Australian Politics 2020-03-01 15:37:00
Keyboard warriors walking a fine line online
The comment below is in response to a court judgment vindicating a principal -- Tracey Brose -- of a small country school who had been abused online. The accusations against her implied that she was: evil, nasty and horrible; had brought pain and stress on a woman’s family; had mistreated lower-performing children; and brought stress on students who did not achieve A grades.
What lies behind the controversy is that Ms Brose is a "no nonsense" principal who pushes students for good results. And she gets them, making her very popular with most of the parents
Some parents of slower students, however, thought she was too hard on their offspring and made online comments abusing Ms Brose. And they were aggressive comments, not polite disagreement. The attacks were what one might expect from people with dim offspring
Ms Brose was distressed by the comments but could not get a retraction so turned to the law of defamation to put a kink in her critics. Had the accused apologized at any point, no further action would have been needed. But rather than apologize, the small minority of critics doubled down.
The judgement against them has not diminished their rage but it may be a lesson to others.
CHARACTER assassination on social media needs to be kept in check by courts while still allowing "breathing space for expression", the judge who presided over the Tamborine Mountain case says. District Court Judge Catherine Muir noted in her 140-page decision that people had a right to use defamation laws to sue if they believed their reputation was hurt by untruths but that should not trample on freedom of speech.
Judge Muir said courts could only use "existing defamation" law to assess comments made online in a "growing" number of Facebook and other social media defamation lawsuits.
She noted that "considerable legislative focus and solution" was needed to look at complex defamation law issues in online forums.
Speaking after yesterday's decision, Derek Wilding of the Centre for Media Transition at the University of Technology Sydney said a joint effort by the Federal Government and the states and territories was exploring proposals to update defamation law. "But even if the law does change, people will still need to ask themselves whether their online comments might harm someone's reputation," he said.
Mr Wilding said internet users needed to be cautious about what they posted online. "If it's not Facebook that's being sued for defamation in Australia — it's the people who post comments and the people or organisations who own the pages," he said.
"Part of the problem is that we don't assume we're a 'publisher' when we post a comment, but the law sees it differently."
Law academic Michael Douglas said defamation law reform was likely to appear this year, but cases like this would still be in the courts and reforms may not help regular mums and dads sued for defamation. "Keyboard warriors should take a breath and go for a walk before writing something spicy on social media," he said.
From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 29/2/20
Celebrities have forgotten their place
A new lifeform has emerged on the global stage. Actually, it’s more of a mutation than a new species. This organism can only survive in the rarefied atmosphere of the public spotlight, and it has been part of everyday life, first in movies and then in television, for the better part of a century. It can now be found in sport, music, politics, fashion, royalty – and social media, where it goes by the name “influencer”.
I am talking about the celebrity. In the old days – prior to the 1980s, say – celebrities knew their place; their job was to look pretty, to exude wit and/or charm, to dress glamorously and to attract fans. But today’s celebrities have extended this brief to include the opportunistic promotion of a popular cause. And with the awards industry flourishing, there are any number of platforms that enable today’s celebrities to pout, preen and pose on a red carpet just as they have always done, but with the added opportunity of offering “spontaneous” advice to the non-celebrity world about their pet subject. Climate change is a favourite.
Never mind that the celebrity lifestyle involves private jets, multiple homes and a range of egregious consumption sins committed against the environment. The unstated logic among this new breed of Celebrity Moralisers is that, while they do indeed live these apparently wasteful lifestyles, the payback is that they command vast audiences so “an earnest word about carbon emissions” delivered at precisely the right moment can have the effect of modifying the behaviour of millions. Millions!
Plus, moralising even momentarily from a public pulpit effectively rebrands the celebrity as not just a pretty face but as someone who’s a bit of a thinker, an ethicist; someone who is deeply concerned about the great moral challenges of the day. I mean, a celebrity isn’t going to shout “remember to floss” from the stage (vital though that is to dental hygiene); they’re going to promote a cause that is prominent, that contributes to their brand, and that can never be measured. It’s a win-win.
So it’s OK for Celebrity Moralisers to fly about, but not for you and me, and that’s because their carbon emissions are offset by the impact they can have in “bravely speaking out” and reining in the errant behaviour of the masses. In fact, moralising to millions is a lot like buying carbon offsets. It legitimises the celebrity lifestyle, it promotes their brand and, best of all, the impact of their courageous words can’t be quantified. How many people were persuaded to reduce carbon emissions as a consequence of moral posturing? Or does the value that celebrities bring lie with their ability to change the vibe?
