AUSTRALIAN POLITICS ARCHIVE
Looking at Australian politics from a libertarian/conservative perspective...
The original version of this blog is HERE. Dissecting Leftism is HERE (and mirrored here). The Blogroll. My Home Page. Email me (John Ray) here. Other mirror sites: Greenie Watch, Political Correctness Watch, Education Watch, Immigration Watch, Food & Health Skeptic, Gun Watch, Socialized Medicine, Eye on Britain, Recipes and Tongue Tied. For a list of backups viewable in China, see here. (Click "Refresh" on your browser if background colour is missing) See here or here for the archives of this site
Two of my ancestors were convicts so my family has been in Australia for a long time. As well as that, all four of my grandparents were born in the State where I was born and still live: Queensland. And I am even a member of the world's second-most condemned minority: WASPs (the most condemned is of course the Jews -- which may be why I tend to like Jews). So I think I am as Australian as you can get. I certainly feel that way. I like all things that are iconically Australian: meat pies, Vegemite, Henry Lawson etc. I particularly pride myself on my familiarity with the great Australian slanguage. I draw the line at Iced Vo-Vos and betting on the neddies, however. So if I cannot comment insightfully on Australian affairs, who could?
30 June, 2014
Disabling rorters: Planned Disability Pension Scheme overhaul could force thousands of Australians into workforce
AUSTRALIA’S disability support pension will be abolished for anyone not suffering a permanent disability and replaced with a working age welfare payment under radical reforms the Abbott Government will now consider.
If adopted, the scheme would involve migrating hundreds of thousands of people off the DSP to a new, temporary, working age welfare entitlement.
Warning the nation’s welfare system is a complex mess of payments, supplements and confusing income tests, welfare expert Patrick McClure will on Sunday outline sweeping changes in a report commissioned by the Federal Government.
It will include calls for tax reform for all Australians, warning the interaction of personal income tax and means-tested welfare payments can reduce rewards for working and diminish incentive to work.
For the disabled, he suggests a new working age payment for people who have some capacity to work and bridge the gap between the DSP that pays people more than the dole.
The report calls for the DSP to be quarantined as “only for people with a permanent impairment ”.
“People with disability who have current or future capacity to work could be assisted through the tiered working age payment to better reflect different work capacities,’’ the report states.
“Within the working age payment, different tiers of payment could take account of individual circumstances, such as partial capacity to work, parental responsibilities or limitations on availability for work because of caring.”
Crucially, the report also suggests adjustments to family payments can be justified on the grounds of extra assistance being provided under the new paid parental leave scheme and in the case of the DSP, the new National Disability Insurance Scheme.
“Reform also needs to take account of recent developments such as the system of lifelong care and support for people with disability being introduced through the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the expansion of paid parental leave and the opportunities offered by new technology,’’ the report states.
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews will on Sunday call for debate on the options, warning he is deeply concerned that the DSP had become a “set and forget” payment but that changes would be made in consultation with the community.
“I have asked Mr McClure to look at what can be done to simplify the welfare system and get those with a capacity to work back into the jobs market,” he said.
Happy Ramadan signs at 239 Woolworths stores creates a stir with some customers threatening to boycott stores
WOOLWORTHS is wishing some customers a “Happy Ramadan” — but not everybody is celebrating.
The supermarket giant has Ramadan promotions in 239 stores in areas with big Muslim populations.
At Sunshine’s Marketplace Woolworths, posters and a display of nuts and dried fruit greet customers.
The month-long Islamic religious festival involves fasting in daylight hours.
But some customers have complained the promotion is offensive and un-Australian. On the supermarket’s Facebook page, one person accused the chain of “pandering to a minority”. Another said: “I find this kind of advertising OFFENSIVE, as an Australian & as a female!!!”.
And another said the signs were offensive to her beliefs and she would boycott stores where they were displayed.
Woolworths spokesman Russell Mahoney said the promotion was running in 239 stores around Australia. “We celebrate as many international festivities as possible to support the diverse population of Australia,” he said. That included Diwali, Lunar New Year and Passover.
Islamic Council of Victoria secretary Ghaith Krayem welcomed Woolworths’ promotion and said people who opposed such initiatives did so out of ignorance and unsubstantiated fears. “Ramadan is a time of reflection and renewal and maybe it is also a time for all of us to be inclusive rather than push each other away.”
Labor says Tony Abbott’s federation reforms may be path to GST expansion
THERE has been mixed reaction from premiers to the Abbott government’s drive for federation reform, and the Labor opposition has claimed the far-reaching initiative could be used to make further budget cuts and blackmail the states into supporting a GST increase.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott outlined the terms of reference for his long-awaited federation white paper, revealed in The Weekend Australian, at today’s Liberal Federal Council meeting in Melbourne.
“Now is the time to make each level of government sovereign in its own sphere,” he announced.
The commonwealth would continue to take a leadership role on issues of genuine national and strategic importance, Mr Abbott said.
But there should be less federal intervention in areas where states had primary responsibility such as health and education.
The policy white paper was promised during the 2013 election campaign as a way to end waste, duplication and buck-passing between Canberra and the states.
Since then, however, tension between the two tiers of government has bubbled over across the political divide after plans were revealed in the May budget for the states to receive $80 billion less in funding to spend on hospitals and schools.
Speaking at today’s meeting, Queensland Liberal Premier Campbell Newman said he was open to reforming traditional federation arrangements but argued for a greater federal revenue commitment.
However, South Australia’s Labor Premier Jay Weatherill was scathing of the proposal, telling ABC TV it would lead to the “Americanisation” of the health system.
Federal Labor’s shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said he feared the white paper would be a blueprint for further budget cuts on top of the government’s $80 billion “curtain raiser”.
“We are concerned that Tony Abbott will use this … (to) blackmail state governments into accepting an increase in the GST,” he said in a statement.
Senior officials from the Prime Minister’s department will work on the paper in consultation with the states and territories and representatives of local government.
It is due to be released at the end of next year.
Mr Abbott also made a pitch today to the Senate’s new crossbench which will decide the fate of some of the government’s agenda from July 7.
“I say to the new senators, we won’t hector you and we won’t lecture you,” Mr Abbott said, adding that he respected the election of the microparty senators and asked them to respect his mandate.
The federal government faces an uphill battle to get some controversial elements of its budget, such as welfare changes and a GP co-payment, passed by the upper house.
Treasurer Joe Hockey told the party faithful to “stay the course” in the face of budget criticism.
“When the critics grow fierce and when the words appear intimidating, strengthen your resolve,” he said.
The Federal Council narrowly passed a motion urging the government to refrain from introducing the GST on overseas online shopping purchases under the current $1000 threshold.
It’s at odds with the NSW Coalition government’s stance and the work state treasurers have been doing for the past couple of years in trying to reach an agreement.
Meanwhile, the Greens have accused outgoing Liberal federal president Alan Stockdale of letting “the cat out of the bag” on how the party will continue to seek corporate funding to get around restrictions on political donations.
Mr Stockdale flagged that the party should consider introducing corporate membership.
New president Richard Alston said he had not given the idea much thought but was open to sensible suggestions.
Truly dangerous ideas don't condemn girls to death
In a forthcoming article in Quadrant magazine, I argue that Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act should be repealed so that controversial issues of national importance such as Aboriginal identity and multiculturalism can be freely debated.
Having staked out this position in favour of free speech, criticising the Festival of Dangerous Ideas (FODI) for inviting a member of the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir to explain why 'Honour killings are morally justified' appears to leave one open to the charge of hypocrisy.
Following a public outcry, FODI's management quickly announced the invitation had been withdrawn and the session cancelled. This is not a form of censorship, and questioning the appropriateness of discussing the proposed topic in the proposed forum was never a matter of curbing free speech.
What has finally been corrected is a terrible lapse in judgment (as well as taste) by the organisers.
The first lapse in judgment involved the inappropriate use of a public institution - the Sydney Opera House.
Using this venue to provide a platform for a zealot and ideologue who seeks to justify and excuse murder is not just inappropriate - it's an intolerable violation of the basic principles of a free and democratic society.
No citizen should have to endure the state's resources being deployed against their fundamental rights and vital interests in such a manner. That is to say that taxpayers' money should not be used to help promote ideas that are 'dangerous' (i.e. fatal) for Muslim females who simply wish to enjoy the personal freedoms that others take for granted.
If a private venue or organisation thought it worthwhile to host a public discussion justifying honour killing, this would be another matter. They would bear both the cost and the responsibility, and would run the reputational risk of being associated with the speaker and their repugnant views.
But I suspect that most private venues or organisations would exercise good judgment. They would not want to be seen as responsible for bringing into the public domain the idea that hacking girls to death for having sex before marriage or for not agreeing to a forced marriage is somehow (as the FODI session blurb suggested) a legitimate cultural and/or religious practice that should be respected in a multicultural society.
This identifies the second lapse in intellectual judgment by FODI's organisers. In their misguided attempt to 'push the boundaries' and stimulate discussion of a so-called controversial issue, they do not appear to have understood what a truly dangerous idea, as opposed to a vile and noxious idea, actually is.
The fact is that not all questions are worth asking and not all answers are worth listening too.
A dangerous idea worth discussing is one that challenges a prevailing orthodoxy and which, if implemented, would generate public and/or private benefits, without generating public or private harms to others.
It should go without saying, but honour killings comprehensively fail this test.
It is disturbing that the Sydney Opera House and the St James Ethics Centre - organisations that claim to provide cultural and thought leadership - failed to understand why it was not worth talking about justifying the murder of women just because they happen to be born as Muslims.
29 June, 2014
A moral story
In Macquarie Fields, NSW, a 4-flat housing trust property was destroyed by a fire.
A Maori family of 9, all welfare recipients and gang members, lived on the right first floor flat. They died.
An Islamic group of seven welfare cheats, all illegally in the country from Pakistan , lived on the right ground floor flat. They, too, all perished.
Five Aboriginals, all ex-cons lived on the left ground floor. They, too, died.
A white couple lived on the left first floor flat. The couple survived the fire.
Various multicultural agencies were furious!!They flew into Sydney and met with the fire commander. On camera, they loudly demanded to know why 21 Maoris’, Muslims and Aboriginals all died in the fire and why only the white couple lived?
The Fire Commander said, "They were at work."
Old ideas for a medium sized country
The Australian cultural elite seems dangerously disparaging of democracy - particularly when the public dismisses fashionable faiths such as global warming. From last night’s Q&A under the heading: "Big Ideas for a Big Country". The participants in the "debate" were Leftists like Mark Latham, Leftists who haven't had a new idea since Karl Marx. Excerpts:
MARK CARNEGIE: Well, I certainly think that we’ve got to explore other ways of thinking about democracy. I think the silent majority of Australia feel incredibly disillusioned and disengaged…
I’d say is, having been to sort of summits and other things that are meant to be taking the great and the good to get them together to find some way forward, I would - all I would say to you is anything that we try is likely to have a better chance than what we are doing at the moment.
MARK LATHAM: ... one of the greatest success stories in this country over the 23-year period, has been a policy model along those lines with the Reserve Bank of Australia independently professionally setting official interest rates and I think there must be scope to extend that model to other contentious areas of public policy. The most important long-term issue for the country is climate change, for the planet, is climate change but it’s the worst level of political debate. Surely there is room, at some point, perhaps under a Turnbull-led Liberal Party, to have an agreement about an independent policy-making authority to look after these contentious issues. Take out the partisanship. Take out the scare campaigns. Take out the low-level party politics. And so, too, in framing the Budget. Tony has been involved in this but the Budget debate in this country is just horrible. Again, full of scare campaigns and political opportunism. You could use a model in macro economics similar to what we have got with the Reserve Bank in monetary policies…
TONY JONES: ...a non-elected body where the power…
MARK LATHAM: To make the decisions.
TONY JONES: ...to make the policy is delegated, as with the Reserve Bank on monetary policy.
These people really want you unable to vote against the carbon tax. Really:
MARK LATHAM: That modern politics doesn’t handle big issues very well and we’ve now got to the point, effectively, of policy gridlock, where you can’t expect an Opposition Party like Labor to put forward carbon pricing at the next election for fear of Tony Abbott’s scare campaign.... That’s why I say that you have to think about alternative mechanisms of policy making that are independent, that are non-partisan…
That’s the first step, for both sides to acknowledge that, really, you won’t get much done in this area if you open it up to political scare campaigns. The Reserve Bank model for monetary policy has been phenomenally successful in this country and Australians now have got accustomed to the idea this is how it’s done. So it can be applied in other areas of policy.
Shock jock Michael Smith dumped for telling the truth about Mohammad
Broadcaster Michael Smith has been dumped from a guest slot on radio station 2GB after he referred to the prophet Muhammad as a paedophile.
Smith had been booked to present Chris Smith’s afternoon program for three weeks starting Monday.
However, he has revealed on his website that 2GB’s program director, David Kidd, phoned him on Friday evening and allegedly said: ‘‘We won’t be needing you, you can’t call a Deity a paedophile.’’ [Mr Kidd is a blasphemer at that rate too. Mohammed is not Allah. 2GB is in the hands of an ignoramus]
Mr Kidd declined to comment when approached by Fairfax Media on Saturday.
Smith’s controversial outburst came during an on-air exchange with Ben Fordham on Thursday. ‘‘The prophet Muhammad was a paedophile, a pederast, a sexual offender, a man who promoted the idea that it was OK to marry a six-year-old and consummate the marriage when the little girl was nine. And that’s written into their books, it’s part of the philosophy ... the Koran. It’s factually correct,’’ he said.
Smith remarked that he was legally permitted to make the comments having previously been cleared by an Australian Communications and Media Authority investigation, following an almost identical rant when he was the 2UE afternoon host in 2011.
But his latest blast triggered a barrage of angry calls from listeners, and led to scathing criticism from veteran presenter Ray Hadley at the start of his program on Friday morning.
‘‘I value the worth of this station in the community ... and sometimes I’ve been guilty of tarnishing its reputation ... for that I’ve apologised,’’ he said. ‘‘... I want to go on record today and completely distance myself from Mr Smith’s comments as well. Yesterday I was insulted by what was said ... and I’ve got to speak out against it.’’
Smith, however, is refusing to apologise for the comments.
He said on his website on Saturday: ‘‘I’ve thought about what I said in answer to Ben’s question. I think it’s wrong for a man in his 50s to have sex with a nine-year-old child. It is wrong, it’s a crime and it should be called out for what it is’’.
Smith told Fairfax he stands by his on-air words and the comments that followed on his website. He said he was unsure whether he had also now lost his guest slot on Fordham’s show in the future.
‘‘The short answer is I don’t know ... but regardless, Ben’s a top bloke and we’ll remain the best of friends no matter what,’’ he said.
Abbott working towards financial deregulation
PRIME Minister Tony Abbott is holding secret trade negotiations to fundamentally deregulate Australia’s banking and finance sector, according to a report citing WikiLeaks documents.
Foreign banks would be given greater access to the Australian market, local bank accounts and financial data could be transferred overseas, and foreign financial and information technology workers would be free to flood the workforce under proposals being discussed by Australian trade negotiators, Fairfax media reports.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb has dismissed experts’ warnings that the proposed changes could harm Australia’s ability to deal with future financial crises independently, saying the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) negotiations are a “key focus” of government policy.
The details have emerged in leaked WikiLeaks documents — specificially a confidential negotiating text provided to Fairfax by WikiLeaks.
Mr Robb reportedly says his department’s policy is to “open as many doors as possible” to encourage the nation’s financial sector to export its services.
“Financial services are a key part of the negotiations for us, given the strength of our sector in areas including banking and wealth management, particularly in the major, growing markets of Asia,” Mr Rob said.
The report says 50 World Trade Organisation members are involved in the TiSA negotiations.
28 June, 2014
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is musing about Clive Palmer and his friend Al Gore
27 June, 2014
Slippery Peter thinks he's nuts
He's got a point
Former parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper has lost a bid to have fraud charges against him dropped on mental health grounds.
A Canberra court on Wednesday heard that allegations of dishonesty and sexual harassment had left Mr Slipper feeling he had no way out, and had driven him to try to take his own life.
Yet his application for the charges to be dismissed due to mental illness was thrown out of the ACT Magistrate's Court on Wednesday. It was Mr Slipper's second failed attempt to keep charges he fraudulently used cab vouchers on a Canberra wine-tasting trip thrown out of court. He has pleaded not guilty to the allegations. A six-day hearing set to start on July 21 will now go ahead.
In handing down her decision, Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker acknowledged the defendant had been diagnosed with a major depressive illness and swift resolution of the legal matters would be in his interests.
She said Mr Slipper's suicidal thoughts were "highly concerning" and told him he should not feel like a "social pariah", because he was innocent until proven guilty.
Although the amount of money related to offences was relatively small, Mr Slipper's position as a federal MP at the time meant they were potentially serious, she said.
Mr Slipper, who served as the speaker in 2011 and 2012, appeared in court on Wednesday with a cast on his right arm.
His treating psychiatrist Christopher Martin said via audiovisual link that Mr Slipper had experienced feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness and "ruminated endlessly on his situation". He said Mr Slipper used alcohol to deal with his problems and had "a sense that he has no way out of his current predicament".
Dr Martin said Mr Slipper told him he had made two attempts to take his own life early last year.
The court heard Mr Slipper had been admitted to a medical facility on five occasions since May last year, for periods of between five days and almost a month.
Crown prosecutor Lionel Robberds, QC, argued Mr Slipper's mental state had deteriorated after the offences took place and it had not affected his cognitive function.
Mr Slipper is fighting three charges he dishonestly used about $1000 worth of vouchers in 2010.
Changes to asylum-seeker repatriation test attacked for risking lives, violating rights
A move to radically reduce the threshold for deciding to send asylum seekers back to possible danger will violate rights and endanger lives, leading refugee lawyer David Manne has warned [He would]
Under sweeping changes introduced to Federal Parliament on Wednesday, those whose protection claims are rejected face return to their country unless it is decided they are "more likely than not" to suffer significant harm.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says the existing threshold, under which they are not returned if there is a "real chance" of them suffering harm, means they can stay as this risk is "as low as 10 per cent".
The new "more likely than not" test would mean there would have to be a "greater than 50 per cent chance" of a person suffering significant harm for them not to be returned, he said.
The change, covering those seeking protection under international treaties against torture and on civil and political rights, was one of many to toughen the process for seeking asylum. It does not apply to those seeking protection under the refugee convention.
While Mr Morrison insists the new law is in line with the approach of Canada, Switzerland and the US, Mr Manne said it was contrary to accepted practice and could carry grave consequences and "ultimately risk the lives of many".
"What this does is propose a fundamental deviation from the well-established threshold for assessing someone's risk of facing life-threatening harm," he said.
Mr Manne said no case had been made for this and other changes that would "downgrade due process and impose restrictions on fundamental rights".
Mr Morrison said the government was committed to ensuring it abided by its international obligations. "This is an acceptable position which is open to Australia under international law and reflects the government's interpretation of Australia's obligations."
"This bill deserves the support of all parties. We need the tools to ensure public confidence in Australia's capacity to assess claims for asylum in the interests of this country, and against the interests of those who show bad faith.
"These changes uphold the importance of integrity, the establishment of identity, and increased efficiency in our protection processing system," he said.
But the changes shocked human rights lawyers. "These amendments would allow the government to send people back to their country of origin even if there's a 49 per cent chance they will be killed or tortured," said Daniel Webb, director of the Human Rights Law Centre.
Greens spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said it was a dangerous attack on vulnerable asylum seekers already in Australia.
"If you can't prove that you are more likely to be shot than not, you will be on your way home."
Labor immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the changes were troubling. "We would be extremely concerned if the government attempts to use complex legislation to sneak through shifting the goal posts on what determines refugee status," he said.
Moody's rates Australia's economic strength as 'very high'
Global ratings agency Moody's says Australia's economic strength is "very high" and its susceptibility to financial risks "very low".
In its latest credit analysis on Australia, Moody's predicts that the economy will grow between 2.6 per cent and 3 per cent per annum over the next five years.
Unlike the most recent ABS National Accounts economic growth data for the March quarter which was boosted by exports, Moody's believes that households are likely to drive the expansion.
"Near-term growth appears to be driven primarily by domestic consumption, rather than exports and resource investment," the agency noted.
Moody's says Australian consumers have been remarkably resilient in the face of rising unemployment and an attempt to pay down debt, largely due to continued earnings growth, cheap credit and the feeling of increased wealth from rising housing prices.
However, the ratings agency sees that trend of rising housing prices as also being a key vulnerability, with "medium-term risks as Australia's real estate market may be overheating".
"After considering supply-side constraints, the influx of foreign capital and the fact that monetary policy is set to remain accommodative for the foreseeable future, the housing market appears to be increasingly likely to get caught up in a positive price-feedback loop and eventually could face a correction," Moody's warned.
"Re-accelerating housing credit suggests that monetary factors, especially record low interest rates, are playing a prominent role in fuelling the housing market trends."
The ratings agency says a moderate fall in real estate prices is unlikely to severely damage the broader economy, though, because most borrowers are well ahead on their repayments and Australia's banks are well capitalised.
The other major threat to the banking system and economy comes from the near-term possibility that the drop off in mining investment and employment will be in full swing well before resources exports have fully picked up, leading to pockets of unemployment that may push up loan defaults.
Plan to fast-track teacher training to fill gaps questioned
Long-standing American TFA program being transplanted
A proposal to solve a shortage of maths and science teachers by fast-tracking graduates from other disciplines into schools is being questioned by academics, parents and Queensland's peak teaching union.
The State Government said recently it would reconsider plans to introduce Teach for Australia (TFA) graduates into schools as it tries to plug the teacher shortage, despite rejecting similar proposals last year.
TFA recruits high-achieving university graduates and places them in disadvantaged classrooms for two years after six weeks of teacher training.
TFA was founded in Victoria in 2008 by then-federal education minister Julia Gillard and has since also been adopted by the ACT and Northern Territory.
The organisation has come under criticism for placing graduates with less experience rather than those who complete university diplomas and degrees in teaching.
Legislative changes in Queensland would have to be passed to allow the plan to go ahead, which means the program would not be available to be implemented in the state's schools until 2016.
Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek says he has been approached about TFA and has been considering it, but there were no plans to change legislation at this stage.
"We are always looking at innovative ways to ensure we have the best teachers in the classroom," he said.
"Teacher quality is the most important factor when improving student outcomes.
"To have the Teach for Australia program in Queensland schools we would need to amend existing legislation and consult widely, so if we decide to proceed, it won't happen until 2016."
Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) president Kevin Bates says the program's short preparation for the TFA associates could undermine the status of the teaching profession.
The art of teaching is something that is developed over a period of time.
"One of the fundamental issues is making sure there is sufficient pre-service training to provide students with the foundation skills they need.
"Our concern is obviously to continue to protect that status of our profession by not allowing that type of teaching qualification into Queensland schools."
Kevan Goodworth, CEO of parents association P&Cs Queensland, agrees and says teaching is a complex profession that could not be taught effectively in such a short time.
"The content knowledge and the subject specific knowledge that these people have is extremely valuable and getting high-flying people who have that knowledge is very, very useful," he said.
"However, we would be very interested in teachers obviously having the pedagogical ability to also teach and that is quite complex - normally a four-year course."
An evaluation report of the TFA program by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) in 2012 found its associates were "novices" and needed a significant amount of support in their first few terms of teaching.
However, the report found by their second year, associates were much more confident and were considered by other school staff members to be on-par with other teaching staff.
Jessica McCrae, one of the first TFA associates, says although she felt challenged with her first teaching position, she did cope.
I definitely went into the classroom feeling like I was entering a pretty challenging situation, but I had the tools I needed to be a confident beginning teacher.
Five years on, she is now a teaching and learning leader in maths and science at Hume Secondary College in Melbourne.
However, only 53 per cent of associates continue teaching after they receive their Masters in Education at the end of the program.
Associates also cost $216,500 to train, which is more than double the cost of training a teacher via a postgraduate pathway.
These costs are covered via state and federal government funding, as well as support from the private sector.
Griffith University teaching professor Glenn Finger says its graduate diploma secondary program was a "superior model".
"Those [university] students are highly qualified, cost far less to produce, and build successful careers," he said.
Griffith University students are required to complete a minimum of 10 days of professional experience.
Other universities require more extensive practical experience, such as the University of Southern Queensland, which requires its postgraduate students to complete a minimum of 75 days of professional experience.
However, TFA associates are expected to start teaching without any prior experience.
A Queensland teacher who studied a full education degree at university, Scott Tibaldi, says the more practical classroom experience students get while undertaking a university degree prepares them better.
"The six weeks proposed for the new program may not prepare these prospective new teachers enough, to effectively enter the classroom," he said.
26 June, 2014
Clive Palmer will help axe carbon tax but courts Al Gore in push for ETS
Clive Palmer has revealed his party will vote to stop the Abbott Government axing key climate change bodies and will only back the repeal of the carbon tax if lower power prices for consumers are guaranteed.
Flanked by climate change campaigner and former US vice-president Al Gore, Mr Palmer announced his Palmer United Party would vote against the Government's bid to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Renewable Energy Target and the Climate Change Authority.
The Queensland MP says he is standing by an election promise to support efforts to get rid of the carbon tax but with a significant caveat.
"True to our promises to the Australian people at the last election, Palmer United senators will vote in the Senate to abolish the carbon tax," he said.
"In doing so, Palmer United senators will move an amendment that all producers of energy are required by law, not by choice, to pass on to all consumers of energy the savings from the repeal of the carbon tax."
It is not clear how such a condition could be imposed on companies by the Parliament.
Axing the carbon tax was the major campaign platform and election promise for Tony Abbott during last year's election.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt called a press conference shortly after Mr Palmer's announcement, to hail the "signature" decision to back the carbon tax repeal bill.
He said he was "relaxed" about the PUP leader's plans and appeared willing to meet Mr Palmer's demands on power prices.
"In terms of the question as to whether or not the full cost savings will be passed through to families, there are already guarantees in the legislation, however, we are willing to provide additional guarantees and to work with Mr Palmer and the Palmer United Party on any further legislative amendments," he said.
As the largest voting bloc on the new micro-party cross bench, PUP will hold the balance of power when the Senate changes over next Tuesday.
TWU members forced to join super fund that paid fees to top officials, royal commission told
The Transport Workers Union forced its members to join the industry superannuation fund which paid its directors, including senior union officials, $200,000 in fees each year, the royal commission into trade unions has heard.
The royal commission was told this conduct raised a potential conflict of interest.
The hearing in Perth on Monday was told that it was a requirement of enterprise bargaining agreements struck in 2011 and 2013 that TWU members join the fund.
Jeremy Stoljar, counsel assisting the royal commission into trade union governance and corruption, said four of the nine directors of TWU Super were among the most senior officials of the union.
The head of the negotiating team for the TWU enterprise agreements of 2011 and 2013 was Michael Kaine, an alternate director for the board of TWU Super.
Mr Stoljar said TWU Super was paying the TWU about $200,000 in directors' fees each year, about $500,000 in reimbursement for the salaries and expenses of a number of superannuation liaison officers employed by the TWU and a further $100,000 in sponsorship.
He said evidence to come before the commission would give rise to potential conflict of interest issues.
Mr Stoljar said TWU officials had a duty to get the best superannuation deal for employees, but members including Western Australian truck driver Paul Bracegirdle had complained they were given no choice in which fund they could join.
Mr Bracegirdle, 48, told the commission on Monday that after he began working for Toll Holdings he discovered in 2005 that it was compulsory for his superannuation contributions to be paid to TWU Super.
In his evidence, Mr Bracegirdle said he asked a union delegate in 2009 whether he could choose his own super fund and was told no.
After visiting his local federal member, Stephen Smith, in Perth, Mr Bracegirdle received a letter from Chris Bowen, the minister for superannuation at the time, confirming his only choice of super fund was TWU Super if it was part of an enterprise bargaining agreement.
The commission heard that former TWU Western Australian branch secretary Jim McGiveron allegedly told Mr Bracegirdle to "eff off" when he asked about the superannuation fund in August last year.
After years of persistence, Mr Bracegirdle finally joined the fund of his choice because in the 2013 enterprise agreement there was a three-month window of opportunity for employees to nominate a different fund.
"Now that window has closed, we're back to square one right now," he said in a sworn statement.
A spokesman for the Transport Workers Union said superannuation outcomes for members are better when they are achieved through collective bargaining.
"Decades of experience has shown that the retirement savings of members are maximised through the use of not-for-profit industry funds, rather than being eroded by the excess fees and charges imposed by the big banks," the spokesman said. "Industry super funds have consistently outperformed their retail rivals."
Unrepresentative circus coming to the Senate
AT the end of this week, the current moderately sane Senate will sit for the last time. When next it sits — next month — the Senate will be a circus unmatched in Australian parliamentary history.
Former PM Paul Keating’s oft-quoted observation that it was “unrepresentative swill” will be more than justified.
This situation has been created by the rise of minor and micro parties achieving some success through the clever manipulation of preferences.
Thus we see individuals with little or negligible popular support taking senate seats on the basis of preference deals brokered between parties with no shared values.
While the major parties will usher in a few new senators — some smart, some not so bright — the loud-mouthed Queensland self-promoter Clive Palmer will be welcoming his team of three Palmer United Party senators, led by former rugby league player Glenn Lazarus.
Palmer, who can occasionally be viewed slumped in the Lower House, will call the shots for fellow Queenslander Lazarus, Western Australian Zhenya (Dio) Wang and Tasmanian Jacqui Lambie, and, at the moment, anyway, Motoring Enthusiasts party senator Ricky Muir. Lazarus, whom Palmer nominated as PUP’s leader in the Senate may actually say something of substance when he takes his seat, but so far he has been silent about PUP and its intentions.
Wang has said he agrees with everything Palmer says (much like Opposition leader Bill Shorten rushed to agree with everything Julia Gillard said, even when he didn’t know what she said) and Lambie has said too much already, revealing a profound ignorance of the topics she has tackled.
Veteran broadcaster Mike Willesee needed no tricks to persuade the PUPs to show how ill-equipped they are for parliamentary office when he interviewed them recently.
Ringmaster Palmer has barely been unable to keep his clowns in order to date, and the odds are that whatever instructions he can give while he is recumbent in the House will doubtless be poorly understood by the time they reach his minions in the Senate.
