August 31, 2019

Horse 2588 - Proroguing Parliament, or, Why You Shouldn't Let Muppets Make A Lasagne

Now that we've all had a bit of time to stop running from side to side like brainless sheep, and now that the level of outrage has been tempered by the passage of time, I think that it is worth the effort to pause and consider what exactly Boris Johnson has done in asking for the House of Commons to be prorogued.
Despite most of the media in the United Kingdom crying blue murder, I actually think that proroguing the parliament is a semi sensible idea. Clearly the current procedure of yelling indiscriminately in all directions isn't working and the deadline of the 31st of October, which itself is an extension of time, will be here quicker than it takes to muster the 326 votes needed for parliament to pass a resolution to say 'Jack Robinson'. 

How did we get here? Asking the question of Brexit to the Great British public was like posing the question 'would you like a lasagne?' without having any idea of how to make a lasagne. After seeing the advert on the side of a bus and having a drunken night with a racist friend who had nine pints before swanning off to his racist friend so they could smoke cigars, the Great British public said 'yes, I would like to have a lasagne' before opening the packet and realising that all you get are a few sheets of uncooked pasta and a set of directions in French that have been covered over with the store's own barcode. Tear off the barcode and you immediately realise that you have no idea what you are doing and that you have never made a lasagne before.
Nobody could decide if they wanted a hard lasagne or a soft lasagne and after spending considerable time adding layers of potato, horse meat, marshmallows and arguing about what a lasagne is, the result will be by default, a hard lasagne with layers upon layers of inedible and unpalatable consequences which the Great British public will have to eat. 
Boris Johnson who is now the third chef in Hell's Kitchen, realised the terrible horror which has come and has asked the Queen to shut down the kitchen, before the timer goes off and the half-baked lasagne of horror is fully baked. 

On any given day where there are Prime Minister's Questions, the members of the House of Commons will be looking at what they need to do in order to win control of the narrative which appears in the House in the afternoon and the news in the evening. PMQs devolved into theatre of the absurd some time ago, where the aim is nothing more than scoring a point on the enemy. In contrast, actual legislative sessions are mostly as dull as dish water and are mechanical and procedural in nature.
By proroguing parliament, those days of unproductive pugilism are swept off of the calendar; which means that the more difficult job of negotiating with people can happen.
In our Muppet Theatre, Boris Johnson is Fozzie Bear who ended up becoming MC after Kermit quit and Abby Kadaby realised that she was a puppet and couldn't really do magic. By closing the front of the house and drawing the curtain, the Muppets like Scooter, Sam, and Gonzo, will be able to have their arguments without the audience looking on. They won't have to endure comments from the peanut gallery, if nobody can see what's happening.

Naturally, opinions have been flying about at tremendous speeds while all of the Muppets in the House of Commons go into a flap about the impending inedible lasagne deadline. Here are but two of them:

It is not often that I find myself agreeing with Jacob Rees-Mogg (Minister for the 1920s) but some of what he says here is true. Proroguing parliament is a completely legal procedure; which has happened in a completely legal manner. If you actually look at what happened here, Boris Johnson didn't prorogue the parliament either. The Queen did.

People tend to forget that it is the Queen who owns the parliament and it is the Queen who appoints all of the members of the executive (including the Prime Minister), and it is the Queen who appoints the times that the parliament sits and has the power to both prorogue and dissolve parliament. Boris Johnson as the head of Her Majesty's Government, had to go to the Queen to ask her to prorogue the parliament and she could have just as easily said 'no'.

If that sounds like an archaic system, bear in mind that in Australia, Section 5 of the Constitution explicitly provides those same powers to the Governor General. 

The Governor-General may appoint such times for holding the sessions of the Parliament as he thinks fit, and may also from time to time, by Proclamation or otherwise, prorogue the Parliament, and may in like manner dissolve the House of Representatives.
- Section 5, Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (Imp)

Now whatever else Jacob Rees-Mogg has to say here is quite a bit of rubbish but at least on this point, he is spot on. Controversies aside, all of the moral outrage and flapdoodling about the lasagne is unnecessary. Proroguing the parliament sounds like the least worst option under the circumstances.

Nicola Sturgeon is also completely right in her assessment that this is a mockery of democracy. She should also be aware that what has happened, is precisely because democracy as a process, hasn't produced a result.

David Cameron probably called the Brexit referendum with the expectation that it would fall over. It did not. He resigned and Teresa May took over the job at Number Ten after having campaigned for Remain. She found the problem to be as intractable as Cameron had found it and called an election to sure up support and create some kind of solution to the Brexit problem. It did not. Three years after the show began, after much flailing, no solution has been found.

The problem that Sturgeon has is that she can't muster the numbers to force a second referendum. Likewise, the problem that Jeremy Corbyn has is that he also can't muster the numbers to force a second referendum. He also has the problem that members of his own party might also vote against it.
Yet all of this is the result of democracy as it is currently constituted in the UK, functioning properly. The people voted to leave the EU and the people voted to return a Tory Government. Granted that nobody voted for Boris Johnson as Prime Minister but then again, in a Westminster parliament the people never vote for the Prime Minister ever. The Prime Minister is the head of the government, which is the party who controls the cheque book of the Treasury. Government is formed from a majority of the members on the floor of the House of Commons and technically they don't even need to come from the House of Commons.

At the end of all of this, we're left with a situation which is not particularly brilliant but not particularly terrible either. Parliament is set to be recalled before the October 31 deadline; so it's not like this is an act of a tyranny, as per Charles the First. The Queen was asked by the parliament to prorogue it and gave assent to that request.
For everything that this is, it isn't a coup, it isn't a denial of democracy, and it isn't an act by the monarch imposing power. This is the last attempt to thrash out something before the UK is forced to eat the lasagne that it made and which was put together and cooked by a bunch of Muppets. And if you think that that is one of the most ill-conceived metaphors in the history of the English language, at least it's better than Brexit. Brexit means Brexit, whatever that is.

August 29, 2019

Horse 2587 - We Absolutely Support The Right To Protest; Except When We Don't
Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner says, "the people of Brisbane are fed up with it".
"Blocking the traffic, causing disruption as they are deliberately trying to do repeatedly in the city.
These aren't just ordinary environmentalists here. These are right at the extreme fringe, willing to take extreme measures."

Mayor Schrinner tells Alan Jones the proposed laws have nothing to do with stopping free speech.
"We absolutely support the right to protest; it's when they do it and how they do it which is important here."

Alan says people "have had a gutful".
"The Brisbane CBD is being held to ransom by a group of reckless protesters."
- The Alan Jones Show, 4BC, 28th Aug 2019

The protests in the CBD of Brisbane yesterday, were against political corruption (which if you believe 4BC, exists on only one side of the political divide), and climate change. Both of these are serious and rational complaints, given that in the state of Queensland, private mining companies have actually bankrupted the local Aboriginal and First Peoples groups and been helped in their efforts by complicit State and Federal Governments.
This is in addition to the fact that as a nation, our Prime Minister officially told Pacific Island Nations to get stuffed and if they don't like it then that's just too bad, but at least their citizens can get jobs as fruit pickers in Australia once all of their islands are underwater.
I would not be surprised if someone was taking a bung or a kickback, and I can almost guarantee that someone from the Federal and State Government will end up on the board of directors of one of these mining companies; which will totally not in any way shape or form be corrupt because the Federal also refuses to set up a Federal ICAC.

