Showing posts with label right wing politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label right wing politics. Show all posts

Friday, 18 October 2019

Seems Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's personal war on the poor and vulnerable may have its roots in the right-wing American culture he so admires


Stricter eligibility requirements when applying for Centrelink benefits, allowances and pensions. Reducing the scope of human intervention in decision making. Automated assessment of ongoing eligibility. Automatic suspension of cash transfers.

Sound familiar? Well it seems that the U.S.A. refined applying punitive measures to the poor and vulnerable long before Australia's right-wing warriors in the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government began their all out class war.

American began limiting eligibility and applying algorithms in the 1970s and 1980s

The Guardian, 14 October 2019: 

All around the world, from small-town Illinois in the US to Rochdale in England, from Perth, Australia, to Dumka in northern India, a revolution is under way in how governments treat the poor. 

You can’t see it happening, and may have heard nothing about it. It’s being planned by engineers and coders behind closed doors, in secure government locations far from public view. 

Only mathematicians and computer scientists fully understand the sea change, powered as it is by artificial intelligence (AI), predictive algorithms, risk modeling and biometrics. But if you are one of the millions of vulnerable people at the receiving end of the radical reshaping of welfare benefits, you know it is real and that its consequences can be serious – even deadly. 

The Guardian has spent the past three months investigating how billions are being poured into AI innovations that are explosively recasting how low-income people interact with the state. Together, our reporters in the US, Britain, India and Australia have explored what amounts to the birth of the digital welfare state. 

Their dispatches reveal how unemployment benefits, child support, housing and food subsidies and much more are being scrambled online. Vast sums are being spent by governments across the industrialized and developing worlds on automating poverty and in the process, turning the needs of vulnerable citizens into numbers, replacing the judgment of human caseworkers with the cold, bloodless decision-making of machines. 

At its most forbidding, Guardian reporters paint a picture of a 21st-century Dickensian dystopia that is taking shape with breakneck speed. The American political scientist Virginia Eubanks has a phrase for it: “The digital poorhouse.” 

As one recipient described it: “You owe what you have eaten.” 

In the UK, we investigate the secure government site outside Newcastle where millions are being spent developing a new generation of welfare robots to replace humans. Private companies including a New York outfit led by the world’s first bot billionaire, are supercharging a process which has spawned a whole new jargon: “virtual workforce”, “augmented decision-making”, “robot process automation”. 

The government is rushing forward with its digital mission despite the pain already being inflicted on millions of low-income Britons by the country’s “digital by default” agenda. Claimants spoke of the hunger, filth, fear and panic that they are enduring.

In Australia, where the Guardian has reported extensively on robodebt, the scheme that has been accused of wrongly clawing back historic debts through a flawed algorithm, we now disclose that the government has opened a new digital front: using automation to suspend millions of welfare payments. Recipients are finding their money cut off without notice.

Read the full article here.

It is not hard to draw a line between Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's admiration for all things Republican and religiously conservative in America and his apparent desire to place all welfare recipients on the Indue Limited cashless debit card before the next federal election in 2022.

Scott Morrison's war on the poor is being expanded under the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management to Cashless Debit Card Transition) Bill 2019 which is currently before the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs which will report to the Australian Parliament on 7 November 2019.

To date no welfare recipients have made submissions to the Senate standing committee on this bill. I suspect that this is due in large measure to the fact that Centrelink in particular has released personal information about welfare recipients who have gone public in the past and, there is anecdotal information that certain recipients who have spoken out publicly about life on the cashless welfare card have been sanctioned in some manner.

Morrison Government accidentally tells us more than it intended about its future plans for more dams?


Eighteen pages of 'talking points' compiled by the Prime Minister's Office were accidentally released to Australian journalists on Monday 14 October 2019.

These talking points predictably blame Labor in a look-over-there-not here manner, continue Scott Morrison's personal war on the poor and vulnerable and refuse to look climate change in the eye.

Interestingly for folks in the NSW Northern Rivers region, these points confirm federal government support for abandoning certain federal/state provisions contained in legislation covering water, environment and biodiversity when it comes to building new dams.

The document also lets the cat of the bag when it reveals a wider purpose behind building a Mole River dam in Tenterfield Shire.