The government has given the Leader of the House Christopher Pyne and Senate Leader Eric Abetz charge of all the cross-benchers but they do not appear at all minded to make special efforts to peel the PUPpies from Clive’s kennel.
The government seems to be prepared to wait until they stray of their own volition — certainly none of the PUPpies has shown the confidence to speak with the government unless Palmer is present.
Lazarus and Wang will probably stay close to Palmer as they have shown no independence of thought so far.
Lambie, a former army corporal who has variously worked for Labor and been a member of the Liberal Party, is at best a loose cannon. She could go anywhere.
Palmer, possibly the least politic individual to self-finance a party into parliament, demonstrated his knuckle-headedness on his arrival in Canberra by demanding (with threats) the government give party status to his lacklustre band and the extra staff that groups which qualify for party status are eligible for, even though PUP did not have sufficient elected members (five) to meet the House rules.
If the extra staff are needed for PUP, and quite obviously, the PUPpies have shown they aren’t up to the task of understanding the processes government without assistance, Palmer might have inveigled Muir into dumping his handful of Motoring Enthusiasts and joining the PUP litter, giving them the critical mass needed to get extra staffers.
Had Palmer not been so brash, it is possible the government may have spoken quietly to independent senator Nick Xenophon and DLP senator John Madigan and brought about some staffing changes.
Having publicly broadcast his demand, Palmer ensured that no party — and certainly not the government — would permit itself to be seen breaching the rules to accommodate his bullying demands in return for some legislative trade-offs.
The government will be able to work more coherently with Family First’s senator-elect Bob Day and incoming independent David Leyon-hjelm as they are patently better equipped intellectually for the demands of office.
The Greens, who hope to win some support from Muir, at least, are still fighting internal battles.
Greens Leader Christine Milne was able to keep the simmering challenge from Melbourne MP Adam Bandt at bay in the aftermath of the lift in support at the disputed WA senate election, but Bandt supporters are now saying that boost was largely a protest vote and not reflective of any personal support for Milne.
Whether any of the PUP senators are capable of meeting the demands of the six-year senate term is another consideration.
Next year’s Anzac Day parades should be colourful affairs, what with the first appearance from our brave fighting boys in the 1st Disability Pension Infantry
Khaled Sharrouf lived on a disability pension in Sydney, but he’s well enough to plan terrorist attacks here and to wage jihad in Syria and Iraq:
These welfare Wahhabis and their holy bludger brigades are currently sweeping through Iraq, laying waste to civilians and soldiers alike in a bid to create some kind of Islamic purity state.
Good luck with that. Let’s assume, for the sake of it, that ISIS (Impaired and Subsidised Islamic Soldiers) achieves its aim of overthrowing governments in Iraq and Syria. What happens next? Well, nothing. Nothing at all. These blokes can’t work, and they’ve got the official medical documents to prove it.
If post-war welfare systems in Iraq and Syria turn out to be anything like Australia’s, they’ll be flooded with compensation claims from every Tom, Dick and Hudhaifah Karim al-Rashid presently murdering their terrified co-religionists.
It says something about just how low the bar is set for disability payments in Australia that people qualify as unable to work even though they are capable of living – indeed, thriving – in war zones.
These must be the only combat veterans in history who arrived at the war on crutches and were able to walk afterwards. Or perhaps we’re witnessing authentic religious miracles; behold Habib, who defied medical science by rising from his sick bed (his fully sick bed) to slaughter other Muslims.
Unfortunately for the future economy of their great Islamic state, however, killing is about all these chaps can do. Thanks to Facebook, we’re already seeing signs of how things might be under the rule of the bludjahideen. Sure, they’re great at putting bullets in the back of captured Iraqi soldiers’ heads. But they clearly can’t find any laborers to bury the bodies.
Life in the compo caliphate won’t be much fun within a generation or two, once everybody is signed up for free government cash. Welfare only works when there are workers. It’ll be a little like Tasmania, except with a slightly less ridiculous electoral system.
25 June, 2014
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is not too happy about justice in the land of the pyramids
Sydney Opera House cancels upcoming speech by radical Islamic spokesman on why ‘honor killings are morally justified in Islam’
Uthman Badar, spokesman for pro-sharia Hizb ut-Tahrir, has been stopped from delivering a speech defending honor killings at a cultural festival at The Sydney Opera House. The question should be why was a radical like him invited to speak in the first place?
The event — part of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas — was slammed as a cheap stunt that could have put women’s lives at risk.
The furore comes days after Opera Australia sacked a soprano from performing at the Opera House after an anti-gay slur appeared on her Facebook page.
Federal and state MPs condemned the Opera House for its decision to host Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Uthman Badar in a speech titled "honor killings are morally justified”. Honor killing involves murdering a woman who is considered to have shamed her family.
The speech, scheduled for August 30, was removed from the festival’s playlist last night following widespread outrage. The state government is understood to have put pressure on the Opera House with NSW Arts Minister Troy Grant asking for an urgent explanation on why the event was scheduled.
"The NSW government is proud to support programs that enrich our society and culture, but I am concerned this program does not meet that criteria and I have sought an urgent explanation," Mr Grant said. "Where these ideas have the potential to spark racial tension, they move from dangerous to stupid.”
Hizb ut-Tahrir is a banned radical organization in Germany and The Netherlands and, before becoming prime minister, Tony Abbott said he would outlaw it here.
Promotional material for the speech said that historically "parents have reluctantly sacrificed their children — sending them to kill or be killed for the honour of their nation, their flag, their king, their religion. But what about killing for the honour of one’s family?”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop condemned the event, saying: "It is abhorrent for any person, regardless of faith or ethnicity, to argue in support of murder as a means of protecting the so-called honour of any other individual, family or community.” Federal Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek said honour killing was murder, and "any promotion of or justification for it is completely unacceptable”. Women’s Minister Pru Goward said the event had no place in Australia.
Mr Badar hit back last night, tweeting: "Hysteria wins out. Welcome to the free world, where freedom of expression is a cherished value.”
Schools ditch jargon for plain English in student reports
SCHOOLS have begun ditching jargon from student reports ahead of new rules forcing them to be written in plain English.
The switch aims to make the documents easier for parents to decipher and more personal.
All schools will have to follow suit next year.
Sale’s Guthridge Primary School is among those banishing confusing language in semester reports, to be distributed at most schools this week.
Principal Sue Burnett said she had personally read reports for all 364 students wearing her "mum’s hat” to ensure they were easy to understand.
Technical language from the curriculum had gradually crept into teacher feedback, with some feeling obliged to use the terminology, she said. "It’s basically trying to get away from that," Mrs Burnett said.
"Basically a parent just wants to know, can their child read and write, what are they like at maths, are they well behaved, are they trying hard.”
Park Orchards Primary School principal Georgina Daniel, whose school sent new plain-English reports home last Friday, said feedback from parents had been positive.
Many had raised concern reports were too complex during a recent survey.
"We did some analysis and review of the reports with staff with a view to trying to reduce jargon and educational words that teachers understand but parents may not,” Mrs Daniel said.
"Parents have really responded to the fact the reports really convey meaningful information about their child’s achievements.”
New guidelines, drafted by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, will next year require school reports to be written in plain English and gradings made simpler.
"We want to make sure parents and families can understand what their child is learning and how they are progressing, through simple, flexible, individually focused reports," Education Minister Martin Dixon said.
Clive Palmer drops a huge $1b as influence peaks
Clive Palmer's wealth is set to tumble by a cool $1 billion, just as his political influence and power peaks.
Mr Palmer has made his fortune in resources and will retain his billionaire status but his wealth, measured at $2.2 billion a year ago will be considerably smaller when the BRW Rich List is published on Friday.
Now describing himself as a full-time politician and a "retired businessman", his Palmer United Party is set to effectively hold the balance of power in the Senate come July 1, having formed a loose alliance with a number of independent senators.
The government needs six of the eight crossbenchers to repeal the carbon tax and is counting on David Leyonhjelm, Bob Day, the three PUP senators, and Ricky Muir of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party.
However, Mr Palmer's wealth valuation could get a boost on Wednesday when he reveals his party's voting intention regarding the repealing of the carbon tax, to be considered by the new Senate on July 7.
The fortunes of several other miners, including those with private companies such as QCoal managing director Chris Wallin, will also be hit on this year's BRW Rich List.
Some of those with assets in listed companies have also been hit hard, such as Linc Energy chief executive Peter Bond and long-time prospector Mark Creasy, who has investments in small and medium miners.
Much of the drop in Mr Palmer's valuation is attributed to troubles that have struck Sino Iron, the Pilbara based iron ore mine that forms the basis of his personal fortune, and falling coal prices.
The Sino Iron magnetite project has been hit with huge budget blowouts, significant delays and legal battles between Mr Palmer and China's international investment arm, Citic.
Citic Pacific is building the $10 billion project in Western Australia and, as well as experiencing large financial losses, has battled Mr Palmer's Mineralogy investment company over the terms of royalty payments and control over an export facility.
The investment by Citic in Mr Palmer's project has been described as one of the worst mining investments in Australia in the past decade.
However, considerable royalties are meant to be paid to Mr Palmer as a result of the deal he struck with Citic. Already, more than $600 million has flowed to the billionaire, including $200 million in April last year.
Falling prices have also hit the value of Mr Palmer's coal assets, which includes a $6.4 billion future coal project in Queensland's Galilee Basin. Mr Palmer's Waratah Coal was given approval late last year to build a thermal coal project near Alpha in central-west Queensland, as well as a rail line linking the project to a proposed port extension at Abbot Point.
Palmer has also golf course and tourism assets such as the Palmer Coolum Resort, which has attracted notoriety for his collection of replica dinosaurs.
As has often been the case, Mr Palmer holds plenty of other assets that could one day reap big rewards. It is a strategy he has employed for decades, including the acquiring of mining assets in WA in the 1980s.
One is a gas deposit off Papua New Guinea, which Mr Palmer said last August could be worth $35 billion. There has been no news on the project since.
He has also commissioned the construction of a replica of the ship the Titanic, reputedly to be ready to sail in 2017.
The BRW Rich 200 is out on Friday, inside The Australian Financial Review Magazine and online at BRW.com.au.
Senator Louise Pratt warns of Labor Party 'extremists' in valedictorian speech
Opponents of abortion and homosexual marriage are extremists, apparently
Labor's Louise Pratt has branded members of her party "extremists" and said they exercised a power far in excess of their numbers during her valedictorian speech in Federal Parliament.
Senator Pratt will leave the Senate at the end of the week after Labor powerbroker Joe Bullock claimed the top spot on the party's ticket in last year's Senate election.
She described herself as "proudly" on the left of her party, but said those with her views were characterised as "radicals".
"I have always found it ironic that the very views that lead to me being labelled exactly that are those views shared by the majority of the Australian population, although quite often not by the majority of the Australian Parliament," she said.
She also used the opportunity to reaffirm her commitment to reform of the Marriage Act to recognise same-sex unions and legal access to abortion.
"Despite attempts to characterise views such as mine as ‘radical’, every piece of research in this country demonstrates that these views are shared by the majority of Australians," she said.
"They are mainstream views and it is those who deny them that are extremists in our country.
"It remains a great disappointment to me that my Party still contains a small rump of those extremists, who exercise, in my view, power far in excess of their number, and most certainly far in excess of their support among our Party’s members and the among our Party's unions."
She spoke about the need to ensure public confidence in Australia's electoral processes.
She said the 2013 election, recount and subsequent re-run had undermined public trust in the electoral system, and urged her colleagues to work to restore that confidence.
"My own personal disappointment is a minor thing when set beside the potential for those events to undermine that trust and confidence in electoral processes which underpin the legitimacy of our Parliaments and our Governments," she said.
"Fair, transparent, and democratic processes within political parties are as important for the integrity of the system as are fair, transparent and democratic elections.
"I won't be here in this place to be part of the discussions and debates about what steps need to be taken to ensure that what happened in 2013 never happens again."
Speaking at a function arranged by the Dawson Society in November last year, Senator Pratt's election running mate Mr Bullock described her as a poster child for causes such as gay marriage and accused her of canvassing votes against him.
After details of the damaging speech were aired in the media this year, Mr Bullock issued a public and "unreserved" apology to Senator Pratt and the Labor Party.
24 June, 2014
ABC hit by $50m of new cutbacks
THE Abbott government is planning to strip an additional $40 million-$50m from the ABC’s budget, following recommendations from an independent efficiency review of the taxpayer-funded national broadcaster.
Last month’s federal budget cut $43.5m from the budget of the ABC and SBS over four years through a 1 per cent annual efficiency dividend, representing what Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull described as a "down payment” on further savings to be identified by the Lewis efficiency review.
It is understood that having seen the review, which was conducted by former Seven West Media’s chief financial officer Peter Lewis, the government will now seek to implement a "second wave” of cuts that would amount to a 4 per cent hit to the broadcaster’s annual budget of $1.28 billion.
The Australian understands that the ABC will be forced to reach the 4 per cent target through a combination of cuts and asset sales that will be redirected to the government in as little as a one-year period.
ABC managing director Mark Scott has argued that the ABC should reinvest the proceeds from any sales back into the broadcaster.
But Coalition sources have said it was a "laughable” suggestion, which would defeat the purpose of making savings.
A second senior Coalition source has indicated some ministers could push for harsher cuts, saying it would be disappointing if the cuts were not at least 4 per cent.
The ABC has previously indicated it expects to make announcements of big efficiency savings between August and October, with more savings to be found over coming years.
Mr Turnbull and Mr Scott were due to meet last Wednesday to discuss the Lewis review but were forced to delay their meeting because of heavy fog at Canberra airport. The two will meet in the coming weeks.
Mr Scott has said programming could be at risk but it’s understood the Lewis study has found more than ample savings in back of house operations. When asked about the Lewis efficiency review last week, Mr Scott said: "The first matter of business is for us to resolve the Australia Network funding and what that means for redundancies and the future of our international service.”
Last night, a spokesman for the ABC said: "The Lewis review is confidential. Discussions between the ABC and the Communications Minister about the review are ongoing.”
The review was ordered in January by Mr Turnbull "to ensure ABC and SBS fulfil their charter responsibilities at least cost to the community".
Mr Lewis’s draft report says there are "opportunities for greater operational co-operation between the ABC and SBS, while retaining their ... unique programming identities”.
ABC insiders say a cut of near 4 per cent will lead to a tangible effect on programming, most likely in drama, documentary and children’s TV, and not in the news division so disliked by some Coalition members.
SBS insiders are unhappy several of their efficiencies being implemented were adopted in the Lewis review, meaning money it was going to reinvest from savings will go into federal coffers.
Insiders claim many of the "savings” identified were impractical or even "harebrained.”
Abbott offers asylum seekers $10k to go home
The Abbott government is offering asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru detention centres up to $10,000 to abandon their hope of resettlement in Australia and voluntarily return to the country they fled from.
The revelation comes as the High Court on Friday issued a stunning rebuke to the Abbott government's border protection policy, striking down its decision to to refuse to issue permanent protection visas to boat arrivals found to be refugees.
In two unanimous decisions, with implications for thousands of boat arrivals, the court ruled that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's decision to impose a cap on the number of places in Australia's refugee intake for boat arrivals was invalid.
The sudden boost in payments is the latest tactic being used by the Abbott government to cement its hardline stance against asylum seekers who come to Australia without a visa.
In what are dubbed as "return packages", the Coalition has dramatically increased monetary incentives for asylum seekers to return home that range from $3300 to $10,000 based on "individual circumstances", compared with Labor's offering of between $1500 and $2000 last year.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Friday showed Australia's efforts to help alleviate the crisis have stagnated or worsened, with the country sliding backwards in the global rankings, according to some measures.
Australia now ranks 17th in the world to resettle refugees, according to the Refugee Council of Australia.
Asylum seekers who take up the cash offer are transported to the Hideaway Hotel in Port Moresby that is paid for by the International Organisation of Migration before being flown back to their country of origin.
Fairfax Media understands Lebanese asylum seekers are being paid $10,000 if they voluntarily return to Lebanon, while Iranians and Sudanese are being offered $7000, Afghans are being given $4000 and Pakistani, Nepalese and Burmese asylum seekers are receiving $3300.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that 283 people had voluntarily returned home since September 2013.
It is understood the payments, which are administered by the IOM but funded by the Australian Immigration Department, are made once the asylum seeker has returned to their home country.
Mr Morrison said the packages were tailored to each individual case. "The process of voluntary return is conducted in direct partnership with the International Organisation for Migration which has extensive experience in such matters worldwide," a spokesman for Mr Morrison said. "All such returns are voluntary. The IOM does not facilitate involuntary returns," he said.
Yet in a motion before the Senate, the Greens are urging the government to put a moratorium on sending asylum seekers back to Iraq, where a violent uprising continues to swallow the country.
It is not known whether any money has been offered to Iraqi asylum seekers to leave the centres. Only two days before the violent clashes in the north of the country, an Iraqi man on a bridging visa was forced back to Basra, Iraq by the Australian government, it was revealed on Friday.
Human rights groups and advocates are outraged at the incentives being offered, saying Australia should not be paying people to return to the countries that they fled from.
The Australia Director of Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, said Australia was not alone in facing the problem of increasing global migration.
"By making the conditions in Manus and Nauru so awful that people are encouraged to go back to active conflict zones, you are putting them in danger and quite likely, they'll simply have to leave," she said.
Surge in frontline numbers in Queensland police, school and hospitals
MORE than 2600 public servants were employed in frontline services in Queensland in the last three months with the biggest boosts to hospitals, schools and police, according to figures obtained exclusively by The Courier-Mail.
The surge showed the Government was winning the battle of the bureaucrats, with more police, teachers, nurses, doctors, and ambulance officers replacing bureaucrats made redundant, Premier Campbell Newman said.
A staggering $95 million was saved in a single year by halving the number of pen-pushers at the Department of Health head office.
"These figures show we are delivering on our plan to revitalise frontline services,” Mr Newman said. "We are investing in more doctors and nurses, teachers and police, boosting services for Queensland families.”
Mr Newman said a "disciplined, methodical approach” had saved taxpayers money. "Funds are being rightly targeted to our key areas of health, education and keeping our streets safe,” he said.
The figures compiled by the Public Service Commission show an increase of more than 2600 public servants in the March quarter.
According to briefing notes to the Premier the biggest winner was Queensland Health where an extra 656 nurses were engaged along with 235 doctors, 274 other medical professionals and 117 Queensland Ambulance operational staff.
The Department of Education, Training and Employment workforce added 677 teachers and 221 teacher aids. "There is continued growth in the overall size of the department due to the implementation of the Great Results Guarantee Initiative,” the report said.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the figures showed the LNP was cleaning up the "mess”. "When Labor gave up on Queensland Health, its only solution was to cut it in two – to make two bureaucracies instead of one,” he said.
"My job is to reverse the mess – to transfer the impact of these massive resources from backroom paperwork to frontline service. "We have a simple plan to put patients first.”
Mr Springborg expected the number of bureaucrats to decline further and frontline nurses and doctors to increase by a total of 2911 over two budgets to 2015.
Mr Springborg said money saved was reinvested. "In Rockhampton, for example, this dividend will deliver the rooftop helipad that Labor cut from the new hospital design in 2010,” he said.
"Labor’s big-spending bureaucracy left patients flying into Rocky to be transferred from the airport by ambulance. That risks negative health outcomes and costs even more money.”
He said halving the number of bureaucrats in Brisbane head office saved $96 million in a single year. The savings enabled the delivery of a PET scanner for Cairns worth more than $5 million and a mobile surgery van to service outback Queensland towns.
Police Minister Jack Dempsey said the extra police meant a safer future for Queensland families. "As part of our continued revitalisation of frontline services we’re already put more than 900 new police cadets through our academies and are well on the way to our commitment of having 1100 additional officers on the beat,” he said.
"The new officers come from a variety of backgrounds and bring a wealth of life experience to a job that requires lots of community engagement.”
Will defunding school chaplains mean smaller government?
It's hard to come up with a good reason why the federal government should fund chaplains in schools. Even if you feel the program has merit, why should taxpayers fund the general provision of religious services anywhere (like belief itself, this should be up to individuals)? Moreover, services delivered in state schools are unquestionably a state government responsibility.
However the recent High Court decision that effectively ends federal funding for the national school chaplaincy program does not address the merits of the program. Nor does it rest on separation of state and church; that argument had already been rejected in the first case on this issue in 2012.
Instead the High Court's latest decision confirms that the government can only fund and run programs where legislative authority is given under a specific head of power in the Constitution. While this limitation sounds obvious, there are more than 400 programs that have been identified that may not meet that condition.
This decision is a marked turnaround from several decades of expanding involvement of the Commonwealth in all aspects of government. This expansion has been justified in a number of ways - from the states 'dropping the ball' and providing subpar services, to the need to implement international treaties (under the Tasmanian Dams case), and even the importance of local government to the community (in the recent failed constitutional amendment).
In reality, the expanded involvement of the Commonwealth boils down to one thing. The states may provide the services, but the Commonwealth has the money - politely this is called a vertical fiscal imbalance.
The massive duplication of regulation at the state and federal level is a side effect of the vertical fiscal imbalance. The Commonwealth has to see outcomes (though outcomes here really means positive news stories), and can't be seen to be funding failures, so they attach strings to their funding.
But things have changed. The recent federal budget flagged the end of spiralling Commonwealth funding for state government responsibilities in hospitals and schools. And while the budget may have upset the apple cart; by reminding the Commonwealth government they are limited by the Constitution, the High Court is threatening to shut down the whole market.
Some have called this High Court affirmation of states' rights a 'sinister cause,' but it can instead be a pathway to better government. If politicians can't do an end run around federalism any more, they might finally be compelled to fix it.
23 June, 2014
Will Queensland's Leftist crooks of the 1990s be finally brought to book?
The Heiner affair is the long-running controversy surrounding the Goss [Leftist] cabinet's 1990 shredding of documents relating to child abuse - including the rape of a 14-year-old Aboriginal girl - after it aborted an inquiry into the former John Oxley Youth Detention Centre. The documents had been compiled during an inquiry headed by former magistrate Noel Heiner that was set up in the final days of the Cooper conservative government in 1989.
On 1 July 2013 Commissioner Tim Carmody SC found that the shredding of the Heiner Inquiry documents and tapes represented a prima facie breach of the section 129 of the Criminal Code against all the surviving members of the 5 March 1990 Goss Cabinet.
This was hardly a surprise to anyone with knowledge of this scandal. For years, some of this nation’s most eminent jurists have long publicly advised of this prima facie breach but the respective Goss/Beattie and Bligh regimes, CJC/CMC, police and DPP turned a blind eye to the glaringly obvious.
The serious prima facie crime Commissioner Carmody found was the same offence which whistleblower Kevin Lindeberg took to the CJC in 1990 and to the police in 1994. Back in 1990, the offence attracted a 3-year jail term; now in 2014, it attracts a 7-year jail term. By any measure, the crime of destroying evidence, if proven, is a serious one.
The two decades of alleged cover-up still remain unaddressed.
On 19 July 2013, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie referred the finding to the Queensland DPP to decide whether or not it was in the public interest for those surviving Cabinet Ministers to stand trial.
In exercising his legal right, former Goss Attorney-General, Dean Wells, lodged a Supreme Court appeal on 29 July 2013 seeking to have the finding rendered null and void on various grounds, including a charge of apprehended bias against Commissioner Carmody.
It was this appeal (6906/13) which has delayed matters with the DPP.
On 13 February 2014 the hearing took place before Justice Glenn Martin AM in the Supreme Court. Counsel for Mr Wells was Mr Dan O’Gorman SC, and, in one of his final appearances as Queensland Solicitor-General before resigning, Mr Walter Sofronoff QC, together with Mr Adam Pomerenke QC, appeared for the Attorney-General. The case was argued all day.
On 4 April 2014 the Supreme Court rejected the appeal against Commissioner Carmody’s Findings
Lawbreaking Leftist politicians are hard to nail
Border control on alert for Muslim terrorists
AN unprecedented security intelligence-sharing arrangement between spy agencies and customs will lock down Australia’s borders to potential jihadists either trying to return to Australia or leave our shores to join Syrian and Iraqi terror groups.
The Daily Telegraph understands customs officials will be given higher-level intelligence briefs in the wake of the failure that enabled convicted Sydney terrorist Khaled Sharrouf to slip out of the country last year using his brother’s passport.
An urgent review initiated by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General George Brandis following the border blunder, known as the Cousins’ review, is believed to have found holes in the security net from the airport barrier all the way up to ASIO.
Australian-born "Terror Nine” member Khaled Sharrouf who slipped out of the country unnot
Australian-born "Terror Nine” member Khaled Sharrouf who slipped out of the country unnoticed on his brother’s passport.
The Daily Telegraph yesterday revealed Sharrouf, a convicted terrorist from south-western Sydney, is in Iraq with the militant group ISIL, which is trying to overthrow the Iraqi government.
Yesterday Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the border protection agencies were on high alert for up to 150 Australians believed to be fighting in either Syria or Iraq seeking to return to Australia and for associates trying to leave Australia to join them.
More than 50 passports had been cancelled, the Daily Telegraph revealed yesterday.
But a draft report of the Cousins’ review is believed to have uncovered a 9/11 "silo mentality” scenario in Australia — a reference to US intelligence failures uncovered after 9/11 — where vital intelligence which could have stopped Sharrouf at the gate was not shared.
Senior government sources revealed new intelligence-sharing arrangements were being rolled out to ensure customs officers at airport gates had greater access to data that could help them identify people on watch lists.
Mr Morrison said the Sharrouf incident had been "an early wake-up call” that had exposed weaknesses in the chain, which were now being addressed.
He said the government was also "rebuilding capacity” into the system after budget cuts to customs under the previous government of almost $700 million.
Vic mosque approved amid local protest
A VICTORIAN council has approved the construction of a $3 million mosque amid fierce protest from local residents.
BENDIGO City Council received more than 350 objections to the development, which would include two prayer rooms, a shop and a community sports hall.
The development was approved at a heated council meeting on Wednesday night, during which residents shouted "Shame on you, shame", Fairfax reports.
Council documents show the majority of complaints related to concerns over the influence of Islam, citing the threat of terrorism, the introduction of Sharia and the dilution of "Christian values".
The project also received about 40 letters of support.
Bendigo Mayor Barry Lyons said in a statement there are many conditions on the permit to ensure the impact on neighbours was acceptable.
"Now a decision has been made, the applicants can move forward with the next stage in the development process," Mr Lyons said.
A Facebook group Stop the Mosque in Bendigo with more than 7400 "likes" posted photos of the eight Bendigo counsellors, branding them "traitors".
Some people have posted comments calling for the group to take the matter to VCAT.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy says people are entitled to oppose planning applications, but they must do so sensibly and respectfully, particularly for religious institutions.
"People needn't fear the growth in our Islamic community's population," Mr Guy told reporters on Thursday.
"If people want to appeal it, they should, but it should be on the grounds of planning law, not on emotion."
Language studies to be overhauled in NSW schools
This seems pointless to me. Very few students gain a useful command of a foreign language
All primary school students will be exposed to at least one language before starting high school and there will be more bilingual public schools across NSW under plans to overhaul the way languages are taught in the state's schools.
In bid to increase the number of students studying languages until year 12, bilingual primary teachers would be retrained as language teachers and schools would be encouraged to collaborate with community language colleges to meet the needs of the 350,000 NSW students who speak a second language at home.
More than 30 languages, including Arabic, Armenian, French, Japanese, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Swedish, are offered in NSW schools but less than 10 per cent of the more than 75,000 students enrolled in the HSC studied one last year.
NSW is not alone in wanting to dramatically boost the interest in languages under the new proposals to be released on Monday. The federal government wants 40 per cent of year 12 students studying a language within a decade and is funding the Asia Education Foundation to investigate why so many Australian students drop languages before the end of school.
The NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said there needed to be a greater recognition of the value of learning a language so he last year tasked the Board of Studies with developing recommendations for a "dynamic, inclusive languages education policy".
It will be the first time NSW has a formal languages policy and will elevate languages to the same level of importance as subjects such as maths, English and science.
"One important way of doing this may include encouraging students to capitalise on their home language and continue to develop it at school,” Mr Piccoli said.
"And if those students are taking language classes on weekends then schools should be valuing that learning."
Under the proposals, high school students would have to complete their compulsory 100 hours of language study in one continuous year, preferably in year 7, and vocational language courses would be available for students studying hospitality, retail and tourism subjects.
"In commissioning the review by the Board of Studies, I deliberately sought recommendations that avoided the over-promised, underfunded language education wish lists that have often been announced by governments," Mr Piccoli said.
"Language teaching and learning has been in decline for some time and improvements won’t be achieved overnight."
Liz Ellis, a senior lecturer in linguistics at the University of New England, who is researching bilingualism in the bush, said students with a second language often did better academically than students who could only speak one language.
"There lots of research which shows that shows that kids who grow up with two languages actually have cognitive benefits over monolingual kids," Dr Ellis said.
"Two languages frame the world differently and kids learn the skills of dealing with two social sets of norms in different languages, so they are learning, for example, that to be polite in Polish is different to being polite in English ... it's increasing the knowledge they have about the world and that seems to lead to an increased cognitive flexibility."
Dr Ellis said Australia tended to ignore languages in primary school and then expected students to be interested in them in high school.
"Unfortunately we don't have a good history of teaching languages in Australia, we tend to start late unlike Europe and Asia," Dr Ellis said.
The Board of Studies' proposals will be considered by an expert languages advisory panel who will report back to Mr Piccoli.
22 June, 2014
High Court rules against Scott Morrison's refugee protection visa cap
The High Court has issued a stunning rebuke to the Abbott government's border protection policy, striking down its decision to refuse to give refugees who arrive by boat permanent protection visas.
In two unanimous decisions, with implications for thousands of boats arrivals, the full court ruled that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's decision to impose a cap on the number of places in Australia's refugee intake for boat arrivals was invalid.
The government's determination to deny permanent protection visas will now rest with the Senate, where the Palmer United Party will control the balance of power from next month.
The party's leader, Clive Palmer, has spoken out strongly in support of refugees, but told Fairfax Media the party would study the High Court judgment and any decision on allowing temporary protection visas would be made by his party room.
