Racial discrimination laws now used to punish anti-racist sentiment


As reported yesterday, QUT academic Cindy Prior is seeking nearly $250,000 as part of a section 18C complaint against students and other staff at the university. My colleague Simon Breheny was published in The Australian today, on what this all means:

The case is a sad indictment on the state of free and open debate in Australia. In my opinion, the comments in question would offend only a hypersensitive individual, and none of them are directed at Prior’s particular “race, colour, or national or ethnic origin” – the basis of offence required by the Racial Discrimination Act. Prior isn’t named, and the comments don’t seem to exhibit any form of bigotry or racial intolerance.

So ridiculous is the application of Australian racial vilification laws that they can now be used to punish anti-racist sentiment. The comments above are an endorsement of the idea that students at the university should all be treated equally – no matter their race.

But 18C is now used as a gag to any debate about race and ethnicity.

Continue reading here.


When businesses need government to tell government what businesses think


Kate Carnell

The federal government has announced the appointment of ACCI CEO Kate Carnell as the inaugural Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, a decision welcomed by business organisation stakeholders including even ACCI’s competitor organisation COSBOA.

However, while the motives behind the creation of the new position may be noble, it is another example of the uncontrollable growth of government.

Many States already have small businesses commissioners, following the lead of Victoria in 2003, who started largely as statutory officials that oversee a low cost dispute resolution service for that state’s small businesses.

But when in 2012 the Gillard government decided to create a new national Small Business Commissioner, it led with an advocacy and information role. This was something further built on by the Abbott government’s small business minister Bruce Billson in 2014, who wanted a more powerful Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman. This is now backed by legislation, to enable the Ombudsman to act as an advocate for small and family businesses, provide feedback on Commonwealth small business laws and regulations, and provide assistance on dispute resolution.

So what started in Victoria is 2003 as a voluntary mediation service for small businesses has become another government bureaucrat, but one that dangerously mixes regulatory, advocacy and quasi-judicial powers and further confuses the distinction between the public and private sectors.

It is the responsibility of the private sector to tell a government what the private sector wants. In turn, if a government wants to consult with businesses, then it should go and talk to them, rather than just take a lift downstairs.

Co-opting whole sectors to be part of the organs of state blurs the line between public and private interests. Why should taxpayers pay for what businesses should pay for themselves?


Brendan O’Neill on the violence of the safe space


In case you missed it, these remarks from Brendan O’Neill (editor of Spiked Online) at a recent debate about free speech on campus at the University of California, Irvine, are well worth reading:

In many ways [campus censors] are the products of a culture that has been growing for decades: a culture of diminished moral autonomy; a culture which sees individuals as fragile and incapable of coping without therapeutic assistance; a culture which treats individual self-esteem as more important than the right to be offensive; a culture that was developed by older generations — in fact by the forty-somethings and fifty-somethings now mocking campus censors as infantile and ridiculous.

Yes, we should mock these little tyrants who fantasize that their feelings should trump other people’s freedom. But we must go further than that. We must remake the case for robust individualism and the virtue of moral autonomy against the fashion for fragility; against the misanthropic view of people as objects shaped and damaged by speech rather than as active subjects who can independently imbibe, judge and make decisions about the speech they hear.

The Safe Space is a terrible trap. It grants you temporary relief from ideas you don’t like, but at the expense of your individuality, your soul even. If you try to silence unpopular ideas, you do an injustice both to those who hold those unpopular views, and also to yourself, through depriving yourself of the right and the joy of arguing back, taking on your opponents, and in the process strengthening your own mental and moral muscles. Liberate yourself—destroy the Safe Space.

Continue reading here.


Email: Do you love Australia? New poll shows you’re not alone

IPA commissioned poll shows Australians are proud to be Australian


You wouldn’t know it from listening to our Australians of the Year, but regular Australians understand that this is a great country.

The key findings of a new poll reveal:

  • 91% of Australians are “proud to be Australian”
  • 85% believe that “Australia Day is a day for celebration”
  • 78% agree that “Australia has a history to be proud of”
  • 92% believe Australia is a better country than most other countries, and
  • 81% believe the “world would be a better place if other countries were more like Australia”.

And this is what the IPA had to say about the findings this week:

  • The Herald Sun on Monday covered comments from the IPA’s James Paterson;
  • James also spoke on Monday with Neil Mitchell on 3AW;
  • IPA board member Janet Albrechtsen wrote in The Australian today that “it’s still cool to be Australian” ($)
  • And the IPA’s Chris Berg wrote in The Drum about the data which shows there is much to celebrate on Australia Day.

Rita Panahi, who also referred to this poll, had an excellent article in the Herald Sun yesterday noting that there “exists a wide gulf between mainstream opinion and those espoused by virtue signalling members of the commentariat.”

To the rank of members of the commentariat we can include recent recipients of the Australian of the Year award. IPA executive director John Roskam had this to say about the latest recipient, David Morrison, used his acceptance speech to call for the abolition of Australia’s constitutional monarchy:

I think his position on the republic is entirely inappropriate. What it shows is how out of touch he and the elites are with popular opinion.

Using Australia Day to push a purely political message is getting old, and as this poll suggests, is not appreciated by everyday Australians that just want to celebrate the day.

Continue Reading →


January 25: Australia Day? Almost

“The First Fleet in Sydney Cove, January 27, 1788”, by John Allcott

On this day, 251 years ago, Great Britain established its first settlement in the Falkland Islands, at Port Egmont. If not for the weather, the 25th of January would also be known as Australia Day.

Precisely 23 years after the Port Egmont settlement, a British fleet was in the process of establishing another settlement, this time in New South Wales. Captain Arthur Phillip arrived in Botany Bay on the 18th January, but having found the conditions unsuitable, looked elsewhere.

Sydney Cove was selected by Phillip as the place of settlement, and on the 25th January immediately prepared to make the journey.

While Phillip arrived that evening on the HMS Supply, Captain John Hunter, who was following in the transports, was irrevocably delayed. The wind was blowing too strong for them leave the bay, leaving the transports to arrive on the following evening instead.

There, the British flag was unfurled, toasts were drunk and volleys of musketry fired. Meanwhile, Australia’s destiny was forever changed.

The First Fleet brought with them British institutions of justice, the rule of law, and constitutional government. With these foundations, later generations would federate the Australian colonies into one of the most successful, stable continuous democracies in the world. This is why we rightly celebrate Australia Day on the 26th January.

And it appears Australians overwhelmingly agree. A new poll conducted by Research Now found that 91 per cent of respondents are “proud to be Australian”, while 85 per cent believe that “Australia Day is a day for celebrating”. (My colleague James Paterson has more here).

While Australia is by no means perfect, we get a lot right – and the world is a much better place for Australia being a part of it.

There will much distress from predictable quarters on what Australia Day means: Ignore this elitist agitation. Be unashamed in celebrating our heritage, and for that matter, don’t let bad winds from 228 years ago stop you from doing it a day “early”.


New Australia Day poll: We love Australia


A new poll conducted exclusively for the free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs shows Australians hold overwhelmingly patriotic views. The poll was featured in the Herald Sun this morning.

“Australia is a great country – and Australians agree. They are proud to be Australian, proud of our past and love celebrating Australia Day,” says James Paterson, Deputy Executive Director of the IPA.

The key findings of the poll are:

Continue Reading →


An imbalance in NSW defamation laws


A very interesting pair of news items in today’s Australian. First, Sharri Markson reports that ICAC’s lawyer, Geoffrey Watson, has threatened to sue one of his critics for defamation:

Mr Watson, the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s senior counsel assisting, sent a legal letter to [radio host Alan] Jones on December 16 demanding he pull down from the 2GB website an interview where he describes the senior counsel as “this ego-tripping Geoffrey Watson” and says recent ICAC investigations are “one of the most disgraceful chapters in public administration”.

On another page, we learn that ICAC has cleared two “top targets” of charges of corruption, including Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos. His parliamentary career has been under a cloud since he was embroiled in a major corruption inquiry in 2014.

Note the incongruity: While Jones is under threat of legal action for his statements regarding Watson and ICAC, Watson and ICAC remain at liberty to tarnish reputations, with scant regard to the truth.

The state government won’t abolish the ICAC (as it should), but it should be prepared to either remove ICAC’s exemption from state defamation laws, or at least create some balance by exempting ICAC’s critics from those same laws. Either of these options may be harmful to public policy, or a messy fix (as Sinclair Davidson identifies at the Catallaxy Files here), but would be a vast improvement on a flawed law.



The many, many government agencies requesting warrantless data access

On FreedomWatch last year, Chris Berg said this:

Under the data retention bill passed earlier this year, the number of agencies with access had been strictly limited to criminal law enforcement agencies. As the IPA argued at the time, this was almost certain not to last – regulators across the country have been chomping at the bit for years to get a hold of our internet records, and it would be trivially easy for this or future governments to quietly reinstate these agencies into the data retention scheme.

And those regulators have wasted no time in requesting to be given this access. According to information released under freedom of information laws, an extraordinary 61 agencies have already sought authorisation to access telecommunications data held under the federal government’s 2015 mandatory data retention laws.

You can see the full list here.

We are seeing now how this legislation highlights the expansive nature of the modern government. You might be aware that the state and federal governments have created a plethora of bodies with dubious public benefit. For example. the various state governments bodies specifically dedicated to regulating greyhound and harness racing, or the Commonwealth’s National Measurement Institute, which exists to maintain “Australia’s units and standards of measurement”. What you might not have known is that these bodies (and even non-government entities, such as the RSPCA) have decided that they need warrantless data access to carry out their work.

For many of these agencies, that can hardly be the case. Can you imagine what laws the NMI enforces that would require data access at all?

If these agencies need access to data, they should be told to get a warrant.


State of the Union: Why it’s not an Australian thing


This time yesterday, President Barack Obama made the annual journey down Pennsylvania Avenue to deliver his eighth State of the Union address.

American political aficionados will be familiar with this constitutionally required tradition, but as the President gave what will be his final SOTU address, I found myself wondering why it still exists.

The speech was fairly standard. It had the usual calls for civility, a less divisive politics, and for politicians of both parties to work together on areas of common ground. It had a list of accomplishments—some of which are commendable. The president even spoke about his commitment to close the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, a campaign promise he has been trying and failing to fulfill since his second day in office.

But in no way did this deserve the pomp and ceremony it received, nor the dozen-odd standing ovations.

This highlights a significant difference between Australia and the United States. Despite our cultural similarity, and the fact that parts of our political system bear an unmistakable resemblance to that of our Anglosphere friends, Australians just don’t treat our political leaders with the same level of reverence that the US President receives.

By and large, Australians don’t think much of their politicians. They are viewed as functionaries, whose reputations rely on their performance. This is perhaps why we accept them being swiftly overthrown by their own parties (Rudd was an exception, because the opinion of his colleagues wasn’t representative of the public mood).

We certainly don’t consider them the moral leaders of the nation.

Yes, there are the rare Whitlam’s and Menzies’, who are remembered fondly enough. But even relatively divisive US presidents—like President Obama—are treated with a level of respect approaching that of the British monarch.

Thankfully, Australians are less sycophantic to our politicians than that.


Insights into ‘victimhood culture’


Writing for the New York Times last week, American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks offers up some fascinating insights into the problems with victimhood culture:

…victimhood culture makes for worse citizens — people who are less helpful, more entitled, and more selfish. In 2010, four social psychologists from Stanford University published an article titled “Victim Entitlement to Behave Selfishly” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The researchers randomly assigned 104 human subjects to two groups.

Members of one group were prompted to write a short essay about a time when they felt bored; the other to write about “a time when your life seemed unfair. Perhaps you felt wronged or slighted by someone.” After writing the essay, the participants were interviewed and asked if they wanted to help the scholars in a simple, easy task.

The results were stark. Those who wrote the essays about being wronged were 26 percent less likely to help the researchers, and were rated by the researchers as feeling 13 percent more entitled.

In a separate experiment, the researchers found that members of the unfairness group were 11 percent more likely to express selfish attitudes. In a comical and telling aside, the researchers noted that the victims were more likely than the nonvictims to leave trash behind on the desks and to steal the experimenters’ pens.