Discrimination for being a white male – seriously?

Australia has recently been subject to a debate over proposed changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. The changes were seen by conservatives to be necessary as there was some evidence to suggest that the Courts found that sometimes, some of their rank were found guilty of harassing, offending or insulting others based on their race or religion. During the debate,
Senator Brandis further added that he found it "deeply offensive and insulting" for Labor and the Greens to say his campaign for the changes to race hate laws had something to do with him being a white man.
Thankfully, the changes were voted down in the Senate.

The same week, ‘legendary’ entertainer Barry Manilow at the age of 73 announced that he and his partner had been together for 39 years. The reason that Manilow’s relationship was ‘newsworthy’ is that his partner is male and they finally married in Palm Springs in 2014. Any partnership that lasts 39 years must have a lot of commitment and consensus by those in the partnership and in my view anyway, should be commended.

Manilow apparently kept his personal life to himself because he was worried that he would lose his fans if he ‘came out’, but found out that most actually supported him. And so they should have.

Patrick Garvin, a staff writer for The Boston Globe took a different view, namely why is there an expectation for people who don’t live traditional male/female partnerships to ‘come out’ and justify their lifestyle choices? Garvin has a point – while sometimes a conversation will turn to how various couples met and determined they would form a partnership, there usually isn’t a discussion on why a particular male formed a partnership with a female.

Despite the claims made, Brandis can’t be serious that he is being actively discriminated against. Yes, he is a white man and while he is divorced, it’s highly likely that he has never had to justify his choice of the opposite gender for the partnership that brought two children into the world. This is the same George Brandis who is responsible for the carriage of the changes to the Australian Marriage Act, which are required to remove the requirement that only a man and a woman can be lawfully married.

In 2004, the Sydney Morning Herald reported
Less than an hour after Prime Minister John Howard announced the changes to the Marriage Act, the government rushed legislation enabling the changes into parliament.

Mr Howard said the Marriage Act would be changed to include a definition of marriage as the voluntarily entered-into union of a man and a woman to exclusion of all others.

The laws currently do not define marriage.

"We've decided to insert this into the Marriage Act to make it very plain that that is our view of a marriage and to also make it very plain that the definition of a marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament of the nation", Mr Howard told reporters.
The US Judge who ruled on same sex marriage completed his ruling with the following words
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfilment for themselves.”
Australia still has a long way to go before we can claim to be a society based on equality. As Howard said, the definition of a marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament of the nation. Howard changed the law to prevent same sex marriage without the need for a referendum, postal plebiscite or any other delaying tactic; Brandis and Turnbull can adopt a position on marriage that agrees with contemporary beliefs and change it back.

By the way Senator Brandis, Manilow faced discrimination as he had to justify why he prefers to be partnered with a male – you and Turnbull haven’t had to justify your choices of female partners. It is a factual statement that you are a white male. Factual statements are not discrimination – it’s in Section 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act.

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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A pound of flesh

Well inside his first 100 days, President Trump is facing a revolt from his core constituency. Trump promised a number of ‘initiatives’, from ‘draining the swamp’ (a reference to the political class in Washington DC), to building a wall to keep Mexicans in Mexico and repealing Obamacare, more formally called the ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’, a program implemented by the Obama Administration to ensure health care was affordable for Americans who were not on large incomes.

Trump’s problem is that it sounded like a good rallying point to suggest that Obamacare was unaffordable, a waste of resources and a complete disaster. As Paul McGeough observes in Fairfax’s websites:
Until now being President has been easy-peasy for Trump – keeping his base happy by snarling at the news media, offering a new "he tapped my phones" conspiracy to replace the Obama birther nonsense, firing off another executive order on migration when the first backfired, and shirt-fronting the world on trade and security.
Trump’s Presidency just got harder.
The self-proclaimed dealmaker is attempting a sleight of hand, by which millions of his own voters stand to be screwed. More than 80 per cent of them told election day exit pollsters that Obamacare had "gone too far", but experts warn that under Trump's proposed deal they will be slugged for thousands of dollars more a year.

