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Tips and rumours

Sep 15, 2017

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From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Slippery slope to classroom orgies. The proposed changes to marriage will have Australia’s children participating in classroom orgies, according to one pamphlet handed out in Parramatta earlier this week. The respectful debate continues.

A mysterious knight in shining armour. Is the anti-marriage equality campaign a “David and Goliath” struggle, as the likes of the Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton insists? Well, not so much. Damian Wyld of the Marriage Alliance emailed opponents of equality yesterday morning to inform them of a wonderful opportunity. “I’ve got some great news to share,” he wrote. “Knowing our urgent need, a generous benefactor has offered to match all gifts we receive over the next 10 days, to a maximum of $200,000 … It goes without saying, though, that we need funds NOW – and with the generous matching offer on the table, I’m confident we’ll be able to keep raising the support we need.” So who is the mystery opponent of marriage equality who has $200K to sling at the No campaign? Alan Joyce was upfront about his donation. We think Damian’s mystery mate should be, too.

Not flying high. A Crikey tipster has lived long enough to find out what happens when you’ve been a Qantas frequent flyer for 30 years. He writes:

“A nice high quality envelope arrived today and I opened with anticipation – an upgrade certificate for a future flight booking or a lounge pass, perhaps a 30 year logo bag tag? Well ‘little’ was right.  It is a mocked up boarding pass. I was a ‘little’ underwhelmed. First thought was ‘straight to the poolroom’ but I would have to spend money getting a frame for it. I decided that a very nice bookmark was its best use. Thirty years membership for what is now a major revenue program for a bookmark. Impressive.”

 
Cash lashes ‘feminists’. Under pressure for appointing a bloke who broke the law to your prize building watchdog? Facing media questions about what you knew, when you knew it and when you told the PM? Why not have a go at female journalists? Yesterday, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash held a media conference to celebrate the strong employment growth in the jobs figures, but that only lasted one question before the assembled hacks got onto Cash’s appointment of the now-resigned Nigel Hadgkiss to the ABCC despite knowing of his conduct in breach of the Fair Work Act. Despite not coming within cooee of the subject at any stage, Cash responded to Crikey’s question regarding when she told the Prime Minister about Hadgkiss by saying “I’ve already answered that”. She then lashed out at the female journalists present, demanding to know why they weren’t asking about CFMEU organiser Luke Collier, who was jailed in 2016 and who had abused a female officer of the Fair Work Building Commission (predecessor body of the ABCC) and who has previously been charged with domestic violence offences. “Where are the feminists in this place?” she angrily demanded. True feminism, it seems, lies in not trying to hold ministers to account for their actions.

The dismissal. The University of Sydney has pursed its lips around the circumstances of the sudden removal of Professor Shane Houston, its deputy vice-chancellor (indigenous strategy and services). An email was sent to all staff on August 24, but no reason was given for Houston’s resignation and/or sacking or if he was moving to another job. Houston has previously drawn the ire of students. A Crikey tipster informs us that Houston was escorted from the campus and his email and phone were disabled. We hear he is likely to bring an unfair dismissal suit, but neither Houston nor USyd responded to our questions. You can give us more information about this anonymously. The university’s email says:

It is with regret and disappointment that I must advise that Professor Shane Houston will be stepping down from his role as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) and leaving the University today.

Since 2011, Professor Houston has led our institution-wide strategy to advance Indigenous participation, engagement, education and research through the Wingara Mura – Bunga Barrabugu Strategy.

This strategy has seen a 36 percent increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students studying at Sydney, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff numbers have almost doubled, and our success rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have been consistently high. Through the strategy, the University has also become a more culturally competent institution, and an Indigenous perspective has become more firmly embedded in our day-to-day life.

I wish to thank Shane for his contribution to this success. He has brought a vision and determination to ensuring that the University of Sydney is a place where we all have a greater understanding of the history and the distinctive contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to Australian society.

This would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Shane’s team, with whom I have met today to share this news, and the rest of the University community, who have embraced the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education and research as core to our identity as an Australian institution. I look forward to continuing to support them as we build on Shane’s work. The University remains committed to ensuring the continuing success of the Wingara Mura – Bunga Barrabugu Strategy, and we will take this opportunity to refresh and strengthen our approach so we can continue to be relevant and responsive to the needs of our Indigenous communities.

I anticipate starting the recruitment process for a new Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) shortly, and I will keep you updated on progress. Meanwhile I have asked Professor Juanita Sherwood to act in the role on a temporary basis until the recruitment process has been completed. The appointment of a new Deputy Vice-Chancellor will lead into the renewal phase of our Indigenous Strategy and build on the good work that has been done over the past six years.

Please join me in wishing Shane all the very best for his future endeavours.

Yours,

Michael

Dr Michael Spence AC

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.auuse our guaranteed anonymous form or other ways to leak to us securely

Federal

Sep 8, 2017

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As MPs filed in for the last question time of the sitting week, expectation was in the air, with both sides waiting on the decision by the High Court, due 15 minutes into the hour of questions. 

What would happen if the High Court said no go? 

Four of the five “rebels” who had not long ago attempted to convince their colleagues to move to a free vote in Parliament were sitting together in a bloc. While Warren Entsch and Trent Zimmerman usually sit behind Tim Wilson, member for Brisbane Trevor Evans moved into the seat usually occupied by Andrew Hastie (the Western Australian MP is on leave this week due to the birth of his second child).

