The drubbing that the Mark McGowan-led Labor Party gave the Barnett government in Western Australia’s recent election will continue the secular slide in public policy.
Pro-lifers Margaret Quirk, left, and Kate Doust
missed out on ministries.
Two ALP pro-lifers, Margaret Quirk and Kate Doust, did not make the cut when it came to appointments in the 17-strong ministry, with 11 of those ministers coming from a trade union background. And Mr McGowan has pledged S1.4 million over the next four years to push the ill-named Safe Schools program into WA secondary schools.
This program, which can only be described as putrid, teaches among other things:
That the terms boys and girls should not be used and that being heterosexual is not the norm.
That they have two virginities, the first time with a boy and the first time with a girl (seemingly a contradiction given that terms like boys and girls are not deemed to be normative).
That homosexuality and transgenderism should be celebrated while traditional cultural, moral and religious beliefs are unacceptable.
A trivialisation of early sexual activity and the risk of STIs.
In short, it is not an anti-bullying program at all but rather a gender and sexual diversity plan and just another example of the Marxist-Gramsci adherents’ long march through educational institutions.
The ALP Left is firmly in control, holding three of the four top parliamentary positions in the Parliament, the Premier himself being the odd man out.
The Deputy Government Leader in the Legislative Council, Stephen Dawson (Environment and Disabilities), is the first homosexual minister in WA.
Ben Wyatt (unaligned) is the first Aborigine to occupy the Treasurer’s position in any Australian parliament. With total public debt heading past $40 billion, the new Treasurer will be sorely tested within a party not noted for restraint. There was little probing of him, and the ALP, during the election campaign by a media that ran dead on the issue.
The far left political action group, Emily’s List, now has 15 (of 23), female ALP parliamentarians as members.
Deputy Premier and Health Minister Roger Cook has already signaled that assisted suicide will be legislated on after a “conscience vote” in the Parliament. As Labor once supported a “conscience vote” on marriage, before it became binding on all ALP parliamentarians to accept the destruction of traditional marriage, one wonders how much tolerance will be shown towards dissenters on the death issue.
It now seems to be conventional wisdom that after two terms a government becomes stale and needs to be changed. While the previous three WA administrations – of Court, Gallop/Carpenter, and Barnett – have seemingly given proof of that dictum, it has not always been so and at present, in South Australia, Labor has been at the helm for 14 years.
There was a lot of pre-poll huffing and puffing over the Liberals’ preference deal with One Nation. Just who were the Liberals supposed to preference: the Greens?
The Liberals refusal in 2001 to deal with One Nation cost Richard Court his government. As it turned out, there was a 40 per cent drift in One Nation preferences to the ALP, thus proving voters can make their own decisions, particularly in parties like One Nation, which are not tied to left-wing orthodoxy.
The Labor and the Greens preference swap was apparently not worthy of mention. As Richard Nixon once said, if you are going to give a candidate (or party) the shaft, at least put one lone reporter on the job to give a modicum of fairness in the electoral battle.
There was no mention of the Barnett government’s achievement, building two desalination plants that have picked up the slack of providing WA with water as dams provide as only 7 per cent of the driest state’s needs.
Malcolm Turnbull also left Barnett in the lurch. Mr Turnbull completely reneged on his promise to fix WA’s GST predicament: WA receives only 34¢ back in every dollar raised in the state.
Mr Turnbull may find that WA voters have turned against him over this issue. If so WA will no longer be the “jewel in the crown” for the Liberals, who currently hold 11 of the 16 WA House of Representative seats at the federal level. The Coalition has a bare majority in the House of Representatives (76-74).
The McGowan Government, despite the big victory in the Legislative Assembly (41-18), will not control the Legislative Council. Labor and Greens (4) have 18 seats in the upper house and the other 18 seats are shared between Liberals, Nationals and three smaller parties.
Mr McGowan had hoped to tempt a Liberal to be council president, which would have given him a floor majority as the president only has a casting vote if there is a deadlock on the floor.
Liberal veteran Simon O’Brien MLC (most decently) refused that carrot.
Muslims protesting against an American movie on their way to the US consulate in Sydney in 2012. James Brickwood
18C debate highlights the ethnic threat to free speech
by Senator David Leyonhjelm 1 April 2017 Australian Financial ReviewWhen Labor, the Greens and certain Liberals in western Sydney seats seek to explain their reasons for opposing changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, they mostly refer to the concerns of ethnic, religious and racial minority groups.
Representatives of Armenian, Hellenic, Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese groups have joined Jewish, Lebanese Muslim and Arab groups to oppose any changes apart from procedural, arguing that amending section 18C will unleash a torrent of “hate speech”.
While we occasionally hear half-hearted claims that minorities require special protection from hurt feelings, the main driver of opposition is the political clout of these groups. A dozen or so federal seats are held on margins smaller than the populations of these groups. And in the recent WA state election, certain Muslim leaders openly endorsed the Greens.
Instead of embracing the values of their adopted country, these ethnic, religious and immigrant representatives want Australia to become more like the countries they left behind.
Australia has a deeply rooted tradition of freedom in which free speech is central. Our legal and cultural origins lie in Britain, where the primacy of individuals over collectivism first took root. The same values led the US to make free speech the first amendment in its Bill of Rights.
Australia has been a leading supporter of free speech internationally. It was a founding member of the United Nations under the leadership of former Labor minister Dr Herbert Vere Evatt, who became president of the UN General Assembly and was instrumental in drafting and having adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Article 19 of the Declaration states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Equality and freedom
Freedom of association, worship and movement, freedom from arbitrary arrest, equality before the law and free speech are generally regarded as the bedrock of a free society. On top of these, Australia has embraced equality and respect, irrespective of gender or personal attributes, and rejected claims of inherited status and class.
These values are not necessarily shared by those who come to Australia. Certain Armenians accuse Turkey of genocide but want to suppress its response; Greeks can have issues with Turks and Macedonians; Indians can be racist when it comes to West Indian cricketers but are sensitive to the same speech themselves; those from Arabic and Lebanese Muslim cultures can hold abhorrent views about women and gays and resolve matters of feelings and honour through violence; and many Jews want to suppress Holocaust denialism.
After World War II, immigrants who arrived in Australia either abandoned their historic grievances or chose not to share them with others. Millions of post-war immigrants from dozens of countries integrated, assimilated, and did their best to become true-blue Aussies. For their part, Australians welcomed these immigrants as “New Australians” and embraced their food, music and dance.
A threat to liberal values
The fact that leaders of immigrant, ethnic and religious groups are now flexing their political muscle in pursuit of different values is a major concern. Not only does it threaten traditional liberal values, it fuels opposition to immigration among the general community and gives credence to demands to block certain types of immigrants.
Australia cannot afford this; its economic growth depends on a substantial flow of skilled immigrants. (Family reunion immigrants are less beneficial). It would cost us dearly if we were to close our borders to the talents and expertise that immigration delivers.
Other countries have addressed this problem by raising the bar on citizenship. Switzerland, for example, has a relatively relaxed attitude to immigrants provided they find a job. However, becoming a Swiss citizen and eligible to vote in elections requires 10 years of residence, no criminal record, a solid employment history and endorsement by the applicant’s Canton (equivalent to state/local government). In practical terms, unless they have embraced “Swiss values”, they do not become citizens.
Opposition to changes to 18C is a wake-up call. Australia’s traditional liberal values are under siege like never before. With one side of politics already in full retreat, it is vital the other side steps up to protect those values before it is too late.
David Leyonhjelm is a Senator for the Liberal Democrats
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
Sydney University law professor Patrick Parkinson.
REBECCA URBAN The Australian September 19, 2016
A leading family law and child-protection expert has criticised the teaching of radical gender theory in classrooms across the country, likening the “odd and unscientific” beliefs promoted by groups such as the Safe Schools Coalition to those espoused by Scientology.
Sydney University law professor Patrick Parkinson has called for an extensive overhaul of the Safe Schools program, having taken issue with its promotion of “exaggerated statistics” on the prevalence of transgender and intersex conditions in the community to support its creators’ “belief that gender is fluid and can even be chosen”.
In a research paper to be published today, Professor Parkinson notes that gender ideology, which lies at the heart of Safe Schools, has become a widespread belief system, particularly in Western countries.
With its origins in university philosophy departments rather than science, it has no place in the primary or secondary school curriculum, which is required to be evidence-based, he argues.
“There would be an uproar if the beliefs of Scientologists … were being taught in state schools through state-funded programs,” he says, referring to the controversial religion.
“Yet the belief system that what gender you are is a matter for you to determine without reference to your physical and reproductive attributes might not be dissimilar.”
Professor Parkinson’s damning review comes as the NSW Education Department investigates the inclusion of gender theory in its own official curriculum, including its mandatory sex education program for Years 11 and 12.
Last week state Education Minister Adrian Piccoli asked his departmental secretary, former ABC boss Mark Scott, to look into whether there was a scientific basis for claims made throughout the Crossroads program that gender was “a social construct”, neither fixed nor binary.
A spokesman for the Education Department said Mr Scott would report back to the minister’s office “as soon as possible”.
While originally touted as a program designed to stamp out homophobia in the schoolyard, it has divided parents, politicians, religious groups and even the LGBTI community.
Prominent transgender advocate Catherine McGregor faced a backlash when she recently spoke out against Safe Schools, claiming that it would not have helped her as a young person grappling with gender issues.
Professor Parkinson is also concerned that its teachings may harm some young people.
The former member of the NSW Child Protection Council, who has advised government and other organisations on matters related to child safety, says a school-wide program that normalises transitioning from one gender to another creates a risk that some children will become confused unnecessarily.
“Gender dysphoria in childhood and adolescence is far too complex to be addressed by pop psychology or internet-based self-help materials,” he says.
“While a program of this kind may offer benefits for some young people, there is reason to be concerned that it may cause harm to other young people who experience same-sex attraction or gender confusion.
“This is not good enough for an educational resource.”
Professor Parkinson believes it is unlikely that concerns raised by the community will go away.
He says politicians who have supported it based on its origins as an anti-bullying program would likely face a backlash from their constituencies unless the program was reviewed and significantly reformed.
More than 500 schools across the country have signed up to be Safe Schools members, and the program has attracted federal and state funds.
Tony Abbott with Indigenous youth in the east Kimberley [WA]
TONY ABBOTT The Australian September 9, 2016
For the past two months, all working-age welfare recipients in Kununurra have been given a Visa debit card rather than cash from Centrelink.
That’s about 1200 mostly indigenous people in a remote town who have been buying their groceries and paying their rent on their debit card but who can’t use it to gamble and buy grog.
For the past five days, with my colleague Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, I’ve been in the East Kimberley talking to people about this important trial.
It’s the 2016 version of the indigenous week I committed to do every year as prime minister; in this case, to study the cashless welfare scheme recommended by Andrew Forrest and put in train by my government.
Here in Kununurra, ambulance call-outs are down between 30 per cent and 40 per cent.
In Ceduna, South Australia, where the trial also has been under way, poker machine turnover is down 30 per cent.
There are still lots of people roaming the streets at night but there’s much less grog and fewer fights.
As one of the local indigenous leaders put it, “Families are going shopping rather than being stretched out in the park dead drunk.”
These two trials are a refinement on the basics card, first introduced during the 2007 intervention and now applying to all long-term unemployed people in the Northern Territory.
Unlike the basics card, the new card is a standard Visa debit card and can be used everywhere except liquor outlets. Twenty per cent of welfare income is still put into recipients’ private accounts and is available as cash. So there’s no stigma, there’s little inconvenience (except to drinkers) and there’s much less cost in administration.
The challenge, though, will be to keep this trial going long enough for a proper evaluation as it needs to be renewed by the parliament before the end of the year. East Kimberley elder Ian Trust and the other indigenous leaders who called for the trial in the first place want it renewed so their people aren’t again drowning in rivers of grog.
Alcohol restrictions (of sorts) are in place in Kununurra. Adults are limited to two cases of full-strength beer a day (or six bottles of wine or three bottles of spirits). After a death nearby, Coles management closed their bottle shop because they didn’t want to profit from people’s misery.
Despite this, local hoteliers are wary of reducing it to one case a person per day. This provides some indication of the industrial-scale binge drinking that the debit card is designed to tackle.
No one says that the debit card is a panacea. Until kids go to school, adults go to work and communities are safe, indigenous people will always struggle to get ahead. Still, it is a big step in the right direction. If people can’t booze and gamble there will be less violence and fewer late nights. More kids will be able to go to school after a good night’s sleep and more adults will be fit to work.
This week, I spent a day with the Yeehaa program that is training troubled teenagers to work with horses on cattle stations. I spent time with the Clontarf football program that requires 90 per cent school attendance from participants. And I spent a day with the Kimberley Jobs Pathway team in a remote version of Backyard Blitz. These programs are all working better since the introduction of the debit card.
By participating in the debit card trial, the indigenous people of the East Kimberley and Ceduna have volunteered to sacrifice a small freedom to regain a much greater dignity. They have been less interested in the difference government can make than in the difference they can make to their own lives. Even though the debit card is something indigenous people have asked for, those who see racism behind every move could try to stop the trial’s extension.
On welfare policy, indigenous leaders such as Trust, Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine have been our best thinkers and innovators. Perhaps only for people under 30, we could acknowledge the good example indigenous communities have set by extending the debit card to more Australians.
Another measure supported by my indigenous advisory council while I was prime minister and by some East Kimberley leaders is making a portion of family tax benefit dependent on school attendance which is barely 60 per cent in most remote areas. You can’t raise kids well without educating them, so school attendance could be a condition for receiving full Family Tax Benefit. Trials in places where the community wants to tackle truancy should enable us to get on top of the logistics of conditional payments.
As opposition leader, I helped the former government to extend the basics card to the whole of the Northern Territory. So far, Labor has been prepared to work with the current government on the debit card trial. Reform with a moral purpose that’s not about cutting spending but about restoring welfare to its true purpose should be possible even in the current parliament.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott is the federal MP for Warringah.
You, me and the smartphone: Electronic devices can be as devastating to relationships as any stashed-away lover.
Weekend Financial Review 20 August 2016
by Hara Estroff Marano”You’re with your other husband, again,” Marilyn Suttle’s only husband would say every time she turned to her mobile phone while the two were driving to dinner. She thought he was just being his witty self. Then his words began getting under her skin.
Suttle, who runs a Detroit-based professional training company specialising in customer service, always asks clients to look at their business through the eyes of the customer: “What’s the experience like, and what could make it better?” It was just after she had given the keynote talk at a leadership conference when it hit her: “Maybe this applies to me.”
“I thought we were having ‘together time’ in the car,” she recalls, “but my husband didn’t see it that way. He felt disconnected and left out.” And that’s not what she wanted, not for herself, not for her 32-year marriage.
Actually she wanted two things: “I wanted a loving, close connection between us. And, as the owner of a business that is always with me, I wanted to check out Facebook to get that instant charge of discovering what’s happening and what people are saying about the company.”
Suttle isn’t the first to discover that the two goals are increasingly in conflict. Couples everywhere are stumbling over what research is now documenting: technology, and especially networked mobile technology, while expanding our cultural and social worlds, is crushing our private one.
Despite the huge boost smartphones give couples in co-ordinating their everyday activities, they’re delivering a double hit to romantic life – on one side from the intrusion of the outside world and on the other from the new possibilities for the exclusion of a partner.
As one researcher puts it, quoting the French philosopher Paul Virilio, “When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck.”
It also challenges couples to reclaim life’s lulls, the unstructured moments of reflection and openness to each other on which feelings of closeness are built and sustained – the ones most prone to digital intrusion.
“I’ve been in practice for 15 years,” says Chicago psychologist Nicole Martinez, “and technology has become a significant issue for couples only over the past five years.”
In one study of young married women, 70 per cent reported that face-to-face conversations were stopped in their tracks by a partner’s phone use or even active texting. “Technoference,” family researcher Brandon McDaniel calls it – “everyday intrusions or interruptions in couple interactions or time spent together that occur due to technology.”
McDaniel, a newly minted PhD in human development from Penn State, along with Sarah Coyne of Brigham Young University, found that the women who experienced technoference in their relationship also encountered more couple conflict over tech use and diminished relationship satisfaction. Such dissatisfaction affects young adults trying to form relationships as well as people of all ages in established relationships.
According to a 2014 Pew Research survey, 42 per cent of cellphone-owning 18- to 29-year-olds in serious relationships say their partner has been distracted by a mobile device while they were together, which is more than the 25 per cent of all couples reporting such problems. And 18 per cent of young adults argue over the amount of time spent online.
Mobile enemies of intimacy
It’s not just that we have only so much time and attention. Smartphones actually transform interpersonal processes. In a much-discussed 2014 study, Virginia Tech psychologist Shalini Misra and her team monitored the conversations of 100 couples in a coffee shop and identified “the iPhone Effect”: the mere presence of a smartphone, even if not in use – just as an object in the background – degrades private conversations, making partners less willing to disclose deep feelings and less understanding of each other, she and her colleagues reported in Environment and Behavior.
With people’s consciousness divided between what’s in front of them and the immense possibility symbolised by smartphones, face-to-face interactions lose the power to fulfil. Mobile phones are “undermining the character and depth” of the intimate exchanges we cherish most, says Misra. Partners are unable to engage each other in a meaningful way.
On or off, smartphones are also a barrier to establishing new relationships, observe Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein of the University of Essex in England. When they assigned pairs of strangers to discuss either casual or meaningful events, the presence of a smartphone, even outside the visual field, derailed the formation of relationships – especially if the participants were asked to talk about something personally significant.
Smartphones “inhibited the development of interpersonal closeness and trust and reduced the extent to which individuals felt understanding and empathy from their partners”, the team reports in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Subversion of the conditions of intimacy, they believe, happens outside of conscious awareness.
Misra argues that smartphones fragment human consciousness. The lower quality of conversation in the presence of smartphones and the diminished empathy come about through our habitual use of the devices. They come to embody distant relationships and networks – social nuclei, Misra calls them – and, acting as environmental cues, they make other relationships and interests more salient than those directly in front of us.
“In their presence, people have the constant urge to seek out information, check for communication, and direct their thoughts to other people and worlds,” she says. They divide consciousness between the immediate and the invisible. Feeling less connected to a face-to-face partner, we avoid self-disclosure.
In body but not in mind
The ability of a partner to be physically present but absorbed by “a world of elsewhere” was first described more than a decade ago, in 2002, by Swarthmore College psychologist Kenneth Gergen. He called it “absent presence“. That, however, was before smartphones multiplied the power of mobile phones to remove us from the local.
In the realm of relationships, smartphones turn conventional understanding of vulnerability on its head – for it is the best couples that seem to be hit the hardest. The closer partners start out, the more irked they become by the presence of devices, says Misra; they expect the attentiveness of their nearest and dearest.
If there is a soundtrack of the new plaint, it’s less the gentle prodding Marilyn Suttle got than “Put down that damn phone and talk to me”, which captures the pain and frustration of being ignored rather than engaged by a partner – at least in an established relationship, where time together is especially important and, usually, precious.
(Rarely would anyone dare to be so direct in the getting-to-know-you stages of dating, researchers find, without courting the label “needy” or “controlling”.) It’s the sound of expectations being violated.
No longer accessories, smartphones, by their very embeddedness in our lives, bring the expectation of constant availability to everyone in our social network. But we also generally expect a partner’s interest and involvement when we’re together. And so smartphones, ipso facto, set us up for a clash of expectations and outright conflict, especially during intimate moments. It’s less clear what expectations for accessibility are when partners are just hanging out together – riding in the car, relaxing in the living room.
Nevertheless, as relationship researcher John Gottman has documented, the unstructured moments that partners spend in each other’s company, occasionally offering observations that invite conversation or laughter or some other response, hold the most potential for building closeness and a sense of connection. Each of those deceptively minor interludes is an opportunity for couples to replenish a reservoir of positive feelings that dispose them kindly to each other when they hit problems.
“Clinically we hear a lot of partners complain, ‘I feel neglected. You’re always checking your email, or surfing the web, or checking the news, even during dinner,'” says Gottman.
Attention takes effort, and software capitalises on distractibility. “The real danger is that people are checking their devices so often they’re not noticing a partner’s bids for connection.”
Saboteurs of love
Missing bids for connection is not the only effect of absent presence. In a study of technology use in classrooms, Jesper Aagaard, a PhD candidate at Aarhus University in Denmark, observed men and women ages 16 to 20 and then interviewed 25 of them in depth about non-classroom tech use. Technoference misaligns partners emotionally, he reports in AI & Society.
Their communication is marked by delayed responses, mechanical intonation and lack of eye contact; all result in an unintentional misattunement. Gone are the rhythms of responsiveness and synchronicity of feelings that flow between partners, hallmarks of satisfying relationships. What comes across is indifference, says Aagaard.
In the face of perceived apathy, partners keep restricting their responses, setting in motion a downward spiral of interaction.
Love may lurk in the lulls, in the interstices of everyday life, but those are now the times we are most likely to turn not towards a partner but to our devices. No one such moment may be grand enough to finger as a culprit, but collectively “the microflights from intimacy land couples on an icy couch”, observes New York psychotherapist Ken Page. They are stealth saboteurs of intimacy.
Andrew Blazer* is a physician on the internal medicine faculty at a major medical centre and a digital health innovator. He plumbs big data to discover and develop better ways for doctors to practise medicine and for patients to safeguard their health. In other words, he’s tech-friendly. But he is wistful about the subtle moments of connection that technology tends to obliterate.
“The way my wife winds down before bed is to look at Facebook,” he says. “For me that’s such an important time for talking and sharing the moments of the day, and for intimacy, physical and otherwise. She says, ‘Just ask me and I’ll put it away’, but that doesn’t feel very satisfying.”
It carries little receptivity to the kinds of probing conversations they used to have when they were getting to know one another, the kind of talk that comes unbidden, bubbling up from the depths through comfortable, warm silence – too fragile to rise to the level of significance demanded by a declarative “Let’s talk”.
“Technology is like a third party in the relationship,” says Blazer. His only consolation is the suspicion that couples everywhere are wrangling with the same problem.
We have to talk about porn
There’s another problem that’s increasingly troubling in relationships, that of porn use: videos and images often delivered to a portable device and viewed by one partner in secret from the other.
Complaints about porn use constitute the number-one problem walking in the door of many, if not most, couple and sex therapists today – a direct measure of the power that privacy afforded by handheld devices has to disrupt intimate relationships. In 2015, more than half of porn users polled regularly accessed it via their phones, and the number of porn videos viewed worldwide was estimated at 88 billion – 10 billion more than the previous year, according to research conducted by Pornhub.
About 90 per cent of young men report using pornography with some regularity – as do 34 per cent of young women. But if there is a stereotypical situation, it’s this: a woman finds her boyfriend or husband accessing erotic images or videos on the internet. The images bear little resemblance to what she looks like or to what she and her husband do in bed, explains Michigan psychologist Joe Kort.
She feels hurt and betrayed, almost as if she had found him in bed with another woman. She is ashamed of his interests, afraid of what they imply about her, and, given the distorting lens of sexual secrecy, concludes that his desires are proof of perversity.
“I think he’s a sex addict,” she says. “Fix him.” Ashamed of his secret use, he often agrees.
It’s difficult to overstate the impact: discovering porn on a partner’s computer can be an unnerving way to learn about a spouse’s sexual fantasies. But it’s often the only way. Couples almost never discuss their sexual desires. And both sexual appetites and sexual interests tend to be highly divergent between heterosexual partners.
For a number of reasons, a man may not be able or willing to talk to his wife about his sexual needs, says David Ley, a clinical psychologist in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The tragedy is that a woman may not even know she’s not meeting her partner’s needs, because he’s not telling her what they are.
Symptom of sexual silence
Compounding a woman’s distress in discovering a partner’s secret porn use are the conclusions she is likely to draw about herself. Data on the universality of porn viewing by males across the globe suggest that its use is entirely impersonal, but a woman is apt to experience it as a personal reflection on her.
“I’ll never look like that.” “Why am I not enough?” Or “Why is he masturbating instead of having sex with me?”
A woman’s self-esteem and feelings about her body are often potent indices of her reactivity to porn, experts report.
“Porn is never really the issue,” says clinical sexologist Claudia Six of San Rafael, California. It’s usually erotic differences between the partners. Most often, couples are clueless about their sexual selves. “They think there is one certain way to be sexual. With sexuality there is more variation than people give themselves permission for.”
The secret use of porn is a symptom of the great sexual silence in many heterosexual relationships.
If viewing erotica is ubiquitous among males, why do so many men and women regard internet porn use as pathological? Being labelled “porn addict” by a partner, or even by oneself, has nothing to do with the amount of porn a man views, says Joshua Grubbs, assistant professor of psychology at Bowling Green University. He says, “It’s shame-motivated.”
In the face of guilt over pornography use, transgression becomes addiction, the team reports in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Grubbs calls it “perceived pornography addiction”. “It functions very differently from other addictions. If it were an actual addiction, one would expect to see some correlation between perceived self-control and porn use.”
Wired for Intimacy
Dr Bill Struthers – describes how pornography hijacks the male brain, using the latest brain science studies to show what takes place in the brain during sexual activity, whether licit or illicit. Video link here
But among those who designated themselves porn-addicted, actual rates of use were all over the map – from one or two views in six months to daily watching. “Perceived porn addiction is independent of actually being dysregulated,” says Grubbs.
Whether imposed by a partner or oneself, the label of porn addict reflects an impoverished understanding of human sexuality, says David Ley. People who believe themselves to be porn addicts need help understanding what their use of porn means.
“They need help unpacking the conflicts between their own sexual desires and the moral/religious society around them,” he adds. Men as well as women need to be educated about their own sexuality and explore why they respond to particular visual images.
Pornography is a scapegoat for all the conversations couples aren’t having, and it’s an easy target, says Ogi Ogas, a computational neuroscientist and co-author of A Billion Wicked Thoughts, a groundbreaking study of sexual interests revealed through internet usage.
Labelling porn use as pathological all comes down to one thing, Ogas insists: men and women have very different sexual tastes, sexual preferences, sexual interests, sexual fantasies. They are aroused by different things, prefer different kinds of sexual stimulation.
“But we each look at our partner and want his or her behaviour to be more like our own. When it is not, we get upset, and that leads to accusations of ‘porn problems’. We are not properly educated about the nature of sexual taste and sexual preference.”
The male brain is particularly responsive to and stimulated by visual imagery, first and foremost by pictures of anatomy that cut directly to the sex act. Women prefer dialogue and seduction – everything leading up to the sex act.
Dominance and submission: it’s mammalian
Men and women do share one big sexual calling, reports Ogas, now a visiting scholar at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education – an interest in dominance, submission and power themes.
“In fact,” he says, “it is the only universal sex interest shared not only by men and women but by gay and straight, young and old. Everyone is turned on by one person being dominant, the other submissive.”
It’s also the primary theme of “romantopia” – the hundreds of thousands of romance novels that constitute women’s erotica, which our culture deems healthier than male erotica, or “pornutopia”.
All mammals have very specific parts of the brain devoted to the physical postures of dominance and submission during sex, and along with the physical patterns come psychological responses. We may live less in hormonal thrall than rats and rabbits, but we’re all likely to tap into a preference for dominance or submission.
A third of straight men and two-thirds of gay men prefer to be sexually submissive, while a small minority of straight women prefer to be dominant.
Porn is not about a relationship. “It’s not about his wife or his partner,” says Kort. “It’s about the freedom to be self-centred. Porn never says ‘no’, carries no opportunity for rejection. And no negotiation is needed.”
Men choose to watch porn because it is easy and quick – and they can escape the burden of pleasing a partner.”It’s a way for a man to relax,” adds Ley. “That is one of the main reasons a man can get an erection more easily with porn than with a partner. He doesn’t have to focus on her needs. You have to relax in order to get an erection.”
An end to secrecy
Joe Kort invites couples to talk openly about the differences between their erotic identities. Once partners take the mystery out of their sexual interests, they open the door to understanding and compassion for each other.
Either scenario calls for a willingness of both partners to be open about their sexual fantasies and drop the secrecy that now drives so many to their own devices.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
No matter if you’re an established couple or not, it’s wise to consider whether you and your partner have the same view of what is, and isn’t, fair game for posting about your life together.
Technology changes the boundaries of couple life in new ways, says Katherine Hertlein, associate professor of psychology at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and co-author of The Couple and Family Technology Framework. But most couples don’t realise it until one person feels there is a transgression – say, the other adds an old flame as a Facebook friend.
She urges couples to have an explicit conversation about how to manage tech use. The ideal time to do it is when two people become serious about their relationship. Since technology is always changing, however, it’s necessary for all couples. Here are discussion points: What are your expectations about tech use by your partner and by you? Exactly what kind of contact does each partner regard as cheating? What is appropriate to disclose about the relationship; about your spouse? Do you exchange passwords or not? Do you tell your partner whom you are texting? When is it OK to be anonymous online? What, if any, places in the home are off-limits to electronic devices?What are rules for use in the car? When is it OK to post photos of your children? How much checking on each other is OK?
When you need support, Hertlein advises, it’s best to text. But if you’re having a fight or otherwise trying to solve a problem, better to do it via email. (Or even face to face by voice.) Technology facilitates frequent but brief communication – not enough to get at core issues. Set aside time at the end of the day for old-fashioned face-to-face talking.