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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Politics is always funny until someone gets burnt at the stake

The "Christian-aligned" Tea Party are complaining, protesting and even challenging Obamacare; a policy of President Barack Obama which will enable millions of poorer Americans to have health care insurance, something which they have previously been denied.  Without health care, many of them suffer without treatment, many of them die.

Yet, the Tea Party are complaining that the government should not be able to tell them what to do.  This is in keeping with Tea Party practices of demanding that government tell people what they can NOT do, such as:

  • you can NOT be gay and you certainly can NOT marry someone of the same gender, 
  • you can NOT have appropriate birth control and you certainly can NOT have an abortion (even if it might save your life), 
  • you  can NOT belong to a religion other than Christianity and you certainly  can NOT be Muslim, 
  • you  can NOT be pro-Peace and you certainly  can NOT criticise the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ... or the calls for war on Iran, 
  • you  can NOT be pro-Palestine and you certainly  can NOT criticise Israel's violations of the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency, 
  • you  can NOT be pro-Human Rights and you certainly  can NOT criticise American foreign policy which has cost thousands of innocent lives in foreign countries ....
The Tea Party opposes government sponsored social welfare schemes, but supports government sponsored corporate welfare.  They want economic liberalism, a laissez faire economy, until the greed of unfettered capitalism crashes and then they expect government to bail out the corporate despots who caused the problem in the first place.  They demand smaller government ... except when it comes to Defence and Police, but leave Education and Health to be delivered by profit-driven companies.

You Go Tea Party ... no, seriously, please ... go ... now ... back to the Dark Ages ... or better still - please, pretty please, read your Bibles - you know the verses about love, peace and caring for the poor, the oppressed, the widow, the stranger.  Jesus was not a war mongering, capitalist, He commanded us to love all and to care for all - even the least of these!

Politics is always funny until someone gets burnt at the stake!

Starter scriptures for love, peace, caring for all

Matthew 22:37 & 39 - "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and ... you shall love your neighbour as yourself". 

Matthew 25:45 - "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me". 

Matthew 25:31-46 - Parable of the sheep and the goats

Matthew 5:1-12 - The Beatitudes 

John 13:35 - "by this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another".

1 John 4:20-21 - "If someone says 'I love God' but hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God, whom he has not seen?  And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God, must love his brother also". 

And let us not forget scripture about sharing the wealth - something which America seems to be sadly lacking:

Exodus 16-17: "This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: 'Let every man gather it according to each one's need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent'.  Then the Children of Israel did so and gathered, some more, some less.  So when they measured it by omers, he who had gathered much had nothing left over, and he who had gathered little had no lack. Every man had gathered according to each one's need".


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Silence is the loudest scream

Freedom of expression is proudly held by democracies as a beacon of liberty compared to restrictive regimes such as China, North Korea, the former Soviet Union and various Middle Eastern states, such as Syria and Saudi Arabia.

This pride in our liberty is also a risk to our freedom as we become complacent about legislation introduced to "protect" us.

Vilification laws in Australia make it "unlawful to insult, humiliate, offend or intimidate another person or group in public on the basis of their race".  These laws have been criticised by some right-wing politicians and a few Christian groups who feel that they are being unfairly targetted and that they should be able to criticise others.  Interestingly, some of these critics line up to have Muslims prosecuted for similar speech, to have them banned from certain expression, such as wearing a burqa and often oppose permits for the construction of mosques.

The difficult aspect for anyone who wants freedom of expression is that the "other side" will also benefit.  There will always be those who state opinions that we disagree with, that we might even find offensive.  In Australia there are defamation laws which can be used to protect a person's reputation. Since 9/11 the political debate in the West has heated up and become more aggressive with attacks on individuals and racial or religious stereotypes.

Does freedom of expression mean that we can say whatever we want without impunity or should there still be some boundaries around that freedom.  The moment we limit freedom of expression, is it truly freedom?  We live in a free country, but that doesn't mean that the country is free from law.  There would be few citizens who want to live in anarchy.  Laws are there for a reason. Most laws are designed to protect people from the destructive actions of others.  Vilification laws are designed for the same reason. But do these laws go too far?

Vilification law was introduced to hopefully prevent the sort of extremist propaganda that led to Nazi Germany's persecution of the Jews and other abhorrent events, however, the irony is that it also leads to the same censorship and book-burning behaviour of the Nazis, Stalin's Soviet Union and the medieval Catholic Church.

The freedoms that we boast of in democratic nations are undermined by a variety of censorship laws.

On a day now known as Black Tuesday, 22 November 2011, South Africa passed the 'Protection of Information Bill' (1), a piece of doublespeak more popularly known as the 'Secrecy Bill', which prohibits the disclosing or possessing of information deemed classified by the government.  A person found guilty could face up to 25 years in prison.  Whilst it is understandable that the government wants to protect State secrets, the law also applies to whistle-blowers, so could encourage corruption within government to fester.  The Act does acknowledge the importance of freedom of expression but then references numerous categories of information which are protected, including economic, commercial and political information.  In addition to this Act, the ANC is considering a tribunal for disciplining journalists (2).  Journalists and civil rights activists in South Africa are understandably concerned. (3)

On 25 July 2011, the Israeli Knesset passed the "Bill for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel through Boycott - 2011" (4). The resultant Act will make it an offense for anyone to demand or participate in an "economic, cultural or academic" boycotts to "purchase products or services produced or provided in the State of Israel, in any of its institutions or in an area under its control".  Areas under its control, include the illegal settlements that violate UN resolutions.  Essentially, Israel has made it illegal to protest against illegal activity.  The Act will allow for those targetted by boycotts to sue and be recompensed irrespective of actual losses incurred.  Freedom of expression?  Ironically, the first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, once said "the test of democracy is freedom of criticism".

