Australian Politics 2019-09-28 16:00:00

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Abortion is decriminalised in New South Wales after weeks of contentious debate and heated protests

This is a storm in a teacup.  Abortion has been decriminalized in NSW for years -- ever since the Heatherbrae case. The 1971 case of R v Wald ruled that abortions do not contravene the laws in certain circumstances.

That case involved a criminal trial of five people – most of whom were health care professionals. The five defendants were involved in performing an abortion at the Heatherbrae clinic in Bondi. All were charged under section 83 of the Crimes Act.

The trial judge found that an abortion is lawful if there is an ‘economic, social or medical ground or reason’ upon which the doctor could honestly and reasonably believe that an abortion could avoid a ‘serious danger to the pregnant woman’s life or her physical or mental health.’

All five defendants were ultimately found ‘not guilty’ on that basis – and the ruling opened the doors to women seeking to terminate a pregnancy for reasons such as financial disadvantage or instability, or fears of social stigma and judgment – factors which may negatively affect a woman’s mental wellbeing.

The judgment also affirmed that abortions do not need to be performed in hospitals – paving the way for women’s health clinics around the state.


NSW parliament has passed laws decriminalising abortion following a marathon debate and weeks of protest. There was applause in the lower house on Thursday as the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019 passed its final hurdle.

It comes after the controversial bill passed the upper house 26 votes to 14 on Wednesday night following nearly 40 hours of discussion - making it the third longest debate in the state's house of review.

The bill, presented to parliament in August by Independent MP Alex Greenwich, takes abortion out of the criminal code and allows terminations up to 22 weeks.

'Thank you to all members for the role you have played in this historic reform ... we can feel proud that part of our legacy will be the decriminalisation of abortion in NSW,' the Member for Sydney said. 

An amendment passed in the upper house recognised doctors performing abortions after 22 weeks could seek advice from a multi-disciplinary team or hospital advisory committee.

'With the passing of this bill, our parliament affirms that we trust women,' Labor MP and bill co-sponsor Jo Haylen said just before the final vote. 'We trust women to make decisions about their own lives and about their own bodies.'

The legislation was opposed by religious groups, anti-abortion activists and several MPs who raised concerns about late-term and sex-selective abortions, conscientious objection and the way the bill was introduced. 

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, and former prime minister Tony Abbott were both outspoken in their opposition of the bill.

Joyce described it as the 'slavery debate of our time,' while Abbott accused the NSW government of putting forward 'the most radical abortion laws in this country.'

Liberal and Labor MPs were allowed a conscience vote on the bill.

Tensions in the government reached a climax last week when Liberal MPs Tanya Davies, Mathew Mason-Cox and Lou Amato said they would move a leadership spill motion against Premier Gladys Berejiklian over her handling of the bill.

The rebel MPs, who ultimately withdrew the motion, said it had been made clear that 'at an absolute minimum' four key amendments were required to ensure continued Liberal Party membership.

Ms Davies on Thursday supported amendments made to the bill, saying they created more safeguards and brought the bill to a better place.  

Abortions after 22 weeks are allowed with the approval of two 'specialist medical practitioners.'

All terminations after 22 weeks will now have to be performed in a public hospital.

'Many of us within the Parliament, and also outside in our communities, had concerns with the original bill ... concessions, amendments, changes to the original bill were moved through both houses of Parliament and that is a good thing,' she said.

The legislation that passed on Thursday is more conservative than the initial bill that Greenwich introduced after changes were made following opposition.

Labor MP Penny Sharpe, who is one of 15 co-sponsors of the bill, on Wednesday night said the vote was 119 years in the making.

'The current law has meant women and doctors have a threat of 10 years in jail for making this decision and that not okay,' she told parliament. 'This is a massive step forward for women in this state.'

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Don’t kill free speech to kill hate speech

Flawed ‘hate speech’ laws are a threat to free speech. The best way to protect minorities – while also properly protecting free speech – is to ensure the criminal laws prohibiting incitements and threats of violence are effective.

