Review of foreign purchases vital, no matter financial cost

(First published in The Mercury 5 May 2021)

Many of us felt extremely uncomfortable with the Port of Darwin being leased to Chinese interests for 99 years. We were right to feel uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.

In 2015, the Port of Darwin was leased to Landbridge Industry Australia, a subsidiary of Shandong Landbridge Group, a Chinese company whose billionaire owner Ye Cheng was named by the Chinese Government in 2013 as one of the top 10 “individuals caring about the development of national defence”. Shortly after the purchase of the lease Cheng tellingly, if perhaps, accidentally, told state-owned news organ Xinhua News Agency that “Landbridge has a port in Rizhao [eastern China] and now we have a port in Darwin. This is our involvement in One Belt, One Road." If that wasn’t enough, the company was later found to have extensive links to the CCP and the People’s Liberation Army.

At the time, the Department of Defence “examined the possible security implications” of the lease of the port but did not have any concerns. Former Secretary of the Department of Defence, Dennis Richardson, unbelievably told Senate Estimates on 21 October 2015 that “no part of defence had a concern from a security perspective in the respect of the sale.”

The announcement of the lease was not without criticism from security experts. Neil James, executive director of the Australia Defence Association, wrote that “there has been an utter failure to examine the matter in a mature, holistic and grand-strategic context that draws together all the Australian (and allied) sovereign-freedom-of-action implications over the next century.” Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said that “the Port of Darwin debacle should force reconsideration of how Australia deals with the national security implications of foreign direct investment proposals.”

The announcement of a review into the Port of Darwin is, therefore, an overdue and vital step in maintaining the integrity of Australia’s critical infrastructure, and protection from possible foreign economic and military interference.

The purchase of the Port of Darwin is not an isolated investment decision but a deliberate, calculated purchase as part of a larger plan by the CCP to expand its economic reach through a network of global maritime hubs known as the “the 21st century Maritime Silk Road”, which in turn is part of the larger and more well-known global Belt and Road Initiative. The CCP has a consistent record of buying ports in vital shipping areas and using its economic leverage to extract military and strategic advantages.             

The Port of Piraeus in Greece China’s main gateway to Europe and in 2010, the China Ocean Shipping Co., known as COSCO, started buying stakes in the port. Just six years later, COSCO had full control of the port. China now holds stakes in over a dozen European ports.

Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka, close to one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, was ceded to the Chinese Government in 2018 – along with 15,000 acres of surrounding land – for 99 years. Sri Lanka’s president turned to the Chinese Government for loans and help to build the project only to incur such crippling debt as to offload the entire port, giving China an economically and militarily important territory, and one only a few hundred miles from India, their rival and fellow emerging superpower.     

The Port of Djibouti is now buttressed by China’s first overseas military base (known as its “strategic strongpoint”, in Beijing). Less than two weeks ago U.S. General Stephen Townsend warned that “the Chinese base is turning into a ‘platform to project power across the continent and its waters’” and that China is “looking for other basing opportunities (around Africa)”. Unsurprisingly, the Port of Djibouti is strategically located at the crossroads of one of the busiest shipping lanes routes in the world, linking the Persian Gulf, Europe, the Far East, and the Horn of Africa.

Another Australian port, as part of China’s massive investment push into Victoria, was also in China’s sights. Victoria’s China Strategy Progress Report 2018 outlined how the China Investment Corporation – a state-owned investment fund – had joined the Lonsdale Consortium to purchase 20 per cent of the 50-year-long Port of Melbourne lease.

The CCP has never allowed a foreign nation to interfere with its ‘internal affairs’ with the purchase of maritime infrastructure that is so militarily, economically, and strategically important, yet the Darwin Port lease was inexplicably believed to be in the nation’s interest.   

Australia faces unprecedented levels of foreign interference aimed at undermining our political system, critical infrastructure and social institutions. Given the new powers of the Federal Government under the Foreign Relations Bill, it is a timely and appropriate decision from Minister Dutton to review all investments and the purchase of critical assets by foreign nations which have the potential to subvert our national interests and security – no matter the financial cost.

Tasmanian Liberals the only party that can lead Tasmania

(Published in The Examiner 20th April February 2021, publication available here)

We don't only want it; we actively pursue security.

