Senator Abetz to cross the floor in support of section 18C amendments


Parliamentary support for free speech continues to grow.

In a opinion article for the Federal Young Liberal Policy Journal, Liberal senator Eric Abetz has said that laws which prohibits insults and offensive speech is “anathema to the kind of free and open society that we should be promoting.”

As reported in The Australian today, Senator Abetz also encouraged his party to throw their support behind the Senator Bob Day’s amendment, which seeks to remove the words “offend” and “insult” from section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. From The Australian:

“It will be a sad day if Liberals have to cross the floor to protect one of the great human freedoms — free speech.”

… Senator Abetz said while he was constrained as a minister in the Abbott government to support the party’s position, his “new-found freedom” as a backbencher allowed him to express support for Senator Day’s bill.

He also took aim at Malcolm Turnbull for maintaining Mr ­Abbott’s position on section 18C, despite previously expressing support for the change.

“With the new-found freedom I have been generously given, I don’t mind saying that I agreed with the then communications minister’s assessment that Sen­ator Day’s bill was broadly supported and it wouldn’t have any negative impact.

“It is disappointing that the now Prime Minister appears to have changed his view,” he says. “It is still my hope, though, that the partyroom ­decides to support this bill as a whole.”

Senator Abetz joins the growing list of current senators who are on the record in support of amendments to section 18C. The now 14 senators in support of change are as follows:

UPDATE: Link to the Federal Young Liberal Policy Journal, featuring Senator Abetz’ article, can be found here.


Top 3 articles from this week you must read


Dr Jennifer Oriel

1. In excellent essay in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, Matt Ridley described how technological evolution has momentum of its own – momentum which the government cannot dictate

2. In the Washington Post on Wednesday, George Will described the financial interests of US states underpinning ‘Prohibition 2.0‘ on sports betting

3. And in The Australian today, the fantastic Dr Jennifer Oriel – citing IPA research – highlights the problem of university courses leading new teachers to be hostile to the West ($).


What smoke-free zones look like

This is the bizarre footage of a Sydney maniac exploding at a lady for committing the unspeakable crime of smoking outside.

No, the madman wasn’t reprimanded. As he says, what the lady was doing, while harming nobody else, was against the law. On the flimsiest of justifications, an increasing amount of outdoor smoke-free zones – including in Martin Place – have come into being. Anti-smoking hysteria is now the law.

And this war against smokers continues. The Herald Sun reports today that the City of Melbourne is set to create the city’s largest smoke-free zone:

Princes Park in Carlton and the Tan Track, spanning 3.8km around King’s Domain and the Botanic Gardens, have been highlighted for bans that could start as soon as April, according to confidential papers seen by the Herald Sun.

Make no mistake – this is the next step on the path to a smoke-free city, as Councillor Richard Foster makes explicitly clear several times in the report.

Practical difficulties in enforcement aside, this campaign is obviously paternalism writ large. Claiming to save people from themselves, or punishing people for undermining the public goal of ‘denormalising’ smoking is a poor excuse for government action.

However, the risk of civil discord should also be acknowledged. The more that the demonisation of smokers is internalised in our laws, madmen will be ever more emboldened to harass others, as in the above video. How long before words become actions, and shouting becomes violence?


Codeine changes will only make pain more painful


Darcy Allen is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs and Jason Potts is an Adjunct Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs.

Imposing mandatory prescriptions for drugs containing codeine will line the pockets of medical professionals at the cost of taxpayers.

Recently the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW released research showing codeine-related deaths increased from 3.5 to 8.7 per million of the population from 2000 to 2009.

That sounds very bad, but almost all of these approximately 150 deaths per year involved ‘multiple drug toxicity’. That is, codeine was one of several drugs involved. So it’s not actually even obvious that codeine is the problem here.

Nevertheless, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) maintains codeine is an addictive ‘drug of abuse’ in desperate need of regulatory attention. Their recent interim decision means all over-the-counter medicines containing codeine be changed to prescription-only as early as mid-2016.

One of the quickest ways to effectively assess calls for new regulations is to follow the money. So, who wins and who loses from making codeine prescription-only?

