Australian Politics 2015-03-19 15:56:00


Fake Leftist rage at Nazi comparison

As usual from them, it's "Do as I say, not as I do"

A FURORE has erupted in parliamentary question time after Tony Abbott linked Bill Shorten with a Nazi politician.

Facing questions from the opposition over the Coalition’s economic management the Prime Minister said Mr Shorten was the “Dr Goebbels of economic policy”.

Dr Goebbels was Hitler’s minister for propaganda and a virulent anti-semite who played a key role in the Nazis’ policy of persecution against the Jews.

The comment caused much fury from Labor politicians including Jewish MP Mark Dreyfus.  The Shadow Attorney General was thrown out of the chamber after his protests.

Member for Melbourne ports Michael Danby walked out in disgust.

Mr Dreyfus said Tony Abbott was a “disgusting man” as he walked out.

The Prime Minister withdrew his comments immediately and later apologised.  “I withdraw” Mr Abbott said more than five times.

The Coalition accused Labor of overblowing the comments and “feigning” disgust.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton shouted across the chamber to Mr Shorten: “Stop feigning your indignation, you’re such a hypocrite Shorten”.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said Labor had used the same words to describe Mr Abbott when he was Opposition Leader.

Labor’s Tim Watts, another Melbourne MP, was also thrown out in the chaos. Another Labor MP, Michael Danby, said as he walked out of the chamber: “If he’s out, I’m out - over this”.

Mr Danby said that the Prime Minister “can slag us as much as he likes, but it is demeaning to him and the Parliament to use an example of the ultimate evil in politics”.

Mr Abbott’s apology comes after Labor MPs have previously made references to Dr Goebbels.

In 2011, Mr Dreyfus was criticised after describing Mr Abbott’s comments on the carbon tax as “Goebbellian”.

“Leaving aside the Goebbellian cynicism of labelling a scare campaign a “truth campaign’’, I think it shows Abbott’s contempt for the Australian electorate,” he wrote.

In 2006, Labor MP Jill Hall also criticised the Coalition’s policy on asylum seekers, saying: “They have vilified asylum seekers and refugees in a way that would make Goebbels blush.”

In 1995, Wayne Swan said: “In recent weeks there has been a Goebbels type campaign by the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), and others on his front bench to remake their image from hard right ideologues to soft, cuddly, caring, non-threatening middle of the road type social democrats.”

In 2005, Bernie Ripoll told the House of Representatives: “These mind-numbing ads that they have put on television, on radio and in print media over and over again are straight out of the Goebbels propaganda handbook.”


Vietnam, Australia leaders agree to closer defense, security ties

A warning to China

Vietnam and Australia agreed to closer security ties Wednesday, including training Vietnamese troops in Australia as Canberra seeks to balance its relationship with its biggest trading partner China and relations with other neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told reporters that his Australian counterpart, Tony Abbott, had agreed during a meeting at Parliament House to strengthen cooperation on security and defense in a range of areas, including experience and information sharing, English-language training and special forces cooperation.

"We agreed on the importance of the assurance of peace, stability, maritime security and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, in compliance with international law," Dung said.

China says it has historical claims to a huge swath of the South Sea China that overlaps with the claims of several neighbors, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines, fueling concerns of a conflict.

Abbott said 120 Vietnamese military personnel would be trained in Australia, and Vietnam would take part in joint military training exercises in Australia.

He acknowledged a growing security relationship between Australia and Vietnam in recent years. Australian troops fought alongside the U.S. against the Vietnam communists during the Vietnam war.

"We have both prospered in peace over the last 40 years because of the stability that our region has enjoyed, and anything which disturbs that stability is something that we would mutually deplore and mutually work to ensure didn't happen," Abbott said.

"We both support freedom of navigation by air and by sea in the South China Sea. We both deplore any unilateral change to the status quo. We both think that disputes should be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law," he said.


A looming risk to Australia's international reputation

The world is starting to look at Australia in disbelief. We are a country with a AAA credit rating yet both our major political parties in state jurisdictions have either expropriated commercially owned assets without compensation or are threatening to do so.

In NSW and Victoria, the ALP in government (Victoria) and in opposition (NSW) has threatened to confiscate assets or contractual rights without full compensation. But in NSW the Coalition government has actually done it, creating a clear precedent.

And the Greens want to go one step further and end coal mining in NSW within five years and expropriate assets without compensation. While this sounds like a wild plan, it merely takes the precedents set by the major parties a step further. This is Australia 2015.

It is very dangerous for the nation and, in time, will cost Australia its triple-A credit rating.

Under the Commonwealth constitution, the Federal Government cannot expropriate assets without compensation but the states can.

