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Tag Archives: Free speech

Beyond a Morrison Police State.

“This is not about free speech, it’s not about the ability to protest, these people are completely against our way of life,” former Queensland drug squad and sex offenders cop, now Home Affairs Supremo and family child care business partner, self-made millionaire, MP Peter Dutton tells Channel Nine Friday.

“For many of them they don’t even believe in democracy, … the disharmony they seek to sow within society is unacceptable,” says our super minister who, only recently, was keen to dog-whistle racists by falsely claiming that African crime gangs make it unsafe to go out on the streets in Melbourne.

A fretful nation is overjoyed that Il Dutto has spotted another enemy within. In a nifty intercept, former Hillsong Elder, Scott Morrison, now our PM for extractive industries, snatches the ball and punts it.

How good is our media? By Friday night, every newspaper in the land carries the banner “radical activism threatens mining”. It’s a spectacular, mass propaganda drop which highlights how smoothly a Prime Minister’s staff of fifty can swing into gear should Dutton or any other MP steal the limelight.

“High velocity bollocks” is Katharine Murphy’s view of Morrison’s alert on ABC Insiders. A tad unfair. ScoMo has to create a diversion from Thursday’s Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety interim report of scandal that has taken place during the Coalition’s six years in government.

It’s a shocker. Health Minister Hunt bobs up also on Insiders to pat the government on the back for ordering the Royal Commission but skips the $2 billion cut by the Coalition since it came to power.

“… the aged care system fails to meet the needs of its older, vulnerable, citizens. It does not deliver uniformly safe and quality care, is unkind and uncaring towards older people and, in too many instances, it neglects them,” report commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs in a media release.

Images of Morrison are everywhere. Speechifying. Threatening protesters at a Brisbane mining lobbyists’ free lunch. And anyone daring to impose a secondary boycott. “Wedgislation” rasps Murpharoo.

All it would take, mumbles former News Corp hack, now Brisbane free-lance, Dennis Atkins, deftly sidestepping the ScoMo police state elephant in the room, is to change the bit in the law where unions’ secondary boycotts are outlawed and extend that … section … mumble … something DD.

The bit in the law? Generally, in Australia strikes are unlawful, in breach of international law which holds that the right to strike is recognised as a fundamental human right, as the ILO has been reminding Coalition and Labor governments for the last thirty years. But the PM’s team plays a blinder in giving him a time and a place and a text Friday, to normalise the outlawing of secondary boycotts.

“If it’s not OK to have secondary boycotts being run by unions … it’s not OK for environmental, well, they’re anarchist groups … to be able to disrupt people’s jobs, their livelihoods, to harass people as we saw down in Melbourne,” Morrison blusters, glossing over the highly contentious anti-union law.

Naturally there is no detail from such a big picture thinker. And scare tactics work best without specifics. But Morrison needs to explain what he means. How can he possibly legislate against freedom of choice, one of the set-pieces of Liberal rhetoric? Aren’t we free to choose which firms we patronise?

Also skipped is the real disruption that accrues now that our largely de-unionised workforce has so little real bargaining power over wages that spending drops and helps tip Australia into economic recession. But you’ve got to hand it to the PM’s staff. They’ve had wage cut-backs, too. 13 per cent since Malcolm Turnbull was double-double-crossed by Morrison and his right-hand evangelical Stuart Robert and crew.

At an average salary of just over $200,000, the PM’s minders work wonders on a shoe-string budget. And a skeletal staff. All up, the Morrison government must battle on with a mere 457 ministerial advisers.

(Theresa May’s UK government employed 99 ministerial advisers in December last year, including 2 who earned the maximum salary of £140,000 pounds.)

But it’s all about team work. Our press flacks fall in behind the Coalition’s muppet-show and the mining and banking lobby which pulls their strings. Morrison threatens “a radical crack-down” on protesters.

The team plan is to demonise those who protest against a government in denial that holy coal mining and coal-burning power stations even cause global warming, air and water pollution. On present trends, let alone with new mines, coal will destroy nature, our health and ultimately extinguish our future. But just as we’ve created illegals out of those who seek asylum, we’ll do it with climate protesters.

Morrison is addicted to the politics of division. And it worked with vegan activists. The Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 which outlaws “farm invaders”, passed 12 September.

Labor was wedged into voting for draconian, superfluous legislation. Trespass is covered by state laws. Labor senators Kim Carr and Anthony Chisholm warn farmers, themselves, are at risk from the new law, if opposing fracking. Whistle-blowers and journalists are also at risk of prosecution for inciting trespass.

Reporters who merely publish footage of animal cruelty, or who publish a map of factory farms and slaughterhouses where such cruelty is known to occur, may face a criminal charge for “inciting trespass onto agricultural land” regardless of whether incitement to trespass is intended by the publisher, and regardless of whether the cruelty is legal.

While the brave new ag-gag law has yet to be tested in court, Morrison is playing hyper-partisan politics again with the help of his imaginary arch-fiend “absolutist environmentalism”. Some complain that attacking an “ism” indicates mental laziness. Imprecision. But fear-mongers just love it. And it works.

Protesters are “anarchists, radical activists; extremists”. If a lie is half way round the world before the truth can get its boots on, vilification is even quicker. Once the PM puts the boot in; Morrison’s gutter politics leadership immediately has its own followers; copycats -even in the police.

A Victorian police officer faces disciplinary action for wearing a sticker with the phrase “EAD Hippy” – slang for “eat a dick” – while patrolling this week’s anti-mining protests in Melbourne. Instead of heeding dissent, the federal government joins some states in choosing to dismantle democracy instead.

Protesters have a right to stage community campaigns to voice their concerns, as Kelly O’Shanassy CEO of Australian Conservation Foundation ACF quickly points out. Moreover, demonstrators and protesters come from diverse walks of life and their dissent is expressed in many different ways, she explains.

