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?


29 April, 2014

Multicultural murder shocks quiet Australian country town  --and me

This murder happened in the same part of the world that I come from and affects people of the sort that I grew up with.  I know the places concerned, even such obscure ones as Feluga.  This matter has therefore given me much grief.  I would burn the offender to death if I could.  I know the sort of farming family she comes from.  Lovely people.  To think that such a treasure as her is lost at the hands of a scum "refugee" is hard to bear.  Africans tend to be very pushy towards women and get aggressive when rejected  -- JR

HOMICIDE detectives swooped on Jo La Spina’s accused killer on Sunday, concerned that he was about to leave Sydney.  Musa Ngwira, a crocodile tour guide of South Mission Beach, was arrested by New South Wales police at his girlfriend’s home in Cronulla about 4pm on Sunday.

The 31-year-old, of African descent, faced Sydney Central Court yesterday on an arrest warrant charged with one count of murder.

Magistrate Jacqueline Trad confirmed the extradition in Sutherland Local Court yesterday with Ngwira to return to Queensland this morning.

Four detectives flew from far north Queensland to continue the high-profile investigation into the alleged slaying of rafting guide Ms La Spina, 26, in a Bingil Bay townhouse, south of Cairns on Easter Saturday.

Officers plan to extradite the accused on a flight back to Cairns tomorrow in a key breakthrough into the death that has shattered the tight-knit far-north tropical tourist haven of Mission Beach.

Lead investigator Acting Inspector Kevin Goan said detectives pounced on the alleged offender over fears he was about to move on.  Police had been tracking his movements ever since he was released from two days in police custody last Monday.

NSW Police homicide squad detectives had Ngwira under surveillance as a team of Queensland detectives waited on DNA and forensic tests, a post-mortem, CCTV footage and witness statements.


More background

JO LA Spina was alone and asleep by herself when she was brutally slain in a "targeted" attack.

Police yesterday revealed the 26-year-old rafting guide was in an upper bedroom of a Bingil Bay townhouse south of Cairns and had not been ­"intimate" with anyone on the Good Friday night she was killed.

Spoken of by friends as sweet, pure and a beautiful soul, her murder has sent shock waves through her tight-knit rafting crew.

On the night of the attack, La Spina and a group of friends had dinner, went dancing, lit a campfire on the beach, and walked back to the nearby townhouse to sleep, but just hours later, evil struck.

Police will only say the suspect is a "dark-skinned male".

Deeper background

To say her death has rocked the small community is an understatement as they grieve for the former Tully State School student, who came from a well-known and respected local farming family.

She went to Blackheath and Thornburgh College in Charters Towers for high school, graduating in 2005, then lived in Cairns and Townsville before coming back to Feluga, where her family live, to work as a photographer for rafting company Raging Thunder.

"She was a likable, bubbly, friendly girl," Acting Insp. Goan said.

Nauru to put five year limit on stay of refugees

Asylum seekers on Nauru who are found to be refugees have been told they will be resettled on the island for five years where they will be given work rights and the opportunity to establish their own businesses.

A document leaked to the Guardian from the Nauruan government says people found to be refugees will be resettled for a maximum of five years where they will have working rights. The maximum settlement period leaves it likely refugees will need to be resettled in a third country such as Cambodia, which is also looking likely to sign a deal with Australia to accept refugees.

The decisions on whether asylum seekers have been found to be refugees will be handed down in the "coming weeks" the document said. There are currently 1177 people in detention centres on Nauru.

The government will also support refugees wanting to establish their own businesses, if the type of business "does not already exist in Nauru", but only for a maximum of five years.

"You will need to apply for a business licence from the government of Nauru and the process for this will be explained to you by your settlement case worker," the document says.

It comes as Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told Fairfax Media he was trying to expand the "club" of nations willing to take refugees, regardless of their economic capacity, suggesting that Cambodia was a step closer to taking refugees as a resettlement country once the temporary resettlement deal has expired on Nauru.

"Without mentioning names, when you have a country that’s willing to be engaged in it, an experienced country that is willing to sponsor it and a third country that is a signatory country like Nauru that is also party to all of this ... That would seem to be a positive thing and something that should be encouraged," Mr Morrison said last week.

But the Interior Minister of Cambodia, Sar Kheng told the Phnom Pehn Post that nothing had been decided, and negotiations were still on the table.

"As of now we have not decided yet," Kheng told reporters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. "It is being [considered], but no decision has been made at all."


Education Minister Christopher Pyne: set universities 'free' to create a US-style system

Education Minister Christopher Pyne has given his strongest sign yet the Abbott government will extend taxpayer funds to for-profit universities in a bid to cultivate a US-style college system in Australia.

In a speech to a London think tank on Monday night, Mr Pyne said a new wave of deregulation was needed to stop Australia's universities falling behind the rest of the world.

The speech follows the release two weeks ago of the Kemp-Norton review, which recommended federal funding for private universities, TAFEs and other non-university higher education providers.

Although Universities Australia initially warned the idea represents a "huge gamble" with potentially "devastating consequences", some of Australia's most influential vice-chancellors support the proposal. They include the University of Melbourne's Glyn Davis, the University of NSW's Fred Hilmer and La Trobe University's John Dewar.

TAFEs and the private education sector have also welcomed the review.

While not announcing the government's official response to the review, Mr Pyne strongly hinted the government would adopt the recommendation in the May budget.

"I can assure you unreservedly that the Coalition government will continue to take steps to set higher education providers free, provide them with more autonomy and challenge them to map out their futures according to their strengths," he said.

"We are at risk of being left behind. We need a renewed ambition and it must be bold … Our answer will be, above all, to set our universities free."

Regulation by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency would ensure that quality is maintained, he said.

Mr Pyne said he was alarmed only one Australian university, the University of Melbourne, is in the top 50 in the world, according to the latest Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings. While seven Australian universities went backwards in the rankings last year, Asian universities are storming up the leader board. Eight of the top 10 were US universities.

"We have much to learn about universities competing for students and focusing on our students," he said. "Not least, we have much to learn about this from our friends in the United States."

Mr Pyne said the US college system offers students more choice, encourages competition and foments a culture of philanthropy.

Mr Pyne did not outline how the government would fund the expansion of Commonwealth-supported places to the private sector. One option would be backing the elite universities' call for a deregulation of university fees so students in high-quality, high-income degrees pay more for their education. Another would be reforming the student loans scheme to recover outstanding debts from students who move overseas or who die, as recommended by the Grattan Institute.

Professor Dewar said: "I don’t think the sector has anything to fear from more competition in the market."

But he said universities – which conduct research as well as teach – should receive more government funding than teaching-only colleges.

"There should be a recognition that universities have costs above and beyond our counterparts in the private sector," he said.


Ben and Jerry's ice cream hurting reef: Qld govt

Ben and Jerry’s ice cream has been hauled over the coals by the Queensland government for supporting WWF’s "propaganda" save the reef campaign.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell wants Australians to boycott the American company, saying they’ve damaged the reputation of the reef and jeopardised jobs and tourism dollars.

"Another company has signed up to the campaign of lies and deceit that’s been propagated by WWF," Mr Powell said.  "The only people taking a scoop out of the reef is Ben and Jerry’s and Unilever.  "If you understand the facts, you’d want to be boycotting Ben and Jerry’s."

The minister says he’d be writing to parent company Unilever to express concerns and brief them on the truth.

Earlier this month, Ben and Jerry’s withdrew popular flavour Phish Food because of its allusion to fishfood, as a way of drawing attention to the potential damage to the reef.

They also embarked on a road trip around parts of Australia, giving out free ice cream to highlight their concerns over damage to the reef.

They say the reef is at serious risk of destruction from intensive dredging and dumping, mega-ports and shipping highways.

The brand has championed environmental causes in its 35-year history, including opposing drilling in the Arctic, and says it’s a proud supporter of WWF’s campaign.

"Ben & Jerry’s believes that dredging and dumping in world heritage waters surrounding the marine park area will be detrimental to the reef ecology," Australia brand manager Kalli Swaik said.  "It threatens the health of one of Australia’s most iconic treasures."

The Queensland and federal governments in January approved the dumping of three million cubic metres of dredge spoil in the marine park and World Heritage area to enable the Abbot Point coal port expansion.

The government says 70 per cent of the spoil is expected to settle on the seabed.

WWF fears spoil could get caught in currents and smother or poison reefs just 40km away.

CEO Dermot O’Gorman says Ben and Jerry’s involvement reflects the concern of people around the world about how the reef is being managed.  "Ben & Jerry’s’ tour is a timely reminder that the world expects the Queensland and Australian governments to lift their game," he said.

UNESCO is due to meet in June to consider the Australian government’s progress in improving the management of the reef.

It’s due to decide this year or next whether to list the reef as a world heritage site in danger.


28 April, 2014

The madness of child protection policy in Australia

In December 2013, the Abbott government announced plans to take adoption out of the 'too-hard basket' and make it easier for Australian parents to adopt children both locally and from overseas.

The chief barrier to more local adoptions is the anti-adoption culture in state and territory child protection authorities. Legal action is almost never taken to free children for adoption, even for children who languish in Australia's ever-expanding out-of-home care (OOHC) system with little prospect of safely returning home.

Instead, the orthodox policy advice routinely given to state and territory governments is that too many children are 'in care' because child protection services need to be re-structured away from 'statutory' child removal towards providing 'less-expensive' prevention and early intervention social services to reduce entries into care.

It is a myth that the child protection system focuses too heavily on statutory intervention, and that children are too quickly removed into care without supporting families.

New financial data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) show that in 2012–13:

* Family support/preservation services accounted for at least 17.1% of the $3.8 billion national expenditure on all child protection services, compared to statutory (29.6%) and OOHC (53.3%) services.

* Real (adjusted for inflation) national expenditure on 'intensive family preservation services' (designed to prevent imminent child removals) grew by 316% between 2000–01 and 2012–13 (from $73 million to more than $300 million).

* This was almost one-third higher in relative terms than the still substantial increase in spending on out-of-home care (228.3%), and nearly twice as fast as the still substantial growth in statutory service expenditure (166.3%).

Child protection data for 2012–13 show that Australia's OOHC system remains under siege due to rapidly increasing spending on OOHC and increasing numbers of children in OOHC. Since 2000–01, the total real national expenditure on OOHC has more than tripled and the total OOHC population has more than doubled due to endlessly prolonged efforts to reunite children with their dysfunctional families.

High levels of 're-reporting' and 're-substantiation' of cases of child abuse and neglect, plus high levels of 'instability' (unstable placements) for children while in care, mean that increasing numbers of children are being damaged by the very child protection system that is meant to protect them

The bottom line is that increasing numbers of children are still ending up in OOHC despite the additional funding Australian governments are pouring into family support/preservation.

The 2012 Report of Protecting Victoria's Vulnerable Children Inquiry (the Cummins report) found no evidence that the larger sums spent by Victoria on 'prevention' had protected children and stopped child maltreatment. Despite 'increased investment' (spending on intensive family preservation services increased by almost 900% since 2000–01), this strategy failed because 'high levels of re-reporting and re-substantiations over the lifetime of Victorian children' showed no 'marked change in Victoria in the incidence and impact of child abuse or neglect or overall outcomes for vulnerable children taken into out-of-home care.'

Nevertheless, the orthodox policy advice remains influential. The Newman government is implementing the major recommendation of the 2013 Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry (the Carmody report), which recommended increased spending on prevention and early intervention services to re-structure a child protection regime that allegedly 'focuses too heavily on coercive instead of support strategies.' This is despite the inquiry's (confusing and contradictory) final report establishing that the Queensland child protection system was heavily focused on family preservation-and was the reason for children lingering longer in care and blowing out the size of the OOHC population.

Australian child protection policy continues to resemble Einstein's definition of madness-doing the same thing and expecting a different result. The Abbott government needs to be aware that flawed family preservation policies and practices are the root cause of the systemic problems in the child protection system. To end the madness, the states and territories must be directed to take more timely statutory action to permanently remove children from unsafe homes and provide them with safe and stable homes by adoption by suitable families.

The Abbott government can provide national leadership and take adoption out of the too-hard basket by setting national child protection performance targets, including boosting the number of local adoptions from care to the equivalent of more adoption-friendly countries within the next 10 years.

National adoption targets would encourage other states and territories to emulate the prospective pro-adoption regime recently legislated by the NSW government, which is designed to significantly increase the number of adoptions from care by mandating strict time limits within which realistic decisions are made about the feasibility of restoration. Once it is determined that a child cannot safely go home, application will be made in the Supreme Court for an order to free that child for adoption by his or her new family.

If Australian children in care were adopted at the same rate as in the United States, there would be around 5,000 adoptions from care each year nationally instead of the current figure of less than 150.

The Abbott government's also needs to be aware of to the way the US adoption rate has been lifted by the Clinton administration's Adoption and Safe Families Act 1997, which rewards states that increase the number of adoptions from care with additional federal funding for social services.

Similar incentive-based funding arrangements (as an enhanced means of distributing existing federal funding for family and community services to states and territories) should be considered in Australia.


Mandate on ethanol fuel costs drivers dearly: study

NSW'S E10 unleaded fuel mandate is a "debacle" and is costing the state's motorists millions, according to an international study.

The Texas Tech University research found motorists had a "significant aversion" to the ethanol blended product.

With the push for E10 reducing the availability of regular grade unleaded, motorists had instead flocked to the more expensive premium petrol because of concerns about E10's potential engine damage as well as fuel efficiency.

"The effect was so pronounced that premium grade gasoline became the No.1 selling grade of gasoline," said the report's authors Michael Noel and Travis Roach.

The mandate was a debacle which had cost motorists "$345 million and counting", said Professor Noel, from the university's department of economics.  That figure calculated the price difference between regular unleaded and premium.

"In 2010, one out of every three consumers forced off of regular switched to premium instead of E10," Professor Noel said.  "Now six out of 10 consumers are. It is costing more and more for less and less."

While the mandate is hurting motorists, the push to premium is a win for petrol retailers.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission research, Australian fuel retailers enjoy an average profit margin of 3.69¢ a litre of premium fuel sold, compared with 1.77¢ a litre of regular unleaded petrol.

Greens MP John Kaye said the mandate was not working for consumers or the environment.  "Motorists who had been using regular unleaded have been faced with the choice of a fuel they don't want and a fuel that is much more expensive," Dr Kaye said.

"While per litre it [the E10 price] looks better, you have to burn more of it to cover the same distance, and you get more air pollution and more CO2 emissions.

"There's no evidence that requiring motorists to use ethanol blended fuels has any net greenhouse gas gain or much in the way of air quality improvement."

Service Station Association senior manager Colin Long said E10 needed to be cheaper if the government wanted more people to buy it.

But the NRMA's motoring and services director Kyle Loades said motorists were switching to premium unnecessarily.


Centrelink, Medicare, Child Support Agency employees given perks just for turning up to work

PUBLIC servants paid to hand out pension and welfare benefits have scooped tens of millions of dollars in perks as taxpayers brace for hip-pocket pain from the Abbott Government’s Budget razor gang.

Human Services department employees, who work for Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency, have been given thousands of dollars in lump sum payments simply for turning up to work to help them cope with public service restructures.

The payments are part of a raft of perks that include extra cash to help with school holiday child care, double time for working Saturdays and an extra day off over Christmas.

Human Services, which includes Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency, delivered almost $150 billion in payments in the past financial year. It is one of the busiest government departments, and in 2013 shed almost 2100 jobs but in the same period, it promoted 693 staff.

The bulk of the pay increases – 279 – promoted staff up to $67,000, however, four staff were promoted to SES Band 1, which pays up to $190,000, and five staff rose to the ranks of SES Band 2 on an annual salary up to $240,000.

Those not promoted were eligible to receive hundreds of dollars in special productivity and major reform payments negotiated for Human Services staff. The latest was paid seven months ago.


* Productivity payments of $650 in September 2012 and September 2013 for employees at or above their maximum salary level for their classification for achieving targets and showing leadership

* Major Reform Payments in 2011 and 2012 worth $500 each in recognition that staff experienced structural change

* School holiday care allowances of up to $16 a day for a child or $163 a week for all children for a maximum of eight weeks where both parents work. The perk requires approval from the Department Secretary

* An extra public holiday on the first business day after Boxing Day

* Up to $600 to an affected employee if a Human Service office relocates in the same city

* Up to $800 under the Household Establishment Allowance if an employee is promoted or reassigned to another locality

* Double time for working overtime for more than three hours on a Saturday

* Salary sacrificing for public transport to and from work


ALP schemes ‘beyond bureaucrats’

THE federal bureaucracy is ­incapable of managing complex programs such as the National Rental Affordability Scheme, ­according to Labor senator Mark Bishop, who has criticised the Rudd government’s implement­ation of the scheme.

Senator Bishop said the bungled introduction of the flagship Rudd-era social housing initiative and the home insulation scheme showed federal bureaucrats were incapable of designing and rolling out complex programs.

"I am now satisfied there is a serious deficiency in the design of programs," he said.

"It (the public service) is comprised of intelligent men and women, but you are talking about billions of dollars and the design of the scheme is very complex and they don’t have the experience or the ability to do it."

Responding to revelations in The Australian that the rental scheme rollout had been a fiasco in his home state of Western Australia, Senator Bishop said the necessary leg work had not been done when Kevin Rudd took the scheme to cabinet in 2008.

The Australian revealed last week that two firms in Western Australia that received more than half of that state’s subsidies — Questus and Yaran — had built a fraction of the 3000 homes promised.

The West Australian fiasco comes after revelations that the scheme had been exploited by developers and universities to build student accommodation.

Senator Bishop, the second ALP parliamentarian to criticise the $4.5 billion scheme, said he had to question the point of it when it was used to house "10,000 rich Chinese students".

"It was my understanding that the scheme was designed to help low-income earners into afford­able housing," he said.

"I was never aware that its purpose was to provide housing for foreign students at major-league universities."

Senator Bishop, who will leave parliament on June 30 when his Senate term expires, chairs the Senate’s economics references committee, which is inquiring into affordable housing in Australia.

He acknowledged ministers were responsible for the flaws in these programs too, but saved his harshest condemnation for the federal bureaucracy.

"It seems to me the ability to properly design programs that are so complex is something the public service doesn’t really have the capability or expertise to do," he said.

"Their expertise is in policy development but not in terms of program design involving billions of dollars of commonwealth money.

"With the links to tax and superannuation, it is very complex."

The $4.5bn NRAS scheme was introduced in 2008, but its viability was damaged from the start because the Australian Taxation Office took more than two years to rule on the tax status of investments discouraging large-scale private-sector investment, Senator Bishop said.

"When Rudd took it to cabinet a lot of the work hadn’t been done," he said.

"Commercial developers and investors had to wait two or three years for the tax ruling. I can remember being lobbied on that many times. That put the development of the scheme three years behind."

The problems in Western Australia centre on Yaran Property Group, which secured more than 1100 incentives in the third round of the program but has built just 82 houses with them, according to the latest federal figures.

Senator Bishop said by this stage there was a "political imperative" from the government to speed up the progress under the scheme and, as a result, it appeared to have handed large blocks of incentives to firms unable to execute projects to the degree promised.

He said major audit firms had been engaged to check applications under the current fifth round of the scheme, but this needed to have been done a lot earlier.

He said the government needed to redesign the scheme, shutting out the federal public service and incorporating advice from developers and investors.

"The existing scheme needs to be re-engineered. It needs significant private-sector input into that review," he said.

Earlier this month, fellow Labor backbencher Kelvin Thomson backed calls for a revamp of the scheme after The Australian revealed the extent to which it had been "gamed" by universities using the $10,000-per-annum subsidies to build vast unit blocks to lure foreign students to their campuses.

Tanya Plibersek, the architect of the NRAS scheme and former housing minister, declined to comment on Senator Bishop’s views.


27 April, 2014

Debate? Not When You Can Silence your critics

Writing in Quadrant, Mervyn Bendle took to task the new breed of historians who seem bent on destroying the Anzac Legend. One of his subjects, rather than the debate the issues he raised, reacted by demanding that the essay be removed from public view. Alas, such arrogance is entirely typical.  Bendle was Senior Lecturer in History and Communications at James Cook University, where he taught a course on war and remembrance, but resigned in 2012

I can confirm the Leftist hegemony in Australian universities.  I taught in two of them and I too eventually got fed up enough with the environment there to resign, even though I had tenure  -- JR

A prominent professor at the Australian National University has sought to suppress a recent Quadrant article I wrote critical of the negative academic attitude towards the Anzac Legend. Professor Joan Beaumont, of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, emailed the editors of Quadrant and Quadrant Online, claiming that her book Broken Nation had been "distorted, misrepresented and misread" by Mervyn Bendle, in his article "The Military Historians’ War on the Anzac Legend"  in Quadrant‘s April edition.

"It does Quadrant no credit to publish such prejudicial reviews, and I request that you withdraw it from the web", she told the editors. She insisted that she has "no issue with reviewers engaging critically with my book", but believed that I had not done this.

My Quadrant article discusses her book in the context of a broader appraisal of the anti-Anzac campaign centred on the ANU, the Australian Defence Force Academy, and the Australian War Memorial. It follows up earlier articles dating back five years detailing this campaign".

See: "The Intellectual Assault on Anzac"
"Anzac in Ashes"
"How Paul Keating Betrayed the Anzacs, and Why"
"Lest They Forget To Sneer"
"Gallipoli: Second Front in the History Wars"

Taken together, these reveal the systematic assault on the Anzac Legend undertaken by Australian historians leading up to the centenaries of the outbreak of the Great War and the Gallipoli campaign. These historians have made it quite clear that they wish to destroy the Anzac Legend.

I wasn’t surprised at Professor Beaumont’s reaction, as I imagine it’s easier for her to seek the article’s suppression than face up to addressing the issues it raises. I feel compelled to note that Professor Beaumont’s first reaction was to demand my article be withdrawn from the public view, not to debate the questions raised in my article. Alas, many Australian academics prefer to suppress criticism rather than engage in free and uninhibited exploration of ideas and their validity. In my experience they resent attempts to hold them to account and always try to avoid discussions that might reveal inadequacies, mistakes, prejudices and ideological commitments.

The simple fact is that academics take refuge in their exalted status. They don’t feel any need to justify themselves — nor is there very much in the way of pressure to do so, as academic history in Australia has become a closed shop. Indeed, when it comes to considering ideas outside the narrowly "acceptable" range, the profession is hermetically sealed. Prof Beaumont might be more used to dealing with robust discussion, and more prepared to confront my criticism of her work, if the history profession in Australia wasn’t so stitched up and insular.

Beaumont’s is typical behaviour and I have experienced it before. Academics attacked me over articles I wrote for Quadrant and The Australian discussing their sympathetic attitudes towards terrorism. They refused to debate the issues and instead mounted a determined attempt to have me sacked and also threatened legal action. One even threatened physical violence

See "Hijacking Terrorism Studies"
"Terrorism and the Rise of Radical Orthodoxy"
"Radical pacifists deny a murderous reality"

They wanted me to apologize to them and to have all the copies of Quadrant recalled and pulped! I was able to detail all this in a submission to the Senate Inquiry into Academic Freedom, which was included in their report. This eagerness to resort to threats rather than academic debate in these types of dispute reflects the excessively comfortable situation of Australian academics.

It is undeniable that the Humanities, Arts, and the Social Sciences in the universities are dominated by a leftist intellectual monoculture, which everyone is expected to agree on if they want to survive. Academics review each other’s books, give favourable referees’ reports to each other’s’ grant proposals and academic articles, give scholarships and jobs to each other’s graduate students, and generally perpetuate the same leftist orthodoxy.

Academically, it’s incestuous and stultifying — and that critical mass of like-mindedness and intolerance of dissent has now turned its attention to destroying the Anzac Legend,  doing everything in its power to achieve this. The last thing they want to hear is criticism.

My grandfather was an Anzac who fought at Gallipoli and in France, and Australians of his generation and later made a pledge very nearly a century ago that must be honoured and redeemed.

As a nation we declared, ‘Lest we forget’. We should now be allowed to honour these centenaries without constant sniping from an anti-Anzac elite of obsessive academic leftists.


Loons and ratbags to run Labor

Miranda Devine

BILL Shorten was right about one thing yesterday. It wasn’t Tony Abbott who threw the Labor Party into opposition, it was the Australian people.  Problem is, Shorten still hasn’t figured out why.

Delivering what was billed as a historic, reforming speech in Melbourne yesterday the Labor leader declared he was going to rid the party of union domination and open it up to the "grassroots".  He vowed to transform Labor into a "membership-based party".

That sounds all noble and democratic but what it means in practice is handing the party over to the lunatic Green Left.

For all his talk about a new moral purpose, Shorten was just drawing from the old well of politically correct poison which has brought his party to its knees.

More affirmative action to increase numbers of women MPs was a clue.  So was the fact Shorten raised "the rancour over the recent Western Australian process (which) shows that in the future we need a method that provides a local voice."

That "rancour" between Labor running mates Joe Bullock and Louise Pratt in Western Australia over Labor’s abysmal results in the latest re-run Senate election encapsulates Labor’s dilemma.

Bullock, who won Labor’s only Senate seat in WA, is a socially conservative member of the powerful shoppies union, which is headed by the outgoing right-wing faction leader and social conservative Joe De Bruyn.

Pratt, No. 2 on Labor’s Senate ticket, is an openly lesbian gay rights activist and Labor staffer, backed by the left-aligned United Voice union, who has been involved in Labor politics since her student days.

The pair are typical of the Labor Party’s increasingly schizophrenic nature.

Pratt and her union have been attacking Senator Bullock as an old homophobe since it became clear she wasn’t going to win the sixth Senate spot in WA.

Smearing him as a homophobe and bigot is a classic tactic of the dictatorial intolerant Left to shut down someone with opposing views, or someone who simply gets in your way.

Conveniently lost in all of the excitement over Bullock’s supposed homophobia were the killer truths he imparted.

He branded the Labor Party’s membership "mad", and warned uncoupling from the common sense "ballast" of the unions would leave Labor open to every "every weird lefty trend that you can imagine, and there’d be no party left."

That is the inconvenient truth about the past six disastrous years. Labor saddled Australia with two hopeless prime ministers, who left a trail of destruction that will take decades to repair.

On climate policy they were wrong and deluded to try to lead the world. Cosying up to the Greens was a mistake. The only industry they boosted was people-smuggling.

Yet there has been no mea culpa, no soul searching, or apology. Just business as usual, as if making Labor membership a one-click process on the internet will save the party.

Of course the union movement is sick too, but instead of embracing the royal commission into corrupt unions as an opportunity to clean house, Shorten railed against it as a "star chamber".

The fact is that, in the struggle for the soul of Labor, no one has clean hands.

In the end, the Left is using union corruption scandals for factional advantage to seize power for themselves.

Their beloved "grassroots" is code for GetUp style fringe-dwellers who will ensure the party remains unelectable.

Labor’s WA Senate result last month, the worst in its history, will be the new normal.

Really, if Labor wants to go further down that path, they should recruit Scott Ludlam as leader. At least he knows what he believes in.


Clive Palmer is right about government waste

SO-CALLED billionaire Clive Palmer threatens to do the Abbott Government a favour: kill its "Direct Action" plan to fight global warming.

Not such a buffoon, after all.

"Direct Action has been made up so the Liberal Party can ... make out they are doing something when they are doing nothing," scoffed the populist, who commands four senators the government could need. "We’ll be voting against Direct Action, whatever form it’s in."

Excellent, and if the government had any brains it would let Palmer win this one. Reluctantly, of course.

That’s not just because Palmer is right: Direct Action would waste $3.2 billion to make no difference to the world’s temperature.

But Palmer is in fact offering more than to save the Government money. He’s also offering to save it from the kind of embarrassment that dogged every one of Labor’s own green schemes.

Have the Liberals learned nothing from that colossal waste?

Its Direct Action will hand most of that $3.2 billion to whatever green carpetbaggers persuade it they’ve got some you-beaut scheme to cut our emissions on the cheap.

Uh-oh. Last week Environment Minister Greg Hunt was enthusing over schemes for "drying, gasification and then capture" of emissions for use with "algal energy".

See, such green grants are exactly what got Labor into trouble; first, because governments are terrible at picking winning technologies; second, because if those schemes were sound, they wouldn’t need a handout; and, third, because "saving" the planet persuades politicians they shouldn’t quibble about mere money.

That’s why every one of Labor’s green power schemes was a dud.

Take its promised geothermal plant. In 2009, the Rudd government gave Geodynamics a $90 million grant for a project to pump water on to hot rocks deep underground to generate steam for a turbine,

Geodynamics shareholder Tim Flannery, later Chief Climate Commissioner, claimed it was "relatively straightforward technology" but wells instead clogged and the site flooded.

More than four years later, Geodynamics’ share price has dived from 88c to just 7c with no commercial plant to show for it.

The wave generator dud was sillier. In 2004, Oceanlinx got a $1.21 million grant for a prototype generator using wave energy. It now rusts off Port Kembla beach.

Oceanlinx then built a bigger generator. It sank three months later.

Yet in 2012, the Gillard government gave Oceanlinx another $4 million for a wave generator off South Australia. That sank last month and Oceanlinx is now bust.

Solar power proved little better. In 2008 the Rudd government spent $1 million on South Australia’s Umuwa solar power station for our "clean energy future". It is now mothballed.

In 2011 the Gillard government announced a $464 million grant for Queensland’s Solar Dawn solar farm. The project was later abandoned.

In 2011 the Gillard government announced a $300 million grant for a solar farm in Moree. The grant was withdrawn when private investors refused to join in.

On it went.

The green waste under Labor was astonishing.

In 2009 the Rudd government gave $1.7 billion for its Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships program, to bury carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired electricity plants. But the technology is too expensive and not one large-scale carbon capture plant in the world is in commercial operation. Labor later slashed its grant by $500 million and the Abbott Government scrapped the rest.

The Rudd government’s $2 billion free insulation program — also sold as a way to cut emissions — was a bigger political disaster. Much rorted, it was scrapped after four installers were killed.

LABOR’S Green Loans program was also hurriedly cancelled in 2011 after costs blew out, much of it on dodgy home energy assessments. Labor’s solar hot water rebate scheme was scrapped, too, after yet more bungling, rorts and blowouts. Then there’s the carbon tax, an $8 billion-a-year hit on the economy that has killed jobs without making any detectable change to the temperature it’s supposed to lower.

Add the equally useless renewable energy target that forces us to use expensive "green" power at a cost to the average family of $102 a year.

And for what? The world’s temperature has not risen for 16 years, anyway.

This is all about the politics of seeming — seeming to be good by seeming to do something that only seems to make a difference to what only seems to be problem.

Palmer is right. It’s all for show and must go — not just the carbon tax and Labor’s $10 billion clean energy fund, both still protected by Labor and Greens senators, but the government’s Direct Action, too.

We need the money and the government surely does not need the grief.


Hard line on boats paying off: Morrison

NO people-smuggling venture had succeeded in landing asylum seekers on Australia for more than four months, the government says.

In the latest update on Operation Sovereign Borders, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday that vigorous border protection activities was deterring illegal boat arrivals, even into the post-monsoon period when weather conditions usually improve.

Mr Morrison said the practice of turning back unauthorised boats remained in effect.

"Anyone seeking to enter Australia illegally by boat will be faced with the same policies those who previously attempted illegal entry met," he said in a statement.

Mr Morrison said no one had reached Australia since December 19 and that continued this month. But 3351 on 47 boats arrived in April 2013 under the former Labor government.

The latest Operation Sovereign Borders operational update says there are now 1281 in the processing centre on Manus Island and 1177 on Nauru, making a total of 2458.

Another 1405 remain on Christmas Island. During the last week, eight asylum seekers were transferred to Nauru.

Seven unauthorised maritime arrival transferees were voluntarily returned to Iran.

Since Operation Sovereign Borders started on September 18, 220 asylum seekers have voluntarily returned to their home countries.


25 April, 2014

Anzac legend survives sneering sabotage

Piers Akerman

SOME of our younger veterans from East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict eras are concerned their stories are still submerged in the flood of memoirs from WWI and WWII. Their concern is understandable — but the tide is turning.

Friday they will march at the head of the Anzac Day procession through Sydney, and elsewhere, reminding us that those remaining veterans of earlier wars, and those who died in those conflicts, also defended our nation and its culture with the same vigour of purpose.

Next year there will be fewer WWII survivors at the muster and, with the draw-down of forces from Afghanistan, more of the newly-returned servicemen and women filling the ranks and acknowledging the thanks of a grateful population.

Despite the efforts of the legions of left-wing detractors who poured scorn and denigration upon the RSL and the Anzac tradition in the 60s and early 70s, new generations of Australians have made the effort to discover for themselves the Anzac legend and the values it represents.

The handful of pilgrims who once trekked to the chilly shores of Anzac Cove 50 years ago has swollen to such an extent that attendance has been subjected to a necessary ballot to ensure the ceremony is manageable and respectful.

That is one in the eye for all the protesters and propagandists who sneered at Anzac Day as an excuse for an orgy of drunken self-pity.

There are many reasons put forward for this dramatic reversal of Australian opinion but it is most likely that the left-wingers in the media who once claimed Anzac Day was an irrelevance were just wrong (as usual) and listening to themselves or the leftist views of mono-cultural ABC presenters bent on pushing the anti-Western views of their socialist comrades.

Importantly, the film Gallipoli, directed by the publicity-shy Peter Weir and co-written with very public playwright David Williamson, seems to have played a critical role in introducing post-baby boomer Australians to Anzac and defeating the misinformation fed through the Labor-led teachers union.

Weir, who had visited the Dardanelles four years before making the film, revealed in a speech to Washington’s Centre for Australian and New Zealand Studies in 2001 that the initial drafts of the script tried to include the referenda on conscription (defeated twice) but struggled with so much material.

He said the breakthrough came after reading historian C.E.W. Bean’s seminal work and his description of the battle at The Nek, on the heights above the beach. It was, he says, a disaster.

According to Bean, there was an inexplicable mistake in the synchronisation of watches held by the forward troops and those responsible for naval and land bombardment intended to blast the Turks out of the opposing trenches.

The shelling ended seven minutes before the planned 4.30am assault and the Turks were ready when the Anzacs appeared.

"The first line, which has started so confidently, has been annihilated in half a minute; and the others, having seen it mown down, realised fully that when they attempted to follow they would be instantly destroyed. Yet as soon as the first line had cleared the parapet, the second took its place … and exactly two minutes after the first had gone, without hesitation every man in the second line leapt forward into the tempest," Bean wrote.

"Mate having said goodbye to mate, the third line took up its position."

And there was to be a fourth line. "With that regiment went the flower of the youth of Western Australia, sons of the old pioneering families, youngsters — in some cases two and three from the same home — who had flocked to Perth at the outbreak of war with their own horses and saddlery. Men known and popular, the best loved leaders in sport and work in the West, then rushed to their deaths.

"Gresley Harper and Wilfred, his younger brother, the latter of whom was last seen running like a schoolboy in a foot race."

That tale from Bean’s Official History was to become the storyline of Weir’s film.

Some of the younger generation of moviegoers introduced to the Anzac story via Weir’s film may have gone to see the young stars Mel Gibson or Mark Lee but they emerged with a sense of the binding tradition that we, young and not-so-young, honour today.


Piers doesn't completely understand the popularity of ANZAC day among the young but I think I do.  It is popular because lots of people like to feel continuity with their past -- and traditions enable that.  But the Left have ripped many of our traditions to shreds so it is only a very strong tradition like ANZAC day that has survived.  So young people flock to one of the few  national traditions they have left.  The monarchy  is another such tradition and polls show big support for that among the young too  -- JR.

Starfish disease a hope for the Great Barrier Reef?

