Looking at Australian politics from a libertarian/conservative perspective...
R.G.Menzies above

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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 September, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is still grouchy about the rise of Turnbull

Ideology distorts climate measurements

Jennifer Marohasy replies to some ignorant propaganda

For the true believer, it is too awful to even consider that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology could be exaggerating global warming by adjusting figures. This doesn’t mean, though, that it’s not true.

In fact, under prime minister Tony Abbott, a panel of eminent statisticians was formed to investigate these claims detailed in The Australian newspaper in August and September last year.

The panel did acknowledge in its first report that the bureau homogenised the temperature data: that it adjusted figures. The same report also concluded it was unclear whether these adjustments resulted in an overall increase or decrease in the warming trend.

No conclusions could be drawn because the panel did not work through a single example of homogenisation, not even for Rutherglen. Rutherglen, in north­eastern Victoria, is an agricultural research station with a continuous minimum temperature record unaffected by equipment changes or documented site moves but where the bureau nevertheless adjusted the temperatures.

This had the effect of turning a temperature time series without a statistically significant trend into global warming of almost 2C a century.

According to media reports last week, a thorough investigation of the bureau’s methodology was prevented because of intervention by Environment Minister Greg Hunt. He apparently argued in cabinet that the credibility of the institution was paramount — that it was important the public had trust in the bureau’s data and forecasts, so the public knew to heed warnings of bushfires and ­cyclones.

Hunt defends the bureau because it has a critical role to play in providing the community with reliable weather forecasts.

This is indeed one of its core responsibilities. It would be better able to perform this function, however, if it used proper techniques for quality control of temperature data and the best available techniques for forecasting rainfall.

There has been no improvement in its seasonal rainfall forecasts for two decades because it uses general circulation models. These are primarily tools for demonstrating global warming, with dubious, if any, skill at actually forecasting weather or climate.

Consider, for example, the millennium drought and the flooding rains that followed in 2010.

Back in 2007 and 2008, David Jones, then and still the manager of climate monitoring and prediction at the Bureau of Meteorology, wrote that climate change was so rampant in Australia, “We don’t need meteorological data to see it”, and that the drought, caused by climate change, was a sign of the “hot and dry future” that we all collectively faced.

Then the drought broke, as usual in Australia, with flooding rains.

But the bureau was incapable of forecasting an exceptionally wet summer because such an event was contrary to how senior management at the bureau perceived our climate future.

So, despite warning signs evident in sea surface temperature patterns across the Pacific through 2010, Brisbane’s Wivenhoe dam, originally built for flood mitigation, was allowed to fill through the spring of 2010, and kept full in advance of the torrential rains in January 2011.

The resulting catastrophic flooding of Brisbane is now recognised as a “dam release flood”, and the subject of a class-action lawsuit by Brisbane residents against the Queensland government.

Indeed, despite an increasing investment in supercomputers, there is ample evidence ideology is trumping rational decision-making at the bureau on key issues that really matter, such as the prediction of drought and flood cycles. Because most journalists and politicians desperately want to believe the bureau knows best, they turn away from the truth and ignore the facts.

News Corp Australia journalist Anthony Sharwood got it completely wrong in his weekend article defending the bureau’s homogenisation of the temperature record. I tried to explain to him on the phone last Thursday how the bureau didn’t actually do what it said when it homogenised temperature time series for places such as Rutherglen.

Sharwood kept coming back to the issue of “motivations”. He kept asking me why on earth the bureau would want to mislead the Australian public.

I should have kept with the methodology, but I suggested he read what Jones had to say in the Climategate emails. Instead of considering the content of the emails that I mentioned, however, Sharwood wrote in his article that, “Climategate was blown out of proportion” and “independent investigations cleared the researchers of any form of wrongdoing”.

Nevertheless, the content of the Climategate emails includes quite a lot about homogenisation, and the scientists’ motivations. For example, there is an email thread in which Phil Jones (University of East Anglia) and Tom Wigley (University of Adelaide) discuss the need to get rid of a blip in global temperatures around 1940-44. Specifically, Wigley suggested they reduce ocean temperatures by an arbitrary 0.15C. These are exactly the types of arbitrary adjustments made throughout the historical temperature record for Australia: adjustments made independently of any of the purported acceptable reasons for making adjustments, including site moves and equipment changes.

Sharwood incorrectly wrote in his article: “Most weather stations have moved to cooler areas (ie, areas away from the urban heat island effect). So if scientists are trying to make the data reflect warmer temperatures, they’re even dumber than the sceptics think.”

In fact, many (not most) weather stations have moved from post offices to airports, which have hotter, not cooler, daytime temperatures. Furthermore, the urban heat island creeps into the official temperature record for Australia not because of site moves but because the record at places such as Cape Otway lighthouse is adjusted to make it similar to the record in built-up areas such as Melbourne, which clearly are affected by the urban heat island.

I know this sounds absurd. It is absurd, and it is also true. Indeed, a core problem with the methodology the bureau uses is its reliance on “comparative sites” to make adjustments to data at other places. I detail the Cape Otway lighthouse example in a recent paper published in the journal Atmospheric Research, volume 166.

It is so obvious that there is an urgent need for a proper, thorough and independent review of operations at the bureau. But it would appear our politicians and many mainstream media are set against the idea.

Evidently they are too conventional in their thinking to consider such an important Australian ­institution could now be ruled by ideology.


Australia, we need to talk about Sunday penalty rates, says Frydenberg

A key cabinet minister says cutting Sunday penalty rates could be good for the economy and should be examined by the Coalition government led by new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Josh Frydenberg, who was last week promoted to cabinet as the new Minister for Northern Australia and Resources, said on Sunday that weekend penalty rates were an issue the government needed to a look at.

It comes just days after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the politically sensitive issue would be up for consideration by his new team.

"Malcolm Turnbull's absolutely right to point to industrial relations as one area where it does cost business and ultimately it does cost jobs," Mr Frydenberg told the Ten network.

"In the resources sector it costs 50 per cent more in Australia to have an energy project than if you were to have [it] on the US Gulf coast," he said. "Now one of the key components of that is industrial relations, which decreases productivity and increases cost."

Asked whether the government needed to look at cutting Sunday penalty rates, Mr Frydenberg said: "This is an area we need to look at because if it means more jobs and changing there, that could be good for the economy."

Kate Carnell, the chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, welcomed the minister's comments and said high Sunday penalty rates prevented cafes and restaurants from trading longer hours or opening on the weekend.

ACCI backs bringing Sunday rates - which can be as high as double time - into line with Saturday rates, which are a maximum time-and-a-half. But it does not want to see penalties abolished completely.

"We think it's really good that the issue of workplace relations is back on the table," Ms Carnell told Fairfax Media.

"What's sensible now is we're looking at having a debate about these issues and not just putting them off the table," she said.

Ms Carnell said reducing Sunday rates would help ease youth unemployment and help grow the economy, which Treasurer Scott Morrison has said is his key priority.

The Productivity Commission is currently reviewing the Fair Work Act and has already handed an interim report to the government.

The Coalition under Tony Abbott, frightened by the savage backlash to John Howard's Workchoices, shied away from any attempt to reduce penalty rates and said it should be left to the Fair Work Commission.

This was despite sustained pressure from Liberal backbenchers and the business community.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Frydenberg's comments constitute a major shift in the government's positioning on industrial relations compared to Mr Abbott's  approach.

The former prime minister has complained about his dumping as leader as being due to style and not substance because no major policy had been announced in the two weeks since he was deposed. "In a policy sense, there is very little departure," Mr Abbott told News Corp.

"Border protection policy the same, national security policy the same, economic policy the same, even same-sex marriage policy the same, and climate change policy the same. In fact, the rhetoric is the same."

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said he agreed with Mr Abbott.

"At the moment it is about style rather than substance, I think Malcolm Turnbull does need to change the substance of his government going forward," he told Sky.

Labor opposes any changes to penalty rates.


Group of Eight universities: End Australia's 'broken, mediocre' research system

Excellence must be recognized.  Not all research is equal

Australia will not develop the innovative economy envisaged by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unless it stops rewarding mediocrity and ditches a culture of "every child gets a prize", the nation's most prestigious universities argue.

The Group of Eight universities – including the University of Sydney and University of Melbourne – is urging the federal government to fix the country's "broken" research funding system by targeting taxpayer funds at research judged to be of high quality.

This includes a contentious push for $680 million in annual funding for PhD and master's research to be restricted to institutions rated at or above world standard in their chosen fields.

The change would hit suburban and regional universities the hardest, leading to warnings it would entrench the privilege of elite institutions.

Go8 chief executive Vicki Thomson said: "Australia's research funding system is broken: it is over-complicated and rewards research that is below world standard.

"We are using scarce taxpayer dollars on research that is frankly mediocre.  "Instead of an egalitarian, 'every child gets a prize' approach we should be funding excellence.

"You wouldn't fund a mediocre sportsperson in the hope they can go on to win a gold medal. The Australian Institute of Sport takes athletes and invests in them because they believe they can be excellent. That's the approach we should take to research."

The Turnbull government has a slew of reviews under way including into: research funding and policy; research training; research infrastructure; and boosting the commercial returns of research.

Ms Thomson said: "It is fantastic to see the Prime Minister talk about innovation, and the key to a more innovative economy is university research and training."

Ms Thomson said 98 per cent of research at the Go8 universities is judged world standard or above, according to the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) rankings. By contrast, 38 per cent of research at non-Go8 universities is judged as below world standard.

The Go8 approach would see the University of Western Sydney and University of Newcastle lose funding for PhD research in the physical sciences, Macquarie University and La Trobe University for mathematics and Charles Sturt University for history.

Universities judged as excellent in their research fields – such as James Cook University for tropical science or the University of Tasmania for oceanography – would continue to receive funding.

Australian National University vice-chancellor Ian Young said in a speech earlier this month: "My concern is that we don't target our research investment in areas of demonstrable excellence and hence our average research performance trails our national peers.

"One has to ask if Australia's more egalitarian approaches represent good use of scarce research funding and whether it yields the country the best outcomes."

Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven said he supported universities focusing on their research strengths, but accused the Go8 of self-interest.  "The argument from the Group of Eight on research is essentially: let's give rich universities all the money," he said.

"That ignores the fact that some of these universities have been around for 150 years and have had a big head start with support from the taxpayer."

Regional Universities Network chairwoman Jan Thomas said the group opposed using "narrow" research scores to allocate funding. The scores were retrospective, didn't adequately recognise engagement with industry and ignored the strategic importance of research in regional Australia, she said.

Professor Thomas said research funding should be more focused on creating links between researchers and the private sector, including by creating new PhD scholarships for industry-based research and more funding for joint university-industry research projects.

Australia ranks 29th and 30th out of 30 developed countries on the proportion of large and small businesses collaborating with higher education and public research institutions on innovation, according to the OECD.


Things are looking up for Australia's massive services sector

Led by a lower Australian dollar and surging demand from Asia, the prospects for Australia’s massive services sector are looking up.

The much-hyped economic rebalancing, although slower than what many people would like, is clearly under way with the nation’s vast tourism and education industries leading the recovery in activity.

Paul Bloxham, chief Australia and New Zealand economist at HSBC Bank, has taken a look at the recent improvement in Australian services exports, stating that the burgeoning middle classes in Asia provide Australia significant trading opportunities outside of mining exports.

Here’s a snippet from Bloxham’s excellent research note released this morning:

    “Asia’s rising middle class incomes also present Australia with significant trading opportunities outside of mining. Most apparent is demand for services, particularly education and tourism. These are already quite large exports for Australia. Over the past year, education exports were Australia’s third largest export earner, at around AUD18bn, behind only iron ore and coal. Indeed, in the past couple of years, services exports have shifted from being a net drag on GDP growth to being a net contributor and have contributed more to GDP than resources exports over the past year.”

The charts below, supplied by Bloxham, reveal the rapid improvement seen in Australian services exports, particularly for education, tourism, and to a lesser degree, financial services.

Breaking down the improvement in tourism and education exports further, Bloxham suggests that the lower Australian dollar is also assisting the sector.

“In addition to rising Asian demand for services, Australia’s services exports have also been supported by the lower exchange rate,” notes Bloxham.

“This has lowered the price of Australian service providers relative to those overseas, which has both encouraged an increase in foreign visitors and encouraged Australians to travel locally rather than abroad. China is driving much of the growth in services exports.”

The charts below tell the story. Chinese annual visitor arrivals jumped by 135% over the past five years, rising from 400,000 to 940,000, the second largest of any nation behind New Zealand, while Chinese international student enrolments have increased by 11% so far in 2015 compared to the same period a year earlier.

The charts reinforces the point that the Australian economy is far more than just “China’s quarry”. The lower Australian dollar, something that is making the nation more competitive compared to other developed, highly skilled English-speaking nations, along with the rising middle classes in China, India and ASEAN nations, presents Australia with countless opportunities in the decades ahead.

While many of the headlines of late focus on weakness in commodity prices, the “CAPEX cliff” and concerns about China’s economy, there is more than enough evidence at hand to suggest Australia’s economic transition away from mining investment to other drivers of growth is gaining traction.

There is little doubt that the full transition will take time, and result in prolonged periods of sub-trend economic growth and weak national incomes growth. However, in the absence of another global downturn – something Australia has no bearing over – the prospects for the domestic economy are not grim.

Far from it, in fact. The opportunities are everywhere.

SOURCE.  (See the original for links & graphics)

29 September, 2015

Barry Humphries slams ABC as Leftist

And says society has become too politically correct

Australia’s greatest comedic export, Barry Humphries, says the ABC has become an extreme left-wing broadcaster and the former prime minister Tony Abbott was correct to criticise it.

“The ABC has become increasingly left wing. Blatantly so. Indeed so has another notable Australian newspaper,” Humphries said in an interview with The Australian.  “And I was surprised that they (the ABC) can be so openly of the extreme left.”

During his visits to Australia, about four times a year, his esteem for the public broadcaster has diminished, although he thoroughly enjoyed Sarah Ferguson’s The Killing Season — while ­suspecting the ABC produced it to ingratiate itself with the government during a difficult time in their relationship.

Humphries said the criticisms of the ABC by the former prime minister were justified.

“They were getting very worried about their relationship with the prime minister so they made this program with Rudd and ­Gillard to ingratiate themselves, The Killing Season, one of the best things the ABC has done,” he said.

When Humphries reads the newspapers each day, he said he becomes “steamed up” and often finds himself angrily writing a ­letter to the editor.  But he rarely sends them in.

“Every day when I read the paper something occurs when I get steamed up or fired up, steamed up, whatever, irate and I write a letter and never send it,” he said. “I have a pile. I should publish the letters. There’ve been a few good letters of mine.”

Bureaucratic folly, stupidity in high places and sexual hypocrisy are among the things that ignite Humphries’ ire.

Reflecting on how the format of news has changed over the years, he said so had Australia’s values, and he deeply regrets the way society has become, in his view, too politically correct.

“We think we live in a liberated age but we don’t really. I mean it’s just the way these things are ­expressed publicly and how we wag our fingers at people, how we disapprove of them and how we’re living in an age of new puritanism,” he said.

“Things were much more ­liberal 20 years ago than they are today. I’m really the sworn enemy of all forms of political correctness. You can’t call something what it really is.”

Humphries was so “steamed-up” over the website New ­Matilda’s publication of the University of Sydney professor Barry Spurr’s racist emails that he did send that particular letter in.

In the letters to the editor page of The Australian, Humphries defended Professor Spurr, lamenting the fact Australia had lost its sense of humour.

“I did feel that this man who was engaging in rather elaborate and perhaps rather tasteless joke privately was hacked into and then excoriated,” Humphries said.

“I thought we do persecute people pretty ruthlessly in Australia. And particularly in the ­academic world; it’s a jungle, it’s cut throat.”

While Professor Spurr was slammed for being racist, Humphries’ view is that one should “call a spade a spade” when discussing race. Speaking of Australian teachers who instil political correctness in students, Humphries described them as: “These sort of bullies who forbid them to call a spade a spade.”

“If you look at any school magazine today, very often they are Chinese or they come from families outside Australia,” he said, while agreeing it was “wonderful” to have a multicultural society.

Humphries’ relationship with The Australian began 51 years ago, soon after the newspaper was launched and Humphries wrote a regular column in it.  “My column was really about whatever happened to me during that week. Sometimes it was funny and sometimes it was terrible. I look back on it now not really with vacuous self-satisfaction but really with a kind of nostalgia for the 1960s, which is when it all happened,” he said.

“I’ve always liked the paper, our first national paper after all, and it’s still going strong. I still read it. I get it online.”

Humphries knew The Australian’s founding editor, the late Max Newton, very well. “He was rather cynical, he was an old-fashioned, hard-drinking journalist,” he said.

“Of course now they don’t smoke or drink. Max used to say all you need to be a good journalist is a Samsonite briefcase, a bottle of scotch and a gold Amex and a spare pair of underpants.”

After a long history with News Corp, Humphries agreed to be part of News Corp’s advertising campaign to promote the tablet and mobile editions of the metropolitan newspapers, The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, TheCourier-Mail and The Advertiser.

His characters, Dame Eda Everage and Sir Les Patterson are prominent in the ad, created by firm Archibald Williams, and there is a cameo by model Jennifer Hawkins. It launched yesterday and will run for eight weeks on social, digital, television and print.

News Corp managing director metro and regional publishing Damian Eales said the team chose Humphries because he is a comedic icon and Dame Eda and Sir Les were national living treasures.

“They appeal to the spectrum of our readers and we were delighted they were both on hand to lend their irrepressible humour to our campaign,” he said.


Mosque foes take aim at Bendigo council

The battle over Bendigo’s $3 million mosque took another menacing turn yesterday when a pro-mosque councillor found a threatening leaflet from right-wing extremist group United ­Patriots Front in his letterbox.

The bright red leaflet, with a picture purporting to be a Muslim holding a gun and with a big red cross through it, accuses Mayor Peter Cox and head of a not-for-profit, non-government emergency housing group Ken Marchingo of “corruption”.

Pictures of Mr Cox and Mr Marchingo are at the top of the leaflet with the words “What does corruption look like?” followed by a picture of a mosque with a large red cross through it.

“Mayor Cox & Ken Marchingo selling out Bendigo’s future,” it says under the pair’s pictures.

The leaflet also announces the details of another anti-mosque rally and a map highlighting where protesters should meet.

Pro-mosque councillor Mark Weragoda discovered the leaflet as he was mowing lawns at his home yesterday and said he took it as a “personal threat”.

“It wasn’t there on Saturday evening, so it must have been put in my letterbox overnight or early in the evening,” he said.

Mr Weragoda said none of his neighbours received the leaflet and he was concerned for the welfare of his wife and daughter, who were recently threatened during an anti-mosque protest at a heated council meeting at Bendigo Town Hall.

The meeting was abruptly adjourned and councillors were escorted out by police after protesters, most from outside Bendigo, swamped the council chambers.

The United Patriot Front is a breakaway group of extremists and a new anti-Islamic Australian group that has expressed political solidarity with far-right and neo-Nazi groups in Europe.

Bendigo residents and pro-mosque locals are outraged that members of extremist far-right groups, such as UPF, the Q society, which claims to be “Australia’s leading Islamic-critical movement”, and Reclaim Australia, have hijacked the local debate and used it to send anti-Muslim messages.

More than 400 anti-Islamic extremists were bussed into Bendigo from Sydney and Melbourne to an anti-mosque rally last month that saw violent scuffles between the anti-mosque group and an anti-racism group.

More than 300 police were sent to Bendigo for the rally in what one commander described as the biggest police operation he had seen outside of Melbourne.

Mr Weragoda believed the threatening leaflet was in response to an article in which he was named as pro-mosque published in the Weekend Magazine on Saturday that detailed the issues around the mosque debate and the involvement of right-wing extremist groups from outside town.

He said anti-mosque groups were active in trying to shut down any media seen as favourable to a mosque.


Australian coal industry to benefit from China carbon trading, says MCA

Australia's struggling coal industry stands to gain from China's surprise move to adopt a carbon trading system that puts a price on emissions, says the Minerals Council of Australia.

MCA chief executive Brendan Pearson said Australia had "a big advantage in this new era" because its coal exports were ideally suited to the new-generation, coal-fired power plants China was rolling out to help cut emissions.

"Far from being a threat, there is a real opportunity for Australia's coal sector in China's efforts to reduce emissions at lowest cost," Mr Pearson told Fairfax Media.

"There is a huge misconception that lower emissions and coal use are incompatible. That is dead wrong."

"Over the last eight years China's embrace of new coal generation has achieved emissions reductions 10 times those achieved by the European Union's emissions trading scheme."

The MCA is confident China will continue its huge rollout of high-energy, low-emissions, coal-fired power plants.


Case dismissed against accused bikies arrested while buying ice-cream

The laws concerned were always pretty dubious

A HIGH-PROFILE lawyer has rubbished Queensland’s anti-bikie laws, describing them as totally useless and nothing more than a political stunt.

His comments came as a court dismissed the case against five alleged bikies who were arrested under anti-association laws after they bought ice-cream during a Gold Coast holiday in January 2014.

The dismissal in Southport Magistrates Court this morning came as the prosecution revealed it had no evidence against any of the accused.

Bill Potts, who represented two of the five men, said the case cost $500,000 of public money and was the latest example of the laws failing to meet the burden of proof in court.

He added that his clients were guilty of nothing more than arguing over what type of ice-cream they wanted.

“The offence in effect is buying ice-cream in a public place,” Mr Potts said.  “The biggest controversy was whether it should be a choc-top or a vanilla ice-cream.”

Victorian friends Bane Alabejovic, Kresimir Basic, Darren Keith Haley, Dario Halilovic and Daniel Morgan Lovett were all arrested and charged while leaving an ice-cream shop at Surfers Paradise during a holiday with their families.

The five were accused of being bikie gang members and charged under a law introduced by the former Liberal-National Party government to prevent members of a criminal organisation from knowingly gathering in a group of more than two people in a public place.

At the time of their arrests, a woman who claimed to be the partner of one of the men said she was disgusted by what had happened.

“Basically the boys have gone to get the kids ice cream and the police have got them and locked them up,” she told reporters after the men were detained.

“To me I think it’s gross, gross, inhumanity, you wouldn’t even treat dogs like this.”

Mr Potts told the Australian at the time: “The police found no drugs, no guns, no evidence of any criminality.

“Their offence is walking down the street and looking for ice creams. It is now illegal to be friends in a public place looking for an ice cream in Surfers Paradise.”

Queensland’s anti-bikie laws attracted scathing criticism when they were passed in October 2013, with senior barrister Stephen Keim telling a lawyers conference on the Gold Coast last year that the laws breached human rights.

This morning, after the case against the men was dismissed, Mr Potts said he hoped the anti-bikie laws would be abolished when they were reviewed by the current Queensland government.

He added that this was the latest anti-association case to be thrown out without proof.  “Not one prosecution has been able to be sustained,” he said.  “Anti-association laws don’t work ... it prevents nothing and saves nobody.”

All five men spent more than two weeks in custody following their arrests, including time in solitary confinement, before being granted Supreme Court bail.

Mr Potts said his clients were considering their legal options regarding possible civil action.


Why the West wants to lose (?)

Sociologist John Carroll writes below from Australia but his perspective is an international one.  He considers at the outset that the negativity he discusses is Leftist but dismisses that.  He argues that it is simply human.  He justifies that by saying that the Nazis were a bad lot and they were "Right-wing".  But they were not.  They were socialists and Carroll should know that.  And antisemitism is once again very Leftist, though usually under the shallow pretence of "anti-Zionism".  Even Karl Marx despised Jews so claiming that antisemitism is "Rightist" is a joke.

I think Carroll's claims are a crazy overgeneralization.  Conservatives are the people who are happily getting on with their lives and just want the government off their backs.  It is the Left who are congenital miseries, who hate just about everything about them.  So I read Carroll's interesting analysis below as an analysis of the Left.  They truly are a dismal bunch.  It is the Western Left who want their countries and societies to lose and lose big

George Orwell wrote in England in 1944, in an essay for Partisan ­Review, that he had come to judge the entire Left intelligentsia as hating their country, to the extreme of being dismayed whenever Britain won a victory in the war against Hitler.

Orwell still identified himself as a socialist when he wrote this. Orwell was, without doubt, exaggerating, in his blanket condemnation of the entire Left intelligentsia. And his observation needs the further qualification: he was writing at the close of a period in which the extreme Right in Europe, via messianic fascist nationalism, had been cataclysmically destructive.

I have been puzzled myself by the phenomenon Orwell observed, very common in humanities faculties at the universities at which I have worked. It might be termed cultural masochism, and has manifested in many forms. Whenever before in human history have significant groups within a nation — often privileged, elite groups — wanted their own to fail or to be defeated?


The broad cultural condition of unbelief established the preconditions. They arose in the wake of the death of God: the near total collapse of institutional religion, and, in generalised accompaniment, confident belief in a higher power that directs the human world. In relation to the possibility of a metaphysical beyond, most people today, at best, believe there is “something there”. That something is vague.

The prototype of the paralysing anxiety aroused in someone sensitive to the fact he believes in nothing was Dostoevsky’s character Stavrogin, from The Possessed (1872). Stavrogin is a handsome, brilliant and confident young aristocrat whom almost everyone of his generation — male and female — falls in love with. He has studied widely, travelled, visited the holy sites, fought duels and engaged in many love affairs. He fears no one. A few years earlier he was the charismatic teacher to a circle of young men, engaging them in questions of ultimate meaning. His name derives from the Greek word for cross; Dostoevsky is experimenting with him as the messiah for a secular age.

Stavrogin has taken on life and lived it to the full. If anyone has discovered the answer of how to live in a secular time, and make sense of one’s own life, it is he. When we meet him, however, he is listless and nihilistic, indifferent to the offer to lead a revolutionary group. Stavrogin’s passions are so flat the most he can manage is a few adolescent pranks. His face looks like a beautiful mask, a death mask. He admits to past times of wild debauchery — not for pleasure but to try to find a limit, something to believe in that would stop him. He finds no limits; for him, everything is permitted.

A feature of the cultural turbulence of the early 20th century was the number of commanding philosophical and literary figures who were driven by despair at cultural decadence. The conclusion they had reached — that my culture has no authority, and provides me with no convincing explanations to justify my existence — left them in an intolerable position. To choose two of the exemplars: Georg Lukacs and TS Eliot both took a deliberate leap of faith out of their respective wastelands. When Lukacs joined the Communist Party in 1918, arguably the most sophisticated and well-read intellectual of his generation had turned into an apologist for Stalin. From soon after Eliot became a “little England” Anglican Christian in 1927, the pungency of his earlier poetry evaporated into fey abstraction.

Today, the youth that takes with idealistic enthusiasm to the Green political movement may be located in this same mental domain, although without the self-consciousness or the intensity of anguish. The content seems almost arbitrary, with the attachment rather to the enthusiasm itself — Stavrogin was as desperate to find a passion in himself, irrespective of its end, as to find a limit. Naive Green idealism is possible only in an affluent world under no threat of war; and little threat of hardship, for the young Greens, by and large, live in the prosperous inner cities.

Freud’s pregnant concept of negation is useful. What appears in surface behaviour is the opposite of its unconscious motivation, the act deliberately inverting its true nature. In Freud’s own examples, negation is provoked by feelings of guilt — as with the forced smile in someone whose ideal of themselves is that they are a nice person, who smiles on the surface to cover up unconscious aggression, “to smile and smile and be a villain”.

More interestingly in the context of this essay, negation may also be triggered by a longing for authority. Marlow, the narrator in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, reaches the conclusion, at the end of his adventures, that humans need something outside themselves to bow down before. Otherwise they go mad.

In the narrow political sphere, power, if it is to gain legitimacy, needs the authority of an established order: say, the ensemble of a hereditary monarch, age-old institutions, a venerable legal tradition, and a people’s cherished customs. Every dynamic community — from the nuclear family, to the sporting club, school, trade union, or church — lives off a powerful collective conscience, giving it authority over the actions of its members. Today, nostalgia for cosy, close-knit community, which it is feared is disappearing, pervades television soap opera. It reflects a longing for one type of lost authority.

Failing belief may trigger hatred of the dying god. Lapsing ­Catholics turn against the Pope. The residue of some love or need generates the hatred. The longing for authority, in negation, leads to hostility to the weakness of existing authorities — for university students in the 1960s it was parents, political leaders, and university lecturers and vice-chancellors. This was understandable, and more than pure negation: the curiosity of a youth generation eager to take on the adult world seeks leadership, not an ineffectual older generation limp in its own lack of direction. Stavrogin was brought up by weak father figures and an hysterical mother.

More pathological in the 1960s was the lurch into idealising mega-powerful, brutal dictators like Mao Zedong. Here was a vivid symbol of the hurt felt by the loss of the old gods — the old authorities. More simple negation was exhibited when self-proclaimed peace-loving, flower-waving students demonstrated violently against the Vietnam war.

The ordeal of unbelief provides the modern context for the eruption of drives universal to the human condition, notably power envy and moral paranoia. They have provided the energy source for a new form of social pathology, one peculiar to the modern West — cultural masochism. The sado-masochistic pleasure gained by some individuals in suffering pain at the hands of another is projected outwards on to the person’s own culture and society. Damaging it, attacking it, seeing it suffer and being diminished, brings pleasure. This is extraordinary.

These same drives may be projected in any political direction, depending on the historical moment. In Germany in the 1930s, students were, in the main, inclined to the Nazi Right, and to a messianic nationalism with sadistic rather than masochistic tropes. Hitler cleverly exploited, in his writings and speeches, the need for something to believe in, which he offered to provide. Since the 1940s, it happens that political pathology in the West has been predominantly of the Left. This may, of course, change — for instance, xenophobic right-wing parties may rise again in Europe to be of more than marginal significance. And the emergence of Muslim youth in Western countries attracted by Islamic State fanaticism illustrates the broad effect of the ordeal of unbelief.


Three great psychologists have cast their powerful interpretative gaze across the modern world — Dostoevsky, Nietzsche and Freud. Of them, the master interpreter of culture and its contemporary travails was Nietzsche. Nietzsche argued that a will-to-power is at the core of human motivation. It leads inevitably to the weak envying the strong, and individual behaviour manifesting sublimations of this envy across all fronts. Nietzsche was following 17th-century French moralist the Duc de La Rochefoucauld, who identified self-esteem (and with it vanity and insecurity) as the key to all human motivation. Humans are insecure egotists, which explains the pride and the fear that governs almost all of what they do. Nietzsche extends the analysis to those discontented with their lives, ill at ease in themselves, which means, sick of themselves. Such individuals are inwardly driven to seek a cause for their suffering: someone or something must be to blame. The hurt becomes externalised.

Let me switch back to the contemporary world. Patriotism feeds off, and generates, an undercurrent of confidence, wanting the nation to be successful, which means powerful. It is the same with football fans supporting their team. Where the identification fails, or the authority of the parent society is too weak, resentment may surface in that hatred of nation Orwell found abhorrent. In Western countries, power envy is often expressed in reflex anti-Americanism, the target chosen simply because it is the leading power in the West — the leader on our side, so to speak. The morning after the destruction of the twin towers in New York in 2001, Mon­ash University students were celebrating in public.

David Hicks became a hero for a broad section of those who are left-oriented, on the surface grounds that he might have been tortured by the Americans while he was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. The subtext was that he had trained with al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan before and after September 11, 2001, including direct contact with Osama bin Laden; and he had fought against Coalition forces that included the Australian Army. The actions of this “hero” bordered on treason. The Hicks example suggests the subject was not chosen simply as a device for thinking evil of America — although that was the case. Negation was at work, the candidate chosen because he had been actively engaged, siding with the enemy.

The ideological Left has generally had an irrationally wrought hostility to strong and intelligent leaders on the Right, such as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Malcolm Fraser (while prime minister), Jeff Kennett and John Howard. Some were mocked as boof-headed (Kennett) or senile (Reagan). Strong leaders of the Left — for example, Franklin Roosevelt and Bob Hawke — have not attracted similar ­antipathy.

Nietzsche argued that the clerisy — which includes the clergy and the intelligentsia — is of its nature impotent, compared with people who live active lives, who direct and make things, who are decisive, and who enjoy themselves. The clerisy, in its tortured inwardness, becomes rancorous — and above all moralistic. Out of disgust at itself, and irritation with its life, it launches into bad-tempered projections. While Nietzsche oversimplified — given that we humans are often composed of diverse personae blended into one complex form — strains of his central theme may be noted today. The clergy in mainstream churches hardly ever talk of faith, redemption or God. They seem embarrassed by their core mission, which is to provide convincing answers to the big-meaning questions of why we are here and what happens when we die. They rather don the ethical robes of empathy for the disadvantaged and rail against government callousness, appearing more like politicised social workers than apostles of the faith. Religion and politics do not belong together — as Jesus himself taught.

Much of the intelligentsia has turned against the long Western high-cultural tradition that since Homer and Plato has sought the true, the beautiful, and the good. It has rather set to criticising its society: customs, traditions and institutions. The current lead manifestation is refugee studies, whereby a dozen areas in the humanities have taken up the politically fashionable “oppressed” of the moment, victims of a cruel, hard-hearted Australian government — there must be hundreds of PhD theses being written around the country on this blight on the national character. Now I don’t question that the practical politics of how to deal with a flow of people voyaging on barely seaworthy boats to try to land in Australia raises difficult human challenges with no morally clear-cut solutions. What I do question is the exploitation of the issue to attack the civic order.


The paranoid disposition splits the world into good and evil (no grey). It does so in just the same way that fundamentalist religions do. Indeed, all fundamentalism exhibits the same psycho-pathology.

Paranoid extremism is manifest in grandiose delusions of self-importance, or in delusions of persecution. The cosmos is riven by the warring forces of good and evil. Evil is satanic, and therefore potent enough to spread superhuman contagion. Modern secular crusades are driven by ideological fundamentalism, imputing quasi-religious metaphysical forces that justify the venom against what is hated. These crusades have been predominantly but not exclusively of the Left — on the Right, the free-market camp has included some zealotry.

Let two examples suffice. In the 1970s, Australian and American soldiers returning from fighting for their country in Vietnam were confronted by screaming contempt by tens of thousands of their fellow citizens. It was as if they had been fighting for the devil. Second, the nation and its people are spat on today as racist, with particular examples (which can be found in any country) blown up and generalised. This is singularly unconvincing in the case of Australia, which has successfully welcomed and settled millions of immigrants.

Moral paranoia may be a sub-category of power envy. The powerful, or the imagined powerful (Jewish bankers or more recently Israel, capitalists, the CIA, right-wing media moguls), are inflated to embody monolithic evil. Examples from the Right include Pauline Hanson’s fears that Asians were taking over Australia. Rupert Murdoch has made the perfect bogeyman with his global media empire, given that the rampaging paranoid imagination is inclined to see the invisible tentacles of media influence reaching into every home and controlling the minds of the simple souls who live there. These contemporary Big Brothers flood the world in a fog of pollution — with the very use of contamination imagery illustrating the high moralist cast of mind, and the quasi-religious associations with sin and damnation.

Free-floating resentment may be projected on to the political stage without any personal repercussions, or face-to-face confrontations, where irresponsible opinions do not need to be defended or tested.


The ultimate challenge of Nietzsche is to prove that he is exaggerating. If we humans are no more than monomaniacal egotists, simply motivated by power, and the anxieties that flow from fear of powerlessness, this reality is a more severe blow to our self-­esteem than Darwin’s linking our parentage to the monkey.

What is the evidence in support of Nietzsche? Who has any friends whom they don’t suspect will gain some pleasure if they come to harm? Gore Vidal quipped that whenever one of his friends had a success, a part of him died. Strip away the civilised veneer and raw competitiveness rules. Children are unabashedly transparent in their me-me-me self-promotions. Are they not simply more open and honest than adults?

Competitiveness rules as much in the defences against fear of failure as in open battles for power and influence. The compulsion to do better than others, have more influence, and more power to attract may be direct, as in elaborate female rituals of make-up and dressing. It may be indirect, as in sublimated identification with a celebrity or a football team. Fear of failure generates a plethora of rationalisations, from the openly hypocritical “I am a caring person”, and “competition is selfish”; to the self-deception of “I am a better person for the experience”; and to the more subtle putdowns of “he is too good to be true” and “she is just a pretty bird-brain”.

On the other side of the ledger, contra Nietzsche, there is some genuine compassion, a spontaneous and sympathetic warmth to another’s suffering. Nietzsche was right to judge pity as a mask for superiority, usually — its condescension an aspect of the will-to-power. But it is not always so. Orwell was an example.

Summing up, the obvious conclusion to draw is that the psychological reality of the human condition is mainly dispiriting. Writ large is Macbeth’s “poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage”. Which takes us back to the threat of unbelief in a secular age. With the axis of ­belief/unbelief tipping towards the latter, it becomes more difficult to find metaphysical inspiration. In other words, when unbelief doesn’t slide into cultural pathology it may be interpreted as a rational and honest response to a disenchanted reality. But that is Stavrogin.

Nietzsche’s will-to-power is the theory for a disenchanted age. When the world is disenchanted, power stands alone and rules. It is in service of the last limit, the No of No’s: death. Stavrogin is cursed by his failure to find anything with the authority to check him, to shame him, and any passion strong enough to engage him, so the one thing left to stop him is death, which he chooses. Australian politics today is jammed with wretched illustration, in the phalanxes of diminutives who choose to enter its halls without the slightest commitment to any cause except their own ­careers.

But no era is disenchanted in any absolute sense. That is not the nature of the human condition. Today, as always, the sense of a transcendent is what lifts the individual above the rapaciously selfish psychological plane. Those who find deep fulfilment in their work are likely to give it selfless devotion, and with it whomever they serve. Many find in family life a rich fulfilment that is inextricably tied to them giving themselves to something bigger than their individual selves. The sportsman or woman who finds scintillating form may be humbled by the experience. Then there is the awesome power of nature. And genuine compassion depends on some kind of faith in the human essence, which is another vein of the transcendent.

Here are intimations of “something there”, ones to which Stavrogin remained deaf.


28 September, 2015

Is Clueless Clemmie emulating that vicious British barrister feminist?

I want to say something about Clementine Ford's latest emission just to provide the balance that her Fascist thinking lacks but I am initially a little struck by her new photo.  See above.

Her old photo with its furiously red lipstick still accompanies her actual column but on the main page of the SMH there is now a much softer picture of her.  Is she hoping to trap rebarbative old reactionaries like me into praising her looks?  After the Charlotte Proudperson episode in Britain she should be so lucky!  NEVER praise a feminist's looks!  So what is the new image about?  Does she want a Lesbian bit on the side?  I guess that's it. Lesbian couples I have known did have one attractive female. 

But on to the important stuff:  In a typical Fascist way, she wants the government to solve our problems -- in this case the problem of violence against women.  But how CAN a government do that?  Turnbull has announced that he will spend a lot of money on it but that is just window-dressing.  Is he going to put a policeman in every home? Of course not.  Governments may be able to scratch at the margins of the problem but large and inherited  male/female differences will always be there and will in extreme and rare cases result in frustrations great enough to evoke violence.

All that the polity can reasonably do is provide refuges for threatened women and severe punishment for those men who do physically attack women.  But as far as I can tell, that is already pretty much in place.  Some problems will never be completely solved and a mature person learns to know when an  asymptote (limit) has been approached.

Just some excerpts from Clemmie below -- JR

Over the two, long years that Tony Abbott was Prime Minister, very little was done to address the scourge of men's violence against women. This sustained, brutal form of misogyny currently sees around 6 women killed per month while claiming the lives of just under 60 women this year*. Despite the arrogant appointment of himself to the office of Prime Minister for Women, Abbott's interest in issues affecting women's lives remained rooted in the retro ideology that assumes our greatest challenges lie in feeding our families and keeping our energy bills down.

Indeed, rather than direct even a skerrick of the attention given to combating fictional terror threats and desperate refugees fleeing war-torn countries, the Abbott government actually withdrew funding from organisations offering vital services to the victims of family violence. During the exit speech supposedly listing all of the successes of his government, Abbott reemphasised his disinterest in the impact of family violence when he said, "Then there's the challenge of ice and domestic violence, yet to be addressed."


Politics trumps reality over submarine building

Australian naval shipbuilders have a proven record of inefficiency and delay -- both of which greatly hike costs.  And in the end, the boat may not even work.  After decades of trying, the Collins subs have never been got to work properly.  A realistic government would learn from experience and never again give Australian unionists such work. We would get a much cheaper and better result to buy proven submarines off the shelf from Japan.  I like the idea of a sub that works as well as my Toyota -- JR

All three international bidders for the multi-billion-dollar contract to produce Australia's next fleet of submarines would prefer to build in Australia, according to Cabinet Minister Christopher Pyne.

The Federal Government is undertaking an international Competitive Evaluation Process with Japan, France and Germany all bidding for the lucrative deal.

Industry Minister Mr Pyne has confirmed Japan is open to an Australian build process, and said all three countries were prepared to offer a local build option.

He said all three countries were preparing hybrid and overseas build proposals too, but the bidders were aware the Federal Government wants the submarines to be constructed in Australia.

"All three of them are now saying they'd prefer a domestic build," Mr Pyne told Channel Nine this morning.

Ahead of the overthrow of former prime minister Tony Abbott a number of senior South Australian Liberals were fearful they would lose their seats if Japan secured the contract and the submarines were built offshore.

The state had originally been promised a job boosting submarine package by the Coalition Government, to offset the loss of thousands of car manufacturing jobs.

There is increasing Coalition concern that disillusioned votes will turn to other parties at the next election in protest, including Labor and the group formed by independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

Mr Pyne holds a South Australian seat that is considered marginal and has played up the prospects of Japan's interest in building in Australia.

"As a South Australian that is music to my ears but we will go through the proper processes and we'll make an announce at the appropriate time," he said.

"Sounds to me like all three bidders are picking up that we'd like to spend $50 billion of defence industry money in Australia where it creates jobs, new technologies, innovations, all sorts of spin-off industries.

