Category Archives: Free speech (political)

Gag reflex

Conscripting Babies in the Culture Wars

TONY THOMAS

Red nappies, green nappies — that’s how the progressive Left grooms its social justice warrior babies, a process that begins, as one kiddie-book author asserts, ‘fresh out of the womb’. Join us now at storytime and learn that  ‘A’ is for ‘Activist’, ‘L’ for LGBTQ and ‘T’ stands for for ‘Trans’

radical baby suit IIProgressives are concerned about the “indoctrination gap” which leaves many kids untouched by Green Left ideology. This gap involves the important demographic from birth through to three- and four-year-olds.

From four onwards, the kids are safely captured by state interventions, such as the Victorian Labor government’s political and gender-bending education down to pre-school and kindergarten level. For example, Premier Dan Andrews is now rolling out a $3.4 million program for 4000 educators to eliminate four-year-old boys’ “hegemonic masculinities”.

Closing the gap is under way through radicalising picture-books for toddlers. These include those board-books with hefty cardboard pages. Traditionally their content was of the “My First Colours” kind; the new authors fill them with images of their better society.

The gap-closing has gained momentum from the election of President Trump, to American progressives a near-unthinkable disaster. Some authors’ explicit goal is to raise a new generation programmed to avert any Trump lookalike in coming decades. “We’re going to have to start in utero,” one reviewer says.

feminist baby IIFeminist Baby is by New Yorker and BuzzFeed worker Loryn Brantz. It’s for babies “fresh out of the womb” up to two-year-olds, as she puts it. Published in April and “the perfect baby-shower gift for today’s new parents”, it’s flying off the shelves at Australian bookstores and libraries.

Brantz told Time magazine, “Why not start kids off right away? Hopefully if we raise a whole generation of kids with Feminist Baby and with older books for kids about feminism and activism, something like this [Trump’s election] will never happen again.” Brantz is marketing the book with comics aimed at adult buyers. In these, “Feminist Baby serves as an under-age heroine bent on smashing the patriarchy and subverting tired traditions like the ‘gender reveal’ [that is, binary male or female].” In one panel, Feminist Baby punches Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who is dressed as a Nazi.

Brantz started to write the book pre-Trump, but obviously, “his administration is complicit in oppressing women of all shapes, sizes and colors”, which is why her book is so very important. Feminist Baby “is decidedly the one we need right now”, says another reviewer. “She’s here smashing your patriarchy, speaking her truths, and not taking anybody’s crap.”

Feminist Baby’s first words (tongue in cheek) are “Gender is a social construct.” In Brantz’s world, the feminised cradle-dweller “lives how she wants and doesn’t let the patriarchy keep her down”:

Feminist Baby chooses what to wear
and if you don’t like it she doesn’t care! 

When it’s snowing, let’s hope she doesn’t choose sandals.

And do it tough, Dads. If you coo to Feminist Baby that she’s beautiful, the infant swipes back, “And I’m smart and capable too!”

Another reviewer says presciently that the book should “imbue your tiny tot with all of the important characteristics necessary for her (or him) to become a lifelong, probably insufferable, feminist”.

Brantz sees toddlers’ books opening a cot conversation about “intersectionality and feminism”. (No, I don’t know what intersectionality is either.)

Another such author is Innosanto Nagara, whose book for children up to three years old A is for Activist has sold 50,000-plus copies. He’s “calling children and parents to action” on things like social justice and immigration. His board book is “unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for”.

A is for Activist came out for in 2013 and was re-issued for over-fives last November. “I love reading this to my nine-month-old,” gushes one mum. Writes another, “Never too early to get progressive thoughts brewing in little minds.”

Nagara lives and works at an artists’ social-justice collective in Oakland, California, comprising five families. He helped raise seven children there before introducing his own infant to concepts like transsexualism. He had no experience with kids’ books, but crowd-funded $4000 for a home-brew edition of 3000 before Seven Stories Press took it up.

The typical family buyers are “unflinching progressives” who go on anti-war marches, and put up gay-marriage signs in their front windows. He says, “This family understands that even a two-year-old can appreciate a word like ‘camaraderie’ … It’s pretty awesome to hear a three-year-old saying ‘union power’.”

Nagara draws parallels between the oppression by the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia in 1977 and “Trump’s America”. He’s had earnest discussions with his now six-year-old son about the presidential election “and what we’re going to do between elections, given the outcome”.

This essay appears in the current edition of Quadrant.
Subscribe now. We need your support more than ever

A reviewer suggests that families that have endured war, discrimination, repression and hardship have had to find ways to talk to their children about their traumas. Likewise, Trump’s election is another “difficult subject” to relate to toddlers without generating fear and despair.

Nagara’s first draft included, for “A”, “Actively Acting Against Atrocities”. Atrocities are just what toddlers need to know about. “C” was “Comrades Countering the Corporate Vulture”, later toned down to omit the “Comrades” reference. “L” was also toned down from “Lesbian and Gay. We’re here to stay.”

A is for Activist is nothing short of a masterpiece for the newly literate, writes queer reviewer Lindsay Amer. Her bio says, “When she’s not completely overwhelmed by adulthood, she’s probably plotting ways to overthrow the patriarchy while playing her ukulele.”

Author Naomi Klein, who wants grass-roots campaigns to overthrow capitalism, proclaims the book “Full of wit, beauty, and fun!” Try “Q” for such wit, beauty and fun: “Q is for Question. Querying coercion. Querying Qualities counter false assertions.”

The book starts, “A is for Activist. Advocate. Abolitionist [?]. Ally. Actively answering A call to Action. Are you An Activist?”

“C”, as amended, reads: “C is for Co-op. Cooperating cultures. Creative Counter to Corporate vultures.” Any baby enjoys a debate about incorporated vulture-like entities versus unincorporated mutuals.

“D” mystifies me. “Little d democracy. More than voting, you’ll agree. Dictators Detest it. Donkeys Don’t get it. But you and me? We Demand equality.” The own-goal here is that the illustration shows a blue donkey butting heads with an aggressive red elephant. Nagara seems unaware that the donkeys (that “Don’t get Democracy”) signify Democrats and the elephants signify Republicans.

A second howler is at “N”, not a bad score for a small board book. “N is for NO. No! No! No! Yes to what we want. No to what must go. No! No! No!” All well and good, except the illustration shows one kid holding up a sign, “NO war”, and another kid, “NO justice. NO peace.” Some mistake, surely?

Gender arrives in execrable doggerel. “L-G-B-T-Q! Love who you choose, ’cuz love is true! Liberate your notions of Limited emotions. Celebrate with pride our Links of devotion.”

t pageBy “S” we have a plug for solar power, contrasted with “Silly Selfish Scoundrels Sucking on dinosaur Sludge. Boo! Hiss!” Then “T” is for Trans … Trust in The True. The he, she, They, That is you!”

“X” is a stretch for Nagara, who settles on Malcolm X (Nagara is totally fluent in English after decades in the USA). “Remember Parks. Remember King. Remember Malcolm. And let freedom ring!” Reality check: Malcolm X, at twenty-one, was sentenced to ten years for burglary. On release he helped launch a black Muslim separatist movement, which was riven by infighting. In 1965 he was shot fifteen times by three disgruntled members of the Nation of Islam. Toddlers may wonder at Malcolm X’s relevance to their daily round of Play School, naps and Teletubbies.

With “Z”, Ragara’s desperate solution is “Z is for Zapatista. Of course.” Of course, indeed. The illustration shows an angry young man in a black hood with a horizontal eye-slit. He looks more like a rent-a-rioter for Berkeley campus than a Mexican rebel. A balaclava wearer doesn’t seem a good note on which to settle in a two-year-old for the night.

Politicisation aside, Nagara’s book is incompetent in any literary sense. Rhymes don’t rhyme. Lines don’t scan. The language level and content baffle adults, let alone toddlers.

His latest book is Counting on Community. Number 8, for example, is “Eight picket signs showing that we care”.

Pity these people don’t care about their offspring. In all my explorations, not once did I find a progressive wanting to leave kids to be kids.

Tony Thomas’s book of Quadrant essays, That’s Debatable: 60 Years in Print, is reviewed in the June edition.

 

Advertisements

Hillary’s Shameless Media Shills

Two political conventions, two grieving parents, two very different presentations of their respective stories. Khizr Khan used the death of his son to lambast Donald Trump and was hailed for his bravery. Patrica Smith directed a similar change against Hillary and was attacked for her partisanship

hillary boredThe mainstream media, let alone the ABC, no longer even pretends it is providing an unbiased coverage of the presidential quests of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

As a case study in partisan journalism, this piece will look at media coverage of Khizr Khan, the Muslim father whose soldier son, Humayun, was killed in Iraq in 2004 while defending his squad. Then, by way of contrast, I’ll  examine the attention given to bereaved mother Patricia Smith, who opposes Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House. Patricia who, you ask? Exactly! You have likely never heard of her, as she is definitely not part of the media narrative — despite, or because — her son was killed by terrorists who attacked the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi in 2012 during Hillary’s term as Secretary of State. So here we go…

There are not many positive things the media can find about Hillary. Number one, she’s the first female presidential nominee. Second, horrible people call her names like “bitch”[i] and “lock her up”. Third, err, see 1 and 2.

Her term as Obama’s Secretary of State from 2009-13 was marked by endless disasters, such as the premature US pullout from Iraq (2007-11),  IRS targeting of conservatives for tax audits (2010-12), and Al Qaeda’s sacking of the US consulate in Benghazi. Her successes? Hmm. I’ll get back to you.

As icing on Hillary’s rancid cake, there was her use of a private email server for State business and her official connivance in the money-making corruptions of husband Bill, who has enhanced the couple’s wealth by  $US150 million-plus since 2001 (such as taking $US500,000 from Moscow for a speech in 2010 concurrent with Hillary’s department approving a Russian takeover of US uranium resources). By a further coincidence, Hillary clean forgot her undertaking to Obama to disclose $US2 million-plus  gifts to the Clinton Foundation from those uranium interests.

Hillary’s record is therefore of no interest to the mainstream media. Instead they focus on the latest gaffe or infelicity of her Republican rival, Donald Trump. Trump is dubbed a racist, violence-promoting, dangerous fool.  Like the magicians who distracts his audience’s attention with a waved handkerchief, the object is to distract the audience — America’s voters — from what’s actually important.

