Make a Difference

Category: Politics (Page 1 of 43)

Hating Bill Gates

Bill Gates has been the Emmanuel Goldstein of the anti-vaccination movement for years. But why are so many other people suddenly jumping in?

Boy that Bill Gates is an evil dude. Or so you might think if all you read is Facebook and Twitter. US commentator Candace Owens (whom I otherwise like and admire) has called him a “vaccine criminal,” while conspiracy theorist Alex Jones says he is “Satan’s benchwarmer,” the “placeholder for the anti-Christ.” Gates is hell-bent on depopulating the world so the elite can take over and live in unimaginable luxury while the common folk live as slaves. His chosen method for this depopulation is vaccines, and COVID-19 was created to trick or force everyone into getting the vaccine that will either kill them or track them using microchip implants.

What makes it even worse is that he has publicly announced his intentions, and has been carrying out this plan in plain view, if people would only look. He even owns patent WO (for World Order) 666 for implantable tracking technology, but people are sheeple, and refuse to believe what is right in front of them.

It’s a great plot for a movie. Tom Hanks has to uncover the secret and save the world in the nick of time.

You can’t get much more evil than all that. If all of this is true.

So let’s look at some of the claims being made about Bill Gates, and see how much truth is in them. But first, let’s consider another, related post that has recently done the rounds of Facebook and Twitter. This tells the story of Robert F Kennedy Jnr bravely facing down the CDC and showing that “The CDC is a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical industry. The agency owns more than 20 vaccine patents and purchases and sells $4.1 billion in vaccines annually.”

Hmm.. sounds worrying. Let’s check. First of all though, let’s understand what patents are.

Patents protect a creator’s design, product or process, so that the creator can invest in research and development, and be confident that some ratbag is not going to come along and steal their work and profit from it by using the process or manufacturing the product without having done the creative work and research. For example, there are over a thousand patents which protect the latest iPhone.

Vaccines are hugely expensive to create, and just as hugely expensive to test, then to package and bring to market. In the same way many patents may protect a product like an iPhone, many patents may be needed to protect a single vaccine. These may cover the antigen itself, adjuvants, packaging, manufacturing processes, method of delivery, etc. Patents can be licensed to other companies or individuals. iPhones include technology licensed from other companies, as well as technology developed by Apple itself.

The CDC owns a large number of patents related to medical technology. This is because the CDC does a huge amount of medical research. Some of these relate to vaccines. This is because from time to time a researcher will discover, for example, an antigen that provokes an immune response to a particular pathogen, or a method of inactivating a virus for use in a vaccine, or a new adjuvant.

The CDC lists all of its patented technology which is available to be licensed. Given it is a publicly funded organisation, why would the CDC patent these things? Why not just let people use them? There are three reasons. Firstly, it stops anyone else from patenting the CDC’s research, profiting from it, and stopping others using it. Secondly, licensing this technology protects the integrity of the manufacturing process, assuring end users of the quality of the product. And thirdly, licensing royalties provide a small return to tax-payers for their investment in the CDC’s research.

The CDC owns patents, not on vaccines, but on vaccine technology (amongst many other things), which it licenses to manufacturers and to other research bodies. There are fifty-seven such patents currently listed. So far, Robert Kennedy Jnr is roughly, sort of right. The CDC does own more than 20 vaccine-related patents. Everything else he said in the interview in which he made that claim, and everything else in the Facebook post in which these claims appear, is false. As we go on to consider the Bill Gates conspiracy theories, we will see that this is a very common anti-vax tactic: Make one true, or near true, claim, then by exaggerating, missing context, or simply making data up, proceed to make claims which are completely false, and because false, dangerous. Dangerous because they are an attempt to dissuade people from receiving life-saving treatments and preventatives.

The CDC does not sell vaccines. In fact it spends nearly half its annual budget (in 2017 $4.1 billion out of a total $11.9 billion budget) on buying vaccines. Which it then sells at a profit, right? No. Which it then gives away:

“CDC buys vaccines at a discount and distributes them to grantees—i.e., state health departments and certain local and territorial public health agencies—which in turn distribute them at no charge to those private physicians’ offices and public health clinics registered as VFC providers.”

But it still makes money from its vaccine technology patents? Yes, although it does not manage the licensing of those patents directly. This is handled by National Institutes of Health Office of Technology Transfer (OTT), which is responsible for licensing all of the patents generated from the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the CDC. If we want to be picky, we should note it is the Department, specifically the Secretary of the Department, which owns the patents, not the CDC itself.

Last year the OTT reported income of $78.2 million for all patent licensing from the NIH, CDC and FDA. Let’s say that half of this was licensing of CDC patents, and half of that was generated by vaccine technology patents. The CDC has another six research areas in which patents are available to license, so this is a very generous estimate. That means the CDC’s income from vaccine-related patent licensing was no more than $19.55 million, and probably less.

There are three things to note about this. Firstly, the CDC does not make $4.1 billion selling vaccines. It doesn’t sell vaccines. It SPENT $4.1 billion on vaccines, which it gave away. Second, the maximum of $19.55 million which the CDC made from royalties on vaccine-related payments is less than one fifth of one percent of its budget. Thirdly, all of those royalties went back into further medical services and research. If you think less than one fifth of one percent of the CDC’s budget is enough to corrupt an entire organisation whose purpose is improving health, whose personnel are there and are recruited because they want to make world a better and healthier place, many of whom put themselves at considerable risk in order to do so, then allow me to suggest politely that you have rocks in your head.

This does not mean the CDC is above criticism. It is sometimes slow to react, and sometimes gives contradictory advice. Like all very large government organisations it has become top heavy and bureaucratic. It has lost focus on its original mandate to research and assist with infectious diseases, and broadened into other medical fields. But there is no evidence to suggest it is corrupt or in cahoots with pharmaceutical companies.

Considering these claims by Kennedy has given us some useful background to the conspiracy theories about Bill Gates, and the venomous rage those stories generate.

Let’s start with patent WO666. Microsoft Technology does own patent WO2020060606A1. That is the little bit of truth in this story. It isn’t owned by Bill Gates. Bill Gates hasn’t worked day-to-day at Microsoft since 2008, and retired from his position as Chairman of the Board in 2014. The WO doesn’t stand for World Order, it is an abbreviation for World Intellectual Property Organization, the largest international patent issuing organisation, and is the preface to all patents issued by that body. The A1 at the end indicates that the patent has not yet been granted; it has been applied for and published so other patent holders can review it before the patent is granted. The 2020 indicates the year in which it was published. The patent number is 060606. These are issued sequentially and have no meaning other than being an index/reference. The number does include three sixes, but you have to ignore the other eight letters and numbers to get “patent 666.”

What is the patent application for? Microchipping humans, right, so they can be tracked? No. There is nothing in the application which suggests any kind of implant or any sort of geo-location or tracking.  It is an application for digital technology which could be included in a watch or fit-bit type device, which would reward users with crytpto-currency for physical activity.

Most crypto-currency, bitcoin is an example, is “mined” using computer GPUs. This process uses considerable electricity, estimated at over 60 terawatt hours per year; more than the entire country of Switzerland.

The Microsoft proposal would reward people with crypto-currency for keeping fit. It is that simple. It is also worth noting that the patent hasn’t been granted yet, and that while Microsoft had a fitness band, released in 2014, it stopped producing them in 2016, and has announced no plans to produce another. If granted, the technology patented in WO2020060606A1 would likely be licensed to other companies like Fitbit, rather than in a new product made by Microsoft itself. A company which in any case, as noted above, Bill Gates is no longer involved in running.

“But Bill Gates and Dr Anthony Fauci sent $7.5 million to the Wuhan lab to research altering bat viruses so they would infect people, and Bill Gates owns the patent for Coronavirus!”