It should be of no surprise that there are people who are jolly well annoyed at the decisions of government. When you have journalists being tried and put in prison for reporting what governments have done, then it looks like governments are engaging in corruption. It is the sort of thing that you would expect to see in authoritarian regimes; not in supposedly liberal democracies who purport to uphold the rule of law.
Normally you would expect media organisations to want to support the public's right to protest and hold their governments to account but when they are singing the same tune, something is suspicious.

I always find it interesting that the most vociferous people who want to talk about the importance of the right to free speech, are often also the same people who want to curtail the right to free speech to other people. It is almost as if the words which are said in support of the right to free speech, are said by people who do not bother to think through the implications of what they have said.
It is like telling people to blow their own trumpet, which they then proceed to do but have never taken up trumpet lessons. The most skilled trumpet players go on to produce and play complex pieces of jazz music but those with no interest in learning the skills of the craft, may as well be playing a vuvuzela. You can get a lot of noise out of a vuvuzela but as far as I am aware, there is no Concerto No.1 In The Key Of Z.
The Alan Jones Radio Show on 2GB and 4BC, is the radio equivalent of a vuvuzela. It doesn't matter which edition of the show you are listening to, the 'tune' is always the same. The nearest equivalent that I can think of in arts or literature, is The Screaming Clown Show in Ray Bradbury's 'Farenheit 451'. It is three hours of noise and cacophony, dressed up as political commentary, which must be by design, an attempt by the broadcaster to expel all rational thought from its listenership; which it does oh so very well.

Actually when you scratch the surface even just a little bit, what you find is that commercial interests are the ones who provide the song sheets for vuvuzela players like Alan Jones. Remember, only last week he was calling for someone to stuff a sock down the throat of the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.  He remained staunchly unrepentant until people complained to the advertisers on his program and the threat of monetary withdrawal was made. Although having said that, this is hardly new territory for Alan Jones, who most famously said that Prime Minister Julia Gillard's father died of shame and that she should be put into a hession sack and thrown out to sea.

By the time I was forced to endure the Alan Jones Radio Show (because it was on the loudspeakers of the bus that I happened to be on), the Lord Mayor of Brisbane was already having a whinge about people protesting in the city. This is an amazingly useful tactic.
If you can paint people who are rightly annoyed as 'extremists' as the Lord Mayor did, you can then pass laws in the name of public order and security. The actual truth that the people in the protests were armed with nothing more than umbrellas, bits of cardboard, and megaphones, is conveniently and deliberately ignored.
Of course you have a willing participant in the conspiracy in the form of an agreeable radio host, who can play up for a mostly older audience, who by the way would have never been involved in protests in the days of their own youth and therefore have no sympathy. What they have are votes; which can be translated into legislative power.
Both the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and the radio host have to be careful to say that they believe in the right to free speech though, because legislative limits upon free speech can have adverse effects on their own free speech; which is pretty important for someone in the media, especially someone like Alan Jones who repeatedly breaks the bounds of civility.

There's also an acute degree of hypocrisy from Alan Jones here. He would rather that protests happen on the weekend when they aren't as disruptive to business. He is of course entirely aware that protesting on the weekend would have no effect on the decisions of business or government, when none of them are at work.
There's also the somewhat problematic fact that last week he stated that he absolutely supported the rights of the people of Hong Kong to protest against the Chinese Government. Apparently it is perfectly fine for people to protest against an economically leftist government and in numbers which are an order of magnitude larger but not fine for people to protest against an economically rightist government.

For me though, there are two big issues here. The first is that I believe in the right to protest and I think that it is backed up by a bank of established law.
Lange vs The ABC (1997), confirms that there is an implied right of political communication in the Constitution. Various traffic laws, consistently confirm that pedestrians have the right of way on roads in all circumstances except for motorways where they are not allowed to be on. The right to petition the King and by extension the Crown, has been in existence since the Bill Of Rights Act 1689. I also think that the right to freedom of assembly and free speech which are both contained within the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights (1948), should be relied upon as a common law defence.
All of this means to say that both Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and Alan Jones need to stand down, put up and shut up. The people have a set of grievances and clearly they aren't going anywhere until they are heard.

My second issue here is that I actually sort of agree with the Lord Mayor of Brisbane but not in the way you'd expect. While I believe in the right to free speech and assembly, I don't believe in the effectiveness of it. Actual legislative and policy change happens on the floor of parliaments and in the board rooms of companies; so I think that protesting on the streets is for the most part, useless.
The people who decide on policy decisions, clearly do not give a rip about a bunch of protesters outside their doors. If you remember the Occupy movement of 2011, the actual legislative effectiveness and the number of prosecutions that happened in the wake of that, was nil. If we look to our own history, the grand labour marches of the 1890s, actually achieved nothing and it wasn't until labour properly organised into a political party that real change happened.

To that end, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane has accidentally spoken truth here. Protesting on the streets of Brisbane is disruptive but ultimately pointless and he knows it. Alan Jones gets to do some grandstanding of his own, safe in the knowledge that his mates who run the cheque books of power and have the ears of the people who wield it, have far more say in what actually happens and the decisions which are made, than all the protesters put together. They can jump up and down until they're blue in the face but the unspoken truth of this is that the people who are actually right at the extreme fringe and willing to take extreme measures, such as sending journalists to prison, bankrupting indigenous peoples in the name of profits, literally leaving refugees on islands to die, and having the actual power to punish free speech, are the friends of the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and Alan Jones.

Yes Alan, the people "have had a gutful"; that's why they on the streets.
Yes Alan "The Brisbane CBD is being held to ransom by a group of reckless protesters" and they're all indoors. One them is named Alan Jones.

August 21, 2019

Horse 2586 - Buying Greenland Is Not A Completely Daft Idea (Just Mostly Daft)

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that President Donald Trump had floated the idea of purchasing Greenland as a national security policy. Seeing as the media either sorts itself into the camp that everything that he says must be idiotic (which to be fair, it frequently is), or that he is the new saviour of America, the commentary on this tended to mostly ignore the whyfor of the idea.
My initial reaction was that maybe Mr Trump is not as barking mad as the media likes to portray him and that while it is utterly impractical and infeasible, it is not altogether stupid.

The idea that you can simply buy territory is far from a new concept. The terms of the Act Of Union 1707 which formally joined the two previously separate kingdoms of England and Scotland involved the new union assuming the debts of Scotland. The United States did a similar thing when arguing out the terms of the Constitution; where the new US Treasury assumed some 75 millions of dollars that the states had incurred while fighting the war of Independence.
Those don't really count though as the smaller territories in having their debts assumed were consumed by the larger.

The first real major purchase of territory which is relevant to this case is the Louisiana Purchase. The US Government bought a giant chunk of the North American continent for fifteen million dollars; with the value of the land in the purchase works out to be about three cents per acre. Admittedly it made no reference to the people already living there, be they native Americans or descendants of the Spanish but that runs as a common thread throughout all of this kind of land acquisition. Remember, Britain showed up unannounced in Australia one day, stuck a flag in the dirt and yelled 'Mine!' and then legally declared that there was nobody in Australia at all.