“People protesting in the streets are not the only ones expressing alarm about climate change – the head of the Defence Force, the deputy governor of the Reserve Bank and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority have all recently raised serious concerns,” Ms O’Shanassy says.

Morrison’s not listening. The PM loves his bully-pulpit. You can tell he gets a buzz out of casting out evil.

Progressives seek to deny the liberties of Australians, he tells The Queensland Resources Council, (QRC), another mining lobby, Friday – giving his spin an extra twist by preaching to the converted. It’s a whopping lie, of course and a masterly piece of projection and deflection. But the QRC is cheering.

“The QRC welcomes new laws passed by the Palaszczuk Government to deter people from using dangerous devices …” runs the lobby’s 25 October media release.

Yet the “dangerous devices” turn out to be unsubstantiated claims that some “lock-on devices” contain dangerous items, such as glass or gas canisters aimed at deterring police. No evidence has yet been provided, beyond a few images of a protest in 2018, a case which was prosecuted under existing law.

“Any laws that may infringe on important rights such as peaceful protest ought to be subject to a detailed and proper parliamentary scrutiny process. We are concerned that this has not occurred…,” says Bridget Burton, Director of Caxton Legal Centre’s Human Rights and Civil Law Practice.

Enter Macca. QRC CEO Ian, “Chainsaw”, Macfarlane, a former federal Minister for Industry. After being sacked from the front bench and when his attempt to defect from the Liberals to The Nationals was blocked, Macfarlane quit politics and signed on to head QRC, for a modest half million dollars a year, in 2016, to help eke out his $150-200K income from the Parliamentary Contributory Super Scheme.

Ian’s terribly worried these days about the need to lock up protesters. Their bullying and reckless endangerment of lives – even their own – must be stopped. Tougher laws are the key. Always.

“It is often the case that fines are small and no convictions are recorded,” he tells Brisbane Times in August. Morrison says he is working on legal measures to outlaw the “indulgent and selfish practices” of protest groups that try to stop major resources projects. As if he can outlaw protest.

“Now, we will take our time to get this right. We will do the homework and we’re doing that right now. But we must protect our economy from this great threat,” he thunders. It’s the sacred economy again. Amen. Or did he mean surplus? Meanwhile, the multinational mining companies protesters target bleed us dry in tax evasion. Not to mention what they cost us in subsidies.

Tenderly, our government takes our taxes and spends billions of dollars to help more coal, gas and oil to be extracted and burned. Other favours include tax-based subsidies, direct contributions, concessional loans from public financial institutions, lax environmental laws and approvals for disastrous projects.

Now ScoMo takes time to hiss the villain. Progressivism, a “new-speak type term”, ScoMo claims (of a movement achieving social and political reform in the US, two decades before Orwell published 1984), aims “to get in under the radar, but at its heart would deny the liberties of Australians.”

“Apocalyptic in tone, it brooks no compromise,” Elder Morrison continues, as if he were describing the template for a Hillsong sermon. “It’s all or nothing. Alternative views are not permitted.”

But no “needless anxieties”, please. Think of the children. What we need at times like these is some “context and perspective”. The Australian Way of Life must remain secure in its glass case along with a bust of Langley Frederick Hancock, a piece of coal and a blue ribbon for best country in show at Liberal HQ, protected by the eternal vigilance of Dutton’s AFP, ASIO and the web of eighty-odd federal national security laws governments have spun to catch evil-doers since September 11, 2011.

Nobody seems to know precisely how many laws. Or care. The more the meh-factor.

Our most recent bit of spy fly-paper is the Coalition’s Foreign Influence Registry, part of its visionary Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, which became law last December. In a mass mail-out last month, the Attorney General asks all foreign agents of influence to put their hands up. Way to go.

Who? What? Defining influence can be a tricky business, which is probably how Tony Abbott got caught in the net. In deathless prose, Porter’s department appeals to lobbyists of a “parliamentary and general political nature” but includes those involved in “communications activity” and “disbursement activity”.

Transparent? Sheer genius. Sadly, this little list is in its infancy. And it’s a one way mirror. It does not run to how we influence other nations such as our ASIS agents’ spying on Timor Leste’s cabinet in 2004.

Given the high esteem with which they are held in Timor Leste, you might expect the whistle-blower, Witness K – as the ASIS officer has become known – and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery to feature. These men represent our finest, as former Timor-Leste president José Ramos-Horta writes in August.

“Individuals with a conscience and courage, representing the very best of Australians as I know them – instinctively sympathetic to the underdog, the weak and vulnerable.”

The tribute is a salutary corrective to ScoMo’s rhetoric. The men should be venerated as public heroes.

Yet their secret trials, revealed by Andrew Wilkie under parliamentary privilege, in June 2018 and currently under way in two Canberra courts, the Magistrates Court for Witness K and The Supreme Court for his lawyer Collaery, represents “… the national security state’s assault on Australia’s democratic culture”, writes Clinton Fernandes, University of NSW Professor of International and Political studies.

Both face lengthy prison sentences. An example must be made of whistle-blowers to discourage others. Some suggest that given some unexplained questions in his past careers and the fact the someone knows the answers, Morrison is keen to diminish the likelihood of the whistle being blown on himself. Whatever his personal investment, national security agencies are keen to punish whistle-blowers.

It’s not citizens in Queensland and Melbourne exercising their rights to protest but the state itself which is attacking the rule of law, a corner-stone of our democracy. A police state? To Fernandes, it’s more.

These prosecutions come at a time of vastly increased powers for police and intelligence agencies, raids on the homes of journalists and news organisations, and the deployment of technologies of mass surveillance. The aim of this power grab must be understood clearly, if it is to be resisted. The national security bureaucracy doesn’t want a police state. It is more ambitious than that. The hope is to return Australian culture to the conformity and political quietude of the 1950s.”