Be it in our relationships, jobs, health, housing, plans, or our nation's defence; we instinctively seek a secure future. 

We accordingly plan, hope and often worry for that secure future.

It applies to politics as well.

Particularly in uncertain times, we rightly seek security, leadership and a plan we can believe in.

We need a stable majority government to deliver that security.

For those with good memories, Labor's Eric Reece and Jim Bacon delivered on that score, as did the Liberals' Robin Gray, Ray Groom and Will Hodgman.

Our economy benefited as did our futures.

On the other hand, from the mire of the recession-induced by Green-Labor minority governments in Hobart and Canberra, we suffered the corrosive impacts of sacked nurses, the prison in chaos, schools closed, a burgeoning debt, and the highest unemployment rate in the country.

In opposition, the Liberals both state and federal under Hodgman and Tony Abbott saw the obvious imperative to turbocharge the Tasmanian economy and help it become self-reliant and sustainable.

In the years since the elections, federally in 2013 and state in 2014, Tasmania has gone from recession to the turnaround state to the standout state.

This hasn't happened by accident.

Laser-focused policy and targeted expenditure have delivered what we have now - the best economic credentials in Australia of all the states and territories.

Indeed, we have an economy growing faster than the Chinese economy.

Impressive by anyone's standards.

These objective assessments are facts that cannot be sidestepped by political spin or empty rhetoric. CommSec's eight indicators paint the picture - Tasmania is the standout.

The constant throughout Tasmania's transformation has been the state Treasurer Peter Gutwein, who of course is now our Premier.

From shadow treasurer, providing believable, doable and achievable outcomes, Tasmania has again blossomed, seeing our children return home - the best indicator of confidence.

They rightly sense a secure future.

Their decision will be bolstered by the positive forward-looking plan offered by the Premier who rightly seeks a mandate in what we all hope and pray is now the post-COVID era.

Even if fate would have it otherwise, the aggressive infrastructure program and forward plan, including the Launceston City Deal, indicates confidence (not to be confused with arrogance) in our future.

Minister Michael Ferguson's stewardship of this area is exemplary, as is Minister Sarah Courtney in Health.

When it comes to Energy and Agriculture, two significant potentials for Tasmania, Minister Guy Barnett presents another example of vision, enthusiasm and drive.

And if recourse is needed to the backbench, John Tucker (Lyons) and Felix Ellis (Braddon) are two standouts, highlighting the vast depth of the Liberals' talent pool

The Liberal plan sensibly has as its priority a continuing commitment to keeping us safe and secure from COVID.

The plan includes a determination to diversify our economy, to future proof it for sustainable jobs.

A strong economy in turn will provide the necessary resources to provide the essential services on which we all rely.

And, what is a plan without ensuring our young get the best education, training, apprenticeships and jobs to secure their futures?

So good is the Liberal plan that Labor has had to descend to the dishonest scare campaign that the Liberals intend to privatise TAFE.

Simply false. Simply wrong. Simply desperate.

All done because Labor doesn't have a viable alternative plan for TAFE.

The success we've built thus far and the positive future-proofing plan is all potentially losable given the vagaries of the Hare-Clark system, which at the last election saw the Liberals gain 51 per cent of the primary vote (not two-party preferred!) and end up with a meagre one-seat majority.

In previous elections when the Liberals were struggling, many a traditional Liberal voter switched to Labor simply to secure majority government and the benefit it brings.

One cannot help but wonder at Labor's disarray (eg the state president publicly threatening to sue the state leader - really! Couldn't it at least have waited until after the election?).

The raw enmity and division are on full display for all to see, showing how unworthy Labor is for government.

As Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke so cogently put it, "If you can't govern yourselves, you can't govern the country" or, in this case, the state.

Those who consider themselves to be traditional Labor voters need to do the right thing by our state and lock in the security of a stable majority government by voting Liberal - the party with the record, the team and the plan.

Let's lock it in, Tasmania.

Statement regarding Sue Hickey

Ms Hickey’s defamatory allegations under Parliamentary privilege are categorically denied.
Allegations of rape are serious matters and have always been treated as such by me. Sexual assault is an issue on which I’ve been consistently outspoken including domestic violence.

