Asylum Seekers, Waleed Aly and the Folly of Good Intentions

John Slater

One of the few constants of Australian politics is the left’s bleating over the offshore processing of asylum seekers.

Indeed, the fact that the Coalition’s policies have stopped the deluge of unauthorized boat arrivals experienced under the former Labor government appears to have done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of open-border zealots.

That said, the last few years has seen a shift in tone. Now that the bare facts of reality have given the lie to the claim that the number of boats coming to Australia is based on world asylum seeker flows – not our immigration policies – critics have taken to seizing on any minor detail or happenstance as evidence of our moral bankruptcy.

The grand folly of this approach is that while it’s easy to paint offshore processing as callous and cold-hearted, we can’t pretend that this issue exists in a vacuum. That was the mistake of the Rudd Government when it dismantled John Howard’s pacific solution in an attempt to make Australia seem more ‘humane’ and ‘compassionate.’ Even a cynic shouldn’t doubt that most people in the Labor party had the best intentions at heart when they abandoned offshore processing.

Unfortunately, these good intentions did nothing to stop 1200 asylum seekers drowning off the Australian coastline, 50 000 unauthorized asylum seekers arriving on our shores and Australia’s humanitarian refugee intake being overrun with economic migrants. Nor did this desire to do good change the fact that in order to stem this seemingly unending flow of undocumented arrivals, more than 2000 children ended up in detention before people smugglers started taking Australia’s policies seriously (again).

The point is that you can’t fairly criticize Australia’s policy of processing unauthorised arrivals offshore before realistically considering the alternatives.

In other words, we shouldn’t buy into the naïve myth that adopting a kinder, gentler approach comes without costs. Australia has a generous annual humanitarian intake, but it can’t take all of the world’s needy and suffering. If Australia once again decides to grant migrants asylum based on the fact that they’ve managed to reach our territorial waters, we shouldn’t be surprised if our quota is consumed largely by those with the financial means to do just that.

Given Australia’s relative isolation and the enormous expense of paying people smugglers (the cost is known to exceed $50 000 for a family; a fortune for those in war-torn developing nations), we can’t pretend that an open door policy creates the distinct possibility that the most needy candidates miss out.

Waleed Aly – one of the best known banner carriers for the open doors lobby – provides a prime example of this tendency to lecture about the grave inhumanity of offshore processing while stopping short of offering any kind of realistic alternative.

His latest Fairfax column is a masterclass in sanctimonious verbiage:

“But perhaps the greatest horror is that as a nation, we’ve now become so hopelessly addicted to the fictions that justify it. It’s not just the fiction of Nauru. It’s also the fiction of Australia, which you might recall we’ve declared simply doesn’t exist if you’re coming here by boat. You can dock in Sydney Harbour if you like, and as far as the law is concerned, you simply never arrived here. But there’s also the fiction that Nauru and Papua New Guinea were ever anything more than a dumping ground for us… At some point, the clock runs out. And on that day, maybe the alarm will sound on these mighty fictions that have been sustaining us. Then who will we be?”

As a columnist and TV personality, saying this type of thing has the benefit of giving Waleed an appearance of empathy as opposed to our morally impoverished political class. The difference is that unlike Waleed, the Prime Minister, cabinet and parliament don’t have the luxury of being able to live off the grace of their good intentions: they also have to wear the consequences.

Perhaps a more simple way we can put this is that incentives matter. If you know you have a good shot at permanent resettlement in Australia by travelling through multiple countries and paying a people smuggler take you to Australia, chances are you’ll opt for that over throwing your lot in with the international refugee resettlement bureaucracy.

As we saw just this week, incentives also operate on a much smaller level. A reliable favourite of the open-border activists is that offshore detention centres are so awful that asylum seekers are driven to self-harm. In a move that enraged many, Dutton ordered that if self-harming asylum seekers required medical treatment in Australia, their family would not be allowed to join them.

Was this another example of the kind of gratuitous act of mean-minded malice we’ve come to expect from the government?

Not so fast. As soon as Dutton’s order came into effect, the self-harming on Nauru stopped. Immediately. What changed was that there was no longer any incentive to use self-harm as a way for asylum seekers to bring their families to the Australia.

To be sure, this kind of measure can seem a bit heavy-handed. But lets put it in perspective. No one is being denied medical care. Asylum Seekers on Nauru are given a reasonable allowance and they’re free to roam a peaceful island. Clearly the standard of living in Nauru falls well short of what we enjoy in Australia. Yet for people fleeing the threat of persecution and violence, this must surely count as some improvement.

As Chris Kenny put it following his trip to Nauru late last year
“Nauru has become a vortex of political and personal agendas conspiring to mask the truth. Even simple facts and obvious realities can be difficult to discern or expose. Happiness is disguised, secrets are kept, identities are hidden, allegations are made and politics are played.”

Like any complex area of policy, there’s little doubt Australia’s asylum seeker processing policies and practices can be improved. There isn’t a single politician who doesn’t want to reduce the number of children in detention. That said, there’s a difference between constructive criticism and high-minded pontification without any realistic consideration of the practical alternatives available.

If Waleed Aly, Julian Burnside and Sarah Hansen-Young are genuinely interested in improving how Australia deals with asylum seekers as opposed to burnishing their credentials amongst Australia’s human rights industry, they should spend more time on the the former and less on the latter.

Invasion Day race-baiting does nothing to help Indigenous Disadvantage


It seems that with every passing year, it becomes more and more fashionable to lament Australia Day rather than celebrate it. Indeed, a day founded on the idea of national unity is increasingly being used by race baiters as a platform to preach collective guilt and perseverate over historical grievance.

