Legal Rights Persistently Undermined By Parliament

The IPA’s latest report, the Legal Rights Audit 2016, was today featured in the legal affairs section of The Australian ($):

An audit of federal legislation has found that the erosion of fundamental rights by the nation’s politicians shows no sign of ending despite the expenditure of millions of dollars on publicly funded human rights agencies.

… “The extent to which legal rights are being eroded poses a significant threat to the rule of law in Australia,” the audit says.

… The growing erosion of legal rights is outlined in a report that calls for the repeal of all breaches of fundamental rights and urges politicians to show greater respect for the rule of law by refusing to pass bills that breach fundamental rights.”The research we have conducted shows the critical state of fundamental legal rights in Australia,” said Simon Breheny, the IPA’s director of policy who co-authored the report with Morgan Begg.

“It is of deep concern that the problem Australia faces when it comes to fundamental rights is getting worse and it does not seem as though there is any end in sight.”

… The report says fundamental legal rights are necessary to achieve justice within the legal system and act as a vital constraint on the coercive power of the state.On the burden of proof, it says difficulties experienced by prosecutors in proving the elements of an offence or civil remedy are an insufficient justification for reversing this right.

Mr Breheny said it was disappointing that nothing practical had been done to reverse the erosion of rights — despite an inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission and statements by Attorney-General George Brandis.

“It is deeply concerning that we have the apparatus of the state — in the form of the Australian Human Rights Commission — actually championing legal rights abuses rather than recommending changes to the law that would protect our fundamental freedoms,” he said.

“The best example of this is that the Human Rights Commission is basically set up to enforce anti-discrimination law rather than defending our fundamental freedoms.”

This could be seen from the fact that the Human Rights Commission strongly supports “speech-restricting provisions” such as section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. That provision makes it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate people because of their race, colour or national origin.

Mr Breheny noted that the Human Rights Commission also favoured a proposal from the previous federal Labor government that would have reversed the burden of proof in human rights and anti-discrimination law.

“That is just unforgivable, particularly when the problem, as our research has shown, is as significant as it is,” he said.

You can see the charts from the article here, and read the whole article here ($).

School’s now focus firmly on what divides us, not what we share in common

Kevin Donnelly in The Australian on Tuesday argued that it’s now clear that the education sector’s ‘politically correct embrace of diversity and difference – the new code for multiculturalism – reigns supreme’:

As reported in yesterday’s The Australian, school officials at Sydney’s Hurstville Boys Campus, based on a literal interpretation of a hadith, told Muslim students that it was permissible to refuse to greet females in the customary way.

So much for the Christian ­admonition “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. And so much for the fact that Australian society only prospers and grows when there is a shared understanding of what constitutes civility and good manners.

… Education now embraces identity politics where the rights and privileges of particular ­individuals and groups nominated by the cultural Left are granted positive discrimination… Whereas in times past schools would teach all students about the values, beliefs and institutions that bind us as a nation and the debt owed to Western culture, the focus is now firmly on what ­divides us instead of what we share in common.Even worse, instead of their ­arguments being properly ­analysed and evaluated, anyone questioning multicultural groupthink is quickly condemned as Islamophobic, racist and intolerant.

As noted by the British journalist and author Patrick West: “Tolerance in the name of relativism has become its own intolerance. We are commended to respect all differences and anyone who dis-agrees shall be shouted down, ­silenced or slandered as a racist. Everyone must be tolerant. And that’s an order.”

The Australian National Curriculum advocates identity politics and the belief that all cultures must be treated equally. Christianity, instead of being acknowledged as one of the foundation stones on which Western culture rests and continues to depend, receives the same weighting as Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.

While the National Curriculum stipulates that subjects and areas of learning must celebrate diversity and difference, with a special focus an Asian and indigenous perspectives, scant time or attention is given to the history and significance of liberalism within the Western tradition.

The NSW Statement of Equity Principles endorsed by the recently established Education Standards Council also illustrates the way education has been captured by the cultural Left’s long march through the institutions. The school syllabus, associated materials and assessment guidelines all focus on “difference and diversity in the Australian community” where all must be respected and treated equally regardless of “cultural and linguistic heritage, gender, age, beliefs, socio-economic status, location, sexuality or disability”.

… Multiculturalism ignores the reality that some cultural practices and beliefs are un-Australian and that unless we want to follow the example of Britain and Europe, where the policy has led to ethnic ghettos, violence and social fragmentation, education must teach how to discriminate between what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable beliefs and ­values.There is also the irony that the very values that cultural relativists champion, such as tolerance and respect for others, are culturally specific. The liberties and freedoms we take for granted are embedded in Western culture, our Judeo-Christian heritage, and ­historical movements like the ­Enlightenment.

