause was Labor’s failure to get their message across. Their achievements in government were significant, their policies were vastly superior (in most cases), and their ministers, if not overly charismatic, were at least competent and knowledgeable in their portfolios.

We all watched with increasing concern as they allowed the Coalition, ably abetted by the Murdoch press, to dictate the message. Carbon pricing became a “lie” and a “toxic tax”. Rather than answering this campaign with the obvious advantages of carbon pricing in dealing with climate change, they went into defence mode and we now find the carbon tax being blamed for everything to do with the economy, investment, manufacturing, jobs and cost of living.

It doesn’t seem to matter that the economy has a AAA credit rating, that we have had record investment, and that the average household is $14 000 a year better off now than they were in 2007. It doesn’t seem to matter that, until very recently, the mainstream business community was behind carbon pricing. It doesn’t seem to matter what reasons businesses give for closing, we are told it’s the carbon tax. And even after the repeal of the carbon tax is underway, and we still see businesses closing, it’s still the fault of the carbon tax.

In an astonishing transformation, we saw Tony Abbott move from an attack dog to Prime Minister, from misogynist to Minister for Women, from telling Aborigines they should pick up rubbish to crowning himself Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

The Opposition had a strategy to keep the focus on the Government, to present a small target, to keep it simple and to exploit fear and populism. In other words, they controlled the message. They began the campaign with the infamous headless chook ad but when it was panned as childish and inappropriate they quickly morphed into the ‘adults’ carrying out a positive campaign warning us that Labor would get nasty.  Actually, looking back, the ‘negative’ ads from Labor were quite prophetic.

So the Coalition won, promising us transparency and accountability – no surprises.  They assumed they would be able to control the message in government as they had so successfully in opposition. Tony began by shutting the Indonesian press out of his first press conference on their soil. It did not go over well. His tough guy rhetoric for the domestic market has not been well received on the international stage.

His obsession with axing the tax might have done well for Tony here where he, along with people like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones, have convinced many people that climate change is crap. In the rest of the world his actions are being condemned and his rhetoric is being drowned out by the latest IPCC report and the growing commitment of other world leaders to take action on climate change.

In a further attempt to control the message, all interviews with Ministers have to be approved by the Prime Minister’s Office 24 hours prior to the interview. Scott Morrison is perfecting hiding the boats and Joe Hockey won’t tell us why the debt ceiling needs to be increased. Julie Bishop refuses to disclose details about any of her meetings with foreign leaders and the briefings from departments to the incoming government will not be released.

Newly appointed head of NBNco, former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski, has certainly changed his message from 2003 when Telstra told the Senate Committee that the copper network was at “5 minutes to midnight” to now, when he told them it is “robust”. He has also been instructed not to talk to the media.

Experienced public servants have been sacked in their droves and an ‘Independent’ review panels have been set up to look at … well … just about everything. The trouble is that these review panels are composed of ex-Liberals and businessmen who have already expressed very strong views about what they are supposed to be reviewing, and as they have only been given a few months to prepare their advice, they will not be consulting with other concerned bodies. I would suggest these panels have been selected because they already know the message they are supposed to give.

We have BHP advising on climate change, the BCA which represents banks and mining companies doing the Commission of Audit, the former head of the Commonwealth Bank reviewing the finance sector, and one of the fiercest critics of Labor’s NBN, columnist for The Australian Henry Ergas, on the three man panel to do a cost-benefit analysis of the NBN.

And now we having Tony Abbott’s speeches being airbrushed from history – or is it is lies being airbrushed from history? – and his ‘excuse’ for the back flip on school funding highlights what could best be described as a classic case of  ‘gaslighting’ (as pointed out by one of  The AIMN’s readers):

“We are going to keep the promise that we actually made, not the promise that some people thought that we made, or the promise that some people might have liked us to make”.

From Wikipedia: “Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity”. With the amount of message control we are being fed that certainly appears to be a technique of the Abbott Government.

