John Howard: ‘Bill of Rights to destroy democracy’
Thursday August 27th 2009, 11:46 am

I can count on one hand the number of headlines I’ve read in my lifetime which made me nearly swallow my tongue. Kid you not, I needed a Heimlich manoevre after reading this gem in this morning’s SMH:

Death knell for democracy

Former PM John Howard says a bill of rights would erode Australia’s democracy.

The ABC joins in:

Rights charter the triumph of elitism: Howard

Former prime minister John Howard says the introduction of a bill of rights would represent the final triumph of elitism in Australian politics.

A bill of rights will destroy democracy much like the ill-considered introduction of an atmosphere has caused so many to suffocate.

The Bill of Rights attached to the US Constitution clearly has totally obliterated democracy in that land of oppression, so much so that national constitutions in many countries formed after the United States have emulated its Bill of Rights, in many cases word for word.

US judges, some elected, some not, can order the US government around, under the rule of law. This has had the effect of putting all power in the hands of the President and the Congress, right? No?

John Howard must have a different dictionary than the rest of Australia if he thinks that giving power to the people and constraining government authority, the sole purpose of rights doctrines, is elitist. Mr Howard is entitled to his own opinions but he’s not entitled to his own facts. Elitism is the state of affairs when a few powerful politicians, an actual ‘elite’ group, act in their own self interest over the interest of the people. The extreme right’s bizarro-dictionary apparently disagrees.

Government in western democracies has come a long, long way since Magna Carta, which forced the King of England to obey British Common Law. The Bill of Rights attached to the US Constitution was the next most significant development in democracy, specifically enumerating rights and keeping government in line with the law of the land.

Howard’s assertion that rights doctrines encourage litigiousness is a dirt-common furphy spread by the powerful few. Bills of Rights reduce litigation. When government knows it is constrained, it violates the people’s rights with much greater caution and much less frequency, eliminating the need for quite a lot of litigation.

Self-interested, elitist politicians hate rights doctrines. Makes their job harder. Being a dictatorial autocrat is a cake walk- ask Robert Mugabe. Being a truly representative politician in a liberal democracy is a bit more difficult, but the nature of Australia is slightly different than Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Put a sock in it and get back to the bowls club, Johnny. Your time on the stage is done.


Bill Shorten: what all politicians should be like
Thursday August 27th 2009, 8:15 am

I’m disabled as a result of getting plowed off a motorcycle by a drink driver. With several vertebral injuries and having had 6 knee surgeries, the sum of which entail permanent chronic pain, I desperately need disabled access parking under the Mobility Parking Scheme (MPS).

The MPS is a real blessing for people who need it. It specifies not just the existence of disabled access parking spaces but it also exempts disabled access parking users from paying for metered parking- very helpful as MPS users commonly live on the pittance of a disability pension. The exemption from parking fees unfortunately means that MPS permits are widely abused, particularly at metered spaces in urban areas.

There’s a news item on a News Ltd website this morning on the MPS scheme; “Heavier fines urged for abuse of disabled car parking” in which Bill Shorten, the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, is quoted as saying that abuse of the scheme is ‘obscene.’ He’s right. I frequently find cars without permits parked in MPS bays.

Dr Rhonda Galbally, who chairs the National People with Disabilities and Carers Council was also quoted in the News Ltd story:

“There is a black market trade in parking stickers,” Dr Galbally said. “People are swapping them, exchanging them and buying them.”

She’s quite right, as well.

However, the story continues:

Dr Galbally called for a crackdown on doctors who are authorising parking permits for people with little or no physical disability.

“The real question should be: can the person walk? If they can’t then they should get a permit.”

This quotation concerned me in no small way. Not every mobility disability entails that the sufferer is wheelchair-bound or even has a visibly obvious disability.

NSW RTA MPS eligibility rules currently specify:

To be eligible for an MPS card, a person must be disabled.

Under current legislation this means someone:

* Who is unable to walk due to the permanent or temporary loss of use of one or both legs or other permanent medical or physical condition; or
* Whose physical condition is detrimentally affected as a result of walking 100 metres; or
* Who requires the use of crutches, a walking frame, callipers, scooter, wheelchair or other similar mobility aid.

MPS cards are also available to people who are permanently blind.