You can read the full article here ($)

Federal debt to explode to $600bn within three years

From The Australian today:

Australia’s gross public debt is on track to rise from $474bn as of last month to more than $600bn within the next three years — even including the government’s reform measures — which will amount to around $23,500 a person. Such calculations include swaths of the Australian population who will shoulder little of the debt repayment.

Cth_gross_debt

There are 5.5 million Australians aged under 18 who can’t yet vote, and 3.3 million aged over 65, who can, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics population estimates. The debt burden per capita and per Australian under 18 has exploded since the financial crisis from $2600 and $11,100, respectively, to $20,300 and $90,300.

Read the full article here ($)

The New Iconoclasm

Two anniversaries that fall in October, both important for lovers of western civilisation, highlight the new iconoclasm at the heart of modern western progressives.

The first date is Columbus Day, which commemorates Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas on 12 October 1492.  The effective discovery of the Americas by Europeans is an obviously important event in Western history: for one thing, it exported the West to the New World through colonisation, and led to the eventual creation of the United States of America, the remaining superpower in the world today.

Perhaps because of this, symbols of Columbus’ achievements are a target for the self-loathing progressive Left.  Such is their obsession that a group of local politicians in Barcelona, apparently unfazed by the prevalent street crime and high unemployment, are calling for the removal of one of Barcelona’s most iconic monuments: an imposing bronze figure of Columbus, who, since 1888, has been pointing out to sea in three-dimensional glory atop a towering 40 metre Corinthian column, located at the lower end of the pick pocketers paradise known as La Rambla.

The far Left councillors calling for its removal say that the statue, its plinth, and other historical characters unfortunate enough to be depicted in bronze at the base of the explorer’s column, has to go because its very presence praises the conquest of another nation which was then subjected to “imperialism, oppression and segregation.”

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated example.  Public statues have increasingly come under attack, specifically statues of dead white males who either built empires or colonised other countries, by certain members of society who, wracked with guilt, have become a new breed of modern day iconoclast.

Until he had caught the attention of a socialist Peruvian architecture professor, the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro González and his steed had been standing on top of a plinth in Lima’s central squares since the 1930s. Pizarro has since been moved out of sight to an obscure park, condemned as a criminal and unfit for the general public’s consumption.

In 2015, students at the University of Cape Town began the Rhodes Must Fall campaign. claiming that the seated statue of Cecil Rhodes ‘represented institutional racism’. The campaign spread across the globe to other universities, most notably Oxford University’s Oriel College, where Rhodes was an intermittent student between 1873 and 1881.

Students at Oxford voted 245 to 212 in favour of the motion to remove his statue because they wanted to ‘challenge the structures of knowledge production that continue to mould a colonial mindset that dominates our present’.

Oriel College responded by saying that ‘the College does not share Cecil Rhodes’s values or condone his racist views or actions’ but when it realised that it stood to lose £100 million of gifts and bequests from furious donors, it decided that insofar as Oriel was concerned, Rhodes Must Not Fall.

At Jesus College, Cambridge, the student union passed a motion to repatriate a bronze cockerel which was taken from Benin, in Nigeria after a punitive British naval expedition in 1897.  According to Varsity, the student magazine, ‘the contemporary political culture surrounding colonialism and social justice, combined with the university’s global agenda, offers a perfect opportunity for the college to benefit from this gesture.’ In other words, everyone was going to feel a lot better about themselves if the giant metallic fowl was returned to Benin at once.

Iconoclasm is not a new phenomenon. The Eastern Orthodox Church for example, has never accepted monumental sculpture. In the 1640s, Oliver Cromwell’s puritanical regime reached its apogee by establishing a ‘Committee for the Demolition of Monuments of Superstition and Idolatry’ which would send in hammer wielding henchmen at the slightest whiff of idolatry.

Islam has consistently and violently rejected nearly all figurative sculpture. In 2001 the Taliban reduced the monumental 4th Century Bamiyan Buddhas to piles of dust and rubble, while in 2015, Isis blew up the cultural treasures of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Palmyra.

But there is an important distinction between that style of iconoclasm, present throughout history where leaders of new regimes replaced or removed symbols of old regimes, and this new iconoclasm.

