Guest Post: Money talks, but it also silences

May 30, 2012

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Loki Carbis, who blogs at The Centre Cannot Hold. You can find him on Twitter as @Doc_Loki.

* * * * *

The saying goes that “money talks and bullshit walks”. Maybe that was true once upon a time, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and people still thought Vietnam was a just war. It certainly isn’t true anymore. Oh, money still talks – but quietly, behind closed doors. Bullshit, on the other hand, is the world’s new native tongue.

Take this example, ripped from the headlines this very morning. A blind woman seeking an improvement in the quality of service from Metro Trains – an improvement, I might add, that would consist entirely of them actually living up to their legal obligations not to discriminate against the sight-impaired (an obligation that every organisation must fulfil – it’s not like Metro are being singled out here) can apparently only do so if she will sign a non-disclosure agreement.

This is how Metro Trains treats the sight-impaired: it seeks to make them mute as well.

Money does not just talk, you understand. It also silences.

The claimed reason for this non-disclosure agreement, by the way, is a little thing called “commercial confidentiality”. If you live in the state of Victoria, there’s a good chance you never heard these words before Jeff Kennett became Premier. But their use – indeed, their ubiquity – has risen hand in hand with the rise of privatisation in
this state. Commercial confidentiality is the idea that businesses need to be legally able to protect certain information from getting out in order to remain competitive. And based on the last three decades, it seems that corporations created by privatising government agencies need this protection even more than other corporations.

A brief refresher here: privatisation is the idea that business can run essential services more efficiently than government. It’s an American idea, an aspect of the Free Market economics dogma that arose from the Chicago School of Economics and conquered the world more thoroughly than any invader since Genghis Khan. In a Free Market, we are told – which is one that is free of government interference in economic activity – corporations will always out-perform governments.

There are a number of problems with this idea. The most obvious is that to any corporation, ‘efficiency’ means ‘profitability’ – which is an odd concept to apply to traditionally loss-making public services such as education or medicine. Or public transport.

The case mentioned above shows another great reason why privatisation is doomed to failure: because corporations do not want an end to government interference in the market. They just want an end to interference that doesn’t benefit them.

Returning to commercial confidentiality, the very idea of being able to protect information in this way contradicts the most basic assumptions that the Free Market theory that promotes the idea of privatisation is based upon. If the flow of information is restricted, the market is no longer free. But you won’t hear any corporation complaining about this lack of freedom, because corporations don’t care about the freedom of the market, just of themselves. Commercial confidentiality frees them in a number of ways, but most obviously, it goes a way towards freeing them of potential competitors.

And that’s just using commercial confidentiality as it was intended to be used. The potential for abuse is high, and corporations don’t hesitate for a second to use this legislation to silence their critics – even in a case like the one linked to above, where it’s hard to see how any confidential information could be involved, given that the case concerns publically made announcements. To give another example, commercial confidentiality has also been used to cover up human rights abuses in privatised prisons, both in Australia and overseas – apparently, the profitability of corporations outweighs the human rights of prisoners. Even those in remand centres, who are still
awaiting trial and are legally presumed innocent.

The most common usage of commercial confidentiality, however, is the one seen in this case: using it to cover up management incompetence and to evade accountability.

Aren’t you glad you live in the age of the Free Market?

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What’s good for the goose …

May 23, 2012

Tonight, you’ll probably hear that ‘the government shut down debate on Craig Thomson’ during Question Time today. Certainly, that’s the message Opposition Leader Tony Abbott undoubtedly hopes you’ll believe – that the government is ‘running a protection racket’ and is willing to subvert (or possibly pervert) the processes of Parliament to do it. The Opposition just wants to ‘call the Prime Minister to account’.

But how true is that?

Let’s take a look at what happened today. It’s convoluted, but see if you can follow me here.

