Connect with us

Australia

Austrian president warns against ‘politics of scapegoating’ on anniversary of Nazi pogrom

President Alexander Van der Bellen. Photo: AFP

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen warned against “the politics of scapegoating” on Thursday as his country marked the 80th anniversary of the Nazis' anti-Semitic Kristallnacht pogrom.

“We must see history as an example of where the politics of scapegoating, incitement, and exclusion can lead,” Van der Bellen said at a commemorative event at the former site of the Leopoldstadt synagogue, which was Vienna's biggest until it was destroyed in two days of anti-Jewish violence on November
8th and 9th 1938.

In Austria, the pogrom lead to the deaths of least 30 Jews, the imprisonment of 7,800 more and the deportation of 4,000 to the Dachau concentration camp.

While history never repeats itself exactly, Van der Bellen said, there were situations and political rhetoric that “pointed to similarities”.

“Let us be vigilant that degradation, persecution, and the stripping away of rights may never again be repea..

President Alexander Van der Bellen. Photo: AFP

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen warned against "the politics of scapegoating" on Thursday as his country marked the 80th anniversary of the Nazis' anti-Semitic Kristallnacht pogrom.

"We must see history as an example of where the politics of scapegoating, incitement, and exclusion can lead," Van der Bellen said at a commemorative event at the former site of the Leopoldstadt synagogue, which was Vienna's biggest until it was destroyed in two days of anti-Jewish violence on November
8th and 9th 1938.

In Austria, the pogrom lead to the deaths of least 30 Jews, the imprisonment of 7,800 more and the deportation of 4,000 to the Dachau concentration camp.

While history never repeats itself exactly, Van der Bellen said, there were situations and political rhetoric that "pointed to similarities".

"Let us be vigilant that degradation, persecution, and the stripping away of rights may never again be repeated in our country or in Europe," he insisted.

The president, a former leader of the Green Party, has on occasion criticised the hardline stance on immigration taken by the government formed last year between the centre-right People's Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ).

The FPÖ counted former Nazis among its founders when it was set up after the war.

Recently it has vigorously condemned racism, including anti-Semitism, but at the same time has been embroiled in a number of embarrassing controversies over the activities of some of its members.

'Windows smashed'

The event at the site of the former Leopoldstadt synagogue also saw the inauguration of a light installation, one of 25 across the city as part of a project to mark locations of synagogues destroyed during the pogrom.

Also on Thursday evening, Vienna's Jewish community led a march entitled "Light of Hope" to mark the anniversary.

Two survivors who had travelled from Israel were invited to share their testimony.

"I was 10 years old in 1938, in November, and I can remember how businesses were vandalised, their windows smashed, how synagogues were burned, and people were not only beaten but also killed," said 90-year-old Amnon Klein.

Parliament president Wolfgang Sobotka of the ÖVP also spoke at the event but was booed by some in the crowd protesting against the presence of the FPÖ in government.

Across the whole of Nazi Germany — to which Austria had been annexed earlier in 1938 — the official death toll from the pogrom was put at 91, although historians think the toll was much higher.

More than 20,000 people were imprisoned and thousands of shops and Jewish-own businesses were destroyed.

Events to mark the anniversary are also planned for Friday in parliament and several other locations in Vienna.

Original Article

Continue Reading

Australia

NAB chief Andrew Thorburn takes a $2.1m pay cut

National Australia Bank chief executive Andrew Thorburn has copped a $2.1 million pay cut as a result of the fallout and potential criminal misconduct emerging from the financial services royal commission.

Key points:

NAB cited a failure to quickly fix mistakes highlighted at the royal commission as partly behind the cut
The board also pointed to “control issues” and policy breaches in the CEO's office in the decision
Staff bonuses across NAB were also cut by $114 million

While the haircut is the biggest of any major bank chief executive, Mr Thorburn still made $4.3 million in the year to September 2018, down from $6.4 million in the prior corresponding period.

The penalty comes as chief executives including Mr Thorburn prepare to face an intense grilling at the royal commission, which begins its final round of hearings on Monday.

In its remuneration report released this morning, the NAB board considered Mr Thorburn to have “performed strongly” in a difficult environment.

H..

National Australia Bank chief executive Andrew Thorburn has copped a $2.1 million pay cut as a result of the fallout and potential criminal misconduct emerging from the financial services royal commission.

Key points:

  • NAB cited a failure to quickly fix mistakes highlighted at the royal commission as partly behind the cut
  • The board also pointed to "control issues" and policy breaches in the CEO's office in the decision
  • Staff bonuses across NAB were also cut by $114 million

While the haircut is the biggest of any major bank chief executive, Mr Thorburn still made $4.3 million in the year to September 2018, down from $6.4 million in the prior corresponding period.

The penalty comes as chief executives including Mr Thorburn prepare to face an intense grilling at the royal commission, which begins its final round of hearings on Monday.

In its remuneration report released this morning, the NAB board considered Mr Thorburn to have "performed strongly" in a difficult environment.