What we are seeing is a campaign to remove the very symbols that embody the essence of Western Civilisation, by the West itself.  That western spirit of adventure and discovery that took western civilisation itself to the new world as symbolised Christopher Columbus, has now become something to be ashamed of.

Columbus’s statue was constructed for the Universal Exhibition of 1888, one of many world exhibitions which were being held across the globe in the 19th Century to promote new industrial products and show the latest scientific achievements being made.

But the new iconoclasts turn their backs on the insights and advances propelled by the Renaissance, the Scientific revolution and Enlightenment. Instead, they seek to replace social and scientific-progress with warm and fuzzy relativist goals of respect and recognition.

The removal of statues has become a form of atonement for guilt and self-loathing. It is an expression of a moral revulsion at the supposed racism and ideas of cultural superiority displayed by our forebears.

The second anniversary to take place this month is the Battle of Hastings, which took place 950 years ago. It is a perfect contrast to Columbus Day, and highlights that fact that the Left does not possess a principled concern for the historic conquest of indigenous peoples.  On October 14, 1066, a Norman Frenchman effectively invaded England, took the Crown from the King and initiated a Normanisation of English society that fundamentally and irrevocably reshaped Britain.

It is safe to say that statues of William the Conqueror dotted across the British Isles, including the iconic statue of the Norman King on his horse in front of the Houses of Parliament in London, will not be subjected to the same fate of other European conquerors. The Left will leave them well alone, preferring to let this particular anniversary pass unnoticed, as it highlights an extremely uncomfortable fact: that history is littered with warfare, competition and conflict, and is not something to be perpetually aggrieved about.

 

Social Responsibility Cuts Many Ways

The Australian Financial Review is reporting that at a Greens-organised Senate hearing today into the potential closure of Australian coal-fired power stations, Energy Australia executive Mark Collette, whose company runs one of Victoria’s four brown coal generators, said that the company had “a social responsibility to keep the plant running”.

He also said that “Yallourn (the name of the power station) is a tricky situation. If you see the Victorian energy market as a car and Hazelwood is the spare tyre, the tyre is going. If Yallourn closes down, the car breaks down.”

This refreshingly honest statement – that a company has a social responsibility to do the job it is paid by its customers to do, should be put on the desk of the chief executives of Australia’s top 100 companies, too many of whom have been seduced over recent years to apologise for their business, in a futile effort to appease anti-business campaigners.

Energy Australia’s inquiry submission also helpfully noted that they would need to build 2 wind turbines a day for 30 years at a total cost of $150 billion to meet a 100% renewables target.

Last year, FreedomWatch noted a speech given 46 years ago by the influential American economist Milton Friedman “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Profits.” It is as relevant today, as it was then.

Rowan Callick On Chinese Democracy

A fascinating piece from Rowan Callick in The Australian today on the repressive nature of Chinese democracy, where those insufficiently loyal to the ruling Communist party are not allowed to participate:

Today, under Xi Jinping, we are seeing clear limits on how far popular representation can go.

This approach is now being applied consistently, through mainland China and in special administrative regions such as Hong Kong, where two awkward young legislators were disqualified from taking their places on Tuesday night…

In mainland China, everyone above 18 can vote for their district People’s Congress representatives, who do not have to be party members. Those congresses meet for five years. The local congresses choose the representatives for the municipal or provincial level congresses, which choose those who form the National People’s Congress that meets every March in Beijing.

… Under China’s constitution, anyone can stand for membership of a district congress. In practice, party authorities will assess candidates. Those who pass muster initially but act too independently after being elected are soon weeded out. Others who ­appear palpably unacceptable to the authorities are prevented from standing.

All must in time, if not at the start, defer to the party hierarchy, which is superior to the civic structures and retains the power to veto or initiate policies.

No access is available to the mass media or social media for candidates to explain themselves. The only way to present a case is to meet voters in person.

Five years ago in Wukan, a ­village in Guangdong province in the country’s south, in the dying days of the Hu-Wen leadership team, a bitter dispute over an ­alleged land grab by party officials of farms was defused by ­villagers being allowed to choose their own leaders.

However, these leaders were unable to wrest back the stolen land and protests began again — this time led by Lin Zuluan, elected in 2011. The authorities’ deployed heavily armed riot police, and jailed Lin. The courts confirmed a three-year sentence last month and fined him $40,000. He and the villagers who continued to back him said the corruption charges were trumped up.

In the outskirts of southwest Beijing, villagers of Gaodiansan in Fangshan district had two rounds of voting — the first round reducing the number of candidates. Farmer Liu Huizhen, 45, received substantial support and reached the second round.

