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Tag Archives: Section 18C

Bigots or the disabled?

There could be no starker signal of this government’s intentions than the appointment of Tim Wilson as the Human Rights Commissioner for ‘Freedom’ at the expense of disability commissioner Graeme Innes.

In opposition, Senator Brandis was prepared to publicly criticise Mr Innes for advocating on behalf of Australians with a disability, blaming the ‘ideological culture’ within the Human Rights Commission.

The following biographies come from the Australian Human Rights Commission website. I will leave it to you to judge who you feel is better qualified and able to make an important contribution to our society.

Graeme Innes has been Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner since December 2005. During that time he has also served as Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner for three and a half years and as Race Discrimination Commissioner for two years.

Graeme is a Lawyer, Mediator and Company Director. He has been a Human Rights Practitioner for 30 years in NSW, WA and nationally.

As Commissioner, Graeme has led or contributed to the success of a number of initiatives. These have included the Same Sex: Same Entitlements inquiry, which resulted in removal of discrimination across federal law; the drafting of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and its ratification by Australia.

Graeme was also crucial to the development of the National Disability Strategy and the Disability (Access to Premises – buildings) Standards 2010; as well as the establishment of Livable Housing Australia.

Graeme has also been an active high profile advocate for the implementation of cinema captioning and audio descriptions and, as Human Rights Commissioner, undertook three annual inspections of Australia’s Immigration Detention facilities.

Graeme has been a Member of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal; the NSW Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal; and the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. He has also been a Hearing Commissioner with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Graeme was Chair of the Disability Advisory Council of Australia, and the first Chair of Australia’s national blindness agency, Vision Australia.

In 1995 Graeme was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). In 2003, he was a finalist for Australian of the Year.

Graeme is married with an adult son and a daughter in high school. He enjoys cricket (as a spectator) and sailing (as a participant), and relaxes by drinking fine Australian white wine.”

Tim Wilson was appointed Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner in February 2014.

Dubbed the “Freedom Commissioner”, Tim is a proud and passionate defender of universal, individual human rights. As Commissioner he is focused on promoting and advancing traditional human rights and freedoms, including free speech, freedom of association, worship and movement and property rights.

Prior to his appointment Tim was a public policy analyst and a policy director at the world’s oldest free market think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs. He has also worked in trade and communication consulting, international aid and development, as well politics. He has served as a Board member of Monash University’s Council and on the Victorian Board of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. Tim is a Director of Alfred Health.

He has extensive experience in public debate and has had many regular radio and television commitments, with both commercial and public broadcasters. The Australian newspaper recognised Tim as one of the ten emerging leaders of Australian society. He has written extensively for newspapers, journals and books. He recently co-edited the book Turning Left or Right: Values in Modern Politics.

Tim graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Policy) and a Masters of Diplomacy and Trade (International Trade) from Monash University. He has also completed executive education at Geneva’s Institut de Hautes Etudes Internationales et du Développement and the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Worldwide Academy.

Tim lives with his partner, Ryan.”

Graeme has vast experience and many practical accomplishments to point to in his years of active service as an advocate for the disabled and a defender against discrimination. Tim Wilson is an aging Young Liberal from the IPA who goes on TV a lot.

Wilson did not have to go through any application or interview process to land this job. George Brandis must have been impressed with the cut of his jib when they spent an enjoyable evening together at the IPA’s 70th Anniversary bash in April last year because, as soon as he had the power, George rang Tim to tell him he had created a new job for him that would pay well over $300,000 a year and he still got to do his tv gigs.

Unfortunately, George did not offer any new money to the HRC to take Tim on. Instead, he abolished Graeme’s position.

Andrew Bolt, who was MC for the IPA’s birthday party, in an article titled “In praise of George Brandis”, gives some insight into the reasons behind this decision when he quotes a Brendan O’Neill interview with Brandis:

“He describes the climate-change debate as one of the ‘great catalysing moments’ in his views about the importance of free speech. He describes how Penny Wong … would ‘stand up in the Senate and say “The science is settled”. In other words, “I am not even going to engage in a debate with you”. It was ignorant, it was medieval, the approach of these true believers in climate change.’ … And to Brandis, this speaks to a new and illiberal climate of anti-intellectualism, to the emergence of ‘a habit of mind and mode of discourse which would deny the legitimacy of an alternative point of view, where rather than winning the argument [they] exclude their antagonists from the argument’…”

You have to be kidding, George. The highly-funded denial campaign has not only had a very loud voice in the media, it has successfully dictated policy. The opinion that “the science is settled” is shared by all those not in thrall to the fossil fuel industry.

