Several comedians and other performances are among 27 events that have ignorantly boycotted the Sydney Festival due to the Israeli Embassy providing $20,000 in sponsorship for the dance performance Decadance – created by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin.
Predictably, Hamas, the antisemitic terrorist organisation that has long engaged in military conflict against Israel and fervently wishes for its obliteration, recently came out in support of the boycott.
“We declare our solidarity with the participants who have withdrawn from the festival, and we call on all participants to raise their voices in the face of oppression and injustice,” said the organisation responsible for dozens of suicide bombings against the Israeli people and throwing opponents off high rise buildings.
When you have terrorists backing in your argument, you should know you have lost the argument and any moral authority.
One of the lead organisers absurdly said the sponsorship “…normalises human rights abuses and it allows Israel to gain publicity out of a cultural institution.” To believe that Israeli sponsorship of a dance performance “normalises human rights abuses” would be laughable if such a false and inflammatory opinion wasn’t taken so seriously by the boycotters.
The boycott adds nothing to the immensely complicated situation between Israel and Palestine. It displays ignorance of Israel and its people and what the Sydney Festival performance can achieve, including bringing people together from different nations and cultures.
Israel has a distinguished record of being a light in the idle east for democracy, the rule of law and human rights. The boycotters would be well served to honestly recognise these facts.
The boycott is a regrettable distraction from, and a profound ignorance of, the real efforts to bring peace and stability between Israel and Palestine.
Senator Abetz is a Liberal Senator for Tasmania and Chair of The Parliamentary Friends of Israel
“The first person to speak in court always seems right until his opponent begins to question him.”
We should hold onto this profound wisdom which is the foundation of the right to examine witnesses. It is found in the Good Book at Proverbs 18:17. The capacity to test evidence, probe assertions, and put forward counter propositions is the civilised, objective method by which we seek to find the truth. Perfect it is not, but it is still the fairest and the best route to truth – for the finding of facts, be it scientific or legal or the examination of history.
In a former life as a lawyer, this was often found to be the case.
Horrid allegations or strong emphatic denials made in the office collapsed under examination by prosecutors or opposing counsel.
Many examples spring to mind from criminal, civil, child protection, road accidents, and other areas of personal interactions which required a judicial determination.
That is why personally cross-examining clients in the office was conducted to test the assertions made and avoid wasting the court’s time and to provide a taste of what might be expected.
The right to examine an accuser is fundamental if justice is to prevail. Natural justice demands the right to defend oneself and test the accusations being made.
We need to protect this right for all of us, yet this cornerstone of our highly sophisticated judicial system is regrettably being eroded.
Too often in public discourse we hear the plea that to test the assertion would be to re-traumatise the victim. This is a real issue to which we must be sensitive, but to be fair we need to treat everyone the same. The accuser is not a victim nor the accused a perpetrator until the facts have been determined by an independent judicial body. Until such a determination is made, both accuser and accused must be treated with dignity and fairness.
The notion that we need to ‘believe the victim’ before their assertions are thoroughly tested does everyone a disservice. It suggests pre-judgment, bias, and favouritism.
Real life experience shows that accusers can tell untruths as can the accused – albeit it is more often that the accused is found wanting.
An unfortunate case which springs to mind relates to a woman’s allegations against a man. Without retelling the details, a robust cross-examination exposed the multiple flaws in her accusations and finally led to her acknowledging the falsity of her claims.
The mental anguish, alienation, and sheer hell the accused suffered prior to his name being cleared was indescribable.
The journey for the validated victim is undeniably similar. This is why both the accuser and the accused need to be treated equally with respect and fairness until the matter is resolved.
In recent times we have had commissions of inquiry or public pile-ons ruining peoples’ lives before the facts are actually established. Allowing people to tell unchallenged stories is not necessarily an exercise in truth-telling. It’s an exercise in storytelling – that’s all. Only after verification and testing can we value its validity.
Examples of the disservice of not testing evidence are the cases of Gunner and Cubillo. These two celebrated names were part of the “Bringing Them Home Report” which presented the two stories of indigenous people allegedly taken against parental will – the stolen generations. The cases, when actually tested in court, fell at the first hurdle with a wealth of documentary evidence contradicting what had been asserted.
Cases such as this then provide grist for the mill for those who would want to deny that there was any inappropriate placement of individuals by the authorities.
Testing recollections, seeking evidence which is contrary or provides an alternate perspective allows us to progress to the truth – be it in issues as diverse as interpersonal relations or science.