The little bit of truth in this is that since 2014 the National Institutes of Health has granted $3.7 million to a well-respected research organisation called Ecohealth Alliance to fund research into coronaviruses. Since 1984 Dr Anthony Fauci has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of twenty-seven bodies which make up the NIH. Dr Fauci has never been in Wuhan, and it is not clear whether he had any role in the grant to Ecohealth Alliance. He certainly had no role in The Ecohealth Alliance’s decisions about where that grant money was directed. Bill Gates, incidentally, has nothing to do with the NIH. The Gates Foundation has made one grant of $1.5 million to Ecohealth Alliance, but that was in 2020 and was for agricultural development.

Funds from the NIH grant were divided between the Wuhan lab, and institutes in Shanghai, Beijing, and Singapore. This is a list of published papers based on research partially funded by that grant.

Most of the recent virus scares have come from zoonotic infections, that is, infections which have jumped from animal hosts to humans. Examples include Zika, Ebola, Plague, and West Nile Fever. Research into coronaviruses is important because of their ability to jump from animal to human hosts, often with deadly results. Many ordinary colds result from one of the four common coronaviruses: 229E, NL63, OC43, HKU1. Most people will suffer from one these at least once, with nothing more than a mild fever, a cough and sniffly nose.

However, coronaviruses can also be killers. SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) are both examples. Because these diseases are highly infectious and have high mortality rates, many health authorities were concerned that the next major pandemic could be a coronavirus, and offered grants for study into their genome and infection pathways. If a new, deadly coronavirus appeared (and it has – that is what COVID-19 is), this research would help us be better prepared.

China’s behaviour in deleting records of the genome, denying the outbreak, and then denying the risk of infection, were reprehensible. China should be held to account. It is possible that the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab. This needs to be carefully and independently investigated. But the research itself was worthwhile and deserved to be funded. There was nothing nefarious about the funding at all. Also, Bill Gates had nothing whatever to do with it.

But then how does he happen to have a patent for coronavirus that dates from 2014? Surely that proves this pandemic was all planned in advance?

The normal anti-vax conspiracy practice, as we have seen above, is to take a little truth, and then add several large lies. In this case, there is no truth at all, just several wild assumptions.

There are many coronaviruses. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds many medical services and research organisations. One of these is the Pirbright Institute in England. The Pirbright Institute has received two grants from the Gates Foundation, one in 2013 for research into diseases affecting livestock, and one in 2016 for research into a more effective flu vaccine.

In 2018 Pirbright was granted a patent which covers the development of an attenuated (weakened) form of a coronavirus that causes respiratory diseases in poultry, which they hope might be used be used as a vaccine to prevent respiratory diseases in birds, including avian infectious bronchitis. The vaccine is not owned by Bill Gates, the funding his foundation provided was for completely different purposes, and the weakened avian coronavirus for which Pirbright holds a patent is a completely different pathogen from SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19.

In the last couple of months the Pirbright Institute, which has considerable experience with zoonotic and respiratory infections, has collaborated with researchers at the University of Oxford and Public Health England, to try to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. Bill Gates has nothing to with that either.

“But still, everyone knows Bill Gates experimented on African children with untested vaccines.”

The trouble with claims like these is that they are easily made, and easily passed on. Just create a meme with a happy looking picture of Bill Gates juxtaposed with a dying black child, and another child being poked with what looks like a horse needle, and you are guaranteed a viral response. People are less inclined to read referenced articles, or to look carefully for facts in government or local medical reports. It is easier and more fun to repost that story about the horrible Bill Gates, because, like, it’s probably true, and even it isn’t he deserves it because everyone knows he has done so many other horrible things. Then you can feel indignantly self-righteous for a few minutes, be pleased with the number of likes you get, and go back to cat videos and complaining about the government.

Except that Bill Gates Bill Gates doesn’t own any vaccine patents, he doesn’t sell vaccines, and he doesn’t conduct any research into vaccines. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds health services and research including sanitation, vaccines, clean water, anti-biotics, birth services, and diagnostic and treatment centres. Mr Gates has no role in the day-today determination of which bodies receive grant funding, and no role at all in determining how grant recipients spend that money.

This experiments on black children story seems to have started with a 2017 non-peer reviewed article on international law and the accountability of NGOs, (non-government organisations).

In that article, the author, Sharmeen Ahmed, claims that several programmes funded by the Gates Foundation resulted in “numerous deaths and injuries, with accounts of forced vaccinations and uninformed consent.” She offered no references to support these claims.

If true, this would show that some organisations which have been part-funded by the Gates Foundation need to operate more carefully and openly, and perhaps that the Foundation needs to vet grant-receiving organisations more carefully. But Ahmed’s claims are not true. They were known not to be true six years before they were published. Sadly, like most anti-vaxxers, Ahmed has no interest in what is true.

Her story related a mishmash of distortions about a trial of HPV vaccination that was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which ran in India, Peru, Uganda and Vietnam. Let’s note first off that it was not a trial of an untested or experimental vaccine, as is often claimed in various Farcebook references. Gardasil had been approved for use in the USA in 2006, following many years of research and clinical trials, and Cervarix in 2009. They have been hugely success in reducing the incidence of cervical cancer. By 2010, when large numbers of girls began to be vaccinated through the trial programme, both vaccines had solid research support, had been approved for use in most Western countries, and had been proven in the field to be both safe and effective. The purpose of the trial funded by the Gates Foundation was not to assess the vaccine itself, but the practicalities and costs of  widespread vaccination in very poor rural and densely populated urban areas.

All went well, until a small number of girls in India, seven out of 23,428, died within four months of receiving the vaccine. This story was picked up by local, then national media. A furore was created, and the trial halted. A government review was undertaken. Sharper readers may already be wondering whether seven girls out of 23,428 in impoverished areas of India dying in any four month period was anything out of the ordinary. Sadly, they would be right to do so.

To quote from the official government report:

“There were a total of 7 deaths, 5 from the AP and 2 from Gujarat. A detailed review of death cases were undertaken from the available records in the form of FIR, Clinic/hospital prescriptions/records and the autopsy. Out of the five deaths reported from Andhra Pradesh, two died due to consumption of organo-phosphorus poisoning (autopsy proven) and one died due to drowning in a well.

These three girls died after 45, 97 and 49 days after the last HPV vaccine dose respectively. The fourth case developed symptoms 96 days after receiving the third dose of the vaccine and had died of unrelated disease which cannot be linked possibly to HPV. The fifth case had started symptoms 23 days after the last dose and possibly died of severe malaria after eight days of treatment in health facilities. Similarly at Gujarat, one case died of snake bite and the other case died of severe malaria.

… The background death rates among girls 10-14 years of age in both Vadodora and Khammam districts did not show any increase rate. In fact in Vadodora district the death rate has significantly decreased in 2009 compared to the past years.”

None of the deaths of any of the seven girls was related in any way to the Gardasil or Cervarix vaccines they received as part of the trial. We have seen the same kind of irrational panic over the last month in relation to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. “It causes blood clots!” No it doesn’t. The rate of dangerous thromboembolism is no greater in vaccine recipients than unvaccinated populations. See the WHO review here:

And my own earlier comments about relative risk and COVID-19 vaccination here:

Just as an aside, another of the programmes funded by the Gates Foundation was MenAfriVac. This programme, which cost $70 million, was one of the most successful African health initiatives ever. Between 2010 and 2019, 315 million people in Africa’s meningitis belt, an area extending across the width of sub-Saharan Africa, received the vaccine. Cases of meningitis A have dropped almost to zero. According to the WHO, the vaccine is “expected to eliminate meningococcal A epidemics from this region of Africa,” Meningitis regularly killed thousands of people during outbreaks. Not any more. Without MenAfriVac, hundreds of millions of Africans would be vulnerable to a disease that can kill within hours and leave survivors paralysed, blind, and intellectually disabled.

