Many professions have codes of ethics – so why not politics?



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original.

Sidney Bloch, University of Melbourne

Al Jazeera’s explosive investigation, “How to Sell a Massacre”, exposed the One Nation party’s attempts to weaken Australia’s gun laws with pro-gun PR training and donations from the National Rifle Association.

The party joins a growing group of our politicians who have recently behaved unethically.

Already in the first weeks of 2019, a senator attended a rally of far-right extremists using A$3,000 of tax payer money; another accepted the gift of a family holiday from a travel agent with political connections; and the prime minister flew to Christmas Island at a cost of A$60,000 for a PR-laced 20 minute press conference.




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Given this dismal record, unethical conduct will likely feature again in the months ahead, and in myriad forms. It’s no wonder Australians are disillusioned with the standard of politics.

It’s time all nine of Australia’s parliaments join thousands of professional organisations and devise a common code of ethics for their members.

Past attempts to ‘clean house’ have sadly failed

Initiatives over more than half a century to manage unethical conduct in the political realm have proved ineffectual. John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull made paltry efforts – knee jerk reactions essentially – to rein in the shabby behaviour of their own ministers, asserting only a prime minister could determine the offender’s fate. Such judgements would surely lead to arbitrary rulings and bias.

Where independent commissions against corruption have been established, defining their goals and procedures has proved problematic. With corruption and conflict of interest as their principal points of focus, a plethora of other forms of misconduct have been given short shrift.

One would imagine the threat of an enforced, humiliating resignation; the possible end of a parliamentary career; and heartbreaking effects on the offender’s family would deter politicians from behaving improperly.

Yet unethical conduct continues.

A model for a code of ethics

There is nothing new in what I am proposing. Indeed, it is rare today to encounter a professional body that has not established a set of ethical principles to guide their members.

So why should politicians, who have the most pivotal jobs in the nation, not follow suit?

One model they can draw from is the code of ethics of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), with which I have been involved for 30 years.




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In 1990, our members determined a code of ethics could help instil in us a commitment to “cultivate and maintain the highest ethical standards” in our care of patients.

The resulting set of morally informed principles was devised in collaboration with college members, key stakeholders in the mental health field (advocacy organisations like SANE and MIND) and, most relevantly, people with experience of mental illness.

The 11 principles of the current code cover readily recognisable aspects of psychiatric practice, among them respecting patients’ dignity, maintaining confidentiality, providing the best attainable care, obtaining informed consent and never denigrating colleagues.

Most of the ethical challenges politicians face are also readily identifiable, falling under the rubric of always respecting their constituents and never forgetting to place the national interest ahead of their own.

And given politicians across the country grapple with similar ethical dilemmas, we can envisage a single code to serve them all.

How would a code for Australia’s politicians be devised?

Many options present themselves. One possibility that echoes the procedure followed by RANZCP would see the country’s parliamentarians setting up an independent working group charged with the task of devising an ethical code aimed at promoting their moral integrity.

The group could be chaired by an esteemed judge and comprise retired politicians, one from each state and territory and one federal. They would be highly respected for the moral integrity they exhibited during their parliamentary career. A moral philosopher and a legal scholar, both experts in the domain of professional ethics, would consult to the group.

Their initial step would be to invite submissions from all parliamentarians, past and present, relevant stakeholders and the community at large.




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Copies of an advanced draft would be distributed to all current parliamentarians, requesting feedback, substantive and stylistic.

Taking the feedback into account, representatives of each parliament would unite to review the penultimate version and submit any final suggestions.

And like RANZCP and may other organisations, it would be revised every five years. It would bear in mind new developments in ethics, relevant societal changes and how the code improved politicians’ conduct during the preceding five years.

A common criticism of codes of ethics is their lack of teeth. While the RANZCP much prefers to use its code to promote ethical behaviour and moral integrity, serious consequences for any transgressions prevail, including the radical step of expulsion from the college.

Steps would be taken to remind politicians, the very people who have had a hand in devising the code, that its principles apply directly to them and warrant their continued attention. Any ethical misconduct would be dealt with by the offender’s parliament following an agreed procedure.

On a positive note, ethical conduct would be highlighted at every opportunity.

This would include ethics workshops for newly elected MPs; an annual ethics conference for all MPs with participation from moral philosophers and international parliamentarians; and ensuring the national code is readily available online and in all nine parliaments.

Nothing to lose

I may be regarded as naive in proposing a code of ethics for all the nation’s parliamentarians.




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However, given its widespread acceptance by thousands of professional organisations universally, establishing a code for politicians devised by politicians is worth a shot. There is nothing to lose except the funds allocated to the process should it flounder.

Given so many politicians have breached moral principles over the years, at times placing our fragile democracy at risk, we need to act vigorously and without delay. Australians deserve politicians of integrity who they can trust and respect unreservedly.The Conversation

Sidney Bloch, Emeritus Professor in Psychiatry, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Christchurch attacks provide a new ethics lesson for professional media


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The difference in the Christchurch attacks is that propaganda supplied by the perpetrator was available to the professional media, even as the story was breaking.
Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Denis Muller, University of Melbourne

Two basic rules of media ethics apply to the coverage of terrorism: avoid giving unnecessary oxygen to the terrorist, and avoid unnecessarily violating standards of public decency.

The way to do this is to apply a test of necessity: what is necessary to publish to give the public a sufficiently comprehensive account of what has happened?

Significant elements in the Australian media – mainly commercial television, the online platform of News Corp and that company’s broadsheet, The Australian – failed to adhere to these basic rules in their coverage of the Christchurch massacre.

The television channels were particularly culpable.

They broadcast segments of the footage supplied by the terrorist showing him getting his gun from the back of his car and then firing as he walked towards the front door of one of the mosques. The backs of three men were visible in the doorway. Scenes from inside the mosque after the killings were also shown.




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Sky News, also owned by News Corp, showed some of this footage repeatedly.

It came from a camera mounted on the terrorist’s head and was obviously designed for propaganda purposes: to glorify this act of barbarism, to inspire weak-minded people to copy it, and to sow fear in the community.

The test of necessity would have been satisfied by showing the first minute, where the terrorist is getting his gun from the car and where white supremacist slogans can be seen written on his equipment.

A voice-over drawing attention to the fact that the terrorist was using a head-mounted camera and promoting white supremacy was all that was needed to give the public a sufficient idea of this aspect of the atrocity.

It made clear the cold-blooded planning involved and it explained the motives: racial hatred and the glorification of bloodshed as a means of expressing it.

Beyond that, the use of the footage was obscenely voyeuristic and gave the terrorist the propaganda dividend he wanted.

It also grossly violated standards of public decency. It is getting on for 200 years since civilised societies treated the killing of people as a public spectacle.

Not content with exploiting the violence, some media outlets, notably The Australian, published substantial extracts from the terrorist’s manifesto. Once more, it handed the terrorist a propaganda victory.




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It is enough to know that the manifesto suggests the terrorist was radicalised during his travels in Europe and seemed determined to take revenge for atrocities committed there by Islamist terrorists.

Publishing his words of hate was not necessary to an understanding of that.

An influential factor in how this story unfolded was the interaction between the professional media and social media.

The atrocities were designed for social media. The camera footage was uploaded there and so was the manifesto.

The professional media took this material from social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter which, as usual, had published them in full without any regard for the ethics involved.

The significance of this for the way the story unfolded was that the propaganda supplied by the perpetrator was available to the professional media, even as the story was breaking.

This naturally placed the perpetrator at the centre of the story from the start.

Only when footage of victims started to become available some time later did attention switch to them.

Comparisons have been made between the way the professional media covered the Christchurch atrocity and the massacre by Islamist terrorists at the Bataclan theatre in Paris in 2015, where 89 people were killed.

The immediate focus at Bataclan was on the victims because it was they who provided the first footage – using mobile phone cameras – and because other footage was available from security cameras in the area.

Only some time later were the terrorists identified as belonging to Islamic State.

It is obvious, then, that whoever gets footage out first will have the advantage of exposure in the early stages of media coverage. The Christchurch terrorist seems to have grasped this at some level.

So Christchurch contains a new ethical lesson for the professional media.

While a story is breaking, the media can only go with the content they have to hand. But if the first footage takes the form of terrorist propaganda, then no matter how hellish or sensational it is, there is an added ethical duty to minimise what might be called “first footage advantage”.

Whether social media have published it is immaterial. Social media are an ethics-free zone; professional media are not. The weakest ethical reason for publishing something is that someone else already has.

Moreover, once the professional media have given their authority to an occurrence, the general population is much more likely to believe it actually happened. It is no longer just another mass of unverified junk swirling around the internet.The Conversation

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Bystander Effect: New York’s Train Death


The link below is to an article that considers the bystander effect following the death of a man who was hit by a train in New York. Rather than try and help the man, a photographer chose to take a photo instead.

For more visit:
http://bigthink.com/think-tank/would-you-save-this-mans-life-the-trolley-problem-revisited

Article: Incest – Will it Be Legal in the Future?


