Monthly Archives: August 2011

No politics

No politics until further notice. Honeymoon to consider. New wife to keep happy. Sorry..

UPDATE

After discussions, I now feel free to speak my mind. So I shall. When we return to Melbourne. I apologise for the mysteriousness, but I did not want to act in anger or before matters had been resolved. I had to be fair to my employer and to my reader, and I apologise if you think I’ve had the balance wrong over the past 24 hours.

Thank you to everyone who has rung, emailed or commented on this post, here and whilst listening to the radio.

Out of office message

Getting married today to my beloved.

Will see you all online when we’re back in early September.

PS: WOOOOOO!

Dinosaur retailers turn on Australia Post rather than ripoff local distributors

Check out the old retail dinosaurs whinging about competition and demanding government put an end to it:

AUSTRALIA’S biggest retail lobby group has scathingly attacked Australia Post action that it believes helps offshore online retailers at the expense of local shops and jobs.

In a submission to the Productivity Commission, the National Retail Association also singled out Visa and eBay for their stance on the shaky Australian retail sector, arguing Visa’s position that it could not collect GST on online purchases was driven by self-interest.

The association, which represents big retail chains such as Target, Myer and Country Road, dismissed submissions to the inquiry that argued the cost of collecting GST on incoming goods worth less than $1000 would exceed any tax revenue.

They’re complaining about Australia Post making it easy for consumers to buy goods like DVDs and videogames overseas where they’re half the price because of the fat margins local distributors and retailers gouge from Australians. For some reason the retailers would rather attack Australia Post than demand a better deal from distributors, and the distributors would rather lose sales to piracy and overseas sales than charge anything approaching a reasonable price.

Fortunately there’s no Australian government at the moment dumb enough to piss off voters by shutting down their access to overseas goods. If the retailers want to compete, then they’ll have to actually compete, rather than just demanding the competition be shut down.

How many will collapse before they realise that? I’m mildly curious.

London Riots caused by people doing that thing I don’t like

We’ve discussed that thing I don’t like many times here, and had some fairly vigorous debates about it.

But the riots in London over the past week prove that I was right.


This is what happens when a country accepts that thing I don’t like.

It was impossible to watch the outbreak of lawlessness, of both the poor and middle class looting shops, and not think how it could all have been avoided if people had listened to me and stopped doing that thing I don’t like.

It’s just common sense. I’ve raised my children knowing right from wrong, and they have never done that thing I don’t like. And they are now some of the most well-adjusted, decent young adults you can ever hope to meet. They would never rob an injured person or smash a shop window. Because in our family, there was none of that thing I don’t like.

You can’t have failed to notice how that thing I don’t like was getting more prevalent in the years leading up to the riots. More and more of the people from the social groups connected with the violence were brought up in an environment where the importance of doing what I insisted was necessary was no longer emphasised. Where were these young people to learn the importance of society, of community, of respect for their fellow citizens, if this behaviour was accepted? Not just accepted, but encouraged.

And we know by whom. Encouraged by the very people who disagree with me.

Well, they should be hanging their heads in shame, now. It is obvious that their prescription for the UK, which the country has been slavishly following against my advice, is responsible for the predicament in which the English now find themselves.

Look at the result. Buildings set on fire. Property stolen. Lives ruined.

And it all could have been avoided if they’d listened to me. If they’d stopped doing that thing I don’t like.

Well, we here in Australia have a chance to avoid going down the English path. Our country has not yet sunk so low that we’ve had riots here.

But if we don’t heed the warnings, if we don’t learn from the mistakes of our cousins in the UK, then it is inevitable.

Please, I beg of you. Save our country by doing the things I have long argued we should do and banning the thing I don’t like that has clearly caused all this destruction.

Let’s make sure this never happens again.

Robert Clark isn’t the stupidest person ever to be state Attorney-General, is he?

Two inspiring court-related incidents in Victoria, although both start with something depressing.

The first is the news that at least one Magistrate is prepared to speak out against the ridiculous situation in which we charge teens with child pornography offences for “sexting” and then put them on a sex offenders’ register regardless of the fact that THEY ARE CHILDREN TOO.

He presided over the case of the country youth, then aged 18, who was sent four uninvited text message pictures of girls, aged between 15 and 17 years, topless or in their underwear. Police found the pictures on his mobile phone and laptop and charged him with child pornography offences.

On legal advice the youth pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a one-year good behaviour bond without conviction. The magistrate refused the prosecutor’s application for the young man to be placed on the sex offender register but police later realised his guilty plea resulted in mandatory registration for eight years. Magistrates have discretion for those aged under 18, but none for adults.

”These people shouldn’t be regarded as sex offenders. It’s going beyond the pale in relation to the imposition of long-term penalties which are not judicial penalties, they’re not fines or community-based orders or even sex offender treatment programs. This is a limitation on what a person can and can’t do for the next eight years of their life, for God’s sake,” the magistrate said.