Your government has systematically gone about removing any voice of dissent and silencing all argument in every arena. Increasingly you are hiding what you are doing, not only from the public, but from other elected representatives. Turning refugees into a military problem to escape all accountability and oversight is beyond your legitimate powers. You have no right to act alone, refusing to answer questions from the Senate.

The O’Neill interview continues…

“The second thing that made him sharpen his pen and open his gob about the importance of freedom of speech was the case of Andrew Bolt… In 2010, he wrote some blog posts for the Herald Sun website criticising the fashion among ‘fair-skinned people’ to claim Aboriginal heritage, under the headlines: ‘It’s so hip to be black’, ‘White is the New Black’ and ‘White Fellas in the Black’… They were removed from the Herald Sun’s website. Anyone who republishes them risks being arrested and potentially jailed.

Brandis is stinging about this case. The judge ‘engaged in an act of political censorship’, he says, with a journalist ‘prohibited from expressing a point of view’. The reason Brandis is so keen to ditch the bit of the Racial Discrimination Act that allowed such a flagrant act of ideological censorship to take place in twenty-first-century Australia is because while it is justified as a guard against outbursts of dangerous racism, actually it allows the state to police and punish legitimate public speech and debate. ‘And the moment you establish the state as the arbiter of what might be said, you establish the state as the arbiter of what might be thought, and you are right in the territory that George Orwell foreshadowed’, he says …

Brandis says … he’s bent on overhauling Section 18C … because it expands the authority of state into the realm of thought, where it should never tread, he says. ‘…In my view, freedom of speech, by which I mean the freedom to express and articulate beliefs and opinions, is a necessary and essential precondition of political freedom.’

How does this gel with your direction to public servants that they may not post opinions critical of government policy on social media and that they should dob in any colleagues who do?

How does it fit in with the fact that Liberal Party MPs ban anyone who posts links to documents (eg fiscal statements) or makes comments disproving the rhetoric on their Facebook pages?

How does it fit in with new laws outlawing the right to protest?

And could I suggest that Operation Sovereign Borders is as Orwellian as you can get.

I am assuming the 5,500 submissions received about your proposed repeal of Section 18C is the kind of debate you welcome and that you and your Freedom Commissioner may learn a few things. One can only hope that you pay attention.

 

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I refuse to live in fear!

The tactic of a bully is to keep their victims living in fear of what could happen so they are grateful when they don’t get beaten or abused. They make their victim believe they are powerless by cutting them off from their support and telling them only the bully can look after them. This is exactly what our own government is doing. It is their tactic of choice in so many areas.

In the past, Australia was a country who willingly offered safe haven to refugees. We recognised their need for a home which complemented our need for population growth. As time passed, the contribution made to our society by those we embraced became obvious and we are the richer for it in so many ways. We are a wealthy multicultural society who used to lend a hand. Those days are gone.

We must spend whatever it takes, and alienate whoever we must, and inflict terrible physical and mental harm, to save the nation from the invading hordes of asylum seekers who will threaten our way of life. They will impose Sharia law, take your jobs, clog up your roads and hospitals, and are just waiting for a chance to kill you. Yes I am sure that’s why they are fleeing their homelands, leaving family and friends, risking their lives on unseaworthy vessels – just so they can come and turn Australia into what they are escaping from.

I do not fear refugees and we can easily accommodate 30,000 a year if not more. We should be welcoming them, assuring them they are safe now, and assisting them to become productive members of our society.

Climate change is real. It is not a conspiracy by bankers for world domination. It is not collusion by scientists to get funding. It is not a fake perpetrated by the IPCC. I refuse to believe the conspiracy theories though I am terrified by the consequences of our inaction. The government has inculcated fear about carbon pricing into the community – Whyalla will be wiped off the map, lamb roasts will cost $100, the cost of living will skyrocket – none of which happened. They tell us that wind farms are bad for our health and when that didn’t run, they revert to they are ugly?