Clearly, whether a person can walk or not is an oversimplification of MPS eligibility. Naturally, I was moved to write a brief note to Mr Shorten and Dr Galbally.

At 6.30am today, I sent my note to Mr Shorten via his Australian Parliament House website contact form:

Being a disabled pensioner who often finds able-bodied people without permits using disabled access parking spaces, I agree with increased penalties for unlawful use of MPS spaces. Yes, increase the fines for illegal use of said spaces (you could start at $500 per incident of abuse)… but PLEASE be *very* careful with eligibility requirements.

[…]I absolutely thank my lucky stars every time I can find an MPS space near where I need to be. The MPS really does make all the difference in the world to me.

However, I’m not 80 years old, I don’t need a wheelchair (yet) and I can get about without my walking stick for very short walks (20-30m or so, once a day). You wouldn’t believe how many self-appointed experts on disability confront me when I park in an MPS space, with their ill-thought notions of what ‘disability’ really is. Not every disability is visibly obvious to casual observers.

When you’re crafting MPS eligibility rules, please use extreme care. Disability comes in many shapes and sizes, but it’s none of the general public’s business what my medical history may be. Being confronted by self-appointed disability experts on the street who think that a person doesn’t deserve an MPS permit unless grey-haired and wheelchair-bound is almost as bad as disability itself.

Yes, I understand that MPS permits are abused, you don’t have to convince me of that. As Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, you’re in an unenviable position. MPS eligibility should indeed only be granted to people who really do need it, but please don’t craft any legislation which disadvantages folks like me who absolutely need MPS permits but may not fit the uninformed general public’s perceptions of what being disabled actually entails nor empowers those trying to be helpful in protecting MPS spaces from abuse to confront disabled people. I should never be under any obligation to detail my medical history to kerbside inquisitors.

At 6.57am, my phone rang. It was Bill Shorten.

Bill thanked me for my note and said that he agreed with my comments and would use care in crafting any new legislation to assure that people who really need MPS permits would be able to get them.

27 minutes has got to be a new world record for responsiveness from any politician.

Bravo, Bill- and thanks much for the call.


Atheist bus ads come to Australia – but not without a struggle
Sunday August 23rd 2009, 7:31 am

Atheist Foundation of Australia President David Nicholls has finally persuaded Metro Tasmania to run bus advertising promoting atheism, but not before having to go to conciliation via the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission after Metro knocked back the atheist ads in 2008.

So, Taswegians will soon be seeing something like this on buses:

This text is a bit watered down from the original proposition, which was Atheism: celebrate reason, sleep in on Sunday. This was apparently interpreted as unnecessarily targeting christianity. I do agree that atheism really should go after religion in general. Given the prevalence of xianity in Australia, Australian atheists can on occasion be a bit myopic and fail to address the nonsense propounded by all religions, not just xianity. The first approach thus is certainly excusable in Australia on that basis alone, but I suppose the final draft is in the end most appropriate (and less wordy to boot).

For the record, I’m still a fan of the text used by Ariane Sherine’s original UK bus ads, There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life. Mind you, even that text was softened by the use of the word ‘probably.’

I see no reason for atheists to soften their message. Religionist advertising has never been subject to such limits, nor have religionists traditionally had to fight to get advertisers to run their tripe.

The AFA are now taking a new tack, one that I agree with very strongly. AFA will be asking that religionist adverts be subjected to truth-in-advertising laws. I don’t know how successful this will be, but it’s definitely worth a crack. There’s no proof gods exist, so if the letter of the law is obeyed, most religious propaganda won’t pass muster.


Sue the bloggers ’til they shut up – ‘cos it works
Monday August 10th 2009, 3:55 am

Blogs are all about opinion and interactivity. If what you have to say isn’t controversial, it’s probably not worth saying. The interactivity comes in the comments. Good blogs get insightful commenters. Great blogs get stalkers. Brilliant blogs get legal threats.

slackbastard, published by Melbourne’s @ndy, is a sledgehammer in the hand of a skilled yet rabid wordsmith. @ndy covers current events from an anarchist/anti-corporate and anti-racist perspective. @ndy normally forges intense, insightful, well researched bits, but every once in a while he’ll fire off a short sharp mortar round. Such was the case in January 2008, when @ndy published “Aaarrrggghhh! Dylan Lewis! Tania Lacy! So Much Hate!