At first it was all business as usual. The Opposition uttered dire warnings about the impending ‘carbon tax’ – which, due to its terrifying ability to travel back in time, apparently caused aluminium manufacturer Norsky Hydro to go belly-up. The government responded with Dixers designed to highlight the upcoming ‘clean energy package’ of compensation and the latest OECD report, which shows Australia to have the best economy in the developed world.

Then the questions about Craig Thomson. The usual stuff, which I won’t bother repeating here. It was obvious what was coming.

At 2.45 pm, Abbott sought leave to move that the Prime Minister be forced to explain to the House whether she believed Thomson’s statement, why he was still in Parliament, and a few other things that were lost in the shouting. Refused leave, he tried – for the 56th time in the life of this Parliament – to suspend standing orders, in order to allow him to move the motion just denied.

Still with me?

Leader of the House Anthony Albanese objected, saying that the matter had been referred to the Privileges Committee, and shouldn’t be further debated. The Speaker was willing to allow it, though, so off Abbott went. And immediately ignored the Practice of the House, which makes it clear that he should not make an argument about the substance of his proposed motion, just explain why it was necessary to suspend standing orders.

It’s a fine line, and it’s one that the Opposition cross every chance they get. Of course, whoever’s in the Speaker’s chair pulls them up on it, but it doesn’t stop them. Abbott, in particular, abuses his privileged status as Leader to flout the rules, and today was no exception. He launched into a diatribe against the Prime Minister, demanding, ‘Do you believe Craig Thomson?’, and accused the government (again) of running ‘a protection racket’.

The government was having none of it today. Albanese interrupted to point out what Abbott was doing, and the Speaker cautioned the Opposition Leader before allowing him to continue. Abbott – without apparently blinking – went straight back to his attack. Cue Albanese.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Finally, Albanese moved to gag Abbott. It was a motion the government couldn’t win (since the Independents are notoriously reluctant to support a gag), and didn’t. What it did accomplish was to waste enough time to run out the allotted time for Abbott’s speech.

Up stepped Leader of Opposition Business Christopher Pyne. And it was Groundhog Day. Again. Mercifully, however, Albanese only objected once before moving to gag. Again he was defeated, and again enough time wasted that the SSO attempt fell in a heap. The Prime Minister promptly closed down Question Time at that point, with over half an hour wasted.

But it’s not over.

At that point Abbott asked Deputy Speaker Anna Burke if, from now on, the clock could be stopped for future divisions and Points of Order. The motive was obvious: if the clock was stopped, then the Opposition would have all the allotted time to say their piece. Receiving an unsatisfactory answer (that it would be up to Speaker Peter Slipper, absent from the chamber but still in charge), he tried another tactic.

Given that the Budget had been referred to a Senate committee, was it even possible to ask questions about it? Here he was angling for a ruling that would allow him to argue that if so, he should be able to bring up the Thomson issue as much as he wanted. It was a nonsensical question, and Burke gave it short shrift – of course they could talk about the Budget, but no ruling. Pyne tried to push her, but she stood firm; it was a matter for the Speaker to make rulings.

Then this from Pyne: ‘If you’re loath to make a ruling, and the Opposition disagree with you, then how can we move dissent?’

Anyone else see the veiled threat of a vote of no confidence there?

Finally, the House moved on – nearly an hour after Question Time was derailed by the Opposition – but Abbott had one more card to play, and it was an act of breathtaking chutzpah.

He called a media conference to complain that the government was preventing debate in the House.

This is the man who shut down Question Time at 2.45pm, with over 30 minutes remaining.

This is the man who refused to keep to the rules of debating SSO motions because it was apparently more important to insult the Prime Minister and deliver a soundbite for the evening news than to respect House Practice.

This is the man who led the call for Craig Thomson to ‘explain himself’ to the House by making a statement in Parliament, and got his wish.

This is the man who led the call for that same statement to be referred to the Privileges Committee, because he claimed that Thomson had misled the Parliament.

Complaining that it was the government preventing debate.

Complaining that Thomson got a whole hour, while ‘we didn’t get one minute’.