However, the board signalled factors including some stemming from the royal commission meant that Mr Thorburn could not be rewarded at the top of the bonus range.

"The group CEO has accepted accountability for NAB's failure to fix mistakes quickly, remediate customers promptly and set things right," the remuneration report said.

"These failures have impacted NAB's reputation."

'Policy breaches and control failings' in CEO office

The renumeration report also pointed to an investigation into an alleged fraud involving a former employee, without naming Mr Thorburn's former chief of staff Rosemary Rogers.

"These [matters] include certain control failings and breaches of policy in the Office of the CEO and a small number of unintended breaches of policy by the Group CEO," the report said.

"These matters have been resolved and closed to the Board's satisfaction."

In addition to Mr Thorburn's pay pain, bonuses across the National Australia Bank were reduced by $114 million as commissioner Kenneth Hayne weighed admissions and evidence that part of the financial sector put the interests of shareholders ahead of customers.

Mr Thorburn's pay reduction means he is no longer the highest-paid NAB executive, with chief technology officer Patrick Wright earning $4.4 million.

Former NSW Liberal premier Mike Baird, now NAB's chief customer officer, earned $2.6 million in his first year at the bank.

NAB shares were 0.6 per cent lower at $23.72 after the release of the renumeration report at 10:47am (AEST).

Follow Peter Ryan on Twitter @peter_f_ryan

Original Article

Continue Reading

Australia

ASX puts Myer in trading pause, retailer denies breaching market rules

The ASX has taken the unusual step of placing Myer in a trading “pause”, after a media report this morning revealed unreleased figures showing a slump in sales.

However, the struggling department store chain has denied breaching its continuous disclosure obligations under Australian company law.

Myer shares are currently in a trading pause “pending a further announcement” to the stock market.

The company said, in a statement, it was “well aware of its continuous disclosure obligations and confirms it is in compliance with them”.

Myer's statement was in response to an article inthe Australian Financial Review, which reportedthat the company's first-quarter sales had fallen substantially in the 2018-19 financial year compared to the same period a year earlier.

The AFR also suggested that Myer may have breached its disclosure obligations by failing to disclose such a steep fall in sales, after the company decided in May to no longer provide the market with regular quarterly..

The ASX has taken the unusual step of placing Myer in a trading "pause", after a media report this morning revealed unreleased figures showing a slump in sales.

However, the struggling department store chain has denied breaching its continuous disclosure obligations under Australian company law.

Myer shares are currently in a trading pause "pending a further announcement" to the stock market.

The company said, in a statement, it was "well aware of its continuous disclosure obligations and confirms it is in compliance with them".

Myer's statement was in response to an article inthe Australian Financial Review, which reportedthat the company's first-quarter sales had fallen substantially in the 2018-19 financial year compared to the same period a year earlier.

The AFR also suggested that Myer may have breached its disclosure obligations by failing to disclose such a steep fall in sales, after the company decided in May to no longer provide the market with regular quarterly sales updates.

Myer's decision has raised doubts about its performance ahead of the company's annual general meeting on November 30.

Mid-September was the last time that Myer provided a financial update, with the release of its full-year results.

The retailer posted an annual loss of $486 million — the first time it failed to earn a profit since 2009, when it listed on the market.

The result was driven by total sales falling 2.7 per cent to $635.5 million.

Myer's shares last traded at 45 cents. Its current market value is around $370 million.

At their peak, Myer shares traded as high as $4.10 when it debuted on the share market in November 2009. Back then, the company was worth more than $2 billion.

Original Article

Continue Reading

Australia

A government on the ropes acts impulsively — and so it is for Morrison

As the Morrison government thrashes around trying to stave off defeat or just save the furniture, it reminds one historian of the ill-fated McMahon administration.

The run up to the Coalition's 1972 ousting is detailed in a just-released life of Billy McMahon, titled Tiberius with a Telephone. McMahon, often rated at or near the bottom in rankings of modern Australian PMs, has been long overdue for a biography — now he has a 776-page tome.

Author Patrick Mullins, of the University of Canberra, says the “similarities between now and then are too conspicuous to ignore”. These include a history of leadership instability, party disunity, depleted Liberal finances, confused, reactive and inconsistent policy directions, a credible opposition and a feeling for change in the electorate.

Admittedly, as Mr Mullins says, there are differences. Mr Morrison has a benign economic environment, support in important sections of the media, and a much better image than the widely-ridiculed McMaho..

As the Morrison government thrashes around trying to stave off defeat or just save the furniture, it reminds one historian of the ill-fated McMahon administration.

Invitee looks at a portrait of William McMahon.

The run up to the Coalition's 1972 ousting is detailed in a just-released life of Billy McMahon, titled Tiberius with a Telephone. McMahon, often rated at or near the bottom in rankings of modern Australian PMs, has been long overdue for a biography — now he has a 776-page tome.

Author Patrick Mullins, of the University of Canberra, says the "similarities between now and then are too conspicuous to ignore". These include a history of leadership instability, party disunity, depleted Liberal finances, confused, reactive and inconsistent policy directions, a credible opposition and a feeling for change in the electorate.