And at the same time, Trump must convince dozens of small government purists in Congress that what is being foisted on them, dubbed Obamacare-lite by some, is not a halfway house that fails to deliver on their absolute commitment to be rid of Barack Obama's legacy-defining health insurance scheme.
McGeough goes on to quote a number of the 90% of Trump voters (those who earn less than USD200,000 per annum) who will be worse off. Trump is now finding out it is all very well to claim that on the whole, a country would be better off if one course of action rather than another was taken, but the reality is in Trump’s case, he implied that every American citizen would have all their problems fixed if they voted him in. We’ve discussed this before on The Political Sword:
Trump has by implication promised to ‘fix’ the perceived personal problem of every person that has voted for him, as well as those who didn’t. It really doesn’t matter that there are a multitude of problems and, given all the good will in the world, some of the problems are so entrenched in the global economic system that they will never be ‘fixed’, Trump’s implicit promise is to ‘fix it’ and benefit all those US citizens who voted for him. When it comes time for other Republicans to challenge him for the 2020 nomination sometime in 2019, a lot of the disaffected that voted for Trump this time around will look at their individual circumstances and decide whether they are either worse or no better off. While Trump may not necessarily follow the usual political protocols, he can’t ‘fix’ everything he claimed to be able to manage in under 24 months. He is already ‘talking down’ his promise to cancel Obama’s Affordable Health initiative. Will these people (probably numbered in the hundreds of millions) accept Trump’s inevitable line that he is gradually turning things around? Or will they, to paraphrase a former Australian politician be waiting on the porch with a baseball bat?
And that’s the problem when you play with people’s perceptions. Your perception probably differs greatly from mine on certain issues – and ‘fixing’ an issue to your satisfaction means that I probably won’t be happy with the result. Depending on the importance of the ‘fix’ in our daily lives (maybe financial, social or educational disadvantage), one of us is likely to withdraw our support and to be figuratively, at least, standing on the verandah with the cricket bat waiting for the perceived wrong doer to come by. As The New Yorker recently stated:
The thing always to remember about Trump—and this week has merely confirmed it—is that he is a sham populist. A sham authoritarian populist, even.

Going back to late-nineteenth-century Germany, many of the most successful authoritarian populists have expanded the social safety net. Otto von Bismarck, the first Chancellor, introduced health insurance, accident insurance, and old-age pensions. “The actual complaint of the worker is the insecurity of his existence,” he said in 1884. “He is unsure if he will always have work, he is unsure if he will always be healthy, and he can predict that he will reach old age and be unable to work.”

During the twentieth century, Argentina’s Juan Perón, Malaysia’s Tunku Abdul Rahman, and Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew were among the authoritarian leaders who followed Bismarck’s example. Today, if you look at the election platform of Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French National Front, you see something similar. Like Trump, Le Pen is a nativist, a protectionist, and an Islamophobe. But she is not proposing to dismantle any of the many social benefits that the French state provides. Rather, she says she will expand child-support payments and reduce the retirement age to sixty.

Trump, on the other hand, has little to offer ordinary Americans except protectionist rhetoric and anti-immigrant measures. Before moving to gut Obamacare, he at least could have tried to bolster his populist credentials by passing a job-creating infrastructure bill or a middle-class tax cut. Instead, he’s staked his Presidency on a proposal that would hurt many of his supporters, slash Medicaid, undermine the finances of Medicare, and benefit the donor class. That’s not populism: it’s the reverse of it. And it might be a political disaster in the making.
Politics is political and never has the ancient saying ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ been more current than today. As an example, in the recent Western Australian state election, Liberal Premier Colin Barnett was dismissing a preference deal with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation as recently as November 2016 and by February 2017, was claiming the subsequent deal to swap preferences with One Nation above long term allies the National Party as a ‘sensible and pragmatic result’. Barnett also admitted in a radio interview he was personally ‘uncomfortable’ with the preference deal with One Nation but said he accepted the party was now ‘a reality’.

