A modern day witch hunt: how unexplained wealth laws victimise the innocent

by on 23 March, 2015

Pictured: how unexplained wealth laws combat organised crime

Pictured: how unexplained wealth laws combat organised crime

We like to think of ourselves as superior to our ancestors, but as I look at Australia’s unexplained wealth laws I venture to disagree.  The laws have empowered police to confiscate the property of the innocent without a trial, and they have been introduced in every State, every Territory and federally. Indeed, in New South Wales, the Coalition is promising to increase their scope in the run up to the election. Punishment without a trial is a process that is equivalent to a medieval witch hunt.

All of your property—gone. Unexplained wealth laws empower law enforcement officials to permanently confiscate your property without being convicted of a crime. If you’re suspected of committing a minor criminal offence, the police are empowered to confiscate everything you own. In Queensland, it can be as trivial as recreational marijuana possession. There is no need to even accuse you of having committed a crime in obtaining the property; no need to charge you with a crime; no need to bring your trial; and no need to prove you guilty. Punishment without a trial or due process is the agenda. It’s up to you to defend yourself in Court against the allegation that you obtained the property unlawfully.

Absurd law, absurd results. In one instance, recreational marijuana possession was in fact used as the pretext for the confiscation by police of almost $600,000.00 of cash belonging to one man, Mr Henderson, and his siblings in 2002. [1] Mr Henderson proved in Court that he obtained that money legitimately from the sale of a family heirloom belonging to himself and his siblings. But the money was confiscated anyway, for the absurd reason that he could not prove that the family heirloom was legally acquired by his now-dead parents. Police did not offer any other explanation as to how the property was acquired. They did not produce a victim claiming the heirloom was his, or even a police report. They did not allege that Mr Henderson or his property acquired the property illegally. They weren’t required to. Mr Henderson was a member of the vulnerable underclass which unexplained wealth laws seem to target and victimise.

That money sure looks suspicious. Unexplained wealth laws also empower the police to permanently confiscate specific items of your property on the suspicion that it was acquired illegally. Again, the onus is on you to get it back.

Carrying cash is a crime? Thus in another case in Western Australia, police targeted a man, Mr Morris, for carrying around his life savings of over $100,000.00 in cash in a plastic bag.[2] It was suspicious. So when police pulled him over while he was driving back in 2011, they took the cash. He kept his savings in cash because he was suspicious of banks; he had lost his meagre savings due to a bank failure in the 80’s. He was planning to use the money purchase and open a fitness training centre. Police did not allege that the man had committed a crime of any kind. They simply suggested that he had obtained the bag of money from a friend. This single suggestion was the entirety of the prosecution case. Mind, they had no proof of it. No witness came to the stand in their favour. Nor did they offer any evidence the man’s friend had gotten the money illegally.  Mr Morris got his money back, but the case took two years to be disposed of—a punishment in time and money in and of itself. If Mr Morris had been subjected to the traditional process of criminal procedure, this would never have happened at all. The police could not and did not charge him with the “crime” of carrying around a bag of money. But with unexplained wealth laws, they confiscated it anyway. This is not justice.

No evidence of effectiveness. Witch hunters could only practise their trade because witchcraft was popularly thought to be real and dangerous. Similarly, our modern day law enforcement officials confiscate on the premise that they are combating organised crime. The dangers of organised crime are no superstition, of course. But then again, neither were the diseases witches pretended to cure. And much as peasants never asked witch hunters for evidence, few people seem to ask for any evidence that these laws do anything to combat organised crime. There’s a reason for that. There is none. Unexplained wealth laws are designed to catch people who haven’t been proven guilty of a crime. That does nothing to assist police in their investigation of actual crimes.

A wider net catches more innocent people. It is more likely than not that some of the people caught by police will be innocent. Some indeed might be guilty of something, but if they are subject to unexplained wealth laws then we often cannot be sure what they are guilty of, if anything. With unexplained wealth orders, there need be no convictions or sentences, nor even any reported crimes to justify a confiscation. The accused and the prosecution can simply consent to an order being made against the accused for his property to be confiscated. Nobody knows what they are accused of or whether the punishment is in proportion to the crime.

Disproportionate, draconian punishments. We should not assume that the punishment is just simply because the accused did not contest it. The accused may not have had the funds or the time to contest the accusations against him. While he may have been guilty of some offence that might justify confiscating the proceeds of crime, it does not follow that law enforcement officials should be empowered to take everything that person owns. The punishment has to match the crime. The typical punishment for a marijuana user is a counselling session or a small fine—not the confiscation of all of their property.

A pointless, hysterical distraction from punishing real criminals. Finger pointing hysteria may sweep up a lot of innocent people together with the guilty. But there’s no evidence that organised crime is likely to suffer as a result. Indeed, unexplained wealth proceedings will distract police from the actual task of investigating real crimes and real criminals. They will be too busy investigating loosely hypothetical possibilities that might warrant a confiscation order to worry about any real criminals. Therein, I suspect, lies the appeal. Police and politicians can look like they are doing something about crime without doing much at all.

