IPA – Australia’s Champion of Fairness and Truth.

The Institute of Public Affairs is an independent, non-profit public policy think tank, dedicated to preserving and strengthening the foundations of economic and political freedom.
Time to promote a valuable Australian asset, a private enterprise providing a public service to Australians.
I have just purchased copies of their publication “Climate Change  –  The Facts 2017”, providing much information dealing with the unscientific bases for the “Climate Change” agenda.
It is their third such publication, contradicting much of the misleading and political propaganda driving much of the world’s hysteria about the dangers of CO2.
Their web page is linked here, details the publication and offers a variety of  important, intelligent insights into many Australian issues.
Hopefully it will interest others and be a source of knowledge and inspiration as it is for me.
  • Address: Institute of Public Affairs
    Level 2, 410 Collins Street
    Melbourne Victoria 3000
  • Telephone: +61 3 9600 4744
    Facsimile: +61 3 9602 4989

This current weekly email to members provides further insight into the type and value of their contributions to the Australian public.

Dear IPA Members

When John Roskam asked me to step in to write the regular Friday email it was looking like a quiet week but, as Mark Twain is supposed to have said, “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” When John penned his column last Friday there were no offences in Commonwealth law referring to the uncertain notion of “vilification”, and nothing that looked like a blasphemy law. Today, thanks to legislation rushed through Parliament this week with bipartisan support, we have both. It took the Liberal Party three years to make a token effort to amend Section 18C, but only three days to add some further restrictions on free speech.

My darling wife, like I suspect millions of Australians, didn’t even find out about the legislation until after it was proclaimed, yesterday. I’m always suspicious about calls for less debate and more bipartisan support about any policy, and the suspension of democratic debate and deliberation we saw this week is the reason why Mark Twain (or more likely Judge Gideon Tucker) was absolutely right.

I’ll come back to that legislation but first a word on how I came to be writing this email, and a further couple before John Roskam resumes the chair. John started doing regular Friday emails to Members about the same time as I arrived at the IPA in December 2015. I wish I could claim the credit for the idea but John had already committed to the concept and since then he’s produced more than 100,000 words in regular instalments. Those Friday emails will be great fodder for future historians, as John has identified the key issues over a tumultuous 20 months.

Emerging from those many words is an unflagging commitment to a free society and a commentary on the state of culture in Australia and the West in general. This perspective is an essential counterpoint to the identity politics which increasingly drives politics and media – always seeing the world through the prisms of race, gender and class.

Each Friday John provides a perspective on the major events of 2016 and 2017, including major disruptions like Brexit, Trump and the rise of populist parties. This perspective is essential when the dominant narrative holds that the only motivation for Brexit and Trump must be racism and/or sexism, because that’s the only explanation identity politics can produce. And any populist backlash against elites must be seen through a materialist lens of class – they voted that way because of ‘globalisation’ or ‘capitalism’ or something like that.

The determination to prove an economic base to the discontents is seen in how so many progressive and interventionist policies are predicated on ‘rising inequality.’ Such policies are always destructive, when we should instead be focussed on enhanced opportunities for all. But the focus on inequality is doubly misguided when – as the IPA’s Daniel Wild showed in a recent Parliamentary Research Brief – inequality, once taxes and transfers are taken into account, has been static if not in a slight decline. Just this week, new ABS data provided further evidence of this slight decline in the Gini coefficient, the best measure of inequality.

Also this week, Hillary Clinton took her particular version of identity politics to the nth degree, twisting the meaning of George Orwell’s 1984 so it becomes a defence of elites:

“the goal (of Trump and anyone who doesn’t support Hillary) is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust toward exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence, ourselves.”

But across the West people ARE genuinely concerned at the direction the elites are taking their countries, and are concerned at the challenge being mounted to the core values around which their nations were built.

In our own country the latest attack has been on the celebration of Australia Day. Last week the IPA’s Evan Mulholland was asked to comment on the latest Victorian council committing to “#changethedate”, and rightly said:

“(the City of) Moreland’s attempt flies in the face of Australian values and is a move that divides, rather than unites Australians.”