This month the story was all about how Trump, on July 30, disparaged the parents, particularly the silently grieving mother, of the  (genuinely) brave  Captain Humayun Khan. ABC TV continues to wallow in Schadenfreude about Trump’s boorishness. Cut to visual of Captain Khan’s headstone in Arlington cemetery. Cut once again to father Khizr Khan giving Trump that serve at the Democrat National Convention in mid-July. Hillary would never sink so low as to disparage the parents of a dead patriot, was the ABC’s unstated premise.  And yes, even conservative ABC viewers probably found Trump’s behavior (as distilled by the ABC)  indefensible, ungracious and discomfiting.

But it’s never smart for conservatives to drop their guard. The media’s specialty is removing the context and failing to tell the whole truth, even when not telling actual, outright lies.[ii]

So let’s unpack the Trump vs bereaved Muslim parents controversy, and see what really emerges.

About 100,000 Muslims immigrate to the US each year. After the  San Bernardino shooting of 36 people by an Islamist couple last December, Trump proposed a temporary ban on Muslim would-be immigrants “until we can figure out what the hell is going on”. He subsequently and continually refined the idea of allowing re-entry of obviously “good” Muslims, such as US servicemen and those hailing from US allies such as the UK, and he redefined the proposed ban to involve only immigrants from nations “tied to Islamic terror” or those with a “proven history” of anti-Western terrorism. Grey areas include countries like France and Spain with their large Muslim populations. Note that Trump targets new  Muslim would-be  immigrants and has never proposed retrospective action against existing Muslim immigrants now resident in the US.

Two years ago a plan such as Trump’s would have been highly controversial, but Islamic barbarities in the West have escalated — the recent mass slaughter in Nice and throat-slitting of an elderly priest near Rouen last month being the but two of the most recent examples. Hence Trump’s proposed banning new Muslim arrivals, [1]pending a tougher screening regime, is no longer beyond the pale as a rational response to terror.

However, “progressives” have distorted Trump’s idea to mean that he would have excluded every decent/innocent Muslim ever to immigrate in the past.[iii] The argument is like saying that someone in early 1939 who called for the banning of German (including Nazi) immigrants, would have banned and/or expelled all German immigrants of the 1920s and 1930s.

Bereaved  father Khizr Khan not only waved his son’s shroud to assembled Democrat conventioneers, but did so in the context of a fiery attack on Trump and a call to elect Hillary as the candidate of love, amity and decency.

Khan told the convention,

“Tonight, we are honored to stand here as the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, and as patriotic American Muslims …

Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son “the best of America.” If it was up to Donald Trump, he [Humayun] never would have been in America.

Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims…. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country.

Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? …[In fact, the constitution does not bar the US from discriminating against would-be immigrants based on their religion].

Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities.

You have sacrificed nothing and no one.

We can’t solve our problems by building walls and sowing division. We are Stronger Together.[iv]

And we will keep getting stronger when Hillary Clinton becomes our next President.” 

Khizr Khan concluded by imploring all US immigrants to vote for Hillary, “the healer, not the divider”.

Thus provoked, Trump responded,

  • “I’d like to hear his wife [Ghazala Khan]  say something” (implying that such Muslim women are kept subservient – Ghazala responded that she was too grief-stricken to speak);
  • Khan’s speech was scripted by the Democrats (Khan denied that);
  • He, Trump, had made sacrifices for the country as a business person employing thousands; and
  • Radical Islamic terrorism requires counter-measures.

Trump honored the dead soldier and included respectful remarks about Khizr: “He looked like a nice guy to me,” but pushed back against Khizr’s accusations. Mainstream media went into paroxysms of indignation at Trump, omitting the context that Khizr Khan had done his utmost to offend Trump and promote Hillary.

At the start of this piece I mentioned pro-Trump Mrs Patricia Smith. She’s the mother of Sean Smith, one of the four  US embassy staffers who were murdered in Benghazi.  Hillary, as I noted, was Secretary of State at the time and ultimately responsible for the safety of US staff abroad. The run-up to the Benghazi assaults is not easy to summarise but includes

  • Despite President Obama’s clear orders to deploy military assets, nothing was sent to Benghazi, and nothing was en route to Libya when the last two Americans were killed almost 8 hours after the attacks began.
  • A US Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) sat on a plane in Rota, Spain, for three hours, and changed in and out of their uniforms four times.
  • With Ambassador Stevens missing, the White House convened a two-hour meeting at 7:30pm, which resulted in “action items” — the spin fed to the press — that focused on a locally-made anti-Islamic YouTube video.[v]

This was all unfortunate, but what is Patricia Smith’s specific beef with Hillary? Well, her accusation was that Hillary was not just responsible for Sean’s death. But standing by the son’s very coffin, Hillary had lied to the grieving mother that the video had provoked the Benghazi mob. These hotheads, Hillary claimed, spontaneously rioted against the US installations in Benghazi. Smith’s case is that Hillary knew at the time, as proved by a subsequently revealed email to  daughter Chelsea on the night of the attack, that the waves of assaults were planned and executed by al Qaeda-like forces.

Moreover, Hillary’s lie beside Sean Smith’s casket was overheard by other parents who lost children in Benghazi. So Smith took the stage at the Republican convention a week before Khizr Khan’s appearance at the Democrats’ gathering, and, in tears, had this to say:

“…The last time I talked to Sean, the night before the terrorist attack, he told me, ‘Mom, I am going to die.’

All security had been pulled from the embassy, he explained. And when he asked why, he never received a response.

Nobody listened. Nobody seemed to care.

The very next day, he was murdered by radical Islamic terrorists…

That night, we lost sons, brothers, fathers, and husbands.

We lost four brave Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country they chose to serve.

And, the American people lost the truth.

For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton.

I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son.

In an email to her daughter shortly after the attack, Hillary Clinton blamed it on terrorism.

But when I saw Hillary Clinton at Sean’s coffin ceremony, just days later, she looked me squarely in the eye and told me a video was responsible.

Since then, I have repeatedly asked Hillary Clinton to explain to me the real reason why my son is dead. I’m still waiting.

Whenever I called the State Department, no one would speak to me because they say I am ‘not a member of the immediate family.’…

How could she do this to me? How could she do this to any American family? 

Donald Trump is everything Hillary Clinton is not…And, when it comes to the threat posed by radical Islamic terrorism, he will not hesitate to kill the terrorists who threaten American lives…This entire campaign comes down to a single question. If Hillary Clinton can’t give us the truth, why should we give her the presidency?”

So how did Hillary respond to Smith’s accusation? She more or less called Smith a liar (emphasis added).

CLINTON: “… I certainly can’t even imagine the grief that she has for losing her son, but she’s wrong. She’s absolutely wrong. I and everybody in the administration… we were scrambling to get information that was changing literally by the hour, and when we had information, we made it public. But then sometimes we had to go back and say we have new information that contradicts it. So I testified [to congressional inquiries] for 11 hours… and when it was over, the Republicans had to admit they didn’t learn anything…[vi] And this is not the first time we lost Americans in a terrorist attack…At no other time were those tragedies politicizedInstead people said, let’s learn the lesson and save lives. That’s when I did.” (My emphases).

Note that Hillary dismisses Smith’s accusation in blanket terms, dodging all the specifics and then going off on a tangent.

How did the media react to Smith? With a classic pack attack. She was guilty of “extreme overreach”, “scary” stuff, “really disturbing” [i.e. reprehensible]  and  “a new crossing of a line and an ugly degradation of a norm in American politics.” The Republicans, by promoting Smith, were being both “exploitative” and “irrelevant”.

Fact-checker Politifact rushed to defend Hillary, tweeting, “Smith has said Clinton lied to her about Benghazi, but it’s not completely clear just what Clinton said.” Politifact further claimed, “No one recorded these brief meetings behind closed doors. Family members and Clinton disagree on what was said. Especially given the emotional setting, memories — both Clinton’s and the families’ — might be fuzzy.”

Sorry, but Smith heard the words, as did several other bereaved Benghazi parents. Politifact then tried to argue that, even if Hillary did blame the video, she might have believed, genuinely believed, the video was the culprit. This meme is regularly run when Hillary is caught out lying; she just made (yet another) “honest mistake”.

This week Pat Smith and another bereaved Benghazi parent, Charles Woods, filed a wrongful death lawsuit  against Hillary Clinton. They claim that Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server contributed to the attacks by, highly probably, exposing Benghazi embassy routines to hackers. They also accuse her of defaming them in public statements.

FBI head James Comey, in announcing last month the findings of the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s private e-mail server, said it was “possible that hostile actors gained access” to it but there was no direct evidence of that. A Clinton spokesman said that nine different Benghazi investigations had cleared Hillary Clinton.

By now readers should have a solid grasp of how the mainstream media is operating in this US presidential campaign, and how media “truthiness” is neither  truth nor the whole truth. The US public is wising up to the media spin, and that’s why Trump is getting a good shot at winning the presidency.

Tony Thomas’s new book of essays, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, is available here

 


[i] Julia Gillard likewise gained victim-of-sexist-attacks status when her stature as Prime Minister fell to pieces

[ii] The ABC 7.30 footage of an Aboriginal child detainee in a spit-hood is a classic context-free message, as Prime Minister Turnbull has discovered to his embarrassment.

[iii] Pauline Hanson has been attacked thus for her similar proposed ban, with Q&A rabble-rouser Khaled Elomar, for example, demanding to know why his 11yo son is worried by Islamaphobia.

[iv] “Stronger together” is a Hillary  campaign slogan.

[v] The low-budget, amateur trailer entitled “Innocence of Muslims,”  for a never-shown film, portrays Muhammad as a womanizer who approved of pedophilia. The trailer’s author Mark Basseley Youssef,   an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian, was arrested and charged with violating terms of his probation, including making false statements regarding his role in the film and his use of the alias “Sam Bacile”.

He got  a year in prison.

[vi] The Republican-dominated report in fact concluded that Clinton and the Obama administration  should have realized how endangered U.S. outposts in Libya were and done more to protect them. Rep. Jim Jordan (OH) said:

“Obama Administration officials, including the Secretary of State, learned almost in real time that the attack in Benghazi was a terrorist attack. Rather than tell the American people the truth, the administration told one story privately and a different story publicly.”

COMMENTS [10]

  1. denandsel@optusnet.com.au

    The media is unlikely to ever be part of the solution to the political ailments of western society, it is the major problem. When Lenin quipped that – “when we come to hang the capitalists they will queue to sell us the rope” – he didn’t realise how accurate his ‘joke’ would be. The media in Australia [and most of the western world] is the ‘rope’ by which freedom and free people are being hung. The mock outrage at minor events gaining headlines when civilisation stopping actions are ignored is all too common in the media world wide which is dominated by leftists.
    For example, ISIS publicly beheading people, or killing people with a truck in Nice is less newsworthy than is worry about the ‘Islamophobia’ which might occur in Australia [but hasn’t occurred yet, and most probably won’t]. Remember how the media led by the ABC made Tony Abbott daring to look at his watch or speak publicly to people who are ‘non approved’ as being a bigger crime than mass sex attacks in Cologne or Rotherham [or numerous other places].
    If there was a method available of effectively taxing leftist hypocrisy in the media, then even Wayne Swan might have been able to deliver his mythical budget surplus.

