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 Scott Morrison: the everything to everyone man?

11.09.19.  Scott Morrison will find that his “miracle” has been reduced to ethereality as he faces tough issues. He is finding that emulating his predecessor, the Waffler, even in part won’t wash. Morrison’s timidity to be all things to all people is akin to Paris during a spring thaw when the landscape exposes countless dollops of doggydoo underfoot with every step. Not the place to practice the ‘hop-step-and jump!” ScoMo has to deal with 18C decisively.
Janet Albrechtsen:
The Coalition government’s peripatetic approach to fundamental freedoms must have voters confused. It is one thing for a government to see the folly of its past ways and promise a renewed commitment to our freedoms. It is another for a Liberal-led government to keep bouncing all over the place, with a fluctuating commitment to core values of free speech and religious freedom.
Source: Janet Albrechtsen, News Corp 

The Prime Minister cannot be in two minds about 18C

The Morrison government cannot have forgotten the last election was fought on values. Values of all kinds. When Bill Shorten invited voters to engage in class war, we voted against that attack on the aspirational values of millions. When Labor ignored the importance of religious faith, it was punished at the ballot box.
With parliament due to consider newly proposed religious discrimination laws this week, the Morrison government should expect to be reminded freedom of expression is integral to religious freedom. It should also be asked why it has settled on different positions on these two basic freedoms.
Two years ago, on free speech, Scott Morrison said reforming section 18C of the racial discrimination law “doesn’t create one job, doesn’t open one business, doesn’t give anyone an extra hour. It doesn’t make housing more affordable or energy more affordable”. On religious freedom, he moved on from that position, but only after one hell of a nudge. At first Morrison wasn’t that interested in the legal battle that embroiled Israel Folau, the rugby champion sacked for posting his Christian beliefs on his social media platforms.
The Prime Minister dismissed Folau’s battle, saying “that issue has had enough oxygen”. Three weeks later, four days before the election, Morrison promised to provide religious protections equivalent to those in other federal anti-discrimination laws.
As discussion about religious freedom ramps up, the government’s curiously different commitments to free speech and religious freedom need reviewing. The Morrison government may need some smelling salts to regain consciousness on section 18C. It must be repealed if Morrison wants to be seen as a leader of conviction.
It won’t be an easy task. Important reforms never are — just ask John Howard or Bob Hawke. No prime minister since them has succeeded with difficult but necessary reforms; both were rewarded with mantles as the best leaders this country has had in the modern political era.
Despite recent comparisons with Howard, and the two men have things in common, Morrison’s responses will need to get sharper and faster to match Howard’s intuitive responses.
Morrison’s first instincts, especially when it comes to questions about the fundamental freedoms of Australians, can be clumsy, firming up only after time, reflection and advice.
We expect a dismissive attitude from Labor about core freedoms, and we ignore the Greens on such matters as entirely illiberal, but a Liberal prime minister needs carefully honed instincts to defend values that go to the heart of our liberal democratic project.
When in London in June, Morrison was asked whether he was concerned a journalist’s home had been raided by police. His response — “it never troubles me that our laws are being upheld” — was ham-fisted. What if those raids show that Australian laws need reforming? He should have been more curious about what was at stake.
His instinctive dismissal reflected his first response in April on the Folau matter, until he understood that voters, people of faith or not, want to live in a country where people can express their basic freedoms of religious belief without losing their career or being otherwise punished.
If the May election has genuinely shored up the government’s understanding of the role of values in politics, it should revisit its approach to freedom of expression. And there are four reasons section 18C — a law that prohibits speech that offends, insults or humiliates a person on the basis of their race — needs repealing.
First, by not replicating section 18C in their religious discrimination bill, the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General have admitted 18C has gone too far in restricting our right to speak. The Australian Human Rights Commission aided and abetted the pursuit of The Australian’s cartoonist, Bill Leak, by those feigning hurt feelings over his cartoon about indigenous dysfunction. The then race commissioner seemed to tout for business over a cartoon that made some feel uncomfortable.
Three students at the Queensland University of Technology should never have endured years of legal battles over a few lighthearted comments they made on social media about an indigenous-only computer lab. Given the vagaries of the words “offends, insults or humiliates”, it is no great comfort that the case against them was dismissed after 2½ years of legal wrangling because other students settled with the complainant, paying thousands of dollars to avoid an even more expensive court battle. Section 18C limits speech before it gets anywhere near a courtroom. The Morrison government needs to be consistent in its principles. Its refusal to replicate 18C in its draft religious discrimination bill means it must repeal this section in the Racial Discrimination Act.
The second reason for repealing 18C is that parts of this very subjective section are routinely copied into codes of conduct by employers, making it impossible for employees to know what they can and cannot say. Even in Rugby Australia’s players code of conduct, which sets the bar higher with words such as “harassment” and “bullying”, Rugby Australia’s actions demonstrate how highly subjective words might be used to end a man’s career.
Beyond its legal reach, section 18C has fostered a formula for censoring speech so wide, and so subjective, it attaches to all kinds of perceived offence, giving employers an effective right to terminate a person’s employment at will. This is untenable in a free society.
The third reason for repealing section 18C is that it has become a legal pestilence on campuses.
Its low bar for offence has been copied and pasted into policies about student behaviour by Australian universities. James Cook University’s discrimination, bullying and harassment policy prohibits conduct that “makes a person feel offended”.
Almost a dozen universities define harassment to include offending people based on an extended list of “protected attributes”.
Section 18C has become the cover for universities to adopt policies that have grown like weeds, curbing free speech on campus rather than defending the intellectual exploration of a range of views, even uncomfortable ones. That’s why many universities have been forced to look at how their policies clash with the code for academic freedom and freedom of speech suggested by Robert French in his report, handed to the Morrison government this year.
The final reason for reforming section 18C is that the timing is better than it was when Tony Abbott promised to do it, and then kicked that can down the road.
The Morrison government cannot build capital or credibility from enacting a religious discrimination bill that excludes 18C because it is a bad law, without repealing the same bad law from the Race Discrimination Act. It would be like saying you believe in protecting religious freedom but not free speech. That clash of values won’t wash with voters.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Pensioner Pete 11/09/2019, 6:28 am

