Double dissolutions not so easy

Neil Hunt writes: Re. “How journalists (except Guy Rundle) make a hash of science reporting” (yesterday). To Peter Matters, it’s long been misunderstood but the Senate cannot “force” a double dissolution. All it can do it provide triggers by rejecting legislation twice after three or more months. These triggers can then be used by the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister only, to recommend to the Governor-General to effect a double dissolution.

On funding cuts to the ABS

John Nightingale writes: Re. “ABS cuts could undermine jobs data accuracy” (yesterday). It’s hard to think of any ways to finance the ABS — apart from the federal budget — that would not lead to suspicions of bias etc. But how about something like the UK’s radio/TV licence system that pays for the BBC? Any business larger than … well, something big-ish … , or any financial institution couldpay a flat licence fee amount, high enough to make up for at least current shortfalls. The federal government would, of course, still have to cough up what it barely begrudges today.

Don Plimer writes: In Glenn Dyer’s article on cuts to the ABS he mentions “Centrelink’s role in trying to fill job vacancies”. This is wrong, as Centrelink only makes payments. A range of Job Network agencies are charged with filling job vacancies. Otherwise an excellent article.

Getting it right on 18C

Jack Williams writes: Re. “Conservative civil disobedience” (yesterday). Sorry, Roger Franklin and Quadrant subscribers, but Tony Abbott probably won’t be setting the AFP on to you anytime soon for you sending him that proforma “arrest me for breaching 18C” letter. Proceeding on the not too fanciful assumption that Franklin’s letter’s blank spaces are meant to be replaced by the word “Islam” or “Muslim”:

  1. 18C is in the Racial Discrimination Act. It is directed to “race, colour or national or ethnic origin”, but not religion.
  2. 18C only makes a racist act unlawful if it’s done “otherwise than in private” — that is, done in a public place or as a communication to the public. It doesn’t catch a letter sent by someone to someone else (even the Prime Minister).
  3. 18D contains exceptions to 18C, including for a statement made in the public interest, as well as for a fair comment on a matter of public interest.
  4. A breach of 18C is not a criminal offence and there cannot be any arrest. 18C allows for a civil action.

If Quadrant really wants to mount a civil disobedience campaign that might actually see the paddy wagons turn up, it should go back to the drawing board.