A Few Words On The Jill Meagher case

By now, readers will know of the horrific ordeal of Melbourne woman Jillian Meagher, who disappeared a week ago; her body recovered from a shallow grave this morning, and a suspect charged with her rape and murder. It is chilling, it is a tragedy, and it is an opportunity for the community.

I’m not going to say much, and I urge readers to be restrained in their comments (or at the very least, mindful that the matter is now before the Courts, and thus it is imperative that none of us say anything that might prejudice the fairness of the trial).

Like many people in Melbourne — and across the country — I’m aghast at what happened to Jill Meagher; a woman who went out with colleagues for drinks, and never made it home.

It’s a salutory reminder that none of us are as safe as we would like to be, and a reminder too that for whatever good there is in the world, evil exists too.

And sometimes, evil is a force too strong to be reckoned with.

I didn’t know Jill Meagher, but people I have worked with did; as an ABC employee in Melbourne and thus a fellow media industry person, our “circles” if you like overlapped. And so this episode lands fairly close to home; not that that makes any difference.

Social media have assisted Police to identify and incarcerate a suspect quickly and efficiently; it is now to be hoped that the impending trial proceeds expeditiously and smoothly, and that justice is done — and seen to be done.

It is on this point specifically that I urge caution upon my readers; not just in terms of any comments that may be posted here, but in their conversations and communications elsewhere.

Whatever the end result of the judicial process may be, it is unwise to canvass or to speculate upon it; indeed, the only “change” likely to be effected by doing so is to compromise the prosecution case and/or lead to its abandonment — and I don’t think anyone would wish that.

So let us all be very circumspect; there will be a time and a place for recriminations and for opinions.

Yet later, when the time is appropriate, these events may be the catalyst for a community discussion or debate about standards: what degree of punishment is appropriate as a reflection of community standards and expectations, and how the judicial sentencing process might be reformed to better serve those standards.

I must reiterate, for clarity: I am not prejudging anything here, although many will, and some will interpret my remarks as a call for a reintroduction of the death penalty (which, admittedly, I certainly believe appropriate in cases of aggravated rape and murder generally).

But I make the point from the perspective that so often, people complain about the leniency of sentences and the inadequacy of penalties; there are lobby groups built around such sentiments, with violence against children an obvious example that springs to mind.

So whilst there is a lot of anger and grief and a desire for vengeance around this issue — and understandably, if not rightly so — I would call on all readers just to wait.

For now.

And in the fullness of time, the one positive that might come from this week’s tragic events in Melbourne may well be that Meagher’s legacy is to spark a reform of penalties and sentencing in criminal matters, initiated by her peers, to better reflect the expectations of the community at large.

In the meantime, my condolences and thoughts are with Jill’s husband, Tom, and their family; her ABC colleagues and friends, and to all of those around her who, by all accounts, have lost a very special friend.

And to the rest of you, my message is simple: look after each other, and yourselves.

And remember the difference between safety and mortality is sometimes a matter of seconds, or inches, let alone a question of degrees.

Great Laugh: Double Entendre On The Campaign Trail In The USA

Tonight I am very happy to share one of those rare times the political process offers up a great old belly laugh; US Vice-President Joe Biden — or more correctly, his wife — has kicked a massive own goal on the campaign trail, much to the delight of supporters and opponents alike.

I thought I would feature this tonight — let’s be honest, although there have been serious issues to canvass over the past week, we’ve all taken them fairly seriously as well — and something a little lighter, prior to the start of a new week, is welcome.

Imagine the brouhaha, then, when Jill Biden — wife of Joe, Vice-President of the USA and standing for re-election with Barack Obama — introduces her husband at a campaign function, and inadvertently implies ol’ Joe is…well, very well endowed…

Biden — who was described by Clint Eastwood at the recent Republican National Convention as “kind of a grin with a body attached to it” — lived up to the description as he smirked, smiled, and eventually lost it as his wife’s remarks rolled fatefully along their course.

I can’t stand the sight of Biden; the smug smarm and — yes — that grin grate on my senses to the point of virtual intolerability.

