Sunday, 31 January 2016

Did no-one on Australian Prime Minister Turnbull's staff check that 'homeless' app before he fronted media singing its praises?

But there was Malcolm Turnbull, fresh from describing the latest initiative to help Australia's army of homeless as an "act of love", striding up what the well-heeled like to call the Paris end of Collins Street, Melbourne, where he discovered Mr Kerswell sitting on the footpath.
The Prime Minister stopped, squatted on his haunches and told Mr Kerswell about Ask Izzi, a new website designed to grant Australia's homeless instant access to an array of help, such as food, shelter and legal assistance. [The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 January 2016]

Oh dear, did no-one in Prime Minister Turnbull’s office fully road test this app?

This is just one example of what can go wrong with trusting Izzy:

A homeless person just passing through this little coastal town gets no joy from Izzy when it comes to locating Centrelink.

Although the fact that it has its own freestanding building on the main road might have given the game away as he or she went through the second shopping precinct.

Once there the homeless person can access a wide range of Centrelink services, including requests for an advance payment, changes to direct bill pay, lodging changes in financial circumstances or banking details, submit NewStart paperwork, access myGov etc. 

This Centrelink Service Centre is definitely not an "agent".

Izzy also helpfully lists the nearest Centrelink Access Point, but tells the homeless person that it will take 1 hour 2 minutes to get to Maclean from Yamba, instead of the 15 mins or so by car or 20 mins by bus.

Izzy’s information about Yamba was not the only ill-informed page the app produced.

I can only hazard a guess that the prime minister’s staffers did not bother to look at rural and regional data held by the app or, if they did, probably wouldn’t have realised it was both out-of-date by years in some instances and just plain wrong in others.


This is the answer I received from Izzy when shortly before 8am on Sunday 31 January 2016 I asked about hospitals near Yamba:

Apparently a homeless person is being told the two nearest hospitals (which happen to have 24/7 Accident & Emergency departments) are not open at all today and, yes, the travel times are all wrong again.

The map for Maclean Hospital was just a little more help than that for Centrelink. It showed this:

Yes, really helps heaps, Prime Minister. *drips sarcasm* 

This is what Izzy replies to a homeless person asking where he or she might get food vouchers in Yamba:

The list goes on for some length (offering everywhere from metropolitan Sydney to over the border in Queensland & hundreds of miles inland) without mentioning that after a 1300 phone assessment the Salvation Army in Grafton and Maclean will be able to organize emergency relief such as food vouchers etc.

To be fair, Izzy does mention a commercial retreat & conference centre in Yamba, but as the nuns left there long ago I rather doubt that much emergency assistance would be on offer.

Ask Izzy app is also playing stoopid in the suburbs:

So that would mean that Izzy expects a homeless person to travel an est. 84kms going M3 & Mornington Peninsula Freeway then Link - just to use the Internet. When the Internet can actually be accessed at Collingwood Library via its own computers or using the library's unlimited free WiFi on own laptop or device.

I've also heard that on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland it will refer a homeless woman to a local shelter which no longer exists.

To recap - to date this app gives incorrect, misleading and/or useless information in at least three Australian states.

To Kill A Whooping Crane

This is the beginning of a letter sent in relation to an 18 year-old Texan’s 11 January 2016 alleged killing of two Whooping Cranes protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Read the rest of this sad letter here.

Image of a pair of Whooping Cranes
found at

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Quote of the Week

Mr Abbott is more than a lightning rod for internal party dissent; he is an instigator of it and an aggressive leader of the hardline conservatives. 
[Paul Bongiorno writing about former Australian prime minister & current MP for Warringah Tony Abbott in The New Daily, 26 January 2016]

Tweet of the Week

This one was especially tweeted for Liberal MP for Flinders and Australian Minister for against the Environment, Gregory Andrew "Greg" Hunt, by HRH Terry Australis on 25 January 2016:

Are Cardinal George Pell & the Vatican flipping the bird at Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse?