If anti-vaxxers cared about the truth, they would be gasping for breath right now. Sadly for their victims, they don’t. They only care about ammunition. Here is the last gasp.

“But Bill Gates has publicly said he intends to use vaccines for population control! He is lulling people into a false sense of security before forcing everyone to be vaccinated with a vaccine that isn’t a vaccine, will permanently alter their DNA, and will kill half of those who receive it.”

To paraphrase Theoden of Rohan, “What can people do against such reckless stupidity?” Is it even worth trying to answer such manifest irrationality? Well, perhaps briefly.

Firstly, just because a vaccine operates in a different way from previous vaccines does not mean it is not a vaccine. The mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines developed against COVID-19, are designed to provoke an immune response just like other vaccines. They just shortcut a couple of steps in doing so, and this has the potential to make them faster and more reliable. Neither mRNA vaccines, or any other proposed COVID-19 treatment or preventative does or even can alter human DNA.

“Yeah, well, Bill Gates still said he was going to use vaccines to eliminate half the population.”

No, he didn’t. So where the heck did that come from? In 2010 Bill Gates said “The world today has 6.8 billion people. That’s heading up to about nine billion. Now if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower that by perhaps 10 or 15 percent.”

Does this mean he intends to poison vaccines, or implant tracking devices in them, or slow release killers to be activated by the 5G signal?  I am not going to link to any of the fantastically dishonest or relentlessly stupid and baseless videos which make this claim. You can find them, or friends will send them to you.

Instead, here is a link to Bill Gates explaining exactly what he meant, which is pretty much exactly what it was obvious to me and every rational person on the planet he meant. As infant and youth mortality improves, families have fewer children, so over time the rate of population growth declines, and even becomes negative. This is true of every developed country in the world. There is nothing remotely controversial about this. What this means is that doing everything possible to improve infant mortality and health does not mean unsustainable population growth. The evidence shows exactly the opposite. The healthier we are, the more stable the population becomes.

None of this means that Bill Gates is perfect. He is human. He gets things wrong. His Foundation will get things wrong. They fund some programmes I believe are inappropriate. But this does not make him a monster. Despite the occasional misallocation (in my view) of funds by the Gates Foundation, it is still a huge influence for good. See the MenAfriVac programme briefly described above for one example. What we should be concerned about, and doing everything we can to combat, is the repeated, lazy and vicious misrepresentations of anti-vax lobby groups. Anti-vaxxers kill children. If anyone deserves contempt, it is they.

Google, Facebook, and Mainstream Media Madness

I am no fan of either Google or Facebook. Google has a long history of distortion of news and of down-grading results from websites it disagrees with. Facebook does the same, while at the same time happily continuing to profit from the publication of anti-semitism and anti-vax paranoia, both are which are counter-factual and dangerous to the point of being evil.
People now complaining about Facebook’s delisting Australian news sites, and Google’s suggestion it may do the same thing, or cease to operate to operate in Australia at all, have either not been paying attention, or are deliberately grandstanding.
For an example of the latter, take this exchange from Hansard: Economics Legislation Committee 22/01/2021
Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020. (H/T Catallaxy Files)
… Senator BRAGG: Turning to your tax affairs, how much corporate tax did Google pay in Australia last year?
Ms Silva : Last year Google paid $59 million in tax, and we comply with the tax laws of the land. We restructured our business in 2016 in line with the government’s shift and the change to MAL, the multinational anti-avoidance law. We shifted to a reseller model from then, and last year’s tax was $59 million.
Senator BRAGG: $59 million in corporate tax?
Ms Silva : $59 million in corporate tax.
Senator BRAGG: What’s your revenue in Australia?
Ms Silva : The gross revenue was $4.8 billion, and the profit before tax was $134 million.
Senator BRAGG: $4.8 billion, and you paid $59 million in corporate tax. …
Senator Bragg was an accountant before he became a Liberal Party Senator. He knows very well that taxes are paid on profits, not revenue. Almost no commercial enterprise in Australia could survive if taxes were paid on revenue, that is income before any expenses. Our own business, for example, has revenue of about $1.5 million per year. Our profit, the money left over after expenses including wages, including ours, which are less on an hourly basis than our staffs’, is about $30,000 per year, almost all of which goes back into the business.
Google Australia’s profit before tax was $134 million. It paid $59 million in corporate tax. this is an effective tax rate of 44%. Not only is Google paying its share of tax in Australia, but by world standards, Australia is an extremely expensive place to do business.
Now to today’s stories about Facebook de-linking Australian news sites.
More than half of all traffic to Australian media sites is driven by Facebook and Google. Google does not publish full stories from news sites, it simply links to them. Australian media have spent months whining about this, and complaining to government that Facebook and Google should be forced to pay for sending traditional media media websites traffic.
In no rational world does this make sense. Everyone who has ever run a website knows that traffic is life. Most websites, at least from time to time, pay for advertising, which in web world, means paying for traffic. But here in Australia, media companies want Facebook and Google, which send them the vast majority of their traffic, to pay them for the privilege of doing so.
Sadly, and destructively, but unsurprisingly, they seem to have convinced a sufficient number of politicians that this was a good plan. Unsurprisingly, because most politicians have never run a business, and have no idea how real-world market forces work.
Also unsurprisingly, Facebook has simply said “No thanks. If we have to pay for linking to you, we won’t link to you.” A perfectly reasonable and foreseeable outcome. But now see how the media darlings explode with rage as their traffic, and consequently their advertising revenue, drops to a tiny proportion of previous figures. It’s so unfair! All my work has disappeared!
Tough. Play silly games, win silly prizes.
If the Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020 is not defeated, something that seems unlikely at this stage, Australia’s traditional media groups could well find themselves pushed to the wall far faster than they expected. And it will be their own short-sighted, greedy fault.

On the Vilification of Prime Minister Scott Morrison

There has always been an unpleasant edge to public discussion of politics. It is much easier to vilify people who see things differently from you, than to engage with them and to see this engagement as an opportunity to learn.

The rise of Facebook and Twitter have exacerbated this tendency to personal insult and hasty dismissal instead of reasoned discussion. It is not uncommon for posts on political issues to be met with one word responses: “Fascist!” “Racist!” “Redneck!” “x, y, or z Phobe!”

It is just as common to find these words used to describe politicians or other public figures, as if screeching names or slogans said anything about the person referred to or issues at stake.

One of the most obvious recent examples is the media’s calling down of a rain of fury on the Prime Minister, because he took a short break with his family.

Fire and emergency management are, of course, the responsibility of the states. Despite this, the Prime Minister met with state leaders to talk about strategies and resources, and offered them everything they said they needed. He has visited affected communities, and talked with families, farmers, and firefighters.

So why should he not take a break with his family, his first since becoming Prime Minister, during school holidays when he can spend time with his children? There is no reason at all.
“But it’s a bad look! He doesn’t care!”

Rubbish. It is only a bad look because the media says it is a bad look. The Premier of Victoria, Dan Andrews was on a longer holiday, while the Premier of Queensland, Anna Palaszczuk, decided to pack up and go on a cruise. But fire and emergency management are their responsibility, not Scott Morrison’s.

I couldn’t care less about Andrews or Palaszczuk having a holiday. What is alarming is the hypocrisy, and the extent to which people are willing to be outraged simply because the media tells them they should be.