Even though seastars are the great enemy of the reef, the Greenies won't deliberately transfer the disease to Australian waters.  It would take away one of their scares.  But it could spread naturally.  We may get lots of yummy mussels out of it too.

Starfish have been mysteriously dying by the millions in recent months along the US west coast, worrying biologists who say the sea creatures are key to the marine ecosystem.

Scientists first started noticing the mass deaths in June 2013. Different types of starfish, also known as sea stars, were affected, from wild ones along the coast to those in captivity, according to Jonathan Sleeman, director of the US Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center.

'The two species affected most are Pisaster ochraceus (purple sea star or ochre starfish) and Pycnopodia helianthoides (sunflower sea star),' he wrote in a statement in December.

The sunflower sea star is considered among the largest starfish and can span more than a meter in diameter.

The most commonly observed symptoms are white lesions on the arms of the sea star. The lesions spread rapidly, resulting in the loss of the arm. Within days, the infection consumes the creature's entire body, and it dies.

Entire populations have been wiped out in Puget Sound off the coast of Washington state, in the Salish Sea off Canada's British Columbia as well as along the coast of California. The mortality rate is estimated at 95 percent.

'What we currently think is likely happening is that there is a pathogen, like a parasite or a virus or a bacteria, that is infecting the sea stars and that compromises in some way their immune system,' Pete Raimondi, chair of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told AFP.

Then, the creatures become more susceptible to bacteria which is "causing a secondary infection that causes most of the damages that you see.'

A barometer of sea health

The 2013 phenomenon has not been observed solely along the West Coast; a smaller outbreak also killed East Coast sea stars last year.

Previous cases were believed to be associated with warmer waters -- sea stars have sensitive skin and prefer cooler water -- but this was not the case in 2013.

And when the die-offs happened previously, the geographic span of the infections was much smaller, and far fewer sea stars were affected.

In 1983, an epidemic nearly wiped out the Pisaster ochraceus from tidal pools along the southern coast of California.

Another, smaller die-off in 1997 may have been caused by warmer waters in an El Nino year, scientists said.

Sea stars are important because 'they play a key role in this ecosystem on the West Coast,' Raimondi said.

Sea stars eat mussels, barnacles, snails, mollusks and other smaller sea life, so their health is considered a measure of marine life on the whole in a given area.

When sea stars decline in number, 'the mussel population has the potential to dramatically increase, which could significantly alter the rocky intertidal zone,' according to Sleeman.

While sea stars make up an important component of the base of the ocean food chain and are considered a top predator, they are in turn eaten by other starfish, shorebirds, gulls, and sometimes sea otters.

In an effort to find out what is causing the mass deaths, scientists are collecting reports from the public, taking specimens to the lab for analysis and doing genetic sequencing to find out whether a toxin or an infection may be to blame.


Raising tax revenue just to throw it away is no answer

From troubling deficit figures in recent budgets, to dire predictions of blowouts in health and ageing spending in the intergenerational reports, and Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson's warning of threats to our living standards, all signs are pointing to the upcoming budget as a crucial juncture for Australia's fiscal future.

It is now a cliche to say government must make "tough decisions" to solve Australia's short- and long-term budget sustainability problems. For many, such as former Treasury secretary Ken Henry, the Grattan Institute, and Greens leader Christine Milne, this is code for tax rises.

The solution to ending inefficient and wasteful spending is not to raise more money to throw away. It's to prioritise spending in the right areas and improve the efficiencies of government programs.

Indeed, raising taxes isn't a tough decision at all. There has hardly been a shortage of new or increased taxes in recent years. The previous Labor government introduced the mining tax and the carbon tax, increased the Medicare levy to help pay for the national disability insurance scheme and imposed an interim tax after the Queensland floods. It also increased excise on alcopops and tobacco.

Meanwhile, the Coalition won a solid majority at the last election despite supporting the NDIS levy and promising to raise company taxes to pay for its gold-plated paid parental leave scheme.

But raising taxes fails to address either the cause of the current budget deficits or the factors driving our future fiscal crisis.

Our budget problems have been largely caused by increased spending.

Over the past 10 years, real spending has outgrown gross domestic product by approximately 15 per cent, while real health spending alone increased by nearly 70 per cent in the decade to 2011-12.

We've also seen a steady increase in benefits for middle-class families through family tax benefits, childcare payments and education support.

In addition, the previous government committed to expensive new programs (such as the disability scheme and Gonski reforms) beyond the forward estimates.

Much of the recent increase in spending has been inefficient – for example, the pink batts fiasco – while wasteful spending in other areas, such as the billions provided in corporate welfare, has proceeded mostly unchecked.


Curbing this rampant government expenditure is even more important in the longer term. The burden of financing the increasing health costs of our ageing population will fall on a smaller proportion of workers.

Raising taxes on those workers only exacerbates the pressure on the system and further slows innovation and productivity growth.

Beyond the economic costs of higher taxes, increasing the tax take without bridging the intellectual chasm between the ever-increasing demands on government and what people are willing to pay for can only ever be a stop-gap arrangement. The solution is not getting people to pay their fair share but determining what the role of government should be.

The European experience of debt and deficit makes clear that a broad-based entitlement system cannot be funded by taxes on millionaires and the super-rich alone. It is the middle class that bears the increased tax burden and, according to the attitudes towards taxation measured by the 2012 Per Capita tax survey, the middle class have no desire to pay more tax.

Roughly half of respondents with a household income between $40,000 and $80,000 felt they paid too much tax, while 40 per cent said they paid about the right amount. For those with a household income between $100,000 and $150,000, more than 60 per cent felt they paid too much tax. Almost no one (1.2 per cent) thought they paid too little tax.

Yet there is also incredible resistance to reducing middle-class welfare, as objections from Labor, the Greens and others to recent proposals to introduce a modest Medicare co-payment show.

This suggests the real problem of the age of entitlement is not the truly needy but rather the relatively well-off who believe they pay too much tax, yet are owed government support.

Australia can maintain a welfare safety net for the truly needy and have the benefits of a low-taxing small-government system that encourages continued economic prosperity.

However, we can't do both and have an interventionist government providing widespread middle-class welfare. That isn't merely undesirable, it is unsustainable.

Instead, the path to sustainable government involves ending taxpayers propping up higher living standards for the relatively well-off.

This year's budget will be a success only if it starts this difficult process to save the nation's finances. Calling for tax rises instead is taking the easy way out.


No tears shed for backward taxi industry

Low cost 'taxi' service a danger to the public, furious taxi council says

Would you pay a random person to taxi you around? I did and this is what happened

The biggest business story today isn’t on the business pages. (Well, it wasn’t until now.) It’s Ben Grubb’s coverage of Uber’s disruptive technology threatening the very powerful, very well-connected taxi industry and the predictable reaction from those with billions of dollars to lose.

Following Grubb’s coverage of how Uber allows people to circumvent the highly regulated taxi monopoly with its layers of rent-seekers, the next step will be a test of the New South Wales Government’s integrity: will the new premier side with the consumer, competition, innovation and improved productivity  – or the vested interests of the industry incumbents and the government’s own existing revenue streams?

A very large amount of money is at stake. Using Deloitte Access Economics figures prepared for the Taxi Council (and therefore in keeping with the rich tradition of such commissioned consultants’ reports), there were 5,647 plates just in Sydney last year with each plate worth the better part of $400,000. Call it $2.2 billion. Then there’s Cabcharge, the biggest of the networks, with a market capitalisation of $480 million. Deloitte says annual NSW taxi revenue is $1.3 billion, there are 17,500 direct equivalent full time jobs and the industry generates $1.15 billion "in total value added" to the NSW economy. It also notes that the NSW government itself is the biggest lessor of taxi licenses with 600 under lease, providing the treasury with $20 million in annual revenue.

But it’s not just the money – it’s the connections. The taxi industry around the nation has specialised in ingratiating itself with both sides of politics. As a small public example, the industry’s heavyweight champion, Reg Kermode’s Cabcharge, donated generous six-figure amounts to Labor and Liberal alike, as has the Taxi Council. Cabcharge board and management appointments have had the occasional government flavour - Neville Wran the most obvious when he became a director with a gift of 250,000 shares. Coincidentally, Cabcharge has received gifts of effectively free taxi plates from the NSW government.

Interestingly, there’s family history for Premier Baird in those free Cabcharge plates. When his father, Bruce Baird, was Transport Minister in the Greiner government, he refused a department recommendation to gift the plates. When the Carr government was elected, they were handed over with all the attendant windfall profit.

Uber’s model of internet-enabled "ride sharing" threatens a lot of investment. Cabcharge’s share price has already been on the slide thanks to the snail’s-pace change to its 10 per cent surcharge on credit cards. (Another example of the industry’s power? The card companies – Visa, Mastercard, American Express – haven’t been game to take action over that unjustified surcharge after the Reserve Bank of Australia empowered them to do so.)

It’s predictable that the first reaction is to have taxi drivers complaining about unfair competition, but as various studies, such as Professor Alan Fels’ Victorian review have shown, the drivers are people most exploited by the industry structure. If there was greater clarity about where Uber intends to take its system, there’s every chance taxi drivers would be better off outside a system that’s constructed primarily to justify the price of the artificially created and maintained government licences.

Someone briefly wanting to hire a driver with a car should be a simple and reasonable basis for a business transaction, but it’s been turned into an inflated monster. I’m sure Deloitte’s effort for the Taxi Council didn’t mean to paint a picture of stuffed system, but try this:

"The NSW taxi industry operates under a co-regulatory model, where the NSW Government sets the standards, stipulates maximum fares, and issues licences and accreditations. The networks monitor and assist the Government in enforcing industry standards for operators, drivers and vehicles. The NSW Government also has a team of inspectors in the field monitoring compliance."

And the government decides how many plates are issued, in consultation with the industry, of course.

Cabcharge and others who have taken the risk of investing in licences and a market that exists at the whim of government are far from alone. Google is one of the investors in Uber, putting US$250 million into the company last year as part of a transaction that valued it at US$3.6 billion. Google of course has played a major role in disrupting another old industry – newspapers. New technologies do that – but newspaper publishers can’t go running to governments demanding protection from that change.

Cutting out the layers of middlemen and women in the personal transport business would represent a considerable productivity gain. Those gains would come at the cost of the incumbents. Stopping Uber’s evolution would come at everyone else’s cost.

Standby for sob stories about people who have bought taxi plates and now risk losing some of their capital due to competition and new technology. If anyone cares, there are sob stories about people who invested in video rental shops, in lawn mower repair businesses, in newspapers. Anyone expecting to make a profit from an investment has to accept that there is a risk that they won’t.

The industry claims there are risks for drivers and passengers stepping outside its stranglehold, but there are risks staying in it.

So what’s the call, Mike Baird? Make a stand on free market principles and what’s best for the state and consumers, resisting the power of the taxi industry as your father did – or serve the vested interests of a powerful minority?

The comments piling up beneath Ben Grubb’s story appear a reasonable reflection of what the electorate thinks.


All power to the outsiders

Australians are increasingly making it clear that the major parties need to do better. To make their voices heard they have employed a very useful political resource — minor parties and independents.

While most adults competent to vote are not single-issue fanatics or extremists of any sort, many will admit that every now and then they vote for a minor party or an independent "to send a message".

Voting for a minor player in this way is a valuable form of political speech. It tells your preferred party you’re unhappy without defecting to their enemies. And depending how the minor party vote is distributed, this form of protest can be quite articulate.

Thanks to our system of preferential compulsory voting few votes are wasted. Unlike the great democracies of Britain and the US, in Australia a vote for a third, fourth or even 20th candidate is not throwing your vote away. Like salmon swimming home against the tide, most votes will eventually find their way back to a viable candidate or group.

Occasionally a small party will win a seat, leading to cries of "unrepresentative" and demands to reform the voting process. There will be outraged examples given of this or that candidate being elected on some amount less than 1 per cent of the vote. Nobody will point out how few first-preference votes are cast for the individuals on a major party senate ticket. Or how few people can even name all the members of the major party upper house ticket they voted for.

Indeed, many senators and upper house members are placed directly by their parties without facing the electorate at all. Casual vacancies for these positions are decided by a handful of political insiders without any consultation with the voters whose "quota" they are exercising.

The proposal by ALP president Jenny McAllister to allow party members to choose the Senate and upper house tickets directly as the Greens do would be a major improvement for democracy.

At the moment the tickets for both Labor and Liberal are determined by a smaller group of people than vote for the Sex Party. Claims by the ALP party office that 800 conference delegates choose the party’s candidates are disingenuous, given the recommended order of candidates on the ballot against factional and seniority con­sid­erations is subject to intense negotiations before the conference. So while some micro parties are utterly unrepresentative, candidates from the major parties can be just as much of an unknown quantity to voters.

As the majors whip up concern about micro parties and independents in Western Australia, we should be sceptical that they have our best interests at heart. It may seem silly or even anti-democratic to allow sports lovers and sex enthusiasts a seat at the table but whatever the talent, ideas or philosophy of these minor players, they do one job much better than the majors: they provide a place to park your vote when you’re sick of being taken for granted. By themselves, it’s true, most of these candidates can’t claim to represent more than a small number of voters. But the combined votes of all these small parties and candidates add up to a lot of people who don’t feel like endorsing the government or opposition.

It has been said the collecting together of all these diverse minor candidates’ votes through preference deals makes any resulting winner suspect because of the tiny number of first-preference votes. Maybe so. But it’s still true a large number of voters have been clear that they don’t want to endorse business as usual.

While it has been pointed out by some commentators that independents provide an excellent receptacle for a protest vote, it’s less often celebrated that independent members can make a strong contribution to good government.

As a policy adviser, I worked regularly with independents in the NSW parliament to secure their votes for bills. I also dealt with them daily as assistant to the leader of the house. I found independents Tony Windsor, Peter Macdonald and Clover Moore courteous and intelligent, and committed to their electorates.

Over 10 years in the house I worked with Shooters including the gentlemanly John Tingle, an MP committed to A Better Future for Our Children, an Outdoor Recreator, country independents and Christian Democrats.

While not all were candidates for Australian of the Year, most were the equal of their average major party adversaries.

In some cases the independents even outperformed their major party colleagues in delivering value for NSW. Under the Greiner government independents had a balance of power.

John Hatton, Moore and Macdonald negotiated four-year parliamentary terms, a referendum on independence of the judiciary, the creation of a parliamentary estimates committee and whistleblower protection for public servants.

Hatton led the campaign, supported by Labor, for the royal commission into the NSW Police Service exposing corrupt elements in the force including Chook Fowler, Trevor Haken and "the laugh".

Like most people, I struggle to see Wayne Dropulich in the shoes of Hatton. It’s also true that Hatton, like Moore and Macdonald, had a large popular vote so the kinds of changes that would exclude the Sports Party would likely not deny the world another Hatton. But that depends entirely on how the reforms are done.

Following the so-called "tablecloth ballot" of 1999, NSW parliament created laws to make it much harder to form a minor party.

One can argue a group of people should genuinely represent a large group before they run a candidate. But it’s also true that under these rules more members will be part of a block of party votes and fewer will be voting issue by issue according to research and conscience.

As a staffer I spent hundreds of hours talking to independents, trying to win their support for particular bills on the merits. For Labor, Liberal and the Greens I met the single representative who would instruct their party colleagues how to vote.

Many of the independents were eccentric but fewer than you might think were lazy, stupid or out of touch with community attitudes.

Their presence promoted intellectual and ethical discipline because they ensured there was always a handful of votes that had to be won with argument and community endorsements.

Changes to the current rules will likely not be designed to raise the bar intellectually or ethically but to protect the existing oligarchy.

This oligarchy, of course, now includes the Greens, who have reportedly complained about micro parties "gaming" the system.

It makes me recall Bob Brown’s comment: "We’re not here to keep the bastards honest — we’re here to replace them."

The political oligopolists accuse the little guys of dirty tricks and maybe they’re not undeserving of all criticism. But we need to keep a close eye on how the incumbent political class set the rules for their competitors.

The Greens themselves grew from small beginnings as a micro party. Pirates and Liberal Democrats represent significant constituencies in other countries and may one day have a legitimate future here too.

That should be for voters to decide — not the present political elites.


24 April, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is pleased that we seem to have a responsible government at last

Treasurer Joe Hockey outlines areas facing cuts in May 13 budget

JOE Hockey has stepped up his argument for urgent cuts to major spending programs in the May 13 federal budget, declaring that all Australians will carry the burden of reform.

Revealing key findings from the Commission of Audit into federal finances, the Treasurer has warned that deep cuts will be essential to balance the budget.

Mr Hockey used a speech in Sydney tonight to outline some of the audit findings as well as his ambition to scale back the deficit and post a surplus by at least 2024.

Seeking to manage expectations when he releases the four-volume Commission of Audit report next week, Mr Hockey said some of the 86 recommendations would be rejected outright and others given "further consideration" over time.

The report would be a "useful framework" rather than a "quick fix" to be adopted in full, the Treasurer said.

"There will be difficult decisions, but all Australians must help to do the heavy lifting," Mr Hockey told a forum hosted by The Spectator magazine in Sydney.  "It will not be acceptable for a few to make the major sacrifices on behalf of the rest of us.

"The fiscal consolidation program that we reveal in the budget will establish a clear path back to a surplus of 1 per cent of GDP by 2024.  "But I want to emphasise that the May budget will not be the end of our efforts, it will only be the start.

"There will be numerous cases where our policy principles can only be implemented over time. Not every decision crucial for budget repair will be made on budget night. However, we will make a significant start."

One key finding in the Commission of Audit is the scale of government spending, which has risen over 40 years from around $6000 per person to over $15,000 per person when adjusted for inflation, Mr Hockey said.

Mr Hockey said the Commission of Audit report would be released on May 1.

The Treasurer argued for major spending cuts on the basis that outlays will spiral out of control without hard action now.  On current trends, assuming no cap on spending, outlays will swell to 26.5 per cent of GDP by 2024.

Much of this would come from the 15 largest spending programs, which are also the fastest growing.  These include the age pension, the disability support pension, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, aged care, education, hospitals, foreign aid and the national disability insurance scheme.

"To put it simply – our biggest costs are also our fastest growing," Mr Hockey said.

Tax receipts will not grow fast enough to make up for spending burden, according to a "business as usual" scenario that forecasts big deficits in every year to 2024 and possibly beyond.

"It is a recipe for disaster to never even get to surplus despite having a foundation of 32 years of continuous economic growth, which would arguably be the longest continuous period of growth anywhere in the world since the Second World War," Mr Hockey said.

The Treasurer’s message came with new figures on the likely load on taxpayers who will gradually move into higher tax brackets as inflation increases their salaries but the government is unable to afford any tax cuts.

An extra 3 million taxpayers will have taxable income above the $80,000 threshold in ten years from now according to the audit commission scenario, lifting their marginal tax rates from 37 to 45 cents in the dollar.

Turning his sights on individual spending programs, the Treasurer named the age pension and aged care as key concerns as the population grows older and young workers have to bear the burden of large welfare programs.

Mr Hockey appeared to question the value of the tax concessions offered to superannuation – worth more than $30bn last year – by noting that most retirees fall back on the pension anyway.

"Despite spending billions of dollars in taxation benefits for superannuation, by 2050 the ratio of Australians receiving a full or part pension will still be around four out of five," he said.

"On top of this, aged care is now the eighth largest category of spending. We spend more on aged care than we do on higher education or child care.

"And the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is the tenth largest category of spending. Nearly 80 per cent of the Scheme’s expenditure is attributable to concessional recipients."

Mr Hockey made it clear each of these would be tackled in the budget because of the looming impact of the ageing population.

"So the policies must be changed, either now or more dramatically in the future."


Bob Hawke and Paul Keating’s brutal verdict on the Rudd-Gillard years

BOB Hawke and Paul Keating have given a blistering assessment of Labor in power under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard and warned that retrograde policies, ineffective communication, divisive class warfare and a lack of conviction will keep the party out of office if not urgently addressed.

The two former Labor prime ministers have urged the party to undertake radical reform to ­reduce the power of unions and factions, steer policy back to the centre ground and heed the ­lessons of the often chaotic and dys­functional Rudd-Gillard gov­­ern­ments. They argue that Labor must undertake structural reform to curtail union influence over policy, candidates and the party organisation.

For the first time, the two Labor elders say the party must slash the 50 per cent weighting given to unions at state confer­ences — a reform Bill Shorten this week ignored. "The reality is that the unions are now only a small percentage of workers," Mr Hawke said. "They should still have a right to be affiliated with the party but they should not have an undue influence."

He wants the 50 per cent quota for union delegations to conferences reduced. "I think that’s an undue weighting in the world in which we live today," he said.

Mr Keating said: "I’ve always been in favour of a much more representative Labor conference structure, reflecting the participation by earnest people truly interested in the Labor Party rather than the blocs of people at conferences representing union members. As the level of unionisation has dropped in the workplace, so too should the representation at conferences drop."

The exclusive interviews with the two former Labor prime ministers, Mr Hawke (1983-91) and Mr Keating (1991-96), are included in a new book, Rudd, Gillard and Beyond, published next week. Mr Keating said the party’s membership had become so "limited" and "confected" that it was unrepresentative of the community. As the authority of members has diminished, he said the power of party officials had increased. This had been "brutally bad" for Labor.

He said party officials have "an unerring sense of what they believe is right" and "lord it over the parliamentary party" to get their way. "The rot had set in to the federal organisation of the Labor Party when the state party secretaries raised their reasonably ugly heads" in the 1990s.

Mr Keating said the last Labor government struggled to define its purpose in a compelling narrative and failed to balance the political and policy work needed for successful long-term governments. "Kevin’s government was doing reasonably badly reasonably quickly," Mr Keating said.

He argued that the global ­financial crisis "gave the government purpose" and it responded appropriately.  "After the crisis, or the immediacy of the crisis, it started fraying again.

"There was a sense of urgency which guided the big reform agenda in the 1980s and ‘90s. We knew what we wanted to do. We wanted to create a modern, efficient, outward-looking economy. You have to conceptualise the big reform ideas into a framework."

Mr Keating said he told Mr Rudd in July last year, after he returned to the prime ministership, that Labor had to reclaim the model of governance that he and Mr Hawke had pioneered in the 80s and 90s.

"That was a model which ­fostered economic growth, which put a high premium on social ­equity and justice, which fathomed a way of us, as Australians, tying ourselves competitively to the East Asian economic renaissance," he said. "What happened is that the public had fallen out of love with the Labor Party organisationally and as a government, Rudd’s demise being part of that, but they hadn’t fallen out of love with the model."

Mr Hawke is critical of Labor for promulgating class warfare for political gain and criticised the development of the mining tax. "That sort of class-warfare rhetoric never resonates with me," he said. "The simple truth about good government is that you need to have good relations with both sides of an industry, workers and business, not just one side."

Mr Keating also spoke about the need for party leaders to win support from voters and work with business and unions to implement a reform agenda that was in the national interest. "We had to be able to garner the authority of the caucus and the wider Labor Party and trade union movement to make these kind of changes," he said.

The problem Labor often had, Mr Keating said, was a lack of belief. "Leaders proselytising policies without deep inner belief in the end fail. Policies can’t be picked up like pretty boxes at a gift shop. They have to come from the innards of the politics."

Both former prime ministers said the party was failing to recruit candidates with a diversity of life experience. "The organis­ational leadership has always got to look around for the people who are different and who have talent, spot it and help them through the party," Mr Keating said.

Assessing the Rudd-Gillard legacy, Mr Hawke said the party needed to be "brutal" in its assessment and acknowledge that they "didn’t deserve to win" the September election. "They just distracted themselves with internecine strife."

Mr Hawke said it was inevitable Mr Rudd would be toppled by Ms Gillard in 2010 "because he just wanted to run so much of things single-handedly" and a reaction against that was inevitable.

Both said that despite the many problems, there were policies that Labor could be proud of after six years in government. While Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard "deserved to lose", Mr Hawke said, they "achieved a lot of good Labor things".

But Mr Keating said it was wrong for Ms Gillard to challenge Mr Rudd for the leadership.

"I don’t think Kevin Rudd should have been replaced in 2010," he said. "Leaders often have low to mid-points in a term. The party, I think, should have stuck with him through that."


What a load of Brit: UK-born killer Barry Whiteoak wins ‘racist’ compensation case

A CONVICTED murderer and rapist has won damages after a tribunal found he was racially discriminated against in jail — because he is British.

Taxpayers funded the six-year marathon which cost up to $100,000 and prompted a NSW Legal Aid review of similar foreign-born cases that are pending.

Barry Whiteoak’s victory after he was stripped of prison perks like opportunities for day release for being a British "lawful non-citizen" won him $500 in compensation which will go straight to the Victims Support Fund for victims of crime.

Whiteoak, 66, has been ­behind bars since 1983 when he stabbed and strangled nurse Noreen Hannon in September 1983of that year.

At the time he forced himself into the 25-year-old nurse’s flat he was already on parole for a 1980 rape, a crime he committed while on parole for indecently assaulting a woman at knifepoint in 1978, seven years after he arrived from the UK.

Ms Hannon’s then-boyfriend, Michael Maher, said yesterday "the whole thing is crazy".

"It is an absolute disgrace when people who have genuine cases can’t get Legal Aid but these guys can," Mr Maher said.

"He is a serial rapist and murderer who should have no rights in prison, never mind the right to bring this case and we have had to pay for it."

NSW Legal Aid boss Bill Grant said: yesterday pledged to review similar cases on his books. "We will be reviewing the utility of cases like this to see if they are appropriate ways of spending scarce Legal Aid resources." CEO Mr Grant said.

It is understood that Legal Aid initially funded the case ­because it involved "a fundamental legal principle" but the loophole had been closed even before the case got into a tribunal.

Whiteoak ’s life sentence for murdering Ms Hannon was redetermined to a minimum of 15 years in 1994. He had been refused bail a number of times until in August, 2008, the Department of Immigration cancelled his permanent residency visa, ­ensuring his deportation back to his native Yorkshire.

Whiteoak launched his ­racial discrimination case in December, 2008, after Corrective Services imposed a blanket ban on lawful non-citizens like himself being classified a C3, which allows them to apply for day and work release and other perks.

"It is discrimination because the policy decisions are treating me differently to what an Australian citizen is treated," Whiteoak told the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.

He argued the decision to cancel his permanent residency was "based solely on the fact I am a British subject in jail and not my offensive behaviour".

The convicted killer asked the tribunal to "use all the powers available ... to persuade and or force the Corrective Services to change (my) classification back."

After a number of hearings, the Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which now incorporates the ADT, ruled this month that Corrective Services had racially discriminated against him under the Anti-Discrimination Act.

EVERY time Yorkshireman Barry Whiteoak has been freed from an Australian jail he has claimed a new victim.  He arrived as a 20-year-old and, by the age of 27, was behind bars for an indecent assault at knifepoint in which he told his victim: "It would be easy to carve you up."


New NSW Premier criticised for not agreeing with the left's social agenda

The left media has jumped to the conclusion new NSW Premier Mike Baird is unusual because he married young and doesn’t agree with their pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, anti-Christian agenda.

Baird is the son of former Howard era Liberal MP Bruce Baird who was previously a NSW Government minister.

But don't let the surname fool you. They are quite different men.

Have a read of a few of the profile pieces published on Baird in the last few days and notice the common theme.

The Guardian’s Bridie Jabour:

He voted against allowing same-sex couples to adopt in 2010, opposed a stem cell research bill and was one of the members of the legislative assembly to vote in favour of "Zoe’s law", which opponents have seen as a threat to abortion laws in NSW.

..his opposition to same-sex marriage is on the record. .. he said: "I don't in any way see that as a degradation or a reduction in rights for those who are choosing to live a homosexual lifestyle. But for me, marriage [is] a man and a woman and I think that preserving that, and the legacy and history of that, is important."

A Fairfax got the same dot points:

…another potential minefield for Baird as Premier - his conservative social values.

Asked if he "still believed that homosexuality is a lifestyle decision" Baird was left visibly stunned. The question served as a reminder that attention will be drawn to Baird's conservative position on issues such as same-sex marriage and embryonic stem cell research.

Phillipa McDonald of the ABC has similar concerns:

While he says little of his conservative views, the new premier is on the record as being against same sex-marriage, and he has voted against against embryonic stem cell research.

How his religious views will play out in practise in the state's top job will be watched closely by many.

Mr Baird says he lives by a mantra of integrity, passion and results. Among those he looks up to are William Wilberforce, who was a driving force for the abolition of slavery; Martin Luther King Jnr; and the former and longest-serving NSW governor, Sir Roden Cutler, who was awarded a Victoria Cross for bravery.

Conservative or even Christian values might not sit well with some – but they still are shared by a majority of people in this country – just maybe not in the majority of newsrooms.


Urban war zones Fairfax won't cover...

If you buy that Left wing rag they call The Age (Fairfax) don’t expect to read about stuff they don’t want you to read about. Particularly if it’s to do with Islamic "refugees". Riots are happening right outside The Age’s front door, but still no reporters available. Have they an allergy to anything Islamic? 

From a regular reader:

Hi Larry.  Just wanting to know if anyone else witnessed and experienced the mayhem on Sydney Rd Brunswick on Easter Saturday. We were out celebrating for Easter when it we decided it was time to head home so weren't so tired for Sunday mass. The 4 of us just left the restaurant and were heading down Sydney Rd towards COBURG when we passed through Albion St and noticed red & blue lights and thought may have been a booze bus or minor accident.

The closer we came we noticed a big gathering of over 180-200 if not more Black Africans angry as hell armed with weapons such as broken glass bottles batons baseball bats and  metal bars and a machete. We just saw packs of 70 and more chasing each other of equal numbers, was quite frightening for my fellow passengers thinking this was in Africa or some Arab land.

We did see quite a few Lebanese Muslim youths running away. Well over 200 and more Black Africans on the side we were on so we decided to do a u turn because the car was going to get damaged. Why wasn't this reported on media? Is it just to cover up how really bad the problem is in Melbourne and with Muslim African Arabs.

From another reader: Hi Larry,  I keep wondering who has gagged our media and government to such an extent that they won’t report Islamic immigrants doing the most heinous of crimes because it will put them in a bad light. I don't know what’s going on with the Sudanese people but even the cops in QLD are worried as their numbers are growing and they have absolutely no respect or fear of our laws. Again this was blocked from being reported on New Year’s Eve.

But Fairfax and the ABC are all over any story where an Islamist is attacked!


23 April, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is cynical about Bill Shorten's Labor Party reform proposals

Baird must revisit mandatory sentencing laws

There is much truth in this.  Some appalling outcomes of such laws have been observed in the USA

Following last week’s resignation of Barry O’Farrell and the appointment of Mike Baird as premier, it is now time to get back to the key criminal justice issue in NSW: the prevention of alcohol-fuelled violence.

In late January, under O’Farrell’s leadership, the NSW government introduced reforms targeted at improving the law’s response to alcohol and drug-fuelled violence. They were intended to address significant community disquiet after last year's guilty plea and sentencing of Kieran Loveridge for the manslaughter of 18-year-old Thomas Kelly. O’Farrell’s "alcohol and drug-fuelled violence initiative" was targeted at improving perceived inadequacies in the law’s response to Kelly’s death, and the one-punch homicide of Daniel Christie last New Year’s Eve.

The reforms included the creation of a new homicide offence designed specifically to cater to this context of lethal violence and the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences for serious assaults involving drugs and alcohol. Also included were initiatives targeted at removing the opportunity for alcohol-fuelled violence in late night Sydney, such as 1:30am lockouts, 3am last drinks and precinct bans.

Of greatest concern was O’Farrell’s proposal to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for a range of serious offences, including assault occasioning actual bodily harm (two-year minimum proposed), reckless wounding (three-year minimum proposed), reckless grievous bodily harm (four-year minimum proposed) and sexual assault (five-year minimum proposed). Thankfully, while O’Farrell’s "one-punch" homicide offence and lockouts gained quick support at a parliamentary level, the proposal to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for a range of serious offences did not gain favour. And rightly so.

The dangers of mandatory minimum sentencing schemes are well established in research worldwide.

They are typically introduced with the promise of deterring future offenders and consequently reducing crime.  Indeed, all they do is act to discourage defendants from pleading guilty to an offence holding a mandatory minimum sentence. Such an outcome in NSW would increase pressure on an already stretched criminal court system.

While the notion of a definite term of imprisonment for serious offences may appear attractive to a public outraged at the law’s response to Kelly’s death, it undermines the principle of proportionality in sentencing and creates barriers to achieving individualised justice.

The experienced members of the NSW judiciary who confront these cases are ideally placed to weigh up the individual facts of the case and apply a sentence that best fits. This is not the job of politicians or the public.

From a financial point of view this is an approach to sentencing that NSW cannot afford. At a time when prisoner numbers are at record levels and prisons overcrowded, any legislation that has the effect of unduly increasing the minimum sentences imposed should be avoided.

While it is undoubtedly important for the government to be seen to be addressing alcohol-fuelled violence, and particularly one-punch homicides, mandatory sentences are not an effective way to do this.

Sentencing guidelines – an approach favoured by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Lloyd Babb, following the Loveridge/Kelly case could be more effective. This would provide a clear directive to the courts on how alcohol and drug-fuelled violence should be considered at sentencing, while still maintaining judicial discretion and individualised justice. 

It was refreshing to hear Baird’s first speech where he pledged to commit to consultation. If Baird is to stay true to his word he will consult the community, legal practitioners and academics on the value of mandatory minimum sentencing schemes for alcohol-fuelled violence-related offences. It is hoped that in doing so, the community will heed the lessons of failed sentencing reform from elsewhere. We need to send a clear message to the government that we seek educative and preventative reforms that address the root of the problem, rather than sentencing reform.

The final section of O’Farrell’s initiative, proposed an advertising campaign to "address the issues of community perceptions and drinking culture". Alongside any other reforms, this is an essential component of the government’s response to alcohol-fuelled violence that cannot be overlooked. This approach seeks to address the culture of masculine violence engulfing our streets late at night. Education programs and awareness campaigns are key to challenging the acceptability of violence, drug and alcohol abuse among young males. The Sydney Morning Herald’s "Safer Sydney" campaign and boxer Danny Green’s advertisement about the dangers of single punch assaults, are good examples of initiatives already at work.

Now is the time to step away from punitive and ineffective policies in favour of a rational response to addressing drug and alcohol-fuelled violence in NSW.


Royal commission must shine light on Sydney's shady political past

Sydney’s Olympic Stadium was completed ahead of schedule in 1999, long before the 2000 Olympics. There were no delays, no disruptions and no blowouts in the $690 million budget. The question is, was the charmed life of this project built on a $500,000 bribe paid to the Labor Party?

Only two people would know for sure. One is Sam Fiszman, who was legendary in NSW Labor circles as the party’s chief fund-raiser. He allegedly solicited and received the bribe. But he is dead, so we don't get his side of the story.

The other is the man who says he paid the bribe: Ian Widdup, then a senior executive at Multiplex. He is alive, though struggling, and pleading guilty to corruption. Widdup gave his version of events to the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Wednesday, during a private interview with ICAC investigating officers. He has also spoken to me at length about this and other matters.

"That stadium was built ahead of schedule because every bribe had been paid," he told me last week. He said Fiszman had asked him for $500,000, an enormous increase on the type of amounts he had previously provided.

"He told me if Multiplex paid $500,000 we would get the Olympic Stadium. I trusted him. He had enormous power in the party."

They had a bagmen’s bond. For years Widdup has been paying bribes to the Construction Forestry Mining and Engineering Union, and giving donations to the Labor Party, above and below the table. Fiszman raised tens of millions of dollars for Labor.