Is Cardinal George Pell really so ill he genuinely cannot travel? Or is it a smoke screen allowing him to hide from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse?

Only his doctors would know with any certainty, because his very active life in Rome gives no indication.

What Pell and the Vatican are saying.....

The Guardian, 28 January 2016:

Australia’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, is still too unwell to fly and will address a philanthropic Catholic organisation in the US on Thursday via video link from Rome.

It comes days before Australia’s royal commission into institutional responses into child sexual abuse is due to hear from Pell’s lawyers about whether he will be well enough to appear in person before the commission in February, when hearings are due to continue in Ballarat.

Pell angered Australian child sexual abuse victims in December when he cancelled his flight to Melbourne days before he was due to appear before the commission. The Vatican said Pell was too ill to travel although his specific medical condition was not disclosed.

A directions hearing will be held by the royal commission in Sydney on Friday 5 February to hear whether Pell will appear in person when hearings resume.

What the world is seeing.....

Cardinal George Pell, front row, centre left, Monday 18 January 2016

Cardinal Pell celebrated official Rome Forum mass in the afternoon of Sunday 17 January 2016.
He also gave a 10-page (3,713 words) Keynote Address at an official forum dinner in evening of 17 January.

The Guardian, 5 February 2016:

The cardinal won’t be coming. It’s his heart. A fresh medical report from Rome says it would be “difficult” for Cardinal George Pell to take the long flight home to give further evidence to the royal commission into the institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
“It doesn’t preclude his travel,” observed the commissioner Peter McClellan. “It doesn’t say he can’t come.” But McClellan has accepted the verdict of Pell’s medicos that a journey home at this time might have “serious consequences” for His Eminence’s health.
It’s an unhappy outcome all round. McClellan wants him to give evidence in person. Abuse victims are keen to confront the man in the flesh. And the cardinal, it seems, may never walk the streets of his native Ballarat again.
Just how sick he is remains a mystery. Pell is keen to keep the finer details of his heart problems secret.
His counsel, Alan Myers QC, argued against releasing the medical reports in full: “All it would do is provoke some sort of debate in the press about the medical condition of Cardinal Pell. There is no public interest in that.”
Under strict secrecy, McClellan allowed four barristers to read the latest report. Unimpressed was Paul O’Dwyer SC who told the commission the two-page document revealed “common or garden problems in a man of the cardinal’s age”.

Yamba Triathlon Festival and Yamba Colour Run, Saturday 27 February 2016

This annual triathlon caters for all ages. From 7-9 year old competitors in the miniman up to adults running in standard, enforcer, sprint and enticer distance events.

Details of race event locations and start times here:

A word from the sponsor Elite Energy:

Yamba is becoming NSW’s own North Coast festival with a difference and 2016 will be no exception with the ever popular triYamba returning to Yamba Bay.
With stylish village charm, pristine beaches, national parks and award winning restaurants, Yamba is a unique holiday or lifestyle experience for the family. Explore the myriad of waterways, stroll the uncrowded beaches, go swimming, fishing or surfing but most of all discover Yamba’s friendly hospitality all year round.
Yamba is situated at the mouth of the Clarence River in Northern NSW, the biggest river on the east coast of Australia.
Location, location, location. Located just hours from Brisbane, and even closer from the Gold Coast and only a 2 hour flight from Sydney (via Grafton), this sea side town has a relaxed lifestyle with access to all services and is within easy reach of Ballina, Lismore and Grafton.
This year the Yamba Triathlon Festival has a Facebook page at:

There on 31 December 2015 Elite Energy announced:
In 2016, our team is excited to partner with Color Me Rad (the worlds 2nd largest event of its type). Color Me Rad is currently the only global colour event that combines both colourful gel and powder. We are looking forward to our national regional tour kicking off in the colourful and vibrant town of Yamba 28th February. Pre-sale entries opening 11 Jan - register your interest at

Friday, 29 January 2016

Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan makes a bit of a dill of himself over NSW North Coast petrol prices

On 23 January 2016 Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan was in The Northern Star newspaper crying foul with regard to a 20 cent difference in unleaded petrol prices between Ballina and Casino on the NSW Far North Coast.