We were told that the mining tax would hinder investment in Australia with investment and jobs going offshore. This scare campaign was also a lie. We have the resources and a stable economy, the investors are banging on our door. The high Aussie dollar caused by the success of the mining industry is what is hurting jobs and sending industries offshore, but Hockey hastened to reassure the miners that they will not have any of their subsidies cut or tax increased. In ‘fear’ of the miners choosing to rape another country instead, we have gotten rid of our environmental protections and given virtually open slather for the short term cash grab of developing our finite resources.

Our country is not broke. Using great big numbers about possible debt in ten years’ time and inflated deficit figures is purely designed to scare us. Why do that? Don’t you want business and consumer confidence? This scare campaign is purely political to exaggerate the problem, blame it on Labor, and use it as an excuse to implement their corporate agenda and social engineering.

People struggling on the old age and disability pensions are terrified about the recommendations from the Commission of Audit. We can reassure the miners but we cannot reassure the pensioners. They have to wait in fear so when they only have to pay $6 instead of the recommended $15 as a co-payment to the doctor they will feel grateful.

We are told that our health system is unsustainable yet the government didn’t ask the people in the industry how it could be improved. We straight away go to the scare campaign of we can’t afford this so you must pay. The experts have said there are many ways that expenditure could be better spent and areas of waste that could be eliminated but starting with preventative health is patently counter-productive.

The same applies to the old age pension. We have now scared everyone by saying they will have to work to 70 yet once again the experts disagree with the fear campaign being spread. Hockey said the number of people aged 65-84 would quadruple by 2050. The ABS says otherwise. They do three predictions – high, low, and medium – their high range estimate is 2.5 times growth in that age bracket. Hockey predicted that only 37 per cent of the population would be of working age in 2050, yet the best available estimates from the ABS show it is in fact between 61 and 63 per cent.

The scare campaign about unions is the government’s way of cutting us off from our support. What collective voice do the people have other than the unions? Who offers protection for our workplace rights other than unions? Who can represent individuals other than unions? Reducing the minimum wage or the availability of Newstart is not the best way to tackle unemployment. There are so many better ways like investing in new industries such as renewable energy, and investing in education and supporting research to develop the industries of the future – something we have been amazingly good at in the past.

George Brandis even wants to change the law to protect bigots and bullies. Apparently they have every right to offend and humiliate people. What sort of crazy backward thinking is this, done in the name of freedom? Next, will we be defending the rights of countries to commit human rights abuses? Oh, wait……

We must stand up to this government who consciously, willingly lies to its own citizens to keep them in unnecessary fear. We must point out their crazy priorities where we waste hundreds of billions on fossil fuel subsidies, tax rebates for superannuation and private health insurance, fighter jets, paid parental leave, grants to polluters, Operation Sovereign Borders, lifetime gold passes and entitlements for politicians, political advertising and campaigning and the like, while insisting that our most vulnerable must live in poverty and fear. We must expose their lies about debt, deficit, and the affordability of our health and welfare system.

You are the one who should be afraid Tony – be vewwy afwaid – because I refuse to live in fear and will do everything in my power to make sure the Australian people know the truth so we can protect ourselves from the bully by ending this relationship at the first opportunity.

Bullying-stands-for

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Shining a light on dark places

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The attempt to sell the repeal of Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act has led to a new page in the “phrases to repeat” Coalition script. Everyone from Tony Abbott and George Brandis to Tim Wilson is saying that it is the responsibility of the community to “shine a light on dark places”.

I realise they are referring to bigotry and racism but I think it is a laudable sentiment which should be embraced and extended.

I would like a light shone on Manus Island and Nauru and “on-water operations”. I would like to see a cost benefit analysis of our offshore detention policy. I would like to see a total bill for Operation Sovereign Borders and the incarceration of innocent people.

Add up how much we are spending on orange life rafts and unmanned drones and having a naval fleet patrolling. Add up how much we are spending on flights for politicians, aid workers, guards, journalists, asylum seekers etc to fly backwards and forwards to Indonesia, PNG, Nauru, Christmas Island, Cambodia, Solomon Islands and everywhere else we are trying to make complicit in this inhumanity. Add up how much it is costing us to keep 30,000 people locked up in limbo.