Few, if any Australians would dispute the historical injustices perpetrated against Australia’s indigenous population. So why should we have a problem with the growing minority that choose to infuse Australia Day with at atmosphere of division and bitterness?

It’s easy to condemn wrongs committed by generations several hundred years in the past based on the virtue and enlightenment of today. This is especially easy when all you’re doing attributing moral blame to people that died hundreds of years ago as opposed to seeking any specific reparations for Indigenous people.

However, what is far more difficult – yet infinitely more consequential – is to talk constructively about what can be done to rectify the disadvantage faced by Indigenous people living in Australia today.

Put differently, how many people do you know who have take to social media on January 26th to hang their head in public shame over living in such a despicably racist country care about Indigenous disadvantage the other 364 days of the year?

It’s worth checking out your local ‘Invasion Day’ event and glancing through the list of attendees. We can’t over generalise; many at these events are Indigenous people and leaders who still feel a keen sense of injustice over the events of the past. But how many are part of the same museli-chewing rent-a-crowd that show up to any opportunity to yell obscenities in public?

Clearly there is a lot of self-satisfaction to be derived from sharing Facebook images shaming your friends who intend to spend the day drinking around the pool rather than wallowing in their own self-hate. But rarely do people talk frankly about what these yearly exercises in national self-loathing are likely to achieve.

Above all, recasting Australia Day as ‘invasion day’ promotes the idea that spending a day celebrating what it is to be Australian is inherently hostile Indigenous people. Quite apart from raising awareness about Indigenous disadvantage, this actually politicises the issue. It signals that to be patriotic is to be unfeeling, even defiant of the wrongs committed against Australia’s first people.

Is this kind of thing likely to create political momentum that sees governments doing more to alleviate Indigenous disadvantage? It might, if the invasion day rent-a-crowd actually named any manner of tangible policy objective save for decolonising the entire continent. But let’s not pretend heaping scorn on Australia’s settlers does anything at all to address Indigenous life expectancy, unemployment or educational achievement. In fact, the Indigenous people afflicted most by these problems won’t be seen anywhere near a protest rally on Australia day. They’ll be out in remote communities, hundreds of kilometres away from the hessian sack-wearing beatniks you’re likely to see shrieking into a megaphone on the 6 o’clock news.

Truth be told, if you’re goal is to divide Australia into victims and oppressors, this is probably a fairly effective way to go about it.

We can navel gaze all we like about how much moral blameworthiness to apportion to the forbears of the Australian colonies for the death and disruption inflicted upon traditional Indigenous life in 1788. But for the motley crew of poseurs whose sole contribution to the plight Indigenous disadvantage is just that, it’s time to stop pretending you’re engaging in some noble act of civil disobedience.

Unless you genuinely want to Indigenous Australia to secede and form it’s own nation – in other words, instate a 21st century Australian apartheid – you aren’t helping reconciliation by choosing January 26th to pontificate about the original sin of Australia’s colonisation; you’re actually hindering it.

It would be unfair to say that this is the intention of Indigenous leaders who make no secret about their mixed emotions towards Australia Day. Still, what kind of tone does it set when someone like respected Indigenous journalist Stan Grant claims racism sits at the heart of the Australian dream? In the now well-known speech, Grant goes on to list some of the injustices faced by today’s Indigenous Australians, among which he mentions the booing of Adam Goodes and Indigenous life expectancy in virtually the same breathe.


Can we really put both these things down to the racism purportedly ingrained in Australia’s national character? On one hand, we have one of the most celebrated AFL players of a generation being booed by opposition fans for on-field bravado. On the other, we have a complex public health issue which all sides of politics have spent decades and billions of dollars trying to fix. If there was some known magic bullet (or dollar figure) that would bring Indigenous health into line with national averages, you’d be hard pressed to find a politician not willing to put their name behind it.

So what good do we achieve turning it into a self-loathing meditation about how innately racist we are?

Are there parts of our history that are challenging and regrettable? Absolutely. Yet if you look across the globe, it’s striking to note how few countries and civilizations haven’t been blighted by conquest at some point in history. Even Great Britain, the greatest colonial power the world has ever seen, endured a period of bloody occupation by the Romans early in its history.

Most countries take at least one day a year to celebrate their nationhood, often with far more fuss and officialdom and than we do to mark ours. Yet far fewer seem to feel a growing need to spend that day sulking in cultural self-flagellation.

Those who pretend that celebrating Australia Day counts is tantamount to re-committing the sins of our forbears like to think they are doing Indigenous Australia a service. But if in the future Australia Day does become a day mired by division, the race-baiters will only have themselves to thank.

John Slater is studying a Bachelor of Law/Arts at the University of Queensland

The Left have turned domestic violence into a culture war

Tim O’Hare

We ended 2013 with new Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pledging to end domestic violence. Noble goal. Now fresh Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is indicating that he will also be a leader in combating it.

They are not alone. The first-term member for Gellibrand, Tim Watts has made it one of his signature issues, with former Governor-General Quentin Bryce chairing the ‘Not Now: Not Ever’ council and acclaimed journalist Sarah Ferguson presenting the documentary ‘Hitting Home.’

On a surface level this appears to be a positive step, with the issue of domestic violence achieving bipartisan support. Yet the question must be asked,“what outcome can this campaign really achieve?”