Google Earth snapshot of a section of the Mole River, NSW


The current proposal according the PMO is for a 100,000 megalites dam (basically the size of Karangi Dam in Coffs Habour LGA) which Morrison & Co see as assisting not just Tenterfield Shire but also as potentially useful to southern Queensland (See P.4). Morrison expects this dam to be 'shovel ready' two years from now, in 2021.

Water NSW released an Upper Mole River Dam fact sheet at the same time those errant talking points escaped inot the wild. This has the proposed Mole River dam as between 100 and 200 gigalites (ie., between 100,000 to 200,000 megalitres) and costing est. $355 billion. However, Water NSW does not see this proposed dam being 'shovel ready' until 2024 with dam construction completed sometime between 2026 and 2028.

Morrison's 100,000 megalitre dam would be ample to supply the needs of a NSW shire whose total population is yet to reach 7,000 residents, but is perhaps not entirely adequate to cover the needs of local irrigators into a future which is rapidly heating up and drying out.

So why would this such dam be thought capable of supplying water to southern Queensland and where would the potential additional 100,000 come from?

Water NSW data shows that Mole River catchment annual rainfall was less than 600mm in 13 of the last 18 years and, as Professor Quentin Grafton, water economist, ANU and UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance tells us, at 600mm or less annual precipitation a dam will not fill.

Perhaps the Mole River dam is only meant as a water storage staging post as much of the water capacity is intended to travel elsewhere?

Perhaps Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud are paving the way for a raid on a headwater tributary, the Maryland River, or on the Upper Clarence River itself - in order to forever pipe bulk water to Littleproud's electorate of Maranoa in southern Queensland?

Two local governments in Littleproud's electorate are lobbying hard for permission to pipe Clarence River water to their areas and, after all the Mole River is approximately 79kms as the crow flies from the headwaters of the Clarence River as well as less than 57kms in a direct line from Stanthorpe in Maranoa.


Tuesday, 15 October 2019

"The right to peaceful protest is a cornerstone of our democracy and must not be thrown away for political expediency."


The Daily Examiner, letter to the editor, 9 October 2019, p.13:


Amend or reject
PEOPLE will face more time in jail for peaceful protest than for grievous bodily harm if the government’s Right to Farm Bill becomes law.
The bill provides for three-year prison terms for protesters while the penalty for permanently or seriously disfiguring another person is a maximum of two years. Is this really the sort of society the Coalition government wants us to become?
Under this proposal people as diverse as Wallaby great David Pocock and the knitting nannas could go to jail for making their point peacefully and democratically.
The government claims these dangerous laws are needed to protect farmers from trespassers, but the law already has those safeguards. The irony is that farmers may have the most to lose.
Farmers have led campaigns to save the Pilliga and the Bentley region from coal seam gas and the Hunter, Bylong Valley, Gloucester Valley and the Liverpool Plains from coal.
The right to peaceful protest is a cornerstone of our democracy and must not be thrown away for political expediency.
History tells us that when governments erode the civil liberties of any group, they erode them for us all. This bill must be amended or rejected.
Chris Gambian, Chief Executive, NSW Nature Conservation Council
BACKGROUND
Parliament of New South Wales, Legislative Review Committee, Review Digest, 24 September 2019:
"The Bill significantly increases the maximum penalty for the offence of aggravated unlawful entry on inclosed lands from $5,500 to $13,200 and/or imprisonment for 12 months. The potential penalties rise to $22,000 or three years imprisonment if the offender is accompanied by two or more persons or if s/he does anything to put the safety of any person at serious risk. Large increases in penalties can result in excessive punishment where the penalty is not proportionate to the offence. However, the Committee acknowledges that the penalty increase is designed to better reflect the severity of the offences as well as the impact such offences have on farmers and primary production activities. It is also to account for the risks caused by trespassing on agricultural land and interfering with agricultural equipment and infrastructure.....
The Bill introduces a new offence that applies to those who incite or direct trespass without committing trespass themselves, which could attract a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment. The Committee notes that the creation of new offences impacts upon the rights and liberties of persons as previously lawful conduct becomes unlawful. " 

Monday, 14 October 2019

What if privatisation of Centrelink pension/benefit/allowance cash transfer delivery ends in tears?


It is increasingly evident that Australian Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison eventually intends to place all Centrelink clients on the Indue Limited Cashless Debit Card.