Mr Morrison re-imposed the refugee intake cap in March after the Senate voted down his attempt to re-introduce temporary protection visas (TPVs) for boat arrivals, declaring that the Coalition would "not give an inch when it comes to protecting our borders".
He vowed then to take "every step necessary to ensure that people who arrive illegally by boat are not rewarded with permanent visas". Mr Morrison, who has presided as minister over six months without a boat arrival, was travelling when the judgment was handed down and was unavailable for comment.
His March decision effectively imposed a freeze on the grant of permanent protection visas to about 1400 asylum seekers who had already been found to be refugees and has implications for many thousands more whose claims have not yet been decided.
"This is a very significant victory for the rule of law being brought to bear on the plight of refugees in our country," said lawyer David Manne, who led the legal team representing an Ethiopian teenager who arrived in Australia without a visa last year, after stowing away on a cargo ship.
A second decision upheld a challenge on behalf of a Pakistani national who arrived by boat at Christmas Island in 2012.
In both cases, the court ordered Mr Morrison as minister to consider and determine the asylum seekers' applications for a protection visa according the law as it stands.
NSW Environment Protection Authority to be investigated following string of controversies
A parliamentary inquiry is to be held into the performance of NSW's Environment Protection Authority after a string of controversies that have dogged the agency, including botched prosecutions, accusations of cover-ups, mismanagement and a referral to the corruption watchdog.
Labor's environment spokesman, Luke Foley, successfully moved for the inquiry in the NSW Upper House on Thursday after warning that the EPA appeared more focused on protecting polluting industries than looking after the community and human health.
It also follows the introduction of a private member's bill last year by opposition MP Ron Hoenig calling for the EPA to be stripped of its powers to prosecute serious environmental offences because it was "incompetent" and does not have the "guts" to go after environmental criminals. Mr Hoenig wanted the powers to be given to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
EPA chief executive officer Barry Buffier said the inquiry would be an "opportunity to increase public awareness and understanding about the important role we play in protecting the communities and environment of NSW".
The inquiry comes after months of revelations by Fairfax Media about controversies over the EPA's performance, including its management of coal dust pollution in the Hunter, the mercury and other toxic chemical contamination in the Botany Hillsdale region and its alleged failure to protect koala habitats in the Royal Camp State Forest.
It also follows the EPA's abandonment of its biggest ever prosecution case, which was launched against the chemical company DuPont for allegedly polluting the ground and killing trees and plants around its Girraween site. DuPont had maintained it was not responsible for the pollution.
Community groups around the state, which have led the complaints about the EPA, have welcomed the inquiry saying it is in the best interests of the people.
The Hunter Community Environment Centre spokesman Dr John Mackenzie said they were pleased it would focus on the agency's repeated mishandling of coal dust monitoring in the region, which was referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption earlier this year.
"We are hopeful that the inquiry will improve the EPA’s ability to be a strong and effective environmental regulator," said Dr Mackenzie. "This inquiry is also vital for restoring community confidence in the EPA, given that its performance in recent years has fallen well shy of community expectations."
Botany resident Sharon Price said: "We look forward to a long-awaited, positive outcome."
The inquiry will specifically look into the land contamination issues at Botany and Hillsdale, the coal dust pollution in the Hunter, and the ground water contamination in the Piliga by Santos. Mr Foley has raised concerns about exploration company Santos being given a "pathetic $1500 fine for the contamination of a water aquifer with uranium at levels 20 times higher than safe drinking water guidelines".
It will also look into the regulation of cruise passenger ships at the White Bay Cruise Terminal and the regulation of forestry practices in Royal Camp State Forest.
Pressure on Opera Australia to sack soprano over homophobic comments
Free speech? Tolerance? Not for people who hold views that were normal just a few decades ago
Opera Australia is facing pressure to sack a Georgian opera singer due to perform with the company next month over comments in which she compared gay and lesbian people to faecal matter.
The soprano, Tamar Iveri, has been rehearsing with Opera Australia in Sydney for several weeks ahead of a performance in Opera Australia’s Otello in Sydney in July and August.
Iveri is also scheduled to sing in Tosca in Melbourne in November and December.
Asked whether Iveri would still perform in both productions, an Opera Australia spokeswoman said the company had no comment.
The spokeswoman confirmed Iveri had taken part in Otello rehearsals in Sydney for the past two to three weeks. ‘‘Rehearsals are proceeding," she said.
Iveri’s comments about the LGBT community surfaced recently from a letter she posted on Facebook in May last year to Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili.
Her letter followed a protest in the Georgian city of Tbilisi by LGBT activists on the International Day Against Homophonia and Transphobia. During the protest, activists were assaulted - some beaten severely - by Orthodox Christian demonstrators.
The violence was condemned by Margvelashvili, which prompted Iveri’s letter to the president.
In the letter, Iveri pleads with Margvelashvili to ‘‘stop vigorous attempts to bring West's ‘fecal masses’ in the mentality of the people by means of propaganda."
‘‘Do not try to wrap this mass in beautiful packages, pour Chanel perfume on it and present it to people as if it was something of medical, recreational qualities," she wrote.
‘‘No matter how unhappy ‘friendly West’ might become, fortunately, the Georgian people are well aware of what fruits, offered by the West in their menu, to eat and what to discard. Just like my small dog guesses it."
Her post has since been removed from her Facebook page.
"Chaser" sketch on Chris Kenny breached ABC editorial policies: ACMA ruling
The battle between the ABC and conservative commentator Chris Kenny is officially over – and the verdict is unequivocal. Game, set and match: Kenny.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) ruled on Friday that the infamous Chaser sketch depicting Kenny having sex with a dog breached the ABC's editorial policies, overruling an earlier ABC verdict that the segment was legitimate. ACMA found the sketch, aired on The Hamster Decides program last September, breached the ABC's "harm and offence" standard, which states: "Content that is likely to cause harm or offence must be justified by the editorial context."
The authority said the sketch was clearly satirical but the digitally altered image of Kenny fornicating with a dog was not justified. The segment was "intrinsically likely to have caused high level of offence".
ACMA also suggests in its verdict that the ABC board should reflect on whether its code of practice is operating effectively when it comes to harm and offence.
The present standards on harm and offence serve to "complicate and obscure rather than simplify or clarify", it found.
Complaints about whether the segment carried appropriate classifications and warnings were dismissed.
The ACMA verdict overrules the ABC complaint department finding last October that the segment did not breach the broadcaster's editorial policies. The ABC's audience and consumer affairs division found the skit would have offended many viewers but was legitimate satire.
In April, ABC managing director Mark Scott issued a formal apology to Kenny for the sketch. Earlier this month, the ABC reached a settlement with Kenny, who sued the broadcaster for defamation, that involved paying him $35,000 in damages and apologising to him on-air.
Kenny said earlier this month he sued the ABC to show that the broadcaster should not be able to silence or intimidate its critics.
20 June, 2014
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is commenting on recent sporting events. He comes from Sydney.
This is why the Queensland legal profession hate their new Chief Justice
Whatever Mr Carmody is accused of during his tenure, it won’t be elitism or failing to grasp the reality of working class life. He originated light years away from the privileged background of many senior jurists. Born in 1956 in Millmerran, he was still a boy when the family moved to Inala in 1963, taking up residence in a Housing Commission home.
His father was a publican, bookmaker and sometimes boarding house contractor at the Katherine Meatworks. "He was a wonderful bloke but when you are a publican … and a bookie … there are going to be problems."
Carmody attended several schools including Nudgee College, where he interrupted his education after Year 9 to work at the Katherine Meatworks, mostly sweeping up the remains of dead livestock.
That experience put him on the road to an extraordinarily successful legal career which has included adjunct professor of law at QUT, Counsel Assisting at the Fitzgerald inquiry, Junior Counsel in the Connolly-Ryan inquiry, Queensland Crime Commissioner and Family Court judge in between.
Mr Carmody said he was working with his father in Katherine when they both, simultaneously, found themselves looking at a man who was clearly down on his luck.
"He was brown as a berry, wrinkled and dirty and dad looked at me and said: ‘Don’t end up like that’."
Mr Carmody joined the police force. He was stationed at West End, put on the beat in the city and even served as head of security at Government House before working as a Public Defenders Office clerk until 1982.
In his new role he is steeling himself for criticism. He says he welcomed the advice of his old boss Tony Fitzgerald, who warned him not to allow ambition to compromise his ideals. "I completely accept what I took to be Tony’s caution – it is very good advice."
More on the controversy
Premier Newman, CJ Carmody and AG Bleijie (L to R)
SCIENCE Minister Ian Walker has warned critics of new Chief Justice Tim Carmody’s appointment to "put a sock in it” – while stopping short of declaring his own confidence in him.
Responding to calls for Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie to consider stepping down by Australian Bar Association president Mark Livesey QC, Mr Walker – a former solicitor - said it was time for all sides to stop fuelling the dispute.
"All of these issues surrounding the appointment of the Chief Justice have come to this – the war of words that’s out there has got to stop,” he said.
"People have got to put a sock in it, they’ve got to shut up and they’ve got to let Justice Carmody get on with the job.
"He deserves a fair go at the job, the debate should stop and Justice Carmody should be allowed to get on with the job that he’s been appointed to do.”
Mr Livesey had urged Mr Bleijie to consider the move following allegations that he leaked the details of a confidential discussion with Queensland barrister Peter Davis QC.
"People’s comments from the sidelines aren’t helpful now and they should cease,” Mr Walker said.
He said he the legal community needed to give Mr Carmody a "fair go”, adding that he would not be "getting into the commentary”.
When asked whether he would be happy to step in as Attorney-General if Mr Bleijie were to step aside, he said: "None of these contributions to the debate are helpful at the moment.”
Asked for his personal view on Mr Carmody’s appointment, Mr Walker would only say the new Chief Justice deserved a "fair go”.
"I’ve just said a number of times, the debate and the war of words has got to stop , Chief Justice Carmody’s been appointed, let’s give him a fair go, let’s get him get on with the job that he’s been appointed to do,” he said.
When directly asked whether he had "confidence” in Justice Carmody, Mr Walker again pointed to a need for the "war of words” to stop, but did not explicitly say he did.
OVERNIGHT, The Sunday Mail reported that a row between members of the legal fraternity and the Newman Government over the appointment of the State’s new Chief Justice Tim Carmody is continuing to deepen with calls for Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie to resign over the furore.
Australian Bar Association president Mark Livesey QC yesterday called on Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie to consider stepping down amid allegations details of a confidential meeting he and a staffer had with Queensland barrister Peter Davis QC over the appointment of Mr Carmody were leaked to other parties including Mr Carmody.
Mr Bleijie denies the allegation he or anyone in his office leaked details of the meeting, dismissing it as "rumour and innuendo”.
"The well-accepted practice is that consultation before an appointment, any appointment, is confidential, and kept confidential,” Mr Livesey said.
"The present position is untenable. The Attorney General of Queensland must consider whether the breakdown in trust can be repaired. If confidentiality in the judicial appointment process cannot be assured he must reconsider whether he can continue in his position.”
Queensland Law Society president Ian Brown also raised concerns about the alleged confidentiality breach in an email to his members yesterday.
"The matters raised by Peter Davis QC are of singular concern as they go to the process of judicial appointment which, if tainted, runs the very great risk of undermining the confidence of the profession and the community in individual appointments which then flows onto the larger institution of the courts. Such an outcome cannot be contemplated,” Mr Brown wrote.
"The issues raised must be addressed if we are to preserve confidence in our system of justice.”
The US-Australia Military Alliance against China
Some rather paranoid Leftist comments below but there is information there too. Concern about China appears to be dismissed by the author but is well justified in the light of their huge recent and ongoing naval buildup
US President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott have announced a series of agreements that will open up more Australian bases for American forces and further integrate its military into the US preparations for war against China.
No details were provided after a brief meeting at the White House on Thursday, but there is no doubt that the agreements mark another escalation of the Australian government’s involvement in Washington’s military and strategic "pivot” to Asia to confront China.
Abbott underscored the total commitment of his government to US war plans. "I want to assure the president that Australia will be an utterly dependable ally of the United States,” he declared.
Within hours, Abbott offered to provide whatever the US needed for military intervention in Iraq to try to shore up the Baghdad regime after its defeats at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. Abbott, who was a member of the Howard government that joined the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, made clear his government’s readiness to again assist Washington’s criminal operations.
Briefed by "defence sources,” the Australian Financial Review reported today: "Australia could send jet fighters, warships and transport aircraft to support US air and drone strikes.”
Obama said that alongside the expanding rotational deployments of US Marines to Darwin, in northern Australia—due to reach 2,500 by 2017—"we actually have arrived at additional agreements around force postures that will enhance the bilateral cooperation between our militaries and give us additional reach throughout this very important part of the world.”
The US president provided an ominous indication of the militarist agenda involved. "Aussies know how to fight and I like having them in a foxhole if we’re in trouble,” he told the media after the meeting with Abbott.
Arrangements under discussion behind closed doors since Obama formally declared the "pivot” on the floor of the Australian parliament in 2011, under the previous Gillard Labor government, have been finalised.
The US-Australia Force Posture Agreement reportedly provides an open-ended mechanism for wider US military operations in Australia. According to the Australian: "The legally-binding agreement, approved in principle but yet to be concluded by officials, sets out the responsibilities of each jurisdiction for the US personnel based on Australian soil.”
As indicated by recent Pentagon-funded reports, which identified Australia as a crucial platform for operations against China, these agreements are certain to include base upgrades to facilitate US air force operations from northern Australia, use by US fleets of the Stirling naval base near Perth in Western Australia, and the deployment of surveillance aircraft and drones on the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean.
One such report, by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the Stirling base was critical for US nuclear submarine operations and nominated Australia as the US military’s "Gateway to the Indo-Pacific”—a launching pad for US naval and air strikes. (See: "US think tank report: Australia central to American war plans against China”).
The Australian today indicated that one option now being considered was to base more US Navy destroyers and other vessels at the Western Australian base, "giving the US the capacity to project force further into the region.”
No coverage in the Australian media mentioned another far-reaching commitment. A White House Fact Sheet on the Obama-Abbott meeting, spoke of "working together to identify potential Australian contributions to ballistic missile defense in the Asia-Pacific region.” The Pentagon’s ballistic missile shield program is designed to neutralise China’s capacity to respond to a US nuclear attack.
This collaboration was referred to in the Labor government’s 2013 Defence White Paper and last November’s AUSMIN communiqué issued in Washington. According to the Lowy Institute, a pro-US Australian think tank, this will accelerate under the Liberal-National government, involving the Australian Defence Force "mounting advanced missiles on its Aegis-equipped air warfare destroyers.”
The Wall Street Journal highlighted the significance of this initiative, under the headline "U.S. and Australia to Cooperate on Asian Missile-Defense Plans” and noted that it was directed against China. "Australia is building a new fleet of warships that could be equipped to shoot down hostile missiles, as part of an ambitious military buildup that includes investments in new stealth-fighter aircraft, cruise missiles, amphibious carriers and submarines. The revamp will cost close to $A90 billion ($US85 billion) over a decade,” it stated.
Obama specifically thanked Abbott for ramping up Australian military spending. The Lowy Institute said this indicated that Canberra had agreed to foot the bill for the new military facilities across northern Australia, an issue that had been outstanding since 2011.
Acutely conscious of public opposition to plans for war, the Abbott government has so far kept secret this issue, along with proposals for the hosting of US warships and amphibious groups in Perth, which have been discussed in detail during recent US congressional hearings. The Lowy Institute urged the government to find ways "to bring the public along with what officials have been privately discussing for years.”
Abbott and Obama avoided any explicit reference to China, but the White House Fact Sheet denounced "the use of intimidation, coercion, or force to advance maritime claims in the East and South China Seas.” Washington is actively instigating territorial conflicts with China by its regional allies, notably Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam, as a pretext for confronting China. While Abbott was in the US, his government also boosted its military ties with Japan.
Before meeting Obama, Abbott told the Sydney Daily Telegraph he would call on the president to deepen intelligence cooperation within the "five eyes” network—involving the US, Australia, the UK, Canada and New Zealand—in the wake of Edward Snowden’s damaging disclosures of the mass surveillance being conducted by the US and its partners. No reports of this discussion have appeared, however.
In Washington, Abbott extended the term of Australia’s ambassador, former defence minister and Labor leader Kim Beazley, a long-time defender of the US alliance. This highlights the bipartisan support in Canberra for US militarism.
During his trip, Abbott also sought to enhance already close economic ties with the US by including large corporate delegations in his travels, from companies such as BHP Billiton, Lend Lease and Macquarie Group. He rang the bell on the Wall Street stock exchange, told corporate audiences that Australia is "open for business” and stressed the half trillion dollar or so investment stakes that each country had in the other.
On his way back to Australia over the weekend, Abbott will stop off in Hawaii to visit the US Pacific Command, where senior Australian officers have been inserted, further underlining Canberra’s integration into the US war machine.
Cape York’s Wild Rivers victory
Greenies 0; Blacks 1
QUEENSLAND’S Wild Rivers legislation has been declared invalid in Cape York, ending a five-year struggle by indigenous groups to preserve the right to pursue economic opportunities in the region.
A Federal Court judge yesterday ruled that a Queensland minister erred in law five years ago in declaring three rivers on the cape as "wild”.
The main objection of indigenous groups was that the legislation stopped potential economic development of the region in far north Queensland by "locking up” the rivers and the areas around them. They claimed the previous state Labor government had undertaken the Wild Rivers plan to win green preferences in city seats it needed to retain power.
The Federal Court decision centred on the Bligh government’s action in declaring the Archer, Lockhart and Stewart rivers on Cape York as wild rivers on April 3, 2009, only weeks after the state election that saw the ALP government returned.
Federal Court judge Andrew Greenwood found yesterday that the decision was made too quickly and without enough consideration of the views of the traditional owners.
"The decision to make the declarations was a function of urgently delivering on an election promise ... the declarations got ahead of the formulation of the material addressing the preconditions upon which the exercise of the power rested,” he wrote in his judgment.
The government had received 3062 submissions about the declarations, but 2577 of these were pro forma submissions made through the Wilderness Society’s website.
Indigenous leader Noel Pearson, who led the opposition to Wild Rivers by arguing that it deprived indigenous people of economic opportunities, said yesterday that the five-year legal struggle had diverted attention from key areas such as health and education on the cape.
He said new projects that could provide jobs for indigenous people in areas such as horticulture and tourism could now begin.
"Traditional owners should decide whether they want conservation or a mixture of both," Mr Pearson said.
"We don’t want this unilaterally imposed on them by political deals in Brisbane."
"It’s a just process, but it really shouldn’t have taken five years to reach this point.”
The Archer, Lockhart and Stewart rivers were the most prominent of the 12 rivers gazetted under the legislation. Most of the others are in western Queensland such as Coopers Creek and the Georgina and Diamantina Basins, but some are on the east coast of Cape York, such as Hinchinbrook near Ingham.
While the Newman government has set in train a process of regional land plans on Cape York that would supersede Wild Rivers, the legislation still exists elsewhere in the state and is not due to be debated until August, when it is expected to be extinguished.
"So they have made promises, but after two years, it still hasn’t happened,” Mr Pearson said.
"At the end of the day, the court victory came before anything else.” Mr Pearson was scathing in his criticism of former Labor premier Anna Bligh and former natural resources minister Stephen Robertson, who made the Wild Rivers declarations.
The Cape York leader said yesterday: "They should hang their heads in shame having put our people through five years of struggle."
The action was brought forward by traditional owner Martha Koowarta, the widow of 1980s Cape York land rights campaigner John Koowartha who successfully challenged Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s government over a land rights claim in 1982.
Mrs Koowarta, who lives in the Cape York town of Aurukun but was in Brisbane for the judgment yesterday, was elated at the outcome.
"I’m so happy," she said outside the court.
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the court outcome vindicated the Liberal National Party’s opposition to the Wild Rivers scheme when it was in opposition. The court awarded costs against the government.
"I can’t say we’re happy about it, but otherwise it would be the indigenous groups who paid,” Mr Seeney said.
The main supporter of Wild Rivers was the Wilderness Society. It said that the river catchments on Cape York would now be exposed to "risky industrial development such as open-cut mining, in-stream dams and intense irrigated agriculture”.
"Queensland is blessed with some of the last remaining free-flowing rivers left on the planet and they need to be treasured,” said Queensland campaign manager Tim Seelig.
19 June, 2014
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks that both Obama and the present Iraqi government share some blame for the current upheavals in Iraq
18 June, 2014
Secrecy demanded by the Queensland elite
It's their accustomed modus operandi. Mustn't let the peasants know what is happening
Queensland’s allegedly leak-prone Attorney General is threatening the independence of the state’s judiciary, an influential Australian body for barristers said on Saturday, amid mounting calls for Jarrod Bleijie to resign.
Australian Bar Association president Mark Livesey QC joined a rapidly growing chorus of legal fraternity discord in Mr Bleijie, questioning the Attorney General’s suitability for the job following allegations he has repeatedly leaked details of confidential conversations to media outlets.
Mr Bleijie declined to comment on the leak allegations or rising resignation pressure on Saturday.
In a stinging attack, Mr Livesey said the process that led to the appointment of Tim Carmody as the state’s Chief Justice had lost him the support of the vast majority of the legal fraternity.
"The present position is untenable”, Mr Livesey said.
"The Attorney General of Queensland must consider whether the breakdown in trust can be repaired – if confidentiality in the judicial appointment process cannot be assured he must reconsider whether he can continue in his position.”
Mr Livesey’s comments came soon after the resignation of Queensland Bar Association president Ian Davis QC, who said he believed a conversation he had with Mr Bleijie on June 3 involving a discussion of Judge Carmody’s potential appointment had been leaked.
Mr Livesey supported Mr Davis’ move.
"On Friday, Davis QC explained his belief that what he had said in confidence to the Attorney General and a member of his staff had been passed on inaccurately and that the Bar’s right to issue practising certificates was threatened,” he said.
"It is regrettable that Davis QC felt it necessary to resign.
"His frustration about the process and the threat made to the Bar is understandable. His principled stance is supported by barristers across Australia."
Mr Davis also received the support of the Queensland Law Society on Friday.
President Ian Brown also expressed concern about Mr Bleijie allegedly leaking information.
"We are deeply concerned by the matters raised by Mr Davis QC in the notice announcing his resignation to members of the Bar Association of Queensland, particularly relating to confidentiality,” he said.
"What is of the utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity of the judiciary and our system of justice.”
Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk accused the Attonrey General of leaking confidential correspondence she had sent him addressing suitable candidates for the Chief Justice Role in May.
In addition to the conversation with Mr Davis, Mr Bleijie is also alleged to have leaked details of a confidential conversation with Justice Margaret McMurdo.
"I think Queenslanders should be very concerned because no-one in this state can have a conversation with the Attorney General, a private conversation they believe is being kept confidential, because he will leak it,” she said.
"This government is more interested in leaking than listening.”
Ms Palaszczuk said the drastic resignation protest action taken by Mr Davis, a highly respected member of the Queensland Bar Association, reflected, "a fundamental breach of confidentiality”.
In a statement, the Attorney-General’s office denied leaking Ms Palaszczuk’s letter to the media.
"While nothing came from the Attorney-General or his office, Annastacia Palaszczuk breached confidentiality when she publicly disclosed her recommendations for Chief Justice during a press conference on May 7, 2014,” the statement read.
More on the Manus Is. riots
Hard to get past the big media filter that protects illegals
This (unaltered) eyewitness information below was made available to the ABC, it was ignored. Other eyewitness information in a previous post was also made available to the ABC... it too was ignored:
The reason I am messaging you is in relation to the riots on Manus Islands.
Your article about Berati was spot on. I'm going to list in point form a few things about the day the rioting happened.
* Berati was the main instigator
* Illegals from iran make up about 90% of the detainees there and stick together. This means they can bully, rape and attack the smaller groups within the camp.
* Berati was caught on a number of occasions raping and abusing boys and men within the camp.
* Berati and his gang of thugs would always antagonise the local guards and police.
* On the day of the riot the mob had amassed in the yard and were giving it to the locals & guards.
* One of the detainees mooned a local police officer through the fence and was shot in the Arse.
* Once the mob started throwing condoms at the guards and police, all hell broke loose.
*All non local staff were evacuated from the camp as it is against the law for them to get physical with the detainees.
*The fence was knocked down and the local guards and police charged the compound. Uniforms were handed out to locals to join in the melee. Basically if you were black you got a shirt and were told to run in and fight.
* Berati was targeted. They spotted him and went after him. He was never getting out alive, much to the relief of the locals and the detainees that had been raped by the scumbag.
* There was another instigator i'm unsure what his name was, but he was a Midget from Iran. When the locals caught him, they held him up like a trophy and paraded him around the yard.
That is the bulk of exciting stuff that happened during the riots.
Some other interesting points from inside the camps:
* Everyone has internet access and uses facebook.
* They join groups that have been set up by greenies and do gooders.
* On many occasions these greenies have been feeding the detainees information about what to do and how to get resettles in Aus.
* More than once people have posted instructions to burn the camps down, and that if there are no camps then they will have to be resettled in Aus.
* No one actually goes on Hunger strike, its all a big show. One overweight inmate went on hunger strike but actually put on weight. His mates were sneaking him food from the mess hall.
* If a detainee decides to go back home. We send them back with $2-3k american for their troubles.
* Many of the boats that did come started off with women and children as well as men. They arrived in Aus with just Men on board. Apparently the women and children were raped, killed and thrown overboard. Common Occurrance.
I hope this has been enlightening, I'm sure you already knew most of this. Have a great day and keep up the good work.
Julia Gillard’s ex-boyfriend Bruce Wilson gets a lawyer for free at the royal commission into trades unions
TAXPAYERS are funding former Australian Workers Union official Bruce Wilson’s legal fees at the royal commission into trades unions.
Mr Wilson has been represented by barrister Dr Kristine Hanscomb as he has denied allegations before the inquiry that he used union slush fund money to pay for renovations at the home of his ex-girlfriend, former prime minister Julia Gillard, in the 1990s when he was a union official.
As the union corruption inquiry prepares to shift focus to Health Services Union whistleblower Kathy Jackson, Mr Wilson’s Melbourne solicitor Alex Lewenberg yesterday said Mr Wilson, who is now a cook near Port Stephens, enjoyed a year’s free legal advice arranged through pro-bono group Justice Connect.
The group specialises in helping not-for-profit organisations and has helped asylum seekers, children in detention and a transsexual prisoner seeking hormone therapy to get legal representation.
Mr Lewenberg said: "We have now applied to the commonwealth government for the money and the authority to pay comes from the Attorney-General’s Department.”
But the legal representation is limited to preparing for and appearing at the commission and covers no investigation work towards his case. Mr Lewenberg refused to say what it was worth but it is estimated to run into thousands of dollars.
The commission into union malpractice this week is expected to hear allegations that HSU official Kathy Jackson used $1 million of union funds to pay off her credit card.
It was Ms Jackson who made allegations of financial wrongdoing at the union which helped put HSU NSW General Secretary Michael Williamson behind bars and expose Labor MP Craig Thomson’s misuse of union funds to pay for porn and prostitutes.
But counsel assisting the commission Jeremy Stoljar said a number of allegations had emerged against Ms Jackson in recent weeks. These include claims she used HSU bank cheques to withdraw $220,000 in cash between 2007 and 2010 and was involved in a slush fund. It is also alleged that unauthorised payments from the HSU’s No. 3 branch were made to a bank account she controlled.
She has previously dismissed allegations she used her union credit card to pay for personal items including shoes, makeup, French champagne, a ski trip and a room at Las Vegas’s Bellagio hotel.
Ms Jackson remains the HSU’s honorary national secretary but has been on stress leave for almost two years.
Mr Stoljar said the inquiry would examine how the corruption in the union was allowed to flourish and why it was not detected earlier.
Unesco to rule on Tasmanian forest and Great Barrier Reef
An Australian plan to chop down 74,000 hectares of protected Tasmanian forest for timber will be discussed at a UN cultural organisation meeting which begins on Sunday in Qatar.
The Tasmanian forest is part of a Unesco World Heritage Site, but the Australian government wants this status revoked so logging can begin. Thousands of people in Tasmania protested against the move on Saturday.
The government says the area is degraded as it has been logged before.
If the bid succeeds, Australia would become the first developed nation to have reversed the protected status of a forest on economic grounds.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has championed the cause of the timber industry, which employs more than 66,000 people.
The opposition Greens party has labelled him a "dig it up, cut it down prime minister".
Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said: "Logging World Heritage forests is as reckless as destroying any other World Heritage site, like using the Grand Canyon as a garbage dump, knocking down the Sydney Opera House for harbourside apartments or selling the Eiffel Tower for scrap."
Another protected Australian site, the Great Barrier Reef, is also on the agenda of Unesco's World Heritage Committee meeting in Doha.
Canberra hopes to deter Unesco from downgrading the reef to "endangered status" because of pollution-linked deterioration.
Australian officials say that industrial chemical pollution levels at the reef have fallen significantly because of better agricultural and industrial practices.
However, critics say approval for a project to dump dredged sediment in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as part of a project to create one of the world's biggest coal ports presents a serious threat to the reef. Scientists have warned that the sediment could smother or poison coral.
17 June, 2014
Teaching to the tests
Whichever way you look at it, the quality of teaching and, by extension, quality of teachers are central to the standard of education provided in our schools. The NSW government's initiatives to elevate the quality of new teachers, including the recent announcement of a compulsory literacy and numeracy exit test, are welcome.
Studies and inquiries have repeatedly found that a large proportion of pre-service teachers do not have strong literacy skills and do not have sufficient knowledge of the structure and meta-linguistic concepts of the English language. In order to teach children well, particularly those who struggle with reading, this knowledge is essential.
Universities have been admitting large numbers of people into teaching degrees who have not been strong students themselves, even though academic aptitude is one of the strongest predictors of teacher effectiveness. Around half of the people going into teaching degrees in 2014 had university entrance scores below 70. By comparison, the highest performing education systems around the world draw all of their teachers from the top 30%, if not the top 10%, of school graduates.
Ideally, universities would control the quality of teachers, but it is financially advantageous for universities to maximise enrolments in teaching degrees. Quality control has therefore become the government's problem. A federal government review of teacher education is currently underway - the latest of dozens of reviews conducted over the last two decades.