They had never crossed each other, and Fiszman told him how the money would be laundered: "I was to buy 2500 raffle tickets at $100 each, at a big function for some stooge Labor foundation. That’s $250,000. I paid it with my [American Express] black card. It set off the Amex security and I received a call. They wanted to confirm that I had just spent $250,000. I said it was fine and they hung up. That call came from America."

Much of the remaining $250,000 was laundered by what Widdup described as Fiszman’s favourite ploy, ordering carpets. He had made a fortune as a carpet dealer but many of the carpets he sold did not exist. The money was in reality a donation to Labor. Widdup bought a lot of phantom carpets.

Widdup, who has leukemia, is also keen to be interviewed by the Royal Commission on Trade Union Governance and Corruption, headed by former High Court judge Dyson Heydon. It began its hearings last week.

He has already given hours of detailed evidence in court about bribes he paid to the CFMEU, during the case of Ballard v Multiplex and CFMEU. The judge, Robert McDougall, said he found Widdup’s evidence to lack credibility.

But McDougall never heard Widdup’s evidence. He never saw him in court. Never asked him a question. He came to the case late, after witnesses had completed giving evidence, because the presiding judge, Rex Smart, had suffered a mild stroke and was removed from the case.

"I wasn’t lying in court," Widdup told me. "I was engaged in corrupt behaviour."  There is much more to his story that could be followed up by investigators.

Back in June 2001, the Herald nibbled at the edges of the big picture with a front-page report that began: "Australian political parties are taking donations from people with highly dubious backgrounds ... A Herald investigation of donations since 1994 reveals that the parties are still engaging in suspect fund-raising practices and exploiting serious deficiencies in the electoral laws ...

"NSW Labor failed to declare its share of $75,000 raised from the Star City casino through an auction at a fund-raising dinner ... At least a dozen major companies have each donated more than $1 million to political parties since 1994, half of them from the property development and construction industries."

The Herald published the confidential guest list of a Labor fund-raiser at which $450,000 was raised. It included "VIP tables" purchased by Multiplex Construction and Leightons.

In 2000, Fiszman was honoured at a gala dinner attended by numerous Labor luminaries. He  told an arresting story. In 1948, when he was 21 and on his way to Australia aboard the SS Derna, filled with refugees, he was seething with hatred for the Germans and Fascism. He got into a fight with an Estonian over anti-Semitism. They fought on the deck and he shoved the Estonian over the railing. The man was not seen again.

When the ship docked at Fremantle, immigration officials refused to allow Fiszman to disembark. They cited the man overboard incident and a petition by passengers saying he had been spreading communist propaganda. A NSW Labor politician, Syd Einfeld, intervened. He contacted the Chifley Labor government in Canberra and Fiszman was allowed entry. A lifelong bond with the Labor Party was forged.

In Fiszman’s obituary published in the Herald in 2002, a friend wrote: "In Australia Fiszman turned his hand to business, building his small carpet company, Univers Carpets, into a multimillion-dollar endeavour ... He repaid Einfield's support by serving ... on the Australian Tourism Commission from 1987-97, was chairman of Tourism NSW and chair of the NSW Major Events Board at the time of his death. He also worked on the Darling Harbour Board in the critical Olympic period of 1995-2001."

This is how politics works in Sydney. Not just money is laundered but also reputations.

It would be useful if Widdup was given the chance to have his credibility tested by the Heydon royal commission, with its immense latent potential to finally map the dark side of Australian politics.


Crown-of-thorns starfish: New method kills more than 250,000 marine pests on Great Barrier Reef

More than 250,000 crown-of-thorns starfish have been removed from the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland in the past two years, Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt says.

The pest is considered to be one of the biggest threats to the reef and has traditionally been hard to destroy.

In recent decades, the crown-of-thorns starfish has been responsible for 42 per cent of coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef.

Researchers are now using a single injection that causes the starfish to break up between 24 to 48 hours, replacing the previous method requiring up to 20 injections.

The single injection method is harmless to other marine plants and animals.

Mr Hunt says the method has lead to a four-fold increase in the eradication rate.

"We have provided $1 million now - we have $2 million in the budget going forward and we believe that this is likely to be an ongoing program," he said.

"It's necessary for the reef and it's the single best hope we've had in dealing with the crown-of-thorns since people have been working in this space."

Mr Hunt says the new method has made a big difference.  "This is a nasty critter - it does damage to the reef, it does damage to aquatic life," he said.  "We can make a difference - we have saved literally billions of eggs from being released onto the reef."

Crown-of-thorns cull part of long-term reef plan

The Government's crown-of-thorns eradication plan is a key element of its Reef 2050 Plan.

Divers from the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators can cull over 1,000 crown-of-thorns starfish on a 40-minute dive.

Project manager Steve Moon says this includes 27,000 in just eight days at Arlington reef and 9,000 at Batt reef, as well as 14,000 at Spitfire reef near Cooktown, north of Cairns.

"What we have noticed is a significant increase in coral cover, which is absolutely spectacular," he said.

"That was the aim of the whole program - to try and give the coral a chance to grow and we've seen that, despite some of the extreme weather events that we've had."

Other measures under the Government's Reef 2050 Plan will see improvements to the quality of water entering the reef, which will limit the ability of larval-stage starfish to thrive on water-borne algae that results from nutrient-rich waters.

The Government has also funded a second control vessel, Venus 2, as part of the program.

But Mr Moon says more resources may be needed.  "I don’t think we’ve seen the peak of this current outbreak yet," he said. "I think we’re going to be looking further down the track somewhere around this time next year, given that we’ve already had a spawning season in recent months.

"What we’re going to see - is two boats going to be enough? Possibly, but probably not."

Jairo Rivera from James Cook University helped to develop the single injection and says it is working with scientists from the Sunshine Coast University on a contraceptive to further control the spread of crown-of-thorns starfish.

"We found a protein on the surface of the sperm and that can be [bound] to a molecule that turns the eggs sterile," he said.

"If we can do that, that will be awesome because one single starfish can produce up to 60 million eggs per year."

Mr Rivera says the new method could be ready to trial in two years but $300,000 is needed to support the research.


Political foes unite to pay tribute to Neville Wran

Nifty Nev did indeed do a lot of good.  He introduced the ALP to conservatism and his most notable follower, Bob Hawke, is rightly regarded as Australia's Margaret Thatcher.  Quite remarkable

Both sides of politics are paying tribute to former New South Wales premier Neville Wran, as a state funeral is prepared for the Labor icon.

Mr Wran, who led NSW from May 1976 to July 1986, died yesterday at the age of 87 after suffering from dementia.

This morning current NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird said Mr Wran's family had accepted the offer of a state funeral for a man he described as having "made a permanent and positive mark" on the state.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott described Mr Wran as "one of the most significant figures of his generation"


22 April, 2014

Multicultural murder in Australia: Father kills two little daughters

Charles Mihayo is African

A MAN accused of murdering his two young daughters sat quietly and without emotion when he appeared at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court this morning.

Charles Mihayo, 35, had no supporters in court and was represented by a lawyer from Legal Aid.

Mr Mihayo’s daughters, Savannah, 4, and Indianna, 3, were found dead at their grandmother’s home in Watsonia on Sunday.

Flanked by three guards, Mr Mihayo appeared in the dock behind glass, a move that is usually reserved for unruly or high-risk defendants.

Few details were revealed during his 50-second appearance.  Magistrate John Doherty remanded Mr Mihayo in custody to reappear for a committal mention on August 12.

Treasured photos of the playful, smiling sisters, hand in hand, were released by the family last night as their mother spoke of her grief.

"We are utterly devastated at the loss of Savannah and Indianna," she said in a brief statement, released by police.

Mr Mihayo who was living in a granny flat at the back of the property, was married to the girls’ mother, but they separated about a year ago.

The family had gathered at the Longmuir Rd home on Sunday, but about 2.40pm the Easter celebrations quickly turned to horror.

A relative frantically called 000. Emergency services rushed to the scene, but nothing could be done to save the girls.

Police have not released details about how the girls died or whether a weapon was used.

The double murder, which brought even hardened police officers to tears, has prompted an outpouring of public anger and mourning.

Grief-stricken family returned to the house yesterday to collect some belongings, but declined to speak to media before leaving.

Neighbours, and complete strangers touched by the girls’ deaths, also came to the house to pay their respects.

As the day passed, more and more people visited the usually quiet suburban street — where Savannah and Indianna were often spotted playing — to leave the family flowers and messages of support.

One card read: "Two beautiful angels forever in heaven. May they both be surrounded by angels to protect them."

A toddler clutched his mum’s leg as he waved at the house, while a girl — no older than Savannah and Indianna — placed a pot plant of pink cyclamen, a plant that symbolises sorrow and sincerity, at the fence.

She held her dad’s hand as the two of them stood briefly in silence on the footpath, staring at the unassuming red brick home.

Neighbour Laura Birckel, who lives "just doors away" said her family was devastated by the tragedy.  "Still feeling so sick in the stomach," she said. "Such beautiful little girls, such innocent lives.  "May they rest in peace. Absolute heartbreaking times for the families involved."

A friend of the girls’ mother could not believe the news.  "It is such a tragic event," the friend said. "Those kids are the mother’s world."


More popular than ever

This year is shaping up as an annus horribilis for Australia’s republicans. They have had to contend with Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s reintroduction of Knights and Dames, and now a highly successful visit by the royal family’s new glamour couple.

These pale into insignificance, though, compared to a recent finding that young people are abandoning the cause. It puts paid to the old adage that a republic is inevitable.

Republicans have assumed that they have time on their side. They can afford to wait because the passage of time will see older generations replaced with younger people more likely to want an Australian as the nation’s head of state.

A Fairfax-Nielsen poll has confounded this view. It reported that community support for a republic has dropped to 42 per cent, the lowest level in 35 years and down from a peak of 58 per cent at the 1999 referendum.

A major reason for this drop is that, rather than renouncing the monarchy, young Australians are embracing it. The poll found that only 28 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds support a republic, with 60 per cent rejecting change. It reveals the first Australians in decades that are more supportive of the monarchy than their parents.

This result provides a long overdue wake-up call for republicans. They would be wrong to pin the blame on younger Australians being wooed by the celebrity factor of William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. This is part of the story, but the bigger problem lies within republicans’ own ranks.

Republicans have always had to argue their case in the face of strong community affection for the Queen or other royals. In the past, they have proved adept at convincing Australians that they can feel this way and yet still cut the nation’s last symbolic tie to the monarchy.

All but a few of Australia’s elected representatives stopped making the case for a republic many years ago. No leader has embraced the idea since the 1999 referendum, and in that time the reform agenda has moved on to the recognition of Aboriginal Australians in the Constitution.

The Australian Labor Party needs to accept its share of responsibility for the decline in republican support. The party is staunchly republican in its policies and sentiment, but gives the impression that it has given up trying.

The election of the Rudd government in 2007 was meant to herald another referendum on a republic. Kevin Rudd lifted hopes early, but then decided to put the issue aside until a second term.

After Rudd failed to serve out his first term, his replacement, Julia Gillard, said that a vote should be put off until the death of the Queen. Her policy attracted bipartisan support as prominent republicans within coalition ranks also welcomed a delay.

This was not a well thought-out strategy, but an excuse for inaction. It was also a revealing insight into modern Labor’s discomfort with symbolic, nation-building changes of the kind once promoted by leaders such as Prime Minister Paul Keating.

The republican cause cannot advance without strong political backing. In its absence, the idea attracts only sporadic media attention and has been off the radar of most Australians for the best part of 15 years.

During this period, a new generation of Australians has come of voting age. Unsurprisingly, most are happy with the status quo. It is easy to be taken in by the allure of the young royals when so few are arguing for an alternative.


Sushi boom increases rice markets for Riverina growers

The growing popularity of Japanese cuisine in Australia is driving up demand for speciality rice in southern New South Wales.

While the Riverina and Murray Valley specialises in medium grain rice production, premiums on short grain Japanese style rice is helping to drive grower interest.

Earlier this month, SunRice announced a higher price for the 2014 Koshihikari crop grown in the region.

The company's chairman Gerry Lawson indicated it'll be calling on growers to increase the area planted to the variety later this year.

With markets in Canada, the UK, South East Asia, South Korea and now Russia, SunRice hopes the industry can triple production for sushi rice in the next three years.

Craig Young, the company's senior marketing manager, says its wants to improve the sushi experience from paddock to plate.

"We're researching and working across the whole business to make sure that we're always improving and understanding what our customers want.

"So we're working with some sushi chefs on understanding their needs and what they look for, so we can make sure we incorporate that into our process, whether that be in breeding, growing, milling or storing."

Peter Snell, senior rice breeder with the NSW Department of Primary Industries, is working on two new lines in the breeding program and says they're showing some promise.

"These new varieties can go later and growers will be more confident with their water budgets and the area prepared for rice can expand dramatically."


Some details of the Manus Island riots

About 35 asylum seekers rushed out of the gate from the Oscar compound of the Manus Island detention centre, as if on impulse, when it opened for the truck carrying their evening meals to enter.

Their aim was to seek refuge at a church a few kilometres away, but sources say they ran straight into a group of angry PNG locals who were walking towards the camp to begin their shifts as security guards employed by the contractor G4S.

It was about 6.15 on the evening of February 16 and the tensions that had been simmering for weeks had just been ramped dramatically up by a meeting with camp officials that confirmed the asylum seekers’ worst fears.

The take-out of the meeting, as one security guard described it, was that they faced years in detention in PNG and, even if their claims for refugee status were recognised, they would not be going anywhere.

Their rage and despair manifested itself in a dramatic change in the tone of their nightly protests, which had until then mainly involved peacefully marching around their compounds and pleading for their freedom.

Now they were angry, and their ire was directed not at the Australian government that sent them here, but at the country holding them, prompting guards in riot gear to enter their compound.

"F… PNG!" some of the asylum seekers chanted. A few, according to security guards and local residents, said worse, more hurtful, things. "PNG, AIDS country!" A small number, according to Australians who were working as security guards, even exposed themselves to those outside the centre.

The PNG nationals walking up the road were not of a mind to sympathise with their predicament, or rationalise that the statements came from a small minority of the 1300 who are detained in conditions described by Amnesty International as hopelessly inadequate and by the UNHCR as unsafe.

Untrained in conflict resolution, unprepared to deal with situations like this one and possibly riled by malicious rumours spread about the asylum seekers' intentions if they escaped, they turned on the hapless escapers, quickly outnumbering them.

Some of the asylum seekers were armed with sticks and ready for a fight, an Australian security guard says. Most turned and ran for the safety of the centre they had fled. A few tasted freedom of sorts before being rounded up and taken to the local prison. Some suffered frightful beatings and broken bones. One had his throat cut.

The video footage obtained by Fairfax Media captures one scene of this drama, when asylum seekers who ran back into the centre sought refuge in a building and were pursued by PNG nationals in their G4S uniforms. An Australian guard restrains them.

Earlier, some of the asylum seekers and some of those outside the fence began throwing the same rocks at each other. Who threw the first rock is unclear, though asylum seekers insist their area was cleared of any potential missiles before the disturbance and they were simply returning fire.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison reported the next day that 19 detainees had attended the clinic for medical attention, none of whom were "exhibiting life–threatening conditions". The next morning, five remained at the clinic. It is also clear that some security guards were injured, mostly when hit by rocks thrown into the centre.


21 April, 2014

Feel the hate

Martin Hirst, an old Trot (extreme communist), teaches journalism at Deakin university


Sky sets up rival to ABC overseas

SKY News Australia is planning to launch an international news platform, called Australia Channel, which could replace the ABC’s embattled Australia Network if that service is cut in the May budget.

The Australia Channel, which could be launched without taxpayer funding within months, will have five channels of news, business, political and sports content available to 180 countries, including key markets of China and the Middle East.

Sky has not yet informed the Abbott government about its planned service, which will be delivered via IPTV, or internet-based television.

The ABC has a 10-year $223 million federal government contract to deliver the Australia Network.

The new venture will make it obsolete because such funds will no longer be needed to provide a service. It is understood the new venture would be produced and distributed at no cost to taxpayers. Sky submitted a tender for the service that was favoured by two expert recommendations but the Gillard government chose to retain the ABC.

The new proposal has come together in the last four months. All five channels will feature full Australian content, produced from the local Sky News operation, with one channel dedicated to business, particularly focusing on the Asian market, to encourage Australian investment in the region.

The channels will champion Australia’s business, trade and investment interests.

They will include a 24-hour sports channel, and all channels will feature live or current coverage. Parliamentary proceedings will also be broadcast. The service means Australian television content will, for the first time, be broadcast in North and South America, Europe and Africa.

Even with federal funding, the ABC’s Australia Network has been struggling. In February The Australian revealed the ABC had asked rival networks for content to show on its international broadcasts.

Australia Network television controller Patrick Emmett wrote to Sky to ask whether it could ­acquire and broadcast programs including Australian Agenda, Asia Pacific Outlook and the Switzer Show.

The Abbott government is looking at cutting the Australia Network’s Asian broadcasting service in the budget. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has questioned whether it was being trumped by the internet and whether it was an effective use of funds.

ABC managing director Mark Scott defended the service in a speech at Melbourne University last month, saying it was crucial to Australia’s soft diplomacy aims and ambitions, and was targeting Asia’s rising middle class. He said axing it would be a step backwards.

Tony Abbott has accused the ABC of being unpatriotic and said he was considering the network’s future.

Howard government foreign minister Alexander Downer, who had previously granted the contract to the ABC, said in February its programming choices were poor.  "What I had in mind was news and current affairs, not cooking shows, English-language programs and Bananas in Pyjamas," he said.


Call to get homeopathic remedies off pharmacy shelves

Pressure is mounting on pharmacists to stop selling homeopathic products after a major review found there was no credible scientific evidence to support the alternative medicines.

Despite scepticism about homeopathy among pharmacists, many pharmacies sell homeopathic products that are marketed for illnesses including migraine headaches, bleeding, persistent nausea and vomiting, coughs and colds, insomnia and arthritic pain.

But there are now increasing calls for them to abandon the products after a major National Health and Medical Research Council review of homeopathy concluded there was no reliable evidence it could treat health conditions.

The review, released earlier this month, also stated: "People who choose homeopathy, instead of proven conventional treatment, may put their health at risk if safe and evidence-based treatments are rejected or delayed in favour of homeopathic treatment."

While the review has been criticised by homeopaths who are appealing the finding, some doctors and pharmacists say it should make it unethical for pharmacists to continue stocking and selling homeopathic products.

Under the Pharmacy Board of Australia code of conduct, pharmacists are required to practice "in accordance with the current and accepted evidence base of the health profession, including clinical outcomes" and by "facilitating the quality use of therapeutic products based on the best available evidence and the patient or client's needs".

John Dwyer, an immunologist and emeritus professor of medicine at the University of NSW, said given pharmacists were currently lobbying to perform more healthcare, such as vaccinations and disease screening, it was time they put their ethics ahead of profits and stopped selling useless homeopathic products.

He said the increasing commercialisation of pharmacies had led many to stock a range of dubious complementary and alternative medicines, giving them an air of credibility that could mislead the public.

"One can only imagine that commercial reasons dominate," he said.

Grant Kardachi, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, the professional body representing 18,000 pharmacists, said he planned to inform members about the review council's report because homeopathy did not sit well with their aim for pharmacies to become more professional "health hubs".

"I think we'd be saying you should seriously consider, if you are stocking these products in your pharmacy, what that actually means, and you should be looking at other products in your pharmacy to treat patients' health conditions where you know there is more evidence," he said.

Greg Turnbull, from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, which represents pharmacy owners, said it did not plan to do anything with the review.

Taree pharmacist Ian Carr said he had never stocked homeopathic products and hoped his colleagues would follow suit. "I, personally, think that the professionalism of pharmacy is threatened by the selling of non-evidence based products," he said.


The slow death of free speech

How the Left, here and abroad, is trying to shut down debate —  from Islam and Israel to global warming and gay marriage

Mark Steyn

These days, pretty much every story is really the same story:

In Galway, at the National University of Ireland, a speaker who attempts to argue against the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) programme against Israel is shouted down with cries of ‘Fucking Zionist, fucking pricks… Get the fuck off our campus.’
In California, Mozilla’s chief executive is forced to resign because he once made a political donation in support of the pre-revisionist definition of marriage.

At Westminster, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee declares that the BBC should seek ‘special clearance’ before it interviews climate sceptics, such as fringe wacko extremists like former Chancellor Nigel Lawson.
In Massachusetts, Brandeis University withdraws its offer of an honorary degree to a black feminist atheist human rights campaigner from Somalia.

In London, a multitude of liberal journalists and artists responsible for everything from Monty Python to Downton Abbey sign an open letter in favour of the first state restraints on the British press in three and a quarter centuries.

And in Canberra the government is planning to repeal Section 18C — whoa, don’t worry, not all of it, just three or four adjectives; or maybe only two, or whatever it’s down to by now, after what Gay Alcorn in the Age described as the ongoing debate about ‘where to strike the balance between free speech in a democracy and protection against racial abuse in a multicultural society’.

I heard a lot of that kind of talk during my battles with the Canadian ‘human rights’ commissions a few years ago: of course, we all believe in free speech, but it’s a question of how you ‘strike the balance’, where you ‘draw the line’… which all sounds terribly reasonable and Canadian, and apparently Australian, too. But in reality the point of free speech is for the stuff that’s over the line, and strikingly unbalanced. If free speech is only for polite persons of mild temperament within government-policed parameters, it isn’t free at all. So screw that.

But I don’t really think that many people these days are genuinely interested in ‘striking the balance’; they’ve drawn the line and they’re increasingly unashamed about which side of it they stand. What all the above stories have in common, whether nominally about Israel, gay marriage, climate change, Islam, or even freedom of the press, is that one side has cheerfully swapped that apocryphal Voltaire quote about disagreeing with what you say but defending to the death your right to say it for the pithier Ring Lardner line: ‘"Shut up," he explained.’

A generation ago, progressive opinion at least felt obliged to pay lip service to the Voltaire shtick. These days, nobody’s asking you to defend yourself to the death: a mildly supportive retweet would do. But even that’s further than most of those in the academy, the arts, the media are prepared to go. As Erin Ching, a student at 60-grand-a-year Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, put it in her college newspaper the other day: ‘What really bothered me is the whole idea that at a liberal arts college we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion.’ Yeah, who needs that? There speaks the voice of a generation: celebrate diversity by enforcing conformity.

The examples above are ever-shrinking Dantean circles of Tolerance: At Galway, the dissenting opinion was silenced by grunting thugs screaming four-letter words. At Mozilla, the chairwoman is far more housetrained: she issued a nice press release all about (per Miss Alcorn) striking a balance between freedom of speech and ‘equality’, and how the best way to ‘support’ a ‘culture’ of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusiveness’ is by firing anyone who dissents from the mandatory groupthink. At the House of Commons they’re moving to the next stage: in an ‘inclusive culture’ ever more comfortable with narrower bounds of public discourse, it seems entirely natural that the next step should be for dissenting voices to require state permission to speak.

At Brandeis University, we are learning the hierarchy of the new multiculti caste system. In theory, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is everything the identity-group fetishists dig: female, atheist, black, immigrant. If conservative white males were to silence a secular women’s rights campaigner from Somalia, it would be proof of the Republican party’s ‘war on women’, or the encroaching Christian fundamentalist theocracy, or just plain old Andrew Boltian racism breaking free of its redoubt at the Herald Sun to rampage as far as the eye can see. But when the snivelling white male who purports to be president of Brandeis (one Frederick Lawrence) does it out of deference to Islam, Miss Hirsi Ali’s blackness washes off her like a bad dye job on a telly news anchor.

White feminist Germaine Greer can speak at Brandeis because, in one of the more whimsical ideological evolutions even by dear old Germaine’s standards, Ms Greer feels that clitoridectomies add to the rich tapestry of ‘cultural identity’: ‘One man’s beautification is another man’s mutilation,’ as she puts it.

But black feminist Hirsi Ali, who was on the receiving end of ‘one man’s mutilation’ and lives under death threats because she was boorish enough to complain about it, is too ‘hateful’ to be permitted to speak. In the internal contradictions of multiculturalism, Islam trumps all: race, gender, secularism, everything. So, in the interests of multiculti sensitivity, pampered upper-middle-class trusty-fundy children of entitlement are pronouncing a Somali refugee beyond the pale and signing up to Islamic strictures on the role of women.

That’s another reason why Gay Alcorn’s fretting over ‘striking the balance’ is so irrelevant. No matter where you strike it, the last unread nonagenarian white supremacist Xeroxing flyers in a shack off the Tanami Track will be way over the line, while, say, Sheikh Sharif Hussein’s lively sermon to an enthusiastic crowd at the Islamic Da’wah Centre of South Australia, calling on Allah to kill every last Buddhist and Hindu, will be safely inside it. One man’s decapitation is another man’s cultural validation, as Germaine would say.

Ms Greer has reached that Circle of Tolerance wherein the turkeys line up to volunteer for an early Eid. The Leveson Inquiry declaration of support signed by all those London luvvies like Emma Thompson, Tom Stoppard, Maggie Smith, Bob Geldof and Ian McKellen is the stage that comes after that House of Commons Science and Technology Committee — when the most creative spirits in our society all suddenly say: ‘Ooh, yes, please, state regulation, bring it on!’ Many of the eminent thespians who signed this letter started their careers in an era when every play performed in the West End had to be approved by the Queen’s Lord Chamberlain. Presented with a script that contained three ‘fucks’ and an explicit reference to anal sex, he’d inform the producer that he would be permitted two ‘crikeys’ and a hint of heavy petting.

In 1968, he lost his censorship powers, and the previously banned Hair, of all anodyne trifles, could finally be seen on the London stage: this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius. Only four and a half decades after the censor’s departure, British liberals are panting for the reimposition of censorship under a new ‘Royal Charter’.

This is the aging of the dawn of Aquarius: new blasphemy laws for progressive pieties. In the New Statesman, Sarah Ditum seemed befuddled that the ‘No Platform’ movement — a vigorous effort to deny public platforms to the British National party and the English Defence League — has mysteriously advanced from silencing ‘violent fascists’ to silencing all kinds of other people, like a Guardian feminist who ventured some insufficiently affirming observations about trans-women and is now unfit for polite society. But, once you get a taste for shutting people up, it’s hard to stop. Why bother winning the debate when it’s easier to close it down?

Nick Lowles defined the ‘No Platform’ philosophy as ‘the position where we refuse to allow fascists an opportunity to act like normal political parties’. But free speech is essential to a free society because, when you deny people ‘an opportunity to act like normal political parties’, there’s nothing left for them to do but punch your lights out.

Free speech, wrote the Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson last week, ‘buttresses the political system’s legitimacy. It helps losers, in the struggle for public opinion and electoral success, to accept their fates. It helps keep them loyal to the system, even though it has disappointed them. They will accept the outcomes, because they believe they’ve had a fair opportunity to express and advance their views. There’s always the next election. Free speech underpins our larger concept of freedom.’

Just so. A fortnight ago I was in Quebec for a provincial election in which the ruling separatist party went down to its worst defeat in almost half a century. This was a democratic contest fought between parties that don’t even agree on what country they’re in. In Ottawa for most of the 1990s the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition was a chap who barely acknowledged either the head of state or the state she’s head of.

Which is as it should be. Because, if a Quebec separatist or an Australian republican can’t challenge the constitutional order through public advocacy, the only alternative is to put on a black ski-mask and skulk around after dark blowing stuff up.

I’m opposed to the notion of official ideology — not just fascism, Communism and Baathism, but the fluffier ones, too, like ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘climate change’ and ‘marriage equality’. Because the more topics you rule out of discussion — immigration, Islam, ‘gender fluidity’ — the more you delegitimise the political system. As your cynical political consultant sees it, a commitment to abolish Section 18C is more trouble than it’s worth: you’ll just spends weeks getting damned as cobwebbed racists seeking to impose a bigots’ charter when you could be moving the meter with swing voters by announcing a federal programmne of transgendered bathroom construction.

But, beyond the shrunken horizons of spinmeisters, the inability to roll back something like 18C says something profound about where we’re headed: a world where real, primal, universal rights — like freedom of expression — come a distant second to the new tribalism of identity-group rights.

Oh, don’t worry. There’ll still be plenty of ‘offending, insulting or humiliating’ in such a world, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the Mozilla CEO and Zionists and climate deniers and feminist ‘cis-women’ not quite au courant with transphobia can all tell you. And then comes the final, eerie silence. Young Erin Ching at Swarthmore College has grasped the essential idea: it is not merely that, as the Big Climate enforcers say, ‘the science is settled’, but so is everything else, from abortion to gay marriage.

So what’s to talk about? Universities are no longer institutions of inquiry but ‘safe spaces’ where delicate flowers of diversity of race, sex, orientation, ‘gender fluidity’ and everything else except diversity of thought have to be protected from exposure to any unsafe ideas.

As it happens, the biggest ‘safe space’ on the planet is the Muslim world. For a millennium, Islamic scholars have insisted, as firmly as a climate scientist or an American sophomore, that there’s nothing to debate. And what happened? As the United Nations Human Development Programme’s famous 2002 report blandly noted, more books are translated in Spain in a single year than have been translated into Arabic in the last 1,000 years. Free speech and a dynamic, innovative society are intimately connected: a culture that can’t bear a dissenting word on race or religion or gender fluidity or carbon offsets is a society that will cease to innovate, and then stagnate, and then decline, very fast.

As American universities, British playwrights and Australian judges once understood, the ‘safe space’ is where cultures go to die.


20 April, 2014

Projected WA Senate Result: Libs 3, ALP 1, GRN 1, PUP 1

Since election night, almost 32,000 postal votes have been added to the WA Senate count. When we look at the results by electorates where postals have been counted, we find that the Liberals are doing at least 10% better on postal votes than on ordinary votes. The Liberals' share of the overall Senate vote has thus increased from 33.7% to 34.0%. The Greens have performed badly on postals, and their share of the overall vote has declined from 15.8% to 15.5%. Labor is approximately flat when comparing postals in each electorate with ordinary votes. However, with the total Labor/Green vote falling, and the Liberal vote rising, the sixth WA Senate seat can now be called for the Liberals, who now lead by over 5,000 votes in the ABC Senate calculator.

Although absentee votes will probably be worse for the Liberals than ordinary votes, pre-poll votes will be somewhat better, and there simply will not be enough provisionals to make a difference. You can see these patterns from the 2013 Senate results, which have so far been validated by the postals.

A hope for Labor was that Palmer United Party (PUP) would gain a quota earlier than the ABC calculator suggested, freeing up some votes that went to PUP then Labor to go directly to Labor. Labor would thus get the full value of these votes, rather than have them diluted by becoming part of the PUP surplus. However, the Liberals' lead is going to be too large for this consideration to make any difference to the result.

The Labor-favouring electorate of Brand is the electorate with the most counting. The vast majority of ordinary votes in Brand have been separated into above-the-line ticket votes and below-the-line candidate votes. All of the postals counted so far are only ticket votes, but looking at the ordinary votes, there are not very many below-the-line votes. Labor will not receive much help from below-the-line declaration votes.

In general, I can see no reason to not call the sixth WA Senate seat for Liberal Linda Reynolds, who will defeat Labor’s Louise Pratt. That means this WA half-Senate election will produce 3 Liberals, 1 Labor, 1 Green and 1 PUP. This has definitely been a disastrous election for Labor.


Feminist "research" neutered

A national coalition of men’s health advocates has made a formal complaint to the UNSW Ethics Committee about an ‘online study of young people’s attitudes towards domestic and family violence’ that it appears to have approved.

The complaint states the survey on which the research is to be based is gender-biased, poorly formulated and misleading. It cannot achieve its stated aims and any consequent findings will be unreliable and are likely to mislead the public.

The study, being conducted by the Gendered Violence Research Network at UNSW, the White Ribbon Campaign and Youth Action NSW, states it intends to represent a follow up on research conducted in 1999 by the Crime Research Centre.

Men’s Health Australia has lodged a complaint with the Ethics Secretariat at UNSW, asking the committee to consider withdrawal of approval for the project in its current form.

Men’s Health spokesman Greg Andresen said, "We have three major areas of concern with this research. Firstly the survey questions are poorly formulated and gender biased. Secondly, the methodology used in the survey is so dissimilar to the original as to make any useful comparison impossible. Finally the promotional material to prospective online participants contains false and misleading information."

"We are concerned that the current survey ignores many of the findings of the 1999 research with respect to the experience of men and boys of domestic abuse and instead focuses almost entirely upon stereotypes and sexist attitudes toward women and girls. The study seem bound to unearth ‘evidence’ of ‘poor attitudes to violence against women’ simply because it contains leading questions and fails to ask about attitudes to violence against men!" said Mr Andresen.

Men’s health advocates are also alarmed that the promotional materials for the study contain significant factual errors and misrepresentations. In one example, the flyer states that "one in four young people have witnessed domestic violence against their mother or step mother," neglecting to mention that the same percentage of young people have witnessed domestic violence against their father or step father.


The study has now been suspended by the university

Climate change proponents using 'mediaeval' tactics

George Brandis has compared himself to Voltaire and derided proponents of climate change action as "believers" who do not listen to opposing views and have reduced debate to a mediaeval and ignorant level.

In an interview with online magazine Spiked, the Attorney-General also declares he has no regret for saying Australians have the right to be bigots and accuses the left of advocating censorship to enforce a morality code on the nation.

It comes as former Australian of the year Professor Fiona Stanley said climate science had been denigrated through politicisation and denial, and issued a stinging attack on the federal government for the absence of a specific department to tackle global warming.

Senator Brandis, who is driving reforms to Australia’s racial discrimination act, describes the climate change debate as one of the "catalysing moments" in his views on freedom of speech.

While he says he believes in man-made climate change, the Queensland senator tells the magazine he is shocked by the "authoritarianism" with which some proponents of climate change exclude alternative viewpoints, singling out Labor’s Penny Wong as "Australia’s high priestess of political correctness".

He said it was "deplorable" that "one side [has] the orthodoxy on its side and delegitimises the views of those who disagree, rather than engaging with them intellectually and showing them why they are wrong".

As examples, he points to Senator Wong and former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who he accuses of arguing "the science is settled" to shut down political debate on climate change.

"In other words, 'I am not even going to engage in a debate with you.' It was ignorant, it was mediaeval, the approach of these true believers in climate change," he said.

Senator Brandis also defended comments he made in the Senate, where he argued for the right of Australians to be bigots as justification for changes to section 18C and 18D of the racial discrimination act.

"I don’t regret saying that because in this debate, sooner or later – and better sooner than later – somebody had to make the Voltaire point; somebody had to make the point [about] defending the right to free speech of people with whom you profoundly disagree."

Senator Brandis said there had been a shift in Australian politics, claiming it was now the "Tory point of view", rather than the left, that fell on the side of liberation and free speech.

"Now, the left has adopted a reasonably comprehensive secular morality of its own, which it now seeks to impose upon society," he said.

"And it’s prepared to impose that secular morality on society at the cost of the freedom of speech which it once espoused."


Muslim aggression in Australia

A WILD brawl involving police and three brothers ­already on trial for fighting with cops broke out inside a Sydney court yesterday.

The melee erupted only minutes after the siblings from Bankstown were convicted of assaulting police, hospitalising four of them, outside their home in 2013.

One of them, Adel Mehanna, shouted from the dock: "I’m going to kill you" before his brothers Ali and Hussain got into a punch-up with police.

The fight then spilled out of the court into the foyer, shocking dozens of onlookers as numerous punches were thrown.

Six officers tried to ­restrain one of the brothers who lay screaming on the ground: "Help me, somebody help me."

The brothers’ mother Rafah Mehanna said "no, no" before she was later taken from the court in an ambulance. She was wasn’t hurt in the fight.

Outside the court building, an angry Ali Mehanna blamed the police for starting the fight, claiming it was "police brutality".