In this context, Porter’s Registry is but one small step but could well escalate into a flight of stairs.

In the last decade, 81 per cent of political donations from the mining industry have been to the Coalition; 71 per cent to the Liberal Party. The Grattan Institute reveals that mining has the most lobbying contacts with government. Many of these are foreign-owned firms. Surely these should appear on the registry?

Nowhere does the registry list other influential foreign companies who run local branches to great tax advantage. These include household names: Uber, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, McDonalds, Ikea and Aldi. Perhaps they need more than four weeks to gauge their influence. If it can be done at all.

Multinational parent companies do not register their Australian operations as branch operations. Consequently they do not comply with ASIC’s disclosure and reporting obligations. In fact, we generously give them a tax deduction when they send royalty payments to arms of their own company overseas.

Are we Thinking Big enough? Perhaps, given the meagre 194 entries, so far, there is room for our own agents of influence abroad to declare themselves. Scott Morrison would doubtless be keen to explain what he did to get the flick from his job as head of NZ Tourism and Sport in 2000.

It would help greatly with our close trading neighbour – where Think Big was a state intervention strategy – and it would clear up a mystery or two. The Saturday Paper’s Karen Middleton reports that a Kiwi Controller and Auditor-General audit found that ScoMo hi-jacked the NZ Tourism Review.

It is early evidence of ScoMo’s gift for taking charge and his top-dog inter-personal skills. Not for him the namby-pamby consensus type or a democratic style. “Absolute arsehole” is former MP Michael Kennan verdict. Keenan served as Justice Minister when Scott Morrison was Immigration Minister.

His comment is recorded by Niki Savva in Plots and Prayers as having been made to colleagues at lunch at Garum Restaurant in Perth in April 2018 just before Morrison deposed Malcolm Turnbull.

“Porter joined in, saying he did not think Morrison was a team player. Cormann said he had seen Morrison up close now, and, in his opinion, Dutton was better,” Savva writes.

Similar charges would be made by the Australian National Audit Office, (ANAO) nine years’ later when it looked into his management of Tourism Australia. ANAO found “non-consultation, making unilateral decisions, not observing due process and restricting board access to information.”

But Morrison gets off Scott-free. Not so one of his illustrious predecessors. All hot and bothered this week, Tony Abbott, The Australian’s Prime Minister-in-exile is asked to sign The Registry…

Abbott is incensed by Christian – (but a Jedi on his census) Porter’s department’s recent demand that the budgie-smuggler register as “an agent of foreign influence”, just the day before CPAC, in Sydney, last August. The department of the Attorney-General is not one to rush matters. But it has improved.

Porter’s predecessor, George Brandis dithered for two years and three months over prosecuting Bernard Collaery and Witness K. Then he got posted to London as our High Commissioner. Porter, on the other hand, took the decision to prosecute only six months after coming to office. But Abbott’s underwhelmed.

The Incredible Sulk is happy to ear-bash fellow reactionaries at non-events such as CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, an oxymoron on steroids. Tipped to be the next Director of the weapons industry sponsored National War Memorial in Canberra, he’s clearly still a VIP.

But foreign influence? The former Riverview boy ­refuses the request, labels it ­“absurd” and in a direct dig at the Jedi claims “senior officials of the commonwealth have better things to do with their time.”

If only.

Scott Morrison’s pledge to crack down on climate protesters is in part a deflection, a ruse to encourage climate change deniers by implying that there’s nothing wrong with building more coal-fired power station; it’s the extremist, radical activists” who are out of line. And it’s a way of wedging Labor. Yet it would be wrong to see it merely as an act of bellicose posturing from a wannabe populist strong man.

Morrison’s past record suggests more than a hint of an authoritarian, if not autocratic, personality beneath the evasions, the secrecy and the cultivated, folksy veneer of the sport-loving, cap-wearing , beer-drinking suburban dad as populist leader.

Given the proliferation of national security laws which have hugely strengthened the power of the state, since 2011, moreover, we must challenge Morrison’s latest florid, rhetorical assault on democracy; resist all attempts at division and the silencing of dissent. Our future as a civil society; our freedom depends upon it.

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Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech!

After proposing then abandoning a raft of manifestly unpopular changes to section 18C of Australia’s racial vilification laws last year, certain members of the LNP have recently relaunched their attack on 18C, under the rather disingenuous pretext of championing free speech.

In the wake of the Charlie Hedbo attacks Cory Bernardi has been out there again, calling for the LNP’s precious 18C amendments to be put back on the table.

Like pit bulls with lock jaw, a gang of radical right wing MP’s including Cory Bernardi, George Brandis, Dean Smith, liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, and Family First’s Bob Day have been lobbying hard to ensure we Aussies have the right to engage in hate speech.

cory-bernardi-the-conservative-revolution

Just for clarity, lets take a closer look at what it is they want to change. Specifically they want to have the words “offend, insult and humiliate” removed from the act.

RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ACT 1975 – SECT 18C

Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin

(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.

 

So in effect what they are proposing is that it would just fine to PUBLICLY “offend, insult and humiliate” someone based on their race, colour or national or ethnic origin, so long as you don’t “intimidate” them.

I think it’s fairly safe to say that most people would find public insult and humiliation somewhat intimidating; so we can assume that the interpretation to be given to the word “intimidate” under the proposed amendments would be “to directly physically threaten”, rather than “to emotionally threaten”.

