Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table. 3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.
This week has seen loud criticism of the milk price levy applied by supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths to assist drought affected dairy farmers. Agriculture Minister David Littleproud labelled it a ‘farce,’ and called for a permanent end to $1 a litre milk, while the Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation suggested the increases were a ‘ridiculous PR stunt’.
There may be some currency to claims of a public relations incentive for generic brand milk price hikes. However, critics of the scheme ignore two important factors. Firstly, whether a gesture is token or not, as long as there is clarity on where the additional money is going, the supermarkets can do what they want.
Secondly, detractors ignore that concerned consumers can subsidise dairy farmers; and have been actively choosing to for years. Branded milk — as opposed to the supermarkets own generic varieties — has offered consumers the opportunity to buy products that give more back to farmers ever since the milk wars began.
The supermarkets themselves have effectively ensured that such a ‘levy’ exists by offering a wide variety of milk brands, rather than exclusively stocking their own product — something they would be quite within their rights to do.
By operating the system in this manner, Coles and Woolworths have left the ball in the consumers’ court. Even with the recent price hike, consumers still have the option to buy milk elsewhere. Aldi haven’t introduced a levy on their generic milk products, and Coles two-litre bottles of unbranded milk haven’t been subject to the new charge.
If there is any key message to take from the saga it is that, as always, the consumer is the one who ultimately has the power. Those who had previously possessed an altruistic concern for dairy farmers were already buying the more expensive branded milk. Those who have recently become aware of their plight can now pay an extra ten cents a litre to make a contribution.
And those who couldn’t care less will either head to Aldi, or Coles’ two-litre shelves.
In the hasty and overheated reaction to the leaked recommendations of the Ruddock review, pressure is building to remove the rights of religious schools to discriminate against teachers, not just students, on the grounds of questions of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.
This pressure needs to be resisted.
Teachers and children are not the same. There is no justification for a continued right for a religious school to discriminate against a student. But there is a kind of religious school where certain aspects of a teacher’s life and relationships are significant enough to be justified grounds for discrimination.
Admittedly, some religious schools sit loosely to their religious affiliation. Other than for the chaplain, there is a low expectation for the staff to live that closely to the obligation of the relevant religion. For these schools the sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status of their teachers is pretty irrelevant.
For others it is different. Those schools, and more importantly the parents who send their children to such schools, seek to have their students educated in an intentional religious community. And so the personal life of the teachers and other staff members play an important part in providing models and mentors for the students in growing in their religion. Such schools and parents need teachers to walk the walk — not simply talk the talk — about the religion of the school.
To remove this right to discrimination in the selection of staff, as some are rashly proposing, would be removing the right of the school to function as a religious school. Further, it would be in effect the state removing the liberty of parents to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions, which is contrary to our international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 18.4.
This month marks the 51st anniversary of the death of a murderous thug whose face has sold millions of t-shirts and posters.
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara inflicted innumerable atrocities on the people of Cuba and yet many still proudly hold him up as a symbol of resistance and a hero for the poor and downtrodden. In reality, he was a brutal murderer and torturer who, established Cuba’s concentration camp system, and earned the nickname, ‘The Butcher of La Cabana.’
Those who defend Guevara and other communist thugs often say that it wasn’t ‘real’ communism — an absurd remark that we can examine another day.
But there is another, more sinister reason why some defend murderous, communist dictators. Communists believe in a utopian vision of the world. They believe a new world order — where wealth is distributed equally, and poverty does not exist — can and should be attained.
And when you believe in utopia you can easily justify the suffering and deaths of millions… if the ends are grand enough, some feel they can justify any means.
The late British historian Eric Hobsbawm, when asked if the 15 or 20 million people who died during Stalin’s terror would have been worthwhile if it heralded a new world order, answered in the affirmative.
Meanwhile, a sign at the Soviet Union’s first concentration camp in the Solovetzky Islands chillingly read: “With an Iron Fist, We Will Lead Humanity to Happiness.”
For communists, there is no amount of death or suffering that is too much in pursuit of their aims. On the contrary, they believe it is their duty to impose their will onto humanity — their actions cannot be seen as unjust because they are the Marxist vanguard who will impose the next stage of history.
As Trotsky said of Stalin: “Under all conditions, well-organized violence seems to him the shortest distance between two points.”