Scott Morrison recognised that volunteers are not in it for money but because they care about their communities. He is also the first political leader to recognise that while small businesses want to support, they cannot pay wages indefinitely to people who are not working, and volunteers need to pay bills and buy food for their families. Consequently he has offered the states money to compensate fire-fighters and others who are off work for extended periods of time.

Again, it is worth noting that this is despite the fact emergency services are a state responsibility.

It is interesting to look back on the media reaction to former PM Tony Abbott’s actually being on the frontline of fire-fighting. See the article from The Guardian below. There is no pleasing some people. Because for some people the issues are not the issue, it is about the tribe.

The Guardian berates PM Tony Abbott

The Guardian berates PM Tony Abbott

Should Tony have stopped volunteering and focussed on running the country? Should Scott never go on holidays, and stop eating and talking to people and focus on running the country?

He seems to be doing a pretty good job of that.

Australia faces economic challenges, including high energy prices, global trade tensions and a devastating drought. Yet Australia has maintained its AAA credit rating.

Australia has first current account surplus in 40 years, and the lowest welfare dependency in 30 years.

The budget is in balance for the first time in 11 years. Inherited debt is being paid off. Over four years, this will mean $13.5 billion that no longer needs to be spent on debt interest.
More than 1.4 million new jobs have been created in the last five years. Record amounts are being invested in schools, hospitals, aged care and disability support.

Following the biggest tax cuts in twenty years, household disposable incomes have had the fastest increase in a decade. This means more money can be put into building a strong future, and caring for Australians in need. This includes $4.2 billion in accelerated infrastructure projects, $1.3 billion in increased support for drought relief and 10,000 more home care packages for older Australians.

Is everything perfect? Of course not. I still have major issues with some government policies, including the absurd decision to buy slow, noisy submarines which are not only untested but will be out of date before the first one is delivered. Our defence forces deserve the best equipment we can afford, and for resources to be allocated according to an evidence-based, long term strategic plan.

But it is also important to recognise what is being done well, and to acknowledge that most politicians on all sides are decent, hard-working people, who want to make Australia and the world a better place.

Cardinal Pell. The Appeal.

I have so far refrained from any comment on the outcome of Cardinal Pell’s appeal. To say I was disappointed with the outcome would be an understatement.

I have written extensively about this case here:

and here:

The prosecution case was based entirely on the evidence of a single person, some twenty years after the events.

The fact that it was a single person, and the delay, do not in themselves mean the complaint has no foundation. But those factors make both prosecution and defense more difficult. That is part of the reason the Victorian DPP decided not to proceed with prosecution, leaving (highly usually) the Victorian Police to prosecute the matter.

It has been suggested that the existence of a single witness/complainant should not be a barrier to a finding of guilty, and that in some instances, murder and sexual assault, for example, there may be only one witness, or none.

That is correct. But in the case of murder, there is no doubt that a crime has occurred. There is a body, blood, at least a missing person with additional evidence of criminal activity.

In the case of allegations of rape or sexual abuse, the prosecution normally requires some additional evidence besides the word of a single complainant; bruising, semen, witnesses who can corroborate at least part of the complainant’s story.

It was unremarkable, though sad and disappointing for her, that Victorian Police did not prosecute Kathy Sherif’s long-standing allegation of rape against Bill Shorten, an assault she alleges occurred at a Labor Party function in 1986 when she was sixteen. Kathy was able to produce witnesses who corroborated many aspects of her story.

The case against Cardinal Pell was far weaker: A single complainant who came forward only in response to public requests for complaints, who offered changing and inconsistent evidence, no corroborating witnesses, no forensic evidence of any sort, and multiple witnesses who gave evidence that they were with the then Archbishop throughout Mass and while he greeted parishioners immediately after, when the offences were alleged to have occurred. For details and more information about the background of the case, read my two articles linked above.

The first trial ended in a mistrial, with jurors reportedly voting ten to two in favour of a not guilty finding. The second trial took place after months of inflammatory reporting, especially in the Guardian, on the ABC, and in Louise Milligan’s scurrilous book, Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell.

There was a carnival atmosphere in the press, a feeding frenzy of malice and bigotry, the like of which we have not seen since the Chamberlain case. John Bryson’s book on that case was titled “Evil Angels” the evil angels being the Australian media.

Some of the comment on social media has likewise been almost demonic in its hatred and disregard for truth. If people have not carefully examined the evidence and the background, then their comments say nothing about Cardinal Pell and his guilt or otherwise, but say a great deal about themselves.

Like the media-driven guilty findings in the Chamberlain case, the guilty finding in the Pell case is an indictment, not of Cardinal Pell, but of the Australian media, and to some extent, the Australian judiciary.

The dissenting judge in the Appeal, Justice Weinberg, was the only judge of the three with any history and significant experience of criminal cases. Part of his opinion can be found here:

Cardinal Pell – The Media and Judiciary’s Disgrace

I have been frustrated by news stories today suggesting that “disgraced” Cardinal George Pell has broken the law by posting material to social media.

Firstly, Cardinal Pell is not “disgraced.” It is the media and the Australian judicial system which are disgraced by the verdict against him, which was based on the evidence of a single witness, a person of zero credibility, whose testimony was inconsistent, and in several places demonstrably false. I have written about this before and will not repeat those discussions here. If you are interested you can find the relevant articles and others by me at this link.

Secondly, and obviously, Cardinal Pell did not post anything to social media, because he has no access to social media. He wrote a letter to a group of people who have supported him in prayer and fellowship. They posted a scanned copy of his letter in on Twitter.

Is there a law against publicising correspondence received from prisoners?

I hope not, because I have transcribed it and copied it below. It does not reference his alleged offences, or the accuser, or anyone involved in that sorry excuse for a trial. It is simply a pastoral letter from a minister of the Gospel to a group of friends.
Melbourne Assessment Prison

Dear Kathy and brothers and sisters in Christ of the Support Cardinal Pell group.

First of all let me thank you for your prayers and messages of support, these being immense consolation, humanly and spiritually.

A word of explanation. I have received between 1500 – 2000 letters and all will be answered. So far I have only responded to letters from my fellow prisoners (to nearly all of those who wrote) and a few other special cases. Your kindness is not forgotten and will always be fondly remembered.

My faith in our Lord, like yours, is a source of strength. The knowledge that my small suffering can be used for good purposes through being joined to Jesus’s suffering gives me purpose and direction. Challenges and problems in Church life should be confronted in a similar spirit of faith.

We must always remember that the Catholic Church is one, not just in the sense that good families stick together whatever their differences, but because the Church of Christ is based in the Catholic Church, which constitutes the Body of Christ. One ancient saying teaches that there must be unity in essentials (Jesus’s essentials) but there can be diversity in non-essentials. But everywhere and in everything we must have charity.

I agree that we have reasons to be disturbed by the Instrumentum Laboris of the Amazonia Synod. This is not the first low quality document the Synod secretariat has produced. Cardinal G. Müller, formerly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has written an excellent critique. I am no expert in the region but I have been to Ecuador and Amazonian Peru, where a Sydney priest Fr John Anderson runs a parish of exemplary piety, pastoral activity and orthodoxy. As in the Amazon a lot of water has yet to run before the end of the Synod.

One point is fundamental. The Apostles’ Tradition, the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, taken from the New Testament and taught by Popes and councils, by the magisterium, is the only criterion doctrinally for all teaching on doctrine and practice. Amazon or no Amazon, in every land, the Church cannot allow any confusion, much less any contrary teaching, to damage the Apostolic Tradition.

The Spirit continues to be with the Church. You have every right to make your voices heard, reasonably and in charity. We need not expect the worst.