He also complained that: while crude oil prices had fallen 20% this year to about $28 a barrel and were almost at a 15-year low, the cost wasn't being passed on to consumers.

Hinting at local collusion Hogan stated he had written to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) seeking an official inquiry.

The first point to remember is that by June 2015 there were only an est. 6,000 service stations across Australia, down from 20,000 in 1970, and the average customer base per service station is around 2,000 people in regional areas (and well below in many towns) whereas metro/city sites have a customer base of around 4,000 to 5,000.

The second point to remember about the oil industry in Australia is that between 2014-2015 three of the nation’s seven refineries have closed or are in the process of doing so, creating Asia’s biggest fuel-import market in this country.

In its December 2015 petrol report the ACCC tells us that:

Price movements in regional locations generally lag behind movements in the five largest cities. 
This is due in part to a lower volume of sales in these locations, and hence slower replenishment of fuel stocks by wholesalers and retailers....
Retail petrol prices in the five largest cities in Australia move in cycles. These price cycles generally do not occur in Canberra, Hobart and Darwin, or in most regional locations....
As in the five largest cities, movements in retail petrol prices in regional locations are largely driven by changes in international refined petrol prices and the AUD–USD exchange rate.
However, prices are generally higher in regional locations.
A number of factors may contribute to these higher prices: a lower level of local competition; lower volumes of fuel sold; distance/ location factors; and lower convenience store sales.
The influence of these factors varies significantly from location to location.
This means that there may be substantial differences in prices between specific regional locations...... 

On Friday 22 January 2016 the crude oil price closed at US$32.19 a barrel.

However, given that Australia is now a significant importer of refined petrol it is the Singapore MOGAS 95 price of unleaded petrol per barrel (volume approx. 159 litres as the unit of measurement) which directly influences local unleaded retail prices not the price of crude oil. 

On Thursday 21 January 2016 the market price of unleaded petrol was est. A$68 per barrel (US$47.77) and, the distribution (terminal) cost per litre (inclusive of GST) was 102.4c (Sydney & Brisbane) and 101.9c (Melbourne) on Friday 22 January.

On Saturday 23 January the retail price per litre price of unleaded petrol at the bowser (based on 7 day rolling averages) was:

Casino – 108.6c
Tweed Heads South  114.7c
Grafton – 119.9c
Lismore – 121.6c
Murrwillumbah  128.5c
Ballina – 129.4c

One other thing to remember about retail petrol prices is that unleaded petrol (regular or premium grades) and diesel the price you pay includes Australian Government excise of 38.60 cents per litre (effective10 November 2014) as well as a consumption tax (GST) of 10 per cent.

Which results in this price breakdown per litre of unleaded petrol on 23 January 2016:

Casino – $1.08 (includes 49.46c in federal government taxes)
Tweed Heads South  $1.14 (includes 50.07c in federal government taxes)
Grafton – $1.19 (includes 50.59c in federal government taxes)
Lismore – $1.21 (includes 50.76c in federal government taxes)
Murrwillumbah  $1.28 (includes 51.45c in federal government taxes)
Ballina – $1.29 (includes 51.54c in federal government taxes).

So on 23 January as Kevin Hogan looked for a service station conspiracy this was the actual situation:

* up to 45.45% of the price of a litre of unleaded petrol in these six regional centres was
made up of federal taxes, probably making tax the biggest single individual component of
the bowser price;
* both taxes and refined petrol market price are beyond the control of the retailer; and 
* as only 5% on average of the retail price per litre is allowed to cover road freight costs, 
admin and marketing costs, and service station running costs like wages, rent and utilities and a retail profit margin it is unlikely that even a Ballina service station owner/operator or franchisee will die inordinately wealthy.