  2. Ian MacDougall

    Trump or Clinton?
    Gee, that’s hard.
    A couple of days ago, Trump suggested that he expected that Hillary Clinton might be assassinated due to the threat she allegedly poses to the Second Amendment and the right it confers on all all US citizens to tote hardware for national and personal defence purposes.

    (CNN) It’s come to this. Donald Trump said on Tuesday that his opponent Hillary Clinton “wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks.” Trump followed his claim, which was not supported by any source or proof, with a not-so-veiled suggestion, adding, “although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is.”
    For years fringe figures on the right have spoken of “Second Amendment solutions” in ways that leave little doubt they are talking about people using their guns to solve political problems… 

    (Note, this is from CNN; not the Guardian or some other suspicious source in need of delousing and depongification in the interests of informational purity.)
    In that speech, Trump set a new benchmark for political irresponsibility. I venture to suggest that if Clinton had suggested the same ‘solution’ for the problems posed by Trump, there would have been howls for her blood, posses and vigilante gangs forming up; and when the lead started to fly a whole lot of unintended victims of the national gun culture. Which of course, would have been nothing all that special.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/09/opinions/trump-second-amendment-falsehoods-dantonio/

    • Ninderthana

      Ian MacDougall does not seem to be aware of:

      http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/08/10/trump-rejects-claims-advocated-violence-against-clinton-with-2nd-amendment-comment.html

      quote:

      But Trump, in an interview with Fox News’ “Hannity,” denied he was suggesting this.

      “This is a political movement,” Trump said. “This is a strong powerful movement, the Second Amendment. Hillary wants to take your guns away. She wants to leave you unprotected in your home.

      “And there can be no other interpretation,” Trump said of his remarks. “I mean, give me a break.”

      • Ian MacDougall

        Ninderthana:

        Well, Trump is definitely wrong there: there can be at least one other interpretation, which is the one the media and the gentleman identified below have drawn.
        From your link:

        Michael Hayden, the former CIA director who has come out against Trump, also said on CNN: “If anybody else had said this, they’d be out in the parking lot in a police wagon being questioned by the Secret Service.”
        An agency spokesperson told Fox News, “The Secret Service is aware of the comment,” but would not say whether an investigation had been launched.

        The most generous interpretation is that yet again, Trump has shot himself in the foot thanks to his innate irresponsibility. With anybody else it is possible to give him the benefit of any doubt. But this is a man who seeks to become the most powerful man in the world, in charge of an arsenal capable of the total destruction of the whole planet.
        If he was running for local dog catcher there would still be problems, (dog catchers must retain a cool head as they go about their work) but they would be manageable.

    • MalW

      While I agree that the Guardian and many other suspicious sources are in need of delousing, the Clinton News Network has a strong reputation for untruth, injustice and the Leftist way.

      • Ian MacDougall

        So ‘MalW’: Can we take it that only those sources favouring Trump can be trusted? But a bit of a self-serving condition, wouldn’t you say?

  3. Homer Sapien

    Khan should apologize to Trump as I see it.

  4. Patrick McCauley

    Nevertheless ….. it does seem that the populations of America, Britain, Europe, Australia – the western world .. are profoundly divided. Apart from the violence and slaughter that is being perpetrated by the enemies of the western world ..we are also close to violence within. To many, it seems that we are approaching a point of no return – between ‘the progressives’ and the ‘conservatives’ – It may not be too long before someone from either side fires a gun over one of the many issues that divide us. Likely it will be over something really stupid (say, Safe Schools or a carbon tax) … or something existential .. like immigration or Islamic terrorism. In this tinderbox … Trump should choose his words carefully … and the media should be held responsible for its over interpretations.

  5. MalW

    Someone on WUWT pointed out that the US candidates are bad and worse (not dissimilar to our recent election). The key difference is that if Clinton gets in, the media will ensure that no amount of incompetence, nepotism, cronyism or lying, for which she is rightfully famous, will result in her impeachment. The Donald, on the other hand, can be given the flick after his first major stumble. Sounds like a better bet to me.

    • Ian MacDougall

      As ‘The Donald’ is unable to get through a day without a serious gaffe, “his first major stumble” will probably be in his inauguration speech: that is if he manages to flounder his way over the finishing line in this presidential contest.
      Q: What is he trying to hide in his tax return?

Hundreds More Reasons to Detest 18C

The law that makes it an offence to ruffle the sensitive tends to get headline attention only when a high-profile target, such as Andrew Bolt, is dragged before the courts. The truth is that it is deployed often — it’s just that we don’t hear about those cases, or of their legal costs and settlements

18c logo IIIPeople think Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act has only really caught Andrew Bolt, plus a few luckless students and staff at Queensland University of Technology. Not so. Right now the Human Rights Commission (HRC) is considering eighteen more complaints – a fact elicited by the Institute of Public Affairs via a Freedom of Information request. And in the past six years, as we now know, aggrieved citizens have lodged a stunning 832 complaints.

This extraordinary data was disclosed today (April 28) by IPA Policy Director Simon Breheny at the launch in Carlton of a new Connor Court book on Section 18c: No Offence Intended: Why 18C is Wrong (270pp, $29.95). The authors are Murdoch University trio Joshua Forrester (Ph.D candidate), Lorraine Finlay, (lecturer in constitutional law), and Dr Augusto Zimmerman (senior lecturer in constitutional law and a WA Law Reform Commissioner). For those who need reminding, Section 18C makes unlawful any act reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people because of race, colour, nationality or ethnicity.

Breheny said the QUT case involved legalized extortion, secret legal proceedings, and the pursuit of left wing political aims using the federal court system.

“The complainant is Cynthia Prior. Ms Prior was a university administrator at QUT until she decided she simply couldn’t work any more for fear of being offended. The basis of her distress were a number of remarks  made online by QUT students, including the factual statement by one student that Indigenous-only computer labs were an example of ‘QUT stopping segregation with segregation’.

“Three respondents have each handed over $5000 to make the issue go away. But the case continues for the remaining respondents. But this complaint is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Mr Prior, whose trauma must be extreme indeed, wants $247,570.52 compensation.

Breheny was asked how much the current 18 complaints emanated from Muslim, Aboriginal and Jewish complaints. He said he considered race and religion to be irrelevant to the issue. But from a back-of-envelope tabulation, he noted complainants include Lebanese (1), Pakistani (1), Sinhalese (1), Indian (3), Australian (8), Chinese (1), and non-specific Asian (1), “dark-skinned” (1) and uncategorized (1).

“The progress of these complaints ranges from an acknowledgement to a final response following conciliation at the commission,” he said. “Details of these complaints are not made public. The documents provided to the IPA under FOI are heavily redacted. They include some basic procedural information, dates, and the race of the complainant but none of the conduct which forms the basis of the complaint.

“The conciliation process within the commission is shrouded in secrecy.  HRC Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane admitted this last year: ‘To give you a sense of how the law currently operates, last financial year the Commission received 440-odd complaints [including s18c complaints]. Only about 3% of those complaints ended up in proceedings before a court.’”

Breheny says, “That means that 97% of all complaints are dealt with behind closed doors. Only in 3% of cases, where the matter is not resolved at conciliation, is the public ever made aware of the details of a complaint.

“Why is this relevant? Because had it not been for the QUT complaint advancing from conciliation to litigation, the public would never have known the extent to which s18C threatens freedom of speech. And without transparency around the conduct, the public doesn’t have the opportunity to assess the practical operation of the law.

“Many people, including the former Prime Minister (Abbott), have made the mistake of believing that S18C cases are aberrations.[i] But the HRC’s own statistics show S18C has restricted freedom of speech in hundreds of cases over the last six years alone.

“Malcolm Turnbull would do well to learn from the lessons of Tony Abbott’s time as prime minister in taking the leadership of the Liberal Party. Turnbull promised to lead a ‘thoroughly liberal government’. In line with that statement, Turnbull should make the case for freedom of speech to his colleagues and the public, and recommit to the repeal of S18C.”

In their  book No Offence Intended, the authors argue that s 18C is not only philosophically wrong, but also unconstitutional.  They note that there is no international human right not to be offended or insulted, and that s18C is so broad and sweeping that it infringes the implied freedom of political communication found in the Australian Constitution.

At the launch, co-author Lorraine Finlay said that Section 18C was having a real impact on public debate in Australia.  “Because of laws like Section 18C, certain topics are now off the table.  You can’t talk about them for fear of being sued.  What is worse is that this law doesn’t even achieve what it’s meant to.  We’ve had Section 18C for over twenty years now and all that it has proved is that banning supposedly racist speech doesn’t actually help to stop racism at all.”

Footnote: The QUT case involved three students entering a vacant  Aboriginals-only computer lab and being told to leave by Ms Prior because they weren’t Indigenous. Various students then commented on a QUT Facebook, including

# “I wonder where the white supremacist computer lab is…today’s your lucky day, join the white supremacist group and we’ll take care of your every need”

# A QUT lecturer wrote: “It seems a bit silly to kick someone out of an indigenous computer lab  for not being indigenous when there are computers not being used” and queried whether Prior was in breach of QUT anti-discrimination policy  by asking the students whether they were indigenous.

# Another student wrote that the lab was “more retarded than a women’s collective”

# Another wrote: “My Student and Amenity Fees are going to furbish rooms in the university where inequality reigns supreme? I believe if we have to pay to support these sorts of places, there should be at least more created for general purpose use, but again, how does these sorts of facilities support interaction and community within QUT? All this does is encourage separation and inequality. The psychology of living in the past is dangerous, and these ‘disadvantaged’ people will only stay in their given ‘seat’ in society iif that situation is reinforced.  There is a hypocrisy and bureaucratic taint in all attempts at making ‘special’ things for people who are ‘deemed unequal’ in order to ‘help make tem equal’. If you deem them unequal, well those poor bastards have no hope now. You’ve tainted them. I think the worst thing to do to a human is to tell them they’re unequal. They will forever doubt their integrity and ability.”[ii]

Tony Thomas’s own Connor Court book, “That’s Debatable…60 Years in Print” will be launched at Gambero’s, 166 Lygon St, Carlton, 6.30pm Thursday May 19. Buy it here


[i] Abbott writes in the May edition of Quadrant that his failing to repeal S18C was a significant reason for his loss of office. He wrote, “S18C is clearly a bad law. Our debates should be polite  but they should never be guaranteed not to offend. With hindsight, I should have persisted with a simpler amendment along the lines of Senator Bob Day’s later private members’ Bill.”