In many ways, the cult of the celebrity is like a modern aristocracy in which the resources of the many are marshalled to support the lifestyle of the few. And when celebrities stuck to their core business of promoting their work, we accepted their position of privilege. But less so today.
In today’s world business leaders, politicians and others are very much held to account for espousing one standard while living another. The modern world abhors hypocrisy, or so we would like to believe.
And yet I somehow think that next year’s awards season will be littered with more causes, more symbols of solidarity, more brave words of support, because despite the callouts, the spoofs and the protest, we’ll move on and allow the Celebrity Moraliser to re-emerge stronger and poutier than ever. Hmmm… perhaps we’re more tolerant of hypocrisy than we would like to believe.
Our leaders open to ridicule in setting silly climate targets
We might like talking about political promises but let’s be frank: they have the half-life of a prawn salad. Our politicians have broken so many pledges they’ve made cynicism more contagious than the coronavirus.
Ruling out new taxes, heralding surpluses and guaranteeing stability — breaking these undertakings is the only thing that has united our major parties over the past decade. Crossing voters is an across-the-aisle conviction.
When core promises can last less than a year, try to imagine the voter buy-in for a pledge spanning 30 budgets and at least 10 elections. Anthony Albanese says Labor will deliver a zero net carbon dioxide emissions target by 2050, without saying how it will be done or what it will cost.
If it happens, it will be achieved by a prime minister who is most likely not yet in the parliament and some of the people who will get to pass judgment on the outcome at the ballot box won’t be born for more than a decade. When we evaluate our 2050 performance, Albanese will be 86, Greta Thunberg will be 47 and Keith Richards will most likely still be confounding medics and turning 106.
If we cast our minds back an equivalent period, it was the delivery date for an infamous promise from former prime minister Bob Hawke. “By 1990, no child will be living in poverty,” he said in 1987. Despite manifestly failing on this, Hawke was re-elected for a fourth term in March 1990. Although the Silver Bodgie is no longer with us, children living in poverty are — as we were reminded this week with references to the Newstart Allowance and poverty on the NSW central coast.
If you can’t remember 1990, let me remind you: it was the year that Germany officially reunited, a year after the Berlin Wall came down, and Poland became the first Eastern bloc nation to begin to embrace capitalism; Tim Berners-Lee began work on creating the world wide web; the first digital camera was sold; and mobile phones were chunky things in fancy cars. Iraq invaded Kuwait and troops, including Australian sailors, blockaded Iraq in the lead-up to the first Gulf War; while the Rio Earth summit, which first drew global attention to global warming, was still two years away.
Supporters of zero net by 2050 argue that it is pointless discussing the cost because we have no idea about technological, industrial and economic settings that far in the future. Which is exactly the point: why promote the target when there is no way of knowing where we will be placed on climate knowledge, technological advances, emissions reduction and economic settings even two years from now?
This target is virtue-signalling, pure and simple, which is why state governments and large corporates sign up; they are eager to access subsidies and projects but are not responsible for delivering. In federal politics, where the rubber will hit the road, any party adopting the target surely is obliged to provide plans and costings for achieving it.
Labor wipes its hands but a study by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research costed scenarios and found zero net would cut GDP growth by 0.2 per cent. It said the higher the target, the higher the cost to households. Former resources minister Matt Canavan wrote in The Australian this week that the same formula would mean annual economic costs of $200bn to $400bn in Australia, with between 200,000 and 400,000 fewer jobs.
That estimates the pain, yet until we know what the rest of the world does, we cannot guess at any gain. If global emissions continue to rise — as they are forecast to do for at least a decade — all our costs will be for no discernible benefit. None of our politicians want to talk about cost/benefit analysis on climate action.
The evangelical enthusiasm for this target from green/left politicians, activists and journalists is irrational, more emotion and gesture than reason and fact.
They boast of 80 nations already signed up to zero net but they seldom list those countries. Here are a few: Antigua and Barbuda, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Cape Verde, Chad, Colombia, Cook Islands, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guyana, Lebanon, Mali, Nauru, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Rwanda, Samoa, Suriname, Uganda and Zambia.
One of the few signatories with a prospective economy is Norway, but it gets almost all of its electricity from abundant hydro-electricity while exporting lucrative gas and oil. It has its cake and exports at the same time.