Domestic violence is an issue that affects depraved individuals across class, ethnicity, religion or gender. One would be reasonable to say that, no matter how many ad campaigns and airy speeches about it, wiping out domestic violence is as utopian as wiping out theft, rape or murder. These horrible realities will never truly go away, though they may be reduced over time through increased education, mental wellbeing and standard of living, as well as deterrents such as greater penalties for offenders and protection for victims.

All of these would be acceptable methods for our political leaders to advocate and, to their credit, many have. However that hasn’t stopped many from yielding to the temptation of turning domestic violence into a culture war which calls into question what we watch, say, think, feel and value along with our upbringing and how we interact as adults.

Yes there are undoubtedly some cultural factors when it comes to domestic violence, but how culture interrelates with values, mental health, relationships and other variables is complicated, suffice to say that no politician without qualification as a psychology professional can be sure which is the most prevalent.

However anti-domestic violence campaigners continue in the belief that that it is culture that is the problem and that politicians can positively influence culture. Combating the ‘culture’ around domestic violence through national political action is symptomatic of the Left’s inherent faith in government and its scope to solve issues in any sphere. In the words of feminist Carol Hanisch, ‘The personal is political’ or, as Mussolini put it, ‘Everything inside the state, nothing outside the state.’ It is simply politically incorrect in today’s emotive discourse to even argue that domestic violence can be addressed through practical changes in law enforcement and counselling for victims, rather than Federal political posturing.

Yet that hasn’t stopped both sides of politics from weighing in. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said “All disrespect for women does not end up with violence against women, but let’s be clear, all violence against women begins with disrespecting women”. It is worth noting that Malcolm Turnbull is not a qualified health professional or Sociologist and such far-reaching statements to ascribe the basis of all domestic violence to be related to sexism are without academic corroboration.

American Psychiatric Nurse and family counsellor Michael Samsel has said ‘One position is that sexism causes domestic violence. In this view, men are encouraged and taught to abuse women, and think of them as acceptable targets. Since however, only a minority of men (probably under ten percent) act as primary aggressors, it seems necessary to assume an additional factor or factors that are specifically determining.’

The feminist belief that domestic violence comes from a sense of patriarchal domination over the woman is being called into question with research by Pam Elliot and Patrick Letellier on domestic violence amongst same sex couples. A 2014 study by North Western University in Illinois found that, while one quarter of women in heterosexual relationships experience domestic violence, that rate is between 25 and 75% for gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals. This deviation in statistical data is attributed by lead research Dr. Richard Carroll as being due to the stigma around being a sexual minority.

Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped anti-sexism campaigners from using the issue of domestic violence in your stock-standard sexism debate. Such was the case that The Drum’s John Barron criticised a cricket ad calling for attractive bartenders questioning whether that was appropriate during domestic violence week. Meanwhile, the more extreme, Australian Greens have attacked children’s toys such as barbies and trucks as promoting traditional gender roles which leads to an unsubstantiated link to domestic violence.

In a more extreme case in 2014, we saw feminists take to Twitter to rant against the patriarchy after 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people, four men and two women, after expressing contempt at women for refusing to go out with him.

It was certainly clear that Elliot Rodger had a pent up hostility to women but so too was it that Mr. Rodger was a deeply disturbed individual with psychotic tendencies, such as the use of violence as a form of revenge and a lack of empathy.

But this level of nuance is beyond the narrative polemicists seek to perpetuate. There are tens of thousands of men in the world with outdated attitudes to women, a minority of them actually commit violence.

However those who argue that there are degrees to sexism and that it doesn’t all follow a slippery slope into violence are routinely criticised for not taking this problem seriously.

Yet with each bit of so called dialogue in our ‘national conversation’ on domestic violence the actual instances of violence are made peripheral to a larger culture war. Proponents would say that they are arguing for combating sexism in any form, which would seem benevolent enough. But the problem is coming to an agreed upon understanding of what constitutes sexism.

In recent times it seems there is a disconnect between the opinion of our political class and the broader public about what is sexism, with cricketer Chris Gayle being fined $10,000 for making an unwanted pass at a journalist.

Greens Deputy Leader Larissa Waters made headlines in 2014 calling for a boycott of barbie dolls saying that gendered toys ‘“Out-dated stereotypes about girls and boys and men and women, perpetuate gender inequality, which feeds into very serious problems such as domestic violence and the gender pay gap.”

Once again, neither of these claims have any grounding in academic literature. No psychologist would attribute the emotionally and demographically complex problem of domestic violence to the toys people played with as children and it has been illegal since The Equal Pay Case, 1969 (Cth) for an employer to pay a woman less for the same amount of work.

Yet that didn’t stop Larissa Waters from making that point and she faced no rebuke from her leader Richard Di Natale or reasonable scrutiny over the veracity of her claims from the media. The more our politicians and media presenters talk about the need to have a ‘conversation’ about sexism and domestic violence the less focused the direction of it seems to be.

And like with all public campaigns, from road safety to obesity, it’s very rare that these campaigns don’t result in more government intervention. Such intervention may be good if it meant heightened police presence and counselling for victims of domestic violence. But we already know that it’s not going to be that limited.

Once you start a ‘national conversation’, from ads in busways to an annual week each year with ABC specials every night then the temptation amongst every stakeholder with an axe to grind is to link their pet issue with domestic violence. From pornography to rap music to the gender pay-gap, issues of grievance are aired and the government is given a free kick to intervene more while tenuously connecting it to domestic violence.

What’s worse is that its so much harder to oppose government intervention tenuously connected to domestic violence, for fear of appearing non-empathetic.

When Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer made a legitimate point that Labor’s plan for compulsory work-place leave for victims of domestic violence may result in a reduction in jobs, she was criticised for being heartless by Labor and the left-wing media.

This exposes a sick contradiction in our political discourse. Politicians like Larissa Waters, can conveniently exploit domestic violence to peddle their agenda yet those who question it are the sick ones?

Once Pandora’s Box is opened, there’s very little chance of these government interventions being wound up. Should there be no change for example in rates of domestic violence as a result of barbie dolls being banned, anti-domestic violence crusaders will use this as justification that we are not doing enough and advocate further intervention. Meanwhile, sober-minded politicians will be unwilling to attempt to unwind this increased regulation for fear of being labelled acquiescent to the perpetual problem of domestic violence.

Australia does have a domestic violence problem. But the more our leaders give rise to airy rhetoric advocating large-scale cultural overhaul rather than practical solutions the more the real instances of domestic violence remain unaddressed

Media misleading on corporate tax

Over the course of the last several weeks we have seen a fresh wave of outrage from those who would see businesses pay more tax, citing the ATO release of corporate tax figures as evidence. Unfortunately, the ABC and other media have been misleading with their reporting of these figures, and have not represented the corporate tax payments in a meaningful way.

QANTAS and Virgin have been singled out by the media as large corporations who have paid no tax. In the year 2013-2014, QANTAS’s annual report1 lists their revenue and other income as $15.35bn. Their total income is listed in the ABC transparency report2 as $14.9bn. These are large figures, but do not tell the whole story as to the taxation situation at QANTAS- in 2013-2014 they recorded expenses totalling $19.12bn, meaning a statutory loss before tax of $3.77bn. Similarly, Virgin Australia’s annual report3 for the same year listed a revenue of $4.3bn, yet paid no tax. The reason, not displayed in other media reporting, was that they had a statutory net loss of $355 million.

In Australia, corporate tax is paid out of net income- that is, revenue minus expenditures. Even the largest companies may have a small taxable income, if they are operating with narrow profit margins or are making a loss. The breakdown of different incomes and expenses, and how they relate to tax paid, is shown in the figure below:

This is the reason that the ABC has been so misleading- by providing a comparison between the taxes paid to a financial figure irrelevant to tax owed- the operating revenue. This is shown in the misleading figure4 below:

This graph is technically true, but it omits that the ‘income’ is not the value used to determine corporate tax owed. As with QANTAS and Virgin, no companies with zero taxable income will pay income tax, a key point not mentioned in the ABC graph. A more relevant way to look at the data is to find the tax paid by businesses as a percentage of taxable income. By doing this, we remove businesses which did not make a profit, and so were ineligible to pay corporate tax. This result is shown below, using data taken from the ABC source on tax transparency:

This paints a very different story, with 67% of businesses with a positive taxable income paying over 25% corporate tax (the statutory rate is 30%). Even considering businesses that made a loss, or otherwise had no taxable income, 46.5% of the total paid over 25%, despite over a third being ineligible to do so.

The frequent claims that the biggest companies and mining giants pay little tax couldn’t be furthest from the truth- the 20 companies with the greatest turnovers all paid tax, with an average 24.8% tax paid out of their taxable income. These 20 businesses and their respective tax rates are displayed below.


This is not to say that corporate tax avoidance does not exist, but it is not the magical pudding that the left propose we tap into to make up for the government spending problems. There are legitimate ways through which businesses may reduce their tax payable on their taxable income. The ABC and Triple J discussed some of these, including:

  • Prior year losses (a company can deduct losses from a previous financial year from its taxable income in the current financial year)5
  • Research and development (money spent on R&D earns tax credits)
  • Franking credits (a company can offset its tax liability against the dividends it pays to shareholders)
  • Companies claim depreciation on asset values and some claim research and development tax concessions4
  • Some multinationals have already paid tax on income made overseas and do not have to pay tax on that income again here


The Triple J report identifies profit shifting overseas as a potential area of tax evasion, and cites Apple moving billions in profit to low taxing Ireland over previous years (Apple paid 29.96% tax on their taxable income, but only had a profit of $246m out of $6.1bn). The claim is often made that corporations such as Apple, Microsoft and Google all maintain headquarters in Singapore (statutory corporate tax rate of 17%) solely as a shell- allowing them to profit shift. The latter is true, and companies do gravitate towards low taxing nations- but the headquarters are not shells- they are real establishments that operate in low tax regions. Apple has recently made the move to Singapore, where their Asia-Pacific headquarters is now located6. There is no legal reason that this is not allowable- tax is paid where economic activity is conducted, and so the income may quite legitimately be transferred to the location of the headquarters.

With a statutory tax rate well above the OECD average of 25.3%7, there is a strong incentive for businesses to take their profits overseas to more hospitable taxation climates. If we want to deal with the issues of profit shifting and legitimate tax avoidance, as opposed to the misleading outrage fuelled by the misinterpretation of the ATO data, the first issue to address is this disparity between our corporate tax rate and the rest of the OECD. To remain competitive and to encourage investment in Australia, we should be seeking not to raise the corporate tax, an act which would only deter investment and negatively impact the worker- particularly low skilled labour8– but instead lower it. OECD research has shown that a 1% increase in corporate tax results in a 3.7% decrease in foreign investment, undermining the case for an increased corporate tax rate to generate more revenue9.









































The Paris Climate Accord Won’t Fix Global Warming

John Slater

The climate change agreement just struck in Paris is being described as the most significant step ever taken to solving global warming and ending our reliance on fossil fuels. In truth, it will do no such thing.