State governments do not have the authority to dictate entry standards for universities or prescribe what universities teach. What state governments can do is decide who is eligible to register as a teacher. Universities can admit whomever they want, but if the prospective teacher does not measure up to the registration standards - if they literally do not pass the test - their degree will be almost worthless in NSW.
The NSW government is to be congratulated for taking an important step in the challenge of restoring the status of teachers as highly-educated professionals. The next challenge is to improve the overall quality of teaching degrees. Hopefully this federal government will succeed where so many have previously failed.
Another example of Aboriginal failure
Many attempts have been made to get Aboriginal communities to behave like groups of whites but none have succeeded. There was a vogue for giving them cattle stations at one stage but they just ate the cattle and then wandered off
It has been 40 years since a group of idealistic, young Aboriginal men and women got fed up with living in "slums and pig sties" and formed a housing association in the heart of Sydney.
The early 1970s were heady times for the Indigenous rights movement in Australia and Redfern was its home ground - arguably the birthplace of land rights, dedicated legal services, and Aboriginal healthcare.
But after just four decades, the dreams of a disparate nation carried by those pioneering activists are on the brink of collapse.
On Saturday morning, the ranks of a newly-established tent embassy, pitched in the heart of The Block, will be bolstered with a rally by the community against their own - the modern-day Aboriginal Housing Company headed by Mick Mundine.
The organisation, which started in 1973 with a grant from the Whitlam government to cover the cost of 41 terrace houses for Sydney's growing and dispossessed urban Indigenous population, has mutated into a private company with plans to soon turn the sod on a massive residential and commercial complex.
The company has a membership capped at 100 and says it cannot afford to provide housing for Aboriginal people on The Block.
It has reinforced its distance from the community it was established to serve by erecting "private property" signs around the infamous square bordered by Vine, Eveleigh, Caroline and Louis streets.
"It's not Micky Mundine's private, sovereign land," tent embassy organiser Jenny Munro said. "[The Housing Company] was not set up or intended for the purpose Micky is doing."
Mr Mundine, the long- standing chief executive, throws up his hands and says it is the government's responsibility to provide affordable housing for the Aboriginal community. "It's very hard to get money for affordable housing," he said. "No bank in Australia will give money for affordable housing."
The plan, he said, was to make money from the development to fund Aboriginal housing down the track.
Tent embassy organisers say they have reported the Housing Company, a registered charity, to the federal charity regulator. The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission does not confirm whether it is investigating an organisation.
Just a few streets over from The Block in the rapidly-gentrifying Redfern, the community is battling another organisation set up in the spirit of self-determination in the early '70s - the Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS).
The first of its kind in the country, it attracted a raft of talented non-Aboriginal doctors to work alongside its Indigenous staff, including the late Professor Fred Hollows, one of its founders who served as the practice's first medical director.
The Redfern AMS has been been a guiding light for decades in Aboriginal healthcare, but now, like the Housing Company, it has begun to find itself on the wrong side of the community it was intended to serve.
Currently, the AMS has no medical director and no diabetes clinic, Fairfax has been told by staff. At least three doctors have left the service in the past 12 months, along with four nurses and the practice director. People working in security, HR and administration have also resigned or been sacked over the last year.
While the AMS argues it in the midst of an internal review to improve the service, some staff and patients have raised concerns about the role of some members of the Bellear family in the service.
Sol Bellear is the AMS chairman, his sister, LaVerne Bellear, is the acting chief executive officer, while his former partner, Naomi Mayers, is the CEO on long-term leave and unlikely to return.
Mr Bellear would not speak to Fairfax for this article.
Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton is looking into hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from the AMS to South Sydney Rabbitohs star Greg Inglis, some of it from Medicare income, and the Health Department is investigating other aspects of the service.
The long-term provider of GP registrars to the government-funded AMS, GP Synergy, has warned that the practice is now in danger of "imploding" in spite of its "stellar" history.
Government authorities are wary of getting involved publicly in what is considered internal Aboriginal politics and most remain tight-lipped on the issues confronting Redfern's Indigenous population.
But for the many community members Fairfax has spoken to, the problem is simple: power in Aboriginal Redfern has been consolidated in the hands of a few people.
A Fairfax reporter visited a Redfern community centre in 1973 and recorded the words on a sign there that promised so much, but seem cruel in 2014: "[The Block] project belongs to the black community. Please don't destroy it. This means you."
NBN: Do you realise you have no choice?
I am one of the many "older people" in this community who did not realise one did not have a choice with the connection of the NBN if you want a landline.
I listened to an interview with Derrick Tuffield on ABC radio last Thursday as he explained that many older citizens did not know that they had to do something when that letter comes.
I rang my provider and it was explained that I do have to say yes to that connect if I want a landline.
I am quite sure that there are many people in this community who, like me, thought we had a choice…We could stay as we are because we do not need faster Internet access at all.
If one has a medical alert then it is essential to make contact with your provider because all of those things will change when it comes time to change to the new NBN as your area comes online.
A new home situation is better off than older ones because they simply cut the phone wire and reconnect the new one.
But what most would not know is that they have to have a power point on the inside near where it is connected.
That would mean an expense one is not counting on.
In an older area like I live in it seems that they will try and do it through the old lines but that it may not happen and that would mean cutting up the yard.
I have been told by my provider that we should be connected about September.
I have made it my business to talk to people of all ages and very few know anything about this matter at all.
Most think that they will have a choice to do it when they want and have no idea that their landline gets cut off at a certain date when the NBN is connected to their area and then they will have to survive on a mobile phone service.
Another matter we did not know was that when there is a power outage one will not have a landline as we do now because it depends on a power source.
This has been a terrible thing pushed onto an unsuspecting society.
Unhinged and dishonest attacks on Abbott in the media
Some letters in his defence
TONY Abbott returns from a very successful overseas tour during which he held court with numerous overseas heads of state, most notably the President of Indonesia, the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of the US. I have no doubt that Abbott would win the approval of those with whom he met, just as he did on his recent trip to Japan and China.
Abbott may not be the world’s greatest showman, but what you see is what you get: sincerity with a straight forward presentation.
What is concerning, however, is that his Labor and Greens opponents, along with the ABC and Fairfax media, seem obsessed with discrediting Abbott domestically. These people want Abbott, the individual, to fail simply because he is Abbott, not because of what he stands for.
John George, Terrigal, NSW
THERE is no doubt that Tony Abbott’s overseas visit was a success of huge proportions — the leftists in the media attempting to discredit Abbott and his visit is proof perfect.
Unlike his predecessors in Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, Abbott’s visits to foreign countries was not all about the US and President Barack Obama. Who can forget the fuss made of Obama by Rudd and a blushing, hugging and kissing Gillard.
As for Abbott’s Canadia moment, surely this is not as cumbersome as Gillard falling over or Rudd embarrassing himself in a girlie bar. It would also appear that our US ambassador Kim Beazley and his wife Susie have more in common with Abbott than they have with Bill Shorten.
Peter D. Surkitt, Hampton, Vic
HELEN Derrick is correct about Tony Abbott’s trip being successful (Letters, 14/6). Abbott is often the unfair butt of ridicule in certain parts of the media for quite petty reasons.
Such pettiness demeans the office of PM and the individual who holds it. It’s not a good look, domestically or internationally. Perhaps, it is time to introduce legislation which will protect the dignity of the office.
Michael J. Gamble, Belmont, Vic
HAVING watched Insiders on the ABC on Sunday, I have to ask why the taxpayer has to supply more than $1 billion a year to fund an organisation that appears to have an agenda to denigrate the Prime Minister. About 80 per cent of the program was devoted to making derogatory statements about Tony Abbott. If this is the way it proposes to continue its program, it is high time the ABC’s funding was seriously reduced.
Peter Keogh, Bokarina, Qld
THE ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday ran the gamut from start to finish of knocking our Prime Minister — a diatribe from the Greens leader to provide the icing.
I have a lifetime of listening and watching the ABC, but surely we are entitled to get some balance from its commentators. One could be forgiven for wondering whether any of them ever spare a thought for the important issues we are facing rather than highlighting the trivial.
R. T. Hawksley, Benowa Qld
IT seems there’s been another outbreak of derangement syndrome in Australia which is manifesting itself with all the usual feral symptoms. A peculiar genetic disorder with no known cure, it affects only the Left of our polity and large sections of the media — particularly the frothing Fairfax and apoplectic ABC commentariat. Like many, I thought derangement syndrome had been eradicated and we’d all been inoculated with the political passing of John Howard, but apparently not.
It’s back with a vengeance in the variant form, Abbott derangement syndrome, and the contagion is driving it victims insane.
Jim Ball, Narrabeen, NSW
FOR several days, ABC news and current affairs programs have featured interviews and commentary agreeing that Tony Abbott would be received as a pariah, especially by Barack Obama. In fact, not even the ABC could disguise the fact that he was very well received.
Somehow the prediction that climate change would be the main item, failed to materialise. So our ever-resourceful Radio National then went to plan B on Sunday morning trying to console loyal Abbott haters that such visits were irrelevant in the modern world and were a waste of money. In fact, it is not Abbott’s travel, but the policies of ABC senior management that is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
16 June, 2014
Gillard’s union history is embarrassing on a global scale
"AUSTRALIANS have to worry,” said Tanya Plibersek this week, that Tony Abbott will be "embarrassing us on the world stage”.
The Oxford Dictionary says to embarrass is to "cause someone to feel awkward, self-conscious, or ashamed”. When I think about the possibility of being asked to give a summary of Australian politics "for the world stage”, here is what I am embarrassed about.
I am embarrassed that, despite her strong protestations of innocence, this week’s evidence in the royal commission directly contradicts Julia Gillard’s version of events. If investigators don’t eventually turn the torch on Gillard, well and good, but if they do, some of us will disregard fact and law and cast the matter as misogynistic persecution of an innocent woman and spread this perception across the globe. This immaturity is embarrassing.
In the conversations of some, comparisons between the incarceration of Pauline Hanson and any future prosecution of Gillard are being had now.
Commentators are already saying the royal commission into unions is just a mechanism to "get Gillard”. That we live in a country that is so willing to accept wrong-doing provided that wrongdoing is done in the course of politics embarrasses me.
I am embarrassed that the Labor Party allowed Gillard to become leader in the first place. The set of circumstances that led to her leadership were shameful. In June 2010, our prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was flicked out of his job as casually as a chess piece is taken off a board. As people abroad expressed bewilderment, asking how a prime minister can just be sacked, we Australians had no choice but to grit our teeth, duck our heads and bear it. We were powerless chumps at the mercy of the AWU faction. This was, I found, embarrassing.
I am embarrassed at how improper it was that a select bunch of union people with knowledge of damaging information on Gillard were allowed to rob our democracy, set an appalling precedent in our history and install her into the highest office in the land. When Australians awoke one morning to a new prime minister, not enough of us thought it outrageously improper that a bunch of people who might have something very big over someone might put that person into a position of power and be able to exercise control over that person, to the detriment of the country.
When a few people within the Labor party, union movement or media twigged and raised this objection, they were ignored, ridiculed or cruelly silenced. This is embarrassing.
I am embarrassed that the Labor Party thought we were all so stupid (and perhaps we are) that early last year, they were still putting Gillard up as leader for re-election into the role of prime minister even though they knew she was embroiled in an investigation by the Victorian Police Fraud Squad. The evidence of this investigation was there for all to see, but many in our media refused to cover or acknowledge it.
Indeed, some in the media spent considerable time denying the investigation was even occurring, and then when it was no longer deniable, admitted it was occurring but just wasn’t looking at the activities of Gillard.
I am embarrassed that in May last year, when a search warrant issued to Victoria Police named Gillard and authorised police to enter her former workplace to seize her employment records, somehow the general public didn’t become widely aware of it.
Gillard’s personnel files, the record of interview on her separation from Slater and Gordon and a raft of documents pertaining to her legal work for her boyfriend Bruce Wilson, the former AWU chief, were all seized. On this very day, when the implications of the warrant would have hit home, Gillard cried in parliament, and no one thought she might have been partly crying because unsavoury events long suppressed were finally being brought to light.
Finally, I am embarrassed that even after everything, when this week in a royal commission, witnesses have under oath given evidence with alarming implications for Gillard and the person being now put up as the alternative prime minister, there are still people in positions of influence, who instead of exhibiting desire to discover fact are trying desperately to avoid it.
Why did the ALP government give channel 7 $250 million?
A lot of criticism has been directed at the ABC and Fairfax Media and others for bias in regards to their reporting. Whether that is true or not could and should be debated but the worst of all, Channel 7 has been badly missed. Channel 7?s corrupt conduct involves hundreds of millions of dollars being stolen from the tax payer to boost the profitability and value of Channel 7.
So when you wonder why there is so much corruption and fraud and theft in government and why the media like Channel 7 fail to report a lot of it, why we have to now work to 70, why we have to pay for doctors and why pensioners have to tighten their belt etc.? One reason is to keep the likes of Channel 7 filthy rich.
Last year I wrote:
2010 Election Year Media Bribe
In February 2010 the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy announced a temporary reduction in "licence fees networks pay by 33 per cent this year and 50 per cent in 2011?.
"The issue has begun to gain traction in the electorate, as Senator Conroy has declined to discuss how his department came up with the formula that will generate at least $250m for the networks at the expense of taxpayers, and amid ongoing revelations about his private meetings with Seven Network executive chairman Kerry Stokes.”
Only a month before this was announced in 2010 Stephen Conroy met Kerry Stokes at Beaver Creek Ski Resort in Colorado USA for a meeting and a few ski runs, as you do when on holidays. Also "Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is a previous recipient of Mr Stokes’s hospitality, staying in Mr Stokes’s mansion in Broome, WA, last year".
Eventually the reduction was made permanent and in 2013 the license fees were decreased by another 50%.
"The Television Licence Fees Amendment Bill 2013 halves the annual license fee for commercial TV networks, making it a maximum of 4.5 per cent of gross earnings.”
"It passed the lower house unanimously.”
So the real reduction (money taken from tax payers) is probably valued at around $400 to $500 million. I know some educated guesses have it at $600 to $700 million.
I wrote at the time:
"It is not just Kerry Stokes who benefits from the reduction in licence fees, Channel 10 and Channel 9 do as well. But the reduction seems to have been driven by Mr Stokes in 2010 at least and most likely again now. If the government are trying to buy better election coverage, Mr Stokes and Channel 7 would be the target as they are unlikely to get better election coverage from Channel 10 with Gina Rinehart on the board. Ms Rinehart is well-known to dislike the Labor Government and apparently helped Andrew Bolt get his own show on Channel 10 which seems to spend most of its time attacking the Labor Government. Channel Nine did the infamous Mark Latham report on Sixty Minutes before the 2010 election which embarrassed the Prime Minister Julia Gillard, so one can hardly say they took a bribe then, although they now have new owners who might be swayed.” (Click here to read more)
Channel 7 and the AWU fraud cover-up
A prime example of Channel 7 taking a bribe for better coverage for the Labor Party is the AWU fraud which Channel 7 has been extremely quiet on overall. In fact Channel 7 used its current affair program to attack Ralph Blewitt who is one of the key witnesses against Julia Gillard. That would be ok if they had also reported in a balanced way the evidence against Julia Gillard but they did no do that. It was almost like they were on the Labor Party payroll which given the reduction in TV fees they were on Labor’s payroll. Or as Abbott said they had taken "an election year bribe”. Channel 7 in effect tried to help the Labor Party cover-up the AWU fraud.
It is time for Channel 7 to pay their share
Channel 10 is almost bankrupt and Channel 9 are newly listed on the stock market and I do not know if they make a profit. But I believe Channel 7 do make a profit and could and should pay their share of taxes.
Everyone knows that large foreign companies pay very little tax in Australia and the government are planning on doing something in the near future to rectify it. Prime Minister Tony Abbott was reported on Wednesday while in the US as saying:
"Prime Minister Tony Abbott has given the US notice that he is serious about leading global efforts through the Group of 20 to stop tax evasion through profit shifting by multinationals, which would include some of America’s biggest companies.”
"Mr Abbott said international tax rules should be structured to capture income where it is generated – an indirect swipe at Apple, Google and other big companies that license intellectual property to their own subsidiaries to enable them to shift profits to countries with lower taxes.”
Here we are whingeing about foreign companies not paying their fare share of taxes yet the government turns a blind eye to Australian companies such as Channel 7 not paying their fare share. The television fees are a tax and should be increased to where they were previously and then some to make up for the billions of dollars that tax payers have lost since 2010.
I personally do not want to work to 70 just so I can help filthy rich people stay filthy rich. This is an issue that needs driving and I will be doing that.
Be careful what you wish for: bans and censorship tend to bite the hand that voted for them
Freedom is a bit like one of those pesky irregular verbs. I deserve liberty; you deserve a balance of rights and responsibilities; that bloke ought to be locked up. I am a rational autonomous adult; you are subject to external influence; that bloke doesn’t know what’s good for him.
When we seek to ban things, this problem arises acutely. I know when I’ve had enough to drink; you should probably slow down; that bloke can’t be served a neat spirit after midnight, drink from glass, have full strength beer at the footy or buy a round for his mates.
When bans are proposed, be they on pornography, swearing, drug use or the characterisation of certain kinds of people based on race, it’s easy to kid ourselves that any rules we make are for that third group of people. These are not people we usually know by name, they are the abstract theoretical people whom we imagine really do need to be told how to behave. Bans tend to bite the hand that voted for them.
In 1955 the NSW, South Australian and Victorian governments took action to ban comic books, generally blamed for corrupting the morals of the young. Publications were deemed obscene if they "unduly emphasised matters of sex, crimes of violence, gross cruelty or horror”.
Edward Massey, a director of the Institute of Political Science, wrote at the time that these conditions would exclude half the works of Shakespeare.
He further noted there was, "as far as I am aware, no evidence that the reading of books has ever led anyone into a life of crime”.
Few books are censored now and the censoring of literature is properly regarded as philistine. But culture more broadly is still censored and there is still a worthy fight to be had defending artists from the gag.
Earlier this year, ArtsHub reported that a line from Jonathan Biggins’ new play had been cut following complaints on opening night. Reports don’t specify the offensive content but indicate it was a joke whose punch line was "Campbell Newman”.
Whatever one thinks of Newman, the restriction of Biggins’ imaginary citizen’s freedom to say what he pleased about the Queensland Premier should have been anathema to any political descendant of Mill, Locke or Milton.
In the visual arts, leading artists Paul Yore and Bill Henson have been subjected to charges for works depicting children in ways deemed pornographic by police. In both cases, while you might argue for an eternity about the worth of the art, this stretched credulity and in neither case were any children exploited.
The impact of the Henson case was such that in 2011, a work by Archibald Prize winner Del Katherine Barton which depicted a shirtless boy was subject to a similar complaint that saw a $200,000 charity auction cancelled.
In the world of television, comedian Dan Ilic’s commercial for Dick Smith, featuring the cheekily laboured innuendo "I like Dick” was refused broadcast. "Apparently” said Smith, "you can’t have lovely old ladies saying ‘dick’. I’m angry. I don’t like this being censored when it’s just good fun.”
Good fun also leads to trouble on radio where the biggest category of complaints is bad language, which has made airplay especially difficult for hip hop, an important cultural outlet for young people. And heaven help the kids who sing along with a rude pop tune: Australian laws against offensive conduct generally stipulate that a person who, "sings an obscene song or ballad” near a school, "shall be guilty of an offence”.
Which also means that kids sharing the songs I learned in the schoolyard about sailors going to see, see, see and that limerick-loving man from Newcastle would all be in breach of the law. A defence can be made that the swearer had a reasonable excuse. Sadly for most school kids, the excuses don’t include making your mates laugh.
While a well-placed swear can add sizzle to a pop song, it’s half the steak for many comedians.
Black humour, bad language, and irreverence are stock in trade. Consequently offence is never far away, but if comedians worried too much about it they wouldn’t be very funny. As Ben Pjobe wrote in Meanjin last year: "Everyone has a perfect right to take offence at anything, and I’ll defend that right, but nobody has a God-given right to go through life without being offended.”
I don’t need and certainly don’t demand the freedom to be a racist. But I do want freedom of expression for a lot of people who are often deemed offensive. I struggle to see how one kind of free speech isn’t materially affected by the progress or regress of another.
Leftists think defamation is free speech
It never has been -- in any jurisdiction
Treasurer Joe Hockey’s decision to sue Fairfax Media for defamation over the now-notorious front-page story "Treasurer for sale” raises interesting questions about politicians suing to protect their reputation, allied with the protection of freedom of speech in Australia.
Hockey claims the newspapers in question – The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times – alleged that he accepted, or was prepared to accept, bribes; that he corruptly solicited payments in order to influence his decision; and that he corruptly sold privileged access to businesspeople and lobbyists in return for donations to the Liberal Party.
A debate is underway about the balance between freedom of speech and protection against racially offensive conduct. There similarly needs to be a debate in Australia about defamation law.
Leftists only call for a debate over something when their view is a minority one. Otherwise they try to shut you up
15 June, 2014
Multiculturalist "Sam" Ibrahim jailed for making threatening phone calls to former business associate
"Sam" (Hassan) Ibrahim is a Lebanese Muslim, a very troublesome group in Sydney
Underworld figure Hassan "Sam" Ibrahim has been sentenced to at least 16 months' jail for threatening a former business partner and intimidating police.
Early last year the former Parramatta chapter president of the Nomads outlaw motorcycle gang threatened a man associated with Port Macquarie company Silver City Drilling in a number of phone calls.
It is understood Ibrahim had been involved in a business venture with the man.
NSW police arrested 48-year-old Ibrahim in March last year when he attended Castle Hill police station as part of his parole conditions.
On Friday Parramatta Local Court magistrate Georgia Knight sentenced him on two charges of using a carriage service to threaten to kill, and on one charge of intimidating police in the execution of their duty.
The total minimum sentence was 16 months and it will expire on October 12, 2015.
Two unrelated charges against Ibrahim - possessing a prohibited weapon without permit and possessing prescribed restricted substances - were adjourned for a hearing on a date to be fixed.
What royal commission? What union corruption? What claims against Gillard?
I thought the ABC’s astonishing reluctance to cover the allegations against Julia Gillard at yesterday’s royal commission into union corruption could not be matched.
ABC TV’s Queensland and South Australian main news bulletins at 7pm did not cover any of yesterday’s news from the commission. The flagship World Today program also ignored the commission. So did 7.30.
But today an even more startling example of don’t-mention-the-war: today’s edition of The Age, fanatically of the Left, does not have a single word about the royal commission in all its 48 pages.
No, wait: there is one exception: a page three advertisement placed by the commission itself to appeal for witnesses to give yet more evidence that The Age will deliberately bury.
In case you assume that this refusal to report just reflects an absence of any news, here is just some of what the royal commission was yesterday told - but which The Age refused to print:
JULIA Gillard was handed "a large amount of cash” to pay for renovations on her Melbourne home by her then boyfriend, union official Bruce Wilson, a builder who did the work told the royal commission yesterday.
Athol James said during evidence to the royal commission into union corruption that the future prime minister told him during renovations on her house in 1993 that payments were coming from Mr Wilson.
He also saw the Australian Workers Union official give Ms Gillard "wads of notes” on two occasions to cover cheque payments she made to him, he said.
The evidence from Mr James — during the commission’s investigation into a union slush fund set up by Mr Wilson with legal assistance from Ms Gillard that amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars — is potentially very damaging to the former Labor prime minister.
It directly contradicts her claims over the years that she paid for the renovations herself.
Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten was also dragged into the slush fund scandal yesterday when former AWU official and whistleblower Bob Kernohan claimed Mr Shorten was part of an attempted cover-up when he was an up-and-coming official with the AWU in Melbourne in 1996…
"Bill Shorten looked at me, and he said, ‘Look Bob, a lot of people are going to get hurt if this is pursued. No one wants to go any further with this. You know, Bruce Wilson and the others have gone’.
"I said, ‘Gone? Gone with a payout. With their record, they should be bloody well being investigated and locked up for this sort of conduct’.
"And Bill — this is what shocked me more than anything — Bill said, ‘Well, Bob, think of your future, you’re going into parliament shortly’. And by all reasonable chances I would have entered parliament.”..
The Labor leader, who rose to be the AWU’s national and Victorian secretary before entering parliament in 2007, denied through a spokesman in February the claim by Mr Kernohan that he told Mr Kernohan to "move on” from the slush fund issue in 1996…
Wayne Hem, a former AWU official, told the commission yesterday that he paid $5000 into Ms Gillard’s bank account on the orders of Mr Wilson in late 1995… Ms Gillard has said she had no recollection of this deposit.
These two witnesses yesterday were unhelpful for Gillard’s position that she had never benefited from Wilson’s slush fund. Thousands of dollars in cash from union figures paying off tradesmen at her house could cause the royal commission to see her role in a different light. For natural justice, and to be true to the inquiry’s terms of reference, the former PM will have to be called to respond to these allegations and others.
That would pose a dilemma for The Age. How could it refuse to report even the former Prime Minister in the dock?
This selective blindness seems to be widespread. Even though the print copy of the Couriermail has a big splash, the online version has buried the whole story.
The concerted cover up is quite extraordinary!
Tony Abbott lauds coal during Texas speech, says climate change shouldn’t limit use of fossil fuels
TONY Abbott has visited the energy capital of the USA to insist he does not want the battle against climate change to limit the use of any type of fuel.
Promoting his plan to scrap the carbon tax in front of an audience of energy executives in Houston, Texas, Mr Abbott said he wanted Australia to become a centre of cheap energy.
While he said Australia should look towards new energy sources, he said we should also focus on cheap and reliable energy.
"Affordable, reliable energy fuels enterprise and drives employment,” Mr Abbott said.
"It is the engine of economic development and wealth creation.”
"Australia should be an affordable energy superpower, using nature’s gifts to the benefit of our own people and the wider world.”
The PM defended Australia’s existing energy exports and said we have a long term future exporting black coal, LNG and uranium.
"It is prudent to do what we reasonably can to reduce carbon emissions,” he said.
"But we don’t believe in ostracising any particular fuel and we don’t believe in harming "economic growth.”
"For many decades at least coal will continue to fuel human progress as an affordable, dependable energy source for wealthy and developing countries alike.”
The speech came after Mr Abbott met US President Barack Obama and agreed to disagree on the best way to tackle climate change.
Mr Obama wants a global carbon price while Mr Abbott wants to replace Australia’s carbon tax with a $2.5 billion "direct action” plan that includes paying companies to cut emissions.
Declaring he wanted closer ties with the largest city in Texas, Mr Abbott announced he would appoint an Australian consulate-general to the boom town.
After receiving a gift of Stetson cowboy hat, Mr Abbott let the audience know he felt like an honorary Texan, saying "yee ha”.
Houston is home to more than 100 Australian companies, including BHP Billiton, Woodside, Santos, WorleyParsons, Macquarie Group, Pryme Oil and Gas, Lend Lease and Brambles.
Houston is the largest city in Texas, which has an economy the size of the 13th largest country in the world.
Mr Abbott said the consulate-general Houston would allow Australia to "maximise the two-way trade and investment opportunities of the US energy revolution”.
Mr Abbott will today meet with a business delegations before visiting the Texas Medical Centre — the largest of its kind in the world — to promote his plan for a $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund.
Public school exodus starts as early as year 2
Australian parents are keen to escape the disrupted classes that are a frequent feature of State schools
The stampede from public primary schools to private high schools when a child finishes year 6 is a tradition in parts of Sydney, but principals say the exodus now starts as early as year 2 as parents panic they will miss out on their school of choice.
Census data shows that in some of Sydney's most affluent suburbs, especially the eastern suburbs, as few as 20 per cent of students stay in the public system for high school despite booming enrolments in public primary schools.
The president of the NSW Primary Principals' Association, Geoff Scott, said the exodus from public to private schools had traditionally started in year 5 but principals were reporting it now began as early as year 2.
"It's getting younger and younger and we have parents telling our principals, 'Sorry, we love your school but if we want to get our child into a certain independent school we have been told we have to enrol them in year 3,' " Mr Scott said.
"Parents feel, wrongly we believe, that their children will have a better chance if they go to a non-government school, but this is not based on better teachers or a different curriculum because we know parents are very happy with their local government primary school."
The principal of Waverley Public, Glenn Levett, raised the issue of the exodus in a note to parents on the school's website, where he urged them not to judge the school on NAPLAN results alone, especially because so many students leave the public system before the end of primary school.
"Our year 5 group often becomes a small cohort of students as a number of students move on to opportunity classes or private schools at the end of year 4," the school’s website says. "This is common practice in the eastern suburbs as a majority of students in the area attend private high schools."
Nikki Shepherd, who has twin boys Sam and Alfie, and Carol Wade, who has a son Joseph, both enrolled their children in year 5 at Waverley College this year.
The boys, who were young for their year when they started kindergarten at Coogee Public School, are repeating year 5 at the Catholic college after doing year 5 at Coogee last year.
Ms Wade said she had been very happy with their local public school but felt her son would benefit from more routine and discipline by doing year 5 and 6 at Waverley College.
Both families would have also been unlikely to secure a spot for the boys for year 7 because they are not Catholic.
The acting director of Waverley College's junior school, Greg Harris, said the school had just been through one of the "most difficult" enrolment processes because of the demand for its year 5 intake.
Mr Harris said the school had "well over" 200 applications for 145 year 5 spots next year and one-third of those applicants were non-Catholic.
The trend is not unique to the eastern suburbs.
Inner west mother Elizabeth Luff sent her children to Annandale Public until year 4 but then sent them to St Andrews Cathedral School in Sydney's central business district.
Mrs Luff said she had always intended to send them to St Andrews for high school but thought starting them in year 5 would help them move to year 7 more easily.
13 June, 2014
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG sees Clive Palmer as a hot-air balloon
Exaggerated claims of racism
So who’s a racist? Not you, of course. Certainly not me. Hey, maybe none of us.
No, that’s not what people were saying this week as the sports commentator Warren Ryan quit his job over an on-air quote from Gone with the Wind that included the word ‘‘darky".
Here was another controversy, depressingly fresh on the heels of last year's furore over indigenous AFL player Adam Goodes being called an ape by a young spectator.
It may pay to look at the bigger picture. After all, aren’t we living in a era when evil is an outmoded concept, when there are no bad people, only bad acts? On that basis it seems counter-intuitive and frankly crazy to label people racist on the basis on one or two remarks.