Yours in the Lord,
Your grateful brother
+George Card. Pell

Fear, Faith and Folau

Freedom of speech is an essential characteristic of any successful society. If people are not free to say what they believe, there can be no testing of ideas against each other and against reality. Without that, there can be no progress in science, in art, in literature, in education, in society and policy.

But the fact that freedom of speech is essential does not mean there are no limits. Famously, freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. Unless, of course, there is a fire. Speech that would cause grave harm by generating panic is rightly proscribed.

A just society is also right to place limits on hate speech, where hate speech is words intended to generate hatred against an individual or group, and to cause deliberate harm. Words which demand actions which are proven to be harmful to individuals or groups may also be restricted. For example, persons purporting to be health professionals should not be able to suggest to worried parents that bleach enemas will cure their child’s autism.

Beyond these extreme examples, a free and open society should be willing to tolerate a wide range of views, even when those views make some groups or individuals distressed or angry.

On social media I will unfriend and even block people who repeatedly post holocaust-denying material, or anti-semitic news or cartoons, including claims Israel has no right to exist or to defend its borders, or who post anti-vaccination propaganda. All of those views are dangerous, and misinformed if not deliberately ignorant. I want no part in sharing them or passing them on. But I would not want the government or employers to enforce rules which meant those people could not express their views without risk of fines, imprisonment or loss of employment.

There are some obvious exceptions. You should not expect to be able to work for the Salvation Army, for example, while publicly expressing the view that the Salvation Army is stupid, and its views on drugs and alcohol are oppressive. You cannot expect to work in a paediatrician’s practice while publicly maintaining that childhood vaccinations are a dangerous scam designed to make doctors more money.

Holocaust denial is simply silly, and is almost always based in malice. But making the expression of such views illegal creates the impression there is something to hide, or of fear of the truth. As far as possible, where it does not cause grave and immediate harm, the expression of any opinion should be permitted.

But being entitled to express your views does not mean anyone is obliged to listen to them. Nor is any person or business obliged to give you a platform for your views. When social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Google shut down conservative writers, they are not impinging on anyone’s freedom of speech. They are sovereign companies and can enforce whatever rules and policies they like. No one forces you to use them. If your views are not welcome there, find somewhere else.

Nor does freedom of speech mean you are free from the natural consequences of what you say. If you are free to say what you wish, people are free to respond as they wish. They may decide they don’t like you, or that you are stupid or a bigot. They may decline to invite you to their home or to events, they may block you on social media. They may decide not to do business with you.

At what point does government or an employer have the right to demand someone keep their views to themselves? Most people would say when there is clear danger of grave and immediate harm. Israel Folau’s Instagram post a few weeks ago, and his comments at church, caused deep offence in some circles. Do they cross that line?

Taking offense is not always an unreasonable or juvenile reaction. There are ideas and graphics on social media I find offensive. When they appear I either ignore them, or if the person who posted them seems open to reason and discussion, I may try to engage in some fact-based discussion. What is juvenile is demanding that someone else take action because you are offended. Especially when, as in Israel Folau’s case, people appear to have gone out of their way to find something to be offended about.

No one is obliged to follow Israel Folau on any social media platform. I don’t. Nor is anyone obliged to go the church he goes to. If you don’t like something someone says on Facebook or Instagram, either engage with them and show them where they are wrong, or ignore the post, or unfriend or unfollow them.

But wait just a gol-darned minute.

If someone is whipping up hatred against another person or group, it does not matter whether that takes place in an auditorium or a phone booth. If speech is intended to cause deliberate harm to others, and is foreseeably likely to do so, then society not only has a reasonable interest in imposing restrictions, but a responsibility to do so.

I have gay friends. The best man at my wedding, my best friend at the time, is gay and is a supporter of the re-definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. I have gay family members. I would be distressed and angered if anyone suggested they were less worthy than others, or somehow less human, and that it was therefore appropriate to hate or exclude them.

Is that what Israel Folau was doing? If you follow only the mainstream media you might have got that impression. His post on Instagram and subsequent comments in church have been framed as a deliberate and malicious campaign against gay people and their rights by a militant homophobe. But media and corporate lobbyists are often wrong, so if we want to arrive at a fair appraisal, we need to look at what Israel Folau actually posted and said.

The Instagram post that started the furore was a quote from chapter six of St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

The focus of this passage of scripture is twofold. First, sin separates us from God. When we choose to step outside God’s perfect will for us, we turn away from what gives us life. It is as if a plant decided it no longer needed sunlight and water and was going to go its own way. The results of our choosing to do it our way are all around us – loneliness, frustration, anger, despair. The ultimate result for us as individuals if we continue to choose our own path rather than God’s, is eternal separation from Him, not by His will but ours.

Paul tells us that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All of us. That is the point of the list quoted by Folau. It is the opposite of singling out any group for derision. I am on the list at least twice. Everyone is on the list. We have all turned aside, we are all lost, none is better than any other. Incidentally, although it often goes unmentioned, this is the reason homosexual persons male or female are safer and more respected in predominantly Christian countries, or countries with a long history of Christian influence, than anywhere else. Yes, homosexual acts are sinful, and so is lying, disrespect for parents, drunkenness, laziness, etc, etc. To homosexual persons who say “But you are saying we are sinners and will go to hell” St Paul, Israel Folau, and other Christians reply “Yes, exactly like all the rest of us.”

The second focus of St Paul’s list, and its ultimate purpose, is to let people know that whatever the nature of their particular temptations and sinfulness, no matter how far they have turned off the path, it is always only one step back. St Paul’s list, shared by Israel Folau, is an invitation to everyone to return home, to find life, light, hope, and peace again, and most importantly, an eternal life of joy. Again, this is the opposite of singling out a group for hatred and exclusion. It is a universal invitation to love and fellowship.

“Well, OK,” some might say. “But what about his targeting of trans-gender kids? There can be no excuse for that.” And that would be right, if that were what had happened.

But it wasn’t. Folau said that children needed to be protected against early sexualisation. It didn’t matter whether gay or straight. Just let children be children. That is a long way from attacking children.

He also suggested children needed to be protected against activist practitioners and bureaucrats and misguided parents into being pressured to make decisions they could not understand, which would cause them serious harm, and which they would later regret. There is a large body of experience and evidence to support this point of view.

Johns Hopkins Hospital was one of the pioneers of sex-change surgery. It no longer performs sex-change operations because it found a high level of profound regret post-surgery, higher levels of depression, and far higher levels of suicide. Its psychiatrists and surgeons formed the view that gender dysmorphia is a psychological problem that needed psychological solutions, and that attempts at surgical intervention were counter-productive, even destructive.

You may disagree, and you are free to quote other studies or experiences to support your point of view. But that does not mean that Israel Folau’s views are hateful or malicious.

As I write, today’s news reports that Maria Folau, a Silver Fern, a member of New Zealand’s national netball team, has been targeted by the ANZ and another corporate sponsor, and her dismissal from the team demanded, because she has not publicly rebuked her husband or distanced herself from him. The ANZ, for heaven’s sake, that champion of social justice and paragon of corporate responsibility.

You have to wonder whether in omitting the context of Folau’s views and the passage of scripture he shared, and the distortion of his comments, and now the targeting of his family, his accusers are not doing exactly what they indict him of; singling out an individual or group for exclusion and hatred.

There has also been ridicule and hatred directed at the Folau family because they asked for support in meeting legal costs. But here too, there are other things to keep in mind. Israel Folau has already put over $100,000 of his own money into paying legal bills and countering persecution neither he nor any member of a free society should have to face. He has assets, but that does not mean he has large amounts of cash. Footballers have a short career, generally no more than fifteen years to build up assets to provide for their families for a lifetime. Folau has done this responsibly and carefully.

