… 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.
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.
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 ($).
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.
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.
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 $50 per adult per month — in a city where the cost of living is considerably higher than Sydney’s.
She said the local government gave police the election records from the first round and visited each of the villagers who had voted for her.
“They asked why they had supported me. After that, most of my neighbours were too scared to do so in the second round,” she said. “All my neighbours had lost land too, and I wanted to speak on behalf of them if I had been elected.”
Liu was defeated in the second ballot.
Xu Zhiyong, a lecturer at Beijing’s University of Posts and Telecommunications, won two terms from 2003 and opposed the forced repatriation to hometowns of those without a Beijing hukou, or registration or who represented the families of children who fell sick after taking milk powder enhanced with melamine. Soon after stepping down from the congress, he was jailed for four years for “disturbing the social order”.
Continue reading here ($)
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.
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.
The fact that French electricity multinational Engie would rather close its doors than continue to operate in Victoria tells you all you need to know about the impact of Green renewable energy policies.
Engie today confirmed that it would close Victoria’s Hazelwood power station in March 2017 and in a surprise move said it would also try to sell its Loy Yang B power station, also in the State’s Gippsland region. Together these power stations are responsible for around 35% of Victoria’s electricity.
Hazelwood alone is equal to over 2,000 wind turbines in terms of reliable electricity output. It is nonsense that it can be replaced by renewables any time soon, if at all, and the move will have serious consequences for Australian electricity prices and security.
Victoria is the low price anchor of the National Electricity Market, with its surplus electricity also patching the holes in renewables-rich South Australia and Tasmania. These three states will now be competing for the same, reduced power output. In any market, if you reduce suppliers, prices will rise, and electricity is no different. After South Australia’s last brown coal power station closed in May, two major electricity companies almost immediately announced retail price rises of up to seven times the rate of inflation.
Unfortunately this is the inevitable outcome of federal and state government policies that are destroying the investment environment for fossil fuel companies. In the case of Victoria, in just the last 6 months the Andrews government has tripled the tax on brown coal, announced a new 40% renewable energy target, and extended the current ban on exploration for new gas supplies. What company in their right mind would want to invest?
While predictably, the Federal and State Governments have announced assistance packages, in reality no temporary state or federal government employment schemes or taskforces can possibly replace viable private sector jobs delivering an important commercial product. Nor should they.
Sympathetic comments by environmentalists about the impact on local workers and communities are just crocodile tears, given that renewable energy policies are specifically designed to push coal and gas producers out of the market. They did the same thing in Port Augusta last year.
Meanwhile the CFMEU is pursuing industrial action at a third Victorian brown coal power plant, proving that the union movement has learned nothing after taking Toyota to court in 2013 to prevent it from restructuring to avoid going out of business.
In the last year, South Australia and Tasmania have shown the world what happens when you have an ideological obsession with renewable electricity. Germany also spent €1 billion in 2015 on electricity grid stabilisation alone because of too much wind power and a think tank recently estimating the total cost of its so-called Energy Transformation at 525 billion Euros by 2025.
Given that the Greens have made it clear that they want to close all Australian coal-fired power stations, starting with all four of Victoria’s, the question for the Green movement and its sympathisers in the major parties has to be “Where will our future electricity and gas supplies come from?”
James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal compiled this list of headlines from the past decade, which really speak for themselves:
- “2006: Expect Another Big Hurricane Year Says NOAA”—headline, MongaBay.com, May 22, 2006
- “NOAA Predicts Above Normal 2007 Atlantic Hurricane Season”—headline, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration press release, May 23, 2007
- “NOAA Increases Expectancy for Above-Normal 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season”—headline, gCaptain.com, Aug. 7, 2008
- “Forecasters: 2009 to Bring ‘Above Average’ Hurricane Season”—headline, CNN.com, Dec. 10, 2008
- “NOAA: 2010 Hurricane Season May Set Records”—headline, Herald-Tribune (Sarasota, Fla.), May 28, 2010
- “NOAA Predicts Increased Storm Activity in 2011 Hurricane Season”—headline, BDO Consulting press release, Aug. 18, 2011
- “2012 Hurricane Forecast Update: More Storms Expected”—headline, LiveScience.com, Aug. 9, 2012
- “NOAA Predicts Active 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season”—headline, NOAA press release, May 23, 2013
- “A Space-Based View of 2015’s ‘Hyperactive’ Hurricane Season”—headline, CityLab.com, June 19, 2015
- “The 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season Might Be the Strongest in Years”—headline, CBSNews.com, Aug. 11, 2016
- “NOAA: U.S. Completes Record 11 Straight Years Without Major Hurricane Strike“—headline, CNSNews.com, Oct. 24, 2016