Yes, of course, ‘‘the standard I walk past is the standard I accept", to quote another example of vogue reasoning. Sorry but I have walked past it plenty.
I walked past it when a man in Spain told me he was ‘‘working like a black", when an old girlfriend asked whether I still ‘‘smoke like a Turk" and when a fella in country NSW offered me his ultimate accolade: ‘‘Thanks mate, you’re a white man."
Hey, I also walked past it when people assert that Australia is a uniquely wicked racist country. Get real.
Yes, Australian country towns once banned Aborigines from swimming pools. From this came the Freedom Rides led by Charlie Perkins. And the treatment of indigenous Australians by white settlers and government authorities remains unfinished business.
But how many people alive today are honest to god racist? You know, willing to stand at the school gates like a southern US governor in the 1950s and ’60s and say non-white children will not pass? Refuse to shake the hand of a non-white person? Oddly, when Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani failed to offer his hand to European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, there was not a glimmer of protest. (Rouhani saw fit to shake hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin).
Are white South African migrants to Australia racist? Are black Zimbabwean leaders racist for pushing whites off farms? Considering the hierarchy of oppression that is so fashionable now, are any non-white people racist at all?
Certainly it is much easier then to turn on some middle-aged white bloke for saying something, well, stupid.
For seemingly endless days in May, CNN’s television coverage was obsessed with the Donald Sterling controversy. The billionaire owner of the US basketball team the Los Angeles Clippers was rightly denounced in all quarters for moronic comments about black people. He now has to sell the franchise and will end his days as a pariah. Isn’t that enough? Not for CNN, though that network was not alone. Its anchors weighed every nuance, parsing comments by his wife that Sterling had dementia, interviewing each other endlessly.
For what? Only because there are dollars at stake did Sterling even matter. Otherwise that old man’s thoughts are irrelevant to everyone but him and the nurse with the bedpan. I’d rather ask how healthy it is for any sporting team to be owned by a single plutocrat.
My contention is that people can say racist things because they are afflicted, temporarily or permanently, with stupidity, but that doesn’t make them a racist. Why? Because I don’t believe there are that many true racists. These would be people obsessed with the supremacy of their race to the exclusion of any other topic. Sure they are out there. But their numbers are negligible. And if the best frontman they can present is still Jim Saleam, as John Safran found in Good Weekend last Saturday, they ain’t growing the brand. Pauline Hanson? Sorry. Seriously, no.
I’d wager that the overwhelming majority of us, no matter the colour, are roughly as ‘‘racist" as each other. In other words, not really racist at all. It’s just that we sometimes say the stupidest things.
Academic slams tyranny of the greens
Professor Ian Plimer has never been renowned for moderation in his opinions about the extremist elements of the green movement and in this book he launches on them in a full-blooded, broken-bottle attack.
In his own words: "What started as a laudable movement to prevent the despoilation of certain areas of natural beauty has morphed into an authoritarian, anti-progress, anti-democratic, anti-human monster.” That Plimer should attack the greens is no surprise. More impressive is the book’s foreword, written by Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, who fully supports Plimer.
He congratulates Plimer for a book that provides a "different . . . and extremely rational look at the agenda of the green movement today”. "In many respects, they have become a combination of extreme political ideology and religious fundamentalism rolled into one,” Moore says.
"There is no better example of this than the fervent belief in human-caused catastrophic climate change.” Moore even rejects the core green belief that carbon dioxide emissions are harmful.
Plimer’s thesis is that the real agenda of green groups (often registered as charities) is nothing less than the destruction of modern civilisation and that a key aim is to kneecap the global energy industry which provides society with electricity. It has always seemed odd that greens are so hostile to a gas which is vital for the life of trees. As a trained geologist, Plimer is well aware that the planet’s climate has been changing since its birth 4½ billion years ago. "If the Earth’s climate did not constantly change, then I would be really worried,” he says.
What he contests is that manmade carbon dioxide has anything much to do with such change. It must be comforting for left-wingers to blame evil industrialists for destroying our planet, but in fact carbon dioxide accounts for only 0.04 per cent of the atmosphere and man-made carbon dioxide accounts for maybe 4 per cent of that, so Plimer regards the proposition as nonsense.
Also, carbon dioxide emissions do not accumulate quickly in the atmosphere.
After five to seven years, they are absorbed by the oceans, trees or rocks. Plimer believes that for scientists to argue that traces of a trace gas can be the driving force for climate change is fraudulent.
WHAT CAUSES CLIMATE CHANGE?
Sceptical scientists do not know what causes climate change but it would seem a complex combination of factors. Plimer believes the atmosphere is merely the medium through which climate change manifests itself and the major driver is "that giant fusion reactor we call the sun”.
He says: "It is quite capable of throwing out immense clouds of hot, ionised gases many millions of kilometres into space, sometimes with drastic effects on both the Earth’s atmosphere and on spacecraft travelling outside the lower atmosphere and the Earth’s protective magnetic shield.” Plimer, who is not renowned for pulling his punches, describes green extremists as hypocritical – "a malevolent unelected group attempting to deconstruct healthy societies that have taken thousands of years to build”.
That may sound extreme, but it’s difficult to find an alternative explanation for the change they have forced upon the Drax power station in Yorkshire.
Drax used to boast it was the largest, cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power station in Europe, generating up to 3960 megawatts. Greens demonstrated against it, saying Drax was the largest carbon dioxide emitter in Europe. So Drax is changing from coal to biomass. Plimer says it intends to import timber from North Carolina for fuel. This is madness, both economically and ecologically. A plant which used to burn 36,000 tonnes of coal a day will instead burn 70,000 tonnes of wood.
Forests will have to be chopped down in North Carolina, which must involve some destruction of native habitats of creatures such as otters and woodpeckers. Habitat destruction kills birds and animals more surely than climate change ever will. The timber will be reduced to pellets in factories fuelled by conventional fuels, then shipped across the Atlantic in diesel-burning boats. Over the 20-year life of the power station, that would involve the destruction of 511 million tonnes of wood.
The energy density of wood is about half that of an equivalent weight of coal, so wood will produce more expensive electricity. Burning wood also releases its stored carbon dioxide.
WIND AND SOLAR POWER UNRELIABLE
The European Environment Agency has ruled that burning wood is carbon neutral because the carbon dioxide will be absorbed over time by the oceans or other trees.
That leaves the EEA in the odd position of believing that a molecule of carbon dioxide emanating from wood behaves differently to a molecule emanating from coal.
The greens, having achieved their aim, have stopped demonstrating although there is a strong argument that the conversion of Drax will make it more, not less, harmful to the planet.
Wind farms and solar power stations are unreliable and totally unable to provide base load electricity.
Plimer gives calculations which show that wind turbines are barely able to generate as much electricity in their lifetime as it takes to make them.
. Even more bizarre was the Spanish solar plant which enjoyed such large subsidies that it could make profits generating electricity at night by shining floodlights on the panels. The floodlights were powered by a diesel generator. These are only three examples of green illogic from a book crammed with them. Plimer has assembled a massive case which needs answers.
Even more bizarre was the Spanish solar plant which enjoyed such large subsidies that it could make profits generating electricity at night by shining floodlights on the panels. The floodlights were powered by a diesel generator. These are only three examples of green illogic from a book crammed with them
Forced redundancies for 70-plus public servants at Australian Valuation Office
More than 70 staff at the Australian Valuation Office will be made involuntarily redundant, according to Senate estimates hearings this week, sparking claims about broken promises regarding natural attrition.
The office's closure was formally announced earlier this year, bringing an end to about a century of history as the Australian government's primary source of advice and information on valuations of real property, intellectual property and non-current assets.
The office ceases to exist at the end of this financial year and the final 100 staff of the formerly 198-strong entity will leave then, or in early July, after loose ends are tied up.
More than 40 AVO staff have taken voluntary redundancies. Another 31 have expressed interest in voluntary redundancies and 10 of the original 198 AVO workforce were contractors whose contracts ended quickly after the announcement of closure. Three AVO employees have swapped redundancies with colleagues in the Australian Tax Office. One AVO staff member has died.
Fraser MP and the opposition's assistant Treasury spokesman Andrew Leigh said ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja repeatedly promised before the election the Coalition would only cut jobs from the public service through natural attrition, not through redundancies.
"We now know that, by the end of the month, dozens of AVO staff will be forced out the door," Dr Leigh said. "How can Canberrans trust anything the Liberals tell them now?"
Mr Seselja fired back by saying the closure of the AVO was a hangover from Labor's long-standing efficiency dividend.
"The former Labor government, which Andrew Leigh was part of, applied efficiency dividends to many government departments," Mr Seselja said.
"These departments in turn reduced their spending on the AVO – like the Department of Human Services, which reduced its spending by 50 per cent.
"Their work alone accounted for 80 per cent of AVO revenues. Andrew Leigh and Labor made a decision, which they did their best to hide, to cut 14,500 public service jobs and these decisions are now flowing through the bureaucracy.”
The Coalition went to the last election promising 12,000 public service job cuts through natural attrition. It has since said it has parked that policy after finding 14,500 "hidden" cuts Labor were making – a claim backed up by the finance department's David Tune but disputed by Labor. The Coalition has since committed to a reduction in the bureaucracy of 16,500.
Earlier, public servants about to be dumped from the office were gagged from venting their feelings to reporters or on social media amid the political row over the office's closure.
AWU official told to keep quiet by Shorten
WHEN a senior official raised concerns about a union slush fund and dodgy dealings he was told by a young Bill Shorten to think about his future, a royal commission has heard.
Robert Kernohan was in 1996 also bullied at the Australian Workers' Union, a union corruption inquiry has heard.
He was sent three bullets in the mail and bashed by at least three men when it became known he was planning to go to the police with concerns about union bank accounts and the sale of a property.
"Keep your f****** mouth shut. Stop talking to the press, you grub," the men yelled during the July 1996 beating, Mr Kernohan said in his statement to the royal commission into union corruption.
Mr Kernohan's worries began earlier in 1996 when he was served with a subpoena to attend the Federal Court in Sydney as one of 20 defendants in an action launched by the AWU.
He had accepted $6500 in a meeting that "took no more than 30 seconds" from notorious union figure Bruce Wilson, to help with AWU election costs.
Mr Kernohan said he rang Ian Cambridge, then an AWU official investigating irregularities in the union's accounts, "and told him the genesis of the $6500."
"I told him that a lot more has been going on than I have been made aware of and I'm the (AWU) president (in Victoria)," he said.
"I also told him I would be going to the police."
Mr Kernohan said his friend and campaign manager Bill Shorten had at the time told him he was "lined up to take a safe Labor seat of Melton in the Victorian parliament."
When he raised concerns about the Sydney court proceedings, Mr Shorten said "Bob, think of your future," according to Mr Kernohan.
"If you pursue this, a lot of good people will get hurt and you will be on your own."
Mr Kernohan said that was the end of his political ambitions.
"Any chance I had of entering parliament ... I knew that had evaporated the minute I walked away from Bill Shorten," he told the commission.
Outside the commission hearing on Wednesday, an angry Mr Kernohan continued to slam the AWU.
"A fraud, a cover-up, a scandalous cover-up that resulted in Nicola Roxon, Bill Shorten, Stephen Conroy ending up in the Gillard cabinet," he told reporters.
"People have got to ask themselves would that cabinet have been constructed the way it was had this been properly investigated all those years ago and, more importantly would Julia Gillard have become prime minister?"
Mr Kernohan said Mr Shorten, who has said police and not a royal commission were the best way to investigate union fraud, would never be prime minister.
"Once this matter is properly investigated and recommendations are handed down by this royal commission Bill Shorten will be exposed for what he is, just another key player in the cover-up over all these years."
Mr Kernohan said current AWU secretary Bill Ludwig was the "most powerful ALP figure in this country".
"It was Bill Ludwig who installed Julia Gillard into the prime ministership of this country. Bill Ludwig knew full well about the scandal ... and for that he should be condemned," he said.
Mr Kernohan said there were "two frauds perpetrated." "The first was on the Australian Workers' Union and its members. "The second was on the Australian people."
12 June, 2014
Palmer puts single condition for backing carbon tax repeal
Prime Minister Tony Abbott's "pledge in blood" to repeal the carbon tax seems all but assured after Clive Palmer put a single condition on his party's support: that all energy savings flow back to consumers.
The government has already tasked the consumer watchdog, with ensuring that energy companies pass on the estimated 9 per cent saving on electricity bills and 7 per cent on gas bills that should result from abolition of the carbon tax.
The Abbott government has promised a $550 a year saving for each household if the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission delivers.
After a tense few weeks in which he has threatened to stymy the government's agenda, Mr Palmer released a statement outlining the price of his party's support.
"If the Palmer United Party senators are to support a repeal of the carbon tax it will be under the proviso that the savings, by law, are transferred into lower energy costs for everyday Australians," he said.
"Only on these terms would we support repealing the carbon tax because of the benefits it would offer the people as well as the economy through the abolition of an artificial cost on business which was hampering our international competitiveness."
Mr Palmer's statement made no mention of his previous demand that the carbon tax be repealed retrospectively. Under that scenario, the mining magnate would potentially have been let off the hook for a disputed carbon tax bill of more than $6 million.
The Coalition needs six votes of eight votes from the crossbench to pass legislation through the new Senate from July 1.
Senator-elect Ricky Muir has pledged to vote in tandem with the three members of Palmer United.
NSW senator-elect David Leyonhjelm and Family First's Bob Day are economic dries who have already pledged to back the repeal of the tax, giving the government has the numbers if Mr Palmer is good to his word and satisfied consumers will benefit to the full extent promised.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt welcomed the news saying the government was legislating to guarantee price relief.
A spokesman for Mr Hunt said: "The independent regulatory authorities are already showing two prices for energy - one with a carbon tax and one without - we know the relief will be there. As [ACCC chairman] Rod Sims said what goes up will come down."
Greens leader Christine Milne renewed her call for all PUP members to abstain from any vote on the carbon tax due to the potential conflict of interest posed by Mr Palmer's mining riches.
In his statement, Mr Palmer restated his party's opposition to a repeal of the mining tax unless the Abbott government backed down on plans to cut welfare payments to orphans of soldiers killed or badly injured during service.
Defence seeks to push Japanese submarine deal
A key element in greater defence co-operation between the two countries is the prospect of Australia buying Japanese submarine technology to replace the ageing Collins Class fleet at a cost of up to $40 billion.
A key element in greater defence co-operation between the two countries is the prospect of Australia buying Japanese submarine technology to replace the ageing Collins Class fleet at a cost of up to $40 billion.
Defence Minister David Johnston hopes to advance talks on buying Japanese submarine technology during a visit to Tokyo this week but strenuously denies such co-operation will anger China.
Senator Johnston told Fairfax Media by phone that discussions with his Japanese counterpart Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera will aim at deepening security ties through sharing technology and boosting joint exercises.
He stressed the closer ties were not in any way aimed at Beijing and revealed that Australia had in fact helped pave the way for China to take part - for the first time - in the large-scale "Rim of the Pacific" naval exercises, which start in just over a fortnight.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will meet with counterpart Fumio Kishida. The "2+2" talks follow Prime Minister Tony Abbott's recent successful meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - as well as Mr Abe's significant speech 10 days ago in which he signalled a stronger security role for Japan in the region.
A key element in greater defence co-operation between the two countries is the prospect of Australia's buying Japanese submarine technology to replace the ageing Collins Class fleet at a cost of up to $40 billion.
Senator Johnston said he would look to cautiously press ahead with talks over submarines.
"The Japanese are very interested in our Wedgetail (airborne radar) and . . . we're interested in some of the technology they've got round the submarine, so it cuts both ways. But there's no formal basis for that exchange and we're looking to put the nuts and bolts of that sort of formal basis together.
"I'm hoping to visit one of the Japanese submarines on Friday. It's on the cards that I'll get to have a look and I'm quite excited about it."
Experts and some Defence insiders say there are still considerable obstacles to Australia's buying Japanese submarine technology, notably Japan's post-World War II pacifist constitution and its strict limits on arms exports. But co-operation is being given impetus by Mr Abbott and Mr Abe's enthusiasm for some kind of deal.
Mr Abe has been making moves to relax arms export rules and his recent speech at the Shangri-La dialogue signalled a strong willingness to work with partner countries in the region on security - widely seen as a way of countering China's recent assertiveness in the East China Sea and South China Sea.
Senator Johnston acknowledged that Prime Minister Abe's enthusiasm could smooth the way for any deal.
"It potentially does, but of course this is a matter for the Japanese. We are very sensitive to those issues, to the constitutional disposition and the domestic political situation. So we're very respectful of that.
"We'll be guided by his enthusiasm as we go forward."
He stressed that Australia was equally looking at French and German diesel-electric submarine technology.
He also swiftly rejected any suggestion that there was a tacit move to pressure Beijing, or that Australia's talks with Japan should be negatively viewed in China.
He revealed that Australia had helped pave the way for Beijing to get involved in the RIMPAC exercises. In an historic moment, Chinese navy ships set sail for the exercises this week.
"That's a very significant event and Australia's very pleased to have played a small role in securing their attendance. We encouraged them," he said.
He added that Canberra was balancing its security ties by also engaging Beijing and said he would be visiting China later this year.
But he also said that Japan was a natural fit for Australia's security interests.
"There's a synergy of values and a synergy of interests in security and defence ties being further expanded. I think we both feel very comfortable with each other."
Tony Abbott considers importing US-style school program with private industry involvement
Tony Abbott is considering an unprecedented Americanisation of the school education system with radical changes that could see HECS-style fees introduced into new continuous school-and post school diplomas, and private industry playing a heavy role in course design and production.
Visiting the P-TECH school in Brooklyn on his final day in New York, the Prime Minister praised the IBM-connected Pathways in Technology Early College high school, which offers a new model of education spanning grades 9 to 14 – that is with an extra two years bolted on in which the students gain a "associate in applied science" degree.
Under the arrangement operating at the Brooklyn school, IBM guarantees graduates at least an entry-level interview, putting them at the head of the line in a competitive labour market. The company and other industry partners can also provide mentors for each student.
"I belive this is is an innovative and valuable education model for us to consider in Australia," Mr Abbott said.
"So many young people get to the end of their time at school wondering what they are going to do for the rest of their lives, what job they are going to do the day after they leave.
"On the other hand, so many people who run businesses complain they can't find people to work in their business. "These are the sorts of issues we are wrestling with in Australia."
The P-TECH model is being rolled out across New York's five boroughs.
Under the framework in the US, the government still pays for the education but industry partners provide advice, mentoring, and support.
Mr Abbott conceded details were yet to be finalised but one option would be to charge students delayed fees for their extra education through HECS loans.
The government plans to clarify matters within months.
Mr Abbott said it was not inconsistent to be cutting money to the CSIRO while proposing to spend more money on this form of education and training.
"We can be strongly focused on science without spending more on particular institutions that are this space,' he said.
Mr Abbott arrived in Washington over night before a busy day of meetings with senior congressional leaders, including Democratic minority leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, Republican majority leader Eric Cantor, and Speaker John Boehner.
He will meet President Barack Obama on Thursday.
Bruce Wilson handed 'wad of notes' to Julia Gillard, says builder
A builder has told the royal commission into trade unions that former prime minister Julia Gillard paid for renovations at her house by personal cheque, despite allegedly receiving cash for the work from her then boyfriend Bruce Wilson.
Athol James, who completed a series of building jobs at Ms Gillard's Abbotsford house, including the installation of bi-fold doors, said she had told him Mr Wilson was paying for the work.
He told the royal commission on Wednesday that on two occasions he saw Mr Wilson "hand over a wad of notes".
In a sworn statement, Mr James said he was never paid in cash and that Ms Gillard told him that "as Bruce brought her the cash she would pay me by cheque".
"I never was paid in cash and I don't know what happened with the cash Bruce handed her," Mr James said in a sworn statement.
Wayne Hem, a former records keeper for Australian Workers Union, told the royal commission Mr Wilson gave him $5000 in cash and told him to deposit it into Ms Gillard's bank account. He said Mr Wilson gave him a Commonwealth bank account number on a piece of paper.
"I said I need the account name because they wouldn't accept it down at the bank. So it was Julia Gillard and I said OK," Mr Hem said.
Mr Hem said at the time he "did not know if the account was her private account or business account or a Slater&Gordon account".
Mr Hem said he presumed the money was for payment of work done at the Abbotsford house because renovations at Mr Wilson's Kerr Street property in Fitzroy had been completed and he presumed the work had been paid for.
Mr Hem also recalled visiting Ms Gillard's Abbotsford property with Bill Telikostoglou where he saw some painters that he had previously seen working at Mr Wilson's property at Kerr Street. In a sworn statement to the commission, Mr Hem said "I had not seen the painters before".
He said Mr Telikostoglou, known as "Bill the Greek" handed an envelope to one of the painters which he assumed contained money.
"I saw Con the builder in the kitchen and it looked like he had finished doing some tiling work," Mr Hem said it a sworn statement.
Mr Hem said he did not know the builder Con's surname.
Another builder, Konstantinos (Con) Spyridis told the royal commission he and his subcontractors had completed tiling work on Ms Gillard's verandah and her front picket fence, but he had never been inside the house.
He said he invoiced Ms Gillard $3500 for the work and she had paid it in two instalments. He said he went to her home in 1995 and handed her a second invoice.
"Sometime later, I recall receiving one bank cheque in the mail and later a second bank cheque in the mail for the outstanding amount for my work at the Abbotsford property," he said.
Mr Spyridis said he also received a cheque from the Australian Workers Union for $15,000 for work he completed at the union's Carlton office.
Mr Spyridis said he did not do any work at Mr Wilson's Kerr Street property.
Ms Gillard has said she was confident she had paid for the renovations on her house.
11 June, 2014
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is amazed that Pauline Hanson seems to have become something of an elder stateswoman
Tony Abbott seeks international alliance to restrict climate policies
Tony Abbott is seeking a conservative alliance among "like-minded" countries, aiming to dismantle global moves to introduce carbon pricing, and undermine a push by US President Barack Obama to push the case for action through forums such as the G20.
Visiting Ottawa for a full day of talks with the conservative Canadian Prime Minister and close friend Stephen Harper, Mr Abbott flagged intentions to build a new centre-right alliance led by Canada, Britain and Australia along with India and New Zealand.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper both say there is no need for carbon pricing to combat climate change.
All five Commonwealth countries now have "centre-right"-leaning governments but it is Mr Abbott's personal and philosophical closeness to Mr Harper that the Prime Minister regards as most important.
The combined front would attempt to counter recent moves by the Obama administration to lift the pace of climate change abatement via policies such as a carbon tax or state-based emissions trading. It is a calculated attempt to push back against what both leaders see as a left-liberal agenda in favour of higher taxes, unwise interventions to address global warming, and an unhealthy attitude of state intervention.
Mr Abbott's first visit to the US has begun on a shaky note after he characterised Mr Obama’s new push to reduce carbon pollution as a copy of "direct action" being pursued in Australia. Mr Abbott is due in New York on Monday local time.
Speaking at a media conference on Tuesday from the Canadian capital Ottawa along-side the anti-carbon tax prime minister Stephen Harper, Mr Abbott said the he was encouraged at the new US approach of requiring coal-fired power stations to cut emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, because it did not place a price on carbon but used regulation to cut pollution.
"We think that climate change is a significant problem, it’s not the only or even the most important problem the world faces but it is a significant problem and its important every country should take the action that it thinks is best to address emissions," he said.
"I am encouraged that President Obama is taking what I would regard as direct action measure to reduce emissions, this is very similar to the action my government proposes in Australia."
He said it was import that policies to address output did not "clobber the economy" while not helping the environment.
The comments were immediately backed up by Canada with Mr Harper declaring there was no chance of any country acting for the planet if it involved costs to its economy. "It's not that we don't seek to deal with climate change," he said. "We seek to deal with it in a way that enhances our ability to create jobs and growth, this is their position.
"No country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately harm jobs and growth in their country, we are just a bit more frank about that than other countries."
The uncompromising attitude of both leaders suggests neither is inclined to yield to pressure from the US to revive the issue of climate change ahead of next years’ climate summit, nor back any international coordination such as additional regulations or a trading scheme.
Last week, Mr Obama flagged regulatory changes aimed at influencing US states to adopt aggressive market interventions to address global warming - a move that has attracted criticism on the right that Mr Obama is acting now only because he is not seeking re-election.
US officials have also been pushing Australia - so far unsuccessfully - to include climate change on the agenda for November's G20 meeting in Brisbane.
In a statement certain to raise eyebrows in the US, Mr Abbott, who is to meet Mr Obama in the White House later this week, underlined his opposition to carbon pricing. "There is no sign - no sign - that trading schemes are increasingly being adopted," he said. "If anything, trading schemes are being discarded, not adopted."
Before leaving Australia, Mr Abbott said the G20 summit in November was primarily about economics and the United Nations was the place to discuss climate change.
"I'd be surprised if climate change doesn't come up as part of the G20," he said, though climate change will figure in discussions about energy efficiency.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten took aim at the Prime Minister's "flat-Earth views", accusing him of being out of touch with Australians and world leaders such as Mr Obama. He told Fairfax Media that climate change was "not just an economic issue, it is a security issue and it is absolutely an economic issue".
But Mr Shorten said that Mr Obama, along with other world leaders, had clearly recognised that clean air, low pollution and new technologies would be good for the global economy and job creation.
He said Mr Abbott "shouldn't shirk the issue when he meets President Obama later this week, and he shouldn't shirk the issue at the G20 later this year".
While mooted as a potential member of Mr Abbott's new coalition, British Prime Minister David Cameron has been vocal about the need to tackle climate change, describing it in February as "one of the most serious threats that the world faces". Britain, through membership of the European Union, and New Zealand both have emissions trading schemes in place.
NSW Nationals agree to plan for partial privatization of electricity infrastructure
The New South Wales Nationals have signed off on a deal to back the Baird Government's plan to partially sell off the state's electricity infrastructure.
The Nationals have agreed to a partial privatisation provided the company Essential Energy is kept out the mix.
National and Liberal MPs were bunkered down for hours of separate discussions this morning, ahead of joint party room meetings this afternoon.
The ABC understands the Nationals party room meeting was heated, but they were offered a trade-off for their support.
It is understood a separate meeting of Liberal MPs offered no opposition to Premier Mike Baird's plan.
Mr Baird says 49 per cent partial privatisation will unlock $20 billion for infrastructure, extensions to WestConnex and a second harbour rail crossing.
He says the transaction would raise around $13 billion and attract $2 billion in funding from the Federal government.
We’ve outlined our vision for NSW. We now need a mandate to go ahead with the transaction.
"The NSW Liberals and Nationals have agreed to lease poles and wires so we can continue rebuilding NSW."
The Government has also announced it will construct Sydney Rapid Transit (SRT), a 30-kilometre rail line to speed up travel for commuters, and three new underground stations in the Sydney CBD.
It says SRT will see 60 per cent more peak-hour trains, allowing an extra 100,000 people to travel per hour.
The Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner says $6 billion of the transaction will be allocated to projects in the regions, such as improving water security and roads.
"We can fix the roads that currently when it's wet are impassable to removing (whether it's) stock or other agricultural commodities," he said.
"We can fix the roads that are currently killing people at a frightening rate."
The State Opposition leader John Robertson says Labor will not be backing the plan.
"Anyone who believes that they're only going to sell 49 per cent and the rest isn't going to be sold is living in a fool's paradise," he said.
"We all know, everyone knows that once privatisation starts in a sector it doesn't stop until it's finished."
Anyone who believes that they're only going to sell 49 per cent and the rest isn't going to be sold is living in a fool's paradise
NSW Opposition leader John Robertson
"I can understand why Nationals MPs have said they don't want Essential Energy sold," he said.
"That's because they've got real concerns about the proposal.
"But if it's OK for Essential Energy to be exempted, then why should we be selling Endeavour, Ausgrid and Transgrid?"
Sydney Business Chamber spokeswoman Patricia Forsythe says it will benefit businesses across the state.
"The announcement from the Premier is exactly what business has been seeking," she said.
"We would say it's exciting and it's visionary and it does show the benefits that will flow if the Government is successful with the partial sale of the electricity transmission network."
OECD boss praises Australian budget for gradual return to surplus
The head of the world's leading economic agency, Angel Gurria, has praised the Federal Government's recent budget, calling it a 'sustainable, durable solution' to deficits.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's secretary-general says that the budget highlights a serious commitment to maintain Australia's stable government finances.
"We have seen with very great interest, and I think really with great expectations, that they are dealing very directly and decisively with the budget deficit," he told ABC television's The Business program.
"Mr Hockey has gone for a surplus in 2023, giving himself 9-10 years for a surplus. I think it's good timing, in a sense not overloading or frontloading too much at a time when recovery is still firming up."
Mr Gurria also praises the Federal Government's preference for spending cuts over tax increases in its first budget since taking office last year.
"You [Australia] went for 80 per cent cuts, one-fifth tax increase. We're always saying you should at least keep it balanced, this is a more sustainable, more durable type of solution. Once you cut the expenses it stays low, with taxes there are certain temptations," he said.
"It also tells the economic agents that in the medium and long term this situation moving into a balanced budget, or somewhat surplus budget, will allow Australia in the presence of growth to reduce its debt-to-GDP ratio."
Mr Gurria forecasts Australia will see a growth rate of about 2-2.5 percent this year, moving towards a 3 per cent growth rate next year.
The most recent official figures put Australia's growth for the year to March 31 at 3.5 per cent, while the Reserve Bank's latest forecast is for 2.75 per cent growth in 2014.
The OECD says the eurozone is improving overall, but is fragile with the downside risks still there.
"2014 is going to be better, and 2015 we have forecast it's going to continue to reaffirm this trend, but all modestly better, a modest improvement, nothing to write home about," added Mr Gurria.
For emerging economies, the situation has reversed, with countries including Brazil, South Africa and Mexico slowing down, and China holding at about 7.5 per cent growth.
Helmets for everyone!
To those who have experienced the sense of freedom and the exhilaration of breeze in their hair, riding a bicycle—how confining and claustrophobic the idea of a helmet! But cycling without a helmet is something about which Australians only can dream. "I ride a bike and I never wear a helmet ...” remarked a leading British neurosurgeon at the 2014 Hay Festival in Wales, UK.
