October 31, 2014 | Graham


I’m struck by the urgency with which some suggest Australia must send doctors to deal with the Ebola threat in West Africa. What is it about Australian doctors that makes them indispensable? Can’t doctors from other countries handle the threat as competently (or even more so) than those from Australia?

Perhaps those countries not sending their airmen and soldiers to fight against IS in Iraq should send their doctors to West Africa in a sort of Karmic international transfer.

The whole issue seems to be one of unhealthily trading on a level of hysteria surrounding this disease for political gain. Not nice.

Especially as there appears to be little reason for hysteria, as this video shows.

Posted by Graham at 1:02 pm | Comments (15) |

October 26, 2014 | Graham

Bigots abound in Australia, but Shorten ignores some of them

If 8,445 Australian bigots had their way, Bill Shorten would not have been a keynote speaker at the Australian Christian Lobby’s national conference and wouldn’t have been able to get the publicity for his view that:

I believe in God and I believe in marriage equality

Those 8,445 responded to an AllOut campaign and emailed Bill Shorten asking him to reconsider addressing the ACL conference because the ACL is:

…openly opposed to the rights of Australian lesbian, gay, bi and trans people and equality in Australia, and also has links with anti-gay groups around the world.

Bill is on record as saying that bigotry should be illegal in Australia, so it is good to see that in this case he ignored it.

Hopefully he also has a nose for straw cases, one of the refuges of the bigot, because I’m not aware that the ACL is opposed to the rights of “Australian lesbian, gay” etc. groups, just that they prefer other relationships. Preferring heterosexual relationships to homosexual ones is not an issue of rights.

However, free speech is a rights issue, and the ACL, and their members, have every right to their opinions.

But while Bill has done the right thing in this situation, he and AllOut illustrate a problem with the assertion that bigotry ought to be outlawed. While they appear to agree on this proposition, they don’t agree with what constitutes bigotry.

The other alternative is that Bill might have accepted the invitation because he thinks the best way of dealing with bigotry is to confront it, but that would tend to conflict with his view that it oughtn’t to be allowed.

So, if agreeing on what constitutes bigotry is so difficult, even for people on the same side of an issue, how are we to legislate against it?

Over to you Bill.

And for those interested in the fascism of the AllOut approach, here is their media release.

8445 Australians ask Bill Shorten to pull out of Christian Lobby conference

Thousands Call On Shorten To Decline Christian Lobby’s Invitation

  •  Conference venue, the Hyatt Hotel Canberra, is also under fire
  • Agenda of Australian Christian Lobby is linked to globally renowned anti-gay groups

Saturday, 25 October 2014 – An outcry from All Out – the global movement for love and equality – is targeting Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for accepting an invitation to be the keynote speaker at the Australian Christian Lobby’s annual conference today. This week, 8,445 All Out members in Australia emailed Mr Shorten to request that he reconsider his commitment to speak at the ACL conference in Canberra on Saturday.

 The Australian Christian Lobby is openly opposed to the rights of Australian lesbian, gay, bi and trans people and equality in Australia, and also has links with anti-gay groups around the world.

 “The Christian Lobby are actively opposed to marriage equality, and the recognition of lesbian and gay parents and their families. Their lobbying activities are not representative of Christian values or all Christians in Australia” said Hayley Conway, Senior Campaign Manager for All Out in Australia. “The ACL’s close links to extreme dominionist organisations should automatically exclude them from receiving the support of Australia’s political leaders. Bill Shorten’s appearance today is simply not acceptable.”

 In addition to the 7 700 emails sent directly to Shorten by All Out members, opposition to the conference included hundreds leaving 1 star ratings on the Hyatt’s Facebook page, and resulted in the Hyatt allowing lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex employees the chance to refuse work during the ACL’s booking. It has been reported that Hyatt’s parent company in Chicago has demanded that the Canberra hotel ‘make amends’ to the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community in Australia.