The second major purchase of land that is relevant to this case is the US Government's purchase of Alaska. It was purchased for $7.2 million in 1867 from what was then Imperial Russia. At the time it was considered mostly useless and the purchase caused a lot of the Russian population to leave. It wasn't until the 1890s and the Klondike gold rush that Alaska finally proved to be of some net worth to the United States. Again, no thought whatsoever was given to what the people living there thought about it.

I don't find the idea of the United States buying territory to be that much of a daft idea. The British Empire had leases on places like Singapore and Hong Kong; so the concept of stumping up cash for country sized bits of land, isn't even uniquely an American idea.
What's different is that President Donald Trump said it and he is somewhat renowned for ill-conceived concepts and half baked ideas. Given that he was a real estate man, perhaps it's not that surprising that he sees the world in terms of territories to be bought and sold. Which in all honesty is not incredibly daft either.

The Chinese Government through its 'Belt And Road' policy, is embarking on exactly the same kind of mission as the various colonial joint-stock companies did, four hundred years ago. Companies like the Dutch East India Company, the British East India Company, and the British East and West Africa Companies, were all about the grand project of securing the equivalent of empire through the vehicle of business.
In Greenland, Chinese Government projects to build expressways and a railway in Greenland were both rejected; but had they gone ahead, then that that would given China considerable influence over land which is only about 2000 miles away from the US Border. The United States already has Air Force bases in Greenland and perhaps Mr Trump is justifiably worried about the current geopolitical dance that he happens to find himself in.
Mr Trump, who is ostensibly a property magnate and not really a politician, tends to see the world in terms of what kind of deals can be wrangled; so viewing the problem of Greenland as a property problem, which can be solved by simple transaction, is not as daft as it first sounds, neither is it daft with respect to history.

What is daft is the idea that you think you can simply move in and buy up a semi-autonomous land and expect the world to be fine with it. Maybe he doesn't though.
Greenland as a semi-autonomous possession of Denmark, kind of resents Danish control over them but they very much like the access to the European Union and everything that comes with that. Assuming that Mr Trump was actually successful in wrangling Greenland out of Denmark's hands, then as American citizens, the people of Greenland wouldn't even have freedom of movement and employment in the EU; which is an unmitigated disaster. In addition to that, they would lose things like basic healthcare coverage through the Danish universal health care system; so as far as the people of Greenland are concerned, there are less than zero benefits in becoming a possession of the American Empire.

Yes, I use that term deliberately. The American Empire, which doesn't like to tell the truth to itself, has in the past included the Philippines, and currently includes places like Guam, American Samoa, and the curious case of Puerto Rico which has been in Constitutional limbo since the Insular Cases of 1917. Thanks to the Guano Islands Act, Puerto Rico has less Constitutional protection than uninhabited islands like Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific.
If Greenland was to be purchased, then it would join Puerto Rico as an organized unincorporated territory; which might entitle them to a single lonely member of the House of Representatives but with no voting power, zero Senators, and zero votes in the Electoral College which votes for the president. Maybe they wouldn't be subject to US Federal taxation?

On ABC News Radio, I heard the Prime Minister of Greenland explain that if Greenland was going to be sold to anyone then he would prefer the buyer to be either Iceland or Canada. He also said that they would prefer to be an independent nation before they were a 'vassal state' of America.

That really underlines why Mr Trump's idea is daft. Unlike Hong Kong where the expiration of the 99 year lease meant that it was handed back to China (albeit a twice removed China from the one that had conceded the lease in 1898), Greenland has never ever even remotely been American in spirit. Iceland is perhaps a better fit because they are both Nordic and Canada at least legislatively understands the plight of first peoples but the United States in all its empire building has never been cognizant of the wishes of the people it has conquered.

Which makes me wonder if Mr Trump's idea was just him spitballing an idea and it happened to get out of hand because the media in its quest to find news, doesn't actually bother to see if its newsworthy. He may be sitting in the most powerful office in the world but he's still a person with daft ideas like the rest of us. I think that this was intellectual equivalent of doodling on a piece of paper, and under normal circumstances it would have been consigned to the dustbin; as indeed it will.

August 15, 2019

Horse 2585 - Wally Socks

It must be said that I have been scientifically bred over many many generations, to live at the bottom of a peat bog in England, and to die of cholera at age 17. The fact that I have now made it through 4 decades of being alive, is an anomaly and I am sure that the Federal Government of Australia is doing its level best to dismantle the welfare state by the time I get to be old, so that I will die of cholera at age 77; just as nature intended.

I have one of those slight builds which immediately makes everyone think that I have some sort of disease; which is unfortunate to say the least and it was deeply unpleasant to be on the other end of people's unfounded scorn as kid. As such I have rather skinny ankles and probably an undiagnosed case of Raynaud syndrome; so the best way to manage it is to stay indoors in the warm with a nice cup of tea.
I frequently experience a kind of burning sensation in my fingertips, or alternatively a sort of sensation which feels like my feet are wet, even though they are perfectly dry. As such, I like wearing doubled socks in the winter and I probably should consider wearing decent gloves for going out in the cold mornings when the world is still covered in ice.

I recently bought some new football socks (for playing football in) and immediately I was reminded by the cultural phenomenon that is "Where's Wally?"

"Where's Wally?" is a British series of children's puzzle books for want of a better word, in which we're given insanely complex and detailed double-page spread pictures of hundreds of people in which the reader is asked to find the eponymous Wally, sometimes his friend Wenda, his dog Woof, a Wizard called Whitebeard, and presumably his nemesis called Odlaw. The pages often contain hundreds of red (and white) herrings which are designed to throw the reader off the scent (presumably with the smell of herring).

Living in Australia though, Wally is a name for someone who is a bit of a doofus. A Wally is a kinder name than say Nigel No-Friends, Billy No-Mates, Blind Freddy who apparently can see everything, and Bob who is your uncle.
I don't really want to rag on Wally though. He seems like a nice chap.

Wally wears a red and white striped long sleeve shirt, a red and white pom-pom beanie, blue jeans, brown shoes and sometimes carries either a walking stick and or a satchel. That seems to me to be the uniform of someone going to a football match. I am red/green colourblind, so equally as far as I'm concerned, Wally could just be a particularly enthusiastic Celtic fan. He's probably not though as he looks far too happy.

Given that Where's Wally's author and illustrator is Martin Handford who is English, there is a reasonable likelihood that Wally is a Doncaster Rovers FC fan. If you saw a bunch of people walking down the street in beanies and red and white hooped football kits, then you'd probably think that it was a Saturday afternoon and that the Rovers had a home fixture at Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Finding Wally in a seat of Rovers' fans at Keepmoat Stadium would be an insanely difficult task.

That explains why Wenda is also dressed in red and white hoops and why Wally's dog Woof is as well. They're always reasonably happy looking; probably because they're all going off to the football together. As for the Wizard Whitebeard, he's probably some rusted on eccentric fan who remembers imagined glory days, despite the fact that Doncaster Rovers have never got any higher than the second tier of English football after they'd won the 2012–13 League One title but were swiftly relegated from the Football League Championship a season later. They did however win the Football League Trophy in 2007 so I suppose that's something.

There is a special kind of sanguine about Wally. He is always looking happy and that's probably because over the course of the seven books in the canon, he is virtually always on holiday. We as the reader are asked to find him in a sea of humanity and he is always happy to be found but I can't help but wonder if there is a disturbing secret hidden in plain sight.