Those of us truly confident in our position should not be scared of having our view tested. If correct it galvanises our position. If found wanting the testing will hopefully help us modify our position.
Ultimately, genuine, fearless pursuit of truth does not care for an individual’s sensitivity or have regard to a person’s “offence” threshold.
Objective truth remains exactly that, objective truth. No amount of de-platforming, silencing, or oversensitivity can or will change the truth.
We need to cherish truth and the procedures by which we can objectively arrive at the truth.
“Hear, hear”. It’s the Parliamentary interjection confirming your approval with what is being said.
Those words have emerged from the writer’s mouth many a time without reflecting on whether everyone can, in fact, hear. Sure, having an aunt and a godmother who were deaf provided some insight but not as profoundly as a recent visit to The Shepherd Centre in Sydney.
The Centre self describes its purpose as “Giving deaf children a voice”.
The visit was prompted by a family – Shannon and Sarah Wells – who detailed The Shepherd Centre’s assistance to their son Flynn who required regular travel to Sydney. The family were fortunate because they could afford the expense of travel.
Named after Dr Bruce Shepherd, the Centre has operated for over 50 years. Dr Shepherd has two children with hearing impairment and he saw the need for the Centre which he established all those years ago. It operates from eight sites around Australia with outreach services including to Tasmania.
Wouldn’t it be good if we could have a combination of philanthropic and government will to establish a centre or two in Tasmania to assist our 400 children (0-14 years) dealing with hearing loss. That would provide a genuine happy new year to many parents and their hearing impaired children.
Who knew that hearing loss is the most common disability among children in the western world? And here in Tasmania, only 10% of the more than 400 hearing impaired children are receiving specialist services. (Even of those qualifying under the National Disability Insurance Scheme only one third are receiving specialist services.)
Put another way – a massive 90% of children (0-14 years) with hearing loss in Tasmania are not getting the essential support they need for a better life.
The support that is potentially available but not currently available places our young at risk of significant delays with language, development, literacy and social skills, as well as social and emotional isolation.
It makes sense that the earlier a child is able to access the right supports, the better the outcome, meaning a pathway for them to thrive and reach their full potential in life. Hence the need for early intervention which The Shepherd Centre specialises in.
The vast majority of the beneficiaries of The Shepherd Centre go on to attend mainstream schools with listening and spoken language skills on par with their hearing peers. It’s so doable, so achievable.
This wonderful, life-changing service should not be denied to our Tasmanian children. Some Tasmanian families and children have advantaged themselves through The Shepherd Centre’s On-line Telehealth system and other outreach services making the Centre the largest provider of specialised services in our State.
This restricted access, whilst clearly better than nothing, is not the same as purpose-built facilities which would revolutionise the lives of many of our young Tasmanians.
We need $2.5m to establish such a service here in Tasmania in two physical facilities and presences – Launceston and Hobart.
The buildings would provide the necessary audio booth, therapy rooms, meeting rooms and play area together with a cochlear implant programme.
With a physical presence, The Shepherd Centre would work with our local Tasmanian organisations and services to establish high quality support for our families and children.
Annual assessments identify how children are developing in their speech (how they sound) and their language (the words they understand and use) in comparison to their hearing peers. Information on children’s listening, social skills, play, thinking and literacy development is used by The Shepherd Centre team to guide individualised services.
Their teams use evidence based early intervention best practices, reviewing children’s programs every time they see them, in collaboration and partnership with their families.
Yes, the writer left The Shepherd Centre mega-impressed with what it does and what it could do four our children and their families in Tasmania.
A fifty-year reputation, which is a registered charity, NDIS approved service provider and has success stories by the thousands needs to be fully embraced by the Tasmanian community.
For information about The Shepherd Centre go to www.shepherdcentre.org.au.
Let’s bring The Shepherd Centre to Tasmania in 2022!
Trusting we all respond in typical Tasmanian fashion and adopt the Parliamentary display of approval with a “Hear! Hear!” which goes beyond mere words but with action.
The United States has announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics due to human rights abuses, seeing the country’s athletes compete but without any diplomatic or official representation.
“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
Liberal senator for Tasmania, Eric Abetz, said that with the United States formally announcing its diplomatic boycott it was essential that Australia follow suit and take a strong stand against the Chinese Communist Dictatorship’s litany of human rights abuses. The senator has led the charge for a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics, being the first federal parliamentarian to call for such a boycott.