“The Australian Christian Lobby stands against family, respect and equality in Australia. Mr Shorten should stand up to the electoral threats of bullies like the ACL, and show that he believes in fairness and equality for all Australians and their families.” said Conway.


Posted by Graham at 8:02 pm | Comments (7) |
Filed under: Ethics,Media

October 21, 2014 | Graham

Stone Barry Spurr? Ask Sydney Uni

When you can’t play the ball, kick the man in the groin – that’s the iron rule of Green Left politics these days.

So if the federal government commissions an inquiry which states the bleeding obvious – that there is not enough Western literature or culture in the national curriculum and too much indigenous – you attack the findings by attacking one of the people involved in the process for having inappropriate views.

In this case that person is Professor Barry Spurr, Professor of Poetry and Poetics at Sydney University, and a faculty member there since 1976.

Spurr has written a number of private emails to a small coterie of friends which contain very politically incorrect remarks. He seems to have fallen out with one of this coterie because the emails are being strategically leaked.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald:

A University of Sydney academic involved in the national curriculum review, Barry Spurr, has reportedly described Prime Minister Tony Abbott an “abo-lover” in an exchange of emails.

“Abo Lover Abbott and [Australian of the Year] Adam Goodes are Siamese Twins and will have to be surgically separated,” Professor Spurr wrote in an email published on the New Matilda website.

Yesterday it was revealed that:

Suspended University of Sydney professor Barry Spurr said Australian of the Year Adam Goodes needed only depression and a disability to be “the complete role model for Australians today”, leaked emails reveal.

This has led the Opposition to claim that the whole process is tainted.

However, if you believe putting these thoughts into an email taints everything that Professor Spurr does, it’s not the government that has the primary problem. It is Sydney University.

For 38 years they have allowed a man with these views to not just set curriculum but to nurture the minds of impressionable young students in the English Department.

In appointing him as a consultant the commissioners implicitly relied on the quality guarantee that being a professor in Australia’s leading university confers.

If Sydney University didn’t know about his inappropriate views, when they were being expressed on their mail servers, how was the government supposed to know?

You could also ask why it has taken the whistle blower so long to come forward. Why did it suddenly become germane that Spurr had these views just after he consulted to a government inquiry?

Professor Spurr was working on chapters in three books. Thank God he has been caught in time and these chapters can be cancelled. Because if his work for the government is tainted by his views, then so is everything else that he has done.

This includes the seminal work on TS Eliot and:

…books on poetic representations of the Virgin Mary from the Medieval period to today; on Studying Poetry (now in its second edition); and on Lytton Strachey’s prose works and on liturgical language, and of numerous chapters, refereed articles and encyclopedia entries on poets and poetry across the centuries.

These books will need to be recalled and pulped if the book-burners and neo-McCarthyists are right and a person’s moral rightness infects everything that they do.

But let’s not stop there. We need a proper inquiry into the moral rectitude of all lecturers, and indeed the works which they promulgate.

For every Spurr there is a Marxist or Fascist hiding in plain sight in the academy. These ideologies are no more acceptable than his racism.

And the works that they teach are suspect as well.

If Peter Singer were still an academic in Australia I’d want him looked at closely. This is a man who advocates eugenics and infanticide, surely even more heinous positions than those taken by Spurr. His works also need to be recalled and pulped, or better still burned.

Unlike Spurr, he has not hidden his unacceptable ideas in his mind, or private emails, but openly proselytised them in text books and published works.

When it comes to stoning, Spurr is well down the queue.

BTW, it shouldn’t be necessary in this day of almost universal literacy, but to make sense of some of the above you may need to look up “irony” in the dictionary (hint, it has nothing to do with the mineral).


Posted by Graham at 8:30 am | Comments (9) |

October 10, 2014 | Graham

Putting the sword to religious relativism

It appears the AFP may have overplayed its hand when referring to a sword seized in recent raids. But the sword also demonstrates that those who claim all religions are essentially the same, have also overplayed their hands as well, and that to ignore the essence of a religion when analysing religious violence is a serious mistake.

