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Guest Contributor's blog

Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 28, 2005 - 3:11am.
Is the Coalition's IR advertising blitz legal?

Is the Government acting lawfully in advertising its IR policy with taxpayer's money or is it breaching Australia's Constitution? We'll find out on Thursday.

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 28, 2005 - 1:09am.
Up, up & away in my beautiful balloon: some questions of media policy

"At the end of August 2005, Communications Minister Helen Coonan used an address to the National Press Club in Canberra to float her ideas about changing media law in Australia. They were conveyed to the people by the press and the broadcast media. Whether these ideas amount to a media policy, whether they are truly democratic and whether she was launching a fully-blown balloon or just flying kites, remain to be seen. As does the public's response." Frank Morgan

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 22, 2005 - 8:50am.
Pain, catastrophisation and Mark Latham

"While entranced viewers, readers and bloggers have bandied about explanations like narcissistic personality disorder, depression, chronic anger and bipolar disorder, (this last since apologised for by Jeff Kennett), Latham assured Andrew Denton that: 'No. No, not for a day in my life have I ever suffered from depression.' A pain specialist might have a few questions about that. It's unlikely Mark Latham's seen one, despite the excruciating pain that accompanies pancreatitis. Pain is poorly understood and poorly treated in Australia's general medical community." Catherine Job

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 22, 2005 - 3:10am.
Rural communities at risk under Welfare to Work policies

"The Government may well decide that if there are no local jobs (which can mean under Newstart Allowance up to a ninety minute journey away) then individuals and families ought to be forced to move to a district with more jobs available. That means social dislocation for the family, loss of the social supports which make living feasible, and much higher housing costs, while for the community they leave, it means a drop in the incomes of local businesses, and maybe the loss of a teacher from the school." Marie Coleman

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 21, 2005 - 5:49am.
Howard's 'World Statesman Award': on what criteria, please, New York's 'Appeal of Conscience Foundation'?

"We note with concern that your organisation proposes to confer its World Statesman Award on Mr John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia. The Appeal of Conscience Foundation has not, to our knowledge, consulted any civil liberties or human rights organisations in Australia before determining to grant this award.  In order to overcome this omission, we wish to advise you of the following matters, arranged by reference to the citation to the award." Brian Walters SC, Liberty Victoria

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 20, 2005 - 11:02pm.
Julia Perry details the Government's Welfare to Work plan

"In legislation about to be introduced, the Government will cut the rate of income support for parents with children aged six and over and for people with disabilities who are assessed as being able to work at least 15 hours a week. From July 2006, Parenting Payment (for sole parents and one parent in a very low income couple) will be abolished for families with children aged six or over. Disability Support Pension will be restricted to those who cannot work 15 hours a week or more. Those who are no longer able to claim these payments will have to apply for Newstart (unemployment benefit) and be required to look for jobs of at least 15 hours a week." Julia Perry

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 20, 2005 - 3:47am.
Marie Coleman on getting traction in the Welfare to Work debate

"The Office for Women advised the women's organisations secretariats that they were not permitted to use their grants for such a purpose, and demanded that the pledges not be honoured, on pain of deductions from their 2005-6 funding. The women's secretariats, faced with this opposition from the Government to their attempt to gauge the effects of policy on Australian women, guaranteed NFAW (the National Foundation for Australian Women) that they would honour their pledges through contributions from affiliated organisations. Given the urgency and the importance of the matter, NFAW took the risk, and went ahead with the contract." Marie Coleman

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 17, 2005 - 5:58am.
Scott Parkin speaks

"Australia claims to be a free society with freedom of speech. In a free society, in a democratic society they should be able to basically take on that criticism or that message that I'm putting out and be able to deal with it in a civil discourse, not in basically, you know gagging and arresting and removing people who disagree with them." Scott Parkin speaking to AM's Karen Percy

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 17, 2005 - 3:49am.
Julia Gillard: struggling to put into words her feelings about Mark's diaries

"I do not believe that Mark Latham should have published these diaries in this form. I suspect when we see the full book that it will describe some major issues that need to be addressed, about Labor's policies, about its culture, about Australia's political culture generally and the way the media works. I suspect the truths in the book will be ignored because the focus will be on the spleen, not the substance. I think that is a great pity." Julia Gillard

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 16, 2005 - 12:37am.
Whistleblowing and the media: transparency the greatest casualty

"Open and deliberate measures to deter and intimidate public comment by public servants clearly fly in the face of principles of open government and robust public discourse. In the landmark Bennett  case Justice Finn warned that unqualified sanctions on public service employees contravened the implied constitutional freedom of political communication." Helen Ester

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 15, 2005 - 11:02am.
The right to an independent judiciary

"To ask whether judges deserve their independence is like asking whether parliamentarians deserve their freedom of speech. It should not be difficult to explain to the public, and to those in the political branches of government, why they need, benefit from, and have a right to, an independent judiciary. Providing and reinforcing that explanation is a responsibility of the modern judiciary. It is not enough to justify our independence to one another. There is an educational role for us to take up. Legal practitioners, and law teachers, are our allies in that task, but we should not assume that we are facing a hostile audience. In Australia, and in many other parts of the Commonwealth, it is unlikely that there would be a direct challenge to the concept of judicial independence. What is more likely is that some people, not understanding why it exists, or what it involves, will make well-intentioned demands, in the name of accountability, which are inconsistent with independence." Murray Gleeson

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 15, 2005 - 1:15am.
Julian Burnside QC on the Scott Parkin Case

"It is time that Australians woke up and realised what’s going on. We are losing the freedoms our parents and grandparents fought so hard for. We aren’t losing them to make us safer from the threat of terrorism. As the Scott Parkins case shows, we need those freedoms more than ever. If Scott Parkin, Cornelia Rau, Vivian Alvarez, Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks are anything to go by, we don’t need the protection of the Government, we need protection from it!" Julian Burnside, QC.

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 14, 2005 - 1:34am.
An Australian compact? Donald Horne's draft

"In 1975 as in 1964 I thought I had some things to say that many people believed, and that putting all this together in a book might encourage them. In the mid-1960s they had to speak up. In the mid-1970s they had to remember. I think that hundreds of thousands of Australians now have convictions about lack of leadership in Australia in general and the Howard years in particular. There should be a continued discussion well beyond the trivialities of parliamentary question time and the revolving news cycles. I hope this book will help concentration on what might really be going wrong with Australia and how, as it turned out after the mid-sixties and the mid-seventies, we might again get the chance to set things right." Donald Horne on his 2001 book Looking for leadership.

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 12, 2005 - 4:30am.
Tampa: A defining moment in Australia’s treatment of refugees

"We, the undersigned, believe that the Government’s policies abuse the human rights of the weak and needy, and contravene several international treaties to which Australia is a party. The policies are anathema to the concepts of basic decency and a fair go. We therefore call on you to ensure that Australia's refugee policy adheres, in all respects, to the terms of the international treaties to which our nation is a signatory and to provide permanent protection to all refugees." Tampa Anniversary Remembrance Committee's open letter to the Prime Minister

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 4, 2005 - 9:15pm.
Police, civilians and democratic accountability

"The idea expressed by Sir Robert Peel in 1829 that police are not merely tools of government but rather are the people's police endures in Australia today, as does the theory of constabulary independence. The idea that police exercise a degree of independence in operational matters rests on the belief by judicial authorities that police in democratic societies should not be subject to arbitrary and capricious interference by the executive. While the theory is contested, the common and statute law has bestowed a degree of discretion and operational independence on police." Colleen Lewis

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 2, 2005 - 2:14am.
Understanding government advertising in Australia

"Modern election campaigns involve research, preparation and long term planning that have created the sense of a ‘permanent campaign’. As part of this shift to constant and centralised campaigning, in office, governments are increasingly drawing on incumbency advantages to boost their re-election prospects. This includes increasing benefits such as postal, printing and communication allowances, electoral databases, media advisers, government communications units, and MPs’ office equipment and staff. But in particular, government advertising has been taken to new and extraordinary levels by the Howard government since it came to office in 1996." Sally Young

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on September 1, 2005 - 8:29am.
Pride in my country: Sam Neill on the NZ Election

"My own family is not untypical these days, and is a kind of New Zealand story: we are Pakeha, Maori, Asian, even African American. Some of us have been here 1000 years, some 150, some are newly arrived. But we can't remember which because we are together, we love each other, and we love where we live. We are all New Zealanders. And when people, as in this election, start Maori bashing, and Asian bashing, and treaty bashing, and Muslim bashing, and bashing single mums and so on: they're bashing my family, and they're bashing my friends, and my neighbours, and my society. They are bashing New Zealand and I won't have it." Sam Neill

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on August 31, 2005 - 8:55am.
Dividing Australia: it ain't Muslims doing it

"The Islamic leader’s summit was established to make the very tentative first step in greater co-operation between federal authorities and the various Muslim communities. With thirteen hand-picked Islamic leaders showing up (Sheikh al Din Hilaly was a noticeable absentee), this small goal was achieved... The summit was a PR coup for all concerned but when it comes to the Muslims, especially young Muslims, living in Preston, Auburn, and Lakemba nothing much has changed. When it comes to feelings of resentment on Australia’s ‘Arab street’, the dramatic upsurge in dog whistle politics and feral journalism during the last two weeks has widened the divide in Australian society." Iain Lygo

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on August 13, 2005 - 3:52am.
Restoring citizens' respect for journalism: we are not without power

"We all know that the media can no longer be trusted, that their performance is incompetent ... that they broadcast blatant lies as if they were manifest truths." Veteran Oz journo Phillip Knightley citing Le Monde with approval.

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on August 12, 2005 - 2:22am.
What is Happening to Australian Democracy

"Ideally, ‘information’ advertisements paid for by public money should relate to legislation already enacted (or at least fully discussed by the Parliament) and any judgmental argumentation in them should be scrupulously balanced, with alternative views presented. The ads should also be subject to independent oversight. Recent advertisements such as on GST in 1998, on Medicare in 2004 and most recently on industrial relations (IR) reform fail these tests. The decisions were made by a Government Committee (the Ministerial Committee on Government Communications) which is not accountable to Parliament or answerable to Cabinet and not subject to independent oversight. Nor can their content be described as non-political. The Broadcasting Services Act offers no great impediment to the broadcasting of blatant political advertising by governments using taxpayers’ funds." Fred Argy

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on July 22, 2005 - 7:28am.
Senate Inquiry into DIMIA needs public input

"In the final days of the old Senate, an inquiry was established to investigate the abuses of the Immigration Department. This provides an excellent opportunity for the community to raise objections to current immigration policies and instances of mistreatment and abuses of power by the Immigration Department, and put them on the public record under parliamentary privilege. There is a slight danger that the Government will use its numbers in the Senate to shut the Inquiry down, when it sits in early August, but public pressure and interest will make it difficult to shut it down. Therefore, The Greens are encouraging public involvement in this Senate Inquiry." Senator Kerry Nettle, inquiry member

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on July 2, 2005 - 6:02am.
Be alarmed, not just alert, on ASIO power extension

"We should be alarmed, not merely alert, about Australia's terror laws. They abrogate civil rights, which are our bulwark against tyranny. We are already seeing them used in what appears to be a McCarthyist witch hunt against vulnerable members of the community. We have spawned a monster, and it is only now beginning to show its menace. These laws are due to expire in July next year, but the Federal Attorney-General has called for their retention beyond that period. They should be repealed immediately." Melbourne silk Brian Walters SC

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on May 17, 2005 - 11:00pm.
Hicks and the Geneva Convention, by Stephen Kenny

"If Australia does not call for the Geneva Convention to be applied to its citizens now, then it is possible that countries involved in conflict with Australia in the future will disregard the Geneva Convention. History has shown us that this will result in the unnecessary ill-treatment and no doubt deaths of Australian service men and women. It has always been a mystery to me why General Cosgrove was not pounding on the Prime Minister’s door advising that Australia should insist that all those captured in Afghanistan be dealt with under the Geneva Convention to ensure the future protection of our own forces. Unfortunately for our Defence personnel... it is now only the United States and Australia who are publicly committed to supporting the Military Commissions in Guantanamo Bay." Stephen Kenny

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