Downs Under #5

August 29, 2006

I love deadlines, especially the whooshing sound they make as they go past.

Hi folks, sorry for the delay in this week’s – well, last week’s column. I had a very busy weekend. Anyway, are you sitting comfortably? Let us begin.

Abbott defends religious influence on policies
Health Minister Tony Abbott this week asserted the rightness of the religious reasoning behind his policies.

I find myself becoming very frustrated listening to him speak, because he can be very contradictory. As a Catholic, Costello likes to toe the Pope’s line when it comes to policy that the church likes to weigh in on. He said that he does this…

“not because it was religious, but because it was right.”

But then in the same breath he also said…

“Political debate should turn on human values not religious teaching.”

Which is to be, Tony? It will be interesting to see if the Health Minister alters his stance on embryonic stem cell research given the recent news that scientists have found a way to conduct experiments without destroying embryos.

Jihad Jack subject to draconian provisions
Despite his conviction being quashed by an appeals court, terrorist suspect Jack Thomas now faces severe restrictions on his daily life.

Retribution from the Australian Federal Police perhaps? Possibly. Mr Thomas now has to report to police three times a week, obey a strict curfew, and cannot even use any telephone that has not been approved (read: bugged) by the AFP. I laughed when I read that he has been specifically forbidden from contacting Osama Bin Laden. Yes, that’s likely to happen!

Now, I’m often accused of being a terrorist sympathiser (mostly by morons on The Age’s Your Say blog), but the way I see it is this: If a court of law has quashed your convictions, and you’ve not actually committed a terrorist act, you’re innocent and should be free to go about your daily life. I don’t see that as unreasonable, because it’s a principle that can be universally applied.

The most laughable thing about this is the justification for his continued punishment. Consider these quotes from the police and Philip Ruddock.

“Mr Thomas is vulnerable. Mr Thomas may be susceptible to the views and beliefs of persons who will nurture him during his reintegration into the community.”

“There are good reasons to believe that, given Mr Thomas has received training with al-Qa’ida, he is now an available resource that can be tapped into to commit terrorist acts on behalf of al-Qa’ida or related terrorist cells,”

And from Philip Ruddock:

“The issue is about protecting the Australian community and not punishing a person for an offence,” he said. “If you work on the assumption that only those people who could be convicted of an offence are subject to a control order, then you wouldn’t have control orders.”

Obese teenagers to go under the knife (and fork?)
Sorry, lame joke. Following on from last week’s item on obesity, The Age is reporting on a new State government report which claims that surgery is a cost-effective method to try to tackle childhood obesity levels, which, like their waistlines, are expanding all the time.

The report also recommends restrictions on advertising junk food to children, but Health Minister Bronwyn Pike seems not to be trumpeting that too loudly. Goodness knows why not; I think it would be far more sensible to take practical measures to curb obesity before we consider putting children under the knife. Gastric band surgery is often used as a last resort tactic for morbidly obese adults. It’s a drastic procedure, not without risks.

Unless we chase the fat little buggers round the hospital grounds, scalpel in hand. 🙂

Oil price set to fall by Christmas
Cambridge Energy Research Associates have forecast a fall in the price of crude oil to $50 a barrell. John Howard and senior economists have jumped on this prediction to assure us that petrol will go back down to $1.15 a litre by Christmas.

Production is set to grow by 25% in the next 9 years or so, and Howard promises – though with a tinge of caution – that by the end of the year we’ll have seen the end of high petrol prices. I’ll believe it when I see it. What confuses me, and perhaps someone would enlighten me (join the forums!) is that analysts are saying that high prices will lead to a drop in demand, and so prices will drop down again. Surely this will bring demand back up and we will be back to square one?

And finally – no and finally
Okay, there’s not much nonsense going on in Australia right now, apart from the usual political spin, so I’m going to render this section an “irregular feature”.

Thanks for your attention, and please do join up the forums and submit your article ideas. Writers are always welcome.