As for Kevin Hogan's request for an ACCC inquiry into petrol pricing on the NSW Far North Coast - he appears to have forgotten that Ballina, Murwillumbah, Lismore, Grafton, Tweed Heads South and Casino are six of the 190 Australian regional centres that it already monitors regularly, with price observations on at least 75 per cent of days in the month/year in 2014-2015 [ACCC, Quarterly report on the Australian petroleum industry—December 2015, pp.25-26]

When ACCC staff read Mr. Hogan's letter I suspect that they are going to have to stifle an urge to laugh out loud.

An examination by Dr. Sophie Lewis of Tony Abbott's climate change denialism first as a shadow minister, then as Opposition Leader and finally (albeit briefly) as Prime Minister

In addition to showing that the perception-based understanding of climate change and extremes adopted by Abbott (i.e., the Natural Variability Concept) is not fully consistent with the observed time series, I also show that it cannot be internally consistent….
It should however, be noted, that I have taken a subset of representative quotes by Prime Minister Abbott to constitute a simplified mental model of climate change, and Mr Abbott has provided many opinions of the physical science behind climate change in addition to the small selection of quotes used here.
[Lewis, S.C., Can public perceptions of Australian climate extremes be reconciled with the statistics of climate change? Weather and Climate Extremes (2015),]

Some of the Abbott quotes discussed at length in the study and set out briefly here:

* During the record-breaking spring temperatures in Australia in 2013, Abbott said, "… the thing is that at some point in the future, every record will be broken, but that doesn't prove anything about climate change. It just proves that the longer the period of time, the more possibility of extreme events". Other public comments by Prime Minister Abbott about climate change and variability include that the argument behind human-caused climate change is "absolute crap", that "there doesn't appear to have been any appreciable warming since the late 1990s" and that the link between climate change and extreme Australian climate events is "complete hogwash" (Readfearn, 2014). 

Former Prime Minister Abbott's understandings of climate change and variability are not unique. Rather, these provide an encapsulation of a widely held view that the longer the period of time under consideration, the greater the possibility of extreme events. Abbott's comments are selected here for exploration as they demonstrate a widespread mental model of understanding and are capable of being highly influential. These personal understandings of climate change arise from several causes. First, the manifestation of climate change in weather and climate is typically poorly understood (Trenberth, 2011). In general, people have difficulty perceiving changes in the physicals climate system above the natural variability of local climate (Myers et al., 2012)…..

* On October 30 2013, Prime Minister Abbott stated, "… the thing is that at some point in the future, every record will be broken, but that doesn′t prove anything about climate change. It just proves that the longer the period of time, the more possibility of extreme events". 

A statistical interpretation of this statement is that the sequence of observed temperatures fails to satisfy the assumption of being identically distributed and independent. If the assumption of IID were the case, then the "possibility" of an extreme would be less likely in 2013, and in 2014, than in the early part of the observed sequence…..

* In October 2009 Prime Minister Abbott stated that the argument behind human-caused climate change was "absolute crap." Later in December 2009, Abbott stated that "there doesn't appear to have been any appreciable warming since the late 1990s" and in July 2007 that "there may even have been a slight decrease in global temperatures (the measurement data differs on this point) over the past decade". 

That is, in these statements Abbott rejected that an increasing trend in temperatures has occurred in the sequence of observations in recent years. Hence, these particular statements by Prime Minister Abbott are in apparent contradiction in terms of explaining the increase in record-breaking in the later part of the observational record. If climate change is "absolute crap" and "there doesn't appear to have been any appreciable warming" then the probability of recent record breaking should be lower with an increasing length of temperature time series.

* Prime Minister Abbott concluded in October 2013 that the link between extremes (in this case bushfires) and climate change was "complete hogwash" and that "I'm not one of those people who runs around and says every time there's a fire or a flood, that proves climate change is getting worse. Australia has had fires and floods since the beginning of time. We've had much bigger floods and fires than the ones we've recently experienced. You can hardly say they were the result of anthropic [sic] global warming." 

Hence, to hold an internally consistent viewpoint within the Natural Variability Concept, the increase in the rate of record-breaking requires either a change in the shape of the temperature probability distribution with time that can be attributed to natural climate mechanisms, or requires that record-breaking rates have increased because temperatures are auto-correlated due to natural physical climate mechanisms such as thermal feedbacks between the ocean and atmosphere, sunspots and volcanic activity (Bassett, 1992).

* This does not, however, suggest that understandings developed under the Natural Variability Concept can be readily changed by simply viewing this conceptualisation as a deficit of knowledge. For example, former Prime Minister Abbott said in July 2009 that he was "…hugely unconvinced by the so-called settled science on climate change". 

Hence, this mismatch between an individual's perceptions of the climate change and extremes, and the physical evidence of the observed and modelled climate system, is undoubtedly complex and cannot be resolved simply with a singular approach…..

Interested readers can go to and view or download an open access full copy of the 10 page study with diagrams.

What the author1 said about this study in The Guardian on 23 January 2016:

The first way to understand Abbott's claim is that in any system, the longer you wait, the more often you will see records fall. 
But Lewis points out that the exact opposite is true. 
In a system without any sort of trend, such as a random string of temperatures, the first one will be a record-breaker, by default. 
The second one will have a 50% chance of being a record-breaker. 
The third has a one in three chance of being a record breaker … and so on. 
In a very long temperature series, you should see very few records being broken, and they will break less often over time.
Unless, of course, there is a warming or cooling trend.
Alternatively, Abbott might simply have meant there was no connection between extreme heat records and climate change. 
Instead, natural variability might be to blame: natural variability includes things such as the El Niño phenomenon, which push temperature around year-to-year.
To test if that might be the case, Lewis ran a series of climate models in which the greenhouse effect was removed – so all that was left was natural variability. Unsurprisingly, in those models, high temperature records were less common than they are in reality. In other words, the record-breaking that we have seen cannot be explained by natural variation.
"It drives me mental that these sorts of statements go unaddressed," Lewis says. 
She says scientific literature generally tries to simply explain what is happening, ignoring misunderstandings in the public sphere.
"This was an attempt to bridge that gap."

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Oxford Dictionary of English: "Shouldn't the usage examples in this dictionary reflect that understanding of sexism in language?"

Excerpt from Sexism in the Oxford Dictionary of English by Michael Oman-Reagan at SPACE + ANTHROPOLOGY, 22 January 2016:

The Oxford Dictionary of English is the default dictionary on Apple’s Mac OS X operating system. Anyone using a Mac, an iPad, or iPhone will get definitions
from this dictionary. So why is it filled with explicitly sexist usage examples?  Here are those I’ve found so far.

a rabid feminist”

“the rising shrill of women’s voices

a mysterious “female psyche”

When it comes to a high degree like a PhD, then the example is a man.

Research? That’s also done by men.

A PhD and research might be men’s work, but women can do “all the housework.”

As the Oxford dictionary says in the usage example for “sexism”:

“sexism in language is an offensive reminder of the way the culture sees women.”

Shouldn’t the usage examples in this dictionary reflect that understanding of sexism in language?

A total of 22 million calls to Centrelink went unanswered in 2014-15 - is this part of a deliberate policy?

This is the Turnbull Government on 23 January 2016 trying to convince Australian voters that the only reason that Centrelink calls go unanswered is because of unforeseen circumstances:

More than 22 million phone calls to Centrelink went unanswered in the past financial year, with the welfare agency blaming emergencies and a complex payment system for its worsening performance.

Only 40 million of the 62 million attempts to contact Centrelink by phone in 2014-15 were successful, meaning the agency answered 4 million fewer calls than it managed the previous year.

The proportion of calls being answered has plummeted from 75 per cent in 2013-14 to 64 per cent in 2014-15.

The deteriorating performance comes despite the agency pledging to do more to improve its customer service effort after it was savaged in a mid-2015 report by the Australian National Audit Office, answers to Senate inquiry questions reveal.

Australians spent 143 years waiting in vain to speak to Centrelink in 2013-14, before simply hanging up, the auditors calculated.

