Free speech or the right to be a dill, China matters, end of an era

This seems relevant to recent developments here in Australia.

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Thanks, Alan Jacobs.

Now that we have George Brandis making a goose of himself yet again:

Another day, another controversial statement from Attorney General George Brandis.

Mr Brandis derided “believers” of climate change, saying they “exclude alternative viewpoints” and “delegitimise the views of those who disagree”.

But is it really the sceptics whose opinions aren’t being listened to?

97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and is human induced. Yet, the Government’s action on climate change remains woefully inadequate.

If you want to do something…

The ineffable mystery is that in 2014 we are still having a debate in these terms. See this excellent article in Salon: Why climate deniers are winning: The twisted psychology that overwhelms scientific consensus. And full marks to Neil Ormerod Professor of Theology, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield for his letter in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

So, George Brandis is now comparing himself to Voltaire in his defence of free speech (“Climate change proponents using ‘mediaeval’ tactics: George Brandis”, April 18). Free speech for racist bigots, free speech for climate denialists. Where will it end? Free speech for the tobacco industry to deny smoking causes cancer? There is a value in free speech to promote reasoned discussion and deliberation. And then there is obdurate and at times wilful ignorance. Smoking does cause cancer, there are no superior races and human-induced climate change is as certain as it is scientifically possible to demonstrate.

Denial is not driven by some otherwise ignored piece of scientific insight but by the massive vested interests of the fossil fuel industry. Its combined economic resources dwarf those of many nations and it has no hesitation is using those resources for its own short-term benefit, even if it means destroying the planet in the process.

Changing subjects now: do look at Chinese Museum Melbourne on Stephen Randall’a blog.

In this era of a high level of negativity towards migration I believe this and other museums that tell the story of our immigration rich past are very important parts of our society.  I feel grateful to all those who have contributed this wonderful place.

Another China/Chinese story: China tries to stop Hong Kong building Tiananmen Square Museum by Craig Hill. Hardly surprising, but the idea of the museum itself is rather surprising.

The world’s first permanent museum dedicated to China’s Tiananmen Square massacre is hoping to open – sparking tensions in host city Hong Kong.

The planned opening comes ahead of a key anniversary of the bloody crackdown, which saw hundreds killed when Chinese troops opened fire on pro-democracy protesters, on June 3/4, 1989.

But the bid to establish the museum, planned to open on April 26, has run into local opposition, which some say has links to Beijing…

Of course it would.

Did you see this in today’s Herald? Chinese spies at Sydney University by John Garnaut.

Much of the monitoring work takes place in higher education institutions, including Sydney University and Melbourne University, where more than 90,000 students from mainland China are potentially exposed to ideas and activities not readily available at home.

Fairfax has interviewed lecturers and Chinese-born students who have suffered repercussions because of comments they made in Australian classrooms which were reported through Chinese intelligence channels. “I was interrogated four times in China,” said a senior lecturer at a high-ranking Australian university.

He was questioned by China’s main spy agency over comments he made at a seminar about democracy at the University of NSW. “They showed me the report. I can even name the lady who sent the report.”

Such informant networks are driving the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to increase its capabilities. ”They have more resources in Sydney University than we do,” an Australian official said. ”No question.”

Yes, I absolutely believe it. When I was working in a language college with P R China students in the year after Tiananmen we pretty much took it for granted that the students were likely to be spied on. So did the students.

End of an Era

I note the passing of former NSW Premier Neville Wran. See the ABC’s tribute – slightly ironic as Neville Wran did not always love the ABC. See also Malcolm Turnbull, Farewell Neville Wran: We have lost a great mate.

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Premier Neville Wran stands on the tracks at East Hills to announce the extension of the line to Glenfield, 08/12/83.

Pic Dave Fullagar

Update 22 April

On Brandis see Brandis misses the finer points of free speech by Henry Martyn Lloyd, a lecturer in the History of Philosophy at the University of Queensland.