Of course, the relevant Liberal minister just refused to comment. But at least pressure is building for a common-sense reform – even if it might have to wait till the Baillieu government is kicked out.

Which leads me to state Attorney-General Robert Clark’s utterly moronic failure to understand just how much of a problem it is for his plan to lock up children for a minimum two years regardless of circumstances that the Appeals Court has just clarified, again, that, under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005, general deterrence is NOT a relevant factor for sentencing child offenders:

He said the judgment made clear that ”protecting the community from further violent acts by the offender and deterring the offender from re-offending are appropriate criteria in sentencing juvenile offenders”.

”The government sees no inconsistency between the CYF Act and its statutory minimum sentence initiative.”

Except for all the general deterrence rhetoric with which you were justifying it, eh Robert? So now you’re going to pretend that specific deterrence and protection of the community will justify mandatory two-year jail sentences for any child who recklessly causes a serious injury regardless of prior criminal history or any other factors relevant to their specific circumstances?

Honestly, the legal system in this state is being presided over by a vandal who doesn’t know or care what he’s wrecking, or what the unfortunate long-term consequences will be.

Then again, the worse he makes it, the more lives he wrecks, the more crime will rise and the more Hun readers will think they need his “tough on crime” medicine. Despite it actually making the problem worse.

Good news for us lawyers, though, I suppose. There’ll be plenty of work. And in the meantime, at least the Court of Appeal is prepared to stand up for reason.

The UK Government’s Marie Antoinette moment

Says the ironically-named UK “Community” Services Minister, asked about his government’s monstrously unjust and unbelievably stupid plan to impose extra punishment on the poorest rioters and looters by kicking them (and their parents) out of their homes, and cut them off any welfare:

Asked how those penalised would live, Mr Pickles responded: ”They could get a job.”

LET THEM EAT CAKE.

Seriously, how out of touch are these muppets?

Stay strong, UK Magistrates – your job is to uphold actual justice, not mob “justice”

There’s apparently a great deal of pressure being applied to Magistrates and Judges in the UK to throw aside years of legal precedent and understanding and, if the person in front of them has committed a crime during the time of the riots, LOCK THEM ALL UP REGARDLESS OF ANYTHING ELSE SHUT UP I DON’T CARE ABOUT CIRCUMSTANCES LOCK THEM ALL UP:

…it is clear magistrates and judges are under intense pressure to come down harshly on anyone convicted over the riots.

“It’s fairly obvious that David Cameron saying what he said about the way in which these people would be come down upon, senior police officers: we will find you, we will track you and you will be convicted etc,” he said. “This big rhetoric was designed to put pressure on the judges to make sure that they act within their discretion, as forcefully as they can and with as little leniency. The extent to which that will work is debatable but when we are seeing these sentences which I say must be unrepresentative, this is not what’s happening in most courts.

“But the fact that we are seeing it at all when press agents are in public galleries, in courts, all waiting to see what happens and judges know that their names will be published; they will be named and shamed as being too lenient if they don’t show a disproportionately harsh response.”

Screw the independence of the judiciary! We don’t know or care why that’s important! We demand the right to rack up huge bills for prisons that will require tax increases or futher service cuts! We demand that minor offenders who could be rehabilitated be turned into lifelong criminals! We demand that the offenders who are poor be turned into an army of homeless people with no chance of a job and no lawful means of obtaining money to live! We demand that you make us feel avenged by taking this situation and making matters worse!

Unfortunately, the idiots and shysters demanding destructive revenge aren’t just damaging their own country – they’re wrecking the country for everyone. Worse, and with more long-term damage, than the rioters.

Here’s hoping the independent judiciary, which is independent precisely for times like this, when the mob is lashing out in anger and demanding “action” which it hasn’t thought through, withstands the pressure and upholds actual justice. It’s going to be difficult for these Magistrates and Judges, being smeared by the disingenuous and the stupid and the spiteful, and not being permitted to respond – but that’s their job. It’s a tough job, but an honourable one.

And much depends on their holding fast.

I’m getting married on Friday; why won’t we let these people?

The big annual Marriage Equality Rally, 1pm in the CBD. See you there.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it were the last year we needed to do this?

UPDATE: Photo above updated, and other photos added after the jump: Continue reading

The UK conservatives’ response to the riots: Let’s make matters worse!

What kind of dribbling moron could seriously think this insanity from the British PM a good idea?

Mr Cameron backs plans to ensure council tenants found guilty of taking part in the mayhem will be evicted. Some councils, including Greenwich and Hammersmith and Fulham in London and Salford in Greater Manchester, announced that they were already pushing ahead with the measure.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps was tightening the law to make sure that even if a rioter was convicted of a crime outside their borough they could lose their council home – something that is not possible at the moment…

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is considering amending a Welfare Reform Bill going through Parliament to ensure that rioters have their benefits cut.