Ms Hickey’s suggestions otherwise is simply false. As some one who was on the inaugural committee of a women’s shelter and its honorary legal adviser for a decade prior to entering parliament, I reject outright her suggestions and gross mischaracterisation of our discussion.

Its noteworthy Ms Hickey has made her assertions some 3 weeks after she alleges they occurred.

At no stage has Ms Hickey ever raised concerns with me about any of our conversations.

Indeed, a fortnight later when we had a chance meeting in a coffee shop in Launceston Ms Hickey actually offered to buy me a cup of coffee which I politely declined because I was about to meet someone.

What has changed? The Premier telling her on Sunday she was no longer wanted by the Liberal Party. On her way out the door she is trying to destroy the Party – noting she has demeaned all her former female Liberal colleagues of Parliament and especially the Attorney General, the membership which initially endorsed her and even “unknown people”.

There's no virtue in divisive identity politics

The woke who revel in seeking to identify every imagined ill in society on behalf of their current favoured identity minority need to take stock.

Martin Luther King put it well when he asked for his children to be judged on the basis of character rather than skin colour.

The public splutterings by some and sundry, ever so desperately signalling their virtue, including local councils, wanting to change Australia Day out of "respect" for our Indigenous brothers and sisters and holding ceremonies on different days, might like to stop and ask what those whom they assert they are championing actually want.

Why? Because according to recent Roy Morgan polling 73 per cent of self-identified Indigenous Australians actually support 'Australia Day' while 27 per cent favour 'Invasion Day'.

Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine explains:

"Perhaps most surprisingly amongst all the arguments about what the day should be known as is the views of people who consider themselves Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Amongst this group 73% say the day should be known as 'Australia Day' compared to only 27% that say it should be known as 'Invasion Day' - a significantly higher level of support for 'Australia Day' than amongst other Australians."

That's right, 73 per cent of Indigenous Australians support and understand 'Australia Day'.

So those activists who relentlessly bombard us with "change the date" because of their "solidarity" with the Indigenous are in fact embarrassingly out of step with those whom they are allegedly championing.

How silly must the management of Cinema Nova now feel?

In response to only one objector (who felt uncomfortable with it) the cinema pulled the innocuous "Reflect. Respect. Celebrate." Australia Day advert from their screens.

One suspects the silliness of renaming the Coon Cheese brand (named after its developer, Mr E. Coon) is similarly out of step with the sentiment of our fellow Australians, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.

Spare a thought for those with the surname Coon!

Some eight years ago the ABC developed new offices in Brisbane. Before opening, a smoking ceremony was held to "cleanse" the building and to "expel bad spirits". This was done by way of a non-Christian ceremony - in fact an Indigenous smoking ceremony.

When asked why this methodology was preferred, Senate Estimates was told that it was a "symbolic event" out of solidarity with our Indigenous community.

According to the ABS and inconveniently for the ABC, the religion to which the Indigenous community overwhelmingly subscribes to in Queensland is, in fact, Christianity.

The ABC, one assumes, was symbolically telling the vast majority of the Indigenous community that their beliefs didn't matter.

Virtue signalling by the non-Indigenous board and management was far more important than the wishes of the majority they so patronisingly sought to champion.

If the majority of the minority being "championed" by the woke don't understand their patronising and misguided intentions, one assumes it's their own fault and not the virtue signallers.

But back to Australia Day. The voices of Indigenous leadership on this, be it Australia's first Indigenous Commonwealth parliamentarian, the late Liberal Senator Neville Bonner, or up and coming, inspirational Deputy Mayor of Alice Springs, Jacinta Price, among a host of others including Indigenous Minister Ken Wyatt, are in tune with the overwhelming majority of their people and the Roy Morgan findings.

So it was on Australia Day at Sandy Bay at a wonderful citizenship ceremony welcoming 60 people into the Australian family the small audience witnessed the hijacking of the event by the Greens Deputy Mayor of Hobart encouraging those in attendance to attend an 'Invasion Day' Rally.

We couldn't have the usual full Sandy Bay Regatta because of COVID restrictions but a rally for a "woke" cause self-evidently keeps COVID at bay. A bit like Black Lives Matters marches presumably do, whereas ANZAC Day parades don't.