“The decision by the United States, our close ally and friend, to diplomatically boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics is a most welcome move and one in that Australia must follow suit. Australia must not be complacent but move with speed to demonstrate our long commitment to upholding human rights and calling out where they are breached.
“From the Uyghurs, organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, slave labour, the Hong Kongers, the Tibetans, the Mongolians, the Dalai Lama, debt-trap diplomacy, the South China Sea Islands, religious and journalistic persecution to all other grave injustices committed by the CCP dictatorship means we must not give official representation at these Games.
“I particularly applaud the White House’s recognition of the ‘genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang’ as far too often countries are unwilling to call out such horrendous human rights abuses against the Uyghur population.
“We know from the 2008 Games and the propaganda, press crackdown and increased repression that it will undoubtedly occur again under the increasingly belligerent leadership of Xi Jinping.”
In an op-ed last September Senator Abetz called for a boycott, has done so on several occasions at Senate Estimates and in August this year gathered six of his fellow Coalition colleagues to sign a formal letter addressed to the Prime Minister and Minister for Sport, “calling on the Australian Federal Government to engage in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.”
Senator Abetz is the Chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee and a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security.
The decision to not proceed with the Antarctic runway is a huge disappointment, according to Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz.
As it appears this is a final decision – and a retrograde decision at that, the task is to ensure that the funding predicated for the runway is made fully available for other Antarctic capabilities.
Tasmania’s world-renowned reputation as the gateway to the Antarctic will be questioned, as will our commitment, unless there is a strong unequivocal announcement of the preservation of the funding and the new focus of investment.
The overwhelming strategic and capability support the runway would have provided has been regrettably lost. So, we now need to invest in other strategic and capability support infrastructure to ensure the international community cannot doubt our commitment to Antarctica.
At a time when China and Russia are rapidly expanding their footprints on the ice continent it is absolutely essential that we don’t loosen our foothold.
Hobart has been a highly regarded partner in Antarctic capacity building and we cannot let this reputation slip.
For some time now, the University of Tasmania, with its own funds and extra taxpayer funding and support from the three tiers of government—local, state and federal—has been transferring from an idyllic park-like Sandy Bay campus into the inner city of Hobart. Whilst initially generally agnostic, if not slightly favourable to the proposal, I admit that I am beginning to harbour some real doubts.
The cost of the move, at hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars, is concerning. The aesthetics and surrounds of the move from the park-like campus to an asphalt, concrete inner-city site makes it less attractive. In recognition of this glaring deficiency, there is now talk about greening up aspects of the city. Again, it is right to ask at what cost and why, when a perfectly good site is already inhabited. During the term, with students in the city, there will be a rich coffee and McDonald's fast food economy. During the vacation, one assumes, the city will be a ghost town. The move into the city has seen the purchase of hotels for student accommodation, which will impact tourism accommodation, which in turn will see the conversion of rental properties into B&Bs, which will put extra pressure on our housing market.
One of the reasons for the move is to provide equity or ease of access to the campus by those from the northern suburbs. It is a very worthy concern, but would an enhanced public transport system help overcome that issue at a lot lower cost? For students from the south of the city, access will be commensurately more difficult. The Sandy Bay site and buildings are dated, but I am advised they are basically functional and capable of being retrofitted and upgraded. In raising these doubts I remain to be convinced and suggest a genuine, independent analysis be undertaken as to the effectiveness and appropriateness of the move.
As Australians we rightly rejoice in being one and free. That sentiment, so succinctly expressed in our national anthem, needs to fertilise the thinking of our nation's authorities as they deal with COVID. Families, workplaces and communities are experiencing tensions between those supportive of vaccination and those who are hesitant or outright opposed. For the record, I'm vaccinated and encourage people to follow suit. But, also for the record, I will not shun those who hold an alternative view. Robust discussion and willing interactions are an integral part of a free democratic society, as is the need for respect and understanding for the other point of view. They are the hallmarks of a civilised and orderly liberal democratic society. Those fundamental principles, understandings and appreciations need to be fully grasped as we deal with COVID.
Our immunisation handbook informs us that valid legal consent should be obtained prior to immunisation and that undue pressure, manipulation or coercion are not the foundations of such valid legal consent. The threat of a two-tier society based on the vaxxed and the unvaxxed is not what I want for Australia. A divided society is a weakened society. People who want to be vaccinated should be given that opportunity and are availing themselves of the taxpayer funded rollout. Those who have concerns have a right to not so avail themselves, whilst their taxes are helping to pay for the rollout. It's how our society works.
