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

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Two of my ancestors were convicts so my family has been in Australia for a long time. As well as that, all four of my grandparents were born in the State where I was born and still live: Queensland. And I am even a member of the world's second-most condemned minority: WASPs (the most condemned is of course the Jews -- which may be why I tend to like Jews). So I think I am as Australian as you can get. I certainly feel that way. I like all things that are iconically Australian: meat pies, Vegemite, Henry Lawson etc. I particularly pride myself on my familiarity with the great Australian slanguage. I draw the line at Iced Vo-Vos and betting on the neddies, however. So if I cannot comment insightfully on Australian affairs, who could?


30 April, 2015

Selective attention to the facts from the Left once again

Another gout of anger just out in the latest edition of Australia's far-Left "New Matilda" webzine.  Leftists sure are unhappy people.  I'm glad I'm not one of them.  There's not much "new" about the webzine that I can see so "Angry Matilda" would be a more fitting name for it.

I rather enjoy reading "New Matilda".  It's amusing. In order to give their readers the emotional feed they need, they regularly resort to all sorts of evasions and distortions, if not outright lies.  Ask any reader of New Matilda who ended the White Australia policy and he/she will reply like a shot:  "Gough Whitlam".  It was in fact conservative Prime Minister Harold Holt.

In the screed recycled below they refuse to distinguish between an inadvertent gaffe that was rapidly apologized for and a deliberate and sustained tirade of extreme abuse.  Well done!

Regarding the Samantha Armytage matter:  I gather that the comment was directed at the problems of fair skin which Armytage shares -- sunburn etc.  It's only commenters who saw it as racial. The TV presenter was in fact trying to console the fair girl but did not choose her words with the precision that is required of  public figures these days.

We also read:  "Mixed race twins Lucy and Maria Aylmer have defended Samantha Armytage's comments about their skin colour on Sunrise last month, which were dubbed 'racist' by some viewers. On Tuesday Lucy, 18, released a statement on Facebook on behalf of her sister and mother, saying, 'we believe she did not meant this as a racial comment and we have taken no personal offence to it (sic)...  Lucy and her family believe Armytage's comments were misinterpreted by viewers and what was made as a remark of solidarity has been perceived as racially offensive."

Regarding the Scott McIntyre matter: There is an extensive coverage of the free speech issues involved here but it seems to me that any business is entitled to fire employees who insult its customers -- and in this case the Australian public who pay the broadcaster's bills were very insulted.  ANZAC day is Australia's remembrance day for its war dead and is Australia's most solemn day of the year. 

Leftists are always trying to disparage ANZAC day but it goes from strength to strength despite them. The anti-Anzac play "The One Day of the Year" by Alan Seymour was written way back in 1958. It was at times set as reading in Australian High Schools -- but with no apparent effect

I note that New Matilda actually has a number of articles on the McIntyre affair. They just can't get enough of that wonderful feeling of being bravely dissident and persecuted.  It gives them the feeling that their lives have significance and merit.  For more on the psychology of Leftists, see here

White good. Black bad. So says the smiling, congenial host of Channel 7’s Sunrise. And yes, she still has her job.

As most would now know, Scott McIntyre, former journalist for SBS, has been sacrificed to the Gods Of Anzac Myths.

On Saturday, McIntyre, a sports journalist, chose the holiest of Australian days to send a series of tweets opposing war. Some of them were, well, rather brutally honest about his views on the Anzac myth.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull objected, tweeted… and the rest as they say is history. SBS sacked McIntyre immediately, and a media storm has since ensued… most of it attacking McIntyre.

Which begs the question, why does Samantha Armytage, the smiling co-host of Channel 7’s Sunrise program still have her job?

In March this year, Armytage and David Koch (better known as Kochie) were presenting a quirky story about two twins from a mixed race family in England, Lucy and Maria Aylmer.

According to ‘Kochie’, the Alymer twins, due to a “rare genetic quirk” turned out quite different - one of the sisters is “obviously black, the other is white”.

Over to co-host Samantha Armytage, who proceeds to explain why that is a good thing… for one of them.

“Maria has taken after her half Jamaican mum with dark skin and brown eyes and curly dark hair, but Lucy got her dad’s fair skin, good on her, along with straight red hair and blue eyes.”

As she says ‘it’ - replete with a tip of her head and a wink - Kochie turns to Armytage with a look of ‘nervous stunned mullet’. Armytage also appears to have shortly after realized what she’s let slip.

“Now Maria… gulp… Maria….” stumbles Arymtage, with a look on her face that equates to either constipation, or the sudden realization that she’s just ended her career.

Cue the tumbleweeds blowing through the Channel 7 studio. And cue the ensuing media outrage.

Oh wait… no outrage. Guess the rules are different if you only insult black people, and not Anzacs.

So move along people, nothing to see here… unless you want to watch the video repeatedly, and share it. Which we hope you do.


We must not forget the intended victims of the Bali Nine

I have no sympathy for any criminal.  Criminals are just people who parasitize the work of others.  My sympathy lies with the people who are parasitized.  So the deaths of these two multiculturalists leaves me unmoved.

And there is plenty of evidence that the death penalty has a deterrent effect so this execution may well save many foolish lives -- JR

As public concern and sympathy reached an all-time high in the lead-up to their execution by firing squad, the far-reaching consequences of their original crime of co-ordinating a drug trafficking ring have been seemingly forgotten.

Yet had their heroin smuggling operation continued uninterrupted, it would almost certainly have contributed to the loss of countless lives and left a trail of devastation.

Sadly, this reality has been largely swept under the carpet as Australians become collectively lost in a sea of emotion and sympathy where the perpetrators have been hailed as the victims.

There are two very separate issues involved in the public outcry surrounding the death sentencing of Sukumaran and Chan.

The first is the barbaric nature of death by firing squad, which is largely undisputed in the Western world.

The second issue is the seriousness of the crime that was committed. If we abhor drug use and its effect upon young lives and society, as we rightly should, then we must equally abhor those who orchestrate it. Australians seem quick to forget that Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were not just drug mules, but alleged co-ringleaders in the heroin smuggling operation between Indonesia and Australia.

While by all accounts it appears that they have recognised the error of their ways while in prison, we are at risk of negating the seriousness of their crime if we make that our focus. To do so is like a slap in the face for families who have been torn apart by the scourge of drugs.

In Indonesia, drug dealers are viewed as mass murderers, perhaps not without adequate justification.  According to World Health Organisation reports, illicit drug use claims the majority of its victims in the prime of their youth.

Several years ago a dear friend of mine lost her 19-year-old son to a heroin overdose. He was addicted from his first “hit”, and I watched as his family tried in vain to rescue him from his addiction. Before long he was stealing to support his habit, and had alienated his friends and family in the process.

There were several seemingly successful attempts at rehabilitation, each full of hope and optimism, which was sadly short-lived. In the end he overdosed one week shy of his 20th birthday.

The family are still in pain more than two decades later, and loathe the impact of drugs on young lives. Their scars are so deep they will most probably never heal. They are serving a sentence from which there can never be a reprieve.

The death penalty remains a barbaric and outdated facet of any judicial system, and like countless other Australians I had hoped and prayed that the decision was overturned by the Indonesian Government and that the two had been instead required to serve a life sentence. But amid our public sympathy for their plight, we must not forget the devastating implications of a crime such as theirs.

Before we lose ourselves too completely in the emotion and morality surrounding their execution, we must surely pay some mind to the thousands of lives that are lost each year worldwide due to drug use, and the insurmountable heartache that this brings to the loved ones who are left behind.


It would not be smart to risk Australia-Indonesia economic relationship

IT WOULD not be smart for Australia to extend its response to the execution of the Bali Nine ringleaders beyond the diplomatic level, says economist Tim Harcourt.

Mr Harcourt said that several blue chip Australian companies had operations in Indonesia.

“If you land at Jakarta airport you’ll see an ANZ ATM, you’ll see a BlueScope sign, and a Leighton’s building site, which was probably blown up using Orica explosives,” Mr Harcourt said.

“There’s around 2,500 exporters selling into Indonesia and that number tends to grow, even with Bali bombings and other difficulties.”

The UNSW economist and author of The Airport Economist said that Australian exports to Indonesia were worth $5.6 billion in 2013/14. Imports were worth $6.4 billion.

While representations should be made at the official level, Mr Harcourt said it wouldn’t be smart to impact ordinary Indonesians.

“I think it’s going to be tense diplomatically for a while, I was there during the spying scandal and things were definitely tense under SBY (former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono).

“But over the long term the need between the two countries is too great.”

In a blog post, Mr Harcourt said he first realised the importance of the Indonesian-Australian economic relationship after seeing how many Indonesian business and political figures were Australian educated. This included the former vice minister for trade, Mahendra Siregar, who went to Monash University.

Mr Harcourt said Australian investment also improves infrastructure in Indonesia and consumers benefited from good quality Aussie fruit and vegetables.

“I don’t think you would want to do anything to damage ordinary Indonesian people given that there’s a lot of poverty in Indonesia.  “So I think that the displeasure can be made at the appropriate (official) level.”

He said that ultimately the aim would be to reform the Indonesian legal system and this would also help ordinary Indonesians.


Australian Warmists breathing steam over Bjorn Lomborg

Australian universities are full of Warmists but appointing just one person who questions their dogma to a university post is outrageous, it seems.  Bias and bigotry anyone?  Certainly no willingness to debate ideas or engage in civil discourse there

HIS own country stripped him of funding and he’s famously known as a “climate contrarian” so why is Australia giving Dr Bjorn Lomborg $4 million to set up a university think tank?

That’s the question being asked in the scientific community, which has been left reeling by the decision. It comes after the government abolished the Climate Commission, because its $1.5 million annual operating cost was considered too expensive.

While Dr Lomborg doesn’t deny that climate change exists, the Danish author has been internationally criticised for his controversial research which many believe downplays its effects.

He is famous for suggesting the problem has been overstated and priority should be given to tackling other problems such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.

His controversial Copenhagen Consensus Center has now partnered with the University of Western Australia to establish a new research centre called the Australian Consensus Centre, which the government will fund to the tune of $4 million, in a move that has been criticised for being “politically motivated”.

Certainly no one seems eager to claim ownership of the controversial move, with the university and Education Minister Christopher Pyne being blamed at first. The decision has now been traced back to the Prime Minister’s office, according to Fairfax sources, and at least one international research fellow at the university is reportedly set to transfer their fellowship in protest..

School of Animal Biology head Sarah Dunlop has complained that Dr Lomborg does not have the necessary academic track record to justify his appointment as an adjunct professor.

“Existing PhD students in the school are concerned that this appointment will tarnish their accomplishments as graduates from this university,” she reportedly wrote in the letter.

Meanwhile, the decision has been described as an insult to Australia’s scientific community given the deep cuts to the CSIRO and other scientific research organisations.

Many of Australia’s best climate scientists, economists and energy experts lost their positions in 2013 when the government axed the Climate Comission, saying its $1.5m operating costs were too expensive.

“To see the best Australians, the best qualified Australians in the field, be let go because there was no money and then have someone from overseas just a few years later put in their place with abundant funding struck us as being odd,” environmental science and climate change writer Tim Flannery told Lateline.

Mr Flannery was the chief commissioner of the former Climate Commission, which relaunched as the Climate Council after thousands of Australians donated to keep the organisation going.

Dr Lomborg seems to be a favourite of the Prime Minister, who praised him in his 2009 book Battlines. He was also invited to launch the Department of Foreign Affiars and Trade’s development innovation hub.

The National Tertiary Education Union has questioned the Commonwealth funding, saying there appeared to have been no competitive process.  Union president Jeannie Rea said the cash “seems to have arisen from discussions between UWA, the government and departmental officials”.

Why are Dr Lomborg’s views so controversial?

Dr Lomborg has been referred to as a “climate change refugee” after funding for his Copenhagen Consensus Centre was cut by the Danish government in 2012. But he has managed to continue operating with the help of private funding in countries like the US, where there are more people sympathetic towards his views.

His centre has denied receiving funding from fossil-fuel companies but the DeSmogBlog claims to have uncovered donations from organisations with links to the billionaire Koch brothers, who have funded climate-denying think tanks in the US.

In Australia, the government’s $4 million contribution towards the centre is expected to cover just one-third of its operating costs, with the UWA saying other financial support would be drawn from corporate sponsors and government grants.

Dr Lomborg has been accused of cherrypicking data to understate the threat of climate change, and has questioned whether the benefits of efforts to curb climate change justify the costs. He believes funding would be better spent on adapting to changing conditions, investing in renewable technology and tackling poverty.

His books The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It have been criticised by climate scientists for underplaying the rate of global warming.

“Mr Lomborg’s views have no credibility in the scientific community. His message hasn’t varied at all in the last decade and he still believes we shouldn’t take any steps to mitigate climate change. When someone is unwilling to adapt their view on the basis of new science or information, it’s usually a sign those views are politically motivated,” the Climate Council said in a statement.

The Australia Consensus Centre will commission economists to “generate evidence and rational arguments” that will “result in the adoption of smarter, more cost-effective policies”.

The UWA Student Guild said the $4 million in “politically motivated” federal government funding should be rejected.

“While Dr Lomborg doesn’t refute climate change itself, many students question why the centre’s projects should be led by someone with a controversial track-record,” guild president Lizzy O’Shea said. “Students, staff and alumni alike are outraged.”

But UWA vice-chancellor Paul Johnson said Dr Lomborg was not leading the research and was not being paid as an adjunct professor.

“Lomborg is a contrarian but he is not a climate change denier,” Professor Johnson told AAP.  “His contrary stance is around the use of economic efficiency and effectiveness of mitigation and adaptation strategies.  “Contrarians are, I think, useful, particularly in a university context.”

He said a cost benefit analysis was one way of ranking possibilities in order to make decisions on how to tackle climate change.  “The United Nations is currently considering what to do for the period 2016 to 2030, and there are over 1400 proposals that have to be whittled down.”


Arrogant California video game company reined in

ACCC Tells EA [Electronic Arts] Its Refund Policy Is Unfair. EA Agrees

Remember when EA initially claimed it would not be providing refunds for Sim City? Remember when the ACCC warned EA that was against Australian consumer law? Today the ACCC released a statement discussing EA refund statement. In response to pressure from the ACCC, EA has provided a court undertaking promising to change the way it deals with refunds in the future.

In short: EA is admitting its refund policy most likely breached certain areas of Australian Consumer Law and is taking steps to rectify that.

EA has agreed to create a new consumer redress program. Anyone who bought a faulty video game through Origin from January 2012 onwards can now contact EA to help address that situation either using a 1800 number, which EA has promised to set up. For now the ACCC is recommending that users with a complaint head to Origin’s website for further details.

“Businesses such as EA selling digitally downloadable goods cannot avoid their responsibilities under the Australian Consumer Law just because they are located outside of Australia,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said, in a statement.

“If you sell to consumers in Australia, then the Australian Consumer Law applies to all goods or services you supply. This includes all of the ACL consumer guarantees, which cannot be excluded, restricted or modified.”

“It is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law for businesses to state that customers are not entitled to refunds under any circumstances. Where a product has a major failure, consumers can insist on a refund or replacement at their choice. Representations that this right has or can be excluded, restricted or modified are false or misleading,” Mr Sims said.

We suspect that this decision was most likely spurred on by the Sim City controversy. Back then EA had claimed it would not be providing refunds on digital copies of The Sims after its troublesome launch. The ACCC took exception to this as it contradicted Australian consumer law. Even back then EA Australia backtracked from what was a global statement. Kotaku was told EA “would always comply with Australian consumer laws that apply to the purchases consumers make in Australia”. This undertaking appears to be the result of this commitment.

It should also be noted that Valve is currently in the process of being taken to court by the ACCC for the exact same issue. We’ve yet to hear the results of that litigation. Hopefully we’ll get some sort of update on that case as well in the near future.


29 April, 2015

More Leftist rubbish about immigration

I reproduce below the beginning of a deliberately deceptive screed from the Fairfax press about immigration to Australia.

The author, Julian Cribb,  pretends to compare a legal immigrant who came to Australia after meeting official criteria with illegal immigrants forcing themselves on us who would mostly not pass official immigration criteria. 

So his claim: "If Bernard Katz tried to get into Australia today, we'd probably lock him up on Manus Island or Nauru and forget about him" is a deliberate lie.  Katz actually came to Australia on an academic fellowship. He was NOT "seeking work".  He already had an appointment.

People who invade your house and people who are a guest in your house are of course treated differently. Legal immigrants these days are actually given more assistance than they were in the mid 20th century. 

And the author has the brass  to praise the Snowy river hydroelecric scheme, with its building of vast dams such as  Blowering.  It was for a start a huge political boondoggle that could never have been justified on economic grounds.

But that is not the only thing he "forgets" to mention.  He fails to admit that his Green/Left chums of today would have screamed blue murder over those dams if they had been around then. In their atavistic way, Greenies hate nothing so much as a dam. Since Cribb is also an environmentalist, his praise of the Snowy is blatant hypocrisy

In 1939 a young, stateless refugee stepped off a ship in Australia, seeking work as a researcher at Sydney University. Five years later he had a country – for the first time in his life – had served in the RAAF, had wed an Australian girl and had started on a career that would reward him with the world's highest science honour, the Nobel Prize, for explaining how the human brain works.

If Bernard Katz tried to get into Australia today, we'd probably lock him up on Manus Island or Nauru and forget about him. Instead of earning a Nobel Prize and advancing human wisdom, he would go quietly insane, be beaten and brutalised, remain stateless, homeless, hopeless, become an un-person.

Katz is far from the only refugee to have made a mighty contribution to this country and humanity: during the 1950s and '60s, tens of thousands of people fleeing scores of war-ravaged lands helped create our nation-building masterpiece, the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme. Half a century on, Snowy Hydro continues to quietly churn out clean, safe energy for the national grid while Australia and its leaders cling desperately to the climate-wrecking, planet-polluting, child-poisoning, farm-despoiling fuels of yesterday: coal, oil and gas.

Clean energy isn't the Snowy's only legacy. As author Brad Collis reminds us in his history Snowy: The Making of Modern Australia, released on May 1, "The construction of the Snowy Scheme changed Australia from a country that was agricultural and British to a country that was industrial and multi-cultural ... The Snowy was unique in bringing together people of every creed and culture and calling them all Australian. The lesson of the Snowy is that when the dispossessed are given the chance to rebuild their lives, they enrich and advance their host society."


More ANZAC hatred from the Left

MORE left-wing journalists joined the anti-Anzac cause on social media yesterday, with a senior Fairfax staffer goading his employer to fire him after he posted belligerent tweets in support of sacked SBS reporter Scott McIntyre.

Following a second round of controversial statements levelled at Anzacs by journalists on social media in as many days, the RSL said the views did not represent most Australians.

The Australian Financial Review’s state political reporter Geoff Winestock tweeted on Sunday he thought, “Anzacs were racist yobs and Anzac Day is a death cult”.

He finished the post with “sack me Fairfax” in reference to SBS firing their soccer reporter for a series of outrageous tweets on Anzac Day accusing our troops of “summary execution, widespread rape and theft”.

In reply to Winestock, former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell said: “Regrettably those objectionable views would probably get you a promotion there (at Fairfax).”

A day earlier, on the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing Winestock posted: “Anzac Day wish: in next 30 years there will be no wars and in 50 years no soldiers around to honour.”

Winestock was not alone in his support for McIntyre, with The Sydney Morning Herald’s deputy news director Marcus Strom taking to social media.

“Seems some people don’t like being reminded of the brutal, genocidal, bloody legacy of racist imperialism today,” Strom tweeted.

NSW RSL president Rod White said comments critical of Anzacs did not reflect the majority Australian view: “I believe the Australian community would disagree with those comments.  “It’s out of step to see the military heritage and the service of the original Anzacs in the view they’ve taken.”

Asked if Fairfax would fire Winestock or if his views breached their Code of Conduct, a spokesman said: “No comment.”


ANZAC hatred goes back a long way on the Left.  The anti-Anzac play "The One Day of the Year" by Alan Seymour was written in 1958. It was at times set as reading in Australian High Schools.  It sought to dishonour the day by portraying the old diggers as insensitive drunks

Aussie actors criticised for poor taste over Bali Nine video

Just the usual Leftist hate

A VIDEO filmed by a group of Australian entertainment personalities urging Prime Minister Tony Abbott to bring Bali Nine pair Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan home has backfired after they were criticised for blaming him for their predicament.

The video called I Stand For Mercy, features Australian actors and television personalities including Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce and Joel Edgerton, calling on the Prime Minister to “man up” and #saveourboys.

Actor Brendan Cowell (The Slap, Save Your Legs!) raised eyebrows in the video after urging Mr Abbott to show “some balls”.

“Tony, if you have any courage and compassion get over to Indonesia and bring these two boys home. Show some balls,” he demanded.

Cowell has since apologised for his remarks saying, “Apology if we came across desperate or ignorant. Just heart broken.”

While Bryan Brown says: “Mr Abbott, please do your best to get these boys home and off execution row,” and Geoffrey Rush adds: “I’m an Australian, and I stand for mercy.”

While the video has gained much traction on social media, it has attracted as much criticism as it has support.

Many people have accused the personalities in the video of being “ill-informed” and in “poor taste” and felt the actors neglected to acknowledge the Government’s tireless efforts to save the pair.

A fiery discussion broke out on The Today Show this morning about the clip with commentator Amanda Blair slamming some of the actors as “moronic” for suggesting a solution was as simple as flying over there.

“I was absolutely horrified,” she said of her reaction to the video. “I watched the film clip this morning and I think that the sentiment is fine but I think that the delivery is disrespectful, over the top, and what it does, is it oversimplifies a really complex issue. Saying things to the Prime Minister like ‘man up Tony Abbott, get on a jet and get to Jakarta’ is just moronic.

“It just somehow makes people think that it’s Tony Abbott’s fault. The Government have done everything they can, they’ve asked for clemency, they’ve basically said that they will withdraw funding from Indonesia, disaster funding and I think they’ve done everything they possibly can but another country can’t rule another country when it comes to their laws. I’m absolutely against these executions, I think that they are terrible ... but this video is completely ill-conceived.”

Sports reporter Tim Gilbert said he agreed with Karl Stefanovic that some of the comments were “disrespectful” and “over the top”.

“It isn’t a spaghetti Western, this isn’t something you can just burst into a barn and say ‘I’m Tony Abbott, I’m going to sort this whole problem out.”

While Entertainment Reporter Richard Wilkins added: “It’s not as simple as they’re making it out and it is disrespectful and I’ve gotta say some of the speeches if you like look very, very scripted to me and it seems like it’s more political than anything else. I think there’s a real sting in it.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she was aware of the video and said if travelling to Indonesia would make a difference, she and her team would have gone there.

“We take the very best advice from our people in Indonesia, who are in Jakarta, who are part of a high-level sustained campaign to seek a stay of execution,” she told Karl Stefanovic on Today.

“If there was any indication being in Indonesia would help, of course we would be there.”

She added that the Prime Minister had spoken to President President [Joko] Widodo about the matter on numerous occasions.

“We have made representations across every level, across every sector of the Indonesian government and we’ll continue to do so.”

Critics also took to social media to slam the video


Charges over AWU slush fund to return focus to Julia Gillard

Former prime minister Julia Gillard is facing further scrutiny of her role in helping to set up a fraudulent union slush fund as Victorian police prepare to charge a key player in the saga.

A senior Victoria Police detective has told self-confessed AWU bagman and fraudster Ralph ­Blewitt that he will very soon be criminally charged over his role in the union slush fund set up with Ms Gillard’s legal advice.

Mr Blewitt said yesterday he intended to plead not guilty and would instruct his lawyers to subpoena witnesses, including Ms Gillard, to give evidence under oath.

Detective Sergeant Ross Mitchell of the Fraud Squad, who has been leading the two-year investigation, which provided key evidence to the ongoing royal commission into union graft, has told Mr Blewitt that at least two charges will be levelled in Victoria.

Mr Blewitt, who has admitted his involvement in fraud with his friend and former union boss Bruce Wilson, and their slush fund, the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Ass­ociation, yesterday said he understood others would be charged.

“Victoria Police are now recommending that I be charged over the frauds that were committed in Victoria, and the matter is going to the public prosecutor’s office,’’ Mr Blewitt, who is visiting Perth, told The Australian.

“I welcome the charges ­because I have co-operated with the police for over two years and I want to see others who were involved also made accountable.”

Mr Blewitt, who lives in ­Malaysia, said he had been told to brace for additional charges in Western Australia where the slush fund was incorporated in the early 1990s. It received hundreds of thousands of dollars for non-existent work from companies including the building giant Thiess. He said Victoria Police had recently sent a dossier of evidence to WA detectives with the aim of launching a prosecution process in that state, too.

Sergeant Mitchell, who ­attended the royal commission’s public hearings into the AWU slush fund last year, declined to comment yesterday.

Mr Blewitt said he had no ­regrets about incriminating himself and alleging fraud against others such as Mr Wilson, the former client and boyfriend of Ms Gillard.

The royal commission’s head, former High Court judge Dyson Heydon, delivered findings in late December that Ms Gillard was duped by her corrupt boyfriend and client in helping him set up a fraudulent union slush fund that had one purpose, “swindling”, but she did not commit any crimes as it raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He found that her “casual and haphazard work” as a solicitor at Slater & Gordon in the early 1990s permitted the swindling to flourish and she became the unknowing beneficiary of thousands of dollars, the proceeds of crime, funnelled her way by Mr Wilson.

Mr Heydon, who recommended that Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt face prosecution for multiple fraud-related offences, criticised Ms Gillard’s determination to deny under oath that thousands of dollars — “wads of notes” — were handed to her by Mr Wilson during the renovation of her Melbourne home, as witnessed by a builder, Athol James.

Another witness, Wayne Hem, was also found to be truthful about $5000 being deposited in her bank account.

Ms Gillard has repeatedly ­denied any wrongdoing, and she has categorically rejected “any suggestion that anyone other than I paid Mr Athol James for the work he performed at (my property).”


28 April, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG objects to ANZAC day being insulted by a public employee

Why The Fate Of The World's Climate Is Largely In Australia's Hands (?)

I fairly regularly read the  Australian far-Left publication, "New Matilda".  Not being a Leftist, I like to see the opposite point of view. The opposite point of view gives them the horrors, judging by the way they try to suppress it.

The rave excerpted below is one of their latest.  Their argument is as usual very long-winded but is nonetheless a brilliant example of Leftist over-simplification.  They seem to think that a torrent of words will disguise the shallowness of the thinking. Their argument could be condensed into just one sentence as follows:

"Australian mines supply a significant fraction of the world's coal so Australia should stop doing that to prevent global warming".

That there has been no statistically significant global warming for the last 18 years somehow goes unmentioned.  I would be rather surprised if the writer knew what "statistically significant" meant.  But you don't need knowledge to be a Warmist. You just have to have faith in your prophets

Be that as it may, what the article overlooks is that Australia is only  the world's fourth-largest coal producer, after China, the United States, and India. And there are also in Africa and elsewhere  mines from which production could easily be ramped up.  And Britain almost floats on coal, though it is rarely mined there these days.  And lignite ("brown coal") substitutes readily for thermal coal -- and Germany has masses of that, which it is already making extensive use of.  The list of alternatives goes on .... Coal is superabundant.  Even such unlikely places as Japan and New Zealand mine some coal.  So if Australia impoverished itself by stopping coal exports, other countries would rapidly take up the slack -- meaning that coal usage would continue much as before. 

One really does wonder what Thom Mitchell and his American friend use for brains.  I suspect they just like sounding dramatic. Leftists are big on ill-founded drama.  It seems to give them a desperately-needed feeling of importance

We're told Australia's contribution to global warning is minimal. A report out today proves that's a dangerous lie. Thom Mitchell explains.  As American academic Bob Massey put it, “Australia now holds the fate of the world’s climate in its hands”.

In its pursuit of a solution to the ‘budget emergency’ Australia is using up the ‘carbon budget’ at a rate incompatible with the global goal of limiting temperature rises to below two degrees, a Climate Council report out today has demonstrated.

While Australia is under increasing pressure to announce an ambitious target to limit emissions at home, the report makes clear that it is our reliance on fossil fuel exports that is doing the real damage.

By actively seeking to prolong the dying revenue stream, which has buoyed the economy through the past decade, the Australian government is doing massive damage to the remaining ‘carbon budget’.

At a recent talk in Sydney, Massey was blunt.  “If your government and mining companies decide to develop all of the coal and gas currently planned, already on the books, our children will be forced to endure a world very different from what we know,” he said.

To avoid such a world, scientists have developed the ‘carbon budget’ which, put simply, is the amount of carbon dioxide humans can emit into the atmosphere before temperature rises reach two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

On that basis, if all of Australia’s coal were burnt, it would use up two thirds of the ‘carbon budget’. Effectively, 90 per cent of the continent’s coal must stay in the ground.

Not all of that coal is technologically and economically viable now, but even if we burnt only the nation’s ‘reserves’, a 19 per cent bite would be taken out of the carbon budget.

If we burnt the total ‘resources’ - coal known to exist but not necessarily recoverable at this point - it would constitute a whopping 67.7 per cent of the carbon budget.

Yet despite the increasingly gloomy outlook for the commodity – the price of which has collapsed by around 60 per cent in the last five years - mining companies continue to explore for it and develop new mines. Australian governments are not only approving them, they’re promoting them.


Brisbane councillors tell Muslims who don’t like the Australian way of life to go back to where they came from

A LOGAN City councillor has urged her colleagues to ensure their personal security after they condemned Islamic extremism en masse and called for Australians to stand up for their rights during a full meeting of council yesterday.

One after the other, councillors joined an anti-extremism chorus demanding the Federal Government do something now before the atrocities committed by ISIS overseas were seen being carried out in Australia.

Councillor Jennie Breene (Div 12) said she would be considering her own safety and urged her colleagues to follow suit.

"When we talk about these things, extremists don’t like it,” she said.

Councillor Cherie Dalley (Div 8) said the Federal Government had "pussy-footed” around and was too frightened to do anything.  She said the community was also too scared to speak of their concerns out of fear of being labelled racist.

"We need to have a civilised conversation about the problems perceived by the community and starting at a local level is the best way; to get real people’s feelings out. We are the grassroots, we’re about the people.”

Councillor Phil Pidgeon (Div 9) said Muslims who didn’t love the Australian way of life should go back to where they came from. "Federal members need to be more vocal and say it’s not right to kill people,” he said.

Councillor Luke Smith (Div 6) said Logan residents were making it clear they were concerned and called on Islamic leaders to publicly condemn Islamic extremism and reassure the local community.

Councillor Trevina Schwarz (Div 11) said the "lucky country was starting to go” and said Australia and Islamic leaders needed to take a stance and say extremism wasn’t wanted in Australia.

She said a public forum was needed with leaders in a controlled environment. "We need to protect our society and our city,” she said.

Councillor Don Petersen (Div 4) said if someone wanted to go and fight with ISIS overseas, then they should be left alone to stay over there.

Councillor Steve Swenson (Div 3) said residents were rightfully concerned and said he did not want his children growing up under Sharia Law.

He moved a motion to have the issue of Islamic extremism placed on the next agenda of the Sport and Community Services Committee for discussion.

Mayor Pam Parker said she supported the move for further discussion to provide a better understanding between Islamic extremists and Muslims who embraced the Australian way of life.

Councillor Russell Lutton (Div 2) said while disengaged Australian youth "got on the grog” or "stole a car” young Muslims who did not feel part of a community had the potential to turn to extremism.

He said it was up to Islamic leaders to reach out and engage with their young people.

Logan City Safe Communities spokesman Chris Newman said the organisation had received a ground swell of support since their community meeting opposing a new mosque at Slacks Creek on April 8.  He said the councillors’ comments yesterday were a sign that Logan City Council was starting to respond to the concerns of the community about Islam which he described as a "terror culture”.

"It’s very encouraging that this council has a heart and soul. People have been afraid to speak their minds in their own country.  "People are now becoming more educated and seeing what is going on in the community.”

Mr Newman said the organisation had more public meetings planned but could not confirm the date of the next one yet.

Muslim community spokesman Ali Kadri said he was happy to discuss the issues with councillors and the community it was done objectively and genuinely.  He said it was sad to be asked to condemn Islamic extremism when Muslims were the biggest victim of extremism. "There are more Muslims fighting against ISIS than there are fighting with them.” [A half truth.  It is a war between Muslims of different sects]


Former student Lamisse Hamouda says sports for girls at Al-Taqwa College wasn’t encouraged

A FORMER pupil of the Islamic school at the centre of the ban on running because it could cause girls to lose their virginity controversy has spoken out describing her time at the college as a “rollercoaster of frustrations, battles and internalising resentment”.

Lamisse Hamouda, 26, says that during her time at Al-Taqwa College in Melbourne girls were never forbidden to participate in sports, it was just never encouraged, she wrote in Fairfax media.

“If it wasn’t the insidious racism, it was the oppressive preaching of faith that rendered critical thinking lost to obedience and authoritarianism,” Ms Hamouda wrote. “As female students, we often copped the short end of the stick. Participation in sport was never outright forbidden, it was just ignored wherever possible. Lip service was paid to exercise and sports, and there was an attempt to designate a “female-only” basketball court.

“The schoolyard was strictly gender-segregated, with female students relegated to spaces of concrete and picnic tables.”

She added: “I used to joke, as a teenager, that Al-Taqwa College was run like a mini Arab dictatorship.”

Yesterday it emerged the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority had been asked to investigate claims that the principal, Omar Hallak, stopped girls from running in cross country events in 2013 and 2014.

Fairfax reported the former teacher put forward the claims in a letter this week that said: “The principal holds beliefs that if females run excessively, they may ‘lose their virginity’.”

But following the reports, Al-Taqwa College in Melbourne issued a statement denying the claims.

“Contrary to reports in the media, female students at Al-Taqwa College participate in all range of sporting activities such as track and field (including running over a range of distances, long jump, high jump, shot put, discus, athletics), basketball, cricket, hockey, tennis and netball.

“Other recreational activities on camps include low rope climbing, bush walking, archery, golf, volleyball and table tennis, as well as other indoor and outdoor activities.

“Girls are encouraged to participate in all activities, with participation subject to parental consent.

“We do not believe that running excessively may cause female students to lose their virginity or that sporting injuries could render them infertile.”

Victorian Education minister James Merlino confirmed an investigation was underway.

He said the authority had the power to force sanctions on schools and funding if investigations uncovered issues with meeting governance standards.

Islamic Council of Victoria general manager Nail Aykan said his first reaction would be to clarify the accuracy of the allegation.

“But if it was true, it’s an absurd statement and absurd thinking and has no place in our society,” Mr Akyan told

“If anyone thinks as such then it is pure stupidity.”

“We would ask him (the principal) to realise the absurdity of such thinking and apologise and learn from his mistake and that these types of comments are not on.”

He said these types of attitudes did not have a place in any school, public or private.

According to Fairfax, the former teacher also alleged that Mr Hallak also believed there was scientific evidence “that if girls injure themselves, such as break their leg while playing soccer, it could render them infertile”.


ICAC corruption findings ‘to be overturned’

The High Court has done a lot of damage in its desperation to protect an unethical colleague

The NSW anti-corruption watchdog has surrendered to a group of prominent businessmen fighting to have corruption findings against them overturned in a decision which effectively clears the group, including coal magnate Travers Duncan, of corruption.

In the most significant legal decision following Margaret Cunneen’s successful High Court appeal against the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, the NSW Crown Solicitors have written to the lawyers of the four men informing them that the ICAC will consent to having their corruption findings overturned in NSW Court of Appeal.

The group of men appealing their corruption in the NSW Court of Appeal are former Felix Resources boss Travers Duncan, and fellow investors and former directors in Cascade Coal John McGuigan, Richard Poole and John Atkinson.

The ICAC was also appealing a previous finding against former RAMS Home Loans boss John Kinghorn, who had previously successfully appealed his corruption finding in the NSW Supreme Court.

The men were found corrupt by the ICAC over their involvement in Cascade Coal; a company in which former Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid had an interest an also held a coal exploration licence over the Obeid family farm at the Bylong Valley in northern NSW.

In the copy of the letter obtained by The Australian the NSW Crown Solicitor says it is the opinion of the ICAC the case against the four men was not viable because the commission was acting beyond their power.

"Based on the law as it currently stands, the Commission’s position is that the following findings made by it in its report Investigation into the conduct of Ian Macdonald, Edward Obeid Senior, Moses Obeid and other, dated July 2013, were beyond power” in relation to "Mr Travers Duncan ... Mr John Kinghorn ... Mr John McGuigan ... Mr Richard Poole ... and Mr John Atkinson.”

The Crown Solicitor, acting on the advice of the ICAC, has now decided to agree to an order from the NSW Court of Appeal which would see the four men have their corruption findings overturned, as well as drop an appeal against an earlier court decision which overturned Mr Kinghorn’s corruption findings.

"Based on the law as it currently stands, the Commission would consent to orders granting leave to appeal in the Duncan, McGuigan and Atkinson proceedings, allowing the appeals, setting aside the primary judge’s orders in those proceedings and, in place of those orders, declaring the corrupt findings against Messrs Duncan, McGuigan, Poole and Atkinson invalid ... dismissing the summons seeking leave to appeal in the Kinghorn proceedings, with costs,” the letter states

The letter from senior solicitor from the Crown Solicitor’s office Arron Baril says that the Cunneen decision will not affect the Court’s decision in relation to findings against Cascade Coal who had their coal exploration licence removed by special laws introduced by the NSW Parliament following ICAC findings the licence was corruptly obtained. Cascade Coal recently lost a High Court appeal to have the laws declared invalid.

"The Cascade Coal proceedings are in a different category. The Commission’s position is that Cunneen has no relevant impact on the validity of the recommendations, and any alleged findings, made in its report Operations Jasper and Acacia — addressing outstanding questions, dated December 2013 (which are the subject of the Cascade Coal proceedings). The Commission continues to oppose the orders ought in those proceedings,” the letter states.

John McGuigan told The Australian that he would seeking to have the Court of Appeal to meet as soon as possible in order to ratify the Crown Solicitor advice.

"ICAC today has made it clear that the findings against the Cascade directors were made without legal foundation and were beyond the power of ICAC.

"We will be seeking to have the matter listed before the Court of Appeal as a priority so that court can declare the corrupt findings invalid and make the appropriate orders,” Mr McGuigan said.

In a 4-1 decision, the High Court ruled last week that ICAC had no power to investigate allegations that Ms Cunneen and her son Stephen Wyllie advised his girlfriend, Sophia Tilley, to "pretend to have chest pains” at the scene of an accident with the intention of perverting the course of justice. The ruling ­affects the corruption body’s ability to investigate anyone who is not a public official, and who might have misled a public body.

In response to the ruling, ICAC has delayed two inquiries into Australian Water Holdings, which brought down former premier Barry O’Farrell after he misled the commission about receiving a bottle of wine, and one into political donations from property developers, which caused the resignation of 10 MPs.

The ICAC has called on the NSW Premier Mike Baird to introduce retrospective legislation that would effectively overturn the Cunneen decision and restore powers it claims to have had.

Mr Baird is yet to make a decision on the matter but Labor opposition leader Luke Foley has backed ICAC’s call.


27 April, 2015

Blue-eyed Australian medic who appears in doctor's scrubs in latest ISIS video is a Muslim

His actions show the power of Islam to fry the brain.  Religion can be very influential and when the religion preaches hate, the result can be very deplorable.  The way he travelled from one job to another in Australia does suggest a restless soul.  From his name he seems most likely to be of Egyptian origin

UPDATE:  He has also shown some of the sexual deviancy often found among Muslim males.  We read:  "Dr Kamleh also had a crude party trick that involved sneaking up behind seated women and placing his exposed penis on their shoulder.  That trick reportedly left a female secretary in shock during an official function to farewell overseas doctors, but he showed no remorse afterwards and saw it as one big joke"

Other reports: "The Australian doctor appearing in a video on behalf of ISIS was a “fraud”, “sleazeball” and a “creep” who had slept with nurses, doctors and even patients — one of them a sex worker — former colleagues claim.

The former Adelaide University medical student was previously referred to as a “womaniser” and a drinker; however, according to The Australian, Kamleh was also a “sexually manipulative fraud” whose “immorality” led him to exploit patients and girlfriends in the name of sexual gratification.

“That was typical of him — impulsive, reckless, immature, absorbed with himself and with a total lack of concern about social consequences for his actions.”

The colleague said Kamleh admitted to being forced out of a shared house following “improper conducts” towards a female housemate. “I could tell he was a bit conflicted and confused about himself

It has been revealed the blue-eyed, Australian doctor who's been hailed the 'new face' of the latest Islamic State propaganda videos was reportedly a 'womaniser' who was thought to be a 'pretty normal guy'.

In ISIS's most recent video, a young doctor, identified as Tareq Kamleh, called on foreign medics to travel to the ISIS stronghold in Raqqa to help launch the ISHS (the Islamic State Health Service).

The video of Kamleh, who refers to himself as Abu Yusuf, showed him handling babies in a maternity ward while wearing western-style blue surgical scrubs and a stethoscope.

Once the propaganda video went viral, people from Kamleh's past started to recognise the previously unidentified doctor.

It was revealed Kamleh, who is believed to be in his late 20's, completed his medical degree at Adelaide University.

Upon completing his degree he reportedly worked as a paediatric registrar at the Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital until 2013.

Kamleh then moved to north Queensland where he worked at Mackay Base Hospital, the Age reported.

He completed his final stint in the Australian medical system working in Perth until late 2014.

A university student who knew Kamleh, but did not want to be named, said he showed no signs that he would defect to the radical militant group.  'He was a pretty normal guy, he didn't have any IS related interests,' she told She said the 'clean cut' doctor was well known in her social circle as a 'womaniser' who didn't shy away from drinking alcohol.

Kamleh was also recognised by Dr Stephen Napoli, co-owner of the Mannum Medical Centre in South Australia. He told the Age the 'intelligent' doctor had interned with him for 10 weeks back in 2010.  'As a doctor he worked quite well; he was quite intelligent, he presented to our practice as quite a sound doctor with good medical knowledge,' Dr Napoli said.

Dr Napoli agreed that Kamleh had shown no signs of holding extreme Islamic views.   'There was no indication I'd be worried about his other associations when he was with us.

'There was nothing that I saw of his work as a medical practical that would suggest he would have any of these sorts of views.'

A former college from Adelaide Hospital also came forward reporting that he recognised Kamleh in the footage immediately.

'I was taken aback as much because I certain certainly wouldn't have associated him with an association like IS. His principles seemed to be sound and focused on the care of his patients,' he told the Age.

The collegue, who also chose not to be identified, said Kamleh's behaviours were not consistent with the Islamic State's conservative views on drinking or dating.  'I know he dated a few nurses and other doctors over the years… he was heterosexual and certainly interested in the ladies, with some success.'

He claims to be sad he delayed travelling to Syria for so long.

'It is disappointing to think how many fellow Muslims brothers and sisters in the medical field, who are doctors and nurses, physios, who are still living in the West and unfortunately the Muslims living here are suffering, not necessary from a lack of equipment or medicine but a mainly a lack of qualified medical care.'

Yusuf urges foreign Muslims with medical training to come forward and join the latest caliphate initiative.  'We really need your help. It is not the equipment that we are lacking, it is truly just the staff. Inshallah see you soon.'

SBS presenter Scott McIntyre sacked over obnoxious Anzac tweets

That such a far-Leftist had a job at SBS says much about SBS

An SBS presenter has been sacked over a vicious public attack on Australian Diggers in which he implied that Anzacs were rapists and terrorists.

SBS managing director Michael Ebeid labelled the remarks inappropriate and disrespectful, saying they breached the broadcaster’s code of conduct and social media policy. “It’s not tenable to remain on air if your audience doesn’t respect or trust you,” he said.

Soccer reporter Scott McIntyre, who has a Twitter following of 30,000 people, shocked followers with a post which implied that Australians commemorating Anzac Day were “poorly-read ... drinkers and gamblers”.

He began his tirade about 5pm, calling Australia’s involvement in the World Wars an “imperialist invasion of a foreign nation”.

Later tweets read: “Wonder if the poorly-read, largely white, nationalist drinkers and gamblers pause today to consider the horror that all mankind suffered.”

“Remembering the summary execution, widespread rape and theft committed by these ‘brave’ Anzacs in Egypt, Palestine and Japan,” said another post.

Followed by: “Not forgetting that the largest single-day terrorist attacks in history were committed by this nation & their allies in Hiroshima & Nagasaki.”

The tweets sparked outrage from Australian leaders, including Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull who labelled his comments “despicable”.  “Difficult to think of more offensive or inappropriate comments,” Mr Turnbull tweeted.  “Despicable remarks which deserve to be condemned.”

SBS issued a statement today from its managing director Mr Ebeid and its sport director Ken Shipp that McIntyre had been sacked.

“Late on Anzac Day, sports presenter Scott McIntyre made highly inappropriate and disrespectful comments via his twitter account which have caused his on-air position at SBS to become untenable,” the statement read.

“Mr McIntyre’s actions have breached the SBS Code of Conduct and social media policy and as a result, SBS has taken decisive action to terminate Mr McIntyre’s position at SBS, with immediate effect.

“At SBS, employees on and off air are encouraged to participate in social media, however maintaining the integrity of the network and audience trust is vital. It is unfortunate that on this very important occasion, Mr McIntyre’s comments have compromised both.

“SBS apologises for any offence or harm caused by Mr McIntyre’s comments which in no way reflect the views of the network. SBS supports our Anzacs and has devoted unprecedented resources to coverage of the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.”

Parliamentary secretary Steve Ciobo said he pitied McIntyre’s naivety.  “This disgraceful fool flaunts he works for SBS,” he tweeted.

Liberal frontbencher Jamie Briggs applauded SBS’s decision, saying the comments went beyond being offensive.

However, the episode has this afternoon ignited a debate over whether McIntyre’s comments were a sackable offence.

Some criticised SBS for firing McIntyre, including journalist Hugh Riminton, who is also a board member of Soldier On, an organisation that supports injured soldiers.  Riminton said the tweets were untimely, immature and in one case offensively wrong.  “But lest we forget, Our Diggers also died for free speech,” he said.

Human rights commissioner Tim Wilson said McIntyre’s freedom of speech was not being curtailed.  “We’re talking about political interpretations of history and that is open for debate,” Mr Wilson said.  “And he will be judged very harshly.”


There is a wider coverage of the free speech issues involved here but it seems to me that any business is entitled to fire employees who insult its customers -- and in this case the Australian public who pay the broadcaster's bills were very insulted.  ANZAC day is Australia's remembrance day for its war dead and is Australia's most solemn day of the year.  Leftists are always trying to disparage it but it goes from strength to strength despite them.

UWA think tank is not a climate consensus centre: Lomborg

Climate action sceptic Bjorn Lomborg says he is surprised by the level of opposition towards a think tank at the University of Western Australia that he says is “not a clim­ate consensus centre”.