Complaining that it was ‘a travesty of a Parliament … a travesty of democracy’.

In Australian Rules Football, I think it’s fair to say that the entire Opposition would cop a 50-metre penalty for time-wasting.

Now, obviously the government accomplished some pretty deft procedural manoeuvring today, and Albanese did succeed in derailing the Opposition’s attempt to call out the PM. But are they actually preventing debate?

Let’s see.

They could have prevented Thomson from giving his statement. They didn’t.

They could have refused to answer any questions from media or in Parliament about the issue. They didn’t. In fact, Gillard had answered two question, with supplementaries, just minutes before Abbott attempted to suspend standing orders.

And, when a Matter of Public Importance on the issue was debated, they could have limited the speakers and time allotted to the usual number. They didn’t. In fact, no less than eight speakers addressed the matter, three of whom were from the Opposition. Usually, it’s a maximum of five, taking up an hour.

Can the Opposition really say that they’ve been prevented from speaking on the issue of Craig Thomson’s alleged wrongdoings? Especially when they’ve also virtually monopolised the media coverage on the subject?

Or is it just that they don’t like to face the fact that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander?

If Abbott is really so incensed about the government using procedural tactics to interfere with his own strategies, I have a solution for him. How about both sides enter into a written contract to refrain from doing so in the future? He can promise that Pyne, Bronwyn Bishop and the like don’t repeatedly interrupt the Prime Minister’s answers with spurious Points of Order designed to prevent her from delivering a decent soundbite. He can promise that he won’t use the MPI as a soapbox, and actually use it for its appointed purpose.*

And while he’s at it, he can promise not to try any more end-runs around the judicial process in order to make his political points.

I’m sure the government would be happy to do the same.

Wouldn’t they.

*(If you’re interested, take a look at the guidelines on Matters of Public Importance, and maybe spend a little time thinking about how often the Opposition uses this tactic to gain a free debating platform in the House – and whether their claims satisfy the definition.)


Craig Thomson’s day in kangaroo court

May 21, 2012

Another day, another way in which the state of Australian politics sinks lower and lower. We reached the gutter about the time the Opposition decided that it wasn’t going to grant pairs for the purposes of allowing the Prime Minister to great foreign heads of state, or for a backbencher to be at the bedside of his wife as she delivered their child.

We got to the sewer when allegations of sexual harassment and improper use of funds against Speaker Peter Slipper (and yes, he is still the Speaker, certain commentators’ assertions to the contrary) were capitalised upon by the Coalition. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was only the loudest of his party in denouncing Slipper – and, of course, the government. Slipper was tried and convicted by the Opposition, with the enthusiastic co-operation of the media, and pressured to step down from his position until the matter comes to civil court. That pressure continues even now, and Slipper’s name may well be irrevocably tainted, regardless of the outcome of the civil case.

I’m not quite sure what comes below that. Perhaps the bedrock, because today Parliament treated us to the unedifying spectacle of an MP forced to ‘prove’ his innocence against a series of unsubstantiated, highly questionable allegations ranging from electoral fraud to (apparently) frequenting a brothel.

It was surely a coincidence that this was the same member who’d been denied a pair to be with his wife – the Member for Dobell, Craig Thomson. Persecution? Surely not.

Well, front Parliament Thomson did, and delivered an hour-long speech that started with a few choice quotes from the death threats he’d received. He defended himself from the allegations against him, contained in the Fair Work Australia report into the Health Services Union. He denied any wrongdoing whatsoever, and alleged in turn that he had been deliberately set up by those who were unhappy with the changes he’d made to the way the union operated. He named Marco Bolano, an HSU official, as having threatened to ‘ruin’ his political career by ‘setting him up with hookers’. Of course, he could not prove much of what he asserted was untrue – and acknowledged as much, but he did thoroughly tear apart the FWA report, pointing out how much of it weighed on the uncritical acceptance of testimony by Kathy Jackson and Michael Williamson, both of whom he said opposed him from the beginning.