Apparently this policy change comes under the heading of either 'tough love' or 'compassionate conservatism' - whichever term Liberal and Nationals MPs and senators think sounds good at the time - when in reality it is establishing yet another market for poverty profiteers*.

In all the pious and poisonous spin being uttered by those making war on the poor and vulnerable, there has been little said about any government guarantee covering the millions Centrelink regularly deposits with Indue Limited.

What happens to the mandated 80 per cent of a Centrelink client's welfare payment held on the Cashless Debit Card if Indue ceases to trade, trades while insolvent or is placed under administration? 

How many corporate debtors would take precedence over welfare recipients in the distribution of whatever assets Indue had left if it declares bankruptcy?

Would sole parents, the unemployed, students, disability and age pensioners or other recipients ever get back any of the money which has been forcibly retained on these debit cards?

Notes

* See: Bielefeld, Dr. S, Griffith University Law School (2018), Technologising the poor: Cashless Debit Card trials expanding despite no credible evidence regarding positive outcomes  

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government and Indue Limited still haven't ironed the bugs out of the punitive cashless debit card scheme


The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government's Indue Limited cashless debit card trial began three and a half years ago in March 2016 and still neither Centrelink nor Indue have ironed the bugs out of this debit card scheme.

In the current total debit card trial population, 1 in 12 people on the have applied to come off this card by 31 July 2019.

There are reportedly 6,000 people on the cashless debit card trial in regional southern Queensland and some are speaking up.....

ABC News, 8 October 2019:

...some of the people taking part in the trial feel the cashless debit card places unreasonable restrictions on their spending and can even make it more difficult to save.
They said they could no longer buy second-hand goods online, often don't have enough cash for cheaper supermarket food, and the debit card restricts payments to money owing on credit accounts.
"It's definitely made things a lot harder, I've found it harder to budget," Childers resident and single mother Hannah Leacy told 7.30.
"I'm losing out on interest that I could potentially be building up in my savings account if I'd been able to transfer that."
She feels she is being penalised for something she hasn't done.
"I got my first job at Domino's when I was 13, and I've had a job ever since," she said.

"I've been independent up until now, and now at 34, I'm now deemed to be incapable of making appropriate choices, financially.".......
People forced onto the cashless welfare card as part of a trial in the Bundaberg-Hervey Bay area of Queensland say they feel stigmatised and humiliated by the Federal Government.
"I feel like in the Government's eyes I'm a lesser person. In the public's eyes it's much, much worse," Kerryn Griffis told 7.30.
"What have I ever done for the government to treat me this way? To treat thousands of other people this way?

"We've been branded as drug addicts and alcoholics and gamblers and dole bludgers.
"Most of us are just doing the best we can to get by.".....
But for Ms Griffis, the trial feels like a punishment.

"If my partner was to quarantine some of my money and tell me where and when I can't spend it, tell me it's for my own good … people would be screaming financial abuse," she said.
"Why is it OK for the Government to do it?"

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Quote of the Week


"Also last week, Social Services Minister Anne Ruston made the extraordinary claim that raising the Newstart payment would only benefit drug dealers and publicans. The denigration of the poor by the Morrison Government and its supporters shows no sign of easing. Indeed, this past week indicates an escalation in Government propaganda, designed to provoke increasing public hostility and resentment towards the most vulnerable people in our society. There are powerful people both in and outside of government, with platforms provided by various media, whose goal is to humiliate, denigrate and destroy others on the sole basis that they are receiving Newstart."  [Jennifer Wilson writing in Independent Australia, 4 October 2019]

Friday, 11 October 2019

Seems no-one is really happy with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's religious freedom bills


Armed with what appeared to be a sense of personal righteousness, in August 2019 Australian Prime Minister, Liberal MP for Cook and self-proclaimed man willing to "burn" for Australia, Scott John Morrison, released a draft Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 along with the Religious Discrimination (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2019 and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Freedom of Religion) Bill 2019.

Not everyone is happy with the contents of these bills.

For the institutional religions the bills do not go far enough. While for legal academics, industry bodies and human rights agencies these bills go too far. 

This is a selection of views publicly expressed.......

The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 October 2019: 

Australia's Catholic Church says the federal government's draft religious discrimination laws are "problematic" and require major changes to avoid unwanted "lawfare" and ensure religious bodies keep their ability to hire and fire at will. 

