Reach rule set to go

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An exciting development:

Media reform will be discussed by cabinet this month, with Malcolm Turnbull poised to abolish the population reach rule and television licence fees in the current parliamentary term.

Despite strong opposition from some players that led to the plan being ditched earlier this year, a recommendation to cabinet and a public policy announcement could be made by Comm­unications Minister Mitch Fifield as soon as this week, sources say.

A decision in the sitting week of November 23 is most likely, ­because speculation suggests draft legislation is yet to be framed, ­limiting the ability for quick ­mergers and acquisitions, as happened within days of the 2007 cross-media ownership changes when Nine and Seven both sold to private equity partners.

More at The Australian ($).

This reform is well overdue. It’s been in Turnbull’s sights for some time and the new communications minister, Senator Mitch Fifield, has also put it at the top of his agenda.

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Email: Senator Eric Abetz the 14th senator to support freedom of speech

Parliamentary support for free speech continues to grow.

Liberal senator Eric Abetz (Tasmania) has encouraged his party to throw their support behind amendments to remove the words “offend” and “insult” from section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

See the full list of current senators who are on the record in support of changes to section 18C here.

The damage to science from global warming

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On Thursday, an important essay by Matt Ridley was published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, categorically detailing the distortion of scientific debate, and the damage to science itself, brought about by global warming alarmists.

He says:

At the heart of the debate about climate change is a simple scientific question: can a doubling of the concentration of a normally harmless, indeed moderately beneficial, gas, from 0.03% of the atmosphere to 0.06% of the atmosphere over the course of a century change the global climate sufficiently to require drastic and painful political action today? In the end, that’s what this is all about. Most scientists close enough to the topic say: possibly. Some say: definitely. Some say: highly unlikely. The ‘consensus’ answer is that the warming could be anything from mildly beneficial to dangerously harmful: that’s what the IPCC means when it quotes a range of plausible outcomes from 1.5 to 4 degrees of warming.

On the basis of this unsettled scientific question, politicians and most of the pressure groups that surround them are furiously insistent that any answer to the question other than ‘definitely’ is vile heresy motivated by self-interest, and is so disgraceful as to require stamping out, prosecution as a crime against humanity, investigation under laws designed to catch racketeering by organized crime syndicates, or possibly the suspension of democracy.

You can find this must-read essay here. Matt Ridley also delivered the 2013 CD Kemp Lecture for the IPA, ‘Freedom and Optimism: Humanity’s Triumph.’ You can watch the video of the lecture here and his Q&A session with Bjørn Lomborg here.

Continue Reading →

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Remembering Menzies’ wise words on religious liberty

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The Victorian government’s relentless push to broaden anti-discrimination laws continue, no matter what stands in the way.

In September, I noted how the Labor party’s view of “equality” was concerned more with special privileges for some, and diminished liberties for others. The most recent effort concerns ruling out a proposed exemption for religious organisations in legislation that would permit same-sex adoptions.

A faith-based adoption organisation is fundamentally concerned with where a child is placed, and the nature of the family involved. The proposed changes to anti-discrimination laws run directly counter to these organisations ability to conscientiously carry out a worthwhile service. This is problematic to say the least.

This week, Attorney-General George Brandis opened a roundtable on freedom of religion, where he quoted Robert Menzies from one of his Forgotten People broadcasts in 1942. The transcript in full is worth reading, but one quote in particular struck me as especially timely:

… religious freedom for which the Scottish Covenanters fought was freedom for all, Catholic or Protestant, Jew or Gentile, and that to deny it was to go back to the dark ages of man. Religious persecution was the denial of freedom. Freedom of worship is the victorious enemy of persecution.

And so I revert to the theme of my broadcast on the first freedom – that freedom, if it is to mean anything, must mean freedom for my neighbour as well as for myself. There is nothing defiant or sectional about a demand for genuine freedom of worship, which is freedom for all.

The Victorian government’s view of equality undermines religious freedom, and is fundamentally anti-liberty. Menzies’ wise words are worth remembering.

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ASIC’s plan to put warning labels on financial products

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It has recently been reported that financial regulator the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) wishes to apply warning labels, not unlike those seen on cigarette packets, to various financial products.

Investor warnings could be slapped on a host of complex and risky financial products in the same way as the graphic warnings on cigarette packets, under new safeguards being considered by the corporate regulator. … ASIC could use the power to impose conditions on risky investment products such as restricting access for self-managed super funds, requiring retail investors to obtain financial advice before they could invest or slapping warnings on product disclosure statements and prospectuses for example telling investors, “Your capital is at risk”.

This kind of proposal, when bureaucrats elect to involve themselves in consumer calculations about the balance between risk and return, is plainly inconsistent with a liberal society in which we are meant to lean toward dignifying people with the capacity to make their own financial choices.

In this case, ASIC would privilege themselves with standing in for consumers when making decisions balancing the costs and benefits (as filtered by risk-return considerations) when purchasing certain financial products. This substitution of political for individual decision making is, if nothing else, particularly elitist in its character.

Another concern would be that consumers might well elect to take government recommendations about risk assessments at face value, depriving themselves of learning opportunities about what financial product configurations best suit their needs.