Next, this government is carrying out a concerted campaign to discredit unions using the Craig Thomson case to justify spending hundreds of millions on a Royal Commission and the re-establishment of the ABCC. I find this hard to understand as Mr Thomson is going to gaol – doesn’t this show that we already have a system of oversight by which corrupt officials can be prosecuted? Aren’t the police and ICAC better suited to deal with bribery, corruption and intimidation?

The $24,000 that Mr Thomson misappropriated pales into insignificance compared to the amount of money that politicians have been forced to repay for fraudulent expense claims that are brushed off as “mistakes” if someone questions them. I would like a light shone on parliamentarians’ entitlements and for the Finance department to exercise better governance.

I would like to shine a light on who is actually running our government. Every time Tony Abbott meets with world leaders Peta Credlin is sitting at the table. I know she runs his office but surely there are some diplomats, economists. cultural, trade or defence experts that deserve a spot in front of her.

I want to know why Cardinal Pell and Maurice Newman feel empowered to advise the government on climate change. I want to know why Mark Textor feels empowered to wade into foreign affairs on Twitter. I want to know who are the puppet masters. (see Andrew Robb video).

Speaking of puppet masters, I want to shine a light on political donations, and on paid political advertising which is banned in the UK.

Coincidentally, in a recent freedom of speech ruling in the European Court, the UK government successfully argued that the ban on paid political advertising was necessary to achieve the “legitimate aim of avoiding the distortion of debate on matters of public interest by unequal access to influential media by financially powerful bodies.”

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority of nine to eight, that the long-standing ban on paid political advertising on television and radio in the United Kingdom does not contravene the right to freedom of expression in article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Wealthy corporations, organisations and individuals have unusual access to, and influence over, the parties and politicians to whom they donate. Hundreds of millions of dollars are donated and then spent on advertising. Not only is this a ridiculous waste of money, it makes our political parties beholden. They are focused on chasing sponsorship so they must appease those with the means to bankroll them. People back winners so they must concentrate on being popular rather than governing.

The media must have a good relationship with a politician to gain access and to be fed the leaks. The politician must have a good relationship with the media because they choose what the next headline will say and which stories will be reported. This symbiotic arrangement has degenerated so far that politicians and journalists are amongst the least respected professions in the country. The following arrangement doesn’t add to the public’s trust.

“The $600 million lease on the current RAAF fleet of two Boeing 737 business jets and three smaller Challenger 604 aircraft will expire next year and the government will seek agreement from media companies to limit criticism of any decision to opt for bigger planes

According to senior government sources the new plan would involve aircraft such as the Airbus A-330 or Boeing 777 that can fly hundreds of passengers over long distances with fewer stops. The Boeing 777 and Airbus A-330 each cost about $250 million and both can carry in excess of 200 passengers in VIP configuration.”

And why should the media not report on this? Because the current planes “are too small to carry a full complement of press gallery journalists and crews” so let me spend my hundreds of millions in peace and you get a free ride to come film me. The taxpayers are footing the bill for Tony’s tame journos to be flown around the world presumably for free.

I would like to shine a light on corporate lobbyists and the deals they make with politicians. After leaving Parliament, an inordinate number of ex-pollies secure plum jobs with corporations they dealt with in their portfolio.

After bugging the East Timorese cabinet rooms under the guise of building them as a foreign aid project when he was Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer became an adviser to Woodside Petroleum, the company that was negotiating to exploit the oilfields. Peter Reith was appointed as a consultant to defence contractor Tenix immediately after resigning as defence minister. Health minister Michael Wooldridge signed a $5 million building deal for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and days later, after resigning as health minister, was employed by the college as a consultant.

I would like to shine a light on the truth about debt and deficit. Between PEFO and MYEFO, under the Coalition government, the projected deficit for the year blew out by $17 billion. $10.2 billion of that was due to spending decisions made by the Coalition, notably an $8.8 billion gift to the RBA, an extra $1.2 billion for offshore processing, and tax breaks for those with super balances over $2 million.

Quoting from the Coalition “phrases to repeat” sheet, you will hear every one of them say Labor left us with a debt of $667 billion. Well to quote Joe Hockey’s own MYEFO document which he produced in mid-December:

“Net debt is forecast to be $191.5 billion in 2013-14 and reach $280 billion in 2016-17.”