My wife and I give over $400 per month to various church groups and charities. If I choose to give $20 to Folau’s defence fund this is in addition to, not instead of anything else. I suspect this is the case for most who have contributed. It is interesting that so many people seem to have discovered an interest in sick children over the last few days, and are suddenly inspired to claim loudly that sick children are more important than justice. Both are important.

It doesn’t matter whether you agree with Israel Folau or not. If you have ever posted anything on social media anyone could disagree with or find offensive, or ever said anything in any gathering that an over-zealous employer could claim had potential to bring his or her business into disrepute, eventually the mob will come for you.

Who will stand with you then?

Christchurch Terror

It is important to try to understand the mass murder in Christchurch, but it is just too early to make any sound or meaningful assessment. Despite the manifesto, we do not know enough about Tarrant’s background and thoughts, and we know nothing about any of the others who may have been involved. That hasn’t stopped the mainstream media with its screeching headlines. More on that in a minute.

I know Christchurch a little. My mother was born at Lyttleton, Christchurch’s port and a very pretty place, and I have spent time in Christchurch and worshipped at the cathedral. That poor city has had more than its share of troubles.

Christchurch Cathedral

Christchurch Cathedral

Lyttleton Harbour, Christchurch

Lyttleton Harbour, Christchurch

What we can say, and the first thing we must say, is this. There is no excuse, ever, for religious or political violence against ordinary people. Whatever their background, the victims thought they had found a home in New Zealand, and were entitled to feel safe and welcome.

What we cannot justifiably do, at least yet, is make the judgments about Tarrant’s views some media organisations have made.

Someone who hates capitalism, corporatism, and conservatism, who despises President Trump’s economic and foreign policies, who describes himself as a former communist, now an eco-fascist, who recently visited Pakistan and said he liked and respected the people there, and whose most admired country is communist China, is neither a white supremacist, nor right wing.

If he wrote the manifesto in his name, he is highly intelligent, and thoroughly evil.

To repeat, there is no excuse, ever, anywhere, for acts of terror against civilians. All such acts, wherever they occur, and by whoever they are committed, must be condemned, and every step taken to stop them recurring.

Tarrant suggested he was trying to defend the West and its traditions. The opposite is true. He has comprehensively betrayed our values and our history.

Cardinal Pell Sentenced

On March 13th, Cardinal George Pell was sentenced to six years jail on charges of child sexual abuse. He will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months.

Some people have pounced on comments at sentencing made by Pell’s defence team, suggesting that these were admission of guilt. This is not the case.

In both Australian and UK courts, once a jury delivers a verdict of guilty, the defence may not dispute that finding (until any appeal is lodged) but has to address the court as if the fact of guilt were now established.

The presiding judge is under a similar obligation, so Justice Peter Kidd’s remark prior to sentencing that his comments and sentencing were made on the assumption that the offences took place as alleged is striking and unusual. I have been present during a number of criminal trials, and I have never heard any judge say anything similar, almost as if he were distancing himself from the verdict, and making it clear he was going through the motions as required.

Why would he do this? Perhaps because the evidence falls far short even on a balance of probabilities basis, let alone where guilt is required to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. There is a principle in English and Australian jurisprudence that if there is a reasonable explanation of the evidence that is consistent with the defendant’s being innocent of the charges, a verdict of not guilty must be returned.

Not only were there reasonable alternative explanations of the evidence, but on the evidence given in court by multiple witnesses, it was simply impossible for Cardinal Pell to have committed the offences as alleged.

Some people have suggested that since the court was closed, no one can know what the evidence was, and therefore no one apart from the jury knows the full story. But this is not the case. The court was not closed. Several journalists and members of the public attended throughout. Media suppression is not the same thing as a closed court. That simply meant that details of the case could not be published in Australia until the suppression or der was lifted.

The prosecution’s case was that following Mass at the Cathedral, Archbishop Pell had found two boys in the sacristy drinking altar wine, and had forced them to give him oral sex. The “second victim,” who died before the case came to trial, had said specifically that nothing of the sort ever took place. The entire case against Cardinal Pell was the testimony, more than twenty years after the alleged events, of a single person whose credibility was not permitted to be challenged in court.

The prosecution did not dispute that after Mass Archbishop Pell had been at the door of the Cathedral greeting parishioners as they left, or that after this, he had been in the company of several other people until he left for another function.

The only time in which the alleged offences could have occurred were in the period after the final blessing, until the exit procession arrived at the main doors.

In summary, this is what the prosecution claimed on the basis of the word of a single, uncorroborated witness:

As the procession was forming to leave, two choir boys absconded, unnoticed by anyone at the time or later. At about the same time, the Archbishop, celebrating in his Cathedral for one of the first times, also absconded, also unnoticed by anyone else in the procession, or the hundreds of other people in the Cathedral. The boys returned to the busiest room in the Cathedral at that time, the sacristy, where they found some altar wine which they began to drink, even though altar wine is never left there unattended.

According to the alleged victim, neither the sacristan nor any of the other altar servers or helpers, who would normally be constantly in and out of that room at the time, were anywhere to be seen. Archbishop Pell entered the room, unseen by anyone, and demanded the boys give him oral sex.

It was not disputed that he was wearing his eucharistic vestments. These consist of a close fitting cassock with thirty-nine buttons from top to bottom, a cincture – a wide band around the waist of the cassock, an alb, a long white robe tied with a rope or cord (both cassock and alb are full-length garments, reaching from neck to floor), and over these a dalmatic and a chasuble, both heavy brocade garments reaching to the knees.

Evidence given by the prosecution’s single witness was that these garments were pushed aside. They cannot be pushed aside. It is just possible that they could be lifted enough to give access to everyday clothes underneath, and that these could then be opened, but the cassock, alb, dalmatic and chasuble would need to be held with one hand the entire time. It would tight and uncomfortable, and movement would be almost impossible. This would still be the case even if Pell were wearing only an alb, stole and chasuble over his street clothes, as some parish clergy do.

The prosecutions’ case is that having taken a few minutes to lift these tight, heavy garments and open his normal clothes underneath, the Archbishop, with very limited movement and one free hand, chased the two boys around the sacristy, unnoticed by the large number of people moving between that room and the sanctuary, forcing each of the boys to give him oral sex.

He then masturbated to completion, rearranged his garments, walked back through the Cathedral and re-joined the procession before it arrived at the Cathedral door, again without anyone noticing, while the two boys re-joined the choir, also without anyone noticing either that they were back or that they had been gone.

All of this, according to the prosecution, from the time the procession left the sanctuary to the time it arrived at the door, about one hundred metres distance, took place in about five minutes. In reality (I have been to mass at that Cathedral) about three minutes. Three minutes!

The story is manifestly ludicrous. It is impossible, simply silly.

Juries get things wrong. Facts can be complex, laws confusing, and trials long. But the finding of the jury in this case is unaccountable. The verdict is not an indictment of Cardinal Pell, far less the Catholic Church as a whole, but of Australia’s mainstream media, and Victorian Police.

Operation Tethering, the Victorian police investigation into Cardinal Pell, started in 2013. It was not set up to consider complaints of criminal behaviour; there hadn’t been any. It was set up to generate them. This campaign included the placing of advertisements in Victorian newspapers inviting people to make complaints. If you invite complaints, you will get them. The police had their man. They just needed a suitable victim.

Comparisons have been made between the calumnies heaped on Pell by the media, and the feeding frenzy of hate and condemnation directed at Lindy Chamberlain between 1980 and 1988. The media have been evil angels in both cases, and in the case of Henry Keogh, and of Archbishop Wilson, and others. A rush to gleeful condemnation has become an ugly, but presumably profitable, feature of some parts of Australia’s mainstream media. But at least in the Chamberlain and Keogh cases, something had happened which required investigation. Juries in both cases were misled by mind-bogglingly incompetent forensic experts. For Cardinal George Pell, there were no incidents or complaints to investigate. Police had to go hunting for offences with which to charge a man they had already decided was guilty.

