Saturday, May 21, 2011

Recipe: Prawns and shaved zucchini with Champagne butter sauce

Prawns and shaved zucchini with champagne butter sauce on angel-hair pasta
300gr Prawns (uncooked)
1 Zucchini (shaved thinly)
1 Red chili
1 Clove Garlic
1 Leek
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Preserved lemon (finely chopped)
1 Tbsp Parsley
a few sprigs of Thyme
1/2 cup Sparkling white wine (or Champagne)
Squeeze of Lemon juice
Fresh Angel-hair Pasta

Fry the chili and garlic in a little olive oil until fragrant
Add the butter and finely chopped Leek and cook until leek has softened
Add the prawns and fry until they are just cooked
Add preserved lemon and sparkling white wine, reduce heat, add the zucchini and cook until liquid has reduced slightly (be careful not to stew the prawns)
Add parsley, lemon juice and thyme and stir through for a few more seconds
Season and Serve with the fresh pasta

Enjoy with the rest of the sparkling

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Too relaxed and comfortable

In 1996, John Howard stated that he wanted to see Australians "relaxed and comfortable" and now, in 2011, we're seeing the economic results of this maxim. In four terms of government, keeping specific classes of people "relaxed and comfortable", the Coalition built a dangerous entitlement culture which has led to an unsustainable structural deficit within the economy. Middle-class welfare has made Australians so relaxed and comfortable that they feel that the government is responsible for maintaining their lifestyles when they make a decision that would normally make them worse off. In the past, Australians accepted that buying a house, having a child, sending children to private schools, having private health insurance, having a new large car and purchasing large consumer items such as plasma TVs would have financial consequences - consequences that they themselves would have to manage. However, the previous Coalition government have convinced them that these decisions ought to be funded by the government.

In a recent interview on 7:30, a 'typical Australian family' noted that "the big winners from the [2011] Budget will be caravan parks, because that's where we're gonna take our holidays for the next three years."

So, it appears that we've become so 'relaxed and comfortable' about living on government handouts that we expect them to fund our holidays too.

According to the opposition, the subsidisation of the lifestyles of Australian people can be funded without raising taxes but this does raise the question of just how the Coalition can fund this ever expanding welfare spend. Cutting 12,000 public servants and cancelling the NBN will be insufficient over the long-term to pay for it, but these are the only big ticket "saving" items that the opposition has put forward.

As with the opposition's direct action plan on carbon (which I have discussed previously), middle-class welfare of this nature will continue to expand pressure on the budget, necessitating cuts to expenditure that must extend beyond public sector job cuts and the rolling back of the government's programs. So once again the questions must be asked: "how much are they going to borrow?", "what are they going to tax?" or more likely, "what are they going to cut?" to keep Australia "relaxed and comfortable".

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cheap political points at the expense of the justice system

Once again the opposition are attacking and undermining the democratic institutions that underpin our society in another appeal for cheap votes. Liberal Senator Julian McGauran has used parliamentary privilege to launch and extraordinary attack on the Melbourne academic who provided expert witness testimony in the case of the man who threw his daughter of the Westgate bridge - R v Freeman [2011] VSC 139 (11 April 2011)

Sen. McGauran used the the parliament to attack Graham Burrows as "a psychiatrist of last resort and one who will sing whatever song the defence wants". Not only is this an appalling attack on Mr. Burrows but it is an attack which undermines our justice system itself. Expert witnesses need to be able to give their evidence in difficult cases and not have parliamentarians calling for them to lose their job.

Sen. McGauran fails to understand that the primary duty (see form 44A) of any expert witness is to the court and not to any particular side of the case - and it is up to the jury, not parliamentarians, to decide on the weight of that evidence. In this particular case, the jury did not agree with Mr. Burrows' evidence. This in no way determinative of the veracity or otherwise of Mr. Burrows evidence - the jury has decided that there was more evidential weight to the expert testimony of the prosecution (as well as other evidence adduced in the case) and it is beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Freeman committed the crime. In essence the system appears to have worked as it should so it is difficult to see that Sen. McGauran's attack is anything other than an abuse of parliamentary privilege for the purpose of scoring the very cheapest of political points.