"It would be great for Australia."

Labor's defence spokesman Stephen Conroy said he was happy to hear all countries were providing a local build option.

But he said Mr Pyne had not indicated that the Government will rule out building the submarines overseas.

"Well he's pretty brave today but he was silent when this debate's been raging for the last 12 months," Senator Conroy told AM.

"When Chris Pyne and Marise Payne and Malcolm Turnbull receive those bids they should only consider the three domestic build bids."


Justice Margaret McMurdo urges Queenslanders to have to speak up on Human Rights Act

I am sure it is most unwise for me to contradict an eminent jurist but I nonetheless do think Maggie McMurdo, below, is wrong.  As far as I can tell, the writ of Britain's 1689 Bill of Rights still runs in Australia.  And it has served both Britain and Australia well.  Maggie may be thinking of the EU-inspired Bill of Rights introduced to Britain much more recently.  It is true that Australia has nothing like that, thankfully. One of its effects is to prevent most immigrant criminals from being deported from Britain -- to almost universal disapprobation among Britons.  Let us just have our good ol' 1689 bill doing its splendid job -- JR

JUSTICE Margaret McMurdo has outlined the advantages of a Human Rights Bill as the State Government establishes a parliamentary committee on the issue.

Queensland’s second most senior judge last night said similar Bills in the UK, New Zealand, Victoria and the ACT had been effective.

While delivering the University of the Sunshine Coast’s first law oration, Justice McMurdo said Australia was the only democracy without a Human Rights Act.  She quoted the late Nelson Mandela’s support of civil protections and urged people to get involved in the consultation process.  “I encourage each of you, as part of your personal celebration of 800 years of Magna Carta, to carefully follow and contribute to the parliamentary inquiry into whether Queensland should have a Human Rights Act,” she said.

The Palaszczuk Government is preparing to establish a parliamentary committee to consider the merits of a Bill of Rights for the state after the issue was raised by independent member for Nicklin and Speaker Peter Wellington.

Justice McMurdo, the president of Queensland’s Court of Appeal, who clashed publicly with former Chief Justice Tim Carmody, said it would be inappropriate to outline her personal opinion.

However she pointed out that in countries and states where rights were enshrined in law, there had not been the feared explosion in litigation.

Justice McMurdo said similar Acts had permeated the culture of those governments and public life right down to the rights of an elderly person in care being entitled to a shower curtain.

She said surveys undertaken as part of the Rudd government’s National Human Rights Consultation Report, had shown the majority of Australians were in favour.

But she said vocal opposition from certain media outlets, including The Australian newspaper, had successfully shut down progress.


Australian conservatives' warning to new PM: don't touch Direct Action climate policy

West Australian Liberal Dennis Jensen welcomed the assurances of Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who said Australia would not be altering its climate change abatement measures in response to the Chinese development.

But asked if the party's right still had concerns about what Mr Turnbull might do, Dr Jensen said, "absolutely".  "It's one of the conditions of the leadership change that we are sticking with the policy we had," he told Fairfax Media.  "It's also in the [Coalition] agreement with the Nationals, as I understand it.

"We fought a very damaging leadership contest on this very climate policy [in 2009], and we will now need to tread with enormous care, put it that way," he said.

Another conservative, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "Turnbull gave two assurances to people who jumped into his camp: no change to marriage plebiscite and no change to Direct Action.

"But I fear we will now be softened up in the next couple of months leading into Paris talks with the argument that we didn't want to get ahead but now that the world has acted, we need to do more, and if that happens, things could become very interesting for Turnbull."

The warning to the green-inclined new Australian Prime Minister reflects concerns among climate sceptics about Mr Turnbull's longer-term plans for the area.

It came as a slew of policy options in tax, education, and other areas ruled out by the Abbott government were placed back on the table, and as China, the world's biggest polluter, prepared to announce a landmark cap and trade scheme to tackle climate change and the country's appalling air quality.

Mr Xi was also expected to pledge a "significant financial commitment" to help poorer nations move away from fossil fuels in a joint announcement with his US counterpart, Barack Obama.

While Mr Turnbull declined to comment, Mr Hunt was sent out to reassure nervous Liberals that the development out of Beijing would not lead to a similar move from Canberra.

"China's on track to be plus-150 per cent on its emissions from 2005 to 2030. We're on track to be minus-26 to minus-28 per cent, so any form of action by any country is welcome, but for us, we're getting the job done, we're doing it without a carbon tax, we're doing it by lowering electricity prices ... and we're reducing emissions in one of the most effective ways in the world," he told Sky News.

He said Australia was doing its part, and while China's move was positive, it was up to each country to work out what was best for it.

China and the US – the two largest economies and greenhouse gas polluters – are attempting to lead global action on climate change, and use their international clout to pressure other countries, including Australia, to do more.

Under Direct Action, the Australian government is paying companies and farmers to make emissions cuts, while also setting "baselines" for large polluting companies to try to put limits on their emissions.

A national Chinese emissions trading scheme would expand on existing pilot projects in seven Chinese cities already up and running.

The national market would open in 2017 and would cover industries including power generation and iron, steel and cement makers, according to the White House officials who briefed reporters in Washington.

Australia's Direct Action scheme has been criticised by some observers for lacking teeth and not being able to drive enough cuts to meet the country's international targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

However, some believe Direct Action could ultimately be turned into a form of emissions trading – called "baseline and credit" – in coming years if there is sufficient political will.

The Coalition government has said it will revisit climate policies in 2017-18 as part of an increasing focus on meeting the 2030 goals. Meanwhile, the Labor opposition has committed to introducing an emissions trading scheme as part of its platform for the next federal election.


27 September, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is very concerned about the worldliness of the present Pope

Has Australia stopped being a lucky country?

There is much truth in the tale below but it completely skips over who was responsible to pulling Australia down. As ever, it is the Left.  The article below fails to mention the huge debts run up by the 2007-2013 Rudd/Gillard government and the need the present government has to divert taxpayer funds from productive expenditure into paying the interest bill.  On top of the borrowing, it was also the Labor government that squandered the income from the mining boom.  The coalition government has been in power for only two years and has been blocked from reforms by the Senate -- JR

AUSTRALIA is no longer the ‘lucky country’.  That is the assessment of the nation’s most powerful economist, John Fraser. Mr Fraser says Australians have become complacent about their declining wealth because they live in a stable and peaceful country.

“Our income per capita is falling. You wouldn’t know it. Everybody is happy and, in Canberra in particular, everybody is deliriously happy and comfortable,” he said in an interview for The Australian Financial Review Magazine’s power issue.

His comments come as Australians’ disposable income drops and house prices continue to rise.

Mr Fraser said that the nation’s problems were similar to those experienced in the early 1980s, when Australia was falling out of the ranks of the world’s richest countries, but the community didn’t recognise the need for policy chances.

Leading economist Saul Eslake told it was “fair to say Australia’s luck is changing”.

“We had 10 years of good fortune in the form of rising prices for commodities but I think previous governments have squandered that good fortune and now that luck has changed,” he said.

Commodity prices were almost 60 per cent down following a peak in 2011, according to Mr Eslake. “And they’ve got further to fall,” he said.

“Some of the chickens hatched in that era are coming home to roost.  “They come in the shape of governments’ ongoing budgetary difficulties.”

He said Australians had been lulled into a false sense of security and were not prepared for what was to come.  “Because the last 25 years have been so good, only a proportion of currently working Australians have much memory of difficult times,” Mr Eslake said.

“And as a result they have high exceptions of what government can and should do for them which governments will almost certainly not be able to meet.

“That’s because, in part, the way in which successive governments squandered the fruits of the earlier luckier period and partly because global circumstances won’t be as favourable.”

Mr Eslake predicted that “growth in national income and employment will be significantly slower on average than it has been over the last 15 years” in coming years.

But it’s not all bad news.  Mr Eslake said Australia’s economy was faring better than other resource-based economies including Canada and Brazil.

“Lower interest rates are working to give us the highest level of housing activity ever and there are signs that the fall in the exchange rate is also boosting the competitiveness of some of our other industries such as tourism and the greater flexibility of the labour market is helping to provide some support for employment,” he said.


Rich People Only: How the property boom is tearing our cities apart

Once again, no analysis of why.  The problem is real but solving it needs understanding it.  And the causes are as simple as the law of supply and demand.  Demand is outstripping supply despite quite high building activity.  Why?  Demand is being pumped up by a high level of immigration.  All those migrants, refugees or otherwise, have to be housed.  And the supply is being restricted by an unholy combination of Greenies, NIMBYs and some farmers -- who regularly oppose the release of land for new housing.  That keeps the supply down and the price up.  The simplest remedy would be a big reduction in net immigration, maybe even a complete moratorium -- JR

AUSTRALIAN capital cities have sold out to the elite and cashed in the values that have sustained them, according leading Sydney University academic, Professor Patrick Phibbs.

“The problem is we’re essentially sleepwalking our way to very unequal cities and unless we do something about it soon it might be too late,” the Chair of Urban and Regional Planning and policy said following Sydney University’s Festival of Urbanism earlier this month.

“We’ve taken our eye off looking out for people on low to moderate incomes and we’re basically just pandering to an elite, and I think that’s a risk. Do we want a fair city, do we want an equal city, or do we just want a city where people talk about how much money they made off their million dollar apartment?”

The problem, according to Professor Phibbs, is the way Australians, and much of the world, sees housing today. “We’ve seen the complete pivot of housing from being a place where you live, as a form of shelter, to essentially housing as a wealth generator,” he says, “People have got to look a bit beyond their own personal gain. Sure you’ve made $500,000 on your house but is that really a good thing?”

With the mining boom fading, Australia’s economy is now leaning on an exploding property market for support.

As the Australian reported recently, a boom in apartment buildings around the nation has been responsible for a fifth of Australia’s economic growth over the past two years. A push that has been fuelled by a six billion dollar contribution from China, along with other foreign investors, to the Australian property market. Some of whom have used sophisticated trust structures to get around foreign investment laws.

The Abbott government, who oversaw the recent boom, failed to rein in the runaway housing market. Instead they encouraged it, despite persistent howls over housing affordability in the nation’s major cities. Today it’s left us with some of the least affordable housing on earth, particularly in Sydney where house prices are now 13 times the average annual wage.

“Sydneysiders have always prided themselves on being reasonably egalitarian and sticking up for the battler, but I think essentially we’ve stabbed the battler right in the wallet over the last ten years,” said Professor Phibbs.

Around the country, meanwhile, the economy is showing sign of weakening, with an inflated rental and housing market distorting living costs; unemployment on the rise; wage increases struggling to keep pace with inflation; and Australia’s net disposable income per head — the best measure of living standards — dropping by 1.2 per cent.

The losers in this scenario are pretty much everyone, says Professor Phibbs, though particularly the current generation of young Australians.

“In the current property boom there is a huge group of losers and the biggest, in a general sense, are young people. If they want to buy a house in Sydney, which a lot do, they essentially have to climb a cliff and I just think that’s completely out of order,” he said, adding, “If we’ve managed to make what was an affordable suburb to where houses are worth a million dollars, we’re just headed in the wrong direction.”

“If you’re saying Sydney is a place where kids can grow up and have opportunities, we’re essentially saying, nup, if you’ve bloody got a lot of cash you can stay here,” he says.


UN cancels Australia visit over Border Force laws

Well-done!  Keeping creepy Crepeau out is a big win, judging by his absurd condemnations of the UK.  There is no doubt about what his judgment of Australia would be.  He compared Britain to Nazi Germany -- JR

The United Nations has postponed a planned visit to Australia because the federal government cannot guarantee legal immunity to detention centre workers who discuss asylum seekers and migrants.

The United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Canada's Francois Crepeau, was due to visit Australia on Sunday for about two weeks to investigate the plight of migrants and asylum seekers in offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, following an invitation from the federal government.

But Mr Crepeau said in a statement that the Border Force Act, which makes it a crime for immigration and border protection workers to disclose information about offshore detention centres, "serves to discourage people from fully disclosing information relevant to my mandate".

Under the law, such people face up to two years in prison for recording or disclosing information they obtain from their work.

 "This threat of reprisals with persons who would want to cooperate with me on the occasion of this official visit is unacceptable," he said. "The Act prevents me from fully and freely carrying out my duties during the visit, as required by the UN guidelines for independent experts carrying out their country visits."

It was impossible for Mr Crepeau to carry out his visit as an independent expert for the UN because the Australian government "was not prepared" to meet his request for a written guarantee that anyone he met during his visit would not risk being intimidated or face imprisonment under the law.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton described the postponement as "disappointing and unfortunate".

"The government accommodated to the fullest extent possible the requests of the office of the Special Rapporteur as it has with past visits."

The spokesman declined to say whether the government would consider offering exemptions to the secrecy provisions of the Australian Border Force Act, saying: "The Special Rapporteur was briefed on the responsibilities and obligations of personnel under relevant Australian law.

"Australia remains ready to arrange a future visit by the Special Rapporteur."

Mr Crepeau said Australia had also denied his repeated requests for full access to offshore detention centres since March. "I was also extremely disappointed that I was unable to secure the cooperation needed to visit any offshore centre, given the international human rights and humanitarian law concerns regarding them, plus the Australian Senate Inquiries on the offshore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, which raised concerns and recommendations concerning these centres," he said.

The Special Rapporteur said he had been planning the visit with the Australian government since January.   

Mr Dutton's spokesman said the Department of Immigration had worked closely with Mr Crepeau's office to organise a programme for his visit, which was to include visits to detention centres, and meetings with key government officials and service providers.

But he said the government had no role in organising access to offshore detention centres: "Access to Regional Processing Centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru is the responsibility of these sovereign nations and needs to be addressed with their governments."

Organisations including the Australian Human Rights Commission, UNHCR and Commonwealth Ombudsman, had visited both on and offshore detention centres "without the need to respond in this way," he said.

The Human Rights Law Centre's executive director, Hugh de Kretser, said the cancelled visit was "unprecedented for a western liberal democracy".

"This is extremely damaging for Australia's reputation – particularly when our human rights record will be reviewed at the UN in November and we're seeking election to the UN Human Rights Council in 2018. It's extremely damaging to our ability to advance our national interest on the world stage," said Mr de Kretser.

It was also a "huge missed opportunity" for newly-appointed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to pursue a "more constructive relationship with the UN".

"We urge the Australian Government to urgently provide the necessary assurances to the Special Rapporteur to enable the official visit to take place at a future date."

Doctors, and humanitarian workers have previously criticised the Border Force Act which was passed earlier this year with the support of Labor, saying it prevents proper public scrutiny of detention centres in line with their duty of care to asylum seekers.

The government has dismissed such claims, saying a separate federal law ensured officials were protected in making "public interest disclosures". But it is unclear which health or medical professionals would be required to comply with the new secrecy provisions.

Under the law, workers can only release such information legally if they have permission from the secretary of the department, if they are authorised by law, or if a court or tribunal orders or directs them to do so. The secretary would have to be satisfied that the information would help the person to perform their duties or powers to give them permission to release it.


Abbott-hater celebrates Turnbull

For perspective, you may need to know that Niki Savva --  below -- wrote a book titled "So Greek, confessions of a conservative leftie"

Malcolm Turnbull’s first ministry has sent a powerful message of inclusion as well as regeneration. The photo of the new Prime Minister surrounded by all the women he has appointed to the cabinet and outer ministry, with his deputy Julie Bishop in the vanguard, will act as a clarion call to women that not only are they welcome inside the Liberal Party again, there is room for them at the top.

The previous administration kept talking about it, complaining incessantly about the shortage of prominent women despite the fact there were talented women there all along, waiting for the call, only to be locked out despite any number of opportunities to promote them. It was left to Turnbull to do it. He did it partly by having the courage to retire men who had a better run than they deserved or by appealing to mates such as Ian Macfarlane to step aside, which he did with great poise. Eric Abetz likewise maintained his dignity.

Will the country be less safe with Marise Payne as Defence Minister? Methinks her first press conference in that job showed it will not, nor would it have been a year ago when there was an opening. Michaelia Cash and Kelly O’Dwyer also have finally been given the opportunity to shine.

Importantly, Turnbull has conveyed a message of tolerance too. Many of those promoted, or who retained their positions, did not vote for him. Check them out: Andrew Robb, Scott Morrison, Mathias Cormann, Greg Hunt, Peter Dutton, Josh Frydenberg, Christian Porter. One of them went so far as to say he had spent more time discussing with the new Prime Minister the shape of things to come than he ever did with his predecessor. Those who suggest Turnbull has engaged in retribution, or that conservatives have been sidelined, are peddling self-serving nonsense.

While we wait for the changes in policy, there has been an immediate and welcome change in rhetoric, in tone and in manner. On Monday night, in a flirty, expansive interview with Leigh Sales, those viewers who had forgotten what Turnbull was like got an insight into an intelligent, complex personality. It also laid down some markers on matters on which he can be judged later, such as tax reform, the importance of polling in the lives of politicians, and the setting of policies within a free-market framework.

Yesterday, in another long interview, this time with Sky News, he was confident, cool, determined not to be led by one of the nation’s sharpest interviewers, David Speers, on to paths too dangerous to tread.

Turnbull has learned the value of consultation, and it shows. His colleagues are flattered he is asking, even more delighted when their suggestions are taken up, as some have been. It has come as a revelation to them, dispelling at least one doubt about his capacity to learn from his first time around. He has learned that colleagues often have good ideas too, so setting aside the time to talk to them pays off in more ways than one. Hallelujah.

The thrashing and gnashing of the capital-C conservatives continues, reminiscent if anything of the last moments of Pris, the replicant terminated by Deckard in the film Blade Runner. If they want Bill Shorten to become prime minister, with everything that entails, they should keep it up. The lying, delusion, bitterness or vengefulness of the vanquished and their supporters is really smart. Dignified too. Not.

Turnbull cannot pander to those carrying on like they want him to fail, nor can he afford to ignore them. He needs to deliver another message, by way of a thoughtful, broad-ranging speech to promote the healing — or the bonding, if you like — of the party’s conservative and liberal wings.

It should come sooner rather than later because there is no point allowing things to fester.

The idea was prompted from one of many wise heads wanting him to succeed, one key to the success of the Howard era who became so disillusioned with the Abbott regime that he had stopped listening but is now, like many others, hopeful and alert.

The objective of such a speech should be to show Liberals, not just inside the government but in the party’s heartland (and to steal a favourite expression of John Howard’s) that what unites conservatives and small-l liberals is greater and more enduring than that which divides.

Take budget repair. Fulfilling the dream of returning it to surplus is both a liberal project and a conservative one. It is about prudent management of taxpayers’ dollars to ensure there will be money there for things society needs and cares about: strong defence, a proper safety net, improved health and education services.

Border protection is both a liberal project and a conservative one. Governments should be able to control who comes here, and if they can do that, they provide a vehicle for a more generous immigration and refugee program.

Tackling social problems with a strong focus on personal responsibility (such as domestic violence) is both a liberal project and a conservative one. Nowhere was that demonstrated more emphatically than when Howard reformed gun laws in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre. People are free only when they feel safe.

And so on.

Turnbull was restored to the leadership because he repaired relations with enough of the sensible Right to win. Others, except the completely unhinged, will gradually come across after a suitable period of mourning if he shows what they can achieve if they all work together.

But it will take more than words. Integral to the success of this government is the relationship between the Prime Minister and Scott Morrison.

When prime ministers and treasurers work well together, when both are at their peak in their jobs (which is the polite way of saying when both are up to their jobs) the government overall works well. That was the case with Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, then with Howard and Peter Costello. Keating slotted into the leadership role; however, after John Dawkins resigned as treasurer, the government struggled. A competent prime minister cannot succeed on his own.

Turnbull and Morrison have had a complicated relationship, which is now on a sound footing. Given their combined talents there is no reason, in the early years at least, they should not secure strong foundations for the Coalition, despite the best efforts of some to besmirch the Treasurer’s reputation


25 September, 2015

Julie Bishop to oversee largest ever cuts in Australian aid: report

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is set to preside over by far the largest overseas aid cuts as a proportion of the nation's income of any foreign minister in Australian history, a new report has found.

The report by the left-leaning think tank The Australia Institute has charted the rise and fall in Australia's foreign aid program since it was introduced by the Whitlam government in 1974.

If the aid cuts projected in the most recent federal budget go ahead, Ms Bishop will oversee a massive 33 per cent drop in spending, which is nearly double that of the next most parsimonious minister Bill Hayden, who in the 1980s managed a drop of 17 per cent under the Labor Hawke government.

"When it comes to foreign aid, Australia is not generous – irrespective of whether this is considered against historical or world standards," the report by the institute's senior economist Matt Grudnoff and researcher Dan Gilchrist said.

Since coming to power, the Coalition under Tony Abbott earmarked $11 billion in aid cuts between 2014 and 2018. Ms Bishop reportedly fought the cuts internally but Mr Abbott and former Treasurer Joe Hockey made them a central plank in their budget repair efforts.

Aid cuts tend to be popular with the Australian public but the report noted a 2011 finding by the Lowy Institute that Australians tend to think their government spends far more on foreign aid than it actually does.

By the 2016-17 financial year, aid as a proportion of gross national income will fall to 0.22 per cent, which is the least generous level since the aid program began and a fraction of the 0.7 per cent committed to by the former Howard government under the 2000 Millennium Development Goals.

It also means that Australia, despite being the eighth largest economy in the OECD, will be the 19th most generous OECD donor.

The report said that with Ms Bishop remaining foreign minister under the new leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, "she has the opportunity to boost our aid budget and avoid being remembered as Australia's stingiest foreign minister".

The Australia Institute report concluded that former Labor foreign minister Stephen Smith oversaw the largest aid increase of 16 per cent followed by Liberal Tony Street in the early 1980s who hiked aid by 8 per cent.

Kevin Rudd as foreign minister increased aid by 5 per cent, but Bob Carr cut it by 3 per cent.

Further back, Labor's Gareth Evans cut by 8 per cent and Liberal Alexander Downer cut by 10 per cent.


Turnbull Raps China on Island Building

Australia’s new leader criticized China’s building of artificial islands in the South China Sea, as his government sought to reassure Washington over his country’s tight alliance with the U.S.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in his first foreign policy statements since ousting his predecessor Tony Abbott last week, said China’s construction of artificial islands around reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands was counterproductive because it raised concerns in Asia over Beijing’s territorial intentions.

“The pushing the envelope in the South China Sea has had the consequence of exactly the reverse consequence of what China would seek to achieve,” Mr. Turnbull told Australian television. He said the actions have pushed smaller Asian countries closer to the U.S. due to their security concerns.

A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said Beijing was working to resolve disputes over the South China Sea through “negotiation and consultation” with other countries and said Beijing hoped Australia would “stick to its commitment of not taking sides on issues concerning sovereign disputes.”

In the past, Chinese officials have rejected criticism of the land reclamation work on the grounds that China has sovereign rights in the area.

Mr. Turnbull spoke days before the White House is expected to press Chinese President Xi Jinping over the islands during his visit to Washington, and as Australia sets long-term plans to boost its military.

Foreign policy experts believe Mr. Turnbull, 60, a wealthy former businessman with close personal and business ties to China, could steer a more Asia-centric government than the British-born Mr. Abbott. Such a stance could improve ties with Beijing and put more distance between Australia and Washington on security and foreign policy, these people say.

“Turnbull’s starting point is the magnitude of the shift in the distribution of wealth and power occurring with the rise of Asia, led by China, which he sees as the great geopolitical transformation of our time,” Australian National University security analyst Hugh White wrote in a blog.

Mr. Turnbull’s Monday night comments, appearing to be aimed at countering speculation he could prioritize ties with Asia over Washington, were punctuated by his new Defense Minister Marise Payne on Tuesday. She said Australia supported the U.S. rebalancing of forces to the Asia region, which includes plans to rotate more American troops, aircraft and warships through Australia. She also signaled Australia would continue airstrikes in support of U.S.-led efforts to counter Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, saying the threat of IS shouldn’t be underestimated.

Her first priority as defense chief, Ms. Payne said, would be to meet with her U.S. counterpart Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington. She and Mr. Turnbull also met on Monday with John Berry, Washington’s ambassador to Australia.

“That I hope reinforces for anyone who may have had an alternative view, that that is a key meeting for this government and for Prime Minister Turnbull, a key indication of where we intend to take [relations],” said Ms. Payne, who was appointed by Mr. Turnbull over the weekend during a cabinet shuffle.

Ms. Payne, 51 years old, takes over as Australia’s first female defense minister ahead of the release of a major long-term strategy blueprint in November that will outline a 20-year, A$270 billion ($194 billion) plan to boost the military. That includes A$89 billion for new frigates and offshore combat vessels and a A$20 billion fleet of eight submarines.

Mr. Turnbull is likely to lean toward part-construction in Australia after the departing defense minister said last week that as much as 80% could be built domestically. The leadership switch may have boosted the chances of German and French companies bidding for the project over a Japanese rival favored by Mr. Abbott, senior defense officials believe.

The French submarine—built by DCNS and the largest competing design—is favored by many cabinet members after aggressive German lobbying and Japanese reluctance to compete with French offers of building at least 70% of the fleet in Australia, helping protect vulnerable shipbuilding jobs, one senior official said.

Ms. Payne said she would also prioritize a visit to neighboring Indonesia, but had no early plans to visit China to soothe any worries there about a new Australian government study to be released over regional security risks. A previous one, in 2009, raised hackles in Beijing by highlighting the regional instability posed by China’s rise.

Mr. Turnbull said Chinese South China Sea policy belied its ambitions to assert more leadership in the Asia region.

“You would think what China would seek to achieve is to create a sufficient feeling of trust and confidence among its neighbors that they no longer felt the need to have the U.S. fleet and a strong U.S. presence in the western Pacific,” he said.


A smuggler’s boat bound for Australia became stranded yesterday morning in heavy seas

A SMUGGLER’S boat bound for Australia carrying 24 people became stranded yesterday morning in heavy seas off the south coast of Java after running into engine trouble.

The boat, crewed by three Indonesians from Makassar, was believed to be carrying 14 Bangladeshis and seven Indians, who were all rescued by local fishermen and taken to the nearby town of Cidaun.

News Corp understands the boat was underway when the engine failed in large waves, stranding the passengers at sea and leading them to call local fishermen to save them.

It is believed there were no deaths.

Cidaun is the same location from where an overloaded boat carrying Sri Lankans and Iranians set sail in July 2013, shortly after then prime minister Kevin Rudd announced that anyone who came by boat would never be settled in Australia but would instead go to Manus Island or Nauru.

That boat, carrying up to 200 people, broke up in heavy seas. The actual death count was never known, but it was believed to be around 30.

Only one boat is believed to have got close to the Australian mainland after Tony Abbott took power in late 2013.

That was a group of Vietnamese, who in July last year slipped the Border Force net and sailed close to Dampier, in northwest WA, where they were intercepted and reportedly sent back to Vietnam.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has warned asylum seekers they “will never come to Australia” on illegal boats despite voicing concerns about those in offshore detention centres.

Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, confirmed last month that Australian maritime forces had intercepted and turned back 20 boats since the Coalition took power, including putting some in lifeboats.

It is not known whether the latest boat set sail in response to the change of leadership, or if they had been conned by smugglers that Australia had changed its policies after it agreed to take 12,000 Syrian refugees.

It is just as likely they were determined to come regardless of the political circumstances in Australia.

Though the boats have for two years failed to make landfall, and passengers know that if they do they will be sent to Manus or Nauru, they have never stopped trying.

Mr Turnbull says it is “absolutely clear” there’ll be no Australian resettlement of asylum seekers in centres on Manus Island and Nauru, while conceding the government’s policy is harsh. “But it has worked,” he told ABC radio yesterday.


W.A.: Government potatoes twice as dear

But cosy little racket set to end

Western Australia’s potato regulator has taken aim at the state’s largest grower, using its annual report to single him out as one of the challenges facing the industry.

The Potato Marketing Corporation (PMC), a second world war-era vegetable regulator, is engaged in legal dispute with Tony Galati, the industrious potato grower who also owns the Spudshed chain of grocery stores, and who infamously gave away 200 tonnes of potatoes at those stores in January because the regulator would not let him sell more than his allocated quota.

In its 2014-15 annual report, tabled in WA parliament on Wednesday, the PMC singled Galati out for criticism, listing him alongside the weather and consumer demand for tricky-to-grow yellow-fleshed potatoes as reasons for a more difficult growing season.

“Overall the 2014-15 season was challenging from a number of perspectives including weather causing quality issues, and a substantial oversupply, largely by one grower, negatively influencing returns and distorting markets,” the report said.

Galati is not named in the report, but reference is made to the legal dispute.

“The significant oversupply during this growing year was overwhelmingly the result of the actions of one large integrated grower,” the report states.

“Several attempts have been made to resolve this issue with the grower, but without success such that legal action is pending.”

The PMC launched legal action in April, accusing Galati of breaching a 2013 agreement to grow only an agreed upon number of potatoes. The two parties had until Wednesday to come to terms, or lawyers for the PMC would lodge a writ with the supreme court.

Galati reportedly told the West Australian on Wednesday that he was attempting to resolve the legal dispute, but was willing to go to jail for contempt if the court ordered him to stop growing or harvesting potatoes.

WA is the only Australian jurisdiction to maintain a regulated potato market, a mechanism that has ensured farmers make twice as much per tonne as their eastern states colleagues.

Galati has been butting heads with the system for 20 years. In April he achieved a key victory: the WA premier, Colin Barnett, announced that the regulator would be abolished after the 2017 state election.

Barnett made the announcement after the former treasurer, Joe Hockey, said at the Council of Australian Governments meeting that in order for WA to receive $500m in infrastructure funding to make up for a fall in GST allocation, it would have to look at abolishing economic “anomalies” like the PMC.

But the bulk of WA’s 78 registered potato growers say they would be happy for the industry to continue as it has for the past 70 years, unchanged from when they inherited their farms from their fathers.

Dean Ryan is one such farmer. His family have been growing potatoes at Pemberton, in the state’s south-west, since 1957. He’s also the president of the Potato Growers Association, a body that has stood firmly with the PMC and against Galati’s free enterprise.

“There are only so many spuds that the market can take in WA,” Ryan told Guardian Australia. “So if everyone grows what they are allocated, then the market is served, there’s no waste, and we are not ploughing spuds in.”

That’s what happened in summer, when the market was oversupplied and farmers couldn’t sell their whole quota. It costs $20,000 to grow a hectare of potatoes and the family farms that make up most of WA’s potato growers aren’t geared to afford the loss.

“Particularly the small guys that I talk with, they are suffering. They can’t stand another year of it,” Ryan said.  “We have grown all these potatoes for the market but because it’s oversupplied, what do we do with them?”

Storing surplus potatoes by leaving them in the ground, common practice in cooler climates, won’t work in WA, Ryan said, particularly as growers were often trying to store them over summer. “You try and store the in the summertime – they just cook in the ground,” he said.

The exacting standards of supermarket chains don’t allow for slightly weathered tubers.  “If you can’t see your reflection in the skin finish, they don’t really want them,” he said. “As soon as you start storing them, it deteriorates.”

Tony Galati and the Potato Marketing Corporation have been contacted for comment.


24 September, 2015

Malcolm Turnbull 'concerned' about conditions on Manus and Nauru but rules out settling boat people in Australia

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has ruled out resettling refugees who are processed on Manus Island or Nauru in Australia.

He said while he was "concerned" about conditions within the offshore processing network, the Coalition did not want to encourage asylum seekers to risk their lives at sea.

Mr Turnbull told Radio National's Drive program the Federal Government could not afford to take a backwards step on the issue.

"There will be no resettlement of the people on Manus and Nauru in Australia. They will never come to Australia," Mr Turnbull said.

"Now, I know that's tough, we do have a tough border protection policy, you could say it's a harsh policy, but it has worked."

Mr Turnbull had earlier told Sky News that any changes to any policy would be done in a "considered way" and would be made by Cabinet.

He said conditions within the two offshore processing centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru could be improved.

"[Immigration Minister Peter] Dutton and I, and the Government, we are concerned about the situation on Manus and Nauru.

"We're concerned that people are detained there, naturally it is not an ideal environment, we are doing everything we can to encourage them to return to where they came and the Government is actively looking at means of resettling them, whether it is in PNG, or indeed in Cambodia or looking at other options.

"It is tough, but the fact is we cannot take a backwards step on this issue."

Shadow immigration minister Richard Marles said Labor had been calling on the Federal Government to improve the way the two detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru were run. But he said Labor's position was that the facilities should remain open.

"What I can tell you from the point of view of Labor is that this is a difficult issue, we are deeply concerned about the fate of those people on Manus and Nauru, we're also deeply concerned to make sure that we don't see any policy changes which result in people dying on our borders again," he said.


Scott Morrison: Australia has a spending problem, not a revenue problem

The new treasurer, Scott Morrison, has opened the batting in his new portfolio by declaring Australia does not have a revenue problem – it has a spending problem.

Morrison conceded national economic policy needed “a direction” and the government needed to build a sense of confidence to help boost economic growth – but he also signalled the government’s renewed efforts on budget repair would be focused on getting expenditure under control.

“There’s plenty of people out there who want to raise taxes and have a new idea for a tax every single day of the week,” the treasurer told reporters during a joint press conference with the finance minister, Mathias Cormann.

“I’m interested in talking to people who have ideas how we can get spending under control. We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”

Morrison and Cormann confirmed the government’s tax white paper process remained on track, and indicated the midyear economic forecast – as opposed to a mini budget – would be released, as planned, in December.

Morrison, in his first major outing, deployed several of the Abbott government’s formulations about economic policy – a desire for “lower, fairer, simpler taxes”, and the focus on cutting spending rather than the alternative, pursuing the expenditure reductions combined with revenue raising which a number of economic experts believe is required to achieve long term fiscal sustainability.

On the ABC on Tuesday night, the former treasury secretary, Ken Henry, was candid about the challenges associated with budget repair, indicating this government would need to produce a revenue positive tax reform package.

Henry said in 2002, when the budget was in balance, spending and revenue were both 25% of gross domestic product.

“Today spending is 26% of gross domestic product and revenue is 23.5% of gross domestic product. A bit more than half of it is explained by a deterioration in revenue performance; by the tax system not delivering in the way that the tax system has delivered in the past,” Henry said.

“The situation we’re in now is that we’re going to need a much bigger tax reform package … and this tax reform package is going to have to be revenue positive, not revenue negative. It’s going to have to boost the budget surplus. We’ve never done this before.”

But despite repeating formulations often advanced by his predecessor Joe Hockey, Morrison on Wednesday also gave himself room to move.

He confirmed retirement incomes, which includes the tax treatment of superannuation savings, were now part of the tax white paper considerations.

The Greens got retirement incomes back onto the table in the tax white paper process earlier this year in return for supporting the government’s part pension changes.

At the time that inclusion appeared meaningless, because then treasurer Hockey ruled out doing anything to wind back generous superannuation concessions, arguing Labor was the party of tax increases, and the Coalition was the government of lower taxes.

But Morrison left the door open on Wednesday, declining to rule any specific proposals in or out.

“If it’s going to help people work, save and invest, if it’s going to help Australians adapt to the challenges of the economy going forward, if it’s going to make us more agile, more innovative, then I’m interested,” he said.

“Tax reform is not an end in itself. Tax reform is not some policy picnic. What it is, what it has to be about, is what is it going to deliver for the Australian people.”

Labor this week used the opportunity of the change of leadership to extend the hand to the government once again on super concessions.

The opposition has announced it intends to move against generous concessions for high-income earners by putting a 15% tax on super earnings worth more than $75,000 a year and taxing super contributions for incomes more than $250,000 if it wins government at the next election.

“We have a new prime minister, a new opportunity,” the shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, said in a speech in Sydney on Tuesday. “Perhaps he can rise above the scare campaign and embrace our policy, our call for this serious tax reform. If he does, it will have our bipartisan support.”

But Morrison was intent on sheeting home blame to the ALP, both on expenditure growth and on the lack of progress on economic reform.

Despite exhibiting a highly combative approach in politics himself, Morrison attempted to draw a line. He said if Labor was prepared to “put down the swords” and abandon the “combat politics of the past” then he was prepared to talk.


Union boss document shredding ‘proof of criminality’

The Turnbull government has launched a stunning attack on trade unions, with new Employment Minister Michaelia Cash saying allegations currently being investigated by a royal commission that senior CFMEU officials destroyed documents is further proof of “apparent criminality”.

“The recent evidence given at the Trade Union Royal Commission is deeply concerning,” Senator Cash said this morning.

“It adds to the mounting evidence that has already been revealed of serious instances of abuse of power, apparent criminality and other corruption that needs to be addressed.

“The evidence again emphasises the need to ensure the trade unions are properly scrutinised and the Government remains committed to the Royal Commission. Honest union members need have the right to know that their hard earned union dues are going to legitimate causes, not union boss rorts, rackets and rip offs.”

The royal commission is currently hearing evidence that documents were ordered by senior union officials to be removed from the CFMEU’s Brisbane office on the day subpoenas were issued and destroyed, with the inquiry hearing that national secretary Michael O’Connor was later told about it.

Mr O’Connor is sitting in the public gallery for today’s hearing.

The royal commission today heard from CFMEU staffer Paula Masters, who said she was asked to point out locations of security cameras - which were then covered up - after subpoenas were issued - when hundreds of documents were removed from the Brisbane office.

“I know the one in the office and the one in the garage were covered over,” Ms Masters said.

“I saw no reason for them to be covered over.”

She said then state president David Hanna had asked for their locations, but that it was likely QLD secretary Michael Ravbar’s “final decision”.

She said the files, which included EBAs, general invoices and other “old documents” were removed.

Two training co-ordinators also told the commission they were involved in removing the documents, taking around 80 boxes of them to Mr Hanna’s property and unsuccessfully trying to burn them a day or two later.

“We ceased trying to burn them, we rang David (Hanna) and said we’ll be here for weeks if we keep trying to do this,” Bob Williams said.

Another training coordinator, Brian Humphrey, said he later rode in the truck that later dumped the documents a rubbish tip.


Jittery ALP rings alarm on policies after Newspoll

Bill Shorten is under increasing pressure to develop more policies, expand his frontbench reshuffle and settle the China free-trade agreement, as Labor falls behind the new Turnbull government in the polls and faces the chance of an election early next year.

The Opposition Leader yesterday declared “we are prepared for an election”, but some of his colleagues believe insufficient policy work has been done during the past year of Labor’s supremacy in the opinion polls and replacing two retiring frontbenchers is not enough to combat Malcolm Turnbull’s sweeping changes in his ministry.

When asked about the possibility the government could call an election early next year — in March instead of September — Mr Shorten said: “It is up to the Liberals when they have an election, but what I promise Australians is that we have a positive view of Australia, not just for the next opinion poll, but for the next decade.”

The Coalition showed no sign yesterday of giving ground to Labor over its demands for more labour market limits in the China free-trade pact after Mr Shorten’s written appeal to the new Prime Minister to negotiate with the ­opposition over union demands.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb said that “in the ­absence of any change in substance we have nothing to negotiate”.

Polling has shown more Australians support than oppose the China trade deal despite a huge union and Labor campaign against it, including millions of dollars spent on advertising.

The latest Newspoll survey, published exclusively in The Australian yesterday after Mr Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, showed the ­Coalition’s primary support up five percentage points to 44 per cent and Labor’s down four to 35 per cent. On a two-party-preferred basis the Coalition is in front of Labor 51 to 49 per cent, the first time since April last year, and Mr Turnbull is ahead of Mr Shorten as preferred prime minister by a massive 55 to 21 per cent.

Yesterday, in response to a hint from Mr Robb that there could be an election in March, Mr Shorten said: “What really matters here is not when the election is, it is who has the best ideas at the next election. I can promise Australians that we have fair-dinkum policies to tackle climate change, not just reheating Tony Abbott’s climate change scepticism.”

Mr Shorten confirmed that there would be only “a modest ­reshuffle” of his frontbench when parliament resumes next month after the announcements by frontbenchers Bernie Ripoll and Jan McLucas that they would retire at the next election. Queensland MP Jim Chalmers and ACT senator Katy Gallagher are the agreed replacements.

Some Labor MPs are concerned Mr Shorten’s faction-­approved frontbench substitution looks pallid in comparison with Mr Turnbull’s clean-out of Abbott ministers. There are also concerns the opposition has not developed enough new policies since the ­defeat of the Rudd government in 2013 and that an early election could catch it short.

In the past five days, two senior Labor frontbenchers — Anthony Albanese, from the Left, who stood against Mr Shorten as leader in 2013, and Chris Bowen, the leading NSW right winger — have given major speeches setting out requirements for oppositions before elections.

Yesterday Mr Bowen said in a speech in Sydney: “Far too often in recent years, governments have won elections from opposition simply claiming that all the problems in the country or the state would disappear with a change of government. On winning election, the incoming party warns that actually hard decisions are necessary after all. The Abbott government struggled in making its case because it had not a shred of a mandate for the cuts and tax rises it introduced in the 2014 budget. A reformer needs to have clearly identified the challenges they intend to tackle from opposition to claim some moral authority in government.”

Mr Bowen said that “unquestionably tax reform must be part of that reform process” and gave a detailed justification for Labor’s opposition to a rise in the rate of GST or a broadening of its base. He argued people understood reform meant that not “every individual can be better off”.

On Saturday night Mr Albanese delivered the Ben Chifley “Light on the Hill” speech in Bathurst in central NSW and set out “five points that encapsulate a plan for an approach that puts people first and can drive the agenda of the future Labor government”.

Mr Albanese said the keys were job creation and the economy; developing cities and regions; building communities; advancing equity; and environmental sustainability.

“For the past decade I have watched the quality of political debate in this country deteriorate into hyper-partisanship and negativity,” Mr Albanese said.

“Tight electoral margins, the rise of the 24-hour media cycle and the particularly combative approach of Tony Abbott have led the decline.

“If the only language between politicians is the language of conflict, we’ll make a lot of noise but less progress.

