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Senator Cory Bernardi on Child Care Rorting

Every time the government puts more money into the system it creates more demands – Senator Cory Bernardi

 

March 25, 2017

Not for the first time and I suspect not for the last time, on behalf of the Australians Conservatives I am going to take the path less travelled, if I may put it like that.

I may be the only person in this place who thinks that $8.5 billion per annum spent on child care in the last 12 months, rising to $12 billion by 2020, for the government to pay service providers to look after families’ children, is more than enough.

As I said, already the figure is scheduled to rise to in excess of $12 billion in the next three years. That is $12,000 million that is being given to parents effectively to pay other people to look after their children.

It is another significant cost to the budget. It is absolutely created and sustained by delivering more debt that those very children, who all of us in this place want to help and bequeath a good, positive, healthy country to, are going to be forced to repay.

Once again I come back to it. Our debt in this country is spiralling out of control and there does not seem to be any real determination to redress it. That is a moral obligation we owe to our children.

So throwing another couple of billion dollars into child care here and there is not going to solve the problem, but it will indeed create greater problems, which will be magnified by the effect of interest and growth over time. Every child who is purported to benefit from this package will actually end up paying a very hefty price for it from the multibillion-dollar largess that is starting today, and I can promise you the demands will increase in the future for it to continue.

Australian Conservatives know that there is a better way. There are three key areas in which I can believe that this can be more effectively addressed. Firstly, we have to break this nexus between a government subsidy and a rise in the price of child care.

It seems to be a catch 22 where every time the government puts more money into the system it creates more demands for the child-care operators and the prices go up and there does not seem to be that greater benefit for the Australian families under the current guise.

Secondly—and I congratulate the government for its endeavours in this regard—there needs to be a determined effort to stamp out the significant rorts that are in this space.

Thirdly—and this is very important to me and I have communicated it to the minister—we need to remove the mandated prejudicial policies that disadvantage so many families and effectively establish a pecking order of who is allowed into the child-care system first.

Let me deal with the subsidies and costs. From a person who seeks less involvement in government it is far better for us to stretch every government dollar by streamlining processes and deregulating the sector. Every time we add additional compliance, additional requirements, additional reporting or any other additional regulation the cost of administering and providing child care escalates, sometimes exponentially, and I will detail some of those figures in a moment.

We need to end the ‘money shuffle’, if you will, where we collect taxes from people, throw it through the bureaucracy where sometimes it returns 50 or 60 cents in the dollar—sometimes less, sometimes more—and then give it back to those we deem worthy of it to subsidise the care of their children. I think that is inefficient.

It would be far more efficient for the government to allow tax deductibility, up to a maximum threshold, for childcare services. It would enable families to take responsibility for administering those costs themselves. It would allow families to claim it on a weekly or monthly basis with the ATO, as they do with other tax concessions, or on an annual basis. It would make child care more affordable.

With no guaranteed government funding, people could distinguish for themselves the service they want and the hours they want. That would create a much more competitive environment.

You mentioned the link between subsidies and costs. I want to take you back briefly to some research by the Australian National University which demonstrates the runaway price rises attached to child care in recent years.

Starting with March 2000 as our baseline, there was effectively parity between the market price of childcare services and the subsidy; in medical parlance, there was ‘no gap’.

Soon afterwards, a couple of years later, there was a modest gap, which parents were expected to meet, but there was virtually no difference between the subsidy rate and the market rate. But then between July 2002 and July 2007 the gap expanded.

By July 2007 the subsidy rate was 175 per cent of the March 2000 price. Not surprisingly, because of the additional onerous burdens on the childcare sector and the increase in subsidies, the cost of child care had risen by about 225 per cent.

So there was about a 50 basis point difference between the subsidy rising and the cost of child care. So no matter what levels of money were thrown into it, families will pay more.

What happened then was that there were cuts in 2007 and 2008 but the regulations continued to load up on the childcare service providers and there became a huge gap between the subsidy rate and the market price. The market price has continued to track upwards.

It has been higher than inflation ever since 2002, when, dare I say it, the sector recognised that by putting their prices up they could prompt demands in this place for more subsidies to be thrown at them and those demands would inevitably be met—just as we are discussing today. You cannot blame the sector for doing that.

If they can get away with it, they will continue to do it. We have to consider not capping it or putting any other forces on them but putting market forces on them.

We need to allow parents to make determinations about where they send their children so that the market itself will put pressure on the costs and prices.

So the gap—or gulf as it was then—went from about 50 basis points to about 150 points. It tripled in real terms. And then the subsidy rate returned to the March 2000 rate but child care prices keep going up and up and up.

At last check, that gulf is still widening. The market rate is about 460 per cent of the March 2000 price. In 17 years it has gone up 4½ half times, well in excess of inflation, and it has been fuelled by the money that has been thrown at it from this place.

And it is because of compliance. Since 2008, compliance has become so burdensome that the gap between the subsidy and the cost has risen from 50 basis points then to 300 basis points now.

That has a deleterious effect for every family and it is not going to be fixed by us throwing more money into the system. We have to take pressure out of the system. If we can reduce compliance, if we can reduce bureaucracy, if we can reduce regulations and red tape, child care will be more affordable and parents will have more choices.

And that will be sustainable because it means we will not have to throw more than $12 billion a year into the system; every dollar will go a lot further.

The second area in which Australian Conservatives believes there can still be significant improvement is in the area of rorting.

Lest anyone think I be uncomplimentary, I do want to congratulate the government and the minister for making significant efforts in this regard but, dare I say it, they are not enough.

I think there needs to be more diligence and more application to stamp out the rorts that are ripping off the taxpayer. I want to give you a few examples.

In 2015, an investigation in Albury in New South Wales revealed a $4 million family day care fraud in August 2016, authorities swooped on an operation in Lakemba in Sydney.

One of the accused was actually someone with alleged links to Islamic State. That did not stop them from profiting from and ripping off the childcare system. They stood accused of collecting over $27 million since 2012.

A known Islamic State sympathiser has been involved in an operation that has gathered $27 million of taxpayer funds, rorted within the childcare sector since 2012, and there are suggestions that some of that money has found its way to funding Australia’s enemies abroad.

The information I have is that in New South Wales, where these rort occurred, there are 324 services in operation but only 19 of them have been audited. If the other 305 underwent an audit, imagine how much more of this rip-off money they might find. In 2016, at Point Cook in Victoria, authorities raided families in the Somali community who in 18 months had claimed almost $16 million in grandparent childcare benefits.

Remember, these were additional payments brought in to assist grandparents who were looking after their grandchildren. But the $16 million worth of care was never provided— just the money was delivered.

Then the coalition government, to their credit, made the child swapping rort illegal on 12 October—bravo! Child swapping was where a childcare worker put their child in the care of another childcare worker and vice versa.

Before that, an estimated 11,000 parents were receiving $8.2 million per week, swapping over 31,000 children. That is $8.2 million per week of people just saying, ‘You take my child and I’ll take yours, and we’ll both make money out of the operation.’ It is wrong, and congratulations to the government for stopping it.

In 2016 a Melbourne woman of Sudanese origin was accused of claiming $800,000 a fortnight in a western Melbourne system that allegedly took $15.8 million in false payments. That $800,000 a fortnight is not a bad gig if you can get it, unless you are the taxpayer having to fund it. That is what is going on in our current childcare system.

A woman running Aussie Giggles, a family day care centre, was found guilty in 2016 in the New South Wales District Court of 81 fraud and forgery offences designed to defraud childcare benefits to the tune of $3.6 million in special childcare subsidies for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. She claimed that as many as 14 of these children from disadvantaged backgrounds were in her care when they were not. And yet this was never picked up in an audit.

In 2016 the Queensland Labor government confirmed a trend in childcare rorting and noncompliance in ethnic communities.

Nationwide, almost all the family day care services hit with restrictions or closure were run by Somali, Sudanese or other African migrants. One Sudanese migrant received $1.6 million in 16 months to run a family day care network which authorities could not confirm involved people he claimed were employed by him.

There is a problem here. The minimal audits that have taken place and the maximum exposure of rorts—I have highlighted just some of them today—says we can do much, much better and stretch every one of those $12 billion much, much further.

The final aspect of where my concerns lie I raised during estimates. It is that there is a priority list for allocating places in childcare. Some may defend that. I may describe it as prejudice. It was news to the minister and to the department when in estimates I quoted to them words from their own guidelines:

A child care service may require a Priority 3 child to vacate a place to make room for a child with a higher priority.

In simple terms, if you are a white, middle-class person and your child is in child care, and if the government says there is someone more needy—I will get to what neediness is—your child can be removed with 14 days notice to be replaced by that child they think is more needy.

In some of these areas there is genuine need. The first priority for allocating places is ‘a child at risk of serious abuse or neglect’.

Instinctively, a child at serious risk of abuse or neglect needs much more than child care. They should not be put into child care for the day—the eight or 10 hours or whatever it is—and then returned to an environment where they are at serious risk of abuse or neglect. It needs to be dealt with at the very root cause of it. If they are not safe with their own parents they need to be taken out of that environment permanently.

The second priority is ‘a child of a single parent who satisfies, or of parents who both satisfy, the work/training/study test under Section 14 of the A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999’. To be honest, I do not get that. I do not understand why one parent working is more important or less important than another parent working or another parent choosing to study or undergo training.

The idea is to provide this resource to Australians so that they can further their careers, their education or whatever the circumstances may be. I just do not buy it that we should all be paying and prioritising one person over another because of the job they are doing.

The third priority, of course, is ‘any other child’.

Within these categories there is even more entrenched prejudice. There is a priority list within the first priority group, the second priority group and the third priority group. If you are a child in an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander family, you get priority. A white kid can be removed from a childcare operation with 14 days notice to be replaced by an Aboriginal kid. I think that is wrong.

A child in a family which includes a disabled person gets priority. I am not making light of the difficulties that disabled people and their carers undergo, but I cannot come to terms with the fact that because you have a disabled sibling or a disabled parent you should have priority and someone should be removed from an existing childcare place because they deem you to be more worthy. I am not underselling the difficulties of it, but who are we to say: ‘I’m sorry, bad luck. Out you go and in you come.’ It is wrong. Even the department eventually admitted it was wrong.

Then, of course, we discriminate on the basis of income.

Apparently, if you do not earn enough money or if you do not have a job you are actually a greater priority for child care than the person who is actually out there earning money, paying more taxes and maybe employing other people—I do not know.

They can lose their place because they are earning above a threshold or they actually have a job—God forbid! Isn’t child care meant to be for getting people back into the workforce?

Finally, this is the one that really strikes me as odd, considering all the rorts I outlined before: children in families from a non-English speaking background get priority. I am not sure where they rank in the list, actually.

I am not sure whether coming from a non-English speaking background trumps being a low-income earner, having a disabled or less abled sibling or parent or having an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander family. I do not know whether it is the colour of your skin or the language your parents speak. I cannot determine this.

What I know is that any critical or reasonable assessment of it says it is wrong to remove someone in an existing place because of the colour of their skin, the language their parents speak or the income their parents have in favour of someone that a government of any stripe or persuasion deems more worthy.

Earlier, Senator Gallagher asked about deals that are done and things, and I have my doubts. I think that is very clear about the wisdom of throwing more money into this sector until other aspects of it are absolutely cleaned up.

I made it very clear to the minister that I have an open mind with respect to this package, but there are some things I would like addressed.

I really believe that if you are going to make child care available to every family, you are going to subsidise it to the cost of $12 billon-plus per year and more on the horizon, then it has to be available equally to every single family.

There should not be a priority allocation. You should not be able to kick a child out because their parents happen to be the wrong colour, speak the wrong language or happen to be able-bodied and earn money.

I think that is wrong.

Original article here

Australian Conservatives News here

Pauline Hanson wants Meth Addicts to cover their own rehab treatment costs

hanson-tincknell

Pauline Hanson insists addicts must cover the costs of their treatment

The West Australian  4 March 2017   PAUL MURRAY

Based on a recent opinion poll, more than half the West  Australians who will vote for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation next weekend are driven by a dislike of both Islam and the major political parties.

So while those who will actually form government continue to spend like drunken sailors buying votes, One Nation gets the bulk of its support at no cost to the taxpayer.
As is usual with protest movements, Pauline Hanson’s is best known for what it opposes rather than for things it supports.

But many voters might be surprised that the fledgling WA arm of PHON has released a range of policies in recent weeks that have escaped widespread media scrutiny.

That’s despite the possibility Hanson could hold the balance of power in the Legislative Council in a week’s time and have an arm lock on the next government.

So even if PHON voters are not interested in policy detail — preferring Hanson’s broadbrush nationalism on things such as foreign ownership and immigration — everyone else should be concerned about the party’s platform.

That’s because the next Parliament might just be dancing on it to Pauline’s tune.

For example, PHON wants methamphetamine-addicted criminals to pay for their own compulsory — and indefinite — treatment. The cash will be taken by force if necessary.

“One Nation WA proposes a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy to help tackle the methamphetamine scourge in our community,” the policing and community safety policy says. “If a meth user is caught two times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control.

“Addicts must cover the costs of their treatment, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release.

“Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.”

Juvenile criminals, too, are in for a shock, with a promise to introduce controversial “broken windows” laws in WA. They crack down on minor crimes to create an atmosphere of law and order but are criticised for being inherently unjust and not addressing the causes of disorder, which are often racial.

“A philosophy of coming down hard on minor offences with juveniles in particular in order to deter future offending,” is how the PHON policy describes the approach.

The party also promises to examine new laws making parents accountable for the criminal behaviour of their children. It also supports a “Fagin’s Law” approach which targets those procuring young people to commit offences.

PHON also wants to build more prisons, for punishment rather than rehabilitation, and to make life inside tougher.

“Prisons are no longer a deterrent to crime,” the party says. “Society as a whole needs to consider what role prisons play in punishment and rehabilitation.

“Prisons should not be the home prisoners never had. We believe sufficiently punitive measures should exist for lawbreakers.”

Tough-on-crime promises are standard at election time, but the One Nation policies released so far miss several hot-button issues such as debt reduction and WA’s GST share and strangely ignore health, the biggest spending part of the Budget. There’s nothing yet on electricity prices, other than keeping Western Power in State hands — which doesn’t stop costs rising and won’t cut debt — but it wants to drive down gas prices by reserving more for domestic use.

On affordable housing, PHON says the key is to cut immigration levels and deter foreign buyers with a 20 per cent penalty tax. Labor wants a 4 per cent surcharge which it says would raise $21 million.

PHON wants no “racial/ethnic preferences” in public housing allocations and promises a minimum of 15 per cent of all government land and home developments would be targeted at low-to-moderate income households.

The party also blames immigration for Perth’s congested roads and services.

So to “ease congestion, lift productivity, generate economic growth and jobs and keep our assets in Australian hands”, it is proposing to start its own bank.

“A WA Infrastructure Finance Corporation would be financed with seed funding and direct public funding and operate on a commercial basis,” the party says, clearly forgetting Brian Burke’s similar experiment with the WA Development Corporation.

“It would help finance infrastructure projects in our State, at concessional interest rates, thus spreading the costs across the generations who would benefit from these projects.

“This method would allow WA to finance and construct major projects while earning a return for the taxpayer. It would allow the government to cut its Budget expenditure, freeing up funds either to pay down debt or to invest in education, health, families, policing and other areas.”

Most of these policies are highly contentious — and in some cases deeply flawed — deserving scrutiny against the likelihood that One Nation will have enough influence in the coming Parliament to exert substantial pressure on whoever forms government.

Original article here

 


ONE NATION POLICIES – THE ICE EPIDEMIC

One Nation believes that communities and governments must take a strong stance if we are ever to maintain control or stop this epidemic.

Solutions for Ice Addicts

  • One Nation proposes a three strikes and you’re out . If an ice user is caught three times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control.
  • Addicts must cover the costs of their treatment, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release. Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.

Solutions for Dealers

  • Extremely harsh penalties should apply to anyone selling ice.
  • Each gram of ice sold, should equate to a mandatory year in prison.
  • Their assets will be sold to offset the costs and will be recoverable, even after time spent in prison.
  • If foreign nationals are convicted of drug crimes, a treaty will be sought for jail time to be done in their own country. Too many foreign nationals commit crimes within Australia because the rewards are far greater, and prison sentences are no deterrent.

Read more here

http://www.onenation.com.au/policies/ice-epidemic

 

A TOUGH APPROACH TO THE ICE EPIDEMIC

Tuesday, March 01, 2016  PAULINE HANSON

It’s widely known as ICE, yet it’s also referred to as Crystal Meth or Methamphetamine. No matter how it’s referred to, the drug is with certainty, followed by misery.

Statistics now show there are 270,000 regular ‘ice’ users in Australia and the numbers are growing rapidly. Wherever I go throughout the country, the main issue raised by people is ice. Nurses and doctors are having to deal with ice users in our already overrun and understaffed hospitals, while other patients are forced to wait. A nurse informed me she was aware of a man losing his life due to a heart attack while waiting for doctors attending an ice user. This is simply unacceptable!

Our police and ambulance officers face regular abuse or attacks from overdosed ice users. Some of you might say this is a State Government issue, however this drug in particular is having national consequences and it’s about time the Federal Government encouraged the states to take a unified approach in combatting ice.

Two young mothers at Tweed Heads (NSW) told me the drug is out of control and ice can be purchased in a matter of 5 minutes in their community. They are in genuine fear for their children and themselves. It appears no place in Australia is free from ice and the devastation that comes with its use. Small country towns in the outback are also under attack. These once peaceful communities are being destroyed by crime, abuse and fear associated with ice. The Vulnerable and youth are being targeted, leaving parents and loved ones not knowing what to do, or where to go.

I have no sympathy for drug users. I do however for their families, friends and communities who deal with the destruction they cause. The ice users are ‘bloody idiots’ to say the least. Everyone has a choice in life. Being depressed, out of a job or feeling sorry for yourself is no reason to take ice. There are many people who can claim these ailments that turn to drugs. People have to start taking responsibility for their actions.

I am fed up with the innocent and taxpayers having to pick up the pieces for thugs and idiots, or irresponsible and selfish non-contributors in our society. I cannot understand the reasons why someone who is a hardworking, family person, wants to take ice?

Communities and governments must take a strong stance if we are ever to maintain control or stop this epidemic. I propose three strikes and you’re out. If an ice user is caught three times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control. They must cover the costs, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release. Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.

Extremely harsh penalties should apply to anyone selling ice. Each gram of ice sold, should equate to a mandatory year in prison. Their assets will be sold to offset the costs and will be recoverable, even after time spent in prison.

If foreign nationals are convicted of drug crimes, a treaty will be sought for jail time to be done in their own country. Too many foreign nationals commit crimes within Australia because the rewards are far greater, and prison sentences are no deterrent.

I am not interested in do-gooders supporting the ‘rights’ of these criminals. When greed and disregard overshadows the impact on human life and society as a whole, they should forfeit all freedoms.

By Pauline Hanson

http://www.onenation.com.au/current_affairs/a-tough-approach-to-the-ice-epidemic

SHALOM HOUSE – THE STRICTEST DRUG REHAB IN AUSTRALIA

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Judges receive pay rises amid claims ice addicts adding to their workload as cases ‘increased in complexity’

Natasha Bita, National Affairs Editor, The Daily Telegraph

November 29, 2016 9:00pm

Subscriber only

JUDGES will pocket up to $500 a week extra in plump pay rises next year after blaming ice addicts for worsening workloads and job stress.

Federal Circuit Court judges have demanded a bonus two weeks’ holiday and a doubling of superannuation contributions and service leave.

The Remuneration Tribunal yesterday gave federal judges a 4.8 per cent bonus from January 1, swelling the salary of Australia’s first female High Court chief justice, Susan Kiefel, to $573,046 next year.

Other High Court judges will pocket an extra $23,818 — bumping their pay to $520,028.
Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant told the tribunal cases had “increased in complexity”. Picture: Hollie Adams
Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant told the tribunal cases had “increased in complexity’’ due to an increase in drug use — especially methamphetamine — as well as mental illness and allegations of sexual abuse and family ­violence.

She said some litigants posed a “real/significant threat’’ to judges.

And she warned the “extraordinary number of cases’’ involving family violence “has put the courts under considerable pressure’’.

“The parenting cases … require difficult fact-finding about contested issues including sexual abuse of children, family violence … mental health issues and substance abuse,’’ Chief Justice Bryant states in her submission, kept secret for a year and made public yesterday after a Freedom of Information request by The Daily Telegraph.

The Chief Judge of the FCC, John Pascoe, told the tribunal that Federal Circuit Court judges receive only four weeks’ holiday a year, compared to eight weeks for Family Court judges and 10 weeks for Federal Court or NSW District court judges.

He called for at least six weeks holidays — as well as six months long service leave after five years in the job.

“Annual leave of four weeks a year is inadequate given the demands of trial judge work,’’ his submission states.

“Failure to deal with these issues to date has had a deleterious effect on the health and wellbeing of judges of the court.’’
Cartoonist Warren’s perspective.
Chief Judge Pascoe said the Federal Circuit Court — which hears family law cases, refugee and migration claims, consumer lawsuits and counter-terrorism issues — was the “primary face of federal justice’’ and its judges should be paid 90 per cent of a Federal Court judge’s salary.

“The average Australian experiencing difficulties in family life, at work, or in their business will appear before this court,’’ he said.

Chief Justice Pascoe said Federal Circuit Court judges’ superannuation contributions should double from 15.4 per cent to 30 per cent of salary, because they were missing out on the usual judicial pension of 60 per cent of their salary after 10 years’ service.

But the tribunal rejected the claim, handing Federal Circuit Court judges a $17,046 pay rise instead of the $23,599 they asked for, and ignoring the holiday and superannuation demands. The Remuneration Tribunal ruled that a 4.8 per cent pay rise “recognises the increased complexities faced by judges … in an environment of continued economic and wages restraint’’.
Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe said superannuation contributions should double from 15.4 per cent to 30 per cent of salary. Picture: Renee Nowytarger
The judges’ pay rise is double the 2.4 per cent awarded to Australia’s poorest workers this year, and comes on top of a 2 per cent pay rise for federal judges in 2016. The federal Attorney- General’s Department fought the proposed increase, noting that Federal Circuit Court judges’ salaries had doubled between 2002 to $355,130 this year, while the average wage had risen 71 per cent to $80,415.

“Given the large number of judicial officers and the generous level of remuneration they receive, any percentage increase in judicial remuneration will affect the government’s budget position,’’ it told the tribunal.

The NSW government complained that any federal pay rises will trigger “me too’’ pay claims from judges in this state. NSW Statutory and Other Offices Remuneration Tribunal head Richard Grellman warned if NSW failed to match federal pay packets, it “may have an adverse impact on the ability of … NSW … to attract and retain the best available people to the NSW courts’’.

NSW judges are paid more than judges interstate, with the Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court earning $482,470 this year.

Originally published as ‘Meth stress’ behind judges’ salary increase

Original article here

 

Parental welfare pays more than work

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Social Services Minister ­Christian Porter said the new data showed that taxpayer-funded benefits could be providing a ­disincentive to work.

By Sarah Martin   The Australian  28 October 2016

Thousands of parents claiming government benefits are financially better off not getting a job, with new figures showing they ­receive at least $45,000 a year ­tax-free, more than the take-home pay of most Australian workers.

As the Coalition embarks on an overhaul of the welfare sector, new government data obtained by The Australian reveals that the top 10 per cent of those on parenting benefits, about 43,200 people, received at least $45,032 in 2014-15.

The amount is boosted when families have multiple children and claim a range of government benefits, such as family tax payments and childcare rebates.

Social Services Minister ­Christian Porter said the new data showed that taxpayer-funded benefits could be providing a ­disincentive to work — a systemic flaw that required government ­attention. “Among the many areas that require attention to system design is the fact that the broad ­generosity of the Australian ­welfare system manifests more often than people might expect in circumstances where the money people receive in welfare payments is comparable to being ­employed,” Mr Porter said.

“What is not in any recipients’ best interest is to be deprived of the incentives to reduce income from welfare with income from work.”

The minister, who recently announced that the Coalition will reshape the welfare sector to ­encourage people into work, said the government had a “moral” ­responsibility to address welfare ­dependency.

parental-welfare

Under the current system, a single parent with four children who did not work and was not ­receiving child support income could receive more than $50,000 a year from the government, the equivalent of someone earning $65,000 a year before tax, such as a full-time teacher, nurse or entry-level public servant.

A single parent with four children aged 13, 10, seven and four years, who paid $400 a week in rent without any employment ­income or child support, would ­receive a basic parenting payment of $738.50 a fortnight, along with an energy supplement of $12 a fortnight and a pharmaceutical allowance of $6.20 fortnight.

This provides a base payment of $19,728 a year, which would then be augmented by family tax benefits A and B, further supplements for each child and rent ­assistance, which would pay an extra $32,331 a year.

Finally, energy supplements for each child receiving family tax benefits would total an additional $463 a year, bringing the total take-home pay to $52,523.

According to figures from the Australian National University, the median full-time wage for 2014-15 was $61,300 a year. After tax, this leaves the median wage at $49,831. However, the median overall wage — including part-time workers — was $46,500, which equates to $39,841 as take-home pay after tax.

One of the government’s first steps as it seeks to overhaul the welfare system has been to announce the $96 million “Try, Test, Learn” fund for trials of intervention programs for welfare-­dependent young parents, the young unemployed and young carers.

Parents younger than 18 are deemed to be particularly ­vulnerable to the risk of long-term welfare dependency, with 70 per cent of the 4370 young parents ­receiving the Parenting Payment in 2014-15 expected still to be on ­income support in 10 years.

Taxpayers will spend an ­estimated $191 billion on future welfare payments for all people currently receiving the Parenting Payment, with current recipients having the highest average future lifetime cost of all payment groups, at $441,000 per person.

Young parents are expected to have a higher average future ­lifetime cost at $547,000 per ­person.

Mr Porter said the data being collected by the government showed that there must be “better ways” to encourage parents back into the workforce and off government payments.

“It is morally incumbent upon us in that in developing policy … and in making the welfare system fairer we look at mutual ­obligation and the requirement to prepare for, search for and accept work,” Mr Porter told The ­Australian.

“We need to find better ways to ensure parents retain current, work-ready skills or develop them even when receiving welfare so they are prepared for and able to accept work when it becomes ­appropriate for them to do so.”

Government attempts to scale back family tax benefit payments have been largely resisted by Labor and the Senate.

A compromise in the government’s omnibus savings bill this year preserved the energy supplement for current recipients, but reached agreement on a new schedule that limited access to the FTB Part A supplement to those earning less than $80,000 a year.

A Priority Investment report released last month showed that in 2014-15 there were 432,000 people receiving the Parenting Payment, of whom it is estimated that about half will remain on ­income support after 10 years, and only 22 per cent will have left the welfare system.

The average Parenting Payment in Australia is $29,100, and people can qualify if they have a child younger than six when partnered, or a child younger than eight if single. It is only paid to one member of a couple.

In a speech at the National Press Club last month, Mr Porter warned that without further ­action Australia’s annual ­$160 billion welfare bill would top $4.8 trillion for those presently on welfare.

Warning that the system faced having more households drawing income from the national purse, than contributing to it, Mr Porter said it was “like a snake eating its own tail”. “That is to say that it does not work so well after about halfway,” he said.

Original article here

For some people, it just doesn’t pay to get a job

  • The Australian
  • October 28, 2016
  • 65

Economists call it the impact of high effective marginal tax rates. It’s a fancy way of saying that, for some welfare recipients, work doesn’t pay.

The combination of relatively generous welfare payments (particularly if there are several dependent children), the withdrawal of payments if work is undertaken and the payment of tax means that adults in some families, particularly single parent ones, are better off staying on welfare than getting a job.

Ten per cent of people on parenting benefits, more than 400,000 people, each received more than $45,000 in benefits in 2014-15. This is well above the fulltime minimum wage, which is $35,000. Throw in receipt of the childcare subsidy for which no activity test applies and these parents don’t even have to spend much of their time looking after the children.

Many of those on single parenting benefits, particularly if they are accessed from a young age, will be in receipt of welfare payments even after their children have grown up.

The truth is that being out of the workforce does them no favours, nor their children. There is clear evidence of intergenerational transmission of disadvantage. The government is right to try to break this cycle, including assisting welfare recipients to become job-ready.

There are lessons the government could learn from Britain and New Zealand. In Britain, one principle is that no one can be better off on welfare compared with having a fulltime low wage job. There are limits on the number of children for whom benefits are paid.

New Zealand policy has a mixture of carrots and sticks. Early intervention in cases known to be associated with long-term welfare dependence is a hallmark of the policy.

For Australia, this is not just an economic imperative, it is also a moral one. Redesigning welfare payments is complex but the key is to ensure that work, not welfare, pays.

Original article here

Victorian male dominance program for kindy

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Bill Leak Cartoon

Rebecca Urban  17 Oct 2016  The Australian

Victorian preschoolers will be ­exposed to a controversial program that associates masculinity with dominance, control and violence against women when it is rolled out next year.

The state’s Education Department is inviting early childhood educators to enrol in respectful ­relationships training, which will enable them to implement its teachings in preschools and kindergartens.

The Victorian government’s $21.8 million Respectful Relationships education program, which is part of its broader campaign to stamp out family violence, has copped criticism in recent days for failing to consider the multiple and complex drivers of family viole­nce and for overlooking the experience of male victims.

As The Australian reported last week, by the time students are in Year 7 they are introduced to the concept of “male privilege” and taught that the dominant form of masculinity is associated with higher rates of violence against women.

While the curriculum relies heavily on the term “gender-based violence”, the overriding emphasis is on men being the perpetrat­ors of violent acts, sparking accus­a­tions that it is biased, could alienate men and prove to be counter-productive.

However, the government has committed to providing profes­sional learning around respectful relationships and family violence prevention for up to 4000 early childhood professionals. “Building the foundations for respectful relationships starts in early childhood and can have a big impact on preventing family violence for our future generations,” says a memo posted to the Education Department website this month.

The memo says the government will spend $3.4m delivering professional development and support to every early childhood educator working in a funded kinder­garten program.

While curriculum guidance for the preschool level has not yet been published, guidance for the foundation years (Prep-Year 2) stresses “research shows that children become aware of gender norms and make efforts to fit within gendered expectations by the time they are in kindergarten”. “Beliefs about gender norms and roles are socially constructed. That is, the types of behaviours considered acceptable, appropriate or desirable for girls and boys are created by societies. Gender norms inform beliefs about how girls and boys should act, speak, dress and express themselves.

“Children benefit from critical thinking exercises within which they are assisted to detect and challenge the limiting nature of many traditional gender norms.”

The program’s reliance on contested gender theory, coming out of the study of queer theory, makes it not dissimilar to the controversial Safe Schools program, an “anti-bullying” prog­ram that has attracted criticism for promoting sexual and gender diversit­y.

Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling called on the government yesterday to rethink the program, which will be mandatory from next year. He said the Respectful ­Relationships curriculum had shifted dramatic­ally from its original purpose. “Early childhood educators should be focusing on … educating our youngest children, not indoctrinating them,” he said.

Education Minister James Merlino defended the program last week, saying the government would not stand by while one woman a week in Australia was killed through domestic violence.

Original article here

Program wastes millions on making little boys feel ashamed

“All the evidence shows that education is the key to ending the vicious cycle of family violence,” claimed the Victorian Minister for Education James Merlino while launching a new $22.8 million Respectful Relationships curriculum aimed at combating family violence.

The curriculum focuses solely on men as the perpetrators of domestic violence, teaching students that only by challenging male privilege will violence diminish.

No, Minister. That is simply not true.

Over forty years of international research shows school education programmes are not the answer to the problem of family violence, let alone teaching little school boys about white male privilege. What the evidence actually shows is that family violence is not a gender issue.

To tackle family violence we need to tell the truth about the violence most children are experiencing in Australian homes which is two-way violence involving both mothers and fathers, violence linked to drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness and poverty.

Peter Miller, professor of Violence Prevention and Addiction Studies at Deakin University has recently reviewed well-designed longitudinal studies which show that key variables in perpetuating violent families include children growing up in homes where they are abused or neglected, or poorly supervised and experience high levels of family conflict.

Ending the vicious cycle of children who mimic parental violence requires targeting these at risk families and teaching violent couples new conflict management skills, as overseas research is showing.

Yet there’s no money for such research in Australia. Here governments and bureaucrats have been totally captured by gender warriors using this important social issue to promote feminist ideology.

Last year Thea Brown, social work professor at Monash University, told Victoria’s royal commission into family violence about the harassment she received when she tried to do research into behaviour change programs for violent men. “It’s an anti-research ideology because research is feared in case it threatens the ideological basis of the program,” Brown told the commission.

The royal commission ignored the evidence of Brown, Peter Miller and other experts who spoke out about the need for domestic violence strategies based on proper evidence-based research.

This nonsensical Respectful Relationships curriculum is in direct response to one of the commission’s recommendations.

“Gender inequity is a part of the picture in many cases, but it is not the only thing. Denying that violence is complex and men and children are victims as well runs against all of the reliable evidence and is simply irresponsible. There’s nothing ‘respectful’ in denying people’s suffering.

Everyone is responsible for reducing violence, and targeting one group of perpetrators over another makes no sense in an intervention called ‘respectful relationships’,” says Miller.

University of Queensland psychology professor Kim Halford, who has conducted research on couple violence, confirms there is no evidence that just focusing upon attitudes can change levels of violence, adding that “programs that only focus upon alleged male power and misogyny as the sources of violence grossly oversimplify a complex problem.”

Parents aren’t mugs. Many are already complaining about the offensive anti-male diatribes in similar programmes being run by White Ribbon in schools all over Australia. “They told us we would be reciting an oath against domestic violence and I assumed we would be involved. But when it came time to do it only the boys were told to stand and recite the oath while the girls remained seated.

Me and my friends just felt embarrassed for them,” the 16-year- old daughter of a friend told her parents.

Let’s hope parents are prepared to take on schools which subject their sons to this vile feminist posturing and put the Victorian government on notice for wasting millions on teaching little boys to be ashamed of themselves instead of addressing the real issues underlying domestic violence.

Original article here

 

WA DRUG POLICY – Forum told intervention works with cannabis, ice

shalom-works-may-2016

The Shalom Works team assists addicts to change and return to living a normal life


by John R. Barich

News Weekly, October 8, 2016

The West Australian Government has released a comprehensive policy aimed at combatting ice. The policy includes rehabilitation, prevention – focused on education in schools – and interdiction by the police. Drug legalisation and smoking rooms, similar in concept to injecting rooms, have been ruled out.

With encouragement from the Family Council of WA, the Council for the National Interest (CNIWA) hosted a Drugs Forum in Perth on August 14, 2016, featuring three speakers covering different aspects of the epidemic of illicit drugs that is sweeping Australia.

In preparing for this forum, the CNIWA investigated the evidence of the past 40 years and found that the policy of harm minimisation, instead of harm prevention, was the root cause of the increase in demand for illicit drugs.

Drug Free Australia chief executive Jo Baxter prepared an extensive presentation as to why Australia has achieved the status of ice capital of the world and how we can get fix this. Jo provided stark comparisons between Australia’s illicit-drug industry growth and Sweden’s reduction in drug use brought about by implementing a policy of reducing demand.

Statistics from the latest United Nations World Drug Report (2015) bear out the assertion that Australia’s per capita rate of drug use for 15–64 year olds is the world’s highest. Sweden, with 40 per cent of Australia’s population, has 29,500 problematic drug users. Australia has 220,000 dependent cannabis users and over 200,000 ice users.

The mantra of drug legalisers that prohibition does not work is clearly given the lie by the Swedish figures. Australia’s focus on minimising harm by giving priority to treatment instead of prevention and early intervention has resulted in the ice problem reaching pandemic proportions.

West African and Chinese organised crime gangs view Australia as a soft touch, with a lack of political will and leadership creating a demand for a highly profitable illicit drug business. Australians are paying world record prices for illicit drugs so it is no wonder organised crime syndicates are flooding the market. Ice is extremely addictive even when knowing the effects are extremely harmful.

Ice smoking leads to brain damage, increased risk to safety in workplaces, increased danger on roads, increased violence in communities, families and relationships. (Hospital emergency departments are on the front line of this drug scourge.)

To repair the damage of 40 years of harmful promoting of illicit drug use Australia should adopt the Swedish compassionate policing model, with court-enforced rehabilitation as against enforced prison, and with an emphasis on rehabilitation of all problem drug users. Sweden went from having the highest rate of drug use in Europe in 1970 to the lowest by 2000.

Australia can emulate Sweden with a restrictive drug policy while maintaining criminal use of drugs to emphasise the harm of illicit drugs, especially methamphetamines.

The WA Government Methamphetamine Strategy is a good start to combatting the scourge of illicit drugs. However, the emphasis still seems to be focused on rehabilitation rather than primary prevention if funding is any indicator. The Australian anti-smoking campaign is evidence of a successful social modification program that can apply to a concerted effort for combating illicit drug use.

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Peter Lyndon-James of Shalom House

A complete contrast to the clinical analysis by Jo Baxter was the presentation by Peter Lyndon-James, founder and director of Shalom House Rehabilitation Centre in Perth. In a very forthright manner Peter described the conditions of addicts and his Christian ethics-based, cold turkey treatment of addicts who voluntarily enter his rehabilitation process.

Demand for his service is overwhelming, encouraging a growth in facilities to accommodate the number of damaged men seeking freedom from illicit drug use. Peter emphasised the importance of the addict asking for help, until which time the addict will not commit to the rehabilitation program that may take 12 months or more to achieve success.

Peter and his Shalom House practice a formula that is tough, but it works.

Associate Professor Dr Stuart Reece presented an extensive review of research assembled in association with Professor Gary Hulse of UWA.

Professor Reece’s expose of marijuana and the negative genetic influences needs a full forum of its own to do justice to the material presented. The experience of the generation of the 1960 and ’70s experimentation with drugs that “did me no harm” distorts the reality of the cannabis market of today, with product 80 per cent stronger in cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the two main active ingredients in cannabis.

When combined with a vigorous illicit drug industry peddling brain-destroying methamphetamines, the wrong messages are being conveyed to today’s youth. Professor Reece offered damning research evidence that pregnant women and sexually active males should not be using marijuana. Otherwise, Australia’s next generation will suffer the deadly consequences of genetic defects from the use of cannabinoids.

Professor Reece’s message for Australians, and for the next three to four generations hence, is to ignore the evidence at your peril.

Original article here

 

Pauline Hanson gets her wish – child support to be audited

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Pauline Hanson: “Non-custodial parents find it hard to restart their lives, with excessive child support payments that see their former partners live a very comfortable life.”

 

Fleur Anderson   25 September 2016   Australian Financial Review

The federal government’s independent auditor has flagged an investigation of the $3.5 billion child support system, a move that could provide further ammunition for Pauline Hanson’s claim that the system is unfair to non-custodial parents.

It’s the latest in a push to test the integrity of the child welfare system, which some claim is plagued by rorting by some parents trying to dodge child support payments and some childcare service providers who are blamed for almost $600 million in incorrect government payment claims.

The Australian National Audit Office has listed the child support system as a priority issue for audits for 2016-17 and plans to focus on the arrangements between the Australian Taxation Office and the Department of Human Services.

In the weeks following the federal election, Nationals MPs reported to their partyroom that anger over the child support system was a sleeper issue that risked losing voters to One Nation unless major parties started taking notice.

The accuracy and effectiveness of the child support system is based on parents lodging accurate tax returns to give their assessable taxable income.

In 2014-15, about $3.5 billion was transferred between separated parents to support about 1.2 million children.

In the same year, the ATO and Department of Human Services were behind 65,678 enforcement actions on parents’ tax returns to collect an extra $27.4 million in child support payments.

Child support

Another 105,202 tax refunds were intercepted to garnishee $121.5 million in child support.

But fathers’ rights groups and One Nation say the child support system must be overhauled and the formula that dictates the amount of child support payments should  be reviewed.

The audit will focus on the effectiveness of the agencies’ enforcement activities, including intercepting tax refunds and reviewing the accuracy of parents’ tax returns.

One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson said in her maiden speech this month that some parents were left caring and providing for children without any financial help from the other parent, while others refuse to work altogether to avoid the payments.

“The system needs to be balanced, taking in the age of the child on a sliding scale and both parents’ incomes should be taken into account,” Senator Hanson said.

“Non-custodial parents find it hard to restart their lives, with excessive child support payments that see their former partners live a very comfortable life.”

Interim audit

An interim audit by the Auditor-General of 21 government departments and agencies – including Education, Communication, Defence, Employment and Defence – for the year to June 30 this year found childcare compliance was the significant adverse problem facing government bookkeepers.

Thanks to a 2013 change to the monitoring of childcare operators, compliance moved from inspections of childcare centres and family daycare operators to asking parents to confirm their child’s attendance in child care.

As a result the potential incorrect payments blew out to an estimated $693 million by June 2015, before being reined in to $587 million this year.

Education minister Simon Birmingham, who now has responsibility for the problem which has switched between the Education department and Social Services since 2014, said recent measures to close loopholes allowing “child swapping” by carers claiming payments has helped stop more than $400 million in suspect claims from being paid.

A $27 million crackdown introduced to Parliament last week explicitly ruled out people claiming childcare subsidies where the care was provided by the child’s own parents in their own homes “or even in the back of the car”.

“These new measures will ensure there are much tighter controls on who cares for our children – it is not good enough that existing rules have been able to be ‘worked around’ and these measures will put a stop to it in the interests of child safety and the protection of taxpayers,” Mr Birmingham said.

Original article here

Road to tyranny is paved with Leftie assumptions

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Gradually, the masses are realising something is wrong

Maurice Newman   27 September 2016   The Australian

When your news and views come from a tightly controlled, left-wing media echo chamber, it may come as a bit of a shock to learn that in the July election almost 600,000 voters gave their first preference to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party.

You may also be surprised to know that still deluded conservatives remain disenchanted with the media’s favourite Liberal, Malcolm Turnbull, for his epic fail as Prime Minister, especially when compared with the increasingly respected leader he deposed.

Perhaps when media outlets saturate us with “appropriate” thoughts and “acceptable” speech, and nonconformists are banished from television, radio and print, it’s easy to miss what is happening on the uneducated side of the tracks.

After all, members of the better educated and morally superior political class use a compliant media to shelter us from the dangerous, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, sexist, welfare-reforming, climate-change denying bigots who inhabit the outer suburbs and countryside — the people whom Hillary Clinton calls “the deplorables”.

They must be vilified without debate, lest too many of us waver on the virtues of bigger governments, central planning, more bloated bureaucracies, higher taxes, unaffordable welfare, a “carbon-free” economy, more regulations, open borders, gender-free and values-free schools and same-sex marriage; the sort of agenda that finds favour at the UN.

Yet history is solid with evidence that this agenda will never deliver the promised human dignity, prosperity and liberty. Only free and open societies with small governments can do that.

Gradually, the masses are realising something is wrong. Their wealth and income growth is stagnating and their living standards are threatened. They see their taxes wasted on expensive, ill-conceived social programs. They live with migrants who refuse to integrate. They resent having government in their lives on everything from home renovations to recreational fishing, from penalty rates to free speech.

Thomas Jefferson’s warning that “the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground” is now a stark reality.

The terms “people’s representative” and “public servant” have become a parody. In today’s world we are the servants and, if it suits, we are brushed aside with callous indifference.

Like the Labor government’s disregard for the enormous emotional and financial hurt suffered when, overnight, it shut down live cattle exports on the strength of a television show.

Or like the NSW parliament passing laws banning greyhound racing in the state. There was no remorse for the ruined lives of thousands of innocent people, many of whom won’t recover. Talk of compensation is a travesty.

Or like the victims neighbouring Williamtown and Oakey air force bases, made ill from toxic contamination of groundwater. Around the world it’s known chemical agents used in airport fire drills cause cancer, neurological disease and reproductive disorders, yet the Australian Department of Defence simply denies responsibility. The powerless are hopelessly trapped between health risks and valueless properties.

Similar disdain is shown for those living near coal-seam gas fields and wind turbines. The authorities know of the health and financial impacts but defend operators by bending rules and ignoring guidelines.

If governments believe the ends justify the means, people don’t matter.

When Ernst & Young research finds one in eight Australians can’t meet their electricity bills, rather than show compassion for the poor and the elderly, governments push ruthlessly ahead with inefficient and expensive renewable energy projects.

This newspaper’s former editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell reveals in his book, Making Headlines, how Kevin Rudd, when prime minister, brazenly attempted to use state power to investigate “the relationship between my paper and him”. Rudd’s successor, Julia Gillard, wanted to establish a media watchdog to effectively gag journalists.

None of this is fantasy and it explains why people are losing confidence in the democratic system. Australians feel increasingly marginalised and unrepresented. They are tired of spin and being lied to. They know that data is often withheld or manipulated.

As they struggle to make ends meet, they watch helplessly as the established political class shamelessly abuses its many privileges.

It appears its sole purpose in life is to rule, not to govern. This adds weight to the insightful contention by the Business Council of Australia’s Jennifer Westacott that Australia is in desperate need of a national purpose.

It’s no wonder, to paraphrase American author Don Fredrick, that a growing number of Australians no longer want a tune-up at the same old garage. They want a new engine installed by experts — and they are increasingly of the view that the current crop of state and federal mechanics lacks the skills and experience to do the job.

One Nation may not be the answer, but its garage does offer a new engine.

This is Australia’s version of the Trump phenomenon. Like Donald Trump, Hanson is a non-establishment political disrupter. However, unlike Trump, who may soon occupy the White House, Hanson won’t inhabit the Lodge.

This leaves Australia’s establishment and the central planners very much in control. It means we will remain firmly on our current bigger-government path, finan­ced by higher taxes and creative accounting.

Nobel laureate economist FA Hayek observes in his book The Road to Serfdom: “The more planners improvise, the greater the disturbance to normal business. Everyone suffers. People feel rightly that ‘planners’ can’t get things done.”

But he argues that, ironically, in a crisis the risk is that rather than wind back the role of government, people automatically turn to someone strong who demands obedience and uses coercion to achieve objectives.

Australia is now on that road to tyranny and, with another global recession in prospect and nearly 50 per cent of voters already dependent on government, the incentive is to vote for more government, not less.

The left-wing media echo-chamber will be an enthusiastic cheerleader.

Original article here

 

Left has no empathy for great middle ground

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It does make you wonder whether some journalists ever talk to ordinary Australians. Five minutes in any pub in the country will render such polling unnecessary.

By Chris Mitchell   The Australian   26 September 2016

How to walk a mile in another’s shoes? That is the question great reporters seek to answer when they interview their subjects.

In a time when there has never been more media but it is light years wide and only atoms deep, there is little reward for doing what great newspapers seek to do: provide their readers with ­genuine understanding of issues and people’s views and motives.

This is a shouty, shallow and callow media age in which young Lefty tyros are rewarded for sharp opinions and violently executed tweets. Their opponents in the right-wing blogosphere too easily drift into hate and conspiracy over genuine inquiry.

So on a range of issues the Left and Right yell at each other in what psychologists refer to as ­“different emotional languages”, like a husband who really cannot understand what his wife is saying about why their marriage is going awry.

I got that feeling very strongly last Tuesday morning when I heard Andrew Bolt being interviewed by Fran Kelly about Tuesday night’s very interesting program with Linda Burney on Aboriginal recognition. Kelly was perplexed Bolt seemed not to agree with all the received Radio National wisdoms she was trying to get him to ­concede.

And yet the thinkers behind recognition, people such as Noel Pearson, have always known ­Andrew — with his ability to ­articulate the honestly held and genuine concerns of his readers — was the biggest danger to any ­potential referendum, even if it was first proposed by Andrew’s confidante Tony Abbott.

Just as with same-sex marriage and Muslim immigration the megaphones of the Left show no understanding of, or even empathy for, the great middle ground of Australian public opinion, which is where these issues will be ­decided.

Those in the maximalist camp on Recognition give every indication of preferring a loss to a win on slightly less ambitious terms. Wiser heads in the movement know proponents who argue for a treaty now would be smarter to take it one step at a time.

Still, I had real admiration for Bolt, who showed tremendous courage to expose himself to a full tilt ABC ideological crusade with newly elected federal Labor MP Burney. The Twittersphere was a feral sewer about him that night and next day.

Having been into the ABC’s Ultimo fortress in inner Sydney several times lately I can say the pursed-lipped tut-tutting is ­almost overpowering when a ­critic of the corporation crosses the threshold. Good on Bolt for doing it I reckon.

It was also gutsy of diminutive Burney to front a couple of ­conservative, and physical, giants in Bolt and Liberal Party federal MP Cory Bernardi in the latter’s Adelaide electoral office.

It is unlikely Bolt or Burney will ever persuade each other but viewers may have sensed an ­increased recognition on the part of each of the participants of the other’s genuine passion.

An Essential Media Poll published in The Guardian on Wednesday highlighted this sort of hyper partisanship and the inability of many in journalism even to understand how their own country feels about issues.

Given what has happened in Europe since German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the nation’s borders to Syrian refugees a year ago it should have been no surprise to The Guardian or the ABC that half the nation wanted a ban on Muslim immigration.

The poll showed 49 per cent supporting a ban and only 40 per cent opposing. John Barron, hosting The Drum on ABC TV, seemed shocked that even large numbers of Greens and Labor voters supported such a ban.

It does make you wonder whether some journalists ever talk to ordinary Australians. Five minutes in any pub in the country will render such polling unnecessary.

The ideological and media ­divide is just as wide for same-sex marriage. The sheer brutality of the Left’s reaction to any Christian spokesperson either opposing change or supporting the plebiscite promised by the ­Coalition elected less than three months ago is vile.

This is not just a challenge for journalism. It is also a problem for the body politic.

If journalists don’t understand how their audiences feel and the media and politics become ever more sharply partisan, how will reformers ever bring about social, economic and political change?

This Balkanisation of social attitudes and the subsequent prioritising of opinion over reporting that seeks to explore and understand is making Western countries increasingly difficult to govern. Even something seemingly uncontestable such as repair of the federal budget now elicits sharply partisan divides among journalists and politicians.

I support recognition but would never think a referendum should even be held if a proposition was so ambitious it was guaranteed to fail.

A libertarian on same-sex ­marriage, I would nevertheless defend to the death the freedom of Christians, let alone Muslims and Jews, to stick to their religious convictions.

I think a ban on Muslim ­immigration would be the most dangerous thing the country could do if it really is interested in preventing young men from self-radicalising online.

After all, teenagers feeling so alienated from mainstream ­society today that they seek solace in the websites of Islamic State would only feel more like outsiders were all Muslim immigration banned. But it should sure as hell be ­obvious to any thinking journalist why in the face of so many attacks on Western targets during the past two years many Australians would be attracted to such a ­proposition.

If we try to walk a mile in ­another’s shoes, we might begin to see why Aboriginal kids would think it unfair to suggest they should just be happy to forget about their heritage and history and again accept what is being ­offered them. But we might also understand why Bolt believes people today should not be atoning to people many generations and multiple ethnicities away from the brutalities of white settlement.

We might understand the complexities of race from the ­position of the other person, as Stan Grant has so eloquently tried to explain.

Original article here

Jaded generation ditches hi-tech for simple delights of the dumbphone

Introducing, The NoPhone Air

It was at a retreat in the middle of nowhere in Canada that two young entrepreneurs unveiled the next big thing in tech. They called it “the least advanced NoPhone ever”. The device inside the sleek, slimline packaging had no buttons, no screen and no way to tweet, take a selfie or even make a call.

In fact, the NoPhone Air was nothing but an empty package, the size of a smartphone.

It was a joke. But the dig at the relentless pace of reinvention in the mobile phone industry, at the same time as Apple launched the iPhone 7, tapped into something very real: the growing desire to turn off, tune out, unplug.

The signs suggest smartphone addiction has hit iPeak. Next month, the Light Phone — which is the size of a credit card and can make calls, store ten numbers and do nothing else — will be launched in the US by two friends who met at a Google “incubator” for whizzkids and grew jaded by the constant pressure to come up with increasingly addictive and life-consuming apps.

The Light Phone Video

In London, Liverpool, Berlin and Los Angeles people are participating in “killyourphone” workshops, creating their own signal-blocking pouches with glue and copper-coated cloth, and dipping their devices into cement to take a symbolic time-out from Tinder and Twitter.

Even Kanye West has called time on his timeline, declaring: “I got rid of my phone so I can have air to create,” in a tweet that has so far been retweeted 38,000 times by people who have, presumably, yet to embrace his example of digital detox. The singer Katy Perry appeared to agree, replying: “Unplug to connect.” The actor Eddie Redmayne also confessed to having swapped his smartphone for an old-fashioned handset because he was sick of “being glued permanently to my iPhone”.

Given that the average user taps their phone 2,617 times a day, with 89 per cent of us unable to resist checking our device at least once between midnight and 5am, it is perhaps inevitable there has been a reaction that has prompted a surge of interest in “retro tech”.

nokia-3310-2

Your phone away from phone

Dumbphones are now de rigueur, with old, trusty, uncrackable Nokia handsets selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. About 4,700 Nokia 3310s, a classic, 16-year-old model, have been sold on the online marketplace in the past three months — two every hour. And 23 Nokia N70s have been sold every day over the same period.

It was partly rebellion against the Apple ethos and partly a desire to return to something that had been lost, that encouraged Joe Hollier, a 26-year-old skateboarder and graphic designer from Brooklyn, and his friend, Kaiwei Tang, who spent a decade designing phones for Motorola, to launch their own bare minimum device.

The pair met on a Google program for new talent two years ago.

“Everything was about creating apps to get users hooked, rather than developing something people needed,” said Mr Hollier. “We felt that is not how it’s supposed to be.” Worst of all, he said, “they were trying to frame it as if we were making the world a better place, by getting people addicted and selling them more stuff. I couldn’t help but call B.S on that. We felt they were missing the point.”

They created the Light Phone — a dollars 100 device, available in the UK by the end of the year, which shares the same number as your main number, forwarding on calls and offering little else, for the times when email and gadgetry may not be necessary. They call it “going light”.

“Do I really need a computer in my pocket when I’m skateboarding, or going out for dinner with my girlfriend? No,” said Mr Hollier.

He realised that constantly checking what other people were doing on Instagram and Facebook was chipping away at his own contentment.

“I found I was getting lost in these scroll holes. I would always come out of them feeling not necessarily good about myself. My smartphone was sucking me in. As soon as I stepped away — I call it breaking through the fomo threshold, getting over the fear of missing out.”

“I felt free. I realised I was happier in those disconnected moments, when I can watch a sunset, appreciate my friends. We want to make a product that helps people appreciate their lives, not control their lives.”

He stressed that the Light Phone was not a substitute, but simply a supplement. “It doesn’t have to mean going completely off-grid. It could mean just taking 20 minutes to get a coffee.”

He insisted his product was refining, rather than regressing. “We’re sparking a conversation. What do I want my technology to do for me?”

Aram Bartholl, 42, a conceptual artist in Berlin, started his killyourphone workshops a couple of years ago. “We all have these little computers in our pockets but we don’t really know how they work or who’s recording our data. For me, the pouch is a way to think a little more about what they do, and how we live with them.

“Suddenly, you have a person who’s used to technology sitting down with scissors and glue and a sewing machine — a machine from another revolution — in a completely different social situation. It gives connection a whole different meaning.”

Lucy Bannerman,The Times – The Australian   24 Sept 2016

Original article here

WA domestic violence laws pose an insidious threat

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Such restraining orders can be used to evict a man from his home and to deny contact with his children.

Augusto Zimmerman   The Australian  24 Sept 2016

The West Australian parliament is introducing new laws regarding domestic violence which pose an insidious threat to fundamental rights of citizens in this state. Current laws ensure that if a woman alleges violence has occurred she will usually be issued with a restraining order without any evidence to support that claim. These proposed new laws take this even further. If the new legislation passes through parliament it will be enough for a woman to simply claim she fears violence may occur in order to be issued with a restraining order.

Such restraining orders can be used to evict a man from his home, to deny contact with his children. These orders lack the proper application of due process and they are often granted on a “without admissions” basis which means no evidence needs to be produced. If these so-called “reforms” become law they will inevitably lead to the further undermining of basic rights to natural justice, property rights and parental rights in this state.

The WA government is taking this action despite having received explicit advice against it from the WA Law Reform Commission. In 2013 the WA Law Reform Commission was asked to consider various proposed legal changes including introducing separate domestic violence legislation and expanding the types of “emotional abuse” included in the definition of domestic violence and adding banking and financial abuse.

The final report from the Commission rejected such moves, noting they were likely to exacerbate the existing problem of overuse and abuse of violence restraining orders which are known to be used for tactical purposes in family law litigation. The Commission’s report commented that the inclusion of emotional and psychological abuse within the definition of family violence is contentious, referring to Sydney University law professor Patrick Parkinson’s conclusion that the concept of economic abuse “has very little potential to be helpful and much potential for the opposite”.

Yet the legislation before parliament not only includes these problematic moves but as the Attorney-General Michael Mischin stated “will be moving away from the need for establishing evidence of an act of abuse as is currently the case, towards one of behaviour to intimidate, coerce and control”.

So under the new laws it will not even be necessary to demonstrate domestic violence has occurred. Action can now be taken before that point, simply on the basis that someone fears that the alleged control or intimidation could escalate into violence. That’s an extraordinary shift, undermining one of the foundations of the rule of law, namely that one is innocent until proven guilty.

The West Australian Police Minister Liza Harvey has been quoted in the media as saying: “We’re sending a message to the courts that we would prefer them to err on the side of the victim and err on the side of granting one of the violence restraining orders in these scenarios because they do protect women.”

Of course it is extremely important to protect women who are at risk of violence and it is commendable that such strenuous efforts are finally being made to ensure victims are given every possible legal support to ensure their safety.

But many in the legal profession and elsewhere take issue with the notion that laws should be tilted to favour victims without any consideration for traditional legal protections to ensure fair treatment for the alleged perpetrators.

These protections are already being severely undermined in this state. The WA police have a deeply problematic pro-arrest policy for domestic violence. “Arrest is the preferred option,” according to the relevant police manual (COPS Manual, DV 1.1.4.1.), even in situations where there is no evidence that violence has taken place. The Chief Justice of Western Australia Wayne Martin told the WA Law Reform Commission that such a presumption of arrest “will almost inevitably produce injustice and hardship in some cases”.

Indeed many such cases have ended up in our courts where allegations of violence have ultimately been disproved years after the alleged offender found himself arrested, evicted from his home, suffering immense damage to his personal and professional reputation, and facing huge court costs to defend himself.

The police commissioner Karl O’Callaghan has stated these reforms are necessary because the number of reported incidents of family violence in WA has “risen dramatically in recent years.” Incidents of violence have substantially increased but this is largely due the definition of domestic violence being expanded in 2004 to include behaviour that is ‘emotionally abusive’, ‘could intimidate a person’, etc. That year WA police recorded 17,000 incidents of violence, but by 2012 this had almost tripled (to 45,000).

Clearly the government believes these moves will have popular support particularly from women voters. But judging from the submissions received by the Commission there are many in our community, including many women, who are already uncomfortable with gender politics being used to undermine essential legal rights. This is certainly a step too far.

Augusto Zimmermann, LLB, LLM, PhD (Mon.) is a commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia and Professor of Law (adjunct) at The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney.

Original article here

 

‘No-evidence’ AVOs slammed as threat to basic rights

Western Australia is considering introducing apprehended violence orders on the basis that family violence may occur.

Laws that will allow restraining orders to be granted in Western Australia on the basis that family violence “may” occur have been branded a threat to fundamental rights.

Augusto Zimmermann, a commissioner with the Law ­Reform Commission of Western Australia, said the proposed laws could see an accused lose access to their children or be forced from their home without any evidence of violence occurring.

He declared the legislation introduced into parliament this month “dangerous for the state”.

“What this does is erode the very idea of natural justice and the right to remain innocent until proven guilty,” Dr Zimmermann said. “This has serious consequences in relation to how respon­dents can be forced out of their homes, lose access to their children and other rights, without the requirement for evidence to be provided.”

The family violence bill, aimed at preventing harm occurring to potential victims, updates the definition of domestic violence to “promote a contemporary understanding of the nature and seriousness of family violence” and extends the relaxation of evidence rules ­already available for interim ­orders to final decisions.

In its final report on the subject, the commission warned that restraining orders were already being granted on the “uncorrob­or­ated” testimony of one person.

Dr Zimmermann said this being extended to final orders was “surreal”. “We thought we had managed to avoid a great tragedy but what the Attorney-General (Michael Mischin) is doing is add(ing) things to the draft bill that were explicitly rejected by the commission,” he said.

The fact the government claimed the addition was a result of a recommendation of the commission was “the joke of the year”.

Abuse of restraining orders is common. In a submission to the NSW government, the Women’s Legal Service NSW ­said more than two-thirds of women clients defending violence orders reported being the victims of violence.

Mr Mischin cites this as one reason for reform: “A violence ­restraining order can already be made in this jurisdiction on the basis that someone reasonably fears future violence, without having to prove that an act of abuse has already occurred.

“The new bill proposes a set of principles regarding family violence to guide decision-making by magistrates at each key point in the process. Core to these prin­ciples is that efforts are made to identify the primary victim and the primary perpetrator.

“This is important reform in that it is a well-known dynamic in family violence that the primary perpetrator of violence may seek to use things like seeking to gain a restraining order as a means of further abusing the victim.”

Original article here

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