The hypocrisy and duplicity, if not deceit, is breathtaking.

Some officials really treat us as mugs but the majority of us thankfully see through it.

For those that revel in minority identity politics and divide and compartmentalise our society while patronisingly ascribing group thinking to them, please stop and listen to what they actually want, not what you need them to want.

Those that divide, deflate and destroy do our society a great disservice and miss the opportunity of uniting, inspiring and building a stronger Australia, an opportunity to which the "woke" may never wake up.

Congratulations Margaret Court, worthy recipient of the AC

The unsurpassed, world-standard prowess of Margaret Court AC as a tennis player and as a charity worker amongst other contributions make her a worthy recipient of an AC, according to Senator for Tasmania, Eric Abetz.

The undignified and unedifying “pile on” by some who disagree with her on a particular issue (marriage) which well over 30 per cent of the population agree with her is indicative of the ugly intolerance continually displayed by those who claim to be “tolerant”, “woke” and “politically correct”.

If you disagree with them, then you are accused of “hate” as they shower their venomous bigotry on their target. These same serial complainants bemoan the fact that more women aren’t sufficiently honoured in the awards system. Yet when one is so honoured, they can’t celebrate the achievement but seek to embark on a campaign of denigration.      

A truly inclusive nation will celebrate the achievements of all – including those with whom we may disagree. So, it is fitting that both John Howard and Bob Hawke were honoured with Australia’s highest award.

Those seeking to marginalise Margaret Court AC and her views may reflect that substantially more people voted for her view in the marriage debate then support changing the date of Australia Day.

The relentless negativity and denigration of anyone that dares to hold an opposing point of view provides a window into their unfortunate thought processes and highlights their inconsistencies. The characteristics of those that genuinely seek a peaceful, unified and civil society is to display graciousness to one’s opponents and acknowledge their achievements. 

Failing to call out dictators fails humanity

Published in The Examiner 13 January 2020

So it helps if you enjoy reading.

The Christmas break affords the opportunity to read for leisure.

This year it included, thanks to my staff, the autobiography of a humble champion, Gary Ablett. Well worth a read and yes the writer may well be a Geelong tragic.

Another awesome (in the true sense of the word) read was the story of Eddie Jaku. This centenarian Sydney-sider decided to tell his story last year. The title: The Happiest Man on Earth. One could imagine from the title that it was a story of a charmed life.

Instead, it is the story of a holocaust survivor.

That's right, a holocaust survivor self-describing as the "happiest man" despite the depravities and inhumane brutalities that he witnessed and personally experienced.

For Eddie Jaku, life was beautiful if you made it beautiful. For him, happiness is something we can choose - a worthy new year's resolution.

Amid this uplifting life story is the provision of detail of the full horror of the National Socialist evil perpetrated against so many.

And he begs the question why did people allow it to happen? Why didn't people speak out and say 'enough is enough'?

If enough people had spoken out, history might well have been different, and the atrocities of World War II avoided.

We can't rewrite history, but we can learn from it and be on the alert, which is why our security personnel thankfully take emerging right-wing extremism very seriously along with other forms of extremism.

So, it was heartening to see the public repulsion at the national socialist symbols displayed at a local residence last year.

Eddie's recounting of his observations of a past era bear a stark resemblance to certain current-day occurrences.

German society was being totally reorganised for war.

There is a country today which has adopted a 'civilian-military fusion' concept whereby anything from the civilian sector that is potentially valuable for military purposes needs to be made available to its military.

The rounding up of people deemed to be unfriendly to the State was simultaneously pursued; Communists, political prisoners, Slavs, Freemasons and Jews.

Today another country is rounding up Uighurs, house Christians, Falun Gong practitioners and pro-democracy advocates.

The use of slave labour exploiting the able-bodied in concentration camps (which included Mr Jaku) was part of the so-called nation-building exercise. Today the Uighurs are experiencing similar exploitation.

Illegal land acquisition tested the resolve and commitment of the world community which was tried and found wanting, so it proceeded. Recently islands in the South China Sea have been illegally seized and turned into a military base. The consequences again regrettably zero.

The so-called medical experiments of national socialism have been documented in all their barbarity.