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was checking his phone regularly, and apart from the extreme level of noise (even by the standards of this week), the actual substance of the questions was the same.

The opposition has had one strategy so far this week — get Barnaby — and this question time was no different, with early questions on the deputy prime minister’s ability to make decisions on gas export controls. The deputy PM, it must be said, was wearing his green sheep socks for the second, if not the third day in a row. Either he has multiple pairs of the same style or he forgot to pack more than one pair for this sitting week.

It was as if we were in a car veering off the road, but at the last minute ended up straight between the lines, heading to our original destination.

When the decision came, tweeted by reporters in court and Melbourne, delivered to the PM by text message and the Opposition Leader by note, and shared between MPs and reporters alike, the volume in the chamber dropped a few levels, but it didn’t last long. The news that the High Court had struck down the challenges to the postal survey meant that the government could stick with the plan, and there would be no fireworks.

The result meant that Barnaby Joyce got a reprieve from Labor attacks for the first time in days, with Bill Shorten taking it upon himself to put the result to the chamber (“He is not a reporter for the High Court” Speaker Tony Smith observed). Would the Prime Minister co-sign a letter with him to every household in Australia in support of the Yes vote, he asked. The PM didn’t take the bipartisan bait, not an inch was given.

“Well, the Leader of the Opposition must be relieved that the promise he gave to the Australian Christian Lobby in 2013 can now — is now being delivered by the Coalition. He went there to the Australian Christian Lobby and he said, ‘I think every Australian should have their say’.”

The tone was set, the PM repeated the line that “Lucy and I will be voting yes”, and despite a second attempt from Shorten to get the PM’s signature on a letter, it was again batted away. And then we were back on the same road we’d been on all week — would Barnaby Joyce be allowed to make any decisions as acting PM, was the PM confident any decisions he made would be valid, and the government continuing to paint Shorten as both beholden to the unions and ripping off workers.

Australia

Aug 15, 2017

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One of the highest-profile campaigners against marriage equality, Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby, has endorsed a US hate group that has campaigned for the criminalisation of homosexuality in the United States and internationally.

Last night, in response to questions from Crikey about whether the Australian Christian Lobby would accept help from the Alliance Defending Freedom during its campaign against marriage equality, Shelton declared that the ADF were “good people”.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), founded in 1994 to fund anti-LGBTI litigation, was formally designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre last year for its:

“propagation of known falsehoods about LGBT people over the years (including the conspiracy theory that there is a ‘homosexual agenda’ or ‘homosexual legal agenda’ to undermine “the family” and Christianity), its demonization of LGBT people, its support of criminalization of gay sex in the U.S. and abroad and its continued attempts to create state and local policies and legislation (so-called ‘religious liberty’ laws) that allow Christians to deny goods and services to LGBT people in the public sphere and marginalize LGBT students in schools.”

The ADF has campaigned against efforts to decriminalise homosexuality in the United States and other countries. It filed a brief in Texas in 2003 to oppose a court action, Lawrence v Texas, to decriminalise same-sex sodomy, in which the ADF said:

“The issue under rational-basis review is not whether Texas should be concerned about opposite-sex sodomy, but whether it is reasonable to believe that same-sex sodomy is a distinct public health problem. It clearly is.”

Shelton tried to explain away ADF’s support for criminalisation, insisting its argument in Lawrence v Texas was about “states’ rights” rather than the subject of the ADF brief.

In 2013, the ADF lauded an Indian court’s refusal to overturn criminal laws against sodomy, saying:

“When given the same choice the Supreme Court of the United States had in Lawrence vs. Texas, the Indian Court did the right thing. India chose to protect society at large rather than give in to a vocal minority of homosexual advocates … America needs to take note that a country of 1.2 billion people has rejected the road towards same-sex marriage, and understood that these kinds of bad decisions in the long run will harm society.”

The ADF also campaigned in Belize against attempts to decriminalise homosexuality in that country and defended criminal laws against sodomy in Jamaica.

 In January 2016, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott drew criticism, including from his sister, for flying to the US to address the ADF.

The Australian Christian Lobby has also developed a new legal arm based on the ADF, called the Human Rights Law Alliance.

Tips and rumours

Aug 14, 2017

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From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Just where is that from? We’re just a few days into the three-month campaign for the marriage equality postal survey, and as we expected, there’s a whole lot of groups trying to get in on the action. A few tipsters noticed sponsored posts in their Facebook feeds over the weekend, advertising merchandise worn by celebrities like Tim Minchin, Ian Thorpe and Keith Urban, emblazoned with the words “I’m voting Yes marriage equality” and “Love is love”.

But the images are doctored, and the celebs never actually wore the shirts (regardless of what their views on marriage are). The picture of Thorpe and partner Ryan Channing, for example, comes from the Daily Mail:

Crikey followed the links on the “LGBT Connection” Facebook page to work out just who was trying to cash in on the postal plebiscite, and they go to “sillygear.com”, which is a website that seems to make slogans on T-shirts and hoodies that are printed in the US, mainly about country music (and also, weirdly, for airplane enthusiasts). Buying the shirts doesn’t contribute to any of the Australian marriage equality campaigns, and the LGBT Connection Facebook page was set up just three days ago — for the purpose of selling merch. 