The figure of $667 billion comes from Hockey’s MYEFO estimation of the possible gross debt in ten years’ time. Surely between now and 2024 he will be able to come up with a solution or will we still be hearing about Labor’s debt?

Where we need a glaring spotlight is on the free trade agreements that we are rushing headlong into. With Peter Dutton insisting that our health system is unsustainable why on earth would you enter into agreements that will unquestionably send our PBS into a death spiral? Allowing the evergreening of patents and other measures to benefit the pharmaceutical companies (who just so happen to be generous sponsors of the pollie pedal) will potentially spell the end of generic medicines with a huge increase in the price we pay for our drugs.

I could go on but all this light shining is burning me out. We need all of you to be torch bearers for our country. Do as Tim Wilson urges us to do – shine a light on the dark places where this government is trying to lead us.

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Bigotry, mockery and humiliation

Image from 3aw.com.au

Image from 3aw.com.au

After telling us in the Senate that people have a right to be bigots, in a press conference today Senator Brandis said we must also defend their right to mock and humiliate others as this leads to a robust democracy. To defend this outrageous statement he referred to three examples.

First was the “infamous example of the Bolt case” where Andrew Bolt was found to have contravened section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act when he published a series of articles suggesting that it was fashionable for “fair-skinned people” of diverse ancestry to choose Aboriginal racial identity for the purposes of political and career clout, implying certain individuals had been given their positions purely because of a distant ancestor rather than earning them on merit.

The applicants sought an apology, legal costs, and a gag on republishing the articles and blogs. They did not seek damages. In other words, had Bolt apologised and agreed not to republish before the matter went to court, there would have been no court case and no cost.

Senator Brandis says it is up to the victim to stand up for themselves. These people tried that – Bolt refused to say sorry and continued publishing related material. He has a large audience in both the print and television media. How were these nine people supposed to “stand up for themselves” without legal recourse?

The next example was even more bizarre. Senator Brandis said it was ok to mock and humiliate because they do it every day in Parliament. People’s feeling may be hurt but hey, shit happens. (The last sentence is me paraphrasing – the one before it sadly isn’t.)

I found this astonishing. He suggests that humiliating people is a crucial part of the robust debate necessary for a strong democracy. What a load of bullshit. That shows how low our Parliament has sunk. We naively think we are electing them to govern – to make decisions based on expert advice for the greater good. They think they are there to win the insult game.

The third example was the media. Brandis said to the assembled journalists “You mock we politicians every day and so you should”. Personally I would prefer if they reported accurately on what you are doing and provided informed comparative analysis.

These examples from Senator Brandis, that government and media like to mock and humiliate people, are why over 100,000 people marched in March. We want better. In fact we demand better.

Every year, people, many of them children, commit suicide because of mockery and humiliation. It is not ok to deliberately try to embarrass people. The damage done can be long term if not irreparable. While considering how you can protect Andrew Bolt from ever having to say sorry, consider this:

  • One student in every four in Australian schools is affected by bullying, says recent research commissioned by the Federal Government.
  • An estimated 200 million children and youth around the world are being bullied by their peers, according to the 2007 Kandersteg Declaration Against Bullying in Children and Youth.
  • Kids who are bullied are three times more likely to show depressive symptoms, says the Centre for Adolescent Health.
  • Children who were bullied were up to nine times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, say some studies.
  • Girls who were victims of bullying in their early primary school years were more likely to remain victims as they got older, according to British research.
  • Children who were frequently bullied by their peers were more likely to develop psychotic symptoms in their early adolescence, says more UK research.
  • Girls were much more likely than boys to be victims of both cyber and traditional bullying, says a recent Murdoch Children’s Research Institute study.
  • Children as young as three can become victims of bullying, says Canadian research.
  • Young people who bully have a one in four chance of having a criminal record by the age of 30.
  • Bullying is the fourth most common reason young people seek help from children’s help services.

Senator Brandis, you have said that victims should stand up for themselves and the community should accept the responsibility for raising standards. That is what we are doing. We find the direction your government is taking offensive. The community requires you to do better. The many signs at the march in March gave you an indication of what we find offensive and the list is growing every day.

But today’s lesson, Mr Brandis, is that we do NOT want a country where our children think it is “necessary” to mock, humiliate, and embarrass people. We do NOT want our children to be bigots. We do NOT want our government and media to set this example. It’s unacceptable. Lift your game!

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