Archive for August, 2010

An Abbott victory of an important kind

August 21, 2010

But is Labor capable of learning

Well, it may have been a bit of wishful thinking on my part predicting the election results [see post below], and I admit it, hopefully more gracefully than a lot of others. It was at least in the right direction, and the changes, even at a draw, are momentous.

However, around 10pm last night I didn’t feel quite so silly when the Coalition were ahead at one point by four seats with several still very undecided ones. The results were showing a national swing of 2.6% at that point, very close to the Newspoll I quoted.

Nevertheless, the reality of the results did surprise a lot of people when they turned out as most predicted. It was indeed a stunning victory for the Coalition and for Tony Abbott and represented a tectonic shift in national sentiment. It was, most importantly, a grindingly humiliating defeat for Gillard and Labor, given that they are a first term government, and given that the commentariat and their wishful thinking over the last few months has been so out of touch.

However, don’t expect any real questioning of the policy shortcomings by Labor or their media apologists, as they throw up all sorts of straw men to explain away where they went wrong. Michelle Grattan’s piece in the Sunday Age this morning is a text book exemplar of how the Left fails to understand their own worst failings.

Coalition with comfortable majority

August 20, 2010

Nothing to lose. Half of us will be wrong

Everyone is having a go, so here goes.

Of course, it may be wishful thinking, but I have been saying for three weeks now that the Coalition will get in by a comfortable margin.

If the latest Newspoll is correct [Labor 50.2% : Coalition 49.8%] — it should be noted it has NOT been posted on the ABC election page — it would indicate, according to Antony Green’s House of Reps Calculator, that the Coalition will win 77 seats to Labor’s 70. This represents a swing of 2.5% to the Liberals.

However, given that the money for on-line betting is rushing to the Coalition, and that Newspoll itself suggest a last minute swing to the Coalition on top of so many undecided, then it would not surprise me if the swing were increased. A 50/50 two party preferred would equate to a swing of 2.7% yielding a distribution of seats in the Reps of 78/69.

For what it’s worth, I predict the Coalition will win with a majority of around ten seats at least.

An ALP caveat emptor

August 17, 2010

Off the cuff? How can we trust her? 

Andrew Bolt gives us a brilliant summary of the ALPs record in government and whether they deserve another go. He notes the calculated dishonesty concerning Julia Gillard’s off the cuff, “look, no notes” launch speech that clearly involved a deliberate deceit by her and her advisers, and which even involved Bob Hawke.  Bolt then gives us a very Australian analogy about whether we should trust them again:

Say you’re about to hire someone to do a big job. What is one of the very first things you’d want to see from them?

It’s a resume, right? A list of things they’ve done. With references, too, so you can judge if those things were done well.

And if the person applying for a job admits that at the last place they burned down the house, built a new one at twice the price, blew the budget and made a string of mad promises they couldn’t keep, what would you do?

Trust their new big promise to now wire up your house with expensive new electronics, or figure that almost anyone else would be a safer bet?

Read the list. It is pretty compelling.

NBN more than entire defense budget

August 12, 2010

Another extravagant waste of money

Having commented on Kerry O’Brien’s disgraceful gotcha moment with Tony Abbott on the NBN, it is nevertheless disappointing that the Opposition can’t go on the attack as succinctly as some of the economists and opinion writers in our newspapers about just how wasteful, dangerous and fraudulent the Labor proposition is.


Henry Ergas has done it again, this time on the ABC
as reported by Australian Conservative.

I think the real issue is whether the $43 billion was ever justified. Here you had $43 billion which is a staggering amount – $43 billion being invested, committed without a business case, without a cost-benefit appraisal, shifting enormous risk onto taxpayers in a program that costs five to 10 times more than what is being done anywhere else in the world.

More billions for green fantasies

August 11, 2010

Evidence based policy. Are you kidding?

Here is more about the billions about to be wasted on yet another badly thought out green scheme that I flagged in this blog last month, but of course, Penny Wong thinks it is great.

According to Monica Oliphant, adjunct associate professor at the University of South Australia and one of the country’s top scientists on household energy efficiency and renewable energy, the only thing that really counts for measuring the energy efficiency of a house is, err, the use of energy.

Professor Oliphant has concluded that, whilst seeming elementary,

the most accurate measurement of the energy efficiency of the home and its household should be the bill from the electricity company.

Her concern is that the strategy has “leaped ahead of evidence” and that the star ratings for houses are largely meaningless theoretical calculation and do not take into account behaviour of the occupants.

The University of Adelaide’s associate professor Terry Williamson, puts it more bluntly:

“Can we please just have some evidence-based policy? The only data in Australia in this area relates to a study of 40 houses and it shows absolutely no correlation between the energy star ratings and the actual energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The policies and the department are just all over the place. It is a tale of mismanagement.”

7.30 Report a disgrace to the ABC

August 10, 2010

Kerry, what is the speed of light?