Inciting and threatening violence has long been against the law. Liberal democracies, such as Australia that have strong traditions of valuing free speech, accept speech that endangers the safety of others should be illegal.

However, there has been a push to expand legislation to ban anything deemed ‘hate speech.’ The United Nations has said they want to ‘scale up [their] response to hate speech.’ Although wanting to stop hatred and bigotry is admirable, such statements should be viewed with caution.

‘Hate speech’ is a broad, vague, and ill-defined notion that would simply catch in the legal net the kinds of contentious speech that some people find offensive or hurtful — or simply do not like.

There is a fundamental difference between speech that criticises ideas and threats of violence.

But as my research shows, protecting community safety and free speech is possible. Most state and territory governments are reviewing their vilification laws — they should adopt the model NSW introduced last year.

The NSW parliament passed the Crimes Amendment (Publicly Threatening and Inciting Violence) Act, which criminalises incitements and threats of violence against an individual or group who possess a protected attribute.

In addition to setting a high threshold for proving an offence, these laws vest investigative powers to the police as opposed to the anti-discrimination board of NSW. This allows for a more thorough investigative process, minimising the risk trivial complaints will be brought.

These laws passed with bipartisan support, and the support of community and ethnic lobbies, satisfying an objective of these laws that they are required to ensure minorities feel safe in their community.

Any law that restricts speech needs to be scrutinised and the NSW approach is obviously not perfect. But it presents a workable model — akin to the old criminal laws against incitements and threats of violence.

Free speech cannot be sacrificed by flimsy and unnecessary ‘hate speech’ laws.

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Surfers Paradise Beach, where people have been warned to swim at their own risk should drum lines be removed

The mayor of the Gold Coast — one of the nation’s most prolific international drawcards — has warned the removal of drum lines from northern Queensland beaches sends the wrong message for tourism in the state and people in affected areas should “swim at your own risk’’.

Tom Tate warned the decision — sparked after a federal court ruling — would undermine the safety of swimmers in the Sunshine State.

Councils are concerned that the decision to remove 160 drum lines from beaches from Cairns to Gladstone on the Great Barrier Reef could become a precedent to remove the lines from other areas of Queensland.

Mr Tate has said he is concerned activists will come for the Gold Coast’s drum lines next. “The group’s already said that they are going to try and expand and take it all the way down to the border.

“[The government] is just being led by the nose by the Greenie bureaucrats.”

The debate was sparked by the Federal Court’s upholding of a decision from the Administrative Appeal Tribunal, which declared if the state could not tag and release sharks, the state government needed to end its program.

The state government failed to appeal the decision and followed by removing 160 drum lines along 27 beaches in northern Queensland.

In a press conference called on Thursday to attack the plan, Mr Tate said: “The people of the Gold Coast and tourists want to be safe on the beach. “That’s why it’s called Surfers Paradise. You can go and swim and the only things that’s in there with you is your kids ... not some shark looking around to have their meal.’’

Mr Tate said there had been no shark attacks since drum lines had been in place for the past 50 years. “If it’s not broken leave the hooks out there.’’

He called on Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch to reconsider the decision to remove drum lines, comply with the federal court’s conditions and maintain the program.

Asked what it would mean for the safety of swimmers, Mr Tate said: “Swim at your own risk because areas where its Byron or out in Western Australia where there’s no nets or drum lines, you get shark attacks recorded and that’s one statistic you don’t want to be.’’

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley on Wednesday condemned the Queensland government’s removal of shark drum lines, accusing them of putting the public at risk for a political stunt.

Ms Ley chastised Queensland for removing drum lines “in the full glare of social media” 24 hours after a federal-court decision which stops shark culling in the Great barrier Reef Marine Park.

“(Queensland) needs to read the judgment a bit more carefully, the judgment did not tell them to take those drum lines out within 24 hours, it makes it very clear there was no need to take the drum lines out,” Ms Ley said on 2GB.