In the Korean and Chinese free-trade agreements (and most likely the one with Japan too), if the states expropriate assets or contractual rights without compensation, the Chinese, Korean and probably Japanese organisations can go to the International Court of Arbitration and seek compensation. There is a similar provision in the ASEAN free trade agreement.

But in all cases, it is the Commonwealth that must provide the compensation if the International Court of Arbitration rules against the states. The Commonwealth must then somehow try and extract the funds from the states.

Under the terms of the US free-trade agreement, both the US and Australian governments must agree to a case but it might be possible to proceed to the International Tribunal with just one government agreeing.

Under the terms of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, the US wants proper rights of appeal to the International Court of Arbitration. Paradoxically, this is being opposed by Australia on the basis that expropriation without compensation would never happen here. That is complete nonsense.

Given the rogue nature of the Coalition, ALP and the Greens in state jurisdictions, international organisations need protection from expropriation of non-real estate assets and rights. Australian organisations have no protection from state governments.

Each of the four cases where Australian states have used, or threatened to use, their expropriation without compensation powers have their own twist. In NSW, the Coalition state government last year expropriated the coal assets of NuCoal, a listed company, without compensation.

Back in 2013, NSW's Independent Commission Against Corruption found that Former State Labor mining minister Ian Macdonald acted corruptly in 2008 when he granted the exploration licence to Doyles Creek Mining. In 2014, the NSW government ordered the cancellation of mining exploration licence at Doyles Creek mine following the corruption inquiry. At that stage. the licence was held by a 100 per cent owned subsidiary of NuCoal. NuCoal acquired the assets through a back door listing in 2010 and neither NuCoal nor its shareholders were found guilty.
ICAC suggested compensation but none was paid.

Thirty per cent of NuCoal’s shareholders are in the US and they’re trying to get the US government to look after their interests and take the Commonwealth to the International Court of Arbitration. Under the Asian free trade agreements, NuCoal’s US shareholders would be able to directly challenge the decision without gaining government approval.

Although the NSW expropriation without compensation act purports to stop writs against the legislation, there are several NSW Supreme and High court cases awaiting judgment. In the High court case all the mainland states claimed they had a right to expropriate non-real estate assets without compensation. Surprisingly, the Commonwealth agreed.

The NSW Coalition government, in revealing alleged corruption, was also attacking the ALP.

Now it’s tit for tat. The ALP and the Greens have introduced legislation to try and stop the Koreans developing coal resources at Wyong. The Koreans have already spent more than $110 million to bring the project close to the tender stage.

If the ALP and the Greens get into power and expropriate without compensation, the Koreans will almost certainly go to the international tribunal and the Commonwealth could be forced to pay for the actions of the NSW state. The Koreans are showing aggression and say NSW Labor leader Luke Foley has had a “Daniel Andrew’s moment” in threatening to enact special legislation.

In Victoria, the Andrews government is threatening to use its expropriation-by-legislation powers to seal a deal with the main parties to the East West Link contract which it has cancelled.

Here we are not dealing with a minnow like NuCoal but with major world infrastructure providers and financiers. They will make sure Victoria is punished and punished severely in international markets if it acts like the NSW Coalition and expropriates without compensation.

But Victoria recognises the dangers, so it is shifting ground and now appears to be offering compensation. I should emphasise that Victoria has not yet introduced any legislation.

In NSW, the ALP and the Greens will use the Coalition’s NuCoal precedent to grab gas assets in northern NSW if they gain power at the up-coming election.

Combine Victorian threats and NSW action and threats and we have a real danger to the global standing of our nation.

Given the NSW Greens want to stop coal mining in NSW, the danger will need to be underlined in the proposed NSW power assets sale agreement, which is opposed by the ALP and the Greens.


Has Australia forgotten its Irish past?

Has Australia forgotten its Irish past? It seems a strange question, when iconic buildings such as the Sydney Opera House "green up" for St Patrick's Day. However, Australians tend not to go in for hyphenated identity, as some Americans do, and do not proclaim their ethnic origins with quite the same "Kiss Me I'm Irish" (or Greek or Italian) swagger. "Thank God for that", you might well think.

Yet, recognising ancestral roots does not need to be sentimental or kitsch. It helps us learn from our collective history, to understand how cultural and religious encounter can produce new possibilities for being Australian, or can coarsen and polarise into rancour and mistrust.

Irish settlement was hugely formative of this country, socially, politically and culturally. It was a distinct part of wider white settlement, not least because of the imported sectarian tensions and divisions that went along with it.

Establishment prejudice against Catholics and "bog Irish" endured from the early days of settlement well into the 20th century. That label "Anglo-Celtic", routinely used to describe early European settlement, papers over the crucial schism between its two constituent terms. Ironically, the arrival of new waves of immigrants has tended to obscure the differences that historically made up the Australian nation.