Tonight, however, I just have to laugh along, like the rest of them did…

As an aside, this is the sort of thing political campaigns can’t engineer, and they gift something no amount of campaign donations can ever buy: warm, sincere spontaneity, underwritten by the fact that had it been planned, it would never have worked.

So — whilst I sincerely hope Mitt Romney beats Obama and Biden — I’m happy, just this once, to give a little air to their campaign, and invite you to watch this video of Jill Biden “keeping it real.”

Enjoy!

Bugger Off: Bestial Broadside Buys Bernardi The Bullet

Comments in the Senate by hard-right Liberal Cory Bernardi — suggesting a direct causal link from gay relationships to sex between human beings and animals — have rightly and correctly resulted in his sacking from the Coalition frontbench. The Red And The Blue heartily endorses his dismissal.

The ongoing debate over gay marriage — and whether to legislate in favour of it — is a labyrinth of differing positions and viewpoints, interwoven with personal friendships and relationships, political considerations, and social outcomes, and one which largely transcends orthodox lines of demarcation such as Left vs Right, or Labor vs Liberal.

Whilst I am not gay and am known for conservative views, I oppose gay marriage — because, as I have opined in the past, I think the gay community has enough bright, creative people in its ranks to come up with an equivalent institution of their own, rather than seeking to second an institution that is quintessentially heterosexual as defined in its history, tradition, convention, and its basis in religious lore.

And marriage, at its very genesis (no pun intended) is a religious institution across many faiths, not a modern societal or legal one.

It is true that the conservative in me opposes gay marriage; yet the liberal in me (in the true sense of the word, not the political sense) takes the view that gay people can do whatever they like between themselves in the privacy of their own company so long as it doesn’t adversely affect anyone else — which, by the way, is pretty much the way all of us should conduct our personal affairs, whether straight or gay.

My position on this issue probably puts me somewhere in the middle of those who are absolutely dead against the legislation of gay marriage and those who are ardently in favour of that change being legislated.

I wanted to restate my position on this tonight because — whether you agree with it or not — it is a reasoned one.

And I think that generally, most people who have participated in the gay marriage debate — in Parliament, the mainstream media, in independent opinion instruments such as this column, or around the barbeque or kitchen table — equally have views that are reasoned out; whether they concur with mine or not, I think most people have at least paid the subject the courtesy of giving it some thought.

Yes, there are religious conservatives and rednecks with an outright opposition to the right; there are others at the opposite end of the spectrum using Leftist blackmail (“you support this or you’re a bigot,” or silly, focus-group slogans like “equal love”) to push their case.

But until Tuesday, I wasn’t aware of anyone advocating a position that legislating gay marriage could lead to lawful sexual relations between humans and animals.

Enter Senator Cory Bernardi.

In the interests of clarity, I reprint here his remarks to the Senate debate as quoted in The Australian:

“The next step …(if gay marriage is legalised) is having three people that love each other be able to enter into a permanent union endorsed by society, or four people.

“There are even some creepy people out there who say that it’s OK to have consensual sexual relations between humans and animals. Will that be a future step?

“In the future, will we say, ‘These two creatures love each other and maybe they should be able to be joined in a union?’ “

I’m going to be blunt about this:

  1. The debate about gay marriage has nothing to do with polygamy.
  2. The debate about gay marriage has nothing to do with sex with animals.
  3. Senator Bernardi’s remarks are a disgusting attempt to divert the debate about gay marriage down a filthy tangent designed to morally revolt and shock.
  4. Senator Bernardi’s remarks are not worthy of an adolescent school debate let alone be uttered in the Houses of the country’s Parliament.
  5. Senator Bernardi’s remarks are an affront to gay people and those who favour gay marriage and to those opposed but nonetheless engaged in the debate in good faith.

Claiming that various reports “had not taken into account the full context of his remarks” — a variation, to be sure, on the proven, guilt-tinged defence of being “misquoted” — Bernardi apparently remains unrepentant; refusing to apologise, and refusing to acknowledge what everyone else can see as a repugnance.

The consideration of the actual issue aside, Bernardi’s outburst — essentially repeated yesterday morning in a radio interview — raises political considerations as well.

He has defied party room instructions not to inflame the debate over gay marriage; the latest in a litany of ill-advised and incendiary outbursts over the course of his Senatorial career.