The demands from the country's largest church increase the pressure on Attorney-General Christian Porter to go back to the drawing board on a process that started with 2017's religious freedom review by Philip Ruddock. 

In particular, the Catholic Church wants special rights for religious schools to extend to religious hospitals and aged-care facilities, as well as an explicit override of state anti-discrimination laws. 

And despite the special rules for schools, the peak Catholic school body complained the draft law still "does not provide our schools with the flexibility they require" to ensure staff and students adhere to the tenets of their faith. 

The head of the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC), former Labor senator Jacinta Collins, said Australia's 1750 Catholic schools must retain their legal right to hire and fire - and accept students - based on how well a person fit into "the ethos" of the school. That included whether someone was baptised as Catholic, or whether they had undermined the tenets of the faith by publicly entering a same-sex relationship or marriage. 

In a 27-page submission to the government on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli said the laws "require some significant amendment" to properly assist people of faith. 

He stressed religious hospitals and aged-care facilities "must" be included as religious bodies and enjoy the same hiring and firing rights as religious schools, with the Catholic Church the largest non-government provider of healthcare services in Australia. 

The Age, 4 October 2019: 

Religious believers could be free to publicly shame rape survivors under the federal government’s proposed “religious freedom” laws, Victoria’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner has warned. 

Commissioner Kristen Hilton also noted an unmarried woman would be powerless to seek redress if a doctor told her she was “sinful and dirty” for requesting contraception on the basis of a religious conviction. 

The commissioner has warned federal Attorney-General Christian Porter that his proposed new laws, which the government says are designed to protect the rights of people of faith to express their religious views, risks trampling on the human rights of other Australians…… 

Ms Hilton writes in her submission that the religious freedom laws might allow a worker in a health service to go on social media in their own time and denigrate the homosexuality of sexual abuse survivors. 

Another concern for the commissioner is the potential under the proposed laws that a private business or religious group could demand the right to provide sexual health education in government schools and tell children that homosexuality is an illness and that the use of contraceptives is a sin. 

A clause in the draft bill stating that expressions of belief should be protected from anti-discrimination laws could have the effect, Ms Hilton wrote, of "emboldening some people to characterise survivors of sexual assault or rape as being blame-worthy for not being sufficiently modest or chaste."….. 

“But religious expression needs to be balanced against other rights, such as the right to be free from discrimination,” the Commissioner wrote. 

“This bill does not get the balance right. 

“By privileging religious expression, the rights of other people are diminished."  

The Guardian, 4 October 2019: 

Legal academics and the Diversity Council have warned that the Coalition’s proposed religious discrimination bill is unworkable for employers and will thwart policies designed to create safe and inclusive workplaces. 

In a joint submission, the academics warn the bill’s proposed ban on workplace policies regulating religious speech would leave employers in the invidious position of having a duty under occupational health and safety laws to create safe workplaces, but being restrained in their ability to prevent bullying. 

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has warned the bill does not properly define religion, meaning that Indigenous spirituality could be excluded by the common law definition while “esoteric or emerging religions” are protected. 

The draft bill would prevent employers from having codes of conduct that ban religious speech in the workplace or on social media, on the grounds that such a ban would indirectly discriminate on the grounds of religion. The provision exempts large employers only if they can show they would suffer “unjustifiable financial hardship” without the rule. 

The academics’ submission – coordinated by Liam Elphick and Alice Taylor and signed by Professors Beth Gaze, Simon Rice and Margaret Thornton – noted the effect of the section is that religious speech “would have greater protection from employer intervention than any other statement or expression”. 

For example, an employer with a code of conduct banning employees from publicly engaging in controversial political debates would not be able to impose the rule on a religious employee who wanted to oppose marriage equality. A gay employee, however, would be restricted from publicly supporting it. 

“There are also workability issues in how an employer can factually prove that a conduct rule is ‘necessary’ to avoid unjustifiable financial hardship, considering the very high standard required to prove necessity,” the academics said. 

The academics warned the clause exempting religious speech from federal, state and territory discrimination protections would create an “unworkable situation for businesses in regard to employment”. 

“Work health and safety laws impose a positive duty on employers to prevent bullying, and discrimination laws require businesses to provide their services free from discrimination, yet [the exemption] would authorise bullying and discrimination,” they wrote. 