Reversing the presumption of innocence undermines our liberal society. The Coalition like to market themselves as tough on crime, but unexplained wealth laws punish suspects, not proven criminals. Punishing suspects means punishing more innocent people. The traditional, conservative view of law enforcement sees the presumption of innocence as the cornerstone and a distinguishing feature of the English legal system. It is as old as the English Treaty of Magna Carta:

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

Or as famous English jurist Sir William Blackstone put it:

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

People must have confidence that the legal system will not unfairly target or persecute them. With the introduction of unexplained wealth laws, the Coalition, the ALP and the Greens have renounced their commitment to this fundamental principle of liberal society. They have undermined a core, embedded principle of our legal system and our society. This is a remarkable and troubling tri-partisan consensus indeed. The only politician to have spoken against these laws to date is David Leyonjhelm of the Liberal Democrats. Leyonjhelm has separately pointed out that reversing the presumption of innocence is tantamount to accepting the “just world fallacy”:

The just-world fallacy holds that a person’s actions always result in fair and fit consequences, and it exists because people are uncomfortable accepting [that] suffering is random and that sometimes bad things happen for no reason at all. It is common to believe people must have done something to deserve what they get, including being accused of a crime. The argument goes: if bad things only happen to those who deserve them and I am a good person, then I can be sure nothing bad will ever happen to me.”

Unfortunately, the world is not fair, and law enforcement officials are not perfect. They are fallible human beings. They are capable of making mistakes. They are capable of persecution, not merely prosecution. Judging people guilty before proven innocent is tantamount to a sacrilegious worship of law enforcement officials as nigh-infallible human beings. Unexplained wealth laws turn them into the witch finders of our modern day witch hunts.

Revenue raising gone mad. Add to the mix the fact that confiscations generate revenue for the government and you will see a dangerous combination at work. Police who return more money towards government coffers than they put in will naturally be in line for more funding. Politicians will be more inclined to give it to them. It is not hard to see how law enforcement officials might be more inclined to prosecute law abiding citizens when their pay packet is on the line. That’s the experience in the United States, at any rate, where law enforcement officials get every penny they confiscate back into their own local police department. Then they spend it on holidays, nice cars and other like perks, as the Institute for Justice, an American civil liberties law firm, has recorded. If law enforcement officials get their way we could witness much the same here. It is a comfortable revenue stream indeed.

Would you do it to your neighbour? A final thought. If you took your neighbour’s property and refused to return it to him, without even telling him why or caring to prove that he acquired the property illegally, what would that make you? A thief. It’s one thing to confiscate the proven proceeds of crime, but unexplained wealth laws are something else entirely.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

[1] See Henderson v Queensland [2014] HCA 52.

[2] See Director of Public Prosecutions v Morris [2010] WADC 148. (Note: you will need access to a subscription service such as LexisNexis to access this decision).

The Gender Pay Gap: Facts, Fallacies and Fiction

by on 21 March, 2015

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There are few issues that arouse such heightened emotions, yet remain so widely misunderstood as the disparity between male and female income.

Patricia Arquette’s recent Academy Award acceptance speech is a case in point. Reading from a carefully prepared script with her Oscar clenched tightly by her side, Arquette’s tone was one of emphatic indignation:

“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

Arquette’s depiction of the gender pay gap as the last unfinished work of the civil rights movement plays into the broader perception that women are paid less because of entrenched sexism in a male dominated workforce. At first glance, the fact that last year Australian women in full time work earned 18.8% less than their male counterparts seems to support this conclusion. Nevertheless, while Arquette may have been held up momentarily as a feminist torchbearer by Twitter and Hollywood’s liberal elite, her grandstanding has little connection with the actual reasons why women on average earn less than men.

So if not discrimination, why are women earning nearly a fifth less than men? The fatal assumption is that over the course of their working lives men and women follow the same path, distinguished only by gender.

The biggest factor is career choice. Despite generally performing better at school, girls are more likely to enrol in social science based tertiary courses, whereas males are more highly represented in technical and science based qualifications. In 2012, there were 6 times as many males studying engineering across Australia as females. Likewise, females are enrolling in education at a rate of four to every one male and only three in ten teachers nationwide. Further, while 85% of the mining industry is male, they make up a mere 10% of registered nurses. Although only a snapshot, this speaks to a broader trend across the entire labour force which sees females overrepresented in occupations that pay less than those employing more men.

Some might argue that the fact that typically female dominated occupations earn less is itself indicative of gender bias. A more useful exercise is to consider differences in pay between members of the opposite sex in the same occupations.