Hanson’s comments after the WA election were interesting as well. She admitted the preference swap was a bad idea:
“Doing the deal with the Libs has done damage to us, in all honesty. It was a mistake,” Hanson said. “We are really going to have to have a good look at this because all I heard all day leading up to this election was ‘why are you sending your preferences to the Liberal party?’”

Hanson suggested the problem stemmed from doing a deal with a major party leader past his use by date. “It wasn’t One Nation. I think it was Colin Barnett – people did not want Colin Barnett.
As well as blaming the ALP for her party’s poor showing, Hanson blames ‘the people’ for not understanding the system:
People ask me about preferences and they don't understand the voting system, the preference system, and the preferences. I think that's where most of the damage has come from.
Writing for Fairfax’s websites on the Monday after the election, Peter Hartcher suggested that Hanson has ‘lost the plot’. His argument is:
Unshakeable faith in the common sense of the ordinary people is the very definition of populism. Hanson, under pressure of failure, has lost the plot.

What happened?

First and foremost, One Nation forgot its essential character as a protest party.

Its entire raison d'etre is to register a protest vote against the main parties, to express the people's disgust at the political establishment.

Instead, One Nation did a deal with one of the main parties. Worse, it was with the ruling party. It made Pauline Hanson look like a close partner of the establishment.

Why on earth did One Nation agree to swap preferences with the Liberals, the party of Premier Colin Barnett?

Simple. It was a lunge for power. One Nation wanted more spillover preference votes, even if they came from the devil himself.

The party sold its soul for power. But it was far worse than a standard Faustian bargain. One Nation sold its soul, yet didn't win any temporary advantage. It ended up powerless as well as soulless.
While short term political expediency has a place (maybe), it certainly didn’t help Barnett retain government or Hanson gain influence. Any deal is a contract between two parties whereby both parties get something they want. As the WA Liberals lost power, any deal they made for power sharing is probably over; a good thing for whoever replaces Barnett. It’s not only Trump, Hanson or the WA Liberals that play Russian roulette with political expediency and populism. Last October, Crikey discussed the potential connection between political donations and renewable energy policy. In the discussion, Bernard Keane suggested:
Malcolm Turnbull says he has lots of solar panels. But the Coalition's hatred of renewable energy isn't so much about personal views as about the cash.
It was probably not a surprise when you clicked on the link to the Crikey article above to see that the conservative parties in Australia received far more donations over the past decade or so from energy and coal companies than the ALP. While it is attractive to suggest that no big business should be donating to political parties, there is nothing illegal with the process at the moment. The energy and coal companies would also want their pound of flesh from the politicians, and it’s probably not hard to guess what the preferred outcome would be.

The average solar system in Australia can generate 5kW according to Infinite Energy, a commercial solar installer with offices in Perth and Brisbane. Turnbull’s Point Piper home can generate 14.5kW of electricity with some battery storage ability. However, Turnbull sprukes the ‘advantages’ of ‘clean coal’ over renewable energy claiming the issue with variable renewables – by which I mean principally solar and wind – is that they don’t generate electricity all the time.

Clean coal is a myth both economically and practically. Fairfax media reported in early February:
An analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance released on Friday found this type of plant was the most expensive and dirtiest source of mainstream electricity supply available.

Across their lifetime, the most efficient modern coal plants would cost a minimum $134 per megawatt hour of electricity generated, and possibly as much as $203.

Wind ($61-118 per megawatt hour), baseload gas ($74-90) and large-scale solar ($78-140) were much cheaper.

The analysis found the cost of building new coal could fall to $94 per megawatt hour if the government were to take on all risk across its decades-long lifespan.
It could be suggested that the donors to the conservative parties are getting their pound of flesh.