Admittedly, as Mr Mullins says, there are differences. Mr Morrison has a benign economic environment, support in important sections of the media, and a much better image than the widely-ridiculed McMahon.

But the fundamental point is that those were desperate days for the Coalition and so are these. "McMahon was in survival mode," says Mr Mullins, and the same could be said of Mr Morrison.

Mr Mullins' observation of the McMahon government — "For every achievement and move towards new policy there was another fight, another muddle, another problem that should never have been cause for concern" — resonates when assessing the present one.

Jerusalem proposal born out of expediency

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indonesian President Joko Widodo arrive for high tea.

A government on the ropes acts impulsively, looking to the moment, compromising sound policy-making and broader, longer-term interests.

So it has been with Mr Morrison's suggestion Australia would consider moving its embassy to Jerusalem, a proposal born out of political expediency that's brought him grief this week.

The Indonesian displeasure was felt as soon as the announcement was made before the Wentworth byelection. Subsequently, things have just got worse.

The free trade agreement with Indonesia, which Australia originally hoped would be signed this week when Morrison was in Singapore for the start of the summit season, has become hostage to the embassy decision.

Earlier the government tried to fudge the signing delay by a faux nonchalance about timing. Nobody was fooled. Now in public and private comments, Indonesia has made its position clear in the past few days, to Mr Morrison's embarrassment.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also piled on, saying he'd pointed out to Mr Morrison that "adding to the cause for terrorism is not going to be helpful".

Rather than having an easy ride on his international round, the embassy issue has put Mr Morrison on the back foot.

There was no immediate way out. The Government still has to declare what it will do. Mr Morrison says a "process" is underway — presumably bureaucrats' advice is being sought and examined, after they were initially bypassed. There's to be a decision before Christmas.

This can't end happily. Mr Morrison is caught between, on the one hand, the right of the Liberal party and the Jewish lobby, and on the other, the strongly-held view of our biggest neighbour in particular.

And the angst has been all for nothing — Wentworth was lost.

Free speech review reflects ideology, not need

The Jerusalem question isn't the Government's only looming no-win decision. It has yet to provide a response to the religious freedom report, a time bomb left by Malcolm Turnbull, who set the inquiry up to placate the right.

Scott Morrison talking to an Indonesian girl with a flag.

In the meantime negotiations with Labor remain unfinished over legislation announced by Mr Morrison (pre-Wentworth) to prevent discrimination against gay students.

The still-suppressed report has brought little but controversy for the government, and backfired on the right, even before we have a policy from it.

Yet this week we have a new inquiry that reflects ideology more than need, with Education Minister Dan Tehan's announcement of a review of freedom of speech in universities.

The right has been agitated about the unwelcome receptions some conservative speakers have received from demonstrators on campuses.

Adding to the right's broader anger with universities was the conservative Ramsay Centre's failure to persuade the prestigious Australian National University to accept funding for a proposed course on Western civilisation, which came with conditions the ANU felt would compromise its academic autonomy.

Threat are easy to make, hard to implement

Free speech street art

The freedom-of-speech inquiry seems little more than another manifestation of the culture wars, symptomatic of the anti-intellectual stance of some of the Liberal hardliners, who see tertiary institutions as seeding grounds for the left.

Mr Tehan said the inquiry, undertaken by former chief justice Robert French, would "outline realistic and practical options that could be considered to better promote and protect freedom of expression and freedom of intellectual inquiry".

It will "review existing material regarding free speech, including codes of conduct, enterprise agreements, policy statements and strategic plans". Justice French is to report in four months, so before a May election.

Catriona Jackson, chief executive of Universities Australia, says vice-chancellors "are questioning of the rationale for the review" — they "do not see there is an issue to address. Every day on university campuses across the country there is vigorous debate across a wide range of issues," she says.

This inquiry could end up producing fresh pinch points for the Government, like the freedom of religion one has. At the least, it seems an odd priority — the issue wouldn't engage too many ordinary voters.

That's in contrast to energy policy, undisputed core business for government and public. But this remains ad hoc and fraught, as the government goes about strong-arming companies on price and searching for opportunities to support new investment in so-called "fair dinkum" power.

The highly interventionist approach is problematic on two fronts: it is contrary to Liberal philosophy, and it's unlikely to be effective.

The Grattan Institute's Tony Wood says: "In the absence of a stable climate policy and good management of the electricity market we seem to be left with nothing more than threats, which are easy to make but hard to implement, and subsidies, which may be popular but make no sense from a policy perspective".

A politically-inspired thought-bubble with serious fallout, an unnecessary bow to the right, a core policy that's unfit for purpose. Taken together the embassy issue, the free speech review, and the energy shemozzle point to a survival strategy that's not cutting it. Just as McMahon's didn't.

Michelle Grattan is a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra and chief political correspondent at The Conversation, where this article first appeared.

Original Article

Continue Reading

Trending