According to the SMH it appears the sword was plastic and “wouldn’t be able to cut a cucumber” and is as common a religious artefact in Muslim households as is a crucifix in Christian ones.

The sword – a Zulfiqar or Dhu al-Fiqar – is one of the major symbols of Shiite Islam…

Jamal Daoud, a prominent member of Sydney’s Shiite community, said the sword would be found in almost every Shiite household as a decorative item either hanging on the wall or sitting in a drawer.

Sheikh Zaid Alsalami, leader of the Nabi Akram Islamic Centre in Granville, said many Shiite Muslims would also wear the sword as a pendant similar to Christians wearing a crucifix necklace.

“It basically denotes the sword that was carried by Imam Ali, the first Shia Imam,” he said. “The Prophet handed Imam Ali this particular sword [in a battle]. It’s not anything of any ritual value, it’s just a reminder of something that represents the relation that Imam Ali had with the Prophet.”

So a huge difference between Christianity and Islam is starkly, if unconsciously, laid bare.

Islam celebrates the conqueror, while Christianity celebrates the victim. The most widespread Islamic symbol is a weapon of war, handed to one of the early leaders of Islam in the heat of a presumably successful battle by Islam’s founder Mohammed, while the most widespread Christian symbol is a tool of torture and capital punishment, with the victim, Jesus, who is revered not just as the founder, but as God by Christians, still writhing in agony on it.

In fact the only story we have of Jesus, one of his followers and swords, is in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus is about to be arrested and taken away to be tried. The Apostle Peter (in Islamic terms, the most senior “imam” in the Christian church) has a sword with him, and he uses it to resist arrest and wound a servant of the high priest. Jesus tells him to put away his sword and heals the wounded man.

So, while Christians and Muslims both owe their loyalty to a power that they see as being above the law, Islam teaches followers to create their own religiously-based legal reality, while Christianity teaches followers to accept the consequences of defying the law, and to do so while showing compassion to their persecutors.

Which religion do you think is more likely to give licence to violent uprisings?

There is something in Islam which contributes to the violence and horror that we are seeing arising from and within Islamic communities, and while it may be confronting to have to admit this, it does none of us any favours to ignore it. You have to diagnose the problem correctly before prescribing a treatment.

Posted by Graham at 7:39 am | Comments (21) |

October 08, 2014 | Graham

Belling ALP institutional corruption

Every election campaign that I can remember in Queensland has featured claims that the LNP or Coalition side of politics is corrupt. Those claims had some force when Joh Bjelke-Petersen was premier, but that is now 26 years ago. Today it is the ALP which has problems.

John Faulkner has just laid some of them out in a speech to the Light on the Hill Club in Sydney.

According to The Australian:

…Senator Faulkner said Labor must modernise and increase internal democracy by giving more power to members, re-evaluating its relationship with bullying union leaders and “undemocratic” factions, and eliminating the “stench of ­corruption” in NSW…

…The party which gave you Eddie Obeid, Ian Macdonald and Craig Thomson, and promoted Michael Williamson as its national president, must be open to scrutiny and its processes subject to the rule of law.

Faulkner’s solution is to limit union influence, widen the membership franchise and make party processes more open to litigation in the courts.

He sums up well the kiddy politics style of current campaigns:

Senator Faulkner warned of a massive public trust deficit in modern politics. Without trust, politics was “a contest of personalities, not ideas; a contest with no more relevance than an episode of MasterChef, for without trust in the political process how can any of us believe that the votes we cast can influence the future direction of our country?’’

Undoubtedly his concerns have been bolstered by the government’s inquiry into union corruption, which has just been extended for 12 months at the request of the commissioner, former High Court judge Dyson Heydon.

So far this commission has shown unions, in particular the CFMEU, involved in criminal activities. This is unsurprising, as the Cole Royal Commission in 2001 found that:

16. These findings demonstrate an industry [the building industry] which departs from the standards of commercial and industrial conduct exhibited in the rest of the Australian economy. They mark the industry as singular. They indicate an urgent need for structural and cultural reform.

The Heydon commission is uncovering even more examples of lawlessness, which confirm what observers like Paul Sheehan of the SMH knew even before the commission was instituted when he said:

There are clean unions and dirty unions. Then there is a bikie gang masquerading as a union, which describes elements within the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Engineering Union. Some of its officials belong in jail, along with bikies they employ as enforcers and blackmailers.

The CFMEU is an organisation which in 2010 donated $1,000,000 to federal Labor and 287,000 to various other entities including high profile MPs.

In 2013 its affiliation fees to the Queensland ALP were $80,932.50, and similar amounts would have been paid to other state divisions.

If the ALP were serious about corruption it would disassociate itself from this rogue union and send all donations back to it, just as it does to tobacco comapnies.

But apparently the cancer of a corrupt union is more addictive.

Instead of distancing itself from the CFMEU, under Julia Gillard it abolished the Australian Building and Construction Commission after a campaign by the CFMEU.

This is a serious corruption of the political process.

Posted by Graham at 8:32 am | Comments (8) |

October 05, 2014 | Ronda Jambe

The truest test of multiculturalism and tolerance

What annoys me about the current discussion on burkas and Parliament House is not the way it briefly became practically the only political issue worth of media coverage. It is that the level of discussion, and the way the matter has been mushed around, indicates scary political correctness accompanied by lack of guts.

We know only a small proportion of Muslim women wear the full face coverings in Australia. I don’t know the percentage of Muslim women, either here or in other countries, that wear the merely inhibiting head scarves.

But the discussion has focussed narrowly on the full burka, with security issues as the pretext. The real issue was not touched on: the widespread practice of Muslim women adopting a convention of clothing modesty that is not applied to men and is not normal in Australian society. And how we don’t understand the reasoning or the need.

I understand the comparison with Sikhs wearing turbans, or Hindu women in saris. But their numbers are quite small. Saris are also open and show hair, I believe.

Headscarves in our climate, however, must be hot and uncomfortable. There is surely no need to cover up to that extent in Australia. The cultural setting is different from many less developed Muslim countries, more relaxed, less tolerant of sexual assault and possessiveness, more respectful of women’s independence and freedom to choose on many fronts. (This is not to say sexual violence has been eliminated here, far from it.)

No doubt many Muslim women who do not wear the headscarf feel exactly the same way, especially younger or second gen Muslims. All migrant groups tend to drop the more distinctive trappings of their homeland, or we’d see Germans in Dirndls, and Normandy French women in white peaked caps. Logic implies that pure and correct interpretations of Islam do NOT require the headscarf. This must be the case, as not all Muslim women wear headscarves, here or overseas. Therefore, a true test of multiculturalism and tolerance of diversity in Australia would be a group of Muslim and other religious members forming to proclaim support for women who choose not to wear a headscarf. Stand up and be counted, imams and shemams, for the broad-mindedness that Islam has in the past been known for.

Would such statements be tolerated by their own community? Can women from all Muslim backgrounds make that choice freely? Is there any evidence of coercion from their conservative ranks?

A few weeks ago in Times Square there were lovely young women, body painted and wearing panties only, flaunting their advertising happily surrounded by camera happy crowds. Close by were assorted religious types with signs on sticks saying ‘Repent now!’ or ‘The End is Near’. A cheerful, if confusing situation. But no one was in danger, except maybe the Disney characters in costume who were probably about the faint in the heat. The is the real triumph of the US: enormous tolerance and enormous diversity.

A religion that adapts to new settings, welcomes diversity in its community and tolerates difference: that is what Australian values support. Headscarves and heat make me sweat, in the same way that bare midrifs make me instinctively want to cover my middle. I am prepared to tolerate both, but if given a choice between Puritans and Sybarites, give me belly dancing any time.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 1:52 pm | Comments (5) |
Filed under: Uncategorized