Our public health authorities regard cycling as inherently dangerous and risky. Every transport jurisdiction obliges cyclists to wear a helmet, although the Northern Territory exempts those over the age of 17 on footpaths and cycle paths. States introduced mandatory helmet laws in the early 1990s in exchange for ‘black spot’ road funding from a Federal Labor government.
The Queensland government’s recent response to its Parliamentary Inquiry into cycling epitomises a prevailing wisdom about Australia’s helmet laws. It rejected a series of its Inquiry’s modest recommendations to relax them, including a 24-month trial along the lines of the Northern Territory’s model with an exemption in streets with speed limits up to 60 kph.
Australia’s helmet laws are unique—apart from New Zealand’s which followed Australia’s in 1994. In most countries, use of bicycle helmets is voluntary or applies only to children; although laws with exemptions apply in some North American state and provincial jurisdictions and in Finland and Spain.
Epidemiological evidence of the impact of helmet laws on head injuries is doubtful. Despite a similar hourly risk of death from head injury for unhelmeted cyclists and motor vehicle occupants, only cyclists must wear head protection. So far as the effect of Australia’s helmet laws deters cycling, they reduce the health benefits that come with cycling.
Analysis of data after helmet law was introduced in NSW revealed that head injuries fell 40%.It is impossible to determine, however, whether this could be attributed to increased helmet wearing or reduced cycling because of the helmet law.Non-head injuries fell by almost as much as head injuries, suggesting the main explanation was reduced cycling.
Helmet laws impose costs on cyclists associated with purchasing helmets and the inconvenience of wearing them. A cost-benefit analysis of helmet law analysing injury rates before and after its implementation in New Zealand shows that for adults, helmet costs outweigh the value of health savings.
In the Netherlands, where use of bicycles is the world's highest, helmets are a heresy. In Amsterdam the probability of death from a cycling accident for an average cyclist is once each 63,368 years. Hence, even if it were possible to show that use of cycle helmets may reduce relative risk, absolute risk of mortality without them remains extremely small.
Australia’s regime of mandatory helmet law for cyclists is discriminatory, inefficient and infringes personal autonomy. It is another manifestation of public health zealotry. Apart from violating the principle of personal choice on helmet use, evidence supporting compulsion remains in contention. Many Australians nevertheless are accustomed to accepting encroachments on personal liberty. They have no experience of the alternative.
10 June, 2014
Warren Ryan has a point about racism and classics
Ryan was a football commentator for Australia's ABC
If nothing else, Warren Ryan's use of the term "darky" during a football call draws attention to the remarkable power of words.
Ryan's defence that the word appeared in Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone With The Wind might seem a tad lame at first blush – after all, the sensitivities involved in dealing with racism, especially in sport, would not exactly be news to someone in his position.
But is Ryan a dinosaur that time has left behind? Or are we so worried about even appearing to hold a racist view that we find ourselves "investigating" people for being in the same room as someone who drops a howler?
This is certainly the situation Ryan's co-commentator David Morrow finds himself in.
Ryan has a point, in as much as being vilified for referring to a work of literature takes us into troubling territory.
Such controversies have always been with us – it's the context that changes.
When the Gone With The Wind film appeared in 1939, no one batted an eyelid at words like "darky". The firestorm was over Clark Gable's "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn".
In 2014, you wouldn't be arrested for tearing pictures of golliwogs out of Enid Blyton books in Martin Place, screaming "This book is a f---ing disgrace!"
You can't buy golliwog books any more, and it's not just kids' books. Joseph Conrad's The Nigger of the Narcissus was on high school reading lists in the '70s. You would be hard-pressed to find a copy in a school library anywhere today.
Our caution about hurting the feelings of others is admirable, and a vast improvement on the self-serving assumptions of the past.
But we must not rewrite history.
Cruel racism is easy to spot and we do give a damn, but by the same token we don't want The Merchant of Venice going the way of The Nigger of the Narcissus.
Qld to absorb pensioner, senior cuts
QUEENSLAND'S pensioners and seniors will be better off after the Newman government backflipped on concessions.
The federal government cut $223 million for water, electricity and rate concessions over four years, and the Tuesday state budget only picked up 10 per cent of the shortfall.
The grey army took the Newman government to task on talk-back radio and on Thursday Premier Campbell Newman announced he'll now fund the full gap.
"We're not only listening to Queenslanders, but we're acting within the space of two days to reinstate the full level of pensioner and senior concessions," he told parliament.
Government backbenchers Sean Choate and Neil Symes Tweeted that Mr Newman had "directed" the treasurer Tim Nicholls to come to the table, but Mr Choate has since said it was a poor choice of words.
Mr Nicholls said he was "absolutely not" overruled.
While the treasurer didn't say when he changed his mind, he had listened to the Queensland Council of Social Services at a breakfast on Thursday morning.
"It is better for us to relieve pensioners and concession card holders of the worry," Mr Nicholls said.
To pay for the shortfall, Queensland would consider withholding or recoup funding from commonwealth programs they ask states to contribute to.
Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said the misstep won't be quickly forgotten. "The ink isn't even dry on this budget and the premier has scrambled to save his own political skin," she said.
"He made a choice in his budget where he could help Queensland pensioners or hurt them. "He chose to hurt them."
The opposition delivered its budget reply speech on Thursday.
Exactly how Labor would pay down Queensland's $80 billion debt won't be revealed until closer to next year's election.
The Newman government has given voters an ultimatum - $33 billion worth of assets must be sold to fund new infrastructure and pay down debt.
Ms Palaszczuk says it is a political strategy tailored to create a slush fund to buy votes. It would lead to higher charges and an "Americanised economy" of low wages and no job security, Ms Palaszczuk said.
Labor would hold onto assets and use their revenue to lower debt and invest in new infrastructure.
But a detailed strategy wasn't released in Ms Palaszczuk's budget reply speech on Thursday. "We will be releasing a comprehensive plan ahead of the next state election to pay down the increase in general government debt under the Newman government," she told parliament.
Bob Hawke and John Howard: former political combatants impart lessons learnt
For a moment there, if you took away the cameras and the lights, they could have been two old codgers, the years having given them a companionable ease, the tough times done, yarning and imparting wisdom on the steps of a small-town post office.
They were instantly recognisable, of course: the two longest-serving prime ministers of Australia's modern era.
Bob Hawke, 84, a bit stooped but still crested with the silver mane; John Howard, 74, still trimmed by dawn powerwalks in a tracksuit, the eyes startling now he's had laser surgery and the spectacles have gone.
There was no need now for the fire that once sparked between them in the theatre of Parliament or on the hustings.
They came from a time when political opponents shared not only regard - regularly invisible, of course, amid the shouting - but a behind-the-scenes friendship of sorts; an era almost unrecognisable these often-hateful days.
Their relationship was rarely better displayed than a night in 1988 when tomfoolery broke out across the Old Parliament House as MPs prepared to move up the hill to the great new monolith.
Prime minister Bob Hawke and opposition leader John Howard threw arms across each other's shoulders and bawled out the old socialist anthem, the Internationale.
"Bob," Howard conceded fondly when reminded by Fairfax Media on Wednesday of that long-ago event, "had the better voice".
Hawke and Howard had given 57 addresses between them to the National Press Club during their long political careers, always separately. In celebration of the club's 50th anniversary, they made their 58th appearance as a duo on Wednesday.
Hawke, ever the larrikin, couldn't resist recalling his rapid rise to The Lodge in 1983, declaring he had enjoyed the ideal period in the worst job in politics: Opposition Leader.
"Three weeks," he cackled. "The only bloody way to be leader of the opposition, I tell you!"
Howard, who was twice opposition leader - once for four years before being ditched by his own colleagues - ruminated that the Australian people almost always got their judgments right about who should be in government.
"I mean, I would say that, I suppose both of us would say that. We would think on some occasions we got it spectacularly right," he chortled, Hawke joining in.
The former combatants weren't at the press club for the wisecracking, however.
They had the indulgence of elders to impart what they had learned.
Hawke worried that today's Parliament was held by the community "if not in contempt, in disdain, and I do think that something ought to be done to lift the quality of performance".
The opposition, he suggested, should support the government without argument on important issues where there was "a degree of consensus".
Howard pointed out that he, as opposition leader, had done just that in the 1980s on the Hawke government's major economic reforms such as floating the dollar and reducing tariffs.
Both agreed the fundamental task of successful leaders was to make their arguments to the people, taking the country with them on the big reforms.
Politics, said Howard, had become less ideological.
"Now, that's good in a way, because one thing I learnt about politics - and I'm sure Bob's experience would have been the same - Australians fundamentally don't like zealots, fanatics. It's part of our deep Celtic scepticism...and long may we remain suspicious of fanatics.
"The bad part of it is that we sometimes lose the capacity to argue the case. We think it's sufficient that we utter slogans. In truth, in politics you need slogans and arguments."
Hawke worried about the future of the world, where technology and science could "either lift the standard and quality of life of all mankind, or, on the other hand, destroy life on this planet as we know it".
His hope was for Australia to help persuade the world to take the former path.
And on they went.
In an era of slogans and shouting, we could have listened to the two old codgers yarning all day. Neither Tony Abbott, who was on his way to Indonesia, nor Bill Shorten attended.
Saudi influence in Australia
While minority Islam continues to spread its influence world-wide, it seems the hard-line Saudis are also behind the proliferation of mosques across Australia. One of which is the proposed Bendigo mega mosque.
Mosque promoters, The Islamic Association’s web page is being administered from Saudi Arabia. The site is Aussiemuslims.com and it solicits donations, however the location of the administrator is listed as Madinah al-Munawarrah (Medina) in Saudi Arabia. Why would a site purporting to be "Aussie Muslims” be run out of Saudi Arabia?
In recent years Saudi Arabia has been pouring money into Australia to establish mosques and Islamic schools. There are reported to be current applications for mosque approvals in 17 major centres across Australia from Horsham to Cairns.
It is widely suspected funds are also being utilised from the Halal Certification protection racket being run in Australia out of Indonesia. This blatant blackmail and extortion racket operating on our food chains has the Federal Government’s approval in the name of "cultural acceptance”.
Bendigo Bank, which was once a boutique alternative to the four majors, is now number five with a sensitive nose for petro dollars.
It has joined with other banks to become a major player in the pursuit of mosque proliferation.
The proposed Bendigo mega mosque is set to destroy the iconic city as a showcase of Australia’s gold rich heritage.
9 June, 2014
Struggling pensioners opt to leave Australia for a cheaper country
The article below and headline above is another effort from dear little Cosima Marriner, who has a lot of blonde hair but is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. The basic datum upon which she relies is that in 2012 a total of 38,000 elderly Italians, Greeks and Kiwis returned to their home countries to spend their retirement. Why that proves anything is anyone's guess and it should be neither surprising nor alarming to anyone. I would have thought that it is the business of the people concerned only
She notes a substantial increase in emigration between 2007 and 2012 but fails to mention that she is referring to the period of the Labor government being in office. So if there is any blame to be handed out, she should be attacking Rudd and Gillard. She in fact mentions only the current government. No prizes for guessing that she writes for the frantically Leftist Sydney Morning Herald!
Age pensioners are moving overseas where they can live more cheaply, as the pension fails to keep pace with the cost of living and their superannuation proves inadequate.
As the federal government moves to extend the retirement age to 70, government data shows there was a 30 per cent increase in the number of people claiming the Australian age pension living overseas between 2007 and 2012. Over the same time, the total number of age pensioners grew only 17 per cent.
There are 2.3 million people receiving an age pension, a figure that is steadily climbing as the population ages. About 3 per cent of these pensioners live overseas.
The government slashed $2.1 billion from pension spending in last month's budget.
Fair work commission: what a misnomer that is
JAMES Bond preferred his martinis shaken not stirred. I prefer my regulators boring not activist. I also prefer efficient not profligate.
Now there are quite a few regulators I could pick on, but recent developments at the Fair Work Commission are right up there when it comes to manipulated processes, inappropriate spending and poor decisions.
In fact, if you go to the revamped website of the FWC, you might initially think you are looking at the site of some low-rent business consultant trying to drum up work. The heading screams: "Creating Fair Workplaces: find information on creating fair and productive work-places and preventing workplace disputes”.
The site has information on the commission’s engagement strategy, stakeholder engagement, workplace engagement, research community, international engagement and workplace relations education. Yes, I can hear you groaning. Please, spare us stakeholder engagement.
And what is the FWC doing spending money on international engagement? Note to Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann: this outfit is clearly overfunded.
Let’s face it – the FWC (and its predecessor bodies) has always been a strange beast. Based on the profoundly mistaken proposition that its findings can somehow overrule market forces, the institution barrels on, seemingly oblivious to the transformation of the Australian economy and labour market.
Most members of the FWC, whose appointments are the result of political and trade union allegiances, live in some sort of parallel world while employers struggle to make payroll and a decent return on the capital and effort involved in running businesses.
While seemingly impossible, the FWC has taken a distinct turn for the worse since the appointment of Labor mate Iain Ross as president in 2012.
Ross was, once upon a time, an assistant secretary at the ACTU, before being appointed to the Australia Industrial Relations Commission in 1994 at the age of 35. He didn’t stay long and opted for a judicial appointment in Victoria where Labor was in office.
Now, like some over-exuberant, newly appointed business executive, Ross has taken an axe to any arrangements at the FWC he disliked, brought in new staff and rejigged processes. The flaunty website is just one manifestation of the new broom.
Amazingly, the politically motivated and partisan way in which the Labor government appointed new members to the FWC was largely ignored by the press. More than 90 per cent of appointees were either former union officials or Labor friends.
Certainly, some of these appointments preceded Ross. There was the convenient appointment of Ian Cambridge, former national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, effectively preventing him from saying anything publicly about the AWU slush fund scandal involving Julia Gillard.
And then there was the very expedient appointment of former general manager of the FWC, Tim Lee, which then prevented him from answering questions before the Senate estimates committee about the unforgivably drawn out FWC investigation of Craig Thomson’s misuse of Health Service Union funds.
The most egregious example of all is the appointment of two new vice-presidents, undertaken at the suggestion of Ross, with union bestie Bill Shorten then as workplace minister, more than happy to oblige.
Not only were their services not needed, their appointment effectively downgraded the seniority of two long-serving vice-presidents (but ranked as deputy presidents), both of whom were regarded with suspicion by the Labor government.
Now one of the new vice-presidents is hogging all the important cases, while other vice-presidents are left twiddling their thumbs. As for those other deputy presidents, they are pushed further down the pecking order.
In an extraordinary development, one of the members of FWC publicly wrote to the president raising concerns about the process of selecting commissioners to deal with significant cases. In typical PR style, the only comment from the FWC was "it is not possible for the commission to comment. It is entirely dependent upon what the author regards as ‘significant’.”
Come on. We have a five-commissioner review of the modern award system and one of the new vice-presidents is given the gig ahead of the demoted vice-president who was involved in the initial case.
And then there has been the complete schemozzle of the review of the default superannuation funds included in awards. Ross has now decided to appoint himself to this panel, further contaminating a completely flawed process. (Note to government: legislate to remove default superannuation funds in awards.)
All the time, the FWC is spending taxpayer money on ‘‘research" undertaken by organisations with views in line with the president, while sidelining all other organisations. It is spending taxpayer money on a blatantly slanted workplace relations education series, including lectures and mock hearings.
Now maybe the public might be prepared to tolerate all this superfluous and expensive guff if the FWC did a good job at the main tasks set down in the legislation, but here, it is clearly failing in its main undertakings.
The FWC cannot even get the simple things right. Effectively, the modern awards that the FWC created were simply the result of stuffing together state and federal awards and moving to the highest common denominators.
Modern awards, covering some 16 per cent of the workforce, are badly worded, ambiguous and confusing.
Analysis undertaken by the Fair Work ombudsman found that of the 122 modern awards, 85 per cent do not state clearly when overtime and penalty rates apply. In fact, just five modern awards clearly state when penalty rates apply. Is it any wonder that employers are confused?
The FWC has also handed down a series of quite bizarre and economically irresponsible decisions including: the pay equity determination in respect of social and community service workers; lifting the pay for apprentices; eliminating junior rates of pay for 20-year-olds; and refusing to countenance any serious changes to penalty rates arrangements.
The FWC is a relic of a bygone era in which industries were protected, the financial system was regulated and a majority of workers belonged to trade unions. While its reputation has hit rock-bottom, sadly its decision-making processes roll on, damaging businesses and marginal workers alike.
Ross is proving to be an extremely divisive leader who has effectively politicised the FWC. The government needs to take note. Appointing an appellate body to review the decisions of the FWC is a good first step to taming the beast, but it may not be enough.
Slack Australian ship-builders have finally cut their own throats
THE future of naval shipbuilding in Australia hangs in the balance after the Abbott Government excluded local yards from a major new contract due to poor project performance.
In the first sign that the government has had enough, Defence will go offshore to buy two new replenishment ships for the fleet for $1.5 billion.
News Corp Australia last month revealed that the government was considering a Korean solution for the project to replace the ageing supply ships HMAS Success and HMAS Sirius and Defence Minister David Johnston announced a two-horse competition between Korean giant Daewoo Shipbuilding and Spanish builder Navantia.
Australian shipbuilders including BAE Systems in Melbourne, ASC in Adelaide and Forgacs in Newcastle have been deliberately excluded by the hard-line move that will place thousands of jobs at risk.
Senator Johnston blamed the "poor performance” of Australian yards working on the $8.5 billion Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) project, but added that the ships at more than 20,000 tonnes were too big for Australian yards.
The prime culprit has been the Adelaide based and taxpayer owned ASC and its teaming partners US giant Raytheon and the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO.
"No responsible government could consider providing further work to an industry that is performing so poorly,” Senator Johnston said.
BAE System"s Williamstown dockyard, that has been performing well on several big projects and was a prime candidate for the replenishment ship job, appears to have been caught in the crossfire.
The future of the Melbourne shipyard and thousands of jobs is now uncertain given that the competition for 20 new Pacific Patrol boats will take years to decide.
However, it could be thrown a lifeline under the remediation plans for the AWD project with two ships left to build.
Senator Johnston announced an open competition to supply 20 new steel-hulled Pacific patrol boats job and a $78 million injection for preliminary engineering and design work in Australia for Navy"s future frigate.
He also announced yet another review of naval shipbuilding and the long-term needs of the Navy.
Unions warned that sending work offshore would cost jobs and skills. "If the government is aiming to create a shipbuilding industry that"s up to international benchmark standard, ensuring there is work is a good first step," AMWU national assistant secretary Glenn Thompson said.
BAE Systems said it would be putting a strong case to the Government that it was ready to take on additional work and responsibilities to help deliver the AWD project.
ASC said it was focused on ensuring the global competitiveness of the shipbuilding industry and it welcomed the including of the Korean solution, which it had proposed in 2013, for the replenishment ship project.
"As well as providing the required capability for the RAN, constructing auxiliary ships also provided one opportunity for ASC to maintain our Adelaide workforce," it said in a statement.
Shorten by name, short-sighted by nature
SELLING the Budget should not have been as difficult a task as it is proving to be for the Abbott government.
The fundamentals are obvious to any intelligent person and were obvious to previous Labor leaders, notably those true reformers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.
Both were well aware that no nation could keep spending forever without having to settle the inevitable debts.
This fact of life has eluded Opposition leader Bill Shorten, who for purely political purposes has even reneged on his own campaign pledges to thwart the elected government’s mandate to restore some sanity to the economy.
Shorten by name, short-sighted by nature.
His tactic is reminiscent of the disgraceful decision by former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell, when in opposition, not to support Labor premier Morris Iemma’s 2008 attempt to reconcile the state budget by privatising the power industry.
In doing so, and in refusing to agree to the sale of poles and wires when in office, despite urging from treasurer Mike Baird, O’Farrell stalled the development of much-needed NSW infrastructure.
Baird will reverse that decision, finally, and the state will be better off.
But the Abbott government should have always known Labor would be unlikely to put the national interest first.
8 June, 2014
Australia a solid supporter of Israel over East Jerusalem
The Abbott government has pointedly refused to call East Jerusalem occupied, sparking Palestinian accusations Australia is taking a radical pro-Israel stance.
In a statement to a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday morning, Attorney-General George Brandis said it was unhelpful to the Middle East peace process to bring up historical events.
The carefully drafted statement followed a heated hearing late on Wednesday night in which, under questioning from opposition and crossbench senators, Senator Brandis repeatedly refused to say whether East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel.
East Jerusalem is a lightning rod in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The UN deems it an occupied territory and says Israel's unification of Jerusalem in 1980 is illegal under international law.
Senator Brandis said that Australia supported a peaceful resolution in the Middle East, but added: The description of areas which are subject to negotiations in the course of the peace process by reference to historical events is unhelpful.
The description of East Jerusalem as 'Occupied East Jerusalem' is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful.
East Jerusalem has been under Israeli control since the 1967 war. Recent Middle East peace talks broke down at the end of April.
In November, the Abbott government quietly registered Australia's opposition to a UN resolution ordering an end to all Israeli settlement activities in all of the occupied territories.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop subsequently questioned in an interview with an Israeli newspaper whether the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank was illegal.
Izzat Abdulhadi, chairman of the General Delegation of Palestine, which provides Palestinian diplomatic representation in Australia, said the statement was part of a trend favouring Israel since the Abbott government took office.
This statement is really outrageous, he said. East Jerusalem is an integral part of the occupied territories and that has been recognised by the UN and under international law.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who led the questioning of Senator Brandis, pointed to statements from Coalition ministers going back to the late 1970s and 1980s in which they call East Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories occupied.
It's an extraordinary and reckless departure from the bipartisan approach of the last 47 years, he said.
ICAC finds Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi corrupt over retail leases at Sydney's Circular Quay
Part of the corrupt NSW ALP has had a bright light shone on it
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found former NSW Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi acted corruptly over retail leases at Sydney's Circular Quay.
As part of a long-running inquiry, ICAC investigated allegations that Mr Obeid lobbied to have the leases at Circular Quay renewed without a competitive tender. It also investigated if his family had a secret financial stake in the leases.
In a report released today, ICAC found Mr Obeid "misused his position as an MP" to make representations to ministers and to former senior public servant Steve Dunn on various occasions in relation to the retail leases.
Mr Obeid has also been found corrupt for misusing his position as an MP to benefit his family's financial interests in Direct Health Solutions and generous water licences over their Bylong Valley farm.
It has recommended the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) consider charging Mr Obeid with misconduct in public office.
ICAC also found Mr Dunn, the former chief executive of NSW Maritime, acted corruptly over the leases, though it has not recommended charges be laid against him or Mr Tripodi.
During the inquiry in October 2013 dramatic vision was shown of ICAC officers finding cash totalling over $31,000 during a raid on Mr Obeid's offices at Birkenhead Point.
Melbourne University to cut 540 administrative jobs
The University of Melbourne plans to cut 540 administrative jobs as part of a $70 million savings program.
Staff members were told the news at a meeting earlier today. The job cuts do not include academic staff.
The university's vice chancellor, Professor Glyn Davis, issued a statement after the meeting.
It was not an easy message to deliver, or receive, that the university has to undertake this reduction in the total number of professional staff
"We are hopeful we can minimise the impact on staff through natural attrition as the university had a turnover of 635 professional staff last year, and 580 the previous year.
"We will focus on reducing the total number of casual and fixed term staff where we can and offer minimal redundancies."
The structural changes are a part of the university's Business Improvement Program. As part of the cuts some academic support services will be either centralised or automated. The university wants to make the cuts by January 1, 2016.
National Tertiary Education Union's Victorian secretary Colin Long said the cuts mean students will be paying more and getting less.
"We think about 50 per cent of student support services will be put online," he said. "So students won't be able to speak to someone directly during enrolment processes very often."
Mr Long said the University of Melbourne was not the first to introduce these type of cuts. "It's had a devastating effect on those universities and after a few years we can almost guarantee it will be reversed."
Three current reports below
Blackout on green projects if target for renewables is axed
Peter Keatley is a sheep farmer. But the 59-year-old, whose property sits in NSW on the outskirts of Canberra, is also in the business of harvesting wind.
What federal treasurer of a country says he would like to stop the investment of Australian public companies?
The Keatley farm hosts five giant wind turbines, which are set to generate an inflation-adjusted $50,000 a year for at least 25 years.
This income will allow Keatley to pass his farm on to his son rather than selling out when he retires. "I love them," the 59 year-old says. "They've turned my life around."
Their very construction, with huge cranes and machines, "was the best period of my life," Keatley enthuses. "I was like a kid in a lolly shop."
The turbines on his farm are, Keatley points out, "the very first ones you see" across Lake George on the approach to Canberra from Sydney.
So it may have been these very turbines that Treasurer Joe Hockey was referring to when, in a radio interview last month, he spoke of the "utterly offensive" towers he has seen on his drive into Canberra.
In the interview, with Sydney radio presenter Alan Jones, Hockey added that, in the case of existing wind farms, "We can't knock those ones off because they're into locked-in schemes and there is a certain contractual obligation I'm told associated with those things."
It was a comment that alarmed Miles George, the managing director of Infigen Energy - the Australian Securities Exchange-listed company that operates the Keatley farm turbines and hundreds more across Australia.
"What federal treasurer of a country says he would like to stop the investment of Australian public companies?" Mr George said. "I still can't believe he said that."
This week saw US President Barack Obama unveil the most ambitious policy in US history to cut greenhouse gas emissions - a requirement for 1600 power plants to cut emissions 30 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 - and news that China was also working on a cap for its greenhouse gas emissions.
Last week, South Korea announced plans to cap carbon emissions as part of a carbon trading scheme kicking off at the start of next year.
In Australia, however, the clean energy sector - which by its own count employs 24,000 people and has generated $20 billion in investment - feels under siege, amid government plans to dismantle climate agencies and uncertainty about the future of the nation's Renewable Energy Target.
The price of Large-Scale Generation Certificates (LGC) has plummeted, to the point where new renewable energy developments will not be viable and will struggle to get finance, according to industry figures.
Electricity retailers must buy these certificates - which are generated by renewable energy projects like wind farms - to meet their requirements under the Renewable Energy Target, creating a constant demand for the certificates.
Scrapping the target, or reducing it, means less demand for the certificates and less demand for renewable energy projects - and a reduced willingness for investment in the sector.
Since the start of the year, shares in renewable-focused companies have dived as the wider market has rallied.
G20 not a place to discuss climate change, says BHP chief
The chief executive of the world's largest miner, BHP Billiton, has backed Prime Minister Tony Abbott's decision to keep climate change off this year's G20 agenda, despite concerns Australia is increasingly viewed as being disengaged from the international climate debate.
In the same week that United States president Barack Obama pledged to slash carbon emissions from power plants by 30 per cent on 2005 levels, and China flagged an unprecedented absolute cap on emissions, Mr Abbott signalled he would pass on the opportunity to use Australia's leadership role as host of the G20 to focus on climate change – arguing the November summit in Brisbane was primarily an "economic meeting" to discuss matters of finance and trade.
"I don't think that's a backward step," BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie told reporters in Beijing, where he was attending meetings as part of a trade and business advisory panel advising the G20. "I agree with the Australian government with this. If you try and use [the G20] to solve all the problems of the world, you'll solve none. It's better to concentrate on a few things and do them really well."
Mr Mackenzie said he accepted there was a "long-term need" to have a pricing mechanism for carbon to drive the innovation that would "ultimately decarbonise the creation of energy around the world" – but insisted Labor's tax would have done more harm to the economy than good.
"That's kind of a mixed message, I accept," he said.
The BHP chief, who was also on the tail-end of a 10-day tour of China, Japan, Korea and India, which included meetings with some of the miner's largest customers, also insisted the mining giant remained an attractive long-term investment prospect for shareholders despite sharp falls in the iron ore price and persistent concerns over China's economic outlook.
Key to its Asian strategy remains the "creeping" increase of metallurgical coal and iron ore exports, but Mr Mackenzie said the miner was "much more likely to make major investments in what we feel is the next phase of China's growth in energy and food", including copper and potash – an ingredient for fertiliser.
But Mr Mackenzie was lukewarm on the prospects of uranium, despite a state-backed push to invest in nuclear energy in China.
He also downplayed the role of India as a key export market for BHP, citing its ability to fall back on its own abundant resources.
Global miners including Australia's Rio Tinto and Fortescue have banked on a sustained increase in iron ore demand from China, ramping up capacity to unprecedented levels.
But a slowdown in China's economic growth, and increasing fears of a sharp correction in its residential property market, has contributed to over-supply and concerns current depressed iron ore prices will persist.
China's top economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, warned last month that it didn't expect iron ore prices to pick up from its current two-year lows for at least another quarter.
"I don't see any reason why the price is going to turn around and shoot back up," Tim Murray of J Capital Research said. "This is not August 2012 when there was massive stimulus, sentiment turned around and everyone bought as much iron ore as they could."
Mr Mackenzie said he did not comment on "short-term trends" and said China's long-term urbanisation trend would see steel production reach 1.1 billion tonnes within the next decade.
He downplayed a recent redundancy round in Western Australia, where a reported 100 jobs were lost, saying the company constantly sought efficiencies.
Solar users the champagne and latte sipping set: Tim Nicholls
Treasurer Tim Nicholls has described Queenslanders who took part in Labor's solar bonus scheme as "champagne sippers and the latte set", while labelling the program "middle class welfare".
In an attack on the opposition during parliamentary question time on Thursday, Mr Nicholls took a question from LNP MP Kerry Millard on "how the government is building on its strong plan for a brighter future".
He used the question to criticise Labor's economic track record and - encouraged by an interjection from the Premier who has solar panels on his home, but does not receive the 44-cent feed-in-tariff - turned into an attack on those who do.
"The only idea he [Curtis Pitt] has put forward in terms of dealing with anything of economic sense was to reintroduce the solar bonus scheme...how did that work? It worked by adding $3 billion to the cost of power bills for Queenslanders to 2027-28," he said.
"Disgracefully, it worked to penalise those people who could least afford to install solar power.
"So those people who were paying for the middle class welfare that Labor was putting out there - for the champagne sippers and the latte set - with whom they hang around all the time in terms of making themselves feel good, but making the rest of Queenslanders pay for it."