Politicians from the 195 countries who took part in the conference are obviously keen to have something to show for the 13 days spent negotiating the supposedly ‘world-changing’ accord.

But if we care more about facts – and indeed, helping the climate – than glib political rhetoric, there’s a few hard truths we should take in before declaring ourselves saviours of Mother Earth.

First, the agreement will not limit the world’s warming to less than 2 degrees. As Bjorn Lomborg has pointed out in the Australian newspaper

It is widely accepted that to keep temperature rises below 2°C, we have to reduce CO2 emissions by 6,000Gt.

The UNFCCC estimates that if every country makes every single promised Paris Treaty carbon cut between 2016 and 2030 to the fullest extent possible and there is no carbon leakage, CO2 emissions will be cut by 56 Gt by 2030.”

Calling this a success is a bit like a marathon runner declaring victory and cracking open a soda a mile out from the starting line.

So what then will today’s ‘historic’ agreement actually do for the planet?

Peer reviewed research indicates that the Paris promises will reduce temperatures by a paltry 0.05 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. And that’s assuming every nation fulfils its commitments. If the success of all countries fulfilling the cuts signed up for in the Kyoto Protocol is anything to go by, it might be a touch optimistic.

Another point habitually ignored by politicians and the media is how much the Paris agreement will cost.

When higher energy costs and slowed economic growth are factored in, peer-reviewed research indicates the cost will exceed a trillion Euros per year up to 2030 (more than $1.5 trillion). To give this figure some context, the vast majority of the one million people killed by Malaria each year could be saved for about $5 billion.

One of the more honest responses has come from the Greens, who have applauded the agreement as a ‘moral victory.’ To the extent that it affords wishful environmentalists the indulgence of feeling like they’re repenting for the original sin of industrialization, that’s all the Paris climate accord really is.

It isn’t a victory for the environment. Put more accurately, it’s a home goal for pretty much anyone who doesn’t want to reap the political benefits of pretending they’re saving the planet.

The key to solving climate change is reducing the cost of renewable energy. So long as wind is less than half as efficient as fossil fuels and solar less than a quarter, the world simply does not possess the many trillions of dollars needed to make the switch.

Anyone who pretends otherwise is just spitting in the wind.

Gillian Triggs Wins Woman of the Year. Satire Announces its Retirement.

Gillian Triggs, President of the Hurt Feelings Human Rights Commission has just been named Daily Life’s Woman of the Year. Triggs is no thrilled to have her activism hard work recognised by one of Australia’s most renowned first-world grievance pulplits  publications. But as the year draws to a close – and it’s been a busy one for the Human Rights Commission – it’s worth recounting some of Triggs’ finest moments in her role as the country’s most heavily subsidized public intellectuals.

– delayed an inquiry into the treatment of children in detention centres by 18 months under the pretense that she didn’t want to politicize the issue. In fact, so strong was Triggs’ regard for keeping her inquiry above the fray of the political cut and thrust, she resisted probing the former government despite the deaths of more then 1200 at sea, instead making the Coalition government her target who had presided over precisely 0 drownings. By the time Triggs’ commenced her all important inquiry, the number of children in detention had more than halved.

– lied about whether she had discussed said inquiry with former government ministers on the public record

– linked the tragic and barbaric executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran at the hands of Indonesia to Australia’s border protection policies

– recommended $350 000 compensation for a refugee held in detention (whose claim to asylum later turned out to be false) who had beaten his wife to death with a bicycle

– Verballed  [and arguably maligned] then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison by claiming he had conceded that “holding children in detention [did] not deter either asylum seekers or people smugglers” when there is absolutely no public record of Morrison ever making such a statement.

– Stated in an official speech that she saw nothing wrong with countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya (some of which continue to execute homosexuals and female rape victims) criticizing Australia’s human rights record.

This somewhat eccentric behaviour for a senior public servant has naturally seen Triggs face her fair share of criticism – much of it in the public square. Others (i.e the ABC and Fairfax) have leapt to her defence by portraying her as a victim, with the government and right-of-centre commentators trying to ‘bully’ her into submission. This fictitious narrative of Triggs as a lone voice of reason and humanity standing up against a mean-minded conservative government explains why Daily Life has nominated Triggs’ as woman of the year more than anything she’s actually done with her office.

There is of course nothing with someone criticizing policies like the Government’s terrorism laws or border protection policies. But the real question as far as Triggs’ is concerned is whether the public should be expected to subsidize one side of the argument. A commitment to ‘human rights’ is the kind of emotionally appealing ideal almost anyone would agree with in the abstract. But what human rights amount to in the context of the competing priorities and trade offs that define the public policy process is another thing entirely. How we reconcile human rights when it comes to things like refugee boat arrivals is the kind of difficult question for which there is no easy answer. To that end, we should ditch the pretence that whatever the Human Rights Commission comes out with should be granted impunity from the court of public opinion. It’s bad enough that taxpayers pay to hear contrarian opinions from public servants when they already pay several hundred politicians six figure salaries to do exactly that. Lets stop pretending that their opinions are so attuned to objective morality that they shouldn’t be open to the same free and frank criticism that everyone else is.

A fundamental right of any democracy worth that label is the ability of citizens to call into question how public money is spent. That goes for ‘Commissions’ whose statutory remit is to produce nothing other than thoughts and ideas on the state of Australian public affairs. It especially goes for six figure-salaried office holders like Triggs’ whose commentary at times has seemed more befitting of a petition-wielding, gum chewing student activist than one of Australia’s most eminent legal scholars.

Terrorists are Real Muslims, and Christians Too

By Kurt Tucker

At the moment I am witnessing a worrying trend in our critique of extremism. From hashtag to hashtag (#YouAintNoMuslimBruv, #IllRideWithYou) it seems to me that the general public, or at least the trendy twitterati, are trying as hard as they can to divorce the religion of Islam from incidents like the Paris Attacks, Sydney Siege, Tube Stabbings or San Bernardino Shooting. They say that these people are not “real Muslims”, that the Qu’ran could never advocate this kind of behaviour, or that the xenophobic far-right and climate change are to blame. They are wrong. Pure and simply.

I’ll give you a few names to work with; Man Monis, Syed Farook, Bilal Hadfi, Dzhokar Tsarnaev. Every single one of these people is a terrorist, a murderer and a Muslim. They committed atrocities in the name of Islam, and no matter what Waleed Aly or his swarms of Facebook followers say – they were one hundred percent zealous, committed and practicing “real Muslims”.

We cannot divorce religious ideology from contemporary terrorism simply because we find it politically or culturally expedient, because we would be lying to ourselves. Hasna Aitboulahcen, the so called “skanky suicide bomber” lauded as “no model Muslim” by the New York Post, is no less a Muslim because she chose to drink alcohol, forgo a hijab or smoke cannabis than any Jew who occasionally partakes in a BLT or any of the millions of Catholics on birth control. By virtue of the fact that Hasna helped commit an act of terrorism in the name of Islam, she is a Muslim and a terrorist – an Islamic terrorist even, and that shouldn’t be too hard to accept.

Let me give a few more examples; Robert Dear, Eric Rudolph, Anders Breivik. Every single one of these people is a terrorist, a murderer, and a Christian. Every single one of these people committed vile actions in the name of their God, and every single one of them are “real Christians”. All of these people have also been recognised at large as terrorists, murderers and most importantly – Christians, albeit a disgraceful ones.

Islamic State, The Army of God, Boko Haram, the Lord’s Resistance Army, al-Nusra or the Ku Klux Klan, all of these groups are made up of violent religious extremists and should be looked upon with as much scorn as the others. The fact is that just as a Syrian expatriate who opens fire into a crowded Parisian restaurant is a terrorist, an extremist and a Muslim – a gunman who attacks a Planned Parenthood centre in Colorado is a terrorist, an extremist, and a Christian.

In fact, I think the only real difference between Christian terrorists and Muslim extremists is that the Christian community seems far more likely to call a spade a spade and condemn the disgusting acts committed in the name of God. Conversely, it seems that Christians, atheists and Muslims alike all rush to distance the religion of Islam from attacks committed in its name – and that is a serious problem.

It is a serious problem because, like in alcoholics anonymous, the first step is admitting you have a problem. I don’t for one second think that Islam as a religion is that problem. All I want or expect is a little bit of honesty from the community at large, both Muslims and non-Muslims. A little recognition that violent extremism is a problem within contemporary Islam – and it is the responsibility of all of us to condemn these disgusting attacks and for Muslims especially to force ideas like those held by jihadists and terrorists out of their mosques and communities, just like we should openly denounce any evil acts committed in the name of a Christian God. All I want and expect is for the Muslim community to recognise that they are the only ones who can stop their children from becoming radicalised, and to not shift blame onto so called Western Islamaphobia for their own failures to enforce peaceful and moral values within their religious teachings.

Christianity and Islam are more similar than dissimilar, and it’s up to us to forge a strong relationship into the future – but first both sides must come to the table with a lot more truth and understanding. We must accept that violent terrorists and jihadists are in fact “real Muslims” and are inspired by the teachings of the Qu’ran or their religious leaders, and only then can we put in motion plans to find a real solution and live free from the threat of sectarian violence in the West.

Kurt Tucker is a student of Public Policy and History at the University of Queensland. He is also a student of middle-eastern languages, a Christian, and an active participant in youth and student politics in Queensland. Twitter: @tucksyy

The idea that climate change threatens Polar Bears with extinction is a lot of hot air

The Polar bear has long been paraded around as the climate lobby’s unofficial mascot. Indeed, images of bears perched on presumably melting chunks of ice have been used to trigger maximum self-loathing by everyone from Greenpeace eco-vigilantes to professional doomsday prophets like Al Gore.

Environmental activists do this because they know animals – especially cute ones – are really good at making people feel awfully guilty. After all, if destroying the habitat of everyone’s favourite white fluffy bear doesn’t make you question the obscene excesses of post-industrial 21st century life, what will?

A small token of their success in this regard is the group ‘Polar Bears International’, a so-called charity which raised more than $1.7 million last year and has over 270 000 likes on Facebook. Polar Bears International’s stated mission is to conserve polar bears and to inspire people to care about our connection to global climate change.

The problem with all this grandstanding is the notion that polar bears are being imperilled by human induced climate change is an utter falsehood.

The world’s polar bear population in the 1950s stood at between 5,000 to 10,000 worldwide. Six decades worth of pumping the atmosphere full of carbon dioxide later, they are at an all time high of 20,000 – 25,000. And that number is predicted to rise steadily over the short and medium term.

But won’t rapidly melting polar ice caps spell the certain death of thousands in the not so distant the future?

