Queensland set to extend smoking bans


Read the latest contribution to public debate from the Queensland Parliament’s Health and Ambulance Services Committee, and weep for our lost freedoms.

The key recommendation from the report is that “the Tobacco and other Smoking Products (Extension of Smoking Bans) Amendment Bill 2015 be passed.”

The bill proposes to ban:

  • smoking within 5 metres of all state government buildings
  • smoking at skate parks
  • smoking at public swimming pools
  • smoking at all transport waiting areas and pedestrian malls
  • the sale of cigarettes from a vehicle and at ‘pop up’ sales venues

The public space allowed for one of Australia’s most unpopular minorities grows smaller and smaller.

But don’t despair, the committee did consider the quaint notion of the “Rights and Liberties of Individuals”. The authors of the report even provided this helpful little definition of the word ‘liberty’:

The concept of liberty requires that an activity (including business activity) should be lawful unless there is a sufficient reason to declare it unlawful by an appropriate authority.

Not a definition you’ll find reading Mill or Bastiat. No surprises it lost out against competing priorities.


NSW MP questions ICAC procedures

Damien Tudehope, Member for Epping

Damien Tudehope, Member for Epping

More on ICAC today. Liberal NSW MP Damien Tudehope has raised concerns about the questionable procedures followed by ICAC in the conduct of public hearings:

“If someone made a finding of corrupt conduct against a public official, it’d be the end of their career,” he said.

“Because [a finding of corrupt conduct] brings with it punitive penalties, should there be an element of procedural fairness that accompanies the manner in which ICAC conducts a public hearing?”

Mr Tudehope said ICAC would retain the power to conduct public hearings.

“But, if they do hold a public inquiry, should they as a matter or procedural fairness serve statements which they have taken in camera or otherwise in the course of their investigation on the solicitors or the person of interest?” he asked.

“So this would mean that the whole of the material in their possession is available to the person who is the subject of the inquiry.”

Mr Tudehope said that “a general inquiry about procedural fairness is worthwhile and I think that’s something the community would embrace.”

Tudehope’s concerns have led him to question the appropriateness of the most recent bill relating to ICAC’s already very significant powers. The bill seeks to provide the commission with the power to initiate its own criminal proceedings under the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (NSW).

Quite apart from any concerns the public might have about a proliferation of government agencies that can initiate criminal proceedings, a more practical issue arises here: ICAC is not an agency deserving of reward.

Acting outside its powers, conducting ‘gotcha’ trials, ignoring basic legal rights, leaking to the media, and other dodgy practices are all causes for significant concern – not reasons to increase the role of this out of control organisation in the public sphere.


Will bacon give you cancer?


Fuelling the belief that every food either tastes terrible or causes cancer, a new World Health Organisation report has said that eating processed meat is as bad for you as smoking.

The report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer has found “sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.”

This is another example of Nanny Staters using outlandish claims to scare us into purity. Eating processed meat is bad for you. No one shoves sausage rolls in to their mouth thinking they’re going to be healthier because of it.

This story has been sweeping the world, and holes are starting to emerge in the WHO’s statement. Dr Elizabeth Lund, former research leader at the Institute of Food Research, says that “red meat was linked to about three extra cases of bowel cancer per 100,000 adults in developed countries.”

The North American Meat Institute adds:

Red and processed meat are among 940 agents reviewed by the IARC and found to pose some level of theoretical ‘hazard’. Only one substance, a chemical in yoga pants, has been declared by the IARC not to cause cancer.

There is also a bigger point to be made here. People make imperfect decisions about their health. Because they want to.

Bacon and egg sandwiches are delicious. They are empirically more fun to eat than kale. If I give up bacon and egg sandwiches for a few extra weeks on my lifespan, I will spend those extra weeks not having bacon and egg sandwiches. So do I really win?

Professor Tim Key, Cancer Research UK’s epidemiologist, says that people should listen to the WHO’s warnings and “have a bean salad for lunch over a BLT.”



Shorten backs removal of constitutional provisions referring to ‘race’

Michelle Grattan in The Conversation today reports:

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has said that Indigenous recognition in the Constitution cannot just be “empty poetry” but must lay to rest “the ghosts of the discrimination” haunting the document.

Its “so-called race powers” were crafted for Australia’s past, he said.

In the Northern Territory for the 30th anniversary of the handover of Uluru to its traditional owners, Shorten said the proposed referendum was very important and reiterated that the change must be one of substance.

“We want to make sure the change is not just symbolic. We don’t need more flowery poetry in our Constitution – we just need to be straight.”

The race power refers to Section 51 (26) which gives the Commonwealth the power to make laws for people of any race. There is also an anachronistic reference to race in Section 25.

Shorten is right about removing sections of the Australian Constitution that refer to race. This would be a positive step. The nation’s founding document should be free from references to race for the simple reason that race is irrelevant – we’re all Australian, and we’re all equal.

The IPA supports the removal of the two provisions to which Shorten refers: sections 25 and 51 (xxvi).

To find out more, visit racehasnoplace.org.au.


Nuclear should be part of the energy mix


The Herald Sun is this morning speculating that the federal government’s proposed appointment of Monash University Chancellor Alan Finkel as Australia’s new Chief Scientist may signal a renewed interest in nuclear power.

While the appointment is yet to be confirmed, and there is no evidence that if Dr Finkel is appointed it will be due to his views on nuclear power, it does serve to highlight that there is another potential source of baseload power for the National Electricity Market that isn’t coal, gas or renewables.