Centrelink's key strategy in combating the problems with its telephone service has been to try to divert clients onto its online services, but the system was dogged by mass lock-outs, meltdowns and other glitches during 2015.

Sorry, Turnbull & Co – Centrelink staff gave the game away two years ago when they were freely telling people that soon the only way individuals on pensions and other welfare payments would be allowed to access this federal government agency would be by registering with and accessing information or lodging documents while online.

That phone or face contact would be for unusual circumstances or emergencies only.

This I was told was departmental policy. No ifs and no buts.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Planned Parenthood Federation Of America fights back against & Australia's misogynist-in-chief Tony Abbott flies in to support, anti-abortion extremists

On 14 January 2016 Planned Parenthood Federation Of America, Inc. (PPFA) had finally had enough and filed a complaint in the United States District Court, Northern District Of California, San Francisco Division – alleging a criminal enterprise with the ultimate goal of interfering with women’s access to legal abortion.

“Defendants then went public with a vicious online video smear campaign, releasing a series of YouTube videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood violated federal law related to tissue donation. In fact, these videos were heavily manipulated, with critical content deliberately deleted, and disconnected portions sewn together to create a misleading impression.

According to expert forensic analysis, Defendants “heavily edited the short videos so as to misrepresent statements made by Planned Parenthood’s representatives.” As a consequence, the experts concluded that the videos “cannot be relied upon for any official inquiries” and “also lacked credibility as journalistic products.” [US District Court, Northern District of California, Case 3:16-cv-00236, Document 1, pp3-4]

Excerpt from Planned Parenthood Federation Media Release of 14 January 2016:

The civil lawsuit, filed in San Francisco, outlines how the defendants – including David Daleiden, Troy Newman, Albin Rhomberg, Sandra Merritt, Gerardo Lopez, Phillip Cronin, the Center for Medical Progress, and BioMax – engaged in a complex criminal enterprise to defraud Planned Parenthood and prevent the health care organization from providing preventive and reproductive health services to millions of women and men. The lawsuit charges that CMP, its leaders, and co-conspirators engaged in illegal conduct that includes violating the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO Act) and engaging in wire fraud, mail fraud, invasion of privacy, illegal secret recording, and trespassing.
Over the course of nearly three years, Daleiden, Newman, and other principals used aliases, obtained fake government I.D.s, and formed a fake tissue procurement company, Biomax, in an effort to worm their way into private medical conferences and health care centers. They also illegally taped private professional conversations of doctors and other medical providers and spliced together shards of long conversations to create short videos in order to spread false claims that Planned Parenthood “sells” or profits from women’s decisions to donate fetal tissue for medical research. In fact, Planned Parenthood has never sold fetal tissue or facilitated fetal tissue donation in order to make a profit.

One of the first federal flow-on effects of this alleged “criminal enterprise” was that in August 2015 the heavily Republican-dominated Senate Oversight & Government Reform Committee commenced what can only be described as an inquiry which was openly hostile to the Planned Parenthood Federation.

Interestingly, although this committee sought copies of the pro-life videos it did not actually investigate the allegation that PPFA was selling foetal body parts – it appears to have only examined service delivery figures, financial records and degree of government funding. No finding was made that PPFA had acted unlawfully.

On 8 January 2016 The New York Times reported on the outcome of the U.S. Senate passing a bill to defund Planned Parenthood:

WASHINGTON — President Obama vetoed legislation Friday that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act and stripped all federal funds from Planned Parenthood, writing in his veto message that the measure would “reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America.”
Mr. Obama’s veto — only the eighth of his presidency — was expected, and his decision to issue a simple message without holding a public ceremony indicated that he did not wish to draw attention to the showdown. Republicans do not have the votes in the House or the Senate to override the veto.

On 14 January 2016 The Huffington Post stated:

Multiple investigations by state governments and congressional committees have turned up no evidence that Planned Parenthood violated the law. 

However facts don’t stop online pro-life media such as from continuing to assert the contrary.