The Australian, 1 October 2019: 

The Anglican Church says the Morrison government’s draft religious discrimination bill contains problems “so serious” it cannot support it in its current form, warning that some groups like Anglicare and Anglican Youthworks may not be protected. 

In its submission to the government, the Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney outlined seven issues to be addressed and called on Attorney-General Christian Porter to expedite the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into laws that impact on religious freedoms. 

Under clause 10, religious bodies “may act in accordance with their faith” and do not discriminate against a person if their conduct may reasonably be regarded as in accordance with their doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings. A religious body that “engages solely or primarily in commercial activities” is excluded. 

Bishop Stead said the explanatory memorandum made it clear religious hospitals and religious aged-care providers would not be considered religious bodies. 

Anglican Youthworks, which charges fees to run “Christian Outdoor Education” programs, could also be disqualified because it engaged in commercial activity.While commending the bill, Bishop Stead said the clause might have a perverse effect. 

The Guardian, 30 September 2019: 

Key provisions of the religious discrimination bill may be unconstitutional because they allow medical practitioners to refuse treatment, and privilege statements of religious belief, an academic has warned. 

Luke Beck, a constitutional and religious freedom expert at Monash University, warned the Coalition’s exposure draft bill may be incompatible with international law and therefore not supported by the external affairs power in the constitution. 

The submission echoes concerns from the Australian Human Rights Commission and Public Interest Advocacy Centre that the bill will licence discriminatory statements about race, sexual orientation and disability on the grounds of religion, and that it privileges religion over other rights. 

What is the religious discrimination bill and what will it do? Read more The bill has been criticised for overriding state and federal discrimination law, including section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which prohibits speech that offends, insults or humiliates people based on race. 

Beck argued the bill provided a “bigger sword” to religious people’s statements of belief than those of non-religious people. Statements of belief can be made “on any topic whatsoever” provided they “may reasonably be regarded” as in accordance with a person’s religious beliefs. 

By contrast, statements of non-belief must deal only with the topic of religion and “arise directly” from the fact the person does not hold a religious belief, the associate professor said.  

Freedom For Faith, undated submission:

The overwhelming concern of faith-based organisations across the country with whom we have spoken is about the effect of the Bill on their religious mission, with particular reference to their staffing policies, but also in relation to other issues. 

Staffing policies in faith-based institutions 

At a meeting in Sydney with a range of faith leaders a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister promised that the law would not take faith groups backwards in terms of protection of religious freedom. The difficulty is that this Bill does, in relation to staffing of faith-based organisations. The issues are existential ones for many faith-based organisations. If the issues are not resolved, this may lead us to conclude that the Bill is better not being enacted. That said, we have every confidence that the Attorney-General will be able to sort the drafting problems out. 

Currently, at least in some States, it is lawful for faith-based organisations to appoint, or prefer to appoint, adherents of the faith without breaching anti-discrimination laws. So for example, a Catholic school may prefer practising Catholic staff, or at least practising members of other Christian denominations. A Jewish school may prefer Jewish staff, and so on. This is no different to a political party which may choose or prefer staff who support the policies of the party, or an environmental group that wants staff who will believe in its mission. Organisations that exist for a particular purpose or are associated, for example, with a particular ethnic group, need to be able to have staffing policies that reflect their purpose and identity. 

This is not a right to discriminate. It is a right to select. And it is just plain common sense. A Church’s childcare centre is not like the Commonwealth Bank or a shop selling bedroom furniture. The childcare centre is part of the mission and ministry of the Church. If it could not insist on employing Christian staff, or at least having a critical mass of Christian staff, it would cease to be a Christian ministry. 

Many faith-based organisations have a strong preference for staff who are practising adherents to the faith, in order to maintain their religious identity and culture. However, larger organisations typically do not make it an inherent requirement of working there, because they need the flexibility to meet their staffing needs without drawing from too narrow a pool......


Neither of these examples cover situations where there is merely a preference to employ practising Catholics or practising Christians more generally. Furthermore, even if a Catholic school or other charity did have a policy of only employing Catholic staff, it would only be lawful if this could reasonably be regarded as in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs and teachings of Catholicism. That may be a difficult test to satisfy in the eyes of a court. The court may find it hard to see how the Catholic school’s preference in terms of employment may reasonably be regarded as being in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of the religion. The school, however, may take the view that it is a necessary implication of their doctrines that they want to maintain a Catholic ethos by having a “critical mass” of believing staff. Whether or not this policy does flow from religious doctrines – it is really about the purpose of having a Catholic school – it would be best if the legislation made it clear that such a policy was not unlawful.