Just under 285,000 households signed up to Labor's 44 cent feed-in-tariff scheme. Another 40,000 households received the 8 cent feed-in tariff until a recent legislation change, which means they will now have to negotiate directly with energy retailers.
Lindsay Soutar, the National Director of Solar Citizens, a solar power lobby group, said the Queensland government was "demonising" solar users.
"We know that most households that installed solar have in fact been households on lower and middle incomes," she said. "That is because these folks are more sensitive to rises in power prices and solar is one of the best ways to take back control over power bills.
"So typically, it is the outer suburbs and people in regional areas, not the inner-city chardonnay set."
The Queensland Competition Authority recently announced the average home annual power bill would increase by another $200 in the next financial year.
Ms Soutar addressed a Queensland solar users forum in Brisbane overnight, discussing options to "go off the grid".
"The price of solar has just plummeted in the last five years, which is why it has become an affordable choice and that is something that continues to be attractive," she said.
"Which is why the big power companies and the Queensland government are so against solar, because essentially they can see why people are finding it so attractive, and looking for other options away from the big power companies."
6 June, 2014
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks Malcolm Turnbull is in the wrong party
Team full of Leftist hate at public broadcaster
THE Chaser team has defied the ABC managing director Mark Scott by declaring it will never apologise to The Australian columnist Chris Kenny for its offensive skit, thus flouting the terms of a defamation settlement.
Nine months after the skit depicting Kenny as a "dog f. ker" first aired on the election-night edition of The Hamster Decides, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the ABC had mishandled the affair and former ABC chairman Maurice Newman said the Chaser team was defying management.
Hours before the ABC broadcast an on-air apology last night to Kenny, the Chaser presenter named in the defamation suit, Andrew Hansen, appeared to defy the terms of the settlement in a tweet: "ABC’s apologising to Chris Kenny, again. The Chaser isn’t, again. But we’ve agreed not to make more pictures of ABC execs shagging hamsters.”
The Chaser’s Chris Taylor posted on Facebook: "Just to be clear. The Chaser team is not apologising, and will never apologise to Chris Kenny. Tonight’s on-air apology is from the ABC, not us.”
Both statements appeared to breach the terms of the ABC’s settlement with Kenny that specified members of the Chaser team would not make public statements that "detract” from the apology.
This clause in the settlement, which also included the ABC paying Kenny’s legal fees and some damages, was intended to prevent a repeat of the way The Chaser’s Julian Morrow undermined Mr Scott’s personal apology to Kenny in April. Mr Scott refused to respond to questions yesterday about whether statements made by the Chaser presenters breached the terms of the settlement. A source close to the ABC said, "If management is not able to insist that its instructions be followed then what you have is anarchy.”
Mr Turnbull welcomed the apology but said the entire affair had been mishandled by the ABC. "My only regret is that immediately following the tasteless skit the ABC did not apologise to Mr Kenny," he said. "I have no doubt that would have settled the matter. As it is, the only winner out of this mishandled episode has been the legal profession.”
Mr Newman said the "arrogant” Chaser team clearly thought it was "above and beyond the authority” of ABC management. "The Chaser team’s arrogance knows no bounds," he said. "I think it shows defiance for whatever authority the ABC management has.
"If the terms of the settlement are correct, they are disregarding the authority of the ABC management. I don’t know what other conclusion you can reach.”
Last night, Morrow said he did not think the comments by Taylor and Hansen were in breach of the settlement. "They are consistent in every respect," he said. "I don’t think anything I’ve done today detracts from the settlement or the apology and I don’t think any of us have. I think the idea that we allow or don’t allow people to comment on Facebook is a little misguided."
Kenny said he was disappointed. "Like most taxpayers, I have high expectations of the ABC, not of the so-called Chaser boys," he said. "If Mark Scott is encountering resistance to his obedience training, that is his problem.”
Dead koalas and possums found in refugees' car blamed on cultural misunderstanding
Four Burmese refugees have avoided convictions after being caught with three dead koalas and 14 dead possums in their car in South Australia.
Cho Win Aung, Htay Aung, Eh Nay Moo and Mwee Say Htoo faced the Magistrates Court at Mount Gambier in the south-east of South Australia charged with possessing carcasses.
The court heard police pulled over a utility last February and officers noticed a strong smell of burnt flesh.
In the rear of the vehicle they found two dead adult koalas and a baby koala, along with 14 dead ringtail possums.
The animals had no fur and were charred.
The group's lawyer told the court the four were unaware they were committing an offence, as in refugee camps in Thailand the hunting of animals to supplement the diet was commonplace.
The magistrate expressed confidence the offence arose from a cultural misunderstanding and that the group would not reoffend.
Retailers warn of job cuts after Fair Work Commission lifts minimum wage by $18.70 per week
Roughly double the U.S. figure. Compare with the SeaTac experience
Retailers have warned that staff will have to be sacked in the wake of a decision to raise the minimum wage by $18.70 a week.
Unions, however, say the increase of 3 per cent from July 1 - a rise to $640.90 per week - will not be enough to help workers cope with extra costs stemming from the federal budget.
The decision by the nation's industrial umpire, the Fair Work Commission (FWC), will directly affect around 1.5 million Australians on award wages.
FWC president Justice Iain Ross said there had recently been almost no growth in the real value of award wages while other employees had enjoyed substantial pay increases.
"The deterioration in the relative living standards of award-reliant workers, the needs of the low-paid, the recent widespread improvement in labor productivity growth, the historically low levels of real unit labor costs, and the absence, in aggregate, of cost pressures from the labour market, are all factors favouring a real increase in minimum wages," he said.
One moderating factor was the 0.25 per cent increase to the superannuation rate to apply from July 1.
The ACTU had been pushing for a weekly rise of $27, but employers said they would not be able to afford an increase of anything more than $8.50 a week.
Business groups have criticised the decision, with the Australian Industry Group saying it will put more pressure on "struggling" employers, particularly in the manufacturing, retail and tourism sectors.
"Many industry sectors and particularly those exposed to import competition are experiencing very tough business conditions," AiGroup chief executive Innes Willox said in a statement.
And the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) said it would "destroy" job opportunities.
"There is no generosity in raising wages to the point where people can't find work when they need it," ACCI chief executive Kate Carnell said in a statement.
Unions warn of class of 'working poor'
Retailers have warned that it will "stress" and "damage" businesses already dealing with sluggish retail figures and lower consumer confidence.
Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman says the decision will prompt many businesses to sack staff.
"The retail industry is more reliant on pay scales than any other industry, and also suffers a highly disproportionate effect in minimum wage increases ... due to deregulated hours and penalties across all retail awards," he said in a statement.
But unions are worried the widening gap between the minimum wage and average earnings means Australia could go down the same path as the US and create a class of "working poor".
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said the decision was "particularly unfair" given today's National Accounts figures showed stronger-than-expected economic growth.
"Hardworking Australians are not benefiting from the strong economy and they don't stand to benefit from the federal budget," he said.
Rise 'barely keeps pace with inflation'
The United Voice union, which represents many low-wage workers, says the rise announced today is not enough.
Acting national secretary David O'Byrne says with new costs like GP co-payments and an increase in fuel prices, the poorest paid workers will suffer.
"Every time they go to a doctor, every time they put petrol in their car they are being hit by this Federal Government with increased cost of living," he said.
"This minimum wage decision does not only not deal with that, it barely keeps pace with inflation."
Opposition employment spokesman Brendan O'Connor says the warnings of job losses is "always" put forward by employer groups.
He has welcomed the decision but says it does not take into account extra cost-of-living pressures associated with the federal budget.
"It won't be able to mitigate the impact of the measures of the budget on these low-paid workers - the tax on visiting a doctor ... the tax you have to pay when you pick up your medicine when you visit a pharmacy means the pressure on low-income families is going to be very, very difficult indeed," he said.
"The budget measures will soak up the increase and will in many cases exceed the increase."
The Federal Government had urged the commission to consider that Australians would be netting an extra $550 a year when the carbon tax was abolished - though its repeal is yet to pass the Senate.
Employment Minister Eric Abetz has put out a statement saying the Government "recognises" the decision.
Last year the minimum wage rose by $15.80 a week.
Large-scale "multicultural" crime
Police claim to have cracked a major methamphetamine trafficking syndicate after a four-month probe netted more than $8 million of the drug.
Detectives from the Organised Crime Squad led the protracted sting with a series of raids on properties in Kewdale, Munster and Bibra Lake and say they have seized four kilograms of methamphetamine.
Five men and a woman have been charged, including the president of the WA Islamic Council Dr Rateb Jneid, 43, who faces a firearms charge. Two of his brothers, Ziad and Rabih Jneid, have pleaded not guilty to drugs charges.
Detective Inspector Chris Adams said police had effectively cracked the back of a national drug smuggling racket and the methamphetamine seizure was one of the "most significant" in recent times.
"This is a sophisticated and complex organised crime syndicate... To be able to distribute large quantities requires detailed planning, co-ordination and a tight-knit syndicate," Detective Inspector Adams said on Thursday.
"When you are caught in possession of up to four kilograms [of methamphetamine]...you are significant importer of crystal methamphetamine."
Police said the operation began in January when a vehicle stop in Kewdale allegedly uncovered two kilograms of methamphetamine. Further investigations allegedly led police to another two kilograms of the drug several weeks later.
Police believe both methamphetamine hauls were produced by the same criminal syndicate, and in April launched a series of six raids in Kewdale and Bibra Lake, leading to the alleged seizure of more than $380,000 cash, two firearms, ammunition, steroids and pepper spray canisters.
Detective Inspector Adams said the scourge of methamphetamines had a grave impact on the WA community and stressed that police would continue to target traffickers.
"I think it's important for the community to understand that kids and adults of all ages are injecting this drug into their arms and/or smoking it and consuming it, which is not good,” he said.
"It has an impact on our health, an impact on the community. The Organised Crime Squad will continue to fight organised crime syndicates that operate in Perth, Western Australia.”
Detective Inspector Adams said police were also reviewing intelligence holdings to determine links between the accused and gangs in WA, including Lebanese crime gang, the Sword Boys.
He made no apologies about the raids and refuted claims by the Jneid brothers that they had been the target of corrupt police. He said further charges may be laid.
Three men - 38-year-old Kewdale man Ziad Jneid, a 40-year-old from Kewdale and a 40-year-old man from Bibra Lake - face a raft of charges, including conspiracy to sell or supply prohibited drugs, and are scheduled to appear in Perth Magistrates Court on July 24.
A 33-year-old Munster man has been charged with supplying a prohibited drug and possessing a firearm or ammunition without a license and is scheduled to appear at Perth Magistrates Court on August 15.
Two other people, including Dr Jneid, 43, have been charged by summons with firearm and weapon offences in relation to licensed firearms that were allegedly not adequately stored.
5 June, 2014
Student teachers to be tested on literacy, numeracy in final year of university study
They should be tested BEFORE they enter tertiary study
Education students at New South Wales universities will need to pass a literacy and numeracy test before they will be approved to start their final-year practicum.
Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said the program would be trialled in August and rolled out from mid-2015 across the state.
Mr Piccoli said it was part of a push to improve the level of teaching in NSW schools, amid concerns some new teachers struggle to explain maths and grammar concepts to their students.
"We have great teachers in NSW and now we are taking further steps to improve the quality of teaching for the next generation of teachers," he said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Minister said it was a recommendation that came out of a review into the sector last year.
The test will be quite difficult and complex, but students would be able to sit it as many times as necessary, he said.
"Other professions set their own standards externally from what the university does," he told the ABC.
"Lawyers do it, accountants do it, doctors do it, and we're doing a similar thing in education.
"To be registered and accredited to teach in NSW, you'll need to have passed this literacy and numeracy test."
The online tests, which may include a writing exercise along with fundamental literacy and numeracy skills, are being developed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER).
NSW will be be the first state to trial the test.
Business groups step up campaign to cut Sunday penalties
Australia's biggest companies are stepping up their campaign against weekend penalty rates.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says scaling back penalty rates would encourage more businesses to open on weekends and help stimulate the economy.
The rise of the 24/7 economy has seen an increase in so-called flexibility among employees: whichever way you look at it, there's no doubt that how and when Australians work has been changing rapidly over the past few decades.
That means that practically every industry in Australia pays penalty rates to people who do not work nine-to-five hours.
Nurses are a prime example of an occupation where non-standard hours are the norm.
Megan has asked us not to use her surname, because the Melbourne hospital she works for did not approve her interview with The World Today.
"If I wasn't offered penalty rates, I would certainly have reconsidered the job I'm doing now," she said.
Whether people should be paid more to work late nights, early mornings or weekends is back on the agenda.
So far, the attention of the debate has been on hospitality, retail and other service industries, but Megan says any talk of changes to penalties makes her nervous.
"I would certainly look at re-requesting hours based on that, because why should I sacrifice my life, my time with my family or my friends to get the same pay as someone working Monday to Friday?" she argued.
That is the key question raised by today's call from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) for a reduction in Sunday penalty rates: does working so-called "unsociable hours" still constitute a sacrifice?
"The ultimate goal is to have Sunday penalty rates similar to those on Saturdays," explained Kate Carnell, ACCI's chief executive.
"Different awards are different, but fundamentally we need to free up the predominantly family businesses in Australia - the small to medium businesses that are opening their shops, their restaurants, their retail outlets on Sundays - to be able to employ people."
Ms Carnell says many business owners currently give up their Sundays because they cannot afford to employ staff on those shifts, and expectations have changed around the working week.
"We are expecting businesses to be open and who runs those businesses? Mum and dad. They're required to be at work because we want them to be, because we want those establishments to be open," she argued.
"I think we have to accept that the train's left the station on this. We don't look at Sundays the way we used to."
Penalty rate test cases
Last month a hospitality industry group successfully argued before the Fair Work Commission that some of its casual employees should earn lower penalty rates on Sundays.
Now David Quilty from the Pharmacy Guild is preparing for Fair Work's review of the pharmacy industry award.
"Pharmacies are employing professional pharmacists - they get paid probably more and significantly more than your normal hospitality worker," he observed.
"So a 200 per cent penalty rate requirement is quite expensive for a pharmacy and, in many cases, pharmacies already pay most of their pharmacist staff well above the awards."
Mr Quilty says he is confident that pharmacies can find people to work Sunday shifts even if the penalty rates for doing so are lowered.
"We understand that there should be some financial recognition of the fact that people are working what are called unsociable hours, but the world has changed significantly since penalty rates were introduced," he responded.
"We all live in a 24/7 world and, for many workers, they'd actually prefer to work hours that are outside normal nine-to-five Monday-to-Friday business hours for various reasons - for family reasons, or because they're students and these hours suit them better."
However, David O'Byrne from the hospitality union United Voice says an appeal of last month's Fair Work decision is possible.
He believes businesses want workplace changes beyond Sunday penalties.
"Weekend rates have been supported by Australians over many generations. It's about fair and decent wages and to have the big business community come out and attack low-paid workers is obscene, particularly in industries that the kind of profits that are being made," he said.
"We believe that it won't just stop at hospitality workers or workers in marginalised industries, it will continue to other workers that receive weekend rates, such as fire fighters, police officers and nurses."
Leftist ACT government goes on a borrowing and spending spree
They never learn. They like the praise thery get in the present and damn the furure
The ACT Government is borrowing money, selling assets and embarking on a massive spending spree in a bid to grow Canberra's economy and offset Commonwealth cuts.
In handing down his third budget, Treasurer Andrew Barr unveiled a record infrastructure fund of $2.5 billion to be partly funded through borrowing an extra $1.27 billion over the forward estimates.
But general household rates will rise 10 per cent, traffic and parking fines will jump 6 per cent, and ACTION bus fares for concession holders will increase.
The Government will also look to sell surplus land and office buildings as well as streetlights.
Mr Barr says the budget takes a confident and bold approach to growing the economy and supporting jobs.
"We are not choosing the austerity path taken by conservative governments around Australia who cut services and harm their community," he said.
"We will not add to pain caused by the Commonwealth. We will not sacrifice essential services for the sake of the budget bottom line."
Mr Barr says cuts outlined in the federal budget last month will cost the ACT bottom line $375 million over four years.
He says the loss of about 6,500 Commonwealth public service jobs over four years will also impact on the local economy.
The budget is now set to finish $265.3 million in the red this financial year, with a deficit of $332.8 million in 2014-2015 and a deficit of $117.8 million in 2015-2016.
The debt is forecast to drop to $26.3 million in 2016-2017 returning to a predicted surplus of $77.5 million the following year.
The ACT's economic outlook is weak, with Gross State Product forecast to grow just 1.75 per cent next financial year, and employment predicted to rise a mere 0.5 per cent.
Mr Barr says before the federal budget was handed down, he had been set to deliver only a modest deficit this year, a balanced budget next year and surpluses thereafter.
Now the ACT will delve deeper into debt to east the pain of the Commonwealth cuts.
"It's not a two-fingered salute to the Federal Government but it is a recognition of the importance of new infrastructure to this community and this economy. It's jobs, jobs jobs," he said.
Mr Barr says the ACT can afford the extra borrowing and he does not believe it will impact the Territory's AAA credit rating.
The Government is spending a record $2.5 billion on infrastructure over the next four years. To do so, the Government will borrow an extra $1.27 billion over the forward estimates.
Qld budget 2014: Treasurer Tim Nicholls announces 'cautious' budget with billions in asset sales
The Queensland Government has announced billions of dollars in asset sales, a new infrastructure fund, and cuts to seniors' concessions, as part of its 2014-15 budget.
The budget shows a $2.27 billion deficit and state debt rising to almost $80 billion.
Treasurer Tim Nicholls says it is a cautious budget that will stabilise the state's debt.
"We know the decisions we made are not going to be popular but Queenslanders can be assured that we do have a plan," Mr Nicholls said. "We know what we're doing and there is funding assured to deliver that plan and that's the plan that's going to deliver a brighter future for Queensland."
The State Government has confirmed plans to privatise $33.6 billion worth of assets, with $25 billion of that to be used to pay down debt.
The Government has stressed it will not proceed with asset sales until it goes to the state election in March.
The State Government will issue long-term leases on Gladstone Port, Townsville Port and the Mount Isa rail line.
It will also sell power generating companies Stanwell and CS Energy along with water distribution company SunWater Industrial Pipelines.
Private investors will also be sought to fund electricity distribution and transmission businesses Powerlink, Energex and Ergon, in return for a share of revenue.
Mr Nicholls says the alternatives were to double state taxes or cut 30,000 public service jobs and reduce services.
"We are very excited by this budget, we are delivering on our promises, we are continuing to fund services," he said.
"There are no new taxes, no increases in taxes and we are providing a pathway to the future by outlining our strong plan."
4 June, 2014
Asylum seekers injured as Christmas Island staff shut down protest over Reza Berati's death, dozens of detainees moved to 'red block'
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed several asylum seekers were injured when staff shut down a week-long protest at the Christmas Island detention centre yesterday.
The ABC understands around 70 male detainees, who had been protesting to mark 100 days since the death of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati on Manus Island, were removed by specially trained staff and taken to a high-security facility known as 'Red Block'.
Mr Morrison has told Parliament some detainees became aggressive and had to be restrained after detention centre operator Serco called in an emergency response team (ERT) and asked all asylum seekers to return to their compound.
"The majority of detainees were compliant however I am advised a small number exhibited non-compliant behaviour," he said.
"The Serco ERT continued negotiations with those detainees who were refusing to comply. Reports to me suggest some detainees became aggressive and were subsequently restrained and moved [from the area].
"I'm advised that two detainees suffered minor injuries arising from non-compliant behaviour and were treated onsite," he said.
"A further four were taken to hospital for a range of injuries including suspected sprains or broken bones.
"One detainee has suffered an injury to his wrist. No staff were injured. I'm advised the facility remains calm."
Witness says most protesters walked away peacefully
The ABC has been contacted by a Christmas Island resident who witnessed yesterday’s events.
The person, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the protests had been peaceful and specially-trained staff removed some asylum seekers yesterday.
"One-by-one the protesters were removed from the group," the resident said.
"Most got up and walked away voluntarily but some didn't.
"They were then forcefully removed and in the process several asylum seekers sustained minor injuries."
The resident said a nurse on the island had reported "several cases of self-harm among the protesters, mainly cuts to arms and chest".
Judging by the telling silence from the Left, sexism must be all right
IF a high-powered woman is described as the "top dog" and her deeply personal struggle to fall pregnant dragged into the public domain to score cheap parliamentary points, is it sexism?
For some feminists, the answer sadly seems to depend on their politics.
Former Rudd and Gillard government staffer Jamila Rizvi, now the editor-in-chief of the Mamamia website, described the outrage that followed Clive Palmer’s personal assault on Tony Abbott’s chief of staff Peta Credlin as a "still and telling silence".
Here was Mr Palmer dragging Ms Credlin, who has publicly opened up about her struggles with IVF, into the paid parental leave debate, claiming working women were being discriminated against so Ms Credlin could "receive a massive benefit when she gets pregnant". Yet, there was hardly an avalanche of outrage on Twitter to condemn the gender-based attack.
Labor backbencher Terri Butler was less than sympathetic. "She’s got a pretty fierce reputation. I think she can speak out on her own behalf," the Queensland MP said.
One of the nation’s most influential feminists, Eva Cox — who described Mr Palmer’s comments as "right out of line" — sounded a note of caution at the public response to the attack on Ms Credlin. "I am concerned if people are not defending her because she’s seen as Tony Abbott’s staffer. I think that would be very unfair," Ms Cox said.
Less than two years after Julia Gillard urged zero tolerance to sexism and misogyny, some progressive women were slow off the mark. Others were just missing in action. As Crikey’s Bernard Keane noted on Twitter: "I see lots of progressive thinks (sic) sexist attacks on Peta Credlin are OK because Gillard copped same/worse. Charming."
At midday the Destroy the Joint group posted on its Facebook site, hitting out at the Palmer attack on Ms Credlin, about 20 hours after he launched his personal broadside.
Anne Summers, one of Ms Gillard’s staunchest backers and a formidable feminist, said she had no idea what Mr Palmer had said and no wish to comment.
The attack on Ms Credlin was largely met with white noise.
"What’s that you hear?” Ms Rizvi wrote on Mamamia. "A buoyant defence of the Prime Minister’s chief of staff? Outraged cries for bringing the personal into politics, for making a leader’s staff member the story, and for using someone’s gender against them in policy debate? No. What you actually heard was silence. A still and telling silence."
Ms Credlin, she wrote, deserved better and feminists shouldn’t be fence sitting, mute.
"We do ourselves a disservice on the Left if we aren’t consistent in calling out sexism, and only calling it out when it suits us," Ms Rizvi told The Australian.
Destroy the Joint’s Jenna Price said Mr Palmer had exposed himself as a "terrible sexist" and his attack on Ms Credlin, who had aired her struggles with IVF, was "heartless".
"I think this is the third time we’ve had to stick up for Peta Credlin, and I think that’s a good thing," she said, adding the group was about getting rid of sexism and misogyny and not all its members were from the progressive side of politics.
"It can be difficult because a lot of women on the Right say that feminism isn’t important but that shouldn’t stop us from saying if you are being attacked because you are a woman, that’s wrong," Ms Price said.
During a parliamentary debate on Monday, Mr Palmer claimed that under Mr Abbott’s signature $5.5 billion PPL scheme, working women were being discriminated so Ms Credlin could receive a "massive benefit".
Instead of contrition yesterday, Mr Palmer refused to apologise because "that’s my position" and seemed to further inflame the situation, suggesting Ms Credlin was behind the policy, even though Mr Abbott had championed it years before she joined his office.
"She’s the top enchilada. She’s the top dog, oh, I shouldn’t say that … She’s the boss," he said.
He claimed he was unaware of Ms Credlin’s IVF struggles.
He later tweeted: "I’ve not intended to personally attack Peta Credlin in my PPL criticisms. However, no key position in government should escape scrutiny."
Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull last night pulled out of a charity auction organised by the federal parliamentary press gallery in which they were to have dinner with Mr Palmer at the Wild Duck restaurant in the Canberra suburb of Kingston. They said they had cancelled the event because of Mr Palmer’s "offensive and inappropriate" comments in relation to Ms Credlin.
Earlier, Ms Bishop demanded Mr Palmer apologise. "I hope Mr Palmer reflects on what he’s done. It’s particularly hurtful thing to focus on the Prime Minister’s female chief of staff, whom it is well known is seeking IVF treatment," the Foreign Minister said. "And for him to accuse the Prime Minister of putting in place a policy to benefit her is particularly hurtful in these circumstances, and I hope he reflects on what he’s said."
Bill Shorten said the comments were unwarranted and wrong, and senior Labor MP Jenny Macklin said the attack was inappropriate. Nationals MP Darren Chester said all Labor MPs needed to get behind Ms Credlin.
No "consensus" among Australian Earth scientists about "climate change"
AUSTRALIA’S peak body of earth scientists has declared itself unable to publish a position statement on climate change due to the deep divisions within its membership on the issue.
After more than five years of debate and two false starts, Geological Society of Australia president Laurie Hutton said a statement on climate change was too difficult to achieve.
Mr Hutton said the issue "had the potential to be too divisive and would not serve the best interests of the society as a whole.”
The backdown, published in the GSA quarterly newsletter, is the culmination of two rejected position statements and years of furious correspondence among members. Some members believe the failure to make a strong statement on climate change is an embarrassment that puts Australian earth scientists at odds with their international peers.
It undermines the often cited stance that there is near unanimity among climate scientists on the issue.
GSA represents more than 2000 Australian earth scientists from academe, industry, government and research organisations.
A position statement published in 2009 said the society was concerned about the potentially harmful effects of carbon dioxide emissions and favoured "strong action to substantially reduce current levels".
"Of particular concern are the well-documented loading of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which has been linked unequivocally to burning of fossil fuels, and the corresponding increase in average global temperature," it said.
"Risks associated with these large-scale perturbations of the Earth’s fundamental life-support systems include rising sea level, harmful shifts in the acid balance of the oceans and long-term changes in local and regional climate and extreme weather events.”
Publication of the position statement caused an uproar among members and led to a revised statement, after wide consultation. The revised statement said: "Geological evidence clearly demonstrates that Earth’s climate system is inherently and naturally variable over timescales from decades to millions of years.
"Regardless of whether climate change is from natural or anthropogenic causes, or a combination of both, human societies would benefit from knowing what to expect in the future and to plan how best to respond.
"The GSA makes no predictions or public policy recommendations for action on climate beyond the generally agreed need for prudent preparations in response to potential hazards, including climate change.”
The revised statement was criticised as being too vague.
In a short statement published in the latest edition of the society newsletter, Mr Hutton says: "After a long and extensive and extended consultation with society members, the GSC executive committee has decided not to proceed with a climate change position statement."
"As evidenced by recent letters to the editor … society members have diverse opinions on the human impact on climate change. However, diversity of opinion can also be divisive, especially when such views are strongly held.
"The executive committee has therefore concluded that a climate change position statement has the potential to be far too divisive and would not serve the best interests of the society as a whole ,” the statement says.
Apology finally squeezed out of public broadcaster that broadcast Leftist hate speech
NINE months after broadcasting an offensive skit featuring The Australian’s columnist Chris Kenny by The Chaser team, the ABC will tonight issue a comprehensive on-air apology as part of a formal defamation settlement that includes paying all legal costs and some damages.
Despite the ABC and The Chaser team vowing to contest the matter in court, backed by an internal review that found the skit met editorial standards for satire, the apology will tonight be broadcast on ABC1 at about 9pm, before the Jonah From Tonga show.
The Chaser team will not be permitted to republish the material or make public statements that detract from the settlement, to prevent a repeat of the way presenter Julian Morrow undermined managing director Mark Scott’s personal apology to Kenny in April.
Hours after that apology, Morrow tweeted a picture of Mr Scott in a compromising position and rejected his public statements, stating: "We are not taking any steps to settle the legal action. If the ABC wants to then that’s a matter for it.”
Mr Scott’s failure to act decisively in the Kenny matter has cast doubt on his tenure as the ABC’s boss and editor-in-chief.
The action stems from a skit on the Chaser’s election campaign show, Hamster Decides, that depicted Kenny in a carnal act and called him a "dog f. .ker”.
Kenny said it was clear if he had not commenced legal proceedings, he would not have won an on-air apology and said it had been "worthwhile” to pursue the case. The details and costs of the settlement will remain confidential.
"It shouldn’t be this hard to get the taxpayer-funded national broadcaster to behave decently, but at least it’s finally happened,” Kenny said.
It is understood the ABC board is meeting today and had been pressing Mr Scott to finalise the matter.
Kenny said he decided to sue the ABC, production company Giant Dwarf and its presenter Andrew Hansen for defamation because of the offensive nature of the skit, and its subsequent damage to his reputation, but also because he considered it an attempt to silence him.
"I was singled out because I’ve been a critic of the ABC and it was an attempt to silence me," he said.
"People have suggested to me it’s anti-free speech to launch a defamation action, well I think it’s quite the opposite in this case. I was singled out because I dared to criticise the ABC and it (the skit) was an attempt to intimidate people out of criticising the ABC.”
Responding to criticism that journalists should not pursue law suits and commentary that satire should be exempt from defamation, Kenny said he did not "take legal action lightly but in the end you have to draw a line”.
"They can mock me, they can tease me, they can find examples to ridicule me with all they like but somewhere there has to be a line," he said.
"I accept that the line is grey, but I think this case was so obviously beyond the pale that nobody would disagree.”
Kenny was at a birthday dinner for his pregnant wife Sunita when the skit aired and he was instantly inundated with messages from friends and colleagues who had seen it.
He said the offensive nature of the skit "really wasn’t very pleasant for my wife or young children”.
The defamation proceedings that followed were unpleasant as well, he said, with the ABC employing bullying tactics, which included publicly releasing a legal letter in an attempt to force him to drop the case.
Kenny said he was grateful he was in a position to take his fight up to the ABC — an option not available to others who had been wronged by the taxpayer-funded organisation. "They do use these intimidatory tactics," he said.
"I was able to take the ABC on and make this stand and get an apology on air, and that’s very important, but I do worry about people, individuals in society who might think they’re wronged by the ABC, it’s a very difficult, large, well-funded beast to take on.
"I think really when they’ve done wrong, they should look at it immediately themselves, come to a reasonable judgment and if they’re wrong apologise quickly.”