The verdict will be overturned on appeal. But massive harm has been done, to Cardinal Pell himself, of course, to the credibility of Australia’s media and judicial system, and not least to genuine victims.

Last Word on the Mayo By-election

If you are voting in the by-elections tomorrow, who should you vote for?

The key question is: “What do you want Australia to be?”

When you have a clear image in your mind of what you hope our future will be, you need to compare the candidates and ask which of them has the education, experience, tenacity, energy and intelligence to help make your vision a reality.

This is a Federal election. That means we are electing people to be part of the government of our nation. Local issues, and “What can you do for me?” should be a long way down the list.

I know that often they are not, and Liberal/National candidates are just as bad as anyone else at pandering to the notion of electorate X deserves more, without ever asking “More than who? Which electorates deserve less?”

The idea that Federal members are elected primarily to look after their electorate is not only alien to our history and constitution, it can have disastrous results. This is sometimes called pork-barrelling. It means that more needy electorates are neglected, or projects which would benefit the country as a whole are mismanaged or left undone entirely.

I will just add at this point that I am not a “rusted-on” Liberal supporter. I have never been a member of the Liberal Party. I did not vote for the Liberal candidate at the last Federal election, and sometimes when I have, it has not been with any enthusiasm, but simply because all the other parties and candidates were worse.

I am still not entirely enthusiastic about Malcolm Turnbull’s government. But in terms of candidates this time, there is one who is clearly more likely to form part of an effective, positive national government.

There are seven candidates in the Mayo by-election. Only two, Rebekha Sharkie and Georgina Downer, have any chance of being elected. Neither Family First nor Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives have a candidate this time.

There have been suggestions about both Sharkie and Downer that they do not belong, or are ring-ins. I don’t accept those arguments on either side.

Rebekha Sharkie lives in the electorate and clearly cares about the community. I wish she had sorted out her citizenship issues before causing this expensive and frustrating election, but now that she has genuinely revoked any citizenships other than that of Australia, she is clearly entitled to stand.

Georgina Downer’s family has lived in, worked in and been part of the Mayo electorate for over 100 years. She was raised here, went to school here, was married and had her early working and family life here. It is just silly to suggest she does not belong or cannot represent Mayo. By that argument, anyone who left Kangaroo Island for whatever reason; work, family, education, and then returned, would never again be a local or belong, no matter how long they had lived here, or what their family connections to the Island’s history. Some of those who make that absurd argument about Georgina would be rightly upset and angry if the same reasoning were applied to them.

I have never met Rebekha Sharkie. I get the impression from those who have that she is pleasant and well-spoken, and is genuinely concerned about the needs of the community. That is great. So is Georgina. At the same time, it is impossible to pin down what Ms Sharkie really believes, or what are her guiding principles.

She was a member of the Liberal Party, then deserted to join Nick Xenophon. That in itself is an issue, because apart from trying to stop poker machines, a cause in which he was completely ineffective, Nick’s political career seem to have been a mixture of self-promotion and following whatever issues he thought might win him votes. When Nick failed to get elected, Rebekha became an independent who votes mostly with Labor and the Greens. If you think Bill Shorten and Adam Bandt have the answers, then by all means go ahead and give her your vote. But think about what this means, both for the nation and for our electorate.

I will just give two examples of why this matters.

Small businesses include fishing, farming, tourism, medical practices, retailing and service. Small businesses are important. They belong to their communities in ways that big business cannot. They are responsive to their communities’ needs in ways that big businesses cannot be, and they employ locals when there are no big businesses to do so.

Small businesses are in trouble. The number of Australians employed by small businesses decreased by 330,000 (-7 per cent) between 2007 and 2016. High taxes, high energy costs and growing red tape have all contributed to this. A reduction of costs and of compliance burdens will help family businesses and help employment, especially in smaller communities.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Enterprise Tax Plan) Bill 2016 reduced the tax burden on small businesses. Rebekha Sharkie voted against this. There are nearly 20,000 small businesses in Mayo. If she and the Labor/Greens alliance had had their way, every one of these businesses would now be worse off.

Ms Sharkie also voted with Bill Shorten and the Greens against legislation to tighten Australia’s immigration policy. This is not to stop legal immigration. No one has a problem with that. Most of us, if we are not immigrants ourselves, are the children or grandchildren of immigrants. The Migration Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 stopped people applying for visas which could lead to citizenship after they had arrived in Australia illegally. This is about security, fairness, and economic cost to legal immigrants and taxpayers.

Of course we have a duty to welcome genuine refugees and asylum seekers from neighbouring countries who are desperately fleeing war or famine. That legislation did not apply to those people, but to those who tried to shortcut the rules, enter the country illegally, and once here, apply to join a process leading to citizenship. That is wrong, unfair to Australia, and unfair to those who want to come, who have skills to offer, and who make the often time-consuming and expensive effort to do the right thing.

Rebekah voted against this amendment. If she and Bill Shorten and the Greens had won that vote, those who show no regard for our rules and attempt to jump the queue would have been treated better than those who show their respect for Australia by acting in accordance with our laws.

Because of these kind of votes, and because Ms Sharkie has so frequently changed her mind about her allegiances, it is not possible to have any confidence in her future votes or actions, regardless of how nice a person she seems to be.

There could not be a greater contrast with Georgina.

Georgina, as I have noted before, gained degrees in Law and Commerce in Melbourne and a Master’s Degree from the London School of Economics. She has worked as a solicitor and consultant, was a director of the Indigenous arts project The Torch, was a researcher for US Senator Chuck Hagel and for Baroness Howe of Idlicote in the House of Lords in the UK, represented Australia as a diplomat with the Australian Embassy in Japan, and has been a research fellow at the IPA, Australia’s leading free market, small government, evidence-based policy research and lobby group. And on top of all that has raised two young children, Henry and Margot. She has an exceptional degree of education, experience, commitment and skill.

What is just as important for Mayo and for her role in our national government is that she is clear and consistent about the principles that guide her thinking. She is committed to freedom of speech, to free markets, to small government and lower taxes, and to evidence based policy.

It comes down to this. What do you want Australia to be? Who of the candidates can you best rely on to make this vision a reality?

Mayo by-election …

I note with concern the report in today’s Islander in which candidates in the current Mayo by-election are asked “What will you do for us..?” as if this should be the key factor in deciding who to vote for.

I cannot fathom why anyone with any understanding of our Federal parliamentary system would think this question has anything to with the reasons for which a Federal member is elected.

Of course local members should know their electorates, and where possible, should have life, work and educational experience in them. But imagine every member thinking their job was to gain every possible advantage for their own electorate. It would be chaos.

We are not electing a lolly lady. We are, or should be, electing the person we believe has the experience, education, energy and intelligence to make a strong, long-term, positive contribution to an effective national government.

“Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests;
which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates;
but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole;
where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide,
but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole.”
Edmund Burke

Georgina Downer and the Mayo By-Election

The current by-election in Mayo has been made necesary because Rebekha Sharkie was not entitled to stand or be elected because she was a citizen of another country at the time of her election.

That is not just my opinion! That is what the Court found, and that is why another expensive election is necessary.

One of the things that has frustrated me is that some of those who have expressed their intention to vote for Rebekha have had the unmitigated hypocrisy to describe Georgina Downer as a “ring-in.” Georgina, whose family has lived in, worked in, and been part of this electorate for over 100 years. Who grew up here, went to school here, worked here, got married here, had her early family life here.