Christian Schools Australia, undated:

In conjunction with the release of this package of Bills the Government narrowed the Term of Reference of the referral to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) of the other aspect of the response to the Religious Freedom Review of interest to Christian schools and deferred the timetable for this review. 

While the substance of the ALRC review remains the same it will now do so in the light of the proposed legislation circulated last week. Rather than releasing a Discussion Paper next week it will now release a discussion paper “in early 2020” with the reporting deadline to Government pushed back from April 2020 to 12 December 2020. Although claimed to “reduce confusion for stakeholders” the amended timeline will require the Religious Discrimination Bill and associated legislation to be finalised BEFORE the discussion paper on proposed amendment to the existing amendments are released. 

CSA is concerned that this will not allow appropriate consultation on the complete package of reforms affecting Christian and other faith-based schools. 

We have raised this with the Attorney-General’s office and will continue to advocate for a more coordinated response to both aspects of the whole package.

Australian Human Rights Commission, 27 September 2019: 

However, the Commission is concerned that, in other respects, the Bill would provide protection to religious belief or activity at the expense of other rights. The Bill also includes a number of unique provisions that have no counterpart in other anti-discrimination laws and appear to be designed to address high-profile individual cases. As a matter of principle, the Commission considers that this is not good legislative practice. As a matter of substance, the Commission considers that this may lead to unintended and undesirable consequences. 

The Commission’s main concerns regarding the Bill are as follows. 

First, the scope of the Bill is overly broad in defining who may be a victim of religious discrimination and, arguably, too narrow in defining who may be found to have engaged in religious discrimination. 

Unlike all other Commonwealth discrimination laws, which focus on the rights of natural persons (that is, humans) to be free from discrimination, the Bill provides that claims of religious discrimination may be made by corporations including religious institutions, religious schools, religious charities and religious businesses. This is a significant departure from domestic and international human rights laws which protect only the rights of natural persons. 

At the same time, the Bill provides that ‘religious bodies’—including religious schools, religious charities and other religious bodies—are entirely exempt from engaging in religious discrimination if the discrimination is in good faith and in accordance with their religious doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings. This is a wide exemption that undercuts protections against religious discrimination, particularly in the areas of employment and the provision of goods and services, and requires further close examination. 

Secondly, the Bill provides that ‘statements of belief’ that would otherwise contravene Commonwealth, State or Territory anti-discrimination laws are exempt from the operation of those laws. Discriminatory statements of belief, of the kind described in clause 41 of the Bill, whether they amount to racial discrimination, sex discrimination or discrimination on any other ground prohibited by law, will no longer be unlawful. The Commission considers that this overriding of all other Australian discrimination laws is not warranted, sets a concerning precedent, and is inconsistent with the stated objects of the Bill, which recognise the indivisibility and universality of human rights. Instead, this provision seeks to favour one right over all others. 

Thirdly, the Commission is concerned about two deeming provisions that affect the assessment of whether codes of conduct imposed by large employers on their employees, and rules dealing with conscientious objections by medical practitioners, will be considered to be reasonable. Unlike all other Commonwealth discrimination laws, the Bill prejudges the assessment of reasonableness by deeming some specific kinds of conduct not to be reasonable. This means that, in those cases, not all of the potentially relevant circumstances will be taken into account. 

Fourthly, those deeming provisions also have an impact on the ability of employers to decide who they employ. The Bill provides that employers may not decide that compliance with a code of conduct that extends to conduct outside work hours, or with rules dealing with conscientious objection, are an inherent requirement of employment, if they would be unreasonable under clause 8. This means, for example, that the narrow deeming provisions about what is reasonable for organisations with an annual revenue of more than $50 million also has an impact on the decisions by those employers about the conditions they may set with respect to employment. 