The link below is to an article that asks the question, ‘will incest be legal in the future?’ It seems there is a movement to make it so.

For more visit:
http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/34146-here-come-incest-just-as-predicted

Pornography in the Church: Concerns Raised


The article below raises concerns about the level of pornography in the church and the consequences of it. I believe there are real reasons for concern and it is something we all need to address as Christians.

For more see:
http://www.christiantelegraph.com/issue12979.html

 

Sterilize the unfit says British professor David Marsland


The mentally and morally “unfit” should be sterilized, Professor David Marsland, a sociologist and health expert, said this weekend. The professor made the remarks on the BBC radio program Iconoclasts, which advertises itself as the place to “think the unthinkable,” reports Hilary White, LifeSiteNews.com.

Pro-life advocates and disability rights campaigners have responded by saying that Marsland’s proposed system is a straightforward throwback to the coercive eugenics practices of the past.

Marsland, Emeritus Scholar of Sociology and Health Sciences at Brunel University, London and Professorial Research Fellow in Sociology at the University of Buckingham, told the BBC that “permanent sterilization” is the solution to child neglect and abuse.

“Children are abused or grossly neglected by a very small minority of inadequate parents.” Such parents, he said, are not distinguished by “disadvantage, poverty or exploitation,” he said, but by “a number or moral and mental inadequacies” caused by “serious mental defect,” “chronic mental illness” and drug addiction and alcoholism.

“Short of lifetime incarceration,” he said, the solution is “permanent sterilization.”

The debate, chaired by the BBC’s Edward Stourton, was held in response to a request by a local council in the West Midlands that wanted to force contraception on a 29-year-old woman who members of the council judged was mentally incapable of making decisions about childrearing. The judge in the case refused to permit it, saying such a decision would “raise profound questions about state intervention in private and family life.”

Children whose parents are alcoholics or drug addicts can be rescued from abusive situations, but, Marlsand said, “Why should we allow further predictable victims to be harmed by the same perpetrators? Here too, sterilization provides a dependable answer.”

He dismissed possible objections based on human rights, saying that “Rights is a grossly overused and fundamentally incoherent concept … Neither philosophers nor political activists can agree on the nature of human rights or on their extent.”

Complaints that court-ordered sterilization could be abused “should be ignored,” he added. “This argument would inhibit any and every action of social defense.”

Brian Clowes, director of research for Human Life International (HLI), told LifeSiteNews (LSN) that in his view Professor Marsland is just one more in a long line of eugenicists who want to solve human problems by erasing the humans who have them. Clowes compared Marsland to Lothrop Stoddard and Margaret Sanger, prominent early 20th century eugenicists who promoted contraception and sterilization for blacks, Catholics, the poor and the mentally ill and disabled whom they classified as “human weeds.”

He told LSN, “It does not seem to occur to Marsland that most severe child abuse is committed by people he might consider ‘perfectly normal,’ people like his elitist friends and neighbors.”

“Most frightening of all,” he said, “is Marsland’s dismissal of human rights. In essence, he is saying people have no rights whatsoever, because there is no universal agreement on what those rights actually are.”

The program, which aired on Saturday, August 28, also featured a professor of ethics and philosophy at Oxford, who expressed concern about Marland’s proposal, saying, “There are serious problems about who makes the decisions, and abuses.” Janet Radcliffe Richards, a Professor of Practical Philosophy at Oxford, continued, “I would dispute the argument that this is for the sake of the children.

“It’s curious case that if the child doesn’t exist, it can’t be harmed. And to say that it would be better for the child not to exist, you need to be able to say that its life is worse than nothing. Now I think that’s a difficult thing to do because most people are glad they exist.”

But Radcliffe Richards refused to reject categorically the notion of forced sterilization as a solution to social problems. She said there “is a really serious argument” about the “cost to the rest of society of allowing people to have children when you can pretty strongly predict that those children are going to be a nuisance.”

Marsland’s remarks also drew a response from Alison Davis, head of the campaign group No Less Human, who rejected his entire argument, saying that compulsory sterilization would itself be “an abuse of some of the most vulnerable people in society.”

Marsland’s closing comments, Davis said, were indicative of his anti-human perspective. In those remarks he said that nothing in the discussion had changed his mind, and that the reduction of births would be desirable since “there are too many people anyway.”

Davis commented, “As a disabled person myself I find his comments offensive, degrading and eugenic in content.

“The BBC is supposed to stand against prejudicial comments against any minority group. As such it is against it’s own code of conduct, as well as a breach of basic human decency, to broadcast such inflammatory and ableist views.”

Report from the Christian Telegraph