"White Australia" has come to seem a unified and authentic identity, threatened by hordes of dark-skinned foreigners.

A century ago, during the Great War, Prime Minister Billy Hughes played up a common prejudice against the Irish. They were suspected of disloyalty, especially after the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916

If we forget history, we are condemned to repeat it, the truism goes. Perhaps it is truer to say that if we forget history, in all its messy, ragged, complexity, we produce myths of the past based on consoling simplistic stories of "them" and "us" that feed misunderstanding and violence. Remembering the distinctiveness of Irish settlement into Australia, both its collisions and its collusions with British officialdom, is necessary for a wise response to current immigration debates and policies. The Catholic Irish were assimilated into Australian life when other threats seemed greater. The social conservatism of the Catholic Church and its Irish followers became a key ally in the fight against communism during the Cold War.

Furthermore, later waves of immigrants from eastern Europe, the south Mediterranean and Asia made Irish Catholic otherness seem less pronounced. Suddenly, the Irish did not seem so different. This softening in Protestant-Catholic sectarianism demonstrates vividly how enemies become allies when geopolitical configurations mutate. It is a lesson we would do well to remember in the current circumstances.

Up to one-third of Australians are of Irish heritage – vastly more, proportionally, than in the US. The contribution of Irish migrants to Australian politics, the judiciary and the professions is immense and played a crucial role in modern Australia's journey to political independence. Australia, visiting Irish politicians routinely claim, is the most Irish country outside of Ireland. Yet, this connection is under-recognised in both Australia and Ireland, including in both education systems. Whereas most major urban destinations for Irish emigration, such as New York, London, Montreal, Liverpool and Boston, have prominent Irish studies centres, Irish studies is comparatively absent as an academic subject in Australia, despite the pioneering work in the field by historians such as the late Patrick O'Farrell.

Where then might contemporary Australian students learn about Ireland or study their rich heritage of Irish Australia? To remember the Irishness of Australia on St Patrick's Day should not simply be an indulgence based on sepia-tinted myths of heritage and belonging. It is to remind those who use rhetoric about "our values", that "Anglo-Celtic" Australia is itself formed on cultural and religious difference, sectarian schisms that were traversed and hybridised into an ever-changing, ever-porous nation called Australia.


Survivors welcome Archbishop sex charge

THE Catholic archbishop of Adelaide will fight an allegation he concealed child sexual abuse by a priest, a charge a victims' group says is unlikely to be the last faced by a senior church official.

PHILIP Wilson is believed to be the most senior Catholic official in the world to face charges of this nature.
NSW police allege Wilson concealed a serious offence regarding child sexual abuse in the state's Hunter region.

The abuse was allegedly committed during the 1970s by another priest, when both men worked in the Maitland Diocese, near Newcastle.

Wilson said he was disappointed police had decided to charge him and would vigorously defend his innocence.

"The suggestion appears to be that I failed to bring to the attention of police a conversation I am alleged to have had in 1976, when I was a junior priest, that a now deceased priest had abused a child," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

"From the time this was first brought to my attention last year, I have completely denied the allegation."

Wilson appeared in 2013 at a special commission of inquiry into how police and church officials handled allegations of abuse by Hunter Valley priests, particularly serial sex offender Father Denis McAlinden and convicted pedophile Father James Fletcher. Both are now dead.

Wilson, 64, could face up to two years behind bars if convicted.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) spokesman Mark Fabbro said it was positive to see the police move against such a senior church official.

"Survivors had been wondering why it had taken so long for a senior prelate to be brought to justice," Mr Fabbro told AAP.  "There is evidence also implicating other individuals who have obviously from the evidence not reported crimes to the police and not pursued the perpetrators to ensure that they were accountable to the Australian public.

"It appears from the evidence that we've gained that the senior prelates in the Catholic Church persisted in the movement of ... criminals away from police authorities."

The charge follows an investigation by Strike Force Lantle, which since 2010 has probed allegations of concealment of child abuse by former and current clergy attached to the Catholic Church's Maitland-Newcastle Diocese.

Wilson said his efforts on the issue of child sexual abuse have been widely acknowledged.  "I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to dealing proactively with the issue of child sexual abuse and the implementation of best-practice child protection measures which I have pioneered since becoming a bishop.

"I would again like to express my deep sorrow for the devastating impact of clerical sex abuse on victims and their families, and I give an assurance that despite this charge, I will continue to do what I can to protect the children in our care in the Archdiocese of Adelaide."

The archbishop has taken immediate leave and retained Ian Temby QC, one of Australia's top barristers and the first Commonwealth director of public prosecutions, to represent him.

Wilson has been issued with a notice to appear in the Newcastle Local Court on April 30 on the charge of concealing a serious offence.