Nor did the Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) cease its pursuit of Planned Parenthood as evidenced by this page on its website and a media release on 22 January 2016 which begins:

MADISON, Wis. – An Alliance Defending Freedom public records request has revealed that Planned Parenthood’s Wisconsin affiliate provided researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison with the hearts and brains of unborn babies up to 18 weeks old and within five minutes of being aborted despite the fact that both UW and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin have denied any such exchange.

The revelation comes on the heels of the state Senate’s passage Wednesday of a bill that will significantly restrict tax funding for Planned Parenthood if the governor signs the measure, and comes in the midst of discussion in the Assembly on a bill that would ban research at UW on recently aborted babies.

“Planned Parenthood has once again demonstrated its willingness to cover up its role in the gruesome baby parts trade,” said ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. “Both Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and UW-Madison publicly denied they had any arrangement to supply baby parts from women undergoing abortion to researchers conducting gruesome experiments, but the documents we obtained prove they were not telling the truth.”

According to The New York Times, 11 May 2014:

Alliance Defending Freedom was created by Christian leaders including Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, and James C. Dobson Jr., the founder of Focus on the Family. In the early 1990s the groups had watched with growing dismay as secular groups like the American Civil Liberties Union used the courts to ban school prayer and advance abortion rights even as an emerging gay-rights movement threatened, in their view, to upend the country’s social values.
“People of faith were being outgunned in court,” said Mr. Sears, 62, a Roman Catholic in an organization populated with evangelical Protestants. So the group — then called the Alliance Defense Fund — was founded to foster Christian legal firepower.

Political Reseach Associates states that in 2010 Alliance Defending Freedom was granted United Nations ECOSOC15 special consultative status. This status is significant because it gives them virtually unfettered access to U.N. missions during key convention and treaty-drafting meetings. They advocate face-to-face with delegates and help them develop rights-limiting language for inclusion in U.N. documents

As a registered charity it has built up a war chest in the vicinity of $40 million which appears to be derived primarily from contributions. Some of which are suspected to come from time to time from the tobacco industry, given that by 1996 Phillip Morris appears to have had reason to believe that two of Alliance Defending Freedom's founders Bill Bright and James Dobson were ministers who respected their views.

Given this right-wing group's profile it is not outside the realms of possibility that Alliance Defending Freedom is supported by the Koch Brothers.

As Alliance Defense Fund in 2008 it attempted to provoke a challenge to a law that bars religious organizations and other nonprofits that accept tax-deductible contributions from involvement in partisan political campaigns.

In 2013 as Alliance Defending Freedom it began a court action against Planned Parenthood in Colorado which it subsequently lost in 2014. In the same year it commenced reinstated legal proceedings against  Planned Parenthood in Iowa. In 2015 it successfully sued to have abortion-free healthcare plans created in Rhode Island. In January this year it funded an application to the U.S. Supreme Court to vary Washington state rules relating to the dispensing of birth control drugs to allow pharmacists to refuse these drugs to women and refer them elsewhere. 

Political Research Associates believes that Alliance Defending Freedom has funded and conducted 500 court cases since its inception - not just in U.S. courts, but also in six continents and 41 countries, including Argentina, Belize, Honduras, Mexico,Peru, Slovakia, and India. In 2007 alone it is believed to have spent $3.9 million on direct litigation according to Source Watch.

The American right-wing opposition to a woman's right to choose also has an additional international flavour, with former Australian Prime Minister and current MP for Warringah Tony Abbott, in his relentless pursuit of both money and headlines, flying to America yesterday in an apparent show of support for these right-wing religious extremists.

Abbott is one of three speakers at a dinner with this aim according to Alliance Defending Freedom quoted in The Australian newspaper on 26 January:“the goal of the dinner is to bring together approximately 150 high-level UN-related persons, focused primarily on ambassadors and other high-level diplomats and ministers, to highlight the crucial importance of promoting and protecting the family at the UN. Our overall objective is to inspire and motivate member state representatives, at the highest political levels, to remain staunch defenders of the traditional family, in the face of immense pressure from the UN-system and other member states.’’

