The IPA’s 18C report welcomed by The Australian

The IPA’s latest report – The case for the repeal of section 18C – was also featured in the editorial of The Australian today. Here is the key paragraph:

In this unrepentant climate, the Institute of Public Affairs’ submission calling for the repeal of 18C is welcome. It argues the law smothers free speech and is anti-democratic because it limits the airing of ideas. It contends the provision is self-defeating because freedom of expression makes society more cohesive and it mounts the case that the extent of the law — particularly the words offend and insult — put it beyond what is required by UN treaties, making it unconstitutional. Yet the more obvious criticisms probably carry more weight. Under this law the process has become the punishment, so justice can be denied at the outset. Also, to the extent speech does cause harm (such as inciting violence or damaging reputations) it is covered by other laws, making 18C redundant. If the law aims to defeat racism, it cannot — no law can dictate how people think. The best way to combat racist attitudes must be through open dialogue and the organic adoption of community standards.

Read the full editorial here ($).

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IPA report: only full repeal will fix problems created by 18C

Dennis Shanahan’s coverage of the IPA’s comprehensive Case for the repeal of section 18C was featured on page 2 of The Australian today ($):

… the Institute of Public Affairs argues the laws deny freedom of speech, erode democracy, undermine attempts to combat racism and have a “chilling effect” on debate about serious social issues.

“Only by removing the law from the statute books entirely can parliament restore Australians’ right to freedom of speech, improve our liberal democracy, and eliminate the sundry abuses that it has caused,” the submissions from the conservative think tank says.

… The IPA said section 18C “does not protect any other natural right that might reasonably be said to countermand the right to freedom of speech. There is no right not to be offended. Nor does individual dignity demand this kind of restriction on free ­expression”.

The submission said 18C was also bad for democracy and limited the range of ideas people could express by its “chilling ­effect” on debate.

“Moreover, freedom of speech strengthens social cohesion by exposing bad ideas and malevolent actors, rather than allowing them to fester in silence,” the submission said. “The third limb of the case for repeal is that in practice the law has proved unworkable and unfair. The law does nothing to prevent the kinds of racism that people are most likely to encounter, overlaps with other laws to the point of redundancy, and is so poorly drafted that significant uncertainty about its key terms persists.

“Indeed, the law may well be an unconstitutional exercise of the external affairs power or an unconstitutional burden on Australians’ implied right to freedom of political communication.”

It said proposals to amend the act and substitute “vilify” for ­“insult” or “offend” or simply remove insult and offend and leave “humiliate” would be inadequate.

Read the full coverage here ($). For the IPA’s report, The case for the repeal of section 18C, click here.

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Mass-murderer Castro dies unpunished

If there is a Latin American nation in which human rights and the rule of law seem to have completely vanished, that nation certainly is Cuba. And yet the recently deceased dictator Fidel Castro remains revered by those who regard him as a revolutionary hero who bravely stood against ‘capitalism’ and ‘American imperialism’.

Amongst these leftist admirers of Castro are the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau and the leader of the Opposition in Australia, Bill Shorten. Mr Shorten has been to Cuba and he deeply admired a notorious six-hour speech delivered by Castro. ‘It was amazing,’ Shorten said. Of course, he is not the only Labor leader to deeply admire the brutal dictator. British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Castro was a ‘champion of social justice’ — a nonsensical statement given all the people Castro brutally murdered and all the human rights he grossly violated.

The fact that so many left-wing leaders have expressed admiration to Castro should be a reason for great concern. After all, since the adoption by Castro of Marxist-Leninism in 1959 the Cuban regime has sanctioned the brutal assassination of dissidents, the introduction of retroactive criminal legislation, the confiscation of property for political reasons, and numerous other ’emergency measures’ against the so-called ‘enemies’ of the communist regime.

Continue Reading →

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IPA research: prisoner numbers costs $3.8bn a year

The IPA’s latest report, “The use of prisons in Australia: reform directions”, released today, was featured in The Australian by legal affairs editor Chris Merritt:

Groundbreaking research has revealed that the rate at which the nation is sending people to prison has jumped by 40 per cent in a decade and is costing taxpayers $3.8 billion a year.

More than 36,000 people are now in prison around the nation — at an annual cost of $110,000 per prisoner — compared to a ­national total in 1975 of just 8900 prisoners.

The rate at which people are going to prison in Australia is now 196 for every 100,000 people — which is the highest since just after federation.

With the exception of the US, Australia has a higher incarceration rate than other major common law countries and the democracies of continental Europe.

About 46 per cent of those in prison have been jailed for non­violent offences and taxpayers are paying $1.8bn every year to keep them there.

These findings are outlined in a new report by the Institute of Public Affairs that calls for governments to make greater use of alternatives to prison for non­violent offenders.

The report, by Andrew Bushnell and Daniel Wild, warns that the overuse of prisons is failing to keep the community safe from crime and is wasting resources that could be better spent elsewhere in the criminal justice system.

“While prisons are necessary for isolating violent and anti-­social criminals, there are other ways to punish nonviolent, low-risk offenders,” Mr Bushnell said.

… In February, the Australian Bar Association described man­datory sentencing as a national disgrace and endorsed the concept of “justice reinvestment”.

The IPA report warns that ­increased use of mandatory ­sentencing will increase the incarceration rate and calls for governments to wind back the use of strict liability offences.

But while the ABA wants less money spent on prisons and more money spent on community projects, the IPA report says savings from prisons should be spent on policing.

Simon Breheny, the IPA’s director of policy, argues that because criminals are generally more likely than others to respond to immediate incentives, deterrence is better achieved by increasing the chance of being caught rather than imposing longer sentences. “This in turn implies that money saved by reducing incarceration could be profitably invested in policing,” Mr Breheny says.

The report says people are jailed for several purposes but community safety is the only aim of the criminal justice system that cannot be achieved by other reasonable means.

“The criminal law should not sprawl into domains traditionally governed by the civil law,” the report says. “In cases where the remedies available in civil law courts would suffice, the criminal law is not needed.”

It says violent offenders should be jailed in order to protect society, but it backs a series of changes intended to help keep non-violent offenders out of prison. These include:

  • Extending the use of alternative punishments such as fines and home detention to nonviolent, low-risk offenders.
  • Limiting the use of strict liability offences and restoring the requirement of mens rea — or a guilty mind — for regulatory criminal offences. Where strict liability is imposed, the report calls for alternatives to prison when the offender has not demonstrated a propensity for violence or anti-social behaviour.
  • Ending the practice of sending people to prison for victimless crimes such as insider trading or mishandling trust accounts.
  • Allowing offenders to make restitution to victims of crime and taking this into account in sen­tencing.

Read The Australian‘s coverage here ($).

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China’s new tool for control

A disturbing article in the Wall Street Journal on Monday on China’s latest innovation in social control:

Hangzhou’s local government is piloting a “social credit” system the Communist Party has said it wants to roll out nationwide by 2020, a digital reboot of the methods of social control the regime uses to avert threats to its legitimacy.

More than three dozen local governments across China are beginning to compile digital records of social and financial behavior to rate creditworthiness. A person can incur black marks for infractions such as fare cheating, jaywalking and violating family-planning rules. The effort echoes the dang’an, a system of dossiers the Communist party keeps on urban workers’ behavior.

In time, Beijing expects to draw on bigger, combined data pools, including a person’s internet activity, according to interviews with some architects of the system and a review of government documents. Algorithms would use a range of data to calculate a citizen’s rating, which would then be used to determine all manner of activities, such as who gets loans, or faster treatment at government offices or access to luxury hotels.

The endeavor reinforces President Xi Jinping’s campaign to tighten his grip on the country and dictate morality at a time of economic uncertainty that threatens to undermine the party. Mr. Xi in October called for innovation in “social governance” that would “heighten the capacity to forecast and prevent all manner of risks.”

The national social-credit system’s aim, according to a slogan repeated in planning documents, is to “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”

Thus far, the pilot data-collecting systems aren’t yet tied together into what Beijing envisions as a sweeping system, which would assign each citizen a rating. It isn’t clear that Ms. Chen’s ticket infraction made it into any central system, although the notice warned that fare-dodgers risked being marked down starting Jan. 1; a station agent said only repeat offenders are reported.

Continue reading here.

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Social responsibility cuts many ways

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

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

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

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

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

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Rowan Callick on Chinese democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liu was defeated in the second ballot.

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

 

Continue reading here ($)

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IPA Poll: Most support 18C change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I’m a Victorian. Can you please sell me some electricity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck to him.

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