He has, by virtue of this grotesque overreach, enraged more moderate Liberals such as Malcolm Turnbull, who favour the legalisation of gay marriage but who voted against it in accordance with the published policy of the Coalition.

And he has created additional problems for Liberal leader Tony Abbott at a time when the Coalition has performed badly for a couple of weeks — partially reflected in some recent opinion polling — and compounded by a rare outbreak of ill-discipline in Coalition ranks under Abbott’s leadership.

To his credit, Abbott has been unconditional in his statements that what Bernardi has done is completely unacceptable.

We could discuss this at greater length in terms of the political repercussions and the fallout on a wider basis but that really isn’t the purpose of tonight’s article.

Clearly, Bernardi’s comments to the Senate debate merit no further consideration; we can treat these with the contempt they deserve, and ignore them.

And quite clearly, Senator Bernardi has outlived any real usefulness he may have had politically, as a Senator and lawmaker, and is of no further value to the Liberal Party in any conceivable sense.

Abbott — historically a factional ally of Bernardi’s — has stamped the papers of the latter, dismissing him from his frontbench; it is to be hoped the party’s preselectors in South Australia give consideration to completing the job, and removing Bernardi from their Senate ticket.

For now, however, Bernardi has been told — in no uncertain terms — to bugger off.

And, on balance, quite rightly so.

 

John Elliott As Deputy Lord Mayor Of Melbourne…One Word: Why?

I like John Elliott; from his days as a corporate high flyer in the 80s and 90s to his presidency of the Carlton Football Club — and from the highs to the lows — I have always had a lot of time for him. But his new ambition to be Deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne isn’t just wrong, it’s ridiculous.

Today brought the news that Elliott will stand in next month’s local council elections in Melbourne, on a ticket headed by opinion pollster and serial mayoral candidate Gary Morgan, and my immediate reaction is to ask “why?”

The move makes no sense for a number of reasons; moreover, it is impossible to imagine Elliott being fulfilled as a result — even if he and Morgan were to win.

And that is a very, very remote possibility.

Like him or hate him, Gary Morgan polarises people; it goes with the turf whenever intellect, energy and ego intersects. I don’t mind Gary Morgan, either, but he’s stood as Lord Mayor in Melbourne previously, and lost.

Why should 2012 be any different?

Elliott’s entry, on Morgan’s ticket, is at first glimpse clever; it adds substance and a recognition factor to the ticket that would otherwise struggle to stand out in what is always a crowded field.

Yet the historical portents point to Elliott as deputy being a bad decision for all concerned.

John Elliott is used to being in charge; the man who once built a $100 million fortune on the back of a small jam making company he singlehandedly built into an Australian corporate giant is a man accustomed to the final say, and to getting his own way.

He ran that giant — Elders IXL, and later Foster’s Brewing Group — from the top, as he did during his 19-year tenure as President at the Carlton Football Club.

His tenure at both ended badly, but good or bad, Elliott was indisputably in charge at both until the end.

His record as a deputy (or more accurately, a player of second fiddle) can really only be judged on the period during the 1980s in which he was also the federal President of the Liberal Party; whilst nominally the head of the Liberal organisation, the role of President very much takes a back seat behind that of the parliamentary leader.

Early during his time as President, he was a constant thorn in the side of then-leader John Howard during the latter’s first unhappy stint in that role.

Later in his presidency of the Liberals, Elliott was instrumental in Howard’s removal and the reinstatement of “his man” Andrew Peacock, under whom he felt the Liberals would better reflect his own political and business-related objectives.

Elliott was also tipped as a future Prime Minister during this period; indeed, he was the first in a long line of figures (from both sides of Parliament) to attempt to be parachuted concurrently into Parliament and the Prime Ministership (or Premiership) at once.

The point is that Elliott, perhaps nobody’s fool, has never taken second prize as a triumph; not in business, not in sport, and not in politics. It has always been win outright or bust: and I suspect it will be the same in his candidature alongside Morgan.

Still, the ticket does have some things going for it — mostly emanating from the office of the incumbent.

Robert Doyle is an affable and likeable character; indeed, on one level, his apparently limitless energy is an ideal prerequisite for the high office of Lord Mayor of Melbourne.