These four issues, and a range of others relating to all three Religious Freedom Bills, are dealt with in more detail in the body of the Commission’s submission. In revising the Bill, attention needs to be paid not only to its text, but also to the eventual Explanatory Memorandum. At several points the current Notes provide examples and explanations that suggest a very limited scope for religious organisations to retain their ethos and identity, and conversely an expansive scope for suppression of free speech. It is difficult to reconcile these Notes, at various points, with government policy as expressed by the Prime Minister and Attorney-General. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan avoids questions about Coalition Government-Indue Limited's punitive cashless debit card for welfare recipients


Clarence Valley Independent, 2 October 2019:

The latest federal budget underwrote $128.8 million over four years, from 2019-20, to fund the trial rollout of the Cashless Debit Card (CDC), including the provision of “funding to expand the Cashless Debit Card to a fifth site”.
Test areas are located in the Ceduna region in South Australia (from March 2016) and the East Kimberley (from April 2016) and Goldfields (from March 2018) regions in Western Australia.
In January this year, a trial commenced in the Bundaberg / Hervey Bay region in Queensland – the Clarence Valley local government area is statistically much the same as Hervey Bay’s, according to the 2016 census, apart from the valley being home to a larger indigenous population.
“This proposal is expected to have a positive impact on regional Australia by reducing alcohol consumption, illegal drug use, and gambling in communities and providing improved technology for participants subject to welfare quarantining,” the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development website states.
Another Clarence Valley publication recently ran a headline with Page MP Kevin Hogan reportedly saying the implantation of the cashless welfare card is a “no brainer” an described his position as an “impassioned defence” of the CDC.
With the possible rollout of another trial area and the similarity of Clarence Valley LGA’s census data to the Hervey Bay area, the Independent sought Mr Hogan’s thoughts, preparing several questions (with context provided) and putting them in an email, along with an invitation to speak directly about the issue, which Mr Hogan declined.....
Read the full article here.

Australian Home Affairs Minister calls for welfare payments to be stopped for climate change protesters


The six-person protest in Creek Street, Brisbane
Image: Daily Mail
According to an interview with 2GB radio shock jock Ray Hadley, Australian Minister for Home Affairs & Liberal MP for Dickson Peter Dutton is not happy with six climate change protesters belonging to Extinction Rebellion blocking Creek Street, Brisbane, for one hour and forty minutes on Wednesday 2 October 2019.

He also took exception to the fact that the magistrate they appeared before did not record convictions after all six entered guilty pleas.

Of course in the end Dutton sheeted home the blame for this incident to Queensland Labor governments appointing magistrates who were too tolerant of civil disobedience – just as he did in 2016 after Magistrate Trevor Morgan said he would probably be proud if it were his daughter taking part in protest action.

It seems Dutton hasn’t forgotten those protesters who climbed on his electoral office roof in 2016.

The New Daily, 3 October 2019: 

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has called for climate change protesters to be “named and shamed”, jailed and have their welfare payments stopped. 

Warning protesters in Queensland are “putting lives at risk”, Mr Dutton said the fines are not good enough after the activist group Extinction Rebellion caused traffic chaos in Brisbane. 

“The community expectation is that these people are fined or jailed and they should be jailed until their behaviour changes because they are putting lives at risks. They are diverting police and emergency service resources from tasks they should be undertaking otherwise,” Mr Dutton said. 

Speaking on radio 2GB, Mr Dutton was then asked by host Ray Hadley if the protesters should have their welfare payments stopped because they are “bludgers sticking themselves to roads”. 

“Well, I agree, Ray,” he said….. 

Mr Dutton urged people to surveil the protesters and distribute their images. 

“People should take these names and the photos of these people and distribute them as far and wide as they can, so that we shame these people,” Mr Dutton said. 

“They are acting outside of the law. Let their families know what you think of their behaviour.” 

“They keep turning up week after week because a slap on the wrist is just not working.” 

Mr Dutton also called for mandatory sentencing of protesters disrupting traffic and shutting down cities….. 

“But you know raiding farms, climbing on to the roof of my electoral office and then get told by the magistrate he would be proud of her if it his daughter had done it.