A tribunal headed by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC has determined that forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience occurs today in this particular country.

Chillingly, commitment to the Party above all other moral or ethical considerations was demanded.

To allow all this to occur required a concerted campaign of charm offensives by the leadership and representatives of the evil regime... think of a relatively recent visit to our State, which many of us welcomed.

Given the privilege of hosting an Olympics is another similarity. One was hosted in 1936. Another will be hosted in 2022.

The similarities between fascist and communist dictatorships are visible for all who want to see.

That's why Sir Robert Menzies in setting out the founding principles of the Liberal Party spelt out exceptionally clearly his party's opposition to both communism and fascism (para 9).

To call out brutal dictatorships which inflict themselves on their populations is to do the right and proper thing.

The oppressed deserve nothing less.

The free world delayed for too long in calling out Germany's fascist dictatorship in the 1930s. Let it not delay for too long in calling out the Communist Dictatorship in China in the 2020s.

And so, leisure reading turned into a valuable reminder that for evil to prevail, all that is required is for good people to do nothing. 

“We Need to Remember Them"

An unmarked grave. No details. No name. No age. Nothing. A void. Desolate. Forgotten. A bare plot revealing nothing.

Devastatingly sad. Especially so when you know the plot is the resting place of one who was willing to sacrifice his life for you and me.

700 World War I veterans in unmarked graves just in Tasmania alone. And around Australia, it would be thousands. It doesn't bear thinking. They deserve better.

Men who had fought for our safety, our values, our way of life.

The same service personnel we commemorated and honoured on Remembrance Day just six days ago, promising "we will remember them".

Yet many of them lie unknown, unrecognised, unacknowledged. We forgot them.

A national disgrace. We didn't care as we should have cared. We didn't remember them.

Alienated from family, from society, or the ravages of the depression making a headstone unaffordable, whatever the reasons our Nation didn't honour our returned men in death.

Into this void, this blot on our nation entered Andrea Gerrard OAM - a diminutive lady with tenacity, passion and professionalism.

And so the Headstone Project was born.

Through her involvement in the Families and Friends of the First AIF Inc Andrea Gerrard brought this disgrace to light. Not satisfied at just finding this neglect Andrea set about to rectify this appalling situation.

In Tasmania, about 500 out of the 700 veterans who languished unrecognised are now acknowledged with an appropriate headstone and plaque thanks to a wonderful team effort spearheaded by Andrea Gerrard.

Private support from the corporate sector including - Mitre 10, Cement Australia, Sika, Kings Trailers, Nyrstar, Crossroads Concrete and My Pathway, together with RSL's and the 12th/40 Battalion Royal Tasmanian Regiment display the strong and generous community spirit and support. Local Government from Launceston to Hobart, the Derwent Valley to King Island have chipped in as well.

It was my privilege to assist with facilitating a number of Work for the Dole programmes to assist. Rewarding not only for myself but the participants who found their involvement exceptionally rewarding. More recently DGR (Deductible Gift Recipient} status for tax purposes was granted. Not much advocacy was needed on my part with the Treasurer readily accepting the worthiness of this wonderful cause.

In typical style for Andrea the placement of headstones was simply not enough. As each group of headstones was completed a fitting ceremony was held with the Governor, Chief of Army, Director of the War Memorial, the Minister for Veterans Affairs, variously officiating at the unveiling ceremonies. The ceremonies included local students researching and providing a brief biography of each digger whose dignity in death has been restored.

The Headstone Project has allowed families to be reunited with their ancestors and loved ones as well.

Not surprisingly the Headstone Project initiative has been observed and replicated on the mainland leading the Minister for Veteran Affairs at the last election to start a national pilot programme of co-funding with communities.

As we rightly saluted our veterans last week, we should also salute the Andrea Gerrards of this world who see a need and selflessly dedicate themselves to seeing the need fulfilled. An OAM in 2018 was deserved recognition for Andrea's efforts, as was the Community Group of the Year Award at last years’ Tasmanian Community Achievement Awards.

Anyone wishing to be involved in the worthy Headstone Project can contact

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Bare plots have been transformed into enduring memorials of appreciation thanks to Andrea Gerrard OAM. Her committee is converting community goodwill into practical action to ensure we live up to our commitment to remember them.