Policy analyst for Graduate Careers Australia Bruce Guthrie found that within different occupations, the pay gap for new graduates shrunk to 2.4% in 2012. Interestingly, the same study found that in fields such as pharmacy, computer science and engineering females enjoyed higher graduate salaries than males. On the other end, economic analysts Juan Baron and Deborah Cobb-Clark found that the pay gap among low-income earners could be explained entirely by differences in skills and experience. In other words, where females had the same productive capacity as males, they earned no less.

Senior policy analyst at the Institute for Public Affairs Mikayla Novak sums up the trends between gender and career choice neatly: “It generally appears that women tend to assume working roles which provide more pleasant and safe conditions, and which provide greater flexibility for part-time work to accommodate family responsibilities.”

That male dominated professions earn a lot – engineering and surgery for instance – is a function of how valuable those skills are in today’s economy. Though it may sound appealing to argue that occupations with more females like nursing and teaching deserve to be paid more, it doesn’t change that the key fact that some jobs earn more than others because of economic factors – notably the scarcity and demand for the skills in question – and not conscious discrimination. Nor does it change that the distribution of males and females across these occupations is incidental to, and not the cause of such discrepancies.

Even within the same occupations, it is wrong to assume women and men follow the same working patterns, especially over the span of an entire career. The most obvious difference comes from the burden of child rearing, which falls disproportionately on females during pregnancy and the child’s early years. Females are also more likely to take time off or work less to be carers for parents or other dependants. In these instances, the advent of parental and compassionate leave entitlements does provide short-term income supplements. However, this doesn’t replace the experience lost by time spent away from the workplace. These added responsibilities are also reflected in findings by the ABS that a far greater proportion of the male workforce worked more than 41 hours a week, whereas females were likelier to take out part time positions. It is not difficult to see how the time taken by these other commitments, (which disproportionately affect females), impedes career advancement. This is even truer of some high-earning occupations such as banking, law and medical specialists where it is not always simple to take long breaks and resume your career where you left it.

Although these figures explain that women’s choices and lifestyles have more to do with the gender pay gap than discrimination, some may still lament the fact that the burden of unpaid work like raising children falls more heavily on females. Others would go further and claim that the expectations placed on females in relation to motherhood, caring and other unpaid yet valuable work is itself suggestive of structural oppression. Emotive as these arguments may be, they overlook that in today’s society conforming to gender norms is a choice that women are free to ignore. And for those who do, the news is good. In cases where females work the same number of hours in the same job with the same experience as men, the pay gap all but disappears.

Despite these explanations pointing to an absence of widespread gender discrimination against women, they still may not conform to what many would consider ‘fair’. The point is that in a market economy wages are not determined by subjective notions of fairness but are based on the supply and demand of particular skills and experience. Arguments that claim females suffer systemic disadvantage in the jobs market and workplace are quick to label discrimination as their target when in fact they are attacking the edifice upon which our entire economic system is based.

Once the rhetoric is stripped away, it becomes clear that a free market is the best mechanism to achieve equality and a meritocracy between the sexes in workforce. The pressures of competition between rival businesses create real economic incentives to hire and promote on merit. Businesses that discriminate on the basis of gender instead of ability cripple themselves in the marketplace. While not perfect, a market system ensures that businesses that choose to preference employees based on characteristics incidental to their job bear the economic cost. Such bias is also likely to be visible to other employees and deter high-performing workers from remaining in workplaces that aren’t meritocratic. This is not to say discrimination doesn’t exist. Rather, it is to highlight that in the long run it is simply unsustainable for businesses to adopt a blind preference for males to the exclusion of characteristics relevant to the job at hand.

A more constructive discussion around the gender pay gap would centre on how the added responsibilities borne by many females can be better accommodated in the workplace. Unsupported generalisations about the discriminatory attitudes of employers send women the false and damaging message that they are at an inherent disadvantage because of their gender. They are also unfair in their depiction of male employers as innately sexist without a shred of evidence.

If for anything, Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech is useful to the extent that it highlights the pitfalls of according the emotionally provocative but intellectually vacuous words of celebrities more weight than they deserve.

Johnslater93@gmail.com

3rd ALS Friedman Conference Registration Now Open!

by on 16 March, 2015

It is with great pleasure that I would like to invite you to the 3rd Annual Friedman Conference – the biggest and best pro-liberty event of the Year!

We are offering a special Early Bird Discount of $50 off the regular price for all registrations before March 31!

The 2015 Friedman Conference will be held in Sydney, at the Aerial Function Centre at UTS, on the weekend of May 2-3, culminating in the Annual Dinner and Liberty Awards Presentation. It is organised by the Australian Libertarian Society in conjunction with the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance, and with the support of the Institute for Public Affairs, and the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, and I really hope you will be able to join us: This truly will be a weekend to remember.

