Gad­fly John’s no in game of Tones

The Saturday Paper - - Diary - Tips and tat­tle: jus­tinian@law­

Lit­tle Win­ston Howard was out of the blocks with a piece in The Catholic Boys Daily, “kick­start­ing” the “No” case.

The diminu­tive koala is con­cerned that churches, free speech and chil­dren will be threat­ened if the mar­riage equal­ity postal sur­vey re­sults in a “Yes” out­come. The strange and anx­ious fears seem to be that if peo­ple ac­quire rights they didn’t pre­vi­ously have, then the pre-ex­ist­ing rights of oth­ers will be taken away.

Pre­sum­ably he wants an­tidis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions wa­tered down so gay-hat­ing cake bak­ers, florists and event or­gan­is­ers could con­tinue unim­peded.

This sort of grand vi­sion was a hall­mark of Lit­tle Win­ston’s “lead­er­ship”, and the Nasty Party and Cock­ies Cor­ner have con­tin­ued to em­brace it.

Win­ston claims that there is

“clear ev­i­dence” that the out­comes for chil­dren are “su­pe­rior” if they have a mother and a fa­ther, prompt­ing schol­ars to rif­fle through their files to lo­cate this mys­te­ri­ous re­search.

The Catholic Church has also made the pitch that non-gay men and women are the best peo­ple to look af­ter chil­dren – even though it is a risky busi­ness plac­ing a child in the care of this in­sti­tu­tion. Re­searchers at RMIT have come up with the find­ing that the Ro­man Catholic Church in Aus­tralia has done less to safe­guard chil­dren in its care than its coun­ter­parts in other coun­tries.

Four days af­ter Win­ston, Ten Flag Tony was in the pa­pers with this bold claim: “Like most, I have tried to be there for friends and fam­ily who are gay.”

He then pro­ceeded, in a salma­gundi of thoughts, to rail against gen­der fluidity, po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and the virtue sig­nalling of Mag­num ice-creams, and to in­sist “a man is not a woman just be­cause he wants to be”.

Post democ­racy

Leg­is­la­tion to safe­guard the na­ture and qual­ity of the mar­riage equal­ity de­bate whizzed through par­lia­ment. No vil­i­fi­ca­tion, threats or in­tim­i­da­tion al­lowed, with Book­shelves Bran­dis, the big­ots’ friend, as the lit­i­ga­tion gate­keeper. What could be fairer than that?

The one thing miss­ing from the bill is the ban­ning of for­eign money in the cam­paigns. God-both­er­ing evan­gel­i­cals from the US now have the of­fi­cial green light to pump money into the “No” coffers, while the “Yes” peo­ple have a rel­a­tively mea­gre war chest. If for­eign money is re­garded as odi­ous for gen­eral election cam­paigns, what about for postal opin­ion polls?

And how are we to read the poll re­sults? Late last week, re­search con­ducted for the equal­ity cam­paign found there would be a postal par­tic­i­pa­tion rate of 65 per cent, fall­ing to 58 per cent among 18 to 34 year olds.

New­gate Re­search went on to say that 58.4 per cent of those sur­veyed would sup­port the “Yes” case, which was down six per­cent­age points from a cou­ple of weeks ear­lier. The sup­port for “No” rose two points to 31.4 per cent. Things looked to be re­mark­ably fluid.

Three days later, a Fairfax Ip­sos poll found the same level of par­tic­i­pants would take part in the postal opin­ion poll – 65 per cent. How­ever, of those, 70 per cent said “Yes” – and that sup­port was

un­changed from a year ago.

It would mean that less than 50 per cent of peo­ple who par­tic­i­pated in this vol­un­tary postal wheeze could ef­fect a change in the law. Imag­ine what Fa­ther Lyle, Win­ston and oth­ers would make of that blot on the demo­cratic es­cutcheon.

Riled west

In search of ad­ven­ture this week, Gad­fly sal­lied to Perth and back and ex­pe­ri­enced some first-rate hos­pi­tal­ity. The lo­cal Stokes-owned fam­ily news­pa­per car­ries by­lines from Wilson “Iron Bar” Tuckey, press re­leases about Jus­tice Min­is­ter Michael Keenan’s crack­down on “evil” pae­dophiles, and col­umns from Dr Bolt on Ab­bott’s “win­ning strat­egy”.

Much of the con­ver­sa­tion is about the GST and how gypped West­ern Aus­tralia is, but no one seems to be able to ex­plain why and how. The coun­cil of the lo­cal branch of the Nasty Party voted in sup­port of a WAxit mo­tion to “fis­cally se­cede” from Aus­tralia and many “over east” think it’s a ter­rific idea.

On the plane back there was a drunken pas­sen­ger show­ing in­creas­ing signs of ag­i­ta­tion af­ter a few bot­tles of wine. De­spite be­ing fully tanked he wanted more vino but the flight ser­vice per­son said he would have to wait. Ten min­utes later, he was handed another bot­tle and a piece of cheese and ad­vised to drink it slowly.