When recent headlines suggest that ‘Climate change in Australia impact on Australia may be irreversible, five yearly report says’ and ‘Economic growth more likely when wealth distributed to poor instead of rich’, you’d have to ask if Turnbull, like Abbott before him, should join with Hanson and Trump as (in the words of The New Yorker) ‘sham populists’. While they seek the popularity, they all support tax cuts to big business and those on larger incomes, xenophobic immigration policies, cutting of wages (through mechanisms such as reduction in weekend penalty rates), support to political donors that arguably jeopardises the future of our country and so on. Turnbull’s polling figures reflect general dissatisfaction and Hanson potentially revealed her true colours when she did a ‘preference deal’ with the moribund Barnett Liberal Government in Western Australia and paid the price for that decision.

Putting it bluntly, it’s Turnbull, Hanson and Trump’s fault that they are in the position they are. Hopefully these examples will in time convince future politicians that a conversation on the pros and cons of matters affecting our society is required – rather than sham populism.

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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Jesus wept

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse continues. In the past couple of weeks, the Commissioners have been hearing evidence from Catholic clergy. Some of the numbers are scary:
In total, between 1980 and 2015, 4,444 people alleged incidents of child sexual abuse relating to 93 Catholic Church authorities. The abuse allegedly took place in more than 1,000 institutions. The average age of victims was 10.5 for girls and 11.6 for boys. The overwhelming majority of survivors were male. Almost 1,900 perpetrators were identified and another 500 remained unidentified. Thirty-two per cent were religious brothers, 30% were priests, 29% were lay people and 5% were religious sisters.

The royal commission said 37% of all private sessions it held with survivors from all institutions related to abuse in the Catholic Church.
The Church rightly stands condemned for allowing the abuse to occur with seemingly little or no consequence to the perpetrators. The Royal Commission is hearing evidence that suggests that canon law (the law of the Catholic Church) forbids reporting, that vows of celibacy are not to blame, and that the Church doesn’t understand the depth of the problem their senior clergy (management) has ignored.

Clergy in the Catholic Church are not solely at fault here, Anglicans, Salvation Army, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religions, as well as other organisations such as the defence force and educational facilities are also implicated. No doubt the Commission will make some recommendations and due process will take its course. Those that are found to have offended according to the laws of the land will serve their punishment and one would hope that the process does give some closure and benefit to those people who were the victims of these horrific crimes.

Apart from the need to get to the bottom of institutional abuse of children, the Royal Commission is a demonstration of the axiom that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is probably fair to suggest that in all the cases above, the priest/minister was in a position of power over those whom they abused. If the parents of the children were told about the problem, they too were probably in a vulnerable position where they were torn by their belief in what their children were telling them versus their belief that the morals and ethics of the religious or other association conducting character checks of their representatives were sound.

The point here is that most religious teachers and those in positions of power over the young and vulnerable perform their role exceptionally well and regardless of your personal opinion on religion, there are countless examples of good work for the community done by those who follow various religions, such as health care, family support, childcare, education, visitation to the old and infirm, assistance to those who are homeless and so on. We shouldn’t assume that the deeds of a few reflect in any way the deeds of many. It is less certain that we shouldn’t be asking why the senior members of the organisation (the management for want of a better word) have been less that ethical with their dealings to eliminate the risk to children from predators within the organisation.

It’s another example of power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Why else would Catholic Bishops transfer clergy who had been found to be preying on young children to other areas rather than report the crime to the authorities? Surely there would have been someone with the morals and ethics who suggested at the time while the transfer would hide the problem for some time, eventually there would be hell to pay (pun intended).

And so, it has come to pass. The highest-ranking member of the Catholic Clergy, Cardinal George Pell has refused (on health grounds) to return to Australia to attend the Royal Commission and may be charged with some crimes. Others too seem to have less morals and ethics than the standards they preach; others will probably also be charged. In a number of the senses of the phrase, Jesus wept seems accurate.