Ms Ley said she had shared her own legal advice on the court’s ruling with the Queensland government, to prove their actions were unnecessarily putting people at risk.

“My call to action with Queensland is put (the drum lines) back in. I don’t want to get into a political spat over something as important as this. Put them back in, admit you were wrong, that you, for whatever reason, decided to make this political,” Ms Ley.

Ms Ley reiterated her advice from the Australian Government Solicitor was that removing the ruling did not require drum lines to be removed.

“The Queensland government chose public alarm over personal safety, knowing that any legislative change at a federal level could not be made overnight and knowing that the State Government had sat back for five months since the initial decision without preparing alternative options,” she said.

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GREENIE ROUNDUP

Four current articles below

Climate: The Conversation becomes a lecture

The Conversation has always been heavily behind the alarmist side of the climate debate, and has featured in this blog many times in the past.

Now however it has taken the extraordinary step of banning any dissenting views on climate:

Climate change deniers, and those shamelessly peddling pseudoscience and misinformation, are perpetuating ideas that will ultimately destroy the planet. As a publisher, giving them a voice on our site contributes to a stalled public discourse.

That’s why the editorial team in Australia is implementing a zero-tolerance approach to moderating climate change deniers, and sceptics. Not only will we be removing their comments, we’ll be locking their accounts.

There is a huge range of dissenting opinion, from outright “denial” to educated and careful scientific critique, but we can be sure that The Conversation will interpret the ban as widely as possible so that nothing disrupts the desired consensus viewpoint. No doubt will be allowed.

The Catholic Church had the same idea when they sentenced Galileo to house arrest for “falsely” claiming the Earth orbited the Sun. Look how that worked out…

We really haven’t come that far since the 1600s.

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Time to up the ante on climate change strategy

A sobering lesson from the latest UN science report on climate is not how much still needs to be done but how little has been achieved for all the effort and money already spent.

Temperatures are rising and fossil fuel use is increasing with no sign of peaking. Despite the extraordinary growth in renewable energy the world overwhelmingly is powered by fossil fuels. This will continue as the yearly rise in global energy use is greater than investment in renewable energy, which has been showing signs of fatigue.

To change the trend, the UN’s United in Science report calls for a doubling of effort to meet the two-degree target and a five-fold step-up to limit future warming to the more ambitious 1.5C.

Rather than new findings, the report brings together the already published state of play. It mentions recent extreme weather and says the pace of sea level rise has accelerated from 3mm to 4mm a year.

The main purpose of the report was to lay a foundation for action at the special UN climate summit called by Secretary General Antonio Guterres in New York this week. About 60 nations were to make presentations to the UN Assembly on what they would do to increase action on climate change.

The report underscores the fact pledges made under the Paris Agr­eement will not achieve anywhere near what is judged to be needed.

According to the report, current commitments are estimated to lower global emissions in 2030 by up to six gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent compared to a continuation of current policies. If implemented this would still see temperatures rise by between 2.9 and 3.4C by 2100, the report says.

This level of ambition is a fraction of what the UN says is required. But none of the big emissions nations, the US, China, India or the European Union are expected to offer to do more.

Rather, discussions remain mired in the same old arguments about how there must be different responsibilities for developed and developing countries and funding.

The UN report says technically it still is possible to bridge the gap in 2030 to ensure global warming stays below 2C and 1.5C. But the evidence is that even existing ambitions are proving difficult for many countries to honour.

This should be no surprise. It has been anticipated by big thinkers such as Bill Gates and was at the heart of a Mission Innovation program unveiled in Paris to boost research funding. Governments, including Australia, have fallen well short on what was pledged.

It is time to redouble efforts to invest in new solutions.

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'Australia's got nothing to apologise for': Scott Morrison hits back at 'completely false' critics of his climate change policies in his United Nations address

Scott Morrison has hit back at critics of his climate change policies during an historic address to the United Nations.