[ii] Forrester, J et al, No Offence Intended. Connor Court, 2016 p 180-182

COMMENTS [6]

  1. acarroll

    I don’t see there being any real chance of 18C being removed. The ethnic lobbies, especially the powerful and connected ones, are all for it for very practical reasons — it’s beneficial to their group strategy.

    Ain’t multiculti just dandy!

  2. ianl

    > With hindsight, I should have persisted with a simpler amendment …

    Abbott’s comment. Note the self-serving use of the word “hindsight” … pathetic. Foresight is accurate here; he had the chance and squibbed it. He won’t even list here the names of the slippery little groups that whispered in his ear to keep 18C. He should list them openly, without omission or sympathy. Never happen of course – politicians are genetically incapable of truth.

    • Mr Johnson

      Yeah, Abbott got some re-eeeaallly bad advice here. Someone, somewhere, said to him that he could attract the Muslim vote by avoiding making any changes to 18c. But also, the Jewish lobby came out hard against modifications. The moment was there, and now its gone, like you say, probably for good.

  3. Tony Thomas

    Comment from James Hargrave:
    As a natural contrarian I helped financially and, I like to think emotionally, a young man in old South Wales who, in drink, had written some impolitic things on ‘Facebook’ or one of these damned things, received abuse, returned the abuse and then been convicted and imprisoned (2 months nominal) for a ‘racially aggravated public order’ offence’ (had a publicity-milking ‘district judge’. i.e. a stipendiary magistrate). He was drunk i/c a smart phone, as far as I could tell. Crass comments and his invective lacked style. But most appalling were the threats (inc. arson) that his family received – mother was off work with the nerves for a month or two. ‘Ordinary’ family, rugby (union) mad, from an erstwhile mining town at the mouth of the Rhondda. His local rugby club, for which he had played and, as far as I could gather, which multiple generations of the family had supported was cajoled into a public disavowal and suspension of him (they the quietly let him back once the caravan of disapproval had moved on to another target). His university suspended him (what had it got to do with them?) and issued the usual vomit-inducing, self-important, public-posturing drivel you expect from such a place. And so on and so forth. He took and failed his finals a year late, but has been in gainful employment in his chosen field of chemical-analysis, been promoted, moved jobs, etc. Sports mad chemistry students aged 21 are not really my natural company, but I thought (accurately) that I recognised the type from my time in Aberystwyth. And in the still rather close and culturally homogeneous communities of the South Wales valleys they presumably don’t know what you can’t say in the equivalents of Fitzroy, because you certainly can say it in Pontypridd. And it was the usual collection of wowsers who took offence.

    A bit of a sideways rant, but I am a virulent supporter of people being able to say what they like and the law keeping its distance.

  4. Renato Alessio

    Excellent article thanks.

    One thing that I don’t understand about 18C is whether expressing an opinion can constitute “an act likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person”? My understanding is that it is pretty hard to get sued for defamation if one expresses an opinion, as opposed to stating something as fact. Mainly because an opinion is neither right or wrong. Does 18C go beyond defamation law?

    The other thing I don’t understand is exactly what power does the Human Rights Commission have when it calls one before it after a complaint is made. If one goes to a Conciliation meeting – does one really need a barrister? What penalties can the Commission give out, if any? Or is it just a prelude to going to Court – like having to go to mediation in disputes about Wills?

    The main thing wrong with the Act is that it is so subjective.
    Consider this example. A woman goes up to three separate Muslim or Chinese women and says to each,
    “Your dress is terrible, you Muslims/Chinese have a hopeless sense of style”.
    Woman A is offended, insulted and humiliated – lodges a complaint.
    Woman B thinks “There goes that silly old woman again, trying to put me down like she does everyone else around here. I can ignore her or say ‘Tell someone who cares’ ” – no complaint is lodged as the woman isn’t offended, insulted or humiliated, just annoyed.
    Woman C thinks “Hmmm – maybe she has a point, she has pretty good judgment in relation to clothes. I’ll discuss this with friends and coworkers, see if my sense of clothing style needs improvement.” – no complaint is lodged as the woman isn’t offended, insulted or humiliated.

    Thus the exact same act is done to three separate people, but only one is unlawful.
    Regards.

More Farce Than Class at the ABC

While it is always handy to have a sharp lawyer, nothing beats a sympathetic judge. Having appointed two of its most ardent admirers to investigate both Q&A and its overall coverage of science,  that wisdom gets no argument from the national broadcaster

thumb on scaleTwo inquiries into the ABC’s professionalism are due for release shortly: the Ray Martin report on Q&A and Fiona Stanley’s  long-overdue examination of science coverage. As each has publicly extolled both the ABC’s virtues and the Coalition’s villainy, their findings, if less than critical, will be inevitably and grossly diminished by the widespread perception that their tasks should have been assigned to other auditors.

The report on Q&A, launched on July 1, was projected to take three months for its examination of 22 episodes.  The review is led by one-time Q&A panellist and current ABC fan Ray Martin, who has been teamed with  former SBS managing director  Shaun  Brown. It was prompted by the June 22 grandstanding on Q&A by ABC-invited questioner Zaky Mallah, who had earlier been convicted and done hard time for threatening to kill security officers.[i] This record did not stop the ABC driving him to and from the studio and, before his on-camera moment, providing him with coaching by the show’s producers.

Barely one week after Martin’s appointment, he gave a spray on  Channel 7’s Sunrise to then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott for having temporarily banned federal ministers from appearing on Q&Awhile the inquiry  was proceeding. Martin not only called the ban “silly” but said host Tony Jones was as tough on the previous Labor government as on the Coalition. Some of the ”rants and raves” about Q&A  had been “crazy”, Martin continued, saying that he hoped his audit would bring some balance to the debate.

Capping off what many will see as a remarkable display of bias, he further suggested the Coalition had been beating up its criticism of Zaky Mallah and Q&A as a pre-election ploy. Any ethical organisation would have replaced Martin to preserve the inquiry’s credibility. Not the ABC, but.

An ABC spokesman responded  instead  by saying that Martin had been  chosen to conduct the audit because

he is independent and the public perceive him to be. That doesn’t mean he can’t express an opinion.[ii]He made it clear that his final view will be shaped by an orderly audit of previous programs. His comments related more to the boycott than to the program itself, and everyone has an opinion on that.

Let’s turn now to Fiona Stanley’s pending report on ABC science, especially climate coverage. Even allowing for delays perhaps attributable to some members’ personal issues, its report is long overdue. When ABC Chairman Jim Spigelman announced the review way back in mid-2013, he told the Academy of Science, loftily, that science reporters were a dying breed outside the ABC, where Robyn Williams and Karl Kruszelnicki were paragons. ABC science coverage stands “head, shoulders, thorax and abdomen”  above other broadcasters, he boasted. Strangely, he made this pronouncement in advance of his own panel’s findings. Kruszelnicki, by the way, claimed that global warming since 1997 was six times more than the British Met Office had calculated, then abused columnist Andrew Bolt for getting the figure correct.

Spigelman said that while he is not a climate sceptic, ABC journalists need “to hold scientists and technologists to account for their claims and conduct”. He said “impartiality” included  giving opportunities over time for key points of contentious issues to be covered. However, “balance”’ involved following the weight of evidence on topics such as climate change.

We must go beyond PR handouts, or what has been called ‘churnalism’ …  What I believe needs most work, is to develop our capacity to appropriately challenge scientists, not least those whose work is distributed by press release from organizations with a vested interest in favourable publicity. That includes, these days, universities.

He emphasized that ABC accuracy and impartiality was not just something the board should promote but which by law it was required to enforce. The panel, Spigelman said, would examine ten representative ABC science stories. After the panel reports, it would run a private symposium with ABC staff on science coverage. The ABC would then issue a public report on the whole exercise. Later, other non-science ABC subject areas will get similar scrutiny, he said. As a sequel to the review of science journalism, the ABC’s political coverage brims with potential.

Amid all Spigelman’s good intentions, he omitted one adjective for his panel: independent. People just assumed the inquiry would be independent, but the ABC speedily appointed one of its own board members, Fiona Stanley, to head the inquiry.

What are the chances of Stanley giving the ABC a stern report sheet?

# First, she adores the ABC.
# Second, she’s a global warming super-activist, making stump speeches for greenies about “saving the planet”, and comparing sceptics to child abusers. So what’s not for her to like about the ABC’s climate alarm coverage?

Here she is talking about the ABC a year ago:

From the age of five, when I was an Argonaut, the ABC has been a force for good in my life and work.  It has educated, informed, entertained and excited me for over 60 years.  It is a fantastic resource for this nation.

Unfortunately,  many of us have taken the ABC for granted. My hope is that readers will realise how valuable our public broadcaster is and fight to save it from further cuts and harassment.

If you only read The Australian, or listen to the views of some politicians, you would think that the ABC is struggling to provide fair coverage of events, is biased in its politics and its science, and that it is wasting tax-payers’ dollars. Have you noticed that journalists critical of the ABC have started to call it ‘the taxpayer-funded ABC’?”  [Well yes, Fiona, strange, that].

“As a scientist”, as Stanley described herself, she believes the ABC is doing a great job, while “We are now in a situation where a major commercial news organisation [i.e. News Corp] is denigrating the ABC with a vicious, sustained campaign which is extremely damaging to our public broadcaster and to the nation.”

The nub of Stanley’s science inquiry involves the work of Robyn Williams, the maestro of the ABC’s flagship Science Show.[iii] Any normal auditor would be alert against creating perceived bias for or against Williams. Not Stanley.

She went on Williams’ show, mid-inquiry a year ago, to publicly sing its praises:

Fiona Stanley: There are lots of ways in which both Robyn Williams and Norman Swan are impacting Australia. There is no doubt that there is a huge both listening public and podcasting public that pick up on their programs.

Sharon Carleton [co-presenter]: Praise indeed from respected paediatrician Professor Fiona Stanley.

Fiona Stanley: And many of those podcasts are actually international, and so they are used extensively by people who are interested in science and health. We use them for teaching, in medical schools, and I’m sure they use them in public health. And so the impact, I think, goes way beyond the initial program.

