Wednesday, 20 May 2015

s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act - why it doesn't need to be amended

This is going to be a link-heavy post, but I'll try to summarise the use of each link to save you trolling through hundreds of thousands of words. It may also be a long post, but it is something I feel strongly about. For the purpose of any libel suits, this piece reflects my opinion, and nothing more.

The 'tl;dr' version of this blog post is that s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 does not need to be amended to protect 'free speech' or to enable lively political discussion about unpopular topics. I argue that defence of 'fair comment' which is explicitly stated in s18D of the Act ("Exemptions") is sufficient protection to our freedom of speech, and that we have to balance our freedoms against our right to a peaceful life.

In particular, I argue that Andrew Bolt cannot avail himself of the 'poor me' argument, because he is a crass bigot who benefits from fallacy and sensationalism more than he does from stimulating real meaningful debate.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

A new conversation about refugees

Let's call a spade a spade. The reason this country is 'stopping the boats' is not to stop drownings at sea. You stop drownings at sea by rescuing people. You are not 'saving lives' by turning back the boats, you are sending people back to places where they will die anyway. By stopping people fleeing any way they can, you are simply working for their oppressors.

The reason this country turns back boats is because, at a political level, it doesn't think there are votes in accepting refugees.

Conventions and obligations asides, the simple fact is that the people in power are afraid to accept refugees in any significant number, because it will. not. win. votes.

So let's start a different conversation. We will never develop a truly humanitarian policy by talking about what we SHOULD do, or what we are OBLIGED to do. So let's start a different conversation.

Here's one. What can refugees do for us? If we start looking at the question looking for the benefits, there are many. For a start, it costs tens of thousands to educate and raise children up to the age when they can begin contributing to society. Here is an entire wealth of people who could, with the right support, start working. There are the trained professionals, who are refugees from war, famine, or oppression. There are the men and women who are not afraid of hard work. Why not start a conversation about what benefits there could be from opening our country to people in need?

For another, our population is ageing rapidly. In 40 years, there will be fewer than 3 people working for every pensioner. This is not sustainable.

I don't like these conversations. I don't think we should HAVE to look for benefits to us. But the other way isn't working. Appealing to humanity isn't a strong enough argument to sway those in power. So let's appeal to whatever else might sway them.

Let's start a different conversation.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Is it time to forget Gallipoli and the Anzacs?

A google search for 'Gallipoli' returns the following as the first result (sponsored):

"Gallipoli Collectors Edtn -"

I recently got into trouble for arguing that it was time for Australian's to forget the ANZAC legend, and forget the disaster at Gallipoli, but I want to defend that here.

Why should we remember Gallipoli? The website "" has this to say:
Why does the Nation pause to commemorate what most historians choose to describe as a failure or a sad series of blunders? It is because every person and every nation must, sooner or later, come for the first time to a supreme test of quality; and the result of that test will hearten or dishearten those who come afterwards."
Um, what? We celebrate a failure because we all must come to a 'supreme test of quality'?

The phrase 'quality of our nation' and similar phrases rings empty to me. Not a single man who clambered out of those boats in 1915 is alive today, and to judge the

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Why an Abbott election victory would be good - part 2

On 5 September 2013, I posted this blog post linking to this 'The Vine' post. I can't help thinking that it was somewhat prophetic.

I have been making snarky comments to my friends that the best thing that could have happened at the Libs party meeting this Monday was for Abbott to survive. When he did, I joked that Bill 'short-stuff' Shorten would be cheering.

Because Abbott can't win another election.

The Coalition may be able to scrape another narrow election victory in a few years, but there is just no way that Abbott can remain as leader in the long-run. Moreover, the chances are good that if a competent ALP candidate runs in his seat, we will see another John Howard-style Coalition defeat, with Abbott losing his seat as his party tumbles from power.

And what then?

I certainly wouldn't say that Labor has an easy job at this next election. I don't think the Coalition can win, but I am certain that the ALP can lose. The biggest problem is not the factional in-fighting which has characterised the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era, but the lack of a settled direction.

Bill Shorten certainly isn't helping. His media presence is sadly lacking, to the extent that I didn't really know what he looks like until I googled him this morning.

For your information, this is him. 

Firefly: The good guys are the bad guys

This is, of course, a re-post, which my first post in over 16 months should be.

I love the series 'Firefly' and the follow-up movie 'Serenity', but I find myself agreeing with Misterkristoff in this well-thought-out analysis.

What do you think?

Friday, 27 September 2013

What not to wear on Casual Fridays

It's been two weeks since the LNP took power, and already we are seeing slashes to education, science, arts, and all that is good in our country. Therefore, I think we need some lightness in our day. 

You will recall that I competed in the Young Lawyers Golden Gavel competition, where I was given a topic and 48 hours to prepare a stand-up routine. This year, my topic was... well, not shit. Below is an edited version of the routine I did. Enjoy!

MC: Some say, he has the sense of humour of an under-cooked pavlova, and that he thinks 'yo mama' jokes are the highest form of wit. 
Some say, he once finished a trial by making a pass at the judge... and has the wig to prove it. 
All we know is... he's Barnaby Grant!"

BHG: "I found it somewhat surprising that they asked me to talk to you about fashion. But then, I realised that they had done their research well. After all, my topic today is 'What NOT to wear.' 

If, after this presentation, you wish for more in-depth instruction on what NOT to wear, I invite you to have a look at my Facebook profile. The photos there should be quite instructional!

But there is one thing I think we can all agree on. Whether you have fashion sense, or are legally blind, we all know that Ugg Boots are the worst thing you can be caught wearing. Honestly, they are a crime against fashion and decency!

Ugg boots... not even once. 

Ok, but now for some more sensible advice. There is a long-held view that you should take your cue from your boss. If they are in a suit, you should probably at least be wearing a tie. If they are in board shorts, you should probably still be in pants. 

So I took this advice to heart at my first job. As casual Friday approached, I went and asked what the appropriate dress was, and what they would be wearing. My boss gave me a description, and I decided to dress to match. Things didn't go so well when I turned up in a skirt and heels. 

I therefore learned a valuable lesson from this. The parable SHOULD have been... "dress to match the highest ranked person of the same gender." This went well, until I started working at Christopher Legoe Chambers. [Explanation: google "Heather Stokes"]

But depending on the job, anything pretty much goes, unless A) it includes Ugg Boots, or B) it has ever appeared on the set of the Jersey Shore. 

Remember, 'Friends don't let friends wear ugg-boots.'
Who here has casual clothes days? Anyone? You? You fucking hippie wankers!  Seriously, you are such sheeple! Casual Fridays are a marketing and HR joke, designed to make you THINK you are getting a good deal at your workplace. Now, I would LOVE to have been a fly on the wall at the staff meeting when this was first considered. 

Boss: "Thanks for coming tonight. Look, I have identified an issue with productivity, professionalism, and staff morale. I think I have found a solution though!"
Staffer: "Oh, oh, are you going to pay us more? Raise our salaries above minimum wage?"
Boss: "What? No, fuck that. I'm letting you wear jeans on Fridays!"
Staffer: "So, what, are you  going to make us more professional by letting us wear whatever we want?"
Boss: "Don't be ridiculous. If you aren't dressed appropriately, I'm still firing you."

Seriously, that is totally going to improve morale, you cheap bastard. 

Unfortunately, this reflects a trend in today's society, where it is becoming closer and closer to being acceptable to wear ugg boots. 

I think we can all agree though that Casual Fridays were invented by men, for men. Seriously. Women get to wear whatever they want, any day of the week! But men, we have to dress in exactly the same clothes, day after day. The biggest excitement in the average man's wardrobe is a Star-Wars tie he got for Christmas last year. 

Mind you, if women wanted to lower the necklines, raise the hems, and take a few liberties, I don't think there would be much complaining! So long as they weren't wearing ugg boots. That would just be wrong.

Since we are [were] in the middle of an election, I thought I would take a political angle. Let's look at our candidates. 

Tony Abbott is the paragon of what you shouldn't wear on Casual Fridays. Or ever. Not a week goes by without a new picture of him splashed across the papers wearing speedos, pink boardshorts, or head-to-toe lycra! Please, don't do lycra. Nearly as bad as ugg boots. 

Which leads to the stream-crossing horror of ugg-boots and lycra. Now that is an image you won't get out of your head!

Another lesson from Tony Abbott is never to wear anything with 'sex appeal' unless you want to be hit on by the most appalling 'dad jokes.'

Tony: "Hey Fiona, what has 100 balls and screws old women?"
Fiona: "Sigh. I don't know Tony, what?"
Tony: "Bingo! Ahahaha. Ha. Heh. Hmm.  

Thanks for your exuberance Tony. I wonder if that is an acceptable time to wear Ugg Boots?  Just on a side note, I just heard from James Ashby, who tells me that the Ugg Boot trick didn't stop Mr Slipper!

On the other hand, Ladies, you should never wear anything around KRudd that makes you look remotely like a flight attendant!

But since this battle between TinTin and Titan seems to have caused the nation to subside into a fit of apathy, I thought I should tackle the really big issues. Yes, who has the best policy on TURNING BACK THE UGG BOATS?

I'm voting for Tony Abbott, because he has a six-point plan for turning back the Ugg Boats. No one knows that those points are, but we can be sure it will involve the word 'No' at least 600 times. 

Kevin Rudd tells us that he has a regional solution for turning back the Ugg Boats, but I don't think we can trust him. After all, the man posts photos of twitter of him cutting himself shaving! I don't think we can trust the man to take a hard line on ugg-boots! 

I'm going to take a quick break from my topic to talk about Stephanie Bannister. After all, who wants to oppose the nation of Islam as a country? At least she doesn't have anything against Jews, who "aren't under harrum, they have their own religion that follows Jesus Christ." She also doesnt' like the government remaining at a 5-star budget, when economy is just as good!

Maybe she wears ugg boots. 

But I want to give you one final rule about Casual Fridays, which comes from Peter Dowling. Whether you wear thongs, (footwear or otherwise), jeans, skirts, or ugg boots, I think we can all agree that whatever you wear, you shouldn't be caught wearing a glass of wine on your dick. 

Thank you.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

First impact of Court cost-cutting measures

First, please read this link from (sadly) Adelaide Now. This article first appeared in the Advertiser on 25 September 2013.

As you know, the Court system has been squeezed by budget cuts from all directions.

Magistrate D Whittle SM, the regional manager for the Port Pirie area, told us last month that he was struggling not to cut sitting days at Port Pirie, after a directive to cut the costs of the circuit. Currently, the Court sits for approximately 22 weeks/year at Port Pirie, for 5 days.

Mr Whittle's solution was to make Friday Pre-Trial Conferences occur by video link from Port Adelaide Magistrates Court, which reduced the costs of accomodation for a Magistrate and his staff. Secondly, he changed the Monday sittings (first appearances) to AVL as well, cutting another night from the circuit.

Unfortunately, whilst AVL is now of very high quality, it results in delays whilst matters are called on, and miscommunications between Courtrooms. Also, defendants who are being sentenced have a right to be sentenced in person; the Act specifies that a defendant must be present in Court if he is to be sentenced to a period of imprisonment.

There is a significant detriment to country practitioners, as well. Ending in late 2012, it was common for the Legal Profession in the surrounding areas and the Prosecution Unit to meet with the Magistrate socially after