@ndy locks & loads:

Number Ones

Dylan Fucking Lewis is back on my TV screen, this time acting zany while flogging mobile phones belonging to Crazy John. According to a culture industry source “Dylan Lewis is a multi-skilled musician and media personality who can entertain and keep a crowd engaged anywhere, anytime!” but I think he’s actually one of the most annoying cunts to ever be spat out of a womb. “The rare experience of hosting an abundance of television shows combined with his professionalism, elite talent and ‘wow’ factor allows him to deliver at the highest level”, but substitute “thick eyebrows” for “professionalism”, “dickheadedness” for “elite talent” and “vomit-inducing” for “wow” and I think you’ll be much closer to the truth.

Caulfield Fucking Grammar has a lot to answer for, that’s for sure.

Even with my not knowing who the hell Dylan Lewis is, @ndy’s satirical Hunter S. Thompsonesque spray cracked me up.

19 months later, @ndy gets an amusing email:

Dear Sir,

We represent Dylan Lewis. It has come to our notice that a website titled “slackbastards” which appears to be controlled or owned by you has made reference to Dylan. Under the subheading “Number One’s” references to Dylan of a defamatory nature have been made. We have obtained legal advice confirming the status of the material as being offensive and defamatory. We seek to have the article/paragraph removed immediately from the website.

Should you not remove the offending material we are instructed to brief solicitors on behalf of our client to seek an injunction and damages.

Mark Klemens
Managing Director
Profile Talent Management
323 Montague St,
Albert Park, Victoria
Australia 3206
T: +613 8598 7810
M: 0412 386 765

O RLY? 😆

@ndy replied to Klemens:

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your email.

First, two very minor corrections.

The title of the blog is ‘slackbastard’, not ‘slackbastards’; the subheading is ‘Number Ones’ not ‘Number One’s’.

Secondly, a few questions.

1. Could you please identify precisely which passages, and which terms, in the paragraph below, that you allege to be defamatory?


Number Ones

Dylan Fucking Lewis is back on my TV screen, this time acting zany while flogging mobile phones belonging to Crazy John. According to a culture industry source “Dylan Lewis is a multi-skilled musician and media personality who can entertain and keep a crowd engaged anywhere, anytime!” but I think he’s actually one of the most annoying cunts to ever be spat out of a womb. “The rare experience of hosting an abundance of television shows combined with his professionalism, elite talent and “wow” factor allows him to deliver at the highest level”, but substitute “thick eyebrows” for “professionalism”, “dickheadedness” for “elite talent” and “vomit-inducing” for “wow” and I think you’ll be much closer to the truth.

Caulfield Fucking Grammar has a lot to answer for, that’s for sure.


2. Could you please explain to me why you seek the removal of the article as a whole?

3. Further, given that the post was made on January 4, 2008, why was your email sent 19 months later, on August 6, 2009?

4. I have received four comments in response to my post of January 4, 2008. I am unaware of anyone else paying it any attention other than yourself. Given that this is the case, could you please explain to me what ‘damages’ have been inflicted upon Dylan Lewis?

Klemens replies:

I refer to my previous email. Should the paragraph as requested not be removed within 48 hours then I will seek our clients instructions to brief solicitors forthwith to commence proceedings against you. Our client will seek an injunction and damages. The result will mean, inter alia, substantial costs orders against you. Please confirm by return when the paragraph has been removed.

Mark Klemens
Managing Director
Profile Talent Management
323 Montague St,
Albert Park, Victoria
Australia 3206
T: +613 8598 7810
M: 0412 386 765

inter alia! Wow, is that French? mmrrrowr. 😆

Klemens pretends to not understand that one person’s honestly held opinion of another, such as @ndy’s opinion that Dylan Lewis is ‘annoying,’ cannot be claimed to be a defamation. Such speech is protected under Australian law as ‘fair comment.’ @ndy has not accused Lewis of any unlawful activity nor accused him of an act which he has not committed. @ndy merely offers his opinion of Lewis as ‘annoying.’

