Australian Politics 2020-01-30 15:34:00


Row over Bettina Arndt’s honour

Social commentator and men’s rights advocate Bettina Arndt has hit back after Victoria’s attorney-general called for her to be stripped of her Australia Day honour.

Over the weekend, Ms Arndt was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) — Australia’s third-highest civic honour — for striving to achieve “gender equity through advocacy for men”.

The journalist and sex therapist was criticised in 2018 when she interviewed convicted sex offender Nicolaas Bester and has been outspoken against what she believes is a “fake rape crisis” at Australian universities.

In response, Labor’s Jill Hennessy, who is also state minister for workplace safety, has written to Governor-General David Hurley after the Australia Day Honours list was published on Sunday saying she was alarmed at the appointment.

Ms Arndt has blasted the letter as “gobsmacking” and “absolutely hilarious”.

Ms Hennessy’s letter, dated January 28 and posted on her Facebook page, recognises the honours are decided with the recommendation of an independent council but asks why Ms Ardnt was included.

“Taking into account Ms Arndt’s well-documented opinions, public commentary and media appearances — which include sympathising with a convicted paedophile and blaming and shaming victims — this award is an insult to victims of sexual abuse and to those of us who work hard every day to prevent it,” she wrote.

Ms Hennessy also pointed to the issue of family violence.

“I would ask that the Council of the Order of Australia consider cancellation of Ms Arndt’s award given that her public commentary brings the Order into disrepute and in particular that it attaches the Order’s tacit support to her views,” she wrote.

Ms Ardnt said Ms Hennessy should be ashamed.

“Shame on Victoria’s first law officer, Jill Hennessy, the Victorian Attorney-General for responding to muckraking from ideologues rather than seeking proper evidence,” she posted on Twitter.

She posted this morning: “She shows my main crime was defending men and telling the truth about women’s role in family violence.”

This all comes as the New Matilda questioned Ms Arndt’s credentials — writing that she was not a doctor, had never obtained a PhD and nor was she a psychologist or clinical psychologist.

The publication claimed she “has actively participated in the promotion of material which portrays her falsely as a psychologist, clinical psychologist and doctor”.

On Facebook overnight, Ms Arndt hit back at the story, calling it a “hit job”.

“I am not currently a practising psychologist. However, that was certainly my professional training when I started my career in the 1970s. I have postgraduate qualifications in clinical psychology,” she wrote.

“It’s common practice for well-known people to use labels that include their professional background. According to the authorities regulating professional practice for psychologists, I am not doing anything wrong.”

Former Australian of the Year and family violence survivor Rosie Batty, whose young son was murdered by her mentally ill ex-husband, earlier this week questioned the legitimacy of the appointment.

“I cannot help but be appalled that someone who minimised violence towards women who is part of the inevitable push-back and backlash that we all experience as we pioneer a way forward, would be awarded,” Ms Batty told

Upon receiving her honour, Ms Arndt told she had been writing about men’s issues for 30 years.

She said she started off as a feminist and campaigning for women’s rights, but became “increasingly alarmed” by the movement.

“I felt in many areas, women had achieved equality,” she said. “We had a lot to celebrate. But there are many who wanted to extend women’s rights well beyond any notion of equality.

“It’s now all about male bashing, trying to advantage women over men in so many areas. I had enough of that.

“I don’t think it’s fair that a small, noisy minority group in our society closes down discussion on issues that affect half the population.”


Crackdown targets protection visa scam

A crackdown on foreigners trying to enter Australia illegally and ­exploit protection visas has ­resulted in a huge spike in interceptions at overseas airports and passengers being kicked off flights, with the new approach stopping 1730 arrivals in 2018-19.

Australian Border Force has ramped up operations at international flight terminals, targeting individuals carrying fraudulent documents and those who have lied about or obscured their genuine reasons for travel.