The prime minister has faced backlash for missing special climate conference in the United States and the government has been accused of lacking a 'credible climate or energy policy'.

While speaking to the general assembly in New York on Wednesday, Mr Morrison fired back, accusing critics of overlooking or ignoring the efforts Australia had made.

'Australia is doing our bit on climate change and we reject any suggestion to the contrary.

'Australia's internal... and global critics on climate change willingly overlook or, perhaps, ignore our achievements, as the facts simply don't fit the narrative that they wish to project about our contribution.'

He said the country was committed to its target of cutting emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, describing that as a 'credible, fair, responsible and achievable contribution'.

During his speech he highlighted that Australia was responsible for just 1.3 per cent of global emissions and how the country had pledged $13.2 billion to invest in clean energy technologies in 2018

Ahead of the speech, the Prime Minister said Pacific leaders he spoke with were often surprised to learn what Australia was doing on climate.

'Oftentimes the criticisms that have been made about Australia are completely false,' he told reporters in New York.

'Where do they get their information from? Who knows? Maybe they read it, maybe they read it.'

Asked if he was saying it was 'fake news' - a favourite insult of US President Donald Trump - he replied: 'I'm not saying that. All I'm saying is when I've spoken to them, they've been surprised to learn about the facts about what Australia has been doing'.

He told the UN that Australia would beat its 2020 Kyoto targets and claimed it would also meet its 2030 Paris pledge.

Environment department figures show Australia's emissions have risen since 2014.

Under the Paris agreement, all countries are expected to update their pledges to cut emissions at the 2020 climate conference in Glasgow. But Mr Morrison indicated that at this stage, Australia is unlikely to do so. 'We have our commitments, and we're sticking to those commitments,' he said.

Mr Morrison also confirmed to the UN that Australia won't contribute any more to the global Green Climate Fund.

The May budget papers said Australia made its last payment into the fund in December 2018.

Instead, Australia is redirecting $500 million of its aid money to help Pacific Island nations become more resilient in the face of the effects of climate change. 'I'm not writing a $500 million cheque to the UN, I won't be doing that. There's no way I'm going to do that to Australian taxpayers,' Mr Morrison told reporters.

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Climate pressure on Suncorp

Suncorp is Queensland's biggest insurer and a major bank

ENVIRONMENTAL activist shareholders of Suncorp say its lucrative insurance business is under threat from global warming weather events but have failed to get the Queensland financial group to target specific reductions in fossil fuel investments.

Environmental group Market Forces moved at Suncorp's annual general meeting yesterday to push the company to set targets to reduce investment in and underwriting of oil and gas projects.  Suncorp has already committed to phasing out investments in coal by 2025.

Suncorp chairman Christine McLoughlin said the company accepted that human activity was causing climate change and the frequency of severe weather events was accelerating. But Ms McLoughlin said Suncorp had taken steps to reduce its exposure to the fossil fuel sector and disclosure of specific investment targets was not needed.

She said fossil fuel-related business made up less than 1 per cent of its insurance business and a negligible part of its lending and investment portfolio.

Activist shareholders said that targets were necessary as Suncorp's insurance business came under threat from worsening natural disasters linked to global warming.

Activist Jan McNicol said Suncorp's insurance business could end up in a "death spiral" due to global warming. However, a resolution that would have led to Suncorp disclosing short, medium and long-term fossil fuel reduction targets was voted down by an overwhelming majority of shareholders.

Grazier Simon Gedda said that he became convinced human activity was causing worsening weather conditions when a flood hit his central Queensland property in 2017 and was "14 foot" higher than the previous record flood in 1991.  He told the AGM he was concerned that continued investment by Suncorp in oil and gas projects would put its insurance clients at continued risk of severe weather events.

Suncorp CEO Steve Johnston said the company's involvement in funding and underwriting of fossil fuel projects was minimal and there were no plans to in-crease its investments in oil and gas.

"Courier Mail" 27 Sept. 2019

 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here