As I said, I had no idea who Dylan Lewis was before @ndy let me in on this note from Lewis’ agent. I did some looking about; Lewis is apparently a DJ on a Melbourne radio station. His Nova100-FM bio says:

[…] Dylan then went on to do a couple more music telly shows – “The 10:30 Slot” and “Pepsi Live”, and then he appeared in “Celebrity Big Brother” (which he won because of his amazing style he learnt as a boy in Adelaide), “Celebrity Circus”, and “Celebrity Nob-ends”. Clearly the use of the word “Celebrity” in these shows was an overstatement and pretty much marked the end of his TV career. So he moved to England for a while to drink pints. Upon his return and David Bowie-ish reinvention, he landed a gig at Nova and has been there ever since. Dylan had a little bit of experience in radio having had a go at PBS and JJJ a little bit during his “Celebrity” years. But he wasn”t very adept at it so had to sleep with the boss and be a gimp for a few weeks in order to get the gig.

He”s very glad he prostituted himself [per barista in comments, why doesn’t Klemens threaten to sue Nova for defaming his client as a prostitute, hmm? -weez] though because now he”s less shit at radio and wants to stay forever. […]

You know what? @ndy’s right- Lewis IS annoying. Anyone who had anything to do with ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ would be so by definition. Due to defamation law reform in Australia in recent times, you can no longer defame with truth. However, a defamation case defendant making a claim of ‘fair comment’ need not even prove the truth of the statement, rather only state that the comment was based on their honestly held opinion to prevail against any defamation claim.

Electronic Frontiers Australia notes:

[…] there are several defences for defamation, including truth and fair comment. If the statements are either true or are phrased in the terms where it appears that the maker is giving an opinion rather than a statement of truth, then the maker is unlikely to be liable for defamation.


263K. Defence of fair comment

(1) A defence of fair comment at common law is sufficiently pleaded if it alleges that the matter complained of was a comment that ”

(a) was based on ”

(i) true fact; or

(ii) material that was published under privilege; and

(b) related to a matter of public interest; and

(c) was made honestly by the defendant.

While he IS annoying, I don’t think that Lewis necessarily fits @ndy’s colourful characterisation as the ‘one of the most annoying cunts to ever be spat out of a womb.’ The ultimate honour goes to Mark Klemens, who thinks he can heavy a blogger into silence with lawyery shit for said blogger expressing their honestly held opinion about a public figure.

Clearly, Klemens is just hoping @ndy will piss his pants and pass out upon receipt of a couple of brief yet lawyery sounding bluff emails. Given the ironclad protections afforded to speakers under ‘fair comment’ specifications, Klemens would not only have zero chance of success in a defamation claim, he’d unquestionably find himself liable for @ndy’s costs incurred in defending the case.

The possibility exists that Klemens will do a lot more damage to Lewis’ career than @ndy ever could through the Streisand Effect. The world now knows that Lewis has a bullying, threatening cockhead for an agent and thus will be as well-known for that as anything else.

I wonder what the remainder of Klemens’ clients think of being represented by an agent who bullies bloggers over legitimate fair comment. There’s no doubt they’d be unhappy with having to pay defendants’ legal costs associated with any such ill-considered action.

However, I fully support Klemens’ decision to sue bloggers. Nothing pumps up the readership numbers like an arrogant millionaire former barrister with a team of lawyers who tries to suppress the public expressions of a hobbyist writer. Suing bloggers definitely shuts them up, too. This item you’re reading is prima facie evidence of that, innit?

Awaiting my writ. Don’t you want one, too?


American idiot derides ‘air strikes’ on feral camels
Thursday August 06th 2009, 8:38 am

CNBC’s Erin Burnett has smeared Kevin Rudd (spin on to 3m15s) as a ‘serial killer‘ after he approved a cull of a million feral camels in the outback.

“There is a serial killer in Australia and we’re going to put his picture up so you can see who it is.”

“That would be the prime minister of Australia Kevin Rudd,” Burnett said.

“OK well do you know what he is doing?

“He has launched air strikes – air strikes – against camels in the outback.”


I guess killing camel jockeys (and wedding parties) with air strikes is OK, but *snif* leeeeve the por CAMELS alone!

In fairness, one ignorant American newsie does not a national character make, unless of course, you think it’s OK for all Australians to be stereotyped on the example of, say, Piers Akerman.

Burnett’s definitely not scoring a lot of gravitas or credibility as a journalist.

Maybe she otta stick to getting her kit off for lads’ mags.

Oh, wait, Burnett now says it was just a ‘deadpan joke.’

Sort of like the rest of her reporting?