Following 9/11, the United States government introduced the highly secretive "United and Strengthening by Providing Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act", another piece of Orwellian doublespeak more popularly known as the "Patriot Act".   This Act stifles freedom of expression and limits what journalists and other writers can report. (5)  Even reporting on parts of the Act is a criminal offense.  Usually, ignorance of the law is no defense, so how does that stand when the public are not allowed to be informed of the contents of the Act. Even more sinister is the discovery that the Act has power beyond the United States, giving the USA secret access to cloud stored data of other sovereign nations without the knowledge or permission of those nations. (6) Interestingly, President John F. Kennedy once stated "We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people".

What do we want? Freedom of expression - which gives everyone freedom to state what they want, whether we like what they say or not and whether they criticise or expose government behaviours ... or do we want to curb some of the vitriolic speech and whistle-blowing through vilification laws, secrecy bills and 'patriot' acts?

Personally, I would prefer fewer laws and the ability to speak and write freely!  I'm not advocating anarchy of expression as there are existing  laws against defamation, violence and property damage that can be used to prosecute those whose opinions result in, or encourage, behaviours harmful to others. However, we do not need more laws controlling what we can and can't say or write.

Whilst I do not agree with the bigoted and ignorant vitriol espoused by some of the so-called journalists in our media, I fear it is a slippery slope when we start censoring journalism and either banning the reporting of, or ordering writers to sanitise, certain events or their own opinions.

It is this freedom to express ourselves and our beliefs, that provides the backdrop to history as it unfolds. History is more than events, it is comprised of the life experience of millions of individuals expressed through writing and speech.

Silence this and we silence humanity.

Freedom of Expression quotes

"I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" - Evelyn Beatrice Hall in "The Friends of Voltaire".

"If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all" - Noam Chomsky.

"Here is my advice as we begin the century that will lead to 2081. First, guard the freedom of ideas at all costs.  Be alert that dictators have always played on the natural human tendency to blame others and to over-simplify. And don't regard yourself as a guardian of freedom unless you respect and preserve the rights of people you disagree with to free, public, unhampered expression." - Gerard K. O'Neill, 2081.

"Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself.  It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime". Potter Stewart.

"The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion".  Henry Steele Commager.

"Without words, without writing and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity", Herman Hesse

"Silence is the loudest scream", anonymous.

All references accessed 25 March 2012.

1. Republic of South Africa, 'Protection of Information Bill'.

2. David Smith, 21 November 2011, 'Black Tuesday' protests to mark likely passing of South African Secrecy Bill' - The Guardian online.

3. Charlayne Hunter-Gault, 22 November 2011, 'Black Tuesday in South Africa', The New Yorker,

4. Human Rights Watch, 13 July 2011, 'Israel: anti-boycott bill stifles free expression'.

5. Bill of Rights Defense Committee, 'First Amendment: Freedom of Speech, Religion, and Assembly',

6. Zack Whittaker, 12 October 2011, 'Newspaper sues government to reveal 'secret' Patriot Act interpretation', ZDNet,

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ancient & Inked

Often we hear people saying that in years to come there will be a lot of old people with ugly tattoos.   Many people with tattoos have been asked the question 'it looks nice now, but what do you think it will look like in 50 years time?'  ... or the equally profound statement, 'you'll regret that when you get older'.

I'd like to point out that in '50 years time', if we are still here, that a faded, sagging, distended tattoo is the least of anyone's worries.  At an age when everything is dragging, sagging and prolapsing, do you really think the elderly care if their tattoos are not quite the well defined, artistic masterpieces that they were 'back in the day'.

As for regrets, I've had a few, but I would rather be 80 years old and regret getting a tattoo (or two), then be 80 years old and regret not getting one. It's easier to get a tattoo when young then when old. Whilst there is no age limit to getting a tattoo,  it's better to be tattooed when the skin is still firm. It goes without saying that tattooing aging, flaccid skin is like drawing on a curtain billowing in a breeze.

In old age, maybe tattoos have lost their lustre, but at least they are interesting. Most tatts have a story behind them, a reason for the person getting them.  What better ice-breaker in the nursing home?  Assuming of course that you haven't had to flop out a droopy boob or flash a pendulous posterior in order to proudly reveal the now misshapen ink art to the nursing home residents.  Although that in itself might liven up the place and bring a cheer to the dears. Surely it beats bingo.

There are people who play life safe, always playing 'by the rules', living within the boundaries of 'acceptable' society.  They may well make it into old age with ne'er a body piercing, branding or tattoo. And good for them.  However, do they ever wish that they could live a little outside of the 'acceptable'.  Rather than worrying about what we might look like when we hit 80, we should live for the moment. Let's face it, life at 80 is not exactly a fashion contest, one is not competing for the heart of a potential paramour.  Besides, how presumptuous are we to think that at the tender age of 20, or 30, or 40, we know what we will think at 80.  Perhaps our 80 year old self will tell us to live life a little wild.  Perhaps our 80 year old self will say 'get out there and get that freakin' tattoo'.

Forget about being concerned with a tattoo or two at 80.  Certainly be concerned about living a healthy life, a good life, a full life, a fun life; not hurting others, being patient, tolerant, understanding, loving.  But worry about regretting a tattoo? Nah! Get over it and get tattooed!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Don't blame the Referee

I love sport! I love competition, whether it be me competing or someone else, I love the thrill of winning!

My favourite team sport is rugby league, followed closely and in descending order of preference, by Australian Rules football, soccer, rugby union and cricket.