From media coverage, you’d think there was a massive groundswell for change. But in 2016 a poll the IPA commissioned showed that 85% of Australians believe Australia Day is a day to be celebrated and 78% said that our history is something to be proud of.

The IPA’s Dr Bella d’Abrera has written persuasively of the deeply concerning trend to tear down or deface, by legal means or otherwise, the statues and monuments that represent our heritage. This week she produced “A Politically Correct Walking Tour of Ballarat”. This video has now had more than 11,000 views. Watch to the end and you’ll see proof that in the modern age it’s hard to do satire because real life is one step ahead: the final statue Bella went to view had already been replaced – by a giant pink handbag.

Bella’s tone is light-hearted, but the message is serious: Erase our history and you erase the understanding of the values that sustain our freedoms and our prosperity. Seeing vandals deface statues of Captain Cook is a cause for outrage, but much more disturbing would be a government sanctioned law to rewrite its inscriptions and/or remove such ‘offensive’ statues and monuments.

It was pleasing to see that two days after the video was released the Minister for Energy and the Environment, Josh Frydenberg, gave the Heritage Council the task of recommending ways to increase protections for historic monuments. Clearly they need protection, and not just from vandals.

By contrast, the same Minister’s response to major faults in the Bureau of Meteorology’s measurement and handling of temperature data has been underwhelming, and falls short of the full Parliamentary Inquiry into the Bureau and climate data that the IPA has repeatedly called for.

When I arrived at the IPA in 2015 Dr Jennifer Marohasy walked me through her concerns with homogenisation – the process by which the BOM crunches the temperature data to produce what it sees as an acceptable source of climate data. The years of research behind these concerns was admirably presented in the IPA’s Climate Change: The Facts 2017. But the premise of Jennifer’s work had hitherto been that raw temperature data was reliable, hence our concern when Jennifer and her network discovered recently that at two key weather stations at Goulburn and Thredbo, minimum temperatures were being adjusted upwards and/or disappearing from the record for reasons unknown.

The limited, in-house, inquiry ordered by the Minister last week came down with the finding that yes, those two stations had equipment that was not ‘fit for purpose’, but they were the only two and all the rest of the weather stations were fine, out of 695. Imagine that! As John said in The Australian:

“The Bureau has now acknowledged that for many years temperature readings have been wrong for at least two weather stations. The Bureau’s claim that of its 695 automatic weather stations the only two at which there were problems were by coincidence the two identified by Dr Jennifer Marohasy makes the Bureau a scientific and statistical laughing stock – the chances of this happening are approximately 1 in 120,000.

“The only way to determine what’s wrong at the Bureau of Meteorology is for the Turnbull government to initiate a full parliamentary review into every aspect of how the Bureau has been recording and publicly reporting temperature data.”

I grew up on a family farm where of course we all took a keen interest in the weather and in weather forecasts. Wedderburn is in northern Victoria on the inland side of the Great Dividing Range and the average rainfall is below 500 mm, significantly less than on the coastal plains to the south. I recall that my father could always quote almost verbatim the Bureau’s forecasts, but the big weather events and transitions always seemed to be unexpected and have unexplained causal factors. When I was in my final year at the local High School, Bob Hawke became Prime Minister and the punishing multi-year drought broke shortly thereafter. In the absence of something definitive Dad was always willing to give credit to Hawke for the coming of the rains (and Hawke probably would have accepted it too).

The point being that when much is at stake we should take seriously the views of experts, but also reserve our own judgement and seek other views. No government agency is entitled to blind faith. I think Jennifer nailed it when she said:

“For some years, ministers responsible for the Bureau have been claiming that there can be no external review because there is a need to maintain public confidence – they seem to know that a transparent review and public confidence are incompatible.”