With over 200 attendees expected, and speakers from not just around Australia, but all over the world, this is one event you don’t want to miss!

Some of our guest speakers include:

*Dr Tom Palmer, from the Atlas Network in Washington DC and one of the world’s most prominent liberty activists (courtesy of the Centre for Independent Studies)
*Viral Video music sensation Remy Munfasi, with a staggering 100 million YouTube views!
*A liberty activist from Iran (really!)
*Louise Staley MLA, Liberal Member for Rippon in the Victorian parliament
*Professor Jim Allan from the University of Queensland
*Dr Keith Kendall from La Trobe University
*Andrew Norton from the Grattan Institute & architect of the Federal Governments’ Higher Education Reforms
*and dozens more! 

Click HERE for more details on currently announced speakers.

The 1st and 2nd Friedman Conferences were – without doubt – the most enjoyable events I attended all year, and I know that this one will be even better!

The Early Bird special is just $200 for concession, or $250 for adults. This is amazing value, and includes 2 full days of conference, and a 3 course dinner with 4 hour wine package at the Gala Dinner.  Click HERE to secure your spot now and avoid paying the full price!

Plus, for our most committed supporters, we are offering a VIP package which includes an exclusive VIP reception, a private luncheon with guest speakers and other dignitaries, preferred seating, and a DVD of all conference sessions & Liberty Awards. For only $700, the VIP package is an excellent opportunity to enhance your experience while helping us ensure the best possible conference. Visit http://www.taxpayers.org.au/event/friedmanconference2015/ for more details on the VIP package, and other options (such as day only or dinner only options)

I can guarantee – without a shred of doubt – that this is an opportunity worth attending.

The conference will be provocative and challenging, stimulating debate, and tackling not just the key policy issues facing Australia – but also discussing how to implement our ideas. I can honestly say this is NOT to be missed.

Click HERE to secure your spot today – and I look forward to seeing you there!

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions, and again – I really, really hope you will be able to make it!

Tim Andrews
Executive Director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance & Publisher of Menzies House

Taxpayers Shouldn’t Be Forced Fund Vile Anti-Semites; Lynch Must Be Sacked

by on 13 March, 2015

In a shocking incident of vile anti-semitism at the University of Sydney, a violent mob of – led by the notorious Jake Lynch – disrupted a lecture by retired British military officer Colonel Richard Kemp on Ethical Dilemmas of Military Tactics. Associate Professor Jake Lynch, is the taxpayer-funded ‘Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies’ at the University of Sydney.

Here is how one witness described it:

“A demonstrator with a megaphone drowned out any attempts by the moderator to get the lecture back on track. Protesters wrestled with security guards who had asked them to leave and were then forced to remove them. Protesters stood on chairs, began to push students and shout loudly at those who objected to their behaviour.

Professor Jake Lynch, the director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS) and an ardent opponent of Israel, shouted in the faces of students, including at a senior officer of the Jewish student union. He then proceeded to stand on chairs and film attendees. Lynch screamed that attempts to remove the protesters was a violent attack on freedom of speech by security guards. When another academic suggested that he ask a question, Lynch responded that was not what this is about”

More shocking however was what was yet to come

Professor Lynch – who also supports the ‘BDS’ movement to boycott products associated with Israel – was caught on camera taunting a Jewish Student with a $5 dollar note, a reference to one of the oldest anti-Semitic slurs:

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Anti-Semitic on university campuses is on the rise around the world and the Jewish Press this past year has published dozens of reports of racist and violent anti-Semitism, including here, here, here, and here.  It would appear that in Australia not only is this sort of disgraceful behaviour condoned, but subsidised by the taxpayer.

If the University of Sydney had an ounce of moral integrity, it would dismiss Professor Lynch without hesitation.

 

The Ad SBS Refused To Air

by on 12 March, 2015

Last Saturday, the taxpayer-funded broadcaster SBS refused to air an advertisement critical of same-sex marriage in an act described as “blatant political censorship“. The ad, which was broadcast on Channels 7 and 9, was booked and paid for prior to being pulled by SBS management and had received regulatory approval.

Dr David Van Gent, President of the Australian Marraiage Forum, made the following comments:

This is suppression of free speech on a matter of public importance. It is outrageous for a taxpayer funded broadcaster like SBS to apply censorship to one side of the debate on same-sex marriage. SBS is funded by taxpayers on both sides of the same-sex ‘marriage’ debate”. SBS broadcasts hours of the Mardi Gras protest march, free of charge, with its ‘Australian Marriage Equality’ float and other political themes. The Chief of the Mardi Gras Parade, Michael Rolik, specifically highlighted ‘marriage equality’ as one of the rally’s targets for legislative change. SBS gives free airtime for them to make their political point on ‘marriage equality’, but refuses to show even one minute of a paid ad presenting an opposing view. SBS gave us no reason for their last-minute decision…I see that SBS has its own float in this year’s Mardi Gras Parade, and I also see that the SBS slogan is ‘Diversity works’. But clearly they cannot work with any diversity of opinion on the issue of same-sex marriage”

Senator David Leyonhjelm, who introduced the Bill for Same Sex Marriage into the Federal Senate, and Senator Dean Smith, another supporter of the legislation, have both condemned the decision , as has Australian Human Rights’ Commissioner Tim Wilson.