Everyone loves a good, competitive game.  Whilst thrashing an opponent is great for stroking the ego, the thrill and satisfaction of winning in a close, hard fought match is unparalleled.

The disappointment when we lose of course, is devastating so we often look for excuses.  One of the most common is to blame the referee or umpire instead of placing responsibility for the loss squarely at the feet of the team.

The ref may have a shocker by incorrectly awarding penalties, or not awarding penalties, incorrectly awarding tries, or not awarding tries and so on; tailor it to your chosen sport.  These decisions may affect the game, but can we really blame the outcome on the ref? After all, the team is out there for the duration of the game.  For rugby league that is 80 minutes or more of brutal conflict. Technically, it is 160 minutes because both teams are supposed to play a full 80 minutes concurrently - there's no point taking turns in playing. Both teams must turn up and play in defence and attack.  For cricket it could be a day, it could be 5 days.  The team has to compete.  The team has to accept that refs and umpires do get decisions wrong.

A good example of futilely blaming the ref occurred in the local derby between the Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys on 9 March 2012.  I think both sides would say that many of the ref's decisions were suspect.  However, it wasn't the refs fault that either side missed tackles, most notably when Brisbane (leading by 4 points with 2 minutes to go) failed to tackle Matty Bowen who ran out of a scrum, where he had packed in at lock, bolted through the Brisbane line and scored under the posts. Brisbane had that game in the bag if they had maintained their defence. Yes, they could argue that in the 12th minute, they should have been awarded the chance for an 8 point try after Bowen appeared to go into a tackle with his knees.  However, the Cowboys could also have argued about some dubious calls with missed knock-ons and forward passes.  Both teams had their chances regardless of the refereeing.  Either way, both teams had played well enough to win the game. Had Broncos not blinked, the game would have been their's.

Some years ago I was listening to a match being called on the radio.  The North Queensland Cowboys were playing and the referee had made a number of incorrect calls against them.  The commentator stated "with the poor refereeing no-one could blame the Cowboys if they shut down during the second half". Was the commentator serious?  These are professional footballers.  They are paid a motza to not "shut-down" regardless of how disappointed they may be with a referee.  Their intense training surely includes how to stay motivated in the face of extreme adversity.  I have seen teams, even the mighty Broncos, up by 18 points with 10 minutes to go and still lose.  Conversely, I have seen the Broncos down by around 20 points, score 24 points in the final 12 minutes or so of the game to win.  Motivation is something that these players are paid to maintain.

And then there is the "equal opportunist": the fan who argues that the penalty count was one sided.  Since when did equal opportunity apply to penalties?  If your team infringes the rules, they have to expect to be penalised.  If the other team is playing by the rules and your team isn't, then it isn't fair to penalise the other team.  Certainly, it might be frustrating if the referee isn't applying the rules consistently to both teams, however, that doesn't mean that a team should shut down; they just need to play smarter and maybe change their tactics.  Fans pay very good money to watch their team compete, not to watch them carry on like spoilt school kids who give up because the ref "wasn't fair".

At the end of a game, we can always argue the "ifs and buts", however, the teams are there for the duration of the game and can win regardless of the refereeing.  Referees are a soft target and the scapegoat for many an athlete who isn't professional enough to admit their own short-comings.

Rather than blaming referees, teams must take responsibility for their performances.  They can't expect the ref to win the game for them.  In fact, relying on the referee to win the game is not a sustainable strategy.

Closely related to, and often a product of, criticising the referee are the claims around whether or a not team deserved to win. The winner deserves to win - simple as that. If they had the most points at the end of the game, then they deserved the win. The other team, for whatever reason, obviously wasn't good enough. Blame the ref, blame whoever, but the team who wins has done enough to deserve the win.

Fans have the luxury of criticising all aspects of the game without having to perform on the field. This is a luxury that the coaches and players do not have; they need to be professional enough to accept the decision and get over it.  If they don't it can dramatically affect their ability to perform.  What is more important? Winning the game or proving the ref got it wrong?

For example, in the lead up to the 2008 grand final, Melbourne Storm player Cameron Smith, was suspended for a grapple tackle on Bribane's Sam Thaiday.  Pundits argued the merits of the suspension.  Melbourne coach, Craig Bellamy, was highly critical of the NRL judiciary and was fined $50,000 for his disparaging comments.  This, in my opinion, had a dramatic effect on the Storm's preparation for the grand final.  Instead of focussing on the biggest game of the season, the Storm were embroiled in arguments over the judiciary's decision.  Bellamy should have accepted the decision and got on with preparing his team for the game.  Instead, he spent the week criticising and complaining at the expense of training.  It wasn't the suspension of Smith that caused the Storm to be thrashed 40-0 by Manly in that grand final, it was the focus on the fairness of the decision.  The fans had the luxury of complaining about the NRL, Bellamy didn't, and it cost Melbourne dearly. Manly took the field and played like a well-oiled machine. Melbourne played like fodder thrown to the wolves, they had no focus, no game plan and seemed to be still wallowing in their self-pity over Smith's suspension.  Whether the suspension was correct or not is of no consequence.  Melbourne had a team of champions who had played well all year.  They didn't need Smith to win that day.  It wasn't the judiciary's fault they lost, it was the Storm's fault alone.

Of course, we can take this approach into all areas of our lives, not just sport.  One thing we can be certain of in life, is that people will disappoint us.  Things that others do may cost us money, opportunity and so on.  But ultimately, we are still responsible for how we react to any situation in our life.  If we refuse to fight for the important things, fail to set goals or to keep focussed on our goals, then we set ourselves up to fail. We may need to reevaluate our strategies and goals, but we should not give up.  We have power over our own lives and the choices that WE make dictate how our lives play out.  The more we focus on the behaviour of others, the less control we have over our own lives and the more power that we give them to control our lives.