“Labor can and should return to government but we won’t return to government unless we put people at the top of our agenda.”


23 September, 2015

Malcolm Turnbull 'concerned' about conditions on Manus and Nauru but rules out settling boat people in Australia

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has ruled out resettling refugees who are processed on Manus Island or Nauru in Australia.

He said while he was "concerned" about conditions within the offshore processing network, the Coalition did not want to encourage asylum seekers to risk their lives at sea.

Mr Turnbull told Radio National's Drive program the Federal Government could not afford to take a backwards step on the issue.

"There will be no resettlement of the people on Manus and Nauru in Australia. They will never come to Australia," Mr Turnbull said.

"Now, I know that's tough, we do have a tough border protection policy, you could say it's a harsh policy, but it has worked."

Mr Turnbull had earlier told Sky News that any changes to any policy would be done in a "considered way" and would be made by Cabinet.

He said conditions within the two offshore processing centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru could be improved.

"[Immigration Minister Peter] Dutton and I, and the Government, we are concerned about the situation on Manus and Nauru.

"We're concerned that people are detained there, naturally it is not an ideal environment, we are doing everything we can to encourage them to return to where they came and the Government is actively looking at means of resettling them, whether it is in PNG, or indeed in Cambodia or looking at other options.

"It is tough, but the fact is we cannot take a backwards step on this issue."

Shadow immigration minister Richard Marles said Labor had been calling on the Federal Government to improve the way the two detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru were run. But he said Labor's position was that the facilities should remain open.

"What I can tell you from the point of view of Labor is that this is a difficult issue, we are deeply concerned about the fate of those people on Manus and Nauru, we're also deeply concerned to make sure that we don't see any policy changes which result in people dying on our borders again," he said.


Scott Morrison: Australia has a spending problem, not a revenue problem

The new treasurer, Scott Morrison, has opened the batting in his new portfolio by declaring Australia does not have a revenue problem – it has a spending problem.

Morrison conceded national economic policy needed “a direction” and the government needed to build a sense of confidence to help boost economic growth – but he also signalled the government’s renewed efforts on budget repair would be focused on getting expenditure under control.

“There’s plenty of people out there who want to raise taxes and have a new idea for a tax every single day of the week,” the treasurer told reporters during a joint press conference with the finance minister, Mathias Cormann.

“I’m interested in talking to people who have ideas how we can get spending under control. We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”

Morrison and Cormann confirmed the government’s tax white paper process remained on track, and indicated the midyear economic forecast – as opposed to a mini budget – would be released, as planned, in December.

Morrison, in his first major outing, deployed several of the Abbott government’s formulations about economic policy – a desire for “lower, fairer, simpler taxes”, and the focus on cutting spending rather than the alternative, pursuing the expenditure reductions combined with revenue raising which a number of economic experts believe is required to achieve long term fiscal sustainability.

On the ABC on Tuesday night, the former treasury secretary, Ken Henry, was candid about the challenges associated with budget repair, indicating this government would need to produce a revenue positive tax reform package.

Henry said in 2002, when the budget was in balance, spending and revenue were both 25% of gross domestic product.

“Today spending is 26% of gross domestic product and revenue is 23.5% of gross domestic product. A bit more than half of it is explained by a deterioration in revenue performance; by the tax system not delivering in the way that the tax system has delivered in the past,” Henry said.

“The situation we’re in now is that we’re going to need a much bigger tax reform package … and this tax reform package is going to have to be revenue positive, not revenue negative. It’s going to have to boost the budget surplus. We’ve never done this before.”

But despite repeating formulations often advanced by his predecessor Joe Hockey, Morrison on Wednesday also gave himself room to move.

He confirmed retirement incomes, which includes the tax treatment of superannuation savings, were now part of the tax white paper considerations.

The Greens got retirement incomes back onto the table in the tax white paper process earlier this year in return for supporting the government’s part pension changes.

At the time that inclusion appeared meaningless, because then treasurer Hockey ruled out doing anything to wind back generous superannuation concessions, arguing Labor was the party of tax increases, and the Coalition was the government of lower taxes.

But Morrison left the door open on Wednesday, declining to rule any specific proposals in or out.

“If it’s going to help people work, save and invest, if it’s going to help Australians adapt to the challenges of the economy going forward, if it’s going to make us more agile, more innovative, then I’m interested,” he said.

“Tax reform is not an end in itself. Tax reform is not some policy picnic. What it is, what it has to be about, is what is it going to deliver for the Australian people.”

Labor this week used the opportunity of the change of leadership to extend the hand to the government once again on super concessions.

The opposition has announced it intends to move against generous concessions for high-income earners by putting a 15% tax on super earnings worth more than $75,000 a year and taxing super contributions for incomes more than $250,000 if it wins government at the next election.

“We have a new prime minister, a new opportunity,” the shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, said in a speech in Sydney on Tuesday. “Perhaps he can rise above the scare campaign and embrace our policy, our call for this serious tax reform. If he does, it will have our bipartisan support.”

But Morrison was intent on sheeting home blame to the ALP, both on expenditure growth and on the lack of progress on economic reform.

Despite exhibiting a highly combative approach in politics himself, Morrison attempted to draw a line. He said if Labor was prepared to “put down the swords” and abandon the “combat politics of the past” then he was prepared to talk.


Union boss document shredding ‘proof of criminality’

The Turnbull government has launched a stunning attack on trade unions, with new Employment Minister Michaelia Cash saying allegations currently being investigated by a royal commission that senior CFMEU officials destroyed documents is further proof of “apparent criminality”.

“The recent evidence given at the Trade Union Royal Commission is deeply concerning,” Senator Cash said this morning.

“It adds to the mounting evidence that has already been revealed of serious instances of abuse of power, apparent criminality and other corruption that needs to be addressed.

“The evidence again emphasises the need to ensure the trade unions are properly scrutinised and the Government remains committed to the Royal Commission. Honest union members need have the right to know that their hard earned union dues are going to legitimate causes, not union boss rorts, rackets and rip offs.”

The royal commission is currently hearing evidence that documents were ordered by senior union officials to be removed from the CFMEU’s Brisbane office on the day subpoenas were issued and destroyed, with the inquiry hearing that national secretary Michael O’Connor was later told about it.

Mr O’Connor is sitting in the public gallery for today’s hearing.

The royal commission today heard from CFMEU staffer Paula Masters, who said she was asked to point out locations of security cameras - which were then covered up - after subpoenas were issued - when hundreds of documents were removed from the Brisbane office.

“I know the one in the office and the one in the garage were covered over,” Ms Masters said.

“I saw no reason for them to be covered over.”

She said then state president David Hanna had asked for their locations, but that it was likely QLD secretary Michael Ravbar’s “final decision”.

She said the files, which included EBAs, general invoices and other “old documents” were removed.

Two training co-ordinators also told the commission they were involved in removing the documents, taking around 80 boxes of them to Mr Hanna’s property and unsuccessfully trying to burn them a day or two later.

“We ceased trying to burn them, we rang David (Hanna) and said we’ll be here for weeks if we keep trying to do this,” Bob Williams said.

Another training coordinator, Brian Humphrey, said he later rode in the truck that later dumped the documents a rubbish tip.


Jittery ALP rings alarm on policies after Newspoll

Bill Shorten is under increasing pressure to develop more policies, expand his frontbench reshuffle and settle the China free-trade agreement, as Labor falls behind the new Turnbull government in the polls and faces the chance of an election early next year.

The Opposition Leader yesterday declared “we are prepared for an election”, but some of his colleagues believe insufficient policy work has been done during the past year of Labor’s supremacy in the opinion polls and replacing two retiring frontbenchers is not enough to combat Malcolm Turnbull’s sweeping changes in his ministry.

When asked about the possibility the government could call an election early next year — in March instead of September — Mr Shorten said: “It is up to the Liberals when they have an election, but what I promise Australians is that we have a positive view of Australia, not just for the next opinion poll, but for the next decade.”

The Coalition showed no sign yesterday of giving ground to Labor over its demands for more labour market limits in the China free-trade pact after Mr Shorten’s written appeal to the new Prime Minister to negotiate with the ­opposition over union demands.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb said that “in the ­absence of any change in substance we have nothing to negotiate”.

Polling has shown more Australians support than oppose the China trade deal despite a huge union and Labor campaign against it, including millions of dollars spent on advertising.

The latest Newspoll survey, published exclusively in The Australian yesterday after Mr Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, showed the ­Coalition’s primary support up five percentage points to 44 per cent and Labor’s down four to 35 per cent. On a two-party-preferred basis the Coalition is in front of Labor 51 to 49 per cent, the first time since April last year, and Mr Turnbull is ahead of Mr Shorten as preferred prime minister by a massive 55 to 21 per cent.

Yesterday, in response to a hint from Mr Robb that there could be an election in March, Mr Shorten said: “What really matters here is not when the election is, it is who has the best ideas at the next election. I can promise Australians that we have fair-dinkum policies to tackle climate change, not just reheating Tony Abbott’s climate change scepticism.”

Mr Shorten confirmed that there would be only “a modest ­reshuffle” of his frontbench when parliament resumes next month after the announcements by frontbenchers Bernie Ripoll and Jan McLucas that they would retire at the next election. Queensland MP Jim Chalmers and ACT senator Katy Gallagher are the agreed replacements.

Some Labor MPs are concerned Mr Shorten’s faction-­approved frontbench substitution looks pallid in comparison with Mr Turnbull’s clean-out of Abbott ministers. There are also concerns the opposition has not developed enough new policies since the ­defeat of the Rudd government in 2013 and that an early election could catch it short.

In the past five days, two senior Labor frontbenchers — Anthony Albanese, from the Left, who stood against Mr Shorten as leader in 2013, and Chris Bowen, the leading NSW right winger — have given major speeches setting out requirements for oppositions before elections.

Yesterday Mr Bowen said in a speech in Sydney: “Far too often in recent years, governments have won elections from opposition simply claiming that all the problems in the country or the state would disappear with a change of government. On winning election, the incoming party warns that actually hard decisions are necessary after all. The Abbott government struggled in making its case because it had not a shred of a mandate for the cuts and tax rises it introduced in the 2014 budget. A reformer needs to have clearly identified the challenges they intend to tackle from opposition to claim some moral authority in government.”

Mr Bowen said that “unquestionably tax reform must be part of that reform process” and gave a detailed justification for Labor’s opposition to a rise in the rate of GST or a broadening of its base. He argued people understood reform meant that not “every individual can be better off”.

On Saturday night Mr Albanese delivered the Ben Chifley “Light on the Hill” speech in Bathurst in central NSW and set out “five points that encapsulate a plan for an approach that puts people first and can drive the agenda of the future Labor government”.

Mr Albanese said the keys were job creation and the economy; developing cities and regions; building communities; advancing equity; and environmental sustainability.

“For the past decade I have watched the quality of political debate in this country deteriorate into hyper-partisanship and negativity,” Mr Albanese said.

“Tight electoral margins, the rise of the 24-hour media cycle and the particularly combative approach of Tony Abbott have led the decline.

“If the only language between politicians is the language of conflict, we’ll make a lot of noise but less progress.

“Labor can and should return to government but we won’t return to government unless we put people at the top of our agenda.”


23 September, 2015

Popularity surge for Turnbull

Australia's new prime minister received a boost from a respected opinion poll on Tuesday, but the fallout lingers from a bitter party battle as the leader he ousted has attacked the credibility of his new treasurer.

A Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper on Tuesday found that Malcolm Turnbull is Australia's most popular prime minister in more than five years — a period that covered the terms of Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott.

The poll found 55 percent of respondents preferred him as prime minister — 18 points more than Abbott received when the last poll was taken two weeks ago.

Turnbull also opened a 34-point lead over opposition leader Bill Shorten, who had led Abbott in most Newspolls this year.

Newspoll also puts Turnbull's coalition government ahead of the center-left Labor Party's opposition for the first time since April last year. However, the government's 51 percent to 49 percent lead over the opposition is less than the survey's 3 percentage point margin of error.

In Abbott's last news conference as prime minister after he was ousted in a surprise leadership ballot of lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Party, he promised to make the transition to the new administration "as easy as I can."

"There will be no wrecking, no undermining and no sniping," Abbott said.

But in his first media interview since then, Abbott contradicted the new Treasurer Scott Morrison's version of events leading up to the leadership challenge.

Morrison has said he played no role in the challenge that resulted in his own promotion from social services minister to the senior economics portfolio, which is regarded as the most prestigious after the prime minister.

Morrison also said he warned Abbott's office days before Turnbull's challenge that "things were pretty febrile and they should be on high alert."

But Abbott told The Daily Telegraph newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday that there was no such warning.

"Not true, not true. Scott never warned anyone," Abbott told the newspaper after a morning surf in Sydney on Monday. "I'm afraid Scott badly misled people."

Abbott's version of events will likely heighten the anger of his allies within the government ranks who accuse Turnbull and his supporters of treachery.

The Newspoll was based on a telephone survey of 1,645 voters nationwide from Thursday until Sunday last week. The poll was taken after Turnbull was sworn in as prime minister but before his Cabinet was sworn in on Monday. His Cabinet is younger, more moderate and contains more women than the previous Cabinet chosen by the more conservative Abbott.

The poll mirrored two opinion polls last week that found Turnbull was more popular that Shorten.

Shorten says the poll bounce is just a short-term reaction to the removal of an unpopular prime minister.



Science and innovation front and centre for Turnbull Government

The Australian Academy of Science looks forward to working with the Turnbull Government to put science and innovation firmly at the centre of a strategy to build an agile and innovative Australia.

Academy President Professor Andrew Holmes today welcomed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement that the industry, innovation and science portfolio is one of his Government’s ‘most important agendas’. Professor Holmes also welcomed the appointment of Christopher Pyne as Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science.

“Prime Minister Turnbull has wasted no time in articulating a vision for an agile, innovative Australia with science and innovation at the centre of a whole-of-government strategy,” Professor Holmes said.

“We welcome his approach and look forward to working with the Prime Minister and Ministers across all science- and education-related portfolios to build a strong future for Australia.”

“We thank outgoing Minister Industry for Science Ian Macfarlane for initiating a national strategy for science and we look forward to working with Minister Pyne to ensure Australia takes a long-term, strategic approach to scientific infrastructure, careers and research funding.

“We welcome the news that Karen Andrews will continue her work with the sector as Assistant Minister for Science: Ms Andrews has proven to be astute and committed to the portfolio, and we look forward to continuing to work with her, and to working with the new Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy.”

The Academy also congratulated the new Minister for Education, Simon Birmingham, on his promotion in the portfolio. “Having been Assistant Minister, Mr Birmingham knows the sector well,” Professor Holmes said.

“Minister Birmingham has been clear in his wish to build consensus in the tertiary education sector before moving ahead on any reform, which we believe will be crucial for Australia’s aspirations to reach and maintain the highest education standards internationally.”

Press release

Indonesia to take more beef cattle

An export industry almost destroyed by Gillard

Indonesia is expected to allocate permits for another 200,000 to 300,000 live cattle from Australia this year but warns it plans to import beef from other countries to end the virtual monopoly.

Acting director-general for international trade Karyanto Suprih? told Fairfax Media Indonesia was considering importing live cattle and boxed beef from other countries such as India and the Philippines to reduce its dependence on Australia.

Australia is the only country to export live slaughter and feeder cattle to Indonesia and is the dominant boxed beef supplier with about 80 per cent market share.

However Indonesia already sources beef from foot-and-mouth-disease free countries such as the USA, Canada and New Zealand.

"All this time we have been always importing from Australia but recently we have been thinking of having more suppliers," Mr Karyanto said. "Limited options will only lead to greater dependence."

Australia, the world's third-largest beef exporter, supplied about 40 per cent of the beef consumed in Indonesia last year.

However, Indonesia shocked the Australian beef industry when it slashed the number of live cattle imports to 50,000 in the third quarter of 2015 in an attempt to move towards self-sufficiency.

The drastic cut – down from 250,000 in the previous quarter – led to soaring beef prices and butchers in Jakarta and Bandung walking off the job in protest.

Although the start of the fourth quarter is just two weeks away, the import permit allocation is still unknown, creating an agony of uncertainty for exporters who are forced to take a gamble on how many cattle they should buy.

The radical cut last quarter left farmers in the Northern Territory scrambling to find other markets for about 150,000 cattle.

Mr Karyanto said Indonesia expected to import 200,000 to 300,000 cattle in the fourth quarter but the final figure would be decided by a meeting held by the Co-ordinating Ministry for the Economy "in the near future".

The cattle would come from Australia because they were free of foot and mouth disease "but in the future we will plan to import from other areas", he said.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council have called for an annual permit allocation system to end the uncertainty for exporters.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who is scheduled to meet the new Indonesian Trade Minister Thomas Lembong? in Jakarta on Monday, plans to discuss the live cattle trade.

?Australian Livestock Exporters' Council chief executive officer Alison Penfold said Australia had a competitive advantage because it was only five days by boat and seven hours by plane from Indonesia.

Australia provided high-quality, disease-free cattle that were fattened in feedlots in Indonesia, which also supported the local economy, she said.

"Buying product from other markets is not the answer to securing Indonesia's food security," Ms Penfold said.

"They have right on their doorstep the best partner in beef food security they could ever have."


Baby’s gender should be a choice

Rita Panahi

For an enlightened country at the forefront of cutting edge medical research, Australians can sometimes carry on like backward simpletons.

How can a country responsible for the invention of the cochlear implant, the first bionic eye and many advances in prenatal care be so restrictive in giving couples what they want?

And what an increasing number of couples want is to be able to choose the sex of their child.

Yet the practise of sex selection is illegal in Australia, forcing prospective parents to travel to the US for costly treatments.

Before you start blabbering about “social engineering” and “gender bias”, ask yourself what harm is done by giving parents the girl or boy that they are desperate for? What is wrong with allowing a couple who, for example, may already have three boys and are eager for a girl, to use available technology that makes their dreams of a daughter a reality?

Some argue it goes against nature, but then that same argument can be made about all medical intervention.

Indeed the entire IVF industry is about repudiating nature and giving people who are unable to conceive naturally the gift of bearing children.

As it stands, sex selection is banned unless it can be demonstrated that it is necessary to avoid the risk of a genetic abnormality or genetic disease in a child.

But the law of unintended consequences means that some people, anxious for a child of a particular gender, use methods that are highly undesirable.

Victorians were shocked in 2011 to learn that a mother chose to abort two healthy male foetuses because she wanted a girl after having three sons and losing a daughter soon after birth.

That case gained attention as the husband and wife took their case to VCAT after being denied by the Patient Review Panel.

However many medical professionals believe that it was not an isolated incident and abortions are routinely used to sidestep the ban on sex selection.

That’s a needlessly risky and potentially traumatic means of achieving something that can be done simply and safely before conception.

In Western countries like Australia and the US, there is no evidence that couples would show a bias towards male children.

In fact the gender bias heavily favours girls, with one IVF clinician estimating that about 80 per cent of Australian couples using sex selection opt for a girl.

Renowned American IVF specialist Dr Daniel Potter has been scathing of Australia’s regressive policies which have forced hundreds of couples to seek treatment at his HRC Fertility clinics in California. He said: “It is a reproductive freedom issue. You can have an abortion for whatever reason you want, but if you want to have a child, people question why.

“The technology is safe, it is there, so why not allow people to use it?”

Dr Potter sees about 20 Australian couples every month, people who are so determined to select the sex of their child that they spend tens of thousands of dollars for treatment in the US.

That figure is increasing rapidly and has doubled in the past five years.

For reasons that defy logic, sex selection has been banned in Australia for the past decade but the good folk at the National Health and Medical Research Council may change all that. The NHMRC will soon determine whether the ethical guidelines around assisted reproductive technology should be changed to allow parents to select the sex of their child.

Professor Ian Olver, director of the Sansom Institute for Health Research and chair of the Australian Health Ethics Committee, believes that having couples travel overseas for expensive procedures is problematic.

“The committee is aware that some Australians are pursuing sex selection in overseas clinics,” he wrote. “And because not all international clinics have the same standard of care that exists in Australia, this could be risky for both the woman and her child.”

Prof Olver also dismissed the slippery slope argument employed by many opponents of sex selection who believe it will lead to designer babies where parents pick the eye colour, height or special aptitudes of their progeny.

“There’s no natural progression between approving non-medical sex selection and approving being able to select other characteristics,” he said.

“Sex selection is a discrete choice around which a definite boundary can be drawn.”

It’s interesting how the natural reaction of some is to recoil at advances in science.

Even in cultures where male children are favoured, wouldn’t it be preferable to allow couples to choose the sex of their child at conception rather than have many Chinese girls aborted, abandoned or killed soon after birth every year.

China’s gender ratio is now so out of whack, thanks to the country’s one child policy and the preference for male children, that it is estimated by 2020 there will be an additional 35 million men with no female partners.

The demand for gender selection may be growing in Australia but the overwhelming majority of those using IVF just want a healthy child.

We should be able to accommodate the few who want to choose the sex of their child without forcing them to spend thousands of dollars travelling overseas or worse using termination as a means of achieving what can be done in a lab.


22 September, 2015

Stop turning schools into training centres

The teacher below makes a very good case for a broad High School education.  I certainly benefited greatly from one in the traditional school system of long ago.  I came out with a knowledge of two foreign languages, Chaucer, Tennyson, Schubert and Bach, to mention just a few of the things I am so glad about.

As I was writing this I felt transformed by the wonderful music I was listening to at the same time: JS Bach's St Matthew Passion - sung by the Thomanerchor Leipzig (Video with subtitles).  A great pinnacle of Christian music sung by a wonderful choir of German young people. The Thomanerchor, the choir of the Thomaskirche, was founded in 1212 and is one of the oldest and most famous boys' choirs in Germany.

But I learned useful bits about Physics, Chemistry and mathematics too.  And I still became a useful employee.  I ended up teaching statistics and computer programming at university level!  But it is the poetry and classical music that is continually running through my head that gives me unfailing pleasure

But the author below fails to address the problem of how to get good teachers of the humanities. My view is that enthusiasm for your subject is the sine qua non of a good teacher, regardless of the subject.  There are even mathematics teachers who make their pupils enthusiastic about mathematics. My son was so enthused.

But are there enough teachers of humanities subjects who can  enthuse their students?  Obviously not, I think.  So once again we have a case for large class sizes so that the talents of the limited number of enthusiastic teachers can be maximally spread around.  With the aid of class assistants, large classes should rarely be a problem.  So, in my view, the fad for small class sizes is the biggest enemy of a humanities education for all -- JR

Going by the language that politicians and their advisers use these days to discuss education policy, you would think teachers are answerable to the business community.

Consider the terminology in the Australian Labor Party’s ‘New Directions’ paper, released in the lead-up to the federal ALP victory in 2007, and you get a fairly clear idea of where the government intended to take education. The paper identified ‘productivity growth’ and ‘human-capital investment’ as ‘the critical link’ to ‘long-term prosperity’, concluding that ‘if Australia is to turn its productivity performance around as well as enhance workforce participation, the Australian economy needs an education revolution in the quantity of our investment in human capital and quality of the outcomes that the education system delivers’.

As Stephen J Ball points out in his book, The Education Debate, the ‘New Directions’ paper collapsed the social and economic purposes of Australian education ‘into a single overriding emphasis on policymaking for economic competitiveness’. This suggests that the so-called ‘education revolution’ had more to do with strengthening Australia’s economic future than radical pedagogical reform and development.

If the current government is dedicated to strengthening education, it needs to establish a clear understanding of teachers’ roles in schools. Do schools need teachers who stimulate curiosity and inspire life-long learning? Or is it ‘trainers’ they need – people who skill-up children for the labour market? If the language Australian principals and school leaders use these days is anything to go by, it’s probably the latter.

Pick up an education policy or ‘school business plan’ and you’re bound to encounter terms that belong in a corporate manual. Attend a staff-development session in an Australian state school and you’re likely to hear reference to the school’s ‘strategic-planning initiative’, and the need to ‘build on maximum capacity’ and ‘value add’. There will also be talk of ‘targets’ and ‘benchmarks’, as well as the need for increased ‘market share’.

All of this suggests that schools are becoming more like businesses that trade in skilled human capital, than places of learning. Put simply, schools are becoming little more than training centres that procure compliant and attentive candidates for the workplace, and lessons are becoming little more than training sessions for the job market.

The American philosopher Sidney Hook wrote that ‘everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not their methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.’ Most of us remember a teacher who had a significant influence on us. Mine was my English teacher. He would enter the classroom with nothing more than the prescribed novel, a stick of chalk, a mellifluous voice and a good story. And with these basic tools he would draw every member of the class into a world of wonder.

It was not easy. But his methods were simple: no jargon, no hackneyed phrases and certainly no corporate language. Just good stories, with which he was able to stimulate thinking and discussion about life’s big questions. I know it’s an old-fashioned notion, but he made learning enjoyable.

As an English and philosophy teacher, my students often ask me how reading a novel written more than 100 years ago, or studying an ancient civilisation, will help them get a job. I say: ‘It’s not meant to. Not everything we do in life, and indeed school, is geared to material gain.’ Forming relationships, engaging in interesting conversation, sharing stories, reading books, inventing, creating and labouring over things you love – all are valuable in themselves. Pleasure is a sufficient reward, and it certainly can’t be measured by a standardised test or exam.

But, sadly, there is very little time for this kind of learning in a curriculum geared to government targets and benchmarks. And there’s hardly any time for students to tinker, make mistakes, pull apart, dissect, rebuild and make serendipitous discoveries.

Informative as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results are, they can’t tell us everything about the quality of schools. These are crude instruments that don’t take into account the complexities of education. Yet they are gaining increasing prominence in Australian schools. Excessive reliance on National Assessment Program: Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results, test scores and league tables has diminished the teacher’s role, narrowed the curriculum and substituted real teaching for training kids up for tests.

Any ‘training facilitator’ can impart lower-order rote skills, which require little more than memorising information and conducting simple operations. But, unlike a trainer or an online module where students (or should I say clients?) are required to read, memorise and click to submit, a teacher releases the creative energy that all children possess and fans the flames of curiosity. Teachers help kids make sense of a world that is becoming increasingly complex and confusing. And they help students make sense of the torrent of information the internet spews out, by providing them with something a search engine never can: understanding.

Good teachers enter the profession because they are good communicators, not ventriloquists for technocrats and business leaders. If you want teachers to kill enthusiasm for learning, then tell them to conduct their lessons like a corporate trainer, preferably with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation. Kids lose interest and disengage the moment a teacher stops teaching and begins to train, as many teachers are instructed to do, particularly when it comes to lifting NAPLAN scores.

Here is a revolutionary idea: why not place an embargo on corporate speak in schools? If education analysts are to have a meaningful discussion on advancing education, then why not use meaningful language instead of vapid corporate terminology that would make anyone, let alone a teacher, glaze over?

Schools do not need ‘improvement strategies’ prepared by a consultancy agency; they need teachers, those who have been entrusted by society to teach children to live well. After all, it is the students who will judge teachers, not politicians, economists, business managers or captains of industry.


Reversing the destruction of agricultural land

Viv Forbes below does not mention a relevant matter. He directs our attention to a talk by Savory which is an absolute eye-opener and we must be profoundly grateful for Savory's work.  But Savory  does justify his proposals as assisting with global warming.  That is just good politicking however.  By doing that Savory gets more people onside.  But his work is good for much more than global warming. It is truly a great leap forward in the management of agricultural land. I have always seen soil erosion as the environmental challenge that most needs attention but because the Greenies are really motivated by hatred of people rather than real care for the environment, I have yet to see concern about soil erosion from them

People send me things; lots of things - compliments, abuse, information and advice.

One correspondent is “Coochie” a wannabee grass-farmer who lives in town but reads all the latest stuff on managing grazing animals. He reads things like “Mother Earth” and “Stockman Grass Farmer”.

Coochie recently rebuked me.

“Please tell Farmer Fred that grazing animals are far better than ‘carbon neutral’. In fact they are the only hope for reversing desertification of the world’s grasslands and open forests. If managed properly, grazing herds will remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reduce soil erosion, improve soil fertility and increase vegetative cover. They should earn ‘carbon credits’.”

I was all ears.

“You and Fred should study the work of Allan Savory. Allan is an observant honest ecologist who has spent his life worrying about desertification, which can be both a cause and a result of climate change. Initially, he hated grazing animals – he thought they were causing desertification and destroying his beloved wildlife.

“But a life-time of study of the whole system showed him it was neither the cloven hooves nor the animal numbers that caused desertification. The problem was how they grazed – how long, how intense. When hard-hoof animals are concentrated on small areas of land for short periods of time, they break up the hard crust and cover it with litter, dung and seeds. Then, when the herd moves on to seek new clean pastures, the abandoned areas recover quickly with improved soil and replanted pasture. This process restores the health of grasses and soil, returning much life-supporting carbon to the soil in the process.

“What turns grasslands into deserts is constant grazing by a few animals. Herds must be concentrated and moving.”

I insisted that Fred come over and listen to Alan Savory, telling us "How to green the world's deserts and reverse climate change"

After he listened to it, Fred was stunned. He was always sceptical of our “funny ideas” on rotational grazing but suddenly he understood.

“Well, my boy” he said. “So much for all that rot from your Professor mate attacking us graziers and lauding soft-footed animals. It makes sense – soft-footed rabbits spread everywhere and destroyed everything with their constant nibbling; but one or two massive moving herds of bison, bunched and harassed by wolves and Indians and assisted by occasional fires, created the marvellous grasslands of the Prairies.

“Our cattle and sheep can be much more than grass harvesters and providers of periodic protein for people and predators. They can cultivate soil, prepare seed beds, spread seeds and mulch, and fertilise our grasslands and pastures in just one pass; but only if we concentrate them properly, and then give the pasture a decent rest-and-recovery period.”

“This Un-Savory chap will probably be expelled from the Deep Green Brotherhood for such blasphemy.”

Coochie was ecstatic: “With plenty of plant-sustaining emissions from coal in the skies, and soil-sustaining emissions from cattle in the soils, then coal and cattle can paint the grasslands green again.”


Green groups urge new PM to take the pressure off them

Environment groups are urging Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to abandon any plans to change the tax status of green charities.

A demonstration is expected outside the Victorian Parliament on Monday to coincide with hearings in Melbourne of a federal inquiry into the administration and transparency of environment groups.

Green groups see the the inquiry, set up by the Abbott government in March, as a "vendetta" and fear changes that will remove the tax deductibility for donations to organisations pushing for environmental protection.

Tony Abbott was particularly scathing of legal wrangling by environment groups to delay a proposal for a massive expansion of coal exports through the Great Barrier Reef.

Mark Wakeham? from Environment Victoria said about 1000 demonstrators were expected to protest over the inquiry. "It does appear to be an attack on environment groups," Mr Wakeham said. He accused the Abbott government of attempting to silence critics.

Environmental groups had been singled out ahead of other charities, he said.

"We'll be highlighting we've got a legitimate role to play in a democracy. That might be inconvenient for governments at times, but only for governments that don't have credible environmental policies."

But the inquiry has also heard submissions from the Minerals Council of Australia, stating some environmental groups have exploited their tax deductible status to pursue "ideological campaigns" and encourage illegal behaviour, such as blockades.

The Queensland Resources Council said many environmental groups were not operating within the rules of a charity or pursuing "practical" environmental work.

The Victorian government urged the inquiry to "take into account the various ways in which environmental organisations fulfil their goal of improving the natural environment".

Mr Wakeham said the change of prime minister was a chance to press a "reset button"

Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos?, a key driver in Malcolm Turnbull's toppling of Mr Abbott last week, appeared on Sunday to flag a more conciliatory approach in the politics of the environment.

"I think you'll see that there'll be a bit of an end to the idea that the environment and development have to be at loggerheads, that somehow it's a zero sum game. It's not," Senator Sinodinos told ABC TV.

"Good environmental policies can also be good economic policies and good economic policies give you a capacity to deal with environmental issues."

The inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations has received almost 700 submissions.


Faction Man: Essay on Bill Shorten reveals insights into Labor leader

BILL Shorten today will have to deal with a profile which depicts the Labor Leader as a man of many battles and betrayals with the scars and nicknames to show for it.

The political biography by author David Marr in Quarterly Essay comes as voters are reassessing Mr Shorten against a new opponent, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

It cover’s claims about the Opposition Leader’s vanity with the late John Hutton quoted as saying: “He’s a capable guy. In fact, he’s mentioned that to me himself several times.”

And Mr Shorten emerges as a man who rules the backroom battlegrounds where former alliances can quickly become casualties to new ones.

Marr himself offers this appraisal of his subject’s deal making: “Shorten didn’t invent the system. He mastered it.

“In the early years of the new century he came to learn everything he needed to know about courtship and betrayal, deals and numbers, to make him a power in the factions.”

Over the years Mr Shorten has been called, with varying degrees of affection, “I Finally Won Something” Shorten; Bill “Career-Move” Shorten; “Golden Boy”; “Bye Bye Bill”; “Showbag Billy” and “Little Billy Shorten”.

These are some of the names collected by author Marr in his essay, which has a title adding yet another nickname: “Faction Man”.

Mr Shorten has been a significant figure in national and Victorian politics for a generation but has been largely unseen.

Marr gives this evaluation: “This is a man from nowhere. He built his career out of sight inside the union movement.

“Had he cut his teeth in parliament we would know him better by now. He became a public figure at Beaconsfield less than ten years ago and only edged into cabinet in the last years of Julia Gillard’s government. He has failed to emerge strongly as a leader since.”

There is attention to Mr Shorten’s achievements, such as his highly visible roles after the 1998 Esso gas plant explosion which killed one man and injured seven others; and his assistance to the rescue operation for two trapped miners in the 2006 Beaconsfield mine collapse.

Further, as a back bencher he put together the national disability insurance scheme and reforms for the superannuation industry — all without the sway which comes with being a minister.

There is doubt, from this profiler, that Mr Shorten is a man of significant abilities.

He also is a deal maker who many times has made new deals which betray the partners in old ones.

Marr records: “All his life Shorten has left behind people who feel betrayed by him.

“He denies casting people off when they are no longer of any use. He insists he keeps in touch, even now, with old campaigners from university and the union.

“But there have been so many new best friends over the years.”


21 September, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says Australia no longer has a conservative political party

Was Sir Joh corrupt?

Only "sources" say so.  I can make up "sources" too.  My "sources" say the story below is an invention. Joh was a great backer of building generally so to find that he backed a particular project proves nothing.  Note that the only person named below -- and the key to the whole story -- is Huan Fraser -- who is now dead.  Convenient?

LATE Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen was set to receive a multimillion-dollar bribe on the eve of his being ousted by the National Party in late 1987, according to sources.

The pay-off, from a South Korean construction company, was contingent on the approval of a major high-rise building in Brisbane.

The so-called 107-storey "world's tallest building", Central Place, to be erected at the corners of Ann, Turbot and Edward streets in the City, was subject to a special act of Parliament.

For years Bjelke-Petersen tried to push the approval through the Executive Council, but met with harsh opposition from his backbenchers.

In a partyroom meeting in late 1987, the National Party's member for Springwood Huan Fraser - having learned of the supposed payment to Bjelke-Petersen from a business contact - confronted the premier.

The payment was rumoured to be around $20 million, held in a Hong Kong bank account. The business contact told Fraser: "You back the old guy (Bjelke-Petersen) on this. It's a bloody good payout for him if it (the Central Place project) gets through. The old bloke's got nothing."

An incensed Fraser stood up in the partyroom meeting and said to Joh: "I know there is a bloody big payoff to you coming as a result of this. You're a corrupt old bastard and I'm not going to cop it."

Bjelke-Petersen said Fraser didn't know what he was talking about. Fraser threatened to raise questions about the project with the media, before the Premier suddenly left the room. It was to be Bjelke-Petersen's last partyroom meeting.

"The place was in turmoil," said one source who was at the meeting. "He (Sir Joh) made a desperate attempt to get it through because there was a payment. He was putting to the partyroom a corrupt deal and involving all of us."

In desperation, Bjelke-Petersen set about reshaping his Cabinet to get the development deemed a special project under the Co-ordinator-General's Act and ultimately approved. He asked for the resignation of five ministers, including Mike Ahern and Bill Gunn, claiming the move was related to loyalty issues.

Ahern refused to resign, and challenged Bjelke-Petersen for the leadership of the party. Ahern won comfortably, ending Bjelke-Petersen's 19-year reign as premier.

"(Bjelke-Petersen) had to reshape the Cabinet to get it through," one source said. "If he didn't, the government was not likely to accept the Executive Council Minute. It was a matter of high criminality."

The day after his resignation, Bjelke-Petersen was still pushing for the Central Place project. "The government must honour its word and its pledge and its undertaking, otherwise its reputation goes," he said.

The new premier Ahern responded: "The Queensland government will decide about the world's tallest building, not Citizen Joh."
Within a year, the project was dead.


The smoke and mirrors surrounding the anti-coal campaign

Coal divestment is the new black. Following the Anglican Church and others, the most recent organisations to jump onto the trend are Newcastle Council (despite the city being built on coal) and the University of Sydney. Both are withdrawing their investments from coal or other organisations that fund coal.

But like many fads, it doesn’t seem to be built on sound facts. It is more based on doing what others are doing to avoid the feeling of being left behind.

Let us look at the facts. Firstly, divestment probably won’t have a substantial impact on Australia’s coal production. Sydney University has an investment fund of about $1.4 billion, while Newcastle Council has $270 million. But the big banks reportedly have $36bn invested in coal, and the Future Fund has recently indicated it will continue to invest its $117bn in non-renewables.

Even if most of Australia’s investors engaged in divestment, there are so many other potential investors around the globe that it is hard to see any dramatic impact on the industry. And good luck to the divestment campaigners convincing investors in less democratic countries to stop funding Australian coal.

Despite this campaign, the official forecasts are for substantial increases in Australian coal production. The Department of Industry forecasts our coal exports will increase by 1.2 per cent per year to 2050. This is an increase of 54 per cent on today’s production.

To reiterate: coal production is predicted to grow by an enormous amount, not decline. And the Department also states that coal accounts for about 64 per cent of Australia’s electricity generation, and is forecast to remain at about this level by 2050.

The divestment campaign also needs to face the inconvenient predictions about coal demand, including that India has plans to almost double its coal production by 2020, and most new electricity stations under development in India are expected to be coal-based. The Department of Industry assesses that it would be “exceptionally challenging” for India to reduce its use of coal-fired electricity (to limit greenhouse emissions). The International Energy Agency’s 2014 World Energy Outlook forecasts global coal demand increasing by 15 per cent by 2040 (in its central scenario).

Not a ringing endorsement of the divestment campaign, which seems likely to having similar  success to King Canute’s command that the tide stop coming in.

Of course, official forecasts might be wrong, and around the globe by 2050 we might all be using solar panels and Tesla batteries. But this would be driven by the lower cost of these alternatives, not the divestment campaign.

Nevertheless, let us humour the divestment campaign for a moment and assume it  causes a decline in Australia’s coal production. Unfortunately for the campaign, what is most likely is that production would simply increase overseas shifting from Australia — which has high environmental standards — to other countries where environmental standards are often lower.

World coal production would remain about the same, environmental outcomes would worsen, and Australia would lose substantial export income. The value of Australia’s coal exports are expected to be $37 billion in 2014-15. It is hard to see how this is an improvement. Of course, the divestment campaign could also try to stop coal expansion elsewhere, but (again) good luck trying to do this in less democratic countries.

Surely the divestment campaign is about reducing global coal use, not moving coal production to other economies. So let us (further) humour the divestors, and suppose that it does cut the worldwide use of coal. The campaign would no doubt argue that this would help human health.

The World Health Organisation has argued that there will be 250,000 deaths per year due to global warming in 2030. This is a very large figure, granted. But there are larger figures. The WHO has also estimated that indoor smoke from open fires and stoves caused 4.3 million deaths per year in 2012. Coal plays an essential role in replacing these cooking sources.

While we should never base decisions solely on lives lost versus lives saved, it is clear that the use of coal could easily be a net saver of life. And this isn’t count the innovations that can limit the greenhouse emissions of coal, or help avoid deaths from a warmer climate. It also doesn’t count the important impact of coal in reducing human poverty. So much for the ‘human life’ argument.

The divestment campaign also misses the patronising nature of its stance. Many of the campaigners would be strong opponents of Western imperialism. But they are perfectly happy to imply (or even state explicitly) that developing countries are bad global citizens for using coal. The campaigners would consider it is wrong to tell countries such as India and China what to think or believe, but it is good to tell them what fuels to use. The hypocrisy should be self-evident.

If they are truly concerned about the use of coal in India and China, the campaigners should persuade those countries to reduce their use, rather than lecturing them from a distance. However, that would require genuine effort, rather than mere trendsetter posturing.


Canning victor Hastie Australia's newest MP

6% is just a normal by-election swing  -- JR

The Liberals have held onto the West Australian seat of Canning despite a six per cent swing against the government, days after Tony Abbott was ousted by Malcolm Turnbull.

Former SAS captain Andrew Hastie comfortably won Saturday's by-election triggered by the death of veteran Liberal Don Randall following predictions of a much closer contest before the Turnbull leadership coup.

Mr Hastie, 32, thanked both Mr Abbott and new Prime Minister Turnbull for their support as he vowed to stand up for Western Australia in Canberra and to tackle the ice scourge.

Conceding defeat, Labor candidate Matt Keogh noted some 'massive swings' across Canning as he thanked supporters for a noble fight that slashed Mr Randall's near-12 per cent margin.

'We may have lost the battle of Canning but we did win the first war - we did get rid of Tony Abbott,' he said on Saturday night.

Mr Hastie dismissed the significance of Monday's dramatic federal leadership spill to the by-election. 'This campaign was always about the people of Canning and their concerns,' he said. 'It is quite clear the people of Canning don't care about Canberra politics or tricky games.'

Mr Turnbull tweeted his congratulations to Mr Hastie for a well-deserved win as he prepared to reveal his new ministry in Canberra on Sunday.