And on the other side … We’ve also investigated just who is behind a Facebook page called “Vote NO Australia“, which claims that allowing marriage equality in Australia would mean that the words “husband” and “wife” will be banned and children won’t be able to call their mothers “mum”, despite there being no evidence of that in other countries where marriage equality is legal. We were told the website was the brainchild of Lewis Freeman-Harrison, who ran for the seat of Melbourne in the last year’s federal election as a candidate for the Sex Party. He told a local paper in 2015 that he supported marriage equality: “I think its funny that the current government doesn’t want to put a free vote to it.” Freeman-Harrison says he hasn’t started the Vote NO Australia website, but he is building it through his company, Red Internet. He seems to have undergone quite a change in belief systems since last year, recently posting a video of himself being baptised, but he wouldn’t comment on his involvement with the Sex Party to Crikey. Seen some spurious plebiscite advertising or campaigning? Drop us a line.

Not so keen on Ian. On August 8, Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ian Narev had “the full confidence of the board”. This morning, he’s out and will be gone by next June. Not quite a Melba-style departure, but the change of heart on the board is quite amazing, especially when there are three or four directors who should be out the door with him over the AUSTRAC money-laundering scandal. CBA chairperson Catherine Livingstone said Narev would retire by June 2018, subject to when the bank was able to find a replacement. CommBank’s 2016-17 annual report reveals that Narev’s total pay more than halved to a total of $5.506 million from $12.3 million in 2015-16. More than $4.8 million of previous year’s short-term incentive payments were not paid out and in total the CEO and senior staff missed out on more than $16 million in such payments.

What happened since August 8? Well, Reserve Bank governor Phil Lowe rounded on the banks in his appearance on Friday in Melbourne before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, saying: “It’s very serious. We have laws for reasons, banks should not be doing money laundering and they should know who is opening their accounts,” he said. If shortcomings are identified then there needs to be accountability, through the court and internally through the organisation.”

Could the RBA’s sound and fury have cost Narev his job?

Spotted. A Crikey spy saw Chief of Army Angus Campbell leaving Parliament House this morning through the underground exit at the front of the building. Maybe he’s been watching Annabel Crabb’s The House for directions?

An eggsistential threat. The headquarters of the Australian Christian Lobby has been egged overnight. ACL managing director Lyle Shelton tweeted photos of the resulting devastation this morning. 

“Our Canberra office was egged overnight. This is the same building which was bombed on Dec 21. Please pray for the safety of our team. Thx.” 

This tweet contains the fairly direct implication that an act as likely to have been carried out by the militant wing of the bored teenager liberation front as any activist is equivalent of bombing a building. And speaking of .. bombed? When was the ACL building bombed? To jog Shelton’s memory (he oddly seems to have a pristine memory of the 1950s, before he was born, but a foggy at best recollection of what happened in December of last year) — police stated the day after the incident, in which a man drove a van into the ACL headquarters building, that they had established the actions of the 35-year-old male driver “were not politically, religiously or ideologically motivated”, and Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin later concluded the man’s “motivation was driven by mental illness and his desire to commit suicide”.

Breakfast of champions. Media monitoring company Isentia has asked journos to enjoy a bit of brekkie and a chat this morning ahead of its financial results, to be released on August 23. The invitation says the company’s C-suite will be keen to chat about Isentia’s:

  • digital transformation and new customer offering, including a sneak-peak of its “Stories” capability;
  • rebrand and consolidation of businesses including King Content and Brandtology;
  • market position and recent legal battle with Meltwater; and 
  • 2020 vision and long-term strategy to address recent results and performance.

It’s that third point that has us interested. Isentia alleges that rival company Meltwater has been using Isentia’s media monitoring data and onselling them to clients, without doing the leg work itself. Meltwater has agreed to orders blocking Meltwater from accessing Isentia’s content, but an application to get hold of Meltwater’s internal documents was denied. We wonder if Meltwater will be launching a similar croissant-and-cappuccino charm offensive?

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.auuse our guaranteed anonymous form or other ways to leak to us securely

News

Aug 11, 2017

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ACL managing director Lyle Shelton

One of the grubbiest attack lines from marriage equality opponents is the regularly debunked claim that same-sex parenting harms children — which is still argued by the groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby despite the colossal pile of peer-reviewed evidence that no such harm can be identified. 

Some religious activists go further. In 2010, Wendy Francis, who these days is a director of the Australian Christian Lobby, said same-sex marriage was “legalising child abuse” and that the children of same-sex couples were akin to the stolen generations. In 2013, Lyle Shelton of the ACL repeated the stolen generations smear.

In contrast, however, the ACL and other fundamentalist groups stay virtually silent about genuine harm to children. References to child sexual abuse by churches and priests by the ACL are virtually non-existent. To his credit, the then-head of the ACL, the controversial Jim Wallace, welcomed Julia Gillard’s announcement of a royal commission into institutional child abuse in 2012. “It is to our shame as Christians that much abuse has been in the church,” Wallace said. “Jesus, who founded the church, warned that any adult who caused a child to stumble was worthy of severe punishment.”

But since then, under Lyle Shelton, the ACL has shown little interest in the ongoing revelations from the commission. For example, in relation to the Catholic Church alone, the commission has revealed that more than 4400 children were abused since 1980, and that 7% of all priests were rapists, with up to 20% of members of some holy orders having engaged in abuse. Indeed, instead of condemning the revelations of the commission, Shelton has publicly supported Cardinal George Pell, who covered up child abuse cases (and subsequently blamed underlings for the cover-up) and approved an aggressive legal strategy in response to litigation by victims. Pell, Shelton claimed, was a “scapegoat”. 