The SBS Charter specifically calls on it to “present many points of view”

Here is the controversial ad:

 

So what do you think? Should SBS have censored this ad?

 

The Enemy of Merit

by on 10 March, 2015

jvzJessica Van Zwam contends that the true enemy of merit is reverse discrimination.

There are few among us who would doubt that the proponents of gender-based quotas and affirmative action have the best intentions at heart.

They do a good enough job identifying that women have faced disadvantage throughout human history and wish to set the balance right.

Yet Saint Bernard of Clairvaux once said:

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

If a woman is denied promotion because she is a woman, that is negative discrimination. If a woman is given promotion because she is a woman, that is positive discrimination.

Either way, it is discrimination and that is the true enemy of merit.

While there is little dispute that men have tended to be the dominant gender throughout human history, for reasons that transcend the scope of this article, the way to make things right is not through continued discrimination in reverse.

It must never be forgotten that women have had to face adversity in the face of patriarchy because they were treated differently in the first place.

Fixing this must therefore require that women are assessed on merit, that is, not differently but the same way men are assessed.

To set gender based quotas to so-called “support” women is to assume that we are so feeble as to require quotas in the first place.

Advocates of gender-based quotas do not believe women are as capable as men, they evidently believe we are less capable.

This is an il-Liberal proposition I always have and always will stand to oppose.

Besides, such positive discrimination to supposedly favour women amounts to concurrent discrimination to undermine men.

This is something most women find abhorrent.

We do not wish to be responsible for inadvertently doing to others what was done to us throughout history.

As a woman, I loathe the idea of being handed a job out of pity as opposed to merit and I confidently make the assumption that other dignified women feel the same.

We seek to neither concede that we are intrinsically subordinate to men, nor to suggest that we are altogether superior.

The two genders are different by design of nature however equal before law and society.

What we seek is equality of opportunity, not forced equality of outcome. The only way to deliver that is by assessing our capability to perform a task. All other facets of our physiological, cognitive and social existence are utterly irrelevant.

We aspire to earn our employment by being the best suited candidate for the role, by possessing the experience and skillset that aptly correspond to the job description.

In addition to fostering discrimination against men, gender quotas continue to perpetuate myths about women in the workforce.

They ascribe to us a status of prolonged subordination.

They play into that perennial narrative forever reinforcing the notion that we are allegedly less productive than men.

The Liberal Party of Australia must stay true to our core values and take a strong stand against gender quotas and affirmative action in all their manifestations.

Westpac Chief Executive Gail Kelly rejects suggestions that there should be minimum quotas set for women on corporate boards warning that it could lead to “tokenism” and reverse discrimination. She points to her country of origin South Africa as proof of how race-based mandatory quotas have resulted in the promotion of people far beyond their competency levels.

Gender-based mandatory quotas will result in the same in Australia and no sensible Australian woman and man wants that.

The Australian Institute of Company Directors rejects the idea of mandatory quotas for women on boards stating:

“the idea of mandated quotas for female representation on boards is wrong in principle, has difficulties in practice, is tokenistic and is counter-productive to the end goal of increasing board diversity”.

Affirmative action always has been and always will be shunned by those who possess the requisite skills, experience and determination to climb to lofty heights.

Those endowed with proficient acumen are not only recruited through merit but also taken in higher regard by their managers and colleagues in comparison to their artificially promoted counterparts.

It is they who maximise their prospects of reaping the benefits of a triumphant career.

Through the combination of active and passive bullying, tokenistic appointments lead women to continue to be condescended upon by their fellow women and men who procured their roles through merit alone.

To say the least, gender quotas act like a temporary ‘bandaid’ to a much broader problem. They are not the permanent antidote.

When the labour market functions freely, it functions efficiently, not blinded by gender and definitely not because the government decided it would be a good idea.

Female participation in the workforce has only ever improved through changing social expectations and increased education, with women now outnumbering men in many Australian universities.

If a scheme were to be designed to drive gender equality in the workplace by proposing that businesses be compelled to put more women on corporate boards, it would be more reminiscent of the old Soviet Union than an enterprise-driven, individualistic, meritocratic democracy.

The idea underlying such an initiative embodies reverse discrimination of the most repugnant kind and stands as an affront to Liberal values.

Jessica Van Zwam is a third year Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Western Australia majoring in Political Science, International Relations and Marketing. She is currently the Treasurer of Swan Young Liberals.