And further evidence of the Bureau’s sensitivity to criticism is that in the Inquiry report no mention is made of how it came to be called. The Executive Summary says:

“In July 2017, the Bureau identified problems with the performance of some AWS equipment at very low temperatures which meant that some temperature data was not recorded at two sites”

I guess that line is a lot easier for them to write than “a Senior Fellow at the IPA and her friend Lance Pidgeon identified problems which were published on the front page of The Australian, and the Minister subsequently ordered the inquiry.”

Instead the Inquiry and its report are presented as the result of as some kind of Immaculate Conception, free of original sin. But we do thank the Bureau for its 70-page report, because there are so many internal inconsistencies it has opened up multiple lines of future inquiry, so watch out for more from Jennifer.

But to return to the Bill rushed through Parliament this week. The general coverage of the Bill in association with the survey of Australian’s preferences for changing the law on same sex marriage has described it by analogy to the existing laws which govern election advertising and commentary, and indeed it does have similar provisions, so even by referring to the survey I may be subject to the Act’s strictures (not being a lawyer I better just assume I am).

But Section 15(1)(c) relating to vilification and what is in effect a blasphemy law stands on its own, unmoored from anything to do with the survey other than their proximity in time. Indeed, comments in respect of the survey are subject to certain protections that do not apply to comments made in other contexts. Specifically, a person “must not vilify, intimidate or threaten to cause harm to another person…because of…(that person’s) religious conviction, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.”

Experience in the UK and other jurisdictions demonstrates that while notionally the matter at law is an offence against a person holding a ‘religious conviction’, the de facto outcome is a law against criticism of the religion to which a person adheres – a blasphemy law in effect if not in name.

There is of course a defence in the Act for ‘satire’, which will no doubt come as a relief to comedians on the ABC pondering whether to don a cassock for another skit about the Catholic Church.

Regardless of how you intend to respond to the survey – and I have good friends on both sides of the debate – I don’t see how anyone can believe that rushing through Parliament laws that have such drastic effects on fundamental freedoms can be a good thing.

But the last word on the Act goes to John, who delegated responsibility for his Friday email but fulfilled his duty to the Australian Financial Review with delivery of today’s column, in which he said:

“Then there’s the Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Act 2017 which attempts to regulate the conduct of the same-sex marriage survey. Never has such a draconian legislation been passed by the Commonwealth parliament in such haste and with so little scrutiny. The law was literally made in less than twenty-four hours. The text of the legislation was made public on Wednesday, with the support of both the Coalition and Labor it passed both houses of parliament that day, and came into effect on Thursday. This tawdry process makes a mockery of the major parties’ claims they support accountability and transparency in law-making.

Section 15(1)(c) of the Act makes it unlawful to ‘vilify’ another person because of their ‘religious conviction’, with the penalty a fine of $12,600. This section establishes for the first time in Australian history a federal blasphemy law. As it’s drafted the law doesn’t only apply to vilification occurring during the holding of the marriage survey – it applies to religious vilification in any context. While the law has a sunset clause and is scheduled to expire at the conclusion of the survey, a precedent for the operation of a federal blasphemy law has been set – and it’s been set by Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition government.

As senator Cory Bernardi said, the law is ’18C on steroids’.

The Act also overturns the rule of law. Under section 19(3) of the Act legal action against someone accused of religious vilification can only be undertaken with the consent of the Attorney-General. In a free country the government doesn’t get to decide when a law is applied and when it isn’t.”

In accordance with s 6(5) of the Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Act 2017, this communication was authorised by Scott Hargreaves of Melbourne, VIC [no this is not actually a joke, I’m doing this declaration based on my reading of the legislation that was rushed through Parliament.]


Scott Hargreaves
Executive General Manager
Institute of Public Affairs
M 0418 528 281 | P 03 9600 4744 | F 03 9602 4989 |  E shargreaves@ipa.org.au | W www.ipa.org.au
Level 2, 410 Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC, 3000 AU

About Ken McMurtrie

Retired Electronics Engineer, most recently installing and maintaining medical X-Ray equipment. A mature age "student" of Life and Nature, an advocate of Truth, Justice and Humanity, promoting awareness of the injustices in the world.
This entry was posted in AUSTRALIA, Civil Liberties, Politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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