Nobody can be that happy all the time. This leaves us with four logical choices:
- Wally is actually a secret psychopath and has done something that we don't know about.
- Wally is a moron and is ignorant of the troubles of the world and his own life.
- Or the most likely, that Wally is wearing a mask for the world and that this is a performative act. Wally is always walking somewhere and might be hiding a tragic past.

Assuming that Wally is neither a psychopath or a moron, then Wally's constant moving and searching might indicate that he is looking for something which he might never find. Perhaps Wally is looking for enlightenment or perhaps a deeper meaning to life that we the reader can not see in a series of pictures.

Wally is Instagram before there was Instagram. Wally is Facebook before there was Facebook. The seven books are replete with pictures of Wally having fun all the time and nothing of Wally the office worker, who is looking at walls that do not change and who living in England, would be leaving the house and coming home in the dark. We never see Wally having to do paperwork, being on the phone to contractors and clients who want things and themselves are under pressure to fulfil their own obligations.
Wally as presented by the books in which we are asked to find him is a hollow lie.

Or it could be that I have this entirely wrong. Maybe Wally is actually quite fulfilled and just has a curious spirit. Wally has a terrible job in a slaughterhouse, or a foundry, or as a maintenance worker at a sewerage farm, or is an office worker at a morally problematic company, and this is how he cuts loose.
Maybe we're supposed to view the best bits of Wally's life and be inspired to go out and explore the world for ourselves. The fourth choice is that Wally endures the rubbish and tedious parts of his life, and appreciates the parts of his life which bring him joy. Remember, none of these are selfies. None of these pictures are by him. They are pictures of him having fun. They are pictures of Wally finding his joy.

Which is why I bring all of this around to my picture of these socks.
I like these socks. I like the sense of fun that they represent. I like playing football and I like watching football. I like that they remind me of Wally, who is happy to explore a big complicated world. This is a picture of me finding joy.
There is no shame in finding joy in small things. I hope that you find your own Wally Socks.

August 14, 2019

Horse 2584 - Who Needs A Good Guy With A Gun When You Have Good Guys With A Milk Crate And A Chair?

It is not very often that I happen to be in the wrong place at the right time to be able to witness history unfolding but he we go.

Yesterday afternoon, I was walking back through the city after I'd delivered some documents to a client of ours (because it was quicker and cheaper than hiring a courier), when I happened to be passed by two policemen who were directing people to:
"Stand aside and walk away if you can."

I then noticed some miscreant walking down the street shouting obscenities, running over the top of the traffic in the street, and he was being tailed very quickly by two more policemen. It later came out that he was finally apprehended by four chaps, who were armed with a chair and a milk crate, and held him until police arrested him.

I didn't think much of it until I'd got back to the office in Mosman and found out that this malfeasant wingnut had already stabbed three people in the street, and before that he'd stabbed someone to death in an apartment on Clarence St.

I have to say that the NSW Police acted professionally and calmly and more than upheld their duty of care to the public by issuing direct and simple instructions. The people of Sydney who were mostly bemused and even amused, also acted calmly and sensibly. For my own efforts, I courageously acted like a total coward and stood behind some bins while the carrying on was going down the street.

Apart from the lady who had been stabbed to death in the apartment, which looks more like a domestic violence dispute more than anything, the number of people who were killed out in the street in this was Zero.
I make mention of this because it wasn't far from here that the Lindt Cafe Siege took place and less than a fortnight ago, 31 people were killed in mass shootings in the United States of America. The number of people killed in Sydney yesterday in a mass shooting was zero... because there wasn't a mass shooting.
And that is the only point here.

I don't care what your political stripe is in the United States, I don't care about what Trump said, I don't care how you want to frame your argument against this, the truth is that I walked down the street yesterday, and there was a madman with a knife and he didn't kill anyone on the street.
Had this been in America though, he would have had free and easy access to guns, and even had a Second Amendment right to them, and as a result, would have had the ready means to kill a dozen people in rapid succession.

Whatever your argument is about carrying a weapon for defence, it is bunk.
I was able to defend myself against a madman with the knife by being on the other side of the street and sixty feet away. Had he had a gun, that would have not been possible.
Whatever your argument is about wanting a gun to defend against a tyrannical government, it also bunk. If you think that you can rise up against a proper mechanised army in the twenty-first century with nothing more than small arms, then you are seriously delusional. On that note, although we have unkind government, we still have the power to fire them through the ballot box. Whatever other designs that you might have about supposedly wanting a gun to protect your family because as the domestic violence incident resulting in death, which preceded this stabbing event proved yet again, the people who most need to be protected against your gun are the people in your own family.

It is probably due to my Christian convictions that I have a somewhat distrust of human nature. My base assumption is that people are selfish and stupid and will often do selfish and stupid things. Every bad thing that happens in the world can be attributable to either the outworking of selfishness, stupidity, or accident, which to be fair is often also the outworking of selfishness and stupidity.
Given that I think that people have such base abilities, the pragmatist in me says that the best way to limit harm, is to prevent selfishness, stupidity, and accident from occasioning death.
To that end, a gun has only one purpose, to shoot things. If it does not shoot things, then it fails in its only purpose. When you allow selfish and stupid people to have access to guns, they will tend to use them. If you then couple that with other social problems, such as lack of employment, lack of basic health care, lack of basic services like justice, police that care, and/or fundamental inputs like clean drinking water and sanitation, then you should expect to see more desperate people. Desperate people have a tendency to do desperate things, and that means more selfishness and stupidity occasioning death. Guns make that outcome more efficient.
The United States, which styles itself as the greatest democracy in the world (despite having lobbyists with more actual power than voters at the ballot box), has enshrined in its Constitution, the Second Amendment which contains the right to bear arms. The only logical outworking of this, in the light of the government having a mechanised army, is that the people will tend to use their guns on themselves, in more cases of selfishness and stupidity occasioning death in an efficient manner.

I love the fact that in this country, we don't need to be a bunch of paranoid idiots living under some delusional power fantasy which is manifested through firearms. Instead, although we still have selfish and stupid people who are sometimes prone to exact violence on other people, they are more likely to be subdued by ordinary people without it costing multiple lives. The whole 'good guy with a gun' argument is tragically stupid and as we've shown, the 'good guy with a milk crate', is far more heroic.
The argument that if you take away all the guns, then the only people left who will have guns, are criminals. Guess what? As this is Australia, because access to getting guns is limited, then this prize wingnut didn't have any. If the criminals don't have guns in the first place, then you don't need one to defend yourself against them. We proved that empathically in Sydney yesterday.

The lady who was stabbed to death in the apartment, still died and that's a tragedy. There will still be a grieving family and a hole in people's lives as a result of the actions of this murderous knave. However, there aren't two dozen such tragedies simultaneously, and that is testament to the fact that better laws limits harm.

August 13, 2019

Horse 2583 - I Love The Millennium Falcon From Harrison Ford

When the film 'Star Wars' came out in 1977 (without embellishment to the name and where starting at chapter 4 was more of a stylistic thing to make the film look like a classic adventure film of the 1930s), I don't think that anyone in America ever really put the pun together.
The Ford Falcon in the United States had ended in 1970 and the so-called 1970½ Falcon wasn't related to the car which was introduced in 1960 as the 'compact'. The 1970½ Falcon was a poverty-spec 7th Gen Ford Fairlane; which had also parted ways with the Australian Fairlane.