One of the leading voices for worldwide climate action; The IPCC itself estimates a sea level rise of between18—59 centimetres by the end of the century. To put that in perspective, if the polar ice caps were to melt in their entirety, the seas would rise by 70m. This gives the lie to the farce peddled by doomsayers that polar bears are at imminent risk of being swallowed into the arctic sea.

Still, if we take the IPCC at its word, climate change induced climate change will no doubt have SOME impact on polar bears in years. The more important question however, is how much?

If every industrialised country implemented the Kyoto protocol and followed it until the year 2100 we’d likely save one polar bear a year.

It is estimated the far less ambitious targets likely to be agreed to at the Paris climate conference will slow warming by 0.05 degrees celcius over the century. Achieving that will cost the world about $1 trillion a year, and will save even fewer bears.

Again, context can be helpful. Humans actually shoot between 300 and 500 polar bears annually.

As it turns out, climate doomsayers were only half fibbing when they claimed humans were the biggest threat to polar bear extinction. They just forgot to mention that the threat is from guns, not coal fired power stations, Range Rovers and climate controlled air conditioning.


Contrary to popular belief, this polar bear is far more likely to meet his demise being shot by a bullet rather than overdosing on carbon dioxide.

Playing loose with the facts to evoke an emotional response from a public ready to applaud almost anything said or done in the name of the environment isn’t a big deal in terms of the larger issue of how humans respond to climate change.

But it does provide some insight into the lengths some in the environmental movement are willing to go to bend public opinion towards their vision of the world. If Polar Bears International were genuinely interested in saving their namesake as opposed to using them as moral blackmail, they would use their $1.7 million lobbying the Canadian government to crack down on illegal hunting.

On one hand, the fact that we can now sleep soundly knowing that the great sin of industrialization is unlikely to cause the annihilation of all life in the Arctic is a good thing. Yet at the same time, the ease with which environmental charlatans have crafted a fashionable fiction out of such a total non-issue hardly inspires confidence in the myriad other doomsday prophecies propagated by climate change fanatics.

Turnbull Pledges $1 billion for Green Moral Vanity

Malcolm Turnbull has just pledged $1 billion at the Paris Climate Conference for helping vulnerable, presumably poor nations cope with the effects of climate change. This forms part of a broader promise by ‘rich nations’ to provide $100 billion a year in ‘climate aid.’

A worthy cause, no?

What Turnbull was less keen to emphasise was that $800 million of the funds would be redirected from the existing foreign aid budget.

That means $800 million less for disaster relief, treatment for preventable but fatal diseases, access to clean drinking water and malnutrition. The list could go on much longer.

How many people died of global warming last year?
Directly, none.
But what about indirectly?
It’s hard to say. Isolating the impact of carbon emissions on natural disasters, bushfires and draughts is notoriously imprecise. The vicissitudes of the earth’s weather have befuddled humans long before multi-lateral climate love-ins became an annual feature of any self-respecting world leader’s travel diary.

It’s a question also made more complex still by the fact that the dominant cause of warming – fossil fuel emissions – directly saves an unknown but without doubt substantial number of people each year simply by providing cheap energy. This saves lives in the immediate sense of powering heating and basic medical treatment but also indirectly insofar as electricity is a basic precondition for economic growth and in turn, rising living standards.

By contrast, Malaria killed a million people last year. It is the single biggest killer of children worldwide and 40% of the world’s population is at risk. What makes this worse is that Malaria remains curable when diagnosed and treated promptly.

We are yet to see what exactly Australia’s $1 billion climate donation will be spent on. But the very notion of giving to climate aid to countries preoccupied with providing electricity, alleviating poverty and fighting airborne diseases smacks of moral exhibitionism.

The actual problems that beset the world’s poor are more urgent than El Ninos and incremental sea level rises. Pretending that we are doing something noble by redirecting foreign aid to so-called ‘climate aid’ shows just how high of a price politicians are willing to pay to satisfy their own moral vanity.

Malcolm Turnbull has said he thinks the promise is a ‘very important statement.’ To the extent that it shows his willingness to play loose with the facts to save face with transnational climate commissars, he is most certainly right.

Climate doomsayers predict that the earth’s warming will increase the spread of diseases like malaria, ebola and turbulosis, especially in the vulnerable region of sub-saharan Africa. Sounds serious. So what should we do?

If we want to help by reducing emissions, the modelling of the EU’s 20/20 climate policy provides some guidance. Modelling suggests the policy costs $250 billion each year and will reduce the earth’s temperature by 0.05C come 2100. According to one peer-reviewed study from the Global Policy forum, the cuts on the table in Paris will reduce warming by 0.306 degrees Fahrenheit for the princely sum of $1 trillion a year.

In comparison, the United Nations Roll Back Malaria Partnership estimates the cost of treating and preventing the vast majority of the world’s Malaria deaths would cost about $4.2 billion a year.

Many will be quick to label this a false comparison on the grounds that the costs of climate change far exceed an uptake in airborne disease. That overlooks the uncompromising reality even if every major country threw itself head first into far-reaching climate action today, the effect on the earth’s temperature come the latter half of the century would still be negligible.

A global agreement to funnel trillions upon trillions into windmills and solar panels over the next few decades would of course be gratifying for politicians keen to add ‘saving the planet’ to their list of career accomplishments. Yet in terms of aiding the world’s benighted, arresting global temperature rises by one degree or even less would amount to precious little. Indeed, it will be cold comfort for the untold millions in Asia and Africa who over the coming years will die premature deaths from preventable disease while living in conditions of destitution and abject misery.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean throwing our hands up and resigning ourselves to the impending doom of an all-but-certain climate apocalypse.

As Bjorn Lomgborg has shown, if we care more about facts than expensive gestures, the best value climate mitigation lies in researching better green energy technology. And as renewables become more cost effective, we’ll start to see them replace traditional sources without having to foist the unnamed billions in costs onto longsuffering taxpayers.

Some will argue that when the stakes are this high, holding out for better renewable technology is a risk not worth taking.

That’s still a more intellectually honest position than claiming untold billions worth of wind farms and ever larger donations to global greenhouse slush funds is needed to save countries where clean drinking water is still a work in progress.

It’s possible that the $1 billion of mostly redirected foreign aid Turnbull has pledged will be spent on the general welfare of countries expected to bear the brunt of climate change induced weather events.

Even still, suggesting that we should spend billions on climate action both at home and abroad for the good of ‘developing countries’ is little more than moral blackmail.

By the same token, playing Lady Bountiful with the taxpayer dime at this weeks conference in Paris deserves to be called out for what it is: a feckless exercise in green-eyed moral vanity.


Hillary Clinton’s Identity Politics and the Implosion of the Left

At the most recent Democratic Debate when asked whether she was a Washington insider Hillary Clinton said ‘I can’t think of anything more of an outsider than a female President.’

That got treated to a round of applause despite being obviously untrue.

What about a Muslim President of the United States? What about a President who is a first generation immigrant? Or what about a Presidential contender who is a non-politician such as the GOP’s Ben Carson and Donald Trump? Or what about the thousands of Americans who are homeless and the prospect of a run for President would never even cross their mind?

If a Republican of Hillary Clinton’s public profile and net worth made that statement they would be lambasted for their insensitivity. Yet when Hillary Clinton says it she is celebrated as part of the fairy-tale that she is any more of a minority than her Republican opponents.

In America women make up 50.4% of the population and are represented by 55% of university enrolments and according to the United States Census Bureau.

However f you break down the conferral of degrees along racial lines according to the U.S. Department of Education, you find that racial minorities are distinctly disadvantaged.

In 2009-10, 72.9% of Bachelor’s degrees were given to white people, compared to 10.3% to African-Americans, 8.8% for Hispanics, 7.3% to Asian/Pacific Islanders  and 0.8% to Native American/Native Alaskans.

If, in each of those ethnic groups, you then separate the awarding of degrees between women and men you find that the percentage of female graduates is 56% for Caucasians, 65.9% for  African-Americans, 60.7% for Hispanics, 54.5% for Asian/Pacific Islanders and 60.7% for Native American/Native Alaskans.

Of course the often quoted statistic is that women earn an average of 22% less than men over the course of a life-time which is at first glance alarming given the higher rates of education across the board.

Yet a look at a 2013 report by the U.S. National Committee on Pay Equity showed that African-American men earned 25% less than Caucasian men and for Hispanic men the disparity was 33%.

For African-American and Hispanic women, the pay gap between them and white men was 36% and 46% respectively.

Even if she was not blessed with superb intelligence and an Ivy league education, Hillary Clinton would still not be an outsider compared to her GOP opponents- Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio who are all from more statistically marginalised groups.

Electing Hillary Clinton as President is not ground-breaking or revolutionary, there is nothing about her career that shows any overcoming of adversity.

In fact a study of Hillary Clinton’s career shows that of a calculated political operative, a devout follower of Saul Alinski’s ‘Rules for Radicals’, she chose against pursuing an academic career under him in order to enter the bar.

Reports of her time on her husband’s campaigns show a person more concerned about his political success than the fidelity of their marriage, with reports of extra-marital affairs both before, during and after his time in the White House.

And her move to the Senate in 2000 coincided nicely with Bill Clinton’s exit from politics, deliberately entering in the state of New York to contrast with her husband’s Arkansas identity.

From Hillary Clinton’s decision not to seek the nomination in 2004 to her distancing herself of her prior stance on Iraq in the 2008 Primary, Clinton’s career has been pre-meditated at every turn.

In 2008 he played down her gender, now it is the focus of her campaign and her policies on equal pay for equal work.

Hillary Clinton didn’t invent the system, nor does she have any interest in changing it, but she has undoubtedly mastered it.

Since losing to Barack Obama in 2008, she has embraced the identity politics that she so conscientiously avoided and as a result paid the price.

When asked which is the real Hillary Clinton, between her in 2008 and her in the current Primary, the answer is both and neither.

Clinton is a political professional and will pivot whichever way her advisers see benefits.

Nor is there anything gutsy about her candidature in the Presidency race.

Where Bill Clinton contested what many deemed to be an unwinnable election and came through as the winner, in the face of adversity from an incumbent President and his own party, Hillary Clinton has sought to be the highest profile candidate and stitch up the contest internally.

Any suggestion that her ascendancy is a generation-defining moment is misguided.

Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is part of the same vapid identity politics that won Obama the Presidency in 2008.

Nearly eight years on and with no solution to the rising debt and the instability in the Middle East, the Democrats are trying to once again pull off the same cheap trick.

The question is whether the people will fall for it twice.

‘Tim O’Hare is a free-lance commentator and blogger on He has been published in Online Opinion, Quadrant and Menzies House. The issues he talks about, among other things, relate to internal party politics, ‘economic policy, political theory, culture wars and media criticism. When not airing himself in writing he performs stand up comedy and has co-written and co-produced two shows, ‘Pending Approval’, in 2014, and ‘Problematic’, in 2015. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Majoring in History) and a Graduate Diploma of Education from the University of Queensland