Whether it is in sport or our daily lives, do NOT blame the referee, the other team, the boss, the government or other people, but take responsibility ourselves; understand the laws, the rules, the obstacles, the opponent, evaluate what is needed to be successful and do it!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stop Kony ... or stop the campaign to stop Kony?

It is amazing the popularity that the "Kony2012" YouTube video has achieved in such a short time.  Within days of its release, the video has had over 15 million hits!   The video can be seen here:

"Kony2012" is a 30 minute video highlighting the horrors of Joseph Kony, who heads up the Lord's Resistance Army.  The film has been produced by Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Soldiers, a charity which makes documentaries to "inspire young people to help end the longest running armed conflict in Africa ... and to lobby our nations' leaders to make ending this conflict a priority".   Russell had previously filmed the horrors of Darfur.  He has been so moved by the LRA abomination that he filmed "Kony2012".  The website for Invisible Soldiers is:

The LRA is a Christian military organisation fighting to bring theocratic rule to Uganda; rule based on the Ten Commandments.  To achieve this, the LRA kidnapped more than 30,000 children over the last 30 years and forced them to fight as soldiers, forcing them to murder men, women and other children. The LRA has used these children to wage war in Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan and the Congo.  In 2005, the International Criminal Court charged Kony with war crimes, however, he has not been captured and not stood trial.  It is believed that Kony is now in hiding somewhere outside of Uganda. 

Disappointingly, critics have come out of the woodwork, screaming that Invisible Soldiers is spending most of their funds on themselves.  Russell has stated that the bulk of the funds are used to promote awareness of Joseph Kony and his crimes.  How is this bad? Awareness is the first step towards global action.  The awareness that Russell has brought to this horrendous situation is nothing short of remarkable.  Years ago when I joined Amnesty International in campaigns against Joseph Kony and the LRA, few people had heard of him and even fewer cared.

Independent charity monitor, Charity Navigator, has given Invisible Soldiers an average rating in terms of accountability and transparency.  The result? Some people using this to dismiss the campaign!  The issue is not accountability or transparency.  The more important issue is the kidnapping and torture of children! Children being forced to kill!  Other criticism takes the puerile "but they aren't the only ones doing this".   That might be true, but it doesn't mean we ignore the "Kony2012" campaign.  A campaign which might ignite world outrage into taking action against the LRA ... and then against other groups committing similar atrocities.  The luxury of first world problems: money takes priority over human rights.  Would the critics of Invisible Soldiers support other charities that attempt to ease the suffering of the victims of Kony?  Or are they just looking for a cheap shot against another bleeding heart to appease their calloused conscience?

Other criticism of the film revolves around the LRA "only" numbering in the hundreds these days and Kony no longer being in Uganda.  So ... it is okay to let these people get away with murder?  That is quite the message that we want to send to groups plotting the use of child soldiers.  If anything, we need to make sure that actions taken against Kony and the LRA must respect human rights, but then actions against any criminal or terrorist should still respect human rights.  This is something which the world seems to forget in its rush to fight fire with fire, violence with violence.  However, me must not let him get away with his crimes.

CNN interviewed Jacob Akoye, one of the boys featured in the "Kony2012" video.  Akoye is now 21 years old.  He told CNN "For me the criticism [of Kony2012] is unfair, because if I am to say it is fair then I wouldn't be here. Right now I wouldn't have been able to go to school. You wouldn't have been able to speak to me right now because I had no hope in my life. I reached even a point when I said 'I can even die now' because I thought it would be the immediate resolution of my suffering, you know". The full CNN story is available at:

What sort of morals drives people to shoot the messenger instead of promoting the message?

I dare to suggest that most of the critics of "Kony2012" would be very quick to highlight these horrors if they were committed by a Muslim group.

Stop criticising Invisible Soldiers.  Get off your "holier than thou" pews and join the campaigns against the use of child soldiers, against Joseph Kony, against the LRA.   What's more important? Stopping Kony or stopping the campaign to stop Kony?

Joseph Kony is an evil man.  The Lord's Resistance Army is an evil organisation.  They need to be stopped.  Kony must be arrested.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Howard's Legacy & the Haughty Hypocrisy

John Howard is revered as one of Australia's greatest politicians and its second-longest serving Prime Minister.  Yet, much of Howard's electoral success was achieved through fear campaigns in which he haughtily portrayed himself and the Liberal Party as the bastion of security and defence against marauding hordes of asylum seekers hell-bent on destroying the great Australian way of life.

Economically, Howard did very little.  He boasted of maintaining a massive surplus and his supporters claim this is his legacy.  There is, however, no point in being the richest man in the cemetery.  Whilst Howard sat on this surplus, infrastructure such as education and health deteriorated.  Howard had inherited a strong economy from Labor Prime Minister, Paul Keating.  For instance, in 1996 the GDP growth rate 4.18% and inflation was 2.18%.  In addition to this, Howard was able to reap the benefits of an exceptionally strong mining sector, boosting employment and government coffers, courtesy of the Western Australian and Queensland Labor governments.  Howard even implemented some of Keating's economic policies, such as the GST.

Howard's reign demonstrates economic restraint which ignored expenditure on infrastructure.  He encouraged discord between the States as he set them arguing over funding while he pushed for increased federal control of infrastructure which was constitutionally the responsibility of the States. For example, in blatant pork-barrelling, Howard took control of Tasmania's Mersey Hospital and promised that the federal government would fix all its ills at $45 million per year.  The plan failed.  Mersey Hospital is now back in the control of Tasmania.