Thomson reserved his harshest criticism for the Opposition, who he said had stirred up a ‘lynch mob’ against him, and for the media. Nearly in tears, he described the hounding he’d received from the latter, singling out Channel 7, who he said had stationed a crew underneath his bathroom window, while his pregnant wife was showering. (For the record, Channel 7 later issued a statement denying only the presence of any reporters under the window.)

About the Opposition he said this, ‘You have damaged democracy’. I think it’s fair to say, however, that this criticism could be just as easily levelled at the government, who expelled him from the Caucus some weeks ago in an obvious attempt to put him at arms’ length. After months of previous support, it looked like the government was cutting him loose while it still could, and it lent weight to the idea that he was as good as convicted already.

It was clear that Thomson was both furious and deeply upset. And he had every right to be, because between them, the Parliament and the media forced him into actions he should never have had to undertake.

What’s so terrible about making him front Parliament? Oh, just two little things – the presumption of innocence, and the separation of powers. Two little things that underpin our judiciary and our system of government.

All Australians are considered innocent until proven guilty. Thomson has not fronted a court. He has not been charged. As of this writing, there is no indication that he will be charged. A report was handed down by Fair Work Australia, a statutory body with no authority to bring prosecutions or make determinations of law – something it acknowledged in the report – and passed on to other bodies. The NSW police brought no charges. The Australian Electoral Commission found the report in error as regards its assertions of wrongdoing on Thomson’s part. The Victoria police are still looking.

Not that this, apparently, matters to either the Opposition or the media.

Then there’s the matter of separation of powers. This isn’t quite as clear-cut here in Australia as it is places like the United States, but one thing is unequivocal: only courts of law have the power to make findings in law. Even a Federal Commission can only make recommendations – it can’t enforce them. The Parliament’s only judicial power is in the area of contempt of Parliament, and even then the decisions are subject to review by Federal Court.

Thomson is entitled to his day in court, fairly and without prejudice. That idea isn’t good enough for the Opposition, who have kept up consistent pressure to force him to make a statement to Parliament ‘explaining himself’. The Parliament’s reputation was in danger! It was a ‘stinking, putrid mess’! Et cetera. They lost no opportunity to cram it into questions to Ministers, interviews with obliging media, and hijacked Question Time twice in the last sitting alone in an attempt to suspend Standing Orders and drag Thomson to the dock.

They finally got their wish – perhaps just because Thomson couldn’t take it any more. He certainly looked like a man at the end of his tether, and no wonder. He hadn’t been legally represented, or a jury of peers. There was no judge, no sworn testimony, no finding made against him, but he was treated as a convicted criminal making a plea for mercy.

In any court in the country, that would be considered a miscarriage of justice.

But, oh wait – we’re not in a court, are we? Unless it’s a kangaroo court.

Surprise, surprise – they weren’t satisfied with what they heard. As soon as Thomson sat down, Manager of Opposition Business Christopher Pyne was on his feet, wanting the Parliament to ‘take note’ of the statement. Basically, the Opposition wanted another crack at Thomson, and through him, at the government. They tried this no less than three times, and each time failed – twice due to political manoeuvring on the government’s part, and once because the Opposition did not gain an absolute majority.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey pronounced it ‘a moral victory’ in booming tones reminiscent of a revival tent preacher or a priggish schoolmaster. It wasn’t. It wasn’t any kind of victory.

The reputation of the Parliament suffers every day in its present form. Contrary to Abbott’s oft-repeated assertions, that’s not because it’s a minority government. Let’s not forget, after all, that were the Coalition in power it would also constitute a minority government. It’s not suffering because Craig Thomson continues to represent the people of Dobell – he was duly elected, and has done nothing to warrant his being removed from that seat. And it’s certainly not suffering for lack of key legislation passing through both Houses.

It’s suffering because time and again, some of the most fundamental standards of Australian culture and society are flouted.