Yet his four years in the job have seen little happen of substance in Melbourne, and what has changed on his watch has been misguided.

For example, Doyle was elected on a solemn pledge to reopen Swanston Street to vehicular traffic; whilst the idea of a second pedestrian mall in the Melbourne CBD is appealing, Swanston Street could have gone a long way toward relieving the traffic gridlock that is slowly strangling Melbourne.

Instead, once elected, Doyle adroitly reneged on the promise.

Similarly, the creeping infestation of so-called “super stops” on tram lines in and around the city centre has continued to spread; not only do these halve the available carriageway for vehicular traffic, but they encourage taxis, couriers, and anyone else dropping off or picking up in the CBD to double park along whole streets, rendering traffic visibility negligible and creating hazards in turn for both road traffic and pedestrians.

For a conservative Liberal of Robert Doyle’s vigour, it has been simultaneously a surprise and a disappointment to have watched him spend four years effectively implementing the Greens’ policies in the City of Melbourne.

And as someone who has lived in Melbourne for nearly 15 years and absolutely loves the place — believe me, Melbourne is in my DNA, I love it so much — it is difficult to think of a single resounding instance of Cr Doyle’s administration changing anything of great note for the better in Melbourne since 2008.

So this may help Morgan and Elliott; certainly, Elliott thinks Doyle has had his time, and must now move on. But if the Doyle record is of use to Morgan and Elliott, then it is of equal use to the several other tickets lining up to contest the election as well.

And this brings me back to Elliott and Morgan.

Were Elliott to head the ticket, with Gary Morgan as his deputy, I’d reckon the duo’s odds of winning would rocket. Elliott is a polarising figure too, of course — people literally love or hate him — but he has traded for years on his own brand of “controversial” as a larger-than-life figure in this town, and of the pair, I’d rate him as the ticket’s main electoral drawcard.

But on another level again, politics is still politics — and Elliott, a former bankrupt found guilty of allowing a company to trade insolvent, now standing on a ticket talking of running Melbourne “like a business,” provides some of his opponents who may choose to be less than ethical ample scope to get into the gutter if they wish to.

(And I’m not talking about Robert Doyle).

What do people think? Could Elliott play second-stringer as a huge fish in a tiny pool?

Newspoll: Gillard Rebound No More Than A False Dawn

Today’s Newspoll in The Australian shows the ALP even with the Coalition after preferences, with Julia Gillard gaining on both personal approval and “Preferred PM” indicators. Nonetheless, a 50-50 result still sees Labor lose an election, and there is ample evidence these numbers ring false.

It’s a fairly quick post tonight, and I’m not going to drill down too far into the detailed numbers of polling; today’s Newspoll is certainly encouraging for the government and for the Prime Minister personally, but whilst I’m open to solid evidence of a revival in the ALP’s/Gillard’s standing, I remain to be convinced — after a solitary Newspoll.

Every time this has happened in the past six months, the boost to Labor has been swiftly followed by a corrective movement back in the direction of the Coalition.

The movement recorded toward the ALP (and to Gillard) in today’s Newspoll is, as these things go, huge; on these figures — two-party preferred — there has been a swing to the Labor Party of 5% in a fortnight.

This is by no means impossible, mind; and there are four factors (see below) that all conspire to push the numbers Labor’s way.

Yet 5% in a fortnight is massive, and screams “rogue poll”…in another couple of weeks, we’ll know whether this one was indeed a rogue or not.

Keep in mind that both Nielsen and Essential Research also published opinion polling findings today; both were unchanged from their previous results of 53-47 and 55-45 respectively, in favour of the Coalition. Essential actually had the Coalition primary vote increasing by one percentage point — from 47% to 48% — which was not reflected in the two-party measure due to rounding.

And a 50% result on the two-party measure, replicated at an election, would still see the Labor Party lose; in 2010, it scored 50.1% on the two-party measure and with it, 72 of the 150 House of Representatives seats.

To win outright in 2013 (and remembering Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor sit in traditional conservative electorates likely to be won by the Coalition next year), my guesstimate is that the ALP will need to win about 50.6% of the national vote, after preferences, to do so.