It is an unfortunate reality that the Royal Commission is necessary. Hopefully an exploration of the systemic failures of a number of organisations that ‘turned a blind eye’ or thought some other inappropriate management practices would make the problem disappear, will be effective in the elimination of similar practices in the future. We all have to remember that the majority of those who are members of organisations that are subject to the investigations of the Royal Commission are just as horrified as we are? They deserve better.

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

Contact numbers if this article has created concerns for you or someone you know:
Royal Commission into the Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse - 1800 099 340
Lifeline -13 11 14

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The standard you walk past . . .

Lieutenant General David Morrison AO gave the speech above in 2013 when it came to light that members of the Australian Army were alleged to be guilty of inappropriate behaviour to those of lesser rank and/or female. There are a couple of clear messages in the speech – firstly, his message to those that believe that his lack of tolerance of inappropriate behaviour is wrong; if it does not suit you - get out. Secondly he correctly states that the standard of behaviour you walk past is the standard you accept.

In the last week, Australians have been subject to #censusfail and release of 2,000 cases of abuse of people held in detention centres on behalf of the Australian Government. So which one gets the media coverage – unbelievably the #censusfail! At some point there will be an enquiry into the census issues, the enquiry will probably consider going back to the paper census next time – if not this time (although the website was up as this was being prepared) and the world will move on. Data from the census will be used to plan for future infrastructure (assuming the current Government can get over it’s ‘balanced budget’ hyperbole and develop a policy for the future at some stage in the next year) and if a significant number of people have lied because of privacy concerns, they and unfortunately those around them will suffer as a result. In addition, privacy concerns with the census are not new as this Sydney Morning Herald article from June 1966 attests.

The issue really is s Michael Koziel states in The Age; This country cares more about a computer cockup than the abuse of refugees And before you say no it wasn’t me, you are one of the people that employs the Australian Government. So you are implicated and to repeat Morrison’s words ‘the standard of behaviour you walk past is the standard you accept’.

It would be very easy to get up on a soapbox, point the finger of blame at the current Government in general and Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton as Immigration Ministers in particular as, since 2013, these two shameless politicians have given a lot of ammunition to take the easy option – including Dutton’s masterstroke from last Thursday

He said: “I won’t tolerate any sexual abuse whatsoever. But I have been made aware of some incidents that have been reported, false allegations of sexual assault, because in the end people have paid money to people smugglers and they want to come to our country.

“Some people have even gone to the extent of self-harming and people have self-immolated in an effort to get to Australia, and certainly some have made false allegations in an attempt to get to Australia.”
To demonstrate that Dutton just doesn’t get it; when Leigh Sales on ABCTV’s 7.30 suggested that
. . . the facility was turning into a “Guantánamo Bay-style situation”.

Dutton said: “No, and with respect I think that’s a ridiculous analogy. I think the situation is that people have paid people smugglers for a migration outcome, they want to come to Australia.”

“It’s turning into a situation where people are making a choice that they don’t want to go back to their country of origin in cases where we’re offering thousands, literally thousands and thousands of dollars for people to return to their country of origin, to provide support.”
With respect Minister, this isn’t about people smugglers, who ironically would be your core constituency of small business operators if they were Australian. This is about people that you and your predecessors have illegally (in the case of PNG) moved people to a foreign country, mistreated them and then deny that it is happening. The difference with the actions of the US in Guantánamo Bay is that they abused adults – you are allowing the staff of Australian contractors to abuse children and women who have done nothing wrong except attempt to better their lives.

New South Wales is going through the process of banning Greyhound racing because of widespread and systemic mistreatment of animals, yet Dutton sees nothing wrong in this country’s treatment of people on Nauru. Despite the wishes of the Northern Territory Government, the Federal Government quickly and correctly instituted an enquiry into abuse of children at the Don Dale Facility in Darwin, (admittedly when the issue received significant media coverage) with Turnbull saying
“We will get to the bottom of this swiftly and we will identify the lessons that need to be learned,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We have here a very troubling state of affairs where clearly there has been mistreatment of young people.”