The by-election was initially considered a referendum on Mr Abbott's leadership but then touted as a measure of the new prime minister's appeal.

'The truth is, we will never know what the result would have been if there hadn't been a change,' Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told Sky News on Saturday.  'The change, by all accounts, has been well received in the community.'

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said it was a most impressive outcome and emphasised Mr Hastie's military background, saying he not only fought for his beliefs, he had been prepared to die for them.


Nutty new health rating

You might have noticed a funny-looking new label on some items at the supermarket. No, not that squiggly iPhone barcode nobody uses. It's the Health Star Rating label, which the Abbott government was unable to prevent the Department of Health bureaucrats from developing, although they did manage to make the labels voluntary rather than compulsory.

The Health Star Rating system gave quite a hostage to fortune by making its slogan so blunt: 'The more stars, the healthier the choice. Simple.' Unlike most advertising slogans, this one is a factual statement, the truth of which can be verified -- or not.

ABC Fact Check has now done just that, and it turns out the Health Department marketing team would have been better off picking a vaguer slogan.

Fact Check highlights odd discrepancies, like liquorice confectionary scoring higher than plain yoghurt. Some brands of potato chips score higher than Pink Lady apples, some frozen pizza scores higher than Nutri Grain cereal.

Nutritionists blamed these anomalies on two main flaws. The first is the byzantine way the ratings are calculated. 'Fruit content' can earn points toward a higher rating, even when the 'fruit content' in question is so refined and stripped of fibre and vitamins that it's not much healthier than straight syrup. Some fruit juices with high sugar content have been rejigged to achieve 4-star ratings in just this way.

The second flaw is more broadly conceptual. There just isn't a simple way to rank the healthiness of radically unlike foods. Is hummus healthier than a hard-boiled egg? That's like asking whether ice cream is more delicious than pizza - it's not a fair comparison. The question is practically meaningless unless the foods can be put in the context of the rest of an individual's diet. It's certainly too complex to be boiled down to relative star ratings.

The range of food available in an average supermarket is just too diverse to be ranked along a single axis of 'healthiness.' That's why there is little hope that revising the algorithm will ever produce a Health Star Rating system that can honestly claim 'the more stars, the healthier.'


The value of our Federal constitution

Pickering, a cartoonist, gets it right below

Recently, the idea of changing our Constitution is back in favour. People are no longer happy with the royals. Not that we don’t love their weddings and babies and all but they’re just not… know……Australian. On top of that, the aborigines aren’t getting a mention.

Before you go rushing in to change this document however, allow me to ask a question. Do you actually know what the Constitution is? Do you know why we have one? I ask this because it is an incredibly important document and if people understood its purpose, they might not be quite so keen to fiddle.

Throughout history, human societies have been divided into two parties, the rulers and the ruled. Most of the time, the rulers shout “Jump” and the rest of us ask, “How high?” Remember how communism seemed like such a great idea? Remember how some maniacal dictator always turned up and spoiled everything just when it looked so promising?

Unfortunately, that is the normal state of affairs for humans. In any group, the toughest, meanest most sadistic individual usually becomes the leader. He gets there and stays there by violence and intimidation. Everyone else follows his orders or else.

Throughout history, few nations even had a constitution. The nutcase in charge just did pretty much whatever he wanted, just like they did in communist countries. Even today, most countries’ constitutions were written by the current leaders and probably won’t outlast their rule.

Exclusively in history, one group of nations managed to wrest control and hold their rulers accountable to the will of the people. It is no coincidence that the citizens of all of these countries speak English. These nations of the “Anglosphere” developed constitutions which protect their citizens from psychopathic individuals who would normally become rulers.

The Australian, UK and Canadian Constitutions are all quite similar. Even the American Constitution shares the same basic principles and leans heavily on the English Bill of Rights. Our countries have parliaments which make laws.

Some of these MP’s probably go cheerfully enough. There must be plenty however, who don’t want to go. What stops these people from abolishing elections and remaining in power as Hitler did?

It is the constitution which tells MPs what laws they can pass and how they can pass them. So why not rip up the constitution and pass the law anyway? Why not just take over and order the army to kill anyone who objects? Our generals wouldn’t do that right? Well the current ones probably wouldn’t, but it’s always easy to find some who would. Then, any soldier not following orders would be shot. With the army onside, all opposition can be quickly and ruthlessly suppressed (read “murdered”).

Great plan. It worked well for Hitler so why not for Kev or Julia or Tony. No more whinging when you loot the treasury to rebuild your house. No common citizens daring to question your helicopter expenses.

Think they wouldn’t do it? Think again. These people look on us as economic units to be bled for their own pleasure. So why don’t they?

The simple answer is “because they can’t”. The people who wrote our Constitution were not fools. Parliament does not command the army; our founders knew they had to give that job to someone else. This was not an easy decision. Who else do you give that job to? The Parliament might corrupt them or buy them out with favours.

Our founders needed to find someone who couldn’t be bought out or corrupted by offers of power or prestige. Someone without a personal axe to grind. They came up with the Royal Family. They gave them plenty of money, palaces and prestige. In as far as it is possible; this made them extremely difficult to corrupt.

That is why the Queen of England (through her representative the Governor-General) is ultimately in charge of our armed forces. If Tony Abbot decides to set himself up as a dictator, he will have to persuade the Queen to go along with it or else find himself removed by the army. The great thing for Aussies is that we don’t even have to pay for this service, the Poms do.

Of course there is always the remote chance that Charles and Camilla might decide to take over Britain and Australia. The problem for them is that Parliament is in charge of all the civil institutions such as the police, the courts and the bureaucracy. In this unlikely event, there would basically be a civil war with a good chance that the instigator would end up with their head on a spike.

That is why the Queen is not allowed to enter the British Parliament without permission. When she knocks on the door once a year to open parliament, she is forced to wait for ten minutes before being allowed in. This brilliant system has protected us for centuries. Two separate powers who restrain each other with “mutually assured destruction”.

“So why don’t we learn this at school,” I hear you ask? It is because our leaders hate the Constitution. They want to tear it up, set fire to it and throw it in the bin. Then they will be free to ride roughshod over you and your family and help themselves to whatever they damn well please.

Of course we could rewrite the Constitution. It is tempting to think that we are much smarter today than people living centuries ago. Unfortunately, this is not the case. We are lazy, pampered, spoilt, naïve and inexperienced. Please don’t take that the wrong way, I love you all dearly. It’s just that we haven’t the experience of those guys. Oh sure we have Google and You Tube and information coming out of our wazoos. Sure we can build smart phones and fly to the moon. Thankfully however, we have no knowledge of things that really matter.

We don’t know what it feels like to see our neighbour arrested and burned at the stake - for attending the wrong church. We don’t know what it feels like for our leaders to confiscate our house and throw us destitute on the street. We don’t know what it feels like to be locked up indefinitely without a trial.

None of us in the Anglosphere have experienced these kind of things. If we do, it will likely be because our rulers have persuaded us to make changes to our Constitution.  Even the most benign changes, if not worded correctly, can invalidate entire sections without our realising.

The people who wrote these documents were geniuses who had been to hell and back. Every clause, every comma and full stop was hotly debated and tested over a period of centuries. The people who commissioned these documents did so after periods of awful calamity. They knew the importance of the task they had. They employed geniuses deliberately because they knew nothing less would suffice. They put men like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams on the job.

In 1998, John Howard initiated a constitutional convention to debate changing the Constitution and Australians were invited to vote for people to attend. I well remember that one of the successful candidates was a footballer. “Oh yeah, Bazza went great against the panthers last week so let’s get him to rewrite the Constitution”. WTF!!!! Are you people serious?

This of course, is exactly what our leaders want. They don’t give a fig about Aboriginal recognition or making sure our Head of State is an Australian citizen. They want the Constitution neutered so they can ride roughshod over you and your family’s right to exist.

Let me give just one small example. When Tony Blair came to power he took it on himself to abolish the heredity peerage. Sounds like a great idea right? Why should someone rule over us just because he was born into some fancy aristocratic family?

So instead of some British blue blood, he appointed Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi from Pakistan. These people will look out for the UK more than some British born aristocrat right?

Lord Ahmed killed a man by running him over in his gold plated Jaguar while texting on his mobile phone. Although he never seemed to show much sympathy for his victim, he was a huge financial contributor to the Labour party. Because of that, he became a part of the British Government for life (and would still be there had his anti-Semitic rants not been so extreme as to have him removed).

A few years ago, Geert Wilders was invited to address the house of Lords and warn them of the dangers of radical Islam, it was Lord Ahmed who threatened to bring 10,000 raging Muslims onto the streets of London causing the Government to have Geert arrested and deported for “threatening community harmony” before he could deliver his warning.

Not that I think Lord Ahmed is all bad. As a chilling lesson to Muslim-hugging lefties everywhere, he recently started a campaign to raise 10 million pounds to have Tony Blair indicted for war crimes.

Wanting an Australian as Head of State is a fair call and I understand that. Who could have Australian interests at heart more than a true born Aussie citizen? Yet consider this. Not wanting a Pom as Head of State may be considered as patriotic but how long will it be before voting for an Australian is considered racist? If you are uncomfortable with the British Queen as Head of State then how would you feel about some bloke from Somalia or Bezerkestan waving at you from Government House?

Of course you could do what the Americans did. They clearly wrote into their Constitution that Heads of State must be American born. How is that working out for them? Hmmm.

Mucking around with things you don’t fully understand is foolish. Mucking around with something as important as the Constitution without a really good reason is insanely dangerous.


20 September, 2015

Australian Crackdown on Foreign Property-Buyers Intensifies

The crackdown is just a bandaid.  The real reason for high Australian property prices is land-use restrictions supported by a devil's combination of NIMBYs and Greenies -- and to some extent farmers.  Getting land released to house a growing population -- growth mainly caused by high immigration -- is therefore usually  something of a battle  -- often a costly battle with costs being passed on to home buyers.

A sensible loophole in the restrictions, however, is that foreign buyers can readily invest in new builds.  That should encourage new builds and counter the unemployment effect of reduced mining activity. 

One might also note with some amusement that 12 properties affected so far will hardly have macro effects

And, finally, the overseas buyers are almost all in the high-end market.  So the restrictions help only affluent Australians, not the average Joe.  A sad policy solution to a real problem.  A more effective solution would be a reduction in net immigration, maybe even a complete moratorium -- JR

A government clampdown on illegal investment in Australian real estate has broadened, with almost 500 properties worth more than 1 billion Australian dollars (US$713 million) in total under investigation and more foreign buyers forced to sell properties.

The government has been under pressure to rein in an investment-driven surge in home prices in Australia’s two biggest cities Sydney and Melbourne, amid growing criticism that wealthy Asian buyers are making the property market increasingly unaffordable.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said divestment orders have been served on five properties across the country, forcing their owners—who hail from Singapore, Indonesia, the U.K. and China—to sell homes. He added that the crackdown is continuing despite political turmoil this week that saw Malcolm Turnbull replace Tony Abbott as prime minister.

“The purchase prices of the properties range in value from A$265,000 to A$8.1 million,” Mr. Hockey told reporters in Canberra. “The foreign investors involved either purchased established property without Foreign Investment Review Board approval, or had approval but their circumstances changed, meaning they were breaking the rules,” he said.

The central bank has warned the property boom is unbalanced and potentially dangerous to a fragile economy, as economists become increasingly nervous about the possibility of the country entering a recession for the first time in 24 years.

Australia’s economy grew by 0.2% in the second quarter from the first three months of the year and 2% from a year earlier, its slowest quarterly growth in four years in the second quarter. The Reserve Bank of Australia is forecasting 2.25% growth for the year, but a dip below 2% could put the prospect of an interest-rate cut back on the table.

Many Australians fear cashed-up foreign investors could put homeownership out of reach of much of the population. Mr. Hockey told The Wall Street Journal last month that equity-market turmoil in China could drive even more Chinese buyers to seek havens by investing in Australian property.

China last year overtook the U.S. as Australia’s largest source of investment from overseas, with a total of A$27.6 billion last year, according to FIRB, the foreign-investment watchdog. Real estate accounted for almost half of that.

The latest divestment orders bring the number of properties hit by the crackdown to 12. In March, Mr. Hockey ordered a Hong Kong-based buyer of a A$39 million Sydney mansion to sell after investigators said it was purchased illegally.

This time, the properties netted by the crackdown are scattered across the country and include homes in the cities of Perth, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane as well as the Gold Coast, in tropical Queensland state.

Mr. Hockey said all five owners had voluntarily come forward to detail their investments, meaning they would have a year to sell their homes rather than the usual three months, under an amnesty offer announced by the government in May.

Mr. Hockey could be replaced as Australia’s chief economic minister after a leadership putsch in the conservative government that this week installed Mr. Turnbull as prime minister. Among the possible candidates to become treasurer is Scott Morrison, regarded as one of the government’s most effective ministers.


Prince Philip received his knighthood from former prime minister Tony Abbott 'following a request from the Queen after the Duke had complained he had not been 'so richly rewarded' by Australia'

Abbott could  have taken the heat off himself by revealing this but he was too much of a gentleman to do so.  Note that  Malcolm Fraser made Prince Charles a knight in the order of Auatralia in 1981  -- to general approval

Prince Philip received an Australian knighthood after he complained to the Queen that the former colony had ennobled Prince Charles but had ignored himself.

The astonishing claim was made by an Australian journalist who is a close friend to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott who was ousted earlier this month.

Greg Sheridan, foreign editor of The Australian claimed that Abbott only awarded Prince Philip the knighthood in January as a personal favour to the Queen.

According to Bernard Lagan in The Times, Buckingham Palace had contacted Australian authorities to let it be known that the Duke of Edinburgh 'had not been so richly rewarded by Australia' as Prince Charles.

Abbott nominated Prince Philip for the reward, which caused him considerable political pressure domestically.

According to The Times, Mr Sheridan said the knighthood made Abbott 'look absurdly antique and out of touch, reinforcing  every negative stereotype about him.

'Abbott gave Philip a knighthood because he learnt the Queen wanted her husband to have one.

'Not only did Abbott endure enormous personal damage because of his loyalty to the Queen, he never leaked the exculpatory explanation, which does not excuse his error in judgement but gives it context, humanises it and may have made it a much less toxic political issue.'


Malcolm Turnbull not going Green

How many compromises was Turnbull prepared to make to get the keys to The Lodge?  Plenty, as it turns out.

The first compromise, and perhaps the most surprising, was on climate policy. Turnbull has long been a vocal critic of Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt’s risible Direct Action policy. Yet no sooner had he taken the reins of national government than he was complementing Greg Hunt on the policy and vowing to keep it.

In Question Time yesterday, Turnbull went out of his way to praise Direct Action.

“We are talking about a very specific policy that was carefully put together by the Minister for the Environment, that was carefully considered by the Government, and it is working,” he told the House of Representatives.

Greg Hunt confirmed that Direct Action would stay, telling reporters that “the emissions reduction fund has been a spectacular success. So the policy is continuing.”

Endorsing Direct Action is a massive backflip for Turnbull.

Way back in 2010, Turnbull was savagely critical of Direct Action as a wasteful public subsidy for big polluters. “I've always believed the Liberals reject the idea that governments know best,” he said in a well-publicised speech in Parliament. “Doling out billions of taxpayers' money is neither economically efficient, nor will it be environmentally effective.”

Keeping Direct Action appears to be the first big compromise Turnbull was prepared to make, no doubt to win over some of the hardline climate denialists on the Liberal back bench. Let’s remember that Turnbull was rolled as Liberal leader in 2009 on precisely this issue, after he negotiated with Kevin Rudd and the Labor government to introduce a bipartisan emissions trading scheme.

It’s difficult to believe Turnbull really thinks Direct Action is a good policy. There is not a single independent expert in the land that thinks Direct Action can actually meet the Coalition’s 28 per cent emissions reduction target by 2025. The simple math tells us it will fail: the most recent Direct Action auction of emissions reduction bids bought around 15 per cent of the emissions reductions the government needs, but spent a quarter of the Direct Action budget.


Phonics, faith and coding for primary school kids

Australia's "Christian heritage" will be taught in schools in a slimmed-down national curriculum that focuses on phonics to -improve children's reading.

History and geography have been scrapped as stand-alone subjects, in a back-to-basics return to traditional teaching.

But 21st-century computer coding will be taught in primary school, starting in Year 5, in the new curriculum endorsed by Australia's education ministers yesterday.

Indigenous issues have been cut from parts of the curriculum, and students will no longer be taught about Harmony Week, -National Reconciliation Week, or NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week.

Students will continue to learn about Australia Day, Anzac Day and National Sorry Day. The Year 6 study of the contribution of "individua-ls and groups" to Australian society will no longer -include a reference to indigenous people or migrants, and will be confined to the post-Federation period.

The existing requirement to study Australia's connection to Asia has been deleted from the new curriculum.

Australia's "Christian heritage" will be taught for the first time, in lessons on "how Australia is a secular nation and a multi-faith society". Teachers will instruct students that Australia's democratic system of government is based on the Westminster system, although specific references to the monarchy, parliaments and courts have been removed from the curriculum.

For the first time, children in Years 1 and 2 will be taught to "practise strategies they can use when they feel uncomfortable or unsafe".

Students in Years 7 and 8 will be taught to "communicate their own and others' health concerns".

But education ministers agreed yesterday to change the curriculum again, to introduce teaching of "respectful relationships".

Teachers will also be given training to identify students who might be victims of family violence.

Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones, who proposed the domestic violence strategy, said a recent spate of violence against women showed that children needed to be taught about respectful relationships at school.

"We believe there's a real oppor-tunity in the health and physical education curriculum in regards to teaching about respectful relationships, to reduce domestic violence and give young people a greater understanding of gender equality," she told The Weekend Australian after the phone hook-up yesterday.

"We also want to provide teachers with additional support in recognising signs of family violence."

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the changes would resolve "overcrowding" in the primary school curriculum, boost the teaching of phonics and strengthen references to Western influences in Australia's history.

He said state and territory ministers would develop a national strategy to get more students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at school.

Ministers yesterday endorsed a digital technologies curriculum, that will start teaching students about computer coding in Year 5, and have them programming by Year 7.

But Ms Jones said the states and territories had not agreed to make STEM subjects compulsory in high school. "Even if we wanted to, we don't have the teachers to do that in Queensland right now," Ms Jones said.

A national curriculum for languages - Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Modern Greek, Spanish and Vietnamese - was signed off by ministers yesterday.

They also endorsed historic reforms to teacher education, prepared by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.

From next year, new teaching graduates will not be allowed into classrooms until they pass a test ranking them in the top 30 per cent of the population for literacy and numeracy.

Universities will also be forced to publish the academic and other "backdoor" requirements for entry to teaching degrees, to raise standards in the teaching profession.

AITSL chairman John Hattie - who took part in the ministerial meeting - said the changes would bring teaching closer in line with professions such as engineering and medicine.

"We have to make it very clear to people considering a teaching career that if you're dumb you can't be a teacher," he told The Weekend Australian.

"We need to worry considerably about the students in the classroom and the quality of the person standing up in front of them."

Mr Pyne said he was "abso-lutely delighted" the states and territories had backed the reforms, which have been driven by the federal and NSW governments.

"The national literacy and numeracy test will provide greater employer and community confid-ence that beginning teachers enter-ing our schools have the literacy and numeracy skills necessary to carry out the intellectual demands of teaching," he said.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Author-ity chief executive Robert Randall said the new curriculum would give teachers more time to teach the basics of maths, literacy, science- and history in primary school.

"We've strengthened the focus on the basics and put in detail about phonics in the early years because of its importance to devel-oping young people's reading ability," he told The Weekend Australian.

Mr Randall said the existing curriculum had so much detail that "teachers were feeling they had to do everything".

"It's important to be able to focus on the content and teach it in depth - we don't want cramming," he said.

"This gives teachers the flexibility to identify what young people- need to know about, and what they're interested in."

Mr Randall said the new curriculum had a greater focus on Western civilisation.

"Historically, the influence of the Christian church has been important," he said.

Mr Randall said that refer-ences to indigenous culture, envir-onmental sustainability and Asia - which are included throughout the existing curriculum, including in maths - had been cut back to "where they naturally fit", with an emphasis on history, geography and art.


18 September, 2015

Why does Australia pay McDonald's workers more?

The article below pretends to be for a businesss audience but is spectacularly naive.  It's a rather good example of American ethnocentrism, in fact.

Just for starters, they fail to mention that one Australian dollar these days is worth only about 72c in U.S. dollars.  So A$15 converts to only $US10.80. It is true that international exchange rates often depart considerably from buying power in the countries concerned but, as it happens,  PPP adjustment does not alter the US/AU ratio much.  So the discussion below is based from the beginning on a false  premise and could reasonably be dismissed without further ado.

Even at around $10, however, Australian workers do get more than some U.S. workers in similar jobs.  Why?  The easy answer is that Australia's taxes are somewhat higher than in the U.S.  Bottom-range workers in the U.S. pay no income tax at all whereas the same people in Australia would usually pay some tax. So the higher salary is needed to cope with the higher tax  burden

And now I come to the politically incorrect bit  -- VERY incorrect, mainly because it is true.  When one walks into an Australian McDonalds, one is normally served by bright and enthusiastic white teenagers.  When one walks into an American McDonalds, one is often greeted by very relaxed blacks.  I don't think we need any statistics to tell us that the Australian workers are more productive.  So fewer of them are needed to do the job.  So therefore they can be paid more.  They earn it.

There is more to be said but I think I have said enough -- JR

Last week, fast-food workers around the United States yet again walked off the job to protest their low pay and demand a wage hike to $15 an hour, about double what many of them earn today. In doing so, they added another symbolic chapter to an eight-month-old campaign of one-day strikes that, so far, has yielded lots of news coverage, but not much in terms of tangible results.

So there's a certain irony that in Australia, where the minimum wage for full-time adult workers already comes out to about $14.50 an hour, McDonald's staffers were busy scoring an actual raise. On July 24, the country's Fair Work Commission approved a new labor agreement between the company and its employees guaranteeing them up to a 15 percent pay increase by 2017. 

And here's the kicker: Many Australian McDonald's workers were already making more than the minimum to begin with.

The land down under is, of course, not the only high-wage country in the world where McDonald's does lucrative business. The company actually earns more revenue out of Europe than than it does from the United States. France, with its roughly $12.00 hourly minimum, has more than 1,200 locations. (Australia has about 900). 

So how exactly do McDonald's and other chains manage to turn a profit abroad while paying an hourly wage their American workers can only fantasize about while picketing? Part of the answer, as you might expect, boils down to higher prices. Academic estimates have suggested that, worldwide, worker pay accounts for at least 45 percent of a Big Mac's cost. In the United States, industry analysts tend to peg the figure a bit lower—labor might make up anywhere from about a quarter of all expenses at your average franchise to about a third.* But generally speaking, in countries where pay is higher, so is the cost of two all-beef patties, as shown in the chart below by Princeton economist Orley Ashenfelter. Note Western Europe way out in the upper-right hand corner, with its high McWages and high Big Mac prices.

That said, not every extra dollar of worker compensation seems to get passed onto the consumer. Again, take Australia. According to the The Economist, Aussies have paid anywhere from 6 cents to 70 cents extra for their Big Macs compared to Americans over the past two years, a 1 percent to 17 percent premium. If you were to simply double the cost of labor at your average U.S. Mickey D's and tack it onto the price of a sandwich, you'd expect customers to be paying at least a dollar more.

Why don't they?

To start, some Australians actually make less than the adult minimum wage. The country allows lower pay for teenagers, and the labor deal McDonald's struck with its employees currently pays 16-year-olds roughly US$8 an hour, not altogether different from what they'd make in the states. In an email, Greg Bamber, a professor at Australia's Monash University who has studied labor relations in the country's fast food industry, told me that as a result, McDonald's relies heavily on young workers in Australia. It's a specific quirk of the country's wage system. But it goes to show that even in generally high-pay countries, restaurants try to save on labor where they can.

It's also possible that McDonald's keeps its prices down overseas by squeezing more productivity out of its workers. Researchers studying the impact of minimum wage increases on American fast food chains in the Deep South have found that while restaurants mostly cope by raising prices, they also respond by handing their employees more responsibility. It stands to reason that in places like Europe and Australia, managers have found ways to get more mileage out of their staff as well.

Or if not, they've at least managed to replace a few of them with computers. As Michael Schaefer, an analyst with Euromonitor International, told me, fast food franchises in Europe have been some of the earliest adopters of touchscreen kiosks that let customers order without a cashier. As always, the peril of making employees more expensive is that machines become cheaper in comparison.

Finally, McDonald's has also helped its bottom line abroad by experimenting with higher margin menu items while trying to court more affluent customers. Way back in 1993, for instance, Australia became home to the first McCafe coffee shops, which sell highly profitable espresso drinks. During the last decade, meanwhile, the company gave its European restaurants a designer make-over and began offering more localized menus meant to draw a higher spending crowd.

So if President Obama waved a magic wand tomorrow and raised the minimum wage to $10 or $15, does this all mean that U.S. fast food chains would be able to cope? "Were that to happen overnight, it would be a hugely traumatic process," Schaefer told me. After all, virtually every fast food franchise in the country would have to rethink its business model as their profits evaporated. But as the international market shows, the models are out there. It would certainly mean more expensive burgers. It would almost definitely mean fewer workers, as restaurants found ways to streamline their staffs, either through better management or technology. And it might mean fewer chains catering to the bottom of the market.


Australia shows us what parliamentary democracy looks like

Comment from Canada

That was quick. Tony Abbott had been the domineering Prime Minister of Australia for barely two years before he was dumped on Monday.

But it wasn’t the electorate that sent him packing. Nor was it a leadership convention. Mr. Abbott was removed by his own MPs. Regime change took barely five hours.

There’s a lesson here for Canadians. Prime ministers and party leaders are supposed to rise out of Parliament, not rule over it. The primacy they claim for themselves is granted by their parliamentary colleagues and should be easier to withdraw. In Australia, all it took was a 54-44 vote against Mr. Abbott by his fellow Liberal MPs and he was history, replaced by Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr. Abbott lost the confidence of his caucus, as the country’s resource-based economy faltered and support for his government ebbed in the polls. His combative style and tendency to forgo collective decision-making in favour of idiosyncratic “captain’s picks” further alienated his colleagues. Last February he faced down a rebellion in the ranks, promising to consult more with MPs and reduce the influence of his chief of staff. The remake was unsuccessful, triggering Monday’s leadership ballot.

In Australia, such challenges are built into the system – the country has had four changes in prime-ministerial leadership in the past five years. Canberra’s members of Parliament have that power, and they’re not afraid to use it. In Canada, in contrast, while it is easy for a leader to get rid of bothersome MPs, it’s nearly impossible for MPs to collectively remove and replace their leader.

Critics of the Australian approach say that it undermines grassroots democracy and concedes too much authority to MPs. But that misses how parliamentary democracy is supposed to work. Over time, Canada has centralized power in the party and the prime minister, leaving democratically elected members of Parliament – and voters elect MPs, not PMs or even parties – almost irrelevant. The system is upside-down.

Canada could soon look more like Australia, thanks to Conservative MP Michael Chong’s recently adopted Reform Act. When the next Parliament is formed, each caucus will be given the choice to reclaim some of its lost authority by triggering a leadership review. The balance between MPs and party leaders has to be restored.


Racism claims rock Australia's Bachelorette

The Bachelorette Australia star Sam Frost has slapped down claims the show is racist, saying she believes race was never a factor in deciding the show's all-white cast.

Network Ten caused an outcry after releasing an image of the 14 contestants who had been picked "after a nationwide search involving thousands of men" to compete for Frost's heart on the dating show.

The image immediately prompted criticism over the show's lack of cultural diversity, given the wide search for contestants.

"I don't think they [the producers] even thought about it," Frost said on the Kyle and Jackie O show. "I don't think it was a thing until the media made it a thing."

Last year's season of The Bachelor Australia was similarly accused, with Ten proving the show's diversity by releasing a number of the contestants' ancestral history.

But Sandilands believed the controversy was just a coincidence, and said when it comes to race today's younger generations are colourblind.

"I think a lot of young people don't think like that. They don't think 'Oh we better have a black, we better have a brown'," he said.

"We just think people are people and whoever is on the show is on the show."

Frost agreed: "I think even if you had a black person on there they would think, 'Oh, token' so you can't win."

In 2012, producers of the US version of The Bachelor, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), were unsuccessfully sued by two African American men claiming their exclusion from the show was racial discrimination.

The ABC successfully argued that not casting non-white contestants was protected under the First Amendment as a form of creative expression, although they denied ever having done so.


New Zealand will be happy if Australia's China free trade deal fails

New Zealand already does good business with China.  If Australia got savvy, it might pose serious competion to NZ products

New Zealand’s prime minister will be “quite happy” if Australia fails to seal its controversial free trade deal with China.

The new government under Malcolm Turnbull has fast-tracked legislation for the agreement, trying to pressure Labor – which has concerns it will cost Australian jobs – to lock in the deal.

But New Zealand’s John Key told the Australian Financial Review that his country’s trade deal with China had been 11 times greater than the most optimistic estimates and it would be in New Zealand’s competitive interests if Australia’s failed.

“I’m a massive proponent of free trade, and the benefits of our FTA have been 11 times greater than the most optimistic estimates,” he said.

“The numbers speak for themselves. Having negotiated an agreement that is high quality, you’d like to grab it with both hands. New Zealand will be quite happy if you don’t.”

Labor said the government was starting to play a “political game” with the China deal, after introducing legislation on Wednesday.

A vote can’t be held until after a parliamentary committee hands down its report on the details in mid-October.

“Yet they wanted to say ‘oh look we’re upping the ante, we’re putting pressure on’, when they know no one else can speak on the bill [yet],” opposition frontbencher Tony Burke told Sky News


17 September, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is not pleased by the Turnbull ascendancy

A mess of his own making

Miranda Devine

TONY Abbott is at his best when his back is against the wall. He’s a tough and wily fighter. But he left it all too late. He only has himself to blame for losing the Prime Ministership to Malcolm Turnbull.

His short, sharp statement Monday night, calling on the leadership ballot, was Abbott at his best.  He said he was, “heartened by the messages of support flooding into Liberal Party offices saying most emphatically ‘We are not the Labor party’.”

The prime ministership is “not a prize or a plaything to be demanded. It should be something which is earned by a vote of the Australian people.”

Yes, that was Abbott’s greatest bargaining chip: the fury of voters having, yet again, been cheated out of their right, as they see it, to change the Prime Minister; the spectre of selfish, traitorous politicians, faceless or otherwise, placing themselves above the will of the people.

And yet, it would be a mistake to judge this leadership change by the standards of Labor’s Rudd-Gillard-Rudd farce.

Even the most rusted-on conservative voters were deeply disappointed with Abbott, and have been since the government’s first budget last year. Many had written him off and were fatalistic about Turnbull’s stealth attack. The most frequent comment about Abbott from supporters all year has been, “He just doesn’t listen.”

The truth is Abbott was given fair warning in February, in the leadership spill that wasn’t. That was a shot across his bows: change two fundamental elements of his government, or else. First, remove the lacklustre Treasurer Joe Hockey and, second, change the way your office functions – in other words, end your reliance on chief of staff Peta Credlin.

Abbott was told and told and told by colleagues, media, friends, former senior politicians, and he refused to make those crucial changes, for reasons known best to himself.

One backbench conservative, after weeks of urging the PM and his office to mount a more forceful defense against Turnbull’s blatant destabilization, lamented last night: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”

Abbott stubbornly clung to both Hockey and Credlin. His supporters tried to say that was demonstration of a positive character trait – loyalty. But as prime minister, his first loyalty should have been to the nation, not to individuals who have not served him well.

Hockey just wasn’t up to the job. And it wasn’t as if there wasn’t a brilliant candidate staring Abbott in the face, and willing to step into the role, Scott Morrison.

Why the PM thought the government was in a strong enough position not to put his top performing minister in the most important portfolio is an enduring mystery, and in the end, it sealed his fate.

Instead, Hockey was nursed through the last budget by Morrison, Josh Frydenberg and Mathias Cormann.

The government’s problems all go back to its first arrogant budget in which a string of election promises were broken and, astonishingly, the mariginal rate of tax was increased to a record 49 percent. This totemic mistake destroyed a key strength of the Liberal party and dismayed supporters. It was the first sign that something was wrong with the Abbott government’s DNA

Abbott seemed to be at once plagued by self doubt and stubbornly inflexible when it came to learning from his mistakes.

The best leaders in history have been tempered by failure and learned from the experience.

Turnbull failed dismally last time he was Liberal leader. He’s smart, but is he smart enough to learn from those mistakes?

If he runs the budget the way he’s run the NBN, with a massive blowout to $56billion, the country is in trouble.

Turnbull has to prove he has what it takes to be a leader and keep the conservative base of the Liberal party on side.

Same sex marriage and climate change will be his two litmus tests. Is he capable of subsuming his ego and allowing the Coalition party room position on both issues to remain unchanged?

As for the voters, there’s no clear explanation for why another democratically elected first term Prime Minister had to go. Sure, Abbott didn’t do well in the polls, but are we governed by pollsters? What did he do wrong?

That is the question Turnbull never will be able satisfactorily to explain.

But at least Abbott won’t do to Turnbull what Rudd did to Gillard. He’s too honourable.


Nationals finalise Coalition agreement with Turnbull, gain responsibility for water and support for effect test

The National Party has secured responsibility for water policy, and support for competition law reform under a new Coalition agreement with the Liberal Party.

The Nationals have long coveted the water portfolio, which has been held by Liberal members. It will be brought under the agriculture portfolio.

Currently, parliamentary secretary for the environment Bob Baldwin has responsibility for water policy, including implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce was the Coalition's Murray-Darling spokesman before the 2013 election, however his Liberal colleague Simon Birmingham held ultimate responsibility for the Basin Plan at that time.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told a joint party room meeting this morning that positions within his Cabinet would be "dealt with" over the weekend.

The Nationals claim the agreement also includes support for reform of section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act.

The Government is currently considering whether to introduce a so-called effects test, that protect small business against the misuse of market power by dominant players, like big supermarkets. The reform was a recommendation of the major Harper review of competition law.

Nationals leader Warren Truss said the Coalition agreement also includes a commitment to further reduce mobile phone and television reception black spots.

But when asked how much money would be allocated to achieving that, and over what period of time, Mr Truss said, "we don't put dollar figures into an agreement of this nature".

"What we're doing is talking about the policy direction that we intend to take in the future."

The agreement also contains an unspecified commitment to a "regional jobs recovery program in areas of high youth unemployment", and to financially assist stay-at-home parents with children under the age of one. It's not clear how much money will be available, or which areas will be targeted.

The two parties have confirmed a same sex marriage plebiscite in the next term of government.
Turnbull deflects questions over agreement in the House

In Question Time, the Opposition's Chris Bowen accused Prime Minister Turnbull of "a dirty deal" with the Nationals to support an effects test in return for their support.

He was asked to rephrase, and Mr Turnbull told the House that a decision to back an effects test "is not a decision that is made by me as PM".

"It is a decision, and would be a decision, by the Cabinet."

The government has previously said it would release its formal response to the Harper review recommendations by the end of the year.

Mr Turnbull also refused to comment on changes to water portfolio responsibilities, saying only that "ministerial arrangements will be reviewed and announced later in the week, or early next week."

Irrigators welcome water portfolio changes, but conservationists unhappy

The Australian Conservation Foundation criticised the decision to move the water portfolio.

Spokesman Jonathan La Nauze said it made "no more sense to manage water from the agriculture department than from the mining department."

"Water is a national issue, not an issue for the Nationals," Mr La Nauze said.

"With all due respect, we have little confidence that Barnaby Joyce could be trusted to keep the nation's rivers and our native fish healthy.

"This is a man who expresses contempt for Australia's wildlife on a daily basis, in fact he seems to have turned it into a sport."

But the National Irrigators' Council chief executive Tom Chesson said he hoped the move would lead to a "speedy release and resolution" of the government's response to the Water Act Review.

"We're also looking forward to a renewed focus on the social and economic costs of the Basin Plan to communities," Mr Chesson said.

Regional Liberal MPs urged swift resolution on coalition agreement

Some MPs and senators, unhappy with the way Tony Abbott was cut down as leader, had warned that the socially conservative Nationals should "not rush" into a new Coalition agreement with Mr Turnbull.

They wanted their leader Warren Truss to do policy deals, or get extra cash, to help regional Australia.

Those veiled threats were later dismissed by others in the party as a chest-beating exercise.

Earlier today Liberal MP Dan Tehan urged the Nationals not to delay the signing of a new agreement.

"It is absolutely vital that we unite and get on with governing the country," he said.

"We were elected as a coalition, so we need to make sure that we continue to operate as a coalition government representing rural and regional Australia, and representing metropolitan Australia."

Earlier today, former Nationals leader Tim Fischer expressed his belief that PM Turnbull would deliver for regional Australia, particularly on inland rail.

"Don't underestimate the broadness of his vision and his capabilities," Mr Fischer said.

"I think it does open the door for another look at inland rail. You just need a balance today more than ever before with the matrix of road and rail and access to ports."

Mr Fischer said Mr Turnbull's background as communications minister also means he understands the importance of a 'distinct regional news gathering service'.

"I think he will look at the need to revisit the media laws and the way the people in the bush need local news services," Mr Fischer said.


Abbott says he intends to stay in Parliament

THERE is growing speculation that his career in politics is over — but Tony Abbott has told that he intends to remain in the Parliament.

Whispers in Canberra’s corridors tell of a “sulky” Mr Abbott who was still coming to terms with being dumped.

He has not shown his face in Parliament since being dumped as Liberal leader on Monday night — but this afternoon he has indicated that he wants to stay in politics.

“It’s been a tumultuous week and I now intend to spend some time with my family to think about the future,” Mr Abbott told  “But my intention is to remain in the Parliament.”

The seat next to Queensland MP Andrew Laming in the House of Representatives was again empty today as for the second Question Time in a row Tony Abbott declined to appear as a backbencher.

Mr Laming was among those whose agitations in February led to Mr Abbott’s close call in a leadership spill ballot, but that’s not why he sat alone.

Mr Abbott has all but disappeared for most of the people who work in Parliament House, and has remained out of contact to almost everyone since he lost the leadership to Malcolm Turnbull Monday night.

Last night Christine Forster revealed brother Tony had not replied to her text messages. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has not had his returned either, although for quite separate reasons.

But today Mr Abbott did take a call from US President Barack Obama who saluted him as “a good mate on so many issues”.

After Mr Abbott’s bitter departure speech on Tuesday and his refusal to mention Malcolm Turnbull in his final public words as prime minister, there is considerable speculation about his future.

It is still not known whether he has been offered or asked for a ministry.

“I have had a discussion with Tony Abbott but he hasn’t given me an indication in those terms,” Mr Turnbull said of his predecessor.

Monash University professor of politics James Walter expects that Mr Abbott will end up pursuing a non-government or business role.

“I guess he’d probably go into some sort of business role or some sort of consultancy position,” Prof Walter said.  “It depends what he’s offered. People usually get picked up because of their connections.

“Abbott is unlike Kevin Rudd because Rudd had international relations, foreign policy-type aspirations all along and some academic connections, so he could move into things related to the UN and he could move, for instance, to Harvard.

“I don’t think Abbott has those types of links or academic credibility.”

Prof Walter said Mr Abbott was “much more likely to go into some sort of straight business-related position, with the possible exception of working in fields he was always interested in before he became PM, like social issues or the work he did with indigenous people and Catholic connections”.

“I think it’s pretty unlikely that he might stay in politics for rest of this term because it’s not a long-term option unless he thinks he can make a comeback,” he said.

Prof Walter said Mr Abbott didn’t have the popularity needed to “pull a Kevin Rudd” and regain his role as prime minister at a later date.

“The difference between him and Rudd was that Rudd still had a base level of popularity so could persuade himself and the public that he could come back,” he said.

“Abbott has never had that level of popularity; the public polling has always not been strong so it will be hard for him to make a case that he’ll be swept back as prime minister or in a political role by popular opinion.”

Prof Walter said “there will always be someone who will pick up a former PM”.  “Some people with those sorts of backgrounds in politics have ended up in non-government organisations,” he said.  “For instance, the chair of the Red Cross in Australia has commonly been an ex-politician.

“You can imagine that Abbott might end up in that sort of a role or in the Catholic welfare bodies. I think that’s feasible given his interest.”

Whatever step Mr Abbott takes next, it’s unlikely he’ll be seen in the dole queue.

The amount in entitlements received by former prime ministers depends on their length of service, but they generally receive about 70 per cent of the PM’s salary as part of their basic pension.

Abbott certainly won’t be short of cash as he qualifies for $300,000 a year in a pension for serving two decades in government.  It is understood the rules allow him to take up to half of it as a lump sum, where it is paid at 10 times the amount sacrificed — a lump sum of up to $1.53 million.

And, like previous PMs, Mr Abbott should also receive an extra $300,000 a year with which to maintain a staffed office, plus travel costs.


Why Malcolm Turnbull will end up disappointing many voters

HE IS considered socially progressive; someone whose centrist views make him popular even with soft Labor voters.

But Aussies who think that Malcolm Turnbull is going to steer Australian policy in an entirely new direction, think again.

If there is one thing our new Prime Minister has made clear over the last two days is that he plans to lead a more consultative government, a “traditional Cabinet government”. This means his own personal views on climate change, same-sex marriage, immigration and republicanism will have to take a back seat. He has a whole party to appease.

Dr Ian Cook, a senior lecturer in Australian politics from Murdoch University in WA, told Australians should not expect too much to change in terms of policy.

“There are 44 people who didn’t vote for him,” Dr Cook said. “That’s part of the problem he faces.

“Of them, quite a few basically don’t agree with him or support the policies he would generally adopt. So he has to appease that side of the party.

“He will be trying to keep the other side of the party involved. In some ways I think what Turnbull was saying was that Tony Abbott did not address and bring in Malcolm Turnbull’s side of the party. It wasn’t proper Cabinet government in the sense that people weren’t encouraged to share their views, and have robust conversations.