Two of her  inquiry panel members – we kid you not – are ex-Media Watch compere and climate alarmist Jonathan Holmes and ex-ABC Triple J comedian Adam Spencer. A mixed bag – see here – of half a dozen outsiders complete the panel. Stanley, who has a distinguished background in epidemiology, paediatrics and Aboriginal health,  has a new career as a climate doomster and public speaker, for which she charges as much as $15,000 per appearance. Almost 19 years of no appreciable warming  has not diminished her catastropharian zeal in the slightest.

In April last year, mid-way in the ABC inquiry into the impartiality and accuracy of the ABC’s climate coverage, she actually compared climate sceptics with child abusers! “The way we are living on this planet is unsustainable, and that’s why I’m worried for my children, and my grandchildren and their children,” she said. By analogy, our own great-grandparents circa 1900 should have been worrying about threats to you and me in 2015.

Stanley’s forward genealogical concerns extend even beyond her great-grandchildren. She was lead signatory to a self-described “Monster Climate Petition” launched by greenies and luvvies in mid-2014, which included in its preamble:

It’s 3:23 in the morning and I’m awake 
 because my great-great-grandchildren
 won’t let me sleep. My great-great-grandchildren ask me in dreams what did you do while the planet was plundered? What did you do when the earth was unraveling? (My emphasis)

“I’m not a climate-change expert,” Stanley gushed with commendable frankness.  “But I do trust the incredible [well said, Fiona!] scientific evidence … We don’t actually know if [warming] is on the rise, but all the risk factors for it are on the rise.”   Make what you can of that.

Climate sceptics make her “anxious and angry”, she has said, because they were dissing her favourite scientists and hurting those generations as yet unborn.  What we should be doing, she said, is eating less meat and catching more buses and trains. Anyone spotted Fiona returning from one of her speaking engagements on a Transperth bus, possibly munching a carrot?

Her logic runs as straight as a worm in compost. On the one hand, she says “the data is very compelling”, but on the other

To expect science to be able to predict something as complex as what is going to happen on this planet, given human activity and other things, is extraordinarily challenging and I think it is pathetic of people to criticise the imprecise nature of the science…

My bet:  the two ABC inquiries will issue nuanced results like this:

Ray Martin/Brown inquiry: “Ten out of ten for Q&A!”

Fiona Stanley inquiry on accuracy and impartiality of ABC science coverage: “Ten out of ten for ABC Science!”

You read it here first.

Oh, and by the way, the ABC in both cases declines to reveal how much the two teams are being paid. Whatever sums are involved, if Martin and Stanley really care about the ABC’s credibility and their own, they should step aside and let others tackle these job afresh..

Tony Thomas blogs at No BS Here (I Hope)


[i]

Justice Wood, when sentencing Zaky Mallah in 2005 to 30 months jail, had even then deplored the way the media had adopted Mallah and “gave him  an entirely undeserved and unnecessary exposure… Placing a person such as the prisoner into the public spotlight is … likely to encourage him to embark on even more outrageous and extravagant behaviour.”

Mallah registered to go on Q&A in 2011, went into the audience twice, and was booked by the ABC into the audience another three times, but was a no-show. He asked twice to join the panel but – and this is a mystery – Q&A rejected him. On a further occasion Q&A begged him to join an audience, but he in turn rejected the Q&A invitation. Then there was his June 22 appearance. (Dept of Communications report, 1/7/15).

[ii] Presumably the ABC would see nothing untoward in a judge remarking at the start of a murder trial, “Well personally I’d say this fellow’s innocent.”

[iii] Williams a year ago gave a platform to climate fabulist Naomi Oreskes to predict that global warming in 2023 would kill everyone’s kittens and puppies, a prospect that thrilled Williams because of its educative potential.

Williams: Yes, not only because it’s an animal but it’s local. You see, one criticism of the scientists is they’re always talking about global things…And so if you are looking at your village, your animals, your fields, your park, your kids, and the scientists are talking about a small world that you know, then it makes a greater impact, doesn’t it.

COMMENTS [2]

  1. Jody

    In short, an objective “bystander” would find these ‘reports’ biased? Is that what you’re saying? I certainly hope the reports are trashed and their authors consigned to the nation’s dust-bin, just as the ALP sought to do with Justice Dyson Heydon.

    One law for the Left and another for everybody else.

  2. Jody

    Today (Monday 19th) a female politician from the seat of Griffith (Qld) – the one vacated by K. Rudd – commented on the positive poll findings for Turnbull. It was played on “The Drum”. The member in question said, “Turnbull is good looking but we need something more than this”. Not a single mention on the ABC news tonight about this – only the first minute of the woman’s interview. If this kind of sexist remark had been uttered by a male, particularly one T. Abbott, we would never have heard the end of it. But the ABC judiciously airbrushed it out of the equation.

    An 11 year old child would easily spot this kind of fraudulence and bias from the ABC.

The Real Backlash

Gathered to honour the memory of a crusading editor, some of the biggest names in the news business were told by one of their own that journalists covering the Parramatta murder of Curtis Cheng are being targeted with death threats. So far, his remarks have gone unreported

mini mo est mortJournalists  covering the murder of police accountant Curtis Cheng in Parramatta on October 2 are working in a climate of fear because of death threats. Chris Reason, senior reporter for Seven News, Sydney said this last night in a speech to about 100 media people and friends at a Melbourne Press Club function at the RACV.

Reason and his cameraman, Greg Parker, provided live coverage throughout the Man Monis siege at the Lindt Café in Martin Place last December.

“Some media outlets are receiving direct physical violent death threats, specific threats not to go near Parramatta Mosque, where the 15-year-old went to pray. At one point a senior member of the Daily Telegraph turned up there with two  flak jackets,” Reason  said.

“The situation is deadly serious among journalists covering the story in Western Sydney. People have been seen videoing journos in their cars. Journos and cameramen are doing their job more cautiously, but they continue covering this critical story well.”

The Press Club function to legendary Age editor Graham Perkin, killed by a heart attack 40 years ago at the age of just 45. Reason last March was named 2014′s Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year. He told the audience last night, “This is the sort of story Graham Perkin would have chased down hard and fearlessly.”

The Age had no coverage of Reason’s talk this morning, nor did the Herald SunThe Australian or ABC, at least according to online searching. Last night’s audience was a galaxy of past and present editors, investigative journalists, star columnists and commentators, and household-word media personalities.

Interviewed by Quadrant after the function, Reason said Sydney reporters, as far as he knew, were continuing to “keep going with their work” and their tone was not affected.

The Telegraph received direct threats to their journalists and the word spread from there. There had been an explicit threat to a young female Tele journo that she would have her arms ripped off and she would be murdered. It was very violent language, she told us.

“Counter-terrorist operators in Sydney intercepted messages between certain groups threatening and targeting journos and media. The Telegraph was one of them, AAP another. Executives organised precautions. Most media organisations like (channels) 7 and 10 ended up hiring private security guards while covering the story in the first week.

“It’s an atmosphere of intimidation and fear. I have never seen anything like it in Sydney in 20 years. In my organization there’s been some serious conversation  on how to cover it, how to approach the story, how to protect ourselves. Some cameramen are worried, some journos worried. I don’t know what’s being done about security at people’s homes.

“We have not talked about it publicly. No reporter has talked or written about it in Sydney.”

Quadrant Online understands that Telegraph crime reporter Mark Morri received a number of the threatening calls. A sample of  the death threats being received by journalists was provided, by coincidence, yesterday by Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt. An email he received and reproduced on his blog reads:

“hi there again you arrogant piece of shit!!! You f—ng Jewish dog, stop hiding behind your f—d up articles and office and say your shit in Lakemba if you had any balls, which you don’t. You’re a piece of shit that gets your frills by bragging about Islam every time. May Allah the Almighty God bless someone to burn you and have your head on display without your body intact and feed you to dogs. Burn in HELL.”

The death threats to journalists in Sydney and Melbourne come against the backdrop of the murders of 11  Charlie Hebdo staffers in Paris in January.

The media anxiety in Sydney contrasts with the insouciance with which the media deal with organized crime and bikie gangs. Underbelly-style reports are often treated as low-life comedy. Crime groups are aware that killing a journalist would be stunningly bad for business. This was demonstrated when a drug-syndicate hitman killed whistleblower Donald Mackay in Griffith in 1977. Mackay was a furniture retailer, not a journalist, but keen to expose corruption.

By contrast,  the murder of a journalist would be “good for business” in the eyes of hard-line Islamists, even more so than a random slaying. When ISIL beheaded journalists Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff in Syria a year ago, ISIL posted triumphant videos of the acts as a warning to America.

At last night’s  Press Club function, a former Age editor told Quadrant Online that tensions with the Muslim community were fiercer in Sydney than in Melbourne. In Sydney, he said, it was easy to find marked anti-Muslim sentiments, especially in the western suburbs where  he divined a sense of displacement because of refugees taking up scarce housing and government services including health. It was much the same syndrome exploited by nationalist Pauline Hanson, he opined. “You don’t get those sentiments in Northern and Eastern Sydney,” he said.

Quadrant was slightly taken aback by this analysis, not least because Reason in his speech described Islamist threats but said nothing about any anti-Islamism.

Tony Thomas blogs at No BS Here (I Hope)

COMMENTS [7]

  1. Jody

    I’m appalled to read this, but not at all surprised. And we are expected to pander to the communities which give rise to this kind of violence, intimidation and ugliness. What on earth are these people doing living in our country? Many many thousands of Australian people demand to know the answer to that question; the miscreants who promulgated the multicultural policy in this country, on the back of cultural Marxism, have either run for cover, pontificate on a regular basis and bore us all into a coma with their virtue signalling naivete. The execrable and oleaginous Waleed Ally regularly writes patronizing and smug-filled articles in the smh blaming Australian politics for all kinds of ‘sins’ which he has deemed to be just that.

    The question is now: what are we going to do about all this rubbish, foisted on up by the left?

  2. Stuart

    The only good that may come of this is for some of the blinkered left to begin to wake up to themselves. Perhaps they will now see the so called religion of peace as it really is.

  3. Richard H

    I second Jody’s comments on this article. Thanks Tony for letting us know of this truly appalling situation.

    Just an extra point on Donald Mackay. As well as being a furniture retailer and campaigner against illicit drugs, he was a Liberal Party candidate at three elections. While he was never elected, his preferences helped a Country Party candidate unseat the execrable Al Grassby. After Mackay’s murder, Grassby was paid by the local mafia to circulate a sickening lie that Mackay’s widow was involved in the killing (she successfully sued for defamation). With full knowledge of these facts, then ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope decided in 2009 to erect a statue of Grassby in Canberra.