Dr Lomborg, a Danish political scientist who has criticised the effect­iveness of climate change reduc­tion strategies, says global development issues will be at the heart of academic research at the proposed Australian Consensus Centre, which has received $4 million in federal funds and is due to open at UWA later this year.

Speaking from the US, Dr Lomborg declined to say who he had approached to propose the centre, which will be modelled on the US-based Copenhagen Consensus Centre, which he runs.

“I’m not going to say specific­ally. I can only do my job if the ­people that I approach know I’m not going to talk about everything that happens. Fundamentally I made a suggestion to make a project, and the final proposal that we sent from UWA was accepted by the commonwealth.”

Dr Lomborg, who has been invited by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to advise the government on development aid spending, said the centre would examine “where Australia’s $5 billion in aid, and the world’s $US140bn ($180.65bn), spent every year can be spent ­better. It’s about the 2.5 billion people who are desperately poor and need access to clean water and sanitation.”

Issues such as global warming “are a problem, but only one of many issues we need to fix”.

UWA’s vice-chancellor Paul Johnson told a closed audience of 150 university staff yesterday that Dr Lomborg was not a climate denial­ist. He said the university had a history of defending its clim­ate change research staff against the most extreme views of climate change deniers.

Academic freedom was at stake, Professor Johnson said: “We should always avoid in universities being forced by pressure to resile from our commitment to academic freedom.  “We must be prepared to engage in difficult discussions.”

He said he was not surprised by on-campus hostility. “Anything to do with climate always involves passionate interest,” he said.

The UWA Staff Association and several heads of school have expressed concern about Dr Lomborg’s appointment, saying he was censured by a Danish scientific committee in 2003 for misleading science in his book The Skeptical Environmentalist.

Professor Johnson said that censure motion “was then itself subject to censure by the Danish ministry”.

He said academic work should always be open to peer review to maintain academic standards, “and that will be applied to the Australian Consensus Centre.”

The director of UWA’s Centre for Social Impact, Paul Flatau, who negotiated the centre proposal with the federal government, told the staff meeting he felt there had not been sufficient discussion of the issue.

Professor Johnson told reporters it was not standard for such proposals to go out for broad discussion, or to be put to the university’s academic board.

He said the centre would go ahead with Dr Lomborg’s involvement. “The university has signed a contract with the government.”

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said Dr Lomborg was “a deep believer in climate science and the fact of human impact on climate” but had divergent views about how to tackle it.

“The real point why he’s criticised is it doesn’t fit the narrative of those who want to punish people with higher electricity and gas ­prices,” Mr Hunt told ABC radio.

“He’s saying you can reduce emissions; you just don’t need a massive electricity and gas tax.”


Qld.: Labor’s plan to let union back on to worksites not about safety but about protecting CFMEU

THE Palaszczuk Labor Government is about to make its biggest mistake. It will amend the law to invite the CFMEU, the union described as a criminal organisation, back onto Queensland worksites.

Even certain Cabinet ministers will whisper to you that they know it is the wrong thing to do. Tragically, Annastacia Palaszczuk probably knows it is the wrong thing to do.

But Labor will do it anyway in the full knowledge that the Royal Commission into Union Governance and Corruption found evidence of serious wrongdoing by the CFMEU in this state and around the nation.

The union stands accused of everything from intimidation to blackmail and extortion.

Is it not unreasonable to conclude, therefore, that the Labor Government is inviting Queenslanders to once again be intimidated, blackmailed and extorted?

To invite unions back on to building sites is lunacy.

Yet Treasurer Curtis Pitt gave me a statement confirming CFMEU walk-in powers would be restored.  “We’ll rescind the 24-hour notice period in line with our election commitment to restore stronger workplace health and safety standards across Queensland,” he said.

To pin the decision on the safety of workers is hogwash. Companies are adhering to strict safety laws and workplace injuries are declining, Queensland’s independent workplace health and safety regulator says.

The Parliamentary library provided a revealing briefing note to members last year.  It read: “Inspectors responded to 57 right-of-entry disputes (between 2011-13).  “Most disputes related to entry without prior notice to inquire into a suspected contravention of the Work Health and Safety Act.  “Inspectors reported that overall, none of the issues identified were considered to be an imminent risk to workers or others at the workplace.”

No imminent risk was found. Not one. So to suggest there are safety issues is a cynical dupe.

It’s not about safety but about protecting the unsavoury CFMEU which bankrolls Labor and other groups like ETU.

There is ample evidence the unions use bogus safety checks to threaten strikes and disrupt business as part of pay claims and membership drives.

One union official even entered a building site with a portable bank card machine, according to evidence in an unlawful entry case still before the courts in Brisbane.

Companies have a legal obligation to monitor safety and it appears they are doing a fine job in Queensland. Serious injury rates dropped around 20 per cent in the five years from 2008. The reductions came in the high-risk industries of construction, agriculture, manufacturing and transport.

The Premier has already embarrassed herself by appearing in a selfie with a CFMEU official accused of criminality.  Now she faces an impossible task convincing the electorate the rescinding of the 24-hour notice period is a safety measure.  However Palaszczuk will toe the line because her job depends on it.

As The Courier-Mail reported this week, Palaszczuk’s Parliamentary team is at the mercy of a union club now running the state, in much the same way it is in Victoria.

Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard backed fair work legislation that included the 24-hour notice requirement. Rudd and Gillard both spoke out about union lawlessness and paid the price.

Palaszczuk remains Premier so long as she does the unions’ bidding. That’s the price she has to pay.


Bid to save the Aussie vernacular from US slang

Two best mates from rural Victoria have vowed to keep Aussie lingo alive by making memorabilia that encapsulates the fading vernacular.

Jeff McCubbery, 72, from Mandurang and Ian Bullock, 65, from Blackburn devised the plan for Captain Cootie Cards over twenty years ago in a bid to counter the influx of lingo from overseas.

The pair now has a quirky range of greeting cards, coffee mugs, stubby-holders and calendars – but their hopes of spreading the message were dashed after they were spurned by the companies they pitched their products to.

McCubberry told Daily Mail Australia they designed the idea after meeting on a fishing trip 25 years ago.  'We met at an annual fishing trip, and quickly learned we shared the belief that the language we grew up with was waning.'

'People are dorks not drongos, guys not blokes. We decided to do something to keep the vocabulary afloat,' McCubbery said.

'We decided to consolidate the Australianisms we knew and loved from our upbringings-instead of the Americanisms which have ,' said Ian Bullock.

One illustration depicts weather forecast map with the various Australian climatological zones – the Northern Territory is 'bloody muggy' , Alice Springs is 'dry as a dead dingo's donger', and Victoria is 'cold as a witch's tit'.

Another card shows a fisherman sleeping next to a lake with beer can in hand and the accompanying message: 'flat out like a lizard drinking.'

McCubberry believes the rise of television and the internet has let a torrent of lingo loose from Britain and America that has eclipsed the home grown counterpart.

With McCubberry as designer and Bullock as illustrator, the mates got to work on a range of products that embody down under speech from a bygone time.

But much to their dismay the pair got a rude shock when time came to pitch the product a manufacturers.  'Nobodies interested, said McCubbery. 'They say it's too crude or uncouth. It doesn't make sense because colourful language is a pivotal part of Aussie culture.'

Bullock said they had a deal with a major distributor that fell through before another wholesaler offered them a rather insulting rate to print the cards. 'It was pretty insulting really. It's been a real knock back but we're determined to stick at it.'

The mates plan to launch a website and social media campaign in hopes of finding a distributor to get their products on the market.

'It's just a matter of getting my head around the online thing. We're sticking at it for sure,' said McCubbery.


26 April, 2015

Prince Charles joins his son Harry and world leaders to mark the 100th anniversary of the disastrous Gallipoli landings which claimed 140,000 lives during World War One

Prince Harry looking every inch the dogged British military man that he is

Prince Charles and his son Harry today joined world leaders to mark the centenary of the catastrophic Gallipoli landings which claimed 140,000 lives during World War One.

The royals met descendants of fallen soldiers on the Royal Navy's flagship HMS Bulwark in Turkey's Dardanelles straits, the same crucial waters the Allies hoped to control 100 years ago.

Instead tens of thousands lost their lives on both sides in a nine-month battle between the German-backed Ottoman forces and Allies including Australian, British and New Zealand troops trying to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war.

Today, soldiers from both the Ottoman and Allied sides lie close together in separate cemeteries on the Gallipoli peninsula on the western edge of Turkey in what has long been seen as a powerful symbol of reconciliation between former enemies.

The Prince of Wales has laid flowers on the graves of British and Irish soldiers who died 100 years ago storming the beaches at the start of the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign.

He was joined by Prince Harry and the President of Ireland Michael Higgins at 'V' Beach, close to the tip of the Turkish Peninsula, at a cemetery which is half the size of a football pitch but contains the bodies of almost 700 men.

In late evening spring sunshine, with birds tweeting and the smell of spring flowers in the air, the poignant visit came as the culmination of a day of remembrance.

Some 87,000 Turks died defending their home soil. The amphibious assault started at dawn on April 25 1915 as wave after wave of British and Irish, French, Australian, New Zealand and Indian troops attacked heavily defended beaches, through barbed wire, and raced up cliffs through scrub.

The Prince gave a speech, praising the heroism and humanity shown by soldiers from both sides a century ago.

He said: 'All those who fought at Gallipoli, whether landing on or defending its shores, hailed from so many different nations and peoples, from an almost infinite variety of backgrounds and walks of life. And, whilst their origins were diverse, they were all thrust into a very different world than they would have ever known or imagined before.

'Indeed, in 1915, both sides were united by challenges that neither could escape - the devastating firepower of modern warfare, the ghastly diseases that added to the death tolls, the devastating summer heat which brought plagues of insects, and in winter, just before the battle ended, the biting cold that many wrote was worse than the shelling itself.'

'It is very poignant and evocative and you can really imagine what it must have been like for the soldiers coming ashore here.'


Conservative organization uses Leftist tactics -- threats of disruption -- against the Left

There should be more of this.  If there were, the Left might pull their horns in

The University of Sydney has refused to play host to an anti-war talk on Anzac Day, after members of nationalist group Reclaim Australia threatened to disrupt it.

The meeting, originally planned for Sunday April 26 and entitled ‘Anzac Day, the glorification of militarism and the drive to World War III’, was organised by the Socialist Equality Party (SEP).

‘The Great Aussie Patriot’, a Facebook page run by Sherman Burgess—the national events organiser of extreme right-wing group Reclaim Australia—was quick to pick up on the event, posting an image of a flyer for the debate (which was originally to take place in Burwood) and calling the party "pure Left Wing filth”. Followers were then encouraged to "gatecrash the meeting” in a post that was shared 187 times, which included demands for "traitors to be deported”.

SEP national secretary James Cogan told Honi that, "You can’t expect us to accept that a so called bastion of intellectual freedom will prevent us from doing what we’ve done numerous times and hold a public lecture in their facilities because of claims that there is going to be some sort of disturbance”.

"There was the potential of disruption at the lecture given by Colonel Kemp and that meeting was not cancelled, instead, what the university did was increase security…and that was a correct decision on their part.”

"You don’t suppress freedom of speech because of threats of protest or disruption from people who don’t believe in what’s being said—democratic principles apply.”

Just days ago, in response to the Kemp protest, Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence spearheaded a campaign promoting freedom of speech, stating, "We must be a place in which debate on key issues of public significance can take place, and in which strongly held views can be freely expressed on all sides.”

However, the university told Cogan that the "potential for disruption to activities” was the reason for the cancellation.

"To turn around and refuse our hire request amounts to them joining with Burwood Council [who originally cancelled SEP’s event at Burwood Library Auditorium] in political censorship and it accommodates the demands of Reclaim Australia”

A spokesperson for the university said that they are "not aware of any contact from any person claiming to represent the Reclaim Australia group”.

"[The event] poses a significant risk of disruption to students and staff attending other University-related activities which are occurring on campus on the same day”, the spokesperson said.

The venue for the equivalent talk in Melbourne also received threats from nationalist protesters. However, Cogan told Honi that the Melbourne venue has increased security rather than abandon the event.


Bill Shorten’s wedge politics is neither clever nor productive

There is nothing inherently wrong with Bill Shorten’s superannuation tax policy announced yesterday. In fact it’s hard to disagree that earnings above $75,000 a year should pay a modest 15c in the dollar in taxation. A retired couple can still earn $150,000 a year before paying tax on their super.

Yet now is not the time for piecemeal changes announced with the primary purpose of wedging the government ahead of the budget. Both sides need to present voters with a wide-ranging manifesto before the next election, which could be called as soon as later this year.

Taxing super returns is a necessary evil in the context of budget repair, but so is tightening indexation on government spending initiatives, which Labor seeks to paint as unfair and cruel.

Debate must also be had on including the family home in the pension test. Why can someone choose to live in a multi-million-dollar home and still claim a pension, rather than be forced to take out a reverse mortgage to self-fund their retirement? This question will be asked by renting retirees living off superannuation savings who will have to pay
15­­ per cent tax on their earnings if Labor gets its way.

Broadening and increasing the GST should be debated, but Labor has ruled out such reform, sight unseen. The government is too timid to go there without bipartisanship.

Rethinking negative gearing is something economists such as Saul Eslake have long argued for, but neither side of politics has the courage to go there.

Finding efficiencies in government spending programs, including hot button areas such as the health budget, are labelled by Labor as an assault on the Australian way of life. Remarkably the opposition has opposed the very same efficiency drive in higher education it proposed when in government.

Failure to embrace any or all of the above at the same time as targeting the superannuation savings of the better-off renders yesterday’s announcement nothing more than deliberate class warfare. Which is not to say the tax change in isolation isn’t worthwhile. Yet given the other loopholes that remain open and won’t be up for debate, it’s fair to ask why this one must be closed?

I am less comfortable with the rate of 30c in the dollar tax being applied to super contributions for anyone earning above $250,000 under Labor’s policy. If we are supposed to be encouraging people to self-fund in retirement such a change does the opposite.

All of which is to say nothing about this bottom line: why does the political class seem to think the solution to every fiscal problem is simply to tax more?

Removing inefficient, investment-stifling and regressive taxes is the best way to grow the economic pie, which would render the need to keep putting up taxes a redundant necessity.


Crooked Billy Gordon slams TV show as 'kangaroo court'

BESIEGED Queensland MP Billy Gordon has fired back at the media after his former partner described him as a "monster" in a television interview to be aired on Thursday night.

KRISTY Peckham, who has broken her silence on domestic violence allegations levelled against Mr Gordon on the Nine Network's A Current Affair, denies airing the claims for political gain.
Mr Gordon on Thursday released a statement describing A Current Affair as a "kangaroo court".

"Unlike that program and other media outlets, I respect the current police investigation into certain allegations against me," he wrote.  "I will thus make no comment until it is completed."

"Meanwhile, I will continue to work hard on the issues that matter to my constituents."

The Courier-Mail reports Ms Peckham has told ACA "he was like a monster".  "I wasn't allowed to go anywhere and there was so much violence," she says in the interview.

A police investigation has been ongoing since Ms Peckham's initial allegations came to light last month, before Mr Gordon resigned for the Labor Party.

He remains an independent representative for his Cape York-based electorate despite calls from both Labor and the Liberal National Party opposition for him to quit parliament.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Ms Peckham's ACA interview was entirely a matter for her.

"I don't know what she's going to say, but I took decisive action and the Member for Cook is not a member of the state parliamentary Labor team," she said. "I sacked him."

The premier believed if Ms Peckham indicated that Mr Gordon had misled parliament it would be a serious matter, but she said it would be up to parliament to take action.

Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said officers were treating the investigation seriously but it had its challenges due to the claims being historic, as they relate to alleged incidents that occurred more than five years ago.  Mr Stewart refused to comment further.

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg also said if Mr Gordon's former partner provided evidence he had mislead parliament it would be a serious matter.

He was particularly concerned about allegations the MP was still behind on child support payments and tax returns.

"I think there needs to be a full and proper disclosure from Mr Gordon about whether this part of these allegations are correct," Mr Springborg said.

"He can't hide behind the police investigation in regards to non-payment of child support or non-return of tax returns."


24 April, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is having a laugh at the Warmists who predicted drought.

Manly Dam: SES says dam is full and there could be ‘minor overflow’

Hey! What happened to that drought Flannery and other Warmists  were predicting?  There is always drought somewhere in Australia but the Warmists were predicting widespread and unrelenting drought.  It hasn't happened

RESIDENTS around Manly Dam have been told to be prepared to evacuate but the immediate threat to homes has passed.

Footage of the Manly Dam this morning shows there is a slight overflow of water but so far no evacuation orders have been issued for residents.

Last night residents in the areas next to the dam were advised that they should prepare to evacuate and an evacuation centre was opened at Harbord Diggers in Freshwater.

Where possible people were advised to stay with family or friends or arrange other accomodation.

The SES will issue a flood evacuation order if necessary but no order has been issued yet.

Steve Pearce of the SES confirmed that the dam was starting to spill.  "The dam is spilling but it’s designed to spill. The dam is at no risk of collapse,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

He said evacuation alerts, warning people they may have to prepare to move, would be rescinded later in the day. "There is no risk to the public.”

According to an online report on the SES website, an emergency alert was issued to 9000 residents in the Manly area due to the risk of flash flooding, but as of this morning "the immediate threat to the Manly community has passed, with tides receding”.

Emergency services door-knocked low-lying homes on Tuesday night telling residents an evacuation warning had been issued, a police spokesman said on Wednesday.

The tide is due to come in again at 11am on Wednesday.

Residents are being urged to follow the directions of the SES, stay calm and remain at home.

There were fears the dam would overflow and send a torrent of water onto dozens of homes, but SES spokeswoman Samantha Colwell said yesterday that while the dam was full and there might be some minor overflow, there was not an immediate threat.

"It’s not going to cause a downpour of water or anything like that, it’s something that would be slow and increase the water that’s already out there,” she said.

Police have also stepped in to try and calm concerned residents, with the top cop in the area, Detective Superintendent David Darcy, reassuring residents who live around the dam.

Of more concern to the SES were areas within the dam’s greater catchment area.  "We certainly do have a lot of issues in the Manly Dam catchment area — in North Manly, Manly Vale and Manly itself. There are several streets there and preparing people that might need to evacuate because there’s a lot of flooding in some of those streets,” she added.

Ms Colwell said there were no evacuation orders currently in place but some of the streets in those areas had become isolated and it may be required if the rain continues to fall heavily.

"There’s some rain sitting off the coast and we’re just waiting to see which way it’s going to go and where it’s going to fall.”


Iranian-born  Labor party thug exceeds his authority in harassment of banks

Labor senator Sam Dastyari has been accused of ambushing colleagues and threatened with a privileges investigation after he bypassed Senate protocols to unilaterally send a warning letter to the heads of the nation’s big four banks.

Senator Dastyari’s actions have led to a fresh outbreak of claims the ambitious former NSW ALP general secretary is using his role as the chairman of the high-profile Senate economics reference committee to further his own ambitions.

It is the same committee which a fortnight ago clashed with technology giants Apple, Google and Microsoft over tax evasion, and has led to questions about whether Senator Dastyari’s aggressive chairmanship has the potential to harm Labor’s relationship with big business.

The deputy chair of the committee, Liberal senator Sean Edwards, is incensed that Senator Dastyari wrote to bank chiefs without the committee’s knowledge and that his intentions to pursue a particular line of questioning were revealed in a newspaper column.

Senator Dastyari hit back last night, saying he "absolutely unequivocally" rejected any suggestion he should have telegraphed his line of interrogation to the committee. The tensions between the pair boiled over yesterday afternoon when the committee halted the evidence of National Australia Bank’s group chief executive Andrew Thorburn in order to hold a private meeting to adjudicate on the internal committee dispute.

On Monday, Fairfax columnist Adele Ferguson revealed details of where the committee’s questioning would head — even though members, apart from Senator Dastyari, were in the dark. In his letter, which was not sent to the banks until after the article ­appeared, the committee chair warned the executives to prepare for questions on the alleged rigging of bank bill swap rates.

"I was very disappointed to read over breakfast a story which bears no resemblance to the ­inquiry we are having, notifying me, the deputy chair, that we were going to be hearing from the banks about something that was completely outside the terms of reference," Senator Edwards last night told The Australian.

"I was not afforded the usual courtesy of being given notice and I didn’t ­really appreciate reading about it to the extent that I did." Asked if anyone was considering taking further action, Senator Edwards said: "In any activity that looks like or smells like that a committee is leaking, well that ­obviously triggers very, very serious issues and can be adjudicated by the privileges committee.

"I’m not sure that such a public exposure of an issue really indicated that there was anything ­malicious going on so therefore I won’t be pursuing it. However, I’ve made it very clear this type of activity will not be tolerated by myself into the future."

Senator Dastyari said he "utterly rejected any suggestion that members of a committee are under any obligation to give prior warning about what they are going to ask, but it is common from time to time to give witnesses a heads-up".

He said he agreed with the committee’s determination that questions about the bank bill swap rate were outside the terms of reference. "The committee rightly determined that it fell outside the scope,” he said. In ­response to allegations of grandstanding, Senator Dastyari said he made no apologies for "shining a light on economic ­issues that have long been ­ignored or forgotten”.

"I make no apology for using whatever powers that are available to the Senate to shine a spotlight on some of the deep, dark recesses of these economic issues that have been ignored for too long,” he said.

"If that means doing what we can to make sure that the stories of victims are heard, then I am proud of that.”

Senator Dastyari’s is understood to have signed the letter as the chairman of the committee but sent it on private letterhead.

Mr Thorburn said the bank had received a letter from Senator Dastyari late on Monday, and "I phoned a couple of our people to say is this what we are going to be talking about because I thought it was about wealth advice".


AN ISLAMIC PANDEMIC ... without a vaccine

Let’s be fair here, it’s said that only one in ten Muslims wants to separate your head from your torso, so let’s be really fair to all the "moderate" Muslims and say that only one in twenty (5%) harbours this ambition... I mean we don’t want to unfairly cast Islam in a poor light, do we? But, a meagre 5% means 25,000 Muslims resident in Australia intend to do some pretty bad things to us.

Never mind, security agencies say they have 400 of these ingrates under surveillance... (phew). But foiling the remaining 24,600 possible terrorist attacks on home soil may stretch the AFP’s resources, and anyway that Lindt Cafe bloke wasn’t even considered a threat, surveillance had been withdrawn.

Oh well, a few well planned explosions on ANZAC day should have a nice background effect. I mean we are remembering a war aren’t we?

And hundreds of suspects’ passports have been cancelled, (phew again) it’s much better they stay here and kill Aussies rather than travel to Syria to kill other Muslims. Of course a couple of hundred have "escaped” to join ISIS, much to the chagrin of the Government.

Three of the five arrested yesterday (presumably part of the 400 already under surveillance) were allowed to walk by yet another soft Left magistrate, but at least one was arrested... (phew).

But hang on, didn’t another soft Left magistrate let Man Monis walk? And didn’t Iran beg that he be returned to face some serious charges?

Of course Australia was fearful for what they might do to him so he was allowed to stay here to do some stuff to us instead.

And now Julie Bishop is in Teheran asking them to please take hundreds of these Rudd/Gillard Iranian vermin back! Good luck with THAT one Julie!

And didn’t another soft Left magistrate let a Geelong paedophile free to attack another little girl, on cultural grounds of course? I had better not mention that all these crims are Muslims or I will be accused of racism again.

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews was kind enough to reassure us that the five accused of planning to kill a few cops on ANZAC day were "not faith driven”... (phew, that’s a relief). But Tony Abbott has started using the words Islam and terrorism in the same sentence... (bit bloody rude).

Seriously though, there’s a problem with where our leaders are leading us. If there is a conservative figure of 25,000 Muslims out there who want to kill us (that number will soon double) why aren’t they being rounded up and posted on Manus Island where the natives know how to deal with them?

It was reported in the ‘West Australian’ yesterday that, "security agencies are now reviewing material gathered by an anonymous impostor who set up a fake Twitter account pretending to be the known promoter of terrorism Saudi Aborigine, Junaid Thorne.

"Within days more than 160 people had followed the account and many discussed openly with the impostor the idea of bombing Jewish organisations based in Sydney, as well as threats to carry out Charlie Hebdo-style attacks on cartoonists Larry Pickering and Bill Leak."

The West Australian reported that, "both men drew cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed after the attack on the French satirical newspaper in January which left 12 people dead including cartoonists, journalists and police officers.

"In one exchange with a Thorne follower, the impostor asked whether the individual was planning to kill Leak and Pickering.

"The follower, who goes by the Twitter name IslamicStateAU, replied that they knew where the two men lived and said their addresses had been passed on to ‘some brothers’ who would carry out the attack.

"It will be a repeat of Charlie Hebdo', the follower said.

"In other discussions, followers declared their support for Sydney's deadly Lindt Chocolate Cafe siege by Islamic State supporter Man Haron Monis in December.  "The Lindt cafe operation was just the beginning. We will conquer Australia", a follower calling himself Hassan Ali IS told the fake Thorne.

"Another follower, calling himself Akhi AlAustralia, said he was saving up his money to leave Australia and join Islamic State.

"When the real Junaid Thorne became aware of the fake account early this week, he posted a warning on his Facebook page telling followers not to communicate with the person behind the account.

"But new followers were still being attracted to the fake site yesterday.

"The impostor - who claims he is in America - declined to reveal his identity to the West Australian saying he was concerned for his safety.

"The fake account has exposed the deep hatred many of Thorne's followers harbour towards non-Muslim Australians.

"Thorne's real Twitter account was suspended in February because of his radical views. He has now opened a new account in a bid to direct his followers away from the hoax.”

Well, Bill’s a bit younger and better looking than me, so he needs to be careful.

Meanwhile I’m off to the next "Reclaim Australia” rally, see you there my Muslim "brothers"!


Fishing impacts on the Great Barrier Reef

Mankind has impacted food species since time immemorial so this is nothing new -- and no evidence of any harm to people is adduced from it in this instance.  And vast parts of Australia's surrounding waters are in marine parks anyway. Fishing is already very restricted

It's long been known that environmental impacts such as climate change and pollution are amongst the drivers of change on the Great Barrier Reef.

Now researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University have found that removing predatory fish such as coral trout and snapper, through fishing, causes significant changes to the make-up of the reef's fish populations. [Anything else would be surprising]

"A stable and healthy reef [Define "healthy"] includes a high abundance and diversity of predatory fish and a relatively low number of herbivorous and small prey fish," says study lead author April Boaden, a PhD student at the Coral CoE.

"Predatory fish are extremely important for maintaining a balanced ecosystem on the reef, yet predators such as coral trout, snapper and emperor fish remain the main target for both recreational and commercial fishers," she says.

As part of the study, the researchers conducted extensive surveys of fish and their habitats at multiple sites across the Great Barrier Reef.

They compared fish communities in designated marine reserves (green zones), recreational fishing areas (yellow zones) and sites that allowed both commercial and recreational fishing (blue zones).

"We found that the fish communities on reefs differed greatly according to the level of fishing that they were subject to," Ms Boaden says.

"Predator numbers were severely depleted in heavily fished areas, while smaller prey fish such as damselfish, and herbivores such as parrotfish, had increased greatly in number having been released from predation."

The reduction in predator abundance through fishing altered the balance and structure of the coral reef ecosystem.

"Major disturbances such as cyclones, coral bleaching, climate change, Crown of Thorns Starfish and river run-off are thought to be the primary agents of change on the Great Barrier Reef," says study co-author, Professor Mike Kingsford from the Coral CoE.

"Despite this, we have demonstrated that great differences in the abundance of predatory reef fish, and of their prey, can be attributed to humans," Professor Kingsford says.

The findings support the continued and improved use of the existing marine networks on the Great Barrier Reef.

"The good news is that the data demonstrate that the current system of marine reserves on the Great Barrier Reef is effective in preserving predator numbers, and in doing so we can learn more about the processes affecting reefs in the face of multiple impacts," Professor Kingsford says.

"Fishing impacts are something that we can manage fairly easily compared to other threats such as climate change and run-off pollution, which are threatening the Great Barrier Reef," adds Ms Boaden.

Journal Reference:  A. E. Boaden, M. J.  Kingsford. Predators drive community structure in coral reef fish assemblages. Ecosphere, 2015; 6 (4): art46 DOI: 10.1890/ES14-00292.1


Muslim head-teacher believes if females run in races they may lose their virginity

The principal of an Islamic school has come under fire after he reportedly banned girls from running, amid fears it would cause them to lose their virginity.

Former teachers of Al-Taqwa College, in Melbourne's outer western suburbs, claim in a letter sent to the state and federal education ministers that principal Omar Hallak was discriminating against female students.

The Age reported that the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority is currently investigating the allegations.

This comes a month after revelations that Mr Hallak was telling students at his school that Islamic State was not 'created' by Muslims, but was instead a plot against them by the West.

The letter sent to ministers by a former teacher this week about the girls not being able to fully participate in sport claimed Mr Hallak believes there is 'scientific evidence' to back his claims.

'The principal holds beliefs that if females run excessively, they may 'lose their virginity',' the letter said.  'The principal believes that there is scientific evidence to indicate that if girls injure themselves, such as break their leg while playing soccer, it could render them infertile.'

The principal of Al-Taqwa College banned female primary school students from participating in the 2013 and 2014 cross country district events, the teacher also claimed.

They said the principal had been unaware that the female students were training for the event, and got involved when he was notified.

When they found out they had been prevented from competing, a group of female students penned a letter to their principal asking him to let them compete.

'This letter is about the cross country event that has been cancelled', the letter from 'cross country girls' read.  'Apparantly (sic) it is because girls can't run and that is really offensive to all the girls that were going to participate in the event.  'As a school principal you should treat all the subjects equally just to be fair to all the students that want to participate in a sport event', the letter continued.

The note from the group of students also raises that point that 'it doesn't say girls can't run in the hadith (sayings of the prophet Mohammed)' and they should be able to participate as long as they are wearing 'appropriate clothes'.

Education minister James Merlino has told 3AW the reports are concerning and the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority is investigating.  "If true these are very concerning reports and I have asked the VRQA to investigate and report back to me," Mr Merlino has told 3AW on Thursday.

When contacted by Daily Mail Australia Al-Taqwa College refused to comment.

Last month it was reported that Mr Hallak was teaching students at his school that Islamic State was not the doing of Muslims, but rather a plot against them.

He reportedly shows his almost 2,000 students ‘evidence’ that Islamic State terrorists are ‘not linked to Islam’.

‘We don’t believe Muslims are creating IS,’ Mr Hallak told The Age. He believes that the murder and brutality carried out by Islamic State terrorists is actually a plot by Western countries to control oil in the Middle East.


23 April, 2015

The Abbott government has put Australia's renewable energy industry into limbo -- and almost no-one seems to care

Well done!  The writer below is a Warmist but his facts are pretty right

18 months after the election of a government supposedly "open for business”, the renewables industry in this country is in ruins.

Investment has fallen off a cliff – down a stunning 90 per cent since early 2013. More than 2000 jobs have disappeared. Almost no new large-scale renewable energy is being built in Australia, so hostile has the environment become. Banco Santander, the world's third-largest clean energy lender, packed up and left in March.

The reason? The government has sabotaged the industry. According to international energy consultants Bloomberg New Energy Finance, "the Australian large-scale clean energy industry has become practically uninvestable due to ongoing uncertainty caused by the government's review of the Renewable Energy Target.”

As we’ve chronicled here at New Matilda, the Renewable Energy Target was once the tripartisan policy of the Coalition, Labor and the Greens. The law, which was passed under the Howard government, mandates that there must be 41,000 gigawatt hours of renewable electricity fed into the grid by 2020.

Before the 2013 election, the Coalition promised many times to keep the RET. "We have no plans to change the renewable energy target,” Tony Abbott said in September 2011. "We will be keeping the renewable energy target,” Environment Minister Greg Hunt said in February 2013. "The Coalition supports the current system, including the 41,000 gigawatt hours target,” Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham said in July 2013.

The promise was broken in early 2014, when the government announced that former Caltex boss, noted climate change denier Dick Warbuton, would head up a review. Surprise, surprise: the review recommended abolishing the RET altogether. Energy Minister Ian Macfarlane then used the report as political cover to attempt to slash the RET, to 26,000 hours.

But the RET is a law which requires amendment, and Macfarlane has been unable to get any cross-bench support for his changes. He instead said he would "negotiate” with Labor over a revised target. After first refusing any kind of compromise, Labor eventually came all the way down to 33,500 hours. Macfarlane is holding out for 32,000. In the meantime, renewables investment tanked, and has never recovered.

You get the impression the Coalition is quite happy that negotiations have stalled. No deal on the RET means the renewables industry stays in limbo, killing investment and destroying the medium-term prospects of the sector. Meanwhile, carbon permit-free coal makes windfall profits. And Macfarlane doesn’t even have to do anything. He can just fiddle while the renewables sector burns.

If this wasn’t the Abbott government, and we weren’t talking about renewable energy, it would be difficult to believe. Imagine a government that set out, quite openly, to destroy an entire sector of business activity, for purely ideological reasons – breaking an iron-clad election promise in the process.

But that’s precisely what’s happened in renewable energy, which depends upon the RET to leverage new investment into the Australian grid. It might be the biggest scandal in economic policy in recent history – and almost no-one seems to care.


Australia's approach to climate 'different', but 'fair, constructive', says U.S. rep

This will infuriate  the local Greenies. Interview transcript:

MARK COLVIN: Two days of climate talks in Washington have wrapped up with the lead negotiator for the US acknowledging that Australia's government has a 'somewhat different perspective' on managing climate change.

But special envoy Todd Stern says Australia continues to play a "fair and constructive" role on the international scene.

The Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane, who's in Washington for other meetings, has defended Australia's record.

North America correspondent Lisa Millar reports.

LISA MILLAR: The two day session ended with praise for the clear focus countries are giving climate change months out from the talks in Paris.

On a phone briefing for the press, straight after the meeting, the US special envoy Todd Stern said they're ahead of where they were this time in 2009 as they approached the Copenhagen conference, which ended in failure.

TODD STERN: I don't have any doubts that we're in a better place. It doesn't mean (laughs) we're gonna, it's all going to work out in the end because that remains to be seen. But I think… I think, in a couple of different ways. I think that there is a substantial greater level of understanding about how this kind of agreement can come together. The greater sense of realism.

LISA MILLAR: But French president and host of the December conference Francois Hollande is less optimistic. He's been downbeat about the chances of success this time round, instead highlighting the obstacles.

Todd Stern agrees trying to get more than 190 countries to sign up to a deal to reduce global warming is an inherently difficult negotiation.

TODD STERN: I think that we're going to get there in the end but… but, you know you just look at the basic way these negotiations work. You have hard issues that involve everybody's entire economy, it's not like it's sort of a side issue.

It goes right to the heart of economic growth, development et cetera and if there's a 190 plus countries and more or less everybody's got to agree in the end. It's a dive with a high degree of difficulty, there's no question about that.

LISA MILLAR: And there have been questions this week about Australia's ability to dive deep.

When asked about the Abbott Government's contribution to the debate, Todd Stern said he understood the Prime Minister and his team had a somewhat different perspective on how to manage climate change than the last.

TODD STERN: But I think on the international scene they are a… they are a…. fair and constructive participant.

LISA MILLAR: Federal Minister Ian Macfarlane - who's in Washington for talks with science experts and industry groups - has rejected any criticism that Australia is out of step.

The current commitment is to cut carbon emissions by 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 but it hasn't revealed its commission reduction plans beyond then.

IAN MACFARLANE: We'll certainly be in step with the rest of the world and we will have a position by the middle of the year. There is a cabinet ministerial taskforce, a very high powered taskforce headed by Greg Hunt, Julie Bishop, Andrew Robb and myself and obviously cabinet will sign off on it as well.

But we will take a very strong position to Paris that will be in step with what the rest of the world is proposing.

I can assure you that Australia won't be an outlier in this, we have as I say a very sound record in lowering emissions. We are one of the few countries in the world that are on target in terms of meeting our 2020 commitments, and we'll continue to play our part.

LISA MILLAR: And he's again confirmed there'll be no more negotiating over the Government's renewable energy target of 32,000 gigawatt hours.

IAN MACFARLANE: How anyone can say we're not prepared to compromise it's beyond me. It's time that people got serious about this. There is no policy or logic basis to a number higher than 32. The Government has moved twice already and we won't be moving again.

MARK COLVIN: The Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane speaking to North America correspondent Lisa Millar in Washington.


Asylum seekers returned to Vietnam by Australian Navy had claims assessed at sea, UNHCR says

The United Nations refugee agency has revealed a group of Vietnamese asylum seekers had their claims assessed at sea before being returned home by the Australian Navy.

The group of 46 asylum seekers were returned by the Navy to Vietnam, and the UNHCR said they were subject to a screening process at sea.

The agency said it was seeking details from the Government about the procedures used but had expressed its concern.

UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan said individuals who sought asylum needed to be properly and individually screened for protection in an environment where they could explain their needs, or they could be at risk of grave danger.

"We're concerned that people may not have had access to proper procedures," she said.

"We are concerned that the group wasn't screened and assessed in a way that's fair and effective, that somehow their lives may be at risk."

Human Rights Watch deputy director Phil Robertson said he was suspicious about the way the operation was conducted.

"I think that probably these people had no access to counsel or [were not] able to prepare their case. And certainly they had no access to appeal," he said.

"So it's a shoddy process determined to send people back, and that's what's happening to these group of Vietnamese."

Mr Robertson said there were legitimate reasons for Vietnamese nationals to seek asylum.

"Vietnam is still a dictatorial one-party state and there are many people in Vietnam who have run afoul of the Vietnam government for inserting freedom of religion, for blogging, for trying to defend their land against encroachment by the state," he said.

"It goes on and on. There's over 200 political prisoners in Vietnam."

The ABC confirmed HMAS Choules had completed its mission to transfer the group back to Vietnam.

Another source told the ABC the 46 asylum seekers were offloaded in the port city of Vung Tau on Friday.

The asylum seekers were believed to have left Vietnam in March and were detected by the Navy earlier this month before they could reach Australia.

The Opposition has accused the Federal Government of a "new low" over secrecy surrounding the group of asylum seekers.

The Government has said it will not comment on operational matters.


Too much secrecy

Nine days ago, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015 became law, after passing through both houses of Parliament with Labor support.

The more power you give any organisation, the more light needs to be shone on how it uses its power.

A record of your electronic communications – who you call, or text, or email, or message, when you do so, and where you are at the time – must now be kept by your service provider for a minimum of two years. And more than 20 law enforcement agencies will have access to those records without the need for a warrant, and without (needless to say) anyone informing you.

Well, Attorney-General George Brandis? asks, how worrisome is that? After all, before this law was passed, your metadata was available to 85 agencies.

"The only change that this bill makes to the relationship between the state and the citizen," he told the Senate, "is to introduce safeguards in relation to the access of law enforcement agencies to metadata, which were not there before."

In particular, Senator Brandis addressed the so-called "chilling effect" on investigative journalism that the media feared would result from the authorities' ability to scour reporters' metadata in search of their confidential sources. That's been fixed, he assured us. The new act contains "a large and detailed architecture for the protection of journalists ... which forms no part of the existing law".

So it does. And I've been brooding about that architecture for the past two weeks, as I sat for many hours on aeroplanes, courtesy of the ABC's Foreign Correspondent. I've talked about it to journalists in Paris, Washington and New York, specialists in reporting on terrorism and counter-terrorism. And when I described one particular facet of the act to them – one that has received minimal comment here in Australia – they nearly fell off their chairs.

Division 4C of the amended act lays down that if a law enforcement agency wants to search a professional journalist's metadata in pursuit of his or her source, it first has to get a "journalist information warrant" from an "issuing authority" - usually a judge or magistrate - or in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation's case, from the Attorney-General.

The authority should only issue the warrant, the act says, if the public interest in doing so outweighs various other public interests, including the source's right to privacy. The authority must also weigh in the balance any arguments made by a public interest advocate.

This curious person – a senior lawyer (of course) with the necessary security clearances – will be appointed by the Prime Minister, no less. And, in the soothing words of the opposition defence spokesman, Labor's Stephen Conroy, "the PIA will be empowered to stand in the shoes of the journalist and argue why it is contrary to the public interest to issue the warrant".

Well fine. Except there's a Kafkaesque catch-22. The public interest advocate will not be able to inform the journalist or news organisation that a warrant has been sought, so the advocate cannot be briefed on any public interest aspect of the story, or any particular reason why the source should remain confidential, that is not already blindingly obvious.

Indeed, this public interest advocacy will not be public. It will be utterly private: one lawyer secretly trying to persuade another lawyer why a spook or a copper should not get access to a reporter's source, while the reporter – and, of course, the source – remain in blissful ignorance.

And here comes the kicker: the clause that had those foreign reporters falling off their chairs, but was barely mentioned by anyone, so far as I can see, in the parliamentary debates about the bill.

Section 182A of the new act says anyone who "discloses or uses" information about a journalist information warrant – about whether one has been applied for, or has been granted, or exists, or even does not exist - can be sent to prison for two years. Think about that.

What possible justification can there be for this extraordinary provision? After all, these warrants need have nothing whatever to do with terrorism or national security. They can be issued to any agency that is investigating pretty much any crime (including, presumably, the crime committed by any Commonwealth public servant who leaks official information to the media – see section 70 of the Crimes Act).

Section 182A is of a piece with the increasingly draconian enforcement of secrecy that Australians have blithely accepted since 9/11.

The 2003 act, for example, authorises ASIO to detain and question people for up to seven days, even if they are not suspected of complicity in a terrorist act, and prevents them from telling anybody that it has happened. The 2014 act says anyone who discloses information about a "special intelligence operation" can be imprisoned for up to 10 years. And there are many more such examples.

In the course of the debate on the new Data Retention Act, Conroy made this extraordinary statement: "Labor is determined to ensure that our national security and law enforcement agencies absolutely have the powers that are necessary to keep Australians safe."

"Absolutely" – what a dangerous word. Absolutism has no place in a democracy, especially not when it is applied to national security agencies. The more power you give any organisation, the more light needs to be shone on how it uses its power. To meet the terrorist "threat", we have been granting our security agencies and police forces more and more power, protected by ever more obsessive secrecy: more power, and more secrecy, than any comparable democracy in the world.

It is no exaggeration to say Australia is on the way to creating a secret police. What a triumph that is for the terrorists.


Plagiarism on rise at Australian universities as academics face pressure to pass international students

This has been going on for years

A NURSE who accidentally gave a 79-year-old hospital patient dishwashing liquid instead of his usual medication could not read the label on the bottle, despite being awarded a degree at an Australian university.

University academics have told Four Cornersof pressure on university lecturers to pass underperforming students and widespread plagiarism among international students desperate to complete their courses. There was also evidence of fraudulent documents being provided by overseas recruitment agents to help students gain entry to some of Australia’s top universities.

Retired lecturer Barbara Beale of the University of Western Sydney said she believed that there were students who had graduated from the university’s nursing course, one of the largest in the country, who should not have been allowed to do so.

"A lot of students end up in the aged care sector, who do we have in the aged car sector? The most vulnerable, ill people and we have students who may have been pushed through university looking after them.

"In the aged care sector there is not much supervision, very quickly they might find themselves being the only registered nurse on duty and that is something that frightens me.”

In March 2013, one UWS graduate, Bhavesh Shah, fed a cup of Morning Fresh dishwashing liquid to a private hospital patient because his poor English skills meant he could not read the label on the bottle.

At least two other graduates have also been forced out by hospitals due to poor English and dangerous practices, although the university says there have been no similar cases since 2011.

But Ms Beale said there was constant pressure at UWS to pass failing bachelor of nursing students. One student who she originally gave a mark of 2 out of 30 for one assignment, later had this changed to a pass. The paper passed through three reviewers before the fail was upheld.

"If I hadn’t really pressed that, if it had been somebody else that had less experience or less conviction ... then that student would have passed,” Ms Beale said.

In a statement, UWS strenuously denied soft-marking was a problem: "UWS completely rejects the accusation that the standard of our nursing program is ‘falling’ and our nursing students are ‘weak and unsafe’.”

Peak body Universities Australia has described the program as presenting a "one-sided picture of international education in Australia”.

"It is unfortunate that Four Corners failed to acknowledge Australia’s global leadership as a provider of high quality, and highly regarded international education,” University Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson said in a statement.

"The list of agents terminated by Australian universities over the recent period indicates that Australia universities have robust systems for identifying and stamping out fraud and unethical behaviour.”

The report also shed light on the murky world of the offshore agents used by Australian universities to recruit hundreds of thousands of students, mainly from China.

In one case, a Beijing agent who represents universities including Monash, Queensland, Sydney, Newcastle, Southern Cross, Australian Catholic University, Australian National University and University of Technology, Sydney, was caught on tape saying he would accept a forged school transcript if a student had a poor academic record.

Agents also discussed how to get around the English language requirements at universities.

Group of Eight chief executive Vicki Thomson said its universities made no apology for using the on-the-ground skills of overseas agents to help choose students.

"However, at all times our global reputation is paramount ... for that reason Group of Eight universities act swiftly to address any issues that are brought to their attention,” Ms Thomson said in a statement.

"It should not be ignored that international education is Australia’s third largest exporter. Getting it right is paramount.”

Dr Zena O’Connor, who teaches at the University of Sydney, told Four Corners the income stream generated by international students was huge. At Sydney University, international students make up a quarter of all enrolments while at RMIT in Melbourne they make up 50 per cent.

"I’m staggered by the increase in plagiarism. To start with, in my experience, it was a very small proportion, you know, maybe two, three, four per cent. I would peg it now at being much, much higher, well over 50 per cent. And some of the cases of extreme plagiarism where a student has plagiarised at least 80 per cent if not up to 100 per cent of their paper, that proportion is growing, and that level of extreme plagiarism I didn’t see five or ten years ago.”

Dr O’Connor has not instituted formal proceedings against any students for plagiarism because she says she was told to do all she could to pass them.

Alex Barthel, who formerly ran the language centre at the University of Technology, Sydney, told Four Corners he had been a longstanding advocate for higher English language entry standards for universities.

"Academic staff increasingly are frustrated by the fact that they are there to teach pharmacy or engineering or IT or whatever they’re teaching and they’re basically saying, ‘It’s not my job to help somebody with 65 spelling errors on the first page of an assignment. It’s not my job to teach them basic English grammar’.”

A major report by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption last week, Learning the Hard Way, reported significant risks of corruption within institutions.

"There is a gap - at least in some courses - between the capabilities of many students and academic demands,” the report said.

"Students may be struggling to pass, but universities cannot afford to fail them.

"There is pressure for some international students to pass courses that are beyond their academic capabilities, pressure on staff within universities in NSW to find ways to pass students in order to preserve budgets.”