“He now has to do the same thing too. He has to include them or be seen to be inclusive. And that’s going to hold him to a relatively conservative position for quite a long time.”

During Mr Turnbull’s first Question Time as Prime Minister yesterday, he told Parliament he was standing by the Coalition government’s commitment to hold a national plebiscite on legalising same-sex marriage. All Australians will have a choice about how the issue is resolved at the next election, likely in 2016, he said.

“Labor will say vote for us and marriage equality will be dealt with by the politicians ... we will say, if we are re-elected to government, every single Australian will have a say,” he said yesterday.

He has also reaffirmed his support for the Abbott government’s contentious climate change policy, the Direct Action plan. Mr Turnbull lost the leadership of the Liberal Party to Tony Abbott in 2009 over his support for emissions trading, but yesterday during Question Time he said he believed Direct Action was the right way to go.

“We are talking about a very specific policy that was carefully put together by the Minister for the Environment, that was carefully considered by the Government and it is working,” he said.
PM Malcolm Turnbull is sticking with the Coalition’s current policies on climate change, same-sex marriage and the republic despite his own well-publicised views.

PM Malcolm Turnbull is sticking with the Coalition’s current policies on climate change, same-sex marriage and the republic despite his own well-publicised views.Source:News Corp Australia

Professor John Phillimore from the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy at Curtin University in WA told this commitment to keep current policy was the result of the “inevitable compromise” to secure the votes needed to win leadership.

“It seems to me that Kevin Andrews getting 30 votes as deputy leader after Malcolm Turnbull had been appointed as leader - and hence no prospect that Kevin Andrews would become the deputy leader - those 30 votes to me represent the hard core conservative vote who were just basically reminding Mr Turnbull that there is a conservative wing of the party who will be keeping him on notice,” Professor Phillimore said. “Perhaps part of the compromise or deals that were done was that he would basically stick with current government policies.

“I think it’s also the reason why Malcolm Turnbull has made the economic issue much more prominent. He is relying on his reputation as a former successful business person - and the Liberal Party was always quite keen to show its economic credentials - and I think he is trying to put that front and centre over the next year before the next election to show that he’s on top of that agenda.”

But whether Mr Turnbull manages to hold onto the leadership in Australia’s revolving door-style of politics depends upon his ability to stay out of the limelight, adds Dr Cook.

He said he thought Mr Tunbull would be a more articulate prime minister and a better communicator than Tony Abbott but questions the former lawyer’s ability to take a step back.

“I think if he isn’t able to recognise his job is to lead a team and not to be out in front absorbing the limelight, that’s a big ask for Malcolm Turnbull,” Dr Cook said. “That’s not his style. I think he learned a lot from being opposition leader and basically failing at that job. But whether he will address that larger problem (of leading a team and staying out of the limelight). I am not so sure about.”

Professor Phillimore thinks Mr Turnbull has made all the “right noises” in terms of trying to create a more inclusive government but also questions whether being a team player “suits his personality”.

And as for whether he think the Rhodes scholar will be a good Prime Minister, he explained sometimes some politicians have the skills for certain roles and that maybe Mr Turnbull might have the skills to be the Prime Minister.

“In terms of political leadership, sometimes good ministers are sometimes not good prime ministers and that was probably the case of Julia Gillard,” he said. “Sometimes good opposition leaders aren’t good prime ministers and that seems to be the problem with Tony Abbott. The skills that are required to be a good opposition leader in that case weren’t the skills that were required to be prime minister. He carried the opposition mentality over into the Prime Ministership.

“Malcolm Turnbull was not a good opposition leader and eventually he was defeated by his own party. But the skills of being opposition leader don’t necessarily translate to being a prime minister. Maybe he has the skills to be a prime minister. When you have actually got the authority of office as the leader you are viewed as a different type of leader as you were as opposition leader.”


Canning candidates say local issues key

THE two main Canning candidates insist local issues will be the focus of voters at this weekend's by-election, which is now being seen as Malcolm Turnbull's first big test.

THE poll, triggered by the sudden death of sitting Liberal MP Don Randall in July, was until Monday viewed as a litmus test of Tony Abbott's performance.
But with the ousting of Mr Abbott, the outcome is being viewed as a measure of Mr Turnbull's appeal.

Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie dismissed assertions the drama could cost him votes, but suggested the dramatic events in Canberra had come as a surprise.

He also said Australians were "feeling somewhat dissatisfied with the political class".

"Look, I didn't ask for this," the former SAS captain told reporters in Armadale on Tuesday.  "I went into a meeting last night with one prime minister and emerged with another, but that's the reality and I support the prime minister.

"I'm not worried at all about the commentary that's going on around this campaign.  "From day one, I've been focusing on local issues. I will continue to focus on local issues."

Labor's candidate for Canning Matt Keogh, a lawyer, also said Canning voters remained concerned about issues directly affecting them.

He denied the opposition's key ammunition against Mr Hastie had been lost with the removal of Mr Abbott, indicating that the former communications minister was also fair game.

"The key concern of the people of Canning ... has been cuts to schools and hospitals, the introduction of a GP tax and $100,000 university degrees," Mr Keogh said.

"He (Malcolm Turnbull) was a member of that Cabinet and he supported all those things. "My job right now is exactly the same as it was."

Mr Keogh was accompanied by opposition transport and infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese in Kelmscott as they were repeatedly photobombed by a car trailing an Andrew Hastie billboard.

"The problem here isn't who the leader is, it's the government," Mr Albanese said. "You can change the messenger, the spin is the same. "I think people are very tired with this government."

A snap Morgan poll on Tuesday, however, found 70 per cent of voters backed Mr Turnbull over Labor leader Bill Shorten as preferred prime minster.

Mr Hastie would not say whether Mr Turnbull had committed to visiting Canning before the election.


16 September, 2015

Liberal Party leadership: Malcolm Turnbull takes over as Prime Minister

Several people have asked me what I think of the leadership change in Australia's conservative coalition. The new leader, Turnbull, has espoused a number of positions that are Left-leaning so conservatives are generally distrustful of him.  He is however the nominee of his party so will be fairly constrained by that.

It was clear that Abbott was not performing well publicly.  He is a decent man who just lacks the killer instinct.  He became something of a punching bag rather than a man coming out fighting.  He should have highlighted in every speech the vast debt the Labor party had left to Australia but he did not.

Will Turnbull do better?  Only time will tell.  He demonstrated his intelligence as a very clever lawyer so he brings great intellectual resources to the job -- JR

IN an incredible early lift in the polls, a majority of Labor voters said Malcolm Turnbull is a better Prime Minister over Bill Shorten

A snap Morgan poll conducted today on who Australian voters think is the better PM found Mr Turnbull is preferred by 70 per cent of voters compared to 24 per cent for Bill Shorten.

The special Snap SMS poll of 1204 voters also found a majority of Labor supporters say Mr Turnbull is the better leader, with 50 per cent supporting him compared to 44 per cent supporting Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

“Turnbull leads clearly amongst both genders, across all States and Territories and leads Shorten across supporters of both major parties,” Gary Morgan said.

“Greens supporters have also swung behind the new Prime Minister: Turnbull 57 per cent; Shorten 38 per cent.’’

The early numbers in Mr Turnbull’s favour come after he faced his first revolt with three Nationals crossing the floor of the Senate to vote against the government.

Bridget McKenzie, John Williams and Matt Canavan backed a Greens motion calling for a so-called effects test on market power to be included in competition policy.

The measure was earlier taken up with Mr Turnbull by Nationals leader Warren Truss as part of their discussions about a new coalition agreement.

In Question Time, Labor also grilled him on climate change and marriage equality, when he was forced admit he would stick to the climate change action policies of the Abbott government.

He also expressed his support for a plebiscite on marriage equality, despite hopes he might change his stance.

Mr Turnbull took the lead in parliament, where Tony Abbott was no where to be seen. He first paid tribute to Mr Abbott for his leadership and service, noting his achievements after he brought the Liberal Party back into office from Opposition.

Mr Shorten mentioned that Mr Abbott was a “fighter”. He said he was “very sensitive” when the Labor leader’s mother passed away, and said today was a “tough day” for him and his family.

In his final speech as Prime Minister, Mr Abbott has defended his legacy but slammed the media-driven ‘new era’ of politics.


Australian National University cracks top 20 university rankings, leads nation at 19th position

The company producing these rankings is British so the dominance by Anglosphere countries may be partly artifactual.  There are a number of competing ranking systems using different metholoogy but the major Australian universities always seem to make it into the top 100, which suggests that they really are high quality

The Australian National University (ANU) has climbed into the world's top 20 universities, according the latest list of international university rankings.

The latest QS World University Rankings for 2015-16 ranked the ANU as equal 19th in the world with Kings College London.

Last year, the ANU came in at number 25 and was once again ranked the top university in Australia - a position it has held for the past few years.

The rankings are based on a number of measures including academic reputation, employer reputation, research citations and the ratio of staff to students.

ANU vice-chancellor Professor Ian Young said the ranking was "a tremendous outcome for the ANU and its many staff".

QS World University Rankings 2015/16

Ranking    University     Country

1    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)    US
2    Harvard University    US
3    University of Cambridge    UK
4    Stanford University    US
5    California Institute of Technology     US
19=    The Australian National University/ Kings College London     AUS/UK
42    The University of Melbourne    AUS
45    The University of Sydney     AUS
46=    The University of New South Wales/ The University of Queensland    AUS
67    Monash University     AUS
98    The University of Western Australia     AUS

"It's a remarkable achievement for the university," he said.

"We're the top Australian university to get into the top 20 universities in the world."

Professor Young said there had been a steady improvement in the ANU's rankings. "Over the last few years we've been investing very strongly in great people across the institution, trying to build the quality of our staff," he said.

"We've also been trying to build an educational experience at ANU which we think rivals anyone in the world.  "We've looked at the basics of what makes a great institution and if you do that it ultimately gets reflected in these sorts of rankings."

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) once again took out first place, followed by Harvard in second position and the University of Cambridge in third place.

The ANU came in not far behind Yale University at number 15 - after it dropped from number 10 last year.

The University of Melbourne was the second Australian university on the list at number 42, followed by the University Of Sydney in 45th place.

"The closer you get to the top the more challenging it is," Professor Young said. "So the challenge for us will be to continue to innovate, to continue to do new things and to continue to build an education which is appealing to our students and sets them up for life."

Globally, the ANU ranked 12th in the world for Arts and Humanities, 18th for Social Sciences and Management and equal 20th for Natural Sciences.

It ranked 26th in the world for academic reputation with an overall score of 99.6 out of 100


Young Algerian Muslim abuses polite black but avoids jail

A MAGISTRATE has labelled a teen’s foul-mouthed racist tirade against a Brisbane train guard as “un-Australian” before slapping him with a two-month suspended jail sentence.

Magistrate Michael Quinn said the only thing that saved 18-year-old Abdel-Kader Russell-Boumzar from going straight to prison was the fact he’d already served 68 days behind bars. Russell-Boumzar shot to internet infamy after he was filmed racially abusing security guard Josphat Mkhwananzi, 58, on an Ipswich line train last October.

In his expletive-laden tirade, the teen told Mr Mkhwananzi to learn how to speak English and to get citizenship to “our country” before exiting the train and attempting to fight members of the public.

“What you did on that day ... was un-Australian,” Magistrate Quinn said while sentencing him on Monday.

“It was disgusting, it was cowardly, you were big-noting yourself in the company of another person on the train.”

Footage of the incident was uploaded to YouTube, prompting widespread condemnation from people including Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Brisbane Magistrates Court heard that Russell-Boumzar became stressed after becoming an internet sensation and receiving threats that made him too scared to leave his grandparents’ house.

His lawyer, Trent Jones, said the teen was on ice at the time of the racist attack but, to his credit, had been drug-free for eight months.

Mr Jones also said his client, who also has alcohol abuse issues, had been assaulted in prison but believed it was “karma” and didn’t make a complaint.

Russell-Boumzar spent time behind bars after being denied bail in January following a brawl at a skate park.

Since the racist attack, he’s also been in trouble for flashing his genitals at a schoolboy and threatening to fight construction workers in the Fortitude Valley.

During the sentencing, Magistrate Quinn said it was clear Russell-Boumzar had a lot of problems and took a psychiatrist’s report into account.

“It is of significance that you have, at long last, sought professional help and that is ongoing,” he said.

Magistrate Quinn also took into account that Russell-Bouzmar had employment and a support network, which was highlighted by his mother, grandmother and girlfriend being in court.

His two-month jail sentence was wholly suspended for a year. He was also ordered to 12 months of probation for a number of other offences and will be subject to random drug tests during that time.


Left claims high moral ground - from gutter

WARREN Mundine knows what makes the Labor Party tick, he’s a former party ­president.  He also knows what bigotry and racism look like — he’s an Aboriginal Australian.

Drawing on his experiences both within the ALP leadership and as an Aboriginal, it is his considered view that Labor’s extraordinary attacks on the job-creating China free trade agreement are bigoted and racist.

Mundine is the latest in an ever-growing line of luminaries to attack the vicious campaign being run against the China deal by Opposition leader Bill Shorten and the historically corrupt rogue trade union, the CFMEU.

Former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke, former NSW Premier Bob Carr, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, ACT Chief ­Minister Andrew Barr and NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley support the agreement and have all warned Shorten to stop putting it at risk with his calculated insults and ­mendacious claims about its content.

“As a former president of the Labor Party I am angry about it, and I am not the only one. You’ve seen former prime ministers of the Labor Party, you’ve seen premiers ... all telling the Labor Party to get on with it,” he said last week.

In a heartfelt article published in The Australian ­Financial Review, he appraised the Labor Party’s history of ­racism and concluded that in its opposition to the China free trade agreement, racism ­remained ­entrenched within the ALP ­despite the squeaks from the self-proclaimed ­progressives.

“No one likes being called a bigot but the left/progressive side of politics — like Labor and the unions — especially hate it. They see themselves as the moral high ground on social issues.

Actually, their history is tarnished by deep bigotry,” he wrote.
From the White Australia policy enacted in 1901 by the new Protectionist/Labor coalition federal government, a Protectionist/Labor coalition, up to the anti-Asian stance taken as recently as the 1960s, Labor has been the party of ­racism and Mundine noted that while Australia had changed, Labor’s “xenophobia sometimes resurfaces, such as in the 1980s Asian immigration debate”.

“We’re seeing it again today in the union campaign against the China/Australia FTA.  “Like protectionist arguments of old, the campaign is dressed up in economics — protecting Australian jobs. It’s a nonsense argument built on misinformation and lies. And Federal Labor is indulging it,” he wrote.

Mundine singled out the CFMEU’s Michael O’Connor, the brother of Opposition employment and workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor, for particular attention noting that his ­campaign was “antagonistic, ‘them against us’” and ­pandered to xenophobia.

He condemned it for its “false claims” that safety standards, workplace conditions and migration laws were being eroded.

“Having lived under the shadow of racism my whole life, the bigoted anti-ChAFTA campaign makes me deeply angry,” he said.  Warning that “Labor is now losing its way”, he cautioned that failure to conclude the agreement would “be an act of vandalism by Labor against Australia’s economy and Australia/China relations”.

“Labor say they’re ‘on the side of the angels’ on this. They’re not. They’re dancing with the devil and history will judge them harshly for it,” he wrote.

Labor’s embrace of overt racism was demonstrated when the NSW ALP ran an anti-Chinese campaign directed at potential Chinese investment in NSW power assets during the March state election.

Fifteen years ago Shorten told a rally of striking workers that “free trade is bullshit” and despite his claims to the contrary, he is still stuck in that mindset because of the political debt he owes to his trade union puppet masters.

Clear-eyed Labor supporters less beholden to the trade union movement know that the current labour market ­requirements in the free trade agreements with Korea, Japan and Chile are identical to those underpinning the China ­agreement.

The Abbott government is on solid ground in its opposition to Labor’s lying campaign and its attempts to scuttle the deal by reopening negotiations.

It has increased the rate of jobs growth ten times since it came to office and has surprised the world with its record for job creation following years of wasted opportunity under Labor’s economy-destroying government.

The biggest threat to the best prospect of continuing job creation and diversification and economic growth is the Labor/trade union campaign against closer trade ties with our largest trading partner.

The xenophobic campaign being run by Shorten and the CFMEU is ­suicidal.

The union bosses are drawing on a $12 million war chest to fund advertising and hope to sway the voters of Canning when they go to the polls next weekend to elect a successor to the popular former Liberal MP Don Randall.

But there is a lot more at stake than the WA seat.

Mundine struck a raw nerve when he pointed out the Left/progressive side of politics like to lay claim to the moral high ground on social issues but on this issue, they are displaying blatant bigotry.

Hypocrisy is not new to the Left/progressives but the stand against China strikes at the future economic security of Australia and must be abandoned before it does even further damage.


15 September, 2015

We must save those at most risk

Piers Akerman

OPPOSITION foreign affairs spokesperson Tanya Plibersek could not utter the word “Christian” yesterday when discussing the range of characteristics that might make a victim out of a person stuck in the Middle East conflict.

Instead, she said we shouldn’t choose people according to their religion when selecting the 12,000 extra refugees the Abbott government has generously agreed to ­accept from the UNHCR and resettle here.

She’s been supported by Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, Australia’s grand mufti, who erroneously believes that choosing refugees based on religion or ethnicity was the very kind of sectarian thinking “that got Iraq and Syria into the problems they’re facing now”.

They should consult the Koran and review the phrases favoured by Islamists and extremists if they want to find creepy justifications for the crisis.

Daesh, or IS, the most barbaric force unleashed since the defeat of Nazism and Communism, has singled out Christians and Christian women, particularly, among other minorities for the most inhumane treatment, including rape, slavery and of course, torture, crucifixion and murder.

Should we not be attempting to provide refuge for these persecuted groups, some of whom belong to sects that claim to pre-date Christianity?

Plibersek and some others in the Labor Party are attempting to hide behind the absurd politically correct rationalisation that extending help to those who have suffered the most cruelly would place Australia in breach of some form of anti-discrimination protocol.

In this, and in some other responses to last Friday’s tragic picture of a dead boy, the compassionistas have revealed their true faces.

Even as Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was in Europe seeking the views of the UNHCR on how best to assist in this global disaster, Anglican priest Father Rod Bower was telling a dial-a-mob in Hyde Park that: “This human carnage has not moved the stone cold heart of the Abbott government to take in one extra refugee,” and that some “mantra of national security” was being invoked.

Message to Fr Bower: In future, hold your comments until the adults have given consideration to what action is necessary, and further, if failed states like Syria and ­Afghanistan actually had genuine national security ­regimes there would not be a refugee crisis.

Another to add a shrill voice to the debate was Joumana Harris, the president of the United Muslim Women Association.

“What we witnessed and what we felt over the last few days was enough to move mountains, and yet we stand here almost begging those we entrust to speak in our name to open their hearts while they discuss when is the best time to drop the first bomb,” she told the same crowd, overlooking the evidence of unspeakable crimes committed by Daesh over the past few years.

Harris would have had more credibility if she was noted for her campaigns against female genital mutilation or Daesh, or the Taliban, but she hasn’t made the headlines with her views on those issues.

As the bleeding hearts were calling for an open-door border policy, the ABC aired an interview with a Syrian refugee, Katia Alsommoh, who pleaded for Christians and other religious minorities to be given priority, saying she had seen photos of refugees in Germany and Sweden who had been members of IS and Jabhat al-Nusra.

While being generous, we must also carefully screen those who we accept. Sweden is now the rape capital of Europe, with first- and second-generation refugees being blamed for much of the ­increase.

Sweden has been taking in a larger share of asylum seekers than any other EU state. Its population is about 9.6 million, and asylum was granted to more than 33,000 refugees last year.

In 2014, 6700 rapes were reported to the Swedish police, an 11 per cent increase from the previous year.

In response to a crime wave, Norway last year deported 7259 people and the crime rate dropped 30 per cent. The government’s goal for 2015 is to forcibly return 7800 people.

On Monday, Denmark began advertising in Lebanese newspapers to discourage migrants travelling to the country. One in four people living in Lebanon fled the war in Syria.

Denmark’s advertisement noted that welfare has been cut by 50 per cent, temporary residence permit holders cannot bring their families to Denmark in the first year, permanent residence is granted only after a minimum five years, strict language requirements apply to obtain a permanent residence and those who are refused refugee status will be speedily expelled.

Australia must not compound the problem that already exists in areas of Sydney and Melbourne where groups of Islamic migrants from Lebanon, Afghanistan and Somalia fail to respect our laws and culture. We must welcome those most at risk


Court finds Gillard crony misused union money

A court has found former union boss Craig Thomson paid for escorts and political activities with HSU money.

Disgraced former union boss Craig Thomson is facing financial penalties after the federal court ruled he did pay for escorts and political campaign activities with Health Services Union money.

The Fair Work Commission sued Thomson, seeking penalties and for compensation to be paid to the HSU, for transactions he charged to the union between 2003 and 2007.

On Friday, Justice Christopher Jessup found Thomson did improperly use HSU money during his time as secretary.  Thomson did not defend himself against the workplace relations tribunal's claim.

In March, he left the court and did not return after Justice Jessup dismissed his application to have the matter thrown out on the grounds he was mentally unfit.

On Friday, Justice Jessup published a ruling in which he found Thomson had used union money for his own benefit.

Starting on April 7, 2005, Thomson used HSU credit cards to pay for a string of escorts in breach of the Workplace Relations Act.

Justice Jessup said he was not persuaded transactions relating to an escourt visit in April 2005 were in keeping with Thomson's duties as HSU National Secretary.  He found further spending on sex workers in May 2005, June 2005 and September 2006 was also in breach.

A June 2005 job sheet for a Sydney brothel indicates about an hour and a half in the 'Red Turbo Spa Room' was paid for by the Health Services Union.

Thomson told union staff to record the spending as 'meeting expenses'.

In September 2005, Thomson charged $3575.68 for food, flights and travel to the Health Services Union, which Justice Jessup said was also a breach, as it appeared Thomson was spending the time house hunting.

It was around this time Thomson is believed to have relocated the HSU National Office from Melbourne to Sydney.  'From the evidence, it is unclear whether anyone other than the respondent himself ever worked from this office,' Justice Jessup said.


No free trade for Australian sugar

Leaders of the Australian sugar industry made a pitch to reporters recently. They said their country should be allowed to expand sales of sugar to the United States as part of the Trans Pacific Partnership, the free-trade agreement now being negotiated by a dozen Pacific Rim countries.

The case for letting the agreement — known as TPP — open the U.S. market to more Australian sugar makes sense, said Warren Males, chief economist for Canegrowers, the trade group representing about 80 percent of Australia’s sugar producers, “if you take the politics out of it.”

The problem for the Aus­sies and anyone else who tries to buck the United States’ muscular sugar lobby is that politics can never be removed from the equation.

Australia is the latest country to try to use a free-trade agreement to break through the program of fixed prices, loan guarantees and import quotas that protect the U.S. sugar industry, including Minnesota’s nation-leading sugar beet producers.

Virtually everyone else has failed. Even the Mexicans who supposedly won unlimited access to the U.S. sugar market under the North American Free Trade Agreement got hammered by the sugar lobby in an unfair trading case in 2014.

Meanwhile, there is no doubt that expanding Australian access beyond a certain level could be a deal breaker for U.S. sugar producers and their Congressional backers who get to vote on TPP.

The U.S. is projected to produce 8.45 million tons of sugar in 2015-16. Australia is projected to produce 4.8 million tons in the same period.

Rep. Collin Peterson, whose U.S. House district spans most of Minnesota’s sugar beet fields, called the notion of an undersupply in U.S. sugar “nonsense.”

“We could easily produce the amount of sugar needed in the U.S. without any imports,” Peterson maintained.

The Obama administration has “got enough trouble with this [TPP] agreement without getting the sugar people upset,” he said.

Peterson said the U.S. trade representative’s office has told him that U.S. negotiators “might give [the Australians] something, but it won’t be substantial, something the [U.S. sugar] industry could live with.”

Minnesota’s U.S. senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, stand squarely in defense of the state’s sugar beet industry.

“Currently, 40 countries are allowed to import sugar to the U.S., including Australia, so they already have access to our market,” Klobuchar said in a statement to the Star Tribune. “The global sugar supply remains at a surplus, and prices are currently low. I have concerns about Australian proposals to increase access because Minnesota is the number one producer of sugar beets in the country and sugar beets employ tens of thousands of people in the Red River Valley. These jobs are important to our state.”

In a statement, Franken said the U.S. sugar program “supports thousands of jobs in our state and provides billions of dollars in economic benefit to the entire region. As our sugar producers continue to address the illegal dumping of sugar from Mexico into domestic markets, I believe that this is the wrong time to be increasing imports from other countries like Australia.”

Even as they push for increased U.S. sugar sales, the Australians know what they are up against. The U.S. sugar program provides America’s growers and refiners billions of dollars more per year in economic benefits than they would receive “if exposed to the world market,” Males contended. But, he added, while sugar makes up less than half of 1 percent of U.S. agriculture, its lobby contributes very heavily to the election campaigns of members of the U.S. Senate and House.

In recent election cycles sugar program supporters have donated to hundreds of U.S. Senate and House candidates, not just in sugar-rich states like Minnesota, but all over the country. The sugar lobby is most generous with members of the Senate and House agriculture committees who play the largest role in setting policy.

University of Minnesota economist Tim Kehoe thinks the U.S. sugar program is outdated and hurts American consumers and food-producing businesses. Like many economists on the left and right, Kehoe thinks the program should be scrapped. There is no question in his mind that letting the Australians sell more sugar in the U.S. will bring prices down. But Kehoe, who helped the Mexicans negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement 20 years ago, has watched the sugar lobby push opponents around for decades.

They may not have the clout of the seemingly all-powerful National Rifle Association, which defeated gun control legislation in the wake of the slaughter of Connecticut schoolchildren by a heavily armed teenager, but they are tending that way, said Kehoe. Politicians are “not going to pick a fight with the sugar people.”

The Australians are trying not to, either. But it’s hard.

As the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations continue, the Aussies have floated the idea of selling 750,000 more tons of sugar in the U.S. per year.

Males based his analysis on USDA figures that show growth in demand for sugar that he believes Australia can meet without hurting U.S. producers.

In his sugar beet fields near Willmar, Minn., Mark Olson begged to differ.

“My two cents is that Minnesota beet growers are going to be facing a crop where we’re going to have to leave some [beets] in the field because we can’t harvest it all,” said Olson, treasurer of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.

The hope of free trade advocates such as the National Foreign Trade Council and the Sweetener Users Association, who helped organize last month’s Australian news conference, is that TPP is such a large agreement with so many trade issues that sugar will not be, as Trade Council President Bill Reinsch put it, “decisive.”

Kehoe said the usual rules may not apply.

“It’s the sugar lobby, not just 12 to 15 congressional districts where this is a big deal,” he said. “It’s not an economic question. It’s a political question.”

No one can say for sure if the U.S. sugar lobby will affect TPP the way it has driven bilateral trade agreements in Central and South America in recent years.

By itself, “the sugar issue in this case would not be able to derail a deal of this size,” said congressional expert Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. But if the yes-or-no vote on TPP gets tight, as it could with union-backed Democrats allying themselves with protectionist Republicans, Ornstein said votes from representatives of sugar-producing states could make a difference.

In any case, Ornstein noted, “the sugar lobby has punched above its weight in this country.”

Peterson offered a hint of his resolve.  The congressman said he traveled to Australia a few years ago after that country had dismantled its sugar program. As his hosts sang the praises of the free market, Peterson said an old farmer motioned him behind a barn out of earshot of others.

“He told me, ‘Never give up your sugar program,’?” Peterson recalled. “I took that to heart.”


Tassie wines hit headlines at CNN

THE accolades keep pouring in for Tasmania’s wine industry with CNN listing the state in the top 10 up-and-coming wine regions.

It follows other gongs with Tolpuddle’s 2013 pinot noir judged Australia’s top red wine in May and Bay of Fires won best sauvignon blanc at the Decanter World Wine Awards in June.

“It’s another top 10 for ­Tassie. The global accolades are coming in so regularly and consistently, it’s extraordinary,” said Wine Tasmania chief executive Sheralee ­Davies.

She said the world was ­really starting to take notice of Tasmania.

“Australian wines are well known around the world but they are very different to what we do here in Tasmania — ­different styles and different climate.

“When people try our wines they are so surprised and can hardly help but be impressed.”

Ms Davies said tourists ­enjoyed the intimate nature of Tasmania’s cellar door experience and meeting winemakers.

“It’s the hands-on, small-scale aspect they enjoy.”

In naming the state in its list the American news network praised the diversity of the wine varieties produced here.

“Some of Australia’s most vibrant new wines are ­coming out of the ­overlooked island state of Tasmania,” CNN said. “Tasmania’s southern latitude and cool, maritime climate makes for unique wines vastly different from anywhere else in the country.

“In northern Tasmania’s Tamar Valley, you’ll find crisp, dry rieslings and sauvignon blancs, as well as full-bodied chardonnays. In warmer southern Tasmania, across the Derwent, Huon and Coal River valleys, you’ll find rich, bold cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and shiraz.”

Other entries on the list ­include Sicily, Italy; Michigan, US; and Moravia, in the Czech Republic.


14 September, 2015

Kevvy's baby is slow, expensive and obsolete

The national fibre network was Kevin Rudd's one idea.  In opposition, the coalition criticized its vast cost and limited utility but by the time Kevvy was tossed out, the thing was too advanced to abandon completely.  So the coalition has tried at least to keep the cost down by making its goals less ambitious.  The critique below seems very one-sided.  It's from the SMH!  It seems to assume that cost and time estimates for the original (Rudd)  form of the network would not have blown out.  A likely story!  They were already blowing out when Rudd got the boot. The guy below is not comparing like with like

The Abbott Coalition government came to power two years ago this week with a promise to change Labor’s fibre to the premises (FTTP) National Broadband Network (NBN) to one using less-expensive fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) technologies, spruiking its network with the three-word slogan: "Fast. Affordable. Sooner."

But with the release in August of the 2016 NBN corporate plan and in the light of overseas developments, it is clear that the Coalition's broadband network will not provide adequate bandwidth, will be no more affordable than Labor's FTTP network and will take almost as long to roll out.

With the benefits of two years' hindsight since 2013, let's look at the Coalition's performance against each of the three assertions in their 2013 slogan.

The graph (below) shows funding estimates for the NBN from December 2010 to August 2015. Labor's funding estimates for its FTTP NBN rose from $40.9 billion in December 2010 to $44.9 billion in September 2013, an increase of 10 per cent. By comparison, the Coalition’s funding estimates, both for FTTP and the so-called multi-technology mix (MTM), have fluctuated wildly.

The estimated funding required for the Coalition's NBN has almost doubled from $28.5 billion before the 2013 election to between $46 billion and $56 billion in August. Before the 2013 election, the Coalition claimed that its proposed multi-technology-mix network would cost less than one-third (30 per cent) of Labor's FTTP-based NBN.

But in new estimates released in the 2016 corporate plan, the cost of the multi-technology mix favoured by the Coalition blew out and rose to two-thirds (66 per cent) of the cost of a FTTP-based network.

Also, the cost of repairing and maintaining Telstra's ageing copper network was likely underestimated, as was the cost of retraining and maintaining a workforce with the wider range of skills needed to install and maintain the multi-technology-mix network – costs that are unique to the MTM.

In the space of two years, the lower-cost deal the Coalition spruiked to Australian voters has turned out to be not so affordable after all.

The Coalition probably underestimated the predictably lengthy delays in re-negotiating the agreement with Telstra as well as delays in re-designing the network the new IT systems needed to manage a more complicated network with multiple technologies.

The graph (below) shows the actual and planned number of premises passed (or in today’s parlance – ready for service) for the original FTTP network and the Coalition’s network.

The Coalition’s original target was to bring at least 25 Mbps to all 13 million Australian premises by 2016. That target has now been quietly dropped and replaced with a target of more than 50 Mbps to 90 per cent of premises by 2020.

At the end of July 2015, almost two years after the 2013 election, only 67 premises had been served by multi-technology-mix technologies. In the meantime, as shown (in the graph above), the roll-out of FTTP has continued, albeit at a lower rate than Labor originally intended.

This lower roll-out rate has led to fewer connected customers and lower revenue. It will be interesting to see if the newly released targets for premises ready for service will be achieved (blue broken line in the graph above).

Labor certainly had its problems when it was in charge. For example, slow negotiations with Telstra and asbestos in Telstra's infrastructure caused delays of around one year. The funding requirements for Labor's FTTP network crept up by about 10 per cent from 2010 to 2013.

But the delays and cost blowouts have been very much worse under the Coalition than under Labor.

Australia's broadband capabilities are falling behind its international peers. According to internet companies Ookla and Akami, Australia's broadband speed lags well behind other advanced and even emerging economies.

In 2009, Ookla ranked Australia's average broadband download speed as 39th in the world. Since then, our international ranking has steadily declined and slipped to 59th place earlier this year.

What's worse, my studies of trends in internet speed in Australia and in a range of developed and developing countries show that FTTN technology – a key part of the Coalition's MTM – will not be enough to meet the needs of Australian broadband customers.

In short, FTTN technology will cement Australia’s place as an internet backwater. Our world ranking could fall as low as 100th by 2020.

In many forward-looking nations, fibre-to-the-node technology has never been entertained as an option. In some countries where it has been installed, network operators are planning to move away from FTTN in favour of more advanced broadband technologies like FTTP. In doing the opposite, Australia is moving backwards.

If FTTN magically appeared on our doorsteps by 2016, as originally promised by the Coalition, there would certainly be a short-term advantage. But the 2016 target has been missed and the FTTN component of the network will be obsolete by the time the roll-out is completed.

Of course, there is no point in speed just for speed's sake. Studies in Europe and the United States have shown a strong correlation between GDP growth and internet speed.

In the US and elsewhere, increasing numbers of homes and businesses are receiving services at 1 Gbps and higher. A recent study presents evidence that communities served by 1 Gbps and more are faring better economically than communities with slow-speed broadband.

If in 2013 the Coalition had simply allowed NBN Co to get on with the job of rolling out its fibre-to-the-premises NBN, rather than changing it to an inferior multi-technology mix, it may well have ended up spending less money and delivered Australia a much better network.

The Coalition sold the Australian public a product that was supposed to be fast, one-third the cost and arrive sooner than what Labor was offering us. Instead the Coalition's NBN will be so slow that it is obsolete by the time it's in place, it will cost about the same as Labor's fibre-to-the-premises NBN, and it won't arrive on our doorsteps much sooner.

By my reckoning, we didn't get a good deal.


Must not disrespect Aboriginal ownership myth

The Mabo decision in the High Court made it possible for land to be recognized as having prior Aboriginal ownership but very little land has been recognized in that way.  The initial owner of most of Australia is therefore the Crown

A speech delivered to a gathering of politicians and others in NSW Parliament to celebrate the longevity of Queen Elizabeth's reign has been slammed as "bordering on racist" after it made fun of the Aboriginal acknowledgment of country.

The gathering in the private dining room of the President of the Legislative Council, Don Harwin, on Friday night was "in celebration of our longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth the second".

The Queen last week surpassed Queen Victoria by notching up 63 years on the British throne.

However, photographs from the black-tie charity dinner revealed that a speech delivered on the evening began with the line: "I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional owner of this land: the Crown."

The line appeared to mock the acknowledgement of country, which recognises Aboriginal people as traditional owners of the land before many speeches and parliamentary sessions.

Deputy Opposition Leader and opposition spokeswoman on Aboriginal affairs Linda Burney said the line was "just plain disrespectful and bordering on racist".

"Recognition and acknowledgment of country has become an important part of cultural protocol in Australia – comments like these display appalling ignorance and crude insensitivity," she said.

"Those of us that believe in a republic showed respect to the monarchy throughout last week's celebrations – it is unfortunate that respect has clearly not been returned."
President of the Legislative Council, Don Harwin, said the individual giving the speech was "trying to be humorous".

President of the Legislative Council, Don Harwin, said the individual giving the speech was "trying to be humorous".

On Sunday, Mr Harwin would not reveal who delivered the speech but said the acknowledgement of country "is an important part of the process of reconciliation".

"As President I acknowledge the traditional owners in the Legislative Council each sitting week and at all events I address in Parliament House and many elsewhere," he said.

"The individual making the speech was trying to be humorous. But, frankly, the joke was in bad taste and would have been better left unsaid at what was otherwise a fun night raising funds for a worthwhile charity."

The event was the latest in a series of annual dinners hosted by Mr Harwin at Parliament House to benefit the Australia Youth Trust. It is understood that after catering costs, it raised several thousand dollars.


Australians are 'taking over' the US, according to U.S. comedian

American talk-show host Bill Maher launched into a spirited rant against Australians who are "taking over this country". While US presidential hopeful Donald Trump and his characterisation of Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers was the ostensible butt of the merciless tirade, Maher also found space to work in a thinly-veiled snipe at Australia's own hard-line immigration policies.

The six-minute monologue in the latest episode of Real Time With Bill Maher took aim at "f---ing Australians", "the ethnic group that is taking over this country while we blithely do nothing".

"You cannot swing a dead wallaby these days without hitting an Australian", says Maher with reference to bartenders (with great personality and a generous attitude toward free drinks), surf instructors and ski bums.

"They're bringing drugs, enough for everyone, but still," he jokes. "They're rapists ... okay they do a lot of f--king and I assume some are good people".

He then turned to the army of Australian actors "who flawlessly mimic our accents and then take jobs that rightfully belong to Billy Bob Thornton".

In what was possibly a dig at Australia's own immigration stance, Maher said he will build the greatest reef the world has even seen, "a great barrier reef", which he will make Mel Gibson pay for.

From there, however Maher segued into the true target of his mirth, Donald Trump, without whom it's reasonable to say a lot of US comedians might be struggling to find gags to fill their shows.

"If Donald Trump really wanted to make a America great again he wouldn't build a wall, he'd build a mirror .. then maybe he would see that no one can actually take a job, someone has to give it to them.

"We could stop our illegals problem tomorrow if we decided to stop hiring them. But, no, we talk of walls to protect us from people so dangerous we can't stop ourselves from paying them to raise our children".

Maher is but the latest US comic to look to Australia for comedy fodder. But unlike John Oliver, who has parodied Australia as "comfortably racist" and performed a hilarious riposte to agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce's so-called war on terrier, Maher has reserved most of his ire for one of his own.


Melbourne University porn ban angers Ormond College students

Banned on feminst grounds.  Feminists are the new prudes

Students have been banned from accessing pornography at the University of Melbourne's largest residential college, sparking a fiery campus debate on sexual freedoms and censorship.

Ormond College has blocked access to adult sites on its Wi-Fi network, stating pornography does not allow people at a "formative stage of life" to develop a "healthy sexuality".

But some students have reacted angrily to the move, arguing they pay $200 a semester for college Wi-Fi, and in the privacy of their own rooms they should be allowed to access legal adult sites.

In a recent student newsletter defending the move, college master Dr Rufus Black said pornography was exploitative and "presents women primarily as sex objects who are a means to the end of male pleasure".

Dr Black, an ethicist and theologist, argued that allowing the college's 400 students to access porn on its network would be condoning the objectification of women.

"Pornographic material overwhelmingly presents women in ways that are profoundly incompatible with our understanding of what it is to treat people with respect and dignity," he said.

He maintained that even same-sex pornography was treating another person as a "means to an end", and that porn was addictive.

"The way that it functions is that it desensitises viewers so that they need to consume more of it or more extreme versions to achieve the same level of arousal."

However, first year law student Thibaut? Clamart?, 24, wrote a newsletter response objecting to the ban, saying it was a "moralising statement" and that not all pornography was demeaning.

He told The Sunday Age the ban was so broad it included any form of erotica or sex education, and many students felt their freedom of expression was being limited.

"We all agree there is an issue with the current state of mainstream porn but banning it is not the answer. It won't educate people, it is condescending and paternalistic," he said.

"If their argument is that it's about respecting women and enabling young people to discover their sexuality without having the repressive influence of porn, that makes the assumption that looking at porn is going to perpetuate those attitudes and you're going to behave like a porn actor."

In 1991 Ormond College was embroiled in scandal when two female students accused the then college master Dr Alan Gregory of sexual harassment, an incident which ignited fierce debate on sexual politics on campus.

The case was later documented in Helen Garner's controversial book The First Stone, with Garner accusing the two complainants of "puritan feminism".

Dr Black said the porn ban was not prompted by student complaints but was informed by a "well-held view that pornography depicts women for the gratification of male sexuality".

Sex educator Maree? Pratt, who was invited to talk to Ormond students last month supported the college's stance and said there were high levels of gendered aggression in pornography, with 88 per cent depicting physical aggression such as gagging and choking, and 48 per cent including verbal aggression.

"It also conveys a range of problematic messages around pleasure, consent, body image and sexual health. Pornography is shaping young people's sexual understandings, expectations and practices," she said. "A study last year from the UK showed a normalisation of coercive heterosexual anal sex among 16 to 18-year-olds."

Rachel Withers, president of the Melbourne University Student Union, said as long as students were accessing legal sites what they viewed in the privacy of their own rooms should be their decision.

"I would personally prefer to see colleges tackling issues around respect for women's bodies and consent through educational programs and ensuring students receive comprehensive information on consent as part of their college orientation," she said.

Dr Black rejected claims the ban was a restriction on freedom of expression. "We're not in any way restricting their ability to do what they want with their own personal resources but the college's internet is a common resource therefore what it gets used for is a question of community values."


13 September, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says that Winston Churchill is lucky that he did not have  today's hand-wringing Greens to to harass him

Are immigrants economically desirable?

One would have thought that the obvious answer would be:  "It depends on the immigrant".  Some immigrants are obviously better than others.  But there is an argument popping up rather a lot lately, mainly from the Left and people of recent immigrant origin, claiming that ALL immigration is desirable. 