If these changes were ushered in then theoretically it would be OK if I were to call Tony Abbott filthy, unwashed, lazy, whinging, snaggle toothed, imperialist, stuck up, limey British scum? And that would be totally OK, because I am all I am doing is using racial stereotypes to abuse him, but I am not actually threatening to do him any harm. Of course the truth is that most British people work hard, wash regularly, visit dentists, aren’t seeking to expand their empire, and complain in relatively appropriate measure..:-), but hey why let the truth get in the way of good story.

wp-egg

Unfortunately what these right wing warriors are failing to understand is that the Racial Discrimination Act is not really about protecting the feelings of “white people”. It was drafted in the knowledge that there are ethnic groups in this country that really suffer as a result of constant racial abuse and the negative stereo types that such abuse fosters.

no racist

To our shame there are many Australians, (most notedly our indigenous brothers and sisters, followed closely by those of African or “middle eastern appearance”) that regularly suffer systemic discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of their race. They are the same Australians that regularly suffer physical abuse in public spaces, and higher rates of detention and incarceration on account of their race. So please let’s not minimise this, these are real consequences, for real people!

Free speech is a noble ideal, but in order for something to be truly free it must come without a cost. Just because hate mongers like Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones and the oh so white fleet of right wing MP’s don’t personally pay the price for their racist tirades doesn’t mean someone isn’t picking up the tab. And too frequently those picking up the tab are the among the poorest and most marginalised members of our Australian family.

andrew-bolt-2

If you happen to belong to one of those oft targeted minorities the Racial Discrimination Act may not offer a lot of protection, but it is the thin end of a very important wedge. It is a line in the sand that says NO, we as Australians do NOT want a society where racial vilification and negative racial stereotypes are permitted to fester and stew in the public sphere. We want an Australia that says racists need to be ashamed, knowing that they are on the wrong side of what is morally decent, and on the wrong side of the law. We want an Australia where vile hate speech does land Andrew Bolt in court and up on charges. Mostly we want an Australia that is for the fair go for everyone regardless of race, colour or creed.

AFL call out

So Mr Bernadi, I say this to you on behalf of all decent, fair minded Australians….. GET BACK IN YOUR BOX!!!, we don’t want the hate you are peddling!!!

 

In the Clash of Ideologies, Language Wins the War

Image courtesy of the australian.com.au

Image courtesy of the australian.com.au

Jim Morrison famously and prophetically said, “Whoever controls the media, controls the minds”.

This is certainly the case in Australia.

In this guest post Loz Lawrey looks at how the media – the Murdoch media in particular – shape out attitudes and opinions.

In 1988, Professor Noam Chomsky reminded us that the media “serve, and propagandise on behalf of, the powerful societal interests that control and finance them” (1). Never has this fact been more blatantly obvious than it is today.

The glaring anti-Labor/Greens bias on display by the Murdoch-owned news media during the term of the Gillard Government exaggerated Labor’s dysfunction and gave credibility to a Liberal/National opposition devoid of policies or ideas, other than a plan to hand decision-making over to commercial vested interests.

Today much of the mainstream media’s energy is spent fulfilling the roles of apologist and spin doctor for a right-wing conservative government which serves the wishes of a global oligarchy.

Selective coverage of current affairs events, skewed “opinion” pieces disguised as news reportage, simplified “black or white” presentation which avoids all nuance – the mainstream media has an endless supply of tools for the manipulation of public perception.

There is, however, more to the message than what is essentially the delivery system, or the means of presentation. The TV or radio program, the article in the print media or even the political billboard are simply what the megaphone is to the voice – the means of imparting the message. It’s in the language that real power and control resides.

Political forces use language as the weapon of choice on the field of public debate – what some refer to as the battlefield of ideas. In this arena, the army with the sharpest, most evocative language will prevail. There is little need for true logic or reason to underpin one’s arguments, only that a perception of reasoned lucidity is created by the language used.

While all sides of politics strive for control of any public debate through their use of language, conservative forces in our society have become masters of what is known as weasel language, or weasel words. The terms come from the reputation of weasels for sucking eggs and leaving an empty shell – at first glance weasel words create an impression of real meaning supported by research-based evidence or expert advice, which upon closer inspection is found to be hollow and devoid of substance.

This mastery of language, together with the recent structural disarray in evidence on the left of the political spectrum, goes a long way to explain the survival of conservatism around the globe, despite its continuing assault on the public interest, both nationally and globally.

The work of bodies such as the right wing Institute of Public Affairs is as much about formulating the language used to justify its ideologically-based policies as it is in formulating the policies themselves.

Words such as “free” and “freedom” are tacked onto the labelling language used to define and create a perception of a proposal or idea. Hence we get “free market”, “free speech” and “freedom of choice”. Once you insert a word such as “free”, a benign impression is created of harmless intent.

So it is that when a spokesperson for the IPA argues that people should be “given the right” to work for less that $16 per hour, they are claiming that working for less than the established and agreed minimum is a freedom. In this way, shifting employment conditions closer to the slavery end of the spectrum is made to sound like a positive, liberating move. It will hardly be a liberating experience for those workers who endure it, however, when they find themselves working longer and harder for less or very little, unable to meet their own living needs.

The term “free market” creates an image of happy global business, unfettered by tariffs and protectionist regulations, with goods moving freely about, resulting in best outcomes for both business, workers and consumers. The fact that tariffs were developed as a means to counteract trade imbalance and injustice is swept aside, because who wouldn’t want “freedom” in the marketplace?

Now business regulation designed to level the playing field and increase real fairness in trade is labelled by conservative governments as “red tape”, an evil to be done away with. Environmental regulation intended to protect our natural heritage landscapes and control resource extraction is now dismissed as “green tape”.

These terms belie the fact that such regulation has been developed over many years in response to the perceived need to maintain balance and sustainability in all things into the future.

Even the term “sustainability” itself has been highjacked by the weasel-worders. When the term is used in the context of economic debate, any cuts to spending or public funding are easily justified. Old-age pensions? Unsustainable. A living-wage pay rise for child-care workers? Again, unsustainable.

The rhetoric of conservative ideology is cleverly employed over time to erode the positive public perception of ideas and institutions which are seen as contrary to the the right-wing world-view.