It is clear that many would have noticed the outrageously transparent  ”gotcha” approach by Kerry O’Brien last night with Tony Abbott on the 7.30 Report. In spite of much public criticism of his bias, O’Brien continues his ruthless and shameless approach to the treatment of the Liberal opposition.

Kerry was successfully in confusing Abbott with his sophisticated mastery of the technical aspects of broadband and explaining how much better the ALP’s network would surely be. Nevertheless,  Abbott was able to get in this.

TONY ABBOTT:  And what they’re going to use, as I understand it, is to string cable on telegraph poles, which is hardly the most marvellously sophisticated technology to use in this day and age either.  Look, Kerry, err …

KERRY O’BRIEN: Its fibre … where … where signals will travel at the speed of light.

Really, Kerry. Please explain just how many megabits of light that is?

Surely, Kerry, if you don’t know the difference between the speed of networks and the speed of light, you shouldn’t be expecting a higher standard for your interviewees.

The burka again: contempt for our openess

August 5, 2010

Burka is legal, but it’s about manners

A PERTH Muslim woman is now waiting for Perth District Court judge Shauna Deane to decide whether she can wear a burka while giving evidence in a case brought against Anwar Sayed, director of the Muslim Ladies College of Australia for fraud. Again, much ink and air time has been expended on this persistent, and very strongly felt issue.

Hugo Rifkind, a columnist for the British Spectator, recently wrote the best, most common sense, opinion about what should be done with the burka in Western countries in relation to the tricky problem of “rights”. Conjuring up the idea of wearing underpants on his head — any, his own, porn-star panties, Victorian bloomers — he explains that he has the right go into a Post Office, a Jobcentre, a school, a church or a mosque. “Such is my right, as a freeborn Brit, and nobody has the right to force me to take them off.”

But I don’t have the right to not be told by people who see me that I look like an idiot. I don’t have the right not to be asked if I wouldn’t perhaps mind growing the hell up, and taking them off.

When did the world suddenly decide that the right to do something necessarily entailed the right not to be politely asked to stop doing it? It’s a dangerous nonsense. None of this is about ‘rights’ at all. It’s about manners. Security concerns aside, of course, women should have the right to wear the burka, anywhere they like. But that doesn’t mean it’s not an inherently repellent garment, the wearing of which, in Britain, is basically just rude. So stop it.

So, getting back to the Perth woman; she was reported as saying “I’d like to make it very clear that … it’s a personal choice and we lead a very normal active life just like everyone else.”

Well I say that this is plain silly. How can she claim to lead a normal, active life with a sack covering her head? In Western countries it is simply not normal to cover your face and deprive everyone in public of seeing who you are, and then to expect to interact with you in a normal way. It is not normal to be an Australian women and feel uncomfortable showing your face in front of men other than your immediate family because you believe “intermingling” between the sexes encourages adultery.

Perth District Court judge Shauna Deane clearly has the judicial power to maintain her own standards of conduct and respect in her own court. Let us hope she has the courage, or the conviction, that to be hidden from view for personal reasons might just be considered to hold the court, the judge, the jury and the public in contempt.

The beauty of our system is that, in this case, the witness has the right to refuse to attend.

UPDATE

The Prime Minister has worked out which side her electoral bread is buttered.

BURQAS should be removed when the public interest overrides personal choice, Prime Minister Julia Gillard says.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Australia

August 2, 2010

From Quadrant on-line


On the awkwardness of the Muslim debate

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, high profile international critic of Islam and author of the best seller Infidel, and a new book Nomad, has been stirring the pot in Australia recently, raising the tenor of debate on the ‘Muslim problem”. Interviewed several times in the media, she gave talks in both Melbourne and Sydney.

Her thinking on Islamic issues has been derived from her extraordinary life. Hirsi Ali was raised as a Muslim in Somalia, fled to Holland as a refugee to escape a forced marriage, and is now working at the American Enterprise Institute. Her story is both moving and inspiring. On the way, she became a member of the Dutch Parliament and collaborated with the filmmaker Theo van Gogh on a film, ‘Submission’, about misogyny within Islam. Van Gogh was subsequently murdered by an Islamic extremist. Since then, Hirsi Ali has been under constant threat, and now has a permanent bodyguard. Her books explain the cruelty and violence that are a part and parcel of Islamic cultures, and within them she develops a brilliantly coherent criticism of Islam and its growing threat to the West.

Unsurprisingly, in this brief visit, Hirsi Ali raised considerable ire from the Left commentariat on several fronts. She has notably offended the feminists, the cultural relativists, the immigration bleeding hearts and human rights activists, and the politically correct for being a dangerous, “right wing think-tank” racist. The interviewers in her appearances on the ABC have treated her with a mixture of respect and nervousness with a dash of indignation, at her full frontal challenges to their orthodoxy on Islamic matters. A comment from one ABC listener is indicative of the confused mindset, when she accused Hiris Ali of having the “gaze of the colonizer, with an insensitivity and absence of empathy for people, specially women”.

Hirsi Ali tackles the mantra, “we’ve got to respect their culture” head on. The problem, she points out is that respect is hard to reconcile with forced marriages, honour killings, female genital mutilation, the forced veiling of women, and of course the killing of homosexuals. Clearly, she dismisses the post-modernist notion that all cultures are equal. “It’s individual human beings who are equal”.

Fending off her critics who then say that our society is flawed––another saw of the Left––she promptly explains that “Western flaws, the white man’s flaws, his sexism, his racism, his prejudices have been criticised and radically changed. Men of colour, not just Muslim men, but Chinese, Indians, “men of colour are excused from that same critical scrutiny of cultures, their customs, their habits, their religious principles”. This is the essence of her criticism of multiculturalism too.

On the question of “moderate Islam”, the sanctuary question of the bien-pensant, Hirsi Ali is clear about distinguishing Islam as an ideology from Muslims themselves. Most Muslims, she claims from research, know very little about what’s in the Koran. They only know that “you’ve got to obey the Koran and what the Prophet Mohammed said. Increasingly, agents of radical Islam take advantage of that.” Having a religious dimension is one thing. What she is concerned about are the political and social dimensions; Sharia law, the concept of jihad and the social laws that govern the relationship between men and women.

If you think, like every interviewer on the ABC, that moderate states like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Turkey are good examples of moderation, Hirsi Ali is quick to counter that, more and more, Indonesians are succumbing to the propaganda, mostly financed by countries like Saudi Arabia and spread by the Islamist Brotherhood in Egypt. “Everywhere Sharia is getting a hold, you see the same violations of human rights, including terrorist acts and intolerance to Christian minorities.”‘

On accusations of racism, Hirsi Ali is very blunt. When a questioner at her talk in Melbourne suggested she was providing fuel for racism and was a bigot, it was the one moment when strong passion broke through the surface of her usually calm and patient demeanour. It is worth quoting in full:

I answer that by pointing out that Islam is not a race, it is a belief system. If you look at people who identify themselves as Muslims, you see they are made up of very many different races. Because it is a belief system, the accusation of racism simply does not apply. When you look at the social and political aspects of Islam, you find bigotry. The position of men and women in Islam is different. That is bigotry. Homosexuals are treated as sick people and killed. That is bigotry. When Sharia is established, that is bigotry. Black people in Islam are treated as slaves, and slavery is condoned. That is bigotry. It is really ridiculous to defy a political system of bigotry by telling people you are bigoted. I am sorry. I’m not bigoted. Islam is bigoted. The message for 1.57 million people is to emancipate themselves not from the past imperialism of the white man, but from the bigotry that is embedded in Islam.

Hirsi Ali also has some pretty blunt ideas about Australian immigration that I suspect a majority of us would agree with. She believes that the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention is completely outdated, as at that time there were only one million refugees. Today there are 40 million. We all would concede that Australia cannot take all 40 million in, so the concept of compassion is not enough now and it’s not practical anymore.

Given the advent of radical Islam … liberal democrat countries like Australia should establish a new relationship with immigrants. Who is good for our country and who is going to contribute to Australia? In exchange, we’ll provide them with the opportunity to live in a peaceful, prosperous society where they can build a life for themselves. If they say no to that, then I think it would be justified to say such a person cannot stay and will not be a part of this society and can be returned. That is more honest, it’s more practical and it becomes a two-way contribution.

Hirsi Ali, in her conversion to Western values is a breath of fresh air. She appears to understand the value of democracy and free debate better than most commentators in the media. In response to Kerry O’Brien accusing her of being a traumatised “reactionary” in an interview three years ago, she is eloquent.

In the first place, I use the tools that we are supposed to use in a democracy which is non-violent means to argue my assertions and views. Next, I don’t see what is reactionary about saying, “Let’s respect life as an end in itself, liberty as an end in itself and the equality of men and women.”

Yes, let us use the tools we are supposed to use in a democracy. Let us stop the ad hominum arguments of racism and Islamophobia. Hirsi Ali contrasts the reaction of Christianity to insults and criticisms, citing Richard Dawkins’ attacks, with the Muslims reaction of violence and hatred when they are criticised.

The last word goes to Hirsi Ali from ABC Lateline last week:

All cultures are flawed, but if we want to aspire to a society, whether it’s on a national level or on the global level of individual rights and the respect for human rights, then we have to criticise these other cultures just as much as the white man’s culture was criticised. That’s good for them.

UPDATE

Too good to be true.

Hirsi Ali has been in Australia barely two weeks and the Equal Opportunity Division of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal has comes to the same view; that vilification of Muslims does not fall within the anti discrimination Act.

Muslims ‘do not share common racial, national or ethnic origins’ and are therefore not an ethno-religious group such as the definition embraces. In so ruling, we follow the decisions, commencing with Khan, that are listed above at [44]. We are unaware of any recent authority to the contrary. It follows that any statements broadcast by the Respondents that generated negative feelings towards Muslims generally, or any group of Muslims, on the ground of their being Muslims could not amount to unlawful racial vilification.


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