Protection claims by Malaysian and Chinese citizens have also declined sharply in the first six months of 2019-20 as the ABF and Department of Home Affairs use intelligence threat assessments, improved alert systems and risk profiles to stop foreigners aiming to prolong their stay.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said Australian authorities were working with ­regional partners, including ­Malaysia, to curb the number of unfounded protection claims.

The Australian can reveal that, in 2018-19, ABF officers intercepted 387 people at international airports around the world who were attempting to travel to Australia without proper documentation. This compared with just 205 in 2017-18, representing an 89 per cent increase.

There were also “significant ­increases” in people offloaded from flights to Australia based on recommendations from ABF officers, amid concerns these individuals had lied about their genuine reasons for travel.

In 2018-19, there were 1343 passengers offloaded by airlines based on advice from Border Force officers compared with 555 passengers in 2017-18 — a 142 per cent increase.

Mr Tudge said Australia had one of the most “generous ­humanitarian programs in the world” but warned that too many people had tried to take advantage of the system by falsely claiming they needed protection.

“We settle thousands of people in desperate need every year,” Mr Tudge said.

“Some people unfortunately seek to exploit our international obligations by lodging protection claims onshore which have no foundation — this issue is not new and is not unique to ­Australia.

“These individuals use our legal system to deliberately prolong their stay in Australia even when they have no prospects of success.”

There was a 19 per cent decline in protection lodgments from Malaysian citizens in the first six months of 2019-20, with 3410 claims being made compared with 4191 in the first six months of 2018-19.

There was also a decline of 16 per cent in protection lodgments from Chinese citizens over the same period, with 2106 claims made in the first six months of 2019-20 compared with 2506 in the first six months of 2018-19.

Other measures implemented by the ABF and the Department of Home Affairs to strengthen the integrity of Australia’s visa and immigration systems included the cancellation of visas of “non-genuine travellers” ahead of ­arrival. The ABF and department are also actively responding to ­increases in fraud and noncompliance by increasing scrutiny of visa applications.

Mr Tudge said co-operation with regional partners combined with border protection measures “before, at and after the Australian border” had reduced the number of claims coming from known international hot spots.

Countering Labor’s claims of a surge in asylum-seekers arriving by air, the government said less than 0.25 per cent of people who arrived in Australia by plane went on to apply for protection and, of them, about 90 per cent were ­refused. Mr Tudge said that, in the last three years of the previous Labor government, 6900 permanent protection visas were granted to people who arrived by air. In the past three years under the ­Coalition, 4780 visas were ­granted.

Protection visas allow holders to live, work and study in Australia permanently and sponsor eligible family members for permanent residency through the offshore humanitarian program.

For permanent visas, asylum-seekers escaping persecution or harm in their home countries must have arrived legally in Australia and meet health, character and security requirements.

Others attempting to secure protection visas are motivated to prolong their stays in Australia, seek employment and a better quality of life.

Analysis of Department of ­Immigration and Border Protection data shows Malaysian and Chinese citizens topped the list of protection visa lodgments ahead of those from India, Thailand, Fiji, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan and The Philippines.

Of the protection visas granted by citizenship, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Libya and China top the list. Only 11 per cent of protection visa cases finalised in 2018-19 were successful.

A monthly update for December released by the department revealed a total of 2219 protection visas were lodged last month. There were 997 refugee status ­determinations made and 75 ­individuals granted a final ­protection visa, with Turkey, Venezuela, Iran and Afghanistan topping the list.

The Coalition last year successfully won Senate crossbench support to repeal the medivac law, which allowed asylum-seekers to be transported to Australia on the advice of doctors. Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally has clashed with the government over her claims that people-smugglers have “changed their business model from boats to planes”.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal continues to be flooded by appeals from people seeking protection visas, who have been rejected, with some still being processed from Labor’s legacy caseload.

In recent cases, many involving Afghan citizens, asylum-seekers have been citing violence and blood feuds in attempts to overturn refusals of their visa ­applications.


Politicized charities

Don't give them a cent

Four of Australia’s leading international aid organisations have urged the Morrison Government to take major climate change action amid the country’s bushfire crisis.

World Vision Australia, Oxfam Australia, Plan International Australia and Save the Children Australia have joined forces to issue a plea for stronger climate measures.

The group wants more ambitious emission reduction targets to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C, warning many countries will face unmanageable suffering and devastation if more isn’t done.

“The time for debate about climate change is over, it is now time for action. We cannot afford to waste any more time,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

The organisations have called on Australia to demonstrate strong leadership on climate action and transition to a low-emissions global economy, support reforestation programs and build the capacity of vulnerable communities in Australia and overseas to deal with the ravages of climate change.

The four charities have called for the Coalition government to sign the Intergovernmental Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action.

“Our organisations acknowledge that this issue is so pressing, we must advocate in alliance to amplify the voices of the world’s most vulnerable people,” the joint statement says.

The Australian arms of World Vision, Oxfam, Plan and Save the Children describe climate change as a human rights issue impacting on health and an adequate standard of living.

“Every day, our aid workers see the very real and devastating impact of climate change on the world’s most vulnerable people,” the aid alliance says.

The group pointed to a food crisis in southern African, severe floods in Indonesia and a 2018 deadly cyclone in Mozambique.

“Now the climate emergency has well and truly arrived at home, too,” the alliance continued.

“Australians are suffering through the devastating ongoing fallout from our worst fire season on record, with dozens of lives, thousands of homes and more than a billion creatures lost.

“Fires continue to rage and millions are breathing in hazardous air across three states.” Climate action has been brought into sharp focus by Australia’s deadly bushfires with the issue sparking tensions within the coalition.


Franking credit plan stank

LABOR leader Anthony Albanese has officially dumped the party's election-killing franking credits hit as he embarks on a major policy reset ahead of the next federal poll. Mr Albanese told The Courier Mail the policy — a major contributor to Labor's shock loss under Bill Shorten in May last year — would go. "We won't be taking the same policy to the next election," he said, acknowledging the plan to abolish cash refunds for individuals and super funds deeply worried retirees.

 Mr Albanese said he was determined to be collaborative and ensure proper processes were followed for Labor to develop its policies. But he said the franking credits policy, which would have saved the Budget about $5 billion a year, would go.

It was the first of the Shorten-era policies to be formally junked by Mr Albanese, who took over as leader after Mr Shorten stood down following his defeat by Scott Morrison.

Mr Albanese, who on Monday emerged for the first time as preferred prime minister over Mr Morrison in Newspoll, also said he no longer opposed asylum-seeker boat-turnbacks, because "they worked".

He said economic debates had to be won ahead of environmental and social debates. And he urged fellow progressives to ensure they argued their case and "took people with them" when making the case for change.

The franking credits policy which would have abolished cash refunds for retirees who received dividends which had already incurred company tax — would have saved about $55 billion over 10 years, which Labor intended to spend on other social policies. But it proved the most unpopular of Labor's swath of policies.

"One of the things I've been determined to do is to be collaborative and to have proper processes for decision-making" Mr Albanese said.  "But I've indicated certainly that in my view Labor will not be taking the same policy to the next election.  "We'll work through all of the detail of our tax policies.

But something that I've heard very directly from people is
that they had made arrangements based upon the existing rules that were in place. "And they felt it was unfair that we were proposing to change that. "There are a range of people who weren't impacted by it at all who felt that they would be.

"Pensioners who have never held a share in their 'life felt they were going to be impacted." Mr Albanese said there were "issues with the tax system and fairness that need to be dealt with". "But they need to be dealt with in a way that doesn't add to people's insecurity," he said.

"We had an issue at the election of leaving ourselves vulnerable to attacks that we were adding to people's feeling of insecurity. "And I think that the pace of change in the economy, the nature of work, meant that people are worried about the future."

Mr Albanese pulled ahead of Mr Morrison as preferred prime minister 43-39 after trailing him by 14 points when the Newspoll voter survey was last taken in early December.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 18 January, 2020

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