As Chris Berg noted in his book, The Growth of Australia’s Regulatory Statethe trouble with mega-regulators such as ASIC is that they see very few limits to their regulatory domain and this leads to undue costs imposed upon the productive economy.

When ‘everything is on the table’ in policy terms is the time many illiberal ideas come out into the open. Let’s hope Treasurer Scott Morrison has the energy and foresight to prevent ASIC indulging any further with this particularly illiberal idea.

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Matt Ridley on climate wars damage to science

Viscount_RidleyMatt Ridley’s June essay for Quadrant on the damage that the climate debate is doing to science has been re-published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation with a new introduction, and is well worth a read.

Ridley, who describes himself as a “lukewarmer” (someone who believes that that the climate may be changing but that the effects are nothing to worry about), details how many of the climate change claims made by scientists over the years have not held up to independent scrutiny and how the reasonable middle ground in the debate has been cleared away.

He finishes with the sentence “Yet they are not prepared to debate the science behind their concern. That seems wrong to me.”

Read the whole essay here.

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Top 3 articles from this week you must read

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Arthur C. Brooks

1. Matt Ridley’s terrific essay on the damage global warming alarmists are doing to science is a must read

2. In the New York Times on Saturday, Arthur C. Brooks slammed academia for promoting diversity, without actually practicing it

3. From the “population bomb” to catastrophic climate change, it seems progressives always champion doomsday ideologies. See Bret Stephens excellent article In The Australian yesterday here ($)

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Desalination plant bill will take decades to pay off

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Governments no doubt love how they can make taxpayers foot the bill for their own mistakes

Back in 2007, under the influence of people like Tim Flannery who implied that the dams may never fill again, the then Victorian Labor government commissioned the southern hemisphere’s largest desalination plant at Wonthaggi in the state’s south-east.

In reality, Victoria was in the middle of one of Australia’s regular droughts, which broke in 2010 as it always does. Since it opened in 2012, the desalination plant has been unused.

While this was one of many desalination plants built around the country (see the results here and here), this one was particularly notorious for its $6 billion construction cost, obscenely generous working conditions and alleged involvement of undesirable elements. If the construction costs weren’t bad enough, the repayment terms negotiated by the government amounted to $18 billion over the 27 years to 2039 – and that is without ordering any water. Yes, if you actually want any water it costs extra.

Today’s Herald Sun reports that Melbourne Water has proposed that repayments now be spread over 60 years rather than 27 years, to allow household water bills to be reduced by a total of $100 over the next five years. This proposal sounds suspiciously like toll road operator Transurban’s plan to build some roads and tunnels in Melbourne’s west in exchange for extending tolls on its flagship CityLink project from 2035 to 2050.

Forcing our grandchildren and great grandchildren to pay, so that water bills can be cut in the lead-up to the 2018 state election is a shocking idea. This proposal should be rejected, and taxpayers in other states alert to any similar proposals in the future.

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BMW ad banned for encouraging dangerous driving

Following complaints from just three viewers, this BMW television ad was banned in the United Kingdom, for supposedly encouraging “irresponsible and potentially dangerous driving.” Take a look:

This looks less like a dangerous ad, and more like an advertising standards bureau that doesn’t have enough work to do.

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Climate change credibility under question

Day-After-Tomorrow

The New York Times has published a report claiming that the Chinese government has been sprung understating its national coal consumption, and noting that this could “complicate the already difficult efforts to limit global warming.”

This is putting it mildly. The whole of the UN’s approach to climate change depends on countries being “honest” about carbon dioxide emissions and targets. That China’s figures are already being questioned should be particularly embarrassing for environmentalists, given how they have consistently praised China for its Paris targets (even though China is actually increasing emissions by 150 per cent, which alarmists spin as reducing “emissions intensity“).

Interestingly, despite a largely compliant media, scientific and political community, campaigners have been unable to keep a lid on a number of inconvenient truths over the last month.

In mid-October, the prominent Sierra Club found itself unable to explain the 18 year pause in global temperature increases and the Indian village of Dharnai’s failed flirtation with a localized energy grid revealed the emptiness of green propaganda.

Only three days after I highlighted the potential for future power blackouts due to its increasing reliance on windfarms and a single interconnector with Victoria, South Australia suffered a blackout due to an unexplained interconnector failure. Incredibly, the ABC found another culprit for the problem (check the story’s first line…).

In France, a popular weatherman has been sacked for questioning climate change, and in the UK, as warned in FreedomWatch in July, the National Grid has for the first time used new emergency measures to pay businesses to reduce electricity consumption. Britain’s wind farms were generating only 0.5 per cent of the nation’s power or barely 3 per cent of their installed capacity.

With the science increasingly contested and renewables-rich power networks already under strain, environmentalists will be desperately hoping the New York Times story does not get legs.

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High Court finds procedural fairness denied

Interesting case decided in the High Court this week:

Judges unanimously found the man, referred to only as WZARH, who arrived at Christmas Island in 2010, presented his case for refugee protection to an independent reviewer.

But his case was taken over by a second reviewer who rejected the claim after considering the transcript and audio recording of the first interview and without conducting a second interview.

The judges ruled that procedural fairness required that the man be informed the review process had changed, allowing him to be heard on how it should proceed.

See the summary, and the Court’s full judgment here.

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