Standing firm against ugly dictatorships is everyone’s duty Mr Chiu

Standing firm against ugly dictatorships is everyone’s duty. I, therefore, make no apology for the exchange between Mr Chiu and myself yesterday. 

Mr Chiu appeared before a Senate Committee. His submission’s opening line was “Australian politics is too white”. His concern was clearly about identity politics of colour/race and not of values, beliefs and character. Criticism of a dictatorship that holds one million people of an ethnic minority in concentration camps and unapologetically commits a wide range of human rights abuses has nothing to do with race and everything to do with values. He was willing to criticise Australia on the basis of colour but not condemn China on the basis of values.    

I have been accused of “demanding proof” of Mr Chiu’s loyalty. The Hansard proves this to be a falsehood. Let the record speak:    

Mr Chiu: As I said previously, I support and believe in the universality of human rights. I don't support the Communist Party but I don't believe that it's helpful to get into a political game of denouncements.

Senator ABETZ: So you can't condemn it?

Mr Chiu: I think my statement was quite clear about how I don't support the Communist Party and I don't support what it does.

Senator ABETZ: There's a difference between not supporting something and actively condemning a regime that engages in forced organ harvesting and having a million Uighers in concentration camps—the list goes on, and all we have is this limp statement that we don't support it.

At no point did I question the loyalty of anyone. I did not even mention the word “loyalty”. Yet Mr Chiu’s twisted and distorted narrative is blatantly false. Unfortunately, some now have parroted this false narrative without checking the record.

I was questioned by another witness as to whether I had ever been asked “to be loyal to Australia because you were born in Germany?” Numerous times throughout my life I have been asked this question. I am still questioned about it to this day especially by left-wing operatives.

Further on, in the Hansard I say:     

That is why, might I add, that in nearly every single interview that I do unequivocally condemning the Chinese Communist Party I stress that this is not a condemnation of the Chinese people—because I believe that they are just as freedom loving as every other human being on the planet—but that I am condemning the regime under which they suffer, just as much as not all Germans were Nazis, or all Russians communists, or all Italians part of the Mafioso or Vietnamese part of the triads. But, as German-born, can I say that I have no difficulty in unequivocally saying that the Nazi regime deserved to be condemned. I'm just concerned that some of our witnesses have great difficulty in condemning a regime that has been responsible for millions of deaths; incarceration of millions; forced organ harvesting; illegal land grabs; ripping up of an international—UN sanctioned, even—agreement between the UK and China in relation to Hong Kong; and the list goes on. I'm just concerned that in this great freedom-loving country of Australia, that has adopted all of us as part of its citizenry, we are unable to fully celebrate the great freedoms we have and to condemn some of the backgrounds from which we come—not courtesy of the people but courtesy of the ugly regimes that were inflicted over them.”

If Mr Chiu, a prominent Chinese-Australian from a “progressive” think tank and whose submission was made in consultation with China Matters, which “strives to advance sound China policy”, cannot bring himself to denounce a regime that continually and systematically commits human rights abuses, there is no hope for the Chinese diaspora in Australia to speak out.

This example of prominent Chinese-Australians not speaking out for the rest of the Chinese-Australian community was a direct point made in a confidential submission to the inquiry. They are afraid to speak out because of reprisals within their community and the possibility of family members back home being targeted by the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship. Chinese-Australians look for leadership by prominent Chinese-Australians but often receive meaningless platitudes instead.

For all the hot air from Mr Chiu at the hearing and his hit piece in the media, his limp platitudinous  statements are cold comfort for the Chinese-Australian diaspora, the millions of Uighers, and all the others, languishing in detention and oppressed.

ABC pay increase reflects entitlement mentality

The ABC's refusal to delay a 2 per cent pay rise for just six months is indicative of an entitlement mentality that is so out of touch with mainstream Australia.  

In April and May, the Communications Minister, the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Australian Public Service Commission wrote to the ABC asking - along with all non-public service agencies - to not take their mandated 2 per cent pay rise.  

112 Commonwealth Government agencies elected to defer the mandated pay rise, including those playing a vital role in the COVID-19 pandemic such as Centrelink and the Department of Health, displaying a social awareness that escapes the ABC which continually purports to assert itself as our social conscience. The ABC clearly thinks itself as more important than these agencies as a staggering approximately 80 per cent of staff voted against the proposed pay rise deferral.  