A gradual sanding-down of the public’s acknowledgment and appreciation of the workplace rights and entitlements won over years of union organising and picketing has been achieved by the repeated portrayal of unions as hotbeds of thuggery and corruption.

Dismissive rhetoric about “the left” ignores the fact that leftist political values are based upon social justice, inclusion and concepts of decency and fairness. The ongoing message is that an empathetic worldview is “loony” and that to embrace a cynical philosophy of “winners and losers” is to dwell in the “real world”.

In this way a political message has been delivered into the public sub-consciousness: that leftist views are “crazy” and “loony” in their consideration of the public good, and that right-wing extremist views which can only benefit a minority elite are “sensible”, “rational” and “economically sound”.

Somewhere, somehow, logic and reason lie bleeding and forgotten by the masses, while weasel words and tabloid headlines are regurgitated as valid arguments in the arena of public discussion.

(1)  Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988)
by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman

 

Abbott’s tyrannical silencing of 1,892,100 possibly critical political opinions

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

The recent directive from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on the lack of freedom of speech public servants have as private citizens, includes the expectation that government employees will dob in colleagues they believe are criticising the government.

This report in the Guardian, linked above, begins with a declaration by Tony Abbott before he became PM:

There is no case, none, to limit debate about the performance of national leaders. The more powerful people are, the more important the presumption must be that less powerful people should be able to say exactly what they think of them.

I’m baffled as to why this noble sentiment isn’t applied to public servants. Engaging anonymously on social media is no protection for them, as is evidenced by the sacking of Immigration Department employee Michaela Banerji who tweeted critically of the department using a pseudonym, and lost her job.

In subsequent action, Ms Banerji argued that there is an constitutionally implied freedom of political communication for public servants, however, the prospective costs of prolonged legal action caused her to withdraw and settle out of court, leaving the claim untested.

There are some 1,892,100 public servants in Australia, accounting for 16.4 per cent of the workforce. None of them are permitted to offer personal political opinions critical of the government on social media. It is unlikely that this restriction will be challenge by an individual. The government has deep pockets and access to the best advice, when it comes to defending legal action against it. Yet it would seem a matter of urgency that a challenge to such tyranny is launched.

It is tyrannical to forcibly silence critical political opinion with the threat of loss of livelihood. While no one can reasonably endorse public servants using knowledge obtained in the course of their work to criticise the government of the day, general personal opinion, of the kind expressed by Ms Banerji in her tweets ought to be permitted, unless the government is so insecure it cannot bear scrutiny.

A robust and confident government should not fear robust critique. Politicians need to be reminded that they have their jobs only because the electorate allows them that privilege. Stifling dissent will never endear governments to the citizenry. Part of a politician’s job is to weather the inevitable storms of criticism, and if they are too weak to do this, they are too weak to govern a country.

Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom, Tim Wilson, has this interesting take on the responsibility of public servants to the governments that employ them, noting that respect and civilising behaviour are the admirable goals of speech conduct codes.

As Mr Wilson once tweeted that protesters should have a water cannon turned on them, his notions of civilised behaviour are likely unreliable:

@timwilsoncomau Walked past Occupy Melbourne protest, all people who think freedom of speech = freedom 2 b heard, time wasters … send in the water cannons

Wilson also draws a comparison between criticism and respect, which to my mind is totally false. Respect does not, and never has implied inevitable agreement or lack of criticism. It is a very dangerous conflation Mr Wilson makes, and it is especially concerning that the Commissioner for Freedom (I still don’t know what that means) seems unable or unwilling to consider the complexities of competing rights.

My sympathies are with the many people I know who work for the government. To live in the knowledge that one must be constantly aware of one’s speech for fear of losing one’s job is not how one expects to dwell in a liberal democracy. It is absolutely unacceptable that so many Australians must live this way, with the additional fear that a colleague may at any time dob them in. I am at a loss as to understand just what kind of society the Abbott government envisions for our country. The tyrannical silencing of so many people because it is too weak to withstand critical commentary, does not augur well.

If any public servant wants to be an un-named source, he or she is very welcome on this blog.

This article was first posted on Jennifer’s blog “No Place For Sheep” and reproduced with permission.

 

Let’s hear a cheer for Cory Bernardi and the “Established Order”!

Photo: Daily Telegraph

Photo: Daily Telegraph

Yet again the ABC are demonstrating their determination to make the Coalition look silly. Their latest trick is to give Cory Bernardi’s ideas publicity.

Earlier, Senator Bernardi said there was no room for personal views where cabinet ministers were concerned.

“If Malcolm Turnbull wants to talk about fringe issues outside party policy, he should resign from the frontbench,” he told the ABC.

“Our longstanding party position is that marriage is between a man and a woman.

“Our frontbenchers need to reflect that in any comments they make.”

The Australian 16th December 2013.

Today, however, he expressed the view that ALL members of Pariliament should be free to be free to express “personal views”. But, of course,

“The stifling doctrine, the tyranny of political correctness means that when get into the debate about some issues of substance, you’re howled down and levelled with pejorative slurs. I don’t think that’s healthy for democracy.”

Corey Bernardi, ABC interview January 6th 2014

And there we have the most intriguing thing at all about the idea of free speech that’s been peddled by the Ridiculous Right – that somehow you have your free speech eroded every time someone criticises you.

It’s an interesting tactic, because rather than discuss your original proposition, you end up discussing “free speech” and we all agree that we have a right to free speech, don’t we? Apart from those leftist, Stalinist, politically correct people who want to shut it down. They don’t value debate! They just resort to name calling because they’re feral, unemployed, socialist welfare cheats.

It was used very well in 1990s with the introduction of the Victorian Certificate of Education. Some newspaper would report a criticism, and while some criticisms were valid, a large number were not merely a difference of educational opinion, there were factually incorrect. If a government minister, teacher or education worker attempted to put the record straight, there’d be complaints about how nobody was allowed to criticise the VCE rather than an acknowledgement that, unlike the previous reports, schools did not have to allow a student to satisfactorily complete even if they’d completed no work.