    • Jody

      My extended family lives in Griffith and they’re all quite old now. They all know the McKay family very well and they know what goes on, but which is kept from the public eye for fear of retribution. A statue of McKay sits in the main street of Griffith, according to my relatives “as a warning”!! Al Grassby was a corrupt and dangerous man who is largely culpable for what has happened to our country through the ‘multicultural’ project.

      There is a standing joke around Griffith that Al and his wife Eleanor Grassby made 3 attempts at the Primary Final!!!

  4. jenkins

    The comments of the former Age editor are indicative of the line taken by Fairfax media. I had tried previously tried to alert one of their papers of some of the incidents of harassment, intimidation and violence told to me by women who live in South West Sydney. My comment on the most serious incident was not published as it was yet to go to trial. Fair enough. The other incidents I described, including one involving myself, were met with disbelief and myself being called a “racist bogan” and the suggestion that there must have been something in my manner to attract such harassment, even though I had been simply walking to visit a family member on the grounds of a public hospital at the time. Sound familiar? To my astonishment a story, that was the complete reversal of my experience, was published in the paper: muslim women at a local hospital had been harassed by local youths on the grounds of a public hospital, and any muslims who had been similarly subjected to racist behaviour were encouraged to contact the police. I came to the conclusion that Fairfax could not be trusted as a source of the truth. Not only that, but IMO, they were placing woman in danger by not advising them of the truth.

    • Jody

      I can relate to your experience of censorship on SMH. Many of the comments I submit online never see the light of day; for example, the earlier one I made on this same page about Waleed (“The Project” LOL) Aly!!

      Do read what Tanvir Ahmed has to say in “The Spectator” about Muslims!!

The Little Paper That Shames the Dailies

Write a letter to The Age or SMH expressing doubt about global-warming theories and your missive will very soon meet the sharp end of an editor’s spike as a matter of editorial policy. In Geelong, by contrast, a free suburban weekly actually believes in free speech and open debate

spikeTo the ranks of the world’s great newspaper editors — Ben “Watergate” Bradlee  of The Washington Post and my late, respected and feared ex-boss Graham Perkin of The Age spring immediately to mind– we must now add Tony Galpin of the Geelong Independent, the local rag delivered free every week to 80,000 residents of Victoria’s second-largest city.

Galpin is not yet a synonym for editorial guts, but he deserves to be. He’s happy to give a fair go in his news and letters pages to both believers in climate change’s imminent global catastrophe and to sceptics. In rejecting demands from a certain Dr Ray Black, a former environmental teacher at Geelong’s Gordon TAFE, that sceptics be banned from the newspaper’s news and letters pages he has set an example that shames his counterparts at The AgeSydney Morning Herald and ABC.

The global controversy over censoring sceptics in the media (which I’ll get to to in due course) has been playing out in miniature in Geelong (pop 200,000). The distinguishing feature is the Independent‘s refusal to buckle under pressure and toe the warmist line by spiking all other views.

Editor Galpin says,

“I publish Dr Ray Black saying that [local sceptic] Alan Barron should be banned from my pages. I have published others who feel sensitive about suppression of free speech.

“I was away and came back to read personal emails asking that I ban sceptics to help save the planet. My job is not to save the planet, it’s to make the Letters page attractive for our readers. The next day was the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, and that confirmed to me that my policy is right.

“I’ve had floods of letters on all sides of this controversy, way too many to publish. Many claims on both sides have not been borne out by the facts. The debate is far from over. If our local sceptics write in with new observations that defy the theory and models, I’m happy to give them a run, and also give a run to those who can refute the sceptics.

“I mix with ordinary people around here, and some of them say that anyone wanting to shut their opponents up must have poor arguments  or are perhaps closet totalitarians.  I have noticed that some of those wanting bans, also make claims about Murdoch plots and Big Oil conspiracies.”

Galpin ran a half-page news piece in his January 23 edition under the headline, “Free speech our burning issue – Local temperatures flare over calls to silence sceptics” accompanied by a heap of pro and con letters to editor.

There has been long-running ferment in Geelong over global warming claims. In early 2013, Black accepted sceptic Barron’s challenge to debate in the Gordon Institute’s auditorium, which was then  booked and the coming encounter advertised. One day before the scheduled event, on May 1, 2014, the Institute withdrew its permission to use the auditorium, giving no reason.

Black told Quadrant Online he imagined the TAFE had decided it was  unwise and/or politically inexpedient to allow the debate. He and Barron attended the auditorium to apologise to the handful of people unaware of the cancellation who showed up, after which everyone moved to the café  and had a discussion there.

Sceptic Barron, a retired tax official, says that Black told him immediately after the venue was withdrawn that Barron had no right to push anti-science views on impressionable students Black was teaching to be environmentally responsible. Black says he has since decided against having any debate because, whereas he would be explaining the  pure and clear science, the other side would be pushing unscientific and organised denialism.

Quadrant Online emailed the Gordon Institute’s CEO, Lisa Line, as follows:

Hi,
…A day before the debate was to be held, Dr Black says Gordon Institute withdrew permission for the use of the auditorium, forcing cancellation of the debate, and causing some embarrassment all round.

Is it correct that Gordon did that cancellation?

If so, why?

Ms Line’s spokeswoman came back with a reply so ridiculous that I have no option but to paste it here as a case study in gobbledegook:

Dear Tony,
Thank you for your email.

As a leading vocational education and training provider, The Gordon is focused on providing a broad range of positive and engaging learning experiences to its students through industry excursions, scholarships, access to industry experts and use of the latest industry specific equipment and technology.

On occasion, the Institute may host seminars or workshops of interest to our students and also to the general public.  We have a very strong reputation for supporting community initiatives in the Geelong region over many years.  A relevant example is the Climate Reality Project hosted by the Institute as part of a broader Geelong event in 2012.  It was run by a local business peak body in conjunction with other community-based partners.

In relation to your enquiry, the event did not proceed due to timing issues and careful consideration about the allocation of resources during a time of significant change for the Institute and the VET sector as a whole.

Kind regards
Raelene Woods
Marketing Manager

Black says that the body of climate misinformation is originating from Big Oil and Big Coal and the  Heartland Institute in US. To put that claim in perspective, Heartland in 2011 spent about USD1.5m on sceptic advocacy. WWF’s annual revenue, by contrast, is about USD700m a year.Sceptic Barron claims he has not yet received any funding from major oil or coal companies for his global warming sceptic advocacy in Geelong.

Black’s Melbourne University PhD is in biomedical engineering.

Samples of Black’s former teaching style still on-line include his 2010 video case study of an environmentally-conscious student mother who was requiring her two children to have a lights-off Earth Hour every Saturday. In the course of putting her family on a meat-free diet five days a week, she says they gained health and she lost 20kg.

Black said his student’s on-going Earth Hour on Saturdays was her idea, not his.

For the Independent’s story, Black posed for a picture (below) against the seven-metre cliff fronting Western Beach, which he said would be topped by rising seas over time because of climate change. He was drawing a long bow, as the IPCC’s mid-point estimate for sea level rise by 2100 is in the range of 40-to-75 centimetres.

warmist at the drowning cliffs

The Independent quoted Black saying, perversely, that Barron was “hijacking” the public’s “inalienable right to free speech”.

The story then quoted Barron:  “The Bureau of Meteorology homogenises figures, climate modelling all depends on the parameters you use, and data can be manipulated. There’s been no heating in the stratosphere recently and the idea we should panic about CO2 is complete and utter nonsense.”

Black told Quadrant Online,  “Many in Geelong have written to me agreeing that sceptic letters should not be published. Many would have been horrified at the idea  of a campaign via the newspapers to minimise the health risks of smoking. I put climate denial in the same category.  I am from a democratic country and we value free speech, but this denial is orchestrated.”

Dr Black, asked whether non-consensus scientists such as Dr Judith Curry of Alabama University should also have their critical views banned,  said there would always be outliers. “We have them in this country, people well educated and trained and holding chairs in geology, like Robert Carter and Ian Plimer. I am not sure whether to ban them;  I might be interested in what they have to say.”

Asked about the halt to atmospheric warming of between 14 and 18 years, depending on which set of figures you consult, he said the extra heat was going into the oceans and that it was not possible to explain recent global warming except by CO2 increases. “The modelling is in line with the reality,” he insisted.

Quadrant Online referred him to the 5th IPCC report, which said that 111 of 114 “runs” of the climate models had over-estimated actual warming. He replied that this was just hair-splitting as the planet was now holding more heat.

Asked from where he got his quote that 97% of climate scientists backed the consensus, he said, “In a number of surveys.” He seemed not to be specifically aware of the Cook and Nuccitelli paper — now comprehensively  debunked –  which is the latest cock-and-bull study to present the 97% figure, but said that if the activist researchers had arrived at that figure they must be correct. A man of many catastrophic proccupations, Dr Black went on to alert Quadrant Online to numerous other threats to the planet, from deforestation to ocean acidification and the “potential wholesale collapse of the earth’s ecosystem”.

As I remarked earlier, the Geelong censorship fracas is a microcosm of the global fracas, and in this respect The Geelong Independent’s editor’s stand contrasts with that of Sydney Morning Herald Editor-in-Chief Darren Goodsir, who advised in October, 2013, that (reading between the lines) global warming sceptics needn’t bother writing in.  The SMH took its cue and wording from the Los Angeles Times, which presented a sleazy, straw-man argument that only “factually accurate” letters would be published. Therefore, the two papers said, they wouldn’t publish ‘deniers’ who said humans hadn’t caused any climate change.

Well duh — of course humans have caused SOME climate change. The sceptic case, broadly, is that humans have not caused MOST of the past 50 years’ warming (the IPCC assertion) and that forecasts that human-caused warming  will fry the planet by 2100 (as claimed by official climate models) are based on bad science and bad arithmetic.

In case anyone missed the point, the SMH illustrated its bromide with a Photoshopped depiction of a city enveloped by scorched earth in a sea of orange heat, with the, ahem, factually-accurate (sarcasm alert) caption: “Five degrees hotter… our climate in 90 years.”

Fairfax fact-checking doesn’t extend to NASA claims last month that 2014 was the hottest year on record, which even the space agency belatedly admitted was only 38% likely to be correct.

The Los Angeles Times’ bar against sceptics brought other green totalitarians out of the woodwork, via a petition  addressed to newspapers the world over:

“We do not see letters published asserting that we didn’t land on the moon, or that tobacco smoking is not linked to lung cancer. It’s my hope that soon we will no longer see climate denier letters published in newspapers. Thank you so much for your consideration.”