To be fair, proponents point to Britain but while it has dramatically reduced emissions, it has fallen short of some targets, has already switched from coal to gas for cost reasons rather than climate, and it gets about 20 per cent of its electricity from nuclear.
In Australia, added emissions reduction will be costly and difficult. Already our shift to about 23 per cent renewable power has helped double electricity costs and threaten energy security.
For just over a fortnight this month, South Australia faced an accidental experiment. Cut off from the Victorian interconnector because of storm damage, it was left as an island, reliant on its own generation, four years and $500m of government investment after its statewide blackout in 2016.
Saved by cool weather, the state just managed to scrape through, but only by relying on gas for 70 per cent of its electricity generation. The state’s much-vaunted 50 per cent renewable energy achievements fell by the wayside — the zeitgeist wasn’t blowing when required — and without coal-fired power from across the state border, it only got through by firing up every bit of gas it could.
If targets and subsidies force out more coal and gas power in Victoria and NSW, all this will get much worse. Battery storage is too expensive and too short-lived to play much of a role.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal in August, Mark P. Mills detailed the resources needed for expansion of wind farms and battery storage.
“Building one wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of plastic,” he outlined.
“The International Renewable Energy Agency calculates that solar goals for 2050 consistent with the Paris Accords will result in old-panel disposal constituting more than double the tonnage of all today’s global plastic waste.”
He points out that the manufacture of a single electric car battery demands the digging up and processing of 230,000kg of raw materials. For each car.
The mining growth required, especially for rare earths, would be extraordinary, expensive and energy intensive.
“Building enough wind turbines to supply half the world’s electricity would require nearly two billion tons of coal to produce concrete and steel, along with two billion barrels of oil to make the composite blades,” wrote Mills, confronting the reality of clean, green industries.
Our debate is dominated by unrealistic posturing rather than cold hard facts. Scott Morrison ought to stick to practical policies and dismiss the climate poseurs in his own ranks and in the state Liberal governments. Australia ought to either focus primarily on affordable and reliable power or, if we are serious about emissions reduction, consider solving our energy security, climate policy and submarine technology dilemmas through a pivot to nuclear technology.
Politicians must resist believing their own publicity. One of the greatest risks for the Coalition after winning last year’s election was believing that the result was all about its brilliance rather than being largely a consequence of Labor’s determination to make themselves unelectable.
With a thin reform agenda, fragile economy and underlying divisions in its ranks, it is vital that the Coalition governs competently and embarks on a more ambitious program. It has been tardy on this front but, again, has been gifted a re-election strategy by a Labor Party addicted to radical, non-nuclear climate action as the learned helplessness of its electoral failure.
Morrison must oppose climate self-harm and fight for reliable, affordable electricity — coal-fired, gas-fired or nuclear. This contest will shape our economic future and crystallise his government’s reason for being.
Dangerous leniency for youthful criminals
A TEENAGER accused of breaking into a woman's home and raping her yesterday morning was released on bail for sex offences allegedly committed just a month ago.
The 17-year-old was charged with various offences in Cooktown last month, including sexual assault and assault with intent to commit rape.
It is understood he was granted bail and ordered to live in Cairns and not return to Cooktown as one of the conditions of his bail.
LNP leader Deb Frecklington described yesterday's alleged incident at Edmonton as a "horrific, horrific case". She said the community was being put in danger by Labor's decision to scrap the breach of bail offence for juveniles and amendments to the Youth JuStice Act.
"Labor's 'catch and release' youth bail laws are putting the public at risk," she said. "There is a revolving door of yob crime and the community has had enough."
A senior police officer who did not want to be named said current legislation "left a lot to be answered for". "It's absolutely outrageous and it's leaving the community at risk," he said.
The youth was also part of the bail hub program Operation Regenerate, which involves police on paid overtime taking youths on recreational outings. The operation was part of a $9.4 million statewide investment from the State Government to lower the number of children remanded in custody.
Cairns MP Michael Healy defended Labor's juvenile crime policies. "The Youth Justice Act is clear, a person can be remanded in custody to keep the community safe or to prevent them from offending," he said.. "Locking them up is not the simple solution ... the only way to address this problem is being hard and direct on the causes of crime."
The woman allegedly 'attacked by the teen is aged over 50. She called police and he was allegedly found naked soon after. The woman was treated in Cairns Hospital. It is understood the teen appeared in a closed court session late yesterday charged with, rape, assault. With intent to commit rape and enter dwelling with intent. He was remanded in custody with the case adjourned until May.
From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 29/2/20
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