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Opposing coal-generated power is a moral failure

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In an important op-ed in The Australian today, the IPA’s Fr. James Grant makes the case for embracing cheap energy for lifting people out of poverty:

[Pope] Francis is very concerned with the wellbeing of the world’s poor. This should be at the forefront of the minds of all Christians, driven by a moral imperative coming directly from the mouth of Jesus: “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.”

While all Christians will assent to such a view, practical responses are often little above the levels of a Miss Universe contestant and usually end with “the government should do something about it”.

It is time for Australian Christians to take a hard moral and theological look at their responses to world poverty, focus on the truth of the world’s situation, and support viable and practical outcomes, not wish lists with zero real­istic possibilities.

Continue reading here.

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When tapping someone on the shoulder to ask for directions is illegal

When the ALP believed in free speech

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This month was the 20th anniversary since the publication of an important piece by the late Peter Walsh. The former Hawke government finance minister used the article to lament the lack of commitment to free speech in the face of a growing culture of political correctness:

The drift away from free speech and toward authoritarianism has been apparent for some time. As the cult of political correctness – imported from the United States – became entrenched in the media and taxpayer funded institutions operating on the fringes of government, many potential dissenters have been intimidated into silence.

Read more excerpts of Walsh’s wonderful Australian Financial Review article here. Continue Reading →

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Email: 800 years of Magna Carta

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Magna Carta laid the foundations for modern Australian democracy.

The date of the 800th anniversary is this Monday 15 June. To mark this special occasion, the IPA is releasing an important new book – Magna Carta: The Tax Revolt that Gave us Liberty by Chris Berg and John Roskam, with Stephanie Forrest.

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In The Australian today, my colleague Simon Breheny has an important article arguing the modern legal landscape has drifted far from the principles of Magna Carta:

It is clear that our liberties won’t disappear overnight. But recent decisions of government at the state and federal level show that it’s a death by a thousand cuts we need to be vigilant about avoiding. This protracted and constant erosion of our rights must end.

And for more on Magna Carta, check out these opinion pieces from the IPA and friends that are worth reading:

  • On FreedomWatch today, Lorraine Finlay has an excellent article reflecting on forgotten truth, and the important lessons of the anniversary of the Great Charter;
  • In The Spectator yesterday, the IPA’s Stephanie Forrest asked why the Great Charter is being overlooked in our schools? (And while you’re there, check out Professor David Flint’s piece);
  • On Tuesday, the IPA’s Chris Berg argued on The Drum that Magna Carta was forged from resistance to taxes;

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Email: Challenging this law could send you to prison

Extraordinary legislation introduced into the Western Australian parliament removes the right of appeal, and could see people imprisoned or fined up to $200,000, for impeding the objectives of the bill.

The Bell Group Companies (Finalisation of Matters and Distribution of Proceeds) Bill 2015 is intended to give a government authority the power to dissolve the Bell group of companies, and to allow the government to seize assets for itself.

Even worse are the measures taken to stop anyone from opposing this heavy-handed acquisition of property. Section 67 removes a fundamental check on the abuse of executive power by disallowing appeals. Parliament has also taken the extraordinary step of proposing broad powers to penalise people who take actions “impeding the operation” of the bill, “or the achievement of its objectives”.

Melbourne-based Barrister and law lecturer Keith Kendall has written a great article on FreedomWatch today slamming this legislation which undermined several basic legal principles. Read it here.

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Email: Progressive group-think shuts Lomborg out of UWA

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No sooner did John Roskam write about the ‘climate of conformity’ than the University of Western Australia dropped plans to host Bjørn Lomborg’s Australian Consensus Centre. Evidently, not even a ‘sceptical environmentalist’ can be permitted in Australian academia.

As Hannah Pandel wrote on FreedomWatch this week, yielding to the demands of this progressive group-think to shut out unwelcome, albeit mainstream, opinions and debate, is a troubling feature of Australian universities.

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Email: The Closed Australian Mind

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IPA Executive Director John Roskam has an important piece in the Australian Financial Review today on the left-wing bias in Australian universities:

The reaction of university academics to the Abbott government’s decision to provide $1 million to fund a branch of Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Centre at the University of Western Australia demonstrates all that’s wrong with Australia’s universities. Their culture tends to be distrustful, insular and choked in unthinking intellectual uniformity.