Campaigning Like Last Decade

by on 5 March, 2015

The NSW Liberal Party’s failure to embrace digital campaigning will lead to disaster, writes Dean Hamstead: 1924165_50280265534_4415_n

In 2015 the NSW Liberal party seems to once again be relying on the Old Boys Club and a few corflutes to win them another election.

There is no doubt Campaign headquarters are very busy rolling out strategies that succeeded for John Howard, with campaign funds flowing to the usual consultants who assured them that it will work. However I am yet to receive a single campaign email from the NSW Liberal party. I haven’t been asked for a donation, nor have any of my friends and family received any correspondence at all. Surely having corresponded with sitting members past and present, they would be the first people asked to get involved, donate and vote?

Meanwhile, the Union campaign against the privatization (that isn’t) is already underway in NSW. Radio ads on 2GB during Alan Jones serve to compliment the (probably illegal) signs hanging around Sydney claiming utility prices will soar and even a legitimate advertisements on the M4.

That’s just what’s spilling over from the Union’s digital campaign happening online.

The fight in NSW against the privatisation (that isn’t), should only come as a surprise to people who somehow missed the (avoidable) losses in Victoria and Queensland.

It’s the same tactic the Unions used for “Work Choices” brought out of the freezer, warmed up and modernized for the Internet era. The next step is to hand the campaign to Labor so they can ride the wave of misinformed voters to winning yet another election.

Obviously the Unions’ apparatus presents a huge asset to the Labor and Greens parties.

But Digital Campaigning presents Conservatives with the tools to present their values and solutions directly to voters – erasing the Union backing advantage. It has never been easier to  stay in contact with them, motivating them to donate, volunteer and motivate them to ultimately vote Conservative.

Labor and the Greens get this – why doesn’t the Coalition?

The tools and platforms are out there, battle tested, mature and ready to go. But the Conservative Parties in Australia continue to ignore it. Considering that The NSW Liberal party has yet to achieve 20,000 Facebook likes in a state of 7.5 million, no one is hearing it. After a $10million campaign, The Victorian Liberal Party has just barely passed 40,000 Facebook likes in a state approaching 6 million people. Donor should be asking: “Where is the money going?”

Perhaps the Greens and Labor’s cries against the “Americanization” of campaigning are actually finding ears on William Street. Maybe thats why the party doesn’t hold rallies or Conventions, keep a database of party faithfuls election to election or make any serious effort to coordinate their ground game.

Unless something changes, only be surprised if the Coalition holds on to NSW.

 Dean Hamstead is a Sydney-based Telecommunications and Computing Engineer who specialises in open source systems and works for a major Telco. He has also spent a number of years working abroad and for local government, and his hobbies are running regular computer gaming events and sailing yachts.

The great, untapped resource of Australian conservatism

by on 5 March, 2015

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During the 2013 election the Australian Broadcasting Corporation commissioned an online poll known as “Vote Compass” where voters were asked their opinion on several hot-button issues in Australian politics. This article uses those published results as a source.

When I ask people where they think the most conservative electorates of Australia are, their answers are usually the same. They are quick to mention electorates like Maranoa in Queensland, good rural voters in the capable hands of my party, the National Party. It is true that on most issues of traditional family and moral values the electorate of Maranoa or ones like it in Australia usually hold firm in respecting the values that have forged us as a nation.

On the issue of gay marriage, Maranoa is the most strongly opposed. On whether Australia should become a Republic, the voters of Maranoa are the most strongly opposed. On another issue of great concern to Australians, whether terminating the life of an unborn child should be less accessible – Maranoa comes in third.

Neighbouring Groom (another stalwart Liberal-National seat) leads the country in voters who reject the notion that a child should be killed for being inconvenient to their mother. You might not guess which electorate holds second place…

I am of course speaking of the Western-Sydney division of Chifley. The seat is named after an icon of the ALP, Ben Chifley (often called the founder of the modern Labor Party) and has been firmly held by the Labor Party since it’s creation in 1969. What the electorate has become famous, or even infamous for in recent years is being the seat of Labor MP Ed Husic, the first Muslim member of Australian Parliament and the first Minister of any Australian Government sworn in on the Quran. I do not consider this a positive or a negative event in our democratic history, merely a reflection of changing times and demographics in this country.

A change that shows what it takes for the Australian Labor Party to field a socially conservative candidate in its modern student-pandering era. A change that shows the heart of Labor conservatism is no longer truly at the hands of Catholic trade unionists behind closed doors, but Muslim voters on the streets and in the houses and businesses of places like Western Sydney.