The US to Australian mapping sort of works out to be:
Gen 1 - XK, XL, XM, XP
Gen 2 - XR, XT
Gen 3 - XW, XY

In Australia though, the Ford Falcon had kept on going and the original Thriftpower Six had been taken out from 170 cubic inches to 250 cubic inches. It had also like the Mustang which was built on the cheap and out of the Ford parts bin, acquired the Windsor 302 motor and the Cleveland 351. It was in the latter of those configurations that in 1977, Alan Moffat took to a 1-2 victory at Bathurst. So whereas the rest of the world saw Mad Max's Falcon as something cool, I merely saw him as a big wussbag who wasn't up to the job of competing at Bathurst.
By 1977 though, the Falcon had gone through a generational change and the XC was then currently in production. I bet that in 1977, nobody was looking forward 23 years to when the pun would be a physical reality.

I first came across the pun made real in the year 2000, on a trip to Melbourne. Harrison Ford was the name of a Ford Dealership in Melton and they had obviously seen the wit of it.
They had a much more pressing problem though. The AU Falcon which had been styled to fit in with the new worldwide styling cues of Ford's 'Edge' design language, was something of a commercial flop. The hoopy roofline made getting in and out of the rear seats unpleasant if you were tall, and just like the contemporary Taurus, it had an overly ovaly rear window. The market just wouldn't buy it. They opted for Holden's VT and then VX Commodore.

I however kind of like the front of the AU Falcon. I like that the clamshell which sits between the headlights, doesn't extend to meet the top of them. The little bulge that the blue oval sits on, on the centre line, is also a neat little touch which has been copied by other car makers.
Even though I had a Ford Ka Mk 1, which led the Edge styling language, I don't particularly care for the rear lights on the AU Falcon. My Ka had rear lights that fit nicely with its own styling, and those lights probably helped to inform the Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo but they should have never been applied to the Falcon. It says something about what everyone thought, that Ford hastily rectified the nose and tail and all the lights for the AU II and completely abandoned the trend for the BA Falcon.

Nevertheless, it makes me happy to see AU Falcons on the road because it is not only a reminder of our automotive past when we actually made stuff in Australia but it has become a kind of revenge for the AU Falcon itself.

During the changeover from XE to XF, Ford made a hoo-haa about putting an alloy head on the venerable six cylinder engine. The problem was that in an Australian summer, it became a semi common sight on long journeys to see Falcons that had died in the heat. There was a rectification made for the EA Falcon, when the capacity was dropped from 4.1L to 3.9L but this didn't help all that much. For EB the engine was re-rectified and the capacity retinkered to 4.0L but from EB to EL, the problem never really went away.
In theory AU had the same engine again but there was a re-re-rectification. Admittedly when the BA came out and then when the engine re-re-re-rectified and renamed Barra, it transformed into a legend but it took a long while to get there.
What this means is that 20 years after the AU Falcon came out, there shouldn't really be all that many on the roads but the fact that there are is stubbornly defiant; I like it a lot.

I very much like the fact that we had a viable car industry at the turn of the millennium and I especially like the fact that we had both a Falcon being made at that date and that there was a Harrison Ford Dealership which existed at the time to sell them.
What I find despairing, in this second decade of the twenty-first century is that we successfully reorganised the economy through deliberate government policy so that there will never be a large scale motor industry again. The legacy of the Abbott/Turnbull Governments, is their gift to future generations of always having to import cars from overseas and denying them the chance to build elaborately transformed manufacters in Australia. On 12th Dec 2013 when Treasurer Joe Hockey dared the car companies to leave, they duly noted that, and promptly did. This was a giant two fingered salute to the people of Australia.

The sight of AU Falcons on the road some 17 years after they went out of production, is itself a salute to the women and men at Ford Australia and the Broadmeadows and Geelong plants who put them together. I love the Millenium Falcon and I would have found it fun to have one from Harrison Ford (they sell Hyundais now).

August 10, 2019

Horse 2582 - The Proper Constitutional Answer To The Uluru Statement From The Heart

One of the biggest injuries that the Commonwealth of Australia remains unrepentant for, is the injury of its birth. Unlike other countries which either fought for their independence from a larger power, or perhaps were a people united by language and culture, the Commonwealth of Australia was created by the instrument of legislation. Second to that, the Commonwealth of Australia was created by the process of Federation which brought together six colonies. It is all very well to extol the virtues of Federation but both the process of Federation and the resultant constitution which established the Commonwealth of Australia, actively ignored and indeed excluded entire people groups who had existing sovereignty claims over the ancient wide brown land of Australia.

Let's start at the beginning, for it is a very good place to start.
Various European people had arrived in Australia prior to 1770 however, the history and myth making that was still being taught while I was in school, made little to no mention of the Dutch, or Portuguese, who may have arrived before then. The myth of Australia which was told by ourselves to ourselves, was that Captain James Cook, arrived at the east coast of Australia and found an empty island continent, which was ripe to be settled and everyone who may have already been here, were an inconvenience and certainly not a multitude of different and complex cultures.
It made no mention of the Asian people who might have arrived prior to 1770, and it certainly made no mention of the people from Indonesia, the Pacific Islands, Papua, or the Torres Strait, who absolutely set foot in Australia.
As for the Aboriginal and First Peoples who were already living here, the general attitude displayed by history classes in my youth, was pretty close to that displayed by the British and then the white people of Australia right up until about the mid 1960s. Aboriginal and First Peoples were here already but they were an irrelevancy.
When Captain Arthur Phillip arrived with his eleven ships, he also considered the people already here as an irrelevancy. The 26th of January 1788 officially marks the beginning of the colony of New South Wales and in the tradition of the British, the land was stolen by the cunning use of flags.

That first injury, which should be properly seen as a military invasion as Phillip's eleven ships were part of the Royal Navy, was a piercing of the land with a flag pole, in the same way as a soldier of old would pierce an enemy with a pike. The double crossed flag of the British is inadvertantly quite symbolic as that is what would happen to the Aboriginal and First Peoples already living here.

The legal fiction which was eventually applied, which is denoted by the Latin phrase 'Terra Nullius', is the legal fiction that the ancient land of Australia was an 'empty land', which itself was immediately a lie as the very first colony in Sydney met the Eora people, and by the time the third settlement of Toongabbie was founded, they met different people in the Tugagal. Quite obviously the land wasn't empty.
The little blue, white, and red flag at the top of a pole, a dozen feet tall, was seem as having complete precedence over any original sovereignty claims which the people already living here may have had, who had their own deadly black flag with a million stars writ large across the sky, already had.

Herein lies the initial injury, the initial legal fiction, and the initial sin of the Commonwealth of Australia, for which it is still legally unrepentant and which is still mostly considered as a legal irrelevancy.
Probably the two most significant steps thus made by the Commonwealth of Australia to actually address the injuries caused by what amounts to the slowest undeclared war that I can think of, the subsequent invasion of the land and dispossession of the land through the instrument of legal fiction after the fact, and the systemic material, cultural and spiritual degradation of Aboriginal and First Peoples, were the two decisions in the High Court of Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (1992) and Wik Peoples v Queensland (1996).
Those two cases had to answer the question of land rights, which were being claimed, in opposition to the always obviously wrong fact that the imposition of Terra Nullius was incorrect. Both Mabo and Wik had to jump the legal hurdle to prove that they had a legal claim over their own land despite the fact that the land was obviously never actually empty.