22 April, 2015

I blame our politicians for endangering Australians’ lives


I ACCUSE Australia’s political class of a crime. Of wilfully ­endangering the safety of ­Australians.

They — with much media help — have put Australians in danger through years of reckless immigration and refugee policies.

And it’s come to what we saw on Saturday — anti-terrorism police in Melbourne ­arresting five more young men from Muslim families, two for allegedly plotting attacks on police on Anzac Day.

These men were allegedly associates of Numan Haider, an Afghan refugee and Islamic State supporter who last year stabbed two Victorian policemen before being shot dead.

Police have been typically coy about identifying exactly which “community” the five were from, refusing in two press conferences on Saturday to even mention the words “Islam” or “Muslim”.

But their use of the word “community” made clear they meant something other than the Australian one.

The fact is we have imported people from “communities” so at odds with our own that a minority of members has declared war on our institutions, our police and even — allegedly — Anzac Day, the most potent symbol of our nationhood.

I do stress the word “minority”. Most Muslims here want peace.

But the hard facts remain. Of the 21 Australians jailed for terrorism offences so far this century, all were Muslim. Most were born overseas. Most of the rest are children of immigrants from Muslim countries.

Add the following: some 150 Australian Muslims have enlisted with barbaric terrorist groups of the Middle East, ­notably Islamic State.

Another 100 Australians thought likely to join them have had their passports confiscated, and some 200 have been pulled off planes.

Meanwhile ASIO is investigating 400 other cases involving Islamist threats.

This is an astonishing harvest of danger from a Muslim community here of fewer than 500,000 people.

Compare: we have more than 400,000 Buddhists, yet not one Buddhist has been convicted here of terrorism ­offences or shot a hostage in a Sydney cafe in the name of their faith.

There is undeniably something different about Islam, or at least the way many interpret it.

Then there’s the other danger: at least five prominent Australian journalists and cartoonists have been subject to serious death threats by Islamists, requiring two to move home.

If you wonder why so few journalists speak frankly about these issues, there’s a clue.

But with the dangers now so obvious, it’s time to call out those who so blindly exposed us to them.

There is Malcolm Fraser, the Liberal prime minister who ignored official warnings in 1976 that many refugees he was taking in from the Lebanese civil war were unskilled, illiterate and “of questionable character’’, meaning ‘’the conflicts, tensions and divisions within Lebanon will be transferred to Australia’’. Too true.

There’s Paul Keating, who, before becoming another high-immigration prime minister, overturned the Hawke government’s decision to deny permanent residency to Grand Mufti Taj Din al-Hilali, a hate preacher who went on to call the September 11 terror attacks “God’s work against oppressors”.

There’s Kevin Rudd, who as prime minister scrapped our tough border laws, opening the doors to 50,000 illegal boat people.

There is Rudd again, who, when warned by Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey that among the many peaceful boat people could be a terrorist or two, damned Tuckey to media applause for “divisive and disgusting remarks”.

There’s current Labor leader Bill Shorten, who still opposes the Abbott Government’s successful border policies and last year suggested we repeat Fraser’s mistake in response to wars in Iraq and Syria: “Perhaps it’s time to discuss do we take more refugees from these countries.”

And there’s even Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Yes, Abbott has stopped the boats, but even he still pandered to radical Muslim “representatives” he should have shunned, for instance consulting the Islamic Friendship Association’s Keysar Trad, described by the NSW Supreme Court as a “dangerous and disgraceful individual” who “incites people to commit acts of violence”.

A tiny handful of politicians have warned of the folly of bringing in uneducated people from cultures so alien to our own that it is utterly predictable many will struggle to fit in.

When the then immigration minister Kevin Andrews in 2007 warned that many Somali and Sudanese refugees had trouble fitting in and their intake would be cut, he was vilified.

Former Queensland premier Anna Bligh accused him of “a pure form of racism”. The Australian Democrats said he’d proved the Howard government was “not fit to ­govern”.

Victoria Police’s then chief commissioner Christine Nixon outrageously claimed “those Sudanese refugees are actually under-represented in the crime statistics”, when those statistics actually showed they were four times more likely to be arrested.

This dangerous denial continues.

When the Abbott Government last year warned that the terrorism risk had increased, Labor Senator Sue Lines claimed it was just a political stunt “to distract everyone from the Budget”.

Labor frontbencher Kim Carr agreed, feeding the dangerous victimology of many Islamist hotheads such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, who claim Australia has declared “war” on Muslims.

Disturbingly, much of the media has gone alone with this great denial.  SBS notoriously refused to screen video it shot just days before the September 11 ­attacks which showed our Mufti Hilali praising suicide bombers as “heroes”.

And “human rights” lawyer and writer Julian Burnside this year claimed “the Islamophobia stirred up by Abbott and Bolt is a bigger threat to us than terrorism”.

This denial must stop.

Our refugee intake must be stricter, taking fewer people from cultures likely to clash with our own.

And we must be slower to shut down debates with screams of “racist”.

If you fear racists, then fear the ugly fallout if police one day fail to stop an Anzac Day plot by people that more prudent politicians would have kept out.


Reality a distant land for the Left’s Luddites

IN the alternate universe of ­lunatic Labor-Green-ABC politics, failure is hailed as success.

Nowhere has this been better demonstrated recently than in Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ decision to tear up contracts for the $6.8 billion East West Link.

A handful of inner-urban residents who have abandoned the Labor Party for the Greens may cheer the insane decision to not build an integral part of an essential infrastructure ­development and relinquish billions in federal funding.

But those who might have benefited from the 7000 jobs now lost, those who will remain parked on choked roads and those who understand the true cost of seeing Australia’s reputation for safe and reliable ­development will not be ­celebrating.

Andrews is a political throwback to a time of tribal cloth-cap Labor politics, as is Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, and the ABC commentariat.  All are fixated by a narrow leftist populism that excludes the national interest.

By contrast, NSW Premier Mike Baird, now leading the fastest-growing state economy in the nation, demonstrates the rewards to be garnered by those bold enough to back themselves and genuine transformational politics over self-interest.

Pondering the rise of risk adverse economy-destroying Labor politicians like Andrews, Shorten, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill and his novice Queensland colleague Annastacia Palaszczuk, it is impossible to ignore the deadening influence of the monolithic taxpayer-funded ABC’s sprawling multi-platform broadcast monster on its ­national audience.

Without a single conservative presence hosting any major radio or television program and with a nationwide reach which includes regional areas in which there is no competition, the ABC’s ideological influence is seriously dangerous.

It has never been a secret that the ABC has always championed the Left, its ­attacks on the Labor Party only ever coming from further Left or Green voices.

Thus Prime Minister Kevin Rudd initially ticked all the ABC’s boxes until Julia Gillard with her added leftist feminist cred ousted him, with the ­approval of the ABC’s luvvies.

(Feminism, along with the bewildering varieties of minority sexual variants signified by the GLBT + whatever-letter-you-wish acronym, remains a driving force at the ABC. Hence its commentators’ outburst of barracking for the damaged Democrat contender Hillary Clinton in her current White House tilt.)

Despite Rudd and Gillard having supplanted their philosophical mentor and prime ministerial predecessor Gough Whitlam as the worst prime ministers in the nation’s history, they can still enjoy the largely uncritical support of the ABC and its followers.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his team, mandated to ­repair the economic damage wrought by the dangerous duo in their scant six-year wrecking spree, are conversely ­treated as a comic act.

Were it not tragedy, the true comedy is being enacted in the spectral world of the UN where Rudd is working behind the scenes to lobby for election to the UN secretary-general’s job as Korean Ban Ki-moon retires.

The ear-wax-eating failure has not denied his interest in the UN secretary-general’s position but an intermediary has told Fairfax media that, on a rotational basis, the job should go to an eastern European.

The world may yet be spared the Pink Batts solution to everything and, as a reader of The Australian commented on Friday: “An applicant with a CV blighted by too many ‘d’ words: debt, deficit, deaths, dysfunction, division, deceit, disunity, delusion and policy debacles, has to be ‘d’ for ­denied.”

The residual detestation of Rudd’s legacy that exists in Australia might influence a vote in the real world but at the UN, where a misogynistic ­nation such as Iran can be ­appointed to the commission on women’s rights even as a ­recent UN report chastised the Iranian government for ­imprisoning women’s rights activists, relegating women to outsider status in politics, and introducing “laws that permit gender discrimination and promote violence against women,” it would barely raise an eyebrow.

The report cites: “The ­revised Islamic Penal Code … values women’s testimony in a court of law as half that of a man’s, and a woman’s life half that of a man’s”.

Women are also subject to a significant number of executions for crimes such as adultery and surviving rape.

The UN’s hypocritical position on women’s rights might be expected to strike a chord with the ABC’s directors of news but is unlikely to be raised if there is an opportunity to confect an embarrassing moment for a member of the Coalition government.

The handful of professional journalists within the organisation who strive for impartiality are drowned out by those who see their principal role as representing the welfare lobby, the people smuggling lobby, the environment lobby and the global warming lobby.

Even now, less than a week out from the centenary of the Gallipoli landing Anzac Day celebration, one of the ABC’s most prominent commentators and senior editors, Jonathon Green, the foundation editor of the broadcaster’s online magazine The Drum, and, according to his ABC profile, presenter of Sunday Extra and fill-in host of RN Drive, can find a prominent platform for his view there is a “lasting intergeneration truth” that Gallipoli “then as now, was as much a place of deadly, noble sacrifice, as it was a crock of shit”.

A perverse cry from someone on the wrong side of history — only at your ABC.


Colourful description of Australia's popular immigration policy

One of Britain's most controversial commentators has sparked a furore by suggesting Europe follow Australia's approach to asylum seekers by "threatening them with violence until they bugger off".

In an article comparing North African asylum seekers to "cockroaches", The Sun columnist Katie Hopkins praises Australians for being like British people but with "balls of steel, can-do brains, tiny hearts and whacking great gunships".

Hopkins argues that European countries should adopt the Abbott government's turn-back-the-boats policy - an approach she calls an "Aussie version of sharia stoning".

The column - characterised by The Independent as "a piece so hateful that it might give Hitler pause" - was published days before a ship carrying 700 hopeful migrants sank in the Mediterranean.

Immigration has been one of the key issues in the lead-up to Britain's general election in May.

The leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which is expected to lift its vote significantly, has called for Britain to adopt an Australian-style visa system to reduce the number of unskilled workers coming from Europe.

"It's time to get Australian," Hopkins wrote in The Sun, commenting on the surge of boats attempting to reach Europe from North Africa.

"Australians are like British people but with balls of steel, can-do brains, tiny hearts and whacking great gunships. "Their approach to migrant boats is the sort of approach we need in the Med.

"They threaten them with violence until they bugger off, throwing cans of Castlemaine [XXXX] in an Aussie version of sharia stoning.

"And their approach is working. Migrant boats have halved in number since Prime Minister Tony Abbott got tough."

Hopkins summarises her solution to the increasing number of boats attempting to reach Europe from North Africa as: "Bring on the gunships, force migrants back to their shores and burn the boats."

Tough action is needed because some British towns have become "festering sores, plagued by swarms of migrants and asylum seekers, shelling out benefits like Monopoly money".

"Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches," she writes.  "They might look a bit like 'Bob Geldof's Ethiopia circa 1984', but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb."

British comedian Russell Brand tweeted to Hopkins: "[T]o write about immigrants so hatefully you cannot love yourself. Come back to humanity, you must be shattered."

Hopkins has previously stoked controversy by calling dementia patients "bed blockers" who take up scarce hospital beds and saying that she would not let her children play with classmates with names such as Tyler and Chardonnay.

Last month UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: "What we want to do is change our relationship with the European Union, take back control of our borders and put in place a positive immigration policy.

"By that I mean we want an Australian-style points system to decide who comes to live, work and settle in this country."


Australians Reach ‘Tax Freedom Day’ Two Weeks Earlier Than Americans

 Australian taxpayers celebrated "Tax Freedom Day" on April 11, two weeks earlier than their American counterparts,  according to the Sydney-based Centre for Independent Studies (CIS).

“Tax Freedom Day” marks the date on which Australians finally finished working to pay their taxes for the year.

"Tax Freedom Day is an important day on the economics calendar as it signifies when we start keeping for ourselves the money we earn," CIS senior fellow Robert Carling said.

According to CIS, Australians worked 100 days to pay their taxes in 2015, or 14 fewer days than Americans have to work to support their government this year.

The United States won’t reach Tax Freedom Day until April 24, according to estimates made by the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation.

Over the last five years, Americans have had to work an increasing number of days to pay their taxes. Tax Freedom Day for the U.S. fell on April 21 in 2014, April 18 in 2013, April 17 in 2012, April 12 in 2011, and April 9 in 2010 - 15 days earlier than 2015.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates that U.S. government revenues will constitute 17.7 percent of a projected $17.98 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015, still short of what is needed to cover government outlays equivalent to 20.9 percent of GDP.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimated that Australia’s outlays constituted 19 percent of its GDP last year.

Though relative spending levels in the two countries are similar, revenue in Australia comes much closer to matching outlays. The “down under” country’s national debt is approximately $676 billion AUD, which is equivalent to about 30 percent of its total GDP, or just under $30,000 per individual Australian.

The U.S. national debt is more than $18 trillion, which exceeds annual GDP and amounts to nearly $57,000 per individual American.


21 April, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks a lot of West Australians would like to secede and get out from under a bloated Federal bureaucracy.  He is probably right.

Tony Abbott can't win

Bob Hawke skolling beer makes him a great bloke.  Not so for Abbott

Tony Abbott may have thrilled players at an Australian Rules function by skolling a beer but he’s drawn the ire of anti-drinking campaigners who claim he’s glorifying binge drinking and associating being a man with drinking booze.

Julie Robert, a cultural studies professor at the University of Technology Sydney, said it was 'problematic' that the Prime Minister, who she believes should be advocating against binge drinking, thought it acceptable to 'showcase his masculinity' by skolling a beer.

‘It sets up a culture that drinking isn’t about socialising with friends, it’s about how quickly and how much you can drink,’ she said.

On Saturday night Mr Abbott appeared happy to oblige when he was asked to have a drink by University of Technology Sydney Bats coach Simon Carradous.

It took the Prime Minister about six seconds to down the schooner as players cheered and chanted 'skol' and 'Tony'.

Dr Robert warned people can forget their limits when they are wrapped up in the act of demonstrating how much, or how quickly, they can drink.

'It is the whole performance and the display and showing off which is the problematic part,' she told Daily Mail Australia.

However, she said it was not just Mr Abbott's skol that was concerning, it was also the way media and other government officials have reacted to the event.

In an interview on Sunday, opposition leader Bill Shorten quipped that he was 'just pleased that Tony Abbott’s learning to drink beer without adding lemonade to it'.

Mr Abbott was labelled 'un-Australian' for ordering a light beer during his 2010 campaign.

Health Minister Sussan Ley was quick to jump to Mr Abbott's defence saying there was 'nothing wrong' with the Prime Minister's antics.  “If more people got up at 4.30 in the morning and went running and cycling and worked as hard as our Prime Minister to keep fit and demonstrate that there are many ways that you can do this, I think we’d have a healthier country as a result,’’ Ms Ley said.

While Mr Abbott is not the first Australian Prime Minister to show off his skolling skills, with former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke a notable example, Dr Roberts said he should have taken into consideration recent shifts in attitudes over heavy drinking.

'I don’t necessarily think it’s a partisan thing but I do think the climate has changed and we didn’t [used to] have the concern over binge drinking that we do now,' she said.


Lawyers protecting their mates enrages corruption body

Unprecedented verdict weakens anti--corruption powers

ICAC’s investigation into NSW criminal prosecutor Margaret Cunneen was found to be a breach of its legislative powers. Source: News Corp Australia

The Independent Commission Against Corruption has lashed out at the High Court and demanded the NSW government introduce retrospective legislation to restore powers the anti-corruption body claims it has lost as a result of its failed investigation into prosecutor Margaret Cunneen.

Following last week’s decision by the High Court, which found the ICAC’s investigation into NSW criminal prosecutor Margaret Cunneen was a breach of its legislative powers, the ICAC today broke its silence criticising the High Court’s decision arguing it will “substantially damage the Commission’s ability” to carry out anti-corruption investigations.

“The decision in this matter about the scope of section 8(2) of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 by the majority of the High Court of Australia adopted a construction of the section that had never previously been argued or accepted since the ICAC’s inception.

“The narrow construction given to section 8(2) by the Court will substantially damage the Commission’s ability to carry out its corruption investigation and corruption prevention functions,” the ICAC said in a statement.

In a 4-1 decision, the High Court ruled last week that ICAC had no power to investigate alleg­ations that Ms Cunneen and her son Stephen Wyllie advised his girlfriend, Sophia Tilley, to “pretend to have chest pains” at the scene of an accident with the ­intention of perverting the course of justice.

The decision is a major blow to ICAC, significantly narrowing the corruption previously thought to be in its remit.

In a stinging rebuke, the ICAC also said the High Court decision will “severely restrict” its findings into two investigations into NSW Liberal fundraising and the role of Australian Water Holdings, which led to the resignation of former federal assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos.

“The decision means that the Commission will be unable to investigate or report on several current operations, and will severely restrict its ability to report on Operations Spicer and Credo.

The anti-corruption body also claimed the High Court’s decision in Cunneen will lead to an avalanche of litigation by those found to have been corrupt by the ICAC and those facing criminal charges as a result of its investigations.

“It has the potential to involve the State of NSW and the Commission in costly and protracted litigation involving persons who have been the subject of corrupt conduct findings based on investigations conducted under section 8(2), and will affect current litigation involving such findings.”

“It also has the potential to call into question the prosecutions and convictions of persons where evidence against them was obtained during Commission investigations based on section 8(2).”

ICAC demanded the NSW Parliament introduce retrospective legislation to restore the powers it claims to have lost, arguing no previous legislation interpretation of the ICAC Act was consistent with the High Court’s findings.

“In the circumstances, the Commission has made a submission to the NSW Government to consider, as a matter of priority, amending section 8(2) to ensure that the section can operate in accordance with its intended scope and making any such amendment retrospective.”

Last week David Levine, the inspector of the NSW ICAC criticised the ICAC for not making a comment on the matter earlier, despite comments from former ICAC Commissioner David Ipp and leaks to media outlets. The former Supreme Court judge also said there had been a “simplistic view” by some that parliament could now “cure the state of affairs that ICAC is now perceived to be in by some amendments to the legislation”.

In a statement last week Mr Levine said he had told the Commissioner he could see no reason why the ICAC could not now issue a public statement regarding the High Court ruling.

“I am of the view that the present standing of the ICAC in the eyes of the public whose interests it exists to champion on issues of corruption and integrity is to say the least, unhappy,” he said.

“I express this view as the Inspector and I express it of the ICAC as a Statutory entity.

“It is my view that ICAC is duty bound to inform the public to indicate what it is doing and what it proposes to do and to give some explanation for the course it has taken not only in relation to Operation Hale but any other outstanding matters.


Unions have their hands out in Queensland

The unions beat Vince Gair so Mrs P will have to be careful

UNION bosses are warning Annastacia Palaszczuk to honour commitments Labor made to them, issuing blatant reminders of how they helped the party secure an unlikely win on January 31.

One high-profile figure boasts about how his union “supported” seven successful Labor candidates and the fact that two of them now sit in Cabinet with the Premier.

Gary Bullock, who heads left-wing union United Voice, even went so far as to refer to the members and ministers as “United Voice MPs”.

It comes as a recent AMWU publication links promises to grow manufacturing jobs with the pouring of resources by the union into local campaigns for “card-carrying” candidates.

“The new Queensland Government contains card-carrying AMWU members, including Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure Jackie Trad in South Brisbane, Shannon Fentiman in Waterford, Brittany Lauga in Keppel and Peter Russo in Sunnybank,” the publication states.

“(AMWU state secretary Rohan) Webb said these Labor MPs had pledged to prioritise growing new manufacturing industries as our union poured resources and grassroots support into their electorate campaigns.”

Ms Palaszczuk this morning said, while launching the Premier’s Reading Challenge at Coorparoo State School, that she did not feel as though her government was indebted to the union movement.

When asked directly whether she believed her Government owed the unions anything for the role they played in her election win, she said: “No, I believe that we should be working as one - the business community, the labour movement, and my government should be working as one to generate jobs in this state.”

The Premier said Mr Bullock’s comments did not concern her.

“I’m not worried (about) what Gary Bullock is saying to his membership, he’s standing up for the rights of his membership right across this state,” she said.

When asked whether Mr Bullock was “overstating” his influence, Ms Palaszczuk said: “I think people can draw their own assumptions and perhaps some people put more emphasis on those issues, but what I will say is that my members will always stand up for members.”

Ms Palaszczuk said it was no surprise that Labor had strong links to the union movement, saying she was unapologetic about wanting to create safe working environments.

“I’ve seen reports in The Courier-Mail today and everybody, it’s no secret that the Labor Party was born out of the labour movement,” she said.

“And I make no excuse for standing up for workers’ rights in this state. I make no excuse for ensuring that workers conditions at work are safe and secure and I make no excuse for having as my top priority creating jobs for workers in this state.

“So, I’m proud to hang my hat on a Government that is focused on job creation, safety at work and making sure that workers’ rights are protected.”

Ms Palaszczuk was also asked about the role union leaders played in her Government.

“I consult with a wide range of stakeholders,” she said. “So when I was first elected, I met with the business community and I met with members of the labour movement. What I want to see in this state is where the labour movement and the business community work as one. I said I would lead a government of consensus and that is exactly what I intend to do.”

Mr Bullock goes on to say that United Voice members “won some fantastic commitments from Labor”, adding that they now “want to see the new Palaszczuk Government restore their faith, just stick to their word”.

“United Voice supported seven successful candidates in the election and two of them are now ministers in Cabinet,” he says.

“These United Voice MPs know Labor’s commitments, they made the same commitments themselves and now they’ll help to make sure those promises become reality.”


W. Australian potato tyranny to end

WA’s archaic “spud cop” faces the chop, with Colin Barnett declaring the Potato Marketing Corporation will be abolished within two years.

The Premier told The West Australian it was time to peel back rules that dictated the varieties, quantities and price of potatoes grown in the State.  “The Potato Corp’s days are up,” Mr Barnett said. “It will go. It should have gone years ago.”

The corporation’s future has been under the microscope in recent weeks after a Federal review on competition policy singled it out as a $3.8 million-a-year drag on the WA economy.

As well as requiring growers to be licensed and restricting potato crops, the PMC has draconian powers, including the ability to search vehicles suspected of carrying more than 50kg of potatoes and impound contraband spuds.

As part of a potential bailout deal to help WA as it has its GST share slashed, Canberra has told Mr Barnett he should cut “anomalous” business practices.

The abolition of the PMC will be part of a suite of reforms demanded by the Abbott Government in negotiations for about $500 million of infrastructure spending brought forward by the Commonwealth.

Mr Barnett said the PMC’s predecessor was set up in the 1940s to ensure a stable supply of potatoes to feed war-torn Europe but the Government was now looking to wind it up.  “It won’t be there after the next election (due in 2017),” he said.  “We may even bring in legislation prior to the election to nominate the day on which it closes.”

The Premier expressed frustration the PMC was often held up as an example of how WA had not reformed its economy, contrasting it to surveys that found the State was ranked best in the world for mining.

The corporation’s chief Peter Evans declined to comment but president of the pro-PMC Potato Growers Association of WA Dean Ryan was surprised by Mr Barnett’s decision.  “There is a firm commitment from the Premier and Agriculture Minister there will be no changes to the current system until at least 2017,” he said. “This issue needs to be about the survival of small growers and farmers in WA.”

Mr Ryan said there was a debate over potato marketing showed the need for a broader community discussion about whether WA consumers wanted to be self-sufficient with fresh locally grown food or rely on imported produce from the Eastern States and overseas produce.

“If we’re happy to see no cost reduction at all in the price of potatoes as a result of deregulation, while watching even more country communities and farming families – who grow safe and fresh local produce - being pushed out, then that’s the way it is heading,” he said.

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said Labor’s policy since 2012 had been to scrap the PMC, which Mr Barnett had previously opposed. “He’s copying us, again, on a sensible policy,” he said.


Brisbane radio to become more conservative

Less than two weeks before his radio program airs on 4BC, presenter Ray Hadley has described the Brisbane radio station as "a poor imitation of the ABC".

Hadley's mornings program on Sydney's 2GB will be syndicated on 4BC from April 27, along with a breakfast show hosted by Alan Jones.

Hadley will replace Patrick Condren in the morning slot.

Radio host Ray Hadley has criticised Brisbane radio station 4BC less than two weeks before his show becomes one of its headline programs.
Radio host Ray Hadley has criticised Brisbane radio station 4BC less than two weeks before his show becomes one of its headline programs. Photo: Peter Rae
On Wednesday he said the challenge of building an audience from a 4.3 per cent market share was "massive".

"At my age and 32 years into the business, I'm always looking for challenges and I think this is probably my biggest one," he told Fairfax Media.

"The station is running last. It's embarrassing.

"I've been listening to it for a number of months now to see what it's like and it's just a poor imitation of the ABC. It's a left-wing station that doesn't appear to have much to say about major issues."

News that most of 4BC's Brisbane presenters would be sacked was met with disappointment by several media commentators, and the station's plight is now being mocked on Twitter by a parody account.

However Hadley said he wasn't worried 4BC listeners would switch off because of a reduction in Brisbane content and presenters.

"They had a minuscule audience," he said.

"It's not as if they had 300,000 people listening. There's hardly anyone listening to the station. Something has to change."

"It appears to me not even the entire families of the broadcasters are listening."

Hadley said his mornings program would be relevant in Brisbane because the topics it covered were either national or of broad interest.

"In terms of Brisbane guests, it's not a magazine program...It's a program about news and about opinions - mainly my opinions because it's my program."

A merger between the Macquarie and Fairfax radio networks was officially completed on March 31, with Fairfax holding a 54.5 per cent stake of the super-sized Macquarie Radio Network. Most of the job cuts across the network have come from the Fairfax side of the business.

Hadley has in the past criticised Fairfax Media, whose brands include Brisbane Times, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Rival Sydney station 2UE and Brisbane's 4BC were also Fairfax-owned until the merger.

When asked on Wednesday what he thought of Fairfax, Hadley said: "I have no comment to make".

"It's immaterial to me who's a shareholder and who's not a shareholder. John Singleton still owns about 35 per cent and that's who I started working for 14 years ago. I don't work for Fairfax, I work for Macquarie Radio," he said.


20 April, 2015

George Christensen uses Vegemite to suggest halal products are funding terrorism and sharia

And Muslim denials mean nothing.  Lies are allowed in their religion

A National Party MP who pushed for the burqa ban in Parliament has taken aim at halal food, suggesting money spent on certifying it may be funding terrorism and efforts to implement sharia.

Coaltion backbencher George Christensen said all products certified as halal, including Vegemite, should be labelled as such - so people can avoid buying them.

"It's lovely to know a jar of the salty black stuff is sponsoring the advocacy of robbing women of all of their marital property rights," Mr Christensen wrote.

"To be frank, I find it outrageous that some of my grocery spending could go to propagating a religion," Mr Christensen said in a blog post.

"I don't know whether my grocery spend is going to fund extremist versions of that religion or extremist religious activities that I would rather not see in Australia."

While the initial comments of his blog were supportive, on social media they were mostly met with derision, where some users suggested they did not want their tax money going towards funding Tony Abbott's religious chaplains program either.

Two weeks ago, South Australian dairy producer Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company was forced drop its halal certification after receiving threats on social media. As a consequence, it's believed the company lost a $50,000 contact with Emirates.

Mr Christensen said the lack of information about halal certification was causing confusion and concern about where the money spent on it was going.

"While it's not terrorism, there is no doubt that halal certification is funding organisations with extremist views and activities in Australia.  [The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils], which is responsible for halal-certifying Vegemite, have publicly advocated for sharia to play a role in family law determinations.

"It's well-known that halal certifiers contribute to Islamic charity groups," Mr Christensen wrote, citing an Australian Institute of Criminology report on US charities.

"Direct links to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood were found. The same thing has occurred in Canada and France. It's entirely feasible to consider that the same thing might be happening here because we simply don't know where the money is going."

A number of organisations in Australia certify food products for domestic sale and export that meet halal guidelines - Islamic rules regarding the source and preparation of food that are set out in the Koran.

Many Australian companies that export to the Middle East have been halal-certified for years, including Kellogg's cereals and many meat exporters.

Halal Australia, a company that certifies halal food, flatly denies supporting terrorism, in a post on its website.

"The service fees paid to Halal Australia for halal certification and accreditation are used to maintain the normal costs of running a registered business in Australia.

"Halal certification profits DO NOT go towards supporting any terrorist activities or violent politically motivated religious organisations.

"Nor do we have anything to do with any organisation or group anywhere in the world that incites violence and are not aligned with our values of freedom, egalitarianism, equality of opportunity, and mutual respect and tolerance."

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has been approached for comment.

In September, Mr Christensen was the first Coalition MP to call for Islamic head coverings such as burqas to be banned from Parliament House.

"We shouldn't tolerate sharia law in Aust and the burqa/niqab shouldn't be worn in public," he tweeted.

In an interview with ABC journalists, Mr Christensen said his constituents raised concerns about the burqa often.

"People get worried when someone walks in and they can't see exactly who it is," he said.

"It's not something that just to be sneered at as something that's not politically correct and we shouldn't be talking about it."


Evidence that HALAL fees go to support terrorism

One of many ignorant shock jocks opining on claims that halal certification fees go to terrorist groups: “Of course there’s no proof of that”, said Hadley somebugger. But the Arab Bank (a prolific advertiser on Sydney’s 2GB radio station) was found liable in Linde v. Arab Bank, PLC in September last year for funding 24 separate terrorist attacks. Well done Mr Hadley!

And you might like to note the following, it is the 2013 Annual report signed off by the President of the Islamic Council of WA, (Dr) Rateb Jneid:

“... Our Halal subcommittee now is functional and income starts coming Alhamdulillah (meaning ‘all Praise and thanks be to God’).

“Our next aim is to expand Halal certification for local and international business insha’Allah (God willing).

“In our Masjid (mosque), many activities were conducted by our resident Imam Hisham Obeid.

“Over the year the Masjid has continued to assist other associations by allowing the facility (halal certification setup) to be used, Alhamdullah.”

(Dr) Jneib’s annual report continued, “During the year ICWA (the Islamic Council of WA) has made ongoing donations to Syria because of the difficult civil conditions.

"The donations were made through al Imdaad charity, to ensure that no recriminations could be directed at ICWA.”

Sgd Dr Rateb Jneid
President- Islamic Council of WA

Okay, obviously an unintended slip of the pen, but just who is this President (Dr) Rateb Jneid (forget the Dr bit, they all give themselves false titles) and what exactly is this al Imdaad charity?

Hang on to your hat!

Al Imdaad is a well-known international sham charity that distributes funds to Syria (ISIS), Hamas, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and many other Jihadist groups. It has recently concentrated its efforts helping to support ISIS and has branches in South Africa, right across Europe and North America.

Al Imdaad goes to extreme lengths to project itself as a charitable organisation. In fact it is anything but a charity and is linked to the infamous IRFAN (International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy).

In 2012-13, al Imdaad's UK branch raised over £400,000 for a Turkish charity known to fund terrorism. It has also given over £50,000 to the Zamzam Foundation, a Somali charity run by the Saudi-funded Somali Muslim Brotherhood.

Between 2005 and 2009, IRFAN-Canada transferred approximately $14.5 million to various terrorist organisations including Hamas.

On April 29, last year, The Honourable Steven Blaney, the Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, announced that the Government had listed the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy as a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code.

Since then Canada has broken up the Islamic scams, laid charges and cancelled their charity (tax free) status with al Imdaad, IRFAN and a dozen smaller offshoots now unable to operate in Canada.

But they remain free to operate elsewhere including in the UK and France (where there are electoral considerations) using kindly and compassionate names like “Orphans in Need”, “Human Relief Foundation” and “Muslim Hands”.

In Australia, the “Human Appeal International” charity operates freely using smaller “feeder” charities to assist in laundering funds to terrorist groups. HAI has 14 offices world-wide including local offices in Australia at Lakemba (Sydney), Coburg (Melbourne) and Mile End (Adelaide).

In a written statement, the Attorney-General's office said these groups, "... do have some legitimate social and charitable activities" and that the challenge "is to identify that component of funding which might be directed to terrorist activities" .

In December 2011, “Human Appeal (Australia)” hosted an event which featured the hate preacher Haitham al-Haddad as a guest speaker. Al-Haddad regards Jews as, "enemies of god, and descendants of apes and pigs", and disregards any form of peace until "Allah's will governs the whole earth, and for no other law to remain."

Haddad deems homosexuality a crime and supports the subjugation of women, telling them: "you must obey [your husband]."

Human Appeal (Australia) raises much of its funds through an annual concert called ‘Sounds of Light’, held at the end of each year at Flemington Racecourse Melbourne, Olympic Park Sydney, Adelaide Town Hall and Riverside Theatre, Perth.

A major ‘Gold’ sponsor of Sounds of Light is Halal Helpline ( An annual Gold sponsorship is $20,000.

Funding terrorism attracts a ten year jail term Mr El Mouelhy, so you’d better grab your toothbrush and a cake of soap.

Okay, so now to this (Dr) Rateb Jneid, President of the Islamic Council of WA:

Mr Jneid was claimed to be the kingpin when WA Police cracked a major methamphetamine trafficking syndicate after a four-month probe netted more than $8 million worth of the drug ice, $380,000 in cash and a number of unlicensed firearms.

Mr Jneid's sons Ziad and Rabih have long been persons of interest for WA Police and have resulted in a number of raids.
Detectives from the WA Organised Crime Squad led the latest protracted sting with a series of raids on properties in Kewdale, Munster and Bibra Lake.

Police say they suspect profits from the drug syndicate were finding their way to Jihadist organisations overseas.

Liam Ducey of WA said five men and a woman had been charged, including the President of the WA Islamic Council, (Dr) Rateb Jneid.

Incredibly the ABC, despite a comprehensive Police report, managed to cover the entire news item without once mentioning an Islamic connection or that one of those charged was the President of the Islamic Council of WA who admitted to funding the Syrian conflict using the al Imdaad "charity". That’s our independent ABC, I guess.

As part of the “Countering Violent Extremism Program”, the Australian Government handed out over $4.2 million in taxpayer funds in just one year to 52 different Muslim “charitable” organisations plus tens of millions annually to mosques and private Islamic schools, much of which is unaccounted for, except in one case that raised suspicion, a Sydney mosque was ordered to repay $9 million. Hmmm.


Affluent Iranians lead push for asylum

The dramatic influx of boatpeople from Iran over the past five years has been driven by economic factors or the desire to join family ­already here. Most most arrivals are middle-class and able to pay their own way.

According to new research, the spike has increased the number of Iranians in Australia by up to 20 per cent. Few arrivals are likely to have been counted in the 2011 census, which recorded 34,453 ­Iranian-born people.

The research, pointing to ongoing demand in Iran for passage to Australia, coincides with the visit of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to Tehran, where she will lobby the Muslim nation’s leadership to take back hundreds of asylum-seekers who have been denied refugee status.

According to the Immigration ­Department, 22.6 per cent of the 1848 detainees in mainland facilities are Iranians. They make up just more than 30 per cent of the 2512 arrivals now living in the community after being approved for residence ­determinations.

A fresh survey of 199 Iranians preparing to leave Iran, included in research conducted by global development start-up Farsight, has found Australia is the fourth most popular destination behind Britain, Sweden and Germany.

Of those surveyed, 26 Iranians (13 per cent) were focused on coming to Australia and 25 people had already invested money in their travel plans. Nearly half of this group said they were motivated by joining family members, underlining that small diasporas can generate momentum in shaping larger migration outcomes over time.

The second most common ­response when people were asked why they were leaving was “I cannot find a job here”, providing further evidence that economic motivation and financial security play roles in driving irregular migrati­on to Australia.

Writing in The Weekend Australian, Farsight chief executive and migration expert Jacob Townsend says despite the tough border protection policies put in place by the Abbott government, there remains strong demand in Iran for entry to Australia.

“It is likely that flows to Australia would bounce back if policies were reversed; the fact that 13 per cent of respondents are still preparing to depart for Australia despit­e the uncertainties is an indic­ation of resilient demand,” he says. He said Iranians made up 5 per cent of protection requests in 2009-10, then 30 per cent in 2010-11, and 21 per cent, 24 per cent and 27 per cent in the next years.

He warns that smugglers were now “moving  people  by  air, providing  a  package  of  travel  to Malay­sia, illegal documents  and facilitation”  to  ensure  people were not stopped  boarding  the flight  to  Australia. The costs for migrants seeking documents for this kind of passage are often more than $US15,000 ($19,335).

“The protection system is not meeting the needs of the most vulnerable people,” Mr Townsend writes. “It is primarily meeting the needs of somewhere between lower-middle-class and middle-class people in these countries who can afford to leave whether or not they face a threat.”


Five arrested in counter-terrorism raids in Melbourne's south-east

Neighbours woke to screams as Melbourne terror raids started
Police have charged an 18-year-old man with conspiring to plan a terrorist attack on Anzac Day following multiple raids across Melbourne on Saturday morning.

Sevdet Besim, of Hallam, appeared briefly in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Saturday afternoon.  In the hearing, which only lasted minutes, Besim, who was dressed in casual clothes, remained silent.  No application for bail was made and he was remanded in custody until a hearing on April 24.

Mr Besim was one of two men, the other an 18-year-old from Hampton Park, who police allege were planning an Islamic State-inspired attack at a Melbourne Anzac Day event targeting police officers.

He was among five teenagers arrested in raids on Saturday morning.

The 18-year-old Hampton Park teenager remains in custody, with police making an interim Preventative Detention Order application under 2003 anti-terror laws, which prevent the release of further details.

A Narre Warren man, 18, was released on Saturday afternoon and is expected to be charged on summons with prohibited weapon offences.  Two other Narre Warren men, aged 18 and 19, were released without charge pending further inquiries.

In response to the raids, Premier Daniel Andrews said security will be boosted at next Saturday's dawn service and march, while Prime Minister Tony Abbott urged people planning to attend Anzac Day events not to be deterred by the raids.

Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police executed seven search warrants on properties in Narre Warren, Hampton Park, Hallam and Eumemmerring about 4am on Saturday. Five men were arrested in the raids, the culmination of Operation Rising.

Both men arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences were "associates" but not relatives of Numan Haider, who was shot and killed by police in September 2014 after stabbing anti-terrorism officers at Endeavour Hills, Victoria Police acting Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said.

The planned attack could have come "any time in the next week," acting Deputy Commissioner Patton said.

Police have refused to disclose what Anzac celebration had been targeted.

"We have acted swiftly to disrupt an attack intended to bring harm to everyday Victorians going about their business," acting Deputy Commissioner Patton said.

"During Anzac Day commemorations, we encourage people to continue with their plan, but remain vigilant.

Police said the men's plans were "ISIS inspired", a reference to Islamic State, also known as IS or ISIL.

"At this stage we have no information there was a planned beheading," AFP acting Deputy Commissoner Neil Gaughan said.

"Some evidence that we've collected at a couple of the scenes - and some other information we have - leads us to believe that this particular matter was ISIS-inspired. But it's early days and we're not going into further details than that."

Police declined to comment on whether it was "retaliation" for the shooting death of Haider last year.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Gaughan said police were comfortable the threat was "fully contained".

"But obviously as the investigations continue we'll continue chase the rabbit down the hole and see what comes of it," he said.

The weapons confiscated were all edged weapons, not firearms.  "There was a knife and there was a sword. There was suggestion of firearms but we have not seized any," acting Victoria Police Commissioner Tim Cartwright said.

Two men arrested in the raids sustained minor injuries. Another 18-year-old man, from Narre Warren, was arrested over weapons offences. Two other men, aged 18 and 19, both from Narre Warren, were also arrested and are in custody assisting police.

The men had frequented the al-Furqan bookshop and Islamic centre in Springvale South, which was also linked to Haider.

On Saturday morning, police continued to search several properties in the area.  

Acting Deputy Police Commissioner Gaughan said the entire community should be concerned about the young age of the suspects.

"This is an issue not just for law enforcement but the broader community," he said.

"We need to get better in relation to identifying young men and women that are involved in this type of behaviour at the very early stages and we need intervention strategies to ensure that they don't go down this path."


Michelle Gordon appointed new justice of the High Court of Australia

A conservative appointment, one hopes

The Federal Government has appointed Michelle Gordon as the next justice of the High Court of Australia.

Currently a Federal Court judge, she will replace her husband Justice Kenneth Hayne, who will reach the statutory retirement on June 5.

Attorney-General George Brandis said Justice Gordon has enjoyed an illustrious career as a lawyer, barrister and a judge.

Justice Gordon turns 51 this year, meaning she will be able to serve on the High Court for 19 years.

Senator Brandis lauded Justice Gordon's "distinguished career in the law, both at the bar and on the bench".

"Justice Gordon was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia in April 2007. The contribution Her Honour has made to the development of the law, particularly in commercial law, is widely recognised by her colleagues on the Bench and at the Bar," Mr Brandis said in a statement.

"On behalf of the Government, I congratulate Justice Gordon on her appointment.

"May I also take the opportunity to thank Justice Hayne for his many years of distinguished judicial service to the Australian people, and wish him a long, happy and active retirement."

Justice Gordon will officially be sworn in on June 9, 2015.


19 April, 2015

‘A complete load of rubbish’: Economists hit out at negative gearing myths

Paul Keating tried to abolish it but reversed course when he saw the effects.  Without the concession, investment in rental accommodation would be much reduced -- thus slightly lowering prices for home buyers but driving up rents for the poor

IT’S a uniquely Aussie slang term up there with thongs and budgie smugglers, but it’s also the behind one of the most pervasive myths in public debate.

Economists have hit out at fresh calls to wind back negative gearing concessions in a bid to raise more tax revenue and increase housing affordability.

In a report released yesterday, peak welfare body the Australian Council of Social Services urged the government to restrict tax deductions for negatively-geared property investments.

ACOSS claimed the move could save more than $1 billion a year, arguing the current system primarily benefited the rich.

According to its report, ‘Fuel on the fire: Negative gearing, Capital Gains Tax and housing affordability’, more than half of geared housing investors were in the top 10 per cent of personal taxpayers.

It argued negative gearing encouraged over-investment in existing properties and expensive inner-city apartments, lifting housing prices and doing little to promote construction of affordable housing.

Sinclair Davidson, Professor of Institutional Economics at RMIT University, described the public debate around negative gearing as “a complete load of rubbish”.

The term itself is an Australianism, so the whole notion of having to explain negative gearing to foreigners falls into the same category as having to explain slang terms to foreigners, he argues.

“ACOSS and other people who don’t actually pay tax themselves don’t understand much about the tax system and so they think it’s being rorted,” Professor Davidson said.

“People like ACOSS, UnitingCare and Anglicare, they have an incentive for the government to take in more tax revenue because they want to spend more money. They are going for a tax grab.

“I suspect a lot of journalists don’t understand business and taxation, which is probably slightly unfair and a sad thing to say, but unfortunately too many journalists are a little sucked in by salacious arguments about tax rorts.”

According to Professor Davidson’s analysis, the main beneficiaries of the system were lower-income earners, with people earning between $45,000 and $180,000 per annum actually the most likely to be declaring a loss on rental property.

He claimed myths around negative gearing permeated public discussion, partly because Australia was the only country to have a specific term for what was considered a standard tax deduction in most other countries.

“It is standard procedure that if you earn a loss you deduct it against your income. The thing that causes excitement in Australia is we are the only country that calls it negative gearing,” he said. “You ask people in other countries, ‘Do you have negative gearing?’ and they say, ‘Gee, what’s that?’.

“But if you ask, ‘Do you have mortgage reduction or deduct loss against income?’, and they say, ‘Of course we do.’ This is not some strange or unusual quirk of our tax system.”

While some countries only allowed deductions against the same asset class, Australia has a better system, he argued.

“A loss is a loss, you should carry a loss against all income. New Zealand has it, Japan has it. In the US, individuals can’t deduct their losses against all other income, so people incorporate as companies. It’s a workaround, but effectively the same thing is happening.”

Robert Carling, senior fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies and former official with the NSW Treasury, Commonwealth Treasury, World Bank and IMF, argued groups like ACOSS only looked at the demand side of the housing equation.

“More investment in housing, other things being equal, should lead to more supply eventually,” he said. “They argue people are buying up existing housing, but they don’t have to buy new houses themselves to stimulate supply. If prices are bid up across the board then that will encourage more supply by developers, and we see that happening.”

In a report released last week, Mr Carling argued much of the “mythology” around potential revenue to be gained from abolishing tax concessions such as negative gearing came from a misinterpretation of the Tax Expenditure Statement published by Treasury.

In addition to the revenue cost of some concessions being greatly exaggerated, he pointed to the inability of the estimates to account for taxpayer behaviour in response to changes in tax concessions, and an incorrect assumption that estimates for revenue forgone were equivalent to potential revenue gain.

“If it’s the tax system that’s driving up house prices, why aren’t we seeing it happening across all cities? The tax laws are the same across the country yet we’re not seeing large price increases in other cities. Many countries have had house price booms, and all of them have had different tax arrangements,” he said.

“The main factor, according to the Reserve Bank, is the secular decline in real interest rates over the last 20-odd years, which has vastly increased people’s borrowing capacity. That’s been the common factor around the world.”

He said winding back negative gearing might raise significant revenue initially, but after investor behaviour responds net revenue gains would likely be very small.

If reductions in tax concessions were to be justified, they should form part of a broad, revenue-neutral tax reform with offsetting reductions in income tax rates, he argued.

In response, an ACOSS spokesman said countries like the US and UK do not allow people to claim unlimited deductions for investment property losses against their other income.

“We didn’t rely on Tax Expenditure Statements alone but they are a reasonable starting point,” he said. “We advocate the closure of tax shelters on a number fronts to deal with behavioural responses.

“There are considerable lags between higher property prices and more construction, due to well-known problems on the supply side.

“In any event the main problem is that prices are too high by Australian and international standards. This means, for example, that institutional investors are reluctant to invest because their rates of return from rents alone are too low.”


Cambodia is proof that most illegals are economic immigrants

It offers refuge but not riches -- so they would rather remain in detention

Gently wringing his hands, Iraqi teenager Emad Hashim Abid Farhan looks down as his eyes begin to well with tears.

"Most of my friends died from my hometown," the 18-year-old says. "I don't think about it because I'll cry if I think about that."

One year ago Emad and his family, including his four brothers, mother and father fled violence in Iraq, west of Baghdad. Scores of his neighbours, friends and family members were killed when militia invaded their town of Fallujah.  .