Abbott himself appears to have made no public mention of his intention to support this extremist group as there was no media release published on his website as of 26 January and no mention on his Twitter account.

While Abbott was blissfully winging his way to the United States matters were still progressing through the American courts and on 26 January 2016 ABC13 Eyewitness News reported something that sounded suspiciously like Harris County,Texas, karma being visited on two particular individuals named in Planned Parenthood's current Californian lawsuit:

A Harris County grand jury investigating an undercover video of Planned Parenthood found no wrongdoing by the organization, and instead decided to indict the anti-abortion activists involved in making the video.

The grand jury studied the case alleging misconduct by a Planned Parenthood in Houston for more than two months and decided that no laws were broken. However indictments were handed down for two people involved in making allegations against Planned Parenthood.

David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt have both been indicted by the grand jury for Tampering with a Governmental Record. An additional indictment for Prohibition of the Purchase and Sale of Human Organs has been issued for Daleiden.

"We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast," said Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson. "As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case."

The reaction in Australia to Tony Abbott's latest antic has been restrained but pointed in the mainstream media......

The Age, 25 January 2016:

Fresh from giving new hope to disaffected conservative Liberals by staying in federal politics, Tony Abbott will fly to the United States on Tuesday to gee-up one of the religious right's most reactionary bodies, the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Mr Abbott, who is being accompanied by wife Margie, will give a speech on the topic of "the importance of family" to the pro-Christian, Republican-aligned lobby, which opposes abortion, wants to end gay marriage and is pushing to roll back some feminist advances.

The speech comes as the primary race for the presidential nomination approaches fever pitch, with contenders on the Republican side scrambling to secure the overwhelmingly Christian "Tea Party" base.

The Alliance Defending Freedom's founding president, Alan Sears, is a regular conservative voice on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News channel and co-authored the 2003 book, The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Liberty Today.

With Craig Osten, Sears argued that America's growing tolerance of homosexuality was being achieved through the indoctrination of children, tacit support of corporate America, and through "positive" television depictions of alternative family structures.

The ADF has attracted trenchant criticism from the left for opposing "tolerance training" for schools aimed at reducing bullying of LGBTI students. Instead, it proposed "truth days", in which homosexual behaviour was openly discussed as sinful.....

The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 January 2016:

A spokesman for the group told Fairfax Media in a statement that Mr Abbott, who "has been a strong advocate for marriage and freedom throughout his career", had "graciously agreed to address our private event".

But the spokesman declined to explain the nature of the event, say where or when it was to be held, or say if Mr Abbott was being paid for his attendance.

The news came as a US lawyer associated with the group was arrested on child pornography charges, after being accused of taking a teenager across the border to Canada, where they engaged in sexual activity that was then filmed….

The ADF has intervened in the landmark case Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, which opened the door for wealthy corporations and individuals, such as those who have donated huge sums to the ADF, to flood the US political system with money.

The ADF also assisted on a case which affirmed the right of St Patrick's Day Parade organisers to exclude homosexuals and to allow the Scouts to discriminate against gays. One of the most controversial cases involving the ADF was a bill in the Arizona legislature that would have allowed private businesses to discriminate against homosexuals. The bill was so extreme it was rejected by a conservative Republican governor.... 

Tony Abbott's family have been equally restrained...... 26 January 2916:

THE sister of former prime minister Tony Abbott says she is “disappointed” over his plans to address an anti-gay group in the US…..
Christine Forster, Mr Abbott’s youngest sister and a prominent same-sex marriage campaigner, told Fairfax Media she was “surprised”….

Although Alliance Defending Freedom initially espoused seeking to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries it happily avails itself of 21st century digital technology – including an official Facebook page and a Twitter account @AllianceDefends.

So this blog post will be tweeted to Alliance Defends to let its supporters know that Tony Abbott’s world view is not one shared by the majority of Australians and, that even his own political party could no longer tolerate him as Australia’s prime minister.

I also invite readers to consider tweeting their own opinions on the subject to Alliance Defends.