The Saturday Paper, 4 October 2019:

A number of Liberal National Party MPs have supported Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s call to strip welfare payments from climate protesters and jail them. Employment Minister Michaelia Cash told The Australian ($): “Taxpayers should not be ­expected to subsidise the protests of others.” Other supporters include ($) Scott Buchholz, the assistant minister for road safety. Their backing comes after Dutton agreed with the 2GB radio host Ray Hadley that welfare payments of climate protesters should be cut and added: “they should be jailed until their behaviour changes”.  The Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, told the ABC that Dutton was starting to “sound more like a dictator than he is an elected politician. Because somebody says something that he doesn’t like, that he doesn’t support, he’s saying we’re going to strip away income support.” Some activists have taken leave from their jobs to protest against government inaction on climate change. The Morrison government is also seeking to require Newstart recipients who fail drug tests to use cashless welfare cards.

Friday, 4 October 2019

And the climate change denying madness continues in New South Wales


All those political donations to the Liberal and National parties seem to be paying off for the Minerals Council of Australia – $28,800 in 2015-16, $50,645 in 2016-17, $88,700 in 2017-18.

Cheap at twice the price if this comes to pass…….

The Guardian2 October 2019:

The New South Wales government is considering legislation that could limit the ability for planning authorities to rule out coalmines projects based on the climate change impact of emissions from the coal once it is burned.

It comes after a campaign from the NSW Minerals Council over decisions that have referenced the impact of “scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions” as a reason for either rejecting a mining project entirely or for imposing conditions on it.

For a coalmine, scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions are from the burning of the coal after it is sold into the market, including overseas.

The planning minister, Rob Stokes, said it was “not appropriate for state governments to impose conditions about emissions policies in other countries”.

He said the government was looking at a range of options, including legislation or a new guideline for how planning authorities should factor scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions into the assessment process.

The recent decisions include the NSW land and environment court’s rejection of the Rocky Hill coalmine in February, which cited the impact the mine would have on climate change, including through the burning of coal in other countries, at a time when “a rapid and deep decrease” in global emissions was urgently needed.

In August, the NSW Independent Planning Commission approved the expanded United Wambo coal project near Singleton but as a condition said the coal could only be exported to countries that have ratified the Paris agreement.

In September the commission rejected the development of a greenfield coalmine in NSW’s Bylong Valley, citing the impact the mine would have on groundwater, agricultural land and on climate change.

The NSW Minerals Council has since launched attack ads that target the planning system for “failing the people of NSW”.

In a statement last week, the council’s chief executive Stephen Galilee said the decision to launch a campaign came after months of “warnings to the minister for planning and others in the government about the risk of the planning system to jobs and investment”.

He said the situation had reached “crisis point” with the Bylong Valley decision.

Stokes said the Minerals Council was one of the stakeholders the government was consulting in its development of a policy on scope 3 emissions.

We are working with key stakeholders, including the federal government, NSW Minerals Council and consent authorities, to develop a clear policy direction as quickly as possible to provide certainty to the community, industry and investors,” he said.

We are looking at a range of options including legislation.”

The consent authorities in this instance include the NSW land and environment court.

But environment groups are warning the government not to bow to pressure from the mining industry. Lock the Gate said the impact of downstream greenhouse gas emissions “is arguably the most complicated, severe and lasting environmental impact of NSW’ export coalmines”.

Lock the Gate coordinator George Woods said the public should also have a say in how planning decisions address the climate consequences of coal developments and that should be done through a public hearing process run by the independent planning commission.

It’s disappointing and frankly dangerous for the planning minister to narrowly consult only with the mining industry on a matter of profound importance like this,” she said.

The mining industry has flexed its political muscle but the government really needs to address the bigger issue and the public sentiment on this.”

Elaine Johnson, the principal lawyer with the Environmental Defenders Office of NSW, which represented Groundswell Gloucester in the Rocky Hill case, said if the government was planning changes to the way planning authorities consider scope 3 emissions, the consultation for that should be broad and include other key stakeholders such as community and environment groups.

The land and environment court, in the Rocky Hill decision, has confirmed that it is entirely appropriate for decision-makers to impose conditions on projects that will contribute to dangerous climate change in a planning context,” Johnson said.

She said that was recognised by the independent planning commission in the United Wambo and Bylong Valley assessments.

We would also say that in 2019 we are making planning decisions in a context which includes advice from the world’s best scientists that we’re approaching a climate emergency,” she said.

If global emissions continue to rise and if serious action is not taken at all levels of government, by communities and business, the impacts of dangerous climate change will be catastrophic.”...... [my yellow highlighting]