Kenny said many of his supporters, angry at the offensive nature of the skit, encouraged him to persist with the defamation proceedings and take the ABC to trial.
His primary aim, he said, was not to win compensation, but to achieve an apology and for the ABC to concede that the skit had "crossed the line”.
"Many people didn’t want me to settle — they wanted to see a court ruling against the ABC — I can understand their point but I think the ABC has been made to see sense, and having forced apologies in court and on air, as well as appropriate costs and damages, it would be intemperate to push on," he said.
It was not the first controversy for the Chaser team, which has been in hot water on multiple occasions over insensitive and distasteful skits.
Kenny said he wondered "if and when” the Chaser boys were "going to grow up but that’s Mark Scott’s problem if he’s going to keep employing them.”
When the case is formally discontinued in court, the ABC will read an apology and a statement will be read on Kenny’s behalf.
3 June, 2014
Senator Cory Bernardi asserts conservative values
Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi gave a small but vocal group of student protesters the slip in Brisbane on Saturday, opting for back-door entry to the Broncos Leagues Club for a speaking engagement.
The ultra-conservative South Australian MP was in town to address the party faithful and spruik his book, The Conservative Revolution, at the invitation of soon-to-retire Queensland Nationals Senator Ron Boswell.
Senator Boswell introduced his controversial colleague as a "conviction politician", in one of his last official functions before his retirement at the end of June.
Simultaneously, outside the club, students and academics protested the deregulation of university fees announced in the federal budget.
Though the group was almost outnumbered by a strong show of force by police, National Union of Students (Queensland) spokesman Duncan Hart said they were determined to let Senator Bernardi know how the budget measures would impact on the children of the families he claims to represent - even if the politician's evasive entry to the venue did not give them the opportunity to do so in person.
"Cory Bernardi has said the budget needs to be tougher, which is just a repugnant statement," said Mr Hart, a student.
"He claims he stands for family values, but working-class families will be priced out of university. Working-class young people will be priced out of education."
In measures announced in the budget, university students look set to be slugged with debts of tens of thousands of dollars for their degrees, along with higher interest rates for repayments.
Senator Bernardi said he did not believe some budget measures were tough enough.
Griffith University lecturer Kaye Broadbent told the small crowd the "conservative future" plan of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey was unwanted.
"These young people are trying, in your words, to be lifters," she said.
"But students are going to be in debt for a very long time."
Inside, Senator Bernardi did not touch upon cuts to tertiary education in his 45-minute address to the largely mature crowd that packed the auditorium of the club.
His address canvassed his usual topics, though in a somewhat more measured delivery than what he has become renowned for. Political correctness, abortion, euthanasia, the Greens and welfare recipients were all in Senator Bernardi's line of fire.
As was the ABC, the public broadcaster for which he has campaigned strongly to be the recipient of funding cuts. However, it was the conservative Christian's lament over the increasing societal move away from the nuclear family and his opposition to de facto and same-sex marriage that dominated his speech. "Marriage once held a unique place in our society," he said, before adding to enthusiastic audience applause the need to stand firm against the further degradation of the time-honoured institution.
"The traditional idea of family has also taken a battering, he said. "Political correctness dictates we can't even talk about the best environment for raising children for fear of causing offence, even if the evidence overwhelmingly supports it."
Manus Island conflict was inevitable
Iranian Muslim values and New Guinean values don't have a lot in common
Only Kevin Rudd would put an angry Islamist and an angry New Guinean in the one room and expect both to walk out alive. But Labor was leaving Abbott another landmine, this time in P-NG.
The Pickering Post reported at the time that P-NG should never ever be considered as a holding, processing or settlement site for illegal arrivals. The only surprise is that Scott Morrison decided to continue with it.
The Post was told early this year that Morrison had asked Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop to broach the subject of processing and resettlement in the Solomons.
Julie Bishop travelled there and did so, but Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo knew the extra millions offered could never justify such a volatile mix of cultures on his shores.
Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Carcasses also rejected the proposal. And it takes a very good reason for those two corrupt monkeys to knock back money!
Morrison was left with little choice but to persist with Rudd’s deal with P-NG’s Peter O’Neill.
O’Neill was the only one prepared to accept a fistful of dollars while being fully aware of the explosive nature of what lay ahead.
So the Cornall report on the death of Reza Berati is no more than a resumé of a predictable disaster that Kevin Rudd started and Scott Morrison is continuing with. He really shouldn’t.
Stand by for many more deaths when processed detainees are sent from Manus Island to Port Moresby, as planned.
The ABC and Fairfax in July last year heralded Rudd’s P-NG solution as an "election masterstroke".
The Post reported the next day: "The truth is that it's a time bomb that will not explode until after the election, it will again be Abbott’s problem. P-NG is a nation of murderous head-shrinking savages whose religion is black magic and voodoo with a sprinkling of bastardised Christianity. It has a currency in pigs. Pigs are an indicator of wealth. As nearly all boat people are Muslim, settlement there is an inconceivable proposition. P-NG’s cities are known as the most dangerous in the world and anyone even considering building a mosque there would find themselves on the menu at the next kukim long paia."
Security company G4S had hired locals with bush knives who react poorly to the term, "fucking ape!" The discredited Salvation Army also employed locals who aren’t used to turning the other cheek.
If you had to choose a place on the planet an Islamist would rather not be, it would be P-NG.
Perhaps that’s the idea
Federal Government continues campaign to delist part of Tasmania's wilderness with state government's help
The Federal Government remains outwardly confident it can convince the World Heritage Committee to delist part of Tasmania's World Heritage wilderness.
It is giving committee members more information about past logging but conservation groups doubt it will be enough.
The Parliamentary Secretary for Forestry, Richard Colbeck, is leading the campaign to have 74,000 hectares excised from the World Heritage listing.
He argues it has been degraded by past logging.
The Senator says the World Heritage Committee will be given new information, after concerns the Federal Government's submission had no detailed justifications or explanations.
"Up until the state election in March we didn't have a co-operative State Government and there was certainly some information around previous harvesting that we didn't have access to the information for," Senator Colbeck said.
Vica Bayley from the Wilderness Society says the Government is clutching at straws.
"It's last ditch attempt to try to convince the World Heritage Committee that they are right, when all the facts say that they are wrong," he said.
Senator Colbeck is not saying how much of the World Heritage area will be logged if it is delisted.
"That number I think needs to be determined by the management process that's put in place," Senator Colbeck said.
He has ruled out logging if the areas are not delisted.
"I suppose potentially you could but I think you really need to consider what the broader community would understand in that respect, I don't think that would be acceptable to the broader community," he said.
The World Heritage Committee meets in Doha, Qatar, in two weeks.
More than 500 Afghans resettled in Australia after helping Defence Force
More than 500 Afghan nationals who helped Australia's mission in Afghanistan have been resettled in Australia under a "discreet" relocation program, the Government says.
Defence Minister David Johnston said the employees and their families, including interpreters, were assessed to be at risk of harm after providing critical support to the Australian Defence Force and Australian Government agencies in Afghanistan.
"Many of these employees were placed at significant risk of harm by insurgents in Afghanistan, due to the highly visible and dangerous nature of their employment," Mr Johnston said in a statement.
The majority of those already settled in Australia arrived over the latter part of 2013 and early 2014.
The statement said the Government had wanted to conduct the process "with a high level of discretion, given the sensitivities and risks involved for the applicants and their families".
It is understood the Afghan employees and their families were keen to settle in Australia and said they were eager to start new lives and establish themselves as soon as possible.
The families were provided with accommodation, health services and household assistance.
"Many have already commenced employment or vocational training opportunities and their children are enrolled in school," Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews said in the joint statement.
Following the completion of Australia's mission in Uruzgan and the departure of Australian Defence Force personnel from the province, Australia will continue to provide training and advisory support to the Afghan National Security Forces.
What does he see in her?
His previous girlfriend, Liz Hurley, was once said to have the best tits in England
THE Potbelleez muso Jonny Sonic has warned spin king Shane Warne to steer clear of new girlfriend Emily Scott. "Oh god SHANE don’t do it!!!!,” Sonic wrote on Instagram, with a photo of Confidential’s story on the couple last week.
Sonic also posted the story on his personal Facebook page.
One friend commented: "Haha Jonny” to which he replied, "She is NOT a nice person!!!!” Later he wrote, "Shane’s in for a treat with Emily I tell ya ... Not in a good way!”
Scott previously dated Sonic’s deejay mate, Bass Kleph.
Sonic, who next month releases a new single with The Potbellleez called Here On Earth, is currently dating fashion designer Camilla Franks.
Warne, who recently ended his engagement to Liz Hurley, has been linked to Scott after attending the 50th birthday bash of Jeff Fenech last week. She also attended a Full Moon Party in Melbourne with Warne recently and the pair have known each other for eight years.
Scott, a celebrity DJ, is 14 years younger than the 44-year-old Warne.
2 June, 2014
George Brandis says Holocaust denier Frederick Toben is 'a nutcase'
Attorney-General George Brandis has dismissed a supporter of the government's proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act as a nutcase. To make this completely clear, he spelled out nutcase "N-U-T-C-A-S-E".
That supporter is Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben who has backed the government's moves to water down race hate laws as a welcome challenge to "Jewish supremacism".
Greens senator Penny Wright said people such as Mr Toben and others with repellent views were lining up to celebrate the proposed change.
"Given that there is a great deal of concern expressed by well-meaning people that this will actually be a red flag to racism, are you concerned about those potential risks," she asked during a Senate estimates committee hearing.
Senator Brandis said he was not. "I have more confidence in the Australian people than obviously you do," he said.
Senator Brandis said Mr Toben was a nutcase. "He is a nutcase, N-U-T-C-A-S-E, nutcase. He has nothing to do with this debate," he said.
Senator Brandis said Senator Wright had sat in the Greens party room with a colleague Senator Lee Rhiannon who was an active and prominent member of the Communist Party of Australia for much of her adult life.
"Her views are repellent. There are lots and lots of repellent views. The fact that a person may have repellent views doesn't mean that they infect everybody else in the community," he said.
Follow the French: Charge patients for public hospital accommodation
My colleague Dr Jennifer Buckingham has exposed the myth about the Abbott government's first budget cutting $80 billion from health and education: federal spending in both these areas will continue to increase. Revising the unaffordable and unfunded 'Gonski' and health promises of the Gillard government cannot properly therefore be defined as a cut.
Under the terms of the health funding agreement with the states in 2011, the federal share of hospital funding was to rise by 185% - from $14 billion in 2013-14 to $40 billion in 2024-25. This would have meant that federal funding alone in ten years' time would have totalled more than the combined federal and state expenditure on public hospitals today.
Under the new arrangements announced in the budget, federal funding will still grow to $25 billion in 2024-25. Naturally, state premiers are complaining about the so-called 'missing' funding. However, the other major health announcement - the $7 GP co-payment - creates an opportunity for the states to access an untapped source of non-taxpayer funded revenue. Health Minister Peter Dutton will allow states to charge people who attend emergency departments to try to avoid the new Medicare co-payments. This is a major policy change. Since Medicare's inception in 1984, federal government funding for state health services has been conditional upon all Australians receiving treatment in public hospitals without user charges.
If the Senate passes the Medicare co-payment, 'free' treatment will no longer need to apply to outpatient public hospital services. The Abbott government should seize this opportunity to also remove the obligation not to charge for inpatient public hospital services.
This would permit state governments to levy a daily accommodation fee. The fee would not cover the cost of medical care, but rather the cost of the 'hotel services' component of a hospital stay - meals, cleaning, etc.
When a person enters hospital, they are relieved of their normal living expenses, which are transferred to the hospital. An accommodation fee is standard practice in European social democracies, such as France, for example, where the forfait hospitalier is currently €18 per day, or approximately $27.
In 2012-13, there were over 5.5 million public hospital admissions in Australia, which equated to over 18.8 million bed days. If each day patient had been charged say, a $30 daily accommodation fee, approximately $565 million would have been raised.
This revenue would have defrayed a small, but not insubstantial portion of the $23 billion state funding to public hospitals. It would also have been a more honest way of charging for hospital care than the standard practice of imposing exorbitant parking fees.
Hospital accommodation charges might help draw attention to the irrationality and unsustainability of the health system. Like GP co-payments, an accommodation fee would signal that public health services were not 'free', and might encourage more informed debate about individuals directly contributing to hospital and other health service costs.
Gen Y to Vilma: Age pensioners are going to be just fine
There has been a considerable amount of hyperbole surrounding the alleged cuts to the age pension contained in Budget 2014.
Vilma Ward, a pensioner from Norman Park in Queensland, was on Channel 10 last week castigating the PM for his fiscal belt-tightening, asking him 'Why do you pick at the pensioners?', and exclaiming '...if we pull the belt any tighter we'll choke to death.'
It is not entirely clear from the budget papers exactly how age pensioners are being picked at. None of the proposed changes happen until 2017 - after the next federal election. To call these reforms cuts would be putting it strongly. They could more accurately be described as measures to slow the growth of the age pension which has been forecast by the Commission of Audit to reach $72.3 billion in 2023-24.
The means test thresholds for the age pension will be frozen for three years from 2017-18. As incomes increase, some pensioners will find that their incomes rise above the income threshold beyond which the maximum rate of pension begins to taper. Others will find that their pension payments fade-out altogether. However, this will only occur where pensioners have significant private incomes.
There will also be changes to the way that income from assets are included in the means test. Assets are 'deemed' to earn income, regardless of what income they actually earn, and this is included in the income test. From September 2017, the government proposes to change the thresholds used in the calculation of this deemed income thereby increasing the amount deemed to have been earned. This is projected to save $32.7 million in 2017-18 - little more than rounding error on the $50 billion age pension forward estimate for that year.
The age pension is currently indexed to increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index, depending on which increase is greater. If the result is less than 25% of Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE), the pension is topped up to that amount. With MTAWE outpacing CPI in recent times the pension has increased in real terms. This reform will put age pension increases in line with growth in prices; one of the recommendations made in the Emergency Budget Repair Kit.
It is certainly true that measures such as the Medicare co-payment that go some way to aligning the cost of healthcare with those who benefit from it will impact the elderly more than the young. However, to suggest that age pensioners have been unfairly singled out in the budget is difficult to reconcile with the content of the document.
Minor parties causing a major stir
In the 2013 Senate election, fully one in every four votes was cast for a party outside the main three. This resulted in the election of three senators for the Palmer United Party, and senators from each of the Democratic Labour Party, Family First, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party and the Australian Sports Party (who lost out in the WA recount).
While the share of the vote for minor parties has been increasing over the last forty years, there has been a significant spike since 2007. The minor parties now hold the balance of power in the Senate. It seemed like the time of the minor parties had arrived.
Yet the 2013 results appear unlikely to be repeated, as the major parties are set to change senate voting rules that either give minor parties a chance or have been exploited (depending on your point of view).
Lost in the chaos of the lead-up to the budget was the report of the joint standing committee on electoral matters that said the system was being gamed and recommended introducing optional preferential voting in the Senate both above and below the line. The response to this from the minor parties has been predictably negative.
A couple of points should be noted. First, there is marked difference in terms of support and policy awareness between minor parties (such as Family First, the Liberal Democrats or now Palmer United Party) and micro parties such as the Motoring Enthusiasts and Australian Sports Party.
David Leyonhjelm, Liberal Democratic Senator-elect for NSW, received 9.5% of the vote, while Family First's Bob Day received 3.8% of the vote. This is many multiples of first preference votes higher than Wayne Dropulich of the Sports Party (0.23%) or Ricky Muir of the Motoring Enthusiasts (0.5%).
Second, while most of the cross bench senators needed preferences to get over the line, the elected micro parties only occurred because they harvested a large number of preferences from diverse groups. It is hard to imagine that all of the 5,000 people who voted for the Bullet Train for Australia Party or the 1,800 who voted for the Bank Reform Party would have supported the goals of the Motoring Enthusiasts Party, ahead of say the Greens, who have a platform on those issues.
The challenge is how to reform the system to stop the gaming of the preferences system without eliminating the voices of the minor parties altogether or completely entrenching the power of the major parties.
The circus of the budget should not distract from the importance of the joint committee's reforms.
1 June, 2014
Christopher Pyne's pledge sparks fears public schools will be ignored
Education Minister Christopher Pyne has told Christian school leaders that his government has an "emotional commitment" to private schools, prompting fears the Abbott government will abandon public schools.
Speaking at a Christian Schools Australia national policy dinner in Canberra this week, Mr Pyne assured the school leaders he did not want to sever long-held ties with Christian and independent schools.
"I want to have a direct relationship with the non-government sector, as I believe we have had since 1963," Mr Pyne said. "Having talked to the Prime Minister about this matter many times, it is his view that we have a particular responsibility for non-government schooling that we don't have for [state] government schooling."
Mr Pyne assured the Christian schools he could not "see those circumstances changing".
Mr Pyne made the comments after fears were raised by the National Commission of Audit, which recommended funding and control of the non-government school sector should be handed to the states.
Commonwealth funding for state and independent schools will be provided under the Gonski formula designed to give funding to schools most in need. The government has committed to four years of "Gonski" funding, but there are fears independent schools would be favoured over state schools in a new deal for 2018 onwards.
Mr Pyne's comments follow his statements - quickly quashed by the Prime Minister - that higher education fees for university students would still need to be paid even if the student died.
"The emotional commitment within the federal government is to continue to have a direct relationship with the non-government schools sector. I think the states and territories would prefer that as well," Mr Pyne said.
The president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council, Lila Mularczyk, warned that Mr Pyne's comments signalled a commitment to directly fund non-government schools at the expense of public schools.
"Students most in need of additional learning support have seen Minister Pyne turn his back on them again," Ms Mularczyk said.
"We cannot rest easy when the educational gaps between schools, and often schooling systems, are entrenched and will grow because of a dismissive, dangerous budget and an Education Minister who openly claims to be emotionally driven in maintaining a relationship with the non-government sector."
The Australian Education Union deputy federal president, Correna Haythorpe, said Mr Pyne's "divisive view of schools" was contrary to the needs-based principles of the Gonski funding model. Ms Haythorpe said federal funding of government schools was crucial to the quality and equity of the schools system.
"Federal governments have funded government schools for over 40 years, recognising the need to support state governments who do not have the same revenue base," Ms Haythorpe said.
Abbott prepares for major shake-up of public service
The Prime Minister is planning sweeping changes to the highest ranks of the public service to make it more responsive to the Coalition government.
With his first budget behind him, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is determined to turn around what he believes has been a significant brain drain of the best and brightest from Canberra in the past decade.
The retirement of Finance Department Secretary David Tune on Friday is just the first step in what will be a one- to two-year reform of the service.
Among a significant shake-up, high-profile Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson will leave at the end of the year after being granted an extension of his contract, and will almost certainly be replaced by someone working outside the department.
By the end of the first term of the Abbott government, change is expected in many key agencies including the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The search for a new treasury secretary will involve the government scouring the private sector, including the upper echelons of Australia's major banks.
Mr Abbott has told colleagues he wants to change the culture of the public service and has formed the view the bureaucracy needs to "own" outcomes, retain its brightest graduates, and be less passive in its dealings with the senior ranks of the government.
He wants to see the federal bureaucracy move away from implementing programs, a job he believes is best left to the states, and is determined to end the tradition of Treasury secretaries effectively anointing their successor.
Health Department secretary Jane Halton is the strong favourite to replace Mr Tune.
Professor Halton has served as the head of health since 2002.
Mr Tune will be the fourth department head to leave the government, which sacked three secretaries shortly after it won office.
Mike Callaghan, a former Treasury official who also served as chief of staff to Peter Costello and now works at the Lowy Institute, is considered a possibility for the Treasury role. Former Treasury official and Finance Department chief Peter Boxall, a member of the government's commission of audit panel, is also in the running. The Business Council of Australia's chief economist Peter Crone, who also worked on the audit, could also be considered.
And in what would be a surprise move, there have been suggestions Prime Minister and Cabinet chief Ian Watt could move to Treasury.
Such a move would be unusual as Dr Watt took up his five-year role only in September 2011, but prime ministers typically like to appoint their own department head.
Among other agency chiefs Attorney-General's department chief Roger Wilkins, who has served since 2008, will eventually be replaced by someone with national security expertise.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade chief Peter Varghese is said to have disappointed some in the cabinet with his management of the integration of AusAid and DFAT.
One Coalition insider said he needed to focus on running his department and "not being the junior foreign minister".
Adverse implications of the Eastman inquiry
Inquiry boss acting Justice Brian Martin has recommended that David Eastman's conviction for murder be quashed
His findings reflect ill on the most expensive and one of the most lengthy murder investigations in Australian history, on police competence and good conduct, on the competence of an expensive and well-resourced prosecution, the capacity of the ACT justice system to provide a fair trial, and on public confidence in the capacity of that system to detect legal and forensic error.
Right to the end, counsel for the ACT DPP and the AFP were attempting to prevent the inquiry, and complacently denying extensive public concerns about the safety of the verdict.
As one of many who has agitated those concerns for nearly 25 years, I can say that little of the material which so disturbed Acting Justice Martin was new. It has been about for a long time – simply not adequately investigated by the justice system, and by a very antiquated and inadequate system of external review. A good many of the doubts were not, of themselves, focused on whether Eastman was guilty or not. It was, instead whether the material produced by the Crown at trial, and the way that the trial was conducted, proved Eastman’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Acting Justice Martin, like many other judges who have looked at the case, has rejected many of the concerns which have been expressed. He is not worried about Eastman’s fitness to plead at trial, and apparently thinks, as the trial judge and prosecuting counsel thought, that Eastman’s forensic antics during the trial were a clever stunt intended to abort the trial, not the product of mental illness. I have, over the years, spent a good deal more time knowing, observing and listening to Eastman than any lawyers or policeman, or even psychiatrists, but, even allowing a lack of psychiatric training, I wish I was more convinced that this was always so. Martin found that key forensic evidence was faulty.
Given that the case occurred in the aftermath of forensic disasters in the Chamberlain and Splatt cases, it seems amazing that the defects in the evidence, and genuine doubts about the calibre, competence and good conduct of the major forensic witness was not discovered, and that what Martin thought to be police failures to communicate with prosecution lawyers meant that the prosecutions were unaware of adverse information about the bona fides of the witness. Nor were Eastman or the defence team made aware of doubts by other scientific witnesses about the evidence of the major witness.
The judge did not hold prosecution lawyers individually responsible for such shortcomings; rather, he decided reasonably, that discussion about the prosecution’s duty to disclose all the evidence – helpful or unhelpful – extends to police investigators.
The judge was also critical of police harassment that was obvious from the start, even if it was blandly denied by police, and complacently ignored by the legal and administrative system, including the Ombudsman’s office.
It incidentally established the police under investigation lie to investigators without any sanctions. But the system did not show that the failure of police to bring a convincing case flowed from efforts to frame Eastman. Rather it flowed from tunnel vision, probably a want of experience, an insufficient attention to detail, and, most probably, investigators who were far too close, emotionally and intellectually, to the victim.
The investigation lacked detachment. The ACT, and Colin Winchester, deserved a lot better.
The Martin inquiry was quite constrained by its legalistic format, and by the reluctance of the Attorney-General, Simon Corbell, to order an open-ended inquiry.
That did not reduce expenditure; indeed it probably increased it, as did the cost of efforts, at public expense, by police and prosecutors to frustrate an inquiry that has now declared a plain miscarriage of justice.
What is needed now is a further inquiry – not one focused on guilt, but on whether ACT policing, the prosecution system and the executive justice system is in good hands.
Given the doggedness with which everything done before has been defended, and the complete failure of police and prosecutors to hold any sort of frank review of efforts made a generation ago, with investigators now retired, it would be simply too easy to declare that it all happened in another time, and another place.
Given that this was the biggest thing AFP detectives have done since establishment in 1978, it is hard to be sure they would do any better today.
The tentacles of welfare
JOE Hockey has recently been in correspondence with a single unemployed mother of two who has taken him to task over the apparent cruelty of his Budget.
I will not name her, out of respect for her privacy, but this young woman has made no secret of how angry she is about the welfare entitlements she claims she now stands to lose, having posted her complaints on social media.
Her major beef was she was about to lose an education supplement as, to her credit, she was studying to improve her chances of getting a job.
The loss of this entitlement, she claimed, had convinced her to switch her vote. She would no longer be supporting the Coalition.
I’ll admit, I didn’t even know such a supplement existed. Nor, it seems, did Treasury. In fact it is fair to say that Treasury, while in command of the total numbers of expenditure, couldn’t tell the Treasurer the full list of entitlements, income payments, supplements, bonuses and concessions any particular individual might be entitled to.
That is because such a person is drawing income from so many different sources within government that no one in government could say just who was getting what and how much.
If this is not an illustration of just how complex and out of control this country’s welfare system has become then try the following numbers.
A government-wide analysis of the welfare system has discovered this: a single person in a similar situation to the one who has been sparring with Hockey of late can earn a grand total of $54,417 a year in payments from the government — as in the taxpayer — without working. That’s net. Not gross.
In other words, such a person is effectively earning as much as a worker on a gross salary of more than $70,000 a year.
For starters, this person receives a parenting payment of $18,192 a year. This is supported by a further $8979 payment under Family Tax Benefit A and a further $3818 under Family Tax Benefit B. There are FTB-A and FTB-B supplements as well, worth $1807.
To help with accommodation this person is also entitled to rent assistance of $3798 a year as well as subsidised telephone calls through a $157 telephone allowance.
To ensure they are doing their bit to tackle climate change, their electricity is also subsidised with a $305 single-parent Clean Energy Supplement, which is itself supplemented with an extra $244. A trip to the chemist is also subsidised with a pharmaceutical allowance of $161 a year.
There are also bonuses, a term which usually refers to a reward of some kind, such as the income support bonus of $214. To top it off, as an encouragement to further their education, they are entitled to a Pensioner Education Supplement worth $1622.
If I’ve done my maths right, this all adds up to a grand total of $39,297 in tax free payments to this person.
But it doesn’t end there. If this person is studying, which of course is something that should be encouraged if work is unavailable, they can access the Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance (JETCCFA). This helps with the cost of childcare during the hours the parent is studying.
Assuming the average long day care hourly rate is $7.50, the parent only pays 50c an hour.
If this person studied for example, 27 hours a week, the subsidy for child care comes to $15,120, assuming it is accessed 40 weeks of the year.
Adding this brings the total net payments to this person to $54,417 which, using the normal tax scales, would be the equivalent of a $70,000 gross wage — roughly the average wage.
And who pays this person’s income? The taxpayer. Or more correctly in the case of this person, 3.2 taxpayers.
To fund this welfare payment for one person, the government must take the tax paid by three single workers with no kids and receiving no benefits earning an about average wage of $75,000 a year.
No one would quibble with how tough a single parent has it. But one could fairly ask what incentives are there to work, if you can get paid more to stay at home?
This is but one example, when you drill down into the pension and veterans payments, concessions and supplements it becomes a quagmire of complexity.
The discovery of a vehicle assistance scheme which subsidies the running costs of some pensioners’ cars to the tune of $2144.40 a year surprised some members of the expenditure review committee, to say the least.
No one can seriously argue that our welfare system isn’t already very, indeed overly, generous and not in need of dramatic reform.
What this Budget is about is taking money at the top end, from those who worked and earned their money, where at the lower end they are freezing the rise in payments from the taxes to those who don’t work.
Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.
Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here
For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.
Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).
For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security
Two of my ancestors were convicts so my family has been in Australia for a long time. As well as that, all four of my grandparents were born in the State where I was born and still live: Queensland. And I am even a member of the world's second-most condemned minority: WASPs (the most condemned is of course the Jews -- which may be why I tend to like Jews). So I think I am as Australian as you can get. I certainly feel that way. I like all things that are iconically Australian: meat pies, Vegemite, Henry Lawson etc. I particularly pride myself on my familiarity with the great Australian slanguage. I draw the line at Iced Vo-Vos and betting on the neddies, however. So if I cannot comment insightfully on Australian affairs, who could?
On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.
I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.
I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!
I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.
The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"
UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.
Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.
A delightful story about a great Australian conservative
Bureaucracy: "One of the constant laments of doctors and nurses working with NSW Health is the incredible and increasing bureaucracy," she said. "It is completely obstructive to providing a service."
Revered Labour Party leader Gough Whitlam was/is a very erudite man so he cannot have been unaware of the similarities of his famous phrase “the Party, the platform, the people” with an earlier slogan: "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer". It's basically the same slogan in reverse order.
Julia Gillard, a failed feminist flop. She was given the job of Prime Minister of Australia but her feminist preaching was so unpopular that she was booted out of the job by her own Leftist party.
A great little kid
In November 2007, a four-year-old boy was found playing in a croc-infested Territory creek after sneaking off pig hunting alone with four dogs and a puppy. The toddler was found five-and-a-half hours after he set off from his parents' house playing in a creek with the puppy. Amazingly, Daniel Woditj also swam two creeks known to be inhabited by crocs during his adventurous romp. Mr Knight said that after walking for several kilometres, Daniel came to a creek and swam across it. Four of his dogs "bailed up" at the creek but the youngster continued on undaunted with his puppy to a second creek. Mr Knight said Daniel swam the second croc-infested creek and walked on for several more kilometres. "Captain is a hard bushman and Daniel is following in his footsteps. They breed them tough out bush."
Index page for this site
DETAILS OF REGULARLY UPDATED BLOGS BY JOHN RAY:
"Dissecting Leftism" (Backup here)
"Education Watch International"
"Political Correctness Watch"
"Food & Health Skeptic"
GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.
BLOGS OCCASIONALLY UPDATED:
Coral Reef Compendium
"Marx & Engels in their own words"
"A scripture blog"
To be continued ....
Queensland Police -- A barrel with lots of bad apples
Australian Police News
BLOGS NO LONGER BEING UPDATED
"Immigration Watch International" blog
"Eye on Britain"
"Leftists as Elitists"
OF INTEREST (2)
QANTAS -- A dying octopus
BRIAN LEITER (Ladderman)
Obama Watch (2)
Dissecting Leftism -- Large font site
AGL -- A bumbling monster
Bank of Queensland blues
There are also two blogspot blogs which record what I think are my main recent articles here and here. Similar content can be more conveniently accessed via my subject-indexed list of short articles here or here (I rarely write long articles these days)
Main academic menu
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basic home page
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