And I can’t see that happening.

As I mentioned, there are four big factors at work in Newspoll’s results; all of these are nett positives for Gillard and Labor, and all are nett negatives for Abbott and the Coalition.

The interesting thing is that all four should have been reflected in the results tabled by Essential and Nielsen, and it appears they haven’t been; this reinforces my suspicion that this Newspoll is a rogue, and it is why I’m not paying too much attention to primary vote breakdowns or approval ratings for the two leaders.

The four factors — and remember, this is an analytical comment, not a moral or social judgement — are:

  • The death of Julia Gillard’s father. Australians are a pretty decent bunch at heart, and our politicians — as I strive to point out in this column — are human too; it is impossible to believe that Gillard hasn’t had the benefit of some sympathy from Newspoll’s respondents in this survey, especially as she carried herself magnificently after receiving the news her dad had died. To the extent this has fed into her figures, however, the effect won’t last, but it’s a bittersweet truth in politics that sympathy wins votes — it’s one of the reasons Bob Hawke crying all the time never harmed his approval ratings.
  • Labor’s multi-billion dollar spending spree. In the past few weeks, the ALP has announced new recurrent spending measures totalling (depending on whose figures you use) between six and nine billion dollars per annum, and includes showcase policies in areas such as education and dental health, coming on top of recently announced disability insurance funding. The problem is that nobody — and certainly not self-important bubble and Treasurer, Wayne Swan — can say exactly where the money is coming from. The Opposition is already screaming about budget deficits and sovereign debt; expect this to be part of an intensifying stoush over economic management in the coming year that will take some gloss of the government’s paintwork.
  • The Muslim riot in Sydney at the weekend. This is the type of “civil unrest event” (for want of a better descriptor) that works to the advantage of incumbent leaders and governments; Gillard performed well in the immediate aftermath of the riot. So did Tony Abbott, for that matter, and even Communist Party Greens leader Christine Milne said the right things for once.  But Abbott and Milne could have done anything they liked; it still would have been Gillard who got the benefit from the situation. (If anyone doubts this, think back to the riot on Australia Day; there was enormous initial support for Gillard, including from this column, until it became clear the incident had been engineered by a staff member in her office). Newspoll was in the field at the time this latest riot took place, and it would certainly have had a positive impact on Gillard and her government.
  • The controversy over Tony Abbott’s university antics in 1977. Who knows whether Abbott punched a wall near a girl’s head 35 years ago? And on one level, who cares? Abbott wouldn’t be the first hot-headed 18-year-old male who found himself to be a far mellower creature many years later. And moreover, if everyone who did a few stupid things in their adolescence were disqualified from public office, the Parliament would be empty — permanently. But Abbott and his people have not handled this matter well (especially as one of two “witnesses” openly admitted not even seeing the alleged event) and should have shut the issue down by now. As a result, the Labor strategy of tarnishing Abbott’s character has currency that it shouldn’t have at present, and this in turn will have fed in to Newspoll as well.

Contrary to many other commentators, I do not see the activities of conservative governments in Queensland and New South Wales as a factor in the Newspoll findings.

For one thing, most Queenslanders were well aware they were electing a government that would need to inflict pain to enact a longer-term revival of the basket case the state had become after 14 years of inept ALP government.

For another, the LNP government in Queensland is smart enough to get the pain out of the way quickly, and still have perhaps two years left on its term before another election is due.

And in any case, most of the noise in Queensland is being generated by the union movement, ALP operatives, and those associated with both.

And by the public musings of eccentric billionaire Clive Palmer, which in turn is helping to fuel the noise emanating from the ALP/union types.

O’Farrell, by contrast, and his government in NSW retain such a standing in recent polls that were an election due next weekend, they would likely be re-elected with their record majority intact.

Indeed, the Liberal Party just last weekend won the mayoralty in Liverpool, of all places — people in Broadmeadows (Vic) and Inala (Qld) would be the best commentators on just how unlikely such an achievement really is, given Liverpool could easily be interchanged with either of these suburbs.

So that’s Newspoll, and — in short — a brief analysis of where things stand.

I have no doubt the underlying momentum has been in Labor’s favour this past fortnight, and I don’t doubt a shift in that direction has occurred in likely voter support.