The legacy of former Prime Minister John Howard is deceit, discord, fear, racism and victimising victims. The years of demonising asylum seekers continues to influence both Labor and Liberal policies.  For instance, the ALP attempted to replace Howard's "Pacific Solution" with the "Malaysian Solution".  Both policies were based on xenophobia and demonising people arriving by boat.

There was also a measure of religion thrown into fool the gullible.  Ironically, we hear many Christians from the religious right saying that they don't agree with the "moral" policies of the Labor party, such as gay marriage and abortion.  Yet many of them blindly supported Howard as he victimised asylum seekers, lied about his policies and their affects, and waged war based on false evidence: hardly Christian morals!

Liar v Liar 

During the federal election in 2010, Prime Minister Julia Gillard stated that she would not introduce a carbon tax if re-elected, but would see victory as a mandate for a carbon price. When the election yielded a hung parliament, both her and Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, began negotiating with the independents and the Greens in order to form government.  Labor successfully negotiated the support of Greens MP, Adam Bandt, and the three independents, Katter, Oakeshott, Windsor and Wilkie. Gillard was returned to power and was now the proud leader of a minority government.

One of the agreements Gillard made in order to form government was for the introduction of carbon pricing. This resulted in the Clean Energy Act 2011 which established the framework for carbon pricing, essentially an emissions trading scheme. It is not a tax as is pointed out numerous times throughout the Act, for instance, Section 100, subsection 10 and 11, which states:

Charge payable 

(10) If a carbon unit is issued to a person in accordance with this section, the person is liable to pay a charge for the issue of the unit. 

(11) Subsection (10) has effect only so far as it is not a law imposing taxation within the meaning of section 55 of the Constitution. Note: See also: (a) Part 2 of the Clean Energy (Charges—Excise) Act 2011; and (b) Part 2 of the Clean Energy (Charges—Customs) Act 2011; and (c) the Clean Energy (Unit Issue Charge—Fixed Charge) Act 2011.

Most of the people who accused Gillard of lying had voted for the coalition anyway.  Most of them had also voted for Howard years before.  If these people were so concerned about this "lie" by Gillard, then perhaps they should revisit the record of Honest John Howard whom they revere.  A record punctuated by years of deliberate deceit.  Not promises broken because of a need to negotiate with other political parties, but electoral promises broken once he was elected with a clear majority, as well as deliberate cover-ups and blatant lies.

In 1996, Howard promised not to introduce any new taxes or tax increases during his first term of government.  A promise which he failed dismally at.  Then there was John Howard's "core and non-core" promises which he used to justify not keeping promises.  Things such as "no new taxes, no tax increases" were deemed "non-core" promises by Mr Howard, as was the statement "I'm not going to break any promises".

Howard answered this question asked by Kerry O'Brien on ABC's "7.30 Report" on 1 February 1996:

Kerry O'Brien: "Okay, the pledge of no new taxes, no increases in existing taxes for the life of the next parliament. So for the next three years, not even a 1 cent increase on cigarettes or beer or wine or petrol, no other indirect tax increase, no tax increase of any kind?"

John Howard: "That promise is quite explicit".  

Howard won the election and went on to introduce dozens of new taxes, tax increases and indirect taxes such as the Termination Payments Tax, Franchise Fees Windfall Tax, Family Trust Distribution Tax, Radiocommunications (Spectrum Licence Tax), Radiocommunications (Receiver Licence Tax), Radiocommunications (Transmitter Licence Tax) and others during his first term of government from 1996 to 1998.  For a full list of Acts implemented during those years refer to the following site: .

When Labor introduced the "Flood Levy" to assist in the recovery of communities in Queensland and Victoria following floods and cyclones in 2011, Abbott accused them of introducing a new tax and asked "when is a levy not a tax"? Apparently when the Liberals introduce it during the 38th parliament (Howard's first term in which there would be "no new taxes, tax increases or indirect taxes). His first term saw him introduce the above new taxes and the following levies and charges: Cattle Transaction Levy, Wine Export Charge, Dairy Produce Levy, Telecommunications (Carrier Licence Charges) and so on.  Surely, "levies" and "charges" constitute "taxes".

In 1995, John Howard famously said that he would "never, ever" introduce a Goods & Services Tax, (GST).  In the year 2000, Howard introduced the GST.  But credit where credit is due, he did mention the GST in his 1998 election campaign.  Apparently "never, ever" only has a life span of a few years.

Howard stated that the Tax Act would be reduced with the introduction of the GST, when in fact 3,000 pages were added to the Tax Act after GST

For a list of claims by Howard (which could be classified as lies using the standard "Juliar carbon tax" measure mentioned above), relating to Medicare, universities, GST, the introduction of the Petroleum Resources Rent Tax, Fuel Tax Act and other taxes (including the 130 new taxes or tax increases introduced between 1996 and 2002 - all "non-core promises"), ethanol, aged care, current account deficit, labour market programs, services for the bush, political advertising, public service jobs, savings bonus, then refer to this site:|19|109589607626152|1650569191203 

1995 was a big year for John Howard.  As Opposition Leader, Howard criticised then Prime Minister Paul Keating for "wasting" $9.4 million on advertising Labor's Working Nation policy.  Funnily enough, when Howard took over as Prime Minister in 1996 he went on to spend $2 billion on government advertising whilst in office, this included $118 million on advertising the GST and $120 million advertising Work Choices.

In a spot of deja vu, Abbott criticised Labor for proposing to spend $12 million advertising the Carbon Tax, claiming that Labor had promised to "eliminate" government advertising.  Yet the truth is that Kevin Rudd had promised to "significantly reduce" government advertising if Labor won the election in 2007, not to eliminate it.  Apparently, $12 million is bad, $118 million is good.