So, in a similar way, today Cory Bernardi releases his book and says that it’s the responsibility of MPs to speak out and to raise debate. (During his interview, he failed to mention that he thought that Malcolm Turnbull should resign from the ministry for doing just that on gay marriage. Something about party solidarity, which evidently doesn’t include backbenchers.) Yet, when he encounters a debate, that’s “political correctness” and he’s being “howled down”. That’s not “good for democracy”. In other words, it seems that he feels we need a debate where his view is allowed to stand without challenge.

But, as I wrote a few weeks ago, this seems to be a growing trend. Either you agree with me, or you’re part of the other side, and therefore your view is not worth listening to. So let me try to be fair to Cory.

He claims that there are too many abortions in Australia. Ok, I haven’t heard anybody argue that there are too few. (Retrospective abortion is not possible, so don’t go there.) We can agree. So what’s he suggesting? Well, he’s not suggesting banning or making it harder to get an abortion. Just that we should have fewer. Right, then Cory, you are entitled to that view. There now, you haven’t been howled down or called names.

So what exactly are you proposing, Mr Bernardi? That the single mother who finds herself pregnant will decide to marry the first man who’ll agree to it because “a traditional family is the best way to raise a child”? Or are you suggesting that we should increase sex education and availability of contraception so that there are less unplanned pregnancies? Perhaps we could go back to the fifties where many women had the baby, but gave it up for adoption? Or possible we could introduce sharia law and stone adulteresses to death? Oh, that’s right you don’t think extreme Islamic religious views should be imposed on the community – just your own! What’s that – you want an inquiry into how we can reduce the number of abortions? Who’d do the inquiry and what would they ask?

There now, I’ve allowed your idea to stand and be examined. I haven’t even raised your idea about gay marriage leading to people marrying animals, and put forward my argument that if anyone can find an animal that says, “I do” and can fill in the paperwork, then I don’t have a problem with that at all.

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 law, sedition 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?

Greens

An Open Letter to Tim Wilson

Dear Tim Wilson,

I’m sure you’re a huge fan of Open Letters, what with your passion for free speech. I am also a fan of free speech within the bounds of reasonable conduct, and so today I’m using my free speech to write you this letter.

I’m also a fan of getting to the point quickly so I’ll put it out there right up front. I think you’re a dickhead. Unlike lots of other people who also think you’re a dickhead, I haven’t come to this conclusion recently, or after the announcement that you’ve been parachuted into perhaps the most oxy-moronic position your buddies in the Abbott Government could have handpicked for you. No, I noticed you a long time ago as the boy playing in a man’s world, as you did your best but failed not to blush from the neck up while yelling at climate scientists in a field of scientific endeavour you know nothing about. Although I did note many months ago that your profile on your then-employer’s website, that you are/were apparently undertaking a Graduate Diploma of Energy and the Environment (Climate Science and Global Warming) at Perth’s Murdoch University. What’s that about Tim? Did you complete this qualification, or were you laughed out of the classroom for your ‘opinions’ around weather, and how it’s always been windy so climate change doesn’t exist?

Capture8

Just to recap, you’re more than welcome to use your free speech to deny climate change, and I also enjoy the right to tell you you’re a dangerous, irresponsible, obstructive fool who is contributing to the demise of the planet I live on. Since you are often used as the mainstream media’s poster-boy under the guise of ‘balance’ on the subject of climate change, since they can’t find a climate scientist to go into bat for the fossil fuel companies that no doubt help fund the IPA, you are the blushing face of denial for many Australians. So we’ll think of you, and we’ll be reminding you of your contribution to the problem, for as long as you continue your charade of self-interested denial for the benefit of your career.

But I guess that’s the part that’s most disappointing, Tim. Your denial of climate change is just one small part of your public persona that I find personally offensive. What I also find really offensive about you is the apparent inconsistency of your position, which is really just a consistent suck-up to the Liberal Party, the people you need to give you jobs that you don’t deserve and are completely unqualified for. It doesn’t surprise me that you are an ex-student politician, because you don’t seem to have ever broken out of that immature mindset. So even though you paint yourself as a bastion of the IPAs agenda, encompassing small government and completely unregulated markets, when it comes to your devotion to this agenda, versus your devotion to Tony Abbott’s agenda, your priority in the pecking-order of your dedication is clearly Tony Abbott. Maybe if you were an actual academic, working for a real institute, you would have a more consistent position as the ‘classical liberal public policy analyst’ which you claim to be. Maybe if you weren’t just a Liberal hack, you would understand why it’s very perplexing that you haven’t already mounted a huge defence of the Carbon Price as a market-based mechanism used to reduce carbon emissions. And where is your outrage about Abbott’s Direct Action policy? You’re very quiet on this front Tim. I see that you diligently went along with Abbott in decrying funding to Holden, but what about fuel tax credits to mining companies? Where is your outrage about this intrusion into the free market you supposably cherish? And, of course as we’ve all seen, you’re now working at the Human Rights Commission, with the apparent goal of improving our rights to say and do whatever we like without risk of being sued for discrimination, however if people are saying or doing things you don’t like, you’re all for the police-state’s favourite silencer – the water cannon.

watercannon1

See what I mean about you being a child in a man’s world? It’s just embarrassing Tim. It’s embarrassing for you, for your Liberal mates and totally cringe worthy for all of us who have to hear about it.