He said one officer crash-tackled his brother Hassan as he was walking out of court: "After the court dismissed most of the charges (against) my mother, my ­father, my sister, my brother — the cops aggravated the situation. As my brother left the courtroom, they came, they provoked him and they rearrested him."

"There are videos of the officer constantly hitting my brother, there was six, seven of them on top of him, they were hitting him," he said.

Their court appearance came after police were called to their Bankstown home on New Year’s Day last year ­because of reports of a domestic dispute.

When police arrived the court heard Ali swore at them, calling one a "slut" and telling them it was a family matter.

A fight erupted with police and it was alleged three officers were hospitalised and four others injured.

Hussain was taken into custody yesterday following the fight, Adel remains in custody. Ali was given bail.


18 April, 2014

Still Damaging and Disturbing: Australian Child Protection Data and the Need for National Adoption Targets

In December 2013, the Abbott government announced plans to make it easier for Australian parents to adopt children both locally and from overseas. Acknowledging the official ‘taboo’ on adoption in Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott ordered an inter-departmental committee to recommend ways to take adoption out of the ‘too-hard’ basket.

The chief barrier to raising the number of local adoptions is that state and territory child protection authorities almost never take legal action to free children for adoption, even for children who languish in Australia’s ever-expanding ‘out-of-home’ care (OOHC) system with little prospect of safely returning home.

One way the committee can help break the taboo and increase the number of adoptions is by debunking the fallacies that underpin the policy debate concerning the so-called causes and solutions for the demand problems and cost pressures in Australia’s child protection system.

The bottom line is that increasing numbers of children are still ending up in OOHC despite the additional funding Australian governments have poured into family support/preservation.

Australian child protection policy continues to resemble Einstein’s definition of madness—doing the same thing and expecting a different result. The inter-departmental committee needs to be aware that flawed family preservation policies and practices are the root cause of the systemic problems in the child protection system, lest it be misled by red herrings about the need for higher spending on family support services. Instead, it should recommend the Abbott government direct the states and territories to take more timely statutory action to permanently remove children from unsafe homes and provide them with safe and stable homes by adoption by suitable families.

The Abbott government can provide national leadership and take adoption out of the ‘too-hard’ basket by setting national child protection performance targets, including boosting the number of local adoptions from care to the equivalent of more adoption-friendly countries within the next 10 years.


Research investigations mounting for embattled University of New South Wales Professor Levon Khachigian

The drug DZ13 was invented by Khachigian.  Khachigian was born into the Lebanese Armenian community

Millions of dollars in research money for the University of New South Wales has been frozen as multiple investigations into alleged research misconduct are launched.

The National Health and Medical Research Centre is withholding almost $8.4 million in funding it had awarded Professor Levon Khachigian following an investigation into the veracity of research papers about a skin cancer drug called DZ13.

Two investigations are currently being run into that research, and the university is about to establish another two inquiries.

Last year, the ABC revealed that the human clinical trial using DZ13 on skin cancer patients was stopped due to concerns about the science leading up to the trial.

Research papers Professor Khachigian co-wrote about using DZ13 to treat skin cancer and heart disease are being examined by two panels of external experts.

Now the ABC has learned research he co-wrote using the compound to treat blindness is also being examined.

In this latest case, concerns have been raised about four scientific papers published in international journals and the "integrity of the data" used in the papers.

The third investigation by a panel of independent experts will review the four papers, one PhD thesis, and a poster presentation.

All include a number of co-authors from other prestigious universities and medical research bodies.

Professor Khachigian has maintained there has been no wrongdoing in all of the enquiries. His statement regarding the allegations over DZ13 and skin cancer can be read here.

Professor Khachigian remains on leave from the university, though it is not clear whether it is paid or unpaid leave.

A statement from the University of New South Wales says it has investigated or is currently in the process of investigating all allegations of research misconduct it has received relating to research involving Professor Khachigian.

"All investigations into alleged research misconduct must adhere to principles of natural justice and adhere to the procedures laid down by the university's enterprise agreement," it says.

"In accordance ... the university must maintain the confidentiality of such investigations to preserve the fairness and integrity of the process.

"Since the concerns were first raised in 2009, the university has on two separate occasions appointed independent expert panels to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into allegations with respect to publish results of the relevant research."

Academic Dr Sarah Gregson represents the National Tertiary Education Union at the University of New South Wales.

She says the process of organisations investigating themselves needs to be examined.

"I think it is very important for public confidence that the process is done fairly and openly and it remains to be seen whether that happens," she says.

Allegations of research misconduct are becoming more common according to Professor Brian Martin from the University of Wollongong.

He says the most common concerns relate to conflict-of-interest problems, which occur when a university gets funding from an organisation to do research.

He says the current system is not a good system, as it is based on complaints.

"An individual scientist can be damaged if they are falsely accused and those bringing accusations can be damaged as well," he says.


Mike Baird named new NSW Premier after Barry O'Farrell resignation

NSW Premier Mike Baird has promised to restore confidence in the State Government after being elected unopposed as Barry O'Farrell's successor today.

Mr Baird was elected as the state's 44th Premier by the Liberals' party room after Mr O'Farrell's shock resignation yesterday. He was sworn in on Thursday evening.

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian was elected unopposed as the party's deputy leader, after Jillian Skinner announced she would step down.

Mr Baird said it was an honour to be elected the state's Liberal leader.  "I think what we have to say, and all of us will share this: we are shocked and saddened by the events in the last 48 hours," he said.

"As we reflected on it, I think there is one clear thing that comes through - Barry O'Farrell has done a great job. His legacy is positive and it's permanent."

Mr O'Farrell stepped down yesterday after misleading the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Tuesday regarding a $3,000 bottle of wine.

Mr Baird said this afternoon that the NSW Government was one of "integrity" and he would address community concerns about the circumstances surrounding Mr O'Farrell's departure.  "The community has spoken. They do have concerns and we will, in coming days and weeks, have more to say about additional measures to bring that confidence back in government," he said.

Mr Baird said Mr O'Farrell has indicated that he wants to stay on as a local member.

He said that ministerial changes will be considered by himself and Ms Berejiklian over the weekend.

Ms Berejiklian said she was proud to stand alongside Mr Baird, and echoed the Premier's sentiments about Mr O'Farrell.  "Mike is the best person to lead the NSW Liberal Party and I am very proud to serve as his deputy leader," she said.

"I also want to say that Barry O'Farrell and Jillian Skinner have made an outstanding contribution to the party and to this state in their capacities as leaders of the party.

"In the last few days when it has been tough, they have been stoic and amazing."

Prime Minister Tony Abbott congratulated Mr Baird and Ms Berejiklian on their appointment.  "There is no greater honour than to serve the people you are elected to represent at the very highest level, and Mike will be a fine leader for NSW," Mr Abbott said in a statement.

Mike Baird's rise to power

The son of former federal government minister Bruce Baird, Mike Baird studied arts and economics at Sydney University and worked in the banking sector for 18 years before entering politics.
Star chamber takes down a premier

There are likely to be more ramifications for the NSW Liberal Party from ICAC than the resignation of Barry O'Farrell, writes Quentin Dempster on The Drum

He was first elected to the NSW parliament as the Member for Manly in 2007, and within a year he had been promoted to the shadow ministry, prompting speculation then about his leadership ambitions.

Although he is from the Left faction, Mr Baird's aggressive push to privatise the state's assets had been expected to boost his support amongst the party's Right faction.

But the NSW Greens have raised questions about Mr Baird's relationship with Nick Di Girolamo, the former Australian Water Holdings executive at the centre of the current ICAC hearings, whose gift of a 1959 bottle of Grange precipitated the chain of events which led to Mr O'Farrell's resignation.

Newly-elected deputy leader Ms Berejiklian had been touted as Mr O'Farrell's favoured successor, and was widely tipped as a major contender for the leadership.

But earlier today Mr Baird and Ms Berejiklian issued a joint statement saying they would run a joint ticket for the positions of leader and deputy leader respectively.

Ms Berejiklian is one of the key leaders of the party's Left faction, and holds the north shore electorate of Willoughby.

Before entering parliament, she was a Commonwealth Bank executive. She joined the Liberal Party in 1991 and held the position of president of the Young Liberals.


Melanoma vaccine giving cancer victims hope

An Adelaide research team says it has developed a vaccine to tackle melanoma, a disease which kills about 1,500 Australians annually.

About 12,000 new cases are being diagnosed each year.

Barry Foote was 50 when he was diagnosed with aggressive melanoma and given just a year to live.

"The doctor told me to get my house into order and I didn't think I'd live for 12 months, but 14 years later I'm still here," he said.

Mr Foote's surgeon cut out melanomas 24 times as they kept developing in different parts of his body.

"I even got to the stage where I could feel a tumour coming on," he said.

"I'd get a burning sensation and then I'd have to race to the doctor and he'd cut it out and we'd keep going until he just couldn't do it any longer."

Eventually Mr Foote was referred to oncologist Brendon Coventry.

The Associate Professor from Adelaide University and the Australian Melanoma Research Foundation had just started trials of a melanoma vaccine.

"I was a bit scared at first, but when I realised that these tumours were starting to disappear I was very pleased," Mr Foote said.

"Dr Coventry ... said 'if it's going to work you'll feel pain where the tumours are' and I certainly did feel a lot of pain and I was pretty happy with that because I knew it was working."

Vaccine trial has spanned 14 years

Mr Foote is among 54 patients with advanced melanoma who have been involved in the vaccine trial over the past 14 years.

At first, he was injected with the vaccine every fortnight then monthly and now he gets a shot twice per year.

Dr Coventry says the key is giving repetitive and prolonged doses of the vaccine.

"What it's shown is that the vaccine can successfully modulate or modify the immune system of the cancer patient to produce long-term survival with complete removal of all tumour in about 17 per cent of cases," he said.

"It's one of a handful of studies where complete responses or complete remissions have actually exceeded 15 per cent for advanced melanoma.

"A lot of other studies have used very complex regimens, and very toxic regimens. The vaccine has very little in terms of side-effects at all, there's sometimes a little redness but apart from that nothing else is experienced."

Dr Coventry says the trial is helping researchers understand how a patient's immune system can be manipulated to fight cancer.

He says the next step is to look at what happens to the immune system after the vaccine is given.

"The immune system works in ways that seems to be switching on and off constantly and now what we're trying to do is to see whether we can identify periods or phases in that cycle where we can target the vaccine more effectively and perhaps even increase the responses beyond the 17 per cent," he said.

Dr Coventry says success with the vaccine could see it used to treat other cancers.

The latest research findings have been published in the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer.


17 April, 2014

Death of manufacturing not yet

Ross Gittins

Few things about the economy are worrying people – particularly older people and those from Victoria and South Australia – more than the decline in manufacturing. But many of our worries are misplaced, or based on out-of-date information.

For instance, many worry that, at the rate it's declining, we'll pretty soon end up with no manufacturing at all. And everyone knows that, unlike other states, Victoria's economy is particularly dependent on manufacturing.

But Professor Jeff Borland, a labour economist at the University of Melbourne, has written a little paper that sheds much light on these concerns.

It's true that manufacturing's share of total employment in Australia is declining. But this is hardly a new phenomenon, which suggests the end may not be nigh. Half a century ago, manufacturing accounted for a quarter of all employment. Today it's 8 per cent.

And almost none of that dramatic decline is explained by a fall in our production of manufactured goods. The great majority of the fall in manufacturing's share is explained simply by the faster growth of other parts of the economy, particularly the service industries.

It's true, however, there's been a (much less dramatic) decline in employment in the industry over the years. Employment in manufacturing reached a peak of 1.35 million in the early 1970s. Today, it's about 950,000. Of the overall loss of 400,000 jobs, about 200,000 occurred during the '70s, about 100,000 in the recession of the early '90s and the rest since the global financial crisis in 2008.

Many people would explain this decline in terms of the removal of protection against imports in the '80s and the very high dollar since the start of the resources boom in 2003. But, in fact, the great majority of it is explained by nothing more than automation.

How do I know? Because if you look at the quantity (or real value) of manufactured goods we produce, it reached a peak as recently as 2008, and has since fallen by just 6 per cent.

Nowhere have the machines of the computer age replaced more men (and I do mean mainly men) than in manufacturing. Is this a bad thing? It would be a brave Luddite who said so.

The consequence is a change in the mix of occupations within manufacturing, the proportion of machine operators, drivers and labourers falling by 10 percentage points since 1984, with the proportion of managerial and professional workers increasing by about the same extent. The proportion of technicians and tradespeople is little changed.

But there's also been a change in the types of things we manufacture, with the share of total manufacturing employment accounted for by textiles, clothing and footwear falling from 11 per cent to 4 per cent since 1984, while the share accounted for by food products has risen from less than 15 per cent to more than 20 per cent.

The share of transport equipment (cars and car parts) is down, but the share of other machinery and equipment is up by much the same extent.

The next thing that's changed a lot since 1984 is the location of manufacturing in Australia. Then, almost 70 per cent of manufacturing employment was located in NSW and Victoria; today it's down to 58 per cent. Then, NSW had more manufacturing workers than Victoria; today they have 29 per cent each. (Bet you didn't know that.)

But if the big two states now have smaller shares, which states' shares have grown? The two we these days think of as "the mining states". Western Australia's share has risen to 10 per cent, while Queensland's share has almost doubled to 21 per cent. (Bet you didn't know that.)

So far, South Australia's share of national manufacturing employment has fallen only a little to 8 per cent.

This tendency for manufacturing's distribution between the states to become more even over time, plus the much faster growth of other industries, has made all states less dependent on manufacturing for employment, as well as narrowing the gap between the most dependent (SA on 10 per cent of its total employment) and the least (WA on 7 per cent).

Whereas in 1984 Victoria depended on manufacturing for 21 per cent of its jobs, today it's 9 per cent. (See what I mean about out-of-date information?)

Victoria's more dependent on the health industry (12 per cent) and retailing (11 per cent), with almost as many jobs in professional services as in manufacturing.

The wider conclusion is that, though the faster growth of other industries has made all states less dependent on manufacturing for jobs, this doesn't mean manufacturing's dying. Its actual output hasn't fallen much, though it's using a lot fewer workers to produce that output.

The unwritten story is there've been big changes in what Australia's manufacturers produce: less stuff that relies on protection against imports and more stuff that fits with Australia's comparative advantage.

You see that with food products – including things such as wine-making – now being the biggest category within manufacturing, employing 20 per cent of all manufacturing workers.

You see it also in the growth of manufacturing employment in the mining states – a spillover from the resources boom.

Manufacturing is undoubtedly suffering from the recent high dollar. But, apart from that, it's in good shape. It has shed some fat and is fitter and wirier than it has ever been, better able to survive in a harsh world. 


One voice on free speech

by Janet Albrechtsen

AS Australia debates the repeal of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, let me introduce you to two Canadians.
One is a champion of progres­sive causes, the other is a staunch conservative. One played a critical role in setting up the first of the human rights commissions in Canada, the other was hauled ­before these same human rights commissions for writing things that caused offence to a few ­Muslims.

More important, though, is what unites them: a passionate and longstanding defence of free speech in a country that became increasingly comfortable with mothballing humanity’s most basic human right. Both men are firmly opposed to laws that allow those pursuing identity politics to leverage the power of the state to shut down views they don’t like.

Now in his 80s, Alan ­Borovoy, the  founder of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, helped push for the creation of human rights commissions in Canada in the 1960s and 70s in his then job at Canada’s Labor Committee for Human Rights. In ­recent years, Borovoy has also ­become a critic of how these commissions have overreached.

A Canadian-born writer on everything from theatre and music to politics and demog­raphy, Mark Steyn was the subject of complaints made to three human rights commissions in Canada for 18 articles he wrote about Islam in Maclean’s magazine between 2005 and 2007. Those actions against Maclean’s led the Canadian federal government to support a private member’s bill to repeal section 13, the hate laws provision, of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

If it sounds familiar, it is. In 2011, when the Australian federal court ruled Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt was prohibited from publishing a view that contravened section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, a similar push to defend free speech began here. In opposition, the Coalition promised to repeal section 18C. Now in government, keeping that promise is proving more difficult.

Debate in this country has ­become polarised between those on the Right who regard the individual right to free speech as more important than identity group rights and those on the cultural and political Left who cannot bring themselves to genuinely commit to free speech of opponents. And somewhere in the mushy middle, some Coalition members, especially in marginal seats, have gone wobbly about ­repealing section 18C. No matter where we sit, it’s worth noting what two very different men, who both supported the repeal of ­Canada’s section 13, have to say.

First, some background. Why did Canada, a country with a long history of political correctness ­cemented into its laws, repeal its federal hate law? Borovoy told The Australian that human rights commissions started falling into disrepute: "I don’t like quoting Karl Marx with such approval," he laughs down the phone from Canada, "but the legislation (that set up the HRCs) contains the seeds of its own destruction."

Whereas HRCs started out ­applying fairly well-defined prohibitions against certain types of discrimination, when hate laws became part of their ambit, and hurt feelings became the meas­urement of laws, it turned into a "very risky ball game", says Borovoy. "You are running a terrible risk that someone’s thin skin could be the limit of someone else’s free speech."

Sure enough, Borovoy says, human rights commissions overreached in very public cases. Steyn agrees: "No one minded this stuff when it was just being applied to some Holocaust denier sitting in his bedsit writing some unread screed that he was Xeroxing and sending out to his friends.

"But when those same laws are suddenly being applied to ­Maclean’s magazine — it’s mainstream, it’s big-selling, it’s the dentist’s waiting-room magazine; Maclean’s magazine is basically analogous to Andrew Bolt’s ­Herald Sun — then people here went ‘Wow, this is crazy stuff’." Borovoy says that defining what is hate speech became an impos­sible task. While he would have taken a different position about laws that targeted incitement of imminent violence, " ‘hatred’ was too fraught with ambiguity".

And Borovoy warns that the same ambiguities arise from our legislation that uses words like ­"offend, insult, humiliate or ­intimidate".

Drawing on Canada’s experience, Borovoy says: "You wind up losing a lot more than you’re trying to nail. That’s the guts of it." Steyn agrees. And he warns that you can’t be a little bit pregnant on this. "You can’t say we are going to take out ‘offended’ (from section 18C) but keep ‘humiliated’ … You’ve got to say this kind of emotional lawmaking is not law — it’s phony law, it’s ersatz law, it’s pseudo law." While Borovoy says the Left "didn’t surface very hard to try to rescue section 13", Steyn says you have to distinguish between the cultural Left and the political Left.

Left-wing newspapers and novelists eventually became offended by the reach of the federal hate law when it started to impinge on their rights. Steyn recalls one of the complaints against him involved a book review he wrote where he discussed fictional characters in a novel. "The novelists didn’t like that," he laughs.

But he is scathing of the political Left’s opposition to repealing section 13. He notes one exception, Liberal MP Keith Martin, who describes himself as the "brown guy", meaning a person of colour. "Martin was the only member of the Liberal Party caucus who took a principled political stand in favour of freedom of ­expression." Steyn says Martin was mocked and jeered: "Why are you — the so-called ‘brown guy’ — getting into bed with not only extremist right-wing nutters like Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant, but also a bunch of anti-Semites and white supremacists?"

Alas, the point of free speech is not that the brown guy and the white supremacist are on the same side. As Steyn says, "It’s that the brown guy recognises that the white supremacist is allowed to have his own side. Nobody needs freedom of speech for people we agree with.

"He (Martin) was the only ­Liberal member of the House of Commons to say this is crazy stuff, we shouldn’t live in a world where, if you disagree with a newspaper columnist, it becomes a court case," Steyn says.

Steyn then makes a point aimed squarely at our debate in Australia: "You always need a couple of individuals like that to break the institutional position which says we need these laws, that without these laws there will be jackboots marching up and down the highway."

That argument was made in Canada. It is also made in Australia, as critics of the Abbott government describe repealing section 18C as a fillip for bigots and a ­retrograde step for human rights.

But where are those brave ­individuals? Is there just one Labor MP with a genuine commitment to free speech? Where are the cultural warriors on the Left willing to defend Bolt’s right to free speech? Where is our own Borovoy, a man who understands that "freedom of expression is the grievance procedure of the democratic system"?

While we wait for intellectually honest members of the Left to emerge, Steyn says we must also relentlessly push back against the jackboot bigotry claims. "You have to say ‘You’re insulting Australians’, just as we said: ‘You’re ­insulting Canadians saying that.’ We’re not people who have a dark, fascist totalitarian past — Canada and Australia are two of the oldest, settled, constitutional societies on earth. They haven’t gone through third empires and fourth republics, and all the other stuff. People can be trusted to ­decide for themselves."

A frequent visitor to Australia, and due here later this year, Steyn has watched with disappointment the debate over ­section 18C. He says that Canada’s cultural Left eventually supported the repeal of section 13 in a way he thought would be repeated here. "They said, ‘Well, obviously we find Steyn a totally disgusting and ­repulsive figure and we want to emphasise how much we dissociate ourselves from him BUT this is not compatible with a free society and Canadians should be able to decide for themselves on these matters’.

"I thought it would go that way with Andrew Bolt. That people would say, ‘Well, Bolt is a repellent creature BUT …’ Yet from my understanding from the debate in Australia no one on the Left has got to the BUT." Sadly, Steyn is right that, for ever larger groups on the Left, identity group rights trump the rights of freedom of expression.

Once the campaign in Canada to repeal section 13 had won over the people, only then did politicians feel comfortable in following. Steyn says free speech is not something people demonstrate in the streets over. "It’s not one of those visceral issues. It can seem dry and abstract. The success we had was that by the end it didn’t seem dry and abstract. It seemed real and something with practical consequences."

In Canada, the defenders of free speech also succeeded by turning the tables on the Left. Steyn praises Ezra Levant, ­another writer hauled before a human rights commission, for the strategy.

"The Left tried to de-normalise us, to marginalise us," he recalls. Levant and others succeeded on putting those who supported the laws — who were, by and large, part of the establishment, people appointed to HRCs, people who wore Orders of Canada on their lapels — on the ­defensive. The ­debate was won by arguing the hate laws were not needed.

"The success we had in Canada was in putting those in favour of the law on the defensive — ­making them look like the ­weirdos and the control freaks and against genuine human rights."

Steyn says that’s where the meter must move in Australia, too. "I might have to fly in and do it ­myself," he says, pointing out the ridiculous irony in a group of establishment grievance mongers thinking they are vulnerable if contrarian columnists can say what they want about them. "The idea that they represent a state ideology that should be protected from criticism ought to be absolutely repulsive to people."

So, has Canada become a haven for bigots without section 13? Of course not. Which makes the retreat by some Coalition MPs even more disappointing. While Steyn understands that Coalition MPs are worried about being depicted as anti-human rights, he, too, laments that "on the squishy Right there is a fear that identity group rights are more fashionable and you risk making yourself look like an old squaresville if you get hung up on free speech".

And that’s the real danger in Australia. Between a Left that is utterly indifferent to free speech and an opportunist, unprincipled Right, there are not a lot of people willing to take a stand for free speech these days.


WA Senate: Labor Senator Louise Pratt attacks 'deeply homophobic' and 'disloyal' running mate Joe Bullock

West Australian Labor Senator Louise Pratt has conceded defeat in the Senate election, as she unleashed on her running mate Joe Bullock.

Senator Pratt said it was a devastating blow for Labor to be reduced to one Senator out of six at the election and described Mr Bullock as homophobic.

"It is a blow to progressive voters that I would be replaced in the Senate by someone who I have known for many years to be deeply homophobic, to be anti-choice, and has recently emerged disloyal to the very party he has been elected to represent," she said.

"I had pointed this out on many occasions that Labor was at risk of losing a second Senate seat here in WA, and I am ashamed that a factional power grab was privileged over principles, deeply held by an overwhelming number of party members and indeed Western Australians more broadly.  "It goes to the heart of the need for reform."

In the run-up to the election, Mr Bullock apologised for comments he made about Senator Pratt's sexuality and for describing her as a "poster child" for causes such as gay marriage.

Senator Pratt, who was speaking to the media in Perth, said the Senate result was also a "very difficult realisation" for her.

"While the count is continuing, it is increasingly clear that the ALP will not hold its second Senate seat here in Western Australia," she said.

"However, the prospective loss of Labor's second seat at this election is most difficult for those Australians who needed the assurance of a stronger Senate in order to hold back the Abbott Government."

Mr Bullock was parachuted into Labor's number one spot on the ticket for the re-run election.

Senator Pratt said she told the party's national secretary and the national executive that she did not believe Mr Bullock had the capacity to lead the ticket.

"I and others warned that placing him above me on the Senate ticket would reduce Labor's chances of holding two Senate positions and ultimately we know that these warnings were not heeded," she said.

"Over the last few years, we have faced situations in the party where factionalism and the power of factions has ridden roughshod over the party and the leadership's capacity to make the right decisions on pre-selections and, on occasion, on policy.

"The exertion of power by too few is eroding public trust in the ALP and in unions.

"This is especially the case here in WA where ordinary branch members represent just a fraction of the overall state executive in Lower House pre-elections and have no representation at all in Senate preselections."


Cane toad fight: Scientists teaching goannas to avoid eating toxic pest

Scientists are reporting early success from a study in Australia's far north designed to reduce the impact of cane toads on native wildlife.

The program aims to teach goannas, one of the species that has been hardest hit by the cane toad invasion, not to eat the toxic pests.

Over the past few months, scientists and Aboriginal rangers have fitted radio-tracking devices to over 40 goannas at Oombulgurri in the remote East Kimberley.

The team, led by Georgia Ward-Fear from Sydney University, has been monitoring the reptiles' movements and offering them small, less toxic cane toads to eat, which may make them sick but will not kill them.

"Basically we're trying to expose the goannas to non-lethal doses of toad toxin just before the front arrives and hopefully they'll learn that it's not a good thing to attack and eat," Ms Ward-Fear said.

"Ultimately, it's to buffer populations of goannas from the full impact of cane toads.

"As the toad front comes through, you get this really large mortality - bang - in a week or two weeks, there are goanna bodies everywhere as we've seen across the Top End."

The unusual approach, known as "Teacher Toads" is a joint project between Sydney University, the West Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife, and the Balanggarra Rangers.

"Clearly you need good scientific research to back up any management option you try and here we are really trying to explore that concept of taste-aversion learning," said the Department's Dr David Pearson.

Cane toads spreading across northern Australia

Cane toads crossed the border from the Northern Territory into Western Australia five years ago.

Volunteers have been trying to slow down their spread across the Kimberley, but the scale of the problem is massive.

Lee Scott-Virtue of the Kimberley Toad Busters, a Kununurra-based community group, estimated they have collected and euthanased close to 4 million toads.

"Each female can lay between 30,000 and 35,000 eggs twice a year," she said.

But, the group has had trouble convincing government to continue supporting their efforts.  Last year, the group's funding was not renewed, and Ms Scott-Virtue and her husband are now funding the effort on their own.

"The reality is if you can mitigate the impact of the first wave of toads by reducing their numbers, it gives the native wildlife an opportunity to become wary of the toads," she said.

The West Australian Government said it has invested $7.8 million in cane toad research and on-ground activities since 2008.

But, in a statement, it said it was now investing in areas where the biggest difference can be made, including the goanna radio-tracking program at Oombulgurri.

Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on trying to find a biological control measure to stop the toads in their tracks, but so far the toads are winning.

They are now travelling five times faster than they used to, heading west across the Kimberley at about 50 kilometres a year.

"There's been quite a bit of work done by CSIRO looking for a suitable pathogen that would affect toads and not native frogs, and they were unable to find anything - so at the moment there is no light on the horizon in terms of biological control for toads," Dr Pearson said.

Researchers pleased with successful results

Ms Ward-Fear said many of the goannas in the program at Oombulgurri were already learning that cane toads do not agree with them.

"We are finding that goannas that have had a non-lethal dose of toad toxin are avoiding the baits in future trials, so it seems to be that we are eliciting a kind of taste-aversion response which is what we're looking for," she said.

The researchers hope to prove the concept works so it can eventually be rolled out on a bigger scale.

Dr Pearson from the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife acknowledged it would be challenging.

"It would be expensive. You'd have to breed toads which is an interesting thing in itself," he said.

"And, you'd need to come up with some means to distribute those toads in areas where the predators were.

"I'd like to see the situation where we can preserve pockets of those predators through the landscape so they have the ability to re-establish themselves after the toads have come through."


16 April, 2014

In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is shocked at the resignation of the NSW Premier

Below is an extract of a letter from the Construction Manager at Nauru

Personal information has been deleted. He refers to the damage caused by the illegal boat people to the new facilities constructed for them last year.

"Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. As you may have heard the camp we have been constructing over the past 8 months has been burned to the ground. The riot and subsequent fire  occurred on the evening of Friday the 19th

Since  then we have constructed a temporary camp (tent city) for the detainees that are not banged up in the Nauru jail.

The accommodation that was burned was of a very high standard and the dining facilities were second to none.

These bastards were being fed better than us worker bees and living in accommodation better than the locals.

Before I came here I was somewhat sympathetic toward refugees believing some were genuine. After the events of the 19th I am of the opinion that the group of male refugees here on Nauru are nothing more than violent arrogant criminals.

The Iranians are no better than the Tamils or any other of the ethnic groups that we have here - they are all the same.

These people are the scum of the earth and should under no circumstance be permitted to live in Australia.

I have attached a before and after snaps of the accommodation buildings only, the rest of the damage is out of the shot."

Via email

Tony Abbott confirms Badgerys Creek as site of second Sydney airport

At last, someone was game to make a decision

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed a second airport for Sydney, triggering tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure investment for Sydney's west.

After months of speculation, Badgerys Creek, 50 kilometres west of Sydney's CBD, was approved by cabinet on Tuesday as the location of the airport.

Construction of the airport is expected to begin in 2016 and will spur the creation of up to 4000 construction jobs at its peak.

Mr Abbott said the bulk of the investment for the airport would come from the private sector, with government to take the lead on building surrounding infrastructure, including roads.

The cost of building the airport is estimated at $2.5 billion.

Sydney Airport has first right of refusal to build and operate the airport.

"It's a long, overdue decision which, to be honest, has been shirked and squibbed by successive governments for far too long," Mr Abbott said.

"I also want to stress that the government's approach will be roads first, airport second, because we don't want the people of western Sydney to have an airport without having the decent transport infrastructure that western Sydney deserves."

Mr Abbott said the project would create 60,000 new jobs for western Sydney once the airport was fully operational.

The Prime Minister said details about how the infrastructure package will be funded will be made in the coming days.  It's understood the federal and NSW governments are close to finalising a deal on how much federal money will be on the table.  An initial figure of $200 million that had been floated was insufficient in the view of the NSW government.

"I think this is a good news story for western Sydney," Mr Abbott said.  "It's good news for jobs and, because of the importance of Sydney in our national economy, it's good news for Australia."

Mr Abbott played down concerns that airport noise would become an issue at the new flightpath in the way it has for residents around Sydney Airport.

"I don't believe this is going to be anything like the problem at Badgerys that it has been at Mascot," he said.  "For a couple of reasons - first, because, quite frankly, people don't want to travel in the middle of the night.  "And, second, because we are just dealing with far, far fewer people.

"If you look at the noise footprint, some 4000 people live within a Badgerys' noise footprint.  "The equivalent footprint at Sydney is 130,000. So I just don't think it's going to be anything like the issue that it is elsewhere."

Mr Abbott added: "We are certainly not saying there will be a curfew."

Qantas immediately welcomed the announcement on Tuesday, with chief executive Alan Joyce describing Badgerys Creek as the right site.  "After decades of debate, we applaud today's announcement by the Prime Minister," Mr Joyce said.

"The role of second airports has been well-established in several of the world's major capitals. Sydney is the key gateway for air traffic in and out of Australia and the benefits of having two major airports will be felt nationwide."

Western Sydney Airport Alliance spokesman David Borger said the decision to build at Badgerys Creek was long overdue.  He said residents would support the decision because it will create jobs and raise living standards.

However, western Sydney Labor MP Ed Husic said locals are being "blackmailed".  "They say 'If you want better infrastructure you have to support the airport and by virtue of blocking the airport you won't get better infrastructure'," he told ABC Radio.


How the wog sank the Irishman

A small note:  I use "wog" as a general term for a person of Mediterranean origin.  If I intended to be offensive, I would have said "wop"

BARRY O’Farrell has resigned as NSW Premier following his appearance at the Independent Commission against Corruption yesterday.

Mr O’Farrell denied receiving a $3000 bottle of wine from Australian Water Holdings boss Nick Di Girolamo yesterday but resigned today after it was revealed that he sent Mr Di Girolamo a card thanking him for the gift.

"I will be resigning the position and enabling a new Liberal leader to be elected, someone who will then become the Premier of New South Wales," Mr O’Farrell said in a press conference today.
He insisted he did not "wilfully mislead" the watchdog yesterday, but said he accepted the consequences. He described the missing bottle of wine as a "significant memory fail on my part".

After being recalled to ICAC today to give further evidence, Mr O’Farrell confirmed that the handwriting on a thankyou note presented to the commission was his.

He said that he gave his best recollection to ICAC yesterday but was "clearly mistaken". He said he had no idea what happened to the 1959 bottle of Grange.

Mr O’Farrell said dealings with Australian Water Holdings were done appropriately, and a contract signed with Sydney Water was completed at arm’s length from the government.

Referring to the wine in his speech this morning, Mr O’Farrell said: "I can’t explain the arrival of a gift that I have no recollection of, or its absence, which I still can’t fathom.
"I accept the consequences in an orderly way."

During his testimony yesterday, he categorically denied ever receiving the wine.  "If I had received a bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange I would have known about it and, and I did not receive a bottle of Penfolds Grange," he told the hearing.

His resignation will be effective from next week, as soon as a committee of parliamentarians can meet to appoint a new leader.


Childers child 'abduction': man charged

Chloe Campbell

Detectives have charged a man over the alleged abduction of a child from Childers.  The man was not the toddler's father, a police spokesman said.

The child was reported missing from her home, about 300 kilometres north of Brisbane, last Thursday morning.

Police, SES and community members launched a large search of the central Queensland town and the child was found in good health about 42 hours later.

Overnight police charged a 45-year-old from South Isis with abduction, one count of break and enter and one count of deprivation of liberty in relation to the incident.

He is due to appear in the Bundaberg Magistrates Court on Wednesday morning, and police are also expected to provide further details of their investigation.

Police investigating the child's disappearance collected DNA samples from more than 20 people, including family friends and "other people around town whose names have come up", Detective Inspector Bruce McNab said.

Earlier this week, Inspector McNab said police were following a number of leads and made inquiries as far south as Tweed Heads in New South Wales.


15 April, 2014

Taxpayer funding for a trip to the paradise of North Korea

DRIVEN by what she calls "capitalist despair" Sydney documentary maker Anna Broinowski took a taxpayer-funded trip to the North ­Korean workers’ paradise ­returning with a her new work Aim High in Creation!

"Every time I turned on the news I’d see oil tankers washing up on pristine reefs, or a McDonald’s being built in a hospital, the mining giants doing whatever they wanted, and a coal seam gas mine had just been approved 200m from my house. It felt like capitalism was on steroids," she said in one of many publicity interviews for her film.

With that sort of attitude and a TV locked onto the ABC, it is little wonder that she was reading a book on film directing written by dictator Kim Jong-Il, the second supreme leader of risibly called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, when she felt the urge to explore the North Korean propaganda production. Nor is it surprising that the North ­Korean masters welcomed to their studios Broinowski and producer Lizzette Atkins.

Funded by the Australian Government, the NSW ­Government, Screen NSW, the Victorian Government, Film Victoria Australia, the South Australian Government, Screen Australia and Unicorn Films, Broinowski was able to create her own anti-coal seam gas propaganda in the style of her North Korean hosts.