There is a completely empty such argument consisting of nothing but hand-waving assertions by neo-Marxist economist Thomas Piketty here. One could with complete adequacy reply to Piketty simply by saying:  "No.  Immigration is NOT good for a country".  Both the reply and the original would be equally free of relevant data.

Another example  written by Mat Spasic is here. It does at least mention Australia so I will say a little about it.  Judging by the surname, Mr Spasic's forebears did not come to Australia in convict ships, as two of mine did. More likely they came from what was for a while Yugoslavia.

Spasic's argument is basically just a load of old cobblers.  He sedulously avoids mentioning any relevant statistics about the different immigrant groups.  No mention that Muslims and Africans tend to be highly welfare dependent, for instance.

If all immigrants were equal, his argument would be sound.  He points out well-known demographics which show sub-replacement birth rates and an ageing population.  Adding a large number of younger newcomers to the workforce would be very helpful in those circumstances.  But that's the point. How many of the current crop of "refugees" will enter the workforce?  And how many will go onto welfare? Mr Spastic offers no information on that.

And some of the arguments he puts up are quite laughable. He argues that Germany is prosperous because it has a large immigrant population.  That Germany is prosperous because Germans work and study hard he does not consider.  There is no chance that he would have mentioned the fact that Germany is the only country where members of the national parliament (Bundestag) normally hold a doctorate.  Germany has ALWAYS been prosperous, with or without immigrants.

So here are just a few of the things that the Spastic ignores: 

Sweden's immigrants are almost entirely Muslims from the Middle East.  And there is ten times higher welfare dependency among them than among native Swedes.  How beneficial is that to Sweden? 

And in Germany, 80% of those Turkish Muslim "guest workers", that Mr Spastic praises, claim welfare payments.  "Guest parasites" would be a franker description

And in the Netherlands: 50-70% of former Muslim ‘asylum seekers’ live permanently on welfare.

And in Denmark the crime rate among Somalis (African Muslims) is ten times the rate among native born Danes.

And according to the most recent figures released by Australia's Immigration Department, Muslims had an unemployment rate of 12.1 per cent in 2011 while the national average was 5.2 per cent.  And if we look more closely at the statistics, the unemployment rate among some migrant communities is 20% -- all living off the Australian taxpayer.

It is quite simply unreasonable to generalize about immigrants.  All men are not equal.  If we care for our national wellbeing, we have to ask:  "Which immigrants?".

Even official economic research acknowledges that.  I quote:

"It is clear that the experiences of immigrants in the labour market vary between NESB [non-English-speaking-background] and ESB [English-speaking-background] immigrants. The experiences of ESB immigrants are generally very similar to those of people born in Australia, while NESB immigrants are generally less successful in the labour market than the other two birthplace groups.

It is clear that NESB immigrants, when compared with the Australia-born, are less likely to participate in the labour force (partly due to NESB immigrants being more likely to be discouraged in their job search), have higher rates of unemployment, and are more likely to be underemployed"

A good example of how much ESB background matters is the large number of white South Africans who have fled to Australia to escape the racism of the "rainbow" regime there.  They just do not show up anywhere in any statistics.  They blend seamlessly into the native-born population.  Were all other "refugees" like them!

South Africa is a bit of a bee in my bonnet (I have been there both during and after Apartheid) so let me diverge slightly from my original topic at this point:

Even a lot of affluent South African "liberals" (critics of Apartheid) have decamped.  When they got the "rainbow" nation they had campaigned for, they decided that they didn't like it after all.  Liberals like J.M. Coetzee and Tony Bloom have emigrated:  Bloom to London and Coetzee to Adelaide.  Crime was very low under Apartheid but is astronomical now.  When I was in S'Af in 1979 during Apartheid, I saw no fences in Sandton (an affluent Jo'burg suburb).  Now there are 8' high fences topped with razor-wire.  Some things speak for themselves.

So when it came to the safety of their own skin, ideology took a back seat for the likes of Bloom and Coetzee.  Do they care about the many other whites who have not been able to flee the situation that liberals  helped create?  Not as far as one can see.  All white South Africans should be welcome wherever they want to go in my opinion.  They really do risk life and limb by staying.  Thousands of white farmers ("Boers") have already been attacked and killed by blacks in the last few years, to say nothing of urban crime -- JR.

Greenie irrationality at Sydney university

The Greenie religion is a powerful one.  Universities started out as religious bodies and it seems that we are returning to that.  And the religion is not much different:  Preaching doom for evildoers

Last week, Ideas@theCentre argued that Newcastle Council has entered an alternative reality by withdrawing deposits from banks that fund coal and (potentially) companies involved with alcohol.
Given the Newcastle region's dependence on coal industry and wineries, it is hard to imagine a more bizarre divestment decision.

But this week, we have another organisation entering the Twilight Zone: Sydney University is reportedly cutting its investments in mining companies while increasing investment in alcohol, soft drinks and tobacco. Sydney University is effectively saying it is OK for me to unwillingly receive second hand smoke, but it is wrong to replace unhealthy wood fires with electricity from coal.

Air pollution from indoor fires causes 4.3 million deaths around the world per year and the divestment movement opposes replacing these fires by coal-fired electricity. Yet again, a first world organisation (with reportedly $1.4 billion under investment) is dictating to developing countries that they shouldn't use coal, when coal could save more lives than would ever be lost due to global warming. The University is being paternalistic towards the third world, while at the same time academics at the University criticise Western imperialism.

In addition, as Peter Kurti has previously pointed out in relation to the Anglican Church's coal divestment strategy, coal's cheap energy has been instrumental in raising the living standards of hundreds of millions in developing countries around the globe.

The University's divorce from reality is compounded by the increased investment in tobacco, and it is hard to see how they could possibly justify that as better than investment in coal.


Scott Morrison says Christians will be focus of Australia's refugee intake

A second senior government minister has reiterated that Christians will be the focus of the government’s 12,000 humanitarian intake from Syria, as the prime minister, Tony Abbott moves to reassure the community that all persecuted minorities will be considered for resettlement.

On Wednesday, Abbott announced that Australia would resettle 12,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria and Iraq, on top of the existing 13,750 humanitarian intake.

The social services minister, Scott Morrison, said Christian Syrians would make up the bulk of the intake.

“Middle Eastern Christians have been run out of town in the Middle East now for many years and that is why our government right from the outset has had a much higher priority focus on those persecuted minorities in the Middle East which are predominately Christian and that is where our focus will be,” Morrison told reporters.

Morrison’s comments come just days after his cabinet colleague, government Senate leader Eric Abetz, said that Christians should be “high up on the priority list”.  “Given the plight of Christians, I think a very strong case can be made that Christians should be prioritised,” he said on Tuesday.

The grand mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, took issue with the government prioritising Christians for resettlement, saying it was discriminatory.

“When it comes to catastrophes such as these we should be prioritising human beings rather than prioritising a certain religion,” he told Guardian Australia.

Abetz labelled Mohamed’s objections as a “misunderstanding or something else” of his comments.

“The advice I have at least is that they won’t have anywhere else to go, even if peace is restored, and therefore to make them a focus – not the only focus, but a focus ... is I think perfectly reasonable,” Abetz told reporters on Thursday. “I would invite anybody who wants to take issue with what I said to actually have a look at what I said.”

Abbott, who is attending the Pacific Islands Forum in Papua New Guinea, did not single out Christian refugees as the focus of the resettlement scheme.

“We’re resettling persecuted minorities – people who cannot realistically ever hope to return,” he said. “Some will be Muslim, some will be Christian, but the point is: these are people who have been displaced by war and because of the changes engulfing the Middle East, it’s unlikely that they will ever, ever be able to go back.”

Labor thinks religion should not be the only factor that is taken into consideration when deciding who is persecuted.  “You need to think about a range of characteristics that make a person vulnerable, and you need to judge based on who needs the most help” the shadow foreign minister, Tanya Plibersek, told Sky News. “Of course, religion is a factor making people vulnerable to attack.”

Muslim and Christian religious leaders alike raised concerns with Morrison’s comments at a forum in Sydney’s west on Thursday.

Sheikh Wesam Charkawi, from the Lakemba mosque, welcomed the additional 12,000 places but said Australia’s intake “should be based on need, not creed”. “Many millions are suffering, but there is also a majority Muslim population that’s suffering,” he said.

He was joined by Father Rod Bowers of the Gosford Anglican church, who said favouring Christians “sends entirely the wrong message to the Australian community”. “It should be based on need, and on no other criteria than that,” he said.


Lifting literacy needs more than just money

An unpublished evaluation by the NSW Department of Education has revealed the $50 million a year Reading Recovery program – the main early intervention reading program used in NSW public schools – is ineffective for many students.

Numerous studies and evaluations have provided similar findings during the past two decades or more, yet it remains the department’s preferred intervention program: about 100,000 NSW students have been enrolled in the program during that period.

Reading specialists have also been voicing their concerns about another NSW reading program – Language, Learning and Literacy (commonly known as L3) – which, like Reading Recovery, has few of the hallmarks of effective evidence-based reading instruction identified in research. In particular, there is an absence of explicit and systematic phonics instruction.

Limited information about Language, Learning and Literacy is publicly available, but a freedom of information request last year confirmed no proper evaluation had been conducted on the program. The only evaluation data were pie charts showing the percentages of students in this program who had achieved reading and vocabulary “goals” in the 2007 pilot schools. In 2012, this program was being used in 456 NSW public schools, but a 2013 report by the Australian Council for Educational Research said “no formal research evidence or program evaluation was available to assess the efficacy of [it] in improving student achievement”.

The latest edition of the Learning Difficulties Australia Bulletin includes a detailed critique of the Language, Learning and Literacy program by Dr Roslyn Neilson and Dr Sally Howell. Howell raised concerns about the program at the time. Her questions about the literacy standards against which the program was being assessed remain unanswered and access to the teaching materials was denied.

Howell and Neilson nevertheless obtained information about this program, and their assessment is alarming. Its guidelines claim it uses explicit instruction and includes phonics, but this is debatable. Neilson and Howell report there is “no planned sequence to the introduction of letter-sound correspondences, and no opportunity for children to practise mastering the skills of letter-sound identification, phoneme segmentation and blending”, and the program’s guidelines discourage the use of any other formal phonics instruction.

Howell and Neilson commend the wealth of literature-based activities for building vocabulary in the program. This is essential, but not enough for many children to become independent readers – especially those without literacy-supportive home backgrounds. That the program is deliberately targeted at socioeconomically disadvantaged schools adds greater weight to Neilson and Howell’s warning that the program is “potentially a recipe for disaster for at-risk students”.

Reading Recovery and Language, Learning and Literacy are both at odds with the department’s own evaluation unit, The Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation. In 2014, this unit produced an excellent report, What works best: Evidence-based practices to help improve NSW student performance.

Explicit instruction is second on the list of effective practices. According to the report, “The evidence shows that students who experience explicit teaching practices perform better than students who do not. Worryingly, data shows that students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds are less likely to experience these practices”.

The report was similarly clear about the importance of explicit, sequential and systematic phonics instruction in early reading.

The Department of Education gets many things right, but some critical areas of policy require scrutiny. Early reading instruction is the foundation of educational success. The 2015 Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation priority work plan lists a project called Evaluation of Literacy and Numeracy in the Early Years of School: Identifying What Works.

Reading Recovery has been put under the microscope, now it’s time for a rigorous and objective evaluation of the Language, Learning and Literacy program.


11 September, 2015

Was Santamaria a Fascist?

I suppose it's all water under the bridge now but I think I should add a brief note to my previous commentary on B.A. Santamaria.  He was a big influence in postwar Australia and it is only a small stretch to say that he was responsible for giving postwar Australia many years of conservative government.

My previous comments attempted to fix some lacunae in Gerard Henderson's account of Santamaria.  And I see that I am not alone in seeing lacunae there.  There is a long and rambling comment from the Left here.  The writer, Guy Rundle, is obviously immersed in his subject and I guess the lacunae he identifies are important to the Left but, for the most part, I did not see much of conservative interest.

One thing that I did learn from Rundle, however, was that  Santamaria had some kind words to say about Fascism in his early days.  He was not alone in that, of course.  FDR, America's great Leftist hero, did too.

But the mention of Fascism did make some things fall into place.  My own diagnosis of Santa was that he was Leftishly inclined but subordinated that to his Catholicism, specifically the Catholicism of Pope Leo XIII's influential 1891 encyclical De rerum novarum.  So sympathy for Fascism fits in with that.  De rerum novarum was of course the Pope's response to Communism.  It proposed a middle way between Communism and capitalism.  And that "Third way" was very much what Mussolini adopted as his own economic program ("corporatism").  Though the Pope envisaged a bigger role for the church than Mussolini allowed.

I cannot resist mentioning parenthetically that Tony Blair's "third way" was something of a revival of those older third ways.  Blair is, after all, a CatholicDe rerum novarum could well be a New Labour manifesto. So, with his electoral success,  Blair showed that Fascism still has a lot of popular appeal.  And stumpy little Nicola Sturgeon is a very successful exponent of it right now.  Her kilt-wearing storm troops certainly evoke thoughts of the Sturmabteilung

So Santa would of course like Fascism.  Fascism operationalized church teaching and that teaching did authorize a very meddlesome State (See paragraphs 32 ff of the encyclical), which is the characteristic Leftist program.  So Fascism at once satisfied Santa's Leftism and his Catholicism.  If I may be so bold as to summarize the encyclical in a few words, Leo XIII says that all men being equal is an absurdity so both charities and the State must step in to ensure a decent life for the poor.  And Leo went into great detail about what the State should and should not do.

Something that puzzled me was Santamaria's glorification of rural life.  There is no mention of that in the encyclical.  But the glorification of rural life was very Fascist, particularly in the case of Nazism, so that also welds Santa to Fascism.

And is it relevant that both Santa and Mussolini were Italian?

Mussolini did however eventually choose the wrong side in WWII so Fascism came into bad repute, which is why Santa soon stopped mentioning it. Clearly, however, he was essentially a Fascist.

Cory Bernardi says not all refugees are genuine

And others are now seeing that too

Waves of people are arriving in Europe for “opportunistic” economic reasons rather than because they fear for their lives,the Liberal backbencher Cory Bernardi has argued.

Speaking on Monday against a Greens motion urging Australia to resettle an extra 20,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees, Bernardi said the country needed an ordered migration system and could not simply open its borders to anyone.

“At this stage, I do not believe there is any need for hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people to be ditching their identification and trying to get into Europe for reasons of safety,” Bernardi told the Senate. “Many of these people have been very safely ensconced, working and housed in places like Turkey for many years.

“This seems to me to be becoming an opportunistic cycle which is masking the true humanitarian need that is the responsibility of all western nations.”

Bernardi also criticised the father of Aylan Kurdi, the drowned three-year-old boy whose photograph sparked an outpouring of public sorrow and sympathy.

“The facts remain that that terrible image was not brought about by recent events in Syria or Iraq,” Bernardi said. “That boy and his family had lived in Turkey for three years. The money for that boy’s father to pay the people smugglers was sent from Canada.

“The father sent them on that boat so the father could get dental treatment. They were in no fear, they were in no persecution and they were in no danger in Turkey.”

The Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese expressed disgust at the comments.

“Cory Bernadi is an embarrassment to this parliament,” Albanese told reporters outside parliament on Tuesday morning. “He should be treated with the contempt those comments deserve.”

Bernardi’s comments also drew a sharp rebuke from the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, and his backbench colleague Ewen Jones.

“I don’t believe he could be referring to those fleeing Syria,” Bishop told Sky News on Tuesday. “People fleeing from Syria are fleeing from the most diabolical circumstances.”

The foreign minister said Australia was working with the UN refugee agency to ascertain asylum claims.

“Those who might be opportunistic will obviously not meet the requirements of the UNHCR,” she said.


'World of difference' between Syrians to be resettled in Australia and those on Manus Island and Nauru: Tony Abbott

PORT MORESBY. Tony Abbott has declared there is a "world of difference" between refugees from Syria and Iraq who will now be resettled in Australia and those from the same countries and have been languishing in detention for more than two years in Papua New Guinea and on Nauru.

The Prime Minister said he was very encouraged by the "big-hearted, generous response" of the Australian people to the government's decision to accept 12,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict.

While these people had sought refuge near Syria's borders, Mr Abbott said those on PNG's Manus Island and in detention on Nauru had "done a deal with people smugglers to go way beyond the country of first asylum".

"We will never ever do anything that encourages the evil trade of people smuggling and all of those who have come to Australia by boat are here as a result of people smuggling," he said.

Refugee advocates argue that asylum seekers should not be treated according to the way they fled persecution and that the international protection system would break down if all countries adopted the Australian approach.

Mr Abbott was speaking after meeting with PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and thanking him for hosting the detention centre on Manus Island, where nearly 1000 asylum seekers remain in detention.

He told Mr O'Neill Australia was "very grateful" for PNG's assistance in "processing illegal boat arrivals".

Federal and state officials would meet early next week to discuss the mechanics of the resettlement of the 12,000 refugees, Mr Abbott said.

The Prime Minister returns from Port Moresby to Canberra on Thursday night and will meet community leaders and service providers on Friday to discuss "exactly what we need to do to ensure that people coming to Australia from the conflict zone can swiftly and effectively integrate into our country".


Senator takes aim at public service 'laggers'

Senior leadership from Commonwealth agencies could be called before a parliamentary committee for not lodging corporate plans on time.

Fifteen per cent of agencies did not submit performance plans by the required August 31 deadline and 11 per cent have still not lodged their reports.

Liberal MP Ken Wyatt said agencies which did not lodge these plans in the next fortnight should be brought before the committee to explain themselves while ACT senator Katy Gallagher has questioned Finance Department officials why "lagging" agencies have not been punished.

A number of agencies failed despite knowing of the deadline since the start of the year and they did it in the knowledge they would be disregarding federal legislation, in the form of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act.

"The law is the law – there's still a legal obligation to observe the law," Senator Gallagher said in a hearing held by the joint public accounts and audit committee on Thursday.

"The reality is there's a law that's been passed and there's been some laggers in fulfilling these legal obligations.

"In every other area of public life we look very dimly on people who do not observe their legal obligations particularly those in senior leadership positions who should know better."

Senator Gallagher noted the Finance Department had organised workshops to educate public servants across the bureaucracy about the new requirements.

Agencies would be encouraged to disregard the legislation if there were no consequences, she said.

Finance Department representatives told the committee the introduction of the new performance-reporting requirements had been difficult for some agencies.

The department was in the process of finding out why certain agencies had not lodged their corporate plans.

In a recent speech Finance Department secretary Jane Halton said corporate plans outlined the purposes of each entity, what each agency would do to achieve those purposes, what environmental, risk and resource issues they needed to deal with, and how they would measure and report on their successes.

Corporate plans should have a "four-year time horizon".


Gold Coast police brutality: Three cases in two weeks

The Gold Coast cops have had a bad reputation for a long time.  Yet nothing seems to have been done.  What does it take?

A SHOCKING new video has emerged of the moments before a Brisbane Justice of the Peace was brutally assaulted by Gold Coast police.

The Courier-Mail last week revealed CCTV footage of 50-year-old grandfather Ray Currier attacked by police after his colleague was arrested outside a Surfers Paradise nightclub.

The latest video taken on a smartphone by a member of the public and obtained by The Courier-Mail, shows a new perspective that was previously hidden from the view of Gold Coast CCTV cameras.

The three-minute video shows Mr Currier attempting to draw his friends away from the scene where their colleague had just been arrested.

At no point does Mr Currier attack or provoke the group of police officers outside the Surfers Paradise nightclub yet seconds later he is approached by a police officer and punched several times in the head and stomach.

The video also appears to show the officers grab Mr Currier around the throat before pushing him head first into the ground.

Mr Currier’s colleagues made an official complaint to the police the day after the incident but were allegedly told nothing could be done.

A police spokesman told The Courier-Mail the most recent video had been reviewed by senior police from the Gold Coast district and an official complaint had been made to the Ethical Standards Command.

Kris Currier said a family who were visiting the Gold Coast witnessed the attack from their balcony and sent her the footage after reading about her husband’s story in The Courier-Mail.

“I am so grateful this family has come forward and provided us with this footage ... our solicitor now has a very clear picture of what really took place that night,” Mrs Currier said.  “I started crying knowing that Ray could be so brutally bashed by a police officer.”

The disturbing footage has gone viral and the hashtag #Justiceforray has been created to support Mr Currier.

Since the attack on Australia Day, Mr Currier has suffered memory loss, headaches, neck pain and anxiety and his wife said she wants justice for her husband.

“We are hoping that the police officers and staff involved are now investigated and charged with assault,” Mrs Currier said.  “For Ray, I hope he gets the justice he deserves.”

Another incident

THERE are fresh claims of police brutality on the Gold Coast with shocking new video appearing to show an officer punching a handcuffed prisoner in the head.

The Courier-Mail has obtained CCTV footage of officers kneeing a 20-year-old man before one later punches him in the face in Surfers Paradise last year.

The incident is now the subject of an internal investigation and is the third caught on camera recently involving Gold Coast Police.

It is understood the officer who allegedly threw the punch has since left the Queensland Police Service.

The victim, electrical trade assistant Brayden Aaron Mechen, had been charged with serious assault over the incident and was due to face a court hearing at Southport yesterday, but all charges against him were dropped on the morning of the case.

According to court documents, Mr Mechen spat at an officer who then hit the young man in the face. However, that allegation was later withdrawn and Mr Mechen maintains he did nothing wrong.

Video shows police responding to an altercation involving one of Mr Mechen’s friends in Surfers on September 28 last year. Mr Mechen is not involved in the initial altercation, but touches an officer on the shoulder before he is set upon.

Later footage shows his head rock back after a punch before he is bundled into the back of a police wagon.

Queensland Police Union President Ian Leavers said the charges were only withdrawn due to a technicality.

Mr Mechen, who described the ordeal as the most terrifying of his life, denies any wrongdoing and has not ruled out civil action against the QPS.

It is the third instance in the past fortnight of video purportedly showing violence by officers on the Gold Coast.

The first case

One video shows a prisoner being head-slammed at Surfers Paradise police station. That man, Michael Cox, is suing the QPS for more than $100,000.  More on that here.  Covered on this blog on August 30


10 September, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is grumpy about NIMBYs


Four current reports below: Refugees, flowering trees, uranium and Pacific islands

Moron-talk: Global warming plays havoc with Auburn cherry blossom festival (?)

What complete rubbish!  For a start, there has been no statistically significant global warming for 18 years.  So observed variations in seasons over that period cannot be attributed to that.  All that is being observed is that seasons vary from year to year -- as they always have. 

Like many Brisbane people, I like crepe myrtles.  I have eight of them in my back yard.  There must be millions of them in Brisbane.

I have 17 metres solid of blossoming trees in my back yard in January -- in three colours

In tropical North Queensland, where I originally come from, we used to call them Christmas bushes, because they began flowering in early December.  In sub-tropical Brisbane flowering normally begins in January.  It can be early January or late January.  And in some years you can get some blossom in late December.  It's just a natural cycle.  It always has been variable and it always will be.  And there is no doubt that the flowering times of cherry trees will also vary by weeks -- JR

Cherry blossom festivals bring to mind beauty, tranquillity and the traditional Japanese song Sakura Sakura: "Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms, Across the spring sky, As far as you can see."

But the flowering of 180 trees at Auburn's annual cherry blossom festival has sent many young women into a giddy spin. "It's not quite like an Acca Dacca concert," said Greg Hodges, the curator of the Botanic Gardens with the Auburn City Council.

"People go crazy, it is like watching an old Elvis movie. There are girls jumping up and down screaming; it is not the sort of thing you expect in a garden," he said.  "It is such a quaint beauty in this day and age, and people get very excited."

A record 10,000 people visited last Saturday, and similar crowds – those wearing kimonos or Cosplay costumes get in free – are expected to visit the Botanic Garden's Japanese Garden cherry blossoms this weekend too.

Signs warn visitors not to shake the trees, even though catching a petal or capturing a photo with falling blossoms is a good omen in the eyes of some Asian visitors.

For organisers of cherry blossom festivals in Washington DC, Tokyo and Auburn, the trickiest part of the annual event is forecasting when the trees will flower, and hoping they bloom during the scheduled dates.

Specialists at the Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney say global warming is affecting when traditional late-winter and early-spring plants – from wattles to jacarandas –are flowering. Seasonal variations in rainfall and temperature can complicate timing, too.

Contrary to what most people think, a warm winter causes the cherry trees to bloom later. Mr Hodges said the trees – a mix of  flowering pear, apple, cherry and apricot trees – required a prolonged cold period in winter before they will bloom.

Because this winter was cold, about 70 per cent of the  trees are already past their prime, making him wish he had started the festival a week earlier. The white cherry and the flowering pears are still coming on, he said. Last year, he had the opposite problem. A warm 2014 winter meant there were "hardly any blossoms" in the first week.

Because these festivals are so popular, environmental groups such as WWF in the United States use them to highlight the impact of global warming. During the annual cherry blossom festival in Washington DC, WWF held a public talk on "A Blossoming Problem: The Disruptive Impacts of Climate Change on Nature's Calendar" to discuss how global warming affected cherry blossoms and other plants and animals.

A Japanese study also studied the impact of climate change on culturally significant events such as the timing of flowers on the trees.

It found 92 per cent of festival organisers said global warming was occurring, and it was affecting when trees burst into bloom. Organisers dependent on income from these festivals were more concerned about climate change than others.


Greenie group doesn't want refugees

Aid to live safely and sustainably far more effective, says  Sustainable Population Party

Sustainable Population Party rejects the moral posturing and political one-upmanship surrounding the current Syrian refugee crisis, and calls for sustainable global solutions to the human tragedy of forced migration.

In an ABC Radio interview today, World Vision CEO Reverend Tim Costello says “the [refugee] intake is the pimple on the hippopotamus” and “not really the main game.”[1]

Reverend Costello added “It's actually giving people hope in the camps that they're secure, they're going to be fed, that they don't need to flee - and above all... go back home. That's what they want to do. They just want to go back home, not come here, not go to Europe.”

William Bourke, President of the Sustainable Population Party agrees, saying “Whilst an increased intake should be considered, the current game of moral one-upmanship by politicians is unhelpful and regrettable. The government’s plans to increase the intake by 12,000 will cost a conservative $500 million, or around $40,000 per refugee.[2]

“How many people would $40,000 per year help to live safely in UN camps? According to the UNHCR, a donation of $300 per annum ‘can buy an Emergency Assistance Package to give a family the essentials for survival and shelter’.[3] If we conservatively assume a family is four people, that’s $75 per person. For every one person Australia resettles, we therefore forego the opportunity to help over 500 people in what World Vision’s Tim Costello calls ‘the main game’. Given the scale of the Syrian crisis, $500 million would be better spent helping over 6 million people than 12,000.

”Rather than simplistic moral posturing over increased permanent resettlement numbers, we align with Reverend Costello’s overriding aim to help people live safely now, and ultimately sustainably in their homeland. To achieve this ultimate goal, we also need to address underlying drivers of resource scarcity and conflict in Syria, including rapid population growth.

“Syria’s population has exploded from 3.5 million in 1950 to 23 million today. This growth dilutes natural resources like food and water, and ties into “economic problems, education costs and living costs."[4] At the current extreme growth rate, Syria will reach around 35 million by 2050. This increasing resource scarcity fuels growing conflict between militias and religious groups.

“To help address the global population crisis, Australia should also increase its total family planning and reproductive health services foreign aid from $50 million to at least $500 million immediately and to at least $1 billion by 2020, Mr Bourke added.

Press release

Australia's inaction on climate change set to dominate Pacific Island talks

Polynesians and Melanesians are not the most sophisticated people so believe the bull they are told about their low-lying islands getting submerged -- even though it isn't happening -- rather the reverse in a few cases  -- JR

Australia and New Zealand are expected to face strong criticism from Pacific Island leaders disappointed the nations are not doing more to combat climate change.

The issue will likely dominate this week’s Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit in Port Moresby, ahead of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris later in the year.

Pacific leaders want the world to work on restricting the global warming temperature rise to 1.5C, fearing a 2C target will risk the survival of many tiny islands.

Natural disaster recovery will be fresh on their minds. The summit starts on Monday, six months after Cyclone Pam, which flattened much of Vanuatu and caused heavy flooding on Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands.

Host nation Papua New Guinea is grappling with the opposite problem – what could be its worst drought in 20 years and a potential food crisis.

The prime minister, Peter O’Neill, has said El Niño conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

The Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are also experiencing a dry spell.

Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, who is boycotting the summit and will instead send along his foreign minister, had a crack at Tony Abbott at last week’s meeting of his rival club of Pacific leaders – the Pacific Islands Development Forum – that excludes Australia.

He urged Abbott to abandon the “coalition of the selfish” and put the welfare of small Pacific Island neighbours ahead of coal industry interests.

The Abbott government has announced a carbon emissions reduction target of 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030, which has been criticised for lacking ambition.

New Zealand’s target is a cut of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The summit is expected to sign off on a joint climate change and disaster management strategy for the Pacific.


Australia’s proposed India uranium deal given cautious green light despite ‘risks’

The government-dominated treaties committee has given a cautious green light to a proposed uranium deal with India, but only if the nuclear-armed nation agrees to a number of safeguards.

India is not a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) nor the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT), yet the emerging world leader is in dire need of energy.

As such, the committee report notes that: “It would be fair to say that, in this debate, there are no small risks or benefits. Every issue the committee has dealt with in this inquiry bears significant potential benefits and risks.

“The question for the committee is, then, given the benefits for Australia and India from the proposed agreement, can the risks be tolerated and ameliorated,” the report asked.

To counteract the potential risks of the treaty, including the possibility for Australian uranium to be used in the formation of nuclear weapons, the committee has made six recommendations.

Among them, the recommendation that the bilateral treaty only be ratified if India manages to achieve the full separation of civil and military nuclear facilities, and that the country establishes a new, fully independent, nuclear regulatory body.

It also recommends the International Atomic Energy Agency verify that inspections of nuclear facilities live up to international standards.

India, which is nestled between nuclear-armed neighbours Pakistan and China, is estimated to possess up to 110 nuclear warheads.

Australia should commit “significant diplomatic resources” to encourage India to sign the CTBT and facilitate a regional nuclear arms limitation treaty, the report recommends.

Labor changed its party platform banning the sale of uranium to countries that have not signed the NPT in 2011, paving the way for the deal with India.

The report highlighted the huge economic benefits of the treaty.

“From Australia’s perspective, selling uranium to India would double the size of an export industry, both in terms of income and employment opportunities,” the report said. “Moreover, it will do so in regional and remote Australia at a time when lower commodity prices are having an economic impact on these regions.”

The Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office estimates India’s import requirements for uranium could grow to 2,000 tonnes a year, valued at $200m. The Minerals Council of Australia thinks that could result in a net gain of 4,200 uranium mining jobs.

India currently gets about 50% of its energy from coal, which the report noted is the lesser option when compared with nuclear power. Presently, only 2% of India’s energy is generated by nuclear power.

The committee acknowledges that keeping India isolated due to its status as a non-signatory of the NPT has not resulted in the country ditching its nuclear arsenal. The bilateral treaty, it argued, would give Australia leverage to make changes and strengthen safeguards.

The Greens, in additional comments to the committee’s report, said the agreement was putting “short-term political expedience above global security”.

“As such, the Australian Greens cannot support this agreement and urge others to do likewise,” the comments said.


9 September, 2015

More on the latest scare from NASA

Scientists from Australia's CSIRO have backed it. As a result, Geologist Geoff Derrick emailed  Dr Rintoul, a so-called scientist from CSIRO -- as below:

To Dr Steve Rintoul:

Dear Steve

The CSIRO was once a respected science organisation.

By putting your name to these rancid projections from NASA on Antarctic and Greenland ice and sea levels (as attached) , you have as much scientific credibility as Obama, which is close to zero.

I hope Steyn's book is now in your library.  What is contained therein should be motivation enough to examine the integrity of the alarmist world you frequent, which clearly dances to the tune of pseudoscience and unwarranted projections and scaremongering.

I wish it were otherwise. If you disagree with the NASA rubbish, then you should say so.

Does not the following statement from the NASA item concern you as a supposed scientist?  Is it ignorance, bad expression, or a healthy combination of both??

"The (OMG) project will examine the role of ocean currents and ocean temperatures in melting Greenland's ice from below. . "

The last time I looked, the ice sheet of Greenland is largely contained in a massive crustal depression, with NO contact with any ocean along it's substrate.  In the case of your Antarctic scaremongering , you should also check out the high crustal heat flow  adjacent to the West Antarctic peninsula - that has more effect than any amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

NASA and the CSIRO obviously accept as gospel what is written in this article, such as breathless commentary that the Antarctica is "losing 118 gigatons of ice per annum over the past decade".  This equates to about 130 km3 pa, so given that there are 26 million km3 of ice around Antarctica, we could expect it to be ice free in about 200,000 years.  Be still my beating heart.

Via email

"Indigenous" model, 18, set to hit Milan catwalks (?)

The lady looks and sounds fine but she is NOT indigenous.  She has enough black ancestry to give her a permanent light suntan but is obviously no black

When Darwin born Elina Moscheni, 18, pestered her mother for a modelling course at just 14 she had no idea she would be hitting the international catwalk in just four short years.

The Indigenous model was signed with an agency as a young girl and after much success in the industry, including walking for the Chanel 2015 show, she has jetted to Milan in the hopes of working at Fashion Week - her first ever trip overseas.

'I was completely speechless when I found out, it's not secret that Milan is one of the fashion capitals of the world,' the Moil local told Daily Mail Australia.  'To find out that I got signed to Fashion Models Milan was a very proud moment for me.'

At such a young age, the half Indigenous, half Italian beauty says to be able to travel for her career is her biggest achievement to date.

'This industry can be really hard sometimes but if you work hard and focus on your dream, anything is possible,' Moscheni said.

'It's not something that lands in your lap, you have to work really hard and have your goals because without them you have no drive - which you need to get where you want.'

'You have to really work hard': Moscheni says it's important to have goals to achieve dreams

With her biggest idols including Miranda Kerr and Adriana Lima, it's no surprise that Moscheni has her sights set on Victoria's Secret.

'I have had the same goal since I was a little girl and that is to walk for Victoria's Secret - I love everything about their shows so I am working towards this,' Moscheni said.

'It might take some time, but I hope that I'll get there eventually.'

Moscheni also names Givenchy, Armani, Prada and Gucci as other big names she would love to work with in the future.  

Growing up in humid Darwin weather, Moscheni's unique beauty routine differs to that of models from other areas.

'I don't use anything on my skin, I grew up in very humid weather so I never used a face wash or moisturiser,' Moscheni said.

Although she uses it now, she tries to leave her skin as natural as possible and washes her face with just warm water every morning.

Moscheni hopes to inspire other Indigenous and other aspiring models to follow their dreams.  'I hope that any girl or boy will follow their dream as I have done and am still doing,' Moscheni said.  'My advice is to work hard, be professional, be healthy and take feedback constructively.' 


The Anzacs were monarchists

SO HERE’S how to be a hypocrite in modern Australia.

First, jump up and down and blather on about the need to change our constitution to recognise the critical role indigenous Australians played in our collective past.

Then, jump up and down (preferably with a red bandanna on your head or a fat cigar in your mouth) and blather on about the need to change our constitution to remove recognition of the critical role imperial Brits played in our collective past.

Oh, and while you’re at it, make a big fuss (it’s the centenary after all) of how much you admire the Anzacs and wish to honour their “spirit”.

Timing is everything, and the renewed push for a republic couldn’t have been timed with more exquisite perfection to highlight just how two-faced and idiotic the entire enterprise is.

Start with indigenous recognition. What is being asked of everyday Australians is that we vote “yes” in a referendum in order to amend our constitution (ie our legal framework) to reflect, somehow, the idea that there wouldn’t be a modern Australia were it not for the fact that indigenous Australians were the first people to inhabit the continent.

The gesture will be a symbolic nod to the past, and no doubt that symbolism will be further enhanced with endless smoking ceremonies, “welcome to country” prayers and the like.

Also, if Noel Pearson has his way, there will be some kind of indigenous “committee of elders” that Parliament can call on to offer opinions on legislation that pertains specifically to indigenous Australians.

Next comes the republic. What is being asked of everyday Australians is that we vote “yes” in a different referendum to also amend that same constitution – our legal framework, remember – in order to remove, formally and irrevocably, the key symbolic connection to those who actually framed it.

This despite the fact there wouldn’t be a modern Australia if it weren’t for the Brits investing untold wealth and human toil in this land as part of their empire, thereby giving modern Australia the very laws, justice system and democratic structures that make it one of the most successful, prosperous and enviable nations on Earth.

The Aussie monarchy today is unique – a ceremonial nod to the past that is every bit as symbolic as a smoking ceremony. Similarly, the role of our monarch is little different, and certainly far less politically powerful, than the sounding board proposed by Mr Pearson and his white-bearded elders.

So, on the one hand we change our constitution to emphasise an important part of our history that we overlooked at the time, while simultaneously amending our constitution to erase from memory one of the most fundamental parts of that history.

Not sure about you, but I find that not only a double standard of breathtaking proportion, but worse, unbelievably creepy in its Orwellian manipulation of the past.

But the bad timing doesn’t stop there. We are currently – rightly – celebrating the centenary of the Anzac defeat at Gallipoli. For so many reasons that are too complex to go into here, the sad Anzac tale has become the defining Aussie legend; it’s the “spirit” of the Anzacs that we now hold to be as essential to who we are as the Americans do their War of Independence and the French do Bastille.

More young Australians travel to Gallipoli every year than ever before, and the governments spend hundreds of millions on war memorials and commemorations.

Yet the single most enduring memorial to the Anzacs is to remember why, and for whom, they went to war in the first place: for king and country. Like it or not, the “spirit” of the Anzacs is, was, and always will be their unflinching loyalty to the crown.

It was belief in the idea and values of the British Empire that led young kids to run away from their farms and young men to abandon their wives and head off to fight and die in bloody battle.

Obviously, many returned from the horrors of both world wars disillusioned with those same values – many came home as communists, socialists, pacifists, republicans and so on – but by far the majority who survived retained their loyalty to their country, including its monarch, and believed the ideal had been worth the sacrifice.

It is a grotesque dishonesty to pretend that the “spirit” of the Anzacs was anything other than monarchist at heart. Today, the monarch plays a purely symbolic role in our modern lives, yet is an important ceremonial link to what made us who we are.

To replace that system with something imperfect or ill-defined is no different to papering over an old oil painting for the sake of it.

Or tipping a bucket of cold water over a smoking ceremony.


Australia Raises Wheat Crop Outlook as Rain Defies Climate Prediction

And the world is awash with grains -- despite constant Warmist predictions of food shortages

Australia increased its wheat production estimate after El Nino-defying rain in winter boosted the outlook for yields in key growing regions.

Output may total 25.3 million metric tons in 2015-16 from 23.6 million tons forecast in June, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural & Resource Economics & Sciences said in a report. The crop was 23.7 million tons a year earlier. Farmers in the world’s fifth-biggest exporter begin harvesting about October.

Wheat in Chicago traded near a five-year low this month and is heading for a third straight annual loss as back-to-back bumper global harvests boosts supply. World inventories of grain, including wheat, are swelling to the highest in three decades, the International Grains Council predicted last month. While the El Nino is a risk, conditions tend to be mostly favorable across key Australian crop areas, according to Rabobank International.

“New South Wales had very good seasonal conditions over winter and in other states, South Australia and Western Australia in particular, there was late winter rain that came just at the right time,” Peter Collins, manager for agricultural commodities at Canberra-based Abares, said by phone. “In spring, that’s when it’s a critical period for yields.”

Wheat for December delivery climbed as much as 1.9 percent to $4.7675 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade and was at $4.75 by 12:41 p.m. in Sydney. Futures touched $4.63 this month after dropping to $4.6075 on May 5, the lowest since 2010, and have slumped 20 percent this year.

Farmers in New South Wales, the second-biggest wheat grower, may harvest 7.2 million tons from 6.2 million tons forecast in June, Abares said. Western Australia’s harvest, the country’s biggest, may total 9.5 million tons from 9.3 million tons estimated in June, according to Abares. Parts of the state’s central wheat-belt registered the wettest July day on record at the end of the month,  according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

The El Nino in the Pacific Ocean is now the strongest since the record 1997-98 event, Australia’s weather bureau said Sept. 1. Most climate models indicate the Pacific will continue to warm, it said. While the El Nino is often associated with a drier winter and spring in eastern Australia, its strength doesn’t always determine its impact, according to the bureau.

World wheat production is set to climb to a record 726.5 million tons in 2015-16, boosting inventories to the highest ever, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts. The agency forecasts Australia’s wheat crop at 26 million tons.

Canola production in the world’s second-biggest exporter will probably be 3.1 million tons from 2.96 million tons predicted in June. Barley output may total 8.6 million tons from 8.2 million tons estimated in June, the bureau said.

Australia’s cotton production may reach 470,000 tons in 2015-16 from 450,000 tons a year earlier, Abares estimated. The bureau forecast output at 520,000 tons in June.


8 September, 2015

NASA says sea levels will rise by a metre over the next century -- bringing flooding to Australia

And what is the basis of that prophecy?  It's not an academic journal article.  It's just a press release, which is here.  And the whole scare is based on one alleged fact: "Seas around the world have risen an average of nearly 3 inches since 1992".

One writer has looked carefully at the data concerned and concludes:

"There is nothing abnormal about sea level rising by 3 inches over a 23-yr period.  Nor is a 3 mm/yr sea level rise over a multi-decade period unusual.  There is simply no anomaly requiring an explanation.  The claim that the 3 inches if sea level rise from 1992-2015 is inline with 3 feet of sea level rise in the 21st century is patently false and demonstrably disprovable.  The accurate statement that sea level is rising faster now than it was 50 years ago is cherry-picking of the highest order."

EXPERTS fear an ice sheet the size of Queensland is melting so quickly it will cause massive storm surges capable of decimating Australia’s coastal cities within the next century.