Doctors win. Forcing more patients to queue at the door for basic prescriptions means more money in the pockets of GPs. A Macquarie University study finds up-scheduling analgesics will directly cost consumers an additional $70 million, and cost the PBS an additional $170 million. That money flows to doctors.

Consumers and pharmacies lose. If such a proposal goes ahead this means hundreds of popular painkillers — including Panadeine Forte, Nurofen Plus and Codral Cold and Flu — will become more expensive and inconvenient for everyday Australians. Pain will become a lot more painful.

Continue Reading →


South Australia needs an energy industry that can stand on its own two feet

While it has been amusing to see the some of the reaction to Malcolm Turnbull’s recent comments about coal and nuclear, including one think tank describing the former Rhodes Scholar and investment banker as not understanding markets, we should all welcome a broadening of the Australian energy debate.

In reality, the prime minister is merely stating the obvious on both issues – that:

  1. Australian coal exports can help hundreds of millions of people worldwide who have no or limited access to electricity; and
  2. the development of an Australian nuclear industry is worthy of consideration.

Australia, and particularly South Australia, needs industries that can stand on their own two feet and are internationally competitive. According to today’s AFR, a nuclear industry could potentially be worth $35 billion per year, while coal of course earns us at least $40 billion per year in export income, provides over 40,000 jobs, and is responsible for most of the east coast’s electricity.

South Australia alone is said to have 25 per cent of the world’s uranium, and already has Australia’s most expensive electricity. After its last coal-fired power station closes in March 2016, it will gradually start experiencing power supply problems, especially during peak demand periods. Wind is no good for reliable base load power, as the below screen-shot from NEM Watch, taken in the middle of today, shows. So much for South Australia’s much vaunted 1,473 megawatts of wind capacity!


The role of government should be to ensure a level playing field for the various energy sources and technologies to compete, rather than trying to pick energy winners. If Australia can power itself with coal and with uranium, and also help India to reach its extraordinary potential by exporting both, then government should not be get in the way.


ICAC has their own ‘gotcha’ moment


ICAC gets a taste of its own medicine. Chriss Merrit and Sharri Markson in The Australian:

The corruption watchdog’s playbook often involves playing a secret recording or sensational telephone intercept revealing the witness they are interrogating misled the court just moments earlier… The person of interest has been caught out. Red-faced. And has nowhere to hide.

This time, ICAC is the one caught out:

A film recording shows its investigators making a video ­record of a document outside the scope of their search warrant.

ICAC have now admitted they did not have the power to seize the document.

Yet, the video obtained by The Australian shows ICAC officers filming it page by page.

… Senior investigator Paul Grainger appeared to ignore a warning from [David Curd, the man behind the camera] that a document they were about to film did not “relate” to their raid in the Obeid offices.

Mr Grainger is the same officer named in a complaint to the ICAC Inspector, former judge David ­Levine, for allegedly videotaping a re-enactment of a seizure of Margaret Cunneen’s mobile phone when it had already been in ICAC’s possession for a week.

Watch the video on The Australian site here.


In defence of Germaine Greer


Cardiff University

This is the first and only time I have ever written in defence of Germaine GreerThe fact that Greer may cancel a public lecture at Cardiff University in the face of opposition from an online petition accusing her of holding ‘misogynistic views towards trans-women’ should concern anybody who believes that a university campus should be one place where freedom of speech is sacrosanct.

On 22 October, a petition was launched calling for Cardiff University to cancel Greer’s upcoming lecture, Women & Power: The Lessons of the 20th Century, saying:

While debate in a University should be encouraged, hosting a speaker with such problematic and hateful views towards marginalized and vulnerable groups is dangerous.

Within three days this petition garnered almost 2,000 signatures. And so Greer joins the ever-increasing and diverse list of speakers – ranging from lesbian feminist Julie Bindel to French Front National leader Marine Le Pen – who have been ‘no-platformed’ from UK university campuses.

This is not limited to the United Kingdom. Lukianoff and Haidt recently wrote about the institutionalization in America of this new climate of ‘vindictive protectiveness’, warning that microaggressions and trigger warnings had risen quickly ‘from obscurity into common campus parlance’.