Though she claims awareness of North Korea’s horrific history of human rights ­abuses, it did not disabuse her of her goal, nor did it seem to interfere with her artistic drive.

"If you remove the brutality of the regime, which I didn’t see, it was serene and beautiful to be in a country with no ­internet, no advertising," she told one interviewer.

"I’m not an apologist by any means. I know it’s an evil, ­repressive place as well, where 200,000 people are political prisoners and it’s brutal.

"However, I don’t think we’re getting the real story about the rest of North Korea. There was a purer, more innocent approach to fun than what we are used to in the jaded West." Even the capital, Pyongyang "wasn’t the evil, diabolical place I had been led to expect," she said.

Serendipitously, while Broinowski was honing her propaganda as a favourite of North Korea’s totalitarian regime, another Australian, former High Court Justice Michael Kirby, was putting the finishing touches on a UN report into human rights abuses in DPRK which recommended that its leadership be charged and referred to the International Criminal Court.

His commission found "an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as of the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, information and association".

Justice Kirby, who chaired the UN commission, doesn’t share Broinwoski’s admiration for the propaganda machine.

His report finds it is an "all-encompassing indoctrination machine that takes root from childhood to propagate an ­official personality cult and to manufacture absolute obedience to the Supreme Leader (Suryong), effectively to the exclusion of any thought independent of official ideology and State propaganda.

Propaganda, the report notes, is further used by the North Koreans to incite ­nationalistic hatred towards official enemies of the State, including Japan, the United States of America and the ­Republic of Korea, and their nationals. "Virtually all social activities undertaken by citizens of all ages are controlled by the Workers’ Party of Korea," it says.

Those workers certainly know how to party, or at least, those favoured by the regime whom Broinowski was fraternising with do. She reports she drank copious quantities of Soju, local vodka, as she bonded with the cinematic crew.

As a foreigner and a woman, she was fortunate that her powerful friends were able to shield her from the sexual and gender-based violence endemic in the xenophobic state, where victims are afforded no protection from the State, any support services or recourse to justice.

According to the report, ­violations of the rights to food and to freedom of movement have resulted in women and girls becoming vulnerable to trafficking and increased ­engagement in transactional sex and prostitution.

One wonders what sort of small talk Broinowski engaged in as she tossed back the vodkas with her hosts.

Though hamburgers may seem scary to some Australian inner-urban dwellers, they don’t really compare with forced labour, executions, torture, rape and the denial of ­reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide.

Perhaps there is a documentary to be made. If Broinowski is available, Justice Kirby has the script ready.


Speech laws: voters tell Brandis to back off

Voters have sent an unambiguous message to Tony Abbott and his Attorney General George Brandis: leave the race hate laws alone.

The latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll specifically asked voters if they believe it should it be lawful or unlawful to "offend, insult or humiliate" somebody based on their race.

The answer was a statistically conclusive 88 per cent - or nine out of 10 - in favour of the status quo - that is, that it should remain unlawful to discriminate.

The result is a slap in the face for Abbott and Brandis, who have been pursuing the removal of the provisions in section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, on grounds of free speech.

Urged on by acerbic conservative commentator, Andrew Bolt and the ultra-libertarian Institute of Public Affairs the government has argued that nobody has a right not to be offended and that, in normal political and public discourse, unpleasant and potentially offensive arguments can be necessary.

Yet the argument has fallen flat, failing to convince voters that the change is justified by any social or legal dysfunction.

Among Greens and Labor voters who took part in the 1400-strong nationwide telephone survey, the proportion against watering down the protections is 92 per cent and even among Coalition voters 84 per cent favour the law as it stands.

The government wants to replace the heads of the law, to wit: "offend, insult or humiliate" with a new one making it illegal to "intimidate or vilify", although, intimidate is already in the act.

On this question, the government can take comfort in the fact nine out of 10 voters want statutory provisions making it unlawful to intimidate and vilify based on race, but it is likely respondents want these provisions in addition to,rather than instead of, existing clauses as the government has proposed.

And, critics say, the prohibition on intimidation is too narrow, encompassing only physical intimidation, when in practice there are many ways a vulnerable person could be literally intimidated.

With the debate at fever pitch last month, Senator Brandis bravely told the Senate that people had the right to be bigots.

The statement was technically correct, in that citizens are free to think whatever they want, but it was a political own-goal, making the government appear to be defending dissemination of hate-speech and racial disunity.

Asked if they agreed with the statement, six out of 10 or 59 per cent of respondents said "no" compared to 34 per cent who  said "yes".

Even among Coalition voters, the government has failed to carry its constituency with 50 per cent disagreeing and 42 per cent agreeing.


Majority government restored for Country Liberals in NT

The CLP held the seat vacated by former Chief Minister Terry Mills with 53.2 per cent of two-party preferred vote to Labor’s 46.8 per cent.

The CLP polled 45.5 per cent of the primary vote to Labor’s 37.4 per cent.

That result was a 16.1 per cent swing against the Government, but it was Independent Matthew Cranitch, a vocal critic of the CLP in his role as Education Union NT President, who helped Mr Barrett to the victory with preferences.

Mr Barrett said it had "been a long six weeks".  "It’s all a little surreal," he said.  "Tonight was just people sitting around the computer and then ‘Oh, we won’.  "As the night progressed it set in. I’m just excited now to work with the electorate ... (and) begin implementing the programs we’ve been looking at.  "We can now get out and serve the electorate."

Mr Cranitch polled 8.6 per cent of the primary vote, while Greens candidate Sue McKinnon polled 7.1 per cent and the CEC’s Peter Flynn 1.5 per cent.

Mr Bahnert told his party faithful that the people of Blain had voted to send Mr Giles a message.

"It’s not okay to burden our families with skyrocketing power prices, it’s not okay to sack our teachers," he said.

A total of 68.2 per cent of registered voters turned up.

Mr Cranitch called the low turnout an "indictment on our current state of affairs".


Daniel Andrews a CFMEU rep: Abetz

EMPLOYMENT Minister Eric Abetz has accused Victoria's opposition leader of being beholden to the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

In a speech at the Victorian Liberal Party conference, Mr Abetz on Saturday again condemned what he described as criminal elements within the CFMEU.

"A union which has a history of breaking businesses, of breaking court orders and, I understand, even breaking bones," he said.

"This very union finds itself being duchessed and supported by the Labor leader in this state."

He said Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews had "shepherded" the union into his party.

"I invited every man and woman in Victoria to judge the Labor leader by the company he not only keeps but actively sought out," Mr Abetz said.

"That of itself should disqualify the Labor leader from ever becoming Victoria's premier."

Mr Abetz said he dreaded the thought of Labor winning power at the November election.

"Ministerial council meetings on workplace relations would not be enhanced, to put it mildly, by a CFMEU representative posing as a Victorian government representative," he said.

An opposition spokesman described Mr Abetz's comments as "desperate" and "sad".

"With nothing to run on but an expensive dud tunnel and a federal government that is savagely cutting health and education, they have to resort to name calling," he told AAP.


14 April, 2014

Free speech in  the Australian public service?

Tim Wilson

Before anyone screams "free speech", they should actually know what they are talking about.

Earlier this week the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet released new social media protocols.  The protocols limit the capacity of public servants to make statements that are "harsh or extreme in their criticism of the government, government policies, a member of Parliament from another political party ... [and] a gratuitous personal attack that might reasonably be perceived to be connected with their employment", among others.

In response there have been cries that this code limits free speech. Yesterday Jenna Price wrote in Fairfax outlets that as "HenchCommissioner" I did not "leap in defence of our gentle, analytical and astute public servants".

Sigh. Since taking the office of Australian Human Rights Commissioner I have gleaned many new insights into the state of human rights in Australia. One of the most important insights is that many Australians seem to have no idea what human rights are, and many certainly do not understand what free speech is.

Price also said I "backed the reforms". This is factually inaccurate. It is not my place to endorse individual codes, but I have outlined that voluntary codes attached to employment conditions are not inconsistent with free speech.

Defending the universal human right of free speech is about the legal limits of speech. It is about when the law stops someone expressing their view. It is not about voluntary conditions we accept when we take employment. Conditions that are entered into through employment are not the same as the law.

All speech is legal, until it is made specifically illegal. But just because something is legal, it does not mean it is acceptable. For instance, it is legal to be homophobic, but it is not acceptable.

Codes of conduct play an enormously important role in filling the gap between what is technically legal, and civilising and normalising behaviour.

Voluntary codes associated with employment are one of the most important ways that we regulate the conduct of the individual without laws, and they are fundamentally a good thing.

Even the Australian Human Rights Commission, a body charged with defending free speech, has social media protocols for staff to preserve and protect the dignity of the institution.

Codes of conduct include requiring people to not act in a sexist, homophobic or racist way. If people do, and it is connected back to their employer, they can face disciplinary action, or be terminated.

At any time an individual no longer believes that they can abide by these standards they have the choice to terminate their employment.

Codes attached to employment in the private sector cannot limit free speech because they are voluntarily entered into as a requirement of employment.

Public service codes are not the same. They operate in a "grey space" because the government is the employer.

Excessive restrictions can fundamentally undermine a public servant's capacity to exercise their full democratic participation, but if they are too loose they can undermine the important perception of impartiality.

For instance, public servants are allowed to be members of a political party and participate in the democratic processes of the nation.

But they are not allowed to work for the Department of Health by day and moonlight as an anonymous journalist critical of the Department's work by night. Social media is fundamentally no different to any other platform. It is still public.

Similarly, it is not unreasonable that there is an expectation that public servants act in a respectful manner in the public domain if they want to remain employed. Even with the current protocols, public servants can make statements that are negative about government policy.

But there are justified limits to what an employer can reasonably accept when public comment crosses the line.

Imagine the justified outrage if a public servant was caught holding the "Ditch the Witch" sign at the Convoy of no Confidence protests, or "F--- Tony, F--- Democracy" at March in March.

Of course those individuals have every right to express those views, but it doesn't mean that the public service need continue to be associated with such vile conduct.

Some have argued that if the conduct is anonymous then it should be excluded from the code, but that is absurd. That is like arguing that the public service should not terminate someone's employment if they are involved in offences outside of work hours because they did it anonymously.

Voluntary codes of conduct attached to people's employment are consistent with free speech. They play a vital and important role in civilising public behaviour and establishing norms of respectful conduct.

They operate no differently in the public service, except they should be specific to an employee's area of work to ensure that they do not limit a public servant's capacity to engage in democratic processes.


Disquiet over loan to Rinehart by U.S. Ex-Im bank

Loan to set up new mine  -- now guaranteed to use U.S. mining machinery

Australian press is buzzing over the strange nexus between the country’s richest person and American taxpayers.  The headline in The Australian Financial Review even invokes the phrase "welfare queen."

How Australia’s richest person, mining heiress Gina Rinehart, secured a $US694 million ($764 million) loan from American taxpayers is surely one of the great ironies of the capitalist system.

The case is the latest example of a flaw in the United States political economy: what some see as crony capitalism.

Rinehart’s mining group, Hancock Prospecting, last week signed off on a $US7.2 billion debt package for her highly anticipated Roy Hill iron ore project in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

Why are American taxpayers subsidizing a financial transaction involving an Australian billionaire’s iron ore project? 

The Australian Financial Review explained "Government export credit agencies including the Ex-Im Bank in the US, as well as Japan and Korea, were crucial in helping the massive debt-funding deal over the line" because "Commercial banks and bond investors were reluctant to shoulder all the risk."

When announcing the deal, U.S. Ex-Im Bank downplayed the risk, instead touting the "$694.4 million loan to Roy Hill Holdings of Australia [was] contingent upon the purchase of U.S. mining and rail equipment from Caterpillar Inc., GE, and Atlas Copco."

So taxpayers have two plausible, though not mutually exclusive explanations for guaranteeing a $700 million financial deal with a woman reportedly worth $17.7 billion.

Commercial banks wouldn’t take the risk; or
U.S. companies worth hundreds of billions of dollars combined required taxpayer help.

The Australian Financial Review reminds us:

In 2008, an upstart senator named Barack Obama campaigning for president labelled the Ex-Im Bank "little more than a fund for corporate welfare". Remarkably, the Obama administration now regards the agency as an important part of its drive to increase exports.


Sale of Medibank Private

The government has announced it will sell Medibank Private through an initial public offering in 2014-15. There is no case for its public ownership. This is a private business paying tax and providing private services that happen to be in the health industry. It operates in a competitive private market in which there are 34 players. Its public ownership is a quirk of the fallout from the abolition of Medibank (the national public insurer) in October 1976.

By selling Medibank Private the government will sacrifice a stream of dividends in exchange for a capital sum that will improve its fiscal position. In the 2012-13 financial year, as a wholly-owned government business, Medibank Private paid an ordinary dividend of $110.4 million and a special dividend of $339.9 million. It provides no public goods and makes no contribution towards public health.

Public goods are those from which everybody benefits but from which nobody can be excluded from using and therefore individually charged. A lighthouse is the classic example. Herd immunity, flowing from immunisation, is a case in point in health.

Everybody benefits from herd immunity. One person's consumption of this gain does not detract from the benefit available to others. People who fail to immunise become 'free riders.' Hence the case for government intervention through immunisation programs for which everybody pays though taxation. Medibank Private clearly does not fall into this category.

In 2012-13 Medibank Private made an after tax profit of $232.7 million, a return equivalent to about 7% on assets and 17% on equity. Medibank Private could hence be described a reasonably profitable company with an acceptable debt to equity ratio (1.21) that may prove attractive to private investors, depending on its issue price.

It is not as profitable as NIB, the only other publicly listed private health fund, now trading on a relatively high price earnings multiple of 19.8. On this criterion Medibank Private could realise in excess of $4 billion. The market nevertheless appears to attach a premium to NIB (its share price exceeds its earnings per share). The government may therefore need to be less ambitious about what it can expect from selling Medibank Private.

Medibank Private is the largest health fund in Australia with 3.8 million contributors. It has been suggested that privatisation will adversely affect competition and precipitate an overall increase in contributions charged to customers. This is a vestigial argument about government ownership as a competitive 'pacesetter.' It used to justify public ownership of the likes of Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank.

Australia now has a competition policy. Health insurers typically pay out 84% of their contributions. Pricing of contribution rates in any case is highly regulated - in most cases largely a product of claims experience plus administrative expenses. The efficiency of Medibank Private and the welfare of its contributors will be in safe hands in private ownership.



Re-moralising the pension

The old age pension used to be about the morality of self-reliance. But the contemporary culture of entitlement means that the pension today is about the immorality of encouraging dependence on government hand-outs and permitting the elderly to help themselves to younger people's income.

Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson issued another warning this week about the fiscal burden that ageing-related spending will impose on the budget in coming years.

Parkinson repeated the central message of the Intergenerational Reports: unless government spending is contained, future generations face higher taxes and lower living standards than enjoyed by current generations.

It is therefore timely to recall the original purpose of the pension and contrast how far we have strayed from this.

When introduced in 1908, the pension was designed to operate as a safety net payment for those who were too improvident to provide for their own retirement.

Until the 1970s, the pension carried the stigma of 'charity.' Recipients were reluctant to publically admit they were on the pension because this was considered to be not quite respectable. This started to change when the Whitlam government abolished the means test for the pension for those aged over 70 in 1973.

Whitlam planted the corrosive and pervasive ideas of a 'right' to welfare in the Australian psyche, and initiated the perpetual political contest for the support of the increasingly important 'grey vote.' This has led both sides of politics to seek to buy the votes of the elderly by doling out increasingly valuable entitlements to the aged.

The current pension arrangements encourage retirees to blow their superannuation on overseas holidays, and/or gift their children large home deposits, and/or purchase an expensive means-test exempt family home in order to get on the pension. Financial planners market investment schemes yielding income streams that will beat the means-test and qualify for a part-pension and associated pensioner concessions including the valuable Seniors Health Card.

Ordinary taxpayers - including the archetypal 'battlers' and 'working families' - are being forced to subsidise the lifestyles of wealthy retirees and the inheritances of their children.

If we want to contain ageing-related government spending we need to put the morality back into the pension by implementing the TARGET30 campaign pension tips.

Alternative policies include using superannuation to purchase an annuity to pay for retirement living expenses. And the family home - the principal asset most Australians use to save over the course of their lives - could also be included in the pension means test.


12 April, 2014

More ALP crookedness

ON the Northern Territory electoral roll, Labor's candidate for the Blain by-election is listed as living at a property in the electorate, but his purchase of the property was only finalised this week.

Police officer Geoff Bahnert lives at a Bellamack address in Palmerston, within the Blain electorate, according to the NT electoral roll, but real estate agents told AAP the sale was only finalised on Wednesday.

Enrolments for Saturday's election closed on March 26, and under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, a person can only be enrolled to vote in a division if they have "a real place of living in the division".

In order to enrol to vote, voters must have lived at their address for at least one month.

For Mr Bahnert to be eligible to vote in Blain, he would have had to have lived at the Bellamack address since February 27 at the latest.

But the property was listed for sale in the Saturday editions of the NT News on March 1, 8, and 15, and listed as being under contract on March 22, before the sale was settled on April 9.

"I think you'll find (the by-election) caught everyone by surprise so I moved into the electorate from the time that the polls were called, so we're ready to go, we've moved in," Mr Bahnert told the Nine Network on Friday.

The April 12 election date was announced on March 8, which was still too late for Mr Bahnert to enrol as a Blain resident, according to the Act's one-month residence stipulation.

A Labor Party spokesman would not respond when asked by AAP where in Blain Mr Bahnert had been living, or for how long.

AAP was not permitted to speak directly with Mr Bahnert; however, the spokesman said any allegation that Mr Bahnert had acted improperly was wrong, and said the ALP had consulted a barrister.


Some more of that wonderful Muslim multiculturalism in Australia

Bendigo is a beautiful Victorian town steeped in Aussie gold-rush history and treasured as an inland jewel by its inhabitants, well by most of them.

Unfortunately a minority of Islamic guests of this iconic town believe it’s quite acceptable to repeatedly rape a young mother of two because it’s quite legal to do that back home.

And back home the poor mother may well have been stoned to death for the lack of four witnesses.

Three Islamic youths denied the charges of rape, attempted rape and indecent assault, forcing the case to a contested hearing requiring the young mother to re-live the nightmare.

A Children's Court heard that none was remorseful and one even believes he is innocent.

Each of the teenagers received the maximum penalty available of three years in a "youth detention centre" and will probably be free and searching for their next victim within a year.

Three other youths involved in the attack, Mohammed Elnour, 19, Akoak Manon, 19, and Mohammed Zaoli, 22, (apologies if the names sound unfairly middle-eastern) all appeared in the Bendigo Magistrates Court charged with a long list of sex offences stemming from the vicious gang rape.

Evidence in footage retrieved from Zaoli’s phone recorded a woman’s voice yelling "no" and "stop".

But Islam showed its more gentle side when the six youths allowed the mother to check on her two sleeping children before they resumed raping her.

In court the family of the 21 year old woman became emotional as the charges were read out, trying to hold back tears as they sat in the gallery.

In front of them sat the accused about to enjoy re-living the graphic evidence.

Judge Maidment found two of the teenagers, one aged 14 at the time, guilty of four counts of rape and one count of false imprisonment. The other was found guilty of one count of indecent assault.

The judge said the two teenagers had been the instigators of the gang rape and had shown a callous disregard for the emotional and physical welfare of the victim.

He said the attack had involved "serious acts of gang violence" which had caused substantial on-going harm to the mental well-being of the victim and her husband.

The teenagers had shown no remorse.

"It is likely both of you would take more care to avoid detection if engaged in similar conduct again," he said.

Incredibly, a jury found Mohammed Saeed Elnour and Mohammed Hussain Zaoli (the germ who filmed the entire rape) had no case to answer and prosecutors have decided not to appeal the decision.

I guess the jury and prosecutors all have accounts at the Bendigo Bank which is promoting the planned Bendigo mosque.


Qld govt strikes deal with Microsoft

Gullible.  Wait until records are lost in the "cloud"

THE Queensland government has struck a $26.5 million computer deal with Microsoft.

Under the three-year agreement, 149,000 public servants will use Microsoft's Office 365 software for messaging and email, and the enterprise social network Yammer.

"This new contract means that for the first time all government departments will have access to the same technologies," Information Technology Minister Ian Walker said in a statement on Thursday.

The whole-of-government contract provides the flexibility to move between computer and cloud-based software and is expected to save taxpayers $13.7 million.


Australia still breeds real warriors

A Victoria Cross awarded posthumously to Corporal Cameron Baird is on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The 32-year-old Special Forces commando was killed in action in Afghanistan in June last year.

He was shot during an assault on an insurgent-held compound in the village of Ghawchak.

During the battle he repeatedly drew fire on himself to give his fellow soldiers the chance to gain ground.

In February he became the 100th recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award presented for bravery during wartime.
Corporal Cameron Stewart Baird. Photo: Corporal Cameron Baird is Australia's 100th Victoria Cross recipient. (Australian Defence Force)

Corporal Baird's family decided to loan the medal to the Australian War Memorial to be displayed in the Hall of Valour alongside the three other Victoria Cross medals awarded for service in the Afghanistan conflict.

His father, Doug Baird, says it is an honour.

"To be viewed by the general population rather than be kept away in a dark little area I think probably it's a continuation of the story," he said.

The M4 rifle Corporal Baird used during his final battle has also been handed over to the memorial.

Colonel Craig Shortt says the weapon and Corporal Baird's full medal set tell part of his story.

"It was about offensive spirit, the mental toughness and physical fortitude to persevere and overcome in the face of adversity. Mission first," he said.

"He was a humble man, he didn't seek glory but through his actions it was thrust upon him.

"He was adaptive. Cam was equally at ease training the Afghan security forces, or indeed sipping chai tea in an Afghan surah.

"It was about honour. A commando first, a commando for life, and then ultimately the selfless sacrifice that he made."

Colonel Shortt said the M4 carbine is symbolic of Corporal Baird's commitment to his team and the mission.

"Within his locker, he had a number of different quotes. One of those was 'The bar should never stagnate, it should always be rising'," he said.

"He was outcomes focused and he led his team from the front to achieve those outcomes."


11 April, 2014

Old-style Laborite under fire

Joe Bullock, the controversial Labor Senate candidate at the centre of a row about his political future, has defied calls to stand aside and says it is not his current intention to go anywhere.

The left-wing union which helped parachute Mr Bullock into Labor's number one spot on the West Australian Senate ticket is now calling on the controversial union leader to quit, saying he is unfit to represent the party.

United Voice says it regrets helping to get Mr Bullock onto the ballot, after details emerged of a speech he gave in November last year.

Mr Bullock has since apologised for the address, in which he praised Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott, criticised some Labor members as "mad", and took aim at some of the party’s more progressive policies.

The speech was made public on the Friday before the re-run election, the same day he emailed members to say sorry for commenting on his running mate Senator Louise Pratt’s sexuality and her advocacy of same sex-marriage.

"If we had had the information we have know, if we'd known the comments and his views on party members, if we'd known the sort of comments he'd made about Louise Pratt, we would not have supported him," the union's Carolyn Smith said.
Audio: United Voice has called on Joe Bullock to stand aside days after he was elected to the Senate (PM)

"I don't want people to believe that just because United Voice endorsed Joe Bullock in the Senate election that we endorse the comments he made, I think they are inexcusable.

Mr Bullock is likely to be the only Senator elected for Labor out of Saturday's re-run election, and has told the ABC he plans to "continue serving the working people of Western Australia".

"It's not my current intention to go anywhere," Mr Bullock told ABC News Online.

"I have been and will continue to be a good representative for the working people of Western Australia, it's my intention to continue doing that in another venue."

Mr Bullock says he is still hopeful that Senator Pratt will also be elected when the final votes and preferences are counted and allocated.

A spokesperson for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten backed Mr Bullock.

"Joe Bullock was pre-selected by the WA branch and was voted into the Senate by Western Australians on 5 April," the spokesperson said in a statement.

"Joe Bullock has spent the last 30 years of his life standing up for low paid workers and he’ll stand up for them and Western Australian as a Senator."


Abbott now in China -- building ties

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared "Team Australia" is in China to "help build the Asian century" in his address to the Boao Forum.

The gathering, on the island of Hainan, rivals Europe's Davos forum in showcasing the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr Abbott told the gathering he was being accompanied on his trip to China by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Trade Minister Andrew Robb, five of Australia's state premiers, and 30 of the country's senior business executives.

"It's one of the most important delegations ever to leave Australia," the Prime Minister said.

He said Australia's resources had played a part in lifting Chinese living standards.  "The rest of the world is rightly in awe of the way these countries have lifted hundreds of millions of people into the middle class in just a generation," he said.  "This is the greatest and the quickest advance in human welfare of all time.

"It's happened because governments have allowed individuals and families to take more control of their own futures.

"I am proud that Australian coal, iron ore, gas and services exports have helped to drive this prosperity."

Mr Abbott said Australia's size meant it had the potential to be a "valuable" partner to China but "not a dominant one".

He highlighted the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which Australia was leading, as an example of what the countries of the region could achieve when they worked together rather than apart.

Mr Abbott is hopeful of progressing Australian-Chinese talks on a free trade agreement, after signing one in South Korea and negotiating one with Japan this week.

But he said Australia was motivated by more than just dollars.

"Australia is not in China to do a deal, but to be a friend," he said. "We don't just visit because we need to, but because we want to."


Surprise unemployment drop as 18,000 jobs added in March

Unemployment has surprisingly fallen from 6.1 per cent to 5.8 per cent, as an estimated 18,100 jobs were added last month.

The move caught most economists off guard, as the average prediction was for unemployment to be at 6.1 per cent in March.

In further good news, the amount of hours Australians work also rose by 0.5 per cent last month to 1.62 billion.

That has caused the Australian dollar to jump through 94 US cents on expectations that interest rate rises might soon be on the agenda - it was fetching 94.35 US cents at 11:35am (AEST).

However, the figures were not as good as they looked at first glance, with all the jobs added being part-time - estimated at 40,200 - while an estimated 22,100 full-time jobs were lost.

The proportion of people in work or looking for it - the participation rate - also fell from 64.9 to 64.7 per cent in another sign of continued labour market weakness.

The more stable trend unemployment rate, smoothing out the monthly volatility, also continued to grind slightly higher to 6 per cent.

CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian has gone out on a limb and is among the first economists to say that unemployment may have reached its zenith at 6.1 per cent in February.

He points out that, if the estimates were accurate, 88,000 jobs have been created since the start of the year.

"The job market is showing signs of stabilising with unemployment having peaked or pretty close to it," Mr Sebastian wrote in his note on the data.

"The labour market is the lagging indicator in the economy and it is now showing signs of reflecting the recent solid lift in economic activity."


Labor MPs accuse Bob Carr of narcissism, self-indulgence and bigotry after memoir release

Carr has always been an oddball but he did lots of good as NSW Premier  -- on tort reform, for instance.  He seems to have been overcome by hubris, however

Labor MPs are rounding on Bob Carr, accusing the former foreign minister of "narcissism", "immaturity", "self-indulgence", and even "bigotry" following the publication of his memoirs.

The former Labor senator has launched his book Diary of a Foreign Minister, which details his life as Australia's top diplomat between 2012 and 2013.

Mr Carr says his account is a glimpse into how public policy is formed and details text exchanges between him and the former prime minister Julia Gillard as well as a Cabinet discussion on granting Palestine observer status at the United Nations.

Mr Carr supported the vote but Ms Gillard opposed it. She was rolled by her Cabinet on the decision and it was used against her by Labor MPs agitating for the return of Kevin Rudd.

Mr Carr also details his complaints about having to fly business instead of first class, airline food, and, in one instance, the lack of English subtitles on a German opera being screened during a flight.

He says it is all in the public interest and all the profits will go to charity.  "I make no apologies for providing people with a darn good story about how Australian foreign policy is made, about the pressures on a foreign minister," he told reporters in Sydney.  "I think the Australian people deserve to know these things."

But Labor MP Anthony Byrne says Mr Carr's book is a symbol of the worst of the Rudd-Gillard era.  "If you ever wanted an example of the narcissism, self indulgence and immaturity that ran through the Labor party during its six years in government, Bob Carr is it," he said.

Victorian Jewish Labor MP Michael Danby says Mr Carr's comments claiming the pro-Israel lobby enjoyed a disproportionate influence on foreign policy through the former prime minister’s office are "bigoted".  "No lobby in Australia I understand has that kind of influence. It’s laughable," Mr Danby told AM.  "But I suppose in the current climate, as George Brandis says, it's okay to be a bigot."

Mr Carr says the suggestion that he is a bigot is "appalling".  "I've got an open door to the Israel lobby anytime... but I did resent them using influence with the then prime minister’s office to tell me that even expressing concern about Israeli settlements could not be permitted," he said.

Labor MP David Feeney says it is "unfortunate" that Mr Carr has decided to publish his 500-page diary.  "I have a view that the memoirs of politicians can often be an indulgence and I think on this occasion it probably falls into that category," Mr Feeney told the ABC's Capital Hill.

"I think Cabinet documents should remain confidential. I think that's the protocol. Bob has said that in his view there is a public interest issue here, that's obviously a view that he holds. I suppose I don't share it."

Ms Gillard chose Mr Carr to fill the Senate vacancy left by Mark Arbib when he retired from politics in 2012.

Mr Danby says the memoirs are a poor way for the former New South Wales premier to repay the Labor Party.  "Here's a bloke plucked from obscurity who was not working as a current politician, a former provincial premier, who dumps on Gillard and the former Labor government," he said.  "The Labor Party supported him all of his political life. How about a bit of decency? It’s a bit of ingratitude in my view."

He says it was a mistake to recruit Mr Carr back into politics, but Mr Feeney says he does not think it was Ms Gillard's "biggest mistake".  "I certainly wouldn't say it was her biggest mistake, no," he said.

But he says Mr Carr entered the federal parliament with expectations.  "Bob Carr was a person who came into this parliament with enormous momentum and we were all very very optimistic about what he would bring to us," he said.

When asked if Mr Carr lived up to expectations during his time as foreign minister, Mr Feeney said there had been "disappointment in some quarters".

Mr Carr's complaints about flying business and his boast of having more energy than "16 gladiators" have prompted newspaper headlines calling him a "wanker and a tosser".

He says he wears the labels as a "badge of honour" and takes them in good humour.

"And if it adds to sales of a splendid book, tells Australians how government works and raises money for my favourite charity, then I'll wear that as a badge of honour," he said.

"You're not going to get into any position of political leadership if you're a shy person, and I was amazed by what I could do, travelling the world with so little sleep."

Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg says Mr Carr is a "dilettante" who has become the "laughing stock" of the Labor Party and risks damaging Australia’s relationships abroad.


10 April, 2014

Mock Christians, get laughs, mock Muslims, get bullets

A young man mocks Christians on stage on national television he gets laughs. Another young man mocks Muslims on YouTube, he gets bullets through his home's window.  Is this the future of religious debate in Australia?

While I won't attempt to edify the erratic rantings of Nathan Abela, a "leader" in the anti-Islamic Australian Defence League who had up to eight bullets fired into his Sydney home last week, it made me ponder the reaction if the same thing had happened to comedian Joel Creasey.

Abela's raison d'etre seems to be to spur a reaction from Muslims, yet his taunts sit in the same ballpark as that of Creasey, who asked the audience during an episode of SBS's Stand Up @ Bella Union last month if anyone was from the Hillsong Christian congregation.

"No-one hoping to have their Guy Sebastian album signed after the gig?" said Creasey, "no, why would you? You guys are great, you guys are awesome, you're out of the house, you're seeing comedy, it's night time. If you were super-religious you'd probably be at home right now, maniacally fisting yourself to Antiques Roadshow."

Funny? I guess it depends on your sense of humour but, the fact Creasey is able to mock Christianity so openly, on a government-funded television station, delights and reassures me I'm living in free, rational society.

Granted, Creasey is telling a gag and Abela's joined the Australian version of the English Defence League - a far-right organisation of violence-prone, Islamophobe hooligans. Yet, he's broken no laws.

Every time I write a column critical of Christianity, a perverse religious solidarity infects some of the more hostile commentors who "dare" me to "say the same things about Islam" - like it's their hot-tempered little brother up the back of the bus.

Islam's sensitivity to criticism is well documented.

American author, philosopher and neuroscientist, Sam Harris, puts it well in his 2010 book The Moral Landscape when he writes: "The peculiar concerns of Islam have created communities in almost every society on earth that grow so unhinged in the face of criticism that they will reliably riot, burn embassies, and seek to kill peaceful people, over cartoons."

"This is something they will not do, incidentally, in protest over the continuous atrocities committed against them by their fellow Muslims. The reasons why such a terrifying inversion of priorities does not tend to maximise human happiness are susceptible to many levels of analysis - ranging from biochemistry to economics.

"But do we need further information in this case? It seems to me that we already know enough about the human condition to know that killing cartoonists for blasphemy does not lead anywhere worth going on the moral landscape," writes Harris.

Neither, would I suggest, does shooting at people if they happen to mock your faith on YouTube.

There is plenty to dislike about all religion - and I've not been shy about my thoughts on the hypocrisies of Christianity. However, to jeer conservative Islam and, as Harris describes, its "demonising homosexuals, stoning adulterers, veiling women, soliciting the murder of artists and intellectuals, and celebrating the exploits of suicide bombers"?


The lefties invade the National Party

What has happened to the National Party in NSW?  At a time when the bush in Australia has some real issues and needs strong, loud, and authentic voices, what the hell are they doing?

The once 'party for the country' seems to have solidly abandoned its conservative country roots and risks gradually becoming a ship of convenience for left leaning inner city trendies.

It was only a handful of years ago that the Nats largely saved Australia from an early Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Remember that?  Late 2009 and Malcolm Turnbull was Opposition Leader. Fools in the Coalition were on the verge of teaming up with Kevin07 to support a quick start ETS.

Turnbull was rolled after Nationals like Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash inspired Liberals to wake up and grow a spine.  Within weeks, Tony Abbott was Opposition Leader and here we are today.

Typically, you've always been able to count on people from the bush to truly read the mood of the country.

But something is wrong.  On Friday afternoon the Nats in NSW showed they had lost their way. They pre-selected a city based, lefty ex-Liberal, who doesn't have a drivers licence and is a political gamer to lead the party's Upper House ticket for the NSW election next year.

Ben Franklin is his name. Currently their state director but he could easily be at home in the Liberals or Labor. He is known around the NSW parliament as a classic political animal. The National Party is just where he is today.

He lives at Kirribilli in lower North Shore Sydney and figured out 'doing the numbers' when he was President of the Young Liberals.

Franklin is thought of as a 'wet' or a lefty. Certainly not the kind of bloke who'd really know much about the plight of people on the land.

So what are they doing giving him top pre-selection?

Franklin knocked out of the way a real-deal kind of bloke called John Williams who lives in Broken Hill.  Williams has run a business in a country town and has represented one of the largest electorates in the country from The Murray to the Queensland border. He is known to fly a light plane to get around his electorate.

Another MP, Melinda Pavey was also knocked out of the way. She's an ex-family business operator who has a young family living on the North Coast. She oversees Rural Health for the NSW Government.

Franklin's rise to the top is exactly not what the National Party leadership in NSW wanted. It goes against the wishes of Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner.

I appreciate that internal party politics is not everyone's cup of tea - but it strikes me as sad that even the National Party has become just another way for ambitious young city types to get into parliament.


Antidemocratic Greens

 It was called the March in March.  This time it was Abbott who was pilloried in abusive placards and righteous speeches, as the green left railed against Abbott's odious platform.