But I don’t believe it’s been a 5% swing, and I’d expect to see yet another correction toward the Coalition in the next fortnightly poll.

 

Muslim Rioters In Sydney: Deport Them

Something happened in Sydney today that has angered me deeply: a riot by Australian Muslims. It is not their right to demonstrate that I question, but why and how they did so, and what it was over. And frankly, those who “love Osama” and call for beheadings in Australia should be thrown out of this country.

At the outset, can I just say to the lily-livered compassion babblers, bleeding hearts, assorted do-gooder types and the like who may have stumbled across this article to actually read it in its entirety before running off on the usual half-baked tangents that people in such groups are wont to do; in any case, I’m no less entitled to my views than they are, which is the whole point of this column.

And sometimes, a line has to be drawn.

Today’s riot in Sydney appears to have been some kind of rally on a “brothers in arms” basis that spiralled out of control; a local mob going out in sympathy with its brethren elsewhere in the world. The pretext — flimsy as it is — emanates from a film, made in America by a radical Christian group, and condemned by the US government and other governments across the world.

This film — reportedly produced by a US religious group called Media for Christ, and entitled Innocence of Muslims — is said to “mock” the Muslim religion, and according to a report from the Fairfax press portrays the prophet Muhammad as a womaniser and paedophile.

A small detail that seems to have been overlooked in the mad stampede of the hordes of rioters is that the film was made by a Coptic Christian from Egypt, who violated conditions of his parole on release from a US jail to do so, and who seems to have produced the film under false pretences and overdubbed the finished result with anti-Islamist propaganda.

(According to a report from the Murdoch press, the casting call lists the leading roles as George, Condalisa (sic) and Hillary, but in the finished version, the script was doctored to make them represent the Prophet Muhammad and figures from the Koran).

I’ve seen bits of the film, and it’s ridiculous: zero credibility, zero factual or intellectual basis whatsoever, and absolutely zero point in watching any more of it than the bare minimum required to see that it is utter crap.

So let’s get the most important thing into perspective first — contrary to the wild and delirious claims of today’s group and others like them elsewhere in the world, this was no state-sanctioned, anti-Muslim piece produced by the US government. This was the work of a group overseen by an individual, and not a very clever one at that.

Yet the whole point of today’s riot — as with the others that have preceded it elsewhere — was to protest against the US infidel and its alleged violation of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

And this begs the rather obvious question: why the need to wreak pandemonium in central Sydney, if Uncle Sam is the target in the first place?

Don’t misunderstand me; I don’t think the Muslim riots that have gone on in the US and elsewhere are justified, either; but even if they were, Australia — by the rioters’ own admission — was not their target.

So why do it?

To be completely candid, I think the furore surrounding Innocence of Muslims is simply an excuse to cause religion-based trouble.

People have died in the riots that have been staged over this; indeed, in Sydney today many people were injured, including Police, who at one stage were pelted with bottles and other missiles by the rampaging crowd.

To be fair, the vast majority of the Muslim community — be it here in Australia, or elsewhere in the free world — are responsible and peaceful people, who obey the laws in this country and who do add to our society on account of their presence here.

However, there is also a faction of radical Islam that is not and should never be welcome; as far as I am concerned, today’s little stunt in Sydney represents an opportunity to round some of these people up and to get rid of them.

Residency and citizenship in Australia impose certain responsibilities in return for the privileges they confer upon the recipient. Responsibilities such as obeying Australian laws, respect for Australia’s system of governance and institutions, and participating in mainstream Australian society.

Australia has been very openly welcoming to people of Muslim faith, as it has to people of many other faiths and from a diverse range of nationalities.

But it annoys me to hear anecdotes that fast food outlets in parts of the country now stock only halal meats to avoid offending the Muslim minority; that sporting centres in Sydney are operating segregated facilities for men and women out of “respect” for Muslim patrons; and it infuriates me that any Muslim resident should dare to make the suggestion that Sharia law be adopted in Australia under any circumstances whatsoever.

Yet all of this — and many other occurrences like them — happen with increasing regularity; in return, we get the sort of violence occurring that we saw in Sydney this afternoon, staged on religious grounds that are at best spurious, and over an issue that does not involve Australia, the country these men now purport to call home.