At least a dozen US newspapers followed the lead of the Los Angeles Times (and SMH), to the delight of journalism academia, as expressed by Columbia University’s Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism and sociology:

“I think the policy is healthy — if they tailor it properly, that is, if it’s properly discriminating — I think it should actually be emulated by the other papers.”

(editor’s note: To get a glimpse of how they teach journalism at Columbia, read this piece by Liar’s Poker author Michael Lewis, who sat in on classes and left less than impressed. In Australia, a sheepskin from Columbia J-School figures prominently in the CVs of quite a few newsroom stars, which may well explain why circulations are witnessing Himalayan declines.)

Graham Lloyd, The Australian’s environment writer, has the toughest gig in Australian journalism, as he is fearlessly running both sides of the global warming debate. Bravo, Lloyd.

Meanwhile, in the US a new academic study of environment reporters and their methods has found the practice of ignoring sceptics “was largely supported by their managers and editors. In fact, one reporter’s news organization had recently developed an explicit editorial policy discouraging reporters from quoting climate change deniers in environment or science coverage.”

Similarly, the university- and taxpayer-funded Conversation blog, run by ex-Age editor Andrew Jaspan, warned a year ago that sceptics’ input via comments threads will not be published. The rationale was that in discussing policy responses to predictions of catastrophic global warming, comments saying such predictions are exaggerated are “off-topic”. Again, Jaspan’s people use the straw-man term “denial of climate change”, as if sceptics argue that climate has never changed.

The once-respected BBC, in its campaign to keep sceptics off its airwaves, was caught telling lies of a kind shocking even in the ‘climate science’ arena. In 2007 it announced that, as a result of a “high level” seminar with “some of the best scientific experts”, it had decided the weight of evidence justified blocking sceptics from being given an airing on Britain’s national broadcaster. The Beeb also resolved as policy that the green mantra should be washed through all BBC programming, even comedy and drama.

Challenged about who the ‘best scientific experts’ were, the BBC fought for five years in the courts, at vast taxpayer expense, to avoid naming them. Eventually a sceptic discovered their names via a loose web link, and the 28-strong group turned out to hail mainly from Greenpeace and similar activist fronts, with only three scientists present.

The BBC saga continues. Last July, it paired warmist Brian Hoskins with sceptic Nigel Lawson in discussion on man-made warming and recent UK floods. This drew a barrage of warmist complaints that Lawson should not have been heard — gripes the BBC upheld, responding  bizarrely, that “Lord Lawson’s views are not supported by the evidence from computer modeling…” The same month, the BBC sent 200 of its journos to workshops to train them against ‘false balance’ on global warming.

The ABC handles sceptics as one would funnelwebs. When, in 2007, it ran the sceptics’ Great Global Warming Swindle film, it bracketed the documentary with ‘health warnings’ and hostile interviews. As The Age’s reviewer put it, “Rarely, if ever, has a documentary shown on the ABC been surrounded by such an elaborate buffer zone.”

But it was quite OK for Robyn Williams, compere of Radio National’s Science Show, to liken sceptics to paedophiles and crack pushers.

The ABC last year, in response to an edict from Chairman Jim Spigelman, set up an audit panel to review its science (especially climate) coverage, headed by warming catastrophist Fiona Stanley AC and featuring such science experts as retired Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes, who frequently takes umbrage with Quadrant Online and once explained that his disdain for climate scepticism is based on no greater grasp of the subject than  “the climate scientists I know tell me it is drivel“.

There has been no output so far from the Spigelman-appointed panel. Don’t expect much.

Tony Thomas blogs at tthomas061.wordpress.com

COMMENTS [3]

  1. Peter OBrien

    Plaudits also to Carmen McIntosh of the Batemans Bay Post, which is a Fairfax publication, and who has also resisted calls from warmists to ban letters from skeptics. She regularly publishes letters from myself and Neville Hughes.

  2. Jody

    I’ve submitted many letters to the editor of SMH and written many times on the “comments section” under articles. Most of these are knocked back – not because they are offensive, but because they do not tow the party line. These people are about as opposed to free speech as it’s possible to be.

    The other day on “The Drum” a News Limited journalist reminded David Marr that Fairfax only pays 16c in the dollar tax because the paper had criticized other organizations for not paying their fair share. Marr shot back, “that’s rich coming from somebody who works for Rupert Murdoch”! It seems readers are all up to their eyeballs in this conspiracy and I feel to see how an accusation can negate the fact that Fairfax pays on 16c in the dollar tax!!! As always, shoot the messenger and shut them down – the conventional Fairfax/Green left response. Well, it’s sheer hypocrisy.

    • Alistair

      The media have generally done a very bad job of explaining even standard IPCC views of the science, let along allowing for criticisms of it. Most people have never heard that CO2 alone would produce only about 1 degree C of warming for a projected doubling. The scary scenarios come from an assumption of positive feedback from increased atmospheric water vapor as a response to modest CO2 warming. This is a quite legitimately questionable assumption.
      If the public broadcaster was doing it’s job, the media generally would have to be abreast of this fact, and it would be common knowledge by now. Questions would then mainly revolve around the evidence for this enhanced warming feedback. Of course, any other aspect of the science should also be discussable. The idea that the science is settled is propaganda.

ABC Presenters’ Pension Paradise

Whenever salaries of the national broadcaster’s leading lights come to light, the standard defence is that, despite much smaller audiences, they match those of commercial outfits. Be that as it may, but Aunty’s solid gold super schemes rate off their charts

nest eggA deep secret about the star players of our ABC is not what they’re paid – we know that – but the size of their taxpayer-funded pensions on retirement or redundancy from the ABC.  Take  ABC presenter Quentin Dempster, newly terminated. He was on a paypacket in 2011-12 of $291,505, according to the pay data inadvertently leaked by ABC administration in a glorious own-goal a year ago. “My salary is commensurate with my skills and abilities,” Dempster clarified.

Last  month, a little item appeared in The Australian  in Sharri  Markson’s Media Diary, under the heading “Quentin on a Good Wicket”. She remarked: “While it is very sad to see local journalism disappear from 7.30 on Friday nights, people shouldn’t be too devastated for outgoing ­experienced host Quentin Dempster. His defined benefit super ­income likely to be about $150,000 a year.”

An outraged Dempster fired back, without denying the $150,000:

“Breach of Privacy

Your publication of the calculated quantum of my employee super income income (Media Dairy [sic], 8/12) following my sacking was attributed by your reporter to “ABC Sources”. This is an invasion of my personal privacy, a breach of Clause 11 of the Journalists’ Code of Ethics. It places me  at an immediate disadvantage in any job negotiation as I seek to sustain my livelihood. 

Your reporter ignored my objection on privacy grounds when she telephoned me on Sunday evening. Transparency must be consistently applied. This was selective, vicious and unfair and coated in smarm. Quentin Dempster, Ultimo.”

Still smarting, he tweeted, ” I want/need work.”

On the one hand, I do feel sorry for Quentin, aged 63, suffering what he calls an ‘industrial execution’ and now trying to sustain his 30-year ABC-type lifestyle by supplementing a $150,000 ABC lifetime-indexed pension with a new job. On  only  $300,000 a year,  it clearly wasn’t easy to save for a rainy day.

Maybe he could cut living costs in Sydney by relocating to his acclaimed beach house near Burnie, except that it’s often occupied by holiday-makers paying $2950 a week rent.[i] Quite likely, he’ll be taken to the bosom of the University of Technology’s School of Independent Journalism in Sydney. His view that Rupert Murdoch is Tony Abbott’s “puppet master” would be considered quite normal and entirely sane there. (He thinks we are governed by a “Murdoch-Abbott duumvirate”).

Dempster also thinks  the ABC’s juvenile skit by Kirsten Drysdale last November about Abbott ‘shirtfronting’ Putin was not grief-intrusive to MH17 victims but mere “satire over our prime minister’s tabloidism”. And her satire was “following a great tradition at the ABC”, he said.  So I guess Dempster, who can dish it out, can suck it up about his pension  disclosure.

Actually, anyone (including a potential employer) can get a reasonable estimate of an ABC ex-presenter’s pension from  Table 4 of the publicly-available ready reckoner for the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme (CSS) members. Someone of Dempster’s age and with  30 years at the ABC could expect 48% of final salary as a pension. Based on a 2011-12 salary of $291,000 the CSS pension would be $139,680 a year, CPI-indexed for a lifetime. Someone getting $150,000 a year pension, conversely, maybe had a final salary of $312,500.

When a Commonwealth defined-benefit pensioner dies, a  surviving spouse continues the indexed pension for his/her lifetime but at a reduced rate of 67% to 85%, or (in our hypothetical above case), $100,000-127,000 a year.

The principal’s pension figures don’t include a payout  based on an ABC staffer’s own contributions (5-10% of salary), plus an employer top-up of a 3% annual “Productivity Component” (don’t laugh!) for all CSS members, plus earnings.[ii] That separate payout can involve combinations of  lump sum and non-indexed pension.

The Commonwealth defined-benefit super scheme for ABC people involves an annual employer contribution  of about 20% of ABC members’ salary. In 2005 it was an astounding 28.2%. Too good to last, it was closed to new entrants in mid-1990. (Its defined-benefit successor the Public Service  Super Scheme – with many ABC participants –  lasted until 2005). But the ABC’s old hands could continue with the plush CSS scheme, while ABC post-2005 newcomers have had to console themselves with  relatively stingy defined-contribution (accumulation) super.

So let’s play Guess My Super! for the ABC crew’s old-timer stars, those who joined in the days of the compulsory CSS scheme.

First, some warnings.  To get a hypothetical payout, we just plug into the Commonwealth’s ready reckoner  the star’s salary, age and years of service – the latter two numbers  can involve a bit of sleuthing.[iii] The pension in the case of serving ABC stars, would be as if they retired today.  They are lifetime, indexed, and with reversionary rights to a surviving partner. To add spice, I also mention the speaker bureau fee the bigshots command, thanks to their ABC branding. Here we go:

Kerry  O’Brien. Aged 69, he joined the ABC in  1989 and continued to host Four Corners in 2014. His 2009-10 salary was  $365,000.  The reckoner shows a maximum benefit factor at age 65, so taking that age and 25 years service, the pension would be 45% of salary or  about  $164,000.  Speaker fee: $10-15,000.

Tony Jones. Tony is the ABC’s current top-paid presenter ($355,789 in 2011-12), who presides over  the  Q&A circus. Aged 57 and with 29+ years of ABC service, his pension would be $141,212. Speaker fee, $15,000+.