Apparently going interstate and overseas to broaden her education and work experience means, according to some, that she doesn’t belong here. What rubbish.

Georgina gained degrees in Law and Commerce in Melbourne and a Masters Degree from the London School of Economics. She has worked as a solicitor and consultant, was a director of the Indigenous arts project The Torch, was a researcher for US Senator Chuck Hagel and for Baroness Howe of Idlicote in the House of Lords in the UK, represented Australia as a diplomat with the Australian Embassy in Japan, and has been a research fellow at the IPA, Australia’s leading free market, small government, evidence-based policy research and lobby group. And on top of all that has raised two young children, Henry and Margot.

Georgina Downer and Family at Home in the Mayo Electorate

Georgina Downer and Family at Home in the Mayo Electorate

With a long-standing background in Mayo, and this breadth of education and experience, it is difficult to imagine anyone more qualified both to represent Mayo, and to make a strong and positive contribution to our national government.

This is not a local Council election. An interest in, history in, and commitment to the local community is important, and Georgina has all those things in spades. We are electing someone to form part of the Federal Government. We need to elect someone with the skills, energy, intelligence and experience to help Australia grow strong and prosperous into the future.

We have a choice between a lolly-lady and a future Prime Minister.

Non-whiny Students Leave the Plantation

Some Hispanic students express the view that their failings are their own fault, and that the way forward is to accept responsibility and work harder.

Naturally, academia is appalled. Can’t you see there’s no point in trying? You’re oppressed! It’s all whitey’s fault!

Thankfully more and more young people are rejecting the elite/liberal/luvvie/progressive philosophy that leads to a lifetime of failure, poverty and resentment.

Who Are the Fascists?

Wikipedia is not always the most reliable of sources, but its definition of fascism is a reasonable starting point for discussion. A fascist is a follower of a political philosophy characterized by authoritarian views, desire for a strong central government, and no tolerance for opposing opinions. All forms of socialism, including Germany’s national socialism, are inherently fascist. They embody the two key identifying factors of fascism; strong central government and no tolerance for opposing views.

So what about the US president the media consistently denounce as a fascist, an idiot, and “literally Hitler”?

The Trump administration has removed red tape as fast as practically possible, repealing twenty-two regulations for every one enacted. This removes the brakes on private effort and enterprise, and shifts power away from government to the people. The opposite of fascism.

One of the first actions of the Trump administration was to reduce taxes. This gives more wealth and more freedom of choice to the people, while reducing the power of government. The opposite of fascism.

The Trump administration has partially reversed the onerous, limiting and expensive burden of Obamacare, restoring the right of individuals and businesses to buy whatever health insurance they want, or not to buy insurance at all. This reduces the power of government and bureaucrats and gives more power and choices to the people. The opposite of fascism.

He is insisting on rule of law, acting on resolutions passed by Congress, ie, the will of the people’s elected representatives, rather than simply ignoring the law, or directing law enforcement bodies not to enforce laws he does not like. The opposite of fascism.

One example is the decision of Congress, made while Bill Clinton was President, and ratified by Congress every few years since, that the US embassy to Israel should be in Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem. This decision by the people’s representatives was simply ignored by Clinton and subsequent Presidents. But not by President Trump. The opposite of “literally Hitler.”

Trump is the only Western leader in sixty years to bring North Korea into direct discussions with South Korea and the West. With this he has brought the hope of peace and freedom for the first time to millions of North Koreans. South Korean leaders have expressed astonished gratitude and openly said they believe Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

Reporters asked in mocking tones whether Trump was happy with the level of respect he had shown Kim Jong-Un and other North Korean leaders, and whether he regarded Kim Jong-Un as an equal. Trump replied that he would do whatever was necessary to secure peace. The opposite of fascism.

OK, but what about his racist Muslim travel ban?

Firstly, Islam is not a race. It is a religious and political ideology. Secondly, the seven countries affected by the ban were highlighted as severe security risks because of poor control of identity and travel, not by Trump, but by the Obama administration. Thirdly, 80% of Muslim countries and ninety percent of Muslims are unaffected, and fourthly, two of the countries, Venezuela and North Korea, are not Muslim countries. A nation’s leader has not only has the right, but the responsibility to work to ensure the security of his country and its people. That is not fascism.

OK, but what about tearing children away from their asylum-seeking families?

Rules requiring that children not be held in adult detention centres were established under President Bill Clinton in 1997. They have been enforced ever since, including during the eight years of the Obama administration.

Just as the media in Australia suddenly discovered a conscience about children in detention immediately after a government was elected which did not put children in detention and was doing its best to get them out and into the community, so the US media suddenly discovered a conscience about children being separated from their families as soon as a President was elected who was not convinced that this policy led to the best possible outcomes for the children concerned, for their families, or for the US.

By the time Time Magazine published its article denouncing Trump’s policy (it wasn’t his policy) and picturing him looking down sternly at a little girl in tears after being separated from her parents (she was never separated from her mother, they were housed together in a family unit in Texas) and by the time the shrieking hordes gathered in the street calling Trump a fascist for this heartless policy and demanding its repeal, he had already signed an executive order requiring that minor children arriving illegally in the US with their parents be housed with their parents for the duration of any necessary detention.

OK, but what about Melania visiting a detention centre wearing a jacket that said “I really don’t care. Do you?”

Let’s note first of all that the husbands of first ladies Clinton, Bush and Obama all placed children in detention separately from their parents. Not one of those ladies ever visited a centre where they were being held. Melania did. And she didn’t wear that jacket in, to, or anywhere near the detention centre. She wore it as she got on the plane in Washington as a message for the purveyors of exactly that kind of fake news.

Now let’s look at the self-titled “resistance.” Antifa wear masks to their violent riots, where they protest about laws they don’t like by beating passers-by, burning cars and breaking windows. That’s fascism.

Coddled university students stage sit-ins and violent protests to prevent speakers whose opinions they do not like from speaking or being heard. That’s fascism.

Democrat Maxine Waters said businesses should be forced to serve anyone who comes in the door anything they want, unless the customers are Republicans, in which case case they should be denounced and refused service. That’s fascism.

You don’t have to agree with all of President Trump’s policies. I am not convinced by his policies on trade. But I also know that a system where other governments, eg Canada’s, impose huge tariffs on US goods while expecting unfettered access to US markets, or, like the EU, provide huge subsidies to farmers and manufacturers while expecting the US to operate on a “level playing field,” is both unfair and unsustainable.

Disagreements about policies do not entitle me or anyone else to call Trump a fascist. He is simply not.

Gays, Bakers and Sarah Huckabee Sanders

I am astonished by claims of moral equivalence between a baker declining to make a cake with images and text contrary to his beliefs, and the refusal of service to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on the basis of who she works for.

The bakers did not refuse service because the customers were gay – they have other gay clients. They did not refuse to serve them because of their political views – they never ask clients what their views are because that is irrelevant to serving them. The bakers simply declined to make a cake with decorations and text they found offensive.

The clients, on the other hand, drove a hundred miles, past a dozen other bakeries, in order to find one they thought might decline to make their cake, so they could then pretend to be hurt and offended and take the bakers to court. That is not seeking freedom and justice, it is bullying.

Sarah Sanders was having dinner with her family at a local restaurant, when the proprietors ejected her because she held political views different to theirs. They then followed her across the street, abusing her as she went, and immediately bragged about doing so on social media. Instead of suing the restaurant or even making any fuss about it, Sarah did not say anything. She simply went somewhere else with her family. She only responded after the restaurant’s bragging about kicking her out was brought to her attention.

Who in these situations acted in ways consistent with fairness and respect for others?

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