Yes, young Muslim men — hundreds of them — marching through the Pitt Street mall, chanting slogans such as “Obama, Obama, We Love Osama” and carrying placards bearing slogans like “Behead All Those That Insult The Prophet.”

Can I just say that people who think and operate along these lines have no place in Australian society?

That people who want to run a jihad through the streets of Sydney have no right to be there in the first place? In Sydney, that is. Or in Australia at all.

And I must say that far from welcoming this type of lawlessness and anti-social behaviour, we should be jettisoning its perpetrators. We don’t need people like this in Australia, and they don’t deserve to be here.

One protester — identified in numerous reports as Abdullah Sary — claimed the mob had assembled in peace and “were disappointed” police used tear gas, which defies belief, given the number of riot police who were injured today by out-of-control thugs.

“This was a non-violent protest but people don’t like seeing their brothers attacked by dogs and ending up in hospital,” he said, which begs the question: did they expect to be allowed to rampage through Sydney unhindered?

Sary — who admitted that he hadn’t even seen the film that was supposed to be the reason for all of this — offered the justification that “if you attack the prophet you are attacking our way of life.”

If today’s antics represent the “way of life” of these people, then it is to be hoped the NSW Police, in the cold light of day tomorrow, make good use of the ample television and CCTV footage that was recorded today to identify the ringleaders and other serious offenders, round them up, and hand them over to Immigration for deportation.

In fact, any of these people holding the citizenship of another country should have their Australian residency or citizenship rescinded, and be packed off to their country of origin — and barred from ever returning.

This is not the Australian way of life, and irrespective of the justifications or excuses proffered for their actions, what happened today cannot and should not be tolerated.

And at the end of the day, tolerance does not extend to accepting religiously based rioting in Australia.

To their credit, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott condemned today’s events, as did Greens leader Christine Milne; I’d challenge any of them to make an example of the people responsible for today’s riot, and to send to the rest the clear message that this type of misconduct will indeed be met with the starkest of consequences.

I’m the first to welcome anyone into this country who wants a better life, providing they come through the appropriate channels, and provided that once here they obey Australian law and observe Australian customs, and treat Australia as what it is to them: a new home, yes, but a place that has allowed them to escape from whatever it was they were on the run from when they left it.

What I will never support is attempts to transform Australia into something else — it is not a Muslim society, and never will be; nor can I tolerate the type of lawless violence, perpetrated in the name of peace but based on religion, that transpired in Sydney today.

And neither should anyone else in this country — do-gooder bleeding-hearted compassion babblers included.

Storm In A C-Cup As French Media Goes Too Far. Again…

Make no mistake, this is no laughing matter; photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge topless, taken by paparazzi for French magazine Closer, have been printed and distributed across Europe this morning, London time. You’d have thought the French media would know better by now.

By now, everyone knows the story: Prince William and his beautiful wife Kate, holidaying in France, had their privacy invaded by French photographers, who made off with footage of the Duchess sunbathing, topless, in the supposed seclusion and privacy of the château of a relative.

There seems to be some disagreement over the level of “access” required by the snappers; the paparazzi protest that the royal couple were visible from the street, whilst seemingly everyone else involved in the matter have made it known the photographers would have needed to hide in the garden to get a clear shot.

Either way, it hardly matters.

William and Kate are said to be “in disbelief” and “deeply saddened” by first the existence, and now the publication, of the photographs — euphemisms indeed, in royalese, for deep anger and outrage.

And sources close to Buckingham Palace confirm the royal family is indeed enraged at the latest fait accompli of the French paparazzi — and quite rightly so.

The editor of Closer, Laurence Pieau, says the couple were “visible from the street” and the images are “not in the least shocking.” She said “they show a young woman sunbathing topless, like the millions of women you see on beaches,” adding that the reaction was “a little disproportionate.”

It’s true that, in ordinary circumstances, a picture of a topless woman would hardly be shocking; all of us have seen such images, and even those of us who are reasonably conservative by nature would ordinarily be unfazed at the minimum, or — depending on the context — even suitably impressed.