Both Mabo and Wik have shed light on the fact there is an internal conflict that the High Court and indeed the Commonwealth of Australia, has always refused to address. Namely that is that if Aboriginal and First Peoples already always had land rights, then the court is uniquely unable to answer the question of the sovereignty claims of Aboriginal and First Peoples because in doing so, it would have to delegitimise itself. If the court had opened that door instead of putting it aside, then we would be in a very interesting place.
Logically it follows that if Aboriginal and First Peoples have legitimate sovereignty claims (which is reasonable given that Terra Nullius was invalid) and the High Court had to admit that there were existing sovereignty claims, then the High Court would in effect be saying that it had no right to make a decision on the matter; so it simply never addressed the issue, which means that those sovereignty claims go on unrecognised.

To that effect, the Uluru Statement From The Heart of 2017, is a request by a united Aboriginal and First Peoples voice, for those claims of sovereignty to be recognised at law and for some kind of voice/process to be worked out, so that that original claim of sovereignty can have some actual effect. It calls for a voice for the voiceless and for the beginning of a process to finally determine how that original sovereignty should fit and complement the Commonwealth.

That statement, can be found in full, here:

The vast bulk of the Constitution is to do with laying out the mechanics of how the Governor General, Parliament, and the courts should work, and the corresponding powers which are attributable to same, also should work.

The Constitution in principle, imagines a Westminster System of government like the ones already in operation in the six colonies (who were to become States) but then deliberately overeggs the pudding in terms of representation in the upper house, in favour of the smaller states so that they don't get railroaded. The idea that the upper house should have half the number of members of the lower house, is a very Victorian and New South Welsh idea.

I have no problem with the mechanics of the Constitution. That took more than a decade to argue out and several Constitutional Conventions, and even saw New Zealand and Fiji drop out of the process to do their own thing. What I do have a problem with is the original conception of Federation; which was only briefly hinted at in the main body of the Constitution and which affects the opening definitional clauses.

At inception, the Constitution contained the now repealed Section 127 which read:
In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.
- Section 127 (repealed), Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (1900)

Now as that is contained within the main body of the Constitution, it shouldn't really have that much of an effect on the mechanics of how the Parliament operates. The truth is that after this was repealed as a result of the 1967 referendum, this was proven in that Parliament operated identically to the way it did before. The only real effect that the repeal of Section 127 had in practice was the inclusion of Aboriginal and First Peoples in the reckoning of how seats in the House of Representatives are apportioned; by 1967 so much damage had been done that I don't think that that has made any practical difference to the numbers of members that each of the States get in the House.

Section 127 though, is an after the fact piece of legislation. I know that that sounds somewhat stupid considering that this is the Constitution and literally the instrument which creates the Commonwealth of Australia but it is still important. Section 127 as a mechanical provision which prescribes what is to happen going forward, is inadvertently a description of what had happened in the past. To that effect, it is worth rereading the opening clauses which make up the definitional parts of the Constitution.

Proclamation of Commonwealth 
It shall be lawful for the Queen, with the advice of the Privy Council, to declare by proclamation that, on and after a day therein appointed, not being later than one year after the passing of this Act, the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, and also, if Her Majesty is satisfied that the people of Western Australia have agreed thereto, of Western Australia, shall be united in a Federal Commonwealth under the name of the Commonwealth of Australia. But the Queen may, at any time after the proclamation, appoint a Governor-General for the Commonwealth.
- Clause 3, Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (1900)

Operation of the Constitution and laws
Operation of the Constitution and laws This Act, and all laws made by the Parliament of the Commonwealth under the Constitution, shall be binding on the courts, judges, and people of every State and of every part of the Commonwealth, notwithstanding anything in the laws of any State; and the laws of the Commonwealth shall be in force on all British ships, the Queen's ships of war excepted, whose first port of clearance and whose port of destination are in the Commonwealth.
- Clause 5, Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (1900)

"The Commonwealth" shall mean the Commonwealth of Australia as established under this Act.

"The States" shall mean such of the colonies of New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia, including the northern territory of South Australia, as for methe time being are parts of the Commonwealth, and such colonies or territories as may be admitted into or established by the Commonwealth as States; and each of such parts of the Commonwealth shall be called a State .

"Original States" shall mean such States as are parts of the Commonwealth at its establishment.
- Clause 6, Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (1900)

Note that at every turn where it mentions "the people of" such and such a State, that the base assumption is that Aboriginal and First Peoples are not part of that State. It stands to reason that Section 127 which is obviously exclusionary, if it is taken in either case of being prescriptive or descriptive, means to say that Aboriginal and First Peoples are not part of the conception of Federation.
If this is true, then we can assume at law that Aboriginal and First Peoples are treated as some kind of other. It is pretty obvious, given that new Parliament's opening pieces of legislation, that the Commonwealth of Australia through both operation of Section 127 and policies specifically relating to Aboriginal and First Peoples, hoped that they would either die out or otherwise simply disappear.

That did not, has not, and will not happen.

Having reached this point where the High Court deliberately sets aside the question of Aboriginal and First Peoples claims of sovereignty, it is necessary to examine what kind of construction of sovereignty that those claims are competing against.
This has serious implications.

On a purposive approach, the debates at the Constitutional Conventions showed the clear purpose of section 127 was to limit section 24. Section 127 operated to prevent the number of Aboriginals being used in the calculations for the number of members of the House of Representatives. Section 127 was quite a narrow provision, in that it did not use the word "statistics". Accordingly, section 51(xi) still allowed the Commonwealth had the power to collect statistics on Aboriginal people which it, in fact, did according population numbers.

However, having secured the statement in the Constitution that "aboriginal natives shall not be counted" in the reckoning of the numbers of the people of the states, the immediate consequence almost from 1st January 1901, was that Aboriginal and First Peoples also had rights denied to them, precisely because they were legally not counted in the reckoning of the numbers of the people of the states.
This was especially cruel when applied to the people of the Torres Strait, who the Queensland Government didn't even consider to be legally natives of Queensland. Not only were they denied land rights, the right to vote, the right to their own religion, and the right to form a union, they were forcibly removed from their islands in some cases, after the pearling rush had ended and they were forced to move to the mainland.

Section 24 of the Constitution, which was the ostensible reason why Section 127 was included in the first place, had the effect of deliberately undercounting the number of Aboriginal and First Peoples because it was firstly assumed that as they were 'scattered' (which was mostly untrue anyway), they would be too hard to count; and secondly it had the effect of making the States where there was a comparatively large population of Aboriginal and First Peoples, underrepresented in parliament. It reads:

Constitution of House of Representatives
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators.
The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined, whenever necessary, in the following manner:
(i)  a quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of the people of the Commonwealth, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by twice the number of the senators;
- Section 24, Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (1900)

If that wasn't bad enough, Section 51 which lays out the main legislative powers of the parliament and by inference the Federal Government, also contains the so-called 'race power' which at various stages has been used as a very cruel and blunt instrument against people of Asian desecnt as well.

Legislative powers of the Parliament
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:
(xxvi)  the people of any race , other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws;
- Section 51, Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (1900)

The fact that Aboriginal and First Peoples did not simply disappear mostly didn't pose a problem for the Commonwealth of Australia. The reason why it didn't pose much of a problem is that when your conception of something or more importantly someone is that of other, then it becomes really easy to treat them as unpersons.
The newly conceived Commonwealth of Australia to that end, invented missions and reserves, stole children from their families, and set about on the very paternalistic task of 'improvement' and 'civilising' Aboriginal and First Peoples, with no real regard for their well being or humanity. It wasn't until 2008 that the Commonwealth sought to even apologise for this kind of abhorrent behaviour.