Australia is also not immune. The campaign that pressured UWA to withdraw from establishing an Australian Consensus Centre is an example of a ‘No Platform’ mentality creeping into Australian universities. was again used to launch a petition, with almost 6,500 supporters arguing that the Centre should not be supported as ‘Lomborg’s views are dangerous‘.

I may disagree with most of what Germaine Greer says, but that is exactly the reason that I would love to hear her speak. Engaging with thinkers you disagree with, and having your own ideas challenged in the process, is at the core of a university education. Spending your student days wrapped in the cotton wool of agreeable ideas might lead to a safe and comfortable journey through your university degree, but it won’t be an intellectually engaging or rewarding one.


Ai Weiwei vs Lego


In the Drum this week I tackle the stir created by Lego’s decision not to fill an order from the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei on the grounds that they do not authorise “political” art. It’s a fascinating clash: between a company with an anti-political founding myth finding itself smack bang in the middle of the uncomfortable and often unhappy relationship between geopolitical power and business:

Lego is not a company well-geared for political controversy. At first glance their policy on controversial uses of their product is sound and clear. No politics, no religion, no military. Chinese democracy activists won’t get Lego’s approval, but then nor will Klu Klux Klan members. Lego wants to remain above the grubby material concerns of politics.

Such anti-political neutrality is obviously impossible. Whether they like it or not, Lego is a player in the cultural life of the human species, and in a way that any of Mattel and Hasbro’s competing brands are not. Lego profits handsomely from that status. Perhaps a truer form of political neutrality would mean paying no attention to the ultimate use of bulk Lego sales.

I suspect the refusal to fill Ai’s order is more a case of mindless adherence to their no-politics policy rather than a sop to the Chinese state. But if it is the latter, with this controversy they’ve found themselves in the invidious position shared by firms around the world who want to service markets in unfree countries like China.

Read the whole thing here.


Rigorous debate no longer accepted practice universities

If the recent Bjorn Lomborg saga has proven anything, it’s that the standard of debate in Australian universities is in a dire state.

Leighton McDonald-Stuart, editor of On Dit magazine at the University of Adelaide, had a great article in The Advertiser yesterday, on the deterioration of academic freedom at Australian universities:

How do we expect our society to advance when new ideas cannot be discussed because of an unwillingness by some precious, self-centred students?

These same students also want to limit free expression by mandating the use of “trigger warnings”, as well as censoring books they find uncomfortable or challenging. A “trigger warning” is a device that has emerged in the past two decades that seeks to warn a reader where a post traumatic reaction may be induced based on the content.

This has gone from warning of a discussion about rape to now including things such as “how many calories are in a food item” and “drunk driving”. The discussion of these things doesn’t actually harm anyone, it’s just that students now demand to live in a cotton-wrapped world.

Great works such as The Great Gatsby, Metamorphoses and Mrs Dalloway have been banned from university reading lists simply because some self-absorbed students find the content emotionally challenging and upsetting.

Seemingly anything that infringes on a student’s apparent “right” to feel comfortable is cast out and banned from campus (including Mexican themed parties).

Further, the attitudes of the ever-increasing number of “social justice warriors” towards those who they disagree with is creating an environment that is not conducive to the exercise of speech, of free thought, and of debate.

Continue reading here.


Albrechtsen urges free speech reform


Janet Albrechtsen

Columnist at The Australian and IPA board member Janet Albrechtsen has a must-read piece today:

It’s good to hear the Prime Minister has great faith in the Australian people. He is right to say we are able to conduct a civil debate about same-sex marriage.

The wisdom of Australians doesn’t end there, of course. Which is why Malcolm Turnbull should also start a conversation about the proper limits of free speech in this country.

The PM has been quick to reopen the economic debate too. Good for him that he is keen to put his mark on the new government as a reformer capable of conversing honestly with Australians, negotiating with the mixed bag of independents and even extracting a dose of bipartisanship from Labor.

Now it’s time for Turnbull to take a confident step into the cultural arena. Whereas Tony Abbott disappointed many Australians, especially the Liberal base, by dumping an election promise to reform section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act on the premise that it was causing division within the Muslim community, Turnbull can score an important, long overdue win for freedom.

Read the whole thing here ($).