Here is a link to an article that Dr Finkel wrote for Monash in 2013 which explains how nuclear is an important part of the European energy mix.

The USA’s Nuclear Energy Institute points out that 30 countries currently operate nuclear power plants and that nuclear is responsible for over 10 per cent of the world’s electricity, and South Australia is currently running a Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission to examine its potential to participate in nuclear mining, processing, electricity and disposal.

A sensible approach to baseload power in Australia would be for each state to play to its strengths – meaning Queensland and NSW go with black coal, Victoria brown coal, Tasmania hydro-electric power and South Australia nuclear power.


Queensland lockout laws will not be supported by crossbench MPs


Great news out of Queensland, as crossbench MPs have revealed they will not support state government plans to introduce lockout laws:

Labor is due to introduce its statewide lockout laws — including a ban on shots and high-alcohol drinks after midnight followed by a 1am lockout and a ban on the sale of alcohol in clubs and pubs after 3am — before the end of the year.

But the Katter’s Australian Party has revealed it will not support the laws when they come to a vote.

They have secured the backing of fellow crossbencher Billy Gordon who told The Sunday Mail he would not vote for the policy in its current form.

Their decision means the Government will not have the numbers on the floor of the hung Parliament to get its changes across the line.

Lockout proposals are borne from ‘a moral panic that has no empirical foundation whatsoever‘, and punishes the many for the sins of the few. It’s great to see Queensland will not go ahead with this.


Call for ICAC commissioner to stand aside

Serious questions about the conduct of the ICAC commissioner have led to calls for her to stand aside ($):

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption has been urged to stand aside its commissioner, Megan Latham, pending an investigation into possible ­corruption and criminality inside the agency.

One of the key members of ICAC’s parliamentary oversight committee has called for an ­acting commissioner to oversee a corruption inquiry to determine which ICAC officer leaked prosecutor Margaret Cunneen’s ­private text messages to her boss. This comes as the corruption watchdog was strongly criticised by its former chief investigator, Clive Small, who raised the prospect of government intervention, and the former commonwealth solicitor-general David Bennett QC who said Ms Latham’s performance as commissioner had been “irrational” and seemingly motivated by “malice”.

“There has to be an investigation,” said Trevor Khan, a ­Nationals member of the Legislative Council who sits on ICAC’s oversight committee. “If it is by ICAC it would require somebody to act as commissioner other than the existing commissioner. It needs to be somebody independent. The problem in a matter such as this is you just don’t know where responsibility lies. If it is somebody senior in the organisation it would always be open to concern that, if it were the current commissioner undertaking the investigation, she would be seen as too close to those involved in any improper conduct.”

The call for Ms Latham to stand aside has been triggered by exclusive reports in The Australian that ICAC caused a feud between Ms Cunneen and her boss, Director of Public Prosecutions Lloyd Babb SC, by giving him text messages in which Ms Cunneen was critical of his performance in court.

Read more at The Australian ($).


Cutting off someone else’s legs to make you look taller

Bjorn Lomborg’s excellent piece in yesterday’s Australian highlights the flawed economics of solar and wind power.

It also complements a recent Bloomberg article about how the increasing footprint of wind and solar in energy markets is eating into the economics of existing fossil fuel plants. It’s a great read – not so much for its apparent endorsement of crony capitalism as for its clear illustration of how government subsidized and mandated renewable energy policies are actively seeking to make commercial fossil fuel power stations uneconomic, so that renewables can compete.


While this article doesn’t talk directly about Australia, the recently announced closure of Alinta Energy’s South Australian operations is an example of this in practice and its intended outcome here.

Fossil fuel power stations are the backbone of world electricity networks. As referenced in the article, coal, oil and gas are typically able to generate electricity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, (and for 40-50 years according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) needing only occasional down time for maintenance. This usually equates to about 80-90% of their capacity.

Solar power stations however typically deliver 20% of their capacity (night, clouds and winter are a problem) and wind 33% (no wind or too much wind is a problem). According to the IEA, wind and solar power stations also typically have half the plant life of fossil fuel plants. What is also never included in the comparative economic cost of wind and solar is that a fossil plant usually has to be on standby somewhere to generate power in calm or non-sunny conditions.

If fossil fuel power stations were being displaced by better fuels, technology or processes, it would be creative destruction and a normal part of capitalism. However this is using the financial power of government to cripple commercial products and replace them with less productive alternatives, which we will all pay for in the long run.


Top 3 articles from this week you must read


Bret Stephens

1) In the Spring edition of the City Journal, Steven Malanga documents who is really behind the “grassroots” environmental movement in California

2) On Monday, the Scientific American published a fascinating account of a failed Greenpeace renewable energy experiment in India, and how coal really does trump solar

3) Also on Monday, in an excellent Wall Street Journal article, Bret Stephens called on Europe to remember its Judeo-Christian inheritance.


Email: Support for freedom of speech continues to grow

While the prime minister has kicked it “into the long grass“, support within the Coalition for freedom of speech continues to grow.

There are now 13 senators who are public in their support of changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. (See the full list on FreedomWatch here).

Last week, Senator Zed Seselja was the latest to join the call for free speech, with this 11 minute speech in the Senate. It is a must watch.

This week, Prime Minister Turnbull rejected the opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to freedom of speech (which the IPA’s Simon Breheny suggested they take up last week) saying “the government has no plans to change the Racial Discrimination Act at all”.

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