Although I know my way around human rights legislation reasonably well, indeed better than most lawyers that I come in contact with (because they are mostly concerned with either Family Law or Commerical Law, and would blow me to the weeds in those areas), I have been disappointed with the ontology of human rights law for quite some time.
It seems to  me, based on lots of reading, that human rights law mostly comes out of the branch of political philosophy concerned with classical liberalism. Liberalism holds the individual at the centre of its firmament as though it were the sun around which all concepts orbit.
Classical liberalism and human rights law as a result, is in my not very well paid opinion, hopelessly inadequate at looking at questions of collective responsibility; especially what kind of collective responsibility is owed by corporations and nation states.

The way I understand Aboriginal Law, at least to and for the people of the area in which I live, is that the concept of individual rights is always secondary to one's responsibilities to the people and to the land itself. The whole notion of citizenship which in western democracies post-Westphalia, is tied to the idea of a nation which is ringfenced by a boundary drawn upon a map. In a lot of Aboriginal Law, the concept of nationhood is concurrent with tribe, group and place; there is no distinction between those concepts, which is actually a tighter and more compact notion. Western Nations can redraw the boundaries but how do you draw a boundary if you are part of the land and it is part of you?

The Uluru Statement From The Heart says this on that same subject:
This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown. How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?

The answer to the question that the Uluru Statement From The Heart poses, is in my opinion, so absolutely obvious, that it positively yells it from the page.
- Terra Nullius was and remains invalid.
- Aboriginal and First People's sovereignty was never extinguished.
- Federation, that is the process by which the Commonwealth was constituted, remains incomplete.

If it remains incomplete, then the work of proper Federation remains unfinished. That says to me that the mechanism by which Aboriginal and First People's sovereignty and all the claims of law, religion, spirituality, people, and country, which exist therein and have existed from time immemorial in a very real legal sense, is to recognise that before a British flag was speared into the land as an act of first injury, that there was always a deadly black flag of a hundred billion stars which flew over the land and continues to do so.
The six colonies were Federated into the Commonwealth of Australia and their voice to parliament as states is enshrined in the Constitution with seats in the Senate. It seems to me that the acceptable answer to put forward an Aboriginal voice to the Commonwealth of Australia, is by that exact same method.

Since the Constitution already provides six Senators for the original states, and we've already established that Aboriginal and First Peoples were already a state in existence, then at very least that should entitle Aboriginal and First Peoples to six Senators; as a single electorate.
The Constitution already provides for the admittance of new states and all that this would be doing is using the mechanism which should have been used in 1901.

The big problem that this poses, especially for the authoritarian right, is that it actually has to face the ugliness of collective responsibility in terms of redress. The principle actors who make up the authoritarian right in facing that question, shirk any responsibility that that redress might demand and always revert to an economic notion of sovereignty, which can only view people and the nation as economic units, which are bounded by lines on a map and/or hedged in by law.

I have to declare a heap of bias here but I find the response from the cultural right and particularly the IPA's response really offensive. During NAIDOC week, we had Barnaby Joyce act as a screen by making comments that there shouldn't be a third chamber to parliament, as a consequence of the Uluru Statement From The Heart. Never mind that it never actually called for the setting up of a third chamber but don't believe the truth or let it get in the way of the rhetoric.
Over on Sky News, we had both former 'Freedom Commissioner' Tim Wilson (who actually did diddly squat in that role that was useful) and Senator James Paterson, both make the comment that any representation which might be made by Aboriginal and First Peoples would be by its nature discriminatory and therefore rejected on the grounds that Australians shouldn't be divided by race.
Barnaby's comments were stupid but both the comments from the orwellian Member for Goldstein and the Senator for the IPA deserve utter contempt and outright scorn. They are the comments of someone intent of punching people's teeth out while wearing velvet gloves.

You only need to look at the Constitution at the time of conception to see that it specifically and very deliberately discriminated and divided on the grounds of race. The whitewashing which was the net effect of the 1967 referendum in no way attempted to make good on the very real damage that was perpetrated by the Commonwealth as a direct result of that same Constitution. Furthermore, Section 51 still contains the so-called 'race powers' which as far as operation goes, have always been about white people exerting power over Aboriginal and First Peoples, people from the Pacific islands who arrived as farm hands, and people mostly of Chinese descent to deport them even though they may have been third generation citizens, under the White Australia policy.

To claim that trying to make good and redress what the principle of equity and justice demands but clothing it in that kind of language, is hypocrisy and knavery.
I guess that my idea in finally recognising the sovereignty of first peoples in Australia, is to go back to the original notion of how the Commonwealth as a modern construct came to be.

The traditional notion (and I use that word as a ten cent abhoration) is that the six colonies came together to Federate into the Commonwealth. The problem with that is that instead of recognising that there were any claims to sovereignty which could have existed prior to 1788 (which we have only recently acknowledged) is that those claims were never invited to join the Federation.

In finally acknowledging that fact, which used to be explicitly stated in the Constitution, it is time to recognise that there were claims of sovereignty before either the Commonwealth existed, or before white people stood upon the land, it is necessary to admit that those claims were never extinguished. If those claims were never extinguished, then it seems to me that the logical solution to addressing claims of competing sovereignty legitimately, is to use the existing mechanisms and go though the process which addressed the claims of sovereignty that the six states had; that means federating Aboriginal and First Peoples into the Commonwealth as a state without borders and the six Senators attributable therein. It also answers the question posed by the Uluru Statement From The Heart and puts aside the objections of unreformed racists and knaves because it doesn't create a third chamber.

August 08, 2019

Horse 2581 - Vale Free Speech: Died 6th Aug 2018. The Body Will Be Cremated And The Ashes Taken To The Dump.

Every single person who is currently employed by anyone in this country should immediately be very very afraid.

Yesterday, the High Court handed down its judgement in the case of Comcare v Banerji, in favour of Comcare's appeal which argued that it was reasonable for the Department of Immigration & Border Control to sack Ms Michaela Banerji.

This case relates to the termination of Ms Banerji's employment after it was discovered that using an unrelated twitter handle, she posted multiple criticisms of Australia's asylum seeker policies. The case in principle is about the extent to which public servants can freely express their political views and by inference, the extent to which an employer has the right to quash someone's independent right to free speech in a private capacity.

In a unanimous decision, the High Court upheld Comcare's decision to sack Ms Banerji on the basis of those same social media posts. The court held that despite the implied freedom of political communication which might be laid out in the Constitution, that implied freedom "is not a personal right of free speech".
As has been emphasised by this Court repeatedly, most recently before the Tribunal's decision in this matter in Brown v Tasmania, the implied freedom of political communication is not a personal right of free speech. It is a restriction on legislative power which arises as a necessary implication from ss 7, 24, 64 and 128 and related sections of the Constitution and, as such, extends only so far as is necessary to preserve and protect the system of representative and responsible government mandated by the Constitution.
Accordingly, although the effect of a law on an individual's or a group's ability to participate in political communication is relevant to the assessment of the law's effect on the implied freedom, the question of whether the law imposes an unjustified burden on the implied freedom of political communication is a question of the law's effect on political communication as a whole. More specifically, even if a law  significantly restricts the ability of an individual or a group of persons to engage in political communication, the law will not infringe the implied freedom of political communication unless it has a material unjustified effect on political communication as a whole.
- Comcare v Banerji, High Court of Australia (2019)

To be honest, I find the decision quite chilling. Not only has the court held that the implied freedom of political communication is not a personal right of free speech but within that unanimous judgement is the warning that anyone who posts on social media should assume their identity and public employment will be revealed. I especially do not like the language employed that says that social media posts comes with an "“obvious risk" and that "even 'so-called anonymous tweets' can damage the public service"; which shifts the power between employer and employee even further to the side of an employer. I need not remind people that there is currently a bill before the House of Representatives which was set in place with the decidedly doublespeak name of the Ensuring Integrity Bill 2019, which is little more than the Morrison Government's attempt to interfere with union affairs, and give power to both government and employers to shut down organisations and sack their appointed leaders.

This was also on the same day that the Small Business Ombudsman Kate Carnell called for changes into unfair dismissal laws and for a new Small Business Division of the Fair Work Commission. She also asked for a push to cut the rates of compensation paid to unfairly sacked workers.“small-business-fair-dismissal-code-does-not-work”-report
Small businesses can’t afford to engage in costly and stressful legal action. They don’t have the support of a HR department when faced with the difficult decision to end a staff member’s employment.
“That’s why it’s critical for the code to drive fairness, and set out clear expectations for small business employers.
“By taking the ambiguous language out of the Code such as ‘reasonable grounds,’ ‘valid reason,’ and ‘reasonable chance’ and improving the checklist questions, small businesses will be in a much better position to comply.
- Kate Carnell, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, 6th Aug 2019

All of that also sounds like doublespeak.

If you remove the words "reasonable grounds", "valid reason", and "reasonable chance" from the Fair Work Act 2009, then that opens the field for any small business owner to fire any employee, for no reason whatsoever.

Given that Ms Carnell was Chief Minister of the ACT during the Royal Canberra Hospital implosion and probably had words with the Coroner before they cleared her of any personal responsibility, that that her department breached the Financial Management Act in relation to the Bruce Stadium redevelopment in 2000, and has had a career as an attack dog in various government and private positions after then, my only conclusion is that she wants to strip the rights of small business employees.

In short, there isn't a personal right of free speech in Australia and the law could be changed to allow small business to fire you without cause.




The other high profile case which is about the question of law here, and to what degree an employer has over their employees acting in a private capacity, is between Rugby Australia and Israel Folau.

Comcare v Banerji has now found that as an implied freedom for political communication "is not a personal right of free speech", then Rugby Australia can indeed fire someone for something they said on social media, which is unconnected to their work. I imagine that that will please many people who would like to see Folau shamed in the court of public opinion but it now says that you too can be fired for something that you say on TwitBook, WhatSpace, MyTwit and FaceApp and you employer has every right to do so.

August 07, 2019

Horse 2580 - Guns And Cars: Not Morally Equivalent. Not Equivalent In Result.

The fact that 30 innocent people had their lives terminated by two murderers earlier this week ought to be enough to sadden most thinking, feeling people. Not only were those 30 souls lost because of the deliberate actions of expletive deleted knaves but their families will have to live with the consequences of that, for the rest of their lives.
And yet because the heart of the American people is so dulled and so very very stupid, they accept this as a necessary price to pay for their so-called 'freedom'. Furthermore, they will cite the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms as scripture and claim it as their God given right, as if handed down by God on high instead of as an amendment to a faulty Constitution that was argued out by six dozen sweaty men in a room in Philadelphia.

Often you'll see the justification for this special kind of insanity as being necessary to bring down a tyrannical government, as if a collection of people with small arms could even hope to bring down a professional fighting force with mechanised power and air delivered ordnance. It is a stupid argument and anyone making it is equal stupid.
But rather than address the problem which causes not quite 40,000 people each year and every year to lose their lives, either through suicide or homicide, excuses of violent video games, drugs, mental illness, or even not enough prayer in schools, are put forward, as though they are the root cause; notwithstanding the fact that other countries have these things and address them with public policy.
No, the deliberate destruction of people's lives with guns is a particularly American disease and the whole country is suffering a both a mental and a spiritual disorder; which ironically is caused by a lack of philos and where selfishness and a desire to feel powerful stands front and centre upon the stage.

But this week, I discovered a new kind of cancer which has eaten into peoples' brains. That cancer is the whatabouism of Guns versus Cars, as though that somehow makes it all right.
The argument is that Cars kill more people than guns do and if you took away the guns, that murderers would just find other ways to kill people.

The first problem that I have with this is that it assumes that the rule of law is simply not worth bothering about. If that were true, then I would agree. My immediate suggestion is to deregulate motor cars entirely.
Get rid of speed limits, road rules, licencing, alcohol and drug testing, and all of the design regulations surrounding all active and passive safety including seat belts, lights, airbags and crumple zones.

And then fall back on the fact that anything which can be used as a weapon is nominally covered under the Second Amendment in the right to bear arms, as the language of the amendment doesn't specify what an arm is; which in the context of the late 17th century when the Bill of Rights Act 1688 was passed, and the late 18th century when the Second Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1792, nominally covered things like swords, clubs, pistols and muskets. Those people couldn't have foreseen assault rifles or automatic weapons. It also means that motor cars which are driven into people deliberately and even the three planes which were flown into the World Trade Center and The Pentagon on 11th September 2001, because they were being used as weapons, were technically covered under the Second Amendment. Let that sink in.

Quite frankly I think that trying to force the equivalence of guns and motor cars is morally bankrupt but seeing as we've already crossed this metaphorical bridge and driven into 30 people as though we were performing some thought experiment like the Trolley Problem, let's look at the actual effectiveness of the two in killing people in the real world.

In 2018, there were:

15,000,000,000 bullets sold in the United States.
I am going to assume that all of them were used as a consumable item.
39,758 people who died due to firearms, either because of suicide or homicide.
This gives us: 2.650 deaths per million uses.
If those bullets are being stockpiled then that's going to lower the denominator and increase the number of deaths per use figures but I am trying to be as generous as possible.

In 2018, there were also:
3,220,000,000,000 miles driven by motor vehicles in the United States. If we assume that 1 mile is a use.
40,389 people who died due to motor accident.
This gives us: 0.125 deaths per million uses.

There is obviously an order of magnitude of difference here.

If you've already made the moral leap to suggest that gun usage and motor car usage are morally equivalent, then you don't have the right to complain that I've just made the comparison of the effectiveness of use at killing people. If you want to draw that equivalent, then reducing everything to cold statistics ought to satisfy you.

The bottom line here is that the function of a gun and a motor car are totally different. I think that William Wirt Winchester, who was the treasurer of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company summed it up best.

"If a gun is not used to kill people, it is nothing more than a stick. It fails at its only purpose."
- William Wirt Winchester

The prime purpose of a motor vehicle however, is to get from one place to another. The number of deliberate deaths caused by motor vehicle use is tiny. It is so small that neither the CDC or the NTHSA have reliable figures.
If you want to draw the equivalence of gun deaths and motor car deaths, then I am going to immediately discount whatever argument you posit because it is nonsense.