Jon Faine. He has been with the ABC since 1989, hosting the Melbourne  774 breakfast radio show since 1997. His age (this took some sleuthing) is 57. 2011-12 salary, $285,249 – later renegotiated to $300,000. Years of service, 25. The pension   would be $109,000.  Speaker fee:  $10-15,000.

Fran Kelly. Host of   ABC Radio National Breakfast. Age 57 and with  26 years with ABC. Salary $255,000. Pension would be $95,013. Speaker fee, $15,000-plus.

Ian Henderson. Joined the ABC in 1980. Presenter ABC    TV News Victoria weeknights since 1992. Age 61. Years of service, 34. Salary $188,533. Pension would be $88,459.

Jonathan Holmes. Age 67. With ABC 1982-2013 – 31 years. Left the ABC’s Media Watch in mid-2013. Salary 2011-12, $187,380. Pension would be $94,158. Speaker fee, $15,000-plus, as well as whatever he pockets for regular columns in the Fairfax Press. His notes of complaint to Quadrant are submitted free of charge.

Geraldine Doogue. Age 62. Years with ABC, 24. Salary 2011-12, $182,013. Pension would be  $75,280. Speaker fee, $5000-10,000.

It’s a long time since 1990-95, but the ABC’s total defined-benefit old-timers are still costing the ABC and taxpayers a bomb. The 2014 ABC annual report shows its defined-contribution actuarial  costs were $40m that year, compared with only $31m for its people on accumulation super. Over the past six years, ABC actuarial costs for “Defined Benefits” totalled $212m;  while “accumulation scheme” costs totalled only $150m.

What this suggests is that there are still hordes of long-serving ABC staffers looking forward to a lifetime of indexed-pension luxury. These future expenses for all the federal public service, including the ABC types,  fall on the taxpayers, hence the need for that Future Fund nest-egg which currently totals $101 billion.

Across the Commonwealth Public Service, about 16,000 are on the CSS scheme (their average salary is above $100,000), plus 115,000 ex-bureaucrats on lifetime indexed CSS pensions. Unsurprisingly, there’s an unfunded CSS liability of about $60b, close to half a million dollars per current and retired member.

Whereas normal Australian workers can’t afford retirement at 55, ABC and others in the CSS   super scheme can go out   in style at 55 with a fat super deal known as 54/11 (i.e. get out just before your 55th birthday, and do better than if you continued to work to 60 or 65).    As one official report put it, “it is not surprising that the schemes have a sharp decline in membership around age 55 and that very few PSS or CSS members work past age 60.”

About 40% of CSS members aged 50-54 typically plan to grab the 54/11 option.   A classic example was Treasury Secretary Ken Henry, who went out on 54/11, according to the Liberal’s Bronwyn Bishop. As financial planner Theo Marinis, of the Marinis Financial Group, Adelaide,  puts it, the 54/11 device “has the potential to provide as much as $200,000 or more in additional retirement benefits over the pensioner’s lifetime, with the effect that most Commonwealth Public Servants who are 54 and 11 months of age would often need to work an additional five years or more in their current job in order to be better off financially in retirement.” The 54/11 weirdness arose by accident in the scheme and has never been corrected.

For the PSS members (e.g. employees who joined the ABC between 1990 and 1995) things can also go well. Marinis writes:

“Over the last 20 years I have shown dozens of PSS member clients how under their scheme they can take a lump-sum and choose to pay off their house, go overseas on a holiday and / or make other lifestyle and recreational purchases… draw down the pension they require until they are 65 and still be eligible (effectively double dipping) for significant social security pensions!”

For a 55-year-old CSS member with $200,000 combined contributions,  the 54/11 formula generates a $46,250 lifetime indexed pension. A non-public servant going out with a $200,000 super nest-egg would be lucky for it to last five years at a $46,000 annual payout rate. The official report gives an example of a CSS member on $70,000 salary with 30 years service. The standard age-55 lifetime-indexed pension would be $26,250; the 54/11 version is given at $34,687. That member would have to work till age 59 before his pension reached the 54/11 level. Any extra member contributions above 5%, interest and Employer Productivity Component  of 3%, can be taken as a lump sum or non-indexed pension, up to a maximum of  20% of  final salary.

Another lurk is ‘Resign and Return’. The  54/11 retirees can be re-hired by their department boss on a part-time, consulting or contract basis, further boosting the retirees’ nest-egg. Some years back, when surveyed, nearly a third of the 54/11 retirees said they went back into their jobs under various arrangements.

Many ABC big-name presenters joined the ABC between 1990-95 and  were enrolled in the Public Sector Super Scheme (PSS). These members cost the ABC nearly as much  for super as a ratio of salary, as the CSS tribe. But calculating the benefits on retirement is impossibly complex for any outsider.

Tony Thomas blogs at tthomas061.wordpress.com


[i] Cantilevered over dramatic coastal panorama, The Winged House is an adventure in art and architecture. Designed by award winning sculptor and architect Richard Goodwin, the house has won design and innovation awards and is now an established highlight for travellers looking for a unique Tasmanian experience, with easy access to world heritage listed wilderness and the Tarkine region of north-west Tasmania. The house is luxuriously appointed with a gourmet kitchen, Japanese bath and with local support services: dial-a-cray, dial-a-massage and dial-a-chef.

 

[ii]  In terms of that ABC employer “Productivity Component” of 3% per annum, try this ABC slice of life from Louise Evans about the cadre of ‘lifers’ there in 2013:

“a pocket of predominantly middle-aged, Anglo-Saxon staff … who were impervious to change, unaccountable, untouchable and who harboured a deep sense of entitlement.

They didn’t have a 9-5 mentality. They had a 10-3 mentality. They planned their work day around their afternoon yoga class. They wore thongs and shorts to work, occasionally had a snooze on the couch after lunch and popped out to Paddy’s Market to buy fresh produce for dinner before going home.

They were like free-range chickens, wandering around at will, pecking at this and that, content that laying one egg constituted a hard day’s work…

 Taxi dockets were left in unlocked drawers for the taking and elephantine leave balances had been allowed to accumulate. When programs shut down for Christmas, staff would get approval from their executive producers to hang around for a week or two “to tidy things up”. One editor asked for his leave to be cut back by a week because he’d need to pop into work during the holidays to “check emails”.That constituted work.”

 

 

[iii] The longevity of ABC stars at the ABC suggests they are not deluged with private-sector bids for their media services.

COMMENTS [5]

  1. Jody

    There’s something about this kind of article which leaves a bad taste in my mouth; it’s nobody else’s business what somebody earns and I don’t like that tactic in making an argument. This is all private information and only a matter for the people concerned, not appropriate for the public domain.

    By all means attack the ABC and its ideologies, but I think there’s enough evidence provided by these turkeys and ducks in their pens to demonstrate widespread bias without having to publish details of the salaries of its high-fliers. We know they’re Chardonnay Socialists – that’s not news – but I draw the line at income revelations.

    I’m sure Quadrant can do better than this.

  2. Geoffrey Luck

    Wrong, Jody, completely wrong. Where did this idea come from that public service salaries are sacrosant? That the facts of the salaries and entitlements of people who work for our national broadcaster should be off-limits? In an era when disclosure of corporate remuneration has become more and more obligatory, why should the pay and retirement benefits of the ABC’s front-of-house staff not be out in the public domain? Tony has laid out the basis for a better understanding of where some of the ABC money goes – it turns out a sizeable chunk of it comprises part of the Commonwealth Government’s unfunded superannuation burden. That was something Peter Costello was particularly concerned about, and the reason for his founding of the Future Fund. Anyway, there is nothing to be ashamed of in this explanation – all the cases quoted merely show what people are correctly entitled to under the schemes as they are presently defined. As time goes by, the participants in the defined benefits scheme will wash out of the system. What is more insidious and reprehensible is the return in specialist contract roles of people like Kerry O’Brien who continues completely unnecessarily in an artificially manufactured job, introducing 4 Corners

    The ABC has always had its idiosyncrasies. From the inauguration of the independent news service in 1947 until the introduction of contracts some time in the ’70s, all News Division journalists were employed as Temporary Staff. They were prohibited from joining the ABC Staff Association with automatic access to all Commonwealth Public Service benefits. For example,,

  3. Geoffrey Luck

    journalists had to wait three years before they were eligible to join the superannuation scheme. And although it was a defined benefits scheme, it was not as generous as it later became. After 26 years service, and 23 years in the scheme, I got only my own contributions back – without interest – when I resigned. As it turned out, a massive sum of $12,000, which I found could not then be rolled over into a private super scheme with my new employer. Never mind, the escape from the authoritarian claustrophobia of the most ineptly managed organisation I have ever encountered freed me to succeed and surpass my ABC prospects in private enterprise.

  4. Jody

    The defined benefits scheme for public servants is, indeed, a shocker. For example, as a self-funded retiree who earns income through dividends I’ll be paying 1.5% more tax (in short, less ‘imputation credits’ returned to me at tax time) because I’ve invested in the top 3,000 companies who will carry the burden for the PPL scheme or new childcare regime courtesy of this government. The defined benefits recipients will have NO SUCH BURDEN because the Commonwealth will pay their retirement incomes and they will be unaffected by dividend/imputation credits. This is straight discrimination.

    However, I still disagree with you about the salaries of those on the public purse being exposed dollar for dollar. I wouldn’t like it myself. I wasn’t suggesting public salaries per se should be sacrosanct – teacher’s salaries are generally known – but the explicit package for individuals should be subject to the privacy most of us enjoy. I”d have no trouble, for example, in the suggestion that so-and-so earned over $140,000 for example – but the specifics make me uncomfortable.

    I worked at the ABC in Television Features in the early to mid 1970′s so I well understand the oppressive and relentless pressure to conform. Group-think is anathema to me because it procludes the actual need to THINK for ones-self and that I eschew quite radically. It also appalled me that Chardonnay socialists preached equality and socialist principles while attending up-market functions and sipping expensive champagne. One of my friends/colleagues who worked with me referred to them as “leather-jacket-wearing 12 year olds”!! So, we are not alone!

  5. Tony Thomas

    Hi Jody, I’m not clear if you’re complaining about publication of ‘salaries’ or ‘pensions’ or both.
    The salary details were revealed by some klutz in ABC administration unwittingly sending a copious spreadsheet of names and salaries to a non-ABC third party. From there they were published in The Australian and then by the Australia media as a whole.
    The pension details I give are just simple arithmetic from public data, i.e. age, and years of service, applied to what is now known salaries.
    Thanks for your interest and views, Tony