It’s not merely hypocrisy that the ACL and its ilk alleges child abuse by same-sex parents while ignoring the real thing committed by clergy. If an organisation such as the ACL had spoken out on child sex abuse by churches, and done so earlier — if it had condemned the Catholic Church’s refusal to engage with victims, if it had demanded an end to the cover-ups, if it had called for proper compensation and a willingness to work closely with law enforcement agencies to send predators to jail, if it had urged remorse on the part of the church for the many victims who have taken their own lives, it may well have done some good. No one could ever accuse an organisation like the ACL of engaging in some left-wing plot to smear the Church; it could have spoken with authority on a long-running crime in which thousands of kids were raped and abused by people they were supposed to trust, and then disbelieved when they tried to reveal what had happened to them.

But that assumes the ACL is consistent and genuinely cares about children, rather than a front for the rankest homophobia.

Tips and rumours

Jul 4, 2017

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From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Bolt trips up when lecturing everyone else. Well, this is awkward. Yesterday, Australia’s most-read columnist Andrew Bolt railed against the reporting of historical sex abuse charges against Cardinal George Pell, writing “media commentary suggests there’s little chance Cardinal George Pell can get a fair trial”. Bolt quoted a report in The Age and even wrote “shops still carry a savagely biased book by ABC journalist Louise Milligan”. Where he really tripped up, though, was attributing quotes from abuse survivor Andrew Collins to Victoria Police Detective Sergeant Kevin Carson, who hasn’t commented on the case. The Herald Sun carried an apology and correction on page 2 today.

So in a story on the effects of media reporting on a trial, Bolt made a stuff-up that could be read by potential jurors. Good one.

Don’t mention the NSA, they can hear you. At what point, we wonder, will the media wake up to the reality of cybersecurity? Today for Fairfax, the normally excellent Peter Hartcher gives us more than 900 words on the terrors of cyberspace, using that old standby long used by governments of the ungoverned internet in need of cleaning up and civilising (by governments, of course). Other go-to tropes of the “internet needs cleaning up” line also appeared: Russia, China, hackers, organised crime, the West as victim of malicious online actors. Most amazingly, Hartcher went the entire length of the article without mentioning that the latest wave of ransomware attacks (which, incidentally, have hit Russian firms as well as Western firms) originated with the National Security Agency and its tactic of finding vulnerabilities in commonly used software and exploiting them rather than telling the manufacturers about them. So, for the benefit of Hartcher and any other journalists wanting to peddle this stuff, here are some well-established facts:

  • as part of the Five Eyes, Australia is a member of the world’s biggest cyber espionage ring;
  • that ring primarily engages in commercial and economic espionage, not counter-terrorism;
  • it funds a massive market in software vulnerabilities that pays criminals millions for software flaws and the exploits that use them; and 
  • it can’t secure its backdoors and exploits effectively, meaning criminals and rival states get hold of them.

On cybersecurity, we’re part — probably the biggest part — of the problem, not the solution.

Never mind the bollards. In typical Melbourne fashion, the city has reacted to the installation of temporary bollards in the CBD by decorating the stark concrete blocks. They were installed as an anti-terror initiative by the City of Melbourne, and lord mayor Robert Doyle has assured locals they would only be a temporary measure until a more permanent (and more aesthetically pleasing) solution could be found. In the days since, bollards have become “bollart” with brightly coloured material covers, paint and glitter all being used to spruce up the blocks. Doyle is in favour, telling The Age he’s a “fan of anything that brightens up the city”.

This could be a problem for the council, though, with a caller to 3AW this morning saying the bollards weren’t bought but hired. Will the council be able to return the bollards that have been painted? A council spokesperson told us: 

“We would not encourage people to paint the bollards, as they are not owned by the City of Melbourne. However, if any of the bollards are painted, we will be able to remove the paint without incurring significant costs.”

Should we stick to our knitting?

Time to update LinkedIn. The name “Finkel” has entered the Australian political lexicon in the same way that “Gonski” has — we almost forget there is an actual person attached to it instead of a policy. Well, one man hasn’t forgotten. Yesterday, in a speech to the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia, Alan Finkel joked about his role in writing the report on Australia’s energy security, saying: “I’m marking a milestone of my own tonight: my first formal event since taking off my hat as Australia’s Chief Electrician, and resuming my hat as Australia’s Chief Scientist.”

It got Ms Tips thinking — perhaps Australia does need chief tradies. Australia’s Chief Plumber could be called in to fix the leaks from our major political parties.

Thanks Perry much. Following our story yesterday on the appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal with Liberal Party affiliations, a tipster got in contact to point out the further Liberal connections of former John Howard staffer Perrohean (or Perry) Sperling, telling us that in addition to her work with Howard, she was also a senior policy adviser to former Victorian Liberal premier Ted Baillieu. We found that she had indeed been recruited by Baillieu in 2011 as a “key adviser” at the same time future Liberal Party federal director Tony Nutt became director of the then-premier’s private office. We’re continuing to fossick through the list of appointments and reappointments, but let us know if you know more.

Don’t look now. Well, if there is anything you can say for the Australian Christian Lobby, they don’t waste any time. A flyer featuring comments made by Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne last weekend — in which he stated that marriage equality was just around the corner in Australia — has been sent to residents in his South Australian electorate of Sturt. As tweeted yesterday, the flyer seems to try to make the rainbow flag look particularly menacing. “Sooner than everyone thinks” it reads, with cutouts from papers reporting the mini-furore started when Pyne dared to say something remotely positive about the LGTBI community. The flyers are authorised by Lyle Shelton at the ACL.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Federal

Jun 9, 2017

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If there’s one thing that Veep, Thank You For Smoking and The West Wing have taught us about political lobbyists, it’s that they’re crafty.

Of course, the fact they have taught us that is a problem for those lobbyists. Now, we know their tricks. We’ve peeked inside the top hat and seen the rabbit was there the whole time.

Lobbyists are shrewd, of course. They know the jig is up. So, like fast-evolving bacteria circumventing the latest antibiotic, they’ve developed a number of new attack mechanisms — ways to charm and disarm sceptical pollies, as well as the general public, to convince us the people they work for really are a bunch of nice guys.

Here are four of the most common techniques lobbyists use:

We’re not doing it anymore

Are you an organisation that has a business model reliant on harming people? Chances are, you’ve got a public image problem. One simple solution is to make it clear that you aren’t doing the thing you are known for anymore. Take tobacco giant Philip Morris, for example. A current parliamentary inquiry into red tape in the tobacco industry is largely focused on the legal grey area that exists for e-cigarettes.

Naturally, the smoking companies are closely watching this inquiry. But Mark Powell, public policy manager at Philip Morris, probably over-egged it a bit when trying to make the case for relaxing the laws around e-cigarettes. Speaking to the committee last month, Powell said that the company had made a “dramatic decision”:

“We are building our future on smoke-free products that are a much better choice than cigarette smoking. Indeed, our vision for all of us at Philip Morris is that these reduced-risk products will one day replace cigarettes. Why are we doing this? Because we should. We understand the millions of men and women who smoke cigarettes. They are looking for less harmful alternatives to smoking. We will give them that choice. We have a commitment to our employees and our shareholders. We will fulfil that commitment by pursuing this long-term vision for success. Society expects us to act responsibly, and we are doing just that by designing a smoke-free future.”

I don’t know her

The other option is to set up a separate organisation that looks innocuous but essentially advocates for the same thing as your original organisation. The Australian Christian Lobby has handed over much of its government lobbying to a separate organisation — the Human Rights Law Alliance — a group that takes on legal cases for people who believe their religious freedom has been trampled upon.

While the ACL doesn’t exactly hide this association, it is clear that the tactics the organisation uses are very different to the ACL. Human Rights Law Alliance (HRLA) focuses squarely on legal arguments and the context around human rights law. For example, in the parliamentary inquiry into religious freedom, the group argued that the Australian Human Rights Commission should be overhauled and religion as a human right should be given more attention, and not — as it is now — fall under the responsibility of a single commissioner (Ed Santow) who also has responsibility for LGBTI equality. And rather than arguing — as the ACL often does — for more legislation, the Human Rights Law Alliance wants laws repealed, specifically, anti-discrimination law. HRLA’s managing director Martyn Illes:

“Many antidiscrimination laws do not adequately acknowledge and protect other human rights from incursion. The overlegislation of a single right is out of step with international human rights principles and is therefore a threat to the healthy protection and expression of human rights in Australia, including freedom of religion and freedom of belief.”

Mr Snrub

The other way to do this is when someone from one organisation sets up a different organisation that performs, more or less, the same political function. Ex-Institute of Public Affairs director Ken Phillips, for example, went on to set up Independent Contractors Australia (ICA) — an economically liberal lobby group representing labour hire companies. Before his life in political office, former Family First senator Bob Day was the founding president of ICA — while also owning a string of home-building companies and being involved in several other right-wing organisations, including the Centre for Independent Studies and the HR Nicholls Society.

Phillips also has a subsidiary for the Independent Contractors Australia — Owner Drivers Australia — established specifically for issues of owner-drivers.

Other groups with innocuous-sounding names that represent conservative interests include the Samuel Griffiths Society, the Centre for Independent Studies, Menzies House, the Conservative Leadership Organisation (before Cory Bernardi established Australian Conservatives) and the HR Nicholls society.

All in the family

You can almost guarantee now that if a lobby group has the word “family” in its name, it is the front for an extreme right-wing Christian conservative group. One such group that made a submission to the religious freedom inquiry calls itself Family Life International, but its website makes clear that it has strong ties to the Catholic Church, and its patron is Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous — the archbishop targeted over an anti-same-sex marriage leaflet.

This group also has a unique approach to arguing its case around harassing women outside abortion clinics. Rather than going for the usual argument that banning protesting outside abortion clinics is hurting freedom of speech, they claim that it is impacting their religious freedom.

“Belief in the sanctity of human life in the womb is a religious belief supported by medical science and that it is therefore, to be understood as an expression of the freedom of religion or belief. The manifestation of this religious belief in public takes the form of prayers, hymns and support offered to women in a crisis who are contemplating abortion. It is a violation of the freedom of religion or belief by stifling dissenting opinions and prayers in the public space surrounding abortion facilities by the imposition of draconian laws including so called ‘safe access’ zones as in Tasmania, Victoria and the ACT.”

Do you know of any more? Let us know.

Tips and rumours

May 29, 2017

5 comments

From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Cricket Australia’s further troubles. Cricket Australia and the players’ union, the Australian Cricketers’ Association, are heading for a stoush — one that is very public, with a cut-off date of June 30 for a new pay deal. In the midst of the dispute, the players have formed a company that will control their intellectual property and images. Here’s a question for Cricket Australia and their union-bashing chairman David Peever (a former CEO of Rio Tinto Australia): can Cricket Australia, the Nine Network and their advertising and market consultants and agencies continue to use the images of Test team stars such as Steve Smith, David Warner and Mitchell Starc after June 30, to sell next summer’s much-anticipated Ashes Test series against England? If there is no agreement by June 30, can the players and their new company assert control of their images and intellectual property? And if they can, can they then assign the right to use those images after June 30 to Cricket Australia, Nine and their marketing and advertising consultants for a fee (presumably a very large fee)? If they can control their images and they don’t wish to assign them in any way, do Cricket Australia and Nine have a marketing campaign, or will Cricket Australia and Nine have to pull the ads now being broadcast? One for the sports lawyers perhaps? 

United Australia Party’s busy leadership Last week Crikey brought you the travails of the United Australia Party, the conservative micro-party looking to Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives to maintain their viability and increase their clout. Certainly, a glance at their various online spaces shows they could use some of the bigger party’s infrastructure and some more members. According to the organisation structure page (currently down), new president Ron Pike shares CEO duties with secretary Stuart Donald. Pike is a busy man — he’s also the New South Wales state executive president, and he is described on his Facebook page as a “key member of the policy committee”. That definitely checks out; he’s currently the only listed member. The roles of treasurer and vice-president are both vacant at national level, and neither the Victorian nor NSW branches has a secretary.

Further, Pike’s email address is that of an Australian Liberty Alliance member (Pike is a former ALA candidate — incidentally, the party recently announced they wouldn’t be merging with Bernardi) and his website is still listed as unitedconservatives.com.au, which leads to a blank page. The UAP website (theuap.com.au) is also currently down. If the many governance issues prove too difficult to fix, maybe the party’s online presence would be a good place to start.

 

 

Same old story. Intrigued by the “radical funding changes” for healthcare being considered by “top government officials” and a “secret taskforce” unveiled by the Fairfax press today? Under the “radical funding changes”, the government would pool its existing hospital funding, the cost of the private health rebate and its payments to private system doctors into a single 35% contribution to all hospital costs no matter where they were.

The problem is the “radical changes” are so “secret” that News Corp’s gun health reporter Sue Dunlevy reported something very similar in November 2015. Back then, the proposal was that the Commonwealth would pool its hospital funding, private health insurance rebate and funding for private doctors to cover 40% of the cost of hospital care. 

Nor is the current version being pursued by a “secret taskforce” — it’s just a group of bureaucrats and consultants doing what bureaucrats and consultants normally do. On that basis, pretty much the entire public service is a “secret taskforce”. But couching it in such terms, and invoking “top government officials” who may or may not have even participated in discussions, turns ordinary policy development — which includes considering things governments would never do in a million years — into something faintly sinister that the government has to immediately slap down; the Health Minister, the unfortunate Greg Hunt, was forced to do just that this morning. And nary a word linking it to the fact that the same idea has been batted round in public for a long time already — or the work of other journalists.

Ballsing it up. Winston Peters was a big thing in New Zealand politics a few years back: a Maori, a mainstay of the right-wing New Zealand First Party, and possibly a walking argument against the principle of dedicated seats for indigenous groups. He faded somewhat, but he’s back:
Yes, Peters has joined the exclusive club of public figures — including Rupert Murdoch and UK Labourista Ed Balls — to confuse the compose and search fields while obsessively searching his own name. But was it accidental? Chancellor Ed Balls’ tweet of his own name on April 28, 2011, ensured that the day has become Ed Balls day ever since. Since the former chancellor’s strategy appears to be keeping himself in the public eye — by doing a season on Strictly Come Dancing — in order to jump back into the Labour leadership, maybe these are all deliberate. Peters’ effort gets extra points because the phrasing — “Tweets on Winston Peters NZ Politician” — suggests he thinks it will have some harried Twitter executive thumbing through a filing cabinet. Whether it does represent a shrewd attention grab on Peters’ part or an honest mistake, it caught the approving eye of the original — over the weekend, Balls approvingly retweeted Peters’ gaffe.  

 

Roberts confused by the facts on ACL ‘bombing’. Last week, a 36-year-old man was charged with one count of arson and one count of property damage for the incident at the Australian Christian Lobby’s headquarters at the end of last year. But that hasn’t stopped the ACL and One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts from seeing terrorist conspiracy theories everywhere. Roberts asked the AFP in February’s estimates hearings about the incident and asked a set of questions on notice, including:

“Did any witnesses come forward and tell the AFP that on the night of the bombing [sic] they saw suspicious activity? Was the individual who exploded the device an activist of any kind opposed to the ACL? In the Commissioner’s previous testimony to the committee, he claimed that that the bombing of the Australian Christian Lobby offices was not a terrorist attack by an opponent of traditional marriage, did not involve more than one person, nor was it motivated by any religious, political or other agenda but was instead a “suicide attempt.” Please confirm that this is the story which you wish the committee to believe. Has any ACT or Federal politician or a member of their staff sought to discourage the AFP from concluding that this was a terrorist attack by an activist opposed to the ACL and its advocacy of traditional marriage?” 

The AFP essentially stuck to its guns, saying there were no links between one instance of someone harassing the ACL over the phone and the incident, and nothing to suggest it was anything other than what the AFP has said before, which was that it was a suicide attempt. When Roberts read this response, however, he remained adamant that the AFP had it wrong. “We can see a number of inconsistencies with what we see as the facts,” he told AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin. “Make sure the answers you provide are consistent with the facts as we see them.”

Courting controversy. Margaret Court has been defiant over calls for the Margaret Court Arena to be renamed after the tennis champion said she would boycott Qantas because of its advocacy for same-sex marriage. Court’s views should not be too surprising; she has a long history of opposing gay rights. But who knew that Court had held other questionable views for more than 40 years? Activist Pauline Pantsdown dug up an article from 1970, where the pastor said that apartheid was working well in South Africa, and she would go back any time.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Australia

May 25, 2017

5 comments

Apparently these days in the West, everybody loves a homosexual. Well, everybody but the Australian Christian Lobby, your unpleasant Uncle Ron, and Miranda Devine — even here, Our Lady is prepared to offer her temporary opposition to homophobia if it means a free swing at Islam. Otherwise, our leaders quite routinely declare their “evolution” on the matter of equality, almost always understood as the equal right to marry, and they’re all very careful to recite the letters of the LGBTIQ alphabet in their ordained sequence.

This is broadly construed, and not without reason, as progress. It’s marvellous, of course, that those of us not gifted of a normative sexuality or gender are now seen more as the recipients of rights, far less as freaks. It’s very kind of Guardian columnists to praise the gay and the “transgendered” and to remind the straight population that we can’t help it, but are, apparently, “born that way”. It’s lovely that our most prominent deviants are now in receipt of magazine covers, state awards and the support of amateur geneticists.

Understanding for this accident of birth is, in fact, so widespread, that even the otherwise execrable Donald Trump shares in it. The “diversity” of a queer coalition is celebrated on reality TV and in Parliament. Diversity of opinion or behaviour within that spectrum, however, is not. You receive the sanction of the state and the media in return for your compliance with a very narrow set of guidelines.

To be broadly acceptable, you don’t need to share a brave story of overcoming brutal intolerance, but it certainly helps. Championing state-sanctioned monogamy above all else — forget those promiscuous gays who dare enjoy sex with multiple partners and without love! — is strongly recommended. It is compulsory, however, to act as a member of a moderate rainbow monolith. True dissent by, or among, LGBTIQ people is improper. These are the prescribed waves you are permitted to make; swim between the flags of political acceptability.

The News Corp columnist Shannon Molloy is one of the acceptable homosexuals. This, by the way, is not a reproach, merely a statement of fact. He is young, handsome and skilled in providing what centrist gay activists believe they most urgently need: brave personal stories of overcoming brutal intolerance. He is unlikely to write a piece urging for labour protections for male sex workers and very likely to continue his conversation with middle Australia, convinced, as are many, that radical social transformation is prompted largely by the lifestyle pages.

Nothing actionable about that. The overwhelming majority of knowledge workers in the West believe that emotional representations in media are the primary engine of progress, and Molloy is not to be chagrined for behaving like nearly everybody else. Molloy and many others trust very sincerely in playing a representational game for the middle, in being conspicuously successful and having faith that your success will trickle down to others. This is not peculiar to LGBTIQ centrists. Every centrist believes it.

But not every person is a centrist at all times in all matters. While the Australian LGBTIQ community has done a bang-up job in the last decade of pressing all its various interests — health services, homelessness, suicidality, incarceration, poverty, elder poverty — into the centrist pursuits of marriage equality and “anti-bullying” programs, there can still be internal dissent.

In recent days, this dissent went public. Two Melbourne gay activists began to decry the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) for the appointment of Molloy to its Committee of Management. Michael Barnett and Rodney Chiang-Cruise urged the lobby group to dismiss Molloy on the grounds that he was employed by a publisher that routinely derides LGBTIQ people.

In a pure Enlightenment sense, of course, we must not judge the beliefs of a man on the actions of his employer. But, heck, this isn’t the 18th century and we are not a bunch of old philosophers seated in a European salon discussing ethical procedure. We are people doomed to live in the world, and sometimes, we disagree about the best response to that world’s conditions. And, you know, perhaps it’s not impossible to understand LGBTIQ objections to any association with a company that has produced pictures of “gay Nazis”.

Although the Lobby has declared its full support for Molloy, the columnist quit its committee in any case. In a very popular piece published on several local News Corp properties, Molloy said that he did this as the result of the “bullying” by Barnett and Chiang-Cruise, some of which he reproduced. Cop this: Chiang-Cruise wrote, “How can NSWGLRL call out the Trans hate from News Corp when one of its national journos sits on the board?”

OK, that’s pretty anodyne in isolation, and I must concede that I have been in receipt of criticism from Barnett and Chiang-Cruise, both of whom I have met, and these guys can be relentless. Then again, so can I — and so can any person ardently, or even casually, committed to a particular cause.

Nonetheless, the “bullying” has, perhaps, been overstated. What may appear like brutal cruelty to Molloy, or to Fairfax LGBTIQ reporter Jill Stark who called the online exchange “one of the most upsetting things I’ve seen” — she’s clearly never waited ‘til the morning after at Sleaze Ball — is actually pretty normal in activist circles. Heck, it’s even normal in major political parties, a fact that Mark Latham seemed to have forgotten as he used Twitter to decry the entire and, in my view, legitimate exchange as a monstrous product of “identity politics”.

No. This has nothing to do with identity politics and everything to do with politics. It is not anybody’s identity at issue here any more than it would be in an ALP factional dispute. People disagree, sometimes vehemently and often crudely when they feel that their advocacy or power will impact real lives. Yes, Barnett and Chiang-Cruise are impolite and stubborn. No, they are not without a case.  Even if one disagrees entirely with their foundational assumption — that an advocacy group cannot have as an influential member an employee of an organisation known to actively work against that advocacy — you must concede that they are arguing consistently. They may have been rude and aggressive. What they were not, per the criticism of the many public figures who have raced to support the acceptable homosexual against attack from the unacceptable ones, was “naive”.

These guys are my age. They have been around for long enough to see what accession to limited mainstream acceptability can achieve. To wit, limited mainstream acceptability. They might think about being nicer, of course. But this aggressive tradition is, like it or not, part of queer political history. We weren’t all in agreement nearly 50 years ago this month at Stonewall, and, if we are honest, we are not in agreement now.

Of course, it’s a shame that good people like Molloy can be hurt. But it would be a greater shame for queer activism to lose all its anger. And this is what so many centrists, of whatever orientation, would prefer.

 

 

 

 

Federal

May 11, 2017

5 comments

Forty years ago this October, the public leader of an US lobby group called “Save our Children”, Anita Bryant was holding a press conference in Des Moines making the argument against the march of gay rights, such as they were in 1977. 

After speaking in support of employers who were able to fire gay employees for choosing to “flaunt it” in the workplace, Bryant copped a strawberry-rhubarb pie in the face from gay activist Thom Higgins.

The image of Bryant getting the pie in the face has become one of the iconic images of the gay rights movement globally. It was the first image to come to mind this week when Qantas CEO Alan Joyce copped a pie in the face from a man due to Qantas’ advocacy for marriage equality in Australia.

It’s much harder for employers to fire people for being gay (except for religious organisations), and it’s now expected in Australia that companies, as good corporate citizens, will support LGBTI rights. But there still seem to be some people trapped in 1977.

The “pie man”, former farmer Tony Overheu, claimed in a series of bizarre rants sent to radio and print news outlets that he was motivated to pie Joyce at the event in Perth because “middle Australia rejects corporate bullying aimed at social engineering”.

He claimed that Qantas’ “propaganda” on social issues was insulting to passengers, and then listed off a number of other companies supporting marriage equality like Airbnb, Holden, and now Coopers like he was reading an Australian Christian Lobby press release. So affronted by it all, Overheu thought his only solution was to humiliate the most high-profile gay man in corporate Australia.

Police have not pressed assault charges at this stage, but in a press conference in the Senate courtyard in Parliament House specifically called to discuss the matter on Wednesday, Joyce said he intended to seek charges against Overheu to send a message — despite Overheu emailing him to apologise. Joyce said the incident strengthened his resolve to be vocal on issues that were important to him.

“I have every intention of continuing to be vocal on those social issues. It’s important for our shareholders, our employees and our customers. It’s called ‘good corporate social responsibility’,” he said.

While Bryant got her pie in the face for her activism that promoted the damaging trope that gay people were somehow a danger to children (which conservatives have since adapted to now fight against transgender rights), Joyce’s sin was simply suggesting that LGBTI Australians should be treated equally under the law. What in 1977 was an act of courage by a persecuted minority literally in the face of bigotry in 2017 is a heterosexual man as sour as the lemons in meringue trying to put a gay man back in his place.

The CEO, brandishing his orange lobbyist pass on his hip, was in Parliament on Wednesday for Treasurer Scott Morrison’s National Press Club address following the budget. This would normally would have been the focus of a press conference business leader on the day after the budget, but, with the issue of marriage equality still not resolved, tensions have reached a boiling point. Between the pie incident and a cat-and-dog wedding to promote the cause on Real Housewives of Sydney this week, the debate has reached peak absurdity.

The “Where Are The Moderate Muslims?” established protocol of the culture war demands those who are on the same side as whoever has done something condemn-able must condemn whatever happened quickly and in the strongest possible terms.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was quick off the mark and issued a strong condemnation of the pie thrower before the full details were public, suggesting he might have understood the man’s motives and might have suspected his “stick to your knitting” comments to Joyce might have provoked the assault.

Eric Abetz also condemned the attack but inserted a “but what about what the other side do?” in his own press release. The ACL’s Lyle Shelton tweeted once condemning the incident in a brief interlude from his usual role of playing the victim.

It is not difficult to imagine that if someone had done this to Shelton or another marriage equality opponent, conservative media would be running on it for weeks, shouting from the rooftops that it was a sign that the “LGBTI brigade” were fascists and couldn’t be trusted to tolerate different views. But it was a “devout Christian” — as he was described by The Australian — said he couldn’t even stand the sight of Airbnb ads in Canberra airport calling for marriage equality. 

I would be completely unsurprised if the response this week from conservative columnists is “but it would be much worse for Joyce to be a gay man in a Muslim country” or “but Joyce was the real bully”. This is the current standard of debate from conservatives on LGBTI rights in Australia.

The budget this week reiterated the government’s support for continuing with the policy for holding a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, should the legislation ever be passed by the Senate. It remains unlikely that this is how it will be achieved, but those calling for the plebiscite now have to admit, this incident alone should show it won’t be a “respectful debate”.