Commercial media organisations have significantly cut back to deal with the economic effects of the pandemic with redundancies and pay cuts yet the ABC feels no need whatsoever to tighten its belt.  

"The ABC seems to seize every possible opportunity to highlight how out of touch it is with the rest of Australia and fellow public servants," said Senator Abetz.  

"The decision to take the pay rise was not even a close decision which is a further reflection of the entitlement mentality which prevails in so many areas of the ABC. Approximately 80 per cent of staff voted not to take the pay rise in circumstances where many have shown leadership and sacrifice to help Australia through this COVID recession." 

"When it comes to the ABC, 'we're not all in this together'. As hard-working Australians lose their jobs and financially tighten their belts, they will be forced to pay for the ABC and its pay rises." 

End-of-life bill requires far greater scrutiny

Originally published in The Examiner 22 September (Available here)

Most of us can imagine crimes which in the abstract are deserving of the death penalty.

Yet we have wisely abolished the death penalty because as a community we believe in the inherent value of human life and that the state should not have the power or authority to dispense with the life of any of its citizenry. Once you give the state such power, where do you draw the line?

Coupled with this fundamental principle is the pragmatic real-life experience that even with the best justice system in the world (which we do enjoy in Australia) errors are nevertheless and regrettably made.

Doubts about the appropriateness of previous convictions continually arise.

It is all too late when the convicted person is no longer with us because of the death penalty. These same considerations of principle and pragmatism need to be embraced by our Tasmanian legislators as they consider the Bill before the Parliament which seeks to provide state sanction for suicide or more euphemistically described as "end-of-life choices".

It's human nature to want to be the master of your own destiny. As it is human nature to seek as pleasant a death as possible.

We all agree with that in principle.

We would be silly if we didn't.

Yet there are two fundamental key issues.

Can state-sanctioned suicide be safely legislated? And in any event, is it right and possible to so legislate?

The wise truism "the devil is in the detail" is sage counsel and exceptionally apt when considering whether the state ought to allow the taking of another human life.

Another maxim worthy of adoption is that "tough cases always make for bad law".

When a former distinguished Chief Justice of our Tasmanian Supreme Court, the Hon Bill Cox AC, persuasively exposes the dangers of this latest version of the proposal along with the Australian Medical Association, which notes the confusing nature and contradictory aspects of it, we can't glibly dismiss opposition to this Bill as some have sought to do to avoid discussing the details.

And without forming a judgement on the principles of the proposal, the state government has raised a litany of technical issues with the legislation.

Given the host of issues - technical, legal, medical, ethical - all in a community climate of ever-increasing elder abuse and suicide, we would be well served to have the proposal fully considered by a qualified panel to consider and proffer advice on the detail.

Having been so self-satisfied by his Bill, the mover told the community "there is nothing an inquiry could improve on...".

The mover is now in the unfortunate position of having to propose his own amendments to at least five separate clauses and inserting a new section dealing with "objectives and principles".

One may have thought that when dealing with life-and-death issues the matter of objectives and principles may have been a first-order issue and settled before drafting the Bill and not as an afterthought.

Yet that is what is happening.

Most of us won't go past the euphemistic title of the Bill "End-of-Life Choices".

No set of choices on offer by the way - just an earlier death. And it's not only for the terminally ill in the latter stages of their life, as most think because that is what we are continually being told. The detail tells a very different and chilling story.

Section 5(1) tells us the "relevant medical condition" means a disease, illness, injury or medical condition that is advanced, incurable and irreversible and is expected to cause the death of the person. Note the condition needs only to be "expected" to cause death.

We expect many things in life which ultimately don't happen. Further, despite having the best medical system in the world, incorrect diagnoses and treatments occur.

Section 5(2) tells us a condition is "incurable and irreversible" if there is no reasonable available treatment that is acceptable to the person and that can cure or reverse the condition. So, no objective assessment by a panel of qualified medical practitioners, just the patient's subjective assessment that the treatment is not acceptable.