A quick look at those of the Labor front-bench who voted against their publicity advisor’s wishes (a great crime in Labor circles) and supported traditional marriage in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government shows that so called Labor conservatives like Chris Bowen, Tony Burke and Ed Husic are respecting the wishes of their large Muslim constituent bases by supporting causes like the protection of marriage and the unborn. For this small glimmer of hope in the social policy of the Labor government, we have them (this minority of Muslim voters) to thank.

Why is it though, that in these majority Muslim divisions we see the re-election of progressive political parties? Sure, people like Bowen, Burke and Husic respect the wishes of their electorates and support causes relevant to Christian and Muslim families alike – but by voting for the Labor Party, Muslim voters are outright rejecting the national preservation of traditional family and moral values.

I honestly believe that the reason Muslims turn so often to the Labor Party is due to the outright xenophobia produced in the media and by many members (and some MP’s) of the Liberal and National parties towards Muslim-Australians. While the ALP in a shrewd political move races to accept Muslims and cater for them at a political level, it seems that the right of Australian politics does all it can to foster a jingoistic fear of all Muslims as terrorists, unable to integrate with multicultural Australia or even as backward and insular – perhaps so far as morally or religiously bankrupt. In my experience with the Australian Muslim community, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Muslim community I know and have grown to love are caring, devoted family people, a true community and one that by and large respects the religious and moral traditions set forth by the Quran and to a large degree also presented in our own Christian Bible. As seen by the Vote Compass results, Muslim communities reject abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia. They value time with their family, fight to retain their traditions and culture – and most of all love and treasure their religious freedoms and teachings.

I ask you how this is different to the Australian Christian? We should all be devoted to preserving the traditional family unit, fighting for the rights of the unborn and giving everyone the right to worship in peace and respect. This is why I will ask every one of you reading who is a member of a conservative political party – Nationals, Liberals, Katterites or Family First – to find a Muslim, a good-hearted, Australian Muslim connected to his or her community, sit them down for lunch or dinner and by the end of the conversation sign them up to your party.

At a time when half the membership of the Liberal Party would scoff at the idea of regular church attendance or call you an extremist for merely supporting the right to life of a child – we need these committed conservatives and family-people. We need to visit our local mosques like we visit our local churches, to find fast friends in the Muslim community of Australia and to convince them that we (the Coalition or conservatives generally) are not their enemy.

We need to field good, conservative Muslim candidates in electorates like Chifley, McMahon and Watson because there is nothing intrinsically holding Labor to these seats. We need to inspire the new generations of migrant, refugee and minority that we are the party for them, the movement for them. We need to show Muslim-Australians that the Coalition is there to support them in owning a home, starting a business and caring for their family like we did for Italian, Greek, Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees before them, among others.

These candidates will be all you could ask for in a good conservative Liberal. Supportive of a child’s right to life, supportive of traditional marriage, supportive of freedoms of religion and religious expression – and to support the principles of good mainstream Australian moral values.

Within the next ten years, we can see traditional Labor holdouts turn blue as our new members embrace the economic opportunities that the Coalition offers while still maintaining their traditional cultural and religious views and values. We can help turn the tide of a continued shift to the left within our own party ranks with this fresh injection of traditionalism, and most importantly we can fight the ugly head of racism and xenophobia within the conservative movement.

Many people say you only fear what you do not know, so I say to all young conservatives in this nation – go and get to know your local Muslim community, you may well have more in common than you first thought.

Kurt Tucker

We owe David Hicks no apology

by on 23 February, 2015

By John Slater11004220_10153074719993794_467850264_n

David Hick’s recent demands for an apology and compensation following the setting aside of his terrorism conviction by a US military court shows that while he may be innocent in the eyes of the law, he is yet to learn his lesson.

To examine Hicks’ case as a question of legal guilt is to totally misapprehend the real nature of the situation. Hicks’ innocence was not because there was a lack of demonstrated links with the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden or for a want of intent to carry out violent attacks (albeit unrealised). It was because at the particular time Hicks joined the Taliban, the law was not calibrated to deal with the issue of foreign fighters joining overseas terror groups and training to commit pre-meditated mass murders. This does nothing to diminish that Hicks sought to aid and abet the Taliban – an organisation single-mindedly focused on the destruction of Western Civilization – immediately after it had carried out the most deadly attack on the American mainland since Pearl Harbour. After the events of 9/11, America went to war with the Taliban. By any standard, this made Hicks an enemy combatant.

To speak in legal semantics, Hicks may have been found not guilty. Nevertheless, in national security terms, he revelled in an ideology antithetical to not only Australia, but the values underpinning the entire Western world.

Despite all this, the Howard Government expended considerable diplomatic capital appealing to the US to secure his return Australia. Claims that more should have been done to have Hicks’ released earlier overlook the sensitivities of persuading the United States to essentially grant preferential treatment to an Australian national at a time of war. In truth, the steps taken by Australian authorities were generous in light of Hicks’ actions.

