Australian democracy and its legal system at work.

It was almost a case of “Watch yourself, sunshine.” with the Supreme Court of Victoria making it quite clear to a group of senior federal ministers just where the lines are drawn and giving three senior ministers a good and fairly public whack around the ears.

Ministers escape contempt charges after ‘unconditional apology’ to Supreme Court

Three Federal ministers Health Minister Greg Hunt, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge and Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar (all lawyers) were hauled before the Supreme Court for speaking out about the leniency of sentences handed down by the Victorian courts on terrorism charges.

Chief Justice Marilyn Warren said the comments were “fundamentally wrong” and that the delay in apologising was “regrettable and aggravated the contempt”.

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Which is code for, “If this matter came before me, you would all be found guilty of contempt.” This would mean they would probably all be disbarred from holding their seats in Parliament.

The Turnbull government currently has a majority of one in the Lower House and this would mean the government would lose its majority and be forced to hold three by-elections which it would probably have a reasonable chance of winning. But trailing 53–47 in the polls, it probably wasn’t a chance that Malcolm Turnbull really wanted to take.

So despite a bit of huffing and puffing from the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister everybody has gone strangely silent on the issue.

Except the three ministers who said, ” We have realised we should have offered an unconditional apology to the court. We offer that apology now and unreservedly withdraw all comments. It’s clear just how inaccurate our understanding was.”

And it was not a case of what Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull argued when he said in defending the three ministers, arguing the courts “cannot be and are not immune from criticism, which may extend to robust observations of a particular decision or penalty”.

What happened here was that the ministers made their commentary while the Supreme Court was considering the case of a specific terrorist and the Ministers’ comments could be seen as an attempt to influence the outcome of the specific trial and this is something that the Chief Justice is rightly sensitive about.

If parliamentarians and the electorate, in general, are unhappy about the sentences that are handed down for terrorist offences then Parliament can change the laws and the courts will then enact those laws.

It is good to know that “robust observations” can be directed at politicians who cannot be and are not immune from criticism” nor from the consequences of their public statements.

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Hanson on autistic kids: Ignorant, ill-informed and ill-considered

Pauline Hanson has provoked a furious reaction with her comment in Parliament that: Students with disabilities should be removed from mainstream classrooms because they are putting a strain on teachers and schools, One Nation senator Pauline Hanson has told Parliament.

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‘‘These kids have a right to an education by all means,’’ Senator Hanson said.

‘‘But if there is a number of them, these children should go into a special classroom and be … given that special attention because most of the time the teachers spend so much time on them.

‘‘They forget about the child who … wants to go ahead [in] leaps and bounds in their education.’’

In particular, she infuriated Labor MP Emma Hussar, whose son is autistic and who must have articulated the views of every parent of an autistic child in Australia.

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“And, I’ve got one thing to say to every single child on the autism spectrum, who is going into a classroom today –  And, that even on the days that are hard – when you’re frustrated, and your disability makes you angry – you are still better than she is on her best day.”

What is so disappointing about Hansen’s comments, apart from the gross insensitivity of what she said, is that she is actually wrong. The Australian education system does have a special system for children with special needs and someone who was voting on education legislation should be aware of this.

In Victoria, these schools are called Special Developmental Schools and they cater for children for whom mainstream schools are just a bridge too far. But for many children, some of whom may be autistic, education in mainstream schools may be the best option.

The other person to cover himself with glory during this debate was good old Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm who expressed concern that spending on education had been rising over the last decade.

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David Leyonhjelm: More Guns, less education?

Patriotism and the last refuge of the (sportingly geriatric) scoundrel

Recently, I have been posting exultant blogs about New Zealand sporting triumphs and I have been reflecting on why I do this.

I have not lived in  New Zealand for 40 years, I now have dual citzenship and I probably identify more as an Australian…. but not when it comes to NZ sporting victories which still fill me was an inordinate and quite incomprehensible pride.

Some are relatively minor:  The Under-20 All Blacks winning the world championship crushing England 64-17.

Who cares? Only a small proportion of the world understands or recognises rugby as a sport.  Few comprehend its subtle beauties.

But for those who do, New Zealand is the undisputed champion and maintaining their position is an important part of the national psyche.

Others are currently major and anticipatory:  Team New Zealand goes 4-0 up in the America’s Cup and now has a chance of defeating the best in the world in one of the most technologically advanced and demanding sports that man can think up.

Yeah, I know we’re not there yet. And everyone in New Zealand remembers the last one  when the Kiwis went from 8-1 up to 9-8 down in what must have been one of the greatest reversals in yachting history.

But despite the fact we’ve got Emirates and Nespresso money (and presumably George Clooney will tag along if we win), it is still a bunch of Kiwi blokes taking on the most technologically advanced nation and one of the richest blokes in the world.

Now, with the yachting, if you can call it that, the connection to New Zealand is getting increasingly tenuous.  But in New Zealand, and everywhere where there is an expatriate New Zealander, this will be seen as a great New Zealand victory.

This is probably an indication that globalisation, or more correctly an understanding of it, has not yet reached the Shaky Isles.  We are already basking in the glory.

And this is where Rugby is so important to New Zealanders. They probably accept that yachting is dependent on hundreds of millions of dollars from Emirates and global sponsors but they also like to think that there is a certain amount of Kiwi know-how that derives from P class yachting, the Waitemata Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf that contributes to this particular victory.

But it is probably a bit tenuous.

But rugby is different.

Everybody in New Zealand has played rugby. Nowadays, both boys and girls.

When girls couldn’t play, families were involved. So everybody really understands what it is like to pull on the boots and run onto the field or at least to stand on the sideline, whether it is for the Under-10 Ponsonby side or for the All Blacks. There is actually no difference. The experience is the same

This is All Black great Joe Stanley.

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I taught him at Bayfield  Primary School in the early 1960s. I also coached him in the school rugby and softball teams. I think Joe would say I taught him everything he knows about metaphysical poetry.

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That’s Joe third from the right in the back row.

The point is that in New Zealand with a population of just 4 million everybody probably knows an All Black, some of us got to coach one of them.  So when they run on the field, we all feel that in some way we made a contribution and get some vicarious pleasure in watching them play and win.

There is something else as well. And it’s even more ridiculous. With each All Black victory, the merits and achievements of our own rugby careers are somehow enhanced, made all the greater. We, the bedrock of New Zealand rugby, growing greater year by year.

 

 

 

British Lions score confidence–boosting win over Maori All Blacks

It was one they had to win.  And they did 32 -10. Mainly due to the help of Lee Halfpenny who kicked 20 points plus they were awarded a penalty try worth seven.

Their only try coming from hard-running Maro Itoje

Coach Warren Gatland must be worried about the team’s inability to score tries. And they have a way to go before they are in double figures on that count.

By contrast, the All Blacks ran in 12 tries against Samoa.  The game couldn’t be considered more than a training run. But it went well.  The opposition has to run the ball back to the halfway line for the kick-off pretty quickly for you to run in 12 tries in one game.

The Lions face the Chiefs midweek before the First Test against All Blacks over the weekend.  Things are starting to get to the pointy end.

British Lions go 2 – 2 with loss to Highlanders

It was by the narrowest of margins,  23 – 22, but a loss nonetheless. Now, with four matches played the assessment must be forming that this team which is the best that can be drawn from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales is probably only as good as an average Super Rugby team in New Zealand. That’s not to say that Super in New Zealand isn’t good.  This touring team is unique and world rugby, nor the team draws on four international teams for its playing side.

There were some promising signs in this performance. The Lions are starting to score tries. Not a lot, but some.

But they must be worried at the difficulties they have containing players such as winger Waisake Naholo, 1.86m and 96 kg, arguably the most lethal finisher in world rugby, but not certain starting position in the All Blacks XV.

The Lions will be hoping for a strong showing against the New Zealand Maoris. Now that will be haka worth watching.

The Finkel report is out and the fairies at the bottom of the garden are dancing.

  • Tasmanian Liberal senator Eric Abetz is accusing the chief scientist of using “creative assumptions” to come up with his recommendations for a CET.
  • Western Sydney Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly said he would not support a benchmark emission target of 0.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, which is the level Dr Finkel has used in his report to model economic effects.
  • Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on Friday went on the record arguing for any CET to allow coal-fired power stations to be built.

 

Eric Abetz was a lawyer before entering Parliament, Joyce was an accountant, Craig Kelly was a small businessman and ex-rugby player.  And, naturally enough all  are  self-appointed experts on climate science.

Dr Alan Finkel is Australia’s eighth Chief Scientist, an entrepreneur, engineer, neuroscientist and educator. He is an expert and was appointed by the government to head up the review of climate change.  It is a reasonable assumption that he knows what he’s talking about and with his background has approached the topic with a discipline that is rare in most of politicians.

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But now members the government are saying he doesn’t  know what he was talking about.

Barnaby Joyce is actually suggesting that any plans for clean energy in Australia should include building new coal mines.

Perhaps it’s time that we issued licenses to parliamentarians that allowed them to speak on topics on which they were qualified rather like having portfolios. That would mean that Craig Kelly was allowed to speak on matters like rugby and small business. Barnaby Joyce could speak on matters that are affected Tamworth.

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And Eric could speak on matters that affected, well, we might have to work on that one.

British Lions score important win over the Crusaders

It was a game the Lions had to win.  They are now 2-1 up with a victory over the top New Zealand Super Rugby side the Crusaders, a side whose scrum boasted a tight five of All Black standard. Owen Farrell was in fine form, kicking four penalty goals.

Which was good news and bad news.   It was hardly a convincing victory but as Sean Fitzpatrick famously said after a pretty ordinary All Black victory “It’s a win, and we’ll take it.”

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The Lions have only scored two tries in three games and this must be a concern for the coaching staff.  Promising moves are not finished off, passes are fumbled crucial moments. In contrast, their line has been crossed four times.

Nonetheless,  they will be greatly heartened by this victory and if they can secure two more victories against the Highlanders and the New Zealand Maoris, we will go into the test matches in a very strong position.  Without those wins and points from tries rather than penalty goals, they will struggle against the  to national side.