"It was sad to lose my best friends. They were friends that I had for more than 10 years," Emad says.

But Emad does not tell his story from a refugee camp. He is sitting in his family's small Middle Eastern restaurant in one of the busiest roads of Cambodia's capital of Phnom Penh. Motorbikes weave in and out of the traffic as tourists and locals come to eat their exotic food.

In one sense, Emad is a poster boy for Australia's controversial $40 million deal to send refugees from Nauru to Cambodia – a demonstration that one of Asia's poorest countries can safely resettle asylum seekers.

This week the Abbott government renewed its push to get asylum seekers on Nauru to agree to be settled on Cambodia, issuing a fact sheet spruiking it as a safe and harmonious country. A chartered plane is reportedly scheduled to transfer some asylum seekers from Nauru to Cambodia on Monday.

But it is not that simple. Emad's family are not considered as refugees by the Cambodian government. Their claim for protection is still being considered by the United Nations refugee agency in Malaysia and they live in the country on a temporary business visa that costs money that many of those on Nauru do not have.

But Emad's family are actually better off than the fewer than 100 refugees in Cambodia whose claims have been recognised but  who have not been provided with documents giving them permanency and who struggle to secure anything more than the most menial, part-time jobs.

This helps explain why refugees on Nauru have been so reluctant to move to Cambodia under the deal that was sealed over the clinking of champagne glasses back in September between then Australian immigration minister Scott Morrison and Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng.

Canberra's novel approach – to try to outsource refugee resettlement to a poor developing country like Cambodia – is being closely watched by European countries such as Britain, Italy and Germany that are all experiencing a high influx of asylum seekers.

Australia argues that Cambodia is a country on the rise – with significant economic growth of 7.7 per cent and that it has almost halved the rate of poverty in just seven years. Nearly 40 per cent of Cambodians own mobile phones and the growing garment industry alone is worth $5 billion.

But aid organisations say the resettlement idea is  inappropriate for a country that has been accused of human rights abuses and has no refugee resettlement experience. About a fifth of the nation lives below the poverty line and  another 20 per cent live just above it, leaving the country vulnerable to an economic collapse.

In February the Hun Sen government forcibly deported 36 Vietnamese ethnic minority refugees who had claimed asylum  citing religious persecution. NGOs point to this as a timely reminder of why Cambodia is the wrong country to partner with.

More importantly, getting volunteers to leave Nauru for Cambodiais proving difficult. When the deal was struck in September Morrison predicted that "four or five" refugees would be living in the country by either late 2014 or early this year. Not one refugee has volunteered to move, despite both governments trying their hardest to convince them to do so.

The Cambodian national director of World Vision, Jason Evans, says that the NGO, along with the "vast majority of international NGOs" were of the strong opinion that the deal was not in the interests of Cambodian citizens and may add "additional strains on a country still experiencing high degrees of poverty".

"We do trust that the Australian government is doing its due diligence, however, we are concerned about the precedent that this sets, as this type of deal is not something that the development community would support," Evans says.

In February the International Organisation of Migration agreed to resettle the refugees. The offer would also extend to the small number of refugees already in Cambodia, who until now have had little to no assistance from the Cambodian government.

It is understood that local NGOs are now being approached to assist the resettlement phase including housing and access to education, which the Australia government will pay for, and are likely to agree to be involved.

But who on Nauru will agree to the deal remains the key problem.

"There will be a great opportunity for people, in particular with an entrepreneurial spirit, that are on Nauru at the moment that may have come from a small business background to go to Cambodia because there is opportunity for them there to make a new start," Morrison's successor as immigration minister, Peter Dutton, said in March.

Dutton could have been thinking of a family like Emad's. But the Farhan family appear to be the exception to the rule.

Sister Denise Coghlan, an Australia nun who runs the Jesuit Refugee Service, in Cambodia says employment and the lack of documents remain the biggest issues for refugees.

In many instances legitimate refugees have been turned away from work because employers are afraid they are hiring illegal migrants, Coghlan says.

Of the few refugees who do live in Cambodia, not many want to stay, she says. "The young ones say there is no chance for education. They don't have proper documentation which doesn't give them the right to work."

When one male refugee on Nauru is asked whether he is likely to take up the deal, he replies on Facebook: "No and never. If they do that, I will kill myself."

These types of replies are common from the people living on Nauru. They desperately want to get to Australia, but cannot under the Abbott government's harsh immigration policies, which is drilled into them at any opportune moment.

 "I repeat this very strong message that people on Nauru will not be coming to Australia," Dutton said at a recent press conference. "They will not be coming to Australia under any circumstance."

But for Cambodia, the opportunity to partner with Australia has finally given the country long-awaited legitimacy in Asia.

On the fifth floor of the government's expansive grey Ministry Building, the Secretary of State spokesman Phay Siphan says that the refugees will be welcomed in the country, adding that if they work hard, they will be able to "get rich".

He also says it's time Cambodia stepped up to help Australia shoulder the responsibility of the global movement of refugees but then says they will not accept political refugees from Vietnam or China, only those with a "humanitarian claim".

"We don't allow political refugees to springboard into our country," the spokesman says. "That is our national security. Those people are not refugees, they are just getting away from the government."


Nearly one in four leaving Britain are heading to Australia

Brits fit in easily in Oz because Oz is about as different from England as English regions are different from one another.  There is even a considerable overlap in the slang

The lure of a life Down Under attracted more than 200,000 Britons in the last five years – almost a quarter of the total number who moved overseas

Australia continues to be the destination of choice for British expats, with 207,000 of them moving Down Under in the last five years. The figure amounts to almost one in four of the 851,000 Britons who moved overseas during that period.

The news was revealed in research from Lloyds Bank Private Banking, based on figures from the Office of National Statistics’ International Passenger Survey.

Information revealed in another research project – the InterNations Expat Insider Survey 2014, gave an insight into why the country is so popular. It came in top place globally for the friendliness of its people and the leisure options available.

Australia was also ranked second by expats assessing their levels of health and wellbeing and fourth for a good work/life balance.

Geoffrey Conaghan, the agent general for the government of Victoria, whose job it is to persuade Britons to move there, commented: “Australian cities consistently rank in the top ten of global liveability indices.

"Melbourne is at the top of this trend having been named the world's most liveable city for the fourth year in a row by the Economist Intelligence Unit's Liveability Index 2014. This index assesses stability, health care, culture, education and infrastructure – areas in which Australian cities rank highly due to a strong economy with over 23 years of continual growth and sustained government investment."

The Lloyds research suggests there are 4.7 million British citizens living abroad, representing 7.5 per cent of the national population.

Two thirds of British citizens emigrating since 2009 have indicated they intend to live abroad for more than four years – but almost half of those moving to Oz plan to stay for at least that length of time.


Driving Victoria on the road to nowhere

The Daniel Andrews government is the worst in modern Australia. It will do immense damage to the Victorian economy and to the Australian economy as well.

Its decision to spend something between half a billion and a billion dollars in order not to build a road represents a kind of grandeur of folly unseen for decades in Australia.

There is a sheer, unrelenting stupidity to this decision, a kind of epic imbecility that combines Monty Python with Karl Marx in a distinctively Melbourne ­disharmony.

In repudiating contracts signed by the previous Victorian government, the Andrews government says it will spend $339 million in money the consortium that was going to build the East West Link has already spent. And none of this is compensation, so we are told. If we are to take this at face value, it suggests the project was a very long way under way already.

The Victorian opposition says it had already spent $400m of government money on the project. Federal Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs says there are at least another $200m in costs in getting out of all the financial arrangements.

The Victorian government says there are $80m of financial arrangements costs but these can be used to finance future infrastructure projects, though no such projects currently exist.

The reason this issue attracts the attention of a foreign editor is because it is a crippling blow to Australia’s reputation as a place to do business.

It is a savage blow to Victoria but it also reinforces the growing international perception of Australia as an extremely high cost, uncompetitive, difficult place to do business, just as we used to be before the reforms of the 1980s and 90s. One of our great traditional strengths, political stability and legal and contractual reliability, is now under question.

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, concludes: “The level of sovereign risk and uncertainty created by the decision not to proceed with the East West Link project is simply unacceptable.”

That is a very big call. The BCA wants to attract foreign businesses to Australia. But it is forced to warn them that doing business with the Andrews government carries unacceptable sovereign risk, the two most toxic words international investors can hear.

Depressing Victorian politics seem to represent a new paradigm for Australia.

A Liberal-Nationals government gets elected to the intense hostility of the chattering classes. In policy terms it governs reasonably well but totally mismanages the politics, with internal instability and much harum-scarum nonsense. This leads to its replacement by a Labor government that broadly has the support of the chattering classes, manages the politics much better, but utterly monsters and ruins the economy.

It is worth pausing for a moment to consider the scale of the East West decision in its own terms. Traffic congestion is getting worse in Melbourne every day. It is not on the level of Sydney but it is a significant inconvenience and a growing break on ­productivity. The East West link is obvious common sense. No one thinks it smart to have a freeway running straight into the CBD, forcing traffic to pass through congested central Melbourne when it could be linked up to the freeway system on the other side of the city. The benefit is so obvious that it takes a kind of deep-green ideological hatred of all development to oppose it.

The entire Victorian government contribution was supposed to be about $2bn. The rest of the money would have come from the federal government and the private sector.

One day — God knows when — the Andrews government may have another infrastructure project to put to the feds. But that is years away. Federal money delayed is the same as federal money forgone.

The Andrews government has thus spent nearly half of the money it would have spent to get the road, in order to get nothing. Most of our state politicians are unsophisticated and little travelled, especially in Asia. Does Andrews have the faintest idea of how this madness looks to Asia?

The other critical aspect of the policy is the way, sadly, it confirms the ideological, anti-business pattern of the early decisions by the Andrews government.

This is a deep green/parlour pink anti-development government. Its worst decisions have been taken to appease the worst elements in the trade union movement, especially the CFMEU. The Andrews government abolished the construction code and the related compliance unit. It abolished compulsory drug and alcohol tests on building sites only to find that the union itself had changed its mind and decided these tests weren’t a bad thing after all.

Building costs in Victoria are higher than anywhere else in Australia and a crippling enemy to jobs. The criminal element in the building industry in Victoria ought to be the subject of inquiry by some speck of the ABC’s vast editorial budget.

In a nation reeling from uncompetitiveness, with the prices of our main exports in free fall, the Andrews government decided that we needed a new public holiday, on the Friday before AFL grand final day.

In an act of ideological spite, the government vetoed a private floor for the new Victorian ­Comprehensive Cancer Centre, what would have been a 42-bed “Peter Mac Private” hospital. This overturned existing plans and overruled the independent gov­­ernance structure of the hospital. Peter Mac board chairwoman Wendy Harris resigned in disgust.

The private hospital was meant to subsidise the public hospital. However, as Harris pointed out, the late decision also meant the hospital lost tens of millions of dollars of philanthropic funding that had been promised to the old model. The taxpayer must make that up and the philanthropic dollars may well leave Victoria.

This is all incredible. Andrews says he will introduce new legislation to stop governments from signing contracts near to elections. This just extends the caretaker period. Will Labor in future feel free to repudiate contracts signed just before the new legis­lated period before the caretaker period?

This is appalling government and will cost Australia dear.


Abbott Government sticking to gas development

The federal government has aligned itself with the unconventional gas industry, releasing a ‘Domestic Gas Plan’ that argues industries like coal seam gas will be key economic drivers carrying Australia into the future.

The strategy builds on the Abbott Government’s Energy White Paper, released last week, and presents coal seam, tight and shale gas as the way to “cement our position as an energy superpower and remain competitive”.

Welcomed by an industry, which has been blamed for massive swings against the National party in the recent New South Wales election, it’s a strategy that’s unlikely to allay the fears of rural and regional communities already up in arms.

Drew Hutton, the founder of the ‘Lock The Gate’ movement, says the plan continues the “complete lack of vision on the part of the Abbott government and of [Industry] Minister Ian Macfarlane, who has already shown he’s a creature of the gas industry”.

Earlier this week, it emerged that the government appears to have abandoned the key goal of the Paris climate talks, scheduled for later this year, to keep global temperature rises below two degrees.

“The Abbott government has put all of its hopes in fossil fuels at just the moment in history when they have come under serious challenge,” Hutton told New Matilda.

Macfarlane, though, maintains that “Australia is an energy superpower and some of our most significant opportunities for growth will come from our onshore gas assets”.

The broad-ranging gas plan acknowledges the often virulent community opposition to unconventional gas, but makes it clear the federal government is committed to a significant expansion.

It also identifies shale and tight gas resources as “the next focus for onshore unconventional gas development,” and flags the need for research in advance of their rollout.

Critics of the coal seam gas industry often point to the hasty rollout in Queensland as the harbinger of bigger problems to come. The coal seam gas boom swept the state from around 2006 on and, at least in the early days, was characterised by rushed and inadequate environmental approvals processes.


17 April, 2015


Paul Zanetti

A couple of friends invited me to attend the Reclaim Australia rally at Bundall on the Gold Coast on Saturday morning. I didn’t know anything about the group except what I’d pre-read on social media. They say they want to send a message about Australian values and speak out against the rise of Islamic extremism.

Now, I have to admit I don’t see any evidence of Islamic extremism on the Gold Coast, but there’s plenty of evidence of it around the world, including incidents in Sydney and Melbourne, and 100 or more Australians who’ve decided to head off to fight for Islamic extremists.

The weekend Reclaim rallies were held in 16 locations around the country with several in regional Queensland centres, and Brisbane.

The kids and missus were off to Pacific Fair for some last minute Saturday morning Easter egg hunting, and well, to be frank, shopping malls and I don’t particularly get on. I blame it on the car parks, the acres of walking, and 'buyers remorse' a month later when the credit card bills hit the mail box.

What struck me when I arrived at the Bundall rally location around 10:30am were the numbers, which I estimated to be around 800 to 1,000. I looked around for the neo-nazis, fascists and white supremacists but I was a little disappointed to see it was majority mums and dads and kids looking like they had mistakenly turned up for an Olivia Newton John concert in the park.

The kids were lining up for a go on the humungous jumping castle, while their parents were setting up their fold-out chairs and rolling out picnic blankets. I was pretty sure I must have got the location wrong. This all seemed rather normal and civilised.

    Aren’t protests supposed to have screaming loonies, throwing marbles under police horses, while waving extreme placards in front of cameras?

I did note half a dozen or so bikie looking types (jeans, leather vests, tattoos, beards, shaved heads), and around 20 or 30 police, but they all seemed to get on together, chatting and walking among the crowd. No arrests or abuses. All good so far.

I made my way up to the front stage area, which again challenged my pre-conceived notions. The whole stage was adorned with more national flags than a United Nations convention. The largest flag of all was the aboriginal flag, which covered at least a third of the stage. Neighbouring the stage was a yummy variety of cultural foods, from home made dims sims to German sausages.

The MC took to the stage, welcoming all comers from every race and religion, even Muslims if there were any. He explained the purpose of the rally was to embrace Australian values of fairness, tolerance, free speech and equality; that Australia was a nation of inclusiveness, not exclusiveness.

Everybody was welcome to come to Australia, but that’s a two way street. All cultures irrespective of beliefs or religion must in return embrace the values of Australia. He then introduced a beautiful young nine year old girl of aboriginal heritage who sang the Australian national anthem in her Dharawal tribal tongue.

Golly, there just weren’t any signs of racists and bigots so far. But reading the reports the following day, there must have been, because social media activists said this was a neo nazi rally. The only violence anywhere stemmed from anti-rally protestors in Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart who seemed to be determined to turn a peaceful rally into a violent shut-down of free speech.

The rally speakers were all well informed, researched and experienced. I was particularly transfixed by the three returned Australian servicemen from Iraq and Afghanistan regaling shocking stories of the treatment of women and children at the hands of strict Islamic cultures.

A young village boy in Afghanistan would receive an horrific beating if his father learned he had accepted a chocolate from a coalition solider, or worse, shot at by a Taliban sympathiser if he or she happened to be too friendly to one of our Aussie soldiers. A young teen girl could be horribly punished if she simply waved back at friendly coalition troops while guarding the village.

Other speakers included a radio broadcaster, an author, an iconic Aussie cartoonist and an ex-female police officer who served at the Lakemba police station in Sydney, which was peppered with gunshots while she was working inside.

The stories were riveting and informative. But it wasn’t all serious, there was a variety of live musical entertainment including the singer of Redgum who wowed the gathered throng with the legendary hit, “I Was Only Nineteen”.

Well, there must have been two rallies on the Gold Coast because the family friendly event I attended exhibited all the best Australian values I’ve become accustomed to as an immigrant’s son – tolerance, inclusiveness, free speech and fairness.

Not a racist or a bigot in sight.


Get Them Young, Make Them Green

Education ministers do not seem troubled that a  green propaganda machine, Cool Australia, has garnered the support of thousands of teachers and schools, happily peddling slick scare campaigns and nudging students towards its militant allies and dark-green partners. If governments won't object, maybe parents should

Australian schools are handing over the  all-pervasive ‘sustainability’ syllabus to a militant green organisation, Cool Australia, whose curriculum material and projects have enjoyed a red-carpet ride into the state and private education systems, with accolades from the Australian Education Union and the Independent Education Union.

Much of Cool Australia’s program for schools is benign: recycle trash, don’t waste electricity, plant trees, embrace reconciliation. But the rest of the agenda tirelessly advances the supposedly impending global-warming catastrophe, plus, inevitably, preaching the evils of fossil fuels.

The impression of what some might see as brainwashing is enhanced by the featured endorsements of hard-line carbon-phobic groups like the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and civil disobedience advocate/ex-NASA scientist James Hansen [1]. Beyond that, there are links to Bill McKibben, of the climate-zealot lobby group[2], and the Skeptical Science website, which devotes itself to pummelling ‘deniers’ while declining to publish their demurrals on its comments threads. Such groups’ videos are  offered to students to watch in their own time, leaving more time in class for ‘discussion’ of the messages.

The success of the Cool Australia in planting its deep-green message in the minds of school children suggests a growing and structural obstacle to any rational discussion of climate matters in the future, as green-indoctrinated voters emerge from the education system and join the ranks of voters. Sadly, while green-dyed propaganda becomes a fixture in the classroom, there is not much chance that, say, the coal-mining members of the Minerals Council of Australia or a Big Four bank lending for fossil fuel  projects, will be invited to contribute a measure of balance by providing curriculum modules that deviate from the green orthodoxy.

Cool Australia claims that 42% of Australia’s 10,000-odd schools had a teacher registered with it. From early childhood to Year 10, some 500,000 students were engaged, and 120,000 “learning activities” downloaded for their use. Roughly 20,000 teachers are signed on (that’s 1-in-15 nationally) and the number is growing at the rate of 1400 a month. Teacher sign-ups more than doubled in 2013-14. Targets for 2015 are “more than 50%” of Australian schools, 30,000 registered teachers, and 600,000 children from age 3 upwards (about 20% of all students). Penetration rates are about equal in the government, private and Catholic sectors.

One Cool Australia partner and donor is the magazine Dumbo Feather. Here’s inspiration, kids, from a current Dumbo article by Paul Yacoumis, an RMIT tutor (Environment Economics), Melbourne University tutor (“Reshaping Environments”) and acolyte of the university’s nutty Sustainable Society Institute:

“This year I will be further experimenting with self-sufficiency and minimising my participation in the corporate economy. I’m delving into urban foraging, trying my hand at dumpster diving[3] [getting food from rubbish skips] and cultivating a small garden in my front yard—although the food gods have not been especially kind so far… Fortunately for friends and family, I drew the line at hemp clothing.”

“In my darker moments, I’ve even found myself hoping for some kind of global cataclysm—at least then the human race may have the chance to start anew.”

“We can choose to allow the “evil” of social or ecological collapse to fall upon our future kin, or we can start to shift the power away from this unsustainable economic system that’s caused it and build a better one in its place.”

As Cool Australia founder Jason Kimberley puts it[4]: “We understand … that all information at Cool Australia must be science-based, never politically or ideologically driven.” Regard Cool Australia and its partners as a team, however, and more than a whiff of ideology does seem to be wafting  around the classroom. Indeed, the Cool Australia material quite specifically encourages students to become political activists. In its main textbook, We Are the Weather Makers, we read:

“Tim Flannery says that community leaders ‘need to hear your voice’. Write a letter to a public figure or other influential member of the community [code for local member, TT] explaining your concerns about global warming and climate change.”[5]

Cool Australia’s long march into schools begins with three-year-olds in "early learning centres", what previous generations knew as day-care and kindergartens, where “our youngest learners" are "a long term investment in shaping our future”.[6] Make no mistake, activism is the end-goal. “Information and awareness are critical, but it’s more important to build young people’s skills and capacity to innovate and implement these solutions…" and this as well, "we educate and engage future generations in the critical thinking required for them to become the revolutionaries we need to tackle the challenges of the twenty-first century.”[7]

Despite its pleas for reduced consumerism, Cool Australia is, ironically, the brainchild of the Kimberley family, once the proprietors of the Just Jeans chain.  Craig Kimberley, who netted $64m from his group's sale  in 2001, is a director, and his son, Jason, is founder and CEO. Consumerism is bad, apparently, once you have sold your chain of stores devoted to consumerism.

Jason Kimberley endlessly recycles the story of his ‘eco-epiphany’, which happened during a 2005 visit to Antarctica. He returned an ardent eco-warrior. While he may not yet have noticed that Antarctic sea-ice  is at record levels for the satellite era, school principals love his shtick.

Kimberley claims to have spoken personally with 50,000 students, at the impressive rate of 10,000 a year. The people running Armadale Primary School in Melbourne were so impressed that, in August, 2013, they declared Jason “Principal for a Day”, with an address to the school assembly thrown in.

The Australian Education Union’s (former) National President, Angelo Gavrielatos, puts the case:

“I don’t know if the Cool Australia team fully understands what they are achieving… an incredible achievement in just six years. Only UNICEF has a greater schools penetration, and they had a 50-year head start… You are, quite seriously, the good guys in education.”

Cool Australia last year partnered with the AEU and Independent Teachers’ Union (ITU) on the “AEU/IEU Greens Conference”, featuring such activists as the global warming scholar Rod Quantock (B.Arch, Melbourne University [failed]), the comedian whose more recent laughter-generating moments are quite unintentional. The AEU called it “Greens Conference”; Cool Australia called it “Green Schools Conference”. Perhaps they’re both right.

Jason  Kimberley has scruples. According to one account, he “delights in reports from teachers of younger children who say their students see the Cool Australia learning activities more like games than serious learning. But he’s less inclined to talk global warming with his own kids: Florence, 8, Cooper, 6 and Olive, 3. ‘I don’t want to shove the environmental stuff down their throats.’ he says.”

Other wealthy backers of Cool Australia include:

Ex-Wotif tycoon and Greens Party mega-funder Graeme Wood, worth around $350m.

Aged-care tycoon Robert Purves,  WWF  president,  former board member of WWF International and Governor of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.  Purves’ foundation has distributed more than $10 million to environment, climate-change and activist causes.

A major donor (possibly THE major donor) to Cool Australia since 2012 has been Bendigo Bank, whose Bendigo Wealth executive John Billington is on the Cool Australia board and endorsed a three-year sponsoring deal in 2014.   In a cosy double-deal, Bendigo says, “Cool Australia will deliver the Bendigo Wealth brand to thousands of teachers, children and their families.”

And Cool Australia’s report re-pays the praise with interest: “[Bendigo Bank] have a conscience and a heartbeat. They are far bigger than a bank.”[8] To suggest the scale of things, bear in mind that Cool Australia’s and Bendigo Bank’s national Enviroweek in 2013 involved 1200 schools and 162,000 students who adopted 500,000 “challenges”.[9]

Here’s how Bendigo Bank gets a free kick against the Big Four:

Cool Australia strongly endorses the Australian Youth Climate Coalition's (AYCC) juvenile activists, who battle for Gaia by jumping around in  fish costumes at Lend Lease annual meetings, to name but one of their stunts, while denouncing coal financing.

AYCC boasts that it “can provide speakers and group facilitators to schools around the country. The AYCC draws on the significant experience of many of its member groups, as well as its own ‘Climate Messenger’ program to deliver excellent presentations concerning a broad range of issues surrounding climate change. To find out more visit or call (02) 9247 7934.”[10]

A current AYCC campaign is Dump Your Bank. “Could your bank use your money to fund the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and our climate?” it asks, going on to urge readers to “Take the Pledge. ‘I pledge to dump my bank  because they’ve refused to rule out funding coal ports on the Great Barrier Reef’." AYCC has made a slick little video, featuring photogenic moppets, that specifically targets the Commonwealth, a Bendigo Bank competitor, for allegedly financing the Great Barrier Reef's destruction.


Julie Bishop to lobby to return failed asylum seekers to Iran

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop will lobby Iran to take back hundreds of failed asylum seekers held in Australian immigration detention when she makes a rare visit to Tehran next week.

Iran has so far refused to accept any forced return from Australia of thousands of Iranians who arrived by boat during the Rudd and Gillard years and have been denied refugee protection.

Winning agreement with Iran to deport failed asylum seekers is seen as a potential breakthrough for the government to relieve the strife-prone Manus Island detention centre, where many Iranians are held.

But the Greens warn people forced to return to Iran could be in danger and have called for the government to explain any potential arrangement with Tehran.

More than 20 per cent of people held in mainland immigration detention centres are from Iran.

There are also almost 7000 Iranians who arrived by boat living on bridging visas in the Australian community, according to figures provided on Friday by the Immigration department. Most have yet to have their refugee claim assessed - but 228 have been refused and 37 determined "not to engage Australia's protection obligations".

A diplomatic source confirmed the question of returning failed asylum seekers has been an ongoing discussion between Ms Bishop and her Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif.

"One of the biggest challenges that we are facing with failed asylum seekers is those refusing to return home," the source said.

Ms Bishop will travel to Tehran amid a diplomatic frenzy over the latest progress in nuclear talks with major world powers.

US President Barack Obama has made a nuclear deal the centrepiece of US foreign policy, saying it offers Iran a chance of "rejoining with the international community", but the talks are viewed warily across the Middle East.

Iran is also a crucial player in neighbouring Iraq and the fight against Islamic State, where Australian troops are being deployed.

But Australia's pressing concern with Iran is the fate of thousands of Iranians who claimed asylum after paying people smugglers to travel by boat from Indonesia.

Former foreign minister Bob Carr had controversially branded Iranians as economic migrants who were not facing persecution but were seeking to escape the squeeze of international sanctions.

Many Iranians had flown directly to Indonesia to be granted a visa on arrival until 2013, before travelling by boat to Australia.

Mr Carr told Fairfax Media this week returning failed asylum seekers to Iran would be "desirable" and it could be that the opening to the West following the nuclear deal has made an agreement possible.

Australia's effort to stop boats carrying asylum seekers already extends to arrangements with Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Cambodia.

Official figures released this week reveal 177 people on Manus Island have had their refugee claim refused.

As of February, almost 1300  Iranians were being held in immigration centres and community detention in Australia.

Approximately 430 Iranian asylum seekers have agreed to return home since August 2012, with cash assistance from Australia and help from the International Organisation for Migration.

An Immigration department spokesman said involuntary removals from Australia can be conducted to Iran provided a person has valid Iranian travel documents.  But it is understood new documents have not been issued for those without.


When thieves fall out...

Leftist union says it's OK for firemen to watch porn at work.  Even the Leftist Victorian government disagrees

AN EXPLOSIVE confrontation between Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett and the United Firefighters’ Union helped trigger the union’s war with the Andrews Government.

Up until then, according to an explosive 17-page document sent to Labor MPs by UFU secretary­ Peter Marshall, the union had been in a cosy relationship with the government, expecting a litany of favours to be brought in.  The extent of the union’s support for Labor was well documented, including:

23 days of firefighters door­knocking in strategic seats;

40,000 one-on-one conversations with the public;

125,000 pamphlets handed out at train stations;

700 firefighters standing outside 109 polling booths in nine marginal electorates asking the public to put the Liberals last.

In an email to Labor MPs, Mr Marshall says “internal polling conservatively estimated a 4.5 per cent swing in seats where there was a firefighter presence — and up to seven per cent in some marginal seats”.

It says firefighters and ambulance officers had been “credited by commentators across the political spectrum with the success and unexpected extent of the swing to Labor”.

The UFU document goes on to describe a dispute over the Government’s failure to force the MFB to use an employee code of conduct outlined in the 2010 EBA, instead of processes currently used under the MFB Act.

It describes a meeting on March 31 in which Ms Garrett was “agitated and yelling” at a UFU staff member after she was asked to intervene in a disciplinary case involving alleged pornographic emails.

“The Minister indicated that she was extremely concerned that she was being asked to intervene in a specific case and that the case involved pornographic emails,” it says.  “The Minister was agitated and was yelling at (UFU staff member).”

The 17-page diatribe, described sarcastically by some within Labor as a “manifesto”, said the Government then “abandoned the UFU” by refusing to intervene in a disciplinary process for a person accused of sending pornographic and discriminatory material in emails.

It says the UFU did not “condone inappropriate behaviour” but that it insisted a deal it made with the government over the code of conduct should be honoured.

It says the UFU took offence­ to the suggestion that the union had put Ms Garrett “in a difficult position”.  “All the UFU was asking for (was) the agreement made with the Andrews Government (be) honoured,” the document says.


Dr Karl’s intergenerational income sorted by the taxpayer

So far the kerfuffle about Dr Karl’s publicity campaign for the Intergenerational Report has delivered two discernible public benefits.  It has demonstrated that governments — by and large — cannot be trusted to spend our money sensibly and effectively.  And it has helped to look after the intergenerational financial needs of Dr Karl.

The IGR is a document designed to crystallise the economic challenges facing the nation — to demonstrate how we are spending more than we are earning and how, with the ageing demographic of our population of 23 million, the ledger will get even worse unless we reform.

As such the report encapsulates the fundamental challenge facing the Abbott government — the need to convince the electorate about the need for difficult reform in order to secure our future.

After a year and a half of making a mess of most of their political advocacy tasks the government decided to outsource the communications task for the IGR, using more of our scarce tax dollars.

And in a classic case of how governments never spend other people’s money as wisely as individuals and the private sector spend theirs, the multi-million dollar campaign (we don’t know the exact cost) was fronted by a trenchant government critic.

It seemed ridiculous form the start to have a person who is clearly antipathetic to the Coalition and virtually all it stands for spruiking a crucial government message.

Think about it. Where would you go if you needed to find visceral anti-Coalition voices?  Your safest bet, perhaps even ahead of trades hall, would always be the ABC or a university.

So the government went with a bloke who earns his living spruiking his views at both Sydney University and the ABC’s Triple J youth network.

Now, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki has become a prominent critic of the very report the government has paid our tax dollars for him to promote.

He has told the ABC that it is “flawed” and that he “should have insisted there be climate change” in it.

What an own goal.  This is the equivalent of Meat and Livestock Australia dumping Sam Kekovich from its lamb commercials and replacing him with Gwyneth Paltrow.

If that doesn’t tell you something about the intergenerational challenge of governments constantly wasting our taxes in counterproductive ways, nothing will.

A kind of perpetually-teenaged version of Professor Julius Sumner-Miller, Dr Karl helps to popularise science.

But he always has an ear to the Green Left trends of his audience; he even ran on a climate change ticket for the NSW Senate in 2007.

You can see how an advertising agency would have recommended him — trustworthy on science and hip with the social media crowd, they would have said — but the government should have known better and gone with someone with credibility on economics and disconnected from political grandstanding.

Putting an ABC leftie on a stage in what looks suspiciously like a pyjama top is not a way to suddenly win over the Green Left and youth vote with your economically rational arguments — it is a way to waste taxpayers’ money chasing popularity with a crowd who will never vote for you, and miss your opportunity to make an important point.

Better to save taxpayers the cost of the campaign and just spruik the importance of the report yourselves — you know, like politicians used to do, by advocating and prosecuting arguments.

As for Dr Karl, for a bloke who prides himself on evidence-based science he has demonstrated an alarming lack of diligence.

He admits to not reading all of the report before agreeing to promote it.

It was only after filming his spots that he decided it didn’t have enough pages on climate change.

(Although how climate change is going to help repay government debt, he doesn’t say — at the moment renewable energy targets, solar subsidies, carbon tax compensation and billions of dollars of mothballed desalination plants have only hurt state and federal budgets.)

So why would a popular science communicator spruik something he hadn’t read and subsequently doesn’t fully support?

Fairfax Media published an answer last month: “He agreed to do it to support long-term policy making and because he gets paid ‘bugger all’ by his employers, the ABC and the University of Sydney, he said.”

We don’t know how much he was paid but trust it has enabled taxpayers to help secure his retirement plans.

That would be one intergenerational income sorted, just 22,999,999 to go.


16 April, 2015

Detention centre guards suspended over social media posts

It seems that those who see the most of our mostly Muslim illegals like them the least.  I wonder why?

Eight guards from Nauru detention centre have been suspended over a possible breach of their employer’s social media guidelines.

The members of the “emergency response team” at Nauru, who were hired on the basis of their cultural “sensitivity”, have been stood down pending an investigation into their social media use.

Some promoted the Reclaim Australia movement and some posted anti-Islam slurs online.

The Nauru guards also posed with Pauline Hanson, the controversial former federal MP and One Nation founder who has long called for immigration restrictions, after she spoke at the rally in Brisbane on 4 April.

A former employee for Transfield subcontractor Wilson Security told Guardian Australia the guards’ online posts provided a glimpse of the mindset of ex-defence force personnel who “frequently referred to asylum seekers in their care as ‘the enemy’ ”.

This included Facebook posts of material comparing Islam to Nazism, accusing companies from Cadbury to Krispy Kreme of supporting terrorism by having products certified as Halal, and the embrace of the slogan “infidels” through T-shirts and tattoos.

A spokesman for the detention centre operator Transfield Services, which employed the men, said the matters were “very concerning and not at all what we expect of our staff”.

It follows Transfield’s suspension on Monday of another guard at the Manus Island detention centre who posted links to Reclaim Australia and the boycott halal movements on Facebook.

The rally was one of a string of nationwide events protesting the influence of Islam in Australia, conflating the religion with violent extremism and provoking counter protests by self-described anti-racist groups.

One of the guards, Simon Scott, posted the group photo with Hanson on his Facebook page with the comment: “What more can I say.”

Another guard, Graham Motley, a veteran of a Royal Australian Regiment task force that mentored soldiers in Afghanistan, commented under the post: “Royal Australian Infidels”.

Two others in the photo, Beau James and Dann Connors, sport T-shirts bearing the word “infidel”.

Another guard, Harley Levanic, revealed on Facebook his new neck tattoo bearing the same word. James commented on the picture: “Welcome to the gang… Well done old son. Looks awesome.”

A day before the rally, James, tagged a post likening Muslims to Germans who enabled the rise of Nazis through inaction, with the comment: “See yas tomoz boys!!! Bring your pitch forks.”

Another guard, Simon Scott, posts on the same day: “Let me know when we are meeting in the city. I need someone to help me with a bag of ammonium nitrate.”

Last week, Connors posted about a visit to the Lindt cafe in Sydney where a siege in December 2014 ended in the deaths of self-proclaimed jihadist Man Haron Monis and two hostages. Scott responded: “Did you smell dead joondie in there?” “Joondie”, derived from the Arabic word for soldier, is a slang term used by Australian defence personnel to refer to the Taliban.

Last month Scott endorsed a boycott on Halal products, saying: “Don’t be UnAustralian and buy these products. Let the filthy sub human genetic Islamic filth have it.”

Seven of the eight men suspended – Levanic, James, Connors, Scott, Graham Motley, Cody Allen, and Alan Hartley – are understood to be former military personnel.

Motley served in Afghanistan as part of a mentoring task force led by the 8/9th battalion, Royal Australian Regiment from Brisbane. He told the Toowoomba chronicle in 2012 that the work had given him a better understanding of Afghanistan culture.

The eighth is Jamie Scannell, whose comment on the Hanson photo was: “Pauline Hanson’s Protection Team. Great photo boys.”

Connors and Hartley both posted on Facebook before the rally urging people to attend.

The team is trained in riot control but also called in to deal with “incidents” in the Nauru centre, from self harm to disputes between asylum seekers.

Many of the asylum seekers on Nauru are Muslims from the Middle East and parts of Asia.

In a job advertisement last year for “offshore security specialists” including emergency response officers, Wilson Security said that “successful applicants will ... be culturally sensitive” while those “with (foreign) language skills are highly regarded”.

A spokesman for Transfield Services told Guardian Australia that all eight men were stood down while the company investigates whether they were in violation of a new social media policy.

“These matters are very concerning and not at all what we expect of our staff,” the spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said it expected “service provider staff to act appropriately and with integrity in all their dealings with the people in their care”.

“Inappropriate use of social media channels will not be tolerated, particularly if it involves offensive material,” she said.


Blunt honesty cut through Labor’s single-issue grandstanding

Janet Albrechtsen memorializes Peter Walsh, who has just passed away aged 85.  In that he genuinely cared about the welfare of the people, he was a real oddity on the Left

Watching the Labor Party today raises the question: where is the next Peter Walsh? Walsh was finance minister in the Hawke government, and his cut-through common sense, his scorn of special interests and lazy thinking, his exposure of empty claims about “social justice” and his determination to break our addiction to entitlements rightly places him in the pantheon of political giants.

That there is no sign of the next generation Walsh in Labor’s ranks might explain why Liberal politicians delivered the finest tributes to him. When retiring from the Senate, former finance minister Nick Minchin described his predecessor as the best finance minister this country has seen. Coming from Minchin, a very fine finance minister in the Howard government, it was high praise indeed. Former Liberal senator Fred Chaney was equally gracious last week, saying Walsh would be accepted as finance minister by both sides of politics.

If only that were true. Given the poor treatment dished out by Labor to ALP stalwart, Martin Ferguson, following his honesty about bad Labor policy during the recent NSW election, it’s unlikely Walsh would be embraced by Labor today.

Walsh skewered poor policy from his own party with common sense honesty rarely seen in Canberra. He described the greatest beneficiaries of the Whitlam government as “those who gained ­sinecures in an expanded public sector and the white-collar middle class in general. It delivered few positives to Labor’s lower paid, working-class constituency and big negatives in the form of high inflation and rising unemployment”.

Likewise, Walsh had no qualms in exposing the hypocrisy of the Labor Party’s attachment to protectionism and its rejection of consumption taxes. High tariffs are hidden consumption taxes, he said, pointing to the higher priced clothing and footwear which hit the poor harder than the rich because the proportion of income the poor spent on clothes and footwear was three times higher than for those in the highest income bracket.

Born in the WA wheatbelt town of Kellerberrin, Walsh’s understanding of economics was rooted in real-life common sense and close readings of classical economists. In his 1995 book, Confessions of a Failed Finance Minister, Walsh was contemptuous of the “self-interest disguised as public interest policies” put up by some unions and the party’s bourgeois Left.

With pinpoint accuracy, he targeted the “sheltered workshop of Victoria” trying to set up a workers utopia on a foundation of power sharing with unions. Walsh challenged the featherbedding of the Northern Territory with skyrocketing intergovernmental payments, double dipping of pension payments by federal politicians, and staffing levels at ACT schools (directly funded by the federal government) which far exceeded that in other states — even higher than Victoria and South Australia where “supine governments had abdicated policy control in favour of teachers’ unions”.

Walsh’s intellectual honesty was destined to collide with Labor’s growing attachment to green politics. Following the Franklin Dam controversy, he was scathing when Labor decided to lock away even more forests: “A Labor government knowingly put southern Tasmanian blue-collar workers — living in an area which already had unemployment rates between 20-24 per cent — out of work, not for any valid environmental reasons but to appease bourgeois and middle-class trendoids in the gentrified suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.”

Prior to Labor’s 1982 biennial federal conference, it was Labor policy to repudiate existing, legally binding uranium contracts. Walsh recalls the courage and bravery of South Australian Labor MP Norm Foster. Never heard of him? Foster was expelled from the Labor Party in 1982 for siding with a Liberal bill to indemnify Roxby Downs investors against the sovereign risk of a Labor federal government repudiating uranium contracts.

Wrote Walsh: “Foster was an old fashioned Labor man, blue-collar working class, intelligent, principled and courageous … One Norm Foster is worth more to the Labor Party than a few hundred bourgeois left single-issue zealots.” As Walsh might say, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews could learn something from that history — but probably won’t.

Now more than ever, Labor needs a Peter Walsh to neuter the woolly-minds and cheap stuntmen in Labor’s ranks, Left and Right. That both federal Labor senator Sam Dastyari and Walsh made headlines last Friday was truly unfortunate for the former. The contrast was scorching. Chasing headlines over tax avoidance with empty rhetoric, unsubstantiated allegations and no sign of a smoking gun, Dastyari told The Australian Financial Review he likes a bit of “showmanship” and “vaudeville”.

Yet to score a single run on the political scoreboard, Dastyari made the amateurish error of thinking he can mimic the flair of the Hawke government with none of its substance. Imagine what Walsh would make of Dastyari, the young gun lauded by many as the future of Labor. In fact, it’s worth asking what Walsh would make of Canberra politics more broadly. Surely he would rebuke the Abbott government for constantly complaining that reform is hard — witness Treasurer Joe Hockey’s whiny interview on Monday in the AFR. Equally, Walsh would chide his own party for completely disengaging from serious economic debates.

And Walsh would likely direct a few caustic jibes at the political squabble over the mandated 20 per cent renewable energy target. Labor wants 33,500 GWh by 2020. The Abbott government wants 32,000GWh. Business screams for certainty. Aside from bickering over 1500GWh, all sides of politics are wedded to a feel-good policy that has led to higher electricity prices with no discernible effect on reducing climate change — the very thing it was introduced to do.

It’s not hard to guess what Walsh would make of the union movement’s recent name and shame campaign against small businesses that can’t open on public holidays because of ridiculously high penalty rates. Walsh exposed Labor romantics who saw unions as natural proselytizers for the Brotherhood of Man as just that — romantics. “Unionists in secure employment have always preferred higher unemployment to lower wages,” he wrote.

While Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is right to laud Walsh’s book as a compelling manual for finance ministers today, the book should be compulsory reading for every politician who thinks their overriding role is “do something”.

When castigating his own side for caving into Green demands at the expense of working class Australians, Walsh recounted this joke: “Why do behavioural psychologists use lawyers instead of rats for laboratory experiments? Because there are some things rats will not do. Likewise, there should be some things politicians will not do.”


Victorian government settles East West Link deal for $339m

Green/Left anti-roads zealots hit the pockets of Victorians hard

Victoria has actually sunk up to $900 million into the dumped East West Link, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy says.

The state government announced a $339 million deal to axe the $6.8 billion road project this morning.

Mr Guy said as well as the $339 million already spent by the East West Connect consortium and the $81 million in finance costs, another $400-$500 million has been spent by the state government. “These sunk costs by government include land acquisitions, project development and bid costs,” Mr Guy said.

The decision was economic vandalism that would set back Australia’s fastest growing city, he said.

“There will be no major infrastructure project underway in Victoria for years.” Former treasurer Michael O’Brien said the state government spent $190 million in 2013/14 on land acquisition and project costs, with another $290 million set for 2014/15.

The Federal Government slammed the deal with the East-West Link consortium not to build the road as “an obscenity’’ that will cost 7000 jobs.

The Victorian government this morning announced it had brokered a deal with the companies involved in the project, taking on a $3 billion credit facility while the road’s proposed builders walk away with $339m in already incurred costs.

A further $81 million in fees will be absorbed by the state government, after it was spent to set up a credit facility to borrow the project costs.

Federal Social Services Minister Scott Morrison described the payment as “an obscenity” when there were more pressing community needs, such as combating youth homelessness.

“For the Victorian government to spend $420 million to pay to a company not to build a road is an obscenity, and Bill Shorten is linked up with that obscenity in his support for Daniel Andrews’ decision on this,” Mr Morrison said.

“Taxpayers in Victoria and right around the country, when there are so many more worthy needs, would just be shaking their heads.”

The Prime Minister said he was dismayed by Victoria’s decision to not proceed with the project, accusing the Labor state government of damaging investor confidence in Australia.

“The Victorian Government’s decision to abrogate contractual responsibilities sets a dangerous precedent for future projects and threatens further investment in much-needed infrastructure in our country,’’ Tony Abbott said in a joint statement with Jamie Briggs, the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure.

“Australia can’t afford to discourage private investment in infrastructure because government alone cannot afford to build the infrastructure that our country needs. There is no alternative to the East West Link in Victoria. The East West Link is the only major shovel-ready project in Victoria. It is the only answer to easing Victoria’s traffic congestion.

“The Victorian Premier has today destroyed 7000 jobs. And the Victorian Government’s actions today mean that Melbourne’s daily traffic gridlock simply gets worse.

“Victorians should feel let down by Daniel Andrews who promised before the election that no compensation would be paid.

“The tearing up of this contract damages Victoria’s reputation as a place to do business — as has been proven by revelations this week that the French and Spanish Governments have made direct representations of concern to Victoria.’’

The Victorian Premier said the deal would mean Victorians pay no compensation and legal opportunities for the consortium to seek compensation through the courts has been extinguished.

“This concludes the matter,” Mr Andrews said. “This extinguishes any claims for the future.”

The group has already been handed and spent $339m on design and pre-construction, including buying a number of properties which the government will now own.

Mr Andrews said the costs could not be recovered, but the government will review it to see if there has been any overspending within it. A further $110m held in cash by the consortium has not been spent and will be refunded.

Mr Andrews said Victoria would benefit from a $3bn credit facility established for the road project (with the $81m in fees already incurred) which would now be used for the Melbourne Metro rail project.

The government also released a redacted version of the East West Link’s contract and confirmation from Treasury that the total cost of the road’s eastern section would have been $10.7 billion over 30 years.

Treasurer Tim Pallas attacked his predecessor Michael O’Brien for having the “insufferable arrogance” to lock Victoria into the contract when it could have been held over until after last November’s election.

He pledged Victoria would maintain its AAA credit rating in next month’s budget.

Mr Andrews said he accepted there would have been serious consequences for Victoria’s business reputation if his government had followed through on its threat to use legislation to kill the contract, but said that had never been his first preference.

“It was always preferable for us to negotiate in good faith and to reach a good faith outcome,” he said. “That is exactly what we have done.

“As part of the settlement there is no compensation for profits forgone, no compensation for any losses that might have been incurred or will be in the future and this notion of opportunity cost all of those matters are settled once and for all as part of this agreement.”

He revealed the government is now planning to introduce legislation that would block future governments from signing significant contracts close to an election without bipartisan support, saying the Napthine government had recklessly rushed into a project “in an act of complete vandalism”.

Asked if the government would consider building the western part of the link — considered by many to be the most vital part of the project — Mr Andrews said he would not rule anything out and further infrastructure announcements would be made in the weeks ahead.