But workers being threatened with dismissal unless they are vaccinated is not something I can support and indeed feel compelled to oppose. If vaccination does what it asserts, there should be no fear of the unvaccinated by the vaccinated. So, as soon as everyone who wants to be vaccinated has been given a reasonable opportunity to be so vaccinated, we should be getting back to normal for domestic purposes. To hear of labourers and medical specialists losing their jobs because of their views on vaccination is unacceptable. Medical students are being told they can't sit their exams if not vaccinated, but students in other disciplines can. A GP who doesn't want to be vaccinated will be denied practising even telehealth—go figure. Defence personnel who are at the peak of their physical wellbeing are threatened with dismissal if they don't submit.
It is now beyond question that those who are fully vaccinated can also catch and transmit the virus, which begs the question as to why only one group—the unvaccinated—is being discriminated against. We have a shortage of highly qualified defence personnel, workers, doctors and nurses, yet very soon not only will some of these committed and dedicated workers lose their gainful employment but their essential service will be denied to the wider community—livelihoods, careers and aspirations all being trashed whilst dividing us. Proportionality in these things is currently missing. Why do you need to be vaccinated to sit a medical exam or practise telehealth? Why are we denying much-needed services of all types to the community because of people's vaccination status?
Unvaccinated Australians—who, might I add, are overwhelmingly good, decent Australians—point to the risk of an adverse reaction to immunisation in comparison to the dangers of contracting COVID. Respectfully, I disagree, and that's why I'm vaccinated. But that doesn't stop me from acknowledging and respecting their right to their point of view or lead me to argue that they should be denied access to entertainment, shopping centres and churches, let alone their jobs and professions. Personal freedoms are the cornerstone of what makes Australia great, which is why I can't stand by and watch the long-held right to personal medical choices being thrown away:
‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.’
So said Ronald Reagan. He was correct. Our authorities need to respect freedom and not create a two-tier society. The right to a job should not be dependent on a jab. By all means convince, but don't coerce. By all means educate, but don't discriminate. Protecting freedoms, including of those with whom we might disagree, is vital. Our failure to do so will have corrosive, long-term consequences.
The people of Tasmania are entitled to know why I abstained on a Bill purporting to outlaw mandating COVID vaccination.
The Bill, which is a slightly amended version of a Bill introduced into the House of Representatives, is right in principle but clumsy and unlawful in that it is unconstitutional.
My view has always been that as soon as everyone who wants to be vaccinated has had a reasonable opportunity to be vaccinated, we should open up.
If vaccination works, then we who are vaccinated have nothing to fear from the unvaccinated.
For the record, I’m vaccinated and encourage people to be vaccinated. Also, for the record, I respect those who hold an alternate point of view. That’s how a civil liberal democratic society operates.
As a representative who has consistently opposed vaccine passports and mandating vaccinations, I am overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Bill. We are seeing good nurses, teachers, doctors, defence personnel and aged care workers being thrown out of work in circumstances where the loss of jobs and services to the public is highly disproportionate to the actual risk, at a time when we already have a shortage of personnel in these areas.
The thought of a two-tiered society – the vaxxed and the unvaxxed - is to split and divide our community which is to weaken it.
My view has consistently been that we should educate, not discriminate. We should convince, not coerce.
The Bill before the Senate would seek to over-ride the States and stop funding to them if they mandate in any circumstance. Its constitutionality is highly questionable and the consequences highly disruptive. It would see the GST arrangements ripped up.
It stands to reason that if today the Federal Government is clothed with the power to override the States on vaccine mandates, it would also have the power to impose such mandates on the States.
This is a two-edged sword.
We cannot stop living because we are scared of dying. The lockdowns and restrictions can’t and shouldn’t continue from general health, mental health and economic perspectives.
We need to learn to live with COVID. Vaccine passports have failed elsewhere and they will fail here while costing huge sums to administer while restricting freedoms.
Tasmanians can be assured I will continue to support their vaccination choices on the basis of the standard set by the Australian Immunisation Handbook, which declares valid legal consent is required and that means no “undue influence, manipulation or coercion”.
The threat of job loss is clearly “undue influence” if not outright “coercion”.
The legislation, while well-motivated and intentioned, was not of a standard to attract my vote.
Given that my vote was not going to determine the success or otherwise of the Bill, I took the unusual step of abstaining.
First published in The Examiner 19/10/2021
The law. It is an ass, according to an old saying, usually employed to give expression to our frustrations when we don’t or can’t understand its ways.
As someone who enjoyed the practice of law in a former life, the law still holds a deep and profound interest and fascination. High Court decisions in particular because from them there is no appeal. The only way around its pronouncements are changes to the legislated law of the country via the Parliament or the people if it’s a Constitutional issue.
Our High Court judges are quality individuals tasked with onerous responsibilities. Theirs is the final say on matters judicial. There’s no further appeal.
Sometimes they get it resoundingly right, as in the unanimous 7-0 Pell decision, teaching everyone the basics of criminal law and the test of beyond reasonable doubt, which protects us all.
But then there is the recent Voller Case, a 5-2 decision, which held that the owners and operators of Facebook commentary pages are responsible for defamatory comments posted by third parties. Being perplexed at such a determination is not unreasonable.
Readers may recall that Voller was an inmate of the former Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in the Northern Territory. Treatment of its clients became a hot issue and as is the media’s right and want, stories were published, including online. The stories were not defamatory. However, being online, readers could leave comments and did so – some allegedly defamatory. Whether or not the comments are defamatory is still to be determined by the Courts. The case before the High Court revolved around the responsibility of the publisher of those comments and whether hosting a Facebook post that allows for public comment could be deemed to be a publisher of those comments and therefore be held liable.
The Court held that the creation of a public Facebook page and the posting of content on that page facilitated, encouraged and thereby assisted the publication of comments from third-party Facebook users, even if the page administrator did not know it was there or took steps to remove the potentially defamatory comments.
One assumes this finding applies to all public Facebook pages and one wonders how this is fair or reasonable given the owner has not exercised any judgement or decision to publish. If ownership of the site clothes the owner of full responsibility for all published comments, it begs the question of whether the pinning of a defamatory statement to a community notice board could be similarly deemed the responsibility of the owner of the notice board because it encourages the placement of public notices. The local council notice board, the CWA’s, the football club’s or the local church’s noticeboards could all possibly end up being responsible for things being pinned to them, completely unbeknown and unsupported by the organisation.
The potential ramifications of the Voller finding could spawn a litigious minefield. How long might a well-meaning Facebook page owner have to delete a potentially defamatory comment by another before they are vulnerable? Would it be immediately, 10 minutes, 1 hour perhaps? Given the ruling, one suspects immediately.
Public Facebook pages are slowly having their public comment sections blocked or taken down for fear of the lurking defamer, whether its community pages promoting local news, the Premier’s page or even CNN’s Australian Facebook page. Not a good or healthy outcome for a vibrant democracy with participants seeking community feedback and input.
As an aside, our excellent judiciary exercising the same sworn duties of office, hearing the same evidence and applying the same law will often come to split decisions, as in this case, five-two. Specifics of the case aside, it should remind us all that men and women of good faith can come to differing conclusions on the same evidence. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are good or evil – they just honestly come to different conclusions. As a society, we would do well to remember that in our discourse.
But back to the matter at hand. The Parliament must legislate to overturn this decision while the companies engaged in hosting social media platforms should ensure that fake accounts providing anonymity to the bully, abuser or defamer are not allowed. The de-platforming of an anonymous bully, abuser or defamer may be a more worthwhile activity than de-platforming people with whom the platform operators disagree. Their eagerness to de-platform a former US President but allow the anonymous bully to go free exposes an unfortunate set of priorities.
All said and done, we are well served by our judicial system, but I trust our Parliament will clean up the Facebook fiasco.
Liberal Senator for Tasmania, Eric Abetz, has welcomed the Federal Liberal Government’s decision to formally adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Senator Abetz is the Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel and has consistently requested the Government to adopt the definition.
The Government will adopt the following non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism:
“Antsemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Senator Abetz said adopting the definition was a practical, positive step toward helping identify, and to educate people about, antisemitism.
“In order to address the problem of antisemitism, we need to know what antisemitism is and what it is not. The definition provides a clear, workable definition that will help educate and identify antisemitism.
“The adoption of the definition is most timely given the increasing incidents of antisemitism and adoption puts us in league with other adoptees such as the UK, USA, France and Germany.
“As Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel, I have long advocated for the government to adopt the definition and I am most pleased it has decided to move on this issue.”
The IHRA makes the distinction, however, that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”
The IHRA is an intergovernmental organisation uniting governments and experts to strengthen, advance, and promote Holocaust education, remembrance, and research worldwide and to uphold the commitments of the 2000 Stockholm Declaration and the 2020 Ministerial Declaration.