There is many an incurable condition which may be expected to lead to death of which we can think, e.g. diabetes and heart disease. Section 6 refers to "intolerable" suffering, but Section 13 tells us this is to be determined not by medical experts but by the opinion of the person.

And the "intolerable" aspect of it can be simply the "anticipation of the suffering" as per Section 13(b)(ii). Thankfully there is a word limit imposed by the editor, but these few examples highlight how essential it is for this Bill to be fully and professionally examined. After all, life-and-death are serious topics - worthy of exceptionally careful scrutiny especially for parliamentarians seeking to legislate in this area.

NZ-Australia manuka honey trademark fight hurting producers

Originally published in The Examiner 8 September (Available here)

Our cousins across the ditch (Tasman not the Bass Strait) are laying sole claim to the botanical name "Manuka" so that New Zealand can have the world rights to marketing.

They are doing so with a New Zealand government-backed fund. The main, if not only, reason anyone would want sole rights to a name is because of its marketing value. A casual glance at the supermarket shelf informs the buyer that Manuka honey carries with it a premium price compared to other honey - even our cherished leatherwood.

Manuka honey happens to contain a naturally occurring compound - methylglyoxal. In 2006 this compound was identified as the dominant antibacterial constituent of Manuka honey. Ever since then the honey has gained in reputation as a food and in medicinal and cosmetic applications. Taxpayers are currently funding six separate research projects into its qualities and potential uses.

Manuka is the honey sector's equivalent to abalone in the fishing sector. For a long time, it was worthless but now commanding top dollar. Of such nuisance value was Manuka honey that it was once washed away in the river. If only the bees could be trained to stay away. No market, no value.

But along a market came with an appetite so vociferous right across the world it isn't easy to satisfy. Within 10 years it was worth more than $1 billion per annum.

The humble unwanted Leptospermum, which produces the necessary blossoms, is now so sought after, entrepreneurs are trialling plantations as the wild-growing areas can't produce sufficient supply.

This is the first time a plant has been domesticated and planted just for honeybees, according to Dr Barbour, the chief executive of the Cooperative Research Centre into Honeybee Products. Australia is blessed with 83 varieties of this Leptospermum growing down South East Australia's coastline from Queensland right through to Tasmania, and across to Western Australia. It grows in New Zealand as well.

In both our countries, Leptospermum grows wild. New Zealand has just the one variety, yet they're claiming the right to sole usage of the name. It has long been accepted in world trade that geographical names can be protected if it is analogous with a product, for example, Champagne. Saving a botanical name which occurs naturally in different countries such as Manuka would set a disruptive world precedent.

New Zealand's honey producers are going full bore in their attempt to snatch the rights to the name "Manuka" with a clumsily attempted arms-length yet obvious slush fund of $6m from the New Zealand government.

From their own sources, our hard-working, enterprising beekeepers can't match such an exorbitant fighting fund provided by New Zealand's taxpayers.

While in relative terms our honey sector mightn't be large it is worth protecting in its own right and should be exciting more significant government support, both diplomatically and financially in this fight with New Zealand. Apart from the correctness in supporting our own is the vital principle of maintaining an open world trade protocol whereby botanical names cannot be opportunistically claimed.

If New Zealand believes it has the best Manuka honey in the world, it should market it as "New Zealand Manuka honey". And we would market ours as "Tasmanian" or "Australian".

A fair, reasonable, sensible solution protecting everyone's interest without disrupting long-established and fully acceptable international understandings.

Why devote a column to this topic? A bit of nostalgia perhaps. I kept bees with my father as a hobby, even taking them to the South West for the leatherwood season. It was hard work, yet a rewarding hobby. Those who do it all day every day - our beekeepers - deserve our full support.

Imagine their response after detailing their plight to Canberra, and the suggestion to consider changing the name of their honey. They were entitled to be angrier than a poked beehive.

These officials, who may well think honey comes from jars (like milk from bottles), need to show as a minimum greater empathy as well as a fighting commitment to our hard-working regional enterprises and job providers which ultimately provide the tax base which pays their wages. All societies seem to replicate the culture of the beehive with its workers and freeloaders (drones). Like a beehive in winter, the Manuka honey sector has no room for the drones of officialdom who are willing to live off the rewards but who make no contribution in working for or protecting the hive.

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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