By now the cabin was filled with his foul-mouthed out­bursts. As the plane was about to land he was ask­ing for more, but hap­pily at that point Qan­tas’s pol­icy for the “re­spon­si­ble ser­vice of al­co­hol” kicked in.

Tyrant slalom

Last week, read­ers were moved by re­ports of Gad­fly’s trip to Cooma in

Snowy coun­try and the Gully Gang’s art ex­hi­bi­tion. What we for­got to men­tion was the amount of road­kill on the Monaro High­way. Ev­ery few me­tres there was a de­ceased kan­ga­roo, wom­bat or fox.

Gad­fly is told the dam­age is mostly caused by skiers in their four-wheel-drives, speed­ing to the alps in the pur­suit of late-night glüh­weins with Heinz and Hel­mut.

I’ve al­ways hated skiers.

Con­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment

The royal com­mis­sion has rec­om­mended that pri­ests who fail to re­port in­for­ma­tion about child sex­ual abuse should face crim­i­nal charges. In other words, the seal of the con­fes­sional should not be in­vi­o­lable.

The New South Wales govern­ment is seek­ing the public’s re­sponse and has just is­sued a dis­cus­sion pa­per en­ti­tled “Strength­en­ing child sex­ual abuse laws in NSW”. It’s an in­ter­est­ing pa­per be­cause not once are the words “con­fes­sion” or “con­fes­sional” men­tioned.

The at­tor­ney-gen­eral, Mark Speak­man, said this is a “sen­si­tive is­sue”. On the one hand, he points out, there is the Catholic Church and its be­lief that the con­fes­sion of of­fend­ing pri­ests is con­fi­den­tial. On the other, there are chil­dren who have been crim­i­nally abused. This doesn’t seem like much of a con­test.

The NSW Crimes Act al­ready makes it a crime to con­ceal a se­ri­ous of­fence. For the pros­e­cu­tion of var­i­ous classes of peo­ple, in­clud­ing the clergy, the ap­proval of the at­tor­ney-gen­eral is re­quired. Mem­bers of the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil were in­ter­ested in how Speak­man ex­er­cised his dis­cre­tion. He said he had never been called on to ap­prove the pros­e­cu­tion of a pri­est who had hid­den a crime. He added that he had not yet “for­mu­lated some guide­lines or poli­cies” on this del­i­cate mat­ter.

A de­part­men­tal man­darin chipped in to say there is no cur­rent pol­icy on the ex­er­cise of this dis­cre­tion and he was un­aware of pre­vi­ous AGs do­ing any­thing along these lines.

Af­ter all this in­tense prob­ing about poli­cies sur­round­ing the at­tor­ney’s dis­cre­tion, Greens MLC David Shoe­bridge had to point out that the dis­cre­tion had ac­tu­ally been del­e­gated to the Di­rec­tor of Public Pros­e­cu­tions and it had been that way for some time.

Here is the case of an at­tor­ney­gen­eral who had for­got­ten he had del­e­gated the pow­ers about which he said he had not yet for­mu­lated a pol­icy

– a pol­icy sup­posed to be as­sisted by a dis­cus­sion pa­per that doesn’t men­tion the key el­e­ments of the is­sue to be ad­dressed.

Trum­pette #39

This week the Grab­ber-in-Chief sur­rounded him­self with a lot of re­li­gious types and laid down the law: there would be more guns on fed­eral lands, ref­er­ences to LGBTQI peo­ple would not ap­pear as part of the fed­eral pro­gram to deal with vic­tims of sex traf­fick­ing, and there would be no fed­eral money for in­ter­na­tional groups that ad­vo­cate abor­tion.

Poli­cies for guns and God have got a real shot in the arm.

The war on sci­ence also con­tin­ues. The New York Times re­ports that the Na­tional Academies of Sciences, En­gi­neer­ing and Medicine has been or­dered to stop study­ing the health risks as­so­ci­ated with blow­ing the tops off moun­tains to get at the coal seams. This ac­tiv­ity has been as­so­ci­ated with an in­creased rate of birth de­fects and other health prob­lems for those un­for­tu­nate enough to be liv­ing close to coalmin­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

There has also been a purge of govern­ment sci­en­tists who work on the con­nec­tion be­tween hu­man ac­tiv­ity and cli­mate change.

In fact, there is an all-out ef­fort at the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency to abol­ish use of the words “cli­mate change”. The pre­ferred term is “weather ex­tremes”.

There have also been some ter­rific ap­point­ments. David Zatezalo is to be as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of labour at the Mine Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion. He’s a for­mer coal com­pany ex­ec­u­tive who is un­happy about mine safety reg­u­la­tions.

Then there’s Sam Clo­vis, who has been nom­i­nated to be the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s chief sci­en­tist. He’s not ac­tu­ally a sci­en­tist but a for­mer talk­back ra­dio shock jock and “in­cen­di­ary blog­ger” who says cli­mate change is “junk sci­ence”.

Sounds like Ten Flag Tony and his team from Mac­quarie Ra­dio are set­ting the pace for the US.

RICHARD ACK­LAND is the pub­lisher of Jus­tinian. He is The Satur­day Pa­per’s di­ari­s­tat-large and le­gal af­fairs ed­i­tor.

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