This week, Christine Milne praised that sentiment when she fronted the National Press Club. To be fair, it was a more sophisticated entreaty to voters to "make the WA election the turning of the tide; make it the defining moment where Tony Abbott’s radical, extreme agenda is stopped. Make it the moment, as [Greens senator] Scott Ludlam said, 'when we take our country back'."

While Milne’s call for action via the ballot box was perfectly defensible, stripped back, it asserted that the Greens speak for the majority and that Tony Abbott lacks legitimacy.

But where is the evidence given that this government has not even served out a single year of its three-year term nor handed down one budget?

It is not as if the government has done anything, excluding imperial titles, that can even be said to be outside its explicit mandate. Like it or not, Abbott's authority to repeal the carbon and mining taxes, rebalance the budget, and to stop the boats, could not have been clearer.

The March rallies so lauded by the Greens were presented as a protest against the Abbott government. But surely the real beef is with the Australian people who just six months prior had installed Abbott with a thumping 30-odd seat majority.

Such arguments fail to register it seems on both ends of the spectrum.

If ever there was an admission to having no empirical basis for a claim, it was Milne's evoking of the classic Australian movie, The Castle.

"The vibe of the nation right now is something you can't quite put your finger on but it's there, it's real, it's powerful, and it's building," she claimed.

It is beyond obvious to point out that the hapless lawyer in the movie had only resorted to "the vibe" because he lacked a real argument.

Yet some vibes are real. Such as the vibe of genuine concern, bordering on insurrection running through the Greens right now.

Unlike the former example, this one is based on empirical evidence including that the Green vote is on the wane, and that as a result, so too is Milne's grip on the leadership.

One need only look at the recent evidence such as the humiliating reversal suffered in her home state of Tasmania in the March state poll where it collapsed by almost 8 per cent statewide.

It followed a nation-wide drop of 3.3 per cent in the September federal poll.

The loss of another senator on Saturday could see a move on Milne within weeks with the two Victorians, Adam Bandt and Richard Di Natale, likely to step forward.

But even if Ludlam survives, as the late mail suggests he will, the word from inside the camp is that the Greens are actively weighing their options, with one figure noting that Bob Brown surrendered the leadership precisely because he could not guarantee serving out another six-year term as leader.

Milne's current term expires at the next election and her colleagues are already discussing succession. If Milne is looking for a vibe around the place, she might consider tuning into that one.


Old tribal customs no excuse for crimes

WITH increasing regularity, Australian courts are accepting "cultural differences" as ­exculpatory or mitigating factors for more lenient sentencing or even to excuse the most abhorrent crimes.

Surely this is not the multi-culturalism that even the most avowed flag-waving, sandal-shod, inner-urban, Green-Labor voting wearers of tie-dyed rainbow garments believe in?

Though the Left has worked strenuously to denigrate the very notion that Australia has any culture whatsoever, ­attacking Anzac Day, sneering at the national enthusiasm for sport, attempting to airbrush all references from the education curriculum to our Anglo heritage which is the bedrock of our law and language and disparaging our debt to ­Judaeo-Christian values, it is patently obvious our culture and the economic opportunity it provides, is a beacon in an ­increasingly chaotic world. In the politically correct non-judgemental world of the kumbaya crowd, all cultures are equal and must be respected.

In 2013, Victorian Court of Appeal Justice Robert Redlich granted Esmatullah Sharifi, 31, who had pleaded guilty to the rape of an 18-year-old girl and a 25-year-old woman in the same week in December, 2008, the right to appeal against the cumulative 14-year-jail term he is serving.

When he was sentenced, Judge Mark Dean said Sharifi had gone hunting for vulnerable, drunken women to rape.

Judge Dean pointedly noted that his flight from the Taliban was no excuse.  "The offence committed by you was an extremely serious act of violence, and in my opinion you well knew the victim was not consenting," he said.

Sharifi found the teen near a Frankston nightclub and ­offered to drive her to meet friends at a Mornington hotel. But instead he drove her to a dark street and raped her. "Your brutal conduct must be denounced by this court," Judge Dean said.

In granting leave, Judge Redlich found Sharifi’s lack of insight into his offence and the fact that he had no appreciation that his conduct was wrong adequate reasons to support his appeal.

Sharifi succeeded in his ­appeal with the Full Court knocking one year and six months off his total sentence.

Even more strange was the decision of Magistrate Ron Saines to drop an attempted child-stealing charge against Ali Jaffari, 35, in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court saying he would have reasonable doubt about his guilt, citing "cultural differences" as one mitigating factor.

The case related to the ­alleged attempt by Jaffari in January, 2013, to lead a four-year-old girl away from a sports oval while her father and brother played cricket.

Police Prosecutor, Sergeant Brooke Shears said that while the child’s father was throwing the ball to his son in the nets, the little girl was playing with her own bat at the net opening.

She said Jaffari was walking around the oval, when he ­approached the child, removed the bat from her hand and ­rested it against a bollard.

"He then grabbed the child’s hand and began to lead her away before she looked up, saw it wasn’t her father, started crying and pulled her hand away," she said.

"The victim’s father turned, saw what was happening and yelled at Jaffari, ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ The victim ran crying to her father and he comforted her while Jaffari walked off around the oval."

After being awarded a permanent protection visa in early 2012 by the Gillard government upon arriving by boat, Jaffari was convicted of ­indecent assault on two boys aged 12 and 13.

The prosecutor said that, when interviewed, Jaffari told police: "For us is not an issue."

Magistrate Saines said the prosecution case fell short of criminality and cited cultural differences as a possible mitigating factor.

But Sgt Shears insisted that the offending had nothing to do with cultural differences. After being awarded a permanent protection visa in early 2012 by the Gillard government upon arriving by boat, Jaffari was convicted of ­indecent assault on two boys aged 12 and 13.

Witnesses said he started grabbing and rubbing himself against them, cuddling and kissing them on the neck and telling one of the boys he was "sexy". One of the victims said he followed them to the showers, cornered them and asked if he "wanted company".

He received a two-year community corrections order with 300 hours unpaid community work and was listed on a sex offenders’ register.

Curiously, sex crimes, usually against women and not boys, attract far harsher penalties under Afghan law than they do here, yet it is one cultural difference our judges and lawyers don’t seem to embrace.

Playing to the minorities is a losing game as nations across Europe find to their cost.


9 April, 2014

Australia may get Japanese subs

A great coup if it happens.  Toyota reliability would be a big change

ALMOST 72 years after Japanese midget submarines attacked Sydney Harbour killing 21 sailors, Australia could buy Japanese subs for its $30 billion replacement program.

Possible access to Japanese technology and even a so-called "military off-the-shelf" deal to buy the boats is on the agenda during high-level defence talks in Tokyo between Prime Minister Tony Abbott and senior Japanese officials.

Mr Abbott’s talks follow a top-secret mission to Japan in February by the nation’s defence purchasing guru and head of the Defence Materiel Organisation Warren King to open negotiations with Japan’s defence agency for possible access to its Soryu Class submarines.

Defence Minister David Johnston has also met Japanese officials to discuss submarines and senior navy officers have been on board the Japanese boats to examine technologies such as the Swedish-designed air independent propulsion (AIP) system.

The AIP system allows the diesel-electric vessels to remain submerged for long periods of time without the need for fresh air for diesel power-plants.

When asked yesterday what aspects of the Japanese boats might be included in an Australian design, a senior government source replied: "Everything."

When pressed on whether that included buying the boats off-the-shelf from the Japanese the answer was an emphatic "yes".

At a submarine conference in Canberra tomorrow Senator Johnston will tell Defence and industry that "all bets are off" when it comes to options for the future Australian submarine fleet.

He will also debunk the myth that Australia needs 12 submarines and will make it plain that the government is not a job-creation agency for local shipbuilders.

That means shipbuilder ASC would need to prove its credentials as a competitive and skilled shipyard.

Japanese officials have visited the ASC shipyard at Port Adelaide, where the navy’s six Collins Class boats were built.

The Japanese vessels cost about $600 million each, or less than half the price of an Australian-made alternative.

The 4200-tonne (submerged) Soryu submarines would be an ideal fit to replace the ageing 3400-tonne Collins boats.

It is understood the Japanese technology could also be used to extend the life of the Collins boats beyond the late 2020s.

Senator Johnston will also urge Defence to get moving quickly so a decision can be taken by March 2015.

He will point out that it took Singapore just 10 months to move from concept to decision for its new submarine.


HMAS Canberra Landing Helicopter Dock gets set to hit the ocean

Pleasing to see such a significant addition to the fleet.  Initiated during a Liberal party government.  Mostly built in Spain

It's the biggest warship the Royal Australian Navy has ever had. And the HMAS Canberra Landing Helicopter Dock is nearly ready to put to sea.

The 230-metre long, 27,000-tonne amphibious assault ship is being put through its paces in Sydney Harbour by builder BAE Systems and the ship’s new crew, led by inaugural commanding officer, Captain Jonathan Sadleir.

"The builders are on board, making sure everything is in good working order. And we have navy ship’s personnel standing beside them to learn the ropes as it goes," a Defence spokesman said.

"She’ll then go down and conduct sea trials around Victoria and Gippsland, after which there’ll be a handover to Defence some time in the third quarter."

The Canberra, one of two LHDs being built for the navy at a cost of about $3 billion, is bigger even than Australia’s last aircraft carrier, the HMAS Melbourne, which was retired in 1982.

Once commissioned in the second half of the year, she will carry up to 1600 soldiers, effectively marines who can be deployed to troublespots around the region, particularly for disaster relief and peacekeeping operations.

The massive flight deck, measuring more than 200 metres long and 32 metres across, can carry 16 helicopters, including Blackhawks, Chinooks and Tiger armed reconnaissance choppers.

The lower decks will be able to hold more than 100 trucks and other vehicles and up to a dozen Abrams battle tanks.

Four mechanised landing craft will be able to ferry the troops and their equipment to shore.

A new aspect for the navy is the Canberra’s pair of azimuth thrusters - propellers that can be rotated in any direction, meaning the ship doesn’t need a rudder.

It’s a new way of steering that makes the vessel far more manoeuvrable, but which hasn’t been used by the navy before.

Though it will be based at Garden Island, the Canberra will spend much of its time up at Townsville, where the 2nd Battalion Royal Australian regiment will provide the Army manpower.


Must not refer to illegals as "Fu**ers"

Up to six Navy sailors have been sacked or ordered to justify their jobs over racist and anti-Muslim Facebook posts.

But despite suspicions raised by Fairfax Media in January,  a formal investigation has found that no sailor belongs to the racist Australian Defence League.

Chief of Navy Ray Griggs said in a statement on Tuesday that the investigation had found that "a number of personnel have … been found to have made inappropriate comment on social media or to have an affiliation with different social media groups that are not consistent with our values".

"Several sailors have had their employment terminated or have been issued with notices of cause for termination," Vice Admiral Griggs said.

"Others have received a range of disciplinary punishments or other administrative sanctions."

It is understood that at least three, and possibly as many as six, sailors have been sacked or ordered to show cause whey they should not be sacked.

Fairfax Media revealed in January that a Navy member working on border protection duties had posted comments on the Facebook page of a friend who claimed to be a member of the Australian Defence League.

The friend had written that asylum-seekers whose boat had sunk were coming to Australia "to jump on Centrelink and get free government housing".

The navy member commented: "I'm about to head out today to deal with these f---ers."

Vice Admiral Griggs said sailors should be proud to identify themselves as Navy members on social media sites but the job carried "responsibility to act in accordance with our values and behaviours at all times".


Qld. Health Minister Lawrence Springborg set to block `conscientious objection’ excuse for vaccination refusers

PARENTS would find it more difficult to become "conscientious objectors" to vaccination, under a proposal to health ministers by Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg.

Mr Springborg has placed the controversial issue on the agenda for discussion at this Friday’s Standing Council on Health meeting of state and federal health ministers.

The current system allows parents who do not immunise their children to receive the same financial benefits as parents that do immunise, as long as they and a doctor sign a form stating they have "conscientious objection" to vaccination.

Mr Springborg believes the rules need to be tightened to make it harder for parents to become conscientious objectors.

"I think the whole issue of conscientious objection has been abused and misused and really we are dealing here with people who are vaccine refusers," he told The Courier-Mail.

Vaccination no-shows prompt top-level measles outbreak warning
Data released by the National Health Performance Authority last month found more than 400

Data released by the National Health Performance Authority last month found more than 4000 Queensland parents were conscientious objectors – the highest number in the country.

"What we now have is a significant growth in the number of vaccine refusers and we think that for a lot of those people it’s just because it’s easy – you tick the form and that’s it."

He said he believed the definition of conscientious objector should be limited to medical and religious reasons, with the term currently "too loosely used".  "There are loopholes in this a mile wide and it does need to be tightened," he said.

Data released by the National Health Performance Authority last month found more than 4000 Queensland parents were conscientious objectors – the highest number in the country.

The Parenthood executive director Fiona Sugden said thousands of parents had indicated they wanted to see the rules tightened.

"As a parent, we are sick of having to be terrified about taking our newborn babies into public places and childcare centres," she said.  "It is so important that Queensland tightens up the rules."

The Federal Government confirmed earlier this year that it was conducting an audit into the issue, with the intention to review childcare payments to conscientious objectors.


8 April, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is optimistic about Clive Palmer in the Senate

Australia signs Free Trade Agreement with Japan

A big win for Australia

THE cost of buying household goods for Australian families will be slashed by hundreds of dollars a year under a historic free trade agreement struck with Japan tonight.

Prices on the $1.3 billion in electrical goods imported from Japan every year including fridges, microwaves, stereo systems, air conditioners and dishwashers will be cut by five per cent this year.

And in return, in an unexpected win for Australian farmers, tariffs will be lifted on Australian wool, cotton, lamb and beer exported to Japan. Japan has agreed for the first time to also reduce tariff barriers on Australian beef and dairy in a deal worth $2.8 billion to the industry over 20 years.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the historic economic partnership following two days of intense talks headed by Trade Minister Andrew Robb.

After seven years of negotiation, it was hailed as a major win for Mr Abbott on the second day of a seven day trade mission to North Asia.

A joint communiqué released by the two leaders, which also promised to elevate security and defence co-operation to a new level, hailed the deal as the "most significant economic accord between the two countries since 1957".

News Corp Australia revealed this morning that the price of an average imported Japanese car in Australia will drop by up to $1500 with the existing five per cent tariffs on imported cars axed.

A similar FTA recently secured with Korea was estimated to be worth savings of $700 a year for the average Australian family.

It is expected that the new deal with Japan will add to those estimated cost of living savings by at least as much again.

Australian agriculture will also be allowed unprecedented access to Japanese markets with tariffs eliminated on the majority of horticultural products.

Cheese and wine makers and sea food producers will also be given greater access to sell products into Japan with tariffs cut on some while others will benefit from a lifting in quotas.

As expected, rice was excluded from the deal.

Foreign investment rules will also be lifted with the threshold for referral to the Foreign Investment Review Board being lifted from $248 million to $1 billion. The threshold for State owned investment will remain at zero.

A statement released by Mr Abbott said the agreement, which would come into effect later this year when ratified by Parliaments of both countries, will be a major boost for the Australian economy.

"It will be good for jobs, good for farmers and good for consumers," Mr Abbott said.

"Australian consumers will be the major beneficiaries of this agreement, with tariffs eliminated on imported cars from Japan as well as household appliances and electronics.

"Australian service provisors will also gain significant new access to the Japanese market across areas such as financial services, education and telecommunications and legal services."

Australia currently imports $6.8 billion worth of Japanese cars a year. The axing of tariffs will be immediate on the deal being ratified later this year for 75 per cent of cars, with the remainder becoming tariff within three years.

While the elimination of tariffs will deliver a hit to the Government’s budget bottom line of more than $300 million, it is expected to be largely offset over time with the boost in value to Australian export industries.

The deal on liberalised two way trade now estimated at $70 billion a year will also see tariffs cut for Australian frozen beef exporters into Japan from 38.5 per cent to 19.5 per cent and fresh beef to 23.5 per cent over the next 15 years, adding an estimated $2.8 billion to the value of industry.

The deal is the first of its kind to be struck by Japan with any country, affording Australian most favoured nation status on both beef and agriculture trade.


Institute of Public Affairs calls for the abolition of the minimum wage

It has been a feature of Australia’s social safety net since not long after federation - a minimum wage not set just by market forces, but that considers the living needs of a worker.

But the Institute of Public Affairs - an influential free-market think tank well-connected within the Liberal Party - wants Australia’s minimum wage abolished.

The institute’s Aaron Lane said there was a "moral case" to abolish minimum wages to allow people to experience the "dignity of work".

"Our position is an ideological one and we don’t shy away from that," he said. "This position can be seen as heartless and wanting people to work for a low wage. But it’s about empowering individuals in being able to choose their own employment."

Mr Lane said the current system priced thousands of people out of work and forced employers to cut back staff hours.

"I’m not so concerned about the working poor, I’m more concerned about the unemployed poor," he said.

"Continuing to increase the minimum wage is a threat to the dignity of the unemployed."

For this year’s minimum wage decision, to be decided by the Fair Work Commission in June, the institute wants to see it frozen at $16.37 an hour, but its longer-term goal is for there to be no minimum wage at all.It is a radical position.

Most years employer groups push for modest increases in minimum wages.

Australia has the fourth highest minimum wage in the world, according to one measure. Unemployment is rising, but is much lower than the wealthy country average.

The idea of a "living wage" has been a feature of Australia’s labour market since 1907.

Then, Justice Higgins decided that wages at the Sunshine Harvester Company in Melbourne had to consider the needs of the "workman" and his family.

"I cannot think that an employer and a workman contract on an equal footing, or make a ‘fair’ agreement as to wages, when the workman submits to work for a low wage to avoid starvation or pauperism . . . for himself and his family," Justice Higgins wrote.

"Or that the agreement is ‘reasonable’ if it does not carry a wage sufficient to insure the workman food, shelter, clothing, frugal comfort, provision for evil days."

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver sings a similar tune. He wants a $27-a-week rise in the minimum wage. He attacked the institute, saying: "Many Australians would find it offensive for executives of the IPA to say our lowest paid workers don’t deserve a wage increase.

"The truth is that productivity is up, wages growth is slow, businesses are enjoying huge profits while workers’ share of the pie is diminishing."

Mr Oliver said the minimum wage in Australia was slipping when compared with average wages. He said if the trend continued Australia would have an "entrenched US style working poor" by 2035.


Macquarie Island declared pest free after 7-year eradication program

Great news if true.  Mac I. is not much in itself but this is a great proof of concept

The World Heritage-listed Macquarie Island has been declared free of pests after a near-seven-year campaign to eradicate it of rats, rabbits and mice.

Macquarie Island lies 1,500 kilometres south-east off Tasmania in the sub-Antarctic.

In 2007, the Australian and Tasmanian governments jointly funded a $25 million project to eradicate all rabbits, rats and mice from the 13,000-hectare island.

A baiting program was undertaken, before hunters and their dogs were brought in to eradicate any surviving animals.

A monitoring program since then has not detected any pests for the past two years and the eradication program has been declared a success.

The project manager, Keith Springer, says the monitoring process has been intensive.

"We've had teams that have scoured the island by day and by night, covering a total of 92 thousand kilometres on the island, in terms of their tracked travel, searching every nook and cranny that they could access, to make sure that there's none left, no rabbit and no rodent," said Mr Springer.

'Global significance'

The Tasmanian Government says it is the largest successful island pest-eradication program ever attempted.

Former acting project manager Noel Carmichael has told ABC Local Radio the success is of worldwide significance.

"There's been intense interest in the progress of the eradication on Macquarie because rabbits, rats and mice haven't been eradicated from an island of this size, all at the same time before," he said.

"It really is an important step in progressing the field of island eradication."

Mr Springer says people running other island pest eradication programs around the world are keen to learn from the success.

"We've certainly been able to share some of the lessons that we've learnt on Macquarie with the people planning the South Georgia project, amongst others," he said.

"Also in New Zealand and elsewhere in Australia there's certainly been interest in what we've been doing and what we've achieved and how we've gone about it.

"So it's a good thing to be able to share and try to progress other results around the world."


Federal Environment Department to shed 480 more public servants in latest round of job cuts


Nearly 500 jobs will be lost at the Federal Department of the Environment over the next three years.  Public servants based in Canberra were told at a meeting today that 480 staff will lose their jobs over the next 36 months.  They were told 250 of those positions will go by the end of this year.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), which represents public servants, says the job cuts will affect the department's ability to protect the natural environment.

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood says the community expects the government to protect iconic environmental assets such as Kakadu, Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef.

"You need talented experienced people to do that and cutting 480 jobs means fewer people on the ground who are doing that work," she said.

"These latest cuts bring the total tally of job losses announced by the Abbott Government to well over 5,500 nationally."

Positions at executive levels 1 and 2 will be the primary target of the predicted job cuts, with a 26 per cent reduction in senior executive service (SES) numbers anticipated.

The latest round of cuts comes on top of almost 200 positions which are being shed in the current round of voluntary redundancies.

A strategic review says structural change will reduce the department's operating budget by $100 million over four years, from $460 million in 2013-14 to $361 million in 2017-18.

Public servants were also told that if the requirements for job losses are not met through the voluntary redundancy round, then a merit-based process would be introduced.

The union says this announcement is concerning for nervous staff waiting for next month's federal budget.

"These are real people with families, bills and mortgages to pay," Ms Flood said.  "It is very stressful for staff in the Department of the Environment and other places where jobs are being cut.

"We are of course working with the department to ensure that all redundancies are voluntary and we save as many jobs as we can."

Changes across the public service recommended by the Commission of Audit have not yet been introduced, so the department's final job loss figures could be larger.

A large number of staff from the now defunct Federal Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency were moved into the Department of the Environment prior to the change of government last year.


7 April, 2014

Perth's Aboriginal gangs again

ONE COUPLE’S dreams of a perfect wedding were crushed when a gang of youths attacked wedding guests in Perth’s southern suburbs last night.

A WA Police spokeswoman said guests at a reception party in Bicton were assaulted by 50 youths who turned violent when refused a cigarette.

Police allege a small number of youths had requested a cigarette from guests outside the Point Walter Cafe early last night, but were rejected.

The spokeswoman said about 50 dark-skinned youths aged between 16-22 returned to the venue about 9pm and started to brawl with guests.

The group then tried to force their way into the cafe and hurled bricks, injuring seven guests.

Police say the youths left before officers arrived.

Four men and three women were taken to Fremantle Hospital for treatment.

The spokeswoman said police will review CCTV footage which captured the incident.


Selective schools 'the most socially exclusive' in NSW

Brains rise to the top

Para Parameshwaran was not interested in fancy sporting fields when deciding on a school for his children.

For the civil and chemical engineer and his wife Yogarani, also an engineer, the focus for their family was for the children to study with "like-minded" students.

Their son, Kajanan, 17, is vice-captain of James Ruse Agricultural High and their daughter, Balaki, is in year 10.

"For us, we gave little thought to private schools because we researched schools and we knew we wanted them to be with like-minded kids and where they could be challenged," Mr Parameshwaran said.

Highly educated parents such as Mr Parameshwaran, who migrated from Sri Lanka in 1998, are increasingly sending their children to the state's best selective schools rather than some of Sydney's most elite private schools, the latest My School data reveals.

The top selective schools, including James Ruse, Baulkham Hills, Hornsby Girls and North Sydney Boys, have families from the highest social and educational backgrounds, the index measuring social advantage on My School shows.

As well as the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage, My School also publishes every school's distribution of students across the quarters of social advantage. At James Ruse, which has consistently topped the Higher School Certificate results for almost 20 years, 85 per cent of students come from the most advantaged backgrounds and none fall into the most disadvantaged quarter. James Ruse's ICSEA ranking is 1249, while Baulkham Hills has an ICSEA of 1200, Hornsby Girls 1229, North Sydney Boys 1216, North Sydney Girls 1216 and Sydney Girls 1196. The average rank is 1000.

Mr Parameshwaran sent Kajanan and Balaki to their local primary rather than a school with a selective opportunity class but the couple always intended to send them to one of the top-performing selective schools for high school.

An education academic at the University of Sydney, Craig Campbell, who has written a book called School Choice, said private schools considered selective schools a threat and they tried to attract students from advantaged backgrounds

But Dr Campbell said selective schools were "the most socially exclusive schools of any in NSW".

As well as a high level of social advantage, many of the selective schools have an extremely high proportion of students with a language background other than English. At James Ruse it is 97 per cent.

"But they also have a very high proportion of parents who are tertiary-educated and also from professional middle-class backgrounds so there is a huge pull of cultural capital," Dr Campbell said.

"A lot of the families who were sending their kids to selective schools tended to see some of the wealthier non-government schools as too rich, too privileged."


Equal under the law - and no exceptions

Claims that cultural identity mitigates legal responsibility for criminal acts pose a threat to Australia's legal norms.

'Identity [emphasises] the idea of certain reservations which one is entitled to insist on and which others have to recognise as constraints,' warns NYU's Jeremy Waldron.

Far from increasing social cohesion, identity politics makes living with difference harder.

Recent efforts by Australian courts to reconcile the cultural practices of minority groups with the rule of law have produced contrasting results.

In February, a Victorian magistrate accepted 'cultural differences' as a mitigating factor in a case of the attempted kidnap of a child in Geelong by a 35 year old Afghan man.

The magistrate's decision was roundly criticised by Daily Telegraph columnist, Miranda Devine. 'How can "cultural differences" be an excuse for child sexual offences?' Devine asked.

But in NSW, Parramatta local court took no account of differences in culture, practice or belief in sentencing a Muslim cleric charged with solemnising an underage marriage.

The cleric pleaded guilty, was fined, and now faces deportation after performing a 'marriage' between a 12 year old girl and a 26 year old man. The 'husband' faces criminal charges too.

The Marriage Act 1961 stipulates that you have to be 18 years of age to get married. In exceptional circumstances, the age can be lowered to 16. The Act makes no provision for lowering it to 12.

Nor has any Australian parliament made allowance for cultural differences in dealing with another practice that evokes great concern - female genital mutilation (FGM), which is banned outright in Australia.

'Whatever the cultural practice, whatever the religious practice, there is no law above Australian law,' declared NSW Minister for Community Services, Pru Goward.

Advocates of identity politics argue that such laws are racist because they have an unequal impact. But this is to mistake the cart for the horse.

Law is one of the ways a society orders itself and maintains a commitment to justice and dignity for all its citizens. The role of law is to protect without distinction or favour.

By arguing that they identify with their cultural or religious practices, members of minority groups attempt to claim more protection for their interests and practices than they are entitled to.

The demands of minority groups to exemption from laws that apply to everyone else do nothing to strengthen the liberal state.

An authentically liberal approach to living with diversity must resist the claims of group-specific identity and insist on the equal standing of all citizens under the rule of law.

Yet the pressure on Australian local courts to recognise cultural differences when dealing with minority groups is unlikely to ease.


Union thugs pay for bully boy tactics

SHOCKED unionists in the building industry are just discovering they can no longer expect to be protected from the full weight of the law by compliant union-friendly Labor governments in Canberra. The union thugs are being chased down, prosecuted, fined — and in a new twist — actually being made to pay up.

Spearheading the overdue drive to ensure union heavies and their moronic members are given the same treatment as other criminals is Nigel Hadgkiss, the director of Fair Work Building & Construction (FWBC), who returned to the agency last October.

A former assistant commissioner with the AFP and national director of intelligence in the Australian Crime Commission, he gained first-hand experience into union rackets as deputy commissioner of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) — the successful watchdog set up by the Howard government in the wake of the Cole Royal Commission into the industry in 2005.

Seven years later, the Gillard government pulled its teeth, collapsing the ABCC into its timid FWBC. Those teeth have now been restored by the Abbott government and they are biting.

Last September, 117 members of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) who took part in unlawful industrial action on a West Australian business site in 2008 were fined more than $1 million.

Federal Court judge John Gilmour found their eight days of unlawful industrial action had resulted in significant economic losses and project delays to a Woodside LNG project on the Burrup Peninsula. He said the action was in defiance of an Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) return to work order issued after the first day of the action.

He ordered that $680,125 be paid within 60 days, with the remaining $387,875 to be suspended. Workers who obeyed the AIRC injunction and who did not subsequently break the law had 50 per cent of their penalties suspended for three years.

The penalties were apportioned according to the number of days on which the 117 individuals had taken unlawful industrial action.

When I called to see whether they had paid or whether they had ignored the Federal Court ruling, Hadgkiss said: "We have collected $488,125. This leaves $196,375 outstanding.

"Thirty-three workers are yet to make any payment." But he’s not giving up.

"In relation to the workers with outstanding amounts we have commenced taking action," he said. "Where we have been able to identify property — most commonly cars and houses — we have filed and served property search and seizure orders.

"The bailiff is currently executing those orders. This has already resulted in further payments, plus additional amounts to cover costs. Where we could not identify property we are going to require those workers to attend means examination in the Federal Court.

"Proceedings have been filed and are in the process of being served on the workers. Hearings in early May have already been scheduled by the court. This process is also likely to incur costs that will need to be paid by the workers, as well as their penalties. This is a warning to all workers that if they breach workplace laws, FWBC will not hesitate to enforce penalties imposed by the courts."

Yesterday, FWBC launched proceedings in the Federal Court in Brisbane against the rogue CFMEU and five of its officials over a picket that prevented work on the Common Ground Project site — a housing development for the homeless.

On Wednesday, FWBC sought an urgent hearing in the Federal Court of Australia to prevent further disruptive conduct by the CFMEU at the $400 million Bald Hills Wind Farm construction site at Gippsland, in southeast Victoria.

Last month notorious CFMEU boss Joe McDonald was banned by the Federal Court from Brookfield Multiplex sites for three years and fined $30,500 — with the CFMEU also fined $143,000 as a result of appalling bullying and intimidation by McDonald on Perth building sites.

It’s a new ball game.

With federal Labor out of office, union thugs and bullies can no longer run their protection rackets with impunity and those who want to work will be free to do so.


5 April, 2014

Aintree and the Melbourne cup

Just after the running of the cup in 2012 I noted a comment from a  British journalist that scorned the patrons at the cup.  We all know that racegoers generally get rather cheerful on that day of days but I thought the scorn was overdone and unjustified.  So I put up a piece on this blog which pointed out that racedays in Britain can be pretty disgusting.  I illustrated my point with a few pictures from Aintree, home of Britain's premier jump race, the Grand National.

But my blog has nowhere near a mass audience so I imagine that my comments went totally unheeded in Britain.

I have always found however that the world eventually tends to catch up with what I think so I was pleased that this year a Murdoch tentacle has gone to town on the doings at Aintree.  You can see the pictures here in all their glory. 

The problem with Aintree is that it is within easy access from Liverpool, a largely working class and underclass city with a high incidence of welfare dependency.  And the fat ladies from the council houses of Liverpool seize the opportunity to visit a national occasion and disport themselves.

There is also a collection of photos in Britain's  Daily Mail but it takes the Murdoch collection to give you the full horror of it all.  If you read only the DM you might think the occasion was a fairly respectable one.

The DM article is in fact a bit of a coverup this year.  They have had more graphic pix in previous years.  And the reason probably is that a large chunk of the tickets for Ladies' Day went unsold this year.  Apparently Brits generally have become disgusted by the occasion and have taken to staying away.  So the fat ladies will have only one-another to show off to.  There will be very few ladies at Ladies' Day from now on.

Have they FINALLY got the Collins subs working?

Only 15 years overdue

THE navy’s Collins-class submarines — long derided as "dud subs" — have won international praise for an "astonishing" and "remarkable" turnaround in their performance that could ease budget pressures for the Abbott government, which faces a $40 billion bill to build 12 new boats.

A new report by British engineer and submarine specialist John Coles reveals the six Collins submarines were delivering performance not considered possible two years ago. The improvement in the fleet is so impressive that it is likely to see the boats’ operational lives extended.

Navy chief Ray Griggs, who is being promoted to second in command of the Australian ­Defence Force, told The Weekend Australian that the Collins was now among the most capable conventional submarines in the world.  "It’s a great submarine and it’s crewed by an exceptional group of people," Vice-Admiral Griggs said.

The Collins submarines were subjected to national ridicule 15 years ago when a high-level report damned them as being noisy and vulnerable to attack and said the combat system was so bad it should be junked.

While the government is trying to repair a massive budget deficit, it has also promised to increase defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP within a decade and has begun working on a new defence white paper that Tony Abbott says will be "fully costed".

Defence analysts have warned it will be extremely difficult to find the additional billions of dollars to reach the target, which also includes buying up to 100 Joint Strike Fighters and new vehicles for the army.

The new report, to be released next week, follows a comprehensive review of the submarines’ sustainment by a team, led by Mr Coles, from BMT Defence Services.

Mr Coles’s report, obtained by The Weekend Australian, says the improvement in the submarines’ performance is "remarkable" and "astonishing".

The improvement is likely to buy the government, and the navy, more time to make crucial decisions on the promised replacement fleet of 12 new submarines. It is likely, too, to increase confidence in the ability of industry to build the promised submarines.

In 2012, Mr Coles was asked to examine how the Collins fleet was managed and maintained. In his first report, commissioned by then Labor defence minister Stephen Smith, Mr Coles criticised the management of the submarine fleet, with a particular focus on the lack of availability of boats for training and operations because of issues as basic as a poor flow of spare parts.

Sweeping changes followed and in his update, to be released by Defence Minister David Johnston early next week, Mr Coles says: "Much has been achieved in a very short time. In summary, I have seen a lot to be admired in what is a remarkable transformation."

However, he warns that the navy, the Defence Materiel ­Organisation and industry must build and keep the highly trained workforce needed to maintain and crew the submarines. Failure would see the project stall again.

The navy chief said the report would give an important boost to the submariners’ morale.  "One of the great things about this report is they’ll be able to look at it and know they are in a capability that is going somewhere again," he said.

"That’s important. The fundamental trajectory of the submarine capability has changed.  "There has been enormous progress over the last three years."

Mr Coles said the availability of submarines for operations was on track to reach levels considered appropriate in major navies.

What had been achieved so far was remarkable, delivering a level of performance that would not have been considered possible just two years ago, Mr Coles said.

"It has been an enormous pleasure to observe the astonishing turnaround of a seriously failing project to one that should, within just two years, achieve or better international benchmark performance," he said.

"This has been achieved with decisive leadership that has provided a clear direction of travel, clarity of roles and responsibilities and empowered those charged within industry and the commonwealth to deliver the program."



Larry Pickering

Bendigo Bank has closed The Concerned Citizens Fund’s bank account citing the group’s aims as, ".... not in keeping with the Bank’s values of diversity and inclusiveness".

The group was maintaining the bank account to finance its objections to a $3 million mosque project planned for Rowena Street, Bendigo.

According to the 2011 census, Bendigo includes Castlemaine, Heathcote, Pyramid Hill and Kyneton.and supports only 263 Islamic residents within that area.

The Bendigo Concerned Citizens Group at last count had just under 5,000 supporters and its base was exponentially increasing.

Heads are likely to roll at the Bendigo Bank which has buckled to Islamic demands that the Concerned Citizens’ bank account be closed or financing for the planned mosque, along with private accounts, will be taken elsewhere.

But the loss of less than 100 Islamic accounts will pale in significance when compared to the loss of angry clients’ accounts of the fifth biggest bank in Australia with 540 branches across the country.

Has Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act again reared its ugly head? It is certainly threatening free speech at the behest of Bendigo Bank.

I have known many idiots with a death wish who manage banks, but the manager of Bendigo Bank Central takes the cake.

When contacted late today, the bank refused to comment. They also refused to give me the name of the Bank Manager, Chris Bone.