    ScoMo most certainly is not ‘All things to all people” out here in the outback and rural areas. All he needs to do, is to stand on the heads of the State Premiers and State Water Resource Ministers at the next COAG gabfest and force them all to commence building dams and irrigation infrastructure, particularly in rural areas prone to drought.

    Should ScoMo take this style of action, the rural sector may then consider our PM of some use after all, as currently, he is as useful as teats on a feral boar pig.

    • DT 11/09/2019, 5:10 pm

      The Murray-Darling negotiations by the Howard Government with Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia took years, despite the $500 million federal contribution on the table.

  • seadogger 11/09/2019, 6:54 am

    MalMo the musk rat..running around the perimeter walls…scared to come out into the middle in case Riki Tiki Tarvy the mongoose will get him.
    Get off the fence MalMo and stand for something.
    Your honeymoon is well and truely over and the the country is a fire literally

    • DT 11/09/2019, 5:11 pm

      Really, and only three months after the election.

      • DT 11/09/2019, 5:12 pm

        Coal is “here to stay”. That’s the message from the NSW Government following a major policy announcement this morning.

        Legislation is being prepared to prolong the life of the state’s coal-fired power stations and support new mines.

        This would address coal supply issues at the Mt Piper plant near Lithgow, which produces about 15 per cent of the state’s electricity.

        Energy Minister Matt Kean tells Ray Hadley his priority is securing supply.

        “Coal is absolutely here to stay, for decades to come, in New South Wales.

        “All my policy decisions will be driven by two objectives; keeping the lights on and driving power prices down.

        “That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

        But the Minister insisted the government won’t building new power supply sources itself, whether that’s coal, renewables or otherwise.

        “With regard to building new generation in NSW, we’re not going to pick a winner.

        “There are plenty of opportunities for the market to decide these things.”

  • catsanddogs 11/09/2019, 7:41 am

    There is no prospect of removing 18c without strong conservative majority in both houses.

    This does not exist, nor do the conditions for their election.

    The incumbents could solidify their position by as said elsewhere addressing this crisis. This is the kind of thing that ensures votes next time. In Qld, that means, as an urgent matter, borrowing the money at low fixed interest rates, to tackle in an open, direct and efficient manner the current drought and fire issues.

    These people will not forget and will propel the party into power in the next election cycle.

    Depending on conditions between now and then, we might have a shot at majority in both houses.

    Then we can get rid of the cursed 18c and its one way street when it comes to “justice”.

  • Thunder 11/09/2019, 8:17 am

    ScoMo is the Twit you have when don’t need one………..

    He needs to check in and get a real pair of balls……….

    Emulates Wanky Twanky from Pantomine days………

    • DT 11/09/2019, 5:13 pm

      And your description of Albanese and Shorten is?

      What about Keneally and Fibberchick?

  • Fedup 11/09/2019, 8:51 am

    Slomo is only there because the liar party were so bad, he has no conviction on anything, Trumbull light.

  • Lorraine 11/09/2019, 8:54 am

    5 months since the election, steady as she goes, that’s about it. No Bill Shorten thank God for that…. Come on SCOMO get excited about something.

  • Aktosplatz 11/09/2019, 9:04 am

    I agree that he was a much better choice than Shorten, much better. However he can’t rest on these laurels forever.

    He obviously likes to play things safe, but the truth is you can’t please everybody. Trying to please everybody leads to appeasement.

    And that leads to diminishing trust by the voters.

  • OPA 11/09/2019, 9:26 am

    ScoMo’s do nothing approach to the urgent need for direction and progress to the many issues that are stifling this country socially and economically, is probably the reason why Albo is floundering politically. He has nothing substantial to oppose to!

    • Cliff 11/09/2019, 5:21 pm

      I can only agree with your sentiments OPA. How ironic would it be if ScoMo gets rolled for the same sin Tony Abbott displayed – trying to be all things to all men and therefore satisfying no one.

      I felt from the start that Morrison would prove to be a major disappointment, and nothing he has done to date (which is damn near NOTHING) has disabused me of that opinion.

  • Bwana Neusi 11/09/2019, 1:11 pm

    Now ScoMo – “Listen up!” as the Yanks are want to say.

    We the Majority are not interested in demands of the rainbow brigade, SSM, Hurting Muslim sensibilities, LGBTIxyz PC BS, identity politics and a myriad of other nothings.

    We are interested in walking away from UN’s Globohomo Paris crap, Scrapping 18c, banning the Halal rort (read muslim tax), getting real on the immigration fiasco, squashing this gender bender child abuse, overturning the water licence scam, protecting our farmers by building dams for starters.

    Just remember ScoMo that Australia’s population is majority Christian heritage and you are obliged in a democracy to support the majority.

    • Cliff 11/09/2019, 5:23 pm

      Concur. 100%.

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