The Australian Industry Group welcomed the end of uncertainty surrounding the East West Link contract, said the group’s Victorian director Tim Piper.

“The completion of an agreement on the East West Link ensures a crisis of confidence in Government contracts has been averted,’’ he said.

“Ai Group welcomes the agreement being reached as it had the potential to cast a pall over the Victorian economy. The sanctity of these contracts is vital to business and the uncertainty around this deal had sent a terrible message to industry, both locally and around the world.

“Ai Group had not supported the contract being rescinded but it is important that both the Government and industry are now able to move forward with certainty. The Victorian Government needs to act quickly to get other projects under way in Victoria, to utilise the skills available and boost the economy.

“The way is now clear, to enable the Government to pursue its projects and regenerate confidence. This should be the end of such contracts being breached.’’

Greens MP Ellen Sandell said the hefty compensation could have been avoided if the Labor government had opposed the East West Link earlier.

“If the Labor Party had come out and opposed this project earlier on rather than flipping and flopping with their position we could have avoided over $300 million of taxpayer funds going to the consortium,” Ms Sandell told reporters. “But it’s a good outcome overall.”

Greens senator Janet Rice said Victorians should “savour this win for the community” and urged the federal Coalition to fund metropolitan public transport.

“Victoria’s traffic woes are never going to be solved by more and more polluting toll roads. The fact is that the only way to reduce congestion is to give people the choice of fast, frequent, affordable, reliable and safe public transport,” Senator Rice said.


Wot?  No global warming?

BoM Does science for once

Australia is now just one step short of declaring it faces a drought-inducing El Nino. The Bureau of Meteorology has moved its fortnightly El Nino Southern Oscillation tracker to the alert phase, meaning there is now at least a 70 per cent chance an El Nino will develop during the year.

The alert phase is the final step before the BOM declares the existence of an El Nino, a weather phenomenon that includes a warming of waters in the tropical central Pacific Ocean - which tends to lead to below average rainfall in winter and spring in eastern Australia. Vast areas of inland Queensland and NSW, western Victoria and southern South Australia are already in drought.

The BOM had its ENSO tracker at alert from October 2014 to January but dramatically reduced the chances of an El Nino to less than 25 per cent after a cooling trend was observed in the Pacific around Christmas.  [They were tasken by surprise. How surprising!]

In its latest fortnightly ENSO Wrap-up, issued on Tuesday, the BOM said Pacific ocean temperatures are warming while trade winds that normally push moist air towards Australia and weaker than normal.

"Tropical Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures are now just shy of El Nino levels. Large areas of warmer-than-average water below the surface are likely to keep these waters warm for some time," it said.

"This increases the odds of atmospheric factors coming into play, and hence further warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean."

All international climate models monitored by the Bureau indicate El Nino thresholds will be reached or exceeded by June.

But the BOM warned ENSO predictions can be less accurate in autumn than at other times of the year.


Sydney Airport refuses envy-driven Labor Party billboard

Sydney Airport is refusing to display a billboard that denounces tax evasion by multinational companies.  The airport claimed the proposed Labor billboard would contravene its policy on political advertising.

But the Labor Party, which tried to hoist the "pay their fair share" message on General Holmes Drive, was given a different explanation from APN Outdoor, owner of the billboard.

The party was told that Sydney Airport's objection was not political but that it would cast multinationals in a negative light for business travellers arriving at Kingsford-Smith.

Correspondence obtained by Fairfax Media shows an APN Outdoor employee clearly stated that the issue hinged on a perceived smear on multinationals.

"The issue was less that it was political but that the creative addresses foreign multinationals in a negative light, and because it is placed near the airport it's not the ideal location for that sort of message," APN Outdoor said in an email sent to an intermediary that had booked the billboard.

But APN Outdoor chief executive Richard Herring said on Wednesday that the issue was Sydney Airport's policy on political advertising.

After being shown the email, he said that a "junior employee" had presented their own interpretation but that explanation did "not represent the position of APN Outdoor or Sydney Airport".

The ALP, which had used the same billboard on General Holmes Drive during the NSW state election campaign, had planned to reuse it as part of a snap campaign to capitalise on public anger at corporate tax evasion launched on Saturday.

Executives of Google, Apple and Microsoft conceded during public hearings of the Senate inquiry into corporate tax dodgers last week that they paid hardly any company tax in Australia despite earning billions of dollars in sales.

A spokeswoman for Sydney Airport insisted that the proposed message conflicted with an airport policy on political advertising.

The airport allows political messages to be displayed during election campaigns but, she said, the "concessionaire must not display any advertisement containing obscene or offensive material or any material with political, religious or racial overtones" outside campaign periods.

Mr Shorten said: "We need to be talking about this important issue, not censoring debate.

"It is not fair that Australians work hard and pay tax while big multinationals get to play by different rules. It is not fair that Australian businesses are paying more tax in Australia than big multinationals."

Sydney Airport Corporation has maintained in recent years that it complies with all its tax obligations, but a Fairfax Media investigation found in 2013 that the airport, which took on high levels of debt after being sold to Macquarie Bank in 2002, paid no company tax in the decade between 2003 and 2013.

The company has argued that its "flow-through" structure, similar to a stapled property trust, passes the tax obligation on to investors.

Last year it was revealed that Sydney Airport had paid $69 million to the ATO to end an audit that raised questions over deductions claimed on billions of dollars' worth of redeemable preference shares used to finance the business.


15 April, 2015

Australia to deploy more than 300 troops to Iraq for training mission

More than 300 troops will ship out from Australia from tomorrow to train the Iraqi military, in a mission expected to take two years.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott made the announcement from Canberra today, stressing it was not a combat mission, but an operation to train the local military.

It is part of the wider effort to combat the threat of ISIL, in addition to 600 Australian personnel already in the air and on the ground.

"This is not a combat mission, but Iraq is a dangerous place," Mr Abbott said. "I can’t tell you that this is risk free."

The deployed troops will partner with 100 New Zealand military personnel in the mission, which is at the "express invitation" of the Iraqi government.

"What we’ll be doing is comparable to what other countries are doing," Mr Abbott said.

They will be based at the Taji military complex north of Baghdad.

Having slowed the advance of ISIL, the operation's aim is to support Iraq's Security Forces to reclaim and hold its territory.

The size and nature of Australia's overall commitment in Iraq would also remain under regular review, Mr Abbott said.

Australian personnel will not be working with local militias. "We don't work with irregulars, we don't work with informal, armed groups," Mr Abbott said.


Australia's renewable energy investment grinds to a halt

Still the lucky country.  No more waste of precious investment funds

Australia's large-scale renewable energy industry has entered an investment freeze, with just one project securing finance in the past six months amid political uncertainty, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The lone venture in the first three months of 2015 was worth just $6.6 million and following a complete drought during the December quarter, BNEF said. The project was a floating solar photovoltaic (PV) plant being developed in Jamestown, South Australia, by Infratech Industries.

The Australian large-scale clean energy industry has become practically uninvestable.

For the year to March, investment totalled $206.9 million, which was 90 per cent lower than the previous 12 months, the consultancy said.

"Investment has been stifled by policy uncertainty for over 13 months since the Abbott government's [Renewable Energy Target] review was announced on 17 February 2014," BNEF said. "The Australian large-scale clean energy industry has become practically uninvestable due to ongoing uncertainty caused by the government's review."

Pressure remains on the Abbott government to compromise over its plans to cut the current 2020 target by more than one-fifth to 32,000 gigawatt-hours a year by decade's end. The renewable energy industry, business groups and Labor have settled on a reduction to 33,500 gW-hours in a bid to resolve an impasse with the government.

"The government is determined to ensure the Renewable Energy Target is on a sustainable footing by recalibrating the target to a realistic and achievable level, which will ensure renewables continue to contribute to Australia's energy mix," a spokeswoman for Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said.

The 32,000 gW-hour offer "would see around 23 per cent of Australia's energy coming from renewables by 2020, and would lead to a doubling of large-scale renewable generation", she said.

Jobs go

The dive in investment comes as the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that more than 2000 jobs had been lost in the industry over the past two years. Some 12,590 people were employed full-time in the wind, solar and other renewable energy industries last year, down from almost 15,000 two years earlier.

The chill descending over the large-scale end of the sector has so far not extended to smaller-scale investments, such as rooftop solar panels. Australia added about 195 megawatts of new solar PV capacity in the March quarter, about 7 per cent more than a year earlier, Bloomberg said.

The consultancy also noted that Banco Santander, the world's third-largest clean energy lender, departed the Australian market in the March quarter in another sign of waning investor interest.

Globally, investment in clean energy totalled $US50.5 billion ($66.3 billion) in the first three months of 2015, down 15 per cent on a year earlier, Bloomberg reported last week. Weaker investment in China, Brazil and Europe accounted for the slowdown.

The government has said the electricity sector is already oversupplied because of a drop in power demand. Advocates of renewable energy say the government faces sovereign risk issues by unilaterally changing investment targets that affect existing projects.


Affordable housing shortage drags Australia down social rankings

These rankings are very subjective so should not be taken too seriously. Unduly high housing costs are a reality, however

Australia is the world's 10th most socially advanced nation but a lack of affordable housing is holding it back, a survey shows.

However, while Australia scores well on personal rights - such as freedom of speech, freedom of movement and political rights - it is falling well behind in housing affordability.

The study comes as spiralling real estate prices in Sydney fuel fears about a potentially dangerous housing bubble, especially if the Reserve Bank cuts interest rates again in the coming months.

The report also underscores that the end of the resources boom, illustrated by the falling iron ore price, has the potential to damage the living standards of Australians.

The Social Progress Index, which is published by the US not-for-profit group Social Progress Imperative, ranks Norway as the world's most socially advanced nation.

Norway is followed by Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, New Zealand and Canada.

At number ten, Australia is in the middle of the rankings focussed on 20 advanced economies, but it is ahead of bigger economies such as Britain, Germany, Japan and the US.

Housing affordability

However, Lynne Pezzullo, lead partner of health economics and social policy at the accounting firm Deloitte, said Australia only ranks 19th in the world when it comes to shelter and 51st in terms of housing affordability.

"Access to affordable housing is a key issue and Australia is not doing particularly well in that area, even though we have very low interest rates at the moment," Ms Pezzullo told AM.

"But importantly it's our housing pricing and our access into the housing market, both in terms of rent and also in terms of purchase, which are driving the poor performance we have in that area."

Ms Pezzullo said deepening worries about housing and basic shelter have potential psychological impacts that could ultimately lead to suicide.

"There's a link between housing affordability and homelessness and then through to domestic violence and suicide rates," Ms Pezzullo said.

"Australia performs particularly poorly relative to other countries in relation to our high suicide rates."

Ms Pezzullo also warned that the fallout from declining commodity prices could ultimately hurt living standards in Australia.

"Australia has had a really good free kick in the last three decades from particular factors, which have been very gracious to us," Ms Pezzullo argued.

"But this coming decade we've got the baby boomers exiting the population and therefore reducing participation rates, we haven't had major investments in infrastructure or micro reforms to benefit from and, of course, we've got the iron ore price in particular falling and the coal price falling.

"Other commodity prices are falling which means we have got particularly issues across the Australian economy - particularly in the Western Australian and Queensland economy."

The Social Progress Index is closely-watched because it does not use gross domestic product as the sole factor in measuring a nation's wealth.


Today Tonight Reports on Senate Inquiry Into the Great Wind Power Fraud

The Australian Senate Inquiry into the great wind power fraud kicked off on 30 March. And, fitting it was, that this band of merry men – Queensland National Senator, Matthew Canavan, WA Liberal, Chris Back, independents Nick Xenophon and John Madigan, Liberal Democrat, David Leyonhjelm, Family First Senator, Bob Day (and one, not-so-happy, Labor women, and wind power fraud apologist), Tasmanian ALP Senator, Anne Urquhart – set to work taking the lid off the wind industry’s “stinky pot”, at Portland, Victoria: the town next door to Pacific Hydro’s Cape Bridgewater disaster.

The hall was packed with people from threatened communities from all over Victoria and South Australia; and long-suffering wind farm neighbours from there – and from elsewhere – keen to hear Steven Cooper’s exposition on the findings of his groundbreaking study (see our posts here and here and here).

The hearing was the first opportunity for wind farm victims to lay out, in tragic detail, their misery and suffering before the Inquiry; and, despite efforts by Pac Hydro to derail the Inquiry by loading it with patsies and ‘friendlies’, the victims’ stories were heard, loud and clear.

Channel Seven’s Today Tonight put together a truly notable piece of journalism, in a report compiled by Rodney Lohse: a report that not only covered the Inquiry, but also Pacific Hydro’s scurrilous efforts to bury the evidence of its legal liability to its Cape Bridgewater victims; and the horrendous impact of its wind farm disaster on those long-suffering people. It’s the kind of report you’ll never see on your ABC

The Clean Energy Council (the PR arm of Infigen, aka Babcock and Brown – it’s now conveniently headed up by Infigen’s Miles George) is just the local spearhead of an International system designed to perpetuate the lies and myths needed to keep the greatest Ponzi scheme in history alive. Not able to go it alone, at Cape Bridgewater, Pac Hydro tried (without success) to use a shadowy PR outfit called “Futureye” to suppress local outrage

These Orwellian spruikers and media manipulators are backed by millions of dollars of money from wind power outfits; union super funds; and struggling giant fan makers, like Denmark’s Vestas. All of them are hell-bent on preventing anyone from getting any where near the true facts, especially in relation to incessant turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound

Notwithstanding the wind industry’s superior skills in the art of deception and subterfuge, Rodney Lohse has managed to not only smash into a few of the more critical wind industry lies, he’s helped to turn up the heat on people like Pac Hydro’s Andrew Richards

In Rodney’s report, the focus is clearly on the groundbreaking work of Steven Cooper; and Pac Hydro’s skullduggery aimed at covering it up


Australia a world leader in female representation on banknotes

TAKE a bow, Australia. You’re a world leader when it comes to the representation of women on banknotes.

Each note of the Australian currency features a woman on one side and a man on the other, apart from the five dollar note, which depicts the monarch on the front (who is, of course, currently a woman) and an image of Parliament House on the back.

Our legal tender hasn’t always been this female-friendly, of course. Before the introduction of polymer notes in the 1990s, the Australian currency was dominated by masculine faces, with the only exceptions being the Queen and Caroline Chisholm.

A survey by BBC News Magazine found that Australia now rates alongside Sweden when it comes to the equal representation of women on its currency, while other western nations including the US, the UK and Canada lag a long way behind.

The United States, in fact, rates alongside China, India, Indonesia and Israel for its representation of women on banknotes, with a grand tally of zero.

Other nations — including Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa — feature just one man on all their banknotes, and no female figures.

Another group of countries feature just one woman on their money. There is but one woman on the Japanese yen (out of four notes in circulation), one woman on the Swiss Franc (out of six notes) and one woman on the New Zealand dollar (out of five — although one of the other notes also features Queen Elizabeth).

How does the rest of the western world stack up? Pretty poorly.


14 April, 2015

Colin Barnett’s ‘tea party’ revolt over GST

With WA hard hit by the iron-ore price slump, it seems a strange time to hit them with something else.  Memories of Gillard hitting their cattle exports will also be stoking resentment

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett is threatening an unprecedented revolt over his state’s dwindling share of the GST, claiming he is preparing a policy of “disengagement” with the rest of the nation that would threaten federal programs and east-west trade links.

In his strongest comments yet on the issue, Mr Barnett said yesterday that his resource-rich state was facing its “Boston tea party ­moment” by being forced to give $3.7 billion in GST revenues to other states and territories this year.

“If the GST is not resolved, Western Australia’s future is not with the rest of Australia in a fin­ancial or economic sense,” he told The Australian in Singapore, where he is holding trade and ­investment talks. “Our future then shifts to Asia even more strongly than it is now.”

Mr Barnett’s comments came as federal Finance Minister Math­ias ­Cormann — a West Australian sen­ator — risked cabinet splits by advocating a proposal to divert more GST revenue to the state.

The potential rescue package to freeze the carve-up of $57.2bn in annual GST receipts at this year’s levels, first proposed by West Australian Treasurer Mike Nahan, is dividing the federal government ahead of Tony Abbott’s meeting with premiers on Friday.

State treasurers clashed at a meeting in Canberra on Thursday to discuss the tax proceeds, with Mr Nahan arguing for a federal ­intervention to overturn recommendations from the Com­mon­wealth Grants Commission released to the public that day.

It recommended Western Australia’s share drop from 37c of every dollar of GST collected in that state to 29.99c next year.

The Australian has calculated that the freeze advocated by ­Western Australia and Senator Cormann — and rejected by several treasurers from other states — would see Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania lose a combined $1.2bn in one year alone.

With the states at loggerheads over how to help Western Australia manage its dwindling revenues amid a collapse in iron ore prices, Senator Cormann said it was now up to federal parliament to resolve the issue affecting the state, ­although he pointedly warned Mr Barnett of the need to accelerate economic reforms.

The Prime Minister, however, has insisted that a resolution was up to the states, while Education Minister Christopher Pyne told The Australian yesterday his home state of South Australia would not back changes that left it worse off.

“The GST is a state tax and any changes to its distribution must be initiated by the states,” Mr Pyne said. “I can’t see South Australia supporting any change that reduces our share. Overall, every state is better off as GST revenue is up.”

In a hint of possible com­promise, Mr Barnett revealed he would settle for a 50 per cent floor in his state’s GST allocation — down from the 75 per cent for which he has previously lobbied. He warned Mr Abbott the Liberals would lose seats in Western Australia at next year’s federal election if its share of the GST continued to plummet below 30c in the dollar.

Mr Barnett said he believed that Mr Abbott had little idea of the anger in Western Australia over the issue and the ­potential implications for the ­federation.

“I think the commonwealth government grossly underestimates the tension that’s going to arise in the federation,” he said. “It’s not secession, but it will be tension and disengagement.”

Mr Barnett said his government would consider refusing to sign up to federal-state agreements and may slash its lucrative trade with the east coast. “Stand on the Eyre Highway one day and watch all the trucks and the trains coming from the east to the west full with products and cargo and going back empty — we are a huge customer of the east coast,” he said.

“If we shift to Asia then more of what is brought into Western Australia, more of our goods and services, will come from Asia and not from the east coast. Our Boston tea party will be shifting our economic focus to Asia at an accelerated rate.”

The Boston tea party was a resistance movement that culminated in the American Revolution and involved colonists protesting against paying a British tax on imported tea.

Mr Barnett also rejected “pathetic” suggestions by Joe Hockey, Senator Cormann and others that Western Australia should sell its electricity network and other assets as part of a GST rescue.

Senator Cormann told Sky News Australian Agenda yesterday that Western Australia needed to show “a sense of urgency” around microeconomic reforms, the sale of state-owned assets and the “deregulation of trading hours”.

“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the West Australian government has to do better in the pursuit of economic reform in Western Australia, in particular when it comes to the sale of government-owned assets that could perform better in private hands and where the capital release could be reinvested in productivity-enhancing infrastructure to boost economic growth in the future,” Senator Cormann said, adding that the issue was linked to the GST carve-up.

Mr Barnett was “personally offended by the attempts to link that to other areas of public policy and to try and intimidate”.

“The commonwealth is jealous of Western Australia. They are jealous of our economic success, they are jealous of our success in Asia and of the fact that the Australia-China relationship is essentially China-Western Australia,” he said.

Opposition Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen said the cabinet splits on the GST put the Treasurer “in the middle of an almighty mess of his own making”.

“A decision that is supposed to be for the Treasurer is now the subject of cabinet ministers mounting competing public arguments over what should be done,” Mr Bowen said.

The Commonwealth Grants Commission is tasked with applying a formula to allocate GST proceeds according to economic and social need to ensure “equalised” conditions for Australians. Western Australia has lost ground under the rules in recent years because of the wealth that flowed from the mining boom.

The formula revealed last Thursday would leave Western Australia with $1.9bn next year — a 14 per cent drop on this year. If Western Australia’s share was frozen at 4.2 per cent of the overall GST pool, as urged by Dr Nahan and endorsed by Senator Cormann, its payment would increase by $154 million.

NSW would also benefit from a freeze of distribution levels, with its payment forecast to be $535m more under last year’s carve-up. Queensland would be the biggest loser, with $577m at stake, followed by South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.

Because the GST pie is expected to grow by $3.5bn next year, all states would receive more than in 2014-15.


France urges Australia to keep climate commitment ahead of UN summit

What the bungling and unpopular French government says won't butter many parsnips in Australia  -- or anywhere else, I would think

The French government is urging Australia to stick to an international commitment to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

The appeal comes just a week before Prime Minister Tony Abbott sits down for talks with French president Francois Hollande in Paris, where climate is expected to be among the top issues discussed.

French ambassador to Australia Christophe Lecourtier told the ABC that France, which will host the pivotal UN Summit on Climate later this year, wanted Australia to put an "ambitious" commitment on the table sooner rather than later.

"Your country is a very influential country in the Asia Pacific region and you know that climate change is having tremendous consequences in the region," he said.

"We do believe Australia has a very important role to play during this conference, first of all because Australia has always been a strong promoter of the fight against climate change.

Have your say: do you think Australia should follow French advice and stick to the international commitments on climate change?
"Keeping temperature increase below two degrees in the coming years is a commitment and it's the commitment of 196 countries, so we do believe that it's the ultimate ambition for the world community if we want to leave a liveable planet for the next generation."

But it is unclear if the Federal Government remains committed to keeping long-term temperature rises below the two degree goal as agreed in Cancun in 2010.

The website for the Department of Foreign Affairs states that "governments agreed that emissions need to be reduced to ensure global temperature increases are limited to below two degrees Celsius".

However, the Federal Government's issues paper for the post 2020 targets released two weeks ago made no mention of the two degree goal.

Its Energy White Paper released last week highlighted the economic opportunities from predicted increases in fossil fuel use that the International Energy Agency forecasted could lead to a temperature increase of up to four degrees.

The Climate Action Tracker predicts that on current trends, the global mean temperature is expected to rise between 2.9 and 5.2 degrees Celsius by 2100.

When asked by the ABC, neither the Foreign Minister nor the Environment Minister would directly respond to the question of "whether Australia remains committed to the goal of keeping long-term temperature rises below two degrees".

On Friday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia would play a "positive" role in the lead-up to the Paris talks.

"Australia contributes about 1 per cent of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions and so we will take action that is proportionate to our global greenhouse gas emissions," she said.

One target the Government is talking about is its 2020 Kyoto emissions reduction goal.

To meet it, Australia will need to reduce emissions from 2000 levels by 5 per cent.

It is a target the Government has been extremely confident about meeting and even potentially exceeding.  "Australia is on track to meet our 2020 targets," Ms Bishop said.  "Not every country, in fact not many countries can claim they will meet their 2020 targets.

"So Australia will attend Paris in a very good position having, I believe, made significant progress towards meeting our 2020 target."

The Government's confidence is based on the fact that Australia has met its previous international targets.


Put the acid on Great Barrier Reef doomsayers

By Patrick Moore (A co-founder and former leader of Greenpeace)

There is nothing more symbolic of the natural beauty of Australia than the Great Barrier Reef.

This makes it a powerful emotional tool to strike fear into the hearts of citizens. The “ocean acidification” hypothesis, that corals and shellfish will die due to higher levels of carbon dioxide dissolved in the sea, is often used to stoke those fears.

Here’s why I don’t believe there is a shred of evidence to support these claims.

When the slight global warming that occurred between 1970 and 2000 came to a virtual standstill, the doomsayers adopted ­“climate change”, which apparently means all extreme weather events are caused by human emissions of CO2.

Cold, hot, wet, dry, wind, snow and large hailstones are attributed to humanity’s profligate use of fossil fuels. But the pause in global warming kept on and became embarrassing around 2005.

Something dire was needed to prop up the climate disruption narrative. “Ocean acidification” was invented to provide yet another apocalyptic scenario, only this one required no warming or severe weather, just more CO2 in the atmosphere.

The story goes that as CO2 ­increases in the atmosphere the oceans will absorb more of it and this will cause them to become acidic — well, not exactly, but at least to become less basic. This in turn is predicted to dissolve the coral reefs and kill the oysters, clams, mussels and algae that have calcareous shells. It was named “global warming’s evil twin”.

Seawater in the open ocean is typically at a pH of 8.0-8.5 on a scale of 0-14, where 0 is the most acidic, 14 is most basic and 7 is ­neutral. Ocean acidification from increased CO2 is predicted to make the ocean less basic, perhaps to pH 7.5 under so-called worst-case projections.

How do I know that increased CO2 will not kill the coral reefs and shellfish? Let me count the ways.

* First, contrary to popular ­belief, at 400 parts per million (0.04 per cent), CO2 is lower now in the atmosphere than it has been during most of the 550 million years since modern life forms emerged during the Cambrian ­period. CO2 was about 10 times higher then than it is today.

Corals and shellfish evolved early and have obviously managed to survive through eras of much higher CO2 than present levels. This alone should negate the “predictions” of species extinction from CO2 levels nowhere near the historical maximum.

* Second, due to its high concentration of basic elements such as calcium and magnesium, sea­water has a powerful buffering ­capacity to prevent large swings in pH due to the addition of CO2.

This self-correcting capacity of seawater will ensure the pH will remain well within levels conducive to calcification, the process whereby shells and coral structures are formed. Marine shells are largely made of calcium carb­onate, the carbon of which is ­derived from the CO2 dissolved in the seawater.

* Third, and most interesting, there are freshwater species of clams and mussels that manage to produce calcareous shells at pH 4-5, well into the acidic range. They are able to do this because a mucous layer on their shell allows them to control the pH near the surface and to make calcification possible beneath the mucous layer.

The “ocean acidification” story depends only on a chemical hypo­thesis whereas biological factors can overcome this and create conditions that allow calcification to continue. This is corroborated by the historical record of millions of years of success in much higher CO2 environments.

* Fourth, ocean acidification proponents invariably argue that increased CO2 will also cause the oceans to warm due to a warming climate. Yet they conveniently ­ignore the fact that when water warms the gases dissolved in it tend to “outgas”.

It’s the same phenomenon that happens in a glass of cold water taken from the fridge and placed on a counter at room temperature. The bubbles that form on the ­inside of the glass as it warms are the gases that were dissolved in the colder water. So in theory a warmer sea will have less CO2 dissolved in it than a cooler one.

* Finally, it is a fact that people who have saltwater aquariums sometimes add CO2 to the water in order to increase coral growth and to increase plant growth. The truth is CO2 is the most important food for all life on Earth, including marine life. It is the main food for photosynthetic plankton (algae), which in turn is the food for the entire food chain in the sea.

For some reason, the proponents of catastrophic global warming ignore this fact. They talk of “carbon pollution” as if CO2 is a poison. If there were no CO2 in the global atmosphere there would be no life on this planet. Surely, that should be enough to permit questioning the certainty of those who demonise this essential molecule.

Many climate activists are telling us ocean acidification is decimating coral reefs and shellfish. Have they read the story of ­remote Scott Reef off Western Australia? The ARC Centre of ­Excellence for Coral Reef Studies reports that in a brief 15 years this huge reef recovered completely from massive bleaching in 1998. Reefs go through cycles of death and recovery like all ecosystems.

We are told CO2 is too high and we will suffer for it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We should celebrate CO2 as the giver of life it is.


Replacements named for Medicare Locals

Very fuzzy what good this will do anyone

THIRTY-ONE new Primary Health Networks will replace Labor's 61 Medicare Locals across Australia from July 1, the government says.

HEALTH Minister Sussan Ley said on Saturday the successful applications to run the new PHNs had been selected following a thorough tender process.

She said the 31 new PHNs would cost almost $900 million and generally align with state Local Hospital Networks to ensure better integration between primary and acute care services.

Ms Ley said the government wanted to ensure Australians could access the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

"Primary Health Care networks form a core part of our plan," she said in a statement.

Labor launched Medicare Locals in 2011 to better co-ordinate delivery of healthcare, making it easier for patients to negotiate the maze of services.

A review commissioned by the coalition found a few high performing Medicare Locals but most were not fulfilling their intended role. They were scrapped in last year's budget.

Ms Ley said many of the successful PHNs were consortiums harnessing skills and knowledge from a range of sources, including health providers, universities, private health insurers and some of the more-successful former Medicare Locals.

She said the new PHNs would concentrate on delivery of frontline services not backroom bureaucracy, improving the overall operational efficiency of the network by 30 per cent.

"By aligning PHNs with state Local Hospital Networks we also aim to reduce the merry-go-round for many patients with chronic or complex conditions between primary care and hospital treatment," she said.

Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association chief executive Alison Verhoeven said a challenging job was ahead to get the new PHNs up and running by July 1.

"Maintaining patient services, for example in mental health, must be a priority as transition plans are implemented and organisations are developed," she said in a statement.

Shadow health minister Catherine King said the government had opened the door for a fundamental attack on Medicare by awarding contracts for four PHNs to consortia involving private health insurers.

She said that gave private health insurers a direct say in primary health care in these areas, opening the way for interference in relationships between doctors and patients and expanding their reach into general practice.

"Allowing private health insurers to run PHNs is the first step towards a two-tiered health system with health insurance members able to jump the queue," she said in a statement.


A REAL challenge

Cross-continent trip across Australia in 'world's worst car'

A group of European documentary film-makers will soon set out from Perth to cross the country in what could be the world's most notoriously unreliable car - a Communist-era East German Trabant.

Their Top-Gear style antics will be captured in a documentary film to be shown across eastern and central Europe.

The Czech, Polish and Slovakian car enthusiasts have already completed epic road adventures across central Asia, South America and South Africa and are now preparing to conquer 20,000 kilometres of harsh conditions in Australia and South East Asia.

What makes their transcontinental treks remarkable is that they are completed in a Soviet-era Trabants, an East German vehicle many consider to be the worst car ever made.

The Trabant is the cheapest car in Eastern Europe and the whole body of the car is made from plastic so it cannot rust.

The team's leader, Czech Dan Priban said the Trabant was is the laughing stock of the car world - but that is precisely why his team loved it.

"It's a very small car - it has a two-stroke engine. It sounds like old motorbike so it's very, very weak. It's [the] most horrific car in Eastern Europe and we love it!"

Since 2007 the antics of Priban and his team have featured in several documentaries, gaining them a cult following in central and eastern Europe.

"In South America we got a deal with Czech television and made a TV series —some compare [it] with Top Gear but [with a] very, very, very low budget," Priban said.

"People in Slovakia love it, and some people in Poland. People in Germany know about us. In our small countries people like it and people love it."

Over the next four months Priban and his drivers hope to drive their two yellow Trabants, a Polish Maluch and some motorbikes 20,000 kms across Australia, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

However the team have already hit one hurdle ahead of their departure from Perth — Australian customs and quarantine.

"There is a lot [of] bureaucracy. We [have shipped] cars to Africa, shipped cars to South America and every time there's a problem in the port. But in Australia everything [is] very, very, very slow," Priban said.

The drivers hope to eventually depart Perth in the next week, driving across the country to Sydney and then up to Darwin.

Mr Priban is already making a preemptive plea to Australians for early roadside assistance.

"When somebody in Australia will see the funny yellow cars, stuck in the middle of the road please help us —because we can get stuck anywhere."


13 April, 2015

Safe as houses: why the bubble is no trouble

In a place called Success, a suburb 23km south of the Perth GPO, a marvel of modern engineering was on show last year when 14 workers and a giant crane assembled a block of 77 apartments in the space of just 10 days.

The six-storey block is made up of 96 modules that were manufactured by Melbourne’s Hickory Group in its sprawling Brooklyn factory, then shipped to Perth. Hickory is one of several cutting-edge companies that are taking the Lego approach to rapidly address Australia’s housing shortage. Last December, a 303-room student residence went up in Darwin in 16 days.

However, such innovative and market-led responses to surging house prices don’t fit the narrative of the calamitous collapse ahead that has dominated discussion of Australia’s housing boom in some sections of the media.

Instead of fearing the housing boom, Australians should really think of it as the best thing to happen to our economy since the mining boom. While many Western countries are gripped by deflation, surging house prices in Australia are proving to be a powerful driver of investment and growth.

This, in fact, is what happened with the mining boom, when record commodity prices triggered a tsunami of investment in new resources projects, and it’s exactly what is happening right now in the housing market.

Just as Australia made it through the mining boom without the fuelling of an inflationary bubble, a similar virtuous economic cycle is emerging for the national economy — provided our bank regulation remains robust.

Despite talk of a property crash, Australian house prices have suffered only minor corrections on two occasions in the past 50 years; never a crash.

Like the mining boom, the housing boom is shaping up to be a a big job generator; in fact, housing construction is much more labour intensive than mining. In the year to December, building construction grew by 9 per cent in real terms, helping partially to offset a 13 per cent decline in engineering construction that reflects the end of the mining boom. The residential sector was behind all of this growth.

Although this trend is encouraging, economic growth remains weak and unemployment has been rising steadily. This is why the Reserve Bank of Australia has been cutting its official cash rate to record lows, and may cut further.

RBA governor Glenn Stevens said this week that domestic demand growth remained “quite weak” as a result of falling business investment, while inflation remained at a benign 1.7 per cent, below the 2-3 per cent target. Even when volatile items are removed inflation is only 2.1 per cent.

The forward indicators show the market is responding to these lower rates by marshalling more investment into the housing sector. This is good for home buyers and it is very good for boosting growth in the broader economy.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that approvals of new dwellings grew at an annual rate of 14 per cent in the year to February, but apartments and other non-house dwellings (the ABS calls them dwellings excluding houses) increased by a staggering 36 per cent.

Australia is on track to see a record level of 200,000-plus approvals this financial year. Dwelling approvals are a forward indicator of construction work that will take place during the next 12 to 24 months.

But approvals of detached houses, after rising sharply in 2013, have been flat during the past year. This reflects the shortage of new land on the fringes of major cities, Sydney and Melbourne in particular. As the population of these cities approaches five million and 4.5 million respectively, it’s no longer possible to add to housing supply in the way we have done since the end of World War II.

Now, there are almost as many non-house dwellings being approved for construction as there are detached homes, 9441 houses as against 9102 other dwellings in February. The lack of supply response for detached homes indicates that prices for these properties are unlikely to experience a sharp correction.

Evidently, the composition of Australian housing in being transformed at a rapid rate in response to these price signals. This means that many first-home buyers are opting for an apartment rather than a detached home because the latter is becoming unaffordable in the major cities. This trend need not be seen as the end of the Australian dream; it’s simply the market responding in a dynamic way to make housing more affordable and sustainable. It’s not as though young families will be trapped in apartments forever. These investments are a stepping stone to a detached home, which may become more affordable down the track as baby boomers retire and downsize into smaller homes (or indeed apartments).

But the recent surge in Sydney and Melbourne house prices has worried some analysts, who claim we are in the midst of a debt-fuelled housing price bubble that could end in a US-style collapse. The Australian Financial Review columnist Christopher Joye has been a prominent proponent of bubble theory, as has bank economist Saul Eslake, who recently was quoted in the same paper comparing Australia’s housing market to Japan’s disastrous bubble in the late 1980s. Eslake said that rising debt levels, rather than boosting investment, were only driving up house prices. Even though growth and inflation were subdued, he warned against any further rate cut by the RBA.

Likewise, the ABC’s business editor Ian Verrender said last month that “huge property prices lie at the heart of our economic ills. And if there’s another interest rate cut it will only entrench an underclass.” He also has cited the absence of a tax on the family home and “an open slather negative gearing policy” as the causes of over-valued housing. (This attack on negative gearing overlooks the effective subsidy it provides to the rental market, mak­ing rent on most homes cheaper than mortgage repayments).

But one thing that will surely stem surging house prices is the supply response, a factor ignored by the bubble boosters, and this is already happening in a way that will make our major cities more affordable, sustainable and efficient places to live and work.

Instead of demanding new infrastructure such as low-density detached homes, medium-density housing makes better use of existing infrastructure.

BIS Shrapnel property analyst Angie Zigomanis says that rising prices are working to boost investment and secure more housing supply. “Eventually that supply will satisfy demand, and the market will correct itself,” he says.

This supply response means that there will be some correction on prices in overheated markets, and investors in apartments are most at risk. “There will be some getting their fingers burnt, more so in the apartment market. People buy in today’s market but the apartment will be completed in tomorrow’s market when it may be oversupplied,” he says.

He argues that if the RBA is looking to make further rate cuts then it could introduce further restrictions on lending. Prudential policies similar to those in New Zealand, which constrain the level of loans with high loan-to-value ratios, could prevent further excessive price growth and therefore limit the potential for a larger house price fall, he says.

Another option could be to restrict valuation ratios on loans of more than $800,000, for example, as this would prevent borrowers from becoming over-extended in expensive markets.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority is watching things closely. It advised lenders last December to introduce an interest rate buffer of at least two percentage points and to limit their portfolio growth to 10 per cent. It also has let them know that they will be more closely monitored at this critical moment.

“APRA has indicated it will be further increasing the level of supervisory oversight on mortgage lending in the period ahead,” the regulator said.

A closer analysis of RBA lending data indicates most banks and borrowers are remaining reasonably prudent. Even though debt to household income has risen to more than 150 per cent, it is still below its pre-global financial crisis level and borrowers are showing that they remain risk averse.

Since late 2010, excess mortgage repayments have been running at more than 2 per cent of loans and they have equalled or exceeded scheduled payments in each quarter since then. The household saving ratio, which has been around zero before the GFC, has since risen to about 10 per cent and remains at that level.

Banks’ non-performing loans, which rose steadily between 2004 and 2010 to just under 1 per cent, have since been falling steadily for owner-occupiers and investors alike.

The incidence for the latter has fallen to about 0.5 per cent.

While there’s no doubt that some lenders are trying aggressively to compete for business, one indication of the cautious approach taken by Australian banks is their reluctance to finance modular builds, such as the Success apartment block, because they perceive them as too risky. If the project goes bust, the construction work could be sitting in a factory rather than on site, as is the case with a conventional build.

This is why China’s CIMC, one of the world’s biggest makers of shipping containers, has been using its substantial balance sheet to take on the senior lending role for modular projects in Australia during the construction and early occupation phase.

During the mining boom, CIMC added 23,000 rooms to the Pilbara and central Queensland mining regions and has now turned its attention to fill gaps in the domestic housing market. In the past 12 months it has built hotels and student accommodation.

John Zendler, CIMC Modular Building System’s Australian general manager says the cost-effective and faster build-time means that many marginal projects that may not stack up with conventional building can go ahead.

Last December, when CIMC assembled a 303-room student residence at Charles Darwin University in just 16 days, the project went ahead in one of the tightest job markets in the country and has helped to ease pressure in the rental market, where lower-end rents have been rising rapidly.

Unlike Hickory, all of CIMC’s modules come fully finished from China. Even so, about 50 per cent of the building cost involves conventional building work, such as building structure, installation and finishing works to the modules, says Zendler. Instead of detracting from local jobs, these modular builds can boost growth in the economy by facilitating construction that otherwise may not have gone ahead.

“There is an affordability crisis and modular can play a very big role, especially in building high rise residential,” says Zendler.

CIMC now has six new projects on its books with a combined total of 990 apartments.

Jemma Green, a researcher with Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute, has studied the Success project in detail, and says it clearly demonstrates the benefit of the modular approach in responding to the housing boom. The funding costs and construction time were about 35 per cent below that of a conventional build. The total build time for the block—from earthworks to final fittings—was just under 12 months.

The modular approach won’t solve all of Australia’s housing needs, but it surely demonstrates how strong demand—and the profit incentive—can be the catalyst for innovation and invention, making housing supply more responsive to demand pressures.

Veteran developer Harry Triguboff, who has built more apartments than anyone else in Australia during the past 50 years, has recently become a man of steel with his latest 30-storey apartment complex on Sydney’s lower north shore.

Working with OneSteel, Triguboff is taking the Meccano approach by assembling the frame with 850 tonnes of prefabricated steel, the first for a residential building in Australia.

Even though steel buildings make the design more limited when compared with those made from concrete, the octogenarian says he wanted to try the new technique simply because it allowed him to cut the build time by six months.

In a hot property market, where cost pressures can derail projects and the wider economy, faster and more efficient building techniques are proving to be an effective way of responding to demand while keeping the economy on track.

It’s worth repeating: this is good for home buyers, and it’s good for growth.


The RET bomb is set to explode

David Leyonhjelm

You know you have a dog of a policy when the government, opposition and various minor parties agree it should be reformed, but the Greens and their cheer squad think it’s great.

That policy is the Renewable Energy Target. What seemed like a good idea – to encourage renewable energy – is now a mess of rising energy costs and a distorted electricity market.

Renewable electricity generators have received $9 billion in industry subsidies over the 15-year life of the RET, in addition to the price they receive for the electricity they produce. Without change, a further $22 billion will be paid by 2030. In the words of the Warburton Review, the RET is “a cross-subsidy that transfers wealth from electricity consumers and other participants in the electricity market to renewable energy companies”.

The renewable energy legislation was designed to ensure renewable energy makes up 20 per cent of the energy market by 2020. Electricity retailers must purchase Renewable Energy Certificates – from power companies that generate renewable energy – for at least 20 per cent of the power they sell. Each certificate (representing 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity) currently trades for around $40, which retailers then add to your electricity bill.

However, the legislation also contains a hard target for renewable energy of 45,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh), which at the time was assumed would equate to 20 per cent of the market. Due to falling consumption, this is now expected to be closer to 30 per cent. The problem is – leaving aside small-scale solar (ie rooftop panels on houses), which is allocated 4000 GWh of the target – we currently generate just 16,000 GWh of large-scale renewable energy towards satisfying the target.

Put another way, in 15 years we have incorporated 16,000 GWh of new renewable energy into the RET, leaving just five years to generate another 25,000 GWh to meet the large-scale target of 41,000 GWh. Nobody believes this is possible.

If retailers cannot purchase enough certificates, the legislation requires that a penalty charge of $65/MWh be imposed. With retail margins added, this will nearly triple the cost of the scheme to electricity retailers, who will pass it on to consumers. Electricity prices will skyrocket.

Everyone with knowledge of the electricity market knows this is a political time bomb about to go off, most likely within 18 months when interim targets are not met. Electricity retailers have for some time been refusing to enter new long-term agreements to purchase power (and Renewable Energy Certificates) because they know the scheme will implode due to bill shock and political pain. The public will not stand for increases in electricity prices of up to 20 per cent.

With this problem looming and negotiations between the government and opposition stalled, late last year I developed a detailed reform package for the RET. Since most opposition to reform is based on cuts to the 41,000 GWh large-scale target, my plan is to maintain this but to recognise established hydro-generation in the calculations – essentially Snowy Hydro and Hydro Tasmania – which together produce about 15,000 GWh. There would also be no cap on small-scale solar generation, which is expected to grow to 13,000 GWh.

My proposal would ensure the renewable target is achieved, with no penalty charges kicking in.

There would be strings attached for existing hydro-generators, though. To be allowed to produce valuable Renewable Energy Certificates they would have to commit to upgrading their existing generators, thereby introducing around 3000 GWh of new renewable generation into the grid.

The only losers would be the major wind-energy generators, which are eagerly waiting to build dozens of new wind farms in an effort to meet the target and get on the subsidy gravy train. Against that, many people are hoping these are never built, among them those who suffer adverse health effects from the inaudible infrasound they generate, plus those (like me) who hate to see our majestic eagles and hawks splattered all over the countryside.

The importance of reasonably priced electricity cannot be overstated. My plan will reinforce Australia’s commitment to renewable energy while solving the RET problem before the time bomb goes off.


Senior NSW Labor officials call for investigation of federal leadership ballot

Two of NSW Labor's most senior officials are pushing for an investigation of possible rorting of the 2013 national ballot that saw Bill Shorten elected party leader, after revelations the addresses for dozens of voting papers were altered.

NSW Labor assistant secretary John Graham and the state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Tim Ayres, who is also on the national executive, have written to general secretary Jamie Clements calling for the move.

Mr Graham also wants more details about the involvement of Labor Senator Sam Dastyari's office in changing the mailing addresses of scores of leadership ballots, including to the addresses of an accused branchstacker.

Mr Ayres says the revelation about ballot changes "calls into question the integrity and transparency of the NSW Branch's membership system, the conduct of the staff of the NSW Branch and the conduct of a Senator."

In February Fairfax Media revealed that the ALP's internal Review Tribunal found the mailing addresses for 50 ballot papers in the leadership ballot between Mr Shorten and Anthony Albanese were altered by NSW Labor head office.

The changes were made at the request of Michael Buckland, then a staff member of Labor Senator Dastyari, who is a senior member of the right faction that backed Mr Shorten in the ballot.

Twenty ballot papers were diverted to Hicham Zraika, an Auburn councillor who the tribunal found engaged in "unworthy conduct" during an unrelated preselection for the state seat of Auburn, in which he was accused of branchstacking offences.

He was subsequently suspended from the ALP for six months.

Senator Dastyari has repeatedly denied knowledge of the request to change the mailing addresses for the leadership ballots, which in itself would not have affected the result.

The tribunal heard membership address changes were requested in an email from Mr Buckland to NSW Labor head office, but the email was never produced and Mr Buckland did not give evidence.

On Wednesday, Mr Graham wrote to Mr Clements proposing the NSW administrative committee instruct the tribunal to "investigate this matter further".

This should involve a "full independent audit" of membership records "to determine exactly how many changes to membership addresses took place during the ballot period".

The letter, obtained by Fairfax Media seeks the whereabouts of Mr Buckland's email, precise details of how many ballots were changed and proposes that the Australian Electoral Commission conduct future ballots.

"What is to stop similar events occurring in the ballot for National President about to be conducted by the Labor Party?" Mr Graham asks.

The letter from Mr Ayres, sent in February, also seeks an audit and requests a "full report" on the matter be provided to the NSW administrative committee, which meets on Friday.

On Thursday, Mr Clements said there was no need for an independent audit.

"I have provided Mr Ayres and Mr Graham documented proof to assure them that the irregularities identified by the Review Tribunal were isolated to the Auburn electorate alone," he said.

Mr Clements said Mr Buckland's email does not exist and that the request was made by phone. He would write to the electoral commission  seeking a quote for having it run future Labor ballots before a decision is made.

A spokesman for Mr Shorten and Senator Dastyari declined to comment.


Union shame file embarrasses Qld. Labor premier Palaszczuk


AT THE time it seemed innocent enough. Annastacia Palaszczuk giggled as she posed for a selfie with Dave Hanna at a union rally outside Parliament House last month.

It was the same Hanna, president of the notorious CFMEU, who last year was adversely named at the Royal Commission into Union Governance and Corruption.

Hanna was accused not only of workplace breaches but of engaging in criminal activity by threatening Hindmarsh Constructions from going about its lawful business during the building of an apartment tower, Brooklyn on Brookes, in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley last year.

“Mr Hanna engaged in criminal activity, committing offences under s359 of the Criminal Code (Qld),” the royal commission heard.

Threatening to cause detriment to another is an offence carrying a five-year jail term, the commission noted.

Hanna is well known in Labor circles and was boss of the Labor Unity faction and is a member of the Queensland Central Executive of the Council of Unions which dictates Labor policy.

He was secretary of the Builders Labourers Federation before it merged with the CFMEU.

I believe the Premier is an honourable woman and I am not for a moment suggesting she was involved in any impropriety with Hanna or other CFMEU officials facing charges.

However the cosy selfie confirms the deep links between her party and the union described in Parliament as a criminal organisation renowned for its “extortion, thuggery and lawlessness”.

Palaszczuk is, like many in her Cabinet, close to the unions. She “paid tribute” to the unions in State Parliament in 2013.

She lavished praise on the CFMEU, the BLF, the AWU and the AMWU “for standing up for workers’ rights in this state”.

Really? In the royal commission’s interim report, former High Court judge John Dyson Heydon detailed how the CFMEU raided a workers’ welfare fund and siphoned money to the ALP.

The judge added: “The evidence indicates that a number of Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union officials seek to conduct their affairs with a deliberate disregard for the rule of law.

“That evidence is suggestive of the existence of a pervasive and unhealthy culture within the CFMEU, under which the law is to be deliberately evaded, or crashed through as an irrelevance.”

I hope Palaszczuk is embarrassed to read that. Heydon also said union officials “prefer to lie rather than reveal the truth and betray the union”.

“The reputations of those who speak out about union wrongdoing become the subject of baseless slurs and vilification,” the inquisitor said.

As reported on these pages on March 28, Heydon also recommended criminal charges against CFMEU Queensland secretary Michael Ravbar.

The CFMEU has been fined more than $5 million for breaches of various laws since 2000. In the same period the CFMEU donated more than $9 million to the ALP.

It also funds sinister groups like GetUp!

So the workers pay and pay. So do the cowardly building companies who pay in to dubious union welfare funds for the sake of industrial harmony.

Decent Labor folk like Martin Ferguson have demanded the CFMEU be “brought to heel”, saying its behaviour in the Victorian, Queensland and WA branches was intolerable and bad for investment.

Ferguson spoke after Fair Work Building and Construction director Nigel Hadgkiss warned last week about increasing lawlessness in the industry, saying 75 CFMEU officials were before the courts, facing 403 alleged breaches of workplace laws.

With many breaches in Queensland, Palaszczuk has some explaining to do.

So do Labor leaders everywhere, especially Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who has deep links with the CFMEU and went into bat for it when he was ACTU president.

Federal Parliament was told in September last year that the ALP was consorting with criminals by protecting the CFMEU.

The Senate was told the CFMEU had links to criminals and bikie gangs, a point not lost on Campbell Newman, who was howled down for saying so.

“It now appears that there is only one degree of separation between the CFMEU and organised crime figures, a murdered standover man, bikie gang and forces, and a jihadist executioner,” Bridget McKenzie, Nationals senator for Victoria, told Parliament.

She added: “The current attitude of the CFMEU harks back to the worst days of the BLF. However, the close collaboration with organised crime now makes the modern CFMEU far more dangerous than the BLF was at its worst.

“Never before has this union been so brazen and never before has the Labor Party been so craven. Consider the reasons why the Labor Party opposes stronger workplace laws in the building industry.”

When will Labor show some decency and cut ties with this anti-social gang?


The Ban Has Been Lifted On Raw Milk Cheeses In Australia

You may have missed the news but as of February this year, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand now allows cheese makers to use unpasteurised, or “raw”, milk in their products. It was previously rather difficult to get your hands on raw milk cheeses, but with the ban history, the doors are well and truly open.

The restrictions surrounding the production and sale of raw milk cheeses went under review in late 2014 and at that time, a decision was expected to arrive in a few months. True to its word, the FSANZ has since eased the rules.

For the curious, the organisation has a handy FAQ available explaining what the changes mean for businesses as well as consumers. If you take a peek, you’ll see the amendments don’t just apply to making and purchasing raw milk cheeses locally, but snapping up the stuff from abroad too:

In February 2015 further changes were made to the standard that allow for the production and importation of a greater range of raw milk cheeses where defined safety outcomes can be met, including ensuring pathogens are able to be controlled during manufacture and are unable to grow in the final product.

If you’re wondering about raw milk in general, nothing has changed; raw cow’s milk sold for consumption is still banned in all states.


12 April, 2015

Australia is on a road to economic ruin unless politicians can act in national interest, business groups warn

THE political crisis that has engulfed the federal parliament for the past 18 months will lead Australia down a “road of economic despair”, the nation’s leading industry and business groups have warned in an unprecedented call to action.

With the Reserve Bank considering another interest rate cut today as a result of collapsing iron ore prices and fears the economy was stalling, the country’s largest employer groups have issued an extraordinary joint statement demanding all sides of politics start acting in the national interest.

Warning that Australians’ standard of living was in jeopardy because of a lack of political courage to engage in reform, the statement petitioned all sides of politics to govern in the tradition of the “reform giants” — Hawke/Keating and Howard/Costello.

Taking aim at the Abbott government for signalling it would pull back from further reform in the May budget, the group of nine also criticised Labor for focusing solely on “budget fairness” and cited past senates as contributing to Australia’s economic welfare, rather than wilfully damaging it.

Rather than continue to focus on spending cuts — more than $20 billion of which Labor and the senate continue to block — Treasurer Joe Hockey is signalling regressive measures such as tax hikes to balance the budget, including cutting tax concessions for superannuation.

“With the Prime Minister signalling a ‘dull’ budget and the Opposition Leader continuing to focus almost exclusively on budget ‘fairness’ you could be mistaken for thinking there is no significant problem with the state of the nation’s finances,” the statement said.

“It’s a comforting thought that growth is somehow automatic and that year in, year out, despite our many challenges we will continue to improve our lot.

“The reality of where prosperity comes from, however, is much more sobering and if neglected will set us on a path to economic despair.“

The joint statement was authored by business groups including the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Australian Food & Grocery Council, Australian Industry Group, Australian Pipeline Industry Association, Business Council of Australia, Minerals Council of Australia, National Farmers Federation, Property Council of Australia and Restaurant & Catering Australia.

They represent the largest employers in the country and the bulk of Australia’s economic and industrial activity.

“There is no escaping that reform is hard and often unpopular in the short-term, but Australians are vastly better off for the actions of a previous generation of leaders,” the joint statement said.

“ ... Our message to today’s leaders is simple: governing is not just the responsibility of government, it is the duty of all members of parliament, and we must stand on the shoulders of reform giants ­before it is too late.”

The group cited the fiscal disaster facing the government — spiralling debt and deficits — as even more reason for parliament to act.


Labor’s legacy could build up union corruption

SOON another political landmine will explode. It was planted long ago by federal Labor. On May 30, under a legislative sunset provision, the anti-corruption body in the construction sector, the Fair Work Building and Construction agency, will lose some of its crucial powers.

The construction unions must be excited. Final control over any resisters, the remaining honest construction businesses in the sector, will be theirs. All large-scale projects — “union jobs” — will be built in total union compliance, under a system of corporatised corruption.

We are already regarded as the most expensive construction destination on the planet, but the cost of our infrastructure will rise even higher. Timeframes for completion will blow out. Domestically, people will wait even longer and pay even more for their roads, hospitals and apartment complexes.

Dodgy deals done in the boardrooms of our biggest building companies will be implemented right down the supply chain, to the smallest subcontractors. Tony Abbott’s infrastructure plans will be seriously under question. In all good conscience, how will any politician hand any taxpayer money over to this sector after May 30?

Our international reputation — already woeful in this area — will plummet even further; more capital will avoid our shores. In 2012, Lend Lease, operating overseas, paid $US56 million in fines, the largest construction fraud settlement in New York City history. Why would anyone want to invest in a country where corporate cowboys with questionable reputations partner with unions that are basically criminal gangs to rip off investors, especially when those unions are above the law, more powerful than the police, own a large slice of the retirement savings sector and exert great control over the political party likely to be next in power?

But I don’t want any of you to worry, because Jacqui Lambie is going to step in and save the day. Even though the government has put forward legislation to tackle all this, Lambie thinks it’s unfair, will vote it down and has proposed a solution. She is going to stand tall and read out in parliament any sworn statements of allegations of corruption, violence and thuggery that scared Tasmanians (no one else, just Tasmanians) may make to her.

Union corruption is vastly misunderstood. The government’s proposed legislation to replace the FWBC by reinstating the Australian Building and Construction Commission is vastly misunderstood. Lambie’s speech in the Senate this week displayed stunning ignorance and put forward absurd propositions. Union propaganda has been swallowed hook, line and sinker.

The government’s proposed solution goes a long way towards addressing our problems. It contains four elements:

Instead of lapsing on May 30, powers to compel people to provide information about corruption and protect whistleblowers will stay in place. The unions make out workers will be kidnapped, held in a “star chamber” and tortured until they speak. Rubbish. These powers already exist and that doesn’t happen. Whistleblowers who come forward to provide information prefer to say that they had to talk, they were legally compelled. This gets them off the hook with the union, and protects their safety and that of their families.

Maximum penalties for prohibited conduct, cut by two-thirds under Labor, will be restored to be a meaningful deterrent. These are still miles below penalties in the corporate sector, even though the unions are running a ridiculous line about ordinary workers being subject to penalties while white-collar fat cats get off lightly.

When unions cannot get their way, sometimes they send strangers to block people’s driveways and intimidate workers trying to get to work. When this happens, the police refuse to act. The law contains remedies to deal with “unlawful picketing”.

An anti-corruption building code will be administered. This code does not apply to unions, only to businesses, and is designed to commercially punish corrupt employers.

Union corruption in construction could not exist without collusion from the big businesses at the top of the food chain. Before a project built in a corrupt fashion goes ahead, the firm building the project signs a contract with the union. There is no warm and fuzzy collective bargaining process with workers, just a perfunctory meeting between company executives and union officials over a document that sets out wages and conditions for people that neither party will employ.

Once that contract is signed, the firm advises or agrees with the unions on the names of businesses they will be hiring on the project, and the unions contact those businesses and tell them if they want to work on the project they must sign up to the contract and pay all their staff the wages and conditions in the contract. Often, businesses have to pay bribes to sign, too.

Senators should ask themselves: why should smaller companies be forced to pay their workers wage levels that are dictated to them by their client, who uses the union as a paid enforcer? Further, why should they pay bribes just so they can win work?

Finally, senators should remember this: our economy is looking for a new growth area. With the right regulation, that growth area could be our construction sector. It really could. But, without it, it won’t be.


Our Constitution and the Senate

The system is broken

James Allan

Most of the journalists in this country, and pretty much all of the ones who work for the ABC, basically haven’t got a clue when it comes to our Constitution. Here’s the sort of line we’ve been hearing of late: ‘Tony Abbott is to blame for not getting the government’s budget and other matters through the Senate. He should be compromising more. He should be negotiating more. He should be reaching out to all the Independent Senators. The blame for all the blocked budget measures lies with Big Tony.’

Now if that’s a caricature of the general journalistic attitude, it is barely a caricature. On some parts of the ABC it understates the hostility to Abbott and the underlying desire to find a way to blame him for every failing going.

But here’s what you need to realise about our Constitution. Firstly, in the Westminster world that includes Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, Australia is unique in having an Upper House that has any sort of power at all. New Zealand has no upper house whatsoever. And both Canada’s and the UK’s are today, in 2015, not elected legislative bodies. The people that staff them both are wholly appointed in Canada and overwhelmingly appointed in the UK, with a handful there who get their spots on an hereditary basis.

This means two things. First off, unelected Upper Houses have next to no legitimacy in today’s world. To call them a joke is apt. More pertinently, when prime ministers in Canada and the UK win an election (which by definition means they have the confidence of the Lower House) they get any budgetary measures they want passed into law. Always. An unelected Senate blocks virtually nothing. And the same is true in New Zealand where there is no upper house.

On that model Mr Abbott’s government’s university reforms would have sailed through. So would all the budget savings. The Prime Minister would have three years to do what he and the government thought best and then the ultimate arbiters in any democracy – the voters – would have their say. That means that any comparisons of Abbott to any of those other prime ministers is nonsense.

It gets worse. The drafters of our Constitution here in Australia explicitly opted to copy the US Constitution. Indeed, we have the most American of constitutions in the Westminster world. That means they chose to have an elected Upper House. It was meant to be a House for the States, to check and balance.

So notice how inconsistent it is for some ABC hack to criticize the Republican Congress for blocking an Obama legislative initiative and at the same time see our Senate as rightfully being the arbiters of what legislation ought to pass into law.

Secondly, notice too that in democratic terms – in terms of the democratic legitimacy of the two bodies – our Senate is massively less legitimate than our House of Representatives. For the Lower House we basically count everyone in Australia as equal and divide the country into districts of the same size, or as nearly as practicable. Your vote counts the same as mine. That is democratic legitimacy.

For the Senate we give each State the same representation whatever its population, a direct copy from the US. That means voters in Tasmania have votes that are worth about 18 times as much as NSW voters. All the smaller States are massively over-represented. Which was by design. But it was, as I said, a federalism trade-off to protect the States that is now defunct. And the idea was never that the Senate would be more important in making public policy decisions. It was to be a House of second thought, not the predominant decider of public policy.

Things of late, though, have got out of control in this country. With the increased number of Senators per State to 12, and the proportional voting system, we are today in the position that James Madison’s idea of a checks-and-balances Upper House of the sort we copied has descended to the point that people like Jacqui Lambie and Clive Palmer and some Motor Enthusiast (whatever that means) are doing the checking and balancing. Never in his wildest dreams did Madison envisage or desire that.

In addition, the Americans keep their Senate a two party affair. You have the ‘In’ party and the ‘Out’ party. The President’s party will sometimes control the Senate (as was the case for President Obama’s first two years) or it will not. But the voters will always know who to reward or punish for a recalcitrant Senate.

That is far better than the rubbish situation here in Australia where a handful of people who at the last election won some miniscule fraction of the voter support as compared to the Coalition are elevated by journalists into being legitimately on the same plane as the Abbott government. And when they do block Bill after Bill after Bill we voters are not able to punish them. They are not accountable, especially when some fraction of a fraction of the vote can get you back into Parliament.

I would change the Senate voting system to deliver two party dominance. But as that is not an overly popular point of view, let me just say this: journalists should at least be clear that there is nothing obviously desirable in wanting a prime minister who won well over half of all voters last election to have to bargain and compromise and kowtow (on every single Budget provision mooted) to people who won the support of next to no Australians at all.

Think about it. Seven or eight puffed up, pompous Independents decide that they know more about higher education than the government (and 40 of 41 Vice Chancellors), and worse, feel no obligation at all to let a government get its spending measures through so that the voters can have the last word.

Worse again, journalists blame Abbott for this. True, maybe ABC journalists would be less forgiving of the Senate were it a Labor prime minister being stymied. Okay, forget that ‘maybe’. We all know that the ABC would be ruthlessly attacking the Senate if it were stopping a left wing government from enacting – take your pick – same sex marriage or higher taxes or new carbon taxes or whatever.

But the point here is about democracy. Whoever is in government, our Senate has gotten too big for its comparatively undemocratic boots.


Why The Dallas Buyers Club Piracy Letter Won't Matter

The Australian Federal Court has ruled that a group of Australian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will have to hand over the identities of some 4726 of their customers. The ISPs involved were Dodo, Internode, Amnet Broadband, Adam Internet and Wideband Networks. Strangely, customers of the major ISPs Telstra, Optus and TPG were unaffected by this ruling and it is not clear why these particular companies have been spared (so far).

The Dallas Buyers Club LLC who have brought the action to the courts, used technology from German company Maverickeye to detect people who had participated in sharing the film between April 2 to May 27, 2014.

The technology to detect the downloaders worked by participating in the process of torrenting a particular movie file. Torrenting works by every computer being able to share bits of a file between them. As soon as a computer has downloaded a bit of a file, it then (usually) makes it available for other computers to upload. The software from Maverickeye simply took part in this process and recorded the IP address of every computer that was willing to share, or upload, parts of the movie.

Technically, those downloaders who had switched off the upload feature of their BitTorrent software would not have been of interest to the Dallas Buyers Club LLC. They were apparently only interested in those customers how had “made the film available online to other persons; electronically transmitted the film to other persons; and made copies of the whole or a substantial part of the film”.

The tactics of the Dallas Buyers Club LLC have been strange to say the least. For a start, the number of infringers that they are pursuing is relatively small. They avoided customers of the major ISPs like Telstra, Optus and TPG. There has been a long held belief that if you want to avoid infringement notices from downloading, it was best to be with one of these ISPs rather than the smaller ones that could be pushed around. The Federal Court judge Justice Pereman ruled that Dallas Buyers Club LLC will have to pay the ISPs legal costs and also the costs of providing the customer information.

But most importantly, any letter that the Dallas Buyers Club LLC wants to send to customers will need to be reviewed by the court. This is very significant because the judge is seeking to avoid what is called “speculative invoicing”. This is where a company sends a threatening letter which asks the customer for a large amount of money instead of taking the matter to court. iiNet has argued that the cost of the download to the film owners is of the order of $10 but as in other cases, the Dallas Buyers Club LLC are likely to want to go for fines in the hundreds of dollars. The exact price will be set by the judge and of course this is likely to dampen the overall amount of money it gets from the exercise.

Taking these points into consideration, it is hard to see what Voltage Pictures, the owners of the film, will have gained by this entire process. If the fines are insubstantial, they will not serve as any form of deterrent for future torrents and in any event, Voltage Pictures does not have any particular interest in the more general issue of people torrenting content.

In any event, with the introduction of streaming services like Netflix in Australia, it is likely that torrenting is going to become less of an issue which is what downloaders have been arguing all along. Once the movie industry actually provides a country with a reasonably priced and easily accessed service, the need to obtain content without paying goes away. In the meantime however, they seem intent on creating their own live theatre through the Australian courts.


10 April, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG applauds Abbott's attempt to do something about the ICE epidemic

Is it a problem that some big companies pay little tax?

There is a big debate on that ongoing in Australia at the moment and it has been causing heartburn in Britain too.  The British have attempted to plug the hole by a bureaucratic monstrosity that will have a main effect of increasing accountancy costs.  But the most just system would undoubtedly be to abolish company tax altogether.  Companies disburse their revenues to suppliers, workers and shareholders.  And those people are already taxed on those receipts.  Company tax is double taxation.  Australia has a unique "franking" system that reduces the burden on shareholders but the simplest system would be to abolish the tax altogether.

Politicians rarely abolish or reduce taxes, however. You almost have to be another Ronald Reagan to do that.  John Howard did but even he replaced the "lost" tax by a new tax (the GST).  Given that reality, the challenge is to  find a better system of taxation than the present one. 

The simplest and most efficient change would be to impose a turnover tax as an alternative to a company tax.  A turnover tax of (say) 2% on all companies would yield similar revenue to what company taxes yield and would not be avoidable by profit shifting.  Multinationals would have no avenue of escape.  The turnover of a company (total revenue before disbursements earned in the country concerned) is readily ascertainable from existing company records  so would also require minimal bureaucracy to enforce.

It would also erode the temptation to divert profits into "fringe benefits" for company officers and employees.  Such diversion would have no effect on the tax bill. Even the temptation to retain profits in the hope of changed circumstance in the future would be minimized.  The revenue would be taxed whether it was retained or not. It would also require no international consensus or co-operation. 

Why it never seems to be canvassed rather mystifies me.  Perhaps the bureaucrats don't like it because it would shrink their empires.  An excerpt from the current debate below


Taxation experts have warned against unilateral action on corporate tax avoidance, telling a Senate Economics Committee Australia should be proactive and show leadership in the OECD and G20 tax processes already underway.

The inquiry, initiated by Greens leader Christine Milne, is exploring tax avoidance and aggressive minimisation by corporations registered in Australia and multinational corporations operating in Australia.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has hinted that a diverted profits or “Google tax”, similar to that introduced in the UK is being considered by the Australian government.

However Richard Vann, Challis Professor of Law at Sydney University told the committee he was somewhat cynical about such a tax, suggesting it would collect very little revenue in the UK.

“They don’t even know how they’re going to try to calculate the revenue that they’re going to collect from Google,” Professor Vann said.

Professor Vann said the government was sending a “mixed message” to the multinationals that presented the biggest tax avoidance problem to Australia, by suggesting in the tax discussion paper that we needed to cut our corporate tax rate, and at the same time highlighting the problem of tax avoidance by multinationals.

“There are no simple single-country solutions, it does require coordinated action, he said.

“I’m not saying the diverted profits tax or something like it is a bad idea, but if everyone introduced one that would be a problem. They would all be different, they wouldn’t be harmonised and then we would have breakout.”

QUT taxation Professor Kerrie Sadiq agreed, and said Australia must collaborate internationally and not act “hastily or unilaterally”.

“Personally, I believe we should strive to fix the current system, particularly the transfer pricing regime.”

Transfer pricing sees multinationals make intra-company transactions, such as billing a subsidiary company, for the purposes of avoiding tax in higher taxing jurisdictions.


Greens leader Christine Milne’s bizarre attack on The Australian

Greens leader Christine Milne hijacked a Senate Inquiry into corporate tax avoidance to launch a bizarre attack on The Australian by accusing News Corp of generating a tax benefit from the newspaper.

Milne, who initiated the inquiry into the tax affairs of overseas tech giants like Google, Apple and Microsoft, made The Australian the focus of her opening questions to News Corp Australia chief executive Julian Clarke.

“Can you tell me what are the tax benefits that you get from running The Australian at a loss?,” Milne asked.

Firmly rejecting Milne’s suggestion, Clarke pointed out The Australian is run on a for-profit basis. “If it’s a choice that I make between making a profit on a newspaper and paying tax or on the other side getting some tax benefit the preference is always to make a profit,” Clarke said.

In a spirited tribute to The Australian, Clarke paid respect to the newspaper reaching last year’s landmark 50th anniversary. “With due respect I probably don’t expect you to agree with this but I consider The Australian newspaper to be the finest national newspaper operating here in Australia,” Clarke said.

Continuing the line of enquiry, Milne engaged Clarke in an offbeat exchange. “You’re right, you and I won’t agree on that,” she said.

Clarke responded that Milne’s antipathy to The Australian put her “in a minority” to which the Greens leader returned to the issue of The Australian’s profitability.

“The issue you here is that you run The Australian at a loss and I’m asking why do you continue as a business when it’s not profitable?,” she said.

Clarke hit back with a passionate defence of The Australian’s values as a paper, which was started to challenge orthodoxy; offering a vision to the nation.

“It’s a very important part of our total business, and I make no apologies for the fact The Australian is actually a very important part of our total newspaper operation, and journalistically I think it’s very important inside Australia; very important,” he said.

“You won’t necessarily agree with the reasons we give for this but we think Australia, this nation of ours, needs a very strong national newspaper like The Australian to do exactly what it is doing.”

He added that if The Australian did not exist there would be “nobody doing what we’re doing”, drawing attention to the paper’s mission to challenge, not reassure, the political and cultural establishment.

“Well, Senator, we’ve got a difference of opinion as to why we’re doing it,” he said. “And for every time you tell me we’re trying to do this to run tax losses I’ll tell you that we’re not.”

Milne replied: “I accept that you’re doing it for an ideological purpose.”

Clarke answered: “Okay, I’m happy with that.”

At one point, Milne was cut off by other Committee members, who beseeched the Inquiry to return to its main purpose.

In his opening remarks, Clarke slammed allegations in Fairfax Media-owned papers that News Corp engaged in an aggressive tax avoidance scheme as fundamentally incorrect.

He revealed News Corp was seeking a correction from The Sydney Morning Herald, and told the Committee the company’s local operations are incurring and paying substantial tax in Australia.

Committee chairman Sam Dastyari applauded News Corp’s submission as one of the most frank and detailed disclosures after the bosses of Google, Apple and Microsoft were unable to answer basic questions on the Australian tax affairs of their companies.


Silence and violence in Leftist protest world

Miranda Devine

WHEN leftist authoritarians try to stop people from expressing views they don’t like,they don’t like, all they do is create publicity and even sympathy for causes they oppose.

Whether they violently disrupt protests against sharia law or force the closure of a pizza shop whose Christian owners don’t want to cater for a hypothetical gay wedding, the morally righteous are their own worst enemy.

If you watched the foul-mouthed violence and flag-burning of the so-called anti-racists who disrupted peaceful rallies of a hitherto obscure group of protesters named ­Reclaim Australia, you would automatically have sided with the victims of their abuse.

You may not agree with the Reclaim Australia crowd that Australia has a problem with minorities who “are trying to change Australia’s cultural identity.” You may not agree that halal certification of food in Australia should be banned, that sharia law should be ­illegal, and the burqa forbidden. You may not agree that schools should teach “pride in the Australian flag and anthem”. You may not agree with mandatory 10-year jail terms and deportation for anyone who carries out female genital mutilation. You may be optimistic, as I am, that Australia will absorb Muslim migrants just as well as it has absorbed previous groups and that Australia will be stronger for its ­hybrid vigour.

But that doesn’t mean that those who think differently shouldn’t air their views without being punched, kicked, spat on, showered with police horse dung, abused and intimidated into going home.

That’s what happened on Saturday when rallies around the country planned by ­Reclaim Australia to protest Islamic extremism were ­assailed by mobs of Socialist Party activists, unionists, anarchists, Abbott-haters and ­assorted other disgruntles.

These tolerance police claimed to be acting virtuously as enemies of racism but in ­reality they are part of a well-organised campaign of civil disruption whose ultimate goal is to destroy the capitalist ­system.

In Sydney, police did a good job of keeping most of the so-called anti-racists apart from the 200 or so Reclaim Australia supporters in the rain at Martin Place. But in Melbourne’s Federation Square the clashes between the two groups were so vicious and ­aggressive, they made headlines around the world.

Footage shows both sides pushing and shoving, but it was the so-called anti-racists, who initiated the violence.

They linked arms in Melbourne to form a barrier to stop people, including several speakers, from joining the ­Reclaim rally. They didn’t want to pose a counter view, but to stop the rally.

“We’re not interested in holding our rally somewhere else … this is dangerous to allow hate speech to occur on the streets of Melbourne,” Socialist Party candidate and union organiser Mel Gregson told reporters. “The streets of Melbourne are not the place for anti-Muslim ideas.”

What is she so afraid of? A bad idea expressed out loud is a lot better than a bad idea suppressed and forced underground where it festers and gains power.

Exposed to criticism, ideas can be held up to ridicule, countered with better ideas. If they are bad ideas, the good sense of the Australian people will reject them. That’s the whole point of free speech.

Max, who describes himself as an “average middle aged bloke” went to the Reclaim rally in Melbourne with his three-year-old in a pram, ­because he wanted to hear what the speakers had to say about Islam. His entrance to Federation Square was blocked by “vile youths spitting and abusing passersby and those wishing to attend”.

Pushed and shoved, and fearing for his child’s safety, he never made it to the rally, and vented his spleen online ­instead. “It was up to me to make my own opinion of what was to be said.”

And that is the whole point. All the pseudo anti-racists achieved was to put Reclaim Australia on the map in its very first outing. Now the name is known around the world.

Pauline Hanson, who spoke at the Brisbane rally, made her name the same way. Her fringe One Nation party gained enormous kudos and public awareness in the 1990s when violent socialist protesters attacked its supporters, bussing in rent — a hooligans to bash elderly people. Hanson became a martyr and a political force overnight. Every violent protest drew new recruits to One Nation. Disgusted by the behaviour of her opponents, the silent majority chose her side, even if they didn’t agree with her views.

Similarly, when anti-homophobia zealots tried to shut down a pizza shop in small town Indiana after its Christian owners told a reporter they would not cater for a ­hypothetical gay wedding, the backlash was immediate. The public donated $US842,000 in 48 hours to Memories Pizza owners Crystal and Kevin O’Connor, who now say God rewarded them for their stance.

This is what happens when the totalitarian left tries to ­impose its will in a democracy. It will never win because reasonable people recoil from such closed-minded bigotry.


Privatization:  Western Australia government to sell $800m property portfolio

The Insurance Commission of Western Australia, owned by the WA Government, is seeking to sell the biggest direct property portfolio ever offered in the state worth more than $800 million as part of a change in its investment portfolio asset allocation.

The direct property assets are all located in Western Australia and include three commercial office buildings in Perth and two major retail suburban shopping centres.

ICWA chief executive, Rod Whithear confirmed the move as foreshadowed on and said the commission, which administers the state's Third Party Insurance scheme, wanted to steer away from development and allocate funds into property in a more efficient way.

"If we are able to extract the right value for these assets, it will provide an opportunity for ICWA to reallocate sale proceeds into indirect property investments and other investment classes in line with our investment strategy," Mr Whithear said.

"We could hold a proportion in a wholesale fund and have someone else manage the portfolio, and that would save a lot of time and money."

Mr Whithear also said he anticipated significant interest in the retail shopping centres as investment institutions compete to acquire prime retail assets with development opportunities.

"In the current market, there is a lack of supply of properties for sale and historically low debt costs, so international and domestic buyers are actively searching for portfolio-level opportunities like this one."

PwC Real Estate Advisory and HWL Ebsworth have been appointed as the financial and legal advisory firms to assist ICWA deliver the transaction. 

Mr Whithear did not rule out a possible full trade sale or even an initial public offering, he said that was unlikely. The commission is pursuing an outcome by the end of this year.

The assets form a significant part of ICWA's total investment portfolio of about $4.4 billion held to offset insurance liabilities. They include the 30,000 square metre Forrest Centre at 219 and 221 St Georges Terrace; the 32,000sqm Westralia Square at 141 St Georges Terrace; the 10,000sqm Westralia Plaza at 167 St Georges Terrace.

The retail assets include The Shops at Ellenbrook, which includes 30,000sqm of retail as well as five hectares of development land. The second retail asset is the 15,500sqm Livingston Marketplace Shopping Centre.

JLL's WA managing director John Williams said the overall portfolio would be the largest ever offered, based on his 20 years observing the market.

State Treasurer Mike Nahan said the shift in strategy was worthwhile for the commission.

"Commercial property development is not generally a primary function of government agencies, so ICWA's decision to sell its direct property assets will allow it to focus on its core insurance functions," Mr Nahan said.

Last year South Australia's Motor Accident Commission announced that it had started consultations with real estate agencies on the future of its $600 million property portfolio following a decision that the commission's compulsory third party insurance business would be privatised.

The $3.5 billion investment fund that commission oversees has a 17.5 per cent portfolio weighting to property.


Melbourne father of surrogate baby fights to make surrogacy legal across Australia

I see absolutely no reason why surrogacy should be banned anywhere.  The ban is just some sort of kneejerk reaction and fear of the new.  It is of course an unusually intimate service but other intimate services have been legalized. Prostitution, for instance, is now legal in most jurisdictions that I know of. 

And I don't mean to be derogatory in the comparison with prostitution.  I see both services as having a element of nobility in fact.  Offering the use of one's body to serve the wishes of another is a high order of self-sacrifice.  Whether it is done for money or not does not alter the intrinsic nobility of the thing. 

And, in case someone wants to get "ad hominem" with me about the matter:  No. I have never been with a prostitute

A Melbourne man, who went through the surrogacy process in Thailand about the same time as the baby Gammy scandal, is fighting to have commercial surrogacy made legal in all Australian states and territories.

Sam Marshall and his late partner Natasha McAlpine started investigating surrogacy in Thailand, three years after she recovered from a cancer that left her unable to conceive a second child.

Mr Marshall said he and Natasha were worried when they heard about baby Gammy, but their clinic was professional and caring and the process ran smoothly.

Sadly though Natasha's cancer returned.  The day after she died, Mr Marshall received a phone call, telling him their surrogate had gone into early labour.

The 36-year-old is now raising his seven-month-old surrogate son named Thai, as well as the couple's first child Toby, on his own.

"When I think about all the stuff Tasha had to go through, all the stuff we had to go through to get Thai - we could have done it here, it's not right," Mr Marshall said.

Thailand banned foreign surrogacy following the baby Gammy scandal, where a West Australian couple was accused of abandoning a twin with Down syndrome.

Surrogacy expert Professor Jenni Millbank, from the Faculty of Law at Sydney's University of Technology, said surrogacy agencies in Thailand were shifting across the border to Cambodia.  Professor Millbank was also aware of six new surrogacy clinics which have set up in Nepal.

She said it was creating new problems.  "I guess what we are seeing is this complicating factor, of patients, donors, surrogates and doctors all crossing borders and treatment taking place in a location that is foreign to all of them," Professor Millbank said.

"So when it comes to language barriers, knowledge of the law or access to record keeping, it is more complicated and more uncertain."

Mr Marshall said they were very lucky with their clinic, but there were still plenty of "dodgy" operators.

He said the simple way to protect people was to make commercial surrogacy legal in Australia.

"We're a first world country so we'd be able to create the processes and structures and protections that would get around the ethical issue of surrogates being taken advantage of, and if you take that ethical issue away then there is no reason not to do it," he said.

Professor Millbank believed there could be heartbreaking consequences of "cross-border reproduction".

"Suppose you've got a complication from your treatment, or suppose your child a few years later wants to identify their egg donor or the surrogate, it appears that records are going to be much harder to access if at all, once you've gone to another country or if your practitioner has gone to a third country," she said.

Mr Marshall, who has also been diagnosed with slow progressing multiple sclerosis has his hands full with his baby boy and five-year-old son, but said he has so much to be thankful for.


9 April, 2015

Another one of Australia's charming multiculturalists

A SERIAL cop abuser caught three times in the space of as many months hurling vile, expletive-ridden and threatening abuse at police was given only a fine yesterday.

Rakeem Ebrahim, 19, called officers dogs, c**ts and homos before taunting them about having sex with their girlfriends, mothers and even their grandmothers.

Downing Centre Local Court heard his conviction for using offensive language and resisting an officer was his third conviction for abusing and intimidating police over a three-month period last year.

Ebrahim was contrite in court after pleading guilty to swearing but the Marayong man had a wide smile as he left burdened with only a $1000 fine.

The police union said the soft penalties for serial offenders like Ebrahim sapped the morale of officers.

The unprovoked abuse started when officers spoke to a group of 30 youths in Hyde Park at 2am on September 13 last year.

Despite being warned five times to stop swearing Ebrahim was unrelenting.  “If you didn’t have a badge I’d smash you…you homo c**t, I bet you suck cock... you don’t deserve my f**king respect you dog c**t,” he said.  “I f**ked your misses, she was good. “You’re all fucking dead dog c**ts.”

When he was separated from the group in a bid to calm him down the abuse continued.  “F**k off c**t I’m not going anywhere,” he said.

When officers tried to arrest him he swung his arms and tightened them to prevent being handcuffed. It took a short struggle before he was handcuffed.

His behaviour improved when he found himself in paddy wagon but the officers told the court he had continually ignored their instructions.

“The accused showed an absolute disregard for these actions,” court documents said.  “He immediately caught the attention of the police due to the extreme use of offensive language.”

Magistrate Graeme Curran said it was “appalling” and “disgraceful” behaviour.  “I’ve see some rough stuff but this is beyond the pale,” he said.

The court also heard Ebrahim had been on a good behaviour bond which had expired prior to yesterday’s conviction.

On September 25 last year he was placed on a six-month good behaviour bond and fined $500 for offensive language and resisting and intimidating a police officer at Marayong in June.

Three days before this conviction he was charged for intimidating an officer and using offensive language in George St, Sydney. He was fined $1500 on March 27.

Police Association President Scott Weber said the courts should come down harder on those who abuse police.

“This offender was showing off in front of his mates and shows a lack of respect for society,” he said.  “If he is saying this to an armed officer what do you think he will do to a family walking down the street?

“The judgement handed down for ongoing offenders does not match community expectation. There should be some restriction on their behaviour as they are likely to do it again.

“Police use a lot of discretion and should not be abused for performing their role.”


The real source of civility in Australia

The Abbott Government’s attempt to remove Section 18C from the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) was politically doomed the moment Senator George Brandis uttered his now infamous statement about people having ‘the right to be bigots’.

Unfortunately, the Attorney-General could not have done a better job of confirming the worst fears about the potentially divisive impact on community harmony publicised by opponents of amending the RDA.

The association this has created in the public mind means those who still want to amend Section 18C will need to walk the case for change back through some treacherous cultural terrain.

The first step is to recognise why this was such a disaster, not only in PR terms, but also in terms of understanding the kind of social values that make a multi-racial society like modern Australia a success.Section 18C should be amended because it undermines the democratic rights of all Australians.

In the wake of the Andrew Bolt case, I fear that the RDA will have a chilling effect on important national debates including Indigenous identity and Muslim integration.But if I believed that this meant giving people the right to be bigots I too would be opposed.

Yet some Libertarians have suggested that people should simply harden up and ‘choose not to take offence’ at what people say. Doubling down on idea that bigotry is somehow a right both misses the point and lowers the stakes, while amplifying the issue that should be neutralized.

To argue like the old anti-PC brigade that some people are too sensitive, and appear  to  suggest that the use of discredited derogatory speech should be shrugged off, is to put at risk one of our greatest national achievements.

The amazing transformation over the last half century from a White Australia to a remarkably harmonious multi-racial society, an achievement partly measured by how truly ugly and unacceptable racial epithets now sound to our ears.

But does this mean we need to keep Section 18C? No, it does not. The idea that the RDA keeps ‘race relations’ civil in this country profoundly misunderstands the way the nation has actually worked to overcome its racist heritage – which is, by promoting a culture of tolerance in tune with the pre-existing egalitarian values of Australian society.


Barrister Tony Morris to fight speed-camera fine in landmark challenge

ONE of the state’s top barristers has launched a landmark legal challenge against speed-camera fines in Queensland, refusing to pay a $146 speeding ticket and relying on case law from nearly 200 years ago.

Tony Morris QC, 54, from Hamilton, launched the challenge after his pale blue Volvo station wagon was snapped speeding at 57 km/h in a 50 km/h zone in St Lucia early on May 12 last year.

Rather than naming the driver and paying the paltry $146 fine, Mr Morris has invoked a spousal privilege case from 1817 and argued it is unconstitutional for a Queensland court to fine him when there is evidence showing he was not driving the car.

Mr Morris QC has also warned the Department of Transport that he may be forced to call two senior judges and five senior Bar Association staff as witnesses to prove he was with them when the Volvo was photographed.

He told the Department in a letter on July 1: “I was not driving the vehicle in question — nor was I anywhere near Carmody Road, St Lucia — at the time of the alleged incident”.

Rather than naming the driver, Mr Morris has invoked an age-old principle established in England 200 years ago, saying a husband “cannot be compelled to provide information which incriminates his wife”.  “I decline to identify the person who was in charge of the vehicle at the relevant time,” Mr Morris wrote.

Mr Morris is married to architect Alice Hampson, the daughter of the late barrister Cedric Hampson QC.  Mr Morris was appointed a QC when he was 32, the youngest in the nation’s legal history.

He says he was in a meeting with Supreme Court judge David Jackson, Federal Court judge John Logan, the Bar Association boss Robyn Martin and Bar Association vice president Geoff Diehm QC and barrister Anand Shah at 8.20am when the photo was taken.

But the Queensland Police service has told Mr Morris he “may still be liable” for the speeding fine even if Mr Morris can prove he was not the driver.

Senior prosecutor Martin Longhurst told Mr Morris that the speed camera legislation, passed in 1995, only gives car owners two defences: by naming another driver or saying they didn’t know who was driving.

Mr Longhurst said a registered car owner cannot say they know who the driver is but then refuse to name them. Mr Longhurst also questioned Mr Morris’s claim that he was being forced by police to incriminate someone.

On January 14, Mr Morris wrote to the Attorney-Generals of the Commonwealth and the eight states and territories, saying he planned to challenge the validity of part of the Queensland speed-camera laws.

Mr Morris told The Courier Mail that he didn’t see why he should “dob someone in” for driving the car when the legislation is invalid.  “The law doesn’t (force me to dob someone in), it says I can get out of trouble by voluntarily dobbing someone in,” he said.

Mr Morris told The Courier Mail that the pale blue Volvo XC60 photographed by the speed camera was not the car he normally drives. He would not say who usually drives it.

The case will go to the Court of Appeal within weeks, having bypassed the both Magistrates and District courts due to the constitutional challenge.


News Corp Australia denies allegations that it took billions of dollars off shore tax-free

Australia’s largest newspaper publisher has angrily rejected allegations that it siphoned off $4.5bn of cash and shares from its Australian media businesses over the past two years, virtually tax free.

News Corp Australia has this afternoon denied the allegations published in a story across Fairfax newspapers yesterday, written by Michael West, which used calculations by a University of NSW academic to claim that over the past decade Rupert Murdoch’s companies here have paid income tax equivalent to a rate of 4.8 per cent on $6.8 billion in operating cash flows, or just 10 per cent of its operating profits.

“This claim is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of these transactions, US and Australian tax treaties and applicable Australian tax law,” said News Corp Australia chief executive Julian Clarke.

In the statement the company claims that over the last five years, News Corp Australia has paid $417m in corporate tax and withholding tax on accounting profits of $815.9m. The publisher also said it had paid $900m in goods and services, fringe benefits and payroll taxes over the last five years.

According to the Fairfax Media story the company had refused to address questions arising from an analysis by UNSW Jeffrey Knapp.
But in a statement a spokesman told West: “Our financial reports comply with Australian Accounting Standards and the Corporations Act 2001, have received an unqualified audit opinion and are filed with the regulator, ASIC. Beyond this we have nothing further to add.”


8 April, 2015

Exercise doesn't help much:  Australian finding

Medical researchers tend to get very excited even when they detect a very small effect of something.  Below is such a case.  When everything was controlled for in their analyses, they found a pathetic .66 hazard ratio ("the adjusted hazard ratios for all-cause mortality were 0.66").  Statisticians don't usually conclude that something real is going on until the ratio exceeds 2.0.  So the lifespan benefits of taking regular exercise are somewhere between tiny and negligible.  Pity that.

Effect of Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity on All-Cause Mortality in Middle-aged and Older Australians

By Klaus Gebel et al.


Importance:  Few studies have examined how different proportions of moderate and vigorous physical activity affect health outcomes.

Objective:  To examine whether the proportion of total moderate to vigorous activity (MVPA) that is achieved through vigorous activity is associated with all-cause mortality independently of the total amount of MVPA.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  We performed a prospective cohort study with activity data linked to all-cause mortality data from February 1, 2006, through June 15, 2014, in 204?542 adults aged 45 through 75 years from the 45 and Up population-based cohort study from New South Wales, Australia (mean [SD] follow-up,?6.52 [1.23] years). Associations between different contributions of vigorous activity to total MVPA and mortality were examined using Cox proportional hazards models, adjusted for total MVPA and sociodemographic and health covariates.

Exposures:  Different proportions of total MVPA as vigorous activity. Physical activity was measured with the Active Australia Survey.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  All-cause mortality during the follow-up period.

Results: During 1?444?927 person-years of follow-up, 7435 deaths were registered. Compared with those who reported no MVPA (crude death rate,?8.34%), the adjusted hazard ratios for all-cause mortality were 0.66 (95% CI, 0.61-0.71; crude death rate, 4.81%), 0.53 (95% CI, 0.48-0.57; crude death rate, 3.17%), and 0.46 (95% CI, 0.43-0.49; crude death rate, 2.64%) for reporting 10 through 149, 150 through 299, and 300 min/wk or more of activity, respectively. Among those who reported any MVPA, the proportion of vigorous activity revealed an inverse dose-response relationship with all-cause mortality: compared with those reporting no vigorous activity (crude death rate,?3.84%) the fully adjusted hazard ratio was 0.91 (95% CI,?0.84-0.98; crude death rate,?2.35%) in those who reported some vigorous activity (but <30% of total activity) and 0.87 (95% CI, 0.81-0.93; crude death rate, 2.08%) among those who reported 30% or more of activity as vigorous. These associations were consistent in men and women, across categories of body mass index and volume of MVPA, and in those with and without existing cardiovascular disease or diabetes mellitus.

Conclusions and Relevance:  Among people reporting any activity, there was an inverse dose-response relationship between proportion of vigorous activity and mortality. Our findings suggest that vigorous activities should be endorsed in clinical and public health activity guidelines to maximize the population benefits of physical activity.

JAMA Intern Med.

The way to get more hospital care and reduce waiting times is to close down public hospitals

THE Australian Medical Association is right to be concerned about the impact of the Weatherill Government’s plan to restructure hospital services on the number of hospital beds available to treat patients in Adelaide.

However, bed numbers of are only one of the factors that determine how long patients have to wait for public hospital care.

This may sound strange, but the way to get more hospital care and reduce waiting times is to close down public hospitals. This is part of the logic behind the controversial proposal to shut the Repatriation General Hospital and close the emergency departments at Queen Elizabeth and Modbury hospitals.

The location of public hospitals across Adelaide, as in all major Australian cities, reflects the transportation and medical realities of the 19th century. When the public hospital system was founded in the ‘‘horse and buggy’’ era, every suburb needed its local hospital to provide the community with essential medical and surgical services.

In those days, hospital care was relatively cheap and basic, and it was financially and logistically possible to provide the full range of services then available across all locations. This has become impossible due to the ever-increasing complexity and technological sophistication of hospital services.

Today, it makes more sense to deliver hospital care, particularly hi-tech care, in bigger hospitals like the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, especially given modern transport options and how easy it is for patients to travel to access care.

This has left smaller, older hospitals delivering simpler services that often duplicate those that are available in nearby major facilities. The problem with this is that it is very costly to keep open and maintain ageing facilities such as the Repat.

The impact on the health budget means that funding has to be spread more thinly across the rest of the system and this reduces the overall capacity to care for patients.

It is common to find units in major hospitals that are under-utilised due to chronic shortages of funding for frontline services.

Financial considerations mean, for example, that surgical theatres close at 5pm, and shut down entirely for many weeks over the Christmas and New Year period.

The large number of smaller hospitals scattered across rural areas create similar challenges. It is better to concentrate hospital services in larger regional towns and bring in patients from outlying areas either by road or air ambulance, while allowing most country hospitals to operate more or less as GP and first-aid clinics.

However, hospital closures and reconfigurations are emotive and politically sensitive issues. Local communities are strongly attached to their hospitals. When it suits, both sides of politics pander to these sentiments for political advantage.

But what isn’t understood is the price the whole community pays for keeping hospitals open — longer waiting times and less hospital care for everyone.

The ageing of the population in coming decades will significantly increase demand for public hospital care. The affordability of the system will depend on ensuring hospital services are delivered efficiently.

If we don’t get the basic structure of the public hospital system right, the state government will find it increasingly difficult to pay for the increased amount of care the community needs.

Closing the Repat and similar hospitals will not just improve the finances of the system, but will also enable funding to be reallocated and ultimately help public hospitals treat more patients.


Australian study finds Earth is greener than 10 years ago: Total amount of vegetation found to have increased significantly over past decade

Carbon is good for you

For years we have been told mankind is destroying the planet, felling trees and systematically ripping up forests.  So it may be a surprise to some that Earth is actually greener today than it was a decade ago.

In an authoritative new study, scientists have calculated that the total vegetation on the planet increased substantially between 2003 and 2012.

While tropical jungles are still disappearing – felled for timber and to make way for cattle pasture – tree growth elsewhere has outstripped the loss.

The unexpected findings show that the area of ground covered by plants has increased in Russia, China, Australia and Africa, leading to a net gain in vegetation cover.

Some of this is due to deliberate conservation, such as a huge tree-planting campaign by the Chinese. Elsewhere high rainfalls have resulted in faster growth of shrubs and grasses on the plains of Africa, northern Australia and South America. And the abandonment of large agricultural areas following the collapse of the Soviet Union led to forests reclaiming farmland.

But whatever the cause, the increase in vegetation is indisputably significant.

The Australian team, whose results are published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found the ‘greening effect’ has been so substantial that the world’s trees and plants are storing 4billion more tonnes of carbon than they were a decade before.

Carbon dioxide in the air is sucked up by plants’ leaves and converted through photosynthesis into the food they need to grow, locking the carbon in their wood. The 4billion tonne increase in plant carbon storage is the equivalent of 7 per cent of the 60billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted through industry and transport over the same period.

The surprising results – gathered by scientists who analysed 20 years of satellite data – comes after decades of warnings about environmental catastrophe caused by deforestation.

The scientists studied radio waves naturally emitted by the Earth’s surface to calculate the amount of vegetation covering the land. Using satellites, they were able to calculate the way forest patterns had changed over 20 years, which they say is a more accurate way of measuring deforestation than simply surveying land use.

Study author Professor Albert van Dijk, of the Australian National University, said: ‘Previous analyses of vegetation biomass focused on forest cover change. With our approach we found unexpectedly large vegetation increases in the savannas of southern Africa and northern Australia.’

Lead author Dr Yi Liu, of the University of New South Wales, warned that the gains may be easily lost as weather patterns shift with climate change.

He said: ‘Savannas and shrublands are vulnerable to rainfall – one year can be very wet, and more carbon will be fixed in plants, but the next year can be very dry, and then we will lose the carbon fixed in previous years.’ He added that huge vegetation loss is still occurring on the edge of the Amazon forests and in the Indonesian provinces of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

And while the increase in grasslands and pine forests is a rare glimmer of hope for conservationists, it only goes some way to mitigating the ongoing loss of tropical rainforest, which supports more species than any other ecosystem on Earth.


Where the right to speak is howled down

By Peter Baldwin, minister for higher education (1990-93) in the Hawke-Keating government

The University of Sydney is one of Australia’s most venerable higher education institutions. It should be a place where controversial issues are debated freely and openly with the contending sides able to present their cases without intimidation and harassment.

It should be governed by an administration that strongly affirms the importance of free debate and acts swiftly and decisively to protect it if it comes under threat. It should definitely not be a place where mob rule is allowed to prevail or where activist groups get to decide which viewpoints can be expressed.

Can that be said of Sydney University today? Based on an experience I had there recently, it would appear not.

On March 11 I attended a public meeting on the campus addressed by Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan. His talk was about the ethical dilemmas that faced military forces opposed by non-state groups.

Kemp was in Israel during the Gaza conflict in July-August last year, and he gave the Israel Defence Forces credit for their measures to minimise civilian cas­ualties during their operations. He found it difficult to envisage what more they could have done given the need to counter attacks deliberately launched from within densely populated areas. In saying this, he did not deny there were ser­ious errors and abuses by some IDF forces, including possible war crimes.

This, it seems, is sufficient to make him a pariah to some of Israel’s more extreme critics. Enough of a pariah to warrant silencing him wherever possible; and sad to say, today’s universities are places where this is possible.

Kemp was able to speak unimpeded for about 20 minutes, at which point 15 to 20 people pushed past a security guard and began loudly chanting “Richard Kemp you can’t hide, you support genocide”, led by a young woman with a megaphone set to maximum volume.

Kemp described the experience in these pages on March 17, so I won’t detail it all again. But at one point the lights went out, leaving some — including me — wondering what was to come next. It was a genuinely frightening experience; a systematic, planned attempt to wreck the meeting. The attempt to suppress speakers perceived as pro-Israeli on campus is part of a wider pattern at Australian universities and internationally spearheaded by supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.

The young woman with the megaphone shouting down Kemp went on to defend the speech rights of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an extremist Islamist organisation that gained notoriety last year when its Australian spokesman pointedly and repeatedly refused during an ABC Lateline interview to condemn the tactics used by Islamic State (mass beheadings, crucifixions, selling women into slavery, and so on).

The clueless young woman with the megaphone shouted about Hibz ut-Tahrir’s opposition to US policy, but this group has a few other ideas such as the following reported in The Australian recently: “The top Australian cleric of extremist Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir has ramped up his hate speech in a rant referring to Jews as ‘the most evil creature of Allah’ who have ‘corrupted the world’ and will ‘pay for blood with blood’.”

In the latest tirade to surface, cleric Ismail al-Wahwah — representing an organisation whose stated aim is to take over the world — said recognising Jews constituted the “epitome of evil” because that would “strengthen the cancerous entity”.

The disrupters ludicrously charged Kemp with supporting genocide while they and the rest of the BDS brigade have nothing to say about the open and explicit support of genocide by Hamas, now part of a unity government with Fatah. The Hamas charter adopted in 1988 looks forward (in article seven) to exterminating every last Jew on earth and incorporating “every inch” of Palestine in an Islamic state. Hamas refuses to rescind this foul, evil document despite repeated calls to do so and, on the contrary, relentlessly promotes its genocidal goals in its propaganda and schools.

As someone affiliated with the Labor Left throughout my active political career I find this growing affinity between the far Left and the Islamists one of the strangest and most disconcerting developments of recent times.

The naivety is quite astounding. A quick Google search turned up an article by the megaphone woman on the website of the Trotskyist group Solidarity in which she extols workers’ control in, of all places, post-revolutionary Iran, where all the leftist groups instrumental in overthrowing the shah ruthlessly were crushed by the Khomeneists once they had fulfilled their “useful idiot” role. Some of the people she is defending would gladly stick her head and those of her Marxist colleagues on the end of a pike if they were ever to take over.

Two well-known pro-BDS aca­demics were present: Jake Lynch, director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Centre; and Nick Riemer, a senior lecturer in the English department. Both denied involvement in the disruption but loudly supported it once it began.

How do they justify this stance? They have both gone on the record.

Columnist Gerard Henderson raised the following question with Lynch: “Since you support disrupting the Kemp lecture, do you also think it would be acceptable to disrupt speakers hosted by your centre such as John Pilger and Hanan Ashrawi? If not, how do you justify the double standard?”

Lynch replied: “I would dispute the parallel with John Pilger or Hanan Ashrawi. I have never heard either of them deliver a speech that was disingenuous or deceitful in the way of the remarks by Colonel Kemp.”

Riemer gives a detailed defence of the disruption in a long article in the online journal New Matilda. This piece of casuistic nonsense is worth reading in full as it says volumes about the mentality that defenders of free speech on campus have to contend with these days.

Here is a sample of his “reasoning”: “Many left-wing people, I ­believe, would defend the proposition that protesters have the right to disrupt any kind of public speaker, but that only disruptions of certain public speakers are right.”

Applied to the present case, this means anyone has the right to disrupt a pro or an anti-IDF speaker, but only interruptions of pro-IDF speakers are actually ­justified.

In the first paragraph Riemer asserts a general “right to disrupt” any speaker. This cannot be squared with any reasonable understanding of the right to free speech, the whole point and effect of disruption being to prevent the effective exercise of the latter. Bear in mind that we are not talking about the kind of interjection familiar from parliamentary debates but the systematic drowning out of a speaker with a megaphone and sustained chanting. There was specific provision in the meeting format for questions and critique, but the goal of the disrupters was to censor, not challenge, what Kemp had to say.

Note the second paragraph where Riemer, like Lynch, justifies disrupting the expression of one side of the debate. How does he rationalise this? He asserts the rightness of disrupting speech that is “extreme” or “hateful” or, in an Aristotelian touch, “fails to promote human flourishing”.

To label Kemp’s lucid and well-reasoned presentation as hateful or extreme is just bizarre. As for the stuff about failing to promote human flourishing, perhaps Riem­er should consider that by turning Gaza into an armed camp, launching thousands of projectiles into Israel and pouring huge amounts of cement provided under aid programs into building a subterranean network of attack tunnels, Hamas and its supporters and apologists are failing to “promote human flourishing”.

Riemer goes on: “As such, his (Kemp’s) speech aims at the dismantling of the very democratic freedoms among Palestinians which commitment to the principle of free speech is supposed to embody.”

What “democratic freedoms” would those be? Is he familiar with the increasingly brutal crackdown on dissenters in the territory controlled by the Palestinian Author­ity, with dissidents jailed for long periods for “extending the tongue” against the authority? Or the vicious persecution of Christians, most of whom have now fled the territories? Or the far worse situation in Gaza where dissenters can expect a bullet in the head, where the death sentence is prescribed for homosexuality?

The only country in the region where any semblance of democratic freedoms exist is Israel, where the Arab-aligned parties emerged as the third largest force in the recent elections, where people of all faiths — and none — are safe, and where homosexuals can live free from fear.

Tel Aviv was named as the most popular gay tourist destination in the world recently. This was labelled “pinkwashing” by the BDS brigade, just a cunning Israeli plot to disguise their oppression of the Palestinians.

The intellectual arrogance of the campus BDS supporters, articulated by Lynch and Riemer, is quite astounding. No postmodern questioning of objective truth here; not only is the truth “out there” but Lynch and Riemer are in possession of it and are able to distinguish it from lies and deceit. No need to allow people to actually hear the contending cases presented fully and effectively, even in contexts such as the Kemp lecture where they can be challenged. Defend Israel in any respect and you are a warmonger, callously indifferent to the fate of oppressed people. You need to be silenced.

This is a truly sinister development, and one not confined to Australian universities. Jewish students at Sydney University with whom I corresponded report feeling increasingly insecure and fearful on campus. My sense is that increasingly anti-Zionism is a mask for occulted anti-Semitism.

Will the university administration, led by vice-chancellor Mich­ael Spence, act decisively to defend free speech on campus in response to this outrage? Time will tell, but at this stage the portents are not encouraging.

The university has engaged a firm of workplace lawyers to investigate the incident and the responsibility of individual staff and students and consider all “allegations and counter-allegations”. It is profoundly disappointing, however, that so far the vice-chancellor has not gone on the public record to say that what happened was completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in future.

There is absolutely no reason a clear statement of principle could not have been made right away. Does the vice-chancellor really need advice from a firm of workplace lawyers before doing this much? Of course decisions about individual culpability should be handled carefully, with those accused given an opportunity to respond to allegations.

Finally, I note a certain inconsistency in the university’s attention to procedural fairness.

In October last year Barry Spurr, a distinguished academic with a long association with the univer­sity, was suspended from his position and barred from the campus within a day following the disclosure of offensive language in some hacked private emails. He was subjected to this terrible public humiliation before being given any opportunity to give his defence that he was speaking in a joking or ironic voice.

No workplace lawyers to consider all sides before taking action in that case.

The common factor in these two incidents was the presence of chanting mobs of demonstrators, in one case silencing someone with whom they disagree, in the other demanding the peremptory sacking of an academic. In one case a panicked rush to action by the vice-chancellor, in the other a drawn-out process with all involved bound by strict confidentiality provisions — a procedural black hole.

It is hard to avoid the depressing conclusion that at Sydney University today mob rule works.


Sydney university boss MAY grow some balls

If the exchange of letters in the Australian (below) is followed up by serious action

Like Peter Baldwin, Sydney University is deeply concerned about events that occurred during Richard Kemp’s lecture on March 11 (“Where the right to speak is howled down”, 2/4). We are in the process of finalising an investigation into the incident, having interviewed more than 20 people and reviewed extensive material.

I’d like to reassure Mr Baldwin, and all those concerned by the events, that we are committed to defending free speech and the right of all staff, students and invited guests to express their views without fear of bullying, harassment or discrimination.

Following thorough processes in such cases is vital. It is imperative that we complete these processes before appropriate actions can be taken. We are committed to ensuring this investigation is concluded as quickly as is possible, and will not hesitate to take appropriate action.

Michael Spence, vice-chancellor, Sydney University, NSW

Peter Baldwin’s defence of the right to speak comes from one whom thugs attempted to silence when he had the guts to help clean up corruption in some of the Labor Party’s inner-city branches many years ago. So, he knows totalitarianism when he experiences it — this time, shamefully, at a leading university with a rich tradition of hosting speakers of many shades of view.

The thugs who disrupted Richard Kemp’s lecture have zero tolerance for views other than those which they, in all their warped myopia, choose should be heard.

Ron Sinclair, Bathurst, NSW

Peter Baldwin is one more distressed responsible citizen seeking to expose the depth of perversion associated with the conduct of those involved in the fracas at Sydney University. I would suggest the effort in seeking to align actions of these individuals with some kind of logic, reason or intelligence, and then attempt to point to the absence or failure of any of these, is a total waste.

What we are witnessing is the emergence of anti-state fundamentalists whose almost fanatical directive is the disruption of Western forms of social and political order, not in far-away places such as Gaza, but in their own country. It is naive to consider that these individuals have any real respect for reason or, indeed, for their purported cause as is evidenced by the contradictions, oxymorons and insanity invariably attached to anything they do or say.

George Carabelas, Mt Barker, SA

I applaud The Australian for publishing the excellent piece by Peter Baldwin. The events at Sydney University are shocking. As an Australian university student I’m ashamed to watch as our elite institutions allow themselves to be dragged into the mud.

At the heart of a nation priding itself on democratic freedoms — not least that of expression — how can our higher education institutions stand for this? This is a stain on the excellency of our education institutions.

Annita Stucken, Sydney, NSW

Peter Baldwin’s call for Sydney University to take action against Jake Lynch and me ignores the fact that disagreeing with him about the nature of free speech is not a sackable offence.

Applied to the protest at Richard Kemp’s talk, Baldwin’s claim that disruptive protest prevents the exercise of free speech gets things the wrong way round. Any reasonable observer would have concluded that the point of the student’s intervention was to promote Palestinian free speech.

Universities are traditionally reservoirs of dissent. No one has the right to use the university as a political venue and expect to be exempted from the conditions of public political action, as Baldwin is asking.

Our critics proclaim their commitment to free speech in the case of Kemp, for whom the columns of the media lie open, but are mute about the more significant restrictions on free speech that the Israeli occupation imposes on Palestinian academics and students.

Nick Riemer, Sydney University

I did not join the protest that stopped Richard Kemp from speaking, as Peter Baldwin states. I did ask the security guards to stop using force to eject the protesters. In that, I was acting in a diligent and conscientious manner.

Jake Lynch, Sydney University


7 April, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is disgusted with PUP Senator Jacqui Lambie

Galaxy Poll: 86 per cent of Australians want childhood vaccination to be compulsory

It's the only way to achieve "herd immunity" and thus protect babies

AUSTRALIANS want Prime Minister Tony Abbott to make childhood vaccination compulsory and close loopholes that allow vaccine refusers to put all children at risk.

An exclusive national Galaxy poll commissioned by The Sunday Telegraph has revealed overwhelming support to ensure every child is vaccinated.

The highest support for compulsory jabs is in South Australia, where 90 per cent support the call.

The poll shows 86 per cent of all Australians believe childhood vaccination should be compulsory. Only 10 per cent are opposed and 4 per cent are uncommitted.

“The majority of Australians — 86 per cent — are in favour of compulsory childhood vaccination,” Galaxy’s David Briggs said.

“This strong finding may be observed among men — 86 per cent — and women — 85 per cent — the young — 84 per cent — and the old — 86 per cent.’’

As reported last month in The Sunday Telegraph, in NSW and the ACT, 87 per cent of men and women support compulsory vaccination.

The Galaxy poll support for mandatory vaccination follows the successful No Jab, No Play campaign championed by The Sunday Telegraph that has prompted reforms to ensure kids attending childcare are fully vaccinated.

In Victoria and Tasmania, 83 per cent support vaccination of every child. In Queensland, an overwhelming 87 per cent back compulsory vaccination.

The Productivity Commission’s report into childcare recently adopted a tough line on vaccination, finding that childcare rebates “must be conditional on the child being fully immunised, ­unless care ­occurs in the child’s home”.

The results from the poll follows the tragic death of four-week-old Riley Hughes, the Perth baby who died from complications arising from whooping cough.

Riley’s parents Greg and Catherine Hughes have campaigned to raise vaccination awareness since his death just last month, raising $45,000 for the Princess Margaret Hospital hospital that cared for their son.

Mr Hughes also granted the media permission to publish photographs of their son as he fought whooping cough to illustrate the “horrific’’ nature of the illness.

“At this point in time I was still having to deal with listening to his hoarse crying because he’d screamed for so long from sheer discomfort that he’d begun losing his tiny little voice,’’ Mr Hughes said.

“Every time he caught my eyes he would stop screaming momentarily and look at me with his incredible blue eyes, almost urging me to remove this anguish that befell him. “As a father, I felt like a failure. I would have swapped places in a heartbeat.”

While Riley was too young to be immunised, his death has prompted reforms to fund free whooping cough vaccinations to pregnant women in the third trimester to help protect newborn babies.

Social Services Minister Scott Morrison has previously confirmed he was happy to consider reforms to toughen current protections.

“The commission makes some very important suggestions in this area. I am open to everything in the report. I am not ruling anything in or out,” Mr Morrison said.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has also strongly backed any moves to ensure more kids are vaccinated.  “This shouldn’t be a political issue, it’s common sense,’’ he said.


Fast-track to university enrages Leftists

Concerns have been raised over a program which allows school students to gain entry to university without completing their final year certificate - and is only being offered to pupils at a prestigious Sydney private school.

The University of Sydney is running a pilot of a 17-week bridging diploma for Year 11 students at the elite school Scot's College, Fairfax Media reported, stirring fears among student groups and university staff that the program allows parents to 'buy' their sons entry to the sandstone university.

The program was devised by the university's commercial arm, Sydney Learning, and students who completed the course successfully were guaranteed places in a number of undergraduate level courses, including bachelor degrees in health sciences, liberal arts and science, animal and veterinary bioscience, visual arts, music and oral health, or in a diploma of law.

Minutes of a university Academic Board meeting show staff were worried over how the course was being advertised to Year 11 students 'as an alternative to completing the HSC', with 'concern noted about possible implications for the university's reputation'.

Eight Scot's students gained 'direct entry' to the university after completing the program in 2014, according to a letter sent to parents by principal Dr Ian Lambert, while 166 students completing the HSC. 

Rose Steele, the president of the National Union of Students, told Daily Mail Australia that while it was important there were alternative pathways available for students to gain entry to university, it was 'really concerning' if this program was only open to students who could afford it.

'NUS really believes education should be open to all and not just those who can afford it,' Ms Steele said.

Scot's College does not advertise their fees for tuition, sport and other curriculum activities, but in 2013 they were reported to be $30,900 per year.

Dr Lambert, the college's chief, was quoted telling the Sydney Morning Herald that the diploma was designed with students 'in the middle rank of learners' in mind.


Unions exposed as war saboteurs

AS the Abbott government begins to take on union power and corruption, a timely new book reveals the union movement's role in one of the most shameful periods of Australian history.

What the wharfies did to Australian troops - and their nation's war effort - between 1939 and 1945 is nothing short of an abomination.

Perth lawyer Hal Colebatch has done the nation a service with his groundbreaking book, Australia's Secret War, telling the untold story of union bastardry during World War 2.

Using diary entries, letters and interviews with key witnesses, he has pieced together with forensic precision the tale of how Australia's unions sabotaged the war effort, how wharfies vandalised, harassed, and robbed Australian troop ships, and probably cost lives.

One of the most obscene acts occurred in October, 1945, at the end of the war, after Australian soldiers were released from Japanese prison camps. They were half dead, starving and desperate for home. But when the British aircraft-carrier HMS Speaker brought them into Sydney Harbour, the wharfies went on strike. For 36 hours, the soldiers were forced to remain on-board, tantalisingly close to home. This final act of cruelty from their countrymen was their thanks for all the sacrifice.

Colebatch coolly recounts outrage after outrage.

There were the radio valves pilfered by waterside workers in Townsville which prevented a new radar station at Green Island from operating.

So when American dive bombers returning from a raid on a Japanese base were caught in an electrical storm and lost their bearings, there was no radio station to guide them to safety. Lost, they ran out of fuel and crashed, killing all 32 airmen.

Colebatch quotes RAAF serviceman James Ahearn, who served at Green Island, where the Australians had to listen impotently to the doomed Americans' radio calls:

"The grief was compounded by the fact that had it not been for the greed and corruption on the Australian waterfront such lives would not have been needlessly lost."

Almost every major Australian warship was targeted throughout the war, with little intervention from an enfeebled Prime Minister Curtin. There was the deliberate destruction by wharfies of vehicles and equipment, theft of food being loaded for soldiers, snap strikes, go-slows, demands for "danger money" for loading biscuits.

Then there were the coal strikes which pushed down coal production between 1942 and 1945 despite the war emergency.

There were a few honourable attempts to resist union leaders, such as the women working in a small arms factory in Orange, NSW, who refused to strike and "pelted union leaders with tomatoes and eggs".

This is a tale of the worst of Australia amid the best, the valour and courage of our soldiers in New Guinea providing our last line of defence against Japanese, only to be forced onto starvation rations and to "go easy on the ammo" because strikes by the wharfies back home prevented supplies from reaching them.

A planned rescue of Australian PoWs in Borneo late in the war apparently had to be abandoned, writes Colebatch, because a wharf strike in Brisbane meant the ships had no heavy weapons.

There was no act too low for the unionists. For instance, in 1941, hundreds of soldiers on board a ship docked in Freemantle entrusted personal letters to wharfies who offered to post them in return for beer money. The letters never arrived.

At one point in 1942 a US Army colonel became so frustrated at the refusal of Townsville wharfies to load munitions unless paid quadruple time, he ordered his men to throw the unionists into the water and load the guns themselves.

In Adelaide, American soldiers fired sub-machine guns at wharfies deliberately destroying their aircraft engines by dropping them from great heights. Australian soldiers had to draw bayonets to stop the same Adelaide wharfies from stealing food meant for troops overseas.

You will read this book with mounting fury.

Coelbatch offers various explanations for the treasonous behaviour of the unions. Many of the leaders were Communists obsessed with class warfare. Fervent "identity politics" led them to believe they were victims and servicemen and women were "puppets of capitalism whose lives were of no consequence". Contrary to popular belief, strikes and sabotage continued, even after the Soviet Union became an ally, writes Colebatch, who contends that the Australian Left may have wanted to undermine the military in preparation for revolution after the war.

Whatever the reasons for the defective morality of those unionists who sabotaged our war effort, the traitors have never been brought to account. This story has been largely suppressed for 70 years because Labor and the Left have successfully controlled the narrative of history.

No more, thanks to Colebatch.


Climate 'sceptic' Bjorn Lomborg's Australian influence grows as he joins University of WA

One of the world's best-known climate contrarians, Bjorn Lomborg, will establish a base in Perth as his influence in Australia grows.

The controversial Dane has struck a four-year deal with the University of Western Australia to run a policy research centre in its business school, which will focus on the nation's future prosperity.

Dr Lomborg said he planned to spend a "significant amount of time" in Australia following his appointment this month as one of the Abbott government's advisers on foreign aid.

That appointment was criticised sharply by the Labor opposition and environmental activists, who questioned why someone who played down the effects of global warming should be advising on Pacific Island nations, which are particularly vulnerable to climate change.

Dr Lomborg acknowledged on Wednesday his work had divided audiences but said he would continue to offer "rational advice on the best way to prioritise public spending".

"Australian politics seems very dichotomous, which is not a good thing if you want people to look ahead and find common solutions," he said.

"But this is not a right or a left-wing project. We'll inevitably annoy people who support some left-wing pet ideas as well as those who hold onto some right-wing ideas."

Dr Lomborg is best known for his books The Skeptical Environmentalist and its follow-up volume Cool it, which were criticised by climate scientists for underplaying the rate of global warming.

More recently, the Copenhagen Consensus Centre he founded has studied international development issues. His trademark approach is to use cost-benefit analyses to tell governments which projects produce the most social value per dollar spent.

His latest work, The Smartest Targets for the World, says, for example, that establishing free trade, ending overfishing or fossil fuel subsidies, or eliminating malaria, tuberculosis or child malnutrition represent "phenomonal" value for money. However, encouraging sustainable tourism or reducing child marriages or drug abuse are relatively wasteful uses of aid funds.

Dr Lomborg said his Perth-based Australia Concensus Centre would allow him to apply his economic modelling "to a rich country for the first time".

He said that, as with most Western nations, policy discussions in Australia tended to focus on the few years of the election cycle.

"We're going to look at long-term issues and their consequences: pension reform, infrastructure spending, what we should do with the environment, schooling, immigration and so on. Hopefully, our research will create helpful information for policymarkers.

"But, in the end, economists are not who'll decide what happens in Australia or the world: we're just putting the prices of the different options on the menu."

The university's vice-chancellor, Professor Paul Johnson, said Dr Lomborg's centre "will become the go-to place for useful economic research to inform the national and international debate".


6 April, 2015

'It's a money-making racket... we're being hoodwinked': Pauline Hanson says halal food fees fund terrorism

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson went on the attack on Sunday saying that imposing halal certification on Australians was wrong, while defending the anti-Islam protests across the country.

Speaking on the Today show, Ms Hanson described halal certification as a 'profit, money-making racket' and that the public were being 'hoodwinked' over the issue. She also said that the protests on Saturday were about 'criticism, not racism'.

On Sunday morning's Today show she was asked for her views on businesses 'going to the wall' if halal certification of food products was scrapped.

'It's a profit, money-making racket and has been connected with the Muslim Brotherhood in France. Why can't we have an investigation into where the money actually goes?' she claimed.

When told by the interviewer that there was no basis to any of these claims Ms Hanson replied: 'Why do Australians have to pay tax for halal certification? It is a money making racket. Why do Australians have to pay extra when they buy this product?'

'It's extortion that has been put onto businesses that you must pay this money,' she said.

'A Muslim does not have to have halal certification, they can say a prayer over their food. Then it's OK.

Her comments came after protesters clashed with anti-racist activists in Sydney and Melbourne on Saturday. Anti-racist activists burned an Australian flag in Melbourne while chanting: 'No right in genocide.'

This then ended in scuffles after protesters reacted angrily to the Australian flag being burned.

Ms Hanson, who narrowly lost her fight for a seat in the 2015 Queensland election, joined hundreds of protesters in King George Square in Brisbane on Saturday.

Many were draped in the Australian flag and carried signs denouncing sharia law and halal certification for Australian products.

She denied that there was any violence or vitriol at the rally. 

'There was no violence at the Brisbane rally whatsoever. Islam is not a race so therefore we're not talking about racism here whatsoever. Criticism is not racism. We have a right to have a say and have an opinion,' she said.

'We don't like Islam and we're in fear about what Islam can do to our country, our culture and our way of life.  Australians have a right to say this is not going to work. We want a peaceful cohesive society.'


More churchmen pandering to homosexuals

It would be more persuasive if they also denounced homosexuality as an abomination to God  -- as the Bible teaches.  Homosexuals can be very aggressive and it is sometimes right to fear them

BRISBANE'S Anglican Archbishop has joined a local Catholic priest in calling for Queensland's controversial "gay panic" homicide defence to be scrapped.

SPEAKING after his Easter Sunday mass, Archbishop of Brisbane Phillip Aspinall said he supported Father Paul Kelly in his calls for the Homosexual Advance Defence to be removed from Queensland common law.  The defence means a murder charge may be reduced to manslaughter if the defendant establishes their victim "came on" to them, and the killing was in self-defence.

"I think Father Paul Kelly is on the right track, well and truly," Dr Aspinall told AAP.  "I don't think it's reasonable to murder someone who approaches you sexually. Violence is never a constructive response."


Politician detained at Darwin Airport after helping Kurdish fighters against IS in Syria  -- later released

HE vanished from Darwin to help Kurdish fighters against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria. Now politico Matthew Gardiner has been caught at Darwin airport. Mr Gardiner was stopped by Customs officials early on Sunday morning.

He has been released without charge after being intercepted by Australian Federal Police.

The 43-year-old was the NT Labor Party President and boss of United Voice Union when he left Darwin in January, according to NT News.

But he risks being charged with an offence if he is found to have fought alongside the Kurdish resistance. While Australia has transported shipments of firearms on RAAF planes to help the Kurds battle Islamic State, it remains illegal for Australians to fight in foreign conflicts.

The Lions of Rojava website, which is a recruitment tool for foreign fighters wishing to join the Kurds has previously claimed Mr Gardiner had joined the national army of Syrian Kurdistan known as the YPG.  It is not known what his mission was but given his military background he may have been working as a medic.

The website now prominently carries images of the Australian man killed in the conflict describing him as “hero’’ and urging other foreigners to join the People’s Protection Units in Syria, “send terrorists to hell and save humanity.’’

While authorities would not want to treat Mr Gardiner the same as returning foreign fighter for Islamic state, if he is found to have fought with the Kurds against IS has risked breaking Australian laws.

Around 90 Australians are believed to have travelled to the Middle East in recent years as foreign fighters.

In January, Labor leader Bill Shorten said the union leader had made “a mistake’’ however well intentioned he was in trying to fight Islamic State. “Whatever this guys motivations, he’s not going to solve anything by going over there,’’ Mr Shorten said.  “His family will be, I think, going through quite a bit of shock and confusion, so I don’t know what’s triggered this event but he needs to come home.’’


Perth hospital to have Muslim prayer room but no Christian chapel

OUTRAGED church leaders are lobbying the State Government for a Christian chapel to be built at the new Perth Children’s Hospital, warning “we need to stand up for our beliefs”.

Six religious leaders, including former tennis great Margaret Court, have written to Health Minister Kim Hames, demanding he “reverse the decision” not to have a dedicated area for Christians to pray at the $1.2 billion hospital, which opens next year.

And Perth Anglican Archbishop Roger Herft has also written to Premier Colin Barnett about the need for a Christian chapel, likening a planned multi-faith centre to “an empty shell for people who are grasping for hope”.

Mrs Court, the senior pastor of the Victory Life Centre and the wife of former Liberal state president Barry Court, accused the State Government of “bowing” to the demands of minority groups by planning for a separate Muslim prayer area.

“It really saddened me when I found out. It’s not too late to change it,” she said. “We are a Judaeo Christian nation and I think we seem to always be bowing to minority groups and I think it’s very, very wrong.

“It’s very important that we do not lose our values or our standards and I think a lot of people, particularly in a children’s hospital... need somewhere to reach out to God.

“I think at all of our hospitals there need to be a Christian chapel or prayer room... if they want to have a prayer area for the Muslims that’s fine. But have one for the Christians.”

The latest WA report shows Christianity remains our most common religion (58 per cent), with other religions such as Buddhism (2.1 per cent), Islam (1.7 per cent) and Hinduism (0.9 per cent) on the rise.

A spokeswoman for the Child and Adolescent Health Service confirmed that there would be a dedicated Muslim prayer area within a “multi-faith centre” at the new hospital.

She said the same model operated at Princess Margaret Hospital, and a Christian chapel was located at nearby Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

“The multi-faith centre will incorporate a central worship area, featuring religious texts and/or iconology of significant faith traditions and a non-denominational book in which visitors can write their own prayers, surrounded by a private interview room, chaplaincy office and outdoor courtyard,” she said.

“There will also be also be a Muslim prayer area, separated from the central worship area by a fixed screen, and Islamic ablution facilities, within the PCH multi-faith centre.”

In their letter to the Government, church leaders said the multi-faith centre would “differ significantly to what is normally associated with a Christian chapel”.

“There will not be a cross or an open bible, paintings of other items that help create an atmosphere where people sense the presence of God and find comfort and strength,” they wrote.

Archbishop Herft said nurses and other medical staff from PMH had raised concerns with him that the new hospital would not have a dedicated Christian chapel.

He wrote to Mr Barnett in February but had not yet received a reply.  “I do believe there needs to a chapel with symbols of the Christian faith that patients, their families and staff can turn to in moments of suffering and pain,” he said.

Catholic Archbishop Timothy Costelloe said “to simply provide an empty room which has no real beauty, comfort or dignity to it, and no flexibility, would not respect the needs of people at what will often be difficult and lonely times for them in a hospital setting”.


5 April, 2015

"Reclaim Australia" and "No Room for Racism" rallies clash across Australia

POLICE officers are trying to disperse anti-Islamic extremism and anti-racism protesters holding competing rallies at several locations across the country including Melbourne’s Federation Square and Sydney’s Martin Place.

Melbourne has become a battleground of competing ideologies, with a rally by the Reclaim Australia movement and counter-protest by the left-wing No Room for Racism group.

Tempers flared as a Reclaim Australia supporter scuffled with a Guy Fawkes mask-wearing socialist protester.

More than 100 officers put up a line of bodies to separate the two groups.

Eleven horses from the mounted division were also used to hold the crowds apart in Flinders St, as scuffles broke out across the square.

Reclaim Australia members claimed to be protesting against the rise of Islamic extremism and sharia law in Australia.

Several protesters tried to break the police line, and at least two man were heavily restrained by the police. One policeman confiscated a long piece of wood from someone at the rally.

Police formed a corridor to corral Reclaim Australia supporters through the angry crowds as the really drew to an end.


Qld.: Speaker Peter Wellington has painted himself as the victim in Billy Gordon controversy and stifled debate in Parliament

THERE was a point during the Billy Gordon controversy this week when Peter Wellington lost it.  It came when he painted himself the victim. He did it not once but twice.  Along the way the 58-year-old Speaker also anointed himself Queensland’s new Chief Censor.

First I should point out that Wellington is an alleged independent Speaker in an assembly where he has sat for 17 years without achieving very much at all.

I don’t think I was the only one who detected a tone of arrogance when he came out swinging, accusing a domestic violence victim of being a troublemaker and ruining his day. Wellington took the moral high ground and that can be a very lonely place in politics. He was simply “too busy” to respond to 11 pages of very serious accusations.

Hello, Mr Speaker, we are all busy. The real victim here is not you, Peter, but the poor woman.

In detailed statements the woman claims to have suffered 15 years of atrocious domestic violence at the hands of Gordon, the Labor member for Cape York. The electorate is officially known as Cook and extends from the northern beaches of Cairns to Port Douglas, Mossman, Cooktown Mareeba and Chillagoe. It covers Aboriginal and pastoral communities and all the Torres Strait Islands.

A quarter of the voters are indigenous. Gordon became one of a rare handful of indigenous candidates to win a seat in Parliament.

Gordon has purportedly said he “acted like an animal” and admitted a criminal history including driving offences, break and entering offences, breach of bail and probation, and an apprehended violence order taken out by his own mother.

Gordon’s former de facto partner has accused him of domestic violence, routinely not filing tax returns, and avoiding child-support payments to his five children.

The woman’s account should have raised immediate alarm bells – inside and outside Parliament. However, Wellington seemed more upset by the timing of the woman’s letter than the serious allegations therein.

So he attacked the media for doing its job and reporting Gordon’s unsuitability for public office.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made it worse by blaming the LNP when it was ALP incompetence which created the crisis in the first place.

Wellington and Palaszczuk were quite happy to count Gordon’s vote in the confidence motion confirming her Government.

Labor’s feminist lobby, too, went missing, betraying the Sisterhood by not rebuking Wellington.

Only Liz Cunningham, the former independent MP and crusader against domestic violence was game enough to criticise Wellington and Palaszczuk. It was “regrettable”, she said, that the victim had to wait so long for a response.

I suspect one of the reasons she had to wait so long is that Wellington stifled debate in Parliament.

It happened in the very first Questions without Notice arm-wrestle in the new Parliament when Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg quite properly sought answers from the Premier about Gordon.

The Borg asked: “During the course of the election campaign the Premier dismissed the Labor candidate for Lytton (Daniel Cheverton) because the candidate did not meet her high standards. Does the member for Cook meet those same high standards?”

Wellington responded: “I will not allow that question. That question is out of order. Do you have a further question you would like to put in lieu of that question?”

Springborg: “Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I would appreciate it if you could provide an explanation for your ruling.”

Wellington: “My view is that that matter has already been canvassed.”

Wellington babbled on about standing orders and how he had taken advice from the Clerk and suggested if Springborg had a problem he should write to him (Wellington) about it.

The Speaker had effectively stymied legitimate Opposition scrutiny.

At the same time the “independent” Speaker shielded Palaszczuk from political embarrassment.

It did not end there. John-Paul Langbroek, Springborg’s deputy, took up the challenge.  He said: “I rise to a point of order. I recall Speaker McGrady ruling that the Premier of the state at the time is responsible for all processes and therefore could answer any question put to him.”

Wellington: “With respect, I am the Speaker at the moment. That might be your opinion, but the question does not relate to the affairs of the state or the Premier’s portfolio.”

There was a little more argy-bargy before Wellington said: “I have made my ruling. If you disagree I am happy for you to write to me and I will consider it. Move on. Next question.”

Such arrogance.  Excusing a premier from answering questions in the people’s House is a threat to democracy. If Wellington has good grounds to prohibit scrutiny, he must reveal what they are.

He made much of his desire for a return of “integrity and accountability” to Queensland during the election campaign.

To win his support he even made Palaszczuk sign a superciliousness accord that covered everything from the rights of Queenslanders to car parking and dredge spoil disposal.

And there were sweeteners for his own electorate of Nicklin.

Wellington set the bar very, very high for everyone. So high that in this case he may have trouble jumping over it himself.


Victoria's new Leftist Premier blocks private hospital construction

The usual Leftist class war

The Victorian government's decision to axe plans for a private hospital inside the new $1.1 billion Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre has put "many millions of dollars" in funding for Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in jeopardy, its executives say.

Fairfax Media also understands that several board members are so angry with Premier Daniel Andrews' decision to scrap the 42-bed private wing of the centre , they are now considering resigning from their positions.

On Thursday night, Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the government had ordered Peter Mac not to proceed with its plan to create a "Peter Mac Private" on the 13th floor of the new Parkville cancer centre because it was inconsistent with the "heart and soul" of the project, which would serve "all" Victorians when it opens next year. 

The former Coalition government had previously supported the plan, which was being sold as an opportunity for Peter Mac to attract more insured patients, medical tourists and the best clinicians and scientists who could easily work in both the public and private system. The profits would be used to cross-subsidise its public services.   

On Friday, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre board chairwoman Wendy Harris, QC, said the decision to kill the plan meant the public hospital would lose "many millions of dollars" it was due to reap from the project.

This included $20 million in philanthropic funding that was contingent on the private hospital being built, about $700,000 a year in rental revenue and about $12 million from the sale of services such as pharmacy, radiology and other imaging to the private operator over 25 years.

Ms Harris said cancelling the plan also meant that level 13 may now remain a shell space in the centre when it would have otherwise been fitted out for about $24 million. At the end of a 25-year agreement with a private hospital operator, she said the 42-bed hospital would have been returned to the state.

"It's fair to say I'm extremely disappointed," she said.

While Labor politicians last year questioned whether the private wing would undermine care for public patients, Ms Harris said one-third of patients treated at Peter Mac were already private patients (insured or privately paying), so moving some of them into 'Peter Mac Private' would have created more beds for public patients, not less.

But Premier Daniel Andrews told 3AW on Friday that no money would be lost from the project and that Ms Harris was "simply wrong".  He said the hospital would not lose money and that it would still attract the best doctors and scientists.

"I didn't just make this decision lightly. It's not about ideology at all, it's about outcomes and I spoke to a number of very senior people in oncology field… and they are very supportive of every square inch of that building being for the public provision of services, [and] also teaching, training and research," he said.


Iron ore plunge stokes pressure for Australia rate cut

Pressure is mounting for a cut in Australian interest rates as soon as next week as plunging prices for iron ore, the country's single most valuable export earner, punish both mining profits and government tax revenue.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) holds its monthly policy meeting on April 7 and markets are wagering heavily it will follow up a February easing with another quarter point cut to an all-time low of 2.0 percent.

In part any move would be aimed at lowering the Australian dollar, which would assist commodity producers exporting U.S. dollar-priced products.

Westpac chief economist Bill Evans noted iron ore prices had fallen around 15 percent since the RBA's March policy meeting, while the local currency was only down a single U.S. cent.

"That is why it will be important for the bank to maintain an easing bias when it announces the cut next week," said Evans. "It will maintain downward pressure on the AUD."

Interbank futures imply a better than 60 percent probability of an April easing, and are fully priced for one by May. Indeed, investors are already wagering rates will fall to 1.75 percent before the year is out.

RBA governor Glenn Stevens says Australia is struggling with the end of its mining boom, noting that past mining booms had almost all ended very badly for Australia, usually through runaway inflation followed by a major crash. But Stevens says the RBA will continue to support the economy.


Spot Iron ore .IO62-CNI=SI stood at $49 a tonne after plunging 3.9 percent on Wednesday - the weakest since the index was introduced in 2008 and could drop as low as $47, forecasts Westpac Bank.

The decline had a deadening impact on mining shares with Fortescue Metals Group off 3 percent, while Atlas Iron fell 3.8 percent and BC Iron 4 percent.

With little prospect of rising iron ore prices, as global supply continues to expand in the face of waning demand growth, miners are counting on lower oil prices, cheaper freight rates and a weaker Australian currency to turn a profit.

Iron ore is Australia's single biggest export earner so the collapse in prices has been as big a blow to government tax revenues as to mining profits.

A half-decade after insulating Australia from the worst of the global financial crisis, the giant mining state of Western Australia is being forced to defer iron ore royalties which underpin tens of thousands of jobs.

Stephen Walters, chief economist at JPMorgan, cites estimates from Australia's Treasury that every $10 per tonne drop in the iron ore price cuts up to A$3 billion off the national budget.

"Iron ore prices have fallen 70 percent, putting the ultimate drag on revenue up to A$30 billion," said Walters.

That has only intensified pressure on Treasurer Joe Hockey to come up with savings or tax raising measures in his annual budget due in May, while also ensuring that the drag does not harm an already sluggish economy.

"With fiscal policy being tightened, the onus will be on monetary policy to provide the support the economy needs."


3 April, 2015

Reform can deliver jobs, cheaper goods

CHEAPER books, longer shopping hours and medicines available at supermarkets could be on the cards as a result of a new report.

THE federal government has released a 548-page report by economist Ian Harper and a panel of other experts on Australia's competition rules.

Professor Harper, whose review is the first of its kind in two decades, said if state and federal governments acted on his 56 recommendations it would boost productivity, help balance the budget and bolster the economy and jobs.

Competition Minister Bruce Billson said he was optimistic reform could boost economic growth by at least 2.5 per cent of GDP over a decade.

One of the key recommendations is to immediately remove regulations governing retail trading hours and parallel imports, which shield local businesses from overseas competition.

Prof Harper said they should no longer apply to books and second-hand cars, delivering "net benefits to the community".

The report cited a study showing book prices could fall by about 35 per cent.

Long-standing restrictions on pharmacy location and ownership should be scrapped, opening the sector to more competition under a simpler set of rules guaranteeing access to medicines and quality of advice.

The report also calls for rules governing planning and zoning, taxis and ride-sharing and mandatory product standards to be reviewed as a priority.

Limits to the number of taxi licences in a particular area and rules preventing other services from competing with taxis raised costs for consumers and blocked innovation, the report said.

While the ACT, Northern Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and NSW have almost completely deregulated trading hours, the report said Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland still had significant restrictions.

"Deregulation of retail trading hours is overdue, and ... remaining restrictions should be removed as soon as possible," the report said.

The report said road user charges should be imposed, with the money going towards new roads and maintenance.

Co-operation between the state and federal governments in easing fuel tax and registration fees could ensure there is no overall extra impost on road users.

Road congestion in cities is estimated to cost business almost $6 billion a year and motorists about $3.5 billion.

Mr Billson said he would be consulting over the next eight to 10 weeks before bringing a submission to cabinet.

In the meantime, state governments could unilaterally act on some of the findings.

The review called for new laws to prevent big companies from misusing their market power.

That should address concerns of small independent grocers that Coles' and Woolworths' dominance is seriously affecting their ability to compete.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said he particularly supported the findings on roads, shipping, intellectual property and parallel imports.

A spokesman for federal Transport Minister Warren Truss said there is a "sound economic rationale" for road user charging.

But many complex issues needed to be worked through before it could be rolled out on the scale recommended by the Harper review.

Among the issues were equity, technology and privacy concerns.

The minister's spokesman said a federal government response would be released in the second half of the year and it was hoped an action plan involving the states and territories could be released by the end of the year


Retirees facing new assets test for pension

The federal government is considering a breakthrough proposal to trim the Age Pension for wealthy Australians who can fund their own retirement, setting up a way to overcome a blockade in the Senate and achieve savings worth $20 billion over a decade.

Social Services Minister Scott Morrison is looking at scaling back access to the pension as an alternative to the government’s controversial changes to payment rates, launching talks with senators last night to seek a new deal on reform.

Adamant that savings are needed to make the pension sustainable, Mr Morrison will negotiate with Senate crossbenchers on a new proposal to change the pension asset test in order to scale back the benefits for the richest retirees while leaving millions of pensioners untouched.

The family home would be off-limits under the proposal that Mr Morrison is sending to policy ­experts in his department to forecast the likely savings and guide the crossbench negotiations.

The Australian Council of ­Social Service launched a new phase in the pension debate yesterday by conceding the case for savings, despite Labor’s claim that the current system is sustainable and there is no need for the savings outlined in last year’s federal budget.

At the heart of the new debate is the fact that couples with $1.1 million in private wealth, in addition to the family home, can still qualify for a part-pension, raising questions over whether the threshold should be lower.

Mr Morrison said the assets threshold was now up for review and would be discussed in order to secure ­reform in the upper house.

“It should very much be on the agenda for debate,” he said.

“For ACOSS to put it on the table is a good contribution. The precise measure they’ve put forward is obviously something we would have to look at in terms of ­whether we think it goes too far or is too extreme. That’s an assessment that needs to be made.

“But the principle, the extent to which you’re addressing taper rates on assets, is a legitimate issue to raise.”

The government’s original proposal was to change the indexation of the pension in 2017 so that payments would increase twice a year at the rate of the consumer price index, rather than the current approach which is to increase it in line with inflation or wages, whichever is higher.

While the indexation changes are not forecast to save money until 2017-18, when they add $178m to the budget bottom line, the Parliamentary Budget Office has estimated the savings would build to $22.8bn over a decade.

The Australian understands the ACOSS proposal, conservatively costed, would raise between $15bn and $20bn over the next decade if it began next year. More people retiring with more wealth would boost the savings in the later years, although ACOSS has not specifically modelled the full 10 years of its proposal.

The ACOSS proposal would scale back eligibility for the pension instead of changing its indexation. It would reduce the threshold — called the “asset test free area” — for cash or investments that people could own in addition to their family home and still qualify for the pension.

ACOSS proposes to cut the threshold for single homeowners from $202,000 to $100,00 and for couple homeowners from $348,000 to $150,000.

As well, ACOSS proposes increasing the rate at which pensioners lose their income for every $1000 in assets — not including the family home — they earn above the asset test free areas.

Currently pensioners lose $1.50 a fortnight for every $1000 in ­assets above the free area but this would rise to $2 a fortnight under the ACOSS proposal.

This would reduce the assets available to part-pensioner couples from about $1.1m today to $794,250 on top of the family home. These changes would save $1.45bn in 2016-17, according to ACOSS estimates.

Mr Morrison said the nation could save just as much by changing eligibility rules as it could by adjusting the indexation of the payments, ensuring it could meet its broader goal of scaling back the budget deficit.

“Of course you can — that is true,” he said. “And it’s important that you do it in the way we’ve sought to do it on the CPI measure, which is to do it in a modest way.

“The government is not looking for short, sharp shocks here — they’re the sort of initiatives we’re trying to avoid. We know that if we do it in a modest, incremental way, we can avoid having to do that.”

There are 2.3 million aged pensioners but ACOSS does not have figures for how many part-pensioners would be affected by its proposal.

The budget savings would flow not only from reductions in pension payments but also in cuts to the number of people who qualify for the pension and therefore also receive the Pensioner Concession Card — which entitles people to subsidies for medicines and other benefits.

Mr Morrison has previously warned that he could not take the indexation reforms “off the table” unless a new proposal was put “on the table” in its place, leading him to welcome the ACOSS suggestions yesterday.

“Now the government, I think, can look keenly at this proposal put forward by ACOSS and I think it provides a point of reference for others in the debate as well,” he said.

Mr Morrison was adamant the family home would not be ­included in the asset test for the pension but he made it clear the wider assets test was on the agenda for change. Spending on the pension is projected to rise from 2.9 to 3.6 per cent of GDP over four decades without reform, according to the Intergenerational Report. The government reforms would trim it to 2.7 per cent of GDP.


Making Australia Great wrong to blame economic woes on anti-Chinese policy

Fiscal and monetary policy and the regulation of credit, not migration, are the key features of Melbourne's booms and busts

The final episode of George Megalogenis' three-part television series, Making Australia Great, was broadcast on Tuesday night. It was a terrific series, looking at the big economic challenges Australian governments have faced since the long postwar boom hit the wall with the appearance of stagflation in the mid-1970s, taking us through the mistakes and the achievements of various governments with clarity, verve and arresting visuals.

Then about 15 minutes from the end of the episode, it went fearfully awry, turning from a well informed program about economics to a bizarre one about migration, with the astounding claim that the anti-Chinese immigration campaign of 1888 and the consequent restrictions on non-white immigration caused the stagnation of the Australian economy until it took up a more open migration program after World War II.

So why at the end did Megalogenis' series collapse into a story about immigration? Was it because SBS was one of the potential buyers and it is interested only in stories with a migration angle?

In 1888 Australia had one of the highest standards of living in the world, and Marvellous Melbourne was booming, staging a huge international exhibition to celebrate the first century of the continent's European invasion. All true.

Megalogenis then claimed that the arrival of the ship SS Afghan carrying Chinese men was the moment when it all changed, when, in response to huge popular protests, the Australian colonies introduced the first version of the White Australia Policy and closed their borders to non-white immigrants. Still true.

But he then claimed that it was these immigration restrictions that caused the end of the first long boom in Australia's history, the devastating depression of the early 1890s and the decades of stagnation that lasted until Australia began to again open its borders again to non-British migration after World War II.

When the first images of 1880s Melbourne appeared, I thought I knew where the program was headed – to the story of the country's greatest land boom and the bust that followed: the panicked runs on the banks and building societies that had financed the boom; the failure, one after the other, of so many of them; the spectacular bankruptcies of some of Melbourne's leading citizens, as well as of many smaller people; the five-day enforced bank holiday in May 1893 and the restructuring of those banks still standing that slowed the supply of credit to a trickle;  the evaporation of the Victorian government's credit rating with the London money market; the terrible unemployment and the miserable poverty of the depression.

The story fitted well the themes of the series. In the late 1880s a toxic combination of greed, optimism and lax company law fuelled by plentiful British credit created a boom that was totally out of control, especially in Victoria and its grand metropolis of Marvellous Melbourne. When commodity prices began to fall, overseas credit to dry up, confidence to wobble, fraud to be exposed, it all came crashing down.

The early 1890s changed Melbourne, from the confident, flashy, young metropolis of new money and grand buildings into the cautious, wowserish, provincial town which lasted a century. It was not until the 1980s that Melbourne's land values fully recovered, the grand boom-time houses filled again with new and old rich, and champagne flowed freely again to toast wealth and its pleasures.

And it too was followed by a bust, though nothing as severe as that of the early 1890s. Lessons had been learned and political, legal and financial institutions built which prevented the contagion from one badly run bank or company to another.

There were some spectacular failures, like Pyramid and Alan Bond, but on the whole the financial system weathered the storm. This would have made an interesting historical comparison and revealed more of the achievements that have made Australia great.

The story of Australia's migration policy is an important one for understanding modern Australia, but it is not the only one and it has little to do with fiscal and monetary policy and the regulation of credit which were the series' main themes.

So why at the end did Megalogenis' series collapse into a story about immigration? Was it because SBS was one of the potential buyers and it is interested only in stories with a migration angle? I can't believe that someone with as much understanding of economic history as Megalogenis really thinks the depression of the 1890s was caused by the restriction of Chinese immigration.


Endangered Black-Throated Finch could derail plans to build the biggest coal mine in Australia

A BIRD no larger than a cricket ball could derail plans to build the biggest coal mine in Australia.

A legal challenge to Indian giant Adani’s plans for the $16.5 billion Carmichael mine by environment group Coast and Country began in the Land Court of Queensland on Tuesday.

If approved, the project would extract at least 50 million tonnes of coal a year from the Galilee Basin and export it through the Abbot Point coal terminal, north of Bowen.

“The environmental harm it will cause, or is at risk of causing, will be correspondingly great,” lawyer Saul Holt QC, for Coast and Country, told the court.

The case will put the spotlight on environmental and economic concerns, including the plight of the endangered Black-Throated Finch.

“If this mine goes ahead ... there is a high likelihood of species-threatening harm to the world’s most significant population of the endangered Black-Throated Finch,” Mr Holt said.

“As an environmental issue and risk, it is of the first order and it will be treated as such.”

But lawyer Peter Ambrose, for Adani, defended the company’s environmental modelling and previewed evidence by a range of experts in his opening address.

The company accepts there has been a serious decline in finch populations — which Mr Holt said was 80 per cent since the 1980s. But Adani pointed to offset and management plans that would “provide appropriate controls on the environmental impact”.

In exchange for the 9789 hectares of habitat that would be affected by the mine, there was an offset area of 30,999ha, Mr Ambrose said.

“The applicant’s evidence is they don’t have to move too far, as the offset areas are right beside where they are known to breed.”

Mr Ambrose cited estimates the mine could produce net economic benefits of between $18.6 billion and $22.8 billion.

But Mr Holt said the project would also contribute to the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef through a contribution to climate change.

Adani’s witnesses will argue that thermal coal use is generated by demand — not supply — and electricity generators would find alternative sources of coal if the mine does not go ahead.  Therefore, Adani argues, there will be no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions


2 April, 2015

Labor punishes wage earners with stance on GST reform

On the first day the tax discussion paper was released — indeed, before the formal announcement — the Labor Party rejected the ­central idea of GST reform which is essential to resolving so many defects in the system.

Amid the near worthless mantra of comments about economic reform since Mike Baird’s impressive NSW election victory last Saturday night, the pivotal factor has been ignored — the long and ever mounting collapse of ­Liberal-Labor co-operation and goodwill on how to salvage the ­decline in Australian living standards growth.

This now poisons virtually every area of major policy and it occurs on the major themes. Opposing economic reform has become the main method by which oppositions seek to win office. Baird’s success is a decisive event but extremely difficult to emulate as the response to the tax paper reveals. Commentary that the secret now lies in being popular or having a non-politician’s smile is a joke.

Labor’s position on the GST is political and ideological. It has clung to this position with a longing desperation since the late 1980s and at virtually every campaign it rolls out a GST scare.

Labor’s closed mind was obvious this week. It had no interest in engaging in any of the GST related arguments in the tax paper, declared its non-negotiable stance and began stirring another GST scare.

There are three certainties in this country — death, taxes and ALP hopes to win another election by opposing a GST.

Labor’s opposition to the GST was pivotal to its 1993 election win. It campaigned on the GST at the 1996 election. It nearly won the 1998 election when opposing John Howard’s GST-led tax reform. It campaigned on GST rollback at the 2001 election.

Indeed, it is extraordinary that the introduction of a GST by Howard and Peter Costello left Labor unmoved. While Labor declined to abolish the GST in office it opted to freeze the tax, remove it from the Henry tax review and was on constant alert during the Rudd/Gillard era to relaunch the scare. It tried to make the GST a frontline issue at the 2013 election. If given the chance, it will run on the GST at the 2016 election.

The consequences are now on display in the tax paper. The people being penalised are the middle Australian wage earners.

Our tax system is heavily geared to personal income tax and company tax. In this respect it is out of step with many of our competitors. The paper says personal and corporate income taxes ­constitute about 70 per cent of tax receipts.

Company tax at 30 per cent is far higher than many other nations and uncompetitive in Asia. Just 12 companies pay one-third of all company tax, pointing to ­dangers from corporate mobility.

The burden is carried excessively by wage and salary earners. Reliance on personal income tax is projected to increase further over the next decade as a result of “bracket creep” (taxpayers moving onto a higher rate). Without reforms, more than two million more taxpayers will enter the third tax bracket (taxable income $80,000-$180,000) over the decade and more than 750,000 more taxpayers will enter the fourth tax bracket (above $180,000).

The major logjam is the freeze on the GST. Our GST rate at 10 per cent is one of the lowest among ­developed nations.

The OECD average rate is just under 20 per cent, nearly twice our GST rate. Not only is Australia’s rate low but its exemptions are high. Our GST is paid on only 47 per cent of all goods and services with the main exemptions ­including fresh food, health and education.

The discussion paper focuses on the issue Labor wants to deny — the risks in this tax structure. It shows the current direct/indirect tax imbalance remains similar to the 1950s and is inadequate for the globalised economy of the 21st century.

Opposition Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen said Labor wanted to play a “lead” role in the tax discussion. The item Bowen and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten advance is tightening tax breaks for superannuation that favour high income-earners. There is much force in this view and these breaks should be altered.

But this is a side issue in a bigger debate the nation deserves to have. Labor’s purpose is apparent — to push a Labor priority while undermining any wider discussion about the tax system overall.

Contrary to Labor claims there is no great principle involving the GST. There is no necessary link between a low GST and an equitable polity.

Indirect taxes with a broader base and higher rates than Australia operate across most OECD nations including in many once loved socialist nirvanas. The Scandinavians specialise in high indirect taxes running at about 25 per cent within an overall equitable polity.

The real issue is explicit in the tax paper: “It is not the progressivity of any particular tax base that ultimately matters but, rather, that the tax and transfer system as a whole delivers fair outcomes.” In short, the test that matters is the fairness overall of the system.

Labor almost never mentions the highly progressive nature of our tax system because it wants to focus instead on whether any new measure is progressive in its own right. This is a misleading and phony test. Nobody advocates GST reform alone. Changes to the GST would only be made as part of an overall package, including both compensation and lower income taxes. The GST is our third-largest tax. It is regressive since higher-­income households spend less of their income proportionally than lower-income households.

Yet the consequences of the current GST freeze only punish wage earners via income and company tax while denying the option of rebalancing the system.

Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are pledged to take any tax reform, including GST reform, to the next election. Abbott could recruit Baird and Howard to his cause and still have no hope against any anti-GST frenzy.

Any change to the GST requires the unanimous support of state and territory governments and passage of laws through the national parliament including the Senate.

There are multiple obstacles, any one of them being lethal. Still, it is important to have the debate. We need to seize whatever policy breadcrumbs are available.


Christopher Pyne asks al-Taqwa principal to explain himself after Islamic State comments

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne has asked the principal of al-Taqwa College to explain why he told students that Islamic State was a Western plot.

The move comes as a former teacher at the school said principal Omar Hallak also told students that Israel did not exist and Jews were horrible people.

Mr Pyne condemned the principal's controversial statements on Wednesday and said he would write to al-Taqwa, which is the largest Islamic School in Victoria, seeking an explanation.

Mr Pyne will also write to Victorian Education Minister James Merlino to ask what action the Education Department is taking.

"The comments of the al-Taqwa College principal are wrong and damaging," he said. 

Ajit Somers taught at the school in 2001 and said Mr Hallak had "shockingly" anti-Semitic views.

He said the principal came into his class and set an assignment in which students had to research a country of their choice. When the principal discovered one student had chosen Israel, he became furious, Mr Somers said.

"He said there is no such thing as Israel and how dare you say Israel. He said Jews are horrible people."

After Mr Hallak left the room, Mr Somers said he told students Israel existed and was a member of the United Nations.

A number of former al-Taqwa teachers have raised concerns about the principal's views following revelations by Fairfax Media last week that he told students not to join Islamic State because it was a plot by Western countries.

He then went on to say that he believed IS was a scheme by Israel and the US.

Another former teacher at the Truganina school in Melbourne's outer west, who did not want to be named, said teachers who were not Muslim were treated as "second-class citizens".

The teacher said she was told off by the principal after she drew a star on a whiteboard to reward good work.

"He said 'that is a Jew symbol. If you do it again I will kick you out'."

Mr Hallak has been called to a meeting with state government officials to explain why he told students that IS was a plot by the West.

State government officials  will meet the college after the school holidays to "develop a program of cross-cultural understanding".

Mr  Merlino said earlier this week that the principal's comments were "a real concern".

"The comments made have no place in our schools and we look forward to working with the school community to address the issue."

Mr Hallak did not respond to questions.

The Truganina school received $11.2 million in federal government funding in 2013, and $4.7 million from the state government, according to the My School website.

In 2005 The Sunday Age reported that a visiting imam told al-Taqwa students that Jews were putting poison in bananas and they should not eat them.


W.A.: Public hospital bosses warned of 'significant consequences' before bowel unit death

Fiona Stanley Hospital management were warned in November that cutting specialist inflammatory bowel disease nurses would result in "significant clinical and financial consequences" – four months before a 41-year-old man died in an apparent medication bungle.

Jared Olsen, who suffered irritable bowel syndrome and suspected Crohn's disease, died in early March after apparently taking mercaptopurine – a potent drug used to treat acute leukaemia that he should never have been prescribed to him.

On Tuesday, Mr Olsen's devastated father Phillip revealed his heartbreaking loss to 6PR Radio's Mornings host Gary Adshead, amid concerns vital blood tests that would have revealed his son had an enzyme deficiency and should not have been prescribed the mercaptopurine.

Concerns were raised that the Centre for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, based at Fremantle Hospital, was not relocated in its entirety in the service's transfer to Fiona Stanley Hospital.

But on Wednesday it emerged hospital administrators were warned of "significant clinical and financial consequences" about cutbacks to the service after staff aired concerns in a letter in November last year.

"Many IBD patients require immune-suppressing medications, regular blood test monitoring, drug infusions, investigations, endoscopies and urgent clinical reviews to avoid hospital admissions," Adshead read from the letter on air.

"The IBD nurses provide telephone advice as well as co-ordinate all of the above services.

"We cannot emphasis enough how concerned we are about failing to provide an ongoing adequate IBD service to this frequently young, chronically ill and vulnerable group of patients."

Mr Olsen was admitted to Fiona Stanley Hospital on February 4 with extreme stomach pains and was discharged a week later with a list of medications to take, including mercaptopurine.

A month later, he presented at the hospital's emergency department after collapsing at home.

But Phillip Olsen said his son should never have been given the drug without a blood test to determine if his body could cope and has discovered that one in 300 people do not have a vital enzyme called TPMT needed to prevent the potentially life-threatening side effects of the drug.

Alan Robbie, who lobbied for the Fremantle unit to remain open, said the unit was effectively disbanded in the shift to Fiona Stanley Hospital and a 24-hour health phone line for the patients was cut in February.

Mr Robbie told 6PR Radio the specialist IBD nurses were a "vital cog in the wheel" in the management of patients with this life-changing condition.

"Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's are insidious diseases. They are with you all your life. And you have flare-ups at any you have to have a person on the other end of the (phone) line who intimately knows your pathology and what's happening to you because each patient is unique," he said.

Fiona Stanley Hospital chief executive David Russell-Weisz, who will soon take up the role of Health Department director-general, said the unit was functioning at FSH but conceded there had been some difficulties recruiting a senior nurse to the team.

Mr Russell-Weisz said under hospital policy, blood tests should be before or at the same time when the drug is prescribed and there would be a full investigation into Mr Olsen's treatment and ultimate death at Fiona Stanley Hospital.

He said the coroner had been informed and the hospital was treating Mr Olsen's death as a "significant adverse event".

"There is no doubt there was significant concern that the service, as it was, was not going to come across because we were going to lose at least two out of the three nurses. And also, there was a view that the service, whilst an excellent service, was going to be enhanced – and that's what we have tried to do," he said.

Of the three-nurse team at Fremantle Hospital, Mr Russell-Weisz said one was transferred to FSH, one resigned or took redundancy and the third moved into a research role.

Since then, the hospital has had difficulty recruiting a senior nurse, with one just appointed and additional approval recently granted for an additional nurse, he said.

He said hospital management had met with Phillip Olsen and would meet with him again next week.


Defence bureaucracy to be cut

The Department of Defence's job-for-life culture has received a massive shake up with the federal government endorsing a review to cut 1650 civilian public servants, abolish the Defence Materiel Organisation as a standalone agency and give managers greater workloads.

Voluntary redundancies have not been ruled out to achieve the workforce reduction which is part of "transformational change" set out in the First Principles review headed by former Rio Tinto Australia managing director David Peever.

On top of the civilian workforce reduction, another 1000 Australian Defence Force members doing public service jobs will move out of their existing jobs in the bureaucracy and back to Navy, Army, Air Force and joint operations positions.

The government will save money by only using ADF members for public service roles when critical and in doing so has listened to unions which argued uniformed personnel "driving desks, not tanks" was expensive.

The Defence Materiel Organisation, which oversees $12 billion of spending a year, will be absorbed into the department and become the capability acquisition and sustainment group.

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said the review found a "proliferation of structures, processes and systems with unclear accountabilities, which in turn cause institutionalised waste, delayed decisions, flawed execution, duplication, over-escalation of issues for decision and low engagement levels amongst employees".

The government has accepted 75 of the 76 review recommendations, which will be implemented over the next two years.

To address concerns Defence is too top-heavy, one three-star general position will be abolished, along with six deputy positions in the upper reaches of the public service.

Defence will reduce the thick layer of middle managers - there are up to 12 layers of management between department secretary Dennis Richardson and his frontline staff.

Community and Public Sector national secretary Nadine Flood said her organisation's submission to the review to suggest no more cuts to the Defence workforce were ignored.

"It is deeply disappointing the minister is giving the green-light to slashing another 1650 jobs," Ms Flood said.

"Last year the Abbott government cut 11,000 public sector jobs."

Ms Flood was pleased the review recognised cutting public service jobs should no longer be looked on as the primary savings method.

Professionals Australia ACT director David Smith, who represented engineers and technical staff said the review lacked vital detail.

"There is recognition of the problems and risks associated with the Defence engineering and technical workforce but no recognition that this has been known for years or any real recommendations, with teeth, to address the deficiencies or mitigate the risks created by these deficiencies," Mr Smith said.

"Indeed the recommendation to 'ensure committed people with the right skills are in appropriate jobs to create the One Defence workforce' can't be implemented as the current job freeze has just turned into an ice cap."

The 1650 job cuts and 1000 ADF members sent back to the services will happen on top of a reduction to the civilian workforce of 3000 since 2012.

These figures did not take into account what might be recommended in the looming Force Structure Review and the 2015 Defence White Paper, although the First Principles review recommended it alone should be the road map for reform for the next five years with no other reviews in that period.

The government and department will spend the next three months planning how to make the changes and the reforms would be finished within two years.

At the end of this the department's public service workforce will be between 17,000 and 18,000.

The review recognised how hard it could be to reform the organisation.

It said Defence staff were the most likely, out of all Commonwealth public servants, to have worked in one agency.

"It is a cradle to the grave model which is not without its benefits," the review said.

"However, on balance we would contend this insular approach and lack of diversity contributes to the inability of Defence to change."

The review recommends selling off more parts of the Defence real estate but Mr Andrews said a timeframe would not be placed on the sale of the 17 sites identified in the 2012 Future Defence Estate Report.

The report noted: "A conservative net present value estimate of the disposal of these sites over 30 years is $1.4 billion, including property sales of $570 million ... but this does not take into account future maintenance savings."

Fairfax Media revealed in December the government had $1 billion of unfunded work to do an the estate as it fell into dangerous disrepair.

The "first principles" review is the most thorough in four decades and calls for a restructure of the department to cut waste and simplify processes.

The review effectively proposes the biggest overhaul of the department since former Defence department secretary Arthur Tange rationalised and brought the different Defence services under one banner.

On Wednesday there was some confusion about how many job cuts there would be with talk of 1650 and 1000 public service job losses but a department spokesperson later clarified it was 1650.


1 April, 2015

Tim Winton has checked his privilege and rather likes it  -- Is social class important in Australia?

Prominent Australian novelist Tim Winton has a very long winded article in "The Monthly", Australia's premier Marxist magazine.  Marxists of course obsess about social class and that would seem to be why Winton appears in that magazine -- because his article is all about class.  Wordy as it is however, there is not much you can pin down in the article as a firm claim.  It is more a  collection of soliloquies and anecdotes.  I reproduce just his conclusion below as that seems to be as near he gets to saying something definite. My own investigations into social class were rather more numerate.

Winton concedes that  class has become much less important in recent decades but probably overestimates how important it used to be.  He sees his own emergence from a working class background in the '70s as a sort or rare good fortune.  It was not.  My days at university were a decade before his.  I was there in the '60s to his '70s and I had no barriers in my way at all.  I came from a background as least as working class as Winton's (my father was a red-headed lumberjack who liked a drink and was ready with his fists) but I was a beneficiary of the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme initiated by that great conservative Prime Minister, Robert Menzies.  That gave free university education plus a living allowance to the top third of High School graduates, reasonably regarded as the population slice most likely to be able to absorb a university education.  It was a lot more generous than the present HECS-HELP arrangements.

My studies were largely untroubled and I had a lot of fun as a conservative student activist.  Where most students were marching in anti-Vietnam demonstrations, I joined the army (Reserves).  I guess I was brought up in a psychogically healthier home than Winton was -- one that did not seethe with resentment of other people's good fortune -- which appears to be Winton's background, according to his account.

And after an interlude of just one year I went into academe, got tenure and stayed there until I retired.  Obviously I had the brains to do that but my point is that that was all it took.  Social class at no point entered into it.

In conclusion, I am amused that Winton is happy with his own lot and seems to have no resolve to do anything personally in aid of the poor.  He and I have that in common.  But he thinks that "something should be done" about the poor, while I think that nothing more can be. But his thinking gets acclaim while mine gets obloquy.  Fortunately not much bothers me.  I am pleased that a very great Rabbi agrees with me though.  See the Gospel of John 12:8

Where once Australia looked like a pyramid in terms of its social strata, with the working class as its broad base and ballast and the rich at the top, it’s come to resemble something of a misshapen diamond – wide in the middle – and that’s no bad thing in and of itself. I say that, of course, as a member of the emblematically widening middle. The problem is those Australians the middle has left behind without a glance.

At the bottom, of course, there are the poor, who make up almost 13 per cent of Australia’s population. The most visible of them will always be the welfare class: the sick, the addicted, the impaired and the unemployed, who only exist in the public mind as fodder for tabloid TV and the flagellants of brute radio. But if ever there was a truly “forgotten people” in our time it must be the working poor. These folk, the cleaners and carers and hospitality workers, excite no media outrage. They labour in the shadows in increasingly contingent working situations. Described as “casuals”, the only casual element of their existence is the attitude of the entities that employ them. Often on perpetual call or split shifts, their working lives are unstable. Many of them women, a significant proportion of them migrants, they have little bargaining power and low rates of union representation. As Helen Masterman-Smith and Barbara Pocock vividly document in their 2008 study, Living Low Paid, these people work in hospitals, supermarkets and five-star hotels. They mind the children of prosperous professional couples and wash their incontinent parents in care for an hourly rate most middle-class teenage babysitters can afford to turn their noses up at. It is upon these citizens’ low pay and insecurity that the prosperity of safer families is often built.

 For these vulnerable Australians, there is little mobility. And precious little of what mobility affords – namely, confidence. The cockiness that irritates the old middle class when they encounter fly-in, fly-out workers with their Holden SS utes and tatts and jetskis is rare among the labouring poor. For years I worked in a residential high-rise where the looks on people’s faces in the lifts and on the walkways ranged from wry resignation to unspeakable entrapment. Single mothers on shrinking benefits, injured workers on disability allowances, middle-aged people stocking supermarket shelves at night. Even the most functional and optimistic of them seemed tired. They were not exhausted from partying, from keeping up with all their dizzying choices; they were worn out from simply hanging on and making do. As an accidental tourist in their lives, I was struck by this weariness. And I felt awkward in their presence. Their faces and voices were completely familiar. They smelt like the people of my boyhood – fags, sugar and the beefy whiff of free-range armpit – but despite the cheerful, non-committal conversations we had on our slow ascents in the lift, I felt a distance that took many months to come to terms with. Like the expatriate whose view of home is largely antique, I was a class traveller who’d become a stranger to his own. For all my connection to family, for all the decades I’d spent in fishing towns among tradespeople and labourers, the working class I knew was no more. My new neighbours were living another life entirely.

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman writes about the contrast between the “light, sprightly and volatile” working lives of mobile citizens at the top of society and those who are largely without choice and prospects. Comfortable, confident people, heirs of the new individualism, often view strangers in cohorts below them in astoundingly superficial terms, as if they have adopted a look, chosen an identity as they often do themselves, as if life were a largely sartorial affair. Faced with your own surfeit of choices, it’s easy to assume everyone has so many. The “liquid” elite understands exotic poverty – it rallies to it tearfully – but it often fails to recognise domestic hardship: poverty of choice, poverty born of constraint, the poverty that is working servitude or the bonded shame of unemployment. Despite the angelic appeal of market thinking, there is no gainsaying the correlation between success and certain family backgrounds, geographical locations, ethnicities and schools. Pretending otherwise isn’t simply dishonest, it’s morally corrosive.

The culture that formed me was poorer, flatter and probably fairer than the one I live in today. Class was more visible, less confusing, more honestly defined and clearly understood. And it was something you could discuss without feeling like a heretic. The decency of our society used to be the measure of its success. Such decency rescued many of us from over-determined lives. It was the moral force that eroded barriers between people, opened up pathways previously unimagined. Not only did it enlarge our personal imaginations but it also enhanced our collective experience. The new cultural confidence this reform produced prefigured the material prosperity we currently enjoy. It was government intervention as much as the so-called genius of the market that underpinned our current prosperity, and it amazes me how quickly we’ve let ourselves be persuaded otherwise.

I have no illusions about overcoming class distinctions completely. Nor am I discounting the role that character plays in an individual’s fortunes. But it disturbs me to see governments abandoning those at the bottom while pandering to the appetites of the comfortable. Under such conditions, what chance is there for the working poor to fight their way free to share in the spoils of our common wealth? No one’s talking ideology. There is no insurrection brewing. For many Australian families, a gap in the fence is all the revolution they require. But while business prospers from the increased casualisation of its workforce, and government continues to reward the insatiable middle, the prospects of help for the weakest and decency for all seem dim indeed.


Australia's scientists forced to rely on pseudo-science to be taken seriously in Canberra

For once I agree with journalist Gareth Hutchens below.  He sees an estimate in dollar terms of the worth of science to Australia as hocus pocus, with its dubious economic models.  Will he also pour scorn on the similar Warmist models?  Not by his track record. 

He is probably also right that the conservative Abbott government is less than worshipful of science.  He does not expore why, however.  Virtually all conservaytives can see the hokum in Global Warming while also noting extensive scientific support for it.  That will prove in time to have done lasting harm to the reputation of science

Australia's well-regarded Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, released a report last week that was soaked in good intentions.

It was called "The Importance of Advanced Physical and Mathematical Sciences to the Australian Economy", and it estimated how much Australia's economy has benefited from the past two decades of scientific research.

It was the first time anyone has attempted to do such a thing in Australia.

It showed "advanced sciences" contribute more than $145 billion directly to the economy each year, or roughly 11 per cent of GDP, and employ more than 760,000 people.

It said its conclusions were probably conservative.

I wrote a story about it last week because Professor Chubb is someone of distinction who put some resources into the effort, and it was a dual-project with the Australian Academy of Science, which is the country's leading scientific academy.

They both obviously felt that certain governments in Australia, and their talkback radio mates, have forgotten the real value of science and needed reminding.

Fair enough. I agree with them about that.

But their report should make people uncomfortable. It shows lofty science has started to behave like less noble lobby groups.

They have hired for the first time an economic consultancy firm to put a dollar value on science's contribution to the economy because they obviously understand that they need to put a price tag on things – the environment, the planet, human life, science itself – to get taken more seriously in Canberra.

It's a sorry sight.

The economics firm they hired developed an economic model to show how many jobs are created by science in Australia, and how much science contributes to our GDP.

It is a favourite tactic of groups like the Minerals Council, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Housing Industry Association.

And how did the economics firm pull it off? To its credit, it took the job seriously.

It held a two-day workshop with top scientists from maths, physics, statistics, and nuclear and earth sciences, and asked them to think seriously about the last two decades of scientific research and how that research has become "embodied" in economic inputs (labour, capital and systems).

(The workshop was lots of fun apparently. The mathematicians claimed they were responsible for everything).

After the workshop, the firm then talked to various industries to find out what kind of contribution they felt advanced science made to their daily working lives.

Then, using the ABS's 2006 ANZSIC industry classification system that divides the Australian economy into 506 industry classes, it identified 158 industry classes that are "science-based".

That list of industries includes oil and gas extraction, general insurance, iron ore mining, wired telecommunications, pathology and diagnostic services, banking, fossil fuel electricity generation.

Then the firm developed a computerised general equilibrium (CGE) model, based on the publicly available MMRF-NRA model that was developed by the Productivity Commission, which is an impossibly complicated model to use.

It provides a detailed account of investment, imports, exports, changes in prices, employment, industry activity, and household sending and savings; it accounts for differing economic fundamentals in every state and territory; it can produce results on employment and "valued added" at the regional level, and it can be run in static or dynamic mode, with the dynamic version tracing impacts over time as the economy adjusts to changes in policy and activity.

Feel your head whirring? You're not alone.

I like to think of the model as a big rig of pulley wheels and ropes. If you pull on one rope the whole apparatus will hiss steam, and starts lifting different weights and buckets into the air, all at different levels.

It has hundreds of thousands of different combinations, and buckets can fly every which way.

But for the model to actually work, the economics firm had to figure out how each scientific discipline contributes to every industry.

And that's where the main problem comes in.

That process was largely a normative one – scientists and industry types would basically have to guess when they assigned a proportion or percentage to each discipline.

So, when it comes to beer manufacturing, say, how much do you think science contributes?

Well, the model reckons science accounts for 10 per cent of the industry's gross value added, with maths (0.3) and chemistry (0.7) sharing that 10 per cent load unevenly.

And those proportions were largely guesswork.

Now repeat that process hundreds of times as you go through every industry.

That's how Professor Chubb's headline figures were created: "Advanced sciences" contribute more than $145 billion directly to the economy each year, or roughly 11 per cent of GDP.

Sound believeable?

Despite its honest and worthy intentions, it's sad that the Academy of Science felt that it had to play a magician's game, like every other lobby group, to get Canberra to take them more seriously and stop cutting funding.

It's also dispiriting to think that it had to rely on pseudo-science to remind policymakers not to take real science for granted. How have things come to this in Australia?


Wind farms in trouble in Australia

The article below sees that as a tragedy.  By any rational and fully informed  calculation, however, it is a Godsend for Australian public finances

Banco Santander, a major investor in renewable energy, will sell its only Australian wind farm and exit the local sector because of policy uncertainty that has dragged the industry into crisis.

Santander will seek a buyer for its 90 per cent stake in the 106.8 megawatt Taralga wind farm near Goulburn, which is not being included in the renewable energy fund it set up late last year with two Canadian pension giants because of the perceived poor prospects for the sector in Australia, say sources.

David Smith, executive director of Santander in Sydney, declined to comment.

Australia's renewable energy sector has been left in limbo by the political debate surrounding the country's 2020 renewable energy target. The government and Labor Opposition agree the 41,000GWh target for large-scale renewable energy needs to be reduced to suit the downturn in total power demand from the grid, but have been unable to agree on a compromise.

As of last week, the government was proposing a 2020 target of 32,000GWh, while Labor wants a target in the high 30,000GWh range. A compromise suggested by the Clean Energy Council at 33,500GWh, up from the current level of about 17,000GWh, has failed to find backing.

Investment in large-scale renewable energy collapsed by almost 90 per cent in 2014 as a result of the deadlock, which has been criticised by several large foreign investors in the local renewable energy sector, including GE, Spain's Fotowatio Renewable Venture and Infigen Energy cornerstone shareholder, the Children's Investment Fund. They have all warned of the harm to Australia's sovereign risk, which will deter long-term infrastructure investors.

In December, Santander struck a deal with the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board in Canada to transfer its portfolio of renewable energy and water infrastructure assets into a new company owned equally by all three parties. But despite the partners having an appetite for other infrastructure assets in Australia, the wind farm was excluded from the $US2 billion-plus ($2.6 billion) portfolio of assets in the new company because of the uncertainty around the RET and the decision by the Coalition government to ditch the carbon tax, say sources close to the company.

The new company will, however, invest in Brazil and Mexico, which are seen as offering better prospects for renewable energy investors than Australia.

"It is quite clear that the uncertainty around the RET and other changes to policy that have occurred over the past few years has created a lot of uncertainty for investors in the renewable energy space," said Richard Pillinger at BlueNRGY LLC, which owns 10 per cent of the Taralga wind farm. 

The Taralga wind farm, which has a 10-year contract to supply power to EnergyAustralia, was financed with about $280 million from Santander, CBD Energy, Danish export credit agency EKF, ANZ and the federal government's Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Production of electricity from the first of the 51 wind turbines began in December.

CBD Energy has since gone into administration and been acquired by US-based BlueNRGY LLC.

Santander is closing the Sydney office for its equity investment arm, which focuses on renewable energy, in mid-2015.


Freedom of Speech and Tanya Cohen

by Sean Gabb

I have been directed to this article, published today: "Australia Must Have Zero Tolerance for Online Hatred", by Tanya Cohen of something called The Australian Independent Media Network. It is a very long article, and I will begin my response by quoting the passages I find most objectionable.

1. “…it’s just common sense that freedom of speech doesn’t give anyone the right to offend, insult, humiliate, intimidate, vilify, incite hatred or violence, be impolite or uncivil, disrespect, oppose human rights, spread lies or misinformation, argue against the common good, or promote ideas which have no place in society. We all learned this in school, and it’s not something that’s even up for debate. Hate speech is not free speech….”

2. “…even right-wing libertarians were outraged that anyone would propose watering down laws against hate speech.”

3. “There are two sides to the free speech debate in Australia: the people who believe that all offensive or insulting speech should always be illegal (the vast majority of Australians), and the people who believe that only racial vilification or incitement to hatred should be illegal (the far-right, ultra-libertarian free speech fundamentalists).”

4. “You simply cannot call yourself a progressive in Australia unless you support the outlawing of all un-progressive speech. One of the most fundamental goals of the Australian progressive movement is ensuring that anyone who voices un-progressive ideas is aggressively prosecuted, and this is something that all Australian progressives firmly agree with.”

5. “What I propose is something called a Human Rights Online Act. This Act would not only make it a severe criminal offence on the federal level to publish, distribute, promote, or access hate speech online, but would also implement a federal Internet filtering system to protect Australians from being exposed to hate sites run out of the US. The Internet filter should block access to all hate sites, and anyone who tries to access any hate sites should be sent to gaol, much like people who access child pornography. In keeping with other human rights legislation in Australia – like the proposed Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, which was unfortunately narrowly defeated by the efforts of the far-right – anyone accused of offending, insulting, humiliating, or intimidating other people should be required to prove their innocence or be declared guilty automatically, and this should also apply for anyone accused of publishing, distributing, promoting, or accessing online hatred. The principle of guilty until proven innocent is the only principle that really works when it comes to cracking down on hate speech….”

6. “Internet filtering should not just filter out hate speech. It should filter out anything that violates human rights and/or poses a danger to society. Our Australian Classification Board bans any film, video game, book, or other form of media if it offends against community standards, contains content harmful to society, or is demeaning to human dignity. If a book, film, or video game contains content that degrades human dignity, then it therefore constitutes a violation of human rights, since human dignity is a fundamental human right that all civilised governments are tasked with upholding.”

7. “All Australian websites should be required to register with the Australian Human Rights Commission in order to ensure strict compliance with human rights. If any websites contain content that opposes human rights, then they should be shut down immediately and their owners sent to gaol. In addition, all Australian websites should be required to promote human rights. Any website found to inadequately promote human rights should be shut down by the Australian Human Rights Commission, and the owner fined or sent to gaol.”

As I read through the article, I kept asking whether Miss Cohen really existed, or if this was a satire on the modern left. Quotation (4) – about banning anything “unprogressive” – does verge on the Swiftian. So does the indefinable but “fundamental” right to “dignity” that is given precedence over the traditional rights to freedom of speech and association and to the requirements of natural justice. Sadly, she does appear to exist, and this does appear to be an honest statement of what she believes.

This being so, you can take the quotations given above as part of her article’s refutation. Miss Cohen is calling for the censorship of any opinion that she and her friends find disagreeable. She wants to punish not only those who write and publish such things, but also those who read them. She believes in reversing the burden of proof, so that those accused of writing or publishing or reading shall be made to prove that they have not done as accused – to prove this out of their own resources against a prosecution with bottomless pockets and skilled lawyers. She also believes in licensing the media, so that disagreeable opinions will not be published.

There is nothing unusual about the substance of her demands. I first came across their like in the early 1980s, when I was at university. It struck me then as a scandalous misuse of words to make human rights of censorship and unlimited state power – me and the older lefties who had not caved in to the neo-Marxists. But that was then. We live today in a world captured and increasingly reshaped by Miss Cohen and her friends. All I find unusual now is the honesty of her demands. It may be that she really is a clever satirist. Or perhaps she is just stupid. But I am used to a more sophisticated defence of locking people away for their opinions, and without a fair trial.

I will deal with two of her specific claims. The first is that “right-wing libertarians” do not mind the banning of “hate speech.” The second is that “Hate speech is not free speech.”

I am undoubtedly a libertarian. I am probably a right-wing libertarian. I believe that people should, at the minimum, be free to say whatever they please about alleged matters of public fact. I am sceptical about the justice of the laws covering libel and confidentiality and copyright and official secrecy. But, so long as these are confined to achieving their traditionally stated ends, I will, for present purposes, leave them to one side. I will also leave aside photographic displays of sexual activity not limited to consenting adults. Yet, even at its minimal definition, the right to freedom of speech covers every class of utterance that Miss Cohen wants to censor. So far as libertarians, almost by definition, believe in freedom of speech, either she is mistaken about the meaning of libertarianism, or she is playing with the meaning of words.

I turn to her claim about the nature of “hate speech.” The term is designed to bring into mind ideas of inarticulate screams, or of simple orders to kill or to hurt. In fact, every act of “hate speech” I have seen punished or denounced has involved the same combination of propositions and inferences I see anywhere else.

Let us, for example, take these two cases:

1. Bearing in mind differences of population and wealth, the Great War was less destructive to England than the civil wars of the seventeenth century. Proportionately, fewer men were killed, and the economic costs were lower. Yet the physical effects of the civil wars drop out of view after 1660, and those of the Great War were a national obsession until 1939, and are now widely seen as the greatest single cause of our national decline. Therefore, anyone who accepts the consensus view of the Great War as a catastrophe is mistaking symptoms for causes. Whether or not going to war was an error, a fundamentally healthy nation could have shaken off the losses of the Somme and Passchendaele in a decade at most. That we did not indicates that there was already something wrong with us by 1914.

2. There are measurable differences between racial groups. Some of these are of intellectual capacity. Others are of propensity to crimes against life or property or both. Even otherwise, there are differences of outlook that show themselves in how the members of one group relate to each other and to members of other groups. These differences have been uncovered and confirmed by more than a century of research. They have also long been accepted as matters of common sense. Therefore, racially homogenous countries are well advised to keep out immigrants of other races. Where a country is already mixed, it makes sense to segregate each racial group so far as possible, and to govern each by different laws, or to apply the same laws with different effect to each group.

I give no opinion on the truth of these cases. The first I have just made up. The second I have distilled from my reading of various nationalist blogs and journals. Whether they are true is beside my present point. My point is that each case begins with factual claims, from which inferences are then drawn. If you disagree with either, it seems obvious to me that the proper mode of disagreement is to show that the factual claims are untrue, or that the inferences are not validly drawn. Calling in the police is at best unlikely to advance our understanding of the world.

I suppose Miss Cohen would argue that the first case, if accepted, will have no obvious effects on what is done in the present, but that the second, if accepted, will lead to ethnic cleansing or apartheid. She would infer from this that laws against advancing the second case are needed to stop a great evil from being committed.

I agree that, if we accept the racial nationalist case, difficult questions come onto the agenda. In the same way, however, if my gold crowns wear out this year, I shall not be able to afford a family holiday. The unpleasantness of the apodosis has no bearing on the truth of the protasis. Suppose the racial nationalists are right. Suppose that what they advocate is the lesser of evils in the long term. Or suppose that they are right in their factual claims, but that there are alternative and less alarming inferences to be drawn from these.  This would surely be worth knowing. I say that, once a case has been stated with any show of evidence, and certainly once it has gained any body of support, it needs to be contested in open debate, not silenced by the State.

Furthermore, where written arguments are concerned, readers are generally alone and have ample time to think before taking action. This must be considered a new intervening cause in any course that leads from the communication of ideas to actual violence. If Miss Cohen wanted laws against street agitators, she might have a case. Censoring the written word is plain suppression of debate.

The main focus of Miss Cohen’s article is on those who dissent from the present discourse on race and immigration. Looking at Quotation (6), though – “Internet filtering should not just filter out hate speech. It should filter out anything that violates human rights and/or poses a danger to society.” – we can see that she wants to shut down debate on every leftist claim. She would not allow any dissent on the nature and extent of climate change, or on what is happening in the Middle East – she is a pro-Palestinian, not that I think better or worse of her for this – or on how dangerous drinking and smoking are to health. Indeed, we seem to be at the beginning of a change in the consensus on diet and health. For about forty years, we have been told that fat is bad for us, and that we should eat a lot of carbohydrate. It may be that we are about to be told that fat is good for us, and that sugar is the main cause of obesity and diabetes. Had her proposed law been in place across the world, this debate would have been flattened by claims of “social danger.”

I could say more, but will not. I will conclude by suggesting that you should read Miss Cohen for yourself. You decide whether she is a satirist of genius, or an embarrassment to the modern left by virtue of her blundering honesty.


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Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

In most Australian States there are two conservative political parties, the city-based Liberal party and the rural-based National party. But in Queensland those two parties are amalgamated as the LNP.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

"Digger" is an honorific term for an Australian soldier

Another lesson in Australian: When an Australian calls someone a "big-noter", he is saying that the person is a chronic and rather pathetic seeker of admiration -- as in someone who often pulls out "big notes" (e.g. $100.00 bills) to pay for things, thus endeavouring to create the impression that he is rich. The term describes the mentality rather than the actual behavior with money and it aptly describes many Leftists. When they purport to show "compassion" by advocating things that cost themselves nothing (e.g. advocating more taxes on "the rich" to help "the poor"), an Australian might say that the Leftist is "big-noting himself". There is an example of the usage here. The term conveys contempt. There is a wise description of Australians generally here

Two of my ancestors were convicts so my family has been in Australia for a long time. As well as that, all four of my grandparents were born in the State where I was born and still live: Queensland. And I am even a member of the world's second-most condemned minority: WASPs (the most condemned is of course the Jews -- which may be why I tend to like Jews). So I think I am as Australian as you can get. I certainly feel that way. I like all things that are iconically Australian: meat pies, Vegemite, Henry Lawson etc. I particularly pride myself on my familiarity with the great Australian slanguage. I draw the line at Iced Vo-Vos and betting on the neddies, however. So if I cannot comment insightfully on Australian affairs, who could?

My son Joe

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative

Bureaucracy: "One of the constant laments of doctors and nurses working with NSW Health is the incredible and increasing bureaucracy," she said. "It is completely obstructive to providing a service."

Revered Labour Party leader Gough Whitlam was a very erudite man so he cannot have been unaware of the similarities of his famous phrase “the Party, the platform, the people” with an earlier slogan: "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer". It's basically the same slogan in reverse order.

Australia's original inhabitants were a race of pygmies, some of whom survived into modern times in the mountainous regions of the Atherton tableland in far North Queensland. See also here. Below is a picture of one of them taken in 2007, when she was 105 years old and 3'7" tall

Julia Gillard, a failed feminist flop. She was given the job of Prime Minister of Australia but her feminist preaching was so unpopular that she was booted out of the job by her own Leftist party. Her signature "achievements" were the carbon tax and the mining tax, both of which were repealed by the next government.

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


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"Dissecting Leftism" (Backup here)
"Australian Politics"
"Education Watch International"
"Political Correctness Watch"
"Greenie Watch"
"Western Heart"


"Marx & Engels in their own words"
"A scripture blog"
"Some memoirs"
To be continued ....
Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).
Queensland Police -- A barrel with lots of bad apples
Australian Police News
Paralipomena (3)
Of Interest


"Food & Health Skeptic"
"Eye on Britain"
"Immigration Watch International".
"Leftists as Elitists"
Socialized Medicine
QANTAS -- A dying octopus
BRIAN LEITER (Ladderman)
Obama Watch
Obama Watch (2)
Dissecting Leftism -- Large font site
Michael Darby
Paralipomena (2)
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)

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