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 August, 2013

Pollies decorating at your expense

Just last week, WasteWatch brought you news of the $34 000 taxpayer-funded art binge for public service offices.

Now the pollies are getting in on the action. It seems interior decorating has become the new way to pass time in the halls of Parliament House.

As we wait with bated breath for the most recent report on our parliamentarians’ expenditure, the July-December 2012 report makes interesting reading.

Top of the list of notable spending was Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, who was the seventh most profligate parliamentarian in terms of ‘office fit-out costs’, spending over $300,000 beautifying her office.

However, she was outdone by Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who managed to rack up a staggering $317,000 on his interior decorating. One wonders what the notoriously abstemious Bob Brown – who spent just $3,400 in his last six months in office – would think.

Independent Andrew Wilkie also spent more than $150,000 on his office fit-out.

These three were the only parliamentarians who hold no other official positions, like being a Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary, to spend over $100 000 on office fit-outs in the six-month period covered by the report.

Bear in mind, though, that the current base salary for Members of Parliament is just shy of $200,000. These are people who are used to the beautiful things in life. They just want the rest of us to pay for them.


NOTE about the surfing Senator, Peter Whish-Wilson (below). Hyphenated names can arise in a number of ways but ususally a Miss Whish (say) decides that she is really too grand to marry a mere Wilson (say) so marries on condition that all her children are known as Whishes as well as Wilsons.  So in addition to  his extravagance with taxpayer's money, Peter's hyphen would seem to betray a certain inherited arrogance.  But Greenies think that they are the real people and the rest of us are cattle so he is clearly in the right party.

A multicultural doctor

Born in Lebanon and probably Muslim

A woman had been suffering facial spasms when Dr Haissam Naim subjected her to an unnecessary and invasive internal examination, a court has heard.

Dr Naim, who was reprimanded over the examination and had his registration as a medical practitioner cancelled for a year after a hearing in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, had his appeal against the decision dismissed on Thursday.

"Regarding the matter overall, the allegations reflect a sexual overtone to the applicant's [Dr Haim's] conduct," Court of Appeal judges Hartley Hansen and Pamela Tate said.

"In these circumstances it was both open and appropriate to the tribunal to find that 'in the absence of a clinical purpose for the examination, the only available inference is that it was conducted for the sexual gratification of the practitioner'."

The woman, Ms L, had first met Dr Haim on August 28, 2010, when he was on weekend duty at a hospital emergency department on the outskirts of Melbourne. Dr Haim had been a registrar at the time before later becoming a fully qualified doctor.

Ms L had been experiencing facial spasms and was discharged at 5.30pm.

On September 1, 2010, Ms L went to her dentist concerned that her wisdom tooth might have been causing her facial spasms. The dentist referred her for an X-ray that was taken on September 7. Ms L saw Dr Haim the next day when she wanted him to examine the X-ray of her teeth to see if her wisdom tooth was the cause of her facial spasms.

It was during this consultation that Ms L claimed she was nearly in tears when Dr Haim conducted an "excruciatingly painful" internal and invasive examination after asking her if she had had stomach pains and irregular periods.

After telling Dr Naim she thought his questions unusual, Ms L said that although there had been issues with her body after she gave birth, her doctor had told her that everything was now fine.

Dr Naim told Ms L that he thought she may have a cyst on her ovary. When she said she had had a test one month earlier, and no cyst was found, the doctor replied that he needed to conduct the test himself.

Ms L claimed Dr Naim pushed hard on her stomach while her shirt was pushed up.

He repeated his belief that there was a cyst and she repeated that there was not one. Dr Naim then made the woman pull down her pants for an internal examination.

He did not leave the woman as she undressed, did not close the curtain around the bed and started to pull her jeans to get them off.

Ms L saw her own GP two days later and told her what had happened. A complaint was made to the Australian Health Professionals Registration Authority.

Dr Haim, who had been medically qualified in Lebanon in 1998, denied conducting the examination but VCAT found he had engaged in professional misconduct.

Justices Hansen and Tate said the lawyer acting for the Medical Board told VCAT that "the allegation isn't that he assaulted her, the allegation is that he performed an internal examination without clinical justification".

The judges dismissed Dr Haim's appeal and ordered he be deregistered for 12 months from September 5 this year.


Conservatives commit to "charter" schools for Australia

Schools that are funded by the government but independent of the bureaucracy are known as "charters" in the USA and "academies" in the U.K. They tend to get better results than normal government schools

Encouraging around 1500 public schools around the country to operate more like independent schools will be a focus of a Coalition government, the Opposition Leader has announced at a Christian school that requires families to sign a statement decrying homosexuality as an abomination.

Formally launching the Coalition's education policy on Thursday, Tony Abbott reiterated his pledge that there would be no real difference between the two parties on school funding. The Coalition has ditched its fervent opposition to the reforms known as Gonski and agreed to deliver the same federal funding over the next four years.

No guarantee has been made for the final two years of the existing six-year agreements signed by states including NSW and Victoria, when the bulk of the money -  about $3 billion of the total $5 billion promised for NSW schools - is set to flow.

But the Coalition did commit $70 million for an 'Independent Public Schools Fund' to help around 1500 public schools around the country become independent public schools by 2017, similar to a model already rolled out in Western Australia.

The schools in that state that have made the switch remain publicly funded and cannot charge mandatory fees, but operate with a very high degree of autonomy from the state government and have school boards.

Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said the Coalition had decided to match Labor on Gonski because it didn't want the debate to be preoccupied with funding, and wanted to move it to a "higher plane".

"We want more characteristics from the non-government sector in the government sector," said Mr Pyne.

The Coalition has also pledged a review on the national curriculum, a "new emphasis" on teacher quality and to develop "best practice guidelines to improve admission standards into teaching courses."

"We want more great schools and we want all schools to be better," said Mr Abbott.

"Mr Rudd's scare that the Coalition is going to cut money out of education is simply false."

Mr Abbott made the announcement while visiting Penrith Christian School, in Sydney's west, which makes parents sign a statement decrying homosexuality as an abomination when they enrol their children.

The school, of around 620 pupils, is a part of the Ministry of Imagine Nations Church. The school's website includes a "Statement of Faith" outlining its religious principals, including that homosexuality is an "abomination unto God", a commitment to creationism and the power of divine healing.

According to the school's website, all families who enrol in the school "MUST sign the school's Statement of Faith as a part of the enrolment process".

Mr Abbott defended the decision to launch their policy at the school, pointing out Labor politicians had associated themselves with the school in the past.

Asking whether the school's stance on homosexuality was the kind of initiative he envisaged public schools taking on with increased autonomy, he said he did not agree with the school's view on homosexuality.

"No . . . The Independent Schools in Western Australia and the more autonomous public schools here in NSW are obviously bound by departmental and government policy on these sorts of issues," he said.

The Christian school received two-thirds of its funding in 2011 from state and federal governments, according to the My School website.


Carbon farm in trouble

The Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association wants Henbury Station in central Australia to resume operations as a cattle property and abandon plans for what was intended to be the world's largest and the nation's pioneering carbon credits farm.

The station, 230 kilometres south of Alice Springs is being put up for sale, a month after its owner, RM Williams Agricultural Holdings, was placed in administration.

The station was bought by the company for $13 million, with a $9 million contribution from the Federal Government, in 2011.

The 5,000 square kilometre property was destocked two years ago as part of the plan to create a conservation project to earn carbon credits as part of a Commonwealth plan to combat greenhouse gases and global warming..

The aim at the time was also to take a lead in establishing a business model for properties in remote areas to be used to earn carbon credits.

NT Cattlemen's Association executive director Luke Bowen says potential buyers should consider using the property to run cattle again.

"It is a high quality property that has been recognised as such for a number of years," he said.

"It is good to see that it is potentially available for somebody to come in and get it going again, and run it as a viable productive pastoral property in the central Australian region, with all the added economic benefits that that will bring with it."

Mr Bowen says the science that saw Henbury Station turned into a carbon farm was flawed.

"The methodology and the principles were based around a carbon methodology that had not been verified, that had not been tested or established and was a theoretical model," he said.

"We were concerned that this would create an artificial bubble in land values and see land go out of production."

The Federal Environment Department, handed over the $9 million to help purchase Henbury Station says it remains committed to a conservation outcome at the property.

A spokeswoman says the department wants to talk about plans to secure long-term conservation management of the land.

The original purchase of the property for use as a carbon farm drew criticism from both the cattle industry and Indigenous traditional owners.

Last year, the Central Land Council said it had been supporting local Aboriginal interests trying to buy the station since 1974.

Today, the Territory Government said the former owners of Henbury Station had never received approval to run the pastoral property as a carbon farming venture.

Primary Industry Minister Willem Westra van Holthe told the Legislative Assembly the project was illegal, because carbon farming is a non-pastoral use.

"It was unlawful because there was never a pastoral land permit issued," he said.

"In fact, there was never even an application lodged for a pastoral land permit and, even if there was, it's unsure whether it would have satisfied the requirements of the Native Title Act."


29 August, 2013

Push to end expulsion of homosexual students from private schools

Seems a pity that there can be no refuge from them

Controversial laws that allow private schools to expel students because they are gay could be abolished if the two main parties are allowed a conscience vote on the issue, the MP seeking to overturn the laws says.

Under the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, it is unlawful for public schools and educational institutions to discriminate against or expel students on the basis of homosexuality, transgender status and other traits, but private schools and colleges are explicitly exempt from these provisions.

Independent MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich will introduce the private member's bill to the NSW Parliament on Wednesday to remove the exemptions, and said he hoped a conscience vote would be granted if the two main parties did not back the bill outright. "I have spoken to a number of government members and opposition members who are keen on it," he said.

?Though few, if any, cases of students actually being expelled under the laws are known, students at religious schools say their complaints about homophobic bullying are sometimes ignored by staff and have been told they should convert to heterosexuality, according to a recent senate submission by Dr Tiffany Jones from the University of New England's School of Education

Mr Greenwich said schoolchildren should be free from harassment and discrimination.

"Students suffering from bullying by their peers because of their [lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual or intersex] status are less likely to report the matter to teachers if they know they could be expelled," he wrote in a discussion paper on the issue.

"A school that can by law discriminate is less likely to have processes in place to deal with this type of bullying if it is reported."

Both the Coalition and Labor said they would examine the details of the bill before taking a position.

Labor's education spokeswoman, Carmel Tebbutt, said she had '"sympathy" for what Mr Greenwich was trying to achieve.

"I respect the religious beliefs of faith-based schools, however, it is important that all students are treated fairly and are not subject to discrimination," she said.

But several authorities representing private and religious schools have already voiced opposition to removing the exemptions.

Ian Baker, then-acting executive director of the NSW Catholic Education Commission, told Fairfax Media in July that the fact that so few, if any, cases of students being expelled were widely known was testament to the fact schools tended to treat such students with sensitivity.

"It speaks for itself,’’ he said at the time. "It’s exercised with great caution and consideration. The objective is not to punish, but to protect the rights of those families who send their child to a school based on a religious faith.’’

The executive director of the Association for Independent Schools NSW, Geoff Newcombe, also defended the right of schools to decide who they enrolled, provided they were operating within the law.

Greens MP John Kaye said his party strongly supported Mr Greenwich’s move and pointed out private schools received significant government funding: "The least they could do is obey the common standards that apply to the rest of society.’’


ICAC report puts NSW Labor in spotlight

LABOR'S corruption woes in NSW will enter the election campaign with the release of an ICAC report on Friday.

But Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten says it won't detract from Labor's campaign for re-election on September 7.

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) will on Friday hand down its second set of findings about the granting of controversial mining licences by disgraced former state Labor minister Ian Macdonald.

Two senior federal MPs, NSW senator Doug Cameron and former federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, were called to give evidence during the inquiry, which probed a coal exploration licence granted by Mr Macdonald to a company run by ex-union boss John Maitland and other businessmen.

A separate ICAC report handed down in July already recommended prosecutors look at laying criminal charges against Mr Macdonald and former Labor minister Eddie Obeid, who were found by the ICAC to have acted corruptly in relation to a coal tenement at Mount Penny.

Federal ministers Stephen Conroy and Tony Burke were mentioned at the hearings as having enjoyed the hospitality of Mr Obeid at his Perisher Valley ski lodge.

The corruption issue is expected to damage Labor in key western Sydney marginal seats.

Mr Shorten told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday the ALP had "zero tolerance" for corruption.

"In terms of ICAC what has happened with those couple of Labor MPs is shocking, it's ridiculous, it's a betrayal of trust," the minister said.

"I don't think it reflects the Labor cause and the Labor message in this election."

He said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had acted to clean up the NSW ALP and voters could now have confidence in it.

ICAC's Operation Acacia investigated the awarding of the Doyles Creek exploration licence as a closed tender to Mr Maitland - a former mining union boss and political ally of Mr Macdonald - and others for a "training mine" in December 2008.

Mr Maitland allegedly received a financial windfall when the licence was sold to NuCoal in 2010.


Get ready for Leftist hysteria if Abbott wins the election

THERE is a reason so many in Hollywood gravitate towards the political Left. Both groups trade in emotion rather than reason and prefer hyperbole over facts.

Hence, anyone who has seen the latest Hollywood blockbuster - Elysium - could be forgiven for thinking it was directed by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young with the screenplay by John Pilger and financed by GetUp! Adam Bandt or Scott Ludlam would surely have taken Matt Damon's place as the planet-saving protagonist for a fraction of Damon's exorbitant fee. And surely Bob Brown and Tim Flannery were extras weaving this torrid tale of man's inhumanity to planet Earth where the greedy evil rich refuse to allow desperate economic migrants to live on their utopian planet. No doubt, an Academy award awaits those responsible for two hours of empty-headed politics at its left-wing worst.

The illogical, over-emoting mindset is best left to the movies where we expect and even enjoy the suspension of reality. But when this mindset morphs into vandalism on Australian streets, it's time for a reality check.

On Saturday, Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg arrived at his Kooyong electoral office in Melbourne to find graffiti emblazoned across the glass front. In white paint, a vandal had written "Racist pollies will not be settled".

Of all people, Frydenberg understands the evils of racism. In his 2010 maiden speech, he recounted the experience of his maternal grandparents and their young daughters, including his mother, "who were interned in the Budapest ghetto by the Hungarian fascists. They survived and eventually made their way through displaced persons camps to Australia". The first Jewish Liberal MP in the House of Representatives represents the proud history of a country that has settled millions of migrants.

Alas, that graffiti is a harbinger of the illogical hysteria that will re-emerge if the Coalition wins office on September 7. If Tony Abbott becomes prime minister, he has promised to stop the boats. This will drive sections of the Left to pursue the politics of inflated sanctimony with extra zeal. The Opposition Leader should ignore them as politely as John Howard did.

As hard as they tried, members of the Left couldn't muster the same outrage when the Gillard and Rudd governments belatedly reintroduced offshore processing. Not even Rudd's PNG Solution raised their ire to earlier levels. The reason was simple. Rudd and Gillard's policies were driven by polls, not convictions. The Left, like the people-smugglers, counted on another policy shift like the eight Labor endorsed since 2007.

No wonder the Left hated Howard: he introduced the Pacific Solution, re-established an orderly immigration policy, stopped the boats and won four elections.

The Left was incensed by a conviction politician and ramped up its sanctimony, outrage and specious arguments.

Labor MPs and Greens senators emoted about cruel Coalition policies that lacked compassion.

Hannie Rayson penned The Two Brothers, a play whose wicked main character is based on ex-immigration minister Philip Ruddock. As Keith Windschuttle recalled, in packed theatres in Sydney and Melbourne a mention on stage of Philip Adams scored a predictable cheer while a reference to Alan Jones earned a predictable groan. David Marr wrote tomes about the evil Howard era and filled ABC airwaves with claims that Australians "feared" refugees. Never mind that having a concern about people-smugglers dictating immigration policy has nothing to do with fearing refugees. Naturally, time-rich academics joined in the hatefest, writing about "xenophobic racism and class during the Howard years" where "the Howard government used racism to sustain its popularity".

Shelves in trendy bookstores heaved under the weight of leftwing indignation about Howard and Australia, understanding neither the history, nor the facts of our immigration policy.

Those facts deserve to be repeated every time the Left vents its hysteria. Australians have supported increased immigration when the government of the day manages an orderly immigration program and when it serves the interests of Australia. Howard understood what my colleague Paul Kelly has called Australia's most powerful political compact.

The compact that began with the Chifley government in 1945 when increased immigration became a reality and a necessity and has been maintained by every prime minister until Rudd in 2008.

As Prime Minister, Rudd bowed to those on the sanctimonious Left and dismantled the Pacific Solution. Labor MP after Labor MP rose to announce that move as a proud day when injustice towards refugees was removed from the Australian polity.

What followed should haunt the ALP. Canny people-smugglers filled thousands of boats with more than 40,000 asylum-seekers and more than 1000 people died at sea delivering us the biggest policy failure this nation has seen.

The Left will never acknowledge that reality. Just as they will never tell us that Gough Whitlam said: "I'm not having hundreds of f ... king Vietnamese Balts coming into this country with their political and religious hatreds." Or that Bob Hawke in 1990 said: "Do not let any people think that all they've got to do is break the rules, jump the queue, lob here and Bob's your uncle. Bob is not your uncle on this issue. We're not going to allow people to jump that queue." Or that Paul Keating introduced mandatory detention in 1992.

The Left deliberately ignores the success behind this compact between the Australian people and the government of the day. As Kelly wrote in The March of Patriots, from the 1940s Australia accepted about seven million migrants, the highest per capita outside of Israel. By the time Howard left office, one in four Australians were born overseas, confirming Australia's success as a migrant nation.

True to form, in the wake of the graffiti attack, Frydenberg said he understood there are deep differences of opinion about immigration but those differences "should be settled at the ballot box not through acts of vandalism".

Predictably, some people prefer the latter. Even more predictable is the left-wing hysteria and hypocrisy that will greet Abbott if he becomes prime minister.


NSW minister wants hunters back ASAP

NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson plans to bring volunteer hunters back to state forests as quickly as possible.

She told parliamentary question time on Tuesday that volunteer hunting in all 400 state forests was still on hold, pending the outcome of a risk assessment.

But she wants to return to business as usual as soon as possible.

"It is our intention to restore volunteer hunting in state forests to control feral animals as quickly as possible, and in a manner that's as similar as possible to previous procedures," Ms Hodgkinson said.

She told parliament an eight-member game and pest management advisory board would be set up to represent hunters' interests, direct research and advise government.

The establishment of the board was among the recommendations of a scathing review of the NSW Game Council by public servant Steve Dunn.

In response to the review, the council was scrapped and its staff are being transferred to the Department of Primary Industries.

Meanwhile, the functions previously carried out by the Game Council are being transferred to the Director-General of the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services, which will be the new regulatory authority in line with the Dunn review recommendations, Ms Hodgkinson said on Tuesday.

A trial of hunting in 12 national parks is set to begin in October under the direction of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.


28 August, 2013

Character is destiny, Kevin

SOMETIMES, the most trivial event can have the most volcanic impact in an election campaign.  So it was with the encounter between the Prime Minister and the make-up artist last week.

Kevin Rudd was late to the Broncos Leagues Club in Brisbane on Wednesday night. Late, and anxious, despite the cheesy grin he flashed to demonstrators as his car swung into the driveway.

It was 6.15pm, just 15 minutes until showtime for the People's Forum, where both leaders were to face unscripted questions from an audience of swinging voters.  David Speers was already on stage and the audience were in their seats. Tony Abbott had been in the building for almost an hour.

The Opposition Leader had a room on the lower ground floor, while the PM and his entourage were assigned quarters one level above the ground floor auditorium where the leaders would face off in a contest Rudd had been reluctantly conscripted into.

Lily Fontana was the freelance make-up artist hired by Sky to ensure both men were camera-ready.  Highly regarded, and reportedly apolitical, the mother of a young son told staffers she was excited to be back, three years after working on the debate between Abbott and Julia Gillard.  Abbott remembered her and they chatted companionably as she powdered his nose. She was finished on schedule at 5.45pm.

But there was no sign of Rudd. As she waited for the PM to arrive, Abbott's staffers offered her coffee.

It is not known what state Rudd was in when he burst through the door at 6.15pm, but he appeared jumpy and soon began sculling bottles of Mt Franklin water.

Whatever happened next in that first-floor make-up room is now a matter of debate. But one thing is clear. The PM made such a bad impression on Lily Fontana that, three hours later, at 9.25pm, she opened up Facebook and vented.

"Just finished doing Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott's makeup ... One of them was absolutely lovely, engaged in genuine conversation with me, acknowledged that I had a job to do and was very appreciative. The other did the exact opposite! Oh boy, I have never had anyone treat me so badly.

"Political opinions aside ... from one human being to another … Mr Abbott you win hands down."

It was a bombshell comment, devastating because it was so believable. It crystallised underlying character assessments of both men that have slowly been forming in the electorate.

Despite his genial, cheery persona, here was a glimpse of the other Rudd we have heard about, a nasty, volatile man.

Before Fontana was harassed into deleting her Facebook post on Thursday, fellow Brisbane make-up artist Abigael Johnston added a comment: "I second this Lily. I have had a very similar experience! Must run in the family as Mr Howard and Mr Costello were gentlemen with a capital G. Mr Abbott is following in their footsteps.

"The other, I could not even Facebook how he treated the crew. Just abhorrent!"

We have enough circumstantial evidence to say that Rudd treats people he regards as lower status as insignificant and unworthy of courtesy. This is why Fontana's observations were significant. Kevin Rudd has form.

* The RAAF flight attendant reduced to tears when she brought him sandwiches instead of the vegetarian meal he requested.

* The persistent story of the tantrum over a hairdryer in Afghanistan, which he denies.

* The high-five with a limelight-hogging preschooler that ended with a squeeze that made the child say "Ouch".

* The chip snatched from a reluctant stranger's plate.

And there are untold stories which also go to character.

A former soldier, Arthur, on duty at Kabul International Airport one wintry day in 2007, remembers Rudd's first visit to Afghanistan as PM.

It still hurts to recall the bags of eagerly anticipated Christmas mail due on the plane.

Before Rudd landed, a senior officer warned the troops there would be no mail. Rudd had "insisted his entire entourage fly with him on the same aircraft so they offloaded all the mail", says Arthur.

One of the Diggers broke the silence: ``Johnny would have brought the mail." As in Howard.

When Rudd arrived, he shook hands with Arthur, who was wearing an eye patch because an allergic reaction to a vaccine meant he couldn't close his left eye when firing his weapon.  "What's up with you?" asked Rudd.

Arthur explained.  "So you aren't celebrating International Pirate Day then?" quipped Rudd.

Arthur didn't see the humour in the joke.

Three years later, Arthur was on his way out on leave when his plane was diverted to Tarin Kowt to pick up a VIP whose plane had broken down.  It was Tony Abbott.

Once airborne, the Opposition Leader walked to the back of the plane and told the troops: "I just want to apologise for stealing your aircraft and holding you up. I know you all have somewhere you would rather be."

Arthur remembers Abbott took time to speak to each person in the cargo hold. Reputations are built up bit by bit, through chance encounters, small connections, word of mouth. But once they jell, it is impossible for even the cleverest spin doctor to supplant them.  Character is destiny.


Rush to free government schools in wealthy suburbs

It's the pupils that make the school.  Middle class parents have smarter and better behaved kids

Public schools in northern Sydney are bucking a trend. They are so full the state government has made a commitment to open two new schools and extend five. In the meantime, public school playgrounds are disappearing under the weight of portable classrooms.

Public schools are no longer accepting students who live outside the area.

No one is entirely sure of the reasons. There has probably been a rise in the number of school-age children in north Sydney, but it may also be due to what NAPLAN and other evidence says: it is not a school's ownership that makes the difference, it is the socioeconomic status of the pupils.

Savvy middle-class parents know local public schools are getting just as good results as nearby private schools, and they are wisely hanging on to their money.

Word is that some of these private schools are finding it harder to maintain their enrolments and are recruiting from out of the area.

The most desirable children from less prosperous areas are being bussed in, joining those who have long trekked across town (at public cost) to whatever elite private or selective school they can access.

You will have noticed the effects of this wholesale movement of children across town by train, bus or family car if you commute in any capital city.

Parents who have a choice increasingly want their children to attend schools that are higher up the social ladder. The trouble is, moving students around to different schools is, in the end, a zero-sum game. It may be fine for children whose parents can afford to pay fees, but what does it do to those left behind?

The daily commute of students who have some kind of transactional value - a family that can afford fees, or a child with a special academic, sporting or musical ability - is rapidly residualising the lower socioeconomic schools.

This is what happens when you make schools into a market - you create winners and losers. The tragedy is that the "losing" schools are struggling with children whom society has decided are losers.

Just as MySchool demonstrates the public school boom on the north shore, so too it shows how location and socioeconomic status are affecting the achievements of schools and students everywhere.

The website tells us more about schools' socioeconomic statuses; we also have other measures of students' achievements at the end of year 12 - for example, the HSC in NSW and the VCE in Victoria.

Combine this information and the picture becomes scary.

If we group the 400 or so Victorian schools with year 12 students into four socioeconomic groups, the spread of VCE scores tells us what we might already know: students in the schools in the top socioeconomic status group still achieve consistently high results, and the distribution of high VCE scores falls off as we move down the socioeconomic scale.

However, the gap is widening. In only eight years, the share of high scores in the lower socioeconomic status schools has dropped - by more than 20 per cent in the lowest socioeconomic status schools.

With few exceptions, this trend defies the usual explanations. Is it just Victoria? Unlikely; limited NSW data shows similar trends.

Is it just public schools? No. Is it due to enrolment shift?

We are almost certainly witnessing an inevitable result of the hollowing out of low socioeconomic status schools - and the exact opposite to what is happening in north shore public schools.

Almost 60 per cent of disadvantaged students attend equally disadvantaged schools. We appear to be creating ghettos of privilege and underprivilege. Strugglers sit next to strugglers in some schools and the fortunate next to the fortunate in others.

When you group disadvantaged children in the same schools, it compounds their disadvantage. No surprise, then, that it is becoming harder and harder to improve the achievements of our lowest achieving students.


Must not use slang to refer to breasts

Department store Target appears to be getting bang for its buck by using British reality TV guru Gok Wan in a series of TV commercials, but his use of "bang" has some viewers up in arms.

The Advertising Standards Bureau has been forced to make a determination on Wan's use of the word "bangers" to describe breasts in ads about women not being properly fitted for bras.

"Your bangers will never feel more loved," Wan promises women if they wear a correctly sized bra.

"I find it distasteful that he uses the term 'bangers' to describe women's breasts," one wrote to the bureau. "If a straight man were to use similar language during prime-time TV, there would be a huge outcry by women claiming sexist behaviour. There should be no different standards of acceptable language simply because a man appears to be gay."

"A female body is a beautiful thing, not to be cheapened by a poofter calling breasts "BANGERS"!!!," a third wrote. "I WAS BREAST FED, NOT BANGER FED! It's an insult to sooooo many Aussie men and woman to see poofs on tv but you let it happen

Target countered that the women in the commercials had "a range of normal body shapes" which were not idealised.

It also defended the choice of Wan, saying in its submission that he was a British style icon who was playfully irreverent, colourful and fun.

It said that "bangers" was an "irreverent term of affection" chosen "in wry acceptance" that some women are unhappy with their breasts.

It was not chosen to be derogatory or suggest that breasts were meat, Target said, accepting that the lack of Australian understanding of the word's colloquial British use meant "boobs" may be substituted in later commercials.

The bureau dismissed the complaints, ruling that the ad was positive and light-hearted and its intent was to alert women to the importance of buying a correctly sized bra.


Independent candidate to be rogered by Labor Party preferences

He did support the Gillard governent but not very reliably so they are now shafting him

ANDREW Wilkie says Labor voters could unwittingly elect the Liberal candidate in his seat of Denison because the party is not giving him its preferences.

The polls have Mr Wilkie well in front in the Hobart-based seat, but the Liberals are ahead of him on ALP preferencing.

A ReachTEL poll published in The Mercury has Mr Wilkie with 43.7 per cent of the primary vote, seven points higher than the last poll in June.

He is well ahead of Liberal Tanya Denison (23.1 per cent), Labor's Jane Austin (18) and the Greens' Anna Reynolds (10.5).

But with the ALP preferencing the Liberals ahead of him, Ms Denison has a chance of winning the seat if, as the poll suggests, Labor comes in third.

"I do worry that many Labor voters don't understand that this is the situation," Mr Wilkie told reporters in Hobart.

"A lot of people who will just follow the how-to-vote card without thinking too much about it need to understand that they may well end up helping to elect the Liberal candidate."

Where Labor finishes is likely to be determined by the carve-up of Greens preferences.

Mr Wilkie won the seat from third in 2010 with 21 per cent of the vote after Labor had held it for 23 years.

He is running an open how-to-vote ticket after ruling out any preference deals.


27 August, 2013

More multiculturalism in Melbourne:  African Muslims jailed over violent Vic taxi robbery

The brave Mr Farah

The brave Mr Hersi

The brave Mr Muse

TWO men have been jailed for the violent robbery of a Melbourne taxi driver which a judge described as degrading and chilling.

Husni Mohamed Muse, 23, of Carlton, and Abdi Mohamed Farah, 30, of Preston, robbed cab driver Ravinder Singh at knifepoint in Carlton in December 2011.

When Mr Singh attempted to run, Muse chased after him, wrapped a belt around his neck and dragged him back to the taxi.  The men then told Mr Singh they would kill him if he tried to run.

The two were found guilty in the Victorian County Court last month of armed robbery, false imprisonment and making a threat to kill.

They both pleaded guilty to a charge of obtaining property by deception relating to the later use of Mr Singh's credit card.

Victorian County Court Judge Gerard Mullaly on Monday sentenced both men to three years and nine months in jail, with a non-parole period of two years.

Judge Mullaly said it was not clear how much was stolen, but said Mr Singh was traumatised by the ordeal. "The whole experience was frightening, the use of the belt was degrading, the threat was chilling," he said.  "Taxi drivers are entitled to get through their shifts ... without being subject to violence."


Fuller report here.  The above was only one of two taxi robberies committed by the charmers above

Deceptions galore from Rudd

The government is not running on its record. The Prime Minister is not focused on his achievements. He is running a campaign built on fabrications and future glory. He has been caught lying, without compunction, on multiple occasions. This is not even the most insidious mischief.

The government has manipulated the official statistics. It has compromised the reputation of the Treasury. An example of the endless spin cycle is the manipulation of the unemployment rate, a basic measure of the economy and thus, indirectly, a measure of the government's performance. The official rate is 5.7 per cent. It has been trending up for a year, from 5.2 per cent, a 10 per cent rise in 12 months. The real unemployment rate is higher, about 6.2 per cent according to a study by Andrew Baker of the Centre for Independent Studies.

Baker found that more than 100,000 job-seekers had been moved out of the unemployment ranks by shifting them into training schemes. "An astonishing 360,000 unemployed people are classified as non-job-seekers," Baker wrote in his centre's monograph. "The number [in training schemes has] skyrocketed from 62,500 in 2009 to 150,000 in 2012 … People on welfare who are not required to look for work will stay on welfare longer." He estimates that if the unemployed who are classified as "non-job-seekers" was included in the unemployment baseline number, the rate would be 6.2 per cent.

Even the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) finds something is amiss with Australia's unemployment data, noting recently: "The non job-seeker population is so large that it needs more analysis and attention."

Not good, considering that when Rudd came to power in 2007 the official, uncooked, unemployment rate was 4.5 per cent. Despite a resources boom and $300 billion in government deficit spending, the unemployment rate has risen about 37 per cent under Labor.

Manipulating the unemployment rate is a subtle lie. There are unsubtle lies, also funded by taxpayers. The government has spent $30 million in the run-up to the election on a saturation ad campaign stating that boat people who destroy their documents will never be settled permanently in Australia. It is a fantasy. Since Rudd announced that boat people will be sent to Papua New Guinea and never see Australia, his ploy has collapsed. Three thousand boat people have arrived since then and most are being warehoused in Australia. Based on Labor's policies, they will spend years in the Australian legal system at an average cost to taxpayers of roughly $200,000 a person. Madness.

Then there are the outright lies by Rudd, which he keeps repeating even after they have been discredited: the Coalition does not have a secret plan to increase the GST. Tony Abbott did not strip $1 billion out of the hospital system. The opposition does not have a $70 billion deficit in its costings. The Liberals did not do a secret deal with News Corporation over the national broadband network. Those arriving by people smugglers' boats will not be sent to Papua New Guinea and never reach Australia. Millionaires will not be the primary beneficiaries of Tony Abbott's paid parental leave scheme. The price of Vegemite is not going up 50¢ a jar.

And the woman in the Labor TV ads saying she does not trust Abbott is not a concerned citizen. She is a professional actress working off a script, another cog in the giant spin cycle. Unfortunately for Rudd and Labor, the millions of dollars spent on that TV campaign has been more than offset by a real civilian making a real protest about Rudd's conduct and character. A classic ordinary Australian, Brisbane make-up artist Lily Fontana, used her Facebook account to make a spontaneous personal observation which emphatically confirmed the hundreds of media reports about Rudd's private personality.

If you missed her words it is worth reading them because they are so telling and they have gone viral: "Just finished doing Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott for the leadership forum at Broncos Leagues Club. One of them was absolutely lovely, engaged in genuine conversation with me, acknowledge that I had a job to do and was very appreciative. The other did the exact opposite! Oh boy, I have ever [sic] had anyone treat me so badly whilst trying to do my job. Political opinions aside … from one human being to another … Mr Abbott, you win hands down."

Embarrassed by the attention her comments received, Fontana removed them from Facebook, but not before another make-up artist, Abigael Johnston, added this: "I second that Lily. I have had a very similar experience." These are real political civilians, not paid actors.

Call it blowback, call it karma, but in Australia's longest-running election campaign, Julia Gillard and then Rudd both sought to make Tony Abbott's character the central issue and both saw their own reputations wilt instead. Rudd, with his distinct combination of owlish face, preachy persona, punctilious speech and negative tactics, is in danger of becoming what politicians most dread, a joke.


Rudd’s class war leave is hogwash

KEVIN Rudd is struggling to connect to Labor’s traditional blue-collar base with a blatant appeal to hate-filled class warfare not seen in Australia since the pre-Whitlam days and laid to rest under Bob Hawke.

"I have never believed in class warfare," Rudd said at the National Press Club in July during the first major speech of this turgid election campaign.  "I think some of the politics of class warfare, however exaggerated or not exaggerated, have not served us well in the past," he intoned.

Just last Wednesday, he adopted his folksy guise and proclaimed: "Mate, I’ve never been one that’s engaged in class warfare and whether it is the ol’ Twiggster or whether it’s Gina, I don’t care. I am about Australia. I’m about whoever wants to push the country forward and invest and be confident in the country’s future, and get out there and grow the economy."

It was his goal, he said, to bring about a more productive relationship between Labor and business and end the days of so-called class warfare.

Like many of his campaign statements, it was hogwash. He’s been vigorously demonising Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer (both job creators) as frequently as opportunity permits ever since and has now widened his attack to include working women who earn less than $150,000 a year.

How many women earn more than $100,000 in Australia? According to the statistics 1.7 per cent of all taxpayers are women aged 18 to 45 who earn over $100,000 a year, quite a number of whom would be employed in the public service.

Rudd is trying to undermine Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme by ignoring the fact women at the lower end of the pay spectrum will receive a more generous allowance under Abbott’s plan than they do under Labor, and disguise the fact that under Labor’s scheme some women in the public service - bloated beyond belief under Labor - could be more generously rewarded than under Abbott’s scheme.

Every woman in the federal public service earning less than $150,000 is eligible to receive the national entitlement of 18 weeks leave on the minimum wage - a payment of about $11,200. All federal public servants earning up to $150,000 get the 18 weeks on minimum wage payment and extra entitlements depending in which department they work. Hence the double dipping.

In the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, for example, the total available maternity leave runs to 18 weeks. In Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace, it runs to 17. Members of Parliament Staff, those employed in Finance, Treasury, the Bureau of Statistics and the Public Service Commission have 16 weeks, and so on. Under Kevin, it’s a fat cats’ heaven.

Chaotic Kevin is delivering an incoherent message about Abbott. On the one hand, the trim, well-exercised Rhodes Scholar with three daughters and a loving wife hates females and on the other, he is trying to make welfare queens out of professional women who want to start families.

As Rudd said about Abbott’s parental leave scheme in last week’s Broncos Leagues Club debate: "It’s a huge, huge, humungous policy which gives $75,000 to millionaires."

Not surprisingly, the supine Left-leaning media largely prefer to accept Rudd’s peculiar view than actually look at the policy detail - despite Abbott repeatedly pointing to the unjust anomalies in Labor’s plan.

As for MPs, two Labor women gave birth during the last parliament - Tanya Plibersek and Michelle Rowland.

Plibersek gave birth to her third child in October 2010 and took three weeks leave. Rowland gave birth to her first child in February 2012 and took maternity leave following the birth. She didn’t return to parliament until August 2012.

Both would have received their salary on leave (because there is no formal process for MPs to take leave, they are paid their salary regardless).

Neither would have received any benefits under the parental leave scheme because an MP’s salary is too high to be eligible for any benefits under the government’s scheme.

Why doesn’t Rudd think all Australian women deserve the same sort of benefits enjoyed by those employed by the Commonwealth? As Abbott said in response to a loaded question during last week’s debate: "If my staff … and Mr Rudd’s staff get their wage when they go on parental leave, why shouldn’t the factory worker and shop assistant also get their wage when they go on parental leave?
"If we get our wage when we go on holidays, when we go on long service, why shouldn’t we get our wage when we go on parental leave?"

As he said, he’s been upfront about his position. He wrote about it in his book on policy four years ago. It was the Coalition policy going into the last election and it’s "absolutely" Coalition policy going into this election. Further, it is fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office.

Rudd and Labor are campaigning on promises and lies, not their record. But we know from their record that Labor promises are worthless.  This latest Labor lie on Abbott’s parental leave scheme has been nailed.


Big spending Beattie and Rudd perfect partners

WHETHER you call it hide, chutzpah or the Dunning-Kruger effect, Peter Beattie's decision to run for the seat of Forde reveals a man who refuses to take responsibility for the disaster he wreaked on Queensland.

Having spent his early years as premier distracted by the Shepherdson inquiry into ALP electoral fraud and trying to broaden the "Smart State" from "rocks and crops" to "electronic games and biotechnology", Beattie settled into his true passion: spending tens of billions of dollars on poorly thought-through infrastructure adventures.

To do this, Beattie centralised power and sidelined naysayers. He achieved this objective on September 13, 2006, when he claimed he had "reshaped the government so that it is ideally positioned". What that meant was reducing the number of decision-makers to just two, himself and Anna Bligh, who became deputy premier, treasurer and minister for infrastructure.

Beattie's kitchenette cabinet was the forerunner to Kevin Rudd's Gang of Four, aka the Strategic Priorities and Budget Committee of Cabinet. According to Gang Member No 4 Lindsay Tanner, the SPBC usurped the role of cabinet and, by early 2010, "too much was being dealt with by SPBC, in an increasingly erratic fashion, and there were too many major items on our agenda".

If only Beattie and Rudd had read James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds. The author argues that non-expert "crowds" often produce better decisions than a few experts. That is because they draw on a diversity of independently formed opinions that are aggregated into a coherent decision: precisely the advantages of a properly functioning cabinet process.

Without that process, and with all other constraints removed, Queensland's Gang of Two managed to max out the AAA credit card in just four budgets. Beattie-Bligh grew the state capital program by 26 per cent per year in real terms for five years from $6 billion in 2004-05 to $17bn in 2008-09, or by $57 billion in total.

Did Queenslanders get value for money? Sadly, no. For starters, Beattie built during an unprecedented mining construction boom in Queensland where the costs for materials and labour were running at 25 to 50 per cent above long-run trends. And they had a complete disregard for cost-benefit analysis. Take the $9bn SEQ Water Grid, for example.

The most muddle-headed piece of that grid, the now fully decommissioned $2.5bn Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme, had just two customers - the Swanbank and Tarong power stations. Beattie forced these power stations to buy western corridor recycled water for $3200 per megalitre when the going rate for regular dam water was $380 per ML. To call this scheme hare-brained would be to insult any self-respecting hare.

With a slew of such decisions, Queensland lost its AAA credit rating in February 2009, just 18 months after Beattie's retirement.

Having been left to clean up the mess, Campbell Newman is being cast by Labor as the bad guy who created "a make-believe crisis, a Trojan horse for the programs of cuts, sackings and sell-offs". Newman is not the first premier elected who will spend most of his watch on cleaning duties and get no thanks from dopey opposition leaders.

On coming to power in October 1992, Victorian premier Jeff Kennett inherited an economy in deep recession, and a total state debt of $68bn. Kennett's interest bill was about $7bn a year in today's dollars, similar to that which Newman faces in Queensland. The ratings agencies downgraded Victoria three times between 1990 and 1992.

Forced into a corner by the bad decisions of his Labor predecessors, Kennett seized the opportunity to reduce expenditure and modernise Victoria's economy.

It has been the same story for Newman. Stuck with Beattie's borrowing legacy and bloated bureaucracy, Newman had no choice but to stop the unsustainable growth in the public service wage bill, which had increased by more than $1bn in Beattie's last three budgets, and cut annual capital spending to realistic levels.

The difficulty of Newman's task reflects the extent of the wreckage he inherited. In total, Beattie's follies cost Queensland more than $50bn.

Thanks to Pete, the electors of Forde are $922 million worse off - almost $12,000 per voter. This includes additional electricity charges of $1300 per voter, including for the network overbuild, the five per cent super profits that Beattie guaranteed to energy retailers and the mandated Queensland Gas Scheme. Add to that $1700 per voter for the water grid, the green schemes, the Smart State waste and the health payroll debacle. Then there are the interest payments and the standard cost of taxation. Those costs combined amount to $8500 per elector.

Yet Beattie remains delusional, arguing in these pages on the weekend that he invented the coal seam gas industry in Queensland by mandating the 13 per cent gas scheme. In reality, all that scheme did was to increase electricity costs to households by $523m.

But Beattie can't face up to any of that. Endless ambition, and an addiction to the public teat, preclude even the basic honesty to accept responsibility. Little wonder he has teamed up with Rudd. It's the marriage made in heaven of the nation's two ultimate Hollowmen - who would take the country to hell.


26 August, 2013

Multiculturalism thriving in Melbourne:  Woman badly beaten up on bus by African thugs

Melbourne has seen a lot of violence from Africans

A 26-YEAR-OLD woman is in hospital after being beaten unconscious by a group of people on a full Melbourne bus early on Sunday morning.

The 26-year-old St Kilda woman complained to the driver after the rowdy group boarded the bus in the city, because they were being boisterous and knocking into other passengers.

After she complained, one of the women in the group threw a drink over the St Kilda woman then punched her in the face, police say.

Other group members then dragged the woman to the ground where they punched and kicked her body and head until she was unconscious.

Several other people had also complained to the driver about the group, which was standing in the aisle because the bus was full.

The group fled after the bus driver opened the door on Swanston Street.

The victim was treated at the scene and taken to hospital for treatment where she is in a stable condition.

Police say the group of six or seven males and two females boarded the NightRider in the city about 2.30am (AEST) on Sunday morning and are perceived to be of African appearance.

They will review CCTV as part of their investigation.


The cost of waiting for education can be $4500 for parents wanting their children to attend private schools

What does that tell you about "free" government schools?

PARENTS spend up to $4500 to secure a private school place in Queensland, with many putting their children's names on multiple waiting lists.  Some schools send out bills of more than $1500 years in advance.

An investigation of enrolment application, confirmation and advance school fees shows parents pay the most, between $4000 and $4500, to secure and keep a spot at Brisbane Grammar School, the state's most consistent top academic performer in NAPLAN and OPs.

The $4000-$4500 includes a $400 application fee, which does not guarantee a place, and a $1600 confirmation fee, which confirms enrolment and is payable up to three years before a student starts. The fees are non-refundable.

Parents are asked to pay an advance fee of $2500 for Years 8 to 12, or $2000 for Years 6 and 7, depending on when they start.

The fee, which is charged once and is non-refundable, apart from exceptional circumstances, comes off a student's first year of school fees.

Brisbane Girls Grammar School (BGGS), another consistent top academic performer, also charges a $2000 advance fee, which comes off the first year of fees, but is refunded if the school finds a replacement.

Families of girls starting Year 7 in 2016 at BGGS have received an invoice already for their $1600 confirmation fee, while the advance fee for students starting next year had to be paid by June 10 this year.

Most Independent schools analysed charge non-refundable application or confirmation fees.  But some did not charge any. 

In the Catholic sector, application and confirmation fees range from $0 to more than $2000, with St Joseph's College, Gregory Terrace, charging an enrolment bond of $2200 for Year 8.

Most state schools do not charge fees before a student starts.

An Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) survey What Parents Want in 2011 found just over one-third of parents had their child's their name on a waiting list for more than one school, with about 13 per cent choosing three or more.

ISQ executive director David Robertson said enrolment fees were fair given schools' administration costs and to ensure parents were serious about enrolment and "actually making a commitment".

"In proper planning terms, a school plans their forward enrolments by several years ... So I think, in that respect, it is justifiable," he said.

Mr Robertson said the fees were also small in comparison to what parents would pay overall during their child's time at the school.


Former water polo champ adds daughters' names to private school waiting list at eight weeks of age

HARPER Miller is only 10 weeks old but she is already on a high school waiting list.

For some parents, deciding where to send their child to school is a vexed process but not for Carly Miller.  The former Australian women's water polo squad member and Brisbane Girls Grammar School (BGGS) student has fond memories of inter-school sports carnivals and of camaraderie and competition among every girl, every day to be their best, whether it be in the classroom or on the sporting field.

"I do think that everybody strives to be the best that they can be," she said of students at her former school.

"I think that there is a healthy competition at Grammar, so you are encouraged to give it your best shot and, obviously because your parents are paying a lot of money for you to be there, you want to do the best you can.

"I revelled in the sporting side of things at Grammar and made some really good friends that I am still in contact with today and I also think it is just a great school. It offers something to everybody, I believe."

The mother-of-three put her two daughters' names down on the BGGS waiting list within eight weeks of their birth "just to ensure that we didn't miss out".

"I would hate them to miss out on the opportunity if that is where we can afford to send them one day," she said.

"I had such a great time there. It's just a great environment to be in."

She said a good education was extremely important, providing a great foundation in life, which opened up doors and she wanted that for her children.


Grass versus Kangaroos

Kangaroos lost.  It's not only people that Greenies don't like

Animal welfare activists are using the federal election to punish the ACT Greens for last month's kangaroo cull.

The Animal Justice Party - which secured the ideal "A" spot on the ACT Senate ballot paper - has placed the Greens last on its preference list.

ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury, who is the Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, oversaw the shooting deaths of about 1450 kangaroos last month to protect rare grasslands from overgrazing.

The Greens' lead Senate candidate, Simon Sheikh, said on Sunday the Animal Justice Party's "silly decision" was disappointing.  "Many of the party's supporters have found out about this and told me they are deeply disappointed."

Yet the fledgling party's national campaign director, Willow Sloane, said the Greens had betrayed voters and must be sent a strong message.

"Mr Rattenbury signed off on the murder of up to 1600 kangaroos, despite extremely credible scientific evidence showing that a no-kill alternative was [preferable] and also far cheaper for taxpayers," she said.

Her party was right to be "totally uncompromising", she said.  "Until now, people concerned by the treatment of animals usually voted for the Greens," she said.  "They were probably just as shocked as us by what we saw last month: their blatant disregard, their lack of compassion and their lack of ethics."

Mr Sheikh said Canberrans should "reject the preferences that parties tell them" and decide for themselves whom to preference.

He was proud of his record on animal rights in his former role as national director of GetUp! - which campaigned to ban live exports.  "I worked alongside the leaders of the animal rights movement in Australia and I'm convinced voters will realise the Greens are the party best placed to champion these issues," Mr Sheikh said.

After last month's cull, Mr Rattenbury said he wanted to explore alternatives in future, such as tranquilising and moving kangaroos to other parts of the ACT.

Yet Animal Justice Party ACT candidate Marcus Fillinger, an air force marksman who also runs an animal shelter, dismissed the minister's change of heart as a late attempt to win preferences.

"[The Greens] wanted to talk preferences while kangaroos were getting their heads blown off," Mr Fillinger said. "It's a dirty, dirty game.  "When Mr Rattenbury is rubber-stamping a permit to kill, I take it personally."

In Senate elections, most voters - about three in four in the ACT - take the simpler option of voting "above the line". The party that wins an above-the-line vote gets to decide how these voters' preferences flow.

When choosing which of the larger parties to favour, the Animal Justice Party settled on Labor, the Liberals and then the Greens. The Bullet Train for Australia Party opted for the Greens, Labor then the Liberals.

However, the Stable Population Party split its vote three ways, giving the three larger parties an equal share of preferences.


Fishermen slam radical catch limit plan in NSW

A review of recreational fishing rules in NSW, which includes recommendations to halve the allowable daily catch for many popular south coast species, has been widely condemned by angling groups as lazy, poorly timed and lacking in science and logic.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has received more than 3500 submissions on the discussion paper which recommends a 50 per cent reduction in fishing bag limits for species such as snapper, flathead, tailor, trevally, luderick and bream.  The review also recommends a combined total daily catch limit of 20 or 30 saltwater finfish.

President of the Canberra Fisherman's Club, Glen Malam, said the recommendations had no conservation basis and the review was poorly timed ahead of a major survey of recreational anglers due next year.

"Our main view is that there is absolutely no science behind it – there is really no logic behind it."  "For some of these species there really isn't any logical reason [to reduce bag limits].

Mr Malam said the recommendations might achieve the [department's] aim of reducing the complexity of fishing rules for different species, but that was no basis for the intelligent management of a fishery.

He said if the department was serious about conservation and managing fish stocks for the future it should examine bag limits on larger fish.

"You can wipe out a couple of hundred small fish that are undersize and it doesn't have much impact.  "Take out two or three really big fish and that could mean several thousand fish won't be there next year."

President of the Australian National Sportfishing Association (ANSA) NSW branch, Stan Konstantaras, described the review process as "lazy" and lacking any solid science.  "The first question you have to ask is 'are recreation fishing stocks in danger?' That question hasn't been answered ever," he said.

Mr Konstantaras said the review ignored community concerns about commercial fishing activities such as the netting of estuaries.

"Instead it has just proposed a broad-brush 50 per cent reduction in recreational fishing bag limits."  "They have taken the easy option. It's no different to the debate we had around marine parks. And the sanctuary zones – there was no science there either."

Mr Konstantaras said he wouldn't be against changes if there was evidence to suggest they were necessary.

"If our bream are in danger or under threat from recreational fishing activity then tell us why and tell us what we need to do," he said.  "We are sustainable anglers and if we need to change our activities and curtail what we take then so be it.  "But as far as we know our fish stocks are healthy and there is not any recreational fishing species under threat."

The review recommends even tougher bag limits for some deep-water species.  A reduction of 60 per cent (five to two) in the daily catch limit is proposed for blue-eye trevalla, banded rockcod, hapuka and gemfish.

Mr Malam said anglers spent hundreds of dollars travelling well out to sea to chase these species.

"To spend an hour travelling out to sea to catch two fish in 10 minutes then turn around and come back – it's just silly really."

The office of NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson declined a request to speak to the minister about criticisms of the review. Instead, Fairfax Media was referred to the department's manager of recreational fisheries, Bryan van der Walt.

"We've developed the discussion paper in light of a lot of issues," Mr van der Walt said. "The recreational sector in NSW is a large sector – there are one million fishers in NSW – so we do these reviews periodically – the last one was in 2007. Between reviews we get a lot of representations from the community about various things.

"One of those things is the potential reduction in bag limits which provide for greater conservation of our fish stocks but also a fairer sharing of the catch between fishers."

He said the department used all of the scientific information available to it. "We try and undertake assessments of around 100 different species every year. Our scientists undertake these assessments with the information that is available to us and we assess the status of those stocks. For most of the stocks we do have information, but for some species, there certainly are some information gaps."


25 August, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the campaign launch of the Green Party.


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is amused at the Leftist reaction to Abbott's boat-buying proposal.

More traitors to conservative voters

It was Oakeshott and Windsor last time. This time it is Palmer and Katter.  Greens to get crucial Senate preferences from independent conservative candidates

Last week more than 40 parties lodged their Senate "group voting tickets" with the Australian Electoral Commission. Like native bird populations during a drought, these parties disappear in between elections only to magically appear at an election to funnel votes to the party lucky enough to benefit from back-room preference deals.

Now, if you would please tell me where your Senate above-the-line preferences go, I will be far more comfortable. But, be honest - you haven't a clue.

Senate ballot papers are more than a metre long in some states. A record number of voters are set to put their vote "above the line", and then they won't have preferences; other parties will determine them for them.

This is where the fun starts. Let's start with Clive Palmer. Clive has billions of dollars worth of coal assets and a nickel refinery near Townsville. It is perfectly logical then that he has preferenced the Greens; a party that wants to phase out coalmining and shut down Clive's nickel refinery.

Indeed, Clive's preferences are a wild ride. In Queensland, if you vote for Clive Palmer, your votes go to Family First, then to the Socialists, then to the Greens, Fishing and Lifestyle, Katter, the LNP, One Nation, Democrats and finally to the Australian Christians, presumably to ask forgiveness.

Who knew Clive had such a fondness for unreconstructed socialists? They are his second preference. He wants to be PM; perhaps he will be the Hugo Chavez of the South Seas. It is not just Queensland though. Clive is preferencing the Greens ahead of the major parties, and ahead of many minor parties, in all states. What a paradox? Clive's entry may protect the balance of power of the Greens, perhaps one billionaire the Greens will learn to love.

The Katter party, which ostensibly is opposed to everything Green, is preferencing the Greens ahead of the Liberals in the ACT, and ahead of Nick Xenophon in South Australia. Bob Katter may be instrumental in helping the Greens keep the balance of power by helping a Green senator to be elected in the ACT.

Bob has also done a deal with the Labor Party in Queensland. Bob represents a conservative electorate where more than 60 per cent of voters preferred the LNP to Labor at the last election. Bob has been preparing the ground. He needs Labor's preferences, and he needs the money of the trade unions. He has been voting accordingly.

This year Bob voted more with Labor in Parliament than with the Coalition. He supported right of union entry laws and the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and opposed attempts to impose the same fines and penalties on union officials that are imposed on company directors who do the wrong thing. He failed to turn up to a vote of no confidence in the government.

Bob is now a member of the Green-Labor-Independent government, and Clive has lodged his application. The rainbow coalition continues through the back-room deals of preferences, against the interests of the people they represent.

Haven't we had enough of this? The past three years show what a disaster it can be when minor parties and independents run things. Minority government is an experiment that has failed, but it will continue in a different form if people go shopping in the Senate. And, the Senate ballot paper does look like a shopping list. People like to go shopping. They like fishing, so they vote for the fishing party. Their garden is green, and they like their garden, so they vote Green.

The problem is that once you number "1" above the line, what happens next remains a mystery to most. That vote for Clive Palmer may elect a Green and a vote for Bob Katter may elect Labor.

This is not democracy, it is the selection of a parliament by deals, not by votes.

Don Chipp once said the Senate was there to "keep the bastards honest". I think it is a little simpler this time; we just need to know which bastard their bastard is passing your vote to.


NSW Premier accused of racial slur for alluding to affirmative action

As in America, Leftists lean over backwards to give preference to blacks.  They haven't made a black lamebrain their Prime Minister yet, though.  A female lamebrain had to do

Barry O'Farrell has been called on to apologise for a perceived racial slur against the Labor frontbencher Linda Burney after he declared she hadn't achieved her career success on merit.

Ms Burney, the first Aborigine elected to the NSW parliament and a former national ALP president, served as minister for community services in the former Labor government and is deputy leader of the opposition.

During a heated exchange in question time on Tuesday over whether the current community services minister, Pru Goward, had misled parliament over caseworker numbers, Ms Burney said Ms Goward had "lost the confidence of every caseworker in this state".

The Premier responded that Ms Goward "has achieved every position in her life on merit", before turning to Ms Burney and declaring: "You can't say that."

The comment was met with laughter from the government backbench.

Opposition leader John Robertson said Mr O'Farrell to apologise for the comments "which have no place in Australia".

"Ms Burney is unequalled in merit and achievement," he said in a statement. "In addition to being the first indigenous person elected to the state's Parliament and first indigenous minister, Ms Burney is the chairperson of the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council, has spoken at the United Nations on three separate occasions and is a former President of the Australian Labor Party."

"It would be inappropriate for any member of the community to make those sorts of comments, let alone the Premier of NSW".

Mr O'Farrell has a history of taunting Ms Burney in parliament. He once joked that she could play "hooker" in a rugby league team and accused her of "casting her spells".

At a media conference shortly after question time, Ms Burney said she had "come to expect those sorts of insults from Premier O'Farrell".

"It's not the first time he's made those sort of imputations about me and my capacity," she said.

"I have won every position I've ever had based on my capacity and my merit. The Premier continues to make a fool of himself when he says those sorts of things."

Asked if she believed the comment was racially motivated, Ms Burney said she "can't prove that. All I can say he's made imputations about my reputation, my capacity ... and he needs to be able to back those up."

Ms Burney, the member for Canterbury, is a former school teacher who holds an honorary doctorate in education from Charles Sturt University.

She has served on the boards of SBS, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board and the NSW Board of Studies.

Mr O'Farrell's office has been approached for comment but has denied our request.


Privacy legislation could have a `chilling effect' on freedom of speech

UNLESS the federal government abandons or radically changes its plans for a new way of suing for privacy, publishers and broadcasters face years of legal uncertainty that will have a "chilling effect" on free speech, media lawyers have warned.

"Privacy can be as wide as you want it to be," said Justin Quill of Kelly Hazell Quill.

"Even if this is never used, its mere existence will have a chilling effect and will lead to news editors taking out facts from stories for fear of being sued," he said.

His concerns are in line with those of media lawyer Nic Pullen of HWL Ebsworth, who was worried about uncertainty because the planned civil action "will hand everything over to the judges".

In 2008, the Australian Law Reform Commission recommended that the government should enact a privacy tort, but should not state clearly which areas of life would fall within its scope.

"Clear lines demarcating areas in which privacy can be enjoyed should not be drawn in advance," the commission's report said.

It recommended that the new cause of action should arise whenever there is a "reasonable expectation" of privacy and a serious invasion of privacy takes place that is considered highly offensive.

The commission favoured "leaving it open to the courts to determine when a reasonable expectation of privacy exists".

This "should not be limited to activities taking place in the home or in private places".

But the ALRC said it was in favour of what it described as "the narrower view" of the circumstances in which "a public act can be private". An example was when Britain's Mirror newspaper was found to have breached the privacy of model Naomi Campbell, who had drug problems, by publishing a picture of her on a street outside Narcotics Anonymous. The paper had to pay more than pound stg. 1 million in legal costs.

Mr Pullen said he was worried about the government's proposal because he believed it would be almost impossible to define "privacy" in a way that eliminated legal uncertainty. He said the government's priority should be to determine whether there were enough infringements to justify a new legal action. It should focus on trying to confine the definition of privacy to those areas considered appropriate, and only then should it turn to the question of defences.

Mr Pullen's concern comes soon after Privacy Minister Brendan O'Connor said the new civil action would contain a "public interest" defence for the media.

Mr Pullen and Mr Quill both dismissed the significance of the defence. Mr Pullen said the track record of the judiciary on free speech suggested that the defence was unlikely to be effective.


A top heavy public service

The Commonwealth public service is roughly the same size today as it was two decades ago. So why does the Coalition want to cut the public service by 12,000?

Is this just a drive to balance the books on the back of the public sector, as the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) would have you believe, or is the public sector bloated and in need of pruning?

Tony Abbott plans to cut 12,000 public servants by attrition rather than by sackings. But this is a simplistic approach to reducing the burden of the public sector.

The Commonwealth public service shed roughly a third of its workforce between 1993 and 1999.

Some of the job losses were the result of privatisation, while many were the result of a concerted effort by the Howard government to reduce the burden of the public sector.

It has since recovered to where it was in 1993, but with one important difference - the cost.

The public service costs a lot more today because its makeup has changed. There are far fewer entry-level employees and far more managerial level staff. In 1998, there were 7,323 entry-level public servants (APS1) accounting for 6.7% of the ongoing public service. In 2012, there were just 895 APS1 comprising 0.6% of the ongoing public service - a decline of 87%.

Further up the hierarchy, the number of executive level employees (EL1 and EL2) employees has ballooned since 1998. EL1 employees have increased by 250% and EL2 employees by 190%.

As former Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner observed in 2007, there are 'fewer people actually delivering services on the ground, and a lot more chiefs, a lot more fat cats, a lot more people at the top end earning very high salaries.'

If the Coalition wants to make a lasting impact on the cost of the public service, it needs to look at the composition of the service, and address the growing number of agencies and programs that necessitate greater government spending and more public servants.

Otherwise when the nation returns to surpluses and cost pressures fade, the public service will grow once again, and negate any savings made today.



23 August, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on shutting Rudd up

Insane ruling by Labor party apparatchiks

This is the sort of destructive ruling that many feared from Kevvy's "Fair Work" regulator.  Low pay is the incentive for tradesmen to take on apprentices.  This will drastically reduce the availability of apprenticeships

Employers may look to bring in more overseas workers after a landmark Fair Work Commission ruling that will see apprentices receive massive pay rises of as much as $100 a week.

The change was needed because many apprentices are much older than they were in previous generations, the commission ruled.

The decision will revolutionise a regime that employs more than 500,000 apprentices and trainees across Australia.

Employers lashed the ruling saying it would destroy the apprenticeship system and hurt tens of thousands of businesses.

And one employer group said the decision would lead to more overseas workers being brought in, because of the expense of local apprentices.

As part of the decision, pay rates for a typical first year apprentice who had finished high school will rise from about $304 to nearly $400 – an increase of almost a third.

Electrical apprentices with Year 12 qualifications will get an extra $109 a week, while a first-year hairdresser will get an extra $145 a week.

In its decision the commission said apprentice wage rates had not kept with changes to the workforce and society.

Current wage structures were set when most apprentices were 14, 15 or 16 years old when they began, the ruling said.

"Many are now 17 or older and have completed Year 12 schooling, and are already undertaking part-time or casual work with higher wages than they receive under an apprenticeship," the decision said. "Increased [pay] rates may assist to improve the attractiveness of apprenticeships compared to other training or employment options for young people."

The decision will be phased in over 18 months to existing apprentices, but will apply in full to new apprentices starting in January 2014.

Lower rates will remain for apprentices who have not finished high school.

The ruling said that the improved pay rates could assist in many more apprentices completing their qualification – only about half do so at present.

About half of the nation's new apprentices are now 21 or older.

Employers reacted on Thursday with outrage to the decision.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson said the ruling was a body blow.

"Australians wanting to tackle youth unemployment should view this decision with grave concern ... Dramatically increased employment costs will cruel the capability of employers to take on apprentices in an affordable way," he said. "Increasing the costs of employing an apprentice not only impacts employers, but destroys the opportunities for many young people want to develop a career in the trades.”

Master Electricians Australia workplace relations manager Jason O'Dwyer also said the ruling was a "significant blow" to productivity and the economy.

"This will force Australia to rely heavily on importing qualified tradesmen from overseas to fill the gap left behind by apprentices. Other countries such as Ireland commence apprentices at 30 per cent of the tradesman rate," he said.

The ACTU however welcomed the decision and said it would boost workforce skills.

"This is a great outcome for current and future apprentices and for the broader economy,” ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said.   "Current wages see apprentices barely able to meet living costs; they are considerably less than other job options and barely more than the Newstart allowance.”


Amusing.  Empiricism without evidence?

The article below by Australian socialist Andrew Hunter appeared in a major newspaper under the heading:  "Empiricism must be defended".  Fair enough.  I am an unrelenting empiricist and have 200+ published academic journal articles to prove it.  But Hunter shows no evidence of being an empiricist at all. 

Empiricism means "going by the facts" or "respecting the data" or "going by what our senses tell us".  Yet in his diatribe in defence of "climate change" below, Hunter mentions not one climate fact or data point.  He prefers airy waffle and vague generalities.  He gives an appearance of erudition while displaying zero erudition concerning the theory he defends.  The best he can do is an appeal to authority at one point.  Strange empiricism indeed!  I must confess that Mr Hunter's amusing lack of self-awareness has rather made my day.

One rather doubts his sanity -- except that saying one thing and doing another is typical Leftism.  Barack Obama take a bow

Alan Jones stood in front of the nation's seat of government in June to generate public concern about wind turbines, and to publicly demand the renewable energy target be scrapped. The lack of empirical evidence in support of his position did not deter him. Jones and other prominent conservative public figures in Australia appear determined to erase the legacy of the Enlightenment.

The continuing legacy of the Enlightenment period constitutes one of the most creative strands in the fabric of Western civilisation. While some prominent ideas of the Enlightenment were misappropriated to justify odious events, such as the Terror in France and later colonisation, it also bestowed to future generations an important intellectual legacy.

A heterogeneous discourse, the European Enlightenment was stimulated by contact with the great non-European civilisations of China, India and Russia. It grew out of the Renaissance, itself essentially a rediscovery, re-evaluation and extension of scientific and cultural traditions of classical antiquity.

At the core of these traditions, in all of their immense complexity, was the principle of seeking truth - truth about the nature of the cosmos, truth about the fundamental nature of the human race, truth about the organisation of society. Truth discovered through a commitment to empirical research, based on careful observation and the logical analysis of verifiable facts.

Jones acted in the knowledge that a concerted campaign in the mainstream media will often overwhelm positions based on science, evidence and reason. This has been made abundantly clear in the climate change debate. Public debate in Australia (and elsewhere) is now increasingly dominated by often unsubstantiated positions devoid of empirical basis.

Other traditions have always existed. The history of Western society has been marked by periodic swings of the pendulum. There were periods when the spirit of inquiry has been in the ascendant, as well as long centuries when this spirit has been eclipsed and replaced by faith in religious authority, dogma or unsubstantiated personal beliefs. It appears we are witnessing another such swing of the pendulum.

As did Jones, Coalition Senator Cory Bernardi recently asserted on Q&A that climate change is not influenced by human activity. Although every national scientific body in the world, including the Australian Academy of Science, appears to be of the same accord, Bernardi insists there is no consensus within the scientific community.

Bernardi's arguments draw heavily on his personal beliefs. Later on the Q&A program, he referred to his commitment to protecting "Western values" that he asserted were based on the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Bernardi extolled the virtues of reciprocity. He inferred that reciprocity concept was unique to the Christian ethic, which in turn constituted the very foundation of Western civilisation and the Western values system.

He might have convinced some viewers but his assertions would not have stood up to even modest interrogation. The concept of reciprocity is central to most religions and ethical systems that have survived through time - if only for the reason that it is critical to a harmonious, functioning society.

The role of secularism was another core value of the Enlightenment. In a functioning democratic society, tolerance of different religious beliefs sits comfortably alongside a commitment to science and evidence-based public policy. Bernardi is able to practise his faith in Australia - and Ed Husic his - because we live in a secular, rational society. An equally rational approach should inform our environmental policy.

If public figures in a secular society have a values system based on faith, they should not hide from it. There is much beauty, wisdom and peace to be found in the scriptures. Personal values that inform public policy, however, should be considered alongside a profound reflection about the human condition, a dispassionate study of history and rational thinking.

To claim an ethical and intellectual tradition supposedly common to Western nations has come from a single source is intellectually unsound. So far as a common philosophical or ethical tradition exists, Western thinking is the product of a continually evolving sum of a vast range of influences.

Christian teachings have made an enormous contribution to the civilisation of the West but it also owes as much to classical Greece and Rome - in turn deeply influenced by Egypt, Persian as the other ancient societies of the Middle East, the pre-Christian Celts and Germans - and to the brilliant civilisation of mediaeval Islam. Conservative champions of Western values would benefit greatly from some knowledge of history.

Bernardi has apparently written a book, The Conservative Revolution, that explains how the "pillars of Western civilisation" are "under threat". Its integrity may unwittingly prove its underlying thesis.

Science, rationality and empiricism, once pillars of political discourse in Western democracies, have been weakened of late. Unfortunately, the instincts of most modern politicians often militate against a necessary resistance to this unfortunate tendency.

On issues of enduring importance, strong political movements must occasionally sacrifice political ground over the short term to win the long game. Those who have sided with populist, unsubstantiated personal positions on climate change in recent years will be judged poorly in the future.

A public naturally resistant to change will be disinclined to support action on climate change until all doubt is removed. Conservatives have successfully cultivated doubt that action is necessary, and have benefited politically.

Labor has a legacy to protect in the immediate period - a task that will be made easier if it grasps every opportunity to express indignation at the intellectually weak positions of Jones, Bernardi and many of their conservative allies.

We must fight to ensure empiricism remains central to policymaking and political discourse. To do so would benefit the national interest. It would also protect a critical tenet of the Enlightenment: the role science and reason plays in our understanding of the world.


Black racist murders Australian sportsman

[Video at link below]

THE teenagers charged over the murder of Melbourne man Chris Lane will be isolated from one another and other inmates in an Oklahoma jail as long as they are there.

District Attorney Jason Hicks said yesterday that it could be months or longer before the three - James Edwards, 15, Chancey Luna, 16, and Michael Jones, 17 - would face trial. It was too early to say whether they would be tried separately or together.  Their next hearings are in October.

It comes as Edwards, who has been charged with first-degree murder, posted racist tweets saying he hated white people in the months before the shooting.

Edwards posted statements on his Twitter feed including a comment on April 29 where he tweeted "90% of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM".

Edwards also weighed when George Zimmerman was acquitted over the death of Trayvon Martin.

"Ayeee I knocced out 5 woods since Zimmerman court!:) lol sh*t ima keep sleepin sh*t! #ayeeee."

"Woods" is derogatory slang for white people. The feed also contains tweets glorifying violence, guns and gangs.


Adelaide mosque preacher Sheikh Sharif Hussein directs fury at Buddhists, Hindus, Howard and Obama

AN Adelaide Islamic preacher calls for all Buddhists and Hindus to be killed and describes Australian soldiers as "Crusader pigs" in an online video.

Sheikh Sharif Hussein, in a video clip published by the US-based Middle East Media Research Institute, also attacks Jews, former prime minister John Howard, US President Barack Obama, and Australian troops.

"Tens of thousands of women were raped in Iraq, by the American and British crusader troops, aided by the Australian troops,” he says.

"The Australian participation in the Crusaders’ war on Iraq is 6 per cent. This is out of approximately 365,000 Crusader pigs sent to Iraq, during the term of (Mr Howard), Allah’s wrath be upon him.

"Listen, oh Obama, oh enemy of Allah, you who kiss the shoes and feet of the Jews. Listen! The day will come when you are trampled upon by the pure feet of the Muslims.

"Oh Allah, count the Buddhists and the Hindus one by one. Oh Allah, count them and kill them to the very last one.”

The Advertiser has confirmed the translation of Sheikh Hussein’s speech with independent translators.

Sheikh Hussein is known in Adelaide’s Islamic community, used to be connected to the Marion mosque in Park Holme, and has preached at the Islamic Da’wah Centre of SA in Torrensville.

Their website contains clips of other speeches and the disclaimer that "the views expressed in our videos and lectures are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect IDCSA’s management or media policy”.

He could not be contacted for this article.

His comments were quickly condemned as "ravings” and "hate speech”.

Multicultural Affairs Minister Jennifer Rankine said they were "the ravings of someone completely out of touch with the views of South Australians”.

"His disgusting words are not representative of our diverse and multicultural community,” she said.

Liberal South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi slammed the comments as "very disturbing” and called on the Muslim community to denounce them.

"This video and transcript suggest that we can no longer afford to ignore these radical elements within our community and say they don’t exist here because clearly they do,” he said.

"This hate speech has no place in our society and it needs to be publicly condemned by all Australians including members of the Muslim community.”

City councillor and Muslim Houssam Abiad said Muslims owed their allegiance to Australia and Islam was "a religion of peace and tolerance” that taught believers to respect a country’s laws.

"Many have migrated to Australia escaping war and political persecution, unfortunately some people also packed in their bags many ideologies representative of their experiences and brought them with them,” he said.

"As an Australian Muslim … I have survived a war  and I recognise that Australia has given me opportunities that will never be equal to any other in the world, and we should owe our allegiance to this country and what it has given us.”

In response to Sheikh Hussein’s comments, the management committee of the Islamic Society of South Australia  said it wanted to remind everyone that it was difficult to comment on "edited materials without dates or any other specifics relating to the actual material".

"The Islamic Society of South Australia and the Muslim community of South Australia represent a peaceful multicultural sector contributing to the wonderful and varied fabric of the wider Australian community," it said in a media release.

"It must be noted that Islam’s overwhelming message is that of peace.

"The Islamic Society of South Australia would therefore NOT support any comments made either locally, nationally or internationally, which are not in accordance with this message."


Another story about the real Rudd

Consistent with much else that has been said about him before by his staff and others

A MAKE-up artist who says she smoothed the complexions of Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott ahead of last night's people's forum has hinted that the Prime Minister was rude to her.

Lily Fontana, a Brisbane make up artist, took to Facebook after her encounter with the leaders, praising Mr Abbott but saying one of the men had treated her terribly.

"Just finished doing Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott's makeup for the People's Forum at the Broncos Leagues Club," she wrote.

"One of them was absolutely lovely, engaged in genuine conversation with me, acknowledge that I had a job to do and was very appreciative. The other did the exact opposite! Oh boy, I have ever had anyone treat me so badly."

Ms Fontana has since removed the post writing: "Didn't think my personal page/opinion of my day would get so much attention. What a lesson to learn. I've removed the post and regret making the comments I did."

Her Facebook page is currently showing a "sorry, this page isn't available" message, though it's not clear if the issue is a technical glitch or if the page has been removed from the site.

An ALP spokesperson said no one from the Labor Party has been in touch with Ms Fontana.

Mr Rudd has denied he was rude to the make-up artist who prepared him for last night's debate, claiming to was a "misunderstanding".


22 August, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on Kevvy's "positive" campaigning

Global sea level rise dampened by Australian floods?

"Australia is in a major drought".  Then what's that stuff that's been falling from the sky outside my window in Brisbane this August  -- a normally "dry" month?

Someone else will have to do the numbers on this but the whole thing smells to high heaven.  Only a small percentage of the rain fell in the Australian outback.  As it always does, most of the rain fell onto the narrow East coastal plain, where it was promptly returned to the sea via the many big coastal rivers  -- JR

New research led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) shows that when three atmospheric patterns came together over the Indian and Pacific oceans, they drove so much precipitation over Australia in 2010 and 2011 that the world’s ocean levels dropped measurably. Unlike other continents, the soils and topography of Australia prevent almost all of its precipitation from running off into the ocean.

The 2010-11 event temporarily halted a long-term trend of rising sea levels caused by higher temperatures and melting ice sheets.

Now that the atmospheric patterns have snapped back and more rain is falling over tropical oceans, the seas are rising again. In fact, with Australia in a major drought, they are rising faster than before.

"It’s a beautiful illustration of how complicated our climate system is,” says NCAR scientist John Fasullo, the lead author of the study. "The smallest continent in the world can affect sea level worldwide. Its influence is so strong that it can temporarily overcome the background trend of rising sea levels that we see with climate change.”

The study, with co-authors from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Colorado at Boulder, will be published next month in Geophysical Research Letters. It was funded by the National Science Foundation, which is NCAR’s sponsor, and by NASA.

Consistent rising, interrupted

As the climate warms, the world’s oceans have been rising in recent decades by just more than 3 millimeters (0.1 inches) annually. This is partly because the heat causes water to expand, and partly because runoff from retreating glaciers and ice sheets is making its way into the oceans.

But for an 18-month period beginning in 2010, the oceans mysteriously dropped by about 7 millimeters (about 0.3 inches), more than offsetting the annual rise.

Fasullo and his co-authors published research last year demonstrating that the reason had to do with the increased rainfall over tropical continents. They also showed that the drop coincided with the atmospheric oscillation known as La Niña, which cooled tropical surface waters in the eastern Pacific and suppressed rainfall there while enhancing it over other portions of the tropical Pacific, Africa, South America, and Australia.

But an analysis of the historical record showed that past La Niña events only rarely accompanied such a pronounced drop in sea level.

Using a combination of satellite instruments and other tools, the new study finds that the picture in 2010–11 was uniquely complex. A rare combination of two other semi-cyclic climate modes came together to drive such large amounts of rain over Australia that the continent, on average, received almost one foot (300 millimeters) of rain more than average.

The initial effects of La Niña were to cool surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean and push moisture to the west. A climate pattern known as the Southern Annular Mode then coaxed the moisture into Australia’s interior, causing widespread flooding across the continent. Later in the event, high levels of moisture from the Indian Ocean driven by the Indian Ocean Dipole collided with La Niña-borne moisture in the Pacific and pushed even more moisture into the continent’s interior. Together, these influences spurred one of the wettest periods in Australia’s recorded history.

Australia’s vast interior, called the Outback, is ringed by coastal mountains and often quite dry. Because of the low-lying nature of the continent’s eastern interior and the lack of river runoff in its western dry environment, most of the heavy rainfall of 2010–11 remained inland rather than flowing into the oceans. While some of it evaporated in the desert sun, much of it sank into the dry, granular soil of the Western Plateau or filled the Lake Eyre basin in the east.

"No other continent has this combination of atmospheric set-up and topography,” Fasullo says. "Only in Australia could the atmosphere carry such heavy tropical rains to such a large area, only to have those rains fail to make their way to the ocean.”

Measuring the difference

To conduct the research, the scientists turned to three cutting-edge observing instrument systems:

 *   NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, which make detailed measurements of Earth’s gravity field. The satellites enable scientists to monitor changes in the mass of continents.

*    The Argo global array of 3,000 free-drifting floats that measure the temperature and salinity of the upper 6,000 feet of the world’s oceans.

 *   Satellite-based altimeters that are continuously calibrated against a network of tide gauges. Scientists subtract seasonal and other variations to closely estimate global sea level changes.

Using these instruments, the researchers found that the mass in Australia and, to a lesser extent, South America began to increase in 2010 as the continents experienced heavy and persistent rain. At the same time, sea levels began to measurably drop.

Since 2011, when the atmospheric patterns shifted out of their unusual combination, sea levels have been rising at a faster pace of about 10 millimeters (0.4 inches) per year.

Scientists are uncertain how often the three atmospheric events come together to cause such heavy rains over Australia. Fasullo believes there may have been a similar event in 1973-74, which was another time of record flooding in that continent. But modern observing instruments did not exist then, making it impossible to determine what took place in the atmosphere and whether it affected sea level rise.

"Luckily, we’ve got great observations now,” Fasullo says. "We need to maintain these observing platforms to understand what is a complicated climate system.”


Queensland the exception as Labor to preference Greens before all in Senate

Katter is a conservative traitor

Perpetually inquisitive and the owner of a rolling, infectious laugh, Christine Milne entered politics in 1989.
Greens Leader Christine Milne. Labor will preference the Greens in the Senate nationally except in Queensland. Photo: Andrew Meares
Labor's national executive has ordered the party to preference the Greens ahead of all others in every state except Queensland.

Labor has a deal with Bob Katter's Australian Party in Queensland, but in other states and in the ACT, Greens senate candidates have been given a boost to their electoral chances.

The move has angered ALP members in Victoria, who fear the deal might also affect how people vote in the lower house seat of Melbourne, which Labor is trying to win back from the Greens.

ALP national secretary George Wright did not respond to calls from Fairfax Media.

A senior Greens operative said the balance-of-power party would be preferencing Labor in the Senate in a similar fashion.

"You can forget all the rhetoric. At the end of the day, Labor and the Greens need to preference each other that way to keep the others out," the contact said. "It's just a pity it didn't occur in Queensland too."

A Katter's Australian Party source confirmed the fledgling party — whose chances were best in Queensland — would preference the Coalition above Labor in most state Senate races.

But in Queensland, KAP and Labor have reached a deal to preference each other above the Liberal National Party in the Senate.

Labor and KAP are also expected to swap preferences in regional Queensland marginal seats including Herbert (held by LNP with a 2.2 per cent margin), Hinkler (LNP by 10.4 per cent), Flynn (LNP by 3.6 per cent) and Capricornia (Labor by 3.7 per cent).

In many regions the KAP vote was higher than that of the Greens in the Queensland state election last year.

KAP remains in talks with the parties about preferences in other lower house seats including in western Sydney.

The KAP source said in some lower house seats the Greens would recommend preferences for the KAP above the ALP.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd refused to confirm any preference deal with Mr Katter on Friday, saying only that such arrangements were a matter for the organisational wing of the parties.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott announced earlier in the week he would order his party to preference Labor above the Greens and called on Mr Rudd to take a similar hardline stance against the Greens.

Palmer United Party and KAP announced on Friday they would place each other above the major parties on how-to-vote cards for all House of Representatives seats.

Parties and senate candidates have to lodge their upper-house preference tickets with the Australian Electoral Commission on Saturday.


Principals given out-of-school expulsion powers

School principals will be able to suspend or exclude students for offences they commit outside of school hours under new legislation introduced in Parliament on Tuesday.

Provisions under the Strengthening Discipline in State Schools Education Amendment Bill will also empower principals to suspend or expel students who are facing or have been convicted of criminal charges.

It means students who have been charged with a serious offence – as prescribed in the Children's Commissioner's Act – including rape, drug trafficking, armed robbery, torture, kidnapping and attempted murder, can be suspended until the charge is dealt with.

The bill, which expands a principal's power for acts committed beyond the school gates, also means a principal can suspend or expel a student from school for conduct outside of school "provided the conduct adversely affects, or is likely to adversely affect, other students or the good order and management of the school or where the student's attendance at the school poses an unacceptable risk to the safety or wellbeing of other students or staff".

Students will be provided with an educational program during their suspension.

Bullying and other anti-social behaviour, outside school hours and its property, could also be grounds for punishment.

In introducing the bill to Parliament, Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said principals understood their school community and knew what was best for it and should be given the powers to act accordingly.

"This provides a balance between enhancing principals' powers to operate in accordance with local circumstances while guiding consistent decision making that affords appropriate levels of natural justice and ensures the safety and wellbeing of students and staff is paramount," he said.

Under the Education Act as it currently stands, disciplinary options are limited to part of lunch breaks or short periods after school. The amended bill removes time limit restrictions for detention and includes options for Saturday detention and community service.

Short term suspensions can now be up to 10 schools days, up from five, meaning a long term suspension will now be between 11 and 20 days.

School principals will no longer require written submissions when expelling a student, however parents will still have the option to appeal a decision with the director-general.

"These reforms support the reforms under [the] Great Teachers = Great Results [policy] by strengthening principals' powers and addressing limitations contained in the present legislative framework around school discipline," Mr Langbroek said.

The education amendment bill has been sent to parliamentary committee for review, however Mr Langbroek expects it to be passed before the end of the year in time for the first school semester next year.


People smugglers will try to swamp us, says Tony Burke

PEOPLE-SMUGGLERS are attempting to overwhelm the Papua New Guinea Solution and test Labor's resolve, Immigration Minister Tony Burke has conceded, as boats continue to make the dangerous voyage to Australia.

As survivors of the latest maritime tragedy reached Christmas Island yesterday, Kevin Rudd again warned that his border-protection policy would "take time" to work.

Labor has stepped up the defence of its July 16 shift on asylum-seekers, with Mr Burke cautioning that smugglers would try to swamp the policy, but he said that the government's ability to boost capacity at Manus Island in PNG was "very significant" and there was room to accommodate more than 10,000 asylum-seekers.

Under Labor's plan, asylum-seekers are sent to PNG for processing and resettlement, with the Prime Minister vowing that none of them would be settled in Australia.

Forty-four boats carrying 3573 asylum-seekers made it into Australian waters in the 33 days before Mr Rudd announced the policy, compared with the arrival of 2883 asylum-seekers on 40 boats in the 33 days since.

Campaigning in Brisbane yesterday, the Prime Minister warned that the PNG Solution would "take a while to work through".

"I challenge anybody to come up with an alternative effective policy which doesn't say in simple and clear terms that if you are a people-smuggler, and you are telling someone that if you get on to that boat to take them to Australia, you need to know that that person will not be allowed to settle in Australia.

And Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Labor did not know whether the policy was going to work but it was a new arrangement that struck out in a new direction "and it offers the prospect of removing the product that asylum-seekers are sold".

Mr Dreyfus said it was too soon to say whether this policy will in fact stop or "reduce massively the flow of people coming by boat without a visa". However he said there were early signs that the policy was working.

The first family groups were yesterday transferred to Nauru.

Mr Burke has redoubled Labor's efforts to defend the PNG Solution despite the continued arrival of boats. "In the last few days, some of the smuggling operations have tried to put together a bit of a surge and to see if they can overwhelm the current system," he told the ABC's Lateline program on Tuesday.

He said yesterday voluntary returns of boat arrivals were beginning, with one sent from Christmas Island to Iran and two asylum-seekers returned from Manus Island. He also said Labor's ability to boost capacity on Manus Island was "very significant".

"I have no doubt at all about our ability to find whatever capacity we need in PNG," he said.

The Immigration Minister confirmed the government had found a 165-hectare site on the western end of Manus Island "which would be able to take in the order of 10,000 people".

The opposition's immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, however, continued to attack Labor's efforts. He said only 1000 asylum-seekers would be on Manus Island by election day, with the other two-thirds of arrivals since the hardline policy was announced still in Australia.

"We're nowhere near 3000 capacity on Manus Island at the moment and we won't be near that for some months," he said.

"And so this suggestion of Tony Burke's that we can create the beds as quickly as people arrive is just complete nonsense.

"He should just be honest with the Australian people. I mean, they are spending $30 million of taxpayers' money telling people in mainstream newspapers, rather than (through) targeted communications into diaspora communities, about their failing boat policy."

Labor's plans to stem the flow of asylum-seekers has faced fresh scrutiny this week after five people drowned and 106 were plucked from the water after their boat listed, then sank on Tuesday as Customs and Border Protection sought to rescue the stricken passengers.

Pressure has also mounted on the government after a regional people-smuggling summit, called after a meeting between the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Mr Rudd six weeks ago, was boycotted by Iran and failed to produce concrete measures.


21 August, 2013

Can anybody tell me what this means?

"ScribbleLive is the leading provider of real-time engagement management solutions. From live blogging to second screen experiences, media and brands can engage and monetize their audiences"

They seem to be trying to sell something but what?

Second mining boom possible: Abbott

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott says the coalition will help make a second mining boom possible if it's elected.

He says the Labor government has helped "kill" the mining boom by implementing the mining and carbon taxes.

Unnecessary red tape for businesses and the Labor government's move to abolish the Workplace Relations Construction Commission have also helped prematurely end the boom, Mr Abbott told 2SM Radio on Monday.

The coalition has promised to scrap the carbon and mining taxes if it wins the September 7 election.

It's also committed to reducing the regulatory burden on businesses by $1 billion a year.

"I think the mining boom could only come again under a government which gets it ... which abolishes all these other unnecessary taxes," Mr Abbott said.

"These unnecessary taxes are doing us an enormous amount of damage and that's what will go there's a change of government".


Tougher parole laws go to Vic parliament

VICTORIA'S parliament will this week debate tougher parole laws while the latest review of the state system may be released as early as Tuesday.

Previously announced changes, including making breaching parole a crime, will be debated in parliament this week, while a review of the state's parole system by retired High Court judge Ian Callinan may also be released as early as Tuesday.

Premier Denis Napthine said the state would have the toughest parole regime in the country.

"We'll be debating further toughening of parole laws in Victoria to make it very clear that we will have the toughest parole conditions in Australia," Dr Napthine told reporters on Monday.

"There is no doubt that there needs to be improvements to our parole processes.  "We make no apology for making it very clear that parole is a privilege not a right."

Among the measures being debated in parliament are making breaching parole an offence and giving police greater powers to deal with those those who breach parole.

The government has already made it mandatory to put violent offenders back in jail if they are convicted of a serious crime while on parole.

The crackdown follows about 13 murders by parolees in recent years, including the Jill Meagher case, with the families of victims among those calling for greater transparency and accountability by the parole board.

Dr Napthine met with Ms Meagher's widower Tom last week to discuss his concerns about the Adult Parole Board of Victoria.

Helen Wicking, whose daughter Joanne was killed by a parolee in 2010, says victims of crime need to have a stronger voice in parole decisions, and called for stronger surveillance once prisoners are released.

Steve Medcraft, president of People Against Lenient Sentencing, says he hopes to see a degree of transparency introduced to the parole board.

"I would hope that we get a clearer insight into the workings of the body and more involvement from people affected by the decisions," he said.

The board's decisions are made in an administrative rather than a legal setting, meaning prisoners are not entitled to legal representation and hearings are not open to the public or media.

Two of the four reviews of the state's parole system - suppressed during an inquest - examine 11 cases of offenders alleged to have murdered people while on parole.

The issue goes back before State Coroner Judge Ian Gray on Tuesday. He last week lifted the suppression order but the Department of Justice sought a stay while it considered an appeal.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the Callinan and other reviews should be made public.  "There needs to be an open process. It needs to be transparent."


Rudd closes immunisation loophole

KEVIN Rudd will today unveil new measures to lift childhood immunisation rates by directly linking a key family payment to vaccinations.

The Prime Minister will announce that if re-elected all children will have to be fully immunised in order to receive the Family Tax Benefit Part A end-of-year supplement.

Parents who register as "conscientious objectors" will no longer be eligible to receive the payment. Exemptions will apply on medical and religious grounds only.

"The science cannot be disputed," Mr Rudd said. "Immunisation is the safest and most effective way for parents to protect their children from disease, and one of the most important public health measures at our disposal."

A recent report by the National Health Performance Authority confirmed that Australia's national rates of childhood immunisation were at or around 90 per cent.

But the report also found there was a need to increase rates, particularly in regions where coverage was below the national average.

In one Medicare Local catchment area, 3600 children were not fully immunised across the key age groups of one, two and five years of age.

The existence of unimmunised children has given rise to concerns that children in some communities are at risk of contracting diseases such as measles and whooping cough, and putting others at risk, too.

The government announced its first crackdown on immunisation last year, mandating that children needed to have received the necessary vaccinations in order to receive the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement.

The supplement is worth $726 per child each year. Under the crackdown it is only paid once a child is fully immunised at one, two and five years of age.

The government argues this provides families with an incentive of more than $2100 to ensure their children are fully immunised.

However until now, exemptions for parents who register as "conscientious objectors" to immunisation have always applied.


Liberal party candidate Kevin Baker stands down over offensive website

Politicians must not joke!

The Liberal candidate at the centre of a controversy over offensive comments on a web forum has quit.  Kevin Baker’s name will still appear on the ballot paper because nominations have closed but he is considered unlikely to win Charlton, a safe Labor seat in NSW.

Labor had demanded Mr Abbott dump Kevin Baker as his candidate for former minister Greg Combet's seat of Charlton in NSW over the "Mini-Mods" web forum.

The forum, which has been pulled down since the criticism broke, featured a general discussion section with the banner: "Talk about anything you want - no censorship, no stress!"

According to reports in the Daily Telegraph, the forum included jokes labelling the Pope as a paedophile, referring to women making love on pool tables and "Tit banter".

In a statement, Mr Baker said he had decided not to run as the Liberal candidate for Charlton.  "I understand that while my name will still appear on the ballot paper, my campaign is over," he said.  "I deeply regret the posts made on my website and decided that it was not appropriate to continue as the party’s candidate."

NSW Liberal Party state director Mark Neeham said the party had accepted Mr Baker’s resignation as the candidate for Charlton.

"Consequently the party will not be represented in Charlton at the election," Mr Neeham said.

Mr Abbott had earlier said he would be briefed on the issue, but noted Mr Baker had apologised for the comments.

"He's done the wrong thing. To his credit he's pulled down the site. He has abjectly and quite properly apologised but, yep, he's done the wrong thing," he said.

But Mr Abbott had left the door open to potentially dumping Mr Baker as a candidate, saying he would review further information about the issue later on Tuesday.  "I'm going to receive a further briefing on this later today," Mr Abbott said.  "I'll be further briefed on this. He has closed the site down and he has abjectly apologised."

In a statement, the Labor campaign said Mr Baker's website "included offensive references about incest, domestic violence, racism and child abuse" and "jokes about having sex with stripper


20 August, 2013

Three years later, Kevin Rudd finds himself behind Julia Gillard in the polls

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd hasn't been forced to battle the damaging leaks that all but destroyed Julia Gillard's campaign three years ago, but he and his Labor government suddenly find themselves in a much worse position than that which engulfed Ms Gillard at the same time in the last federal election.

Just short of three weeks out from the 2010 election, Gillard Labor had slumped to a primary vote of 36 per cent against the Abbott opposition's 45 per cent in the Fairfax/Nielsen poll, and 37 per cent to 44 per cent in Newspoll, or 50-50 on the two-party preferred scale.

Rudd Labor, also a few days short of three weeks before the election, is now on a 34 per cent primary vote, while the Abbott Coalition is on 47 per cent, according to the latest Newspoll.

That equates to a two-party preferred vote of 54 per cent to the opposition and a losing 46 per cent for Labor.

Mr Rudd, in short, has a vastly steeper cliff to climb than Ms Gillard faced if he is to have any chance of retaining the prime ministership.

The only advantage he enjoys is that he is not being undermined by the sort of leaks that brought Ms Gillard low.

Shortly before her slump, news reports quoted unnamed sources saying that she had tried to limit the increase in the age pension in the previous year's budget and wanted to kill the idea of paid parental leave altogether.  The source or sources of the leaks were never identified.

Mr Rudd at the time was in hospital having his gall bladder removed.

Shortly after, Ms Gillard arranged to meet him to persuade him to throw his weight behind her campaign.

Ms Gillard also publicly re-fashioned herself as "the new Julia", and her party turned its attention to attacking Mr Abbott.

Mr Rudd and his campaign team are now stepping up their public attacks on Mr Abbott, buying advertising time to warn that "if he [Abbott] wins, you lose".

Mr Rudd, having started the campaign saying he wanted an end to negativity, has defended his new negative stance by saying it is based on policy.

Whether he can turn around his campaign remains to be seen, but he has a task that has no recent comparison.


'Green bank' faces the axe after vote

The corporation - effectively a green investment bank - was set up as part of the deal between Labor, the Greens and independents over carbon pricing, revenue from which funds the institution.

Since its creation the $10 billion bank has invested close to $800 million in renewables and energy-efficiency projects across the country. Projects include $60 million for a solar farm in Moree and $75 million for plants capturing waste coal mine and landfill gas and turning it into power. But its existence is seriously contested.

Tony Wood, energy program director at think tank the Grattan Institute, said the corporation to date had done little but provide cheap financing to projects, meaning it was just competing with existing market players.

"If the government is going to intervene in the market you need to have a clear rationale and I'm not sure they have made a clear case," he said. Mr Wood said the corporation's energy-efficiency work was worthy but did not require $10 billion.

The Coalition has vowed to axe the corporation if it wins the federal election, saying it is backing speculative ventures with borrowed money, which the private sector would not support.

"Why would you pay more than you had to for renewable energy - it's a wacky idea," said opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt.

On the first day of the election campaign Tony Abbott wrote to the corporation's chairman, Jillian Broadbent, to reiterate his government would close it down. It followed similar letters from other Coalition frontbenchers in recent months threatening not to honour contracts signed by the corporation.

On Monday, Fairfax Media reported that banks and other major investors were expecting about $4 billion to be sucked from the renewable energy sector as a result of regulatory uncertainty and the likelihood of lower returns under a Coalition government.

Mr Hunt rejected that report, saying he spoke regularly with major investors and banks and those concerns had not been raised with him.

The chief executive of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Oliver Yates, declined to comment on policies of the major parties, but said he thought the $4 billion funding estimate was likely to be "conservative".

Analysts estimate $20 billion in private and public investment cash would be required to meet the mandatory renewable energy target of 20 per cent clean energy by 2020 that has bipartisan political support.


Kevin Rudd accused of demonising migrants, as union campaigns on 457 visas

TONY Abbott has called on Kevin Rudd to distance himself from a $1 million union advertising crackdown on foreign workers, accusing the Prime Minister of demonising migrants who came to Australia through proper legal avenues.

The Opposition Leader said he was appalled at the stance taken by Mr Rudd on the issue, saying that 457 visa holders contributed to Australian society by working and paying taxes.

"Mr Rudd really should disassociate himself from this particular union campaign, particularly given one of the first things that he said on coming back into the Prime Ministership was `I'm sick of all the politics of division',” Mr Abbott said.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) will spend $1 million over the next two weeks in its advertising campaign to claim Mr Abbott wants to "massively expand” the temporary 457 visa program and put foreign workers first.

The campaign includes radio and billboard advertisements as well as television advertisements that began screening last night on free-to-air television networks in Tasmania and Queensland.

One of the ads features a worker who was among 106 redundant employees made to train 457 visa holders kept on by the employer.

Mr Abbott today said employers already had to meet requirement conditions to use foreign workers and that it was already more cost effective to source domestic workers to plug skills shortages.

"It's far more expensive to employ a 457 visa holder than it is to employ a local,” Mr Abbott said.”They aren't stealing our jobs, they are building our country.

"It appalls me, it really appalls me that the unions and Mr Rudd are running this campaign effectively to demonise the skilled migrants upon whose backs our country has been built.

"Just about every Australian is a migrant or a descendent of migrants and frankly we should be honouring and cherishing the contributions that migrants who've come to this country legally, the right way to join our team, have made.”

Mr Abbott made the comments in the western Sydney seat of Lindsay, where he released the Coalition's policy to crack down on gun imports.

Earlier, he was in the Sydney electorate of Bennelong to announce his small business policy.

Mr Rudd's first act after being returned to the prime ministership was to pass through the lower house Labor's contentious 457 visa legislation, placing more onerous requirements on employers.

The new restrictions include labour market testing provisions for employers, tougher monitoring of compliance by the Fair Work Ombudsman and strengthening the ability of the immigration department to prosecute wrongdoers.

It also includes a new dob-in hotline, allowing employees to report employers for unfairly treating foreign workers. It will also require businesses to allocate one to two per cent of payroll for training purposes for every year of the visa sponsorship.

The legislation was opposed by business and industry groups who pressed for evidence of rorts under the current regime.


Greens in deal with devil: Wilkie

TASMANIAN independent MP Andrew Wilkie will issue an open how-to-vote card for his seat of Denison.

Mr Wilkie will have an open how-to-vote ticket which instructs voters to put a one next to his name and fill in the rest of the preferences as they wish.

His election chances were bolstered this week when the Liberals announced they would preference him over the Labor candidate in the Tasmanian seat of Denison, Jane Austin.

"The Liberals have made their own decision that I'm the best of a bad bunch, or the least bad," he told ABC radio.

But Mr Wilkie said the Greens' decision to preference Labor ahead of him made a complete mockery of the party's criticism of the federal government.

"It's a great betrayal of your core philosophies ... that when it comes to your political self interest you're prepared to do a deal with the devil," he said.

Mr Wilkie was one of the key independents who helped Labor form a minority government, but later tore up his agreement with then prime minister Julia Gillard when she reneged on a promise to deliver poker machine reform.

He has ruled out entering into an agreement with a minority government if there is another hung parliament.


19 August, 2013

Labor continue stimulus payments despite global financial meltdown ending long ago

A STAGGERING 6000 people - including overseas backpackers - have received Labor's $900 "stimulus" payment since January 1- even though the global financial meltdown ended four years ago.

In a major dent to Labor's economic credibility, the costly government bungle means taxpayers will fork out more than $5 million in "tax bonus" payments in 2013.

A News Corp Australia investigation can reveal hordes of backpackers on "working holiday" visas received the one-off cash bonus - even though 5 million Australian workers missed out.

Despite the Rudd Government driving the budget $30 billion into deficit, nearly $40 million worth of "stimulus" cheques remain uncashed, the Australian Taxation Office says.

The revelations come at the worst time for Kevin Rudd as he challenges Tony Abbott's election costings in a desperate bid to revive his faltering campaign.

Queensland farmer Craig Van Rooyen was staggered to learn the Government was still mailing stimulus payments to foreign backpackers who worked on his fruit farm four years ago.  "I just couldn't believe that Kevin Rudd could still be sending money to non-Australian residents," Mr Van Rooyen said.  "This guy is just a reckless spender of Australian taxpayer's money."

One English backpacker was mailed her $900 cheque on May 21- even though she left Australia in late 2009 and has been living at home for several years.  Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan told the woman she was receiving the payment "as part of the economic stimulus package" announced by the PM in 2009.  "We've enclosed a cheque for $900.00 as you're entitled to this payment based on your taxable income for the 2007/08 financial year," Mr Jordan said.

Coalition frontbencher and waste-watch spokesman Jamie Briggs said: "Labor's economic management has now gone from tragedy to farce for the Australian taxpayer."

"Labor continues to treat taxpayer's money with complete disregard, leaving a massive debt for our children's future."


Solar funding 'to be lost' under conservatives

CONFIDENTIAL data reveals up to $4bn in private funding for renewable energy, including solar power, would be lost under a coaltion government.

Analysis commissioned by The Climate Institute reveals about $4 billion in private funding would be lost to the industry, including for solar power.

It also says the coalition's climate change plan is $4bn short of the amount needed to meet its proposed five per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, Fairfax reported on Monday.

Instead, the private think tank's analysis suggests there would be a nine per cent increase in emissions by 2020.

Fairfax reports big business is planning for the impact should Opposition Leader Tony Abbott cut the carbon price and axe the clean energy finance system, despite the coalition rejecting the institute's analysis.

Carbon finance sector sources believe the loss of about $4.1bn of private funds away from large-scale renewable power projects will lead to the construction of cheap wind farms to meet mandatory renewable energy targets of 20 per cent clean power by 2020.

It also meant gas would be another "winner", a source told Fairfax.

"Australia's significant clean energy potential is being held back by seemingly endless rounds of review and, like the rest of the energy industry, our main need is for policy stability to drive investment in major projects," chief executive of industry group the Clean Energy Council, David Green, said.

Mr Abbott on the weekend said spending under the coalition's "direct action" climate change plan would remain capped at $3.2bn.

A survey by consultants AECOM of 180 leading companies found 65 per cent of businesses supported an emissions trading scheme, 29 per cent supported a carbon tax and just seven per cent of businesses supported the coalition's direct action policy.


Jealousy of LEGAL immigrants in West Australia

THE Irish are threatening to boycott WA over a Budget policy to impose $4000 public school fees for children of parents working here on 457 visas.

While some families look at moving interstate or overseas because they can't afford to pay up to $20,000 a year for five children, doctors warn the health system will suffer and principals fear some children simply won't go to school.

The decision to charge $4000 a child, announced in the State Budget this month, is being criticised internationally, making headlines in Dublin's The Irish Times this week.

Australian Medical Association WA president Richard Choong said he had received worrying feedback from Britain and Ireland and the fees would be a "game changer" for many overseas-trained GPs looking to move to WA on a 457 visa.

"This is one of the most negative policy decisions that I have seen for some years and one that will have a seriously negative impact on health in WA," he said. "We know from comments already made to us that this will encourage some GPs on 457 visas to leave WA for other states, or to move to another country.

"For others looking to come to WA from overseas it will mean a complete rethink of their plans. Not many will be able to carry a $4000 fee for the education of their children, especially if they have three or four children."

WA Primary Principals Association president Steve Breen said there was an incorrect assumption that 457 visa holders were highly skilled and therefore highly paid.

"For example, in Katanning there are a number of 457 workers in the abattoir  they will struggle to pay the $4000 per student to send their kids to school," he said. "There is a potential for these children to not come to school."

The latest report from the Immigration Department shows there are 6180 people from the UK working in WA on 457 visas, followed by 4070 from Ireland, 3130 from the Philippines and 1330 from the US.

Education Minister Peter Collier said he had received mixed feedback and the Government was working towards making more information available soon.

Irish Families in Perth president Eimear Beattie said families of up to five children were considering moving elsewhere.

"There is a lot of panic out there because a lot of people have got huge families," she said. "This will deter a lot of people from coming out here. A lot of people who want to come out here are now asking if it's even worth coming here on the 457 visa.

"A lot of the families already here are actually thinking of leaving the country altogether, or moving to another state, or going to private schools."

Mother-of-five Claire Calvey said her family, who moved to Paraburdoo last year after arriving on a 457 visa from Ireland, was considering a move to Canada. She is circulating a petition, which has almost 1000 signatures.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive James Pearson said the school fee threatened to "undermine the effectiveness of the 457 visa scheme for current visa holders and their employers".

Opposition education spokeswoman Sue Ellery said a parliamentary inquiry had recommended any school fees be means-tested. "I am concerned that this is going to create a hidden class of children who are not educated," she said.

Mr Collier said the details would be finalised "as soon as possible" but he was confident "that WA will continue to be an attractive working destination for people from overseas".
The number of children of 457 visa holders attending public schools has jumped from 290 in 2005 to 8600 this year.


Kevin Rudd challenger opposes Islam and wants mosques banned

A CANDIDATE for the Prime Minister's seat of Griffith has put outlawing the Islamic faith front and centre of her election campaign, branding it a "religion from hell" and claiming that building mosques in Australia is "high treason".

Sherrilyn Church of the Rise Up Australia Party says her top policy priority in the election is to ban the building of mosques in the electorate, south of Brisbane.

Ms Church - a small-time citrus farmer from Crows Nest on the Darling Downs - said her primary concern for the electorate was "the Islamisation of the city by councils giving permission for mosques to be erected".

"Basically, I see Islam not primarily a religion but a system of law because to the Islamic mind the existence of a mosque in an area means they believe that Sharia law applies and the Islamic flag must fly - now that is high treason in a sovereign nation," she said.

"Islam is a legal system before it is a religion. We have freedom of religion but their religion is illegal.

"We are multiethnic, but we are not multicultural, because that's where the law comes into it.

"The people in the mosque can be as charming and pleasant as your best Australian but there is also those elements, as you know across the world, where young men are recruited to jihadist training camps from these mosques.

"A lot of people consider it to be fine. A lot of people also consider that having gay marriage is fine."

Ms Church, 61, said she believed the Muslim faith and democratic citizenship were fundamentally incompatible.

"This question is asked of all Australian citizens when they stand before the governor or to become citizens. They have to declare that they will come under our system of law, and our flag.

"If you're going to say; 'no, I'm going to hold to the laws of the Koran', I would say `pack your bags, get on the next plane and go home'.

"Our laws are totally and utterly contrary to the law of the Koran. There are some religions that didn't come from heaven, they come from hell."

Ms Church's platform has proven unpopular within the local Islamic community, which has two mosques in the Griffith electorate at Holland Park and West End.

The views only damage hard-fought steps to integration with the southside community according to Islamic College of Brisbane chairman Mohammed Yusuf.

"It's a very sad thing that because of ignorance and people trying to gain cheap publicity with these things they do so much damage," Mr Yusuf said.

"It really annoys us when people who through their own ignorance or for their own political gains, say things which are damaging. It's not in the best interest for anyone.

Mr Yusuf said that Christianity and Islam were fundamentally the same and the Sharia is compatible with Australia life and "does not affect anybody else".

"There's punishments and penalties for certain things -- adultery or stealing and all that -- under Sharia law that apply in Islamic states, not Australia so there's no way the Muslims are going to say I'm going to introduce that here.

"The majority of the things we talk about for Sharia law are already in existence here -- we follow what applies to us, what does not apply we refrain from and don't practice."


18 August, 2013

Abbott cements his lead as ALP slumps to 36 per cent of primary vote

SUPPORT for Kevin Rudd's Labor government has slipped for a second week in a row, with the ALP primary vote plunging to just 36 per cent, according to an exclusive Galaxy poll.

The result is below Julia Gillard's vote at the last election and comes as the Coalition's primary vote remains unchanged from last week on 45 per cent.

On a two-party preferred basis, an election held today would deliver a Coalition government with 52 per cent.

But parents don't like Mr Abbott's plan to axe Labor's $820 Schoolkids Bonus. According to the poll, Mr Abbott's plan to cut the payment is opposed by 47 per cent of voters.

Opposition is highest among parents, with 50 per cent of mothers and fathers disagreeing. Only 38 per cent backed Mr Abbott's vow to cut the welfare payments.

"Voters prefer the paid parental leave scheme proposed by the Coalition over Labor's policy, but there is significant opposition to the Coalition's plan to axe the Schoolkids Bonus," Galaxy pollster David Briggs said.

Yesterday Mr Rudd promised he would "fight" to get back in the election race but conceded his back was against the wall.

"I've been in a few tight spots before and I've managed to fight a way forward," he said. "I intend to fight my way forward."


Coalition gets New England and Lyne: poll

Proof that the turncoats betrayed their electorates

A NEWSPOLL shows the Coalition will easily win the NSW seats of New England and Lyne formerly held by Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott.

The poll, taken between August 12-15 and published on Saturday in The Australian, found that former Nationals' Senate leader Barnaby Joyce, who resigned from the upper house to contest New England, has a huge lead over Labor.

The poll shows a collapse of the independent vote in the electorate and a doubling of support for the Coalition.

It found the Coalition's primary vote was 53 per cent, up from 25.2 per cent in 2010, while independents attracted 18 per cent of the vote, down from 63.1 per cent in 2010.

Labor's primary vote was 24 per cent, up from 8.1 per cent in 2010.

In Lyne, the poll showed the Coalition's primary vote was 51 per cent, up from 34.4 per cent in 2010, while votes for independents crashed from 47.8 per cent in 2010 to 16 per cent.

Labor's vote went up from 13.5 per cent to 26 per cent.

On a two-party preferred basis the poll shows the Coalition is on 66 per cent in New England and 59 per cent in Lyne, while Labor is on 34 per cent and 41 per cent respectively.


PNG is 100% behind asylum deal: O'Neill

PNG'S Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has confirmed his country's commitment to the asylum seeker deal agreed with the Rudd government.

Fairfax media reported on Saturday that Mr O'Neill had said his country had not agreed to settle all asylum seekers found to be genuine refugees after they were processed on Manus Island.

Mr O'Neill reportedly said Australia would need to take back a share of them.

"There is no agreement that all genuine refugees will be settled in PNG," he said.

The coalition and the Australian Greens seized on the report, saying it showed the deal was unravelling.

But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the PNG government had confirmed its "100 per cent support" again on Saturday and he could guarantee that no person sent by a a people smuggler on a boat to Australia without a visa would be settled in Australia.

In a short statement released on Saturday night, Mr O'Neill said PNG reaffirmed its 100 per cent commitment to the agreement signed with Australia.

"People who are found to be refugees, identified through the process in collaboration with United Nation High Commission for Refugees will be settled in Papua New Guinea and other participating countries in the region," he said.

"They will not be returned to Australia under the agreement. PNG remains 100 per cent committed to the Regional Resettlement Agreement with Australia."


Tony Abbott unveils controversial maternity leave scheme

Tony Abbott will today unveil his big pitch to Australian families - a generous paid parental leave scheme that will also deliver fathers two weeks paternity leave at their actual salary and mothers up to 26 weeks leave on full pay.

For the first time, he will reveal the 2015 start date of his new scheme. Mr Abbott will also confirm that the Coalition's decision to also pay working women's superannuation entitlements while on baby leave will ensure women on average weekly earnings who have two children will be better off by $50,000 when they retire.

Women earning $65,000 a year would secure an extra $20,000 in cash payments under Mr Abbott's scheme compared to Labor's plan.

An exclusive Galaxy poll published today in The Sunday Telegraph suggests the policy is a winner, with 44 per cent of voters backing Mr Abbott's paid parental leave scheme compared to 36 per cent who preferred Labor's existing scheme.

The scheme, which has been fully costed by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office, will involve a net additional cost to taxpayers of $6.1 billion over the forward estimates. That's after Mr Abbott hits 3000 of Australia's largest companies with a 1.5 per cent tax levy to pay for the scheme.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Abbott said he made no apology for offering such a generous scheme to working women. The father of three confirmed he hoped it would deliver women more choice to have more kids.  "Every working mum is going to be better off under our policy," Mr Abbott said.

"It proves that the Coalition 'gets it' when it comes to the reality of the contemporary woman and contemporary families.

"The fact is very few families these days can survive on a single income. Just about every family needs more than one income to survive. So if we are serious about allowing women to have kids and a career we've got to have a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme."

The Coalition's offer of six months on full pay compares with Labor's scheme which offers all working women 18 weeks pay at the minimum wage - a maximum of $11,200.

That compares with Mr Abbott's scheme which will offer women earning up to $150,000 six months off work on full pay to care for their baby. Women who earn over $150,000 will also get the maximum $75,000.

During the Howard Government, Mr Abbott famously said paid parental leave would happen "over this government's dead body, frankly".


16 August, 2013

A "Gaffe" circus

It was ridiculous to hold that you must not call a woman attractive and Latham is equally entitled to say that the same woman is not.  For the record, I think Latham was the most realistic

Former Labor leader Mark Latham has made his umpteenth controversial gaffe but his first of the election campaign, by denigrating the appearance of a Liberal candidate described by Tony Abbott as having "sex appeal".

"It showed very bad judgment and it shows he has low standards," Mr Latham said on 3AW in reference to Tony Abbott's remarks about the Liberal candidate for the seat of Lindsay, Fiona Scott on Tuesday.

"I had a good look at Fiona Scott on page eight of The Australian today and she doesn't have sex appeal at all.  "She's not that good of a sort."

Mr Latham's comments provoked astonishment from the radio hosts, but he doubled down.

"She's a rather plain ordinary-looking woman and Abbott has exaggerated massively to try and win her vote among the blokes ..." he said.

"Tony had the beer goggles on and in politics they say it's showbiz for ugly people and I don't think she'll be out of place."

Mr Abbott had drawn criticism for commenting on Ms Scott's looks and "feistiness".

But Mr Latham's comments sent social media into overdrive.  Fiona Scott, Mark Latham and 'sex appeal' became nationally trending topics on Twitter.

Nathan Luke said: "Latham will have a shabby [corner ...] in a very unexciting page of Australia political history."

Former Howard minister Amanda Vanstone waded into the issue on Wednesday night, saying that Mr Abbott was just "trying to be nice" and argued that women pay similar compliments to men.

"I think he was just commenting on trying to be nice and I think he's sometimes a bit awkward in some of these sort of social occasions and decided to pay what he thought was a compliment," Ms Vanstone told the ABC's Lateline.

"I do not want us to get to the stage where people can't pass a compliment. Women say about blokes, 'Gee, he's nicely packed, isn't he?'".  Ms Vanstone explained that by "nicely packed" she meant a "good looker". 

Former Labor minister Craig Emerson said he was not going to wade into the sex appeal "quagmire", adding he did not think the election would be decided on the matter.


Coalition will deny boat people settlement

THE Coalition's asylum seeker policy will take away the people smuggling model of permanant residency, deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop says.

"We will provide temporary residency, so should the situation in their home country improve, then they will be sent back to their home country to help rebuild that nation," Ms Bishop said on the Nine Network on Friday.

"It takes away the people smuggling model that they are selling and that is permanent residency."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and his immigration spokesman Scott Morrison will announce on Friday that almost 32,000 asylum seekers already in Australia after arriving by boat will never get permanent settlement, creating a crucial point of difference between the coalition and Labor, Fairfax reported.

Ms Bishop said asylum seekers would also have work rights under the policy.

"There is a mutual obligation, if you are here on a temporary protection visa you will be expected to work," she said.


Feds should stop running schools: expert

THE next prime minister should not appoint a schools minister and should end federal government control of schools, an education expert says.

Under the present system, hundreds of millions of dollars are being wasted in bureaucracy, while Australian students are going backwards when compared to the rest of the world, Professor Brian Caldwell says.

Prof Caldwell, a professorial fellow and former dean of education at the University of Melbourne, said the constitution says that schools are the responsibility of states and territories.

He said the federal government's only role should be funding them.

"The incoming prime minister should not appoint a minister for school education and should get out of the business of running schools or trying to dictate to states and territories and schools how they should go about their work," Prof Caldwell told AAP.

"Essentially the present situation of having two large bureaucracies, one in Canberra and the different states and territories, is not working.

"If you take out one whole layer of federal bureaucracy you will have, by my calculations, several hundreds of millions of dollars a year just in those savings."

Prof Caldwell said the education system needed to be simplified and the arguments between governments must end.

However, he acknowledged that the change he was suggesting would likely take two terms of government.

He said the model of states solely controlling education was working well in many countries including Canada and New Zealand.


Election will lift economy: Wesfarmers

And Mr Goyder is always right -- not quite perhaps but he's a very good bet

WESFARMERS boss Richard Goyder is hoping the federal election will usher in a new era of pro-business policy that recognises it is companies that create wealth and jobs.

Speaking after the parent company of Coles supermarkets reported a net profit of $2.26 billion for the 12 months to the end of June, Mr Goyder said he was hopeful that an end to political uncertainty would help buoy consumer spending after the election next month.

"Interest rate reductions have helped, and getting the election out of the way will help," he said.

"I just hope that towards the end of the year we start to see some improvement in consumer confidence, but who knows? A lot will depend on the external environment, I think, beyond Australia."

But he said the key to improved economic performance was a stable, pro-business government.

"For the country, the best thing that can happen in government -- either federal, state and in some ways local -- is leadership which is long-term, which is fiscally responsible, where there's an acknowledgement that the wealth creators in the economy are the businesses," he said.

This would foster "an environment that allows business to thrive and in doing so, invest in infrastructure, the community and people", he said.

Coles, the company's biggest earnings generator, reported a 13.1 per cent gain in earnings before interest and tax to $1.53bn, on revenue of $35.78bn, up 4.8 per cent.

"Despite difficult trading conditions, we have continued to drive cost savings to invest in service and value," Coles divisional boss Ian McLeod said.

Shelf prices fell by 1.7 per cent over the course of the year, highlighting the continued price war with larger rival Woolworths.

However, Credit Suisse analyst Grant Saligari said Coles "seems to be having to invest more in price and promotion to generate its sales, and this has slowed profit growth".

Growth in EBIT margins -- the amount of operating income Coles makes from every $100 in sales -- was just 15c in the second half of the financial year, compared to 40c in the first half.

"That slowdown appears to reflect a stronger competitive environment involving higher levels of food and fuel discounting," Mr Saligari said.

Hardware division Bunnings was a highlight, growing EBIT by 7.5 per cent to $904m, with a 7.2 per cent increase in sales to $7.66bn driven by new-store openings and a 9.6 per cent gain in commercial sales.

Divisional boss John Gillam said the company was maintaining an accelerated growth path, planning 20 new Bunnings Warehouse stores this financial year and next, increasing total selling space by 10 per cent in each year.

Among the retail businesses, Mr Goyder said the only disappointment was Target, which was continuing to struggle with excess inventory that led to a 44 per cent collapse in EBIT to $136m.

Target division boss Stuart Machin said the inventory issue would continue to affect the company in the new financial year, with excess winter stock still remaining and lower levels of summer stock than last year, while sales would suffer in comparison with the discount-driven purge undertaken in the second half of the past financial year.

"This year, 2013-14, will be a very bumpy road," Mr Machin said.

Wesfarmers declared a final dividend of $1.03 per share, fully franked, taking the full-year dividend to $1.80, up 9 per cent.

Shareholder returns were further boosted by a 50c per share capital return, which although unfranked will not give rise to an immediate tax liability for most shareholders, with a draft ruling from the tax office stating that it will instead lower the cost price of investors' stock when assessing them for capital gains tax when they eventually sell out.

Angus Gluskie, managing director at Wesfarmers shareholder White Funds Management, said the 50c capital return was "welcome, and not commonly expected". He said: "In general people are somewhat comforted about the fact that they are showing good gains in the pursuit of the Coles business and the solidity there is underpinning the business in future periods, so they're prepared to overlook the weakness in the coal business; there's confidence in management."

Citi analyst Craig Woolford said a highlight was the recovery in Wesfarmers' insurance business, which generated $205m in earnings before interest and tax compared to $5m the previous financial year.


15 August, 2013

Mobile phone blues

Mobile phones (cellphones) have definitely exceeded my understanding of them.  Ten years ago I could send text messages on them but I got a new one about three years ago that did so many things that I have never quite dug text messaging out of all the available functions.  I was pleased that my new phone included a camera and took some photos with it but I have never figured out how to get the pix out of my phone and into my computer.  I imagined that some sort of USB cable to connect phone and computer would be needed but none was supplied.

Recently, however, my phone began to play up so I needed a new one.  Obviously, the thought came to me, I needed to upgrade from my old button phone to a new-style touchphone.  Experience of not understanding my phone, however, had made me wary.  Before I bought a touchphone, I needed someone to show me how to work it.  So I went to three different retailers, including Dick Smith, and sought to have the product demonstrated to me before I bought it.  Nobody had the time to do that.   They all told me that I would "pick it up".

"Phooey to that!" I thought, and walked out of the store with my money still in my pocket.  So I went down to the post-office and bought myself another old-style button phone for $49.  Maybe I will work IT out one day. At least I can make and receive calls and I can at least read text messages.  It's got a horrible ringtone that I would like to change but I don't know how to do that either  -- JR

Ground control to Major Kev: sorry, you're a goner

Like the firing of a Saturn V rocket escaping its earthly bonds, Labor banked on the election providing the final impetus needed to slip its heavy past and propel it skyward in 2013.

Used for the Apollo missions, the Saturn V rocket achieved its critical velocity by dumping depleted sections of itself as it climbed.

The analogy with Kevin Rudd's ascent is obvious. The recycled leader welcomed the early boost offered by the NSW Right faction, but has since cast it off in the most public way. Toxic policies have also been jettisoned, like the carbon tax and a dysfunctional asylum seeker response, along with several unlucky candidates.

But while Earth's gravitational pull can be overcome with the controlled explosion of enough rocket fuel, Labor's six-year record of division and over-promising is not so readily denied.

Notwithstanding that an election had to be called this year anyway, there was always a danger for Rudd Mark II in going to the people before gaining a durable lead in the polls. Election campaigns, like rocket launches, have no reverse gear. Things end in one of two ways.

Buoyed by the rate of his ascent in the weeks after June 26, Rudd and his boosters always believed he would climb yet further in the polls during the campaign proper.

In the narrowly focused context of the formal contest, they reasoned, Rudd would rise against a Liberal leader weighed down by his low popularity, half-baked policies on climate change and broadband, and his reputation for old-world attitudes to women and same-sex marriage.

But with the halfway point of this pantomime not far away, it is clear to the cooler heads in both camps this race is already decided.

Abbott's 52/48 per cent lead in last weekend's Fairfax/Nielsen poll is not unbridgeable for Labor, but, it is in all likelihood, structural.

Consider the equation before voters. On one side is a two-term government racked by spectacular hatreds, dragged low by broken promises on carbon and the surplus, various program failures, and a worsening economy. It campaigns for "a new way" but offers a recycled leader once dumped and then viciously traduced by his own side. This gaffer-taped operation is asking voters for three more years.

On the other side is an opposition famed for its negativity and woefully small-horizon thinking, yet uncannily united and consistent. Its leader, while prone to the odd verbal gaffe - his female candidates have "sex appeal" - enjoys unqualified support internally.

Having not trailed in the polls at any time since the last election, it has again edged ahead.

Little wonder, then, that in a choice between Labor's incendiary internal chaos, which might or might not be behind it, and the Coalition's ground-dwelling but unified ordinariness, the latter is appealing to more voters.

The harsh reality dawning for the ALP is the apparent popularity of Rudd through July, which led some commentators to enthuse it was more than a mere "sugar hit", were simply jumping the gun.

The Fairfax/Nielsen poll confirmed the trend, showing Labor's primary vote is once again dropping below its poor 2010 result after hitting 39 per cent last month.

Equally concerning for Labor is that Rudd now trails the less popular Abbott on the question of who voters trust (47/40), and that Abbott is closing in as preferred prime minister.

Some of that might be attributable to Rudd being forced to play contact politics, which is not something voters always enjoy - witness the "worm" in election debates which turns south every time someone goes on the attack.

But Rudd's problem is probably deeper than that.

Beneath the headline numbers in the poll was one that should have rocked the Labor camp. Voters were asked who they expected to win - as distinct from who do they intend to vote for. Abbott won easily, with 57 per cent picking him. Just 31 per cent opted for Rudd.

So what, you might say. Voters are not expert pundits, are they? Not as individuals perhaps, but as a group, it turns out, they're better. On this very question going back over 15 years, the people have correctly picked the winner every time.

Even in 1998, when Kim Beazley registered a higher popular vote, the punters correctly chose John Howard to win, albeit by a narrow 11 per cent margin. They were right again in 2001, by 13 per cent; 2004, by 47 per cent; 2007, by 42 per cent; and even in 2010, when neither side secured a majority but Labor scraped through with a smidgen over 50 per cent.

Apollo 13 is as famous for its amazing mission rescue as for its near disastrous failure.

Mission control ordered the crippled vehicle to attempt a difficult sling-shot pass around the dark side of the moon to acquire the momentum needed to get home.

Perhaps Rudd has a similar feat in mind. He will need that at least.


Royals to visit Australia with baby George

AUSTRALIANS should get a chance to see the future king of Britain next year with Prince William and his wife Kate planning to visit Down Under with baby George.

Speaking at the Anglesey Show on Wednesday, the Duke of Cambridge announced he wouldn't be taking on another tour of duty in Wales when his stint as an RAF search and rescue helicopter pilot ends in September.

Instead the new family is expected to move permanently to Kensington Palace in London, with William taking on more royal duties.  Those duties will include, it now seems, an official visit to Australia in 2014.

Speaking to Max and Maxine Davies from Victor Harbor near Adelaide on Wednesday the Duke of Cambridge said: "George is doing really well, thank you."

"We are all very hopeful of coming to Australia next year," William added, according to media reports in the UK.

Mr and Mrs Davies, aged 77 and 75 respectively, later said they were thrilled at the prospect of a royal visit.

"We are on holiday here and can't believe we got to talk to him," Mrs Davies said at the show, according to British tabloid The Daily Mail.  "How wonderful that the family will come to Australia to visit."

Prince William was just nine months old when he himself was first taken on a trip Down Under by Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

The new prince was born just over three weeks ago and the miniature monarch-to-be was named George Alexander Louis two days later.

Prince William joked about his young son at the Anglesey Show on Wednesday.  "He's pretty loud but of course very good looking," he said.

"I have to say that I thought search and rescue duties over Snowdonia were physically and mentally demanding but looking after a three-week-old baby is up there."


Outrage at 'monster' baby killer Muslim's $3000 compensation after prison serves him vegetables

A QUEENSLAND baby killer who chopped up his newborn daughter before burying her body has won a $3000 compensation payout because he was forced to eat vegetables in jail.

Former butcher Raymond Akhtar Ali was fed a vegetarian diet for four months, instead of specially prepared halal meat in accordance with his religious requirements.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal found Ali, 60, was discriminated against on the basis of his religion and ordered the State Government pay $3000 compensation into a trust fund.

Ali is serving a life sentence after he savagely bashed his newborn daughter to death in 1998 before dismembering her, cutting her in half and burying her body at his Logan Village home.

A furious Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie, yesterday described Ali as a "monster" and said he'd ordered urgent advice to appeal the decision.

Ali was fed a vegetarian diet for four months while in Maryborough Correctional Centre, instead of halal food, which needs to be blessed, slaughtered, cooked and stored to strict rules.

QCAT member Ann Fitzpatrick found in his favour because he had to eat vegetables and not halal meat.  She ordered the State Government to pay Ali's $3000 compensation into a victim trust fund.

In 2000 Ali was found guilty of the gruesome 1998 murder of his newborn daughter while the baby's mother, Amanda Leanne Blackwell, 22, was found guilty of manslaughter.

Blackwell, who worked in Ali's halal butcher shop, became his virtual "sex slave" and fell pregnant to the married man, the Supreme Court heard.

Minutes after she secretly gave birth at a Logan Village property, Ali killed the baby.

Mr Bleijie yesterday said the State Government would assess its options on the QCAT ruling.

"The community would understandably be angry about this decision and I've requested urgent advice with respect to the State lodging an appeal," he said.

Ms Fitzpatrick said Ali was forced to eat vegetarian food at the prison from September 24, 2008 to January 22, 2009, after being incorrectly told halal food was not available.  "It forced a person who otherwise ate meat as part of his diet to eat a vegetarian diet," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

Ali, who can apply for parole from August next year, can access the money if there are no claims from victims, child support agencies or for any fines he may owe, but not while he is in jail.


Another low-information Leftist

KEVIN Rudd is facing more campaign drama after a Labor MP attacked a star Liberal candidate - who served on the frontline in Iraq and Afghanistan - as a defence "bureaucrat" who worked "the last 25 years" in Canberra.

Labor MP Geoff Lyons, who won the marginal seat of Bass in 2010, was forced to make an apology following his attack on Liberal candidate Andrew Nikolic.

In the latest case of election dirty tricks, the Government MP told an audience of Year 11 and 12 students - some of whom will vote for the first time - that his election rival had "misled" journalists about his role in the military.

A transcript reveals the MP derided Mr Nikolic's 31-year military record - despite the Liberal candidate being deputy commander of Australia's military contingent in Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Mr Nikolic, who rose to the rank of Brigadier, was also was commander of Australian forces in southern Iraq in 2005.

But the Labor MP told the students from Newstead College in Launceston that Mr Nikolic was a "candidate who has been a bureaucrat in Canberra for the last 25 years working in the media".

Mr Lyons also claimed Mr Nikolic - who served for several years as Defence's director of public affairs - lied about signing a contract between Defence and AusAID.

Government records however, confirm that Mr Nikolic did sign a Head Record of Understanding with the foreign aid agency in September 2010.

Labor has already been forced to dump two candidates and the Prime Minister can ill afford any further outbreaks of campaign drama.

Mr Lyons holds the must-win Tasmanian seat with a margin of 6.7 per cent but a surge in support for the Coalition has Mr Nikolic well placed to win the seat next month.

Mr Nikolic said: "It's disappointing and desperate for my political opponent to belittle my military record in this way."

The Liberal candidate - who quit the military two years ago to campaign in Bass - also received a strong endorsement from one of Australia's most decorated soldiers, former Vice Chief of the Defence Force and ex-Chief of Army, Ken Gillespie.

"There is nothing on his CV that is inaccurate. Andrew had a very successful command, " Mr Gillespie said, of his former deputy.

"You don't get to be a Brigadier without having some pretty good qualities. (Mr Nikolic) had a wonderful career and to suggest that his CV is inaccurate is mischievous at best."

Last night, Mr Lyons said he was "sincerely sorry" for his remarks about his opponent.  "I have the upmost respect for all of our brave men and women who serve Australia so proudly both overseas and in their various capacities at home," the MP said.  "This includes my political opponent, Mr Nikolic."


14 August, 2013

Rudd says Qld 'fearmongering' on boats

It sounds like there is reason for concern

IT'S time for the federal coalition and their Queensland counterparts to stop fearmongering on asylum seekers, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says.

Four asylum seekers have been intercepted crossing the Torres Strait in recent days, prompting warnings from Queensland and federal Liberals that the state could become the new destination for boat people.

"I think it's time that Mr Abbott and his team, particularly those up here in far north Queensland, stopped the fearmongering," Mr Rudd told reporters in Townsville on Tuesday.

Premier Campbell Newman has warned that asylum seekers would use the "porous" border between Papua New Guinea and Queensland to enter the country after being resettled under the Rudd government's PNG solution.

Mr Rudd said it didn't matter where asylum seekers came from, if they arrived on a boat without a visa they would not be settled in Australia.

"Whether it's through Christmas Island or whether it's across the Torres Strait or whether it's from Antarctica, they'll be handled the same under this policy," the prime minister said.

Mr Rudd's comments came as another 39 single adult men were transferred to PNG's Manus Island under Labor's hardline resettlement policy.

Since Mr Rudd announced his PNG arrangement on July 19, 33 boats with 2185 passengers have arrived in Australian waters.

Of those people, 236 have been sent to Manus Island.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the movement of asylum seekers into the Torres Strait showed that the PNG deal on its own was not effective.

"All it does is open up a new front for the people smugglers," he told reporters at a campaign event on Sydney's outskirts.


Tony Abbott to ease out the Greens from the lower house

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott will today direct the Liberal Party to preference the Greens behind Labor in all seats across the country in a bid to ensure the party is wiped from the lower house of parliament.

It will mean the Greens' only current lower house MP, Adam Bandt, will almost certainly lose his seat of Melbourne on September 7 - in an election gift to the ALP.

It will also guarantee that Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese keeps his inner-city Sydney seat of Grayndler, which Labor holds with just a 4 per cent margin against the minor party.

The Daily Telegraph has learned that Mr Abbott is expected to announce the decision today in Brisbane - in a reversal of its policy in 2010 to put Labor last - and will claim it as a matter of principle of putting deeds to his words.

"You don't normally go around giving Labor seats. But this was a matter of principle," one senior Liberal source told The Daily Telegraph.


Australians are being far less green than they were

The closer you get to Green ideas, the more you see that they've got hairs on them

WE'RE being far less green.  Carbon offsetting among plane passengers is down by as much as half, as is use of renewable energy, although its popularity is predicted to surge if the carbon tax is axed.

Analysis of official figures shows the number of households using at least some green power is down by 150,000 from a high of 940,000 reached as the first Rudd government tried - but ultimately failed - to introduce a carbon pollution reduction scheme, or CPRS, in 2009.

Nationally, among those homes that still use some green power, sales are down by 51 percent, data shows. Customer numbers are 16 per cent lower.

Victoria has recorded the biggest fall in use and customer numbers, down 61 percent and 39 percent respectively.

The fall in usage in South Australia has been greater than the national average, down 53 percent. Customer numbers are 11 percent lower.

This suggests South Australians have been more likely to downgrade the contracted proportion of green power than people in other states.

In NSW, falls have almost mirrored the Australia-wide trends, with use down 52 percent and customer numbers 19 percent lower.

Queenslanders have dramatically cut back the proportion of green power in their electricity supply, rather than ditching it altogether.

This is why usage is down 44 per cent, but customer numbers have bucked the national trend to rise 11 per cent.

The only area to record increases in customer numbers and usage has been Canberra.

Origin, which has eight times the number of green power customers as any other energy company, expects a turnaround in usage across the country should the Coalition win the election and be able to repeal the carbon tax.

"If carbon pricing goes away and people feel they'd like to do more again, I suspect those numbers would climb," said Origin's executive general manager of corporate affairs Phil Craig.

The Federal Government does not acknowledge the carbon tax had been a factor in the decline of green power's popularity, despite the biggest fall in customer numbers occurring in the quarter straight after then prime minister Julia Gillard announced details of a "price on pollution" in 2011.

A spokesman for new Climate Change Minister Mark Butler instead said the fall was due to the rapid increase in the number of houses with solar panels.

"Since 2007, over one million solar PV (photo voltaic systems) and 600,000 solar hot water heaters have been installed," Mr Butler's spokeswoman said. "And some of these households have decided not to continue purchasing green power because they are already generating their own renewable energy."

Mr Craig noted the base price of electricity had risen substantially, making it "a little bit more problematic" for people to pay a further premium for green power.

That premium has narrowed due to the imposition of the carbon tax because the levy does not apply to renewable energy.

The premium would likely expand if the tax is removed because the base price of electricity would fall.

Meanwhile, the number of plane passengers neutralising emissions has also plunged.

Qantas said the proportion of customers offsetting emissions had halved from 10 percent in 2009 to 5 percent now.

Virgin said offsetting among its passengers was down 30 percent from 2009 levels.

A Qantas spokesman said: "The proportion of passengers choosing to offset their emissions peaked in late 2009, when the world's attention was focused on the Copenhagen climate summit. So it's perhaps unsurprising that the percentage has dropped since then.

"While we'd love to see the number rise again, the program is voluntary and the choice is entirely up to the individual passenger."


Underperforming NSW teachers to face dismissal

PRINCIPALS will find it easier to call out bad teacher behaviour and act on it under a NSW government overhaul that will see underperforming teachers get the boot.

From next semester, principals will be given new powers to deal with teachers who fail to attend playground duty, are late for class, don't to turn up to parent teacher interviews or refuse instructions.

"We simply can't accept that kind of recalcitrant behaviour," NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said.

The get-tough measure is part of a $150 million package of reforms to boost the quality of teaching in NSW, announced earlier this year.

The crackdown comes ahead of a fresh round of enterprise bargaining with teachers next month.

Department of Education director-general Michele Bruniges said it was about dealing with a small group of teachers who were repeat offenders. "We need to be able to call it and deal with it," she said.

Mr Piccoli described it as "more like a private sector approach to performance management".

"Parents and teachers have made it very clear to me that they want teachers who are underperforming out of the system," he told reporters.  "It's going to be a fair process but a tougher process than what exists already."

Mr Piccoli said teachers who failed to live up to the standards set out in a new code of conduct could be sacked, demoted, fined or cautioned.

"There are a range of teachers who are underperforming," he said.   "Those teachers need to know there is a process in place and they face dismissal."

Mr Piccoli also announced a raft of scholarships worth up to $30,000, with the first ten teaching cadetships to be offered to high-achieving school leavers by the end of 2013.

"This is about making sure that we have the best teachers, particularly in the schools were we need them most," he said.

Announced earlier this year, teaching students will have to sit mandatory literacy and numeracy tests before being allowed into classrooms.

School leavers wanting to study at university will also need HSC band 5 results in a minimum of three subjects, one of which must be English.

Meanwhile, new pay arrangements mean salaries will be based on meeting standards rather than employment length.


13 August, 2013

Pauline updated

Pauline Hanson is an Australian conservative  politician who has always spoken freely about race.  She has as a result been disowned by the mainstream conservatives and has no political power.  She does however have influence in that lots of Australians agree with much of what she says.  Illegal immigration is a red-hot political issue in Australia and she has been an immigration critic for a long time

IT WAS once the most famous fish and chip shop in Queensland.   Behind the counter was one of Australia's most divisive political figures - a woman regularly accused of racism and xenophobia.

Today, it is a migrant success story, run by a Vietnamese couple who came to this country 20 years ago. Pauline Hanson says she hopes to pop in one day, say hello and pick up a few dollars' worth of chips. It's a scene few would have imagined in 1996.

Almost 17 years ago, the newly elected member for Oxley used her maiden speech to launch a fierce and polarising attack on Asian immigration and multiculturalism. She told the nation it was "in danger of being swamped by Asians" and that "they have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate".

Controversial and unapologetic, Ms Hanson found her short stint in federal politics often drew shouts of rage and cheers of support alike.

"I don't dwell on that, I know who I am as a person," she said.  "To call me a racist is just ridiculous. To be a patriotic Australian and care about the country, that's not racism. That's patriotism."

Today, Thanh Huong Huynh and her husband Huong Van Nguyen quietly smile as they take orders for crumbed cod and prawn cutlets from many of the same people who helped Ms Hanson storm to power in the '90s.

The couple say they bought the Ipswich business, which has changed hands several times, two years ago.  They also say they know little about the One Nation founder, other than that she was "very famous".

Locals are still prickly about their former local member - who is currently running for a NSW Senate seat - and are reluctant to put their name to any description of her, positive or negative.  Many businesses fear alienating the migrant community, as well as those still wary of multiculturalism.

One exception is David Banfield, who has owned the nearby dental clinic for five years.  "Things have changed mate - for the better," said Mr Banfield, who noted that his wife was Vietnamese.

While he disagreed with Ms Hanson's "anti-immigration stance" at the time, he said she "seemed to be the person that would get things done".

Ms Hanson said she wished the new owners of her old shop "all the best".  "I think it's wonderful - good luck to them," she said.  "That's what Australia's all about - is to come here and make a life for yourself and become Australian and start up your own business."

She adds that she hopes to meet them.  "If I'm up there in the area again I'll call in and get some fish and chips off them," she said.

But Ms Hanson is still reluctant to back down from one of her more recent controversial comments.  "Yes, I did say that I wouldn't sell my house to Muslims," she said.

"And I have grave concerns and I see what's happened in other countries around the world and I, like a lot of other Australians, do not want to see our culture changed, I do not want to see the introduction of Sharia law."


Education union militant and out of step, so I quit

This week, I took a step I couldn't have imagined a year ago: I resigned my trade union membership.

This was a monumental step for me. I have belonged to various unions over the past 40 years - starting with the shop assistants back in 1972. I grew up in a family proud of a great, great grand uncle, a journalist on the Lithgow Mercury, who, in the 1890s, served on the Eight Hour committee that won the right to a 40-hour working week.

I resigned from the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) because I realised that the old-fashioned kind of industrial militancy the NTEU is presently pursuing is entirely unhelpful to the interests of the hard-working people in the tertiary education sector.

Universities face particularly challenging times. They rely largely on student fees (either directly, or indirectly though HECS) to fund their work in advancing community knowledge. Students can only afford to pay so much for an education. Although all universities are regulated federally and are susceptible to federal funding decisions (like the misconceived decision to remove full tax deductibility for self-education expenses), governments in recent decades have set us up as competitors with each other.

Competition to recruit the best students is fierce. The Fair Work system supports that vision of a competitive market for tertiary education services by requiring that we bargain at enterprise level for pay and conditions. University vice chancellors are mindful of their capacity to attract and retain the best staff, so my employer - the University of Sydney - pays the highest salaries in the sector. We enjoy working conditions that are a legacy of our public service history. In my time consulting as an employment lawyer, I have never seen any other enterprise bargain allowing for 50 days a year for personal leave.

Yet the NTEU has been running a destructive industrial campaign at the University of Sydney - five days of strikes in first semester, and now a threat of demonstrations at our Open Day on August 31 - in pursuit of a pay claim primarily aimed at setting a standard for other universities in our sector.

I hear colleagues saying they are ready to sign an agreement. The union negotiations so far have secured the conditions that staff value, and many are ready to accept the modest but realistic pay offer of 2.9 per cent a year for four years.

Student representatives tried to put a motion at Academic Board, pleading for peace so they could pursue their studies without the distress of crossing picket lines. But the union is determined to press on in the interests of its national campaign.

The University of Sydney has a commendable history for welcoming unions at the bargaining table, even under the old Workplace Relations Act, when the federal government of the day was keen to exclude unions from campuses. It has often been the flagship for the NTEU's national campaign for pay increases across the sector.

This year the union seems to be prepared to scupper our ship, in a possibly futile attempt to gain pay increases at regional universities. The scuffles on picket lines, the police presence on campus, the half-truths on handbills, and now the Open Day protests, can only help our rivals in their student recruitment campaigns. How can staff at Sydney possibly benefit from such actions?

I fear the NTEU has formed an unholy alliance with the Greens. I was aggrieved to learn of NTEU plans to spend $1 million on a campaign to encourage people to vote Green. This news followed a story in The Sun-Herald, in June, in which Senator Lee Rhiannon pilloried the University of Sydney for poor results in a staff engagement survey, and tied those comments to the university's alleged disregard for staff interests in its current bargaining round. It isn't too hard to join the dots in this pattern of reporting.

What is the solution, for someone like me, who is deeply committed to the interests of working people, and believes firmly in the right to bargain in a collective voice for a fair share of the fruits of one's own labour? How to do this without killing off the tree that feeds us all?

Perhaps it is time for university staff to set up independent associations to bargain with management directly. The Fair Work Act permits employees to nominate their own bargaining representatives. Bargaining needs to be managed by staff who will be directly affected by the consequences of their actions rather than by a remote organisation with its own political agenda. This would be the natural evolution of a single enterprise bargaining based system of industrial relations.


Fans may be the losers in scalper hunt

As ever

A NSW government crackdown on scalpers will stop people reselling tickets when they cannot attend an event, says consumer watchdog Choice.

Matt Levey, the Choice director of campaigns and communications, said the government intervention infringed on basic consumer rights, and proposed laws could lead to major event promoters cancelling resold tickets.

"Our concerns are not around needing to do something about scalping," Mr Levey said.

"Our concern is the plan is weighting the balance too much in favour of the owners of events who will be allowed to legally enforce the terms and conditions of selling tickets. This is a slippery slope which could infringe on consumer rights under the law."

The online industry believes sporting codes including the National Rugby League and Australian Rugby Union are pushing for the anti-scalping laws to control the secondary market for tickets. It is estimated sporting codes generate more than $1 billion a year in primary ticket sales, merchandise and television rights.

Online selling markets including eBay have obtained reports under freedom of information laws which show the government has little evidence to support the need for its intervention.

Official figures show that of 44,016 complaints NSW Fair Trading received last year, only one was related to the on-selling or resale of tickets or ticket scalping.

An email from Rod Stowe, Commissioner for Fair Trading on October 11, 2011, said there had been ongoing examinations of government responses to scalping dating back to before the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

"The view, to date, has been that there has not been a sufficient market failure to justify regulatory intervention," he said.

The opposition spokeswoman on fair trade, Tanya Mihaliuk, will question the government about its proposed law at a parliamentary hearing on Monday.

"This legislation does not appear to be driven by the Department of Fair Trading or consumer groups," she said. "The government should consult more widely to find a broader solution."

Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts said he wanted to give "fans a fair go at buying tickets, while also protecting fans from rip-offs and fraud. In no way does any proposal seek to prohibit or restrict the sale of tickets on a secondary market," he said.

A spokesman for Mr Roberts said there had been 128 complaints about scalped tickets made to Fair Trading this year. He said the Football Federation of Australia had complained that up to 300 tickets for the July Manchester United versus A-League All Stars match were scalped on eBay.

"In one of the worst cases, two tickets with a face value of $100 each were being touted online for $840," he said.


Strewth! Aussie workers told to cut the slang

I am more concerned about it dying out.  A lot of colourful expressions are seldom heard now.  Do young people today know the difference between a galah and a drongo, for instance?

AUSSIE workers have been urged to soften their strine and avoid traditional slang, in a Federal Government push to make workplaces more migrant friendly.

Bosses should stop calling migrants "ethnic" because it might be discriminatory - and instead use the politically correct term "CALD", or Culturally and Linguistically Diverse.

Casual swearing should also be avoided, as it may appear provocative or aggressive.

Despite Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's penchant for obscure Aussie colloquialisms, the Immigration Department is frowning upon strine and slang in the workplace, in a new guide for employers.

Business groups have criticised the advice, one policy analyst dismissing it as political correctness "writ large" that would achieve nothing.

The official document warns the Australian accent can baffle even English-speaking migrants, and tells bosses and workmates to speak slowly, clearly and simply.

"Remember some people, including native English speakers ... may have trouble understanding the Australian accent," the guide says.

"Keep in mind common Australian expressions may be misunderstood, for example, 'bring a plate', 'this machine is cactus' and 'he really spat the dummy that time'.

"For some people, casual swearing may also be seen as aggressive or provocative and new employees may not be sure how to respond.

"If it appears your new employee is baffled by the sense of humour and the jokes of your other employees, have someone help them out."

The guide is accompanied by taxpayer-funded fact sheets on "Harmony in the Workplace", prepared by the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia.

Despite using "ethnic" in its own title, FECCA says the word is "an illogical term with negative and potentially discriminatory connotations" when used to describe individuals.

It says migrants should not be referred to as "ethnic", but as Culturally and Linguistically Diverse or CALD.

"Referring to someone as an 'ethnic' is not acceptable, given its assumptions and stereotypes, and connotations between the term and other racial slurs such as 'wog', 'chink' and other discriminatory labels," its fact sheet states.

Centre for Independent Studies policy analyst Alexander Philipatos, who has a Greek background, said the guide appeared to be a well-intentioned waste of money.

"My initial reaction is it is political correctness writ large," he said.

"I think it's well intentioned, but personally I don't think it's going to do anything and is probably a bit of a waste of money."

FECCA president Pino Migliorino questioned the Prime Minister's use of obscure slang, such as "fair shake of the sauce bottle".

"I think the Prime Minister is very interesting in his use of slang," he said. "It doesn't make it right."

Mr Migliorino said the guide was "not trying to be politically correct, but to give a sense of what's meaningful".

The Harmony in the Workplace guide says Australian culture can seem "alien" to migrants - including "Edna Everidge, pavlova, fish and chips, Australian Rules football, the summer barbecue and drinks after work".

It tells bosses that migrants are "entitled to wear religious dress at work unless it creates a safety hazard".

"If items of clothing cover the face you can ask an employee to show their face for reasonable identification purposes," it states.

ACCI director of employment Jenny Lambert said bosses were entitled to set dress standards and make staff wear uniforms.

"There is no doubt employees can have uniform codes, although many workers may also wear a turban if the employer says it's OK," she said.

The Harmony in the Workplace guide also explains that some migrant workers will need time off work for prayer.

"Some cultures prioritise family commitments that may, at times, conflict with work commitments," it says.

Australian Industry Group spokesman Mark Goodsell said employers had to juggle giving special treatment to some workers while being fair to everyone.

"All cultures will say they prioritise family commitments, people with young families prioritise kids," he said.

"At what point does recognising an individual's needs create problems with the workers you're not recognising?"

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said employees who asked for time off for non-Christian religious festivals should not be paid penalty rates for working through Easter or Christmas.

"There's got to be give and take," he said.

Mr Zimmerman said retailers had the right to insist on a certain "look" or dress code from shop assistants, so long as the clothing was provided free.

Brisbane businessman David Goodwin, who chairs the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry productivity board, said workers would "struggle to get jobs" if they did not try to fit into a workplace.

"You can't run your business accommodating every single staff member's specific needs," he said.

Multicultural Affairs Minister Kate Lundy launched the "harmony" guide and fact sheets last week.

One in four Australian workers was born overseas, and 17 per cent hail from non-English speaking countries.


12 August, 2013

Voters not buying bogymen fantasy

Paul Sheehan

When the Prime Minister announced the federal election in Canberra eight days ago, he made some references which, in retrospect, were ominous portents of the campaign he planned to run: Kevin Rudd v the Bogymen. He is running against "vested interests", tobacco money, the Murdoch empire, a non-existent GST increase and a rise in the price of Vegemite.

"Clinging to the past is not going help build a national broadband network of the future," he said.

It was strange that the broadband network got a mention right near the start. Since then, Rudd has made great play out of something I wrote that was published that same day. He has used it to concoct a political smear campaign.

In a tactic that now appears planned some time ago, Rudd has sought to neutralise the negative coverage coming from the News Corp newspapers by referring to News Corp's chairman, Rupert Murdoch, as Tony Abbott's "mate". He has given interviews claiming News Corp has a vested commercial interest in bringing down his government.

He told the ABC's 7.30 program on Wednesday: "He [Murdoch] says through his own direct statements that he wants Mr Abbott to replace me as prime minister.

"But the question that I've posed is simply as follows: what is underneath all this? I've only just been looking back on the files today and discovered that, in fact, Mr Abbott's NBN policy was launched at the Fox Studios here in Sydney. I would like to hear some answers as to what discussions Mr Abbott may have had with Mr Murdoch on the future of Australia's national broadband network."

The person who gave the Prime Minister the ammunition for his conspiracy theory was me.  In two columns published last Sunday and Monday, I made four main points:

 *  Murdoch had dispatched one of his most trusted field generals, Col Allan, to ramp up coverage of the election and get stuck into the Rudd government with more intensity. (Confirmed, spectacularly.)

 *  News Corp Australia chief executive Kim Williams was in trouble. (Confirmed, spectacularly.)

 *  Williams' advisers, Boston Consulting Group, were in trouble and Allan would shake up the company's lagging performers. (Confirmed.)

 *  News Corp's unrelenting hostile coverage of the broadband network squared with the company's commercial interests because the network represents a threat to the business model of Foxtel, jointly owned by News and Telstra, whereas the Coalition's less ambitious broadband alternative presents less of a threat. (This produced a raging debate, with emphatic denials by News Corp and Telstra. This does not alter the reality that the fibre-to-the-home service being built by the government represents a greater challenge to the status quo than the copper-to-the-home alternative offered by the Coalition. Having followed the debate for a week, I would add that Labor's broadband network could help Foxtel make more money, not just open it to more competition.)

What my columns did not say was that the arrival of Allan had anything to do with the broadband network. It was about Rudd and Williams. Nor did the columns claim, suggest or imply that the Coalition's alternative network was designed in any contrivance with News Corp.

Malcolm Turnbull, as opposition communications spokesman and an experienced business executive, led the crafting of an alternative policy with an eye to budget realities. The Coalition's model is thus a scaled-back version, which it believes will cost half as much and be faster to install.

Even though there is zero evidence to suggest collusion between the Coalition and News, that is what Rudd is suggesting. Let us return to his premise: "I've only just been looking back on the files today." No, Rudd and his fixers have been pushing this conspiracy from day one. As for the Coalition policy being launched at Fox Studios, that is supposed to be a smoking gun. That's all he's got. Pathetic.

My argument last week was that News Corp has a long record of blurring the lines between journalism and commercial interest. But this was a dust-up between Fairfax Media and News Corp that Rudd has taken to pure distortion and diversion, a tactic foreshadowed when he announced the election: "Mr Abbott's advertising campaign will be massive, funded by a massive war chest he has amassed from a whole range of vested interests in industry, not least the tobacco companies."

As if the deep pockets of the unions are not vested interests. Or the federal government has not spent $30 million advertising Rudd's anti-asylum seekers election ploy. Or that Rudd did not accept a first-class round-trip airfare to Europe last year and five-star accommodation from the Korber Foundation, which happens to own the world's largest supplier of cigarette-making machines. Or that Rudd was not endorsed by some News Corp newspapers in 2007, did not seek advice from Murdoch, have numerous meetings with News Corp executives or give multiple background briefings to News Corp journalists.

In claiming underdog status, Kevin v the Bogyman, he offered the concoction that News Corp controls 70 per cent of the print media in Australia. In the real world, the combined weight of newspapers and websites owned by Fairfax and the ABC is larger, and has greater reach, than News Corp's operation. No one has ever credibly accused Fairfax or the ABC of being, overall, cheerleaders for Abbott.

Rudd has spent the first week spinning a fantasy, running against bogymen. He's not running on his record. He's taken us for mugs. The result, after week one, is that the polls have drifted away from him, as he has drifted away from reality.


Another solar scheme gets nobbled

WA opposition leader Mark McGowan will confront the premier about the state government slashing the solar feed-in tariff rate.

Mr McGowan tweeted on Sunday: "Anyone unhappy with Mr Barnett ripping up their families solar contract should come to parliament at 2.45pm Tuesday where we will take him on."

It follows Thursday's state budget in which Treasurer Troy Buswell announced that the government would halve the residential solar feed-in tariff rate to save $51 million.

The state government believes it is safe from legal action over the decision, despite many householders expressing their outrage on talkback radio.

The program, introduced in 2009, was such a success that the Liberal government had to admit in 2011 the take-up cap had been breached, costing about $46 million more than planned.

The Sustainable Energy Association says more than 75,000 WA households will be affected.

Mr McGowan described the solar backflip as another "broken promise" from the Barnett government.


New route for illegals

ASYLUM seekers have found their own PNG Solution with two Somalis the latest to sail from Australia's nearest neighbour across the Torres Strait to far north Queensland.

The state's Premier Campbell Newman warned the new front across the border would open up after the Federal Government vowed to send all boat arrivals to PNG or Nauru.

Customs and immigration officers found the two Somalis on remote Boigu Island, 6km south of PNG, on Saturday morning.

They were taken to Thursday Island for health checks with the government vowing to send them to Manus Island or Nauru for resettlement.

Hundreds of Somalis have arrived on asylum boats off Christmas Island this year.

Another boat was intercepted at Saibai Island, 4km south of PNG, carrying two West Papuans on Friday.

A Syrian asylum seeker, who was believed to have flown to Indonesia and onto PNG before travelling by boat, was recently treated in a Queensland health centre.

"Kevin Rudd has very much turned an Australian problem into a Queensland problem. The Premier raised concerns about this policy in July, and was accused by Immigration Minister Tony Burke of peddling hysteria.," Mr Newman's spokesman said yesterday.

"The Federal Government has yet to address the many serious issues that we've raised.

"This latest incident demonstrates the ease of passage from PNG into Queensland, which is what we've been saying since the start."

Since the Government announced the PNG solution just over three weeks ago, 2270 people have arrived with the latest a vessel carrying 52 intercepted near Christmas Island on Saturday night.

Queensland officials have raised concerns that it is possible for asylum seekers to fly, without a passport, from Horn Island to Cairns and onto capital cities.

When Mr Newman warned of an impending influx three weeks ago, Immigration Minister Tony Burke said: "it's hard to imagine anything more hysterical than this one."

On Sunday his office referred questions to Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare.

Mr Clare's spokesman said "Customs and Border Protection continues to maintain a strong presence in the Torres Strait."

There are 13 Customs staff with a flying squad of six available in Cairns to respond if more resources are needