As good as the masters they serve

by on 30 August, 2014

Sean Jacobs reviews ‘The Professionals: Strategy, Money and the Rise of the Political Campaigner in Australia’ by Stephen Mills.

In any arena a mix between competition and technology is likely to result in growth. The demand for political professionals in Australia has been amplified by an obvious contest between the two major parties, while technology has helped researching voter preferences, promoting political messaging and easing campaign coordination to service the political professional’s ultimate goal – electoral success.

A clear distinction between a professional and amateur is, of course, pay. But the type of service is key. In 1915 Archibald Stewart became Labor’s first federal secretary and, despite receiving a payment of ‘fifteen guineas’, his role contrasted sharply with today’s paid political professional.

Stewart, according to Mills, ‘literally provided secretarial services to the executive, handling correspondence and minutes, organising transport and logistics for executive meetings… and banking the meagre annual fees paid by the states to sustain the modest national operations.’ A modern political operator – cleverly interpreting data and coordinating messaging – was little use at a time when politics was an amateur sport ruled overwhelmingly by ‘recalcitrant states.’

The need for political professionals in Australia didn’t take off until after World War Two and, even then, only accelerated in the late 1960s and 70s. Labor’s Ben Chifley, after losing the 1949 federal election, complained that his team had not only been outspent but ‘suffered a terrific barrage over the radio and through the press for twelve months.’ Driving the offensive was Donald Cleland – the Liberal Pary’s first federal director – whose military background served as ‘the prototype Australian election campaign professional.’

Future Labor counter attacks not only required additional resources and wider publicity but a greater degree of ‘head office’ direction. ‘The left hand never knew what the right hand was doing,’ one Labor official observed of the post-war years. ‘Western Australia could say one thing and New South Wales the other. There was no coordination.’

In the following decades economic growth and the ascendance of television demanded that federal-state party divisions be managed to present a cohesive picture. ‘By the late 1960s,’ writes Mills, ‘the long cycle of post-war economic prosperity had ameliorated social conditions; nineteenth-century patterns of social and industrial organisation that had shaped party loyalties were eroding.’

Labor adapted swiftly to the changing political terrain. In 1968 Labor’s Mick Young, in helping to re-elect South Australian Premier Don Dunstan, broke new ground by replicating the techniques of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. This, Mills writes, was ‘the first time US-style advertising had been seen in an Australian campaign.’

A few years later Gough Whitlam’s ‘It’s Time’ slogan opened up new campaigning frontiers and, for the first time in Australian history, parties campaigned on a national scale. ‘It’s Time,’ in the words of Phillip Lynch, was ‘the brightest and most bouncing baby ever to be conceived and brought forth within the marriage of advertising and politics.’

But the successes of political professionals also expose their limitations. Whitlam – despite the clever and innovative political campaigning – proved disastrous when in office. The modern incarnation of ‘It’s Time’ – Kevin 07 – trod similar patterns of decline once the campaign gloss had worn off.

Campaigning is of course different to governing. ‘A campaign is not a time for much original thought,’ notes former Liberal federal director Andrew Robb. ‘It is a time for tactical manoeuvring and carrying out plans and procedures developed in an earlier, more normal climate.’

Ultimately, however, political professionals are only as good as the parties and the candidates they serve. Mills alludes to this when referring to the advantage of ‘campaign discipline’ that thrives on not only skilled candidates but cohesive parties. As Australian elections have consistently shown –ballot boxes inevitably punish poor governance and bad policy decisions that grow from undisciplined parties and individuals.

Is one party a clear front runner in the modern game of professional politics? According to Mills the international demand for the services of Linton Crosby and Mark Textor ‘confirms the supremacy of the Liberal Party’s campaign professionalism.’ But as his book demonstrates the pendulum has always swayed between the major parties – a dynamic that will only increase as competition and technology are at play.

Sean Jacobs is the co-founder of New Guinea Commerce - a website committed to economic growth, good governance and next generation leadership in the Indo-Pacific.

Labor Lies: How to Overpromise and Underdeliver

by on 29 August, 2014

Scott LynScott Lynn argues that Labor cannot be trusted due to its lies and economic mismanagement and that the Abbott led team has it right at present. 

Federal Labor under Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek wants you the Australian people not to know that health funding for public hospitals will increase by 9%, 9% and 9% over the next three years and 6% in the fourth year. Labor blindly and irresponsibly claim, with their horrid core and outlook on display trying to convince us, that $50 billion has been ripped from hospital funding – funding that was never put in – talk about slackness and incompetence. It would be like saying you are going to do the grocery shopping for your roommate, and as they are thinking what a wonderful person you are, you blow it and do nothing, eventually they will mistrust you and you will need to find someplace else to live.

Again, having no real idea of how to deliver things in theory or do so in reality, Labor falsely argues that $30 billion of money that Labor never set aside has been cut. How can something get cut, if it was never set aside in the first place. Labor politicians, supporters and minders must be delusional. How else could they continue on with their fixed false beliefs? In reality schools will surpass previous funding records for education from the Federal Government. $64.5 billion over the next four years, $1.2 billion more than Labor. Labor must be on something strong and no I wouldn’t want any with the side effects that it appears to be having on them. They are out of their minds. Remember Labor ripped $1.2 billion out, but the Liberals have put it back in because Labor couldn’t or wouldn’t.

What about annual funding for schools you might ask? Well, Federal funding to schools will increase by 34% between the periods of 2013-14 to 2017-18. Labor want you to believe their falsehood that these increases are not happening, but you know what, we the people need to tell them to take a long walk off a short pier. And if they say things are being cut from beyond 2018, you tell them they are trying to lead Australians astray, because funding will be channelled through increases through the Consumer Price Index and enrolments at schools.

Labor want to blind side you, so you don’t know that pensions have actually gone up, in March 2014 the base rate of the pension went up by over $14 a fortnight for singles, along with an almost $11 increase for each individual in a couple. Labor will tell you that the Liberals have cut these things, but they have not.

Labor does not want you to know that the world’s biggest carbon tax has been removed and yes Australia had it. The Labor-Green toxic carbon tax had not even a negligible effect on carbon emissions, as it had adverse effects on almost anything that needs gas, water and electricity, costing the average household approximately $550 a year. The Victorian Liberal government has also recently found delivered savings of on average of $100 over the next four years on water bills for households, looking after you and your hip pocket.

Labor’s changes to border protection cost over 1,100 deaths at sea, every single one of these deaths did not need to occur. But what about the financial cost of such an ineffective and horrid bit of legislation that was passed through the parliament under Labor? Labor’s border protection budget went off course by over $11 billion dollars – yes, not $11 million but $11 billion.

Labor’s NBN plan was also ill-conceived especially seeing that it was meant to be completed last year, but no only 3% of Australians had access to it under Labor. They promised an internet revolution and failed to deliver, and instead left us in the dust waiting with nothing happening on a large scale. At least under a Liberal led government most people will have the opportunity to access high speed broadband between 25 to 100 megabits per second by 2016 and 50 to 100 megabytes per second by 2019. This is much better than being left in the dust twiddling our thumbs. Labor was more interested in fibre to the press release.

The number of premises that had been passed in November 2013 was just over 381,000, but by the end of June 2014 over 490,000 premises had been reached. The Liberal led government target to reach by the end of June 2014 was 467,000, so thumbs up to them. Labor promised that over 1.1 million premises would be reached by springtime last year. But there is even more bad news, as only 7% of eligible customers signed up under Labor.

Labor’s ill-conceived home insulation program, otherwise known as the ‘Pink Batts’ disaster is also something they would prefer that we as Australians should forget. But I don’t think it is wise to brush aside that of the financial cost of their ill-conceived and poorly implemented plan that exceeded over $2 billion, caused over 200 house fires, approximately 70,000 repairs and 4 very unfortunate and unnecessary deaths.

Over the period of just six budgets Labor irresponsibly increased spending by over 50% or $137 billion dollars. Even worse, if nothing is done to pull back and re-adjust to fix the budget and move forward, Australia as a country will be headed towards a debt so great it will reach $667 billion in just 10 years. Plus, the interest on the debt that we have to pay this year is $12 billion. $12 billion dollars that could be better spent on health, education, defence, roads and rail.

Now, the Liberal led Abbott government is supporting apprentices, in a way that Labor never did in its wasted six years. Since July 2014, the Government has supported apprentices with a $20,000 loan over four years of training. Labor never did that, as they were more concerned with sending dead people $900 cheques (my beloved but deceased grandad got one), made Australia drop from 10th to 56th in minimising the wastefulness of government spending, while also implementing a Fringe Benefits Tax on cars when Australian car manufacturing and car sales didn’t need any more obstacles put in their way.

Under Labor employer and employee co-operation standards plummeted from 47th to 103rd in the world, pay and productivity dropped from 40th to 113th, while hiring and firing the appropriate people went from 63rd to 133rd in the world. Unions were given an extraordinary and overzealous level of access to worksites. A fine example of this was when unions visited the Pluto LNG project over 200 times in just 3 months, just a tad excessive – NOT! Well Labor did abolish the building and construction watchdog after all, just think about it. What could they be up to, what connections do they have with criminal elements within society do they have connections with? Merely thinking about it is a frightening proposition.

Labor even weakened Custom’s capacity to inspect air and sea cargo, with just 5% being inspected which enables dodgy people to deliver illegal guns, drugs and other items to and from our shores. In 2007 when Labor came to power, approximately 60% of air cargo and sea cargo was inspected. You have to take your hat off to the Howard government for keeping us very safe. But Labor would rather leave you in the dust and blame the problems they caused on the Liberals, talk about irrational behaviour.

Some major projects that the Liberal led government wants to implement in Victoria for starters include the East West Link to cut our travel times driving around the Melbourne Metro Area, the Regional Rail Link and duplicating the Princess Highway. In terms of taking the freeze of petrol excise we need this to happen to help fund major projects like the ones listed above, but some amendments need to be made. Yes, we need infrastructure like the proposed Perth Freight Link to get our goods quicker to us; and yes we need major upgrades to the Bruce Highway in Queensland; but Doncaster in Victoria needs a tram up to Westfield Doncaster or even a train stop nearby, in an effort to provide more travelling options for commuters. It is time to put the Paid Parental Leave proposal on hold until the budget is back in the black – that is a commitment that should be implemented, and a very worthy one that shows a Liberal led government can deliver, especially when Labor cannot.

In 1991, Bob Hawke introduced to parliament a medicare co-payment of $3.50, so just imagine all the things the different cures or relief treatments we could have discovered in mental health, dementia, motor neuron disease and cancer. Therefore, I propose that the Abbott led Federal Liberal Government make amendments to their $7 proposal and instead implement a $3.50 co-payment ($10 billion would be raised for the medical research fund) that would be able to bolster and advance any future treatments that you have. I would exempt those on the pension and a disabled pension from paying $3.50 and would make sure that all school children did not have to pay the fee, those completing year 11 and 12 would be covered too, regardless of their age and place of study. Forget Labor, forget the Greens and certainly forget about Clive Palmer and his cohorts because I don’t think they have really thought about the even greater things that we can achieve in the field of medicine.

In the end we need to consider that Labor can’t deliver the goods most of the time, but the Liberals can, do and will. Though sometimes it takes a while to get rid of Labor’s mess and move forward.

Scott Lynn is a Deakin University student employed in the Aged Care industry. He is expected to graduate later this year. 

Is the Budget fair? Facts and Fallacies

by on 28 August, 2014

John SlaterJohn Slater argues that the debate about whether or not the federal budget is fair is a question of values, not fact. 

Ever since Joe Hockey’s first budget speech four months ago, the measures proposed by the Coalition to reduce the nation’s ballooning deficit have been relentlessly criticised for lacking fairness. According to the Labor Party and the Canberra Press Gallery, this unfairness lies in the fact that the Coalition’s return to surplus would be achieved supposedly at the expense of the poor and vulnerable in society. While these attacks have proven to achieve their political purpose of stoking the emotions of impressionable voters, they are based on an understanding of the budget that lacks perspective.

In reality, the budget is not a series of sound bites but the sum total of proposed Commonwealth spending for the upcoming fiscal year. To have any credibility, criticisms of the budget made on the grounds of fairness need to confront the substance of how the budget as a whole taxes and spends rather than nit-picking at cosmetic changes.

Many of Joe Hockey’s detractors have spent the last few months gleefully quoting the Treasury’s own modelling of how the budget is projected to impact different income brackets. According to these estimates, “lower income” families stand to lose an average $844 from the budget compared to a meagre $517 impost on “high income” households. In isolation, these numbers may well lead a fair minded person to believe the budget unreasonably burdens those in society who have the least.

However, to speak purely in terms of “losses” tells only half the story. It ignores that for high income earners, losses mean paying more tax. That is to say, giving an even greater proportion of their income to Treasury coffers than before. On the other hand, the losses borne by low income earners are in fact a small reduction in existing entitlements and benefits. This means that lower income earners will be receiving less from other taxpayers than they did previously.

For people who think there is a difference between giving up what is yours and receiving what belongs to someone else, this distinction is worth talking about. If we are to honestly confront the question of fairness, we need to do more than make shallow assertions about how the budget changes the status quo in wilful ignorance of the bigger picture. We need to consider who are the real lifters and leaners in the context of the budget overall.

The budget’s ‘debt levy’ pushes Australia’s top marginal income tax rate to 49%; now above the OECD average. In addition to those who give up basically half their income to the government, only the top 40% are net contributors to the Australian welfare state, not receivers. Economist Adam Creighton goes further, claiming that only the top 20% of households give more to the government than they receive when other publically funded services like hospitals and schools are taken into account. As far as benefits go, high income families receive around $310 every year.

By contrast, low income earners can expect to pay a negligible $2 more tax under Hockey’s budget. More relevantly, they would still receive an average $12,604 in transfer payments per year. In substance, the widely condemned $842 ‘cut’ to low-income earners only amounts to a 6% reduction in overall entitlements. For all the talk about ending ‘middle class welfare’, middle income families would still receive $2,223 every year from the Commonwealth treasury after being cut by 13%.

The point is that the Treasury modelling which has been held out as incontrovertible proof of the budget’s unfairness only tells us about how the budget deviates from existing policy settings. However, when examined against the backdrop of the budget as a whole, two things become clear about Hockey’s ‘tough budget’. The first is that these so-called ‘cuts’ do little to change that Australia’s tax and transfer system is highly progressive and one of the most redistributive in the world. In other words, the conventional wisdom of taxing the rich and giving to the poor remains unchallenged. The second is that generalised statistics citing the budgets ‘impact’ removed from the question of who pays and who receives paints a dubious picture of reality.

The same can be said for more specific budget measures also branded as regressive. While the $7 GP co-payment may appear to consume a higher proportion of the poor’s discretionary income than wealth households, it is easy to forget that the real cost of a GP visit is not $7, but around $60. When it comes to funding the other 86% not covered by the co-payment, middle and high income earners contribute far more under the Medicare levy even though they use bulk billing far less, often opting for private healthcare instead. In short, a co-payment does little to diminish that the funding and provision of healthcare in Australia remains extremely generous to those whose needs exceed their means.

The issue of whether the budget is fair is really a question of values, not fact. Joe Hockey’s conception of fair as spelt out in his budget would see those earning over $180 000 giving up basically half their incomes. The majority of families, especially those in lower income brackets would benefit as a result.

The challenge for those who continue to attack Hockey’s budget is to forego political opportunism and make the case that the budget should be balanced by further increasing the tax burden on middle and high income earners to fund further entitlements for those at the lower end of the income spectrum. Unsurprisingly, we are yet to see the Labor Party’s case for ‘fairness’ spelt out in such candid terms.

John Slater is the current President of the University of Queensland Liberal National Club and is in the third year of his Law/Arts degree. John’s main ambition is to lift the profile of classical liberal ideas in Australian political debate. In particular, he is interested in exposing the failings of left wing economic policy, fighting state paternalism and changing the perception of right-of-centre political thought. John has also been involved in grass roots campaigns against curfew laws limiting night time trading hours for pubs and clubs and the former Labor Government’s SSAF tax on students.

The Australian Nanny State: Barbarians at the Gate

by on 27 August, 2014

John SlaterJohn Slater argues that the Nanny State is no way of combating social ills in modern Australia.

Australia is increasingly becoming a country where individuals are not trusted to make decisions for themselves. Indeed, we are fast accepting that it is the role of a ruling class of politicians, commentators and activists to improve society by interfering with the choices made by private individuals. On the surface, these measures may appear well-intended, even egalitarian.  In reality however, this kind of social engineering is not only steeped in state paternalism but almost always fails to achieve its utopian aspirations.

Nothing illustrates this more than the recent howls from the nanny state lobby to introduce earlier lockout times for pubs and clubs and other restrictions on alcohol consumption in response to several tragic but isolated incidents of violence. Leading this crusade in Queensland is facial surgeon and Labor politician Dr Anthony Lynham. At first glance, it might appear reasonable to accord Lynham’s views on this matter some weight considering his years of experience dealing with the aftermath of violent beatings, some of which undoubtedly involved alcohol.

However, upon closer inspection, there is no real reason why Lynham’s aptitude as a surgeon affords him any credibility as a public policy maker. His former occupation involves a high level of specific medical knowledge, precision and dexterity. His current job involves combining evidence with one’s own values to reach a reasoned public policy solution. Looking at the evidence, the pitfalls of attempting to influence the drinking habits of many different types of people who frequent nightspots by simply making it harder for them to purchase alcohol have been well-documented. As have the flow on effects, such as job losses, business closures and the proliferation of drinking in private houses and other unlicensed venues.

On the values side of things, Lynham’s views ignore the desirability of targeting punishment at wrongdoers, instead inconveniencing everyone equally. Despite these inconvenient truths, legal barriers to accessing alcohol at certain times of the day are consistent with the nanny state mentality because they make it harder for individuals to engage in behaviours they think are immoral. The fact that the majority of people who buy a shot after 1am do not go on to commit crimes is ignored because it doesn’t support the role of government as an arbiter of right and wrong.

Of course, nanny-statists will often make the impassioned plea that restricting individual liberty is justifiable if the outcome on balance is for the benefit of everyone. The reality is that this rationale is rarely, if ever, borne out in practice. It has come as a surprise to some that cigarette sales have actually increased over the past two years despite the introduction of former Health Minister Nicola Roxon’s Orwellian plain packaging laws. Moreover, heightened tobacco excises have simply seen smokers favouring cheaper cigarettes and a growing black market. This is consistent with the medical consensus that an addiction to smoking can involve a host of complex physical and psychological factors.

As many smokers will attest, even modern nicotine products and counselling services are often of little assistance to those struggling to quit. Yet those who argue in favour of plain packaging believe a helpful solution to this complex problem is forcing grotesque images of deformed body parts in the faces of smokers as often as possible. In this case, acknowledging that most people are aware that smoking is detrimental to one’s health would be uncomfortable. Far more convenient is the assumption that the populace is either too dumb to understand smoking is bad or simply can’t be trusted to have the choice left in their own hands.

The same policy failures can be found in the aftermath of Kevin Rudd’s “alcopops” tax” on pre-mixed drinks, introduced off the back of a crescendo of hysteria surrounding Australia’s so-called binge drinking epidemic. Not only were teenage and underage drinking rates unaffected following the introduction of the tax, drinkers turned to straight spirits over exorbitantly taxed pre-mix drinks. One wonders whether the anointed in the Labor party ever considered that young people might have the initiative to mix their own drinks instead of wasting their money. The fact is, penalising consumers based on their preferences rarely works in practice.

Although making something more expensive will certainly mean people buy less of it in the short run, the real test is whether this changes behaviour over the long term. While Rudd’s alcopops tax did cause people to buy less Vodka Cruisers, it had scant impact on Australia’s drinking culture at large. Unfortunately, the outright failures of plain packaging and the alcopop tax are unlikely to deter nanny-statists from similar schemes into the future. Instead, they will continue to celebrate the successes of their policies based on their intentions rather than the outcomes they actually achieve. Aside from lobbying for more rules to protect people from their own free will, Nanny Statists are also awfully concerned with making society more moral.

This usually involves adopting whatever strikes social commentators as politically correct and proclaiming this as an objective standard of morality which the rest of us are bound to follow. Earlier this year, popular clothing store “ICE” was hit by a tidal wave of confected outrage for selling a singlet bearing the slogan “property of an Aussie boy.” In an official statement, the label explained that the slogan was intended as a light hearted play on words referring to the trend of clothing labels using the phrase “property of.” In context, this was intended to be read as “girlfriend of an Aussie boy.” Feminist group “destroy the joint” were quick to condemn ICE on twitter for labelling women as ‘property,’ a surprisingly literal interpretation of the obviously light-hearted slogan.

That said, it really isn’t much of a shock that these keyboard activists chose to understand the shirt in a manner allowing them to claim maximum offense. Indeed, given that ICE is a female clothing brand and the garment was designed by an all female team, viewing the shirt’s slogan in this light remains palpably absurd. In this instance, the fact that the moral guardians at destroy the joint had completely misunderstood the shirt did not stop ICE pulling the singlet from its stores. The use of the term ‘Aussie’ alongside an Australian flag was also enough to provoke accusations of racism, even though its design and release was meant to coincide with Australia Day. It is a shameful reflection of the apathy of the silent majority that the use of our country’s name as an adjective has been tainted as a mark of prejudice.

Following a press release by ICE apologising for any offence, actual buyers of the brand took to Facebook to express their disappointment at the removal of what until then had been a popular purchase. As it turned out, the biggest opponents of ICE’s clothing weren’t its customers but a group of people who considered their moral compass to be more finely tuned than the rest of ours. When it comes to the Australian nanny state, the barbarians are not even at the gate – they are inside it. As history has shown us, reversing this erosion of individualism cannot be left to politics. The onus must fall to everyday people to object to this thinly veiled paternalism and to do so loudly.

John Slater is the current President of the University of Queensland Liberal National Club and is in the third year of his Law/Arts degree. John’s main ambition is to lift the profile of classical liberal ideas in Australian political debate. In particular, he is interested in exposing the failings of left wing economic policy, fighting state paternalism and changing the perception of right-of-centre political thought. John has also been involved in grass roots campaigns against curfew laws limiting night time trading hours for pubs and clubs and the former Labor Government’s SSAF tax on students.

The ‘Righting’ Of Australia’s Foreign Policy

by on 20 August, 2014

Jared BainbridgeJared Bainbridge explores the distinctively strong Abbott Brand of Australian Foreign Policy and its implications for the way our allies and trading partners view Australia, and why the left are confused as to its effectiveness.

In recent months we have seen Abbott come to the fore with a firm hand on the foreign policy front. In doing so he has dispelled the caricature created by Labor of Tony Abbott – The International Embarrassment. Not only did the fear mongering of Labor never eventuate, it has been soundly defeated by the substance of Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop which has been on display since the election, particularly in response to the MH17 disaster. The over-arching message from the Government being that ‘Australia is no push-over and is to be respected’. What is getting surprisingly little coverage is how Labor branded Australia as ‘appeasing’ in foreign policy during much of its 6 year term in office and why this was never considered ‘embarrassing’.

18C: The Left’s Weapon of Mass Destruction

by on 19 August, 2014

Sherry Sufi

Sherry Sufi argues that instead of combating discrimination, 18C only empowers the divisive with a legal weapon to silence their critics and unless repealed, it is bound to stifle the ‘no’ campaign in the debate about amending our Constitution to mention a specific group of Australians. 

Different eras of history yield different orthodoxies comprising of established norms, moralities and a popular body of knowledge. Although orthodoxies are far from infallible. More scientific, social and economic progress has resulted from intellectual criticism of established knowledge than from its blind adherence. Yet for the most part in history, criticism has entailed fatal consequences for those audacious enough to freely speak what they felt was right and necessary.

Gone are the days when critics of established knowledge would be accused of heresy, witchcraft or treason and either end up beheaded or burnt at the stake. Nowadays, you get dragged to court and end up with a fine and public embarrassment that follows instead. The common denominator between the old and new orthodoxies is their sensitive ego which, in the face of criticism, feels struck by a lightning bolt, or an Andrew Bolt.

The Church found it easier to silence Galileo through imprisonment for saying the earth revolves around the sun. The leftist orthodoxy of our times finds it easier to silence Andrew Bolt through fines for addressing one aspect of the divisive challenges of race politics we face in modern Australia. Amid insidious calls to rename Australia Day to Invasion Day and the campaign to amend our Constitution to provide specific recognition to one group of Australians over another, if ever there was a time we needed every bit of our freedom to speak up to keep Australia in one piece, it is now. 

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) takes away that freedom. It is the new guillotine. The left’s ultimate weapon of mass destruction. It is the devil’s whisper into the left ear ’if you can’t beat them, sue them’. As the pernicious Recognise campaign comes to head, we as a nation must ensure that each side of this significant debate is free to make its case. 18C will hinder Australians from making the ‘no’ case lest they end up in court. This is concerning. Yet the left says 18C must stay to protect vulnerable minorities from racial discrimination. The right says 18C must go as it threatens free speech and is susceptible to exploitation by those seeking to silence their critics instead of debating.

Making sense of these positions requires discussion on what discrimination is, why it may be bad and whether or not 18C does much to combat it. Discrimination is the cognitive process that enables us to isolate one choice from another. Choosing vanilla over strawberry is discrimination between flavours of ice cream. Prospective employers shortlisting candidates for a job vacancy is discrimination based on suitability. Individuals on ‘Tindr’ swiping left or right when selecting a potential partner is discrimination based on physical attraction.

We make discriminatory choices all the time – iPhones vs Androids, McDonalds vs Hungry Jacks, religion vs atheism, or Labor vs Liberal. In our world of conflicting options, we apply some core metrics to justify one preference over another. An out of form player dropped from a cricket team is discrimination based on performance. No one would doubt this is perfectly acceptable. But a player dropped because he is an Englishman is discrimination based on race and that is precisely when trouble begins.

As soon as discrimination occurs on the basis of personal identity – age, gender, disability, sexuality, race, ethnicity or religion – it immediately raises moral concerns and is deplored by modern society. This is not due to some universal law that says identity discrimination is awful. Rather because difference of identity has historically been used by strong in-groups to legitimise the persecution of weak out-groups.

Hitler’s extermination of six million Jews, Japan’s massacre of the Chinese at Nanking and the Rwandan Genocide are reminders of what humans are capable of doing to other humans based on difference of identity. This doesn’t just happen across different racial varieties, but often within. Take the American Revolution for example, where the British treated American colonists as inferiors deserving no better than hefty taxation without representation in parliament and ultimately paid the price for their imperiousness.

No doubt, fighting discrimination is important and Australia’s relentless commitment to this effect has been exemplary. That being said, 18C does nothing to sanitise our nation from racial discrimination. It is not a piece of legislation that prevents equals before the law from receiving differential treatment. Other sections of the same Act serve this purpose. What 18C does is, it prohibits the utterance of words that could potentially offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate someone and that is problematic.

Criminal offenses fall under two categories. Mala in se are intrinsically wrong as determined by a civilised society, for instance rape, murder and theft. These are wrong in and of themselves regardless of how they are dealt with from a legislative standpoint. Mala prohibitum are arbitrarily wrong because the lawmakers say so, for instance driving a vehicle without a license, illegal drug use and copyright infringements. 18C is a malum prohibitum presented to the world by the left as a malum in se in order to boost its appeal to moral conscience, hoping to guilt trip Australians into appreciating its alleged utility.

The underlying criteria that legitimises malum in se is universally indisputable. There is no ambiguity about how rape, murder and theft are defined. The same is not true of insult, offense and humiliation which are subjective emotional reactions to sounds and images that inevitably vary from one individual to another. Neither can these emotional reactions be quantified nor are they relevant to fighting discrimination which, as discussed earlier, happens when differential choices are made in situational matters. Due to their lack of universality, such emotional responses cannot serve as the basis of a law that promises to award damages to combat discrimination.

The suggestion that repealing 18C would leave minorities susceptible to racial abuse is utterly absurd. No one is suggesting repealing the entirety of the Racial Discrimination Act. The debate is about repealing one problematic section of the Act which evidently does more to divide than to unite us as a nation. Yet this debate remains blown so far out of proportion that Liberal MP Ken Wyatt threatens to cross the floor if the repeal Bill came before Parliament, while AFL player Adam Goodes just about thinks it will be doomsday if 18C is repealed.

Those fearing the worst may wish to note that Australia continues to remain one of the most ‘discrimination-sensitive’ nations on earth. Statutes designed to protect the vulnerable from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, disability or religion are staggering in number as confirmed by the voluminous list below.

Commonwealth laws:

  • Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth)
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
  • Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth)

State and Territory laws:

  • Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW)
  • Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA)
  • Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (WA)
  • Discrimination Act 1991 (ACT)
  • Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (QLD)
  • Equal Opportunity Act 1995 (VIC)
  • Anti-Discrimination Act 1996 (NT)
  • Racial Vilification Act 1996 (SA)
  • Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (TAS)
  • Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 (VIC)

What Ken Wyatt and Adam Goodes should be asking is, why should discrimination not be fought using existing Criminal Code provisions and the various defamation laws already in place which seek to protect all Australians regardless of racial origin in the face of abuse and vulnerability. The very existence of these special ‘identity-specific’ laws presupposes that those it represents are different from the rest of Australia. It assumes that they are weaker and want to be treated differently.

It necessarily implies that women, gays, lesbians, ethnic minorities and the elderly are both feeble and inferior to everyone else. That without these specific anti-discrimination laws in place, their lives would be devoid of social justice and equality of opportunity. In so doing, the left aspires to divide the nation by encouraging these demographics to adopt and maintain a victim mindset forever impeding their ability to join the broader Australian community.

For most Australians, when threats, harassment, slander or libel happen, standard criminal procedure applies, evoking defamation laws upon necessity. The legal battle which then follows is simply a quest for justice between the plaintiff and the defendant, not an ideological battle to advance the abstract idea that the plaintiff belongs to a specific downtrodden minority and therefore deserves greater sympathy than other Australians in identical circumstances. In an ideal Australia, each of us regardless of our identity would be governed by the same law instead of this form of reverse apartheid which renders us a house divided.

Given the left’s ideological obsession with combating perceived social injustices by creating more laws, it wouldn’t be surprising if one day we ended up with an Aesthetic Discrimination Act to provide unattractive people unable to secure a job as a model an avenue to take the modelling agency to court. A Class Discrimination Act to provide poor parents unable to afford the fees for their child’s education an avenue to take the school to court.

A Talent Discrimination Act to provide out of form players an avenue to take their coach and selectors to court. An Intellectual Discrimination Act to provide socially awkward nerds and geeks an avenue to take you to court for excluding them from being invited to a party. This is how the left does its politics, by making you feel like a structural victim of a flawed social order, then prescribing more laws as the solution. The end result is division, not unity. Dependency, not responsibility. Segregation, not inclusion.

18C redefines our national culture from the traditional epithets of ‘laid back’ and ‘easy going’ to a culture that thrives on punishing trivial speech crimes. Indeed, we have become a nation that penalises a journalist for writing an article, sacks a broadcaster for asking a question and evicts a 13 year old girl from a stadium for a remark made in jest at a football match. To be ridiculed in our laid back country, you neither have to make a threat to someone, nor necessarily harass, slander or defame them. The mere utterance of a few words are enough to land you in hot water. We have become a nation where the emotions of the offended take precedence over the intent of the offender.

No society can claim to uphold tolerance and free speech while concurrently continuing to punish free speech and reward offense. Imagine a scenario where two individuals of the same race detect a slur directed at them. Person A retorts with a witty comeback and all ends in laughter, while Person B gets offended and drags the offender to court. Person B will end up several thousand dollars richer in potential damages. From a monetary perspective, Person B is better off than Person A, a fact which would soon be realised by Person A who too would feel a sense of entitlement and start seeing greater value in suing for a payout than debating.

This is the kind of rort encouraged by 18C. The examples of trivial matters ending up in court are countless. In Kanapathy v In De Braekt (No.4) [2013] FCCA 1368 (25 September 2013) a $12,500 fine was issued for calling someone a “prick”. In Hamlin v The University of Queensland [2013] FCCA 406 (31 May 2013) a university lecturer was taken to court for not quelling the laughter in a lecture theatre about a comment that offended a student. In Clarke v Nationwide News Pty Ltd [2012] FCA 307 the online publisher of The Sunday Times newspaper in Perth was fined $15,600 for not removing offensive comments posted by readers online. 18C clearly does nothing to reduce racial vilification or intolerance and has instead become a powerful means to stifle debate.

The Abbott Government knew exactly how divisive 18C is, which is why its repeal was an election promise in the first place. It is unfortunate that Attorney-General George Brandis botched the campaign for repeal by suggesting that people had ‘the right to be bigots’. This played into the left’s smear campaign conceding that the Liberals were out to defend bigots, which is greatly ironic, because bigotry actually means intolerance towards difference of opinion. What the Attorney-General needed to pinpoint was that bigots are those who had Andrew Bolt silenced and penalised under 18C instead of offering a rebuttal to his argument. Akin to the bigotry of the Church that silenced Galileo through imprisonment.

Prime Minister Abbott certainly knows how to sack his colleagues when he wants to, as Senator Cory Bernardi found out after his comments on same sex marriage. If the Prime Minister was concerned about 18C and public perception, it would have made more sense to sack Brandis instead of sacking the debate and breaking an election promise, giving more ammunition to the ALP and Greens and their enablers at the ABC and The Guardian.

Earlier this month, at the Liberal Party of Australia (WA Division)’s annual State Conference in Perth, I took the liberty to move an urgency motion expressing disappointment at the Federal Government’s decision not to pursue, as promised, the repeal of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. The motion was seconded by former WA Liberal leader Bill Hassell and was carried with overwhelming support. The road ahead is challenging for our nation and if ever there has been a time for our Prime Minister to stand firm in the face of pressure from narrow interest groups, it is now.

Sherry Sufi is a WA based academic with qualificiations in Politics, History, Philosophy, Information Systems and International Studies. He has worked as a Policy Adviser to both State and Federal MPs. Sherry’s PhD research investigates the role of first language in ethnic conflict and nationalism. He can be reached via facebook here.

Deregulation of Planning Approvals, Taxi Industry Deregulation Signal From WA Government

by on 14 August, 2014

John Day has flagged that the state government will seek to implement reforms to remove some of the burden faced by landowners  on building approval, and will also centralise the approval process. Whilst the latter could hurt the ability of suburbs to develop a unique culture, one needs only to look to their areas most recent developments to witness the dangers of leaving property development to the whims and fancies of officials elected at ill attended and largely ignored local government elections.

Dean Nalder has also flagged the likelihood of deregulating the taxi industry. This move to remove the onerous obligations and costs on taxi drivers may come just in time to allow lower costs to help taxi drivers to save their market as we approach the introduction of the hugely successful Uber app.

Via Deregulation of Planning Approvals, Taxi Industry Signal From WA Government|Isolated Nation

Liberal Love Affair with Draconian Government

by on 8 August, 2014

Kerrod Gream Kerrod Gream takes aim at the government’s desire to monitor everything we do on the Internet.

This week has been terrible for civil liberties, with the government backing down to changes to 18C. But the other big danger to our civil liberties is the proposed data retention laws. While details are scarce, as they were when Labor proposed similar laws while in government, it’s pretty safe to say that’s it an attack on our individual freedoms, and right to privacy from the government.

Liberals Back Away from Liberal Values

by on 7 August, 2014

Kerrod GreamKerrod Gream takes aim at the backing down of the government from changes to the racial discrimination act.

The Liberal Government this week has shown that its talk of being small government, and the early stages of a solid government are over. After a budget that is still projected to have a deficit of $30billion(only $4billion worth of savings made over Swan’s projections) the government hasn’t had much going its way, other than the repeal of the carbon tax. They have shelved the Paid Parental Scheme, which seems good on the surface, but Hockey and the frontbench have still come out suggesting that it’ll be ready to go for July next year continuing on Hockey’s big spending plans for Australia.

Libertarian ‘Non-Interventionism’ and Australia’s International Reputation

by on 5 August, 2014

 

Christopher DowsonChristopher Dowson discusses why Australia should not only have a firm position on international issues but to also continue to play a proactive role in geopolitical conflict resolution. 

A dangerous attitude I’ve heard recently in discussions with people my age who have an eye for current affairs is: ‘Why does Australia care about other countries’ problems?’ The attitude tends to surface in debates about the on-going violence in Gaza or the skirmishes in Ukraine, two global issues I will examine in this article.

This attitude reflects populist libertarian political thought from the USA, proponents of which include politicians Ron and Rand Paul who advocate for a US non-interventionist position globally. This libertarian attitude to foreign affairs is not only dead wrong, it also has the potential, if popularised in this country, to undermine Australia’s influence in world affairs and allow these conflicts to become even more widespread.

The Gaza conflict is an issue which polarises debate among casual observers of global geopolitics. The line generally divides the two poles between those who say Israel is a violent aggressor and those who believe Israeli’s actions are infallible in every instance. Some debate has become so passionate that inevitably emotions have led to bitter disagreement between who is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

Yet the attitude of ‘why do we care?’ seems to surface much more often than expected and it’s telling that those who adopt this approach usually end up condemning Israel carte blanche. The simple truth is that if Australia wants to be taken seriously on the world stage we need to have foreign policy that takes a position on every major conflict in the world. This necessarily includes taking action where necessary. If Australia believes that the nation of Israel has a right to exist and a right to defend itself from terrorism, then we need to stand behind Israel.

We need to communicate our support of Israel to the world – as we have done under the current Abbott government – because if we do not, then the rest of the world has every right to ignore us and to turn their backs on our indifference next time we engage in international diplomacy. An example of this dangerous attitude of indifference surfaced when the ALP’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr chose to abstain from voting in a UN resolution to induct Palestine into the Security Council in 2012 (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-27/australia-to-abstain-from-palestinian-vote/4395000).

There is, of course, the other side of the coin where people become overly passionate about the conflict for reasons not entirely apparent. No one is asking Australians to pick a position and blindly defend it, but it certainly helps to research the history of the region, to understand the West’s approach to Israel and Palestine over the last half-century, and make informed judgments whilst also being wary of news sources and their inherent biases (e.g. Fairfax’s anti-Semitism: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/israels-rank-and-rotten-fruit-is-being-called-fascism-20140724-zwd2t.html).

Another issue is the crisis in the Ukraine, which, up until 18 July, most Australians cared little about. The old Ron Paul ‘let’s focus on our country, not what the Russians are doing’ attitude seemed to have become set in most politically minded individuals and any discussion on the topic usually ended with: ‘Ah well, what can we do? Let them kill each other if they want to’. This kind of anti-interventionism came to an abrupt halt when Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine shot down flight MH17 last month killing all 298 people on board including 28 Australians.

The Abbott government’s response was swift and decisive and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop showed strength of character on the world stage by being firm with Russia and pressuring the UN into supporting a resolution to fully investigate the tragedy and sending Australian Federal Police into the crime scene. While this approach from our Coalition leaders deserves much applause, despite the negative rants of far left haters such as Destroy the Joint’s Jenna Price (http://m.smh.com.au/comment/jenna-price-tony-abbott-should-get-back-to-work-and-stop-focusing-on-mh17-20140728-zxmqt.html), this type of attitude should not suddenly come into existence after a tragedy like the MH17 attack.

Instead, it should be the default approach of Australian foreign policy. This does not imply that we should have sent AFP officers to Ukraine once fighting first broke out earlier this year. What it means is that we need to take a stand on such diplomatic issues and show the world we have a firm opinion on them. Abbott’s multiple phone calls to Putin after the MH17 tragedy proved the Prime Minister’s statesmanlike qualities, but we should be engaging in this type of leadership at a much earlier stage.

It is an understatement to say that US President Barack Obama has been doing little to nothing in the way of taking the fight to Putin diplomatically and most of his rhetoric is foolish and hollow (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/obama-dismisses-russia-as-nation-that-doesn-t-make-anything/504497.html). Australia needs to step up and bring the fight to Putin, like Ms Bishop did at the UN last month. We need to get serious about our perceptions on the world stage and prove our mettle to the world that we are not going to sit back and watch conflicts like Gaza or Ukraine unfold without our voices being heard. Putin’s facile imperialism and aggressive behaviour, and Hamas’ terrorism, need to be condemned and challenged.

I believe the Abbott government’s current approach to both international issues discussed above is admirable and shows a high level of diplomatic acumen. Statements like George Brandis’ on Israeli settlements in Gaza and the West Bank showed that our government actually has convictions and strong beliefs in this conflict. Brandis and Bishop stood by these beliefs despite the potential trade backlash from Arab nations (http://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/brandis-explains-israeli-settlement-stance/story-e6frfku9-1226944233629).

This is a massive step forward from the ineffective and weak foreign policies of past ALP governments. Australia can no longer afford to take a libertarian ‘non-interventionist’ stance on foreign affairs otherwise we will not only be a geographically isolated first-world nation, but a politically irrelevant one as well.

Christopher Dowson LLB BA (Hons) is a postgraduate student at the University of Western Australia, a member of the WA Young Liberals and co-creator of current affairs show The Oak Point on West TV.