The egregious Leftist lie that Tony Abbott doesn't get on with women

Abbott's "right-hand woman"  shows just how wrong that is

Tony Abbott had been prime minister for seven weeks when he visited the Australian military base at Tarin Kowt last October. On his way home, in a relaxed and expansive mood, he fraternised with journalists at the back of the RAAF Boeing-737. With him was his chief of staff, Peta Credlin.

"We were having a couple of beers and a chat about the trip to Afghanistan," says Seven Network political editor Mark Riley, "and he made a couple of remarks that she thought were just a little bit out of school." How did Credlin signal to Abbott that he should watch his words? "She gave him a swift kick in the shin." Riley pauses. "It was done with good humour. But for us, it was a really interesting insight into their relationship."

Credlin, 43, is the most discussed woman in Canberra, and probably the most powerful. She heads the prime minister's office, effectively the command centre of the Liberal-National Coalition government, and is widely believed to have more influence over the way the country is run than most of our elected representatives. (She has been known to refer to parliamentarians as "the front men".) The key to her clout is the nature of her alliance with Abbott. "He relies on her heavily and respects her judgment," says a senior Liberal. "She is the person in politics he's closest to, no doubt about that."

Credlin is a physically imposing figure: 183 centimetres tall, with long, dark hair, a taste for leopard print and a collection of elegant size-11 stilettos. The term "glamazon" might have been invented for her. And that isn't the only significant difference between her and the chiefs of staff of previous prime ministers. Traditionally, they have been back-room people, operating quietly behind closed doors. For Credlin, "one has to construct a new paradigm", says Stephen Brady, official secretary to the governor-general, who has had semi-regular dealings with her and several of her predecessors. "It's a different type of authority. It's more overt."

Brady, a career diplomat, suggests Credlin is best compared with a US president's chief of staff, "who has cabinet-level status, and is not just gatekeeper and policy adviser but the voice, in a way, of the president. When you are speaking with Peta, you know that she's speaking, really, on behalf of the prime minister."

Unlike desk-bound chiefs of staff of the past, Credlin is at the PM's side at many official events. Internet entrepreneur Daniel Petre tells of a dinner at which "a person across the table asked a question of Tony Abbott and she jumped in with the answer. Not only did he let her finish the answer, he didn't actually say anything." I relay the anecdote to a former senior Liberal Party official, who replies: "I've seen that on a number of occasions. And it makes me very, very uncomfortable."
Liberal love ... Credlin with her husband, Liberal Party federal director Brian Loughnane in 2006.

Liberal love: Credlin with her husband, Liberal Party federal director Brian Loughnane in 2006. Photo: Courtesy of Peta Credlin

Credlin is married to Brian Loughnane, the Liberal Party's federal director, which makes the former party official even uneasier. "There is an unwritten rule that the party keeps an eye on the prime minister's office, and the prime minister's office keeps an eye on the party," he says. "It makes it pretty much impossible for that to happen when you have this watertight connection between the federal director and the prime minister's chief of staff."

Each parliamentary sitting day, Abbott has a morning meeting with his seven most senior ministers. Loughnane and Credlin attend, too. Attorney-General George Brandis says Credlin is an astute political tactician who "sees the game from every point on the field. She's the person who will say, 'Look, don't do that, because of this risk or that.' She's a tremendous, pragmatic political person but she is also completely in command of the policy side of things." Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says Credlin "dispels the myth that women don't have a strong role in the management group of our nation. Believe you me, she has a very strong role."

Since the Coalition won office last year, Credlin has overseen the vetting - and in many cases, vetoing - of all staff appointments by Liberal and National parliamentarians. Even cabinet ministers have had hiring decisions overruled. For instance, Employment Minister Eric Abetz, the leader of the government in the Senate, had his choice of chief of staff knocked back. "Her enemies would probably call her a control freak," another cabinet member says of Credlin, referring to the perception that she closely monitors every aspect, large and small, of the new regime in the national capital. Not only is she rumoured to have been instrumental in the ousting of several senior bureaucrats, she chose the fabric for the couches in the prime minister's Parliament House sitting room.

"The media and the public like to pigeonhole," says her friend, federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne. "And the pigeonhole for Peta is 'scary, driven career woman who you shouldn't cross or you'll end up at the bottom of Sydney Harbour with cement shoes'.?"

There is certainly plenty of fear and resentment of Credlin, most of it within Coalition ranks. Queensland Liberal senator Ian Macdonald struck a chord with many of his colleagues when he complained in parliament last December that the PM's office, led by Credlin, had a culture of "almost obsessive centralised control". Joyce, who describes Credlin as "a fanatic for detail", says: "She can be very tough. Which, er, some find off-putting."

One Sunday, Credlin and I sit down together in her Parliament House office - a large, pleasant space decorated with Aboriginal art from her own collection. A bike leans against one wall. A television with the sound turned down is tuned to a news channel. Credlin has reluctantly agreed to the meeting after making clear that she is unhappy about being profiled. ("People think I court this sort of stuff but I don't. I'm horrified by it.") For the sake of accuracy, she will provide biographical information. "This is not an interview," she says firmly.

At one point, Abbott pops in from his adjoining office and I ask if he would consider making some comments for the story. At least, that's what I intend to do. For some reason, I find myself directing the question to Credlin and referring to the prime minister in the third person.

As Abbott retreats through the connecting door, he says the prime minister will think about it. "The prime minister has a mind of his own," he adds.

At Question Time in the House of Representatives on an autumn afternoon, Abbott repeatedly leaves his seat and walks to the adviser's box to talk quietly to Credlin. Five times in the space of an hour, he ducks over to confer with her. Between his visits, she dashes off notes, which a uniformed clerk delivers to various Coalition frontbenchers.

So involved is she in the proceedings that I can see how she could once momentarily have forgotten that only actual members of parliament are permitted to interject in debate in the chamber. During a speech in Parliament in 2012 by the then prime minister, Julia Gillard, Credlin said: "Such a liar." Then, when Labor's Anthony Albanese got to his feet to protest, she said something like, "Sit down, you idiot." She has always maintained in her defence that the remarks were so quiet they were practically under her breath, but the then speaker, Peter Slipper, warned that he would ban her from the House if she did it again.

Normally, it is Credlin who hands out admonishments. In the most entertaining TV footage from the election campaign, shot by a Seven news crew during a visit by Abbott to the Holsworthy army base in south-western Sydney, she was seen jabbing her finger at the chest of the Liberal member for Fadden, Stuart Robert. Seven's Mark Riley, who learnt she was berating Robert for pestering Abbott to sign a neck tie, says he was slightly apprehensive about how she would react to the screening of the clip. "But the next day she sought me out and said she enjoyed it," he says. "She thought it was good because it sent the right message." And that message was? "You don't cross Credlin."

George Brandis, who wrote her a character reference after she was charged with drink-driving last May (she pleaded guilty to being at the wheel with a blood-alcohol level of 0.075 - no conviction was recorded), says: "People who know her less well than I do might think she's a tyrant ... I think she's a forceful person." What Coalition MPs and senators know for sure is that to get on Credlin's wrong side is a bad career move. "If she thinks somebody is a dud, and not worthy of higher political honours, she will make that view known," says a senior Liberal. "And it would be surprising if that view didn't prevail. She has a lot of power." (When I ask Robert, now assistant defence minister, if he has any hard feelings about the dressing-down Credlin gave him, he says jovially, "Oh goodness, no! Peta and I are mates.")

Her management style has always been bracingly direct. One of her past employers, former senator Helen Coonan, confirms that Credlin sent "some pretty savage emails" while heading her office. "If, in her eyes, you don't cut it, you won't be left wondering," Coonan says. "But I don't think she's harsh or unreasonable in her judgments." In any case, "it's up to the chief of staff to put a bit of stick about. That's her role."

Political strategist Bruce Hawker says he sympathises with Credlin, knowing from his own experience as chief of staff to former NSW Labor premier Bob Carr that the role requires someone who is "about 70 per cent diplomat, 30 per cent thug ... There are a lot of people who, left to themselves, will only do damage to themselves and the government. You do need a sergeant-major there to go out and haul them in, regardless of what their rank is."

Hawker says Abbott himself used to be one of those MPs who give minders nightmares by failing to stick to the party line. "He had a propensity to say basically what came into his head. But he was very disciplined through his time as opposition leader. Credlin did a remarkable job of keeping him on a very tight rein."

Treasurer Joe Hockey cautions against overstating Credlin's sway over Abbott. "She's enormously influential - there's no argument about that," Hockey says. "But there's no suggestion at all that she's pulling the leash. That might be the perception, but it's not the reality." Environment Minister Greg Hunt says Credlin and Abbott make an excellent team: "He is his own man. He just happens to have a world-class chief of staff. It's a very healthy relationship."

I ask Abbott by email whether it is true, as I have heard, that he sometimes refers to Credlin as "the boss". He replies that he mostly just uses her first name. Occasionally, he says, he calls her "the chief". But "there is only one 'boss' in my office, and that's me".

If you're not in trouble about anything, Credlin is warm and engaging company. "Likeable, but with a hint of ferocity below the surface," is the way one cabinet minister sums her up. A member of the Canberra press gallery says Credlin never really lets down her guard - even when she appears to be confiding in you, she's spruiking for the Coalition cause: "She tells you all these great bits of gossip that are totally advantageous to her side, should you ever decide to pursue them as stories."

Credlin's dirt file is legendary, and she has a reputation as such a skilled player of political hardball that strategic leaks of information damaging to Labor tend to be attributed to her even when she had nothing to do with them. Last October, for instance, a few hours after Labor frontbencher Mark Dreyfus accused Coalition ministers of rorting the parliamentary expenses system, a journalist got a tip-off that Dreyfus had been paid expenses for a family skiing weekend in August 2011. Dreyfus's media adviser, Annie Williams, tells me he had been unaware that his office had mistakenly made the claim, and immediately repaid the money. Still, the resulting news stories were embarrassing and took the sting out of Labor's attack on the government.

Credlin was presumed to be responsible. "What was suggested to us was that it was Peta Credlin who saw him skiing," Williams says, "and that she then stored it away for a year and a half. Terrifying!" But Credlin says in a text message that she can't recall ever seeing a Labor politician on the slopes: "So, not me."

To become the accomplished skier that she is, Credlin had to conquer an extreme fear of heights (she still can't look down from chairlifts). Challenging herself is in her nature: at school in Wycheproof, a rural community in north-western Victoria, she took up debating for the very reason that it made her nervous. She was quite a polished public speaker by the time her family moved to the coastal township of St Leonards, where her parents owned small businesses, including a newsagency and grocery store.

Credlin, aged 15, enrolled at Sacred Heart College in nearby Geelong. The current principal, Anna Negro, who was one of her teachers, was struck by her ability and ambition: "I can remember her saying to me, 'I'm going to be a High Court judge.'?"

Politics attracted Credlin, too, and in 1998, armed with a Melbourne University law degree, she joined the staff of the then Victorian Liberal senator Kay Patterson. "She was incredibly good to work with," says Patterson, who in 2000 cut out an article about Brian Loughnane, "the 42-year-old bachelor" who had been appointed director of the party's Victorian branch. "I stuck it on her computer and wrote, 'You need to marry this man,'?" Patterson says. "And she did."

The day before the 2002 wedding in Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral, John Howard offered Loughnane the federal directorship. Credlin, who had moved from Patterson's office to work for senator Richard Alston, spent three years as Racing Victoria's communications and public affairs manager before returning to Canberra as a senior adviser to defence minister Robert Hill. Barnaby Joyce recalls having shouting matches with her about the sale of Telstra after she was appointed chief of staff to then communications minister, Helen Coonan, in 2006. "I find her a person you can have a big argument with and then forget about it and move on," Joyce says.

Like many political staffers, Credlin has always worked insanely long hours. "We had a karaoke machine in the office, and at two in the morning it sometimes used to get a bit rowdy," Coonan says. "We had to entertain ourselves somehow." I ask Coonan what Credlin's singing voice is like. "Deep and commanding," she replies.

When the Howard government was defeated in 2007, Credlin decided it was time to get out of politics and lead a more normal life. Brendan Nelson, who became Coalition leader, understood why she wanted a break. "Whatever hours you see a minister or prime minister working, increase it by 30 per cent for the chief of staff," he says. Nevertheless, Nelson was able to persuade Credlin to sign on as his social policy adviser, and when he was toppled by Malcolm Turnbull less than a year later, she moved to Turnbull's office as chief of staff. In the only backward move in her career, Credlin was demoted to deputy when Turnbull brought in Chris Kenny, now a columnist at The Australian. "I know she was deeply hurt," says Nelson, now the director of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. "But she just got on with it."

Abbott won the Liberal leadership by one vote in December 2009. Credlin and many others on the conservative side of politics prepared themselves for a long stretch in opposition: the "Mad Monk", as Abbott was known, was considered too right-wing, too Catholic, altogether too extreme, to appeal to mainstream Australia. When Abbott asked Credlin to be his chief of staff, she cried. She was almost 39, and keen to have a baby. She had lined up a job with the law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth. She had already given the Liberal Party some of the best years of her life, she protested.

But again she allowed herself to be talked into staying, and she and Abbott worked so well together that the following year the Coalition came within a whisker of being returned to office. "We were at first a disorganised rabble in opposition," says Joe Hockey, "and then became a formidable, united team. She deserves much of the credit for that."

On a flight from Afghanistan to Australia after the 2010 election, Credlin and Abbott had what must have been a tricky conversation. As Howard's health minister, Abbott had tried but failed to limit publicly subsidised in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment to three cycles a year for women up to the age of 42, or three in total for older women. Later, he had said the proposal "fell foul of the 'I'm over 40 and I need a baby' brigade".

Now Credlin told him that she intended to embark on an IVF course. She thought perhaps she should resign, but Abbott, who knew that with her help he could become prime minister at the next election, said his attitude to IVF had been widely misunderstood. Not only did he wholeheartedly support her decision to have treatment, he said, she could keep her drugs in his office fridge and inject them in his bathroom.

For almost a year, Credlin had monthly operations requiring general anaesthetic. She would go straight from hospital to Parliament House and be at her desk before lunchtime. On one such day in October 2012, she learnt when she arrived at work that a comedian at a union dinner attended by Labor ministers in the Great Hall the previous night had told a smutty joke suggesting she and Abbott were having an affair. "Everyone was sort of sniggering in the corridors about it," says former Abbott media adviser, Jude Donnelly.

Earlier that week, Julia Gillard had made a widely publicised speech accusing Abbott of sexism and misogyny. Credlin counterpunched by breaking her no-interviews rule, saying in magazine and newspaper articles how hurt she had been by the joke, and how supportive Abbott had been of her and Loughnane's efforts to conceive.

In the lead-up to last September's federal election, Credlin stopped her IVF treatment, deciding that she could not combine it with the rigours of campaigning. Friends say that when she talks about this, her eyes fill with tears. "I was very close to her through that period," says Christopher Pyne. "I think she did put winning, for the greater good of the country, ahead of her own needs."

In Abbott's victory speech, which he delivered surrounded by his wife and three daughters, he called Credlin "the smartest and the fiercest political warrior" in the party.

Credlin's father, who died of a stroke aged 60, was the sort of Catholic who carried rosary beads in his pocket and never missed Mass. Some believe this is one of the reasons that Credlin, who is far less devout, gets Abbott. "She has a sixth sense about the bloke - a great intuition about what he wants to do and how he's going to do it," says Victorian MP Josh Frydenberg, the prime minister's parliamentary secretary. As Abbott puts it in his email to me: "Peta has a very keen sense of what I am likely to think about issues that are coming up."

To Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the only woman in cabinet, Credlin's deep understanding of Abbott makes her a valuable sounding board. "I'll often run ideas past her to gauge a sense of what the prime minister might think about something," Bishop says. "I'll give her a call and say, 'Peta, what do you think about this?'?"

Bishop isn't the only one. Stephen Galilee, a former adviser to Abbott, says: "I know there's been talk about her having too much power and control in government, but the flip side of that is that people who want answers, who want to know their message is going to be communicated to the prime minister, know that they can talk to her and she has his ear." The chief executive of the NSW Minerals Council, Galilee adds that scrutiny is one thing, but "some of the commentary about Peta has an element to it that is a bit malicious and cruel".

Abbott contends she has been judged differently because she is female: "Peta's one of the brightest, most determined and brutally effective people I know," he says. "We call those qualities 'leadership' in a man and if some people regard them as 'scary' in a woman, that's a reflection on them, not Peta." When former governor-general Quentin Bryce hears this story is in the works, she offers the observation: "One has to be careful not to see as negatives features in a woman that would be seen as strengths in a man."

Credlin is regarded as less of an ideologue than Abbott. "I think she's a moderating influence in the office," says independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie, who has had many discussions with the two of them. "She's intelligent and reasonable. She strikes me as someone who has got quite a big heart."

Publisher Louise Adler says she liked the way Credlin and Abbott interacted at a series of meetings she had with them before the release last year of a revised edition of Abbott's 2009 book, Battlelines. Abbott thought nothing of arriving at a restaurant carrying Credlin's gym bag, for instance. In conversation, he was quite prepared to defer to her. Adler remembers one business lunch at which talk turned to art. "He said something like, 'Art should be about beauty.' And Peta said, 'Don't be silly, Tony. Think about modernism. It's about challenging ideas.' Then she gave him a concise lecture on the history of modernist art."

Theories abound about the inner dynamics of the relationship. "It's my observation that Tony Abbott is much more influenced by women than by men," says George Brandis. "Much more solicitous of their opinions. And, I think, just more comfortable around them."

One well-placed source believes Credlin has a hold over Abbott because he feels grateful to her for steering him into office and guilty about the sacrifices she has made for him. A Liberal parliamentarian maintains that Abbott is calculatedly using Credlin - allowing her to do his dirty work so that he appears statesmanlike and above the fray. "People think he's just some blustering Captain Catholic," this Liberal says, "but Tony is very Machiavellian."

Credlin reminds Louise Adler of C. J. Cregg, the lanky White House press secretary who becomes the president's chief of staff in the sixth series of The West Wing. Credlin's own favourite American political drama is the altogether darker House of Cards. She is addicted to it, apparently. The promotional line for the series: "Behind every great man is a woman with blood on her hands."


4 April, 2014

Jewish Community Council of Victoria ‘deeply concerned’ over proposed race law Act changes

This report concerns what is a hot political issue in Australia at the moment:  An attempt to tone down Federal hate-speech legislation.   

Michael Danby (below) has a good point:  With the moderation that is characteristic of Australians, the existing law was enforced for many years with very little controversy.  It is when the law got into the hands of an immoderate judge that it delivered an atrocious outcome   -- which the Parliament is now trying to prevent for the future

The obnoxious verdict was delivered by Jewish judge Mordecai Bromberg.  As a Jew, his great sensitivity to any hint of racism is readily understood.  But he should not have allowed that sensitivity to warp his verdict.  He should have recused himself from the case.  It is he who has made the existing law untenable.

THE Caulfield South-based Jewish Community Council of Victoria says it is "deeply concerned" about proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

In a statement, it says it wants protections against hate speech maintained and is making a submission to the Attorney-General.

The Abbott Government is proposing to water down the Act in the name of free speech.

The JCCV, however, says freedom of speech is a "very important right but not an absolute right".  President Nina Bassat AM said "hate speech based on race, ethnicity or religion should be deplored and all members of society should be protected from it".

"Just as freedom of speech should be valued, so should the right of people to be part of a free and fair society without suffering the emotional and mental damage caused by hate speech.

"We believe that the Racial Discrimination Act as it stands has been working well and is effective in creating an environment that supports multiculturalism and a harmonious Victorian community."

She further said it was not just a Jewish issue or an Aboriginal issue, but an issue for all members of society.

Melbourne Ports federal Labor MP Michael Danby has been critical of the proposed changes, telling Parliament on March 27 that Australians would be "scratching their heads".

"Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act existed for the 11 years of the Howard government. It worked very well," he said.

"There were 1650 complaints, 500 of those dealt with conciliation and most of the rest were dropped — very few went to court. If it was good enough for John Howard for all of those years, I cannot understand what is not good enough for this government."


How a ban on hate speech helped the Nazis

WHAT could an eccentric Swedish pastor, a drunk British student and Brigitte Bardot possibly have in common?

All have been imprisoned or threatened with imprisonment for saying offensive things about minority groups.

The Swedish pastor, Ake Green, was sentenced to a month in jail in 2004 for criticising homosexuality from the pulpit of his Pentecostal church.

He described homosexuality as "abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumour in the body of ­society".

A local judge decreed that these words constituted a hate crime under Swedish law, which forbids making statements that "threaten or express disrespect for an ethnic group or similar group".

The British student, Liam Stacey, was sentenced to 56 days in prison at Swansea Magistrates’ Court in 2012 after he tweeted racist comments about black soccer player Fabrice Muamba.

Stacey, inebriated at the time of his unhinged tweeting, was found guilty under Britain’s extraordinarily broad Public Order Act, which makes it an ­offence to "display any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting".

As for Bardot, the French movie starlet turned animal rights activist, she hasn’t been jailed for the things she has said, but she has been fined and warned that jail is a possibility in the future.

In her role as animal lover, Bardot has become a ­vociferous critic of the Islamic ritualised slaughter of animals, describing it as a barbaric practice that is "destroying our country".

For saying stuff like that, she has been convicted and fined five times under France’s 1881 Law on Freedom of the Press, which makes it a crime to "incite racial discrimination, hatred or violence", and has had to fork out €30,000.

Those are just three of the thousands of punishments for hate speech doled out in Europe in recent years.

In Canada, too, people have found themselves on the receiving end of censure for saying hateful or disrespectful things about certain groups.

So as Australians hotly debate section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, under which journalist Andrew Bolt was punished in 2011 for criticising "fair-skinned people" who claim to be Aboriginal, it’s worth pulling back and looking at the international context.

Globally speaking, there’s little novel about Bolt’s case. His political criticisms of Aboriginal heritage could just as easily have landed him in legal hot water in Europe and other parts of the world.

The Bolt case is no Aussie one-off — it’s better understood as part of a global war against so-called hate speech, where states are clamping down on what they consider to be offensive words, and in the process are criminalising certain moral, political and religious world views and trampling on freedom of speech.

Section 18C makes it unlawful for individuals to "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate" someone because of race or ethnicity.

Attorney-General George Brandis is trying to reform it, suggesting that, in the interests of freedom of speech, the words "offend", "insult" and "humiliate" should be taken out, but "intimidate" should be left in and joined by the word "vilify".

Similar laws against hateful or insulting expression exist across Europe and, as in Australia, they’ve been used not only to punish the blindly prejudiced but also those who possess outre views.

So in Denmark it is against the law to "mock or scorn … any lawfully existing religious community".

Do that, and you can be jailed for four months.

In Finland, anyone who "distributes among the public" words that "threaten, slander or insult on account of race" can be jailed for up to two years.

In Germany it’s against the law to "insult, maliciously malign or defame" people on the basis of race or religion.

France criminalises "any ­offensive expression, contemptuous term or invective" against racial or religious groups.

In Belgium, anyone who "insults a religious object", including by "words (or) gestures", can be jailed for up to six months.

Never shake a fist at a statue of the Virgin Mary if you visit Belgium.

Across the pond, in Canada, the Human Rights Act forbids the public expression of "hateful or contemptuous" thoughts about ethnic minorities and faith groups.

All these laws have been used to punish not just the mad racist who screams the N-word on street corners but also political speech and expressions of religious conviction.

So, in Britain, three Muslims were recently convicted of a hate crime for distributing a leaflet in which the word gay was laid out as an acronym that said "God ­Abhors You".

In 2010, a Danish historian was found guilty of "insulting" a religious group after he said in an inter­view that there was a peculiarly high incidence of crime in Muslim areas.

In 2011, an Austrian writer was found guilty of "agitating against a group" and fined €480 for giving a critical speech on Islam that included the line, "Mohammed had a thing for little girls".

In 2010, a Finnish politician was found guilty of "incitement against an ethnic group" after he said increased immigration to Finland would increase crime.

We may well disagree with the views expressed in these cases. But they’re nonetheless just views; expressions of strong religious ideas about sexuality or political opposition to immigration. Increasingly in the West, what would once have been seen as legitimate speech in the rowdy fray of public debate is being rebranded "hatred" and punished with fines or jail time.

However much PC packaging is attached to these laws, there’s no dodging the fact they are used to deeply censorious ends, punishing moral outlooks that the mainstream finds offensive.

Where did these laws punishing mockery and offence come from? Tracing the history of hate speech legislation is fascinating, for it tells us a profound and depressing story about the modern West’s bit-by-bit abandonment of free speech.

Modern hate speech leg­islation was born from World War II. There was a feeling that hatred needed to be curbed to prevent another outburst of fascist hysteria. But it wasn’t Western governments calling for laws against hate speech — it was the authoritarian Soviet Union.

In 1948, world leaders gathered to construct a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Soviet representatives argued that the section on free speech should be qualified by strictures against hate speech. They proposed an amendment making it a crime to advocate "national, racial or religious hostility". "(We cannot) allow advocacy of hatred or religious contempt," they said.

Such efforts to water down freedom of speech in the name of combating hate were opposed by Western delegates. From the US, Eleanor Roosevelt said a hate speech qualification would be "extremely dangerous" since "any criticism of public or religious authorities might all too easily be described as incitement to hatred" (how prescient she was). In later discussions, British representative Lady Gaitskell said a hate speech amendment would "infringe the fundamental right of freedom of speech".

The Soviets lost on the hate speech front in 1948. But they kept pushing. They were finally successful in 1965 with the creation of the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Despite the continued opposition of Western delegates and their allies — one of whom said that "to penalise ideas, whatever their nature, is to pave the way for tyranny" — the new 1965 convention did contain a section calling for the criminalisation of "ideas based on racial superiority or ­hatred".

It was the spread of this convention into domestic law, everywhere from Austria to Australia, that led to the creation of crimes of hate speech around the world in the late 1960s and early 70s.

So the story of hate speech laws is a story of the West’s slow but sure ditching of freedom of speech. Where once Western leaders opposed the criminalisa­tion of words — "whatever their nature" — more recently they’ve come to see certain speech as dangerous after all, and something that must be punished.

We’re witnessing the victory of the Soviet view of speech as bad and censorship as good, with various members of the modern West’s chattering classes unwittingly aping yesteryear’s communist tyrants as they call for the banning of "advocacy of hatred", and a corresponding demise of the older enlightened belief that ideas and words should never be curtailed.

Some will say, "So what if we’re finishing off the Soviet Union’s dirty work? At least we’re preventing hatred." But here’s the thing: history shows that, actually, hate speech laws don’t even help to combat hate.

The Weimar Republic of the 30s had laws against "insulting religious communities". They were used to prosecute hundreds of Nazi agitators, including Joseph Goebbels. Did it stop them? No. It helped them.

The Nazis turned their prosecutions for hate speech to their advantage, presenting themselves as political victims and whipping up public support among aggrieved sections of German society, their future social base. Far from halting Nazism, hate speech legislation assisted it.

It is surely time every hate speech law was repealed. They are a menace to free thought and speech, and the worst tool imaginable for fighting real hatred.


New dams to tackle major flood events in Queensland

This will be a red rag to the Greenies

THE Queensland Government will consider increasing the size of Wivenhoe Dam and constructing a number of new dams to lessen the impact of future major floods.

It follows the announcement to change the way the dam operates in times of extreme weather to release more water to prevent widespread downstream flooding.

Premier Campbell Newman said the locations of eight new dams had been identified which would potentially protect thousands of homes and businesses.

"This is very early days and I stress to those landowners in the areas affected that there is a lot of work that needs to be undertaken before any plans are implemented," Mr Newman said.

"But it is our duty to do whatever work we can to investigate all possible options."

Possible new dam sites include the upper Brisbane River (near Linville), the Cooyar Creek (near Benarkin National Park), Emu Creek (near Harlin), the Bremer River (near Mt Walker), the Stanley River (near Peachester), Tenterhill Creek (near Gatton), Lockyer Creek (near Murphy's Creek) and Cressbrook Creek (near Kipper).

A scoping study will also take place to look at raising bridge levels below Wivenhoe Dam.

Energy and Water Supply Minister Mark McArdle said the Government would consider practical, sensible and affordable ways to protect more people from future floods.

"Unlike Labor, this government is very upfront and honest about the trade-offs people should expect in managing future flood events in order to provide greater flood protection for more local homes and businesses," Mr McArdle said.

"This government has already moved-on from simply thinking about how to reduce downstream flood risks to engaging in a public discussion about how we can build-in greater flood mitigation for more peoples' homes.

"Before the next wet season, south east Queensland residents should have confidence in the fact that if there is a flood event, dam operating decisions will always place greatest value in life, then people's homes, businesses and livelihood - and then public roads and bridges."

Mr McArdle said the Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams would be upgraded over the next 10 years as part of Seqwater's ongoing dam improvement program.


South Korea free trade deal to create 1000 Australian jobs a year

PRIME MINISTER Tony Abbott will ink a landmark deal with South Korea next Tuesday to create 1000 Aussie jobs a year and cut the cost of imported cars and clothing.

Three in five jobs created will be in NSW and the rest in Victoria with Australia’s beef, dairy, vegetable, fruit and nut growers the biggest beneficiaries.

Korea has already signed similar FTAs with the United States and European Union and failure to reach a deal would have seen a slump in Australian exports.

Instead, Australian exports to Korea will increase by 25 per cent, confidential modelling for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reveals.

The biggest jobs boost will be next year, when 1745 jobs will be created. But the boost will continue for at least 15 years, with 950 new jobs expected in 2030.

This will help to offset some looming job losses in manufacturing.

However, the trade deal will also add to those pressures. Lower tariffs on imported Korean textiles, footwear, auto parts and steel products will make it harder for Aussie manufacturers to compete.

Korean tariffs on imported cigarettes and tobacco will be slashed from 40 per cent to 15 per cent  making it cheaper for international giants like Philip Morris, which this week announced 180 job losses at its Melbourne factory, to manufacture there.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb this week acknowledged the losses, but said they will be outweighed by job gains. "You do see job losses; they’re very prominent in the community. What you don’t see is the new jobs that are created," he said.

Lower tariffs will also make imported Korean goods like cars, clothes and electronics cheaper for Australian consumers.

South Korea is Australia’s fourth largest trading partner and the biggest buyer of Australian sugar.

The Department’s modelling shows job gains will be strongest in the beef industry, followed by dairy, raw milk, vegetables, fruits, nuts and sugar industries.

Overall will boost Australis economic output by $5 billion over the period to 2030.

A research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, Stephen Kirchner, said the benefits of freer trade outweighed the negatives. "We will get more jobs overall through increased trade and investment with South Korea."

Tony Abbott will also use next week’s Asia tour to push for progress on a free trade agreement with Japan, and with Australia’s largest trading partner, China.

The deal with China has been nine years in the making, but Mr Abbott has promised a deal within his first year.


3 April, 2014

Union cops $1.2m fine over Vic blockade

AUSTRALIA'S biggest construction union has been hit with an "unprecedented" $1.25 million fine for illegally blocking workers from Melbourne building sites.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) was fined and ordered to pay costs for ignoring court orders which outlawed the blockades.

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Anthony Cavanough said only the hefty fine would do justice to the blatant defiance of the court.   "I regard the contempts as exceptionally serious, so much so that they warrant explicit classification as criminal contempts, perhaps for the first time in the Australian industrial context," he said.

The union said it was not seeking to put itself above the law, but to save lives on building sites.  "Building workers need someone on site who genuinely represents their interests, and that doesn't happen when that person is hand-picked by the boss," a CFMEU statement said.

The CFMEU has maintained its conflict with Grocon was over safety issues.  The union began a blockade of Grocon's Emporium site in the Melbourne CBD in August 2012, stopping workers from entering for about two weeks and choking peak-hour traffic.

It was fined $1 million for the four days it defied a court order to cease the blockade, including the day unionists clashed with police as about 1000 people gathered outside the site.

Justice Cavanough also fined the union a further $250,000 for preventing vehicle access at a site in Footscray in September 2012 and another in Collins Street in Melbourne in April 2013.

Grocon called the ruling a defining moment for the construction industry.  "It should be clear to the Victorian CFMEU that old-style bullying and intimidation has no place in a modern workplace or the broader union movement," a company statement said.

"The construction industry must take a stand to eradicate this sort of lawless behaviour and require all players to simply obey the law."

Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the fines sent a strong message to the union.  "It's the strongest ruling of its kind against a union in Australia," he said.

Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said no one was above the law.  "What went on was appalling behaviour. It should not happen again," the Labor leader said.

The ruling has prompted renewed calls for the Senate to pass legislation to bring back construction watchdog the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Describing the fines as unprecedented, federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz accused Labor of running a "protection racket" for unions.  "Bill Shorten and Labor, together with the Australian Greens, are blocking the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the creation of a Registered Organisations Commission."

The Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) and the Master Builders also called for the return of the ABCC.

Documents tendered to the court show the CFMEU Victorian/Tasmanian branch had the means to pay the penalty.

The branch had cash at bank and short-term deposits of $12.38 million with net assets of $51.93 million, according to the documents.


An apologetic tone this time

The latest IPCC report has got a lot of publicity wordwide.  In Australia, the most Leftist newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, had a real blast with 3 articles derived from the UN report. 

What is notable, however, is the apologetic nature of the coverage.  They admit we have heard all this before and admit it is exaggerated.  They clearly have no hope of new converts to Warmism. 

One such article is given below and there is another one  here

In the lobby of the Sydney aquarium where the Australian launch of the UN’s latest climate change report was released on Monday is a terrifying great white shark.

The beast measures 7.5 metres long with a razor-toothed mouth so big it could easily swallow a human whole. It looks at least as big as the fibreglass monster used in the movie Jaws.

Thankfully, the aquarium shark is only a model. In real life, the biggest great white ever reliably measured was 6.4 metres. That’s still a whopper; the average mature specimen is four to five metres.

Why make a ridiculously outsized model for an aquarium? For effect, of course, to get the paying public in. Give ‘em a good scare.

Some of the authors of part of the latest climate report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have done something similar:

"In short, human-driven climate change poses a great threat, unprecedented in type and scale, to well-being, health and perhaps even to human survival."

They might be able to argue the threat to well-being and health, but human survival? A temperature rise, even at the extreme end of projections, of four to five degrees Celsius, does not plausibly threaten homo sapiens with extinction.

The three scientists who wrote this summary for the website The Conversation are Anthony McMichael of ANU, and Colin Butler and Helen Berry of the University of Canberra. They contributed to the report’s chapter on health effects of climate change.

Presumably they’re trying to help the cause of addressing climate change, using outlandish fears to attract attention. More likely they will undermine it by scaremongering.

The two scientists who conducted the report’s Australian launch on Monday, both lead authors of the official IPCC report, would not defend the extinction claim.

One, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, of Queensland University’s Global Change Institute, politely described it as "extreme."

A credible advocate of action, the Climate Institute’s John Connor, used the same word – "extreme" – when asked what he thought of the claim of the possible extinction of humanity.

Perhaps the three are frustrated by the pace of official action to limit carbon emissions. That’s understandable. The carbon concentration in the global atmosphere hit 400 parts per million last year, the highest in millions of years, according to ice core samples, and continues to rise at an average pace of two parts per million a year.

"We are on an inexorable march to 450 ppm and much higher levels" remarked a NASA scientist and program manager, Michael Gunson. "These were the targets for stabilisation suggested not too long ago. The world is quickening the rate of accumulation of CO2, and has shown no signs of slowing this down."

The only serious way carbon output can be prudently managed is by the world’s governments.

Global government action has to catch up with change in the planet. But hysteria and exaggeration from concerned scientists won’t help. It will only damage their cause.

The three scaremongers undercut the work of the other scientists, the 309 lead authors and the other 433 contributing authors of Monday’s report.