So – these disaffected, angry young people: we’ll throw them out onto the street with no money. That can’t possibly lead to more crime! And we’ll make sure that when we punish these opportunistic looters – from all strata of English society – that we punish the poorest hardest. The kids of the rich? They won’t lose their homes or their ability to eat. But the kids of the poor? LET ‘EM STARVE. IN THE GUTTERS.

And this army of homeless starving people they’re planning to create? Yeah, I’m sure they’ll settle down and get a job that won’t be offered to them because of their criminal record and they won’t ever bother anyone again.

Brilliant.

Hope UK taxpayers are looking forward to paying vastly more for the thousands of new prison places they’re going to have to provide, and to the streets becoming more and more dangerous.

ELSEWHERE: Some sense on the English Riots from Penny Red.

One week to wedding; Marriage Equality Rally; my meeting with Kevin Andrews

It’s exactly one week to our wedding, and I couldn’t be more excited. We had a final rehearsal with the celebrant last night, and it was difficult to keep the grin off my face.

Feeling good about marriage this week.

Which is one reason why I’ll be attending the Marriage Equality Rally in Melbourne tomorrow, Saturday 13th August at 1pm. (It’s also in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Canberra and Adelaide.)

I might not particularly enjoy attending political rallies, but sometimes they’re necessary. And if gay and lesbian people have to keep fighting for the same rights that I enjoy, I have a responsibility to stand with them at least once a year and let the politicians know that there is increasing support for an end to this unjustified discrimination, and it’s not going to just go away.

There’s one other thing everyone should do to register their demand that equality happen now, not in ten years – talk to your MP. I went and spoke with Kevin Andrews yesterday (yes, that Kevin Andrews) as a constituent and we had a forthright exchange of views on the subject. Obviously I wasn’t going to persuade one of the main proponents of Howard’s 2004 changes to the Marriage Act to suddenly support equality – I’m a decent advocate, but not Jesus Christ – but it was useful to see how someone who’s not an idiot (and he’s not an idiot) defends their opposition to equality. (And kudos to him – he was prepared to debate the issue with me for an hour, though it was obvious that neither of us was going to be agreeing on the subject.)

Andrews was not putting a religious argument. (Which surprised me.) Nor was he trying to argue that gay parents are lesser parents. (Which surprised me.) What it boiled down to for Andrews, essentially, was that the government’s only role in marriage is upholding its role in keeping the parents of children together for the benefit of the child, using marriage as “education” about “an ideal”, and if gay people can get married, when their relationships are in the main not about children (unlike heterosexual people, where infertile marriages are in Andrews’ mind the exception), it uncouples marriage from procreation in people’s minds and will reduce the importance of marriage for those heterosexual people about to have children.

Obviously he couldn’t explain how that would happen. Couples would really say “hey, I was about to get married but now that gays can do it what’s the point”? Well, no – but yes. “If people say marriage is not an exclusive domain of a man and a woman in the way in which they’ve always understood it… There will be a cultural shift over time,” he said. “Overall people will say what’s the point of getting married, because there’s nothing about getting married that really means very much.”

Which seems a bit weird coming from a married person. All the main benefits that he sees in getting married disappear if the gays can do it too? Seriously?

Andrews conceded that if their parents making a marriage commitment is a positive for children, then it’s also a positive for the children of gay parents. He conceded there are many gay parents now, and no matter what he does to the Marriage Act he can’t stop them having kids. He conceded that there are many fine gay parents. He conceded that he didn’t have any evidence of a drop in support for marriage because of gay marriage where it’s been legislated – but said he thinks this negative effect will be noticed over twenty or thirty years (conveniently beyond any time that he would realistically still be in Parliament).

I’ll go back in five years and ask him if he’s seen any evidence of his feared destruction of marriage in any of the countries with equality yet.

I pointed out to him that if anything taints marriage, it’s the present discrimination – it certainly taints it for me, to the point where we will awkwardly have to insert a line after the monitum at our wedding next week expressing our wish that the present situation be reformed sooner rather than later. Andrews didn’t think that many would be discouraged from marriage on that basis, which is probably right – although ironic, since he still thinks that many would be discouraged from marriage if the opposite was true. (I suspect the truth is that most marrying couples are thinking about their own relationship, not the legal status of gay marriages, and that that would be true after equality as well.)

Anyway, we’re getting there. If an architect and prominent supporter of the discrimination (he refuses to concede that’s what it is, except in the purest sense of the word, but can’t really present a coherent argument as to how it isn’t) is only left with a vague sense of impending doom as an argument – a vague sense of impending doom for which he can’t give any examples or anything but the most circular reasoning – the edifice of discrimination must be tottering about on its last legs.

It’s time we pushed it over. Marriage is about commitment, not prejudice. It’s time the law reflected that ideal.

See you there tomorrow.