Satellite images recently captured by NASA show large sections of Greenland and Antarctica are vanishing at a much faster rate than previously thought.

Because of this scientists now believe sea levels will rise by a metre over the next 100 to 200 years. And this is not good. Dr Steve Rintoul from the CSIRO told if the NASA predictions prove true Australia could expect more devastating flash floods similar to the one suffered by Brisbane four years ago.  [The Brisbane floods were due to negligent use of Brisbane's big flood-control dam (Wivenhoe).  They were not a "flash flood"

He said as the average sea level rose, so did the risk of destructive storm surges. “What that means is that the frequency and severity of coastal flooding increases and those floods are more serious as the average sea level rises,” he said. “Most Australians live along the coast, and this is where we are going to feel the impact of sea levels rises.

“There is also about 150 million people that live within one metre of present day sea level, and so if sea levels rise by one metre, those people will be displaced. Many of our major cities around the world are close to sea level and also much of our industry and infrastructure is also close to the coast.

The implications of rising sea levels are quite serious because a one metre rise would cause serious disruption not just to people on low level islands but to infrastructure and the economy in countries that have a coastline.” ... blah blah blah


Shorten wants more refugees

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has called for a one-off increase to Australia's refugee intake of 10,000, on top of this year's planned humanitarian intake.

"We are proposing a significant increase because this is a significant crisis," he said.  "Mr Abbott's announcement yesterday was simply not good enough."

Yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia would take in more refugees fleeing war-torn Syria without increasing the overall annual intake of humanitarian refugees.

The existing number of 13,750 is already set to increase to 18,750 by 2019.

"Like every other Australian, I was moved by the horrific imagery of that little boy washed up on a beach in Turkey,” Mr Abbott said in a press conference in Canberra yesterday.  "We are proposing to take more people from this region as part of our very substantial commitment to the UNHCR".

Mr Abbott said the intake would concentrate on women and children.   "Our focus will be on families and women and children, especially of persecuted minorities, who have sought refuge in camps neighbouring Syria and Iraq," he said.

Mr Dutton departed last night and will meet with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva to ask how Australia can assist in the crisis, after images of a drowned Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi, on a Turkish beach launched the asylum seeker crisis into the international spotlight last week.


Lawyer complains about loss of work for lawyers

Though he doesn't quite put it that way

BRIAN Briggs, military compensation practice leader with Slater and Gordon, said changes to the appeal process in the Veteran's Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 will add up to two years to veterans' search for compensation.

"This bill, if passed, will strip vulnerable injured veterans of rights and make it virtually impossible for them to access the support they are entitled to because of the cost and added delays," Mr Briggs said.

The bill contains several other provisions about vocational rehabilitation and repatriation of Vietnam war dead from Malaysia.

Mr Briggs said the second schedule was deeply concerning because it stripped rights from vulnerable veterans.

In introducing the bill to the Senate last month, Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield - representing Veterans Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson - said the changes will simplify appeals.

Injured veterans seeking compensation can now appeal an adverse Department of Veterans Affairs decision through the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission or the Veterans' Review Board.

Under the new legislation, the appeal process will be limited to the review board. A second right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal remains.

Mr Briggs said removing the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission option left a single inferior appeal pathway that does not allow for legal representation and will add 18 to 24 months to the process in circumstances where the veteran might have little income.

"These are literally matters of survival versus bankruptcy, life versus death, for the veteran affected," he said.

"We trust that this bill will not be allowed to pass unless the stripping of appeal rights is removed."


'Our Candidates Are Freaks'


On behalf of the Liberal Democrats I must issue an apology. Unlike other political parties, we cannot guarantee that half of our candidates will be women. We understand that many of you like to see a 50/50 male/female split -- whether on the ballot for a politician or in the Yellow Pages when looking for a plumber. But, unfortunately, our hands are tied.

It's our members, you see. They're so annoyingly principled. They've got it stuck in their heads that individuals have rights that the collective cannot overrule. And to bind the party, they've ratified policies supporting civil liberties and equality before the law, and opposing affirmative action.

So if an individual in our party is the best person to promote the party's principles and policies in Parliament, that individual will get our nomination.

Not only can't I guarantee that 50 percent of Liberal Democrat candidates will be women, I can't guarantee that a quarter of them will be born overseas, that half of them will be under the median age of 38, or that half will have below-average intelligence. Merit is the only consideration. Race, age, sexual orientation and secret cross dressing tendencies don't matter either.

In fact, I have a huge admission to make -- our candidates are not at all representative of the general population. Each of them believes that you can run your own life and that you pay too much tax. With views like this, our candidates are freaks.

I can't even guarantee that each Liberal Democrat candidate will be local, either. At the last election our party had the temerity to nominate a Queenslander to run in Western Australia, simply because he was an intelligent and hard-working libertarian with experience in the West, a willingness to move back there, and a desire to implement policies that would make West Australians better off.

Our party does not accept that having lived in the same postcode and supported the same footy team for your entire life should be a qualification for political office. Our members believe it is what you think, what you know and what you'll do that matters.

The big parties have it so much easier. As the price of an affirmative action policy they can screw the hard?working and talented individuals who would be the best candidates. But since the big parties require their new politicians to just repeat what the frontbenchers are saying, no?one notices that the best candidates haven't been selected anyway.

So back to my apology. If the men in parliament like me are only there because we elbowed out women in our ranks, we should fix the problem ourselves rather than expect the blameless young men of our parties to sacrifice themselves. I therefore propose that Tony Abbott, Bill Shorten and I immediately resign, to be replaced by women.

I'll do it once they do. Promise.


Idiotic "Green" municipality

The Newcastle Council has officially entered an alternative reality. The city that was built on coal is now proposing to withdraw deposits from banks that fund coal.

Never mind that this won’t work. The Council’s investments are a minute proportion of total deposits with banks. If the banks stop lending to coal, plenty of other investors are available overseas and here (including the Future Fund). And if Australia cuts its coal exports, other countries would be happy to fill the gap in production.

It gets worse. In the unlikely event that Australian coal production declines, this will just shift harmful environmental impacts overseas, often to countries with lower environmental standards than Australia. And the Council’s decision implicitly tells developing countries to stop using coal which is incredibly patronising, imperialistic and anti-development.

But most importantly, the Council is sending incredibly contradictory messages about the city’s development. Coal is vital to Newcastle. It is one thing to argue for diversifying the city’s economy. It is another to decry such a core industry. This may cause businesses to think twice about investing in the city.

The contradictions in the Council’s Twilight Zone don’t end there. If the Council were wanting to completely cut off coal, they should return all the fees and local rates paid by coal companies. But of course they won’t. In the Council’s alternate reality, it is OK to take money from coal, just not invest in it.

The trip to the Twilight Zone isn’t over yet. The Councillor responsible for this decision has said that the Council shouldn’t invest in things that have involvement in the manufacturing of alcohol. So we could soon be seeing the Council divesting from the Hunter Wine Region.

What next in this brave new (and apparently insane) world? North Queensland to ban banana growing, New Zealand to mandate the wearing of synthetic fibres, and South Sydney to veto lattes?


7 September, 2015

Australian senators Keep Hammering the Great Wind Power Fraud

Following almost 6 months of solid graft, 8 hearings in 4 States and the ACT, dozens of witnesses and almost 500 submissions, the Senate Inquiry into the great wind power fraud delivered its ‘doorstop’ final report, which runs to some 350 pages – available here: Senate Report

The first 200 pages are filled with facts, clarity, common sense and compassion; the balance, labelled “Labor’s dissenting report”, was written by the wind industry’s parasites and spruikers – including the Clean Energy Council (these days a front for Infigen aka Babcock & Brown); theAustralian Wind Alliance; and Leigh Ewbank from the Enemies of the Earth.

Predictably, Labor’s dissenting report is filled with fantasy, fallacy and fiction – pumping up the ‘wonders’ of wind; completely ignoring the cost of the single greatest subsidy rort in the history of the Commonwealth; and treating the wind industry’s hundreds of unnecessary victims – of incessant turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound – with the kind of malice, usually reserved for sworn and bitter foreign enemies.

And the wind industry’s stooge on the Inquiry, Anne Urquhart – is still out their fighting a faltering, rearguard action – long after the battle for wind power supremacy was lost – a bit like the tales of ragged, 80 year old Japanese soldiers that kept fighting the Imperial War, until they were dragged out of the jungle and into the 21st Century. Nevermind the facts, when delusion will do!

Among those Senators on the Committee – who pulled no punches in getting the truth out – were Liberal Senator from WA, Chris Back and STT Champion, Liberal Democratic Party Senator, David Leyonhjelm from NSW.

While the wind industry and its parasites have been praying to the Wind-Gods that the whole thing might just ‘blow over’, those Senators on the Inquiry – not in thrall of Infigen, Vestas & Co – are still in there fighting for a fair-go for rural communities, across the Country; and power consumers, everywhere.

Always pleased to disappoint the beleaguered and dwindling band of wind worshippers in this country, STT is delighted that Chris Back and David Leyonhjelm show no sign of letting up.


Blatant bias, as ABC bans Tony Abbott — at his own literary awards

Note that Abbott is himself an author

The ABC has used its editorial independence charter as a ­reason for refusing to broadcast live a literary speech by Tony Abbott — at the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

The broadcaster was unwilling to air Mr Abbott’s speech at the awards, one of the nation’s richest literary events, and yet was happy to allow the prize-winning authors to speak live and unedited.

Australian Publishers Association president Louise Adler, the event’s organiser, has revealed that negotiations with the ABC broke down irreconcilably last year because the broadcaster was unwilling to show Mr ­Abbott’s speech.

“The ABC refused to broadcast the PM’s speech, which was going to be about seven minutes,” Ms Adler told The Weekend Australian.

“What was puzzling was the ABC’s willingness to broadcast unedited the prize-winning ­writers’ speeches but not the Prime Minister of the day.

“What if a writer had said something defamatory? One can’t but deduce that the national broadcaster was making a political judgment rather than an editorial judgment.”

The ABC’s stance stands in contrast to the corporation’s willingness to give convicted criminal and terrorist sympathiser Zaky Mallah a national platform on its Q&A show.


Victorian MP staff hiring change stalled

A PLAN to change how Victorian political parties can hire staff has stalled after claims Labor's taxpayer-funded workers ran election campaigns.

POLITICIANS have been allowed to pool some electorate staff to help with parliamentary work since the 1990s, but three Labor MPs say their staff were actually used to run Labor's Community Action Network.

Their claims have derailed a plan already in train to simplify electoral entitlements and make electorate offices safer.

It's understood PriceWaterhouseCoopers recommended electorate offices should always have two staff for health and safety purposes.

Instead, MPs will be able to contribute a capped portion of their printing and other allowances budget to the party to hire extra staff.

But that's on hold while the two parliamentary speakers decide how to investigate Labor.

Opposition leader Matthew Guy asked Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass to investigate whether Labor used electorate staff to run campaigns.

"You can't use these staff in office times for anything else except working for those members," Mr Guy told reporters on Thursday.

"If you are a member in Ballarat and you send your staff to campaign in Bentleigh, clearly there is a problem."

A spokesman for the ombudsman had no comment.

Premier Daniel Andrews maintains his party followed the rules, but on Thursday he would not answer direct questions about whether electorate staff were working for Labor's Community Action Network.

"We're not going to go round and round. Yesterday I was very clear, I'm answering your question very directly - there are rules and the rules have been followed," Mr Andrews told reporters.

The premier said Labor followed the rules for pooling electorate staff.

Upper house president Bruce Atkinson and lower house speaker Telmo Languiller are deciding how they will investigate Labor's electorate staffing arrangements.

The Liberal Party has not used staff pooling arrangements since 2006.

"The people who are paid for by the parliament are there to support members of parliament in the parliamentary duties, and to support and assist constituents," Mr Atkinson told the upper house on Wednesday.

"They are not there for political campaigning."


A gaggle of lame ducks

PROMPTED by Twitter twaddle and the indistinguishable and mendacious ramblings of The Sydney Morning Herald, a ­dishevelled group of protesters milled outside The Daily ­Telegraph ­office on Sunday.

Some members of the mob wore T-shirts with boringly familiar abusive slogans, a pair wore the emblems of the Teachers ­Federation, there were grubby representatives of the Socialist Alternative, and while one or two defaced the pavement with chalked slogans, others vowed to smash homophobia or demanded equal marriage — now. There was an anti-shark cull protester and someone against ­racism, but the overall picture was of a confused and unappealing ­inchoate rabble. Their loose bond, apparently, was to offer political support for the campaign for homosexual marriage.

The protest was triggered by NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli’s sluggish enforcement of his own department’s regulations against political propaganda being forced upon school students following protests from parents against a decision by the principal of Burwood Girls High to cancel two class periods for a mandatory screening of a documentary called Gayby Baby on homosexual ­unions which was calculated to promote the campaign for ­homosexual marriage.

The SMH has persisted in publishing the lie promulgated by both the school and the department that no complaints against the screening were lodged.

Yesterday, a departmental spokesman confirmed in writing that “Burwood Girls High ... has received and continues to receive … complaints,” while the school “informed the department late on Thursday, August 27, that they had received a small number of complaints from parents in relation to their planned screening of the Gayby Baby documentary”.

If the gathering who mustered in Surry Hills represented Herald readers or those in favour of perverting the traditional definition of marriage, it is easy to understand why so many stayed away.


Educationalists: teaching bad ideas

Teachers are starting to fight back against the biases of educationalists

Back in 2012, I attended a conference in Sydney about school improvement. Although the speakers were there to talk about a diverse range of topics, many took the chance to disparage ‘transmission teaching’, where the teacher stands at the front and talks to the class. They knew that their audience would welcome this view.

Such a scene encapsulates much of what is wrong in the strange bubble of education conferences. Educators often talk to themselves. They give a nod and a wink to each other to signal their alignment with values that are not necessarily shared by members of the general public or even other teachers. While real policy decisions are made by government ministers outside of the education establishment, this does nothing to puncture the groupthink; educationalists merely characterise such decisions as coming from know-nothing, philistine politicians who impose their views on experienced professionals.

It might make sense for educationalists to be so dismissive of policymakers if the processes of education were grounded in strong evidence, as they are in medical practice. However, a lot of what is pursued by educationalists actually flies in the face of the evidence. For instance, on the issue of using phonics to teach children to read, there are three national reports from the UK, US and Australia which all support the largely common-sense view that learning to read by sounding-out words works. Yet influential educationalists still express scepticism, and it seems that teachers are still not trained effectively in phonics.

Transmission teaching, to which the education establishment is so opposed, is basically what most people think of as ‘teaching’. A teacher will stand at the front of a class, explain some concept or new bit of terminology, and then ask the students some questions about the new concept or term to see if they have understood it. This offends the sensibilities of those who don’t like the idea of teachers being sources of authority and would prefer pupils to ‘construct’ their own knowledge.

Countless studies comparing transmission teaching with constructivist approaches find in favour of transmission teaching. Again, this is simply common sense. Instead of letting children flounder and make the same mistakes generations of children have made before them, a skilled teacher can pre-empt these problems, focus students on more fruitful avenues and explain why in the process.

But this is not what teachers are encouraged to do. In an influential book for the National Academies Press in the US, the constructivist position is explained in terms of the children’s book Fish is Fish. In the story, a frog visits the land, and then returns to the water to explain to his fish friend what the land is like. You can see the thought bubbles emanating from the fish as the frog talks. When the frog describes birds, the fish imagines fish with wings, and so on. The implication is that we cannot understand anything that we have not seen for ourselves; each individual has to discover the world anew.

If this were true then there would be no point in books, because it would not be possible to communicate ideas through words. There would be no point in magazines or the internet, and no point in education conferences. A large part of what many educationalists believe to be best practice can be easily falsified by everyday experience.

Educationalists’ fondness for therapeutic approaches to education is also undermining good teaching methods. Yes, teaching pupils directly – giving them strong and clear instructions and guidance – might be a more effective way of getting them to pass exams, so the argument goes, but what of developing students’ character? If we allow students to work out how to solve problems on their own, they say, then we will help them build their resilience. In short, we are asked to accept the logic that we should teach children badly in order to prepare them for life’s frustrations. Sadly, it seems that UK education secretary Nicky Morgan has bought into the idea that schools should help build children’s characters.

However, the education world is changing. Teachers are starting to ask questions using social media, blogs and even through their own conferences. One notable success has already been chalked-up by the blogger Andrew Old, who forced a change of tack from the Ofsted, the English schools inspectorate. Ofsted had been effectively enforcing constructivist methods on teachers by criticising them for talking to their students or for not organising enough group work. Old assiduously collected the evidence of this on his blog, forcing Ofsted to issue new guidance to inspectors.

Frustrated politicians of all stripes are unleashing unprecedented disruption on education systems by creating new kinds of schools and new ways for teachers to qualify. It is sad that it has come to this, but educationalists who have ignored evidence in favour of ideology for such a long time will finally have to reckon with the unleashing of teacher-led critique.


6 September, 2015

Lies about homosexual propaganda film in NSW schools

“IF a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” is a famous philosophical riddle about the nature of reality.

When it comes to the parallel universe occupied by the NSW Education Department, you may as well ask: if a parent makes a complaint and no one wants to acknowledge it, did it ever exist?

This is the dishonesty at the heart of the Gayby Baby controversy. Someone is pretending Burwood Girls High School received not a single complaint from parents about its plan to screen the documentary on same-sex parenting to all 1200 students last Friday.

The Sydney Morning Herald is party to that lie. In a story yesterday titled, ironically, “The truth behind the Gayby Baby ban”, the newspaper claimed: “No formal complaints from parents about the film have been received by the school.”

This is the same line run by the department last week until confronted by The Daily Telegraph with evidence of numerous complaints by parents to the school, including emails, phone calls and proxy complaints via three religious ministers.

The department eventually acknowledged the truth — it had received complaints from parents about the screening in school time.

“Burwood Girls High School has received and continues to receive a number of contacts, including both complaints and supportive comments,” a department spokesman said. So what exactly constitutes a “formal complaint”?

According to the department’s Complaints Handling Policy Guidelines, complaints from parents about screening Gayby Baby would automatically be treated as “informal”. “All minor complaints and disputes should be resolved promptly and without using formal procedures.” It was up to Burwood Girls High to decide whether the complaints it received from parents would be managed “formally”, in which case, “there are three types of formal procedures used, depending on the nature of the complaint — remedy and systems improvement, negotiation, and investigation”.

In other words, the school defined whether the complaint was “formal” or “informal”, not the parent. Conveniently in this case, Burwood Girls High decided the complaints were not “formal”. Then it decided that if a complaint was not “formal” it was non-existent, and that line was fed to pliant media.

Yet there is overwhelming evidence of phone calls and emails from parents to the school, which have been verified by The Daily Telegraph. For instance, this email to principal Mia Kumar: “Dear Ms Kumar, please provide parents with an option to opt out of the documentary for their child and advise us of the activity/activities our child will be doing during the screening of the documentary.”

Even on my 2GB radio show on Sunday, listener Suzy from Bexley said: “I have two girlfriends and they have children at Burwood High. They were outraged, absolutely outraged, that the school was going to show this film and the parents were not asked for their permission. So I don’t know what they’re talking about no one complaining. My friends were out there and getting other parents with the same feeling and they were completely outraged about it.”

Presbyterian minister Mark Powell also says “it’s not true” there were no complaints by parents. “The reason I know it’s not true is because I personally know a number of people, myself included, who rang the school to complain. Maybe there’s a technical difference between ‘complaining’ and lodging a formal complaint but that is what we were trying to do,” he said.

Last Monday, Reverend David Maher called a public meeting to discuss the screening, attended by 15 parents and citizens “with a number of other parents sending their apologies”. “As a direct result of that meeting Rev Maher wrote to the school on everyone’s behalf and personally delivered the letter to the school. So the fact is, lots of people complained.” But the school and the department redefined reality.

The great shame is that instead of calling out this lie, The Sydney Morning Herald perpetuates it.


Documentary on Australia's elite SAS regiment goes beyond the stereotypes

Humour and intellect are not the traits typically associated with soldiers in Australia's elite Special Air Service regiment. But those are the characteristics that stood out to Bruce Horsfield, the creator of a documentary series on the SAS being launched on Thursday.

The Australian SAS - The Untold Story, which has been 20 years in the making and is officially supported by the SAS, offers a rare glimpse into the highly secretive regiment.

It details the soldiers' gruelling training regimes and treacherous missions, and explores how post-traumatic stress disorder takes its toll on both the soldiers and their families.

"On selection they look for the person you are, the core personality traits," Dr Horsfield said.

"That's why there's so much sleep deprivation, food deprivation, because you're very quickly reduced to your essentials and the core personality traits start to emerge."

Yet at the same time, the regiment is surprisingly "laid back", said Dr Horsfield, himself a former special operations soldier as well as a retired honorary professor at the University of Southern Queensland.

"My background is university and I have to say, being in the officers mess … you have a far more congenial intellectual atmosphere than I've found at many of my university gatherings."

Humour is the other stand-out characteristic. The "capacity to laugh when you're uncomfortable" is what sustains operations when they go pear-shaped, Dr Horsfield said.

"SAS operate in very small teams, so if you have any personal friction it tends to be far more consequential.

"To get into the SAS, it doesn't matter if you're Superman or Batman or Spiderman ... if you don't have a sense of humour they won't take you."

The series claims to go beyond stereotypes to examine the organisational culture of the regiment, and the hostility and mistrust it faced from other sections of the Australian Army.

"What I hooked into was how successful this organisation is. I've worked all my life in organisations, public and private, that find managing change so difficult," Dr Horsfield said.

"We're all getting meaner, tougher, more confused, and yet SAS have got their perceptions clear, their brains organised and they work like hell on their missions."

He denies that the official support of the SAS has influenced the documentary's content.

"I had editorial and creative freedom, there's no doubt about that. No one sat there saying we want it this way or we want it that way."

The first 10 parts in the series were released on DVD in 2012 but new material has since been added.

Governor-General and former Defence Force chief Peter Cosgrove will officially launch the series in Canberra on Thursday.


Charter schools in Australia?

This week rang with howls of indignation from the usual suspects (unions and public education lobbies) railing against Dr Jennifer Buckingham and me for attempting to destroy public education as harbingers of the neoliberal apocalypse.

Our crime was having released a research report on charter schools, which are publicly-funded, privately managed schools. The report makes the case, with evidence, for why charter schools should be introduced by government as a fourth school sector under the public school umbrella.

It was a little bewildering to hear that, for some people, schools that are public in every way that matters are supposedly Trojan horses for privatisation.

For me, what matters is that public schools are open to everyone and they are fully-funded, with no tuition fees paid. This is to ensure that all children can access a quality education, regardless of their circumstances. In keeping with this notion, as well as the evidence, the report supports the creation of charter schools with these enrolment principles.

Nobody has ever successfully argued that universal access to education means centralised and uniform provision, managed by bureaucrats. Under the charter school model, schools would be managed by organisations which have the capacity to respond to the challenges of unique school communities. Teachers who worked well with their students could be paid more, rather than the reward for their success consisting of being assigned to a less challenging school. Where there is a desire for a vocationally-focused education alongside the traditional core subjects, schools could deliver that.

What could be more in keeping with the spirit of public schooling – schooling for all – than schools that are able to better serve their students, parents, and communities?

It seems that equity in education provision isn’t really what the self-styled defenders of public schools are concerned about. If the nature of the criticism is anything to go by, it’s more about protecting the vested interests of unions and bureaucrats alike. Our public school system, and the students who have no choice but to attend, are worse off for it.


The Jug man has a burst of realism

Says Australia can easily weather the Chinese economic downturn

Speaking to Guardian Australia ahead of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, Krugman, a renowned columnist at the New York Times, predicted the slowing Chinese economy would hurt Australia, but said the country should not get “too hysterical” about it.

“It’s not helpful to have the price of commodities that Australia exports go down … that said, Australia is a big, very diverse economy, it has other exports and it has a flexible exchange rate. So if you look at what’s happened in the past couple of years – certainly Australia has taken a hit from weakness in its exports but it has also had a major depreciation of the Australian dollar and that offset a lot of it.

“These kind of adverse shocks of exports always hurt, but its only catastrophic if either you have no recourse – so if [for example] you’ve give up your own currency then you’re in trouble, and if you’re very vulnerable financially – if you’re very heavily indebted in foreign currency then you’re vulnerable. But last I looked Australia has neither of those characteristics.”

Krugman added: “I think in the end you’re likely to see what is going on now in China is something like what happened with the Asian financial crisis. And Australia was extremely successful at riding out that storm and maybe you’re not as good this time, but I think that you don’t want to get hysterical about this.

“Australia, like Canada, is a country that has the wrong exports and is kind of in the wrong place in the world right now, but has a lot of other strengths.”

“If Australia is having problems with selling stuff to the rest of the world it has a pretty straightforward answer, namely it’s got a floating currency. The Aussie dollar goes down and pretty much takes care of itself, so Australia really doesn’t need to worry about that.

“And maybe Australia should be doing better in some industries than it is maybe there should be some policy [on that] but the idea that the economy is likely to suffer from some generalised problem with competitiveness is just wrong.”


4 September, 2015

"Organic" farmer loses his attempt to impose organic practices on his neighbours

An organic farmer in Western Australia whose crop was contaminated with genetically modified (GM) canola from a neighbouring farm has lost his court appeal for compensation.

Steve Marsh of Kojonup lost organic certification over most of his farmland in 2010 after genetically modified seeds and swathes blew onto his farm.

Mr Marsh went to court, seeking more than $80,000 in compensation.

But last year the Supreme Court dismissed the case, saying neighbour Michael Baxter had not acted negligently and could not be held responsible just for growing a GM crop in a conventional way.  It also awarded Mr Baxter costs.

The Court of Appeal has now dismissed appeals on the case and the costs in a two-to-one decision.

Earlier this year it was revealed that Monsanto had contributed to Mr Baxter's costs while Mr Marsh's campaign has been supported by the Safe Food Foundation.

Outside the court, Mr Baxter said he had been confident of winning.  "We certainly never doubted all the way through that we were probably going to be on the winning side," he said.

"This should never have even gone to court because between farmers, we should've just had a chat over the fence, had a couple of beers, you know, this would've been all sorted out.

"He's an organic farmer, he can't spray, he can't use chemicals, you know he's got red mite, he's got aphids, he's got rust, he's got all the diseases in the world, does he worry about that?

"They blow over the fence, I get them all the time.  "Do I whinge, do I complain? No, not at all."

Mr Baxter said he had no relationship with Mr Marsh anymore.

"He took the hard line, he made the decision," he said.

He thanked the Pastoralists and Graziers Association for their support.

The decision was another blow for Mr Marsh.  "I guess what this has demonstrated is that common law does not protect farmers against GM contamination, that's obviously very clear," he said.

"This argument that it's like a leaf blowing next door or something blowing next door, it's quite ridiculous.

"This product's got a technology in it, it's got a patent on it to start with, so you can't tell me a leaf blowing next door or an aphid or a weed is the same as GM technologies."

Mr Marsh said he was considering whether to appeal to the High Court.  "It was obviously a two-one decision so they weren't all against us," he said.

Mr Marsh was asked whether he was prepared for the possibility of losing his farm.

"You've got to deal with what you've got to deal with - if you don't stand for what you believe is right then that's it," he said.

The court had sought to rule on costs, but that will be decided on submissions in the coming weeks after a request from Mr Marsh's counsel.  Costs are estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mr Baxter has said the funds he received from Monsanto were considered to be a loan, and the support was no different to what Mr Marsh had received from other groups.

Safe Food Foundation Director Scott Kinnear described Mr Marsh as a "hero" for "standing up" to GM technology.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Kinnear said the farmer would continue to have the organisation's support if he decided to appeal further.  "We have to sort this issue out, we have to sort it out either in the courts, or politically it needs to be sorted out," he said.

Mr Kinnear said Mr Marsh was already "down significantly on funds".  "He's lost his sheep, which was a significant part of his income," he said.  "We have to help him get back to where he was."

Pastoralists and Graziers Association grain growers' committee chairman John Snook said the decision had big implications for farmers.

"What it means is [farmers] can grow GM canola with certainty, they don't have to be worried about being potentially attacked and sued by an organic neighbour," he said.  "We have always stood by Michael Baxter and will continue to do so until this issue is completely finished."

Appeals Court president Justice Carmel McLure decided in favour of Mr Marsh and his wife, who were both appellants.

She found the interference with the appellants' use and enjoyment of their property was both substantial and unreasonable and constituted a private nuisance.

Justice McLure said Mr Baxter "had actual knowledge of the risk of decertification when he engaged in the conduct which caused the harm to the appellants". She said Mr Marsh was entitled to damages amounting to $85,000.

But Justice David Newnes and Justice Graeme Murphy decided in favour of Mr Baxter.

They said Mr Marsh's choice of farming operations did not mean Mr Baxter's lawful use of his own land "constituted a wrongful interference with the appellants' use or enjoyment of their land".

They also said Mr Marsh and his wife had "put their land to an abnormally sensitive use" and they could not "unilaterally enlarge their own rights" and impose limitations on their neighbours to a greater extent than would otherwise be the case.


Australian conservative Think-Tank praised for role in carbon tax demise

THE Institute of Public Affairs is in the running to win an international prize for its role in repealing the carbon tax.

THE right-wing think tank is a finalist for the $US100,000 ($A142,000) Templeton Freedom Award, granted by American non-profit organisation The Atlas Network.

A glowing description of the IPA's campaign strategy against the carbon tax, which was passed under the Gillard government in 2011 and repealed by the Abbott government in 2014, is detailed on The Atlas Network website.

The report lauds the IPA's influence in the Australian media landscape.

"Starting from the day the tax was announced, the IPA took an active role in the mainstream media to counter the misinformation that advocates of the carbon tax were peddling," the report reads.

"The IPA's research and analysis of the economics underpinning the case for the carbon tax appeared in print media outlets 209 times between Jan 1, 2010, and July 31, 2014.

"IPA research scholars also featured on radio and television stations around Australia, with 363 radio appearances between 2008 and 2013 and 261 television appearances in the same time frame."

The report praises the effectiveness of then IPA policy director Tim Wilson's efforts in representing a "contrarian perspective".

IPA deputy executive director James Paterson is quoted in the report saying revenue raised by the carbon tax was used to "grow the welfare state, subsidise politically favoured industries and engage in economy-wide welfare distribution".

The report concludes: "The carbon tax repeal has signalled that Australia is more open for business by eliminating costly compliance measures that served as a significant financial and time burden on Australian businesses and provided a significant barrier to entry for the energy market, especially for potential large investors."

The IPA will find out if it has won the prize at a New York event in November.


Leftists hate mentions of the Nazis (unless they are doing it)

Hence the complaint below.  They don't present any evidence that the comparisons are inaccurate though

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott loves a rhetorical flourish, but it may be time for him to change up his metaphors.

In an interview on the Sydney radio station 2GB on Thursday, the prime minister linked the Islamic State's brutal techniques of oppression to the Nazis' attempted genocide of the Jews.

"The Nazis did terrible evil but they had a sufficient sense of shame to try to hide it," he said. "These people boast about their evil, this is the extraordinary thing." The discussion came as the Australian government weighs up whether to join U.S. air strikes in Syria against the group.

The term "Nazis" immediately trended on Australian Twitter, as people expressed their disgust with the comparison.

This hardly the first time Abbott has reached for the National Socialists to make a point.

On the same radio station in September 2014, Abbott made a very similar argument about the terrorist group. "We’ve seen in the century just gone, the most unspeakable things happen, but the atrocities that were committed by the Nazis, by the communists and others, they were ashamed of them, they tried to cover them up," he explained. "This mob, by contrast, as soon as they’ve done something gruesome and ghastly and unspeakable, they’re advertising it on the internet for all to see." ....

Surely we can agree it's time all politicians retired the Nazis from their verbal repertoire.  [What?? No more "Bush=Hitler" placards?  I guess not.  But will we see "Trump=Hitler"?  Seems likely]


Tony Abbott declares Australia-Indonesia ties on the mend

The resumption of live cattle exports is good news.  The arrogant Gillard nearly killed that trade off, causing great losses to graziers

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared Australia-Indonesia ties on the mend after Jakarta scrapped visa fees for Australian tourists for destinations other than Bali.

Mr Abbott said on Thursday the lines of communication between him and Indonesian President Joko Widodo had reopened despite the strains earlier this year over the execution of Australian Bali Nine drug smugglers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

Indonesia has waived visa fees for tourists from 46 countries including Australia from October though a $50 fee remains in place for the most popular destination for Australians – Bali.

Jakarta is willing to scrap the Bali charge but its understood Australia has refused to offer reciprocal arrangements to Indonesian citizens.

"Occasionally there are ups and downs, but certainly under this government, there will be no gratuitous offence given," Mr Abbott said in Melbourne on Thursday.

Mr Abbott's comments also came after the live cattle trade to Indonesia appears to be recovering.

Indonesia cut quotas but reversed the move to head off a beef shortage, receiving a shipment of 2000 cattle on Wednesday with another 7500 to be delivered in September.

Mr Abbott said he aimed to develop Australia as the place Indonesians naturally chose if they were keen on an overseas education and for holidays in the region.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop ruled out changing Australia's no-exemption policy for tourists from any country following a breakfast meeting with her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi in Sydney.

Ms Bishop said Ms Marsudi had explained Indonesia would love to provide Australia with visa exemptions to all destinations but only if they received reciprocity from Australia.

"Our policy is across the board, there are no exemptions," Ms Bishop said.

Ms Bishop declared the relationship "in good shape" and said she and Ms Marsudi had become "text buddies".

"Retno Marsudi and I keep in constant contact … much to the chagrin of our diplomats," Ms Bishop said.

Ms Bishop is a well-known adopter of social media and particular emojis.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb is expected to lead a business mission to Indonesia soon. It was postponed at the time of the executions.

Indonesia's Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu declared on Wednesday that military ties with Australia were back on track after the setback of the executions.


3 September, 2015

Obama takes veiled shot at PM Abbott on Climate?

Speaking to a global leadership conference on the Arctic, President Obama says that those who want to ignore the science 'are on their own shrinking island' and any world leader that doesn't take climate change seriously is 'not fit to lead.'  

As the highest profile leader to rebuff Obama's pressure on climate, Australian prime minister Tony Abbott famously called much of the science behind catastrophic climate change 'absolute crap' and successfully repealed Australia's deeply unpopular carbon tax.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: "So the time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers has passed. The time to plead ignorance is surely passed. Those who want to ignore the science they are increasingly alone. They are on their own shrinking island. [...] Any leader willing to take a gamble on a future like that, any so-called leader who does not take this issue seriously or treats it like a joke, is not fit to lead."

Australia set to rack up world’s longest growth streak

Australia is on track to surpass 26 consecutive years of growth, according to its treasurer, swiping the modern-era record from the Netherlands despite a slowdown in its biggest trading partner, China.

In a bullish forecast, Joe Hockey said the economy was benefiting from capital inflows from China in response to recent stock market volatility and dismissed concerns that Australia was now too reliant on trade with Beijing.

“Cassandras are loud, whereas optimists are getting on with the job. We are going to break the record and go beyond the Dutch,” he said. “Our growth is somewhere between 2 and 2.5 per cent and that’s with the biggest fall in the terms of trade in our history.”

The Netherlands enjoyed 26 years of economic growth between 1982 and 2008 on the back of discovery of North Sea oil. In comparison, Australia has enjoyed 24 years of uninterrupted growth driven, in part, by reforms put in place after the last recession in 1991, and China’s rapacious appetite for its resources over the past decade.

However, a slump in iron ore prices, falling mining investment and slower than expected growth in China are prompting some economists to warn the good times may be over Down Under where the unemployment rate increased to 6.3 per cent in July, from 6.1 per cent in June.

Morgan Stanley forecasts Australia’s economy shrank 0.1 per cent in the second quarter, when compared with the previous three months, due to a weather-related drag on exports, weak business investment and domestic demand.

Authorities will publish second-quarter growth figures on Wednesday. But in an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Hockey said commentators warning of a possible economic bust in Australia were “dead wrong” and the economy was much more diversified than many foreign observers understood.

“If our economy was deteriorating then why is there overwhelming consensus that unemployment has peaked? I see positive signs and I can see where our growth is going to come from,” he said.

Mr Hockey said Australia was uniquely placed to benefit from China and Asia’s long-term growth by exporting resources, agricultural produce and services to the region. “Our services industry, which is 70 per cent of our economy, provides everything that the emerging middle class wants in healthcare, education, tourism and financial services,” he said. “It is starting to lift quite significantly.”

He said Australia was experiencing a surge in foreign investment into real estate and this would continue while China’s stock market remained volatile.

For the first time in 2013-14, China became the largest source of foreign investment in Australia, leapfrogging the US. Total investment in real estate was $74.6bn, up from $51.9bn a year earlier.

“There is a Chinese middle class looking for stability and certainty in returns and the more volatile the Chinese stock market, the more likely they will go searching around the world for investments they understand, in countries they understand,” he said.

He said the boom in property investment was helping the economy’s transition from a decade-long mining investment boom by creating jobs in housing and apartment construction.

Analysts agree that despite Australia’s mining recession, there is room for cheer on the broader economy.  “There is a bit of a paradox here as in part the economy is being driven by strong Chinese investment into real estate and new apartment building, strong tourism numbers and strong foreign student numbers,” said Ivan Colhoun, an economist with National Australia Bank. “It is important to remember that the non-mining economy is much bigger than the mining economy in Australia. A weaker Australian dollar is helping to support the transition of the economy from mining.”

Mr Hockey said Australia welcomed investment from China, as long as it complied with rules prohibiting purchases of established properties by foreign buyers while allowing investment in new buildings. “It is helping to fuel a construction boom in Sydney, Melbourne, increasingly in Brisbane and I think we will see it spread around the country,” he said.

A housing shortage meant fast-rising house prices in Sydney and Melbourne were not a “bubble”, he said.

Mr Hockey said Chinese investors were targeting Australian infrastructure and were welcome to buy electricity assets, which are being leased by states to raise cash for investment. State Grid Corporation of China is one of several Chinese companies considering a bid to lease New South Wales’ electricity network.

Mr Hockey said economic recovery in the US, a big investor in Australia, and Japan — Australia’s second-biggest trading partner — would help cushion the country from a slowdown in China.
“We are not so large an economy that we have all our eggs in one basket with one trading partner,” he said.


Municipalities: Bigger not better

A recent advertisement in Sydney papers proclaims “It’s time to get councils working better for local communities”. So says the state government’s Office of Local Government. The ‘a’ word did not appear, but the ad was clearly the start of a softening-up campaign for the Baird government’s local council amalgamation policy, which few citizens seem to want.

No government should use taxpayer money to promote policy proposals through advertising. Every opposition agrees, but only until they get into government. But that’s not the main point of this commentary.

Sometimes governments are justified in pushing a policy hard against public opinion – that’s what leaders do. But just why the Baird government is determined to push hard in this instance is unclear. Why does bigger have to be better? The functions local government performs in Australia don’t require huge scale for effective delivery.

Many small communities welcome the greater accessibility and responsiveness of councils that are close to them, want to keep their own identity, don’t want to be absorbed by a large, impersonal entity, and are willing to pay if having their own local council means overhead costs are a bit higher.

Judging by the advertising, the state government’s case is tendentious. It tells us that New South Wales has “nearly twice as many councils as Victoria or Queensland”, as if this is shocking. But can’t NSW be right and the others wrong?

“The system is not working as well as it should.” What system of government is? Local government has it problems, but why is amalgamation the answer? In some cases it may be, but not as a generalisation.

You know they’re scraping the barrel when they assert the happy outcome will be that councils “can invest in better services and facilities.” Investment always sounds good, but there is no evidence that fewer, bigger councils would ‘invest’ more in the true meaning of that word, or on better things.


Dyson Heydon’s decision: confected outrage loses to common sense

The decision by royal commissioner Dyson Heydon marks a definitive win for law and reason over confected outrage and brute politics. Did the unions really imagine they could exploit a trivial incident to destroy the reputation of a sitting royal commissioner and shut down the royal commission into union corruption? Did they really believe they could pull the strings of a royal commissioner in the same way they pull the strings of Labor politicians? Did they expect they could resort to the kind of intimidation in the royal commission hearing room that they have resorted to in workplaces?

They were wrong on all counts. In an age of confected outrage, where emotion trumps reason with increasing frequency and intensity, the decision by Heydon was a win for old-fashioned common sense and facts. Curiously, you wouldn’t have learned the salient facts from the ABC radio’s premier news program PM last night. Instead of reporting the real reasons claims by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, ACTU and other unions failed, the ABC’s Mark Colvin and Brendan Trembath spent most of their report ridiculing the fact Heydon said he did not have a computer and did not use email. Sinking to new levels of poor journalism, the national broadcaster chose to report how Heydon’s disclosure was mocked on Twitter.

So let’s do what the $1bn-funded ABC couldn’t manage to do: consider the facts. The various unions argued the agreement by Heydon to give the Sir Garfield Barwick address signalled he had “an affinity with, and partiality in favour of, the Liberal Party”, that he “had a political persuasion or allegiance toward the Liberal Party” or that he held “a political prejudice against the Australian Labor Party”. The unions based their apprehended bias claims on two arguments : first, that he accepted an invitation to address a Liberal Party event; second, that Heydon had the intention of raising funds, or generating support for the ­Liberal Party.

Heydon found the facts did not support either assertion. His decision was what you would expect from a judge who has earned a reputation as a “black-letter” lawyer: it was a dry, factual, carefully reasoned judgment. He found that a fair-minded observer, operating reasonably, with knowledge of all the relevant circumstances, could not conclude that a willingness to give a legal address such as the Barwick address indicated any predisposition on the speaker’s part towards the Liberal Party or against the ALP or the unions.

Addressing the claims in detail, Heydon pointed to an August 12 email confirming the Barwick address. It stated: “As you know, although nominally under the auspices of the Liberal Party lawyers’ professional branches, this is not a fundraiser — the cost charged is purely to cover dinner …” So much for the unions’ bogus argument that this was a cosy little Liberal Party event. As Heydon found, “nominal” means “in name only, not actual or real”. The lecture was purely legal. It was open to anyone. And it was widely publicised by the NSW Bar Association. Needless to say, Heydon didn’t point out that the NSW Bar Association was hardly a hotbed of conservative politics.

To prove the absence of bias, apprehended or otherwise, in agreeing to give the legal lecture, Heydon presented more facts, including a short precis of his intended address. Titled The Judicial Stature of Chief Justice Barwick Viewed from a Modern Perspective, Heydon intended to look at how the High Court operated under Barwick, the legal doctrines it followed, which subsequently have fallen out of fashion, changes in constitutional construction since Barwick’s day and how Barwick used his experience as a trial lawyer on the bench. There’s not a scintilla of politics in Heydon’s intended address. Heydon pointed to other facts that demolished union claims of apprehended bias: Michael Kirby gave the Alfred Deakin lecture while he was chairman of the Australian Law Reform Commission, the Earle Page lecture while he was president of the NSW Court of Appeal and the Neville Wran lecture when he was a High Court judge.

Indeed, he found that “if it was enough to disqualify a person from a role because a fair-minded observer might conclude that the person held political views, there would be no one who could occupy the role”. And as for the equally contrived claim of the legal lecture being a fundraiser, the same August 12 email knocks that claim over too.

The campaign to remove Heydon for apprehended bias marks one of the darkest episodes of hysteria-fuelled politics in Australia. It is an apt reminder the abuse of union power in Australia has never been more insidious.

Union leaders sunk to new levels of desperate and debased tactics to remove Heydon and derail the royal commission because they have so much to lose.

Their chorus line of confected outrage is meant to distract us from evidence to the royal commission of union thuggery, intimidation, secret deals, secret payments (including an undeclared $40,000 paid to Bill Shorten by construction company Unibuilt when he was a union leader to fund his 2007 political campaign), bogus memberships to boost the power of unions, and deals where employers paid for membership dues. Even current Victorian boss of the Australian Workers Union, Ben Davis, told the royal commission he was “decidedly uncomfortable” about the creation of bogus memberships and said deals where employers paid membership dues undermined the negotiating power of unions.

This episode is a reminder too that the abuse of union power extends beyond the workplaces of union members and deep into the Labor Party. Union influence over Labor means the alternative government and alternative prime minister of Australia cannot take a responsible stance against union corruption in the national interest. How can they when most Labor MPs, including Shorten, are products of the union movement, owe their positions to union patronage and the party depends on union money to win elections?

Had Heydon decided to step down on Monday and effectively rewarded the brazen attempts at character assassination by the unions and Labor, it would have set a dangerous precedent for the future. It would have been a shot in the arm for further abuse of union power and, more broadly too, a boon for a growing industry of activists who use emotion to drown out facts.

Heydon’s decision showed that facts can trump confected outrage. More important, Heydon’s decision proves the abuse of union power that reaches into workplaces and into the Labor Party does not extend into the hearing room of the royal commission.


The next step in the attack on Dyson Heydon

In a squalid stunt Labor has debased any claims to principle in the Dyson Heydon dispute and will now ask the Governor-General to act improperly, trash the principles of responsible government and violate the conventions of his office.

The Senate has no role and no powers in the Royal Commission on Trade Union Governance and Corruption. The recommended “address” Labor proposes from the Senate has no legal standing whatsoever. It will be rejected by the Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove. This is a stunt designed to put the Senate’s imprimatur on the campaign to destroy Heydon and the royal commission.

Opposition legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus said that next Monday when the Senate sits Labor will proceed with “a petition to the Governor-General to remove Dyson Heydon from this office”. On what basis? There is no finding against Heydon. There is no illegality or act of impropriety committed by him. The argument is that Labor and the unions and, perhaps a majority of the Senate, think he is biased. The evidence is that, like many judges, he agreed to talk at a party event.

Have no doubt, what is proposed is an abuse of the Senate’s power and an abuse of the Governor-General’s powers.

How desperate is the Labor Party? How far will Labor go in this campaign? What next? Perhaps a Labor delegation to Buckingham Palace given that the letters patent establishing the royal commission are issued in the name of “Elizabeth The Second” who is “Queen of Australia”.

If the Governor-General won’t intervene to protect the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, then might the Queen?

This decision is a serious blunder. It reveals Labor as a party prepared to play with the idea of vice-regal sabotage merely to extract more publicity in its campaign to protect the unions.

It is extraordinary that Labor’s Senate leader, Penny Wong would venture down this path. It terminates any Labor claims to ethics and public interest in this issue.

The principles here are exactly the same as in the 1975 crisis. On that occasion the governor-general, Sir John Kerr, acted on a motion passed by the Senate, defied the advice of the prime minister, broke the conventions surrounding his office and took a unilateral decision to preference the wishes of the Senate over the position of the executive government.

This issue is different this time but the principles are the same.

The propaganda line that this is merely another application of the long-established method of Senate “addresses” is hogwash for the reason that this seeks an executive decision from the Governor-General that defies the Prime Minister.

Does this sound like routine Senate business? If Cosgrove acted on such a Senate address then, as an honourable man, he would have to resign as well.

If he did not resign, then Tony Abbott would approach the Queen to dismiss the Governor-General for violating the most important conventions surrounding his office.

Yes, it’s all ludicrous. But that is merely a judgment on how ludicrous Labor has become with this idea.

The royal commission was established on March 13 last year with Heydon as commissioner flowing from an executive council minute signed by then governor-general Quentin Bryce, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The governor-general acted on advice. Any motion by the Senate requesting that Cosgrove, as Bryce’s successor, remove Heydon is tantamount to the Governor-General defying that advice.

For what reason? This is the ­really gobsmacking part. There is, in fact, no case beyond pure politics. Understand what Labor is proposing. It is telling the Governor-General that the views of the Senate must take preference over the views of the House of Representatives where the Abbott government has the numbers.

Dreyfus said on Monday that “it is now left for the parliament to act”. That is a false statement. Labor is asking the Senate to act. The parliament will not be acting because the House of Representatives supports Heydon.

It is entirely open to Abbott to pass his own motion through the house for dispatch to the Governor-General.

If the unions want, they can pursue their case against Heydon through the proper legal channels.

That means going to the courts to challenge Heydon’s dismissal of the union applications that he stand down. This is now a test not just for Heydon but for the unions.

They have shouted from the rooftops his decision on Monday is wrong. Is it? Or are the unions and the ALP wrong? If the unions don’t go the courts they admit they don’t believe in their own case.

In that situation neither the public nor media should believe in it. Heydon has called the union bluff and the ACTU must make the next move.

Any Senate action, of course, beyond grandstanding, would be pre-empting the proper legal processes that should be employed if Labor and the unions were serious about pursuing Heydon.

The notion of a Senate “address” is the traditional method of communication with the governor-general or monarch. Occasionally it is used for “non-standard” issues such as in 1931, when the Senate addressed the governor-general, Sir Isaac Isaacs, on the issue of regulation making. It is the best precedent for the current proposal and Isaacs did not comply with the Senate’s request.

The truth, however, is that there is no real precedent for what Labor proposes: a disreputable Senate inviting the Governor-General to abuse the terms of his office and break his obligations to the Australian public.

What is happening with the Labor Party?

Its behaviour is now obsessive in seeking to protect unions from the documented exposure of criminality and in threatening the Australia-China FTA on behalf of a misleading union campaign on the issue of jobs protectionism.

Labor insists that it opposes union corruption wherever it is found. Sorry, that claim doesn’t stand up. You cannot pretend to be the enemy of union corruption and simultaneously seek to destroy the royal commission on union corruption.

It’s a zero-sum game: achieving one comes at the price of the other.

The sad reality, it seems, is that Labor is now bound and hostage to the political, financial and institutional power of the unions.

It is the sheer nakedness of its campaigns to destroy the royal commission and risk the FTA in the course of union interests that is so astonishing.

It reminds that the biggest issue in politics today, outside the mounting implosion of the Abbott government, is the political and policy dependency of the Labor Party and the unions.

The unanswered question is: what is the price for the country?


2 September, 2015

Ethical collapse at the University of Western Australia

They will do anything to prop up their Warmist psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky and his very odd research methods

The Lewandowsky, Gignac, and Oberauer paper in PLOS ONE has been substantially corrected. I had alerted the journal last fall that there were serious errors in the paper, including the presence of a 32,757-year-old in the data, along with a 5-year-old and six other minors. The paleoparticipant in particular had knocked out the true correlation between age and the conspiracy belief items (the authors had reported there was no correlation between age and anything else.)

Deeply troubling issues remain. The authors have been inexplicably unwilling to remove the minors from their data, and have in fact retained two 14-year-olds, two 15-year-olds, a 16-year-old, and a 17-year-old. This is strange given that the sample started with 1,001 participants. It is also wildly unethical.

To provide some context, let me lay out the timeline:

October 4, 2013: Lewandowsky was alerted on his own website that there was a 32,757-year-old and a 5-year-old in his data.

There was no correction. Recall that he had reported analyses of the age variable in the paper, and that these analyses were erroneous because of the 32,757-year-old.

August 18, 2014: On the PLOS ONE page for the paper, I alerted the authors to the 32,757-year-old, the 5-year-old, and the six other minors in their data (along with several other problems with the study.)

There was no correction.

September 22, 2014: I contacted PLOS ONE directly and reported the issue. I had waited over a month for the authors to correct their paper after the notification on August 18, but they had mysteriously done nothing, so it was time to contact the journal.

August 13, 2015: Finally, a correction was published. It is comprehensive, as there were many errors in their analyses beyond the age variable.

I'd like to pause here to say that PLOS ONE is beautiful and ethically distinctive. They insisted that the authors publish a proper correction, and that it thoroughly address the issues and errors in the original. They also placed a link to the correction on top of the original paper. The authors did not want to issue a proper correction. Rather, Lewandowsky preferred to simply post a comment on the PLOS ONE page for the paper and call it a corrigendum. This would not have been salient to people reading the paper on the PLOS ONE page, as it requires that one click on the Comments link and go into the threads. Notably, Lewandowsky's "corrigendum" was erroneous and required a corrigendum of its own... It was also remarkably vague and uninformative.

A serious ethical issue remains – they kept the minors in their data (except the 5-year-old.) They had no prior IRB approval to use minors, nor did they have prior IRB approval to waive parental consent. In fact, the "ethics" office at the University of Western Australia appears to be trying to retroactively approve the use of minors as well as ignoring the issue of parental consent. This is ethically impossible, and wildly out of step with human research ethics worldwide. It also cleanly contradicts the provisions of the Australian National Statement on Ethical Conduct of Human Research (PDF). In particular, it contradicts paragraphs 4.2.7 through 4.2.10, and 4.2.12. The conduct of the UWA ethics office is consistent with all their prior efforts to cover up Lewandowsky's misconduct, particularly with respect to Lewandowsky's Psych Science paper, which should be treated as a fraud case. UWA has refused everyone's data requests for that paper, and has refused to investigate. Corruption is serious problem with human institutions, one that I increasingly think deserves a social science Manhattan Project to better understand and ameliorate. UWA is a classic case of corruption, one that mirrors those reported by Martin.

Here is the critical paragraph regarding minors in the PLOS ONE correction:

"Several minors (age 14–17) were included in the data set for this study because this population contributes to public opinions on politics and scientific issues (e.g. in the classroom). This project was conducted under the guidelines of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC). According to NH&MRC there is no explicit minimum age at which people can give informed consent (as per What is required instead is to ascertain the young person’s competence to give informed consent. In our study, competence to give consent is evident from the fact that for a young person to be included in our study, they had to be a vetted member of a nationally representative survey panel run by (partner of, who collected the data). According to information received from the panel provider, they are legally empowered to empanel people as young as 13. However, young people under 15 are recruited to the panel with parental involvement. Parental consent was otherwise not required. Moreover, for survey respondents to have been included in the primary data set, they were required to answer an attention filter question correctly, further attesting to their competence to give informed consent. The UWA Human Rights Ethics Committee reviewed this issue and affirmed that “The project was undertaken in a manner that is consistent with the Australian National Statement of Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007).”

The above may be difficult for people to parse and unpack. Here are the essentials we can extract from it:

1. There was no prior IRB approval for the use of minors. (UWA's review was retroactive, amazingly.)

2. Parental consent was not obtained for minors who were at least 15 years of age.

3. Obtaining parental consent for 13 and 14-year-olds was delegated to a market research company. However, the term "consent" is not used in this case. Rather, the authors claim that the market research company recruited these kids with "parental involvement". It's not clear what this term means.

4. The UWA "ethics" committee is attempting to grant retroactive approval for the use of minors and the lack of parental consent, as well as the delegation of consent obtainment to a market research company. They cite the National Statement of (sic) Ethical Conduct in Human Research, even though it contains no provision for retroactive approvals or cover-ups. In fact, the Statement does not contemplate such absurdities at all.

Every one of the above four points is revolutionary. This is an ethical collapse. Researchers worldwide would be stunned to hear of this. No IRB approval for the use of minors? No parental consent? A new age threshold of 15 for parental consent, and 13 for participation? Delegating parental consent to a market research company? An IRB acting as a retroactive instrument? An IRB covering up the unapproved use of minors? I'm not sure we've ever encountered any one of these things. Having all of these happen at the same time is a singularity, an ethical event horizon that dims the sun.

Notably, their citation of the NH&MRC page is a sham. The page makes no mention of age or minimum ages. It ultimately defers to Chapter 4.2, which takes for granted that there is IRB approval to use minors, as well as parental consent. (See the Respect and Standing Parental Consent sections.) It does not contemplate a universe where IRB approval is not obtained. It's extremely disturbing that staff at UWA would try to deceive the scientific community with a sham citation.

I contacted UWA about these issues some months ago. As far as I can tell, they refuse to investigate. It's as though their ethics office is specifically designed to not investigate complaints if they think they can escape scrutiny and legal consequences. Mark Dixon of the UWA anti-ethics office said the following in an e-mail:

"However, this project was designed for a general demographic. Surveys targeted to a general population do not prohibit the collection of data from minors should they happen to respond to the survey."

"You are probably aware that the survey written up in the article was an online survey, where consent is indicated by the act of taking the survey."

"Inclusion or omission of outliers, such as the '5 year old' and the '32,000 year old', are reasonable scholarship when accompanied by explanatory notes. However, it would be unusual to actually delete data points from a data-set, so I don't understand your concern about the remaining presence of such data-points in the data-set."

"You expressed concern that the survey “… did not even ask participants for their ages until the end of the study, after participation and any "consent" had been secured". Demographic information is routinely collected at the end of a survey. This is not an unusual practice."

To say that these statements are alarming is an understatement. He thinks research ethics doesn't apply to online studies. He thinks we don't need to obtain consent for online studies, that simply participating is consent. He thinks 5-year-olds and 32,757-year-olds are "outliers" and that it is reasonable to retain them (is he aware that the age variable was analyzed?) He thinks researchers can ask someone's age at the end of a study. This person retains the title "Associate Director (Research Integrity)", yet he appears to know nothing of research or research integrity. The best explanations here are that he has no training in human research ethics and/or he's corrupt. This is such an extraordinary case.

For lay readers, let me note the following:

1. An online study is a study like any other study. The same research ethics apply. There's nothing special about an online study. Whether someone is sitting in front of a computer in a campus lab, or in their bedroom, the same ethical provisions apply.

2. We always require people to be at least 18 years of age, unless we are specifically studyinging minors (which would require explicit IRB approval).

3. We always include a consent form or information sheet at the start of an online study. This form explains the nature of the study, what participants can expect, how long it should take, what risks participation may pose to the participant, any compensation they will receive, and so forth. Notably, the form will explicitly note that one must be at least 18 to participate.

4. We always ask age up front, typically the first page after a person chooses to participate (after having read the consent or information sheet.)

5. We always validate the age field, such that the entered age must be at least 18 (and typically we'll cap the acceptable age at 99 or so to prevent fake ages like 533 or 32,757.) All modern survey platforms offer this validation feature. A person cannot say that they are 5 years old, or 15 years old, and proceed to participate in an IRB-approved psychology study. We can't do anything about people who lie about their ages – either in an online study or an in-person study on campus – but if they submit a minor age, it's a full stop. Because of this, there should never be minors or immortals in our data.

At this point, I think PLOS ONE should retract the paper. We can't have unapproved – or retroactively approved – minors in data. UWA is clearly engaged in a cover-up, and their guidance should not inform PLOS ONE's, or any journal's, decisions. This exposes the structural ethical vulnerability we have in science – we rely on institutions with profound conflicts of interest to investigate themselves, to investigate their own researchers. We have broad evidence that they often attempt to cover up malpractice, though the percentages are unclear. Journals need to fashion their own processes, and rely much less on university "finders of fact". We should also think about provisioning independent investigators. In any case, UWA's conduct deserves to be be escalated and widely exposed, and it will be. This is far from over – we can't just sit passively given the severity of the ethical breaches here, and we won't.

Substantive note: The correction does not address one of the substantive errors in the original. Gender is the largest predictor of GMO attitudes. They never reported this, but rather implied that gender did no work. A lot of times boring variables like age and gender explain a lot of variance, and in this case gender explained more than any other. (Women trusted GMOs less, using Lewandowsky's primitive linear correlations on the scale index. It's unclear whether women actually distrusted GMOs – i.e. where the women clustered on the items. A correlation doesn't tell you this. A bad researcher would say "women distrusted GMOs" given a negative correlation coefficient, without specifying descriptives or their actual, substantive placement on the scale, which could in fact be pro-GMO, just less pro than men.)


Charter schools would boost grades in Australia: new report

This article from the "Age" was taken down yesterday but is now back up.  Amusing.  Maybe too many people noticed the deletion

US-style privately-owned public schools should be rolled out in Australia to boost academic standards, a new report by libertarian think-tank, the Centre for Independent Studies argues.

Privately-run public schools, or charter schools as they are known in the US, are funded by the government and run by private entities, which have full autonomy over the schools' finances, staffing and curriculum.

The schools, which do not charge fees, could boost innovation in the sector by giving schools more freedom, and givingdisadvantaged students more choice, writes the report's lead author,  Trisha Ja.

"Disadvantaged families are not currently catered for, either because their choice of public school is restricted by zoning, or because they cannot afford school fees, or they do not want a religious education for their children," the report said.

The think tank is also controversially lobbying all state and territory governments to consider allowing for-profit private companies to run the charter schools.

A for-profit school would attract more capital than non-profits, and would run more efficiently, the authors said.

"There is no objective reason not to allow for-profit companies to operate non-government schools ... especially if they have a proven track record of successful school provision and a stable company structure," the authors said.

"Almost all other forms of education provision have a for-profit sector – early childhood education, after-school tutoring services, disability support services, technical education and training, and universities … the exception is actual management of schools."

Privately-owned public schools are becoming increasingly prevalent in the US, while similar models have been rolled out in the UK, Chile, Sweden and New Zealand.

Studies show the average impact of charter schools range from "null to small positive effects", the report finds.

But some schools have boosted results for disadvantaged students, with successful schools adopting a "no excuses" approach, with a focus on traditional maths, reading instruction and strict discipline.

Critics argue charter schools do not achieve better results than public schools, and claim increasing competition in the sector leads to greater inequality. They also warn against for-profit charter schools, pointing to evidence overseas of financial mismanagement and fraud in the sector.

Under former Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett, Victorian public schools were given more autonomy over budget and staffing, making Victoria one of the most autonomous education systems in the country.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said autonomy was leading to "some great local innovation" in schools, but policies under the previous Napthine government's "autonomy agenda" – which included plans to set up "federated" school councils and give parents a greater say in the running of schools – resulted in "cuts and abandonment".

Australian Education Union Victorian president Meredith Peace said the government should be focusing on supporting under-resourced schools rather than boosting competition in the system.

"In Victoria in recent years, schools have become increasingly isolated and are forced to compete more and more with each other with limited funding. This is producing a wider equity gap and a wider gap for our kids, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds."

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the federal government is on track to increase autonomy in Australian schools, and has allocated $70 million to make public schools more independent.


Soldiers of The Empire of Offence laying free speech to waste

As of this week, Coles supermarkets across Australia will no longer sell Zoo Weekly, the silly, saucy mag for teenage lads. This decision follows months of campaigning by anti-porn outfit Collective Shout, which says Zoo Weekly is “highly offensive”.

Also this week, loudmouth Labor leader turned loopy columnist Mark Latham quit his writing gig at The Australian Financial Review over what some describe as his “deeply offensive” views on “feminism and other social issues”.

This follows weeks of heated debate over American rapper Tyler the Creator. He cancelled his Aussie tour following a campaign to keep him out of the country on the basis that his lyrics are “offensive to women”.

Campaigners have been badgering the Immigration Minister to revoke the visa of this “incontrovertibly offensive American”, as The Sydney Morning Herald called him.

It’s official: being offensive is now a risky business in Oz.

Whether you’re a jokey mag for awkward 15-year-olds, a former politician angry about new social movements, or a rapper who loves winding people up, you’re no longer allowed to give offence. Do so, and you could find yourself ejected from polite society, maybe even kept out of the country, as if you were diseased.

To get to Oz, I had to assure your authorities I was free of communicable diseases; perhaps future visa forms will demand to know if I am “incontrovertibly offensive”. “Sorry, mate, you can’t come in: offensive people not allowed.”

Zoo Weekly, Mark Latham and Tyler the Creator share something important in common. None of them committed criminal acts. None incited violence. They merely expressed views that rattled people’s sensibilities. And for that they’ve been harshly rapped on the knuckles.

Australia, it pains me to say, has been recolonised. Not by the Brits but by the Empire of Offence.

Already well-established in Eur­ope, where you can be arrested and even jailed for saying outre things, and spreading like a bossy blob across American campuses, the Empire of Offence is now consuming Oz, too. And for those of us who have always looked lovingly at Australia as a free-speakin’ nation, where everyone has a fair go and the C-word can be a term of endearment, this is really sad. If even Australia can fall to the culture of “You Can’t Say That!”, nowhere is safe.

Across the West, taking offence is all the rage.

Where earlier generations might have said, “I disagree with you, so let’s have it out,” today people are more likely to say: “I am offended by you, so I want you out of my newsagents, off Twitter and as far away from me as it’s possible for you to be put.”

On campuses in Britain and the US, students are setting up “safe spaces” in which offensive words and ideas may not be expressed.

In the US, some of these censorious cocoons, designed to protect students from ever hearing a cross word or strange idea, come complete with colouring books and soothing music — I’m not making this up — to induce a childlike feeling of supreme safety. Safety not from physical assault, but from ideas.

Many students now demand trigger warnings on books that might upset them.

Students at Columbia University in New York want even Ovid’s Metamorphoses to come with a warning because that great poem mentions rape, which some might find offensive.

The kind of warning that was once only issued for television shows with gratuitous violence — “some viewers may find this show upsetting” — is now being stuck on classic works of literature.

In Europe, meanwhile, there are actual laws against offending or insulting certain groups.

In Sweden, a pastor was given a one-month suspended prison sentence for saying, in his own church, that homosexuality is a “tumour” — which is, of course, offensive to gays.

In France, actress turned animal-rights activist Brigitte Bardot has been fined €30,000 ($46,800) for badmouthing the Islamic ritual slaughter of animals, which she considers barbaric.

And we wonder why we’re seeing the rise of nut jobs such as those gunmen who massacred the staff of the offensive magazine Charlie Hebdo. These guys were brought up on a continent where we’re constantly told that feeling offended is the worst thing ever, and we have the right to sue or silence or harass the person or thing that offends us.

The Charlie Hebdo killers are best seen as the armed wing of the Empire of Offence, the horrific logical conclusion to the institution of a new era of speech-punishing inoffensiveness.

And now the Empire of Offence has come to Oz. Sometimes it is enforced formally by laws, such as section 18C, which forbids “offending” groups of people.

And sometimes it’s enforced informally, by Twittermobs or campaign groups keen to shush or even send packing anyone they consider “incontrovertibly offensive”.

But either way, the end result is the same: eccentric individuals are silenced, which is always a bad thing, and the rest of society is infantilised, through being told that some ideas are just too dodgy, weird or outrageous for us to hear, and thus we must have our eyes and ears covered by Those Who Know Better. By the footsoldiers of the Empire of Offence.

Criminalising offensiveness is a really bad idea. Sure, the victims right now may be only people whom many of us agree are annoying. But we must remember that giving offence is often the engine of human progress.

From Copernicus’s then-contrarian insistence that the sun was at the centre of our solar system to suffragettes usurping of the “natural order” with their demand for the right to vote, many of today’s established good ideas started life as outrages against decency or normalcy.

As George Bernard Shaw said, “All great truths begin as blasphemies.”

If we quash offensiveness, and force field our societies against dangerous thinking, then we will create a sad, suffocating, risk-averse intellectual climate in which no great truths or breakthroughs are ever likely to be made.


Corruption at the Fair Work Commission

In the Fair Work Commission’s Melbourne headquarters on a warm November day in 2008, Mich­ael Lawler’s role supervising industrial relations for the health industry was dealt a fatal blow.

It was there that a high-level delegation including a senior Victorian health bureaucrat met then Fair Work president Geoffrey ­Giudice to register a devastating complaint: that his vice-president Lawler was shockingly conflicted because he had begun a relationship with Health Services Union secretary Kathy Jackson earlier that year.

Further, and of great concern, Lawler had not declared his involvem­ent with Jackson when he presided over two private concil­iation conferences on Aug­ust 5 and August 19 of that year, which included key represent­atives from the Victorian government, hospita­l employers and Jackson herself, following a bitter health industry strike.

The delegation to Giudice on November 20, 2008, at the commission’s Exhibition Street offices comprised Barbara Thompson, the director of industrial relations for the Victorian Human Services Department; Alec Djoneff, the chief executive of the Victorian Hospitals Industrial Association; and Val Gostencnik, then a partner at Corrs Chambers Westgarth, who advised the Victorian government and hospitals in the dispute. Gostencnik is now a Fair Work Commission deputy president.

The three believed Lawler should be stripped of his respons­ibility for the health system. They argued to Giudice that there was a fundamental conflict of interest that made it unsustainable for Lawler to retain his involvement in the sector.

They outlined information that had become an open secret in indus­trial relations circles regarding Lawler and Jackson starting a romantic relationship by early 2008.

And yet the employers and the government had been unaware of this relationship at the time of the conciliation conferences involving Lawler in August 2008.

According to other people the group later confided in, Giudice was said to be shocked and deeply concerned about the potential impact­ on the authority and standing of the commission.

Within months, the health ­sector had been quietly removed from the panel of industries overseen by Lawler.

Lawler, who recently returned to work at Fair Work after nine months’ paid leave over the past year, did not respond to questions from The Australian, sent through the commission last week, regarding the 2008 conferences.

Giudice has previously indi­c­at­ed that he was unable to answer any questions about Lawler’s role at Fair Work. Jackson, the fallen whistleblower who was this month found guilty of stealing more than $1 million from the HSU, has identified March 2008 as the date of the break-up of her marriage to fellow HSU official Jeff Jackson, with a new relationship starting later that same month.

The revelation about the timing of her relationship with Lawler — made in a witness statement to the trade union royal commission last year — formed part of her explan­ation that she could not have given her former husband $50,000 as a gift because they had already split up.

Rather, she said, she had legit­imately given the money for union faction fighting purposes.

She said that her relationship with Jeff Jackson had been over for a year at the time the payment was made in 2009.

In her statement dated August 14 last year, Jackson said: “I separ­ated permanently from Jeff Jackson on the Grand Prix weekend in March 2008. Later in March 2008, I established a new relationship and by March 2009, my relationship with Jeff Jackson was ­acrimonious.”

After the November 2008 meeting, Giudice transferred respon­sibility for the health industry to vice-president Graeme Watson.

Lawler had originally been assigned­ health and welfare as one of the industries in his panel two years after he was appointed to the commission in 2002 by then workplace minister Tony Abbott.

Under the Fair Work panel system, the president of the commission allocates panel heads — always the most senior members — and also the industries they supervise.

Lawler has been closely ­involved with Jackson’s war against her former union in recent years, taking nine months of fully paid sick leave on $435,000 a year in the past 12 months while supporting her. He tried to move her main asset, their home, into his name but was blocked at the 11th hour by the Federal Court in June.

During the 2007-08 health indus­try dispute, the HSU and employers entered a series of nego­tiations before the union sought arbitration. Several earlier conferences, presided over by other commission members, had failed before the two “last-ditch” conferences were unexpectedly initiated by the commission in August­, with Lawler presiding.

During those two conferences, Jackson, the state government, the hospitals association and a range of advisers and lawyers (although­ not Gostencnik) were all in the room.

Sources claim the second conference ended with angry words after Lawler repeatedly pressed the employers and the government to carefully consider the “risk” they took in proceeding to compulsory arbitration rather than settling matters before him in conciliation.

“He put a lot more pressure on the employers’ side than the union side,” said one attendee.

According to several people who were either in the room or who were advised about these matters afterwards, Lawler heatedly told the Victorian government representative, Thompson, that if she couldn’t make a decis­ion then he would talk to someone who could.

Lawler subsequently placed a call to the office of then state health minister Daniel Andrews, who is now the Victorian Premier. Lawler asked to speak to the minister. Andrews refused to speak to Lawler, declining to take the call.

Lawler did not respond to questions last week regarding the phone call to Andrews’s office.

The health industry pay dispute had disrupted hospitals across the state on Christmas Eve 2007, with Jackson warning the government that any non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses would go untreated in the run-up to Christmas.

Both Andrews and then premier John Brumby locked horns with Jackson as they urged striking workers to return to work.

Thompson, now an executive at Jetstar, and Djoneff at the VHIA, did not respond to questions regarding their attendance at the conferences in August 2008 and their approach to Giudice on November 20 that year to raise concerns about Lawler.

Gostencnik also declined to comment. He was appointed a deputy president of Fair Work in March 2013 after many years as a labour lawyer, where he acted at different times for many key ­figures in the drawn-out HSU saga.

A spokeswoman for Fair Work confirmed that Gostencnik had acted for the Victorian government and the VHIA during the 2007-08 health industry dispute while he was a partner at Corrs.

The Fair Work spokeswoman declined to make any comment on Gostencnik’s role in the November 2008 delegation to Giudice.

Lawler’s actions in 2008 raise fresh questions about his judgment, and his role as a senior figure­ at the independent umpire, given that such an obvious conflict of interest in presiding over the conferences was not disclosed.

Lawler has already provoked concern over his judgment, given his attempt to intervene on Jackson’s behalf in Federal Court proceedings in June last year while he was on sick leave, and his regular appearances in the court with Jackson while on sick leave, together­ with their joint efforts to shift her property beyond the grasp of the union.


1 September, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is critical of the way boys are being feminized

Qld ALP government afraid to block coal mining

A highly visible destruction of jobs would destroy their  government

SENIOR Palaszczuk Government figures have urged environmentalists within the Labor Party to be “pragmatic” and avoid hastily abandoning the state’s job-creating coal mining.

State Development Minister Anthony Lynham and Environment Minister Steven Miles yesterday faced down questions from the party faithful about the competing interests between Queensland’s mining industry and Labor’s environmental commitments.

Dr Lynham told the ALP State Conference there was a need to be “pragmatic”, while Dr Miles said Labor didn’t want to be the party that “jolts” the economy through a crackdown on coal. The state development minister said Queensland’s “future is with renewables”, but if Queensland didn’t mine coal, others would.

“We can mine coal in Queensland, where we have the highest mine safety record in the world, we mine coal with environmental rigour, and we mine coal that’s very efficient and economic to burn,” he said.

“If we don’t allow this to go ahead, coal is one of the most prolific minerals on Earth; there are many other sources of coal, but none as good as the coal we mine here.”

Dr Miles insisted Labor would balance job creation and the economy with the environment.  “We’re not just a bunch of greenies; we have the fantastic voices of our trade unions and, together, we can make sure working people are brought on this journey,” he said.  “We are not going to be the party that jolts the economy by closing down coal without a transition that adequately shifts the economy and takes workers with us.”

The internal contest between jobs and the environment was also highlighted through a heated stoush over a motion to amend the party’s policy platform to include ending sand mining on North Stradbroke Island by 2019.

Capalaba MP Don Brown, who is affiliated with left-wing union United Voice, locked horns with Ben Swan, the Queensland secretary of the AWU, which is aligned with Labor’s Right faction.

Mr Brown’s motion follows Palaszczuk Government confirmation this year that it will legislate by the end of the year to end sand mining by 2019.

But Mr Swan argued that workers were the “only group” that had been “left out of any consultation on this proposal”, despite the Government’s emphasis on consultation.  “That is a disgrace that workers and the unions have been left out,” he said.  “If this was the CFMEU mining and energy division, with respect to Acland, being treated this way, there would be howls of outrage.”

But Mr Brown said he had written to the AWU offering to meet with members, which was declined.


Master Builders Welcomes Royal Commissioner Heydon's Decision    

The vital work of the Royal Commission must now continue unfettered and free from future claims of bias following Justice Heydon’s decision to dismiss the attempts by the unions including the CFMEU to shut it down.

“It is in the community’s interest that the Royal Commission’s investigations into unlawful and corrupt behaviours in the construction industry continue,” Wilhelm Harnisch, CEO of Master Builders Australia said.

“Despite claims from vested interests in the construction unions, the integrity of the Commission’s processes have not been tainted, nor has the damning and compelling evidence that has so far been provided,” he said.

“The evidence given at the Royal Commission has been provided free from bias or intimidation and highlights the price the community and jobseekers pay for the conduct of the building unions,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

“The evidence has shown just how out of touch the building unions are with normal standards of community behaviour and with the conduct of normal unions. It has identified a culture of intimidation that allows corrupt behaviours to flourish. The building unions know they cannot morally defend these behaviours, yet they insist on trying,” he said.

“Master Builders fully supports the work of the Commission and anticipates its Final Report delivering strong recommendations for law reform, including for the return of a construction industry regulator with sufficient powers to bring the industry back to normality, free from intimidation and corruption.” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

Press release

Gayby Baby imbroglio - Denials, fear and a lack of tolerance

Miranda Devine

THE NSW Department of Education has been telling lies about the Gayby Baby controversy to cover up its covert campaign to “de-normalise” heterosexuality.

This newspaper reported accurately the concerns of numerous parents at Burwood Girls High over the planned compulsory screening to all 1200 students of the overtly political documentary promoting same-sex parenting.

Those concerns included direct complaints to the school and complaints made via three religious ministers acting on parental request. It was in response to those complaints that principal Mia Kumar changed her mind on Monday and allowed students to opt out of the screening.

Yet the department pretended there had been no complaints from parents, thus portraying our story as inaccurate and, worse, muzzling those concerned parents.

A department spokesperson was quoted in The Guardian on Wednesday, saying: “The school has not received any complaints from Burwood High School parents.”

That just wasn’t true. But the official disinformation has resulted in a campaign by GetUp against this newspaper, which includes a petition, a complaint to the Press Council, vituperative emails and a planned protest outside our offices. The idea is to intimidate us into silence.

In true Orwellian fashion, the word “complaint” has been redefined by the department. Apparently it’s not a “complaint” unless it’s logged at the school, or if it’s couched in polite language, or if it isn’t rubber-stamped by departmental bureaucracy. Rank sophistry.

Eventually, last night, the department admitted what we have known all along, that the school has received a number of complaints, both directly from parents and through proxies.

Religious ministers said parents asked them to intervene on their behalf.  Presbyterian minister Mark Powell said the calls began on Saturday morning. A meeting was convened on Monday night between 15 concerned parents and citizens to address the problem.

One father told Powell his daughter begged him not to complain to the school.  “I’ll be ostracised. They’ll call me a homophobe,” she said.

What an irony that a program designed to stamp out bullying ends up intimidating anyone with a different view.

After our story, minister Piccoli ordered the cancellation of the movie screening. But he is driving the Proud Schools program, which supports “sexual diversity” through exactly such events as the screening of Gayby Baby.

Ostensibly designed to stamp out homophobia, the Proud Schools program aims to eradicate the idea that heterosexuality is the norm in human relationships. It defines such thinking as bigotry and labels it “heterosexism”.

According to the Proud Schools’ Consultation Report, “positioning heterosexuality as the norm for human relationships [is] discriminating against non-heterosexual people. Heterosexism feeds homophobia.”

When parents complain about this propaganda, their concerns are airbrushed out of existence. And when this newspaper reports these facts we are subjected to a campaign of intimidation.

Great way to promote tolerance.


The new sugar correctness

An early learning centre in Sydney has banned birthday cakes to stop children from eating too much sugar and so kids with allergies don't get left out of celebrations.

The Only About Children (OAC) learning centre in Surry Hills, banned the baked dessert, 'stunning parents who pay $120 a day,' reported The Sydney Morning Herald.

The birthday cake embargo came after complaints from some parents that thought there were too many cakes being given to their kids because of the number of birthdays celebrated weekly.

A representative from OAC told the Sydney Morning Herald that: 'Birthday cakes exceed the nutritional guide for early childhood.'

'Some children were left out of birthday celebrations because of their allergies,' they continued.

OAC said having to exclude children from celebrating with their peers is a direct violation of their mission statement.

Seventy-three children attend the centre and although some concerns have been raised, a number of parents believe that the birthday cake is an integral part of the celebration and described the ban as 'completely unreasonable.'

One parent, who did not wish to be identified, told The Age: 'The birthday cake is a tradition, it's a coming together over something pleasant and enjoyable. It's those little moments of fun that make it a very important social event for the kids.'

Contraband cake will not allow children to gauge the importance of reserving treats for special occasions.

Parents banded together and said that 'rather than banning cake, children could be given smaller slices or parents advised how to provide allergy-free cakes that everyone could enjoy.'

KU children's services will offer to bake a cake on behalf of families that meets the dietary requirements of all children.

The chief executive of KU children's services, Christine Legg told The Age, 'most parents are happy for their child's birthday to be celebrated at the centre, including cake.'

OAC is offering alternatives to parents worried about the ban, including 'making a crown to wear on the day, whizzing up healthy fruit smoothies with their classmates or choosing which activities to do.'

OAC Surry Hills centre director said, 'Children's birthdays are exciting milestones and are important to recognise and celebrate at the campus.'

'But in doing so there are many aspects we might like to consider, including family culture and preferences, health and nutrition, equality amongst the children and a sense of fun,' she said.

'With this in mind we have made the decision to stop the bringing of birthday cakes on children's birthdays to campus,' she continued.

The efforts to maintain a healthy environment for kids, has seen rules employed to maximise health across Australian child care centres.

The staying healthy in childcare booklet released by the Australian Government said: 'Birthday cakes and blowing out candles when it is a child's birthday, many children like to bring a cake to share with their friends.'

'One of the ways of minimising the spread of droplet infection, is to encourage parents to provide individual cupcakes with a single candle on the birthday child's cake,' it continued.

The birthday cake tradition originated in Europe moving to other western societies during the 19th century and commonly has icing on a sweet baked base.


The long slow death of long distance passenger trains

Cheap airfares have killed them off.  Only government keeps them rolling

THE South Australian government will provide more than $1 million to keep the Overland passenger train service running between Adelaide and Melbourne for at least the next three years.

UNDER the funding deal Great Southern Rail will continue to operate two return services each week, Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan says.

The state government has supported the service for the past 15 years and currently provides about $300,000 a year.

The Victorian government also provides some funding.

Until Thursday's announcement, Overland services were not guaranteed beyond the end of 2015, and fears were held for its continued operation after GSR moved to cut services for its Ghan and Indian Pacific trains.

From July 2016, the Ghan will only run between Darwin and Adelaide once each week, instead of twice, with the same changes to be made to the Indian Pacific train between Perth and Sydney.

Mr Mullighan said under the terms of new funding GSR had agreed to relocate operational and office staff in other states to Adelaide, and had committed to supporting local contractors for maintenance, capital and operational works.

"About 100,000 people use the Overland, Ghan and Indian Pacific each year and the services play an important role for the South Australian tourism industry," Mr Mullighan said.


HOME (Index page)

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.

In most Australian States there are two conservative political parties, the city-based Liberal party and the rural-based National party. But in Queensland those two parties are amalgamated as the LNP.

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

"Digger" is an honorific term for an Australian soldier

Another lesson in Australian: When an Australian calls someone a "big-noter", he is saying that the person is a chronic and rather pathetic seeker of admiration -- as in someone who often pulls out "big notes" (e.g. $100.00 bills) to pay for things, thus endeavouring to create the impression that he is rich. The term describes the mentality rather than the actual behavior with money and it aptly describes many Leftists. When they purport to show "compassion" by advocating things that cost themselves nothing (e.g. advocating more taxes on "the rich" to help "the poor"), an Australian might say that the Leftist is "big-noting himself". There is an example of the usage here. The term conveys contempt. There is a wise description of Australians generally here

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?

My son Joe

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.

The Rt. Rev. Phil Case (Moderator of the Presbyterian church in Queensland) is a Pharisee, a hypocrite, an abomination and a "whited sepulchre".

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 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.

Australia's original inhabitants were a race of pygmies, some of whom survived into modern times in the mountainous regions of the Atherton tableland in far North Queensland. See also here. Below is a picture of one of them taken in 2007, when she was 105 years old and 3'7" tall

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. Her signature "achievements" were the carbon tax and the mining tax, both of which were repealed by the next government.

The "White Australia Policy: "The Immigration Restriction Act was not about white supremacy, racism, or the belief that whites were higher up the evolutionary tree than the coloured races. Rather, it was designed to STOP the racist exploitation of non-whites (all of whom would have been illiterate peasants practicing religions and cultures anathema to progressive democracy) being conscripted into a life of semi-slavery in a coolie-worked plantation economy for the benefit of the absolute monarchs, hereditary aristocracy and the super-wealthy companies and share-holders of the northern hemisphere.

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."


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