‘Free Speech’ – It’s Not As Easy As ABC

My take on Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s Anzac Day social media post and why ‘freedom’ does not necessarily entitle you to ‘free speech’:

Most Australians are aware that in the past century over 100,000 of our countrymen gave their lives in our defence and to preserve the freedoms we value and enjoy today. Australians also understand the veneration we hold for those who served, the fallen, their sacrifice and that the Anzac tradition is sacrosanct. (See also: ‘Aussie Battlers, Flu Pandemic, Headache, Heatwaves & Hardship’).

(I say most Australians, as  I assumed it would be safe to include someone like Yassmin, who arrived in Australia at the age of 2, who is now 26 years old, well-educated with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering with honours from the University of Queensland.)

What I would like to know is why some Australians choose to confuse the ‘freedoms’ won by the Anzacs with an entitlement for ‘free speech’? How could that be when ‘free speech’ is the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint? All expressions and opinions actually come with enormous responsibilities and consequences, particularly if you fail to comply with the law or if you violate society’s standards in relation to causing ‘offense’. (In fact, the noun ‘free speech’ has so many limitations that the title is virtually a misnomer.)

Of particular offense to me is when I read claims that ‘our diggers died’ so that we can exercise ‘freedom of speech’ to publish offensive material disrespecting the same Anzacs who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedom. See ‘Yassmin Abdel-Magied says she was treated unfairly over her Anzac post’.

This type of odious subversion needs to be called out for what it is; Australia and New Zealand must continue to respectfully uphold and defend the tradition and memory of the Anzacs. Freedom is a Human Right that was fought for and won by the blood of our forefathers. It is the responsibility of this generation to defend it and in doing so, continue to commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice, with the reverence they so rightly deserve. ‘Freedom of speech’ on the other hand is something completely different and should not be confused with or used in the same context as ‘Freedom’, which in itself, is not completely free.

So, what makes a media presenter think they are entitled to post unfiltered offensive material and then claim unfair treatment as ‘the victim’ when publicly vilified? What makes them think that posting a ‘very quick’ apology (but not a retraction) negates the offense? ‘Freedom of expression’ or ‘free speech’ has always been subject to various forms of censorship, irrespective of the publishing platform, whether it’s a song banned from radio or a film rating or a time delay on live radio or television. The concept of filtering the media’s offensive behaviour with classifications or censorship is not new; the Australian Government Classification Board has been around for approx. half a century.

Then, of course, there is Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (See also ‘Human Rights, 8 Commissioners & 18C’s’). What do you need to ‘live under’ if you are not familiar with the well-publicised examples of censorship to free speech, where it has cause to offend under the Racial Discrimination Act? How could you work in the media and not have a sound knowledge of what constitutes ‘offence’ in a media publication, including social media releases? (Incidentally, a ‘very quick’ apology does not ‘cut the mustard’ when you offend under 18C either.)

The motivation behind the ‘Anzac Day post’ was possibly more about promoting one’s public profile. We live in the age of ‘celebrity’ where any media or publicity is considered ‘good publicity’ irrespective of the degree of offensiveness. Perhaps it was an orchestrated stunt, an attempt to create enough controversy to discourage the ABC from proceeding with its planned axing of the part-time presenter’s TV program (see ‘ABC axes Abdel-Magied program one month after controversy’).

I expect there may now be some consternation within the ABC as to whether the ‘axing decision’ could be spuriously linked to the consequences arising from the Anzac Day controversy, particularly given the potential weight or perceived influence attached to the ‘discrimination’ comments made by the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, while appearing before Senate estimates (see ‘Gillian Triggs warns of increasing sexist attacks against woman in public life’).

A check of Hansard (see ‘Commonwealth of Australia – Senate – Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee’) reveals that Professor Triggs stated ‘My concern has been the rising level of discrimination against Muslims in Australia and, sadly, in particular, Muslim women wearing the hijab’. One wonders whether the ABC’s decision to axe Yasmin could be interpreted, construed, seen as, or possibly ‘feels like’ discrimination in some circles. Professor Triggs later went on to reiterate her earlier view that the Anzac Day post was a ‘mistake’ saying ‘Well, again, I think it was a mistake, as I have said. It was followed rapidly by an apology’.

To be clear, I do not condone discrimination and the abuse (as opposed to the fair criticisms) directed at Yassmin in the wake of her social media post. My demurring relates to the virtual trivialisation of the Anzac Day social media post by academics like Triggs, who dismissed it as a mere ‘mistake’ or at worst agreeing ‘that it was a most inappropriate thing to have said’, while the broader community clearly felt deep offense.

Of particular indignity is that it was an honoured Australian who dishonoured and disparaged the memory of fallen Soldiers, on of all days, Anzac Day and I can only extend a sincere apology to our New Zealand partners for the insensitive offense. To add insult, Yassmin has served as a member of the Federal ANZAC Centenary Commemoration Youth Working Group so I cannot be convinced that she did not know exactly what she was doing and I find it insulting and disingenuous to suggest that her ‘post’ should be dismissed as an inappropriate ‘mistake’. Who is really out of touch here?

So, given due consideration to the above, the question remains, how can you call the actions of a media-savvy individual, seeking wider self-promotion by publishing offensive material on a social media platform, a ‘mistake’ when the individual is employed in the media and is steeped in their conventions? What propaganda is this? This was no mistake! 

It is time for people to take responsibility and be accountable for their actions, actions that have consequences. People need to take ownership of their behaviour, ownership of what they say and what they do, particularly when they have the power of the media behind them. Dare I say it, but we need to exercise a little more courtesy, have some empathy and learn to be nicer to one another.

However, if you are going to radically court controversy, then stop playing ‘the victim’ when you get the notoriety you widely seek. Stop hiding behind discrimination as a means of preservation when your provocation goes wrong. Don’t point your finger claiming intolerance at those who ‘call you to account’ or suggest that they are bigots, sexist and racist just because they objected to your insensitive, insulting, disrespectful, intolerant, narrow-minded & purposefully offensive publication.

Don’t stomp on the grave of ANZAC to promote your personal agenda!

Lest We Forget.

26 May 2017

If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts.  – Martin Luther King.

 

 

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Why We Feel Good About Higher Taxes

In last month’s Federal Budget, the Government announced the introduction of an additional tax on the Financial Services Sector, or at least on five of the larger banks operating in the sector. This comes at a time when the Government is on one hand, advocating policies to reduce company tax, while increasing taxes on the other. (So unlike Governments to have contradictory agendas!)

The Liberal Government is ‘banking’ on this new tax levy being more popular than Labor’s failed Mining Tax, which the coalition Government subsequently repealed. This new populist policy is the Government’s attempt to leverage off the creed that all Australians hate banks, apparently because they are well managed global businesses whose apposite profits are too big.

Therefore, the thinking is that the public will be happy if the so-called ‘greedy’ banks are taxed more than other companies and as a consequence, the Government gains a popularity lift from you, the electorate. This is a desperate ‘socialist solution’ by a Government who is supposed to be encouraging private enterprise to grow the economy; no wonder we are confused about what this Government is supposed to stand for!

The Government is taking advantage of the public’s naive ‘bank bashing’ mindset by virtually condoning hatred against a small number of profitable institutions just so they can pass their bias, uncompetitive and oppressive policies unimpeded. The Government is counting on the gullibility of the public who have been conditioned by successive financially incompetent Governments, and the media, to believe we have been ripped off when in fact the Bank’s ‘Return on Equity’ is somewhat moderate compared to many other publicly listed companies (see below).

I keep hearing the media and politicians say that the Banks should pay this new levy and not complain because they (the banks) are so hated and more unpopular than politicians, (if that’s possible). But who are they? Well, ‘they’ is essentially you, whether as an individual shareholder or more likely in your superannuation fund, or if you have a bank mortgage or a bank account, not to mention if you have exposure to any of these banks’ subsidiaries.

Anyone with any relationship, direct or otherwise, with the Banks will pay for this new levy/tax. If there is an additional cost to business, someone pays and in the final analysis, the people who own and deal with the banks will pay the additional tax the Government has conned you into feeling good about.

Let’s face it, I don’t think that getting a dividend yield of 6% as a shareholder of a Bank is an ‘obscene’ return, in fact, far from it given the ‘capital risk’ you carry. So this ‘clever’ new policy is only a slick revenue grab, that somehow ‘the constituency’ has been duped into thinking they’ll love!

If Government-cultivated hatred and loathing is driving a prejudicial policy agenda in Australia, where we single out and indiscriminately penalise certain groups or sectors in our community; then we are on a slippery totalitarian slope with despotic overtones. 

Another consideration in this subterfuge is the randomness of the policy, there is no reasonable basis for the new tax. Apparently, the Australian Government supports a Fair Taxation System unless the ignorant decide the industry is so unpopular that it justifies a discriminatory socialist policy. If you implement a tax just because you make a large profit, then why not apply the new tax to companies that make larger ‘returns’ than the Banks do and if not, why not? Would that not be a reasonable and equitable basis to apply a tax, with a just ‘outcome’ for all Australians under the ‘Fair Taxation System’?

I have scanned the various market segments and randomly identified 14 companies with a higher ‘Return on Equity’ (RoE) than the five banks targeted. Should companies like those listed below also be identified as ‘bad profitable corporate citizens’ to be singled out and penalised for being commercially viable?

What is going on in Australia when you virtually need to apologise for being successful and profitable? Talk about the tall poppy syndrome; it’s economic emasculation of epic proportions! If making a profit is so obscene and offensive that we need to disincentivise success, then it is a crippling legacy to pass on to the youth of Australia: a future of limited opportunity courtesy of a pathetic, lazy, short-sighted, spiritless and tired leadership.

Return on Equity:

  • Amcor 86.9%                          
  • CSL 41.5%
  • JB Hi Fi 37.8%
  • Woolworths 32.1%
  • Rea Group 28%
  • Sirtex Medical 27.7%
  • Telstra 26.8%
  • McMillan Shakespeare 23%
  • ResMed 21.2%
  • Breville Group 20.4%
  • Flight Centre 20%
  • Ainsworth 18.2%
  • BHP 16%
  • Corporate Travel 16%
  • CBA 15.7%
  • MQG 14.2%
  • WPC 13.2%
  • NAB 12.2%
  • ANZ 10.1% 

‘He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career’ – George Bernard Shaw

3rd June 2017

Government enables Banks to target Disadvantaged, Vulnerable, Youth & Working Poor

An interesting learning this week: apparently the tabloid media declared that January is the best time for individuals to review how well they manage their finances. It would seem from the story that the levels of personal debt are at record highs and credit cards are funding extreme levels of long-term unsustainable debt at usurious rates. Unsurprisingly, this is apparently due to the fact that many of us are living beyond our means and funding the shortfall on ‘credit’.

The story then promptly proceeded with what appeared to be a paid infomercial or ‘product flog’ offering a different credit card that does essentially the same thing!  So the solution is the same wrong behaviour with a different product provider! Is that how you take responsibility and control of your finances?

The tabloid media, like the Government, keeps missing the opportunity to educate the large numbers of consumers who clearly need help, although after about 10 years of Federal Budget deficits the Government is hardly in a position to lecture. The bottom line is: if you are using your credit cards for anything other than as a ‘method of payment’ you are simply not applying ‘efficient and effective’ management of your finances to achieve an outcome that is going to be beneficial for you.

Debt management is the essential first step if you are ever going to be in a position to accumulate sufficient assets to live a reasonable existence and a comfortable life in retirement. But who thinks that far ahead? Certainly not Government!

Almost everyone needs assistance to learn how to manage their finances; after all, it’s the mechanism we all use to fund ‘living’. It can be complex and getting the right advice should start early in your working life. The misconception is that you seek financial advice when you have plenty of money, but you actually need it when you have very little and looking to accumulate wealth.

It seems incongruous that Government reactively fund ‘Credit Counselling Services’ for those who have already got themselves into financial trouble, but do nothing proactively to assist with preventative ‘risk’ education for consumers. Nor are they willing to adopt workable policies or remove the failed and ineffective Government Legislation and the associated unenforceable compliance regime. If they did, the prohibitive costs of financial advice could be slashed and services made more accessible to the masses. The barrier for the average consumer is ‘cost’. At the moment only the wealthy can afford financial advice services. Why exclude the demographic that needs help the most?

Why do we accept that a certain socio-economic demographic are the disposable victims of the questionable practices and behaviour of the financial institutions issuing these credit cards to individuals who have no capacity to repay? How do these financial institutions continually avoid regulatory scrutiny from the Government’s own enforcement authorities? There needs to be an enforcement conversation about Financial Institutions complying with the Credit Act or, more precisely, the lack of scrutinising around the practices, behaviour, ethics and morality of the financial institutions issuing these cards.

There was a time when Financial Institutions issued credit cards, but only after completing a credit assessment of the applicant’s capacity to make repayments, as well as looking at their character and capital position or net worth, essentially to ensure the applicants could afford the repayments and to reduce the risk of individuals getting themselves into financial trouble.

Now with increasingly smart technology and the removal of manual credit assessments to reduce costs, the product model has changed. It is no longer about preventing or reducing defaults but rather a high turnover computerised system, which is programmed for an acceptable level of failure or default rate. The higher the interest rate margin the higher the statistical default rate can be. So it’s no longer about looking after customers to prevent defaults, it’s a statistical formula for acceptable losses where the casualties are the customers set up for failure by design, usually the young, vulnerable, disadvantaged and working poor.

Technology has completely changed the dynamic of the card facility and it is questionable whether credit cards can still be defined as a ‘financial product’ in accordance with the intended provisions of the Credit Act. It’s now a ‘service’ generated by a statistically programmed computer; designed by actuaries based on probability and operated by a ‘processing centre’, not finance-trained people. The governing legislation has not kept pace with the technological evolution in the finance sector, where defaults are no longer a potential consequence but a planned inevitability. The cost of the ‘systems failings’ is clear to see: whether due to theft, misappropriation, dishonesty or default, the systems disposable casualties just add further pressure on society and welfare dependency.

The financial services industry seems to have completely dehumanised the relationship with their client. They don’t care or feel accountable to their customers, especially the ‘acceptable losers’ built into these programs. If clients are defaulting because they were not correctly assessed in the first place, then you must ask the question: how are these Financial Institutions meeting their ‘Duty of Care’ to their customers and how do they remain compliant with the Government’s Credit Act? More to the point, where are the regulatory enforcement agencies?

The fact is that financial institutions make large profits from credit cards when the interest margins and fees are so high, particularly at the moment where credit spreads (interest ‘charged’ versus the actual ‘cost of funds’) have never been wider due to the present historical low-interest rate market. I’m not against financial institutions being successful by making profits but businesses still have a Duty of Care to their customers. We need to ask whether the absence of ‘Care’ is the reason why the profits are so high and if that’s the case, I can’t help thinking that the Government has left vulnerable consumers exposed to predators whose behaviour appears unscrupulous, immoral with unethical standards. It’s a numbers racket that would make organised crime syndicates envious.

The gap between what’s said and what’s done has never been wider, with the absence of ‘complete truth’ reflected in the length of the product disclosure documents i.e. they are what they hide. I accept that we all need to take responsibility for our actions, but financial institutions are acting as enablers, knowingly selling what they consider is an acceptable level of grief without accountability or reasonable preventative care. Shaping an orchestrated loss scenario for certain consumers feels like predatory behaviour to me. Why is the corruption of morals the only bankruptcy acceptable to the financial services industry? (See also ‘Why are Government Regulators – not working’).

The time is always right to do what is right. –Martin Luther King Jr.

25 January 2017

Dry Rivers, Wetlands, Environmental Water & Awesome Wells

On October 30th 1938, 23-year-old American actor, director, writer and producer, Orson Welles narrated a nationally broadcasted radio program, with a contemporary adaptation of The War of the Worlds, a 19th-century science fiction novel. It was performed as a live simulated news bulletin, a realistic dramatisation: a Martian invasion of earth was in progress. It reportedly caused nationwide confusion and mass panic when listeners thought that the arrival of the extraterrestrial beings was actually occurring.

Even though the episode was performed as a Halloween event, the accidental hoax had been executed and the myth that became the legend was created. As is the case today when the media realised they had been duped, they reported ‘widespread outrage’ and then led the apparent protest demanding greater regulatory intervention from the bureaucracy. Some things never change!

The Wellesian ruse may not fly nowadays, but what is interesting is how well-educated and intelligent people still get caught up in fictitious fables, leaving themselves susceptible to mythical fabrications and as a result are easily conditioned, manipulated, persuaded and indoctrinated.

So how does this yarn relate to Australians? Well it’s about the manoeuvring, misrepresentation and untruths perpetrated by those relatively new Australians, who after 200 years still don’t understand the harmony of our environment down under, in Terra Australis Incognita (the great unknown land), as they continue to impose reckless policies, pushing a flawed agenda from questionable research based on the European experience; generally misguided, opportunistic and with ominous intent. Let me explain.

Australia is a continent of 7.692 million square kilometres. It is the driest inhabited continent in the world with 70% of its area arid or semi-arid land. It is also the smallest continent in the world, the lowest, flattest and (apart from Antarctica) the driest, with a mean annual rainfall below 600 mm. Yep, it’s as dry “as a dead dingo’s donger” to quote a line from Australian Novelist Di Morrissey (Heart of the Dreaming, 1991). 

Europe is the wettest continent. In 2012 the UK’s annual rainfall was 121% more than Australia’s mean average. The Australian continent also has a vast ‘dry river’ system, carved out of the harsh landscape over many thousands of years; the result of extreme conditions in the cycles of prolonged, severe droughts and flooding rains. The longest of these dry river systems is the Murray, some 2,500 km in length. (The Thames by comparison is 350 km long).

Many people may not realise, but in its natural state you could cross the Murray River by walking the riverbed in times of drought. Then in 1919 as part of the Murray River irrigation plan, construction was commenced on the first in a series of ‘locks and weirs’. The river was subsequently dammed with four major reservoirs and some 15 locks. The irrigation system produced what is now considered to be one of the most productive food bowls and diverse agricultural regions in the country, as well as creating a myriad of artificial man-made wetlands with their associated salinity problems.

One of Australia’s truly unique ‘natural’ wetlands is Lake Eyre. Its formation is connected to the mythological dreamtime story of Wikunda hunting the kangaroo that became Lake Eyre. The Lake Eyre Basin covers 1 million square kilometres and is located outback, some 718 km north of Adelaide. Australia’s largest dry salt lake carries water on average about once every eight years and has only filled to capacity three times in the last 160 years. When water does flow the lake returns to life; a natural spectacle as huge numbers of waterbirds flock to the area. The stark landscape comes alive with wildflowers and even native fish return to the lake.

It is truly amazing; nowhere else in the world compares. So why do we take any notice of these ‘foreigners’ telling us how to manage our unique waterways based on research conducted elsewhere, particularly when they want to ‘drought proof’ these relatively new man-made, unnatural wetlands, that are a consequence of damming a massive dry river system.

I’m talking about ‘environmental water’. We have been led to believe that it’s necessary to waste billions of litres of water on regular flows to maintain these recently created artificial wetlands and then wash the surplus productive water out to sea. What a load of drivel! Lake Eyre clearly proves that wetlands simply do not need intervention with constant water flows.

Environmental water is just another myth that has been forced upon us, based on the irrelevant European experience. We know that the Earth’s present ‘axial precession’ means that the southern hemisphere’s seasons are somewhat more extreme than the northern hemisphere. This is Australia: try to learn something from those who have had a spiritual, physical, social and cultural connection to the land, the traditional owners for the last 60,000 years or more. As I mentioned earlier, how can well educated, credible and intelligent individuals be so gullible, as they embrace these fictitious, fabricated untruths, without even considering the intent of the power brokers who are funding a program based on extraneous data?

In Australia we have a unique environment like no other continent or country. European settlers need to learn how to adapt to their new environment, not change it. Stop destroying productive land, stop maintaining saline-soaked swamps, stop washing valuable water out to sea and stop doing it in the name of the environment. I’m tired of watching these enviro-warriors getting it wrong, planting trees instead of native grasses and now unsustainably mismanaging our most precious resource.

Start asking questions of politicians, why are they attempting to use ‘unsustainable water policies’ as blackmail to leverage ‘bargaining power’; it’s a guerrilla tactic that makes no sense. This week we saw a range of duplicitous Machiavellian manoeuvres by our representatives against the occupants of the driest continents on earth, threatening to waste an additional 450,000,000,000 litres of so-called environmental water, by flushing it down the Murray and for no rational, practical or logical reason other than a shameful, strategic, political ploy for the Senator’s personal career advancement!

They’ll want to ‘drought proof’ Lake Eyre next! These lunatics are from another planet; maybe ‘Mars’.

The line between reason and madness grows thinnerRosa Parks.

1st December 2016

Media Trumped

I’m perplexed as to why so many people seem ‘surprised’ with the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election. Particularly interesting was the manic, toxic reaction and atrocious behaviour by the mainstream tabloid media, who seem to have whipped themselves into some kind of hysterical bile-filled orgasmic crescendo of loathing, as they remonstrated against those with differing opinions. Is it a case of hyper-embarrassment because the tabloid media consistently get the big things wrong or is it simply that they’re detached and indifferent; an insular fraternity of cabals, who despise those of alternative persuasions? Clearly, the extreme, tabloid media’s failure to provide ‘diversity of opinion’ proves that they are out of step with Australia’s inclusive, tolerant society.

It must be humiliating for the doyens of the media, as well as the ‘politicians’ and ‘pollsters’ who comprehensively failed when it came to their coverage of both the U.S. Presidential Election and the June 2016 Brexit referendum. I suppose it’s bound to happen when they all have their noses in the same acrimonious trough. The politicians court the pollsters, the media suckle the politicians and the pollsters continue to make large predictions based on small samples. No wonder they get it wrong. Politicians need to listen to their constituents, the media need to get back to professional journalism, and pollsters need to broaden their reach beyond just the affluent (i.e. those with phones), and check in with the seemingly unnoticed, poor and disenfranchised, because they ‘vote’, as the U.S Election reaffirmed.

There was a time when journalists were researched and impartial. Their reports focused on ‘the story’. Now it’s openly biased opinion pieces, littered with vitriol from a smug and patronising media elite; a bunch of postulating sycophants removed from the realities of the real world who redraft media releases because they are incapable of unearthing real stories. They live in a small cocoon, influenced by like-minded narcissists, repeating the same old diatribe with few original ideas, continually chanting their ‘transcendental mantra’ of toxic ordure until it’s miraculously ‘factual’.

What I do find intriguing is that the media, academics and politicians on one hand seemed genuinely shocked with the outcome of the U.S. Election while on the other, keep telling us that ‘the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer’, as if they are or care about the poor, who (unknown to the media), ‘vote’! They recite this refrain out of habit, refusing to acknowledge that the rich sands have shifted around them. These media people, the ‘ideological elite’, are actually the wealthy privileged; the opposite of how they like to see themselves. The ‘affluent’ simply do not give any consideration to the disenfranchised working poor, in fact, they look down on them like common peasants, all because the working poor missed the opportunity to participate and benefit from one of the longest periods of post-war economic expansion. Really, why are they so shocked by this election result?

The ‘advantaged’ who profess to be egalitarians, like ‘talking the talk’ but they certainly are not ‘walking the walk’, given their lack of action and disregard for the working poor. In the U.S. approx. 15% or 45,000,000 people live below the poverty line predominantly in rural and inner city parts of the country. A 2013 UNICEF report ranked the U.S. as having the second highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world. So if you are a poor citizen of the U.S.A. then you have nothing to lose if you vote for change. So they did!

How dare they!

9th November 2016