But I digress.  Returning to John Howard, truth was always one of Honest John's weak points.  The 2001 election campaign was mired by numerous lies, misrepresentations and cover-ups, particularly in relation to human rights issues and the tragic deaths of hundreds of asylum seekers.

Victimising the victims - a legacy of fear

Some of former Prime Minister John Howard's remarkable human rights achievements include:
  • In the 2001 federal election campaign, Howard used the deaths caused by Al Qaeda on 9/11 to link asylum seekers with terrorism and the need for "border security".  To do this, Howard capitalised on three incidents which culminated in the loss of 353 lives:

    (1) The "Children Overboard Affair", in which Howard claimed that asylum seekers had thrown their children from a sinking boat in order to force the Royal Australian Navy to rescue them.  A subsequent Senate inquiry concluded that not only were NO children thrown overboard but that the Prime Minister himself knew that no children had been thrown overboard.  The Senate Inquiry found that Howard deliberately misled the public in order to "exploit voters' fears of a wave of illegal immigrants by demonising asylum seekers" for political gain through appearing strong on "border security" (as detailed in the Senate Inquiries findings).

    In addition, HMAS Adelaide was directed not to bring any asylum seekers on board as they were still in international waters.  Taking them on board would mean that they were now on Australian territory and entitled to seek asylum in Australia.  The crew of HMAS Adelaide watched the boat, known as Siev-5, sink before their eyes and only once it had sunk did they rescue the asylum seekers.  A former sailor on HMAS Adelaide stated in the ABC1 documentary "Leaky Boat" aired on 7 July 2011, "this wouldn't have happened if it was the Manly ferry... they wouldn't have even got their feet wet".  Crew from HMAS Adelaide were forced to dive into treacherous waters to save the asylum seekers.  This could have been avoided if the government had authorised them to rescue the asylum seekers rather than to sit there and watch the boat sink, risking the lives of sailors and asylum seekers.

    The media reported the "Children Overboard"deceit during the 2001 federal election campaign.  Rather than Howard being called to account for it, his popularity in the polls rose and he was returned to government with an increased majority.  Never underestimate the power of fear or racism.

    (2) MV Tampa crisis in which a Norwegian cargo vessel rescued 438 asylum seekers from a sinking boat in international waters near Christmas Island.  The captain of the Tampa sailed towards Christmas Island as this was the nearest port.  When the Tampa entered Australian waters, Howard unleashed the Army's elite military unit, the SAS Counter-terrorism Unit, onto the ship, demanding that the distressed and traumatised asylum seekers be loaded onto a Navy ship and relocated to either New Zealand or a detention centre in Nauru.  The asylum seekers were predominantly from Afghanistan, fleeing the Taliban (who ironically had been created in the early 1990s from direct involvement and sponsorship by the United States and other western governments during the Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980s, as had Al Qaeda).  Defence Minister Peter Reith claimed that this group of asylum seekers could be harboring terrorists.  After being relocated to Nauru and New Zealand, all members of this group were found to be legitimate refugees and resettled in either Australia or New Zealand.

    77% of Australians were labelled racist because of their agreement with the government's callous position on the Tampa affair.  One survey found that Australian support for this action was as high as 90%.  Never underestimate the power of government sanctioned racism ... and fear.

    During the Tampa crisis, Howard excised 4,600 Australian islands from being considered part of Australia's migration zone for the purposes of seeking asylum.  In essence, escalating the crisis and denying legal rights to asylum seekers who had the temerity to land on an Australian island.  This policy required asylum seekers to reach the mainland before applying for refugee status.  The policy was eventually overturned by a decision of the Australian High Court in 2009, which ruled it illegal.

    Howard had inaccurately and immorally linked asylum seekers with terrorists in the psyche of many Australians.  A legacy of the Howard era which many people still believe today.  Yet there are far easier ways for terrorists to enter the country than to risk their lives on a leaky boat and then spend months or years in detention centres.  The only link between asylum seekers and terrorists is that the asylum seekers are fleeing the very people that Howard tried to link them with; fleeing the very people who Howard tried to accuse the asylum seekers of being.  The asylum seekers are victims, yet Howard dehumanised and demonised them - with the blessing of most of the Australian electorate.

    (3) SIEV-X tragedy.  On 19 October 2001 during the Australian federal election campaign, a boat over loaded with asylum seekers began sinking as they made their way to Australia. 353 asylum seekers drowned.  The Howard government claimed the sinking occured within Indonesian waters and was therefore Indonesia's responsibility.

    However, SBS reporter Geoff Parish proved that the sinking occured in international waters and that Howard knew this when he made that statement.  During the election campaign, opposition leader Kim Beazley accused Howard of a cover-up.  Howard won public sympathy by claiming how disgusting it was that Beazley should make this awful mud-slinging accusation during an election campaign.  Yet the accusation was true and Howard used it to ensure his election victory.  Never underestimate the power of sympathy when accused of profiting from the deaths of demonised people.

    The proof that Howard knew the boat sank in international waters, was in a cable by the Australian ambassador to Indonesia which was sent to 40 high ranking Australians by name, including Prime Minister John Howard.  Additionally, this was consistent with information in an intelligence note and people smuggling taskforce minutes, both provided on 23 October 2001 and a harbour masters report provided on 24 October 2001.  The documents indicated that the boat had sunk in an area in which Howard had specifically ordered "saturation surveillance".  The documents raise questions about whether Australia could have rescued the victims.  So why the cover-up from Howard? 353 lives lost; 146 children, 142 women, 65 men drowned and a cover-up for political expediency.  Further information on this can be found with any google search, or refer to these sites:

    The Senate Inquiry which investigated the "Children Overboard" affair also reviewed the SIEV-X tragedy and concluded that it was "extraordinary that a major disaster could occur in the vicinity of a theatre of intensive Australian operations and remain undetected until three days after the event, without any concern being raised within intelligence and decision making circles".