But that’s just the thing: it’s all about the context, and the circumstances in which the images were obtained. Certainly, Closer did not take these photographs on a beach frequented by millions of young women.

Indeed, the sheer lack of respect — and, indeed, contempt — toward the monarchy and toward the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge personally that has been shown here is without precedent.

In spite of Pieau’s pious protestations of normality and ordinariness, her photographers weren’t exactly strolling down some country lane when they chanced upon the opportunity for a happy snap: this was planned, by people who knew what they were looking for and where to find it, and in all likelihood waited around for hours until what they were after presented itself.

This isn’t the carefree Harry, William’s erstwhile younger brother, who thrives on attention and openly invites publicity; this is the future Queen of the Realm and her husband — the future King — who is savagely protective of his privacy, and determined that the mistakes that cost his mother her life are never repeated.

And the point must be made that whilst this particular band of paparazzi weren’t chasing William and Kate around Paris by car at 100mph, the apparent forethought and cunning with which this exercise seems to have been executed is, in many ways, no better.

To their credit, newspapers in Britain have refused to publish the photographs in question; even The Sun — ordinarily happy to titillate and tease, and indeed recently the publisher of photographs of Prince Harry’s own antics sans clothes — has left well alone.

It remains to be seen whether our own media instruments in Australia follow suit (I have already seen the pixellated versions of the photographs being splashed around like confetti) but The Red And The Blue, certainly, will neither publish the images, nor provide hyperlinks to other sites that do so (and any comment strings that do so will be deleted as soon as I see them, so be warned).

In a tackily-contrived piece of marketing spin, the Closer website says the pictures are of the couple “like you have never seen them before. Gone are the fixed smiles and the demure dresses. On holiday Kate forgets everything.”

Charming.

This more than finds a suitable response in a statement from the Prince of Wales’ office, Clarence House, which says in part: “The incident is reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, and all the more upsetting to the duke and duchess for being so.

“Their Royal Highnesses had every expectation of privacy in the remote house. It is unthinkable that anyone should take such photographs, let alone publish them.”

Kate Middleton, or Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is a very pretty girl; yet she is entitled to her dignity in a circumstance such as this, and — not least, given her actions and the couple’s activities were entirely private — entitled to the observation of same.

What she does not deserve is to have her modesty and that dignity violated by a pack mentality on the hunt in the form of paparazzi looking for the easy and unknowing prey.

There is, to reiterate the point and to be clear, a big difference between the recent incident involving Prince Harry and his bevy of beautiful girls — who were actively and openly looking for publicity, with or without their clothes on — and this incident involving William and Kate who, quite clearly, were not.

It is significant that Closer is owned, indirectly, by the playboy media tycoon and former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi? I’ll leave that to others to judge, but there seems to be, at the minimum, an irony somewhere in that little nugget.

I was no fan of Princess Diana, and was relieved when she and her conspiracy theories and her bitterness parted ways with the royal family.

But she didn’t deserve to die the way she did; hounded, literally, to the end of her life by the same kill-hungry pack mentality so characteristic of paparazzi.

I still remember waking, that morning in August 1997, to the news she had died; killed in a high-speed car chase that all evidence suggests was the direct result of the photograph-hunting actions of the press pack.

It’s little wonder that the rage and anger — among the royal family, throughout Britain, and among right-minded people across the world — is palpable.

It isn’t about a photograph of a pretty girl with her tits out, contrary to whatever the redoubtable Mme Pieau might think.

It’s about standards and decency, respect for the institutions and the people who constitute them, and the risk that one day, the whole thing could go so tragically badly again, as it did in a Paris road tunnel in August 1997.

I’m stridently opposed to any form of censorship of the Press; there are reasons for that, and we can discuss those another time if people wish to.

Their offsiders in the photography department, however, are another matter altogether; perhaps it’s time for a binding code of conduct to ensure this sort of thing never happens again, and thus never threatens to spiral out of control — with potentially cataclysmic consequences.

Leave the Duchess of Cambridge alone; hounding her will achieve nothing.

In the meantime, lawyers for the royal family are said to be preparing to hit Closer at law like the proverbial ton of bricks; I look forward to watching that particular episode play out with great relish.