“We need to to expose the cultural problems, the administrative problems that allowed this type of mistreatment to occur,”
Turnbull is concerned about the ‘mistreatment of young people’ incarcerated in the Northern Territory yet The Guardian reports
The Guardian’s analysis of the files reveal that children are vastly over-represented in the reports. More than half of the 2,116 reports – a total of 1,086 incidents, or 51.3% – involve children, although children made up only about 18% of those in detention on Nauru during the time covered by the reports, May 2013 to October 2015. The findings come just weeks after the brutal treatment of young people in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory was exposed, leading to the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, announcing a wide-ranging public inquiry.
And the Prime Minister and ‘responsible Minister’ claim there are some false reports. Bottom line – IT DOESN’T BLOODY MATTER if some have claimed abuse falsely. If one person has genuinely claimed abuse – it is too many and The Guardian has records of TWO THOUSAND claims. Are Turnbull and Dutton seriously asking us (their ultimate employers) to believe that there are no genuine and two thousand false claims of abuse from a detention camp set up under Australian auspices? It beggars belief.The standard of behaviour you walk past is the standard you accept and by the way, the ‘look over there’ defence in this case is disgusting as well as disingenuous.

Detention Camps go back as far as the Keating years. While initially they were on Australian soil, Howard changed the rules to ensure that refugees couldn’t get to “Australian soil” event though they landed on Australian territory. The Rudd and Gillard government and all who served in them (including Bill Shorten and most of his shadow cabinet) are equally as guilty as Turnbull, Dutton and Scott Morrison as well as the rest of the Coalition of walking past something that any person with even a small amount of morals and ethics should have stopped years ago.

How do we fix this? Refugees are permitted to claim refugee status anywhere they like. It is in the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 which the Australian Government of the day (lead by the Liberal Party’s founder Robert Menzies) signed on our behalf. It is a complete and utter fallacy that there is a queue of refugees, that they are planning to overthrow the elected Government of this country (although if Turnbull and Dutton are the standard we accept, it may not be a bad idea) and the cost you and I am paying out to abuse people we should be protecting is $1.2 billion per annum .

According to this 2013 News Corp article , in 2010/11, 93.5% of refugees arriving by boat were found to be genuine refugees and the figure for 2011/12 it was 91%. Out of interest, more refugees arrive by plane (something like 32 times the number attempting to enter the country by boat). Those that arrive by plane and then claim to be refugees are almost twice as likely to be rejected. Those that arrive by plane are released into the community rather than being sent to Manus or Nauru. So we don’t even treat refugees equally.

So Dutton – instead of abusing refugees that arrive by boat, how about you close down the detention camps (as required by the PNG High Court), bring the people to Australia and process them quickly. Then commence the treatment required to restore their physical and mental health to an acceptable standard – Australia created the majority of problems due to incarceration on Nauru and Manus Island, Australia should fix them. It should be a bi-partisan move as Shorten’s Labor Party is just as culpable here. The Australian Government has $1.2 Billion per annum to do it with. 'The standard of behaviour you walk past is the standard you accept’. Should you choose to send the link or a copy of this article to your local Coalition or ALP MP I would support your decision. While you are there, ask him or her what they are doing today to fix this national shame – and when the ‘form’ letter comes back – respond that the form letter is not good enough.

With a bit of luck, if refugees are processed quickly, on shore with the physical and mental assistance required to overcome the trauma initiated by Australian action – Dutton and Turnbull might be able to find the $60 million per annum pulled from the Australian Bureau of Statistics budget in 2014 by Abbott and his cronies (who are also culpable for the human disaster on Manus and Nauru). With the $60 million restored, perhaps the ABS won’t be forced to comprimise on their valuable work (including the next Census) and the Government could fund appropriate education and health services for all Australians.

‘The standard of behaviour you walk past is the standard you accept.'

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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