    This deceit makes the "carbon tax lie" pale into insignificance.
  • Pacific Solution. Howard negotiated with a number of Pacific countries, including Nauru and Papua New Guinea to harbour detention centres on behalf of Australia. This was known as the "Pacific Solution".   These detention centres housed hundreds of asylum seekers.  Many were held for years before their cases were heard.  Almost all were accepted as genuine refugees after suffering the trauma of years of detention, often with families forcibly split up and held in different detention centres.
  • Every time there was a drop in the polls, Howard would trot out another boatload of refugees and somehow link them to terrorism and "border security".  Victims of crimes are not a "border security" issue, they are a humanitarian issue.

    Politicians and voters alike, accused asylum seekers of not having the same "moral standards" as us superior Australians.  What sort of moral standard are we judging this against, when even the Prime Minister had no compulsion about demonising asylum seekers and using their tragedy for his own benefit - as highlighted in the Senate Inquiry mentioned above!  A haughty hypocrisy indeed!
  • During the 2007 election campaign, Howard claimed that the Pacific Solution had solved the problem of asylum seekers arriving by boat because of the significant drop in boat arrivals. He argued that Labor would be "soft" on asylum seekers and would open the flood-gates.   What Howard failed to mention was that between 2001 and 2006 there was a world-wide drop in asylum seekers: Australia had a 73% decrease, Europe had a 55% decrease and USA/Canada had a 50% decrease. The UNHCR estimates that around 1,600 asylum seekers arrived in Australian waters from 2001-2006. From 2006 - 2008 there was a worldwide increase in asylum claims.  Refer to this graph from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees:
  • Asylum seeker levels in Australia have mirrored world-wide trends.  In 2011, the UNHCR revealed that mandatory detention does not deter people smugglers or asylum seekers.  This report recommended other options, such as community detention, which is more humane and provides better outcomes for all concerned without the mental and physical trauma that imprisonment inflicts.
    Whilst Howard credits the off-shore processing at Nauru and Manus Island for 'stopping the boats', it should be kept in mind that Howard also implemented 'Operation Relex', in which the Austalian Navy was used to literally tow the boats back to Indonesia.  So while Abbott trumpets the benefits of the 'Pacific Solution', keep in mind that Indonesia no longer allows boats to be towed back, which is one reason for the increase in boats coming to Australia. The other reason is a significant increase in refugee numbers world-wide.
  • Howard involved Australia in an illegal war against Iraq, which the United Nations warned against.  To justify the war, Howard (along with U.S. President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair) lied about weapons of mass destruction (WMD), even though UN weapons inspectors had warned numerous times that Iraq had no WMD.  Andrew Wilkie, at that time an intelligence officer with the Office of National Assessments (and later an independent MP), had submitted reports on the alleged Iraqi WMD.  Wilkie eventually resigned and publicly stated that his resignation was because of his intelligence reports being misrepresented by the Prime Minister.  Howard championed the lies by the United States that Iraq and Al Qaeda were working hand in glove when this had been disproven numerous times by intelligence experts, including the CIA.
Howard and his ministers oversaw other human rights and moral issues which few Australians concerned themselves with:
  • Forced deportation of Chinese woman, 8 months pregnant, knowing she would be forced to have an abortion. In 1999, the Howard government deported a Chinese woman who was more than 8 months pregnant and who begged for her unborn child, knowing that China would enforce their "one child" policy.  As expected, Chinese authorities forced her to have an abortion only 10 days before she was due to give birth.  She posed no security risk to Australia, she had been held at the Port Hedland Detention Centre for 3 years, so why was the government in such a rush to deport her when he knew that she faced a forced abortion when she was almost 9 months pregnant?  Would two more Chinese in Australia have been such a burden?  Or if she had to be deported, couldn't the government have waited until she gave birth? She had been here for 3 years already!  It is interesting that Christians don't discuss this when criticising abortion policies of the Labor party.
  • Deportation of Vivienne Solon. Howard's government deported Australian citizen, Vivienne Solon.  She was a citizen of Australia, not an asylum seeker, not here on a visa.  She was Australian.  She was eventually returned to Australia.
  • Unlawful detention of Cornelia Rau.  German citizen, Cornelia Rau, was unlawfully detained for 10 months through errors which saw her treated as an illegal immigrant. She had been in hospital receiving treatment for a mental illness, when she disappeared. She was  reported as a 'missing patient'. She was eventually located in Queensland and incorrectly detained for 10 months before the error was discovered.  Rau's detention at Baxter Detention Centre included 5 weeks in solitary confinement.  
  • Deportation of Robert Jovicic. Howard's government deported Robert Jovicic to Serbia on "character grounds", even though he had lived in Australia since he was 2 years old.  Jovicic ended up living on the streets of Belgrade.  After negative media coverage the Howard government allowed Jovicic to return to Australia, however, he was not granted a permanent visa until the Labor government, led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, granted him one in 2008.
  • Deportation of Afghans, resulting in a number of them being murdered in Afghanistan. The government deported 400 Afghan asylum seekers in 2004 by making the bizarre claim that Afghanistan was safe.  Of these, at least 20 were murdered on their arrival in Afghanistan.
  • Deportation of minors. In 2004, 42 unaccompanied minors were deported to Afghanistan.  The fate of these children is unknown.
  • Indefinite detention of asylum seekers. Howard's policies resulted in traumatised men, women and children being locked up behind razor wire for indefinite periods (often for years); taking away from them their dignity and their hope for the future and then encouraging media reports blaming them for "not fitting into our way of life" when they rioted, self-mutilated or suicided. Additionally, many of these families were split up with family members being held in different locations.
  • National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. The Inquiry conducted by the Human Rights Equal Opportunity Commission investigated the detention of children who arrived in Australia without valid visas between 1999 and 2002.  The Inquiry found that the children were detained for indefinite periods, not afforded the opportunity to be heard in a court and were denied their rights under the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Misrepresenting arrivals of 'boat people'. Howard misrepresented the "flood" of boat people, when on-shore arrivals constituted less than 3% of Australia's migrant intake.  This claim of a "flood" of boat people is still believed today, even though it remains a single digit percentage of Australia's migrant intake.