The overall thrust of the IPCC report is credible and resists overreach.

It projects, for instance, that an extra two degrees of warming could lead to the loss of 2 per cent of global GDP, rather than the 5 per cent forecast by one of the earlier estimates, that of Britain’s Nicholas Stern.

And there’s certainly no need to exaggerate the dangers. The world is on a carbon trajectory for 4 degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels.

This will pose "large risks to global and regional food security," the IPCC warns, and "compromise normal human activities like growing food or working outdoors for some parts of the year."

And it’s not all about the future; many effects are already upon us. In its annual report on world climate, the World Meteorological Organisation pointed to unusual weather events from Cairo’s first snowfall in a century to the widest US tornado on record.

Every continent, including Antarctica, saw some sort of record-breaking weather. The WMO said no single event could be attributed directly to climate change:

"But many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result" of man-made climate change, said the organisation’s secretary general, Michel Jarraud.

Its report included, for the first time, a separate sub-section on Australia. It pointed out that national 12-month temperature records were set for the periods ending in three consecutive months last year – in August, another in September, and a third October, topped off by a new record for the calendar year 2013.

These record Australian temperatures were notable because they occurred during a phase of the El Nina cycle that normally brings cooler conditions, not hotter.

Drawing on the work of Sophie Lewis and David Karoly of Melbourne University’s Centre of Excellence on Climate System Science, the report simulated conditions for 13,000 different climate years considering natural factors only.

They found Australia’s record hot 2013 would have been "virtually impossible without human contributions of heat-trapping gases, illustrating that some extreme events are becoming much more likely due to climate change."

The world’s people need to know the science, so they can demand action from the world’s politicians. For scientists to scaremonger just gives recalcitrant politicians an easy way to laugh them off.

There’s no good reason to jump the shark.


Bolt to get more airtime

 Outspoken News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt will replace Charlie Pickering on The Project.

Bolt, who is in his fourth year as host of The Bolt Report, will join Carrie Bickmore and Peter Helliar at the desk after Pickering departs next week.

The surprise move is designed to make the show more ‘watercooler’ and help lift TEN’s primetime ratings share, and follows Bolt’s Sunday morning show being quietly extended from 30 to 60 minutes this year.

Charlie Pickering announced his departure earlier this month but while no permanent replacement was announced, TV Tonight understands testing has been underway at TEN’s Como building in South Yarra.

A TEN insider said, "Love him or loathe him, Andrew Bolt gets people talking and right now TEN realises that’s just what they need. Steve Price has worked well for the show so Bolter is the next logical step. It will all make sense after the Murdoch camp buys the network for a song."

Roving Productions is understood to have agreed to more coverage of the Abbott government policies and less talk on climate change, while asylum seeker issues are off the table unless the story can elicit some tears from Carrie Bickmore -considered by producers to be ‘ratings gold.’

Bolt was coaxed into joining the show in order to take on "that reckless, unapologetic ABC", before realising the public broadcaster actually out-rates Network TEN.


Immigration staff working without vital data

Rudd/Gillard clearly didn't WANT immigration to have better data

Public servants using a massive electronic watch list to stop war criminals and visa fraudsters coming to Australia still cannot use a biometric data such as fingerprints and facial images even after millions of dollars was given to their department to make it happen.

The department's attempt to set up a steering committee to improve the watch list failed because of a lack of interest and management oversight, a fresh audit report says.

Department of Immigration and Border Protection staff are still being forced to identify visa applicants using biographical sources which have "a varying degree of reliability".

It said $83 million for a biometric watch list and other initiatives using the same data was handed to the department between 2004 and 2010.

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The revelation comes as the Coalition touts the success of Operation Sovereign Borders after more than 100 days have passed without an asylum seeker boat arriving.

The wealth of biometric information Australia has collected from detainees and overseas visa applicants since 2006 would give greater certainty to staff assessing a rising number of applications and fraudsters armed with better technology.

Bureaucrats are doing just over 30 million traveller checks a year now and will need to deal 50 million by 2020.

The Australian National Audit Office's (ANAO) report stopped short of recommending the inclusion of biometric testing in the watch list.

It did say biometrics would enhance the system and noted the department has been looking into the use of biometrics for at least 15 years.

The same report found large improvements in the watch list, particularly the overall accuracy of data.

But there were other weaknesses.

Only two out of five recommendations from a 2008 audit were implemented as of last year, even though ANAO and a parliamentary committee had been told the recommendations were substantially completed.

"More focused senior management oversight could have been directed to the implementation of the recommendations," the report said.

People and documents on the list, known as the central movement alert list (CMAL), remain for as long as 120 years but are not subject to systematic reviews to upgrade data deficiencies which might unnecessarily inconvenience travellers.

The latest audit report, completed late February, also found the department still did not collect information showing where the watch list had been used in visa and citizenship decisions.


2 April, 2014

Julia Gillard back in spotlight over links to unions

The details coming from court last week were lurid – a judge sentencing Michael Williamson to at least five years in prison while describing his "parasitic plundering" of almost $1 million from his union. Dramatic. Parasitic. Embarassing. Williamson is a former national president of the Australian Labor Party. Former general (national) secretary of the Health Services Union. Former vice-president of NSW Labor. And his fall is just a small section of the mosaic of revelation that is taking shape. Dramatic, parasitic, embarassing on a national scale.

It is not just corrupt union officials who will be nervous about the looming royal commission into financial irregularities in the union movement. It is some unions. It is some big corporations that have paid off unions. Household names will be caught in the net of inquiry.

The most conspicuous individual name will be Julia Gillard, who, simply by being associated with this judicial inquiry, will suffer collateral damage to the gravitas of her legacy as the first woman prime minister of Australia.

First among those to be investigated will be the Australian Workers Union. What had appeared old and buried will become fresh again in a royal commission headed by a former High Court judge, Dyson Heydon. It is not just going to be an inquiry into a single slush fund set up 22 years ago. The commission will examine the possibility of systemic money laundering, hundred of thousands of dollars channelled from major building contractors to AWU officials via trusts ostensibly set up to administer money set aside for training and safety. In reality, these slush funds were used to buy industrial peace, off the books.

The practice has been systemic in these sections of the economy, especially the construction industry. The cumulative cost of this system of covert bribery is potentially enormous over time. This is the brief of the Heydon royal commission, to find the systemic use of off-the-books payments. It will be a slow burn.

No wonder that Paul Howes, the young, ambitious national secretary of the AWU, the man who replaced Bill Shorten as head of the union in 2007, has announced he will be stepping away from  that job in July. He will have a mixture of personal and professional reasons for doing so, but the starring role the AWU will play in the royal commission  is something he would do well to distance himself from.

Gillard will not be able to step away. She is trapped by history. Although she played only a cameo in the AWU's use of slush funds many years ago, she went on to become prime minister and her boyfriend all those years ago, a former AWU official, Bruce Wilson, has become a high-profile person of interest to the  Victoria Police fraud squad. Gillard is thus stuck with a spotlight disproportionate to any role.

I have never questioned her claim that she was duped by unionists who used her legal services to engage in fraud. I do not question that claim now. But it will be a harrowing experience to have her conduct examined by investigators and her judgment questioned by a jurist as eminent as Heydon, a Rhodes scholar, winner of the Vinerian Scholarship as the top civil law graduate of his year at Oxford, youngest person appointed a professor of law at Sydney University and, for 10 years, a justice of the High Court of Australia, until last year.

This is a much more formidable proposition than the bear-pit of Federal Parliament. The former prime minister can expect to be required to answer questions about the circumstances of her departure from the  labour law firm Slater & Gordon, about why she did not open a file at her firm when doing certain legal work for officials of the AWU, about how a legal entity she created came to be used for ilicit purposes, and about how a false statutory declaration was used during this process. There wil be other questions. The Victorian fraud squad will be assisting the royal commission with its inquiries into this matter.

But this is only one small element of the mosaic. The wider inquiry into the AWU, for exampe, will examine the possible systematic use of slush funds to channel bribes and pay-offs to union officials by building contractors. We already know that, at the time Gillard was associated with Wilson, the construction company Thiess was allegedly channelling hundreds of thousands of dollars to a slush fund set up by him   supposedly   to facilitate the orderly completion of a huge infrastruture project in Western Australia, the Dawesville Channel.

Multiply this scheme by dozens and you get a sense of where this royal commission is heading. For decades, leading construction companies have been buying industrial peace, pushing payments through slush funds or simply handing over cash. The collusion between big corporations and big unions has been systemic, at the expense of smaller contractors and the people who ultimately pay for featherbedding, the real estate sector.

There will be worse revelations than bribery and collusion. There will be  evidence of extortion and violence. Eventually, the union movement will be more transparent and its governance more rigorous thanks to this royal commission, after it uncovers where so many ethical bodies are buried.

Labor can blow smoke in the public's eyes about knighthoods and the Parliament's Speaker, but these are insular fripperies compared with the big inquiry into rorting and political complicity, about which Labor has nothing to say.


Labor’s BER reforms ‘a case study of failure’

THE $16.2 billion Building the Education Revolution scheme, one of the signature policies of the Rudd and Gillard years, has been condemned as an international case study of legislative and ­bureaucratic failure.

A paper by three Australian academics published in the International Journal of Public Administration says the Labor-era stimulus program of building multi-purpose school halls, science labs and libraries highlights the pitfalls governments need to avoid when rolling out large-scale public expenditure programs.

It finds the BER did not "adequately capture" value for money and produced "fiscal lag" because its objectives to pump prime the economy with expansionary stimulus happened too late and was at odds with the ­Reserve Bank’s restrictive monetary policy.

More than five years after the height of the global financial crisis, The Australian can reveal there are still eight public and private school projects to be completed in NSW and one non-government project in Victoria.

"It is argued that the BER program represents a ‘case study’ of how governments should not pursue large-scale public expenditure programs," the paper, "Building the Education Revolution: Another Case of Australian Government Failure?" states.

Lead author Chris Lewis told The Australian that a better ­designed program would have ­reduced waste and produced ­better value for money.

"The faults within the system were illustrated by the government rushing the program. As we conclude, there is no longer the expertise in the public service any more. It’s bureaucrats rather than people with technical expertise and that’s a big problem," Mr Lewis, who now contributes to On Line Opinion, said.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne said "taxpayers have every right to be angry with the former Labor government over the way it let their money be ­wasted on over-priced school buildings, and their failure to quickly act to prevent waste from occurring".

In 2011, the third and final taskforce report into the BER highlighted concerns about value for money and found 1.1bn was wasted in delivering public school buildings to NSW and Victoria, when compared with Catholic counterparts. Victorian and NSW government schools had 72 per cent of complaints despite delivering 37 per cent of the program.

Craig Mayne, a BER whistleblower, said yesterday the findings of the research paper were "no great surprise" and "blind Freddy could have seen at the time that it was always going to be a monumental cock up".

Mr Mayne said he found it frustrating that he and others had "spent a lot of time pro bono trying to save the government from this stupidity but to no avail".

The paper, which was published last week by the Philadelphia-based journal, states that its analysis "indicates that the BER program can be classified as an example of government failure particularly in terms of ‘legislative’ and ‘bureaucratic’ failure".

"With regard to ‘bureaucratic failure’, it was found that DEEWR’s (the then Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations) reporting and monitoring requirements did not adequately capture ‘value for money’ factors," it says. "Moreover, the ‘value for money’ criterion was not defined in the revised 2009 BER program guidelines nor was it a requirement for education authorities to report on ‘value for money’ or the ‘quality’ of the built outcomes."

Labor education spokeswoman Kate Ellis said there was there were challenges in rolling out "the biggest school infrastructure investment the nation has ever seen, quickly in an effort to support jobs" during the GFC. "This paper unfortunately does not adequately reflect the positive impact the BER has had on schools and communities across the country, which should be a key measurement applied here," she said. "If you ask school communities ... whether the BER was a success, you’ll find the answer is a resounding yes."

But Mr Pyne said the paper highlighted the failure of the program to require value for taxpayers’ money. "It does also highlight the relative success of the non-government sector to achieve greater value for the funds they were allocated, as they had greater autonomy to decide how money was spent. This is a further endorsement of increasing school autonomy as principals and schools are better placed than distant bureaucrats to make sure school budgets achieve value for money."

He said billions were wasted. "Labor blew a massive opportunity. It’s nice to have a new school building but it’s nicer to know your children are getting good results."

The paper draws upon the findings of the BER Implementation Taskforce.

"In line with ‘legislative failure’ … it can be argued that the BER program’s economic stimulus purpose was limited, given that the rollout actually occurred after the worst of the impact of the GFC had already hit the Australian economy," it says.

Mr Lewis, who worked for Canberra University as a visiting fellow, completed the paper with Brian Dollery of the University of New England and Michael A. Kortt of Southern Cross University.


Elites wilfully blind to decency

IF the citizens of Koo Wee Rup took umbrage at Gillian Triggs’s sledge they will just have to learn to get over it. As the Human Rights Act stands, the act of describing a place as "shabby" does not count as discrimination against the people who live there.

The Human Rights Commissioner was responding to a reporter from the Herald Sun who had rung asking her to explain why the commission had spent $60,000 on a cocktail party at a harbourside venue in Sydney.

"I really do take umbrage at the idea that somehow because you’re a human rights body you’ve got to do things in some sort of shabby way," she told John Masanauskas. "We don’t want to be in a village hall in Koo Wee Rup just because we haven’t got a lot of money."

Triggs’s comments have done nothing to dispel the impression that the Human Rights Commission is living in a world of its own, removed and out of touch with community standards.

The Australian thing to do after a gaffe like that would be turn up at the front bar of the Royal Hotel and shout Koo Wee Rup’s locals a beer, preferably from one’s own pocket.

It would be churlish to make too much of the discrepancy between Triggs’s weekly income and that of the average household in Koo Wee Rup. We merely note that Triggs earns more in a day than the average Koo Wee Ruppian earns in seven.

The drive to Koo Wee Rup from the centre of Melbourne takes barely an hour, but the two places are worlds apart. An academic lawyer like Triggs might struggle to make conversation.

The town’s 3080 residents do not have a law degree between them. Three quarters of them did not complete Year 12.

It is a town where people come home from work with dirt under their fingernails, a town of motor mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, cleaners, concreters, packers, truck drivers and earth movers. It is a place where the commissioner and commentator classes rarely venture. The Census data tells the story. Number of journalists: Nil. Media professionals: Nil. Number of university lecturers: zero.

Nevertheless, under the government’s proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, the view of people in towns like Koo Wee Rup would count for something at last. A judge would be obliged to consider what the view of the "ordinary reasonable Australian" is in decisions about racial vilification.

It is a move Triggs and other supporters of the status quo are fiercely resisting. To them the judgment of the "ordinary reasonable Australian" is suspect, especially if they are white.

"What race is this hypothetical ‘ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community’ meant to be, exactly?" the ABC’s Waleed Aly asked rhetorically in The Age last week. "If you answered that they have no particular race, then you’ve just given the whitest answer possible."

To understand racism you must be — in Aly’s words — a "wog, gook or sand nigger," which pretty much writes off Koo Wee Rup, where 98.3 per cent of those who stated their ancestry in the 2011 Census came from Australian or European stock.

Aly continues: "If the ordinary reasonable Australian has no race, then whether or not we admit it, that person is white by default and brings white standards and experiences to assessing the effects of racist behaviour.

"This matters because — if I may speak freely — plenty of white people (even ordinary reasonable ones) are good at telling coloured people what they should and shouldn’t find racist, without even the slightest awareness that they might not be in prime position to make that call."

So in the cause of fighting prejudice, Aly argues that only those who pass his race-based test should arbitrate the boundaries of racism. Can he really have thought this through?

The resort to such intemperate and divisive language is a further indication that the Human Rights Commission’s supporters are losing the argument. Perhaps they should get out more. They might be pleasantly surprised at the everyday decency of the ordinary reasonable Australian.

Race commissioner Tim Soutphommasane frets about a "darker, even violent, side of our humanity" that might surface if parliament tinkers with the act.

Yet there is nothing, apart from prejudice, to back this slur on the character of his fellow Australians. Time after time, Australians have confounded their sophisticated critics with their ­capacity to embrace plurality.

In so far as attitudes to immigration reflect broader sentiments on race, Australians are remarkably broad-minded, according to the latest findings from the rolling Australian Election Study released in February.

Fewer than one in six Australians think immigration is bad for the economy and 75 per cent say it opens the country to other ideas and cultures.

In 1996, more than six out of 10 Australians wanted immigration quotas to be cut. In 2013 a clear majority — 59 per cent — believed immigration levels were about right or should be increased. There are signs that attitudes are softening even towards asylum-seekers. At the 2001 election 63 per cent wanted to turn back the boats. Last year 49 per cent advocated the turn-back.

There is no evidence to suggest anything has changed since Gough Whitlam declared Australians "an exceptionally generous and understanding people" in a speech proclaiming Australia’s first human rights legislation

"When we look at the history of our immigration program and compare our record with that of any other multiracial society, it is remarkable how smooth and harmonious this great experiment has been," he said. "We can fairly claim that Australian people are among the most tolerant and decent in the world."


Anger against judge who let Muslim pedophile go

Larry Pickering

There’s a message for PM Abbott in the public’s response to the Ali Jaffari story. Over the weekend Facebook registered more than 500,000 hits, recorded a ‘reach’ of over 600,000 and 8,500 shares and climbing. The Pickering Post website crashed, despite having just moved to bigger server.

The avalanche of white-hot hostility toward the decision of Geelong Magistrate, Ron Saines, was unmatched in its genuine rage.
This issue is not about race (sick perverted paedophiles like Jaffari infect every race) it’s about a judiciary which tolerates an alien culture over ours.

Yet the judiciary is required to reflect the values of our culture... and it clearly does not!

The judiciary is a self-regulating body and, as with all systems that are permitted self-regulation, it will eventually become corrupt, undemocratic and fastidiously self-protective.

The appallingly low quality of Australia’s magistracy is a consequence of how they are appointed. They are failed lawyers, otherwise they would still be in lucrative practices.

Law firms don’t sack unwanted lawyers, they simply nominate them for the magistracy and the Attorney General signs off on them.

Even Julia Gillard, who is guilty of the worst of "lawyer" crimes, wasn’t sacked, she was politely asked to quietly leave.

Paedophilia is over-represented in the judiciary, religion and the entertainment industry. Actually it’s more than over-represented, it’s rampant, systemic and cleverly disguised.

Western nations practise the same paedophile sickness as do Islamic nations.  The difference is that Western nations secrete it while Islamic nations wear it as an emblem of their "culture".

Australia has welcomed and befriended people of varied cultures world-wide. We have always been multicultural, and we are much the richer for it. There weren’t enough of us in the first fleet to populate or develop a nation. We were reliant on immigration to become one of the world’s major economies within a short 200 years.

The diverse cultures of China, Japan, Greece, Italy and many other European, African and Asian nations have joined our own unique culture to enrich the Aussie lifestyle.

But there is one culture that is alien to Australians who have, until now, welcomed all-comers... and that’s the culture of Islam.

I can already hear the loony Left screeching "racism" and "xenophobia", but no fellas, it has nothing to do with race, it has everything to do with "culture", a culture that will not, and has no intention to, assimilate and join in our celebration of multiculturalism.

Islam is an archaic culture embracing paedophilia, beheadings, severing of limbs, rape, incredible cruelty to animals, subjugation of women, sexual abuse of children and an innate, violent hatred of Christianity and democracy.  Everything we stand for, they stand against.

Anyone daring to challenge their beliefs is met with a death sentence in the name of their Allah.

Islam uses Western tolerance to further encroach on and destroy our social structures. That’s its aim, and it’s working, because we are allowing it to work in the name of racial tolerance when there is no connection to "race"... it’s a cultural coup.

Illegal boat arrivals were/are the worst of all adherents of Islam, they stood little chance of being accepted using normal immigration channels (witness the latest ABC doco). Yet the Rudd/Gillard/Green Government let 30,000 loose in our communities, unprocessed.

Is it any wonder Middle East Crime Units have been deployed?
How many reports of gang rapes, shootings and killings are now appended with the description, "men of Middle Eastern appearance"?
They should also append the non-descriptive term, "men of Islamic conviction".

They have developed their own bikie gangs and have already established a Sharia banking system right here in Australia that severely financially disadvantages Australians.

We are their resolved enemy and there is an intention to break down our social structure to enable a "caliphate". They make no secret of this intention, it is preached and foretold from the mushrooming mosques Green councils are encouraging. (Greens too would love to see our capitalist society destroyed.)

Stopping the boats may have turned off the tap but the flood of unwanted Islamic culture Labor/Greens left us with still remains.

For Australia to survive the coming Muslim onslaught that Europe is now suffering, we need changes that defy the false tag of "racism".  If the evil destructive chain of Islam is not broken now it will in future be impossible to deport indoctrinated generations of Islamic youth. They will be Australian born and bred!

Mosques must be monitored and radical clerics charged under the threat of deportation when they promote violence, hatred or defiance of Australian law.

Muslim immigrants must be made to swear an oath of allegiance to Australia and its laws and culture. The oath must supersede all Islamic and Sharia law. Violation of that oath must carry penal provisions.

The subjugation of women, child sexual abuse (including under-age betrothal) and sexual mutilation under the guise of "culture", must be made accountable for under current Australian law.
"Culture" must not be allowed as a defence or an excuse for any illegality.

The Burkah must be banned. (That’s a no brainer.)

Islam must be shown we will no longer tolerate its vile excesses. Islam interprets our weakness as the first sign of total acquiescence.

We cannot do a damned thing about the 30,000 unprocessed illegal immigrants of Gillard and Rudd. We’re stuck with them. If we ever call them in for processing, the ones who fail to respond are the only ones we’ll need to worry about.

There are 60,000 visa overstays here already who we have no way of locating.

Illegal maritime arrivals don’t simply chuck their papers overboard so we won’t know who they are, the lack of papers or ID makes it nigh impossible to deport them.

With 80 per cent of illegal arrivals on welfare weighing heavily on our already burgeoning culture of entitlement, we are slowly becoming insolvent.

Unless the Government takes a stand now, as governments in other battered countries have, the Islamic vote will, in a very few decades, dictate a new repulsive Australian "culture".

In the meantime, if Abbott has control of the Senate by July, (and he is likely to have) he should look closely at reforming the judiciary to make it accountable to, rather than alien to, genuine public sentiment.


1 April, 2014

Don't call Brandis' statement a gaffe

When Attorney General George Brandis said this week that 'People have a right to be bigots,' half the country rushed to proclaim its outraged disagreement. This was not surprising. What is surprising is that the other half of the country - those that agree with the current government's position on political censorship - also acted scandalised by Brandis' statement, gasping with dismay as if the Attorney General had dropped a tray of glassware in a quiet restaurant.

Coalition supporters, including proponents of 18c's repeal, scrambled to think of ways to distance themselves from Brandis' remarks without denying that he had been correct in his facts and his analysis.

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell said pointedly on Thursday that 'bigotry should never be sanctioned, intentionally or unintentionally.' One federal backbencher told The Sydney Morning Herald, anonymously, that Brandis' 'bigot comment' had 'completely inflamed the whole situation.' The Australian's political editor, Dennis Shanahan, concluded that the AG had put the government 'on the back foot' and 'on the defensive.' Even Andrew Bolt backed away from Brandis' line, stating 'I would put this a bit differently.'

There is no reason why Brandis' statement should be treated as some sort of gaffe. As a description of what freedom of expression entails, his remarks were straightforward and unremarkable.

In the past, when artistic rather than political expression has been up for debate, anti-censorship activists have always been quick not just to defend but to celebrate the legal protections afforded to the provocative and the unpopular. Film critic Margaret Pomeranz, for example, trumpeted the public's right to see offensive movies during the controversy over banned film Ken Park. When Bill Henson's nude photographs of underage models were seized by police over obscenity concerns, Pomeranz scoffed, 'You may find his work confronting, controversial. Surely that's a function of art.'

Pomeranz also said in 2003 that she would extend the same protections to Holocaust denier David Irving's documentary The Search for the Truth in History because 'I think as a society we ought to be strong enough to combat those sorts of fallacies.'

It is unfair for those who embrace the principle of freedom of expression to suggest that the Attorney General should have minimised or downplayed the range of opinions legally protected by that principle. The breadth of freedom of speech is not something around which a healthy society needs to tiptoe.


Minimum wage facts and myths

This year's review of minimum wages has generated the usual ambit claims from the union movement.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver argues that if the Fair Work Commission does not take action to 'turn around the alarming decline in the relative earnings of low-paid workers then Australia will have an entrenched working poor as they do in the United States within 20 years.'

Oliver claims that the statutory minimum wage is just 43.3% of the average full time wage, and that 'if action isn't taken, by around 2035 that figure could languish below 30%.'

With comments like these, one could be forgiven for thinking that low income workers in Australia have seen their wages stagnate in recent years.

In reality, minimum wages over the past five years have increased each year by between 2.6% and 3.4% which places them at or higher than the annual rate of inflation.

More importantly, Australia's minimum wage may be 43% of the average wage, but it is 54% of the median wage: The median wage is a more appropriate measure as it picks up workers in the middle of the income distribution. The average wage can be distorted by a small amount of very well-paid workers whose incomes elevate the average.

Furthermore, Australia's statutory minimum wage (in real terms) is one of the highest in the developed world, ranking fourth highest among OECD nations in 2013.

And this is only the statutory minimum. Australia's award system builds tiers upon tiers of minimum wages above the statutory minimum. Many workers are on minimum wages higher than the current $16.38 per hour, and these minimum wages increase each year with the Safety Net Review.

The union movement is campaigning hard on the plight of low income workers. But if we want to have a serious discussion about this issue, we need to debate the facts not the myths about the minimum wage.


More union corruption

JEFF Kennett wants building giant Thiess to explain publicly why it paid more than $110,000 into a slush fund run by allegedly corrupt union boss Bruce Wilson, after Thiess had won a lucrative contract from a public utility, Melbourne Water.

Mr Kennett said he was surprised and annoyed at learning from The Australian of the secret deal, brokered while he was Victorian premier in the early 1990s with a mandate to pursue privatisation and cut unnecessary costs from the state’s struggling economy.

Key documentary evidence in a current Victoria Police Fraud Squad investigation shows that Thiess paid more than $110,000 in Melbourne Water-related "consultancy fees" into the slush fund, known as the AWU Workplace Reform Association. It appears from the documentation that at least some of these fees were charged back to Victorian taxpayers by Thiess.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid by Thiess for non-Melbourne Water "services", with the money going to the same "workplace reform association".

The AWU established the association with legal advice from Mr Wilson’s then girlfriend, Julia Gillard, a solicitor at Slater & Gordon and legal adviser to the AWU.

Ms Gillard subsequently told her senior colleague, Peter Gordon, in a tape-recorded interview that it was really a "slush fund" to raise money for union elections. The former prime minister and Mr Wilson have strenuously denied any wrongdoing, with Ms Gillard saying she had no knowledge of the fund’s operations.

Documents show that invoices were generated by the slush fund to enable payment by Thiess for the "provision of consultancy service for Melbourne Water as per agreement".

Mr Kennett said if he had been alerted to the payments at the time, he would have been alarmed and it could have led to Thiess being stripped of the taxpayer-funded contract it had won in 1993 to carry out Melbourne Water services.

"If this had been brought to my attention, I would have told the head of Thiess to tell me what was going on, within five working days, and it could have resulted in a show cause as to why Thiess should even continue with the contract," Mr Kennett said.

"I cannot think of a legitimate reason to pay it. I had no idea of it, and I don’t think the minister (for Melbourne Water) had any idea of it.

"It is just not the sort of thing we would have condoned.

"The fact is that it has gone on in secret. It is something that is not part of the norm, either with the invoicing or the collection of the money. It gives rise to greed, it gives rise to corruption. And if it was a regular practice, you have to ask if Thiess, a company which has had a huge impact on Australian construction for years, has changed its practices from then to now.

"Bruce Wilson was a wildcard in the union movement, but that does not excuse Thiess in their behaviour.

"When these sorts of corrupt practices occur, they also drive up the costs. What’s worrying is how much more of it has been going on with others."

The invoices from the slush fund started just weeks after the Melbourne Water Corporation, a public utility under the Kennett government, made a policy shift to outsource some of its work, and asked contractors to register to provide maintenance services for water supply, sewerage and drainage systems.

The success of Thiess in winning the $37 million maintenance contract with Melbourne Water hinged on Thiess showing "a proven ability in enterprise bargaining" as many of the utility’s staff were union members.

Fraud Squad detectives have been told Thiess achieved industrial peace from the AWU and had few industrial concerns while payments to Mr Wilson’s slush fund were being made.

Detective Sergeant Ross Mitchell has told the state’s Chief Magistrate, Peter Lauritsen, that he was investigating four types of offences in relation to Mr Wilson and others: obtaining property by deception; receiving secret commissions: making and using false documents; and conspiracy to cheat and defraud.

A newly established royal commission led by former High Court judge Dyson Heydon into union wrongdoing has been given terms of reference to probe the AWU slush fund and other wrongdoing by unions.

One of the seven Melbourne Water-related invoices seen by The Australian includes a handwritten note, understood to have been made by a Thiess employee, that states "OK to pay — cost to Melbourne Water".

Police have been told this meant that at least some of the slush fund payments by Thiess to Mr Wilson were being charged to Melbourne Water.

A Thiess public report on the Melbourne Water contract to shareholders at the time stated: "Thiess’s industrial relations skill accelerated the transition to improved work practices. Even before the contract was signed, an enterprise agreement was negotiated with employees and the AWU.

"The agreement involves improved rates of pay with clearly identified performance incentives, accredited training programs for multi-skilling and a five-step competency rating system."

Former Thiess executives Joe Trio, the brother-in-law of Mr Wilson, and Nick Jukes have denied any wrongdoing and have insisted that to their knowledge they were paying for legitimate services by the AWU.

The chief executive of Thiess at the time, Martin Albrecht, told The Australian yesterday that recent revelations about the slush fund and payments by the company that he led through the 1990s and subsequently were an "enlightenment".

"I was not aware of all the nuances, and I am now making my own inquiries as well," Mr Albrecht said. "It’s not without precedent that you have to make agreements with unions on specific projects, but if you are asking me if I known then what I know today, the answer is no."

The seven Melbourne Water-linked invoices from the AWU slush fund to Thiess are unusual for not bearing a street address, nor the name of a contact person, nor a telephone number, but all were paid. The address for the invoices was a West Australian post office box.

Cash paid by Thiess into the AWU slush fund was used to buy a terrace house in Fitzroy in Melbourne in the name of one of the union’s officials, self-confessed fraudster Ralph Blewitt, at an auction Ms Gillard attended with Mr Wilson, who was the successful bidder.

The former prime minister’s law firm at the time, Slater & Gordon, performed the conveyancing for the property transaction, and arranged the balance of the finance.


Incorrect answers in prep test books prove a real trial for students and their parents

You are not alone if you and your children were left scratching your heads over the answers in a book designed to prep students for the selective high school exams.

Several answers in the top-selling study guide are wrong.

Anxious students, and equally anxious parents, turn to the Excel Selective Schools & Scholarship Tests Skills & Strategies book in the hope trial questions will help them snare a spot in a selective school.

This year 13,930 children sat the test vying for 4188 spots at the state's 47 fully or partially selective public schools. But in the first pages of the book, published last year, there are three questions where incorrect answers are given.

One parent, Todd Rockoff, said he was "shocked" when he eventually worked out that it was the book, not him or his daughter, to blame when he was not able to correctly decipher the questions. Mr Rockoff, from the central coast, was helping his daughter prepare for the selective test when he found the errors.

The mistakes included an incorrect mirror image, as well as identifying the wrong rules in a question about patterns.

"I think it is scandalous that kids are exposed to this kind of poor scholarship in terms of the materials that are being presented to them to help them prepare for some pretty important examinations," he said. "I also have compassion for all those other parents and children who are tearing their hair out and they are probably feeling stupid and like there is something wrong with them."

Mr Rockoff complained to the publisher, Pascal Press. In a letter to Mr Rockoff, Pascal's commissioning and project editor, Mark Dixon, said "occasional errors creep in at the production stage".

"There is always the chance of human error, but please be assured that we do take the matter very seriously and will amend these errors as soon as the book is due for its next reprint," Mr Dixon wrote.

"I know how important it is for educational books to be clear and correct so there is no confusion or misunderstanding for students."

The publisher of the Excel series, Vivienne Joannou, said they had "rigorous processes" and employed independent experts to check all answers in their books.


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

Two of my ancestors were convicts so my family has been in Australia for a long time. As well as that, all four of my grandparents were born in the State where I was born and still live: Queensland. And I am even a member of the world's second-most condemned minority: WASPs (the most condemned is of course the Jews -- which may be why I tend to like Jews). So I think I am as Australian as you can get. I certainly feel that way. I like all things that are iconically Australian: meat pies, Vegemite, Henry Lawson etc. I particularly pride myself on my familiarity with the great Australian slanguage. I draw the line at Iced Vo-Vos and betting on the neddies, however. So if I cannot comment insightfully on Australian affairs, who could?

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative

Bureaucracy: "One of the constant laments of doctors and nurses working with NSW Health is the incredible and increasing bureaucracy," she said. "It is completely obstructive to providing a service."

Revered Labour Party leader Gough Whitlam was/is a very erudite man so he cannot have been unaware of the similarities of his famous phrase “the Party, the platform, the people” with an earlier slogan: "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer". It's basically the same slogan in reverse order.

Julia Gillard, a failed feminist flop. She was given the job of Prime Minister of Australia but her feminist preaching was so unpopular that she was booted out of the job by her own Leftist party.

A great little kid

In November 2007, a four-year-old boy was found playing in a croc-infested Territory creek after sneaking off pig hunting alone with four dogs and a puppy. The toddler was found five-and-a-half hours after he set off from his parents' house playing in a creek with the puppy. Amazingly, Daniel Woditj also swam two creeks known to be inhabited by crocs during his adventurous romp. Mr Knight said that after walking for several kilometres, Daniel came to a creek and swam across it. Four of his dogs "bailed up" at the creek but the youngster continued on undaunted with his puppy to a second creek. Mr Knight said Daniel swam the second croc-infested creek and walked on for several more kilometres. "Captain is a hard bushman and Daniel is following in his footsteps. They breed them tough out bush."

Index page for this site


"Tongue Tied"
"Dissecting Leftism" (Backup here)
"Australian Politics"
"Education Watch International"
"Political Correctness Watch"
"Greenie Watch"
"Food & Health Skeptic"
GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.


Coral Reef Compendium
"Marx & Engels in their own words"
"A scripture blog"
"Some memoirs"
Paralipomena 3
To be continued ....
Queensland Police -- A barrel with lots of bad apples
Australian Police News
Of Interest


"Immigration Watch International" blog
"Eye on Britain"
"Paralipomena" 2
"Leftists as Elitists"
Socialized Medicine
Western Heart
QANTAS -- A dying octopus
BRIAN LEITER (Ladderman)
Obama Watch
Obama Watch (2)
Dissecting Leftism -- Large font site
Michael Darby
AGL -- A bumbling monster
Telstra/Bigpond follies
Optus bungling
Vodafrauds (vodafone)
Bank of Queensland blues

There are also two blogspot blogs which record what I think are my main recent articles here and here. Similar content can be more conveniently accessed via my subject-indexed list of short articles here or here (I rarely write long articles these days)

Main academic menu
Menu of recent writings
basic home page
Pictorial Home Page
Selected pictures from blogs (Backup here)
Another picture page (Best with broadband. Rarely updated)

Note: If the link to one of my articles is not working, the article concerned can generally be viewed by prefixing to the filename the following: