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Tips and rumours

Aug 30, 2017

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From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Mum’s the word. The first TV ad from the Australian Christian Lobby prosecuting the No case in the marriage equality survey came out last night, and it was … mostly about Safe Schools?

Misdirection aside, we’ve had a quick look into some of the “concerned mums” fronting the ad. The first is a familiar face to Victorians. Cella White made a video after she dramatically removed her son from Frankston High last year because a teacher allegedly told him he could wear a dress to school next year if he wanted. News then emerged this mum was backed by Lyle Shelton’s Australian Christian Lobby. White is back in the new ad with the same story.

The last mum in the ACL ad is Heidi McIvor, who has quite the resume. Heidi is a former staffer for Family First senator Steve Fielding, and previously worked for two Liberal politicians and a National. But sure, an average mother. If her LinkedIn profile is anything to go by, McIvor worked for Stephen “creationism” Fielding for three years, and describes him as “one of the most influential politicians in the Australian Parliament”. A gentle reminder here that Stephen Fielding compared same-sex marriage to incest in 2007. 

“A bloke cannot marry his brother; it is not right. A woman cannot marry their sister; it is not right. A bloke cannot marry a bloke because it is not right, and a female cannot marry a female because it is not right. I don’t support this.”

Ivor also appears to be long time pro-life, anti-feminist activist who is Facebook friends with ACL chief Lyle Shelton himself. But again, a regular Aussie mum with no agenda.

Ms Tips welcomes any information on P.Li, the second mum in the ACL video. And you can stay anonymous.

Infrastructure chief hitting the road. Canberra eyebrows were raised on the weekend when Infrastructure secretary Mike Mrdak was reported to have delivered the bureaucratic equivalent of both barrels to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Prime Minister’s Office. Mrdak’s candour was of the kind usually employed by outgoing Secretaries who no longer have to worry about what governments think of them — and it seems that’s exactly the case with Mrdak. Mrdak was reappointed — with lavish praise — for three years by Tony Abbott in June 2014. But in late June, the Infrastructure Department tells us, Malcolm Turnbull only reappointed Mrdak for six months, with his contract expiring on December 31. Mrdak is one of Canberra’s most respected public servants, has led Infrastructure since 2009 and has worked directly for and with Transport ministers dating back to Laurie Brereton, as well having a stint in Prime Minister and Cabinet.

In a public service not notably overburdened with leadership talent and increasingly seen as incompetent, you’d have to wonder why any government didn’t fall over itself to retain Mrdak’s services. One important example — when the ANAO reviewed the Abbott government’s dreadful handling of funding for the East-West Link in Melbourne, the auditors unusually praised Infrastructure for its efforts to advise the government against advancing payments to the Victorian government, making it clear responsibility for the debacle belonged to Abbott, not the public servants. Perhaps the idea that governments should handle billions of dollars in infrastructure investment with care and due diligence isn’t popular in our new era of agility and innovation.

Cun’t touch this. A man found guilty of offensive behaviour for apparently calling a former prime minister a “cun’t” has been saved — at least in part — by an apostrophe. Danny Lim was found guilty by a magistrate for wearing a sign on a busy Sydney street that included a reference to then-PM Tony Abbott, saying “Tony you can’t” and “Tricky lying Tony you can’t”, with the ‘A’ in “can’t” inverted so it looked like a “u”. In a District Court appeal, Judge Andrew Scotting said that he couldn’t be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the “reasonable person” would read the sign as a reference to “cunt”, in part because of the apostrophe.

“There was nothing that could have been considered to be offensive by the appellant wearing a sandwich board containing a political comment, in the absence of the impugned word, for example if the appellant had used the word ‘can’t’ instead.”

Scotting also said “cunt” was less offensive in Australia than in other English-speaking countries:

“The prevalence of the impugned word in Australian language is evidence that it is considered less offensive in Australia than other English speaking countries, such as the United States. However, that also appears to be changing as is evidenced from the increase in American entertainment content featuring the impugned word.”

The Bernardi party parties on. Who will be the next right-wing minor party to announce it has merged with Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives? A caller to 3AW this morning says another party will announce that it has been subsumed by The Cory Bernardi Experience, but we’re yet to find out which one. As we have already reported, Family First, the Victorian branch of Australian Christians and Rachel Carling-Jenkins, upper house MP for the Democratic Labour Party in Victoria, have also jumped ship. The right-wing vote looked like it could be too fractured to make room for Bernardi, but he has seen that threat through so far.

Screw rural and regional Victoria. The Herald Sun could be taking after stablemate The Daily Telegraph in more ways than one, Crikey hears. Word out of a focus group for the paper in Melbourne is that its tagline could be changing from “We’re for Victoria” to “We’re for Melbourne,” bringing it in line with the Tele‘s “We’re for Sydney” line. The Tele also launched its website redesign today, and we hear the Hun will be the next cab off the rank. 

 

*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

Tips and rumours

Jun 20, 2017

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From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Safe Schools still a target. It looks as if the Safe Schools program is again being used as a way to target conservative members of the Chinese-speaking community. Ms Tips understands that assistant minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar will be hosting an afternoon tea event at Liberal HQ in Melbourne on Sunday, along with former Liberal candidate Karina Okotel and the Chinese Liberals Association, about the Safe Schools anti-bullying program in schools, aimed solely at members of the Chinese community. According to a tipster, the invite, written in Mandarin, asks “what are your children learning at school?” and makes mention of premature sex education, including teaching about homosexuality.

Sukkar has been a vocal critic of the Safe Schools program, writing last year “the Safe Schools Coalition’s radical sex education program exposes Victorian children to very dangerous ideas, practices, and materials”.

The Safe Schools program was used by the Christian Democratic Party in last year’s election campaign as a reason not to vote for the Labor Party in flyers written in Mandarin, as Crikey reported at the time.

We asked Sukkar’s office what the event was and why he was hosting it, but didn’t hear back by deadline.

You can get it passing legislation. The Sydney Institute’s Gerard Henderson loves to comment on what has been said at “gin o’clock”, but the Federation Chamber reached “beer o’clock” just after 6.30pm last night, with Labor infrastructure spokesperson Anthony Albanese taking up the case of Australia’s craft breweries, calling for a reduction in the excise charged to small beer producers, to bring it in line with that charged to the big breweries. After namedropping a local brewery in his electorate, Albo ended the speech thus: “I will end with a quote from Russell Crowe, as his character John Nash in the film A Beautiful Mind: I have respect for beer.”

Deputy Speaker Andrew “Tasty” Hastie was residing over the chamber at the time and even accused Albo of less refined tastes: “I took the member for Grayndler to be a simple man who perhaps went for Tooheys, but there you are!”

Hastie’s infamous drinking partner Tim Wilson also spoke in favour of the motion, because craft beer aside, he hasn’t met an excise he doesn’t want to cut, and he even referred to the Cooper’s video that landed the pair in hot water: “I know, Deputy Speaker Hastie, you like beer from time to time. In fact, I have had one with you on famous and less famous occasions, so I am sure you will be supportive of this motion as well.”

Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon and Brian Mitchell also spoke in favour of supporting craft beer, and the Liberals’ John Alexander rounded out the speeches by referring to the health benefits of beers from his local brewery: “I must say, though, as an elite athlete often competing in the most testing heat, my training made me vitally aware of the importance of maintaining hydration. That is why I always keep handy my favourite fluid loss replacement, Endeavour Pale Ale.”

Waleed Aly, superhero and controller of all Muslims. Has Waleed Aly got special powers we don’t know about? Does Andrew Bolt have the inside word? The News Corp columnist opened his Sky News program last night with a plea to Aly, as a “Muslim leader” to “step up” and “stop being apologists for Islam” because “he is Australia’s most prominent Muslim”. This, after a white man, now identified as Darren Osborne, had driven a van into a crowd outside a mosque in the UK. Last time we checked, apart from being famous, Aly is not actually a cleric. But according to Bolt, he seems to have a special ability to stop terrorism. We still haven’t worked out how that actually works.

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

Australia

Jun 1, 2017

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This week in Sydney, US Senator John McCain made a speech on Australia-United States relations that ought to have been as surprising to us as gravity. This was textbook post-war Pax Americana: only the US can guarantee world peace; only the US can set the terms of trade; “No one has ever gotten rich betting against America.” Really? Tell that to the short-sellers of the world.

Given that we Australians have been hearing this malarkey since 1945, you’d think that the description “extraordinary” was a little misplaced. Still, this is how local media responded to a boilerplate moment. While there was once nothing exceptional about statements of US exceptionalism, now, McCain’s calls for a full return to DC-led international order made our journalists swoon.

Call me old-fashioned, but I miss a time when this stuff caused us to groan or protest. Opposition to the US invasion of Iraq was very widespread among the young just a decade ago. Older Australians had long thought of Americans as flashy and deluded about the purity of their hegemonic intentions. We all received America’s gifts of military alliance and nylon stockings, but we didn’t accept the Land of the Free crap that went along with it.

Over at News Corp and at Fairfax, though, they’re now eating it up with a spoon sold in preferential trade. This ordinary speech is now extraordinary, simply because we all despise Donald Trump — an execrable and dangerous person, to be certain, but in possession of a single good quality: he doesn’t sermonise to other nations about “democracy”.

[Smarter than your average Colbert: liberal media’s stupid obsession with Trump’s intelligence]

I guess a lot of our commentators are missing these sermons, as they received McCain’s with such uncritical joy. Not only is the man himself forgiven for the role he personally played in the US rise of Paleo-conservativism by giving the monstrous Sarah Palin a platform, but everything the US ever did, including war atrocities in the Middle East and North Africa that we know have led to our own problems with domestic terrorism, is forgiven as well.

This guy? Really? The man who spoke out so forcefully and influentially against the Obama administration’s crowning foreign policy achievement, the Iran nuclear deal? He is our peace guy?

As far as I can tell, our journalists suspended criticism of the liberal Republican for two reasons. First, they’re having a protracted nervous breakdown about the long death of daddy — like it or not, US global power has been diminishing since the end of the Cold War. Second, McCain offered the line that China “seems to be acting more and more like a bully”.

That McCain’s description of China — a nation, apparently “asserting vast territorial claims that have no basis in international law” — applies very precisely to the post-war US could not be perceived by our papers. This is not just due to their revulsion for Trump, which produces a tolerance for anything that isn’t Trump, but, I reckon, the choice of the word “bully” itself.  The overused term can now describe anything, from vehement disagreement to building infrastructure for the Global South. But it always means “bad”.

News of McCain’s speech came to me yesterday as I had felt the word “bully” wielded in two distinct contexts. First, a young sales clerk in a women’s clothing chain-store demanded money from me for a vague corporate empowerment program that would “stop bullying of girls in our schools!” (I didn’t give her any). Then, in a curious and widely reported interview with world champion bigot Margaret Court, I saw it again. Opposition to her opposition is, you guessed, it “bullying”.

[Razer: we need more than appearances and personalities from our leaders]

“Bullying” has come, rather craftily, to signify anything one doesn’t like, from the stuff I write in Crikey to the PRC’s economic growth. From the schoolyard to international relations, the “bully” stands as the threat that doesn’t need to be explained. To oppose the bully is an effective virtue signal for women’s chain-stores. To describe, as Court does, the anti-bullying program of Safe Schools as itself bullying is now peculiarly possible. To say to an immense audience, as both Andrew Bolt and Shannon Molloy have done, that you are being “silenced” by bullies, even as you are as amplified as you can possibly be in this nation, is somehow acceptable.

This is the, um, bullying power of the term “bully”. It has now elevated trivial moments of disagreement and trivialised serious moments of genuine abuse.

And, it makes it possible for McCain’s very ordinary plea for a return to Cold War conditions — those that guaranteed US dominance of two-thirds of the globe — to be read as “extraordinary”.

China is no “bully”–which is not to say it’s as benign as a high-school self-esteem program. It is to say that the power has carefully expanded over the decades. And largely with projects that promise, or deliver, prosperity. But without very many empty sermons about the good old days, such as that lapped up by our nervous journalists and delivered by John McCain.

New South Wales

May 18, 2017

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The New South Wales government will not push the federal government to filter the internet, and will not switch the Safe Schools program from opt-out to opt-in.

A NSW Parliament committee dominated by conservative members last year recommended that the state government pursue internet filtering as a priority. It was modelled on the UK version — in which people have to specify to their internet service provider (ISP) or mobile phone provider that they want access to pornography in order to be exempt from it. The committee recommended it be opt-in, however, meaning parents would have to ask to have filtering, and this is something many ISPs already offer to parents without the big government filter.

The NSW government doesn’t have responsibility for telecommunications law in this area, however, so the committee said the government should advocate for internet filtering through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) process.

The government, in its response this week, said it had no intention of pursuing internet filtering:

“The NSW Government supports the current focus on providing education, information and tools for parents, children and the community to improve the safety of internet use … Many internet service providers and electronic devices such as computers, tablets, mobiles and routers already provide optional parental control tools. Filtering software products are also available for consumers to purchase.”

No doubt the push will continue, with the Australian Christian Lobby describing the government’s stance as “disappointing”.

Earlier this year, the NSW government said it would not follow the Victorian and Western Australian governments and fund the Safe Schools program after Commonwealth funding runs out at the end of June. It said it was working on an updated anti-bullying program instead. The committee had recommended that Safe Schools — which since 2016 has required schools to consult parents before the resources can be used in a class — become opt-in instead of opt-out. This would mean that parents would need to specifically say their kids should be in a class with Safe Schools.

The NSW government rejected this request:

“Safe Schools resources are one of many external resources NSW schools carefully select to complement their teaching and learning programs aligned with the NSW Education Standards Authority … Parents are able to opt out and decline their child’s participation in any lesson that includes Safe Schools.”

Much of the media reporting around the NSW government’s decision to not fund Safe Schools has stated they are replacing it with a broader anti-bullying program. But Safe Schools was always meant as a resource that could continue to be used in schools even without government funding. It is not clear whether teachers will be banned from using it after June this year — they are not banned from using it today.

The NSW government said an updated anti-bullying strategy will be released to schools in term 3 this year, built on both national and local resources, and an expert panel will peer review any new resources put into the program.

Those opposed to the anti-bullying program, such as the Australian Christian Lobby, will be keeping a close eye on the content. The lobby group has also raised concerns at any LGBTI strategy being included in the program, but did not seem to have issue with the government’s position on Safe Schools.

Federal

May 8, 2017

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Religious groups are claiming that taxpayer funding for school chaplains in public schools — a program costing hundreds of millions of dollars — is necessary to protect freedom of religion. At the same time, those groups are condemning the Safe Schools program as “indoctrination of children into the LGBTI lifestyle”.

In the 2014 horror budget, the Abbott government managed to find $245 million to fund the chaplaincy program out to the end of the 2017-18 financial year. Tuesday’s budget could result in the Turnnbull government axing the controversial program — which Abbott had made even more controversial by removing the option for schools to hire secular workers in the place of chaplains.

In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry on freedom of religion, the National Schools Chaplaincy Association — which represents the employers of chaplains in about 2000 government schools in Australia — said that freedom of religion in Australia required government policies to nurture and support the promotion of religion. The group argued that removing the teaching of religion in schools was a form of “secularism” and a threat to freedom of religion:

“The exclusion of religious conviction or belief from educational settings, including by not allowing space for the exploration of belief as part of a student’s development at school, is a very serious threat to the human right to the freedom of religion and belief. For the human right to exist, Australian children and young people must feel supported and safe to explore religion and belief, including in a school environment. “

The group called for the Commonwealth and state governments to continue to fund the program “as a program of religious chaplaincy in government schools, which supports the human right to freedom of religion and belief”.

[Your guide to groups that think marriage equality would bring on the apocalypse]

The group claimed that school chaplains were not “coercive” in their push of religion in schools and in yet another submission, Outreach Ministries complained that Christians were no longer given a “privileged entitlement” to push their form of religious education in schools. They claim an environment of censorship of their religion, and that chaplains receiving funding under the Commonwealth program were advised by ACCESS in Victoria and YouthCARE in WA to not teach anything religious to students:

“Why? For fear of losing the funding. That is, they can’t say anything religious, can’t invite religious presenters in to the school.”

Outreach claimed that there was “an increasingly strident pro secular-humanist bias within the education system”, and they believed that treating a lack of belief as the neutral position in public debate was inaccurate. They argued that the increasing view that religious belief was a private affair and one not to be discussed publicly was an attack on freedom of religion.

Many of the submissions to the inquiry from religious organisations claim concern about the advancement of LGBTI and women’s rights trampling over their “religious freedom” to discriminate against LGBTI people by firing them, or freedom to target women outside abortion clinics, and many raise concerns about the Safe Schools program. The Family Council of Western Australia claims that Safe Schools is “nothing less than a device for the total indoctrination of children into the LGBTIQ lifestyle”.

“[Safe Schools] pressures students into accepting homosexuality and transgenderism as normal; and, that as a result traditional, cultural, moral and religious beliefs on sexuality are unacceptable.”

The Australian Family Association claimed the program is “a transparent indoctrination of the students into the LGBTIQ lifestyle”. FamilyVoice Australia argued that religious exemptions in anti-discrimination law needed to be extended to other law, including the Disability Discrimination Act:

“Priests and ministers exercise important positions of authority within a Church. For very good reasons a religion may not wish to engage a person who has a mental illness and displays disturbed behaviour. Such behaviour would adversely affect a Church service, which is sacred in nature. “

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference claimed there would be more pressure on faith-based schools to adopt Safe Schools if marriage equality became law. The Australian Human Rights Commission in its submission stated that there was a “complexity of balancing competing rights” between religious rights and the rights of LGBTI people to be protected from discrimination.

“On one hand, some argue that anti-discrimination laws do not adequately protect LGBTI people from discrimination, in part due to the exemptions provided to religious bodies. Others consider that these exemptions are too narrow and do not provide sufficient scope for religious organisations to manifest their beliefs and act in a way that is consistent with their purpose, unjustifiably limiting freedom of religion.”

Australia

May 4, 2017

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If this year’s budget is all about good debt and bad debt, the government should seriously consider returning to Labor’s model of the National Broadband Network.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has differentiated between “good debt” and “bad debt”, and the Coalition government seems less afraid to turn its back on some former government positions, so the best “good debt” would be a return to a full fibre NBN.

The NBN was always kept off the budget bottom line because it will make a return for the government. To justify the switch to the “multi-technology mix” and away from the fibre-to-the-premises network, the government conducted a hasty, highly politicised review of the technology make-up in 2013. Time has passed, the dust has settled. Stories of people having issues with their NBN connection continue to pile up, and the government could get on the front foot before it becomes a much bigger problem. If the government is making the argument that investment in infrastructure is a good thing, it would make sense to increase the investment in the NBN back to what was originally planned.

[Essential: it’s agreed — NBN officially a dud]

Turnbull said in a radio interview last week that the network will be half complete — that is, half of Australian households will be able to order an NBN service — by the middle of this year. Now would be a good time to conduct a complete non-partisan cost-benefit analysis into the NBN, knowing now what the management of NBN Co knows about the service and what is possible with half the network complete. The company is currently hamstrung by policy guidelines to do whatever is the cheapest in any particular area, rather than thinking about the long-term benefits. According to NBN Co’s latest corporate plan, the switch from fibre-to-the-node to fibre-to-the-premises in most areas would cause the cost of installation per premises to rise from $2300 to around $4400. Investing an additional $2300 to most Australian households to provide world-class internet access seems a worthy investment, and one that would pay off over the long term as not only beneficial to the public, but an asset that will be worth much more to future governments than the Frankenstein’s broadband network being built today.

The government can change the policy on the back of a new analysis on whether the extra investment in a full fibre network would be beneficial in the long term, taking into account all the side benefits outside of just giving everyone in Australia faster internet. That would include remote working as the Nationals continue their obsession with decentralisation and the government attempts to address housing affordability. 

In last year’s budget, the government shifted its investment in the NBN — instead of admitting their NBN plan cost more than promised — and agreed to loan NBN Co the money it needed to complete the NBN above and beyond the $29.5 billion cap on equity funding, to be repaid in a few years when NBN Co is in a position to go to the market and get that money from private entities. The government could just treat NBN as what it was supposed to be this whole time — an infrastructure project — and for the medium term abandon any idea that anyone but government should be involved in what it is doing.

[You, yes YOU, own the NBN, so demand a higher goddamn standard]

While on infrastructure, the government should also give careful consideration to either high-speed rail on the eastern seaboard or the recent proposal for a train between Sydney and Canberra that could cut the travel time down from four hours to two.

In the next financial year, the federal government’s school chaplaincy funding is set to expire. Having already upset the Catholics this week with Gonski 2.0, the Prime Minister should go whole hog and refuse to keep funding the $245 million program. Additionally — while we are there — the government could reinvest a small portion of that funding in keeping Safe Schools, and even fund separate anti-bullying programs just to quell the mistaken argument that Safe Schools is somehow being used instead of a broader anti-bullying programs.

In the interest of open government, and transparency, the government should also heavily invest in adequate staffing and resources for the Freedom of Information divisions of each department, but this should be part of a larger overhaul of Australia’s transparency regime, which should focus on making documents public by default, with very high bars set on agencies to argue against releasing documents, no fees for FOI requests, and forcing agencies to keep disclosure logs up to date, and publicly available.

Federal

Apr 21, 2017

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Not content with having bullied state governments in New South Wales and Tasmania into dropping the Safe Schools program designed to help LGBTI students, the Australian Christian Lobby has set its sights on banning Australian government aid for LGBTI youth across the globe and banning funding of women’s reproductive health services.

In a submission to the federal government’s foreign policy white paper, the lobby group said that “many aid workers” were surprised that “provision of clean water, housing and electricity” was being “put aside” in favour of sex education.

The group links all its evidence for its stance against sex education being part of foreign aid to the US-based Family Watch International — a group declared to be a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre. The group’s website complains, among other things, about any education that “encourages acceptance and exploration of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities” and criticises teaching children to develop respect for different sexualities.

The ACL claims that any sex ed other than abstinence-only would increase demand for sexual health services, meaning more billions of dollars for sexual health services globally (there is no evidence provided to back up this claim). The group also claims that sexual education programs are “exploitative” and push an aggressive ideology. The ACL complained about LGBTI groups working in Jamaica as not respecting the values of the country. Jamaica currently punishes people engaged in consensual homosexual sex with up to 10 years in prison. To the Australian Christian Lobby, this is “protecting the family”.

The lobby group also complains that there is pressure on the government to not give aid money to Christian groups with an anti-LGBTI agenda working overseas.

“It seems almost incredible that advocates for LGBTI rights would prioritise the advance of their political cause above compassion for the vulnerable. Such arguments serve to underscore the need for Australia’s aid to be strongly grounded in genuine compassion to alleviate the suffering of the disadvantaged and to guard against the misuse of aid to advance political or ideological agendas. If genuine compassion is our aim, Australia must eschew funding programs that promote abortion, comprehensive sexuality education.”

The group has also called on the government to renege on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s recent $9.5 million funding commitment to SPRINT, a program to provide sexual health services to women in our region, because it is being administered by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which the ACL deems as “ethically dubious” because of scare campaigns run by extreme Christian groups similar to the ACL on Planned Parenthood in the United States around the use of foetal tissue.

The proposal comes despite polling commissioned by Family Planning NSW that found overwhelming support for Australian aid funding going towards such services. The poll conducted by Essential found that 89% of respondents said access to sexual and reproductive health services for women in Pacific Island countries was important, and 67% said it was important for Australia to provide these services using its foreign aid budget. A total of 67% of people were concerned that Australia would follow the US Trump administration in its global gag, banning foreign aid funding to any groups providing any kind of abortion services.

This week both the NSW government and the Tasmanian government announced they would not continue with the Safe Schools program when Commonwealth funding runs out this year. Both governments have said they would have an overall comprehensive anti-bullying program — something most schools already implement alongside Safe Schools. The Tasmanian government has said material about bullying against LGBTI students would be included in this, but the ACL has warned that any Safe Schools-like material should be removed.

News

Mar 31, 2017

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From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Diplomatic faux pas. Australia’s diplomats are all back in town, meeting with each other and their Australian-based counterparts this week to discuss shaping Australia’s foreign policy white paper. Our tipster tells us that in a room of diplomats, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson made a small faux pas that might not have gone down so well with her boss, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. We’re told:

“At the end of day one this week of the $1.17 million love-in for Australia’s ambassadors, DFAT Secretary Frances Adamson introduced Trade Minister [Steve Ciobo], who delivered a speech, by saying she’d ‘saved the best till last’. Whoops! First on the agenda that day had been Julie Bishop’s introductory speech for the two-day meeting.”

What happens if you hold a presser and no one comes? We know what it can be like to have trouble with your email server, but at least our delays have never left us fronting up to an empty press conference. That’s what happened to Labor’s spokesman for Employment and Workplace Relations, who looked absolutely appalled yesterday when no one was there to ask him any questions. A video put together by SBS’ David Sharaz shows Brendan O’Connor thundering “what is happening to mainstream media?”. Turns out it wasn’t that journos had decided they didn’t care what he had to say — the email alerting them to the press conference was delayed and didn’t arrive in inboxes until hours after the actual presser. Awks.

Survey says. Marriage Alliance was trumpeting the results of a survey it released to far-right-wing columnist Miranda Devine earlier this week, which Devine breathlessly reported showed “just 33%” of people strongly favour same-sex marriage, with 19% somewhat supporting it (meaning a majority at 52% support it overall, according to the anti-gay lobby’s own survey).

The exact questions used to derive these answers and the subsequent ones about “concerns” about marriage equality leading to Safe Schools and gay adoption (using the slippery slope fallacy they like to use) were not included in Devine’s article, and rather than doing the usual thing of posting the full survey to their website, Marriage Alliance simply linked to Devine’s article. Devine appears to be close friends with Marriage Alliance’s Sophie York, so it isn’t so surprising the group would drop this “exclusive” to her, but attempts by other journalists to get a hold of the report have come to nothing.

BuzzFeed‘s Lane Sainty and Crikey‘s Josh Taylor have both contacted Marriage Alliance to ask for the report but got no response. Taylor, however, did start receiving Marriage Alliance newsletters. Could it be that the company engaged in push polling? It’s hard to say without seeing the actual survey. Sexton Market Research — which did the polling for MA — has previously done similar anti-marriage equality polling for the Sydney Archdiocese. 

You won’t believe the title of this court filing! Russian tech executive Aleksej Gubarev and the two companies he runs are suing news and entertainment site BuzzFeed for libel in the US following the infamous “Russian Dossier” report. The story, which published a dossier — by BuzzFeed‘s own account unverified — claimed the Russian government had assisted Donald Trump in getting elected, while also collecting compromising information about him.

Gubarev’s legal team says the story contained false claims that he was involved in Russian hacking against the Democratic Party during last year’s election campaign. BuzzFeed has since apologised and removed his name from the report, but Gubarev has not withdrawn his case. However serious Gubarev is, there was still room for a little fun (and lot of snark) in his lawyers’ court filing this week.

A response to BuzzFeed’s motion to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds, it was titled “Six Ways Buzzfeed Has Misled The Court (Number Two Will Amaze You)… And A Picture Of A Kitten,” an obvious jab at BuzzFeed’s penchant for listicles and clickbait:

 

That shade, though, am I right?

 

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

News

Mar 15, 2017

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From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Safe Schools ignored in WA? One of the interesting historical revisions from the Western Australian elections is the Australian Christian Lobby claiming that there wasn’t a debate about Labor’s proposal to put $1.4 million in to fund the Safe Schools program when the federal government’s cash runs out later this year. Managing director Lyle Shelton tweeted it was the “untold story” of the WA election.

This has left some in WA scratching their heads. As Ms Tips previously reported, there were flyers distributed about it, the ACL held a forum with Labor leader Mark McGowan and former premier Colin Barnett where both men pushed their positions (with one audience member remarking that Barnett had “just won” the election by announcing his opposition to Safe Schools). The ACL subsequently put out multiple releases on it. Peter Abetz, the older brother of he-who-hates rainbow flags, Senator Eric Abetz, campaigned strongly not only in his seat but other seats on the issue. His local paper also had a front-page wrap “warning” parents about the program. Untold story? Incidentally, Abetz the elder had his butt kicked in his seat by Labor’s Terry Healy, who was the first celebrant to legally marry a gay couple in Australia when it was briefly legal in the ACT. 

Paleo pear Claire vindicated. It was only a few weeks ago that Ms Tips learnt that Paleo pear-and-banana bread existed, thanks to the Department of Finance’s “gamechangers” graduate recruitment video. In the opening scene, a graduate called “Claire” asks her colleagues if they want to join her for a Paleo pear-and-banana bread, although they decline with the polite excuse that “it’s too fancy for me” (when really it is probably because there was no cow’s milk butter in Paleolithic times). In questioning over the video at Senate estimates, Finance deputy secretary David Fredericks said the line about the Paleo pear-and-banana bread had been added by the graduate in the video, and that senior people in the department thought they were best to defer to the young people involved. Since then, Fredericks has written to the committee to correct the record:

“In my testimony I stated that that line was the result of a change in the script made at the request of the graduate. I have since been advised that a member of the production crew suggested this change to the script.”

Glad her reputation is no longer besmirched.

The joys of working from home. And lastly, to the moment that has made us smile more than anything this week, the video of Robert Kelly giving an interview to the BBC while his children ran in with the best dance moves on the BBC since the last season of Strictly Come Dancing. Kelly, his wife Jung-a Kim and children Marion and James have explained just what they thought of the worldwide fuss made by a few moments in their day.

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

It’s been a while since a tipster has shared political junk mail with us, but it has been worth the wait. Despite the controversy over the Safe Schools program being a largely federal issue, a tipster sent us through flyers made by someone trying to make it an election issue in the upcoming Western Australia poll. Distributed by an organisation calling itself “All Kids Matter Australia”, the flyers warn of WA Labor and the Greens plans to push for a further Safe Schools roll out in WA. The flyers says Safe Schools “encourages” cross-dressing, boys and girls using each other’s bathrooms and (*gasp*) playing sport together, and while it doesn’t recommend a specific vote, it is clear in who you ought not to vote for — it mentions Labor and the Greens.

The website allkidsmatter.com.au is registered to James Craig Parker. Is this the same James Parker who addressed Christian advocacy group Family Voice Australia in 2015? The group has been vocal opponents of Safe Schools and marriage equality.

Crikey contacted the email address attached to the website registration, but didn’t hear back before deadline.