The current federal Labor government certainly has a lot to answer for in relation to some of its scandals and poor decision making.  Yet, where was the uproar with scandals and poor decisions in Howard's administration?
  • Refusal to dismiss Governor-General accused of covering-up paedophilia claims against a Catholic priest. Howard refused to ask for the dismissal or resignation of Governor-General Peter Hollingworth following allegation that while Arch-Bishop of Brisbane, he covered up accusations of paedophilia against a Catholic priest.  On the ABC's Lateline program, Prime Minister Howard stated that " ... his Excellency continues to enjoy my confidence."
    Eventually Hollingworth did resign, prompting the Opposition Leader, Simon Crean, to accuse Howard of moral turpitude for failing to act on the issue.
  • Travel rorts scandal. In 1997, the 'travel rorts scandal' was exposed resulting in three ministers losing their jobs:
    • David Jull, Fadden, Qld
    • John Sharp, Hume, NSW
    • Peter McGauran, Gippsland, Vic
  • Other first term scandals. In addition to the three ministers sacked over the travel rorts affair, the following ministers also stood down during Howard's first term for ministerial impropriety in relation to the issues stated:
  • Fake flyers during 2007 election campaign. During Howard's 2007 federal election campaign it was revealed that members of the Liberal Party were handing out fake flyers purporting to be from the Islamic Australia Federation (a fake organisation) and disgracefully used the deaths of 202 people, including 88 Australians, in the 2002 Bali bombing by claiming that 'we gratefully acknowledge Labors support to forgive our Muslim brothers who have been unjustly sentenced to death for the Bali bombings' - this claim was an horrendous and blatant lie aimed at making people angry and upset. The flyers also claimed that Labor supported the construction of mosques and had allowed controversial Sheik al-Hilaly into the country against the objections of ASIO. The claims in the flyers were bogus and exploited the xenophobia that was the hallmark of Howard's administration. 
  • Industrial relations. 
    • Water front dispute
      Following an illegal restructuring in 1997/1998, the Patrick Corporation then locked out their workers who were members of the Maritime Union of the Australia.  The Howard government supported this illegal action in what could be seen as a harbinger of the controversial 'WorkChoices' legislation released some years later. 
    • WorkChoices
      The WorkChoices legislation was an industrial relations policy which took away the rights of workers to collectively bargain for their rights and instead required individual negotiations.  An individual versus the Corporation. David v Goliath.  This resulted in many workers losing entitlements as they were required to front their senior managers by themselves to negotiate their pay and conditions.
Elections - winners and losers

Conservative voters screamed that democracy had been usurped when Gillard formed government even though the Labor Party received fewer votes than the Coalition, yet won the same number of seats.

Funnily enough, the conservative silence was deafening following the 1998 election in which Labor received more votes than the Coalition on two-party preferred, but not more seats.  In fact, it was the biggest swing against a first term government since 1934! Based on the conservative's unconstitutional logic in 2010, Labor's Kim Beazley should have been Prime Minister in 1998, not John Howard.

The "Christian" Vote

Throughout the world there has been a rise in religious conservatism. In the West, it has manifested itself through the religious right. Some politicians have tried to capitalise on this.  President George W. Bush and Prime Minister John Howard, both claimed to be Christians and both capitalised on the vote by the religious right even though their policies were anything but "Christian".  Had Christians spoken up and demanded that their Lord, the Prince of Peace, not be reinvented as a war-mongering, fear-driven, money-hungry capitalist perhaps thousands of lives would have been saved, perhaps we wouldn't be the target of extremists.

Today, many Christians criticise the Labor Party because of its support for gay marriage, abortion and multi-culturalism.  Yet are these 'issues' any worse than the legacy that was left by former Prime Minister John Howard as detailed above?

Instead of defending the indefensible, the waging of war, racism, xenophobia and the abuse of asylum seekers, Christians should have been praying for their leaders, for each other and for their "enemies", those people demonised by the government.

Luke 6:27: "But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you".

Matthew 5:43 "You have heard it said 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you, that you may be Sons of your Father in Heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust".

George W. Bush and John Howard both claimed the moral high ground in order to garner the Christian vote,   while they waged war and fear campaigns, spread lies and dissent, cultivated racism and xenophobia and demonised vast groups of people.  Had they lived and acted properly as Christians, we may have seen peace rather than war as highlighted in Proverbs:

"When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him". ~Proverbs 16:7

Howard's legacy was one of deceit, discord, fear, racism, dissent and victimising victims. Yet Christians defended him.

"There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife amongst brothers."
Proverbs 6:16-19

Had Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd done the things that Howard did, would the electorate be as forgiving?  Labor was correctly criticised for its inhumane Malaysian Solution, yet Howard was praised for his inhumane Pacific Solution.  Gillard compromised on carbon tax and is accused of lying, yet Howard deliberately lied about taxes, asylum seekers, war ... and is praised for it.

What a legacy! What a haughty hypocrisy!