In this light, having the audacity to demand compensation for injuries like teeth decay suggests Hicks’ is either delusional, or wilfully ignorant of the seriousness of his conduct.

It is equally astounding that Hicks’ continues to be lionised by the counter-culture left.  In December last year, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young remarked that “David Hicks has a hell of a lot more guts than George Brandis and all the other government ministers who stayed silent and turned a blind eye.” Filmaker and far left polemicist John Pilger went further, describing Hicks as a “courageous Australian citizen” who had suffered from “Australia’s silence on the denigration of [his] basic liberties such as freedom of speech and the presumption of innocence.”

In the real world, ‘basic liberties’ and ‘human rights’ exist only to the extent that sovereign nation states are willing to protect them. Not coincidentally, the nation states with the greatest will to safeguard such rights – North America, the Anglosphere and Continental Europe – also happen to be the major targets of Jihadist groups like the one that Hicks signed himself up for. In the end, human rights mean nothing if they aren’t supported by the most basic right of all; the right to life.  One seriously wonders why the left are so fixated upon the purported injustices suffered by Hicks, yet have little energy when it comes to standing up for the rights of the real victims of terrorism: innocent people who have lost their lives.

Similar delusions appear to affect those who spend their time apologising or making excuses for Hicks. Just last week Bill Shorten said that while Hicks’ decision to fight with Al Qaeda after the 9/11 terrorist attacks was ‘foolish’, he had nonetheless suffered an ‘injustice.’ This habit of using distractions and weak language to downplay individual wrongdoing has also been seen in recent suggestions that a lack of social inclusion is to blame for Australian citizens flying overseas to join forces with ISIS. The key feature of this mindset is that it deflects blame away from terrorists by raising the question of whether our own values and culture may be partly responsible for inciting groups like the Taliban. Such ideas are alarming, to say the least. We cannot expect to defeat radical Islam if we are left apologising for the values and way of life that are the very reason Australia and its allies have become targets for terrorism in the first place.

Make no mistake, wavering in our resolve about what sets the West apart from the barbarism of radical Islam would be gifting terrorists a home goal. Apologising to David Hicks would amount to doing exactly that.

[Editor’s note: Shorten later commented that “There’s no doubt Mr Hicks was associating with known terrorists, and that’s absolutely deplorable.”]

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.

Fundamentals of Liberty & Free Market Economics – Melbourne & Brisbane

by on 20 February, 2015

It is with great great pleasure that the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance can announce that we will be running our hugely-successful “Foundations of Liberty & Free Market Economics” in Semester 1 of 2015 in Melbourne and Brisbane!

It is a simple fact that Australian universities teach a biased version of political economy that promotes big government and failed Keynesian policies. This is why we launched a comprehensive education program to equip students with the intellectual tools to understand the fundamental of good economics, and to be able to combat the left.

The course shall consist of 10 interactive 2 hour evening seminars and will include student-led discussion, stimulating debate, and structured material, followed by further discussion over beer and pizza. Between seminars, students will be given recommended reading and YouTube videos, and have the opportunity to ask questions from our panel of academic advisors and the ATA staff. Seminars in Melbourne shall be led by Professor Sinclair Davidson and Professor Jason Potts from RMIT University. Seminars in Brisbane shall be led by Professor Tony Makin & Dr Alex Robson from Griffith University, Gary Johns from the Australian Institute for Progress, and John Humphreys from the University of Queensland.

This course will cover a lot of material and provide students with the intellectual ammunition needed to take on the left, but it will also be an opportunity for networking, enjoyment and building friends within the Australian pro-freedom community. 

This course is open to EVERYONE and not just currently enrolled tertiary students or recent graduates. The cost of the full program is $750 for adults or $200 for students. However, both full and half scholarships may be awarded in cases of financial need for deserving applicants. 

Here’s what some of the students previously took the course said:

“A must for anyone who wants to understand economic policy, network with others and win debates. The program provides invaluable instruction from respected academics and reaches further than any university course” – Alex Bedwany, University of New South Wales

A thorough and challenging journey, this course should be the first stop for anyone serious about exploring the freer side of political ideology in an academically rigorous way.” – Sam Bradshaw, Macquarie University

“This course challenges the ‘status quo’-style teaching of economics on offer in universities. The expert lecturers bring their keen insight to investigating dominant economic narratives, unravelling fallacies and exploring the economic issues of the future” – Lara Jeffery, University of New South Wales

“The course is a must! With engaging and extremely knowledgeable lecturers, it gave me the perfect foundation in economic theory, and was of incredible in helping me argue for limited  government!” – Margie Iliescu, Melbourne

 

Applications close on 5pm AEDT Friday 6th of March.

Persons interested in donating to assist us in providing scholarships may be able to do so here.

Build new friendships. Gain valuable career and intellectual skills. Challenge the status quo. Click HERE to Enrol today!