These cheap political points come at the expense of the integrity of the system itself. It undermines justice if an expert witness is second-guessing their evidence because they are afraid of being attacked in parliament. It undermines their fundamental duty to the court to provide their expert witness testimony if they curtail the way they present their evidence for fear of an attack on their reputation.

Members of the opposition seem to be happy to undermine fundamental societal institutions such as freedom of speechfreedom of religion and now the justice system itself. This pernicious grab for votes shows that the Liberal party is happy to appeal to the extremes of society to pursue its cynical attempts to gain power at the expense of the fundamental institutions of this country.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The rule of force undermines justice

The mythologising of the recent killing of Osama bin Laden has already begun with the Right (particularly in America) already claiming that the Bush-era policies (unfortunately carried over into the Obama administration) of torture, extra-judicial killings and using the rule of force over that of law have been vindicated. However, the actions by the US to assassinate bin Laden are likely to be more counterproductive to the War on Terror as they undermine the rule of law and give succor to those who would prefer an anarchic international system ruled by force and supported by perpetual conflict. This is precisely the sort of world in which the poisonous ideas of Osama bin Laden and his ilk gain credence and following.

Although there are many valid criticisms that can be leveled at the United Nations (and in particular the archaic United Nations Security Council system), it at least provides the legal framework for the operation of international security. Unfortunately the US-led war on terror has done much to undermine this system - particularly with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It has been argued by critics of the invasion of Afghanistan, that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) never authorised the use of force in Afghanistan. The two instruments that are widely thought to have authorised the use of force are:

1. UNSC Resolution 1368 which firstly re-affirms the right to self-defence in Article 51 of the UN charter and states in clause 3:
"[The UNSC] Calls on all States to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks and stresses that those responsible for aiding, supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these acts will be held accountable;"

2. UNSC Resolution 1373 imposed a duty of Member States to:
"Refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts, including by suppressing recruitment of members of terrorist groups and eliminating the supply of weapons to terrorists;"

Proponents of the invasion argue that, although the resolutions do not specifically authorise the use of military force, the harbouring of Osama bin Laden by the Taliban constituted an illegal act for which they should be held accountable. Furthermore, the right to self-defence from terrorist act would include bringing to justice the perpetrators of terrorist acts and those who provide material support to those perpetrators. However, while proponents of this argument are happy to apply it to the situation in Afghanistan, they are loathe to apply it universally.

The view that sovereign nations habouring terrorists provides a blank cheque to use military force is also held out as the reason for the ability of US forces to raid the compound in which Osama bin Laden was hiding. This action has even further damaged strained relations between Pakistan and the US which ultimately undermines the ostensible aims of the War on Terror to make the world safer. An unstable Pakistan would be disastrous, which is probably why the US has made little noise about the fact that bin Laden had been hiding in relative plain sight in Pakistan for anything up to ten years.

The problem of the raid is that its aim was not to arrest bin Laden, but to assassinate him. An arrest operation would likely have garnered less criticism - particularly if that arrest had led to a trial, either in the US or preferably before the International Criminal Court (although the US is not a signatory to the ICC). This would have sent the message that there are international crimes for which a person may be arrested and tried, rather than the message that the US can go into any country and assassinate whomsoever it pleases. One could imagine that if other countries pursued the same policies there would be uproar - and an ultimately unworkable and unstable international system.

This is why the rule of law must be applied universally. The trial before a competent court with access to a defense counsel gives authority to the decision to arrest and supports a workable international framework for dealing with international criminals. Although the ICC would be preferable, an American court would have sufficed in this instance and the potential breach of international law (although it could be argued that UNSC Resolution 1368 authorised the action) could be remedied. There has been precedent for this in the past.

The bringing to trial of international war criminals sends a message to people who would commit these types of crimes that they will be arrested and bought before the court as a common criminal, and not assassinated and martyred by a State which holds as little regard for the law as they do.