But by then the authorities had woken up to the risk of letting her reach any further. She told The Australian she was followed constantly by as many as 20 well-built agents.

Her home is a crude wooden structure, which she and her husband built on land her family had farmed until it was confiscated by the government. The compensation was $50 per adult per month — in a city where the cost of living is considerably higher than Sydney’s.

She said the local government gave police the election records from the first round and visited each of the villagers who had voted for her.

“They asked why they had supported me. After that, most of my neighbours were too scared to do so in the second round,” she said. “All my neighbours had lost land too, and I wanted to speak on behalf of them if I had been elected.”

Liu was defeated in the second ballot.

Xu Zhiyong, a lecturer at ­Beijing’s University of Posts and Telecommunications, won two terms from 2003 and opposed the forced repatriation to hometowns of those without a Beijing hukou, or registration or who represented the families of children who fell sick after taking milk powder enhanced with ­mela­mine. Soon after stepping down from the congress, he was jailed for four years for “disturbing the social order”.

 

Continue reading here ($)

IPA Poll: Most Support 18C Change

A Galaxy Research poll commissioned by the IPA has found that – of those that have an opinion – most support a change to section 18C that would remove the words “offend” and “insult”. This was covered in The Australian by Joe Kelly today:

A new poll shows a majority of Australians disapprove of the Human Rights Commission for its pursuit of The Australian and Bill Leak over a political cartoon, while there is also widespread support for an overhaul of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

A Galaxy Research poll commissioned by the Institute of Public Affairs shows 64 per cent of respondents disapproved of the HRC investigating a “news­paper cartoonist” because an individual had found a cartoon offensive or insulting.

Of the 1000 people surveyed between last Thursday and Sunday, fewer than one in five (19 per cent) approved of the probe while 17 per cent said they didn’t know.

IPA executive director John Roskam said the poll showed “two-thirds of Australians know what is happening is wrong” and argued the results showed “widespread support” for restoring freedom of speech.

“It is outrageous in a free country that any citizen should be forced to justify their political opinion to the government,” he said. “Labor and the Greens claim that freedom of speech is ‘not a mainstream issue’ is just wrong. The public understands the government should not censor Bill Leak’s cartoon.”

The poll shows only 15 per cent of those older than 50 approved of the commission investigating a cartoonist, and only 17 per cent of those aged between 35 and 49.

The 64 per cent opposition to the commission’s investigation into The Australian and Leak is higher than a Newspoll recently that showed 57 per cent of respondents opposed the lawsuit against university students under 18C.

Under that action, which was rejected by the Federal Circuit Court, students at the Queensland University of Technology were being sued for $250,000 for commenting on Facebook about segregation after they were requested to leave an indigenous-only room.

The Galaxy poll also surveyed attitudes towards changing section 18C. It found 45 per cent of those surveyed approved of changing 18C so it was no longer unlawful to “offend” or “insult” someone based on their race or ethnicity, while 38 per cent ­opposed removing the terms.

I’m A Victorian. Can You Please Sell Me Some Electricity?

Yesterday’s revelation that the closure of the Hazelwood power station in March 2017 means Victoria will need to import electricity from New South Wales and/or Tasmania during summer peaks shows the extent to which governments are mismanaging our energy future.

The Australian Energy Market Operator report issued after the Hazelwood announcement also noted that in 2015-16:

  • Victoria accounted for 27% of the electricity consumed in the National Energy Market, 86% of which came from brown coal;
  • Victorian exports provided 14% of South Australian consumption, 6% of New South Wales’ and 6% of Tasmania’s; and
  • Hazelwood alone produced 22% of Victoria’s electricity.

When a state that has an estimated 430 billion tonnes of brown coal – equal to hundreds of years of supply, and is the historic heart of the nation’s gas and oil industry, is unable to reliably provide its own electricity, you know you have a big problem.

The problem with Australia’s electricity system is too much government control, too many regulations and playing favourites with particular technologies. This is probably why over the last decade, Australia has slipped from having the lowest energy costs in the OECD to the 27th lowest as revealed  by the Minerals Council of Australia on Thursday.

This is why it was a pleasant surprise on Friday morning when the Australian Financial Review reported that the owner of ERM Power, Trevor St. Baker, has offered to buy Hazelwood, as well as the recently decommissioned Northern Power Station at Port Augusta in South Australia. Whether he is successful remains to be seen, but it is heartening that Australia has not yet lost all of its independent thinking entrepreneurs.

Good luck to him.