Continue reading here. And if you liked that, you might also like this satirical piece from The Onion:

As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it’s inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion.

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Email: Iran at the UN, and the declaration of division

Despite its horrible record in the area, the Islamic Republic of Iran was recently elected to the Executive Board of UN Women, a body created to lead and co-ordinate the UN’s work on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

On FreedomWatch today, Lorraine Finlay from Murdoch University looks at just how inappropriate this is:

Only eight months ago, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran reported to the UN General Assembly that the human rights situation there ‘remains of concern’, warning specifically of draft laws that ‘markedly compound discrimination against women by further eroding their protection from forced marriage and rights to education, work and equal wages’.

The very fact that the Special Rapporteur is felt by UN Member States to be necessary should itself suggest that Iran is not a suitable candidate for any UN human rights body.

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Email: Government gets new and unprecedented power over children

Few Australians may be aware, but last month the federal government granted itself new and unprecedented powers over children on social media.

The Enhancing Online Safety for Children Act 2015, which received almost no publicity, aims to reduce cyber-bullying by regulating social media websites. It also gives the government authority over children, including the power to order children to apologise to each other.

This represents a fundamental expansion in the scope of the federal government. It shoves the state between children and their families.

It is disappointing that debate about the new laws has been so mute. This is especially worrying when one considers the many problems in the legislation, including:

  • giving the new Children’s e-Safety Commissioner sweeping powers to tell children what to say to each other, including the power to order a child to apologise;
  • giving the Commissioner wide powers of investigation against families and children, including removing the right to silence in hearings; and
  • vagueness of the definition of cyber-bullying, which can be easily changed in the future by the Minister.

Simon Breheny and I sent this letter to all Members of Parliament and Senators last week.

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Email: Property rights – the forgotten freedom

It is no secret that, increasingly, property rights are sidelined in Australia. Often, these rights are abrogated by local councils who apply finicky regulations, such as the elderly lady who faced a severe fine because her new fence was 15cm higher than regulations permitted. Other major barrier are laws which restrict landowners if development would have some bureaucratically defined environmental impact.

The right to property is a fundamental human right. All freedoms we enjoy have a basis in property rights. However, contemporary western governments consistently undermine these rights.

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We are very fortunate to have Lorraine Finlay, lecturer of law at Murdoch University in Perth, to contribute to this fundamental debate. Ms Finlay’s article on FreedomWatch today analyses the merits of recent state government efforts to strengthen private property rights in the Western Australian context:

Both the Land Acquisition Legislation Amendment (Compensation) Bill 2014 and the Private Property Rights Charter for Western Australia are worthwhile reforms. There is, however, still a long way to go. For example, while the Charter is a step in the right direction in recognising the importance of reform at the bureaucratic level, it is drafted in such equivocal language that it provides little by the way of real protection or certainty for property owners…

Read Ms Finlay’s whole article here.

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Email: Did you know Australia has a constitution?

A troubling Ipsos MORI survey showed that over a third of Australian adults had not heard of the Australian Constitution. Furthermore, only 53% of respondents had heard of the Magna Carta and 14% the Statute of Westminster.

To address this issue FreedomWatch is delighted to present its newest guest writer; Suri Ratnapala, Emeritus Professor of Public Law at the University of Queensland. Professor Ratnapala answers the question of whether this lack of awareness of the constitution really matters.

The experience of nations shows without the slightest doubt that having a constitution is not the same as having constitutional government. Constitutional government is a government of limited powers that secures substantial freedom under the rule of law. This is the kind of state that Aristotle called Politeia. Its modern names are Nomocracy and Rechtsstaat. It is the government of laws and not of men, what F A Hayek called the Constitution of Liberty. Such a constitution exists not simply on paper but in the daily experience of the people.

Constitutional documents are important and we must know what they say and mean. But not everyone, even some lawyers, can command the intricacies of constitutional law. What is absolutely necessary is that the basic values and doctrines of the constitution are understood and embraced by officials and the general public. Constitutional government is sustained ultimately by a robust set of less formal supporting institutions and a civic culture that understands and values the priceless freedoms that form the basis of our civilisation.

Continue reading Professor Ratnapala’s entire piece on FreedomWatch here.

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