The courtesy to let someone speak without being shouted down – ignored every Question Time.

The decency to keep personal attacks on someone’s marital status, sexuality, mental health, etc., out of public and Parliamentary discourse – ignored at every possible turn.

The respect for Parliamentary procedure that enables it to function at all – exploited, twisted and sometimes outright dismissed.

The adherence to the principle of the presumption of innocence – Exhibits A and B, Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper.

The acknowledgement that the Parliament is not a court, and not entitled to decide the guilt or innocence of anyone.

The basic standard of behaviour we teach our children – that you do not tell lies. And no, I’m not talking about the ‘carbon tax’ – I’m talking about the Opposition’s willingness to play fast and loose with facts, statistics and law whenever it suits them.

And finally, the integrity not to set out to deliberately ruin a man’s life, his family’s peace of mind and his chances of ever being trusted again just because you think it might win you an election.

Craig Thomson is entitled to every protection under the law. He has been treated shamefully, and even if he is guilty of the allegations made by Fair Work Australia, the chances of an untainted prosecution are close to zero, thanks to the concerted efforts of the Opposition and the media.

I’ve said all that before. I shouldn’t have to keep saying it. No one should.

UPDATE:

Oh, and lest anyone still doesn’t get it …


More on Doctors for the Family and their ‘evidence’

May 14, 2012

Last night I revealed that ‘Doctors for the Family’ were not simply an organisation of health professionals with valid health concerns about same-sex marriage, but rather a religious lobby group who used their qualifications to obscure their real agenda.

That knowledge still, apparently, hasn’t made it to the mainstream media – nor have they bothered to check the sources cited in the letter submitted by the group to the Senate marriage equality enquiry. Now, we can understand that the Herald-Sun might not be too interested in looking closely; it was originally their story, after all. (And readers might be interested to check out the redacted version, which now includes quotes from the AMA and Australian Marriage Equality – described by reporter Brigid O’Connell as ‘gay rights’ activists’. It also includes quotes from Dr Lachlan Dunjeny, though strangely, fails to mention his other crusades.)

But what’s the excuse for no one else doing a bit of elementary research? This isn’t simply some obscure Senate paper; it was splashed all over the media yesterday, becoming the lead story for some news providers. Extraordinary claims were published and re-published, and never challenged.

The story is out now that there is a religious agenda driving Doctors for the Family. But what about the apparently authoritative sources they use to back up their arguments that same-sex marriage (specifically, marriage between two men, which seems to be their major preoccupation)? Who are they?

Let’s take a look.

The major study cited looks, on the face of things, to be above reproach. It was completed by the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney, and only last year. Looks pretty damning. But wait.

The study was commissioned by our old friends the Australian Christian Lobby, and ‘made possible by a generous grant from the Vos Foundation’. It also thanks someone named Antoine Kazzi.

The Vos Foundation are an interesting group. Primarily, they’re land developers – one of those stories where a family business grows from humble beginnings to become incredibly successful. Some of that success finds its way into what they describe as a ‘philanthropy vehicle’. Just so that everyone’s clear on what kind of philanthropy, the Foundation helpfully provides information on their values – and right up front is a profession of faith, followed by ‘family and marriage relationships’.

Antoine Kazzi, whose research was so invaluable, works for the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney – specifically, their Life, Marriage and Family Centre.

The study also thanks Focus on the Family Canada, a multi-national group well-known for their opposition to same-sex relationships and marriage equality. The acknowledgements wind up with statements of gratitude to several people for reading and comments – including Lyle Shelton and Paul O’Rourke from the ACL.

These are clearly partisan individuals and organisations, with a massive agenda to push. Any credible academic study should seek data which is as neutral as possible – or at the very least, balance the contributions with data or statements from opposing views.

The ‘evidence’ on which it relies is sketchy, its bias clear, and its original premise is shaky. It’s the kind of study that would earn an undergraduate student a verbal spanking and a low grade – and it’s certainly not of the standard expected by learned and lauded Professors.

And the unsurprising conclusion? Everything – everything that is wrong with our kids today stems from their not being raised in a two-parent heterosexual marriage environment.

This study is the equivalent of those ‘scientific research papers’ that used to say that smoking cigarettes was not only harmless, but might actually benefit us – you know, the ones that were commissioned and underwritten by tobacco companies. It’s questionable at best, worthless at worst.

Of all the sources cited in Doctors for the Family’s letter, this one is the most credible. The rest are either statistics taken out of context and twisted to serve the agenda, or partisan articles from international groups pushing the same religious agenda – notoriously, the hate-group Mass Resistance. That group is particularly vicious – reading their diatribes against same-sex attracted and transgender people is actually sickening. The Southern Poverty Law Center details some of their more revolting actions, including attempts to criminalise male-male sex as a form of ‘bestiality’ and to plant false allegations that ‘normalising homosexuality’ had led to skyrocketing levels of domestic violence.

And these are the groups on which Doctors for the Family based their submission to the Senate. These are the arguments that the lobby group attempted to give a veneer of respectability through using their professions to obscure their true purpose. And – most importantly – these are the groups that are easily exposed, and who have not been investigated even after the letter was made public.

Part of the media’s job is to challenge those sorts of assertions, so that those of us who work in other sectors can learn the facts behind them. It’s not enough to simply reprint part of a media release and get a comment from the most easily identified opponent to someone’s views. You need to investigate.

The letter from Doctors for the Family is going to the Senate. It will form part of a raft of submissions to an enquiry whose recommendations could have serious ramifications for thousands of Australians, their families and friends.

So-called ‘health organisations’ that cite partisan studies and rely on propaganda from hate-groups should be exposed for what they are, and that knowledge should be shared as widely as possible. The Senate should know what they’re getting.


Who are ‘Doctors for the Family’?

May 13, 2012

Mother’s Day. It’s one of those terribly sentimental holidays where media gush about the importance of giving Mum a day off, department stores hold sales where everything is pink (right down to a cute little pink cordless drill for the ‘Handy-Mum’, god save us), and we all get to see news anchors say hi to their own mothers and make jokes about perhaps not giving them the right present.

This year, though, every potential parent in Australia got a slap in the face, thanks to News Limited. In itself, that’s not so surprising – but what is worrying is that no media organisation seems to have done more than the most rudimentary of investigation into the report.

The Herald-Sun published a letter signed by 150 doctors, who all expressed their concerns that same-sex marriage – oh, sorry, “so-called same-sex marriage” – posed a health risk to any children those couples might parent.

A health risk. That’s right. And just in case we weren’t sure what that might mean, the letter helpfully spelled it out in a footnote telling us about increased rates of HIV among those who engage in male-male sex.

The letter didn’t stop there, though. There is a further concern for children – that there might be terrible health consequences associated with ‘further “normalising” of homosexual behaviour’. Not least of these consequences is that people might be charged with “hate speech” (their quotes) if they speak out against marriage equality (sorry, sorry, “so-called same-sex marriage”, I keep forgetting), or that their kids might be somehow irrevocably damaged by remaining in Health Ed classes where they’re taught that sometimes boys wants to have sex with boys. Quite what that damage might be was left unspecified. Perhaps that they might learn how important safer sex practices are, and that they’re not damned to hell for who they love?

Naturally, other media jumped all over it. The AMA practically fell over themselves to get into the TV studios so they could denounce the letter, and a raft of evidence showing that same-sex parenting was no more or less damaging than any other kind made it to the airwaves. Uncomfortably, one of the signatories was Professor Kuravilla George, who serves as Victoria’s deputy chief psychiatrist. He’s also a board member of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

Oops. How did that guy slip through the cracks? That’s the question everyone’s asking. How did someone with such blinkered – and frankly wrong – views make it into such a sensitive position? And it’s a good question. But there’s more going on here. What we’ve seen is just the surface.

The letter is headed up, ‘Doctors for the Family’. Question is, just who is this organisation?

It takes about five minutes to find out.

Doctors for the Family describes itself in this way:

“There are many organisations in Australia and internationally that support marriage – the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others – as the basis for family and a healthy society.

Doctors for the Family is a supporting medical organisation to highlight the health aspects of marriage and family and ensure a healthy future for our children.

Its purpose is to be a source of information and at times make representation to parliament or appropriate organisations to ensure policies that enhance and preserve the health and future of our nation.”

There’s no wriggle-room there. It’s an organisation that was specifically set up for the sole purpose of pushing a homophobic, anti-marriage equality agenda. It does not claim to make any form of objective analysis, merely to ‘be a source of information’. And there’s no one presented as a front person. Those who wish to contact the organisation are invited to email ‘web@doctors4family.com.au’ as generic a web address as I’ve ever seen. In itself, that should have rung alarm bells with journalists everywhere to start digging.

Go behind the website, however, and you find out what’s really going on here.

Via whois lookup, a moment’s work discovers that the site is owned by a Doctor Lachlan Dunjey, the first signatory on the letter. So who is he? Behold, everyone’s best friend Google.

Lachlan Dunjey just happens to be one of the driving forces behind the Church in Perth – a fundamentalist Christian group. The site helpfully provides us with a list of his articles, and we can see straight away that same-sex marriage is only one of Dunjey’s crusades – and that the ‘Doctors for the Family’ website is only one of his soapboxes. There’s anti-abortion via Choose Life Australia and Conscience in Medicine; so-called ‘personhood’ issues which affect stem cell research, contraception and embryo destruction; anti-Bill of Rights; and euthanasia.

All of these articles are liberally sprinkled with out-of-context quotes from the Bible, pseudo-science, and outright lies. Far from being simply a group of doctors concerned about the health implications of policy, Doctors for the Family is just another front for a fundamentalist Christian group with a hate-mongering agenda.

Here’s a sample, and it shows just where Dunjey is coming from:

“It is one thing to pass a law that permits evil but it is something more to pass a law that compels evil. We have not been here before in a civilised society. Yes, we need to change people’s hearts and minds by bringing them into the Kingdom of God.”

It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Dunjey is spear-heading a fundamentalist Christian attack (complete with recruitment drive) disguised as concern for the health of children – which is utterly reprehensible.

Oh, and best of all? Dunjey is a member of and former Senate candidate for the Christian Democratic Party.

All of that research and reading was accomplished in less than 30 minutes. And that brings up two questions:

1. How many signatories to that Senate submission knew who they were signing up with?

2. Why did no one in the media do even rudimentary research on Doctors for the Family, and find out who was behind it? Dunjey even fronted the media for a very brief soundbite, but nothing was said about his blatant religious agenda.

And here’s a final point – Doctors for the Family clearly attempted to deceive the Senate enquiry by misrepresenting themselves as a ‘health organisation’, rather than a religious group whose arguments are cherry-picked, distorted, and backed up by the flimsiest of ‘evidence’, all operating from a basis of religious dogma rather than science.

That should be the focus for the media, not whether their arguments hold any validity whatsoever.

There’s simply no excuse for letting that slip.

UPDATE:

Nickandrew analysed the signatories of the letter, and discovered around a 35% overlap with those who signed the Liberty of Conscience in Medicine declaration. That particular document affirmed that it had no specific ties to religion or faith, only conscience. Thanks to the efforts of Chrys Stevenson, though, that deception was quickly exposed.

And oh look, here’s our friend Doctor Dunjey again, along nearly 70 doctors who are members or organisers of specifically religious organisations. Many are Catholic, but fundamentalist groups are also well-represented (including – alarmingly – one associated with ‘healing miracles’). Stevenson’s work exposed this organisation as yet another deceptive religious lobby group.

This current issue isn’t an isolated incident … it’s part of a concerted campaign to deceive Parliament in order to push an intolerant and harmful agenda.

It’s time it was thoroughly exposed.

UPDATE, 14/5/12:

After a little more digging, I found out some … interesting information about the so-called ‘evidence’ on which Doctors for the Family relied in their Senate submission. Here’s your link.

You might not be surprised – but I think you will be appalled.


Craig Thomson, political football

May 8, 2012

Fair Work Australia’s report into alleged misuse of funds by the Health Services Union finally made it to the public last night. And there’s some pretty damning stuff in there. FWA found numerous breaches of the union’s rules, not to mention inappropriate spending on everything from chocolates, to escort services, to political campaign funding. The chief culprit, it stated, was MP Craig Thomson, along with former heads Michael Williamson and Kathy Jackson. FWA further recommended civil action be commenced.

Cue the screaming and the howling from the Opposition.

Thomson must resign! Thomson is a criminal! Thomson’s vote is ‘tainted’, and should not be accepted by the Prime Minister! Gillard is ‘clinging to power’ by allowing Thomson’s vote to count! Hang him! Burn him! Tar and feather him and ride him out of Canberra on a rail!

(Well, maybe not that last part – but the sentiment is there.)

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott thundered that this was a ‘stinking, putrid mess’. Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis scolded the government for relying on a tainted vote. On ABC1’s QandA last night, Kelly O’Dwyer opined that the whole affair smacked of a government cover-up. And let’s not forget that old standard – we want an election, right now, dammit!

Meanwhile, Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten has promised to ‘rectify any deficiencies’ in legislation, so that this sort of ‘disturbing’ event can never happen again. Of course, he added quickly, Thomson was entitled to the presumption of innocence, and the union movement just had a few ‘bad apples’, so no one should jump to any conclusions.

Ahem.

I’d like to pause here for a moment, and suggest you ruminate on this portrait of Craig Thomson:

Craig Thomson, Member for Dobell

No, I’m not kidding.

This isn’t about decency, or morals, or integrity. It isn’t about some kind of endemic corruption in ‘the union movement’ (which, contrary to the best propaganda of conservative politics, is not a great monolith of Australia-hating Communists). It’s not about whether the Parliament is cast into disrepute – if it can survive the Whitlam dismissal and the Australian Wheat Board scandal, it can survive one MP under investigation for alleged misuse of funds before he was a Parliamentarian. (After all, it survived investigations into Senators Mal Colston and Mary Jo Fisher, not to mention former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.)

It’s about Thomson being used as a political football.

The government think they’re playing keepings-off with him, by booting him out of the Labor Caucus and sending him to the cross-benches. The Opposition think they’re in the last quarter of a Grand Final, with an open goal in front of them and an imminent election win as the trophy – and Abbott’s lining up with his boot. The media are right there with kick-to-kick commentary.

And the public are falling for it.

Thomson is an innocent man, unless a court of law proves him to be otherwise. Just like Fisher, Colston, Downer, and any number of other MPs who’ve been the subject of investigations, Royal Commissions and trial-by-media. The people of Dobell, who voted for him, have the right to remain represented in the Parliament unless Thomson is proven guilty. The FWA’s report may well represent definitive evidence – but it’s not up to the government, the Opposition, the media, or the so-called ‘Twitterati’ to say so. That’s why we have courts of law. That’s why we have s.44 of the Constitution, which sets out the grounds for disqualification from Parliamentary office, and which clearly shows that Thomson is more than eligible to remain in his seat as matters stand. (And thanks to commenter archiearchiveFCD for the Constitutional reminder.)

But all of this is beside the point. Thomson is a political football, being skilfully deployed to deflect attention from the imminent Budget with its long-promised surplus, the allegations against Speaker Peter Slipper, possible Opposition collusion with staffer James Ashby in those allegations, and the lack of any tangible Opposition policy whatsoever.

I recommend we let the police and the courts do their jobs, and turn off the Sports Channel.


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