A scan of your Twitter feed quickly reveals you to be far more interested in fighting what you very immaturely refer to as ‘Lefties’ (anyone who disagrees with you), than fighting for anyone’s right to free speech, let alone Andrew Bolt’s. And this morning I read that you’ve been bombarding the Department of Climate Change, a government organisation your ex-employer the IPA have lobbied to shut down, with hundreds of freedom-of-information requests, in fact 95% of all the requests they’ve had since April, no doubt with the overall goal of sabotaging their ability to concentrate on their important work of combating climate change, something you don’t believe in anyway. So you want to wreck them like a bully-boy kicking over a sandcastle. Just because you disagree with them. That’s pretty pathetic Tim, don’t you think?

From the behaviour you have exhibited throughout your career so far, I can see you are not just unqualified for the position you’ve been gifted at the Human Rights Commission. You’re also too immature to be representing any such organisation that does important work for the community. Whether you plan to get inside the commission and wreck it internally, or if you’re just interested in the substantial publically funded pay-cheque as a thank-you from your Liberal buddies for your blind support of their election campaign whilst at the IPA, you don’t deserve to be paid by the public to work in this position. Oh, and Tim, since we know you think public servants are a complete waste of space, I just wanted to remind you that you are one now. So I look forward to your gratitude towards the Community and Public Sector Union for your yearly pay-rise and the excellent entitlements that have been fought for and upheld through the unity of workers.

Yours sincerely
Victoria Rollison

UPDATE: As per Dan Rowden’s comment below, I mistakenly thought this article was from 2013. It is in fact from 2011. Apologies. Thanks, Dan.

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Who Said It? The Joker, or the Freedom Commissioner, Tim Wilson.

Image by the author

Image by the author

Ok, here’s today’s quiz. Who said the following, The Joker in “The Dark Knight” or Tim Wilson, Australia’s new Freedom Commissioner:

  1. “Haters are going to hate”
  2. “The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules”
  3. “It’s not my fault women decide to have children”
  4. See, I’m not a monster…I’m just ahead of the curve.”
  5. “time wasters…send in the water cannons.”
  6. “I like this job – I love it!”

Answers.

The Joker said all the even numbers.

Tim Wilson said all the odd things.

Other Good Quotes

Joe Hockey said, “No country ever taxed itself to prosperity.”

Tony Abbott said, “No country has ever subsidised its way to prosperity.”

So they have a clear idea on how a country doesn’t get to prosperity.

I suspect that in the next few days we’ll hear the following:

“No country ever created disability schemed its way to prosperity.”

“No country ever educated its way to prosperity.”

“No country ever broadbanded its way to prosperity.”

“No country ever planned its way to prosperity.”

and

“No country for old men.” (No wait – that’s a film)!

When will we hear how they plan to ACTUALLY NEED TO DO to get to prosperity!

The ABC must be silenced in the name of free speech!

Image from getup.org.au

Image from getup.org.au

“Fighting for Peace is Like Screwing for Virginity”

Graffiti from the 70’s

A work colleague complained that speed cameras were just a way of raising revenue, and that they had nothing to with safety.

“Really,” he complained,”having to take your eyes off the road to check your speed all the time makes you more dangerous.”

I resisted the temptation to ask him if he could manage to chew gum and walk at the same time, but the conversation stuck with me. Looking at where speed cameras are placed, I wondered if he had a point, but generally, I felt that if one speeds, one can’t complain too much if one gets a ticket every now and then.

It was when the same colleague walked in complaining about receiving a fine that I got a taste of the future. It was for using a phone to text while driving.

“Ridiculous,” he said, “I’m a competent driver – I can text keep and drive at the same time.”

But not keep an eye on the speed without being a safety risk? I wondered.

It’s just this sort of logic that seems to be prevalent at the moment. Principles change depending on the personalities involved, or what the person wants to happen. Abbott’s insistence that he has a mandate seems at odds with his determination to block the ETS when Rudd was PM. Didn’t Rudd go to an election promising to introduce this in 2007? Didn’t he have a mandate?

I don’t think that the Left is immune. People who complained about the personal attacks on Gillard or the legitimacy of her government are now using sexist and demeaning language about the Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, and trying to argue that Abbott wasn’t legitimately elected. (There’s an argument that people were misled, which makes his claims for a mandate on everything a little dodgy, but whether that makes a government “illegitimate” is a more complicated discussion.)

However, it fascinates me that those who have been squawking about freedom of the press, and how any attempt to regulate or provide checks and balances was a threat to the very foundation of democracy. Just because the Murdoch empire had – allegedly – been engaged in inappropriate relationships with police and politicians, and hacking people’s phones in the UK, there was no evidence that they had done so here, and to suggest such a thing was just an attempt to stifle their criticism of Labor.

In fact, to even have an inquiry, to even look to see if there was any evidence, well, that was an insult to the integrity of the hard-working members of the Murdoch Media in this country.

As for suggestions that it was too big, and too powerful, well, these days, thanks to the Internet, there are so many ways that people can access the news, that there’s no need for restrictions on the size of any company.

Ah, glancing at your speed makes you dangerous, but an experienced driver can text without being distracted.

Yesterday, Andrew Bolt wrote the following in his article, “Abbott Must Take On the ABC”:

“Just as concerning is how the ABC is metastasising, using our $1.1 billion a year to strangle private media outlets and stifle diversity.

No healthy democracy should have a state media this dominant, with the ABC sprawling over four national TV channels and four radio networks, and now an online newspaper that gives free the kind of news and views that dying Fairfax newspapers must sell to survive.”

The ABC has grown too big and it’s “killing diversity”? Mm, I suppose if you chose to define left-wing as anyone who doesn’t support the idea that the rich should pay no tax at all because they provide all the work, rather than the Occupy Movement or the Socialist Workers’ Party, then the ABC hosts would all address each other as “comrade” while the Fairfax journalists would be plotting the overthrow of the system by the ballot rather than the bomb.

Of course, Bolt’s views are designed to provoke. He makes a living out of being controversial. So I wouldn’t even bother were it not for the fact that there are similar views being promoted by so many on the Right, and for the fact that the IPA clearly have the sale of the ABC on its agenda.

Then we have the distraction in the spying scandal – should the ABC (and “The Guardian”) have published, or should they have decided that it wasn’t in the national interest and buried the story? (In much the same way that certain newspapers in Australia have buried the Leveson inquiry or the charges against the Murdoch Press in the UK – presumably they weren’t in the national interest either!) But surely, if the Government-owned media starts to censor its news because it might embarrass the Government, they’d be open to all sorts of criticism. Secondly, does anyone really think that Snowden’s revelations would not have found their way to Jakarta – and eventually, some media outlet – anyway?

Ah, how quickly we’ve gone from this:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” Voltaire

To this:

“I disapprove of what you say, so shut up, because free speech only applies to those who are right. And you’re part of the Left, so you don’t have anything to say!” Bolt aire.

Just remember – we’re not independent and we’re all idiots

Image from memecrunch.com

Image from memecrunch.com

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of taking a class called “Oral English” which was one hour a week and in it Year 10 students were meant to improve their oral skills by short talks, debating and intelligent discussion of issues. The intelligent discussion of issues nearly always descended into them raising their voices and insulting each other at which point I’d bring a halt to proceedings and remind them of the rules of the class.

One day, instead of doing the same ineffective thing, I simply asked them, “When was the last time that someone changed your mind by yelling at you? Or by insulting you?” The general consensus was never. “Then why do you think it’ll work when you do it?’

“We don’t,” said one girl.

“Then why do you do it?” I asked

“Because it feels good.”

“Well, just so long as you’re not expecting to win the argument or change anyone’s mind.”

I sometimes think of this when I read long arguments in the comments section. Am I commenting to change people’s mind, or am I just doing it because it feels good?

On various sites, I’ve had exchanges with people that have started to resemble the Stockholm syndrome. I’ve gone missing for a few days and they comment that they were missing me when I return. On one site, I was accused of being “brainwashed by the (left-wing) mainstream media” (ha!) and told to think for myself. This was often followed by a link where someone would tell me how to think for myself. (One would alternate between links to show that Australia was the ONLY country taking action on climate change and links to show that action on climate change was part of a global conspiracy to establish world government because that’s what the left wing and rich people have conspired to do)

There’s quite an interesting little article that suggests that facts and figures don’t matter much. People’s interpretation will sway even simple mathematics. A good example of this is The Australian’s recent “leak” of the IPCC report which suggesting that warming was only 0.12C a decade not 0.2C. This is being reported as nothing to worry about, after all, rather than, thank god, we still might be able to do something about it. There’s no “it’s definitely warming so all that guff about the planet cooling is just wrong”. (Or, to put the figures in another context, would you be happy if you were told that a particular line in the supermarket was only responsible for 12 deaths in a thousand, instead of the reported 20?).

When I wrote “Dealing With Trolls and Liberals”, I had a couple of people attack me as suggesting that anyone who disagreed with me was a troll. They obviously didn’t get the irony of the title. It was actually suggesting that people needed to be careful about doing just that, but it was also suggesting that the Abbott led Liberal Party was behaving exactly like a troll.

The Urban Dictionary defines a troll thus

1a. Noun One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.

1b. Noun A person who, on a message forum of some type, attacks and flames other members of the forum for any of a number of reasons such as rank, previous disagreements, sex, status, ect.
A troll usually flames threads without staying on topic, unlike a “Flamer” who flames a thread because he/she disagrees with the content of the thread.

1c. Noun A member of an internet forum who continually harangues and harasses others. Someone with nothing worthwhile to add to a certain conversation, but rather continually threadjacks or changes the subject, as well as thinks every member of the forum is talking about them and only them. Trolls often go by multiple names to circumvent getting banned.

I’ve decided to adopt three rules for trolls:

  1. Be careful not to define every person who disagrees as a troll, but where the person simply starts with abuse and doesn’t actually mention any of the issues raised in the blog, it’s a fair bet.

  2. Don’t let them change the topic. If the blog was on the NDIS, for example, don’t enter into a discussion with them about the “School Hall fiasco”. I intend to calmly tell them that I talked about that on a different post, and their comment would be more relevant there, and give them a link to a post which has nothing to do with what they’re talking about. (One can continue to do this with every comment they make.)

  3. Remember what that girl in my Oral English class said about doing it because it feels good. If you find yourself getting upset or frustrated, it’s safer to ignore them. Or, if you can’t do that, refer to them by name and say something like, “It’s because of idiots like you that we’ve now got a Labor Government”. Confuses them no end, but it’ll also help them achieve their aim, which is to ensure that the comments AREN’T about the blog, or the information being presented. The other option if they bring up the Pink Batts is to ask them exactly what the GOVERNMENT did wrong, and refer them to the report by Alan Hawke, where it was found that the rate of problems was no higher than normal and that scale had more to do with the number of faulty installations.

It’s also interesting that any criticism of Tony Abbott and company is quickly turned into a demand that people writing on this site, justify everything that the Labor government did. As I’ve pointed out on many occasions, I am not a member of the Labor Party or the Greens, and don’t feel the need to apologise for time these parties have got it wrong. For some of you, that may be different and you may feel a compelling need, but try not to let the topic be changed by people who’s main aim is to disrupt. (If the discussion is about whose turn it is do the dishes, don’t let it get sidetracked to how you left the margarine out of the fridge last week. ) The Labor Government has been voted out of office. I accept the “will of the people”. If the discussion is about the current government, trolls bringing up Kevin, Julia, Pink Batts, School Halls or debt should get their own blog, or stick to what’s being discussed.

And no, that’s not stifling your “free speech”, any more than the fact “The Age” doesn’t always publish my letters or when the commercial channel’s decided not run GetUp!’s ads. (If you want to argue about the free speech issue, your comments would be welcome here.)