Eric Hoffer once said “Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves”. With the growing reach of the fifth estate, it is becoming harder to control the message and there is little excuse for self-deception. However, we should remember that:

“If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.”

Thomas Sowell.

We need to put message control into the control of the right people.

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To have the right to set the political agenda


Earlier this week I posted this comment on Facebook:

“To claim that you have a policy mandate when almost half of the population voted against you is an absurdity”

When someone questioned as to why I felt the conservatives didn’t have a mandate, I followed up with this:

“If you called an election on one explicit policy and everyone knew that it was specifically about that policy and you won. I would say you had a mandate. When in an election there are a multitude of policies I hardly think everyone would agree with all that party’s policies. Even if you voted for that party. Therefore it is ludicrous to claim a mandate on every one of them.”

In a private message a person asked for more information. I was pressed to think more deeply. I looked up many dictionary and other mandate definitions. They all spoke in general terms about a mandate being the concept of a government having a legitimate mandate to govern via the fair winning of a democratic election as a central idea of representative democracy.

I couldn’t disagree with any of that. It was not how I had always interpreted what a mandate was. In fact I could find nothing supported my take on the subject. Then I came across this:

“Elections, especially ones with a large margin of victory, are often said to give the newly elected government or elected official an implicit mandate to put into effect certain policies”.

It was on this basis that I made my original statement and how I had always viewed the substance of a mandate. The last NSW election was a prime example of a mandate. An overwhelming victory in terms of numbers is a mandate.

But in essence the word ‘’Mandate’’ is not derived from any particular institution, doctrine, law or constitution. It may have its grounding in philosophy, history or political morality. In those rare moments where it is legitimate it is more to do with how governments govern rather than any authority to do so.

The final primary vote in the recent federal election was closer than first thought.

Recent analysis of the election result suggests that fifteen of the Coalition’s new seats are held on very thin margins. Eleven seats have margins of less than 4000 voters. In essence the election was a lot tighter than first thought. Effectively this means that it would only take about 30,000 people to change their vote to change the government.

It is therefore preposterous for the Prime Minister to claim a mandate to do anything other than govern. Prior to and during the election Labor’s policies were always irresistibly popular with the electorate. Essential polls and surveys showed that major reforms like Gonski, the NBN, NDIS, the carbon tax, gay marriage and others always had community support.

The contradiction was that people had no intention of voting Labor.

Yet even now, many weeks after the election these major reforms are being hotly debated. The Prime Minister is showing a complete disregard for science and is pretending he believes in climate change when he doesn’t. He is shunning the public’s will on the question of gay marriage.

Against public opinion he intends proceeding with his Luddite attitude on broadband. On top of that education and Disability Insurance are being downgraded.

Further complicating the notion of a mandate is a contradiction in terms. The House of review, the Senate has never recognised so called mandates instead usually acting in the interests of a minority party holding the balance of power. Therefore, a mandate cannot be a mandate unless it is honored by the Senate which is highly unlikely.

There is also the argument that if oppositions receive a sizable vote they too have received a mandate from their electors.

I think it is fairly conclusive that Labor did not lose the election because of policy unpopularity. On the contrary, their policies were so popular the conservatives (in the absence of policies of their own) adopted many of them.

Labor lost the election for two reasons. Firstly because there was a perception of dysfunction. And secondly because Murdoch ordered it so.

In winning the election the conservatives have the right to set the political agenda. They do not have a mandate to do any more.

New governments who attempt to introduce policies that they did not make public during an election campaign are said to not have a legitimate mandate to implement such policies.

Here is a list of policy direction from the LNP so far. Decide for yourself if they have an overwhelming mandate:

  • The abandonment of a market based carbon reduction scheme that is working in favour of a more expensive less effective Direct Action scheme. The abandonment of Australia’s responsibilities in not sending a minister to the UN Climate Summit.
  • The abolition of a science ministry and the general downgrading of science and its importance to society. Including the sacking of 1500 scientists from the CSIRO.
  • An Orwellian approach to asylum seeker policy that has led to a conspiracy of silence taking away the people’s right to be informed. And in doing so debasing foreign policy along the way.
  • Taking up a more expensive and slower broadband infrastructure project in spite of the people’s demonstrable desire for a fibre solution.
  • Despite majority public support for equality in marriage. A High Court challenge is issued immediately after the ACT passes legalisation. And they said it wasn’t a priority.
  • The downgrading of women in government. We have fewer female ministers than Afghanistan.
  • The possibility of selling of University HECS debt.
  • The repeal of the so-called Bolt laws pertaining to the Racial Discrimination Act. One wonders who he will target first.
  • The taking from the less well-off in society to give superannuation breaks to the better-off and to finance a Parental Leave scheme for women on large incomes.
  • The immoral withdrawal of overseas aid that will affect the lives of many thousands of children.
  • The public was, according to all the polls and surveys during the election campaign greatly in favour of education reform and the introduction of an NDIS. Now the government is talking of downgrading both.

There are probably many more policy directions yet to be announced by the Abbott Government. But these will suffice for now.

The question remains: What is a mandate? Well you decide. For me it is only legitimate when all cards are on the table and the party who wins, wins with such a majority that its mandate cannot be denied. And in those rare moments where it is legitimate it is more to do with how governments govern rather than any authority to do so.

Politics – The Week That Was

parl house

The reality of political conservatism is now well and truly with us. A three year journey of rule by an ideology that believes in privilege over altruistic necessity has begun. It must be said however, that the conservatives won the election and are perfectly entitled to govern.

Tony Abbott once said that ‘’oppositions oppose”. A statement I found to be intellectually barren. Oppositions also have a responsibility to the people and the common good and should act in a bi partisan manner when necessary. They should also hold the government to account for its actions and policies in the stoutest way possible.

Writers of the left (particularly bloggers) also have similar responsibilities. I have wondered since the election what I will write about for the next three years. I have concluded that it is also my duty to hold the government to account. To see to it that the Government governs honestly and transparently and that the media reports news rather than opinion in the guise of propaganda.

Now a week is a long time in politics. Take this week for example we had . . . Well let’s look at them individually and in no particular order as the talent show host would say.

Guess who’s coming to dinner.

Earlier in the week we were advised that the Prime Minister was having a dinner party for those in the right wing media who had given their support in the election campaign. I wondered if there was a room large enough. We were told by Peta Credlin that it was a private function but she couldn’t say who was footing the bill. Given that Tony Abbott is the main culprit in the expenses scandal one would have thought that he would be anxious to appear beyond reproach.

I agree that he should be able to entertain whoever he likes. Just so long as he pays the bill.

The guest list was a who’s who of far right media representation. Andrew Bolt couldn’t make it but indicated he considered Mr Abbott:

”Thoughtful, modest, kind, serious, practical and well-read”.

I seem to recall there were a few things he didn’t read that led to a bit of lying. And perhaps the journalists should all consider charging for the support they give the government. It might help with their declining advertising revenues.

Some of those invited were:

Andrew Bolt, Piers Akerman, Alan Jones, Janet Albrechtsen, Miranda Devine, Chris Kenny, Col Allan, Paul Sheehan and Gerard Henderson.

I’m sure they all gave their undying loyalty to the conservative cause and that in due course Tony Abbott will legislate to give them all the unbridled freedom of expression they think they need.

Commission of Audit.

And of course we had the announcement of a ‘’Commission of Audit’’. It is supposedly independent but it is led by LCP supporters. One in particular who has financially benefited from his association with the party. Of course eliminated from the audit is revenue, health, education and defence. Complicating matters will be Abbott’s unaffordable Parental Leave Scheme and a commitment to removing Labor’s means test on Private Health Insurance.

And they plan to help pay for the Parental Leave scheme with the superannuation tax breaks promised to lower wage earners. Mostly women, and the elimination on the kids schools bonus.

Trust conservatives to get their priorities in order.

Why are some babies more valuable than others you might ask?

Time will tell, but I will be surprised if the audit doesn’t say that the budget is a disaster and we need cuts cuts and more cuts. Oh but there might just be some concessions for big business.

Washington Post interview.

Tony Abbott last weekend gave an interview to the Washington Post which can only be described in diplomacy terms as pathetic. As Dr Clinton Fernandes said. “Americans will see Tony Abbott as uncouth, coarse and amateurish.”

It is however typical of Abbott. He has never been able to control his tongue. Remember how he ran down the then government in the parliament in front of the American President and backed it up when the Indonesian President visited. You simply don’t bad mouth your own country to foreign journalists.

The Tasmanian Speech.

For years now neo conservatives around the world have been saying that the term “Climate Change” is but a ploy to replace socialism with environmentalism. Abbott said this.

“Let’s be under no illusions the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism”

With this statement the Prime Minister confirmed what I have long suspected He does not believe in the science. He thinks it’s crap. The cat is out of the bag.

Then on Wednesday the Federal Government’s independent climate policy adviser declared Australia’s emissions reduction target inadequate and not credible. This is the same body Abbott plans to dump in January which only reinforces his total disregard for science.

The draft report said that Australia’s commitment to cutting emissions by 5 per cent from 2000 levels by 2020 would leave Australia lagging behind other comparable countries like the United States.

Throughout the week discussion has centred on whether Labor will drop its Carbon Tax policy. To do so would be a further capitulation on policy. They should persist with it while at the same time exposing the governments Direct Action plan for the sham it is. At the first sitting of question time every question should be directed at Abbott and Hunt on the finer points of its policy. For three years Tony Abbott has shouted about the ‘’toxic tax’” and turned people against science. It must be forced to explain how its scheme works. No one else can.

Suggesting that towns would be wiped from the map and that roast chickens would cost $100 may very well win you government but now real viable solutions are required.

First indications suggest that Hunt is intent on disregarding this report in the same manner as he has many others.

Then on Thursday the Guardian reported that One third of articles in Australia’s major newspapers rejected or cast doubt on the overwhelming findings of climate science, with climate sceptic Andrew Bolt monopolising coverage of the topic in several high-circulation News Corporation titles, according to a new analysis.

A study of 602 articles in 10 newspapers by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism found that 32% dismissed or questioned whether human activity was causing the climate to change. The articles were analysed between February and April in 2011 and again in the same period in 2012.

Significantly, newspapers based a small fraction of their coverage on peer-reviewed science, instead relying heavily on comment pieces penned by writers without a scientific background.

Isn’t it extraordinary that Australia’s largest newspaper circulation publisher chooses not to report on the findings of 97% of the world’s climate scientists?

‘The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told without referring to evaluation and the consideration of scientific fact, truth and reason,never ceases to amaze me. It is tantamount to the rejection of rationale explanation’

Pink Batts Witch Hunt Inquiry.

Invoking inquiries that are so obviously political sets a dangerous precedent. We have had eight enquiries thus far into Pink Bats that have revealed nothing that is not already known. When finally the judges reveal the result of the Ashbygate appeal can we also have one into it?


On Q&A Monday night Christopher Pyne the minister with an opinion on everything canvassed the possibility of selling of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme debt to private enterprise. This was promoted in England and proved so unpopular that the government decided not to proceed.

There is no interest on HECS fees and some 20 per cent of the debt is never repaid. Selling the current and future debt could only result in fees becoming more expensive because interest would have to be charged. This would make a University education more expensive for those who are already battling.

I think I shall end here. There were other topics worthy of comment such as the report into the standard of high school education. Malcolm Turnbull’s backflip on his NBN promise. Joe Hockey’s abysmal hypocrisy and self interest on debt and borrowing and his downgrading of the NDIS, but I am told my writing can be a bit long.

Before I end though I must draw your attention to the best piece I read this week.


An afterthought on Andrew Bolt.

Dan Rowden also recently wrote an article for The AIMN revealing the absurdity of Bolt’s writing. I also wrote one earlier in the month. For whatever reason the artist Picasso popped into my head. You see Picasso at the height of his popularity knew that he could produce absolute rubbish and people would believe it was good and he would be paid millions for it. Bolt also knows that he can produce rubbish, people will like it and he will be paid handsomely for it. Not a bad analogy I should think.



What If Bolt Had Been Given The Job…

Photo by meme generator

Photo by meme generator

Andrew Bolt’s Application to Host Media Watch

TO Mark Scott, ABC managing director:

…Don’t assume I’m not available. Hear that ripping sound? That was my contract for my Network 10 show.

Mark, I want you to know I stand ready to serve when your current host, Jonathan Holmes, stands down by the end of the month, as I read…

From Andrew Bolt’s Blog, 2nd May, 2013

Sources tell me that Andrew Bolt wasn’t actually considered for the job of Media Watch host as there were a few technicalites with his application. The first was that he never actually submitted it – he only shared it via his blog. There’s a longstanding tradition in applying for jobs in this country that one doesn’t do it in via a national newspaper. (The exception to this being when one wishes to take over as leader of a political party. Then one may declare that one is available, that one has no intention of challenging for the leadership or simply tell a journalist that – off the record – there’ll be a challenge within weeks.)

So what if Bolt had actually applied and been successful? I suspect we’d have got something like the following:

Hello I’m Andrew Bolt, welcome to Media Watch. 

After October’s ridiculous attempt by climate alarmists to politicise the NSW fires and to link them to their scare campaign, we now get this from the ABC’s news bulletin:


The bulletin then went on to quote some Professor without pointing out that this person had a vested interest in the topic. He has been studying climate science for the past twenty three years. Hardly what I’d call a disinterested party. Of course, the usual suspects jumped on this story. From a newspaper which I won’t name because of the ABC’s ridiculous no brand names because it contravenes advertising policy, which, by the way, previous hosts of this show used to flout quite regularly, but my freedom of speech was supressed when I  just mentioned in last weeks’s show what a great drink coke was and thanked Mercedes for the great deal they gave me on the car:


This hysterical article then went on to predict another five days of temperatures above thirty degrees, ignoring the evidence that last night cooled to a mere twenty two degrees. Then having softened us up, the opinion page had this letter:

“When is this direct action policy of Abbott’s going to start? This hot weather should get us all thinking”

Since when did weather have anything to do with the climate? This completely overlooks that fact that we’ve had weather going back to the time that Captain Cook first discovered this uninhabited land. And as for the letter writer’s obvious left wing bias in demanding thinking, well, it should be no surprise that the writer of this letter had, in fact, completed his secondary education. These sort of academics are good at twisting arguments, but most of my readers are down to earth folk who intuitively know that I’m right. 

Of course, the ABC has been trying to suggest the world is warming for decades. Such as  this from 1972:


Admittedly, that was the American ABC, but the point remains. Of course, we’re used to the Bolshevik view coming from the ABC, but now the so called “free press” has joined in. The latest IPCC evidence shows that these ‘warmists’ are just plain wrong.  I call for all journalists at non-Murdoch owned papers to be sacked and the ABC to be privatised immediately. 

Now, unto a rather troubling matter. Again, there have been complaints about Alan Jones getting some minor detail wrong and calls for him to be removed from the air. These sort of politically correct attempts at censorship must be stopped. So what if he’s a few degrees or a couple of hundred percentage points out – this makes no difference to his actual argument that certain people need to take a good hard look at themselves and would benefit from a sound caning. As an ex-private school boarding master, Alan knows all about the benefits of that. Freedom of speech is one of our most important principles. 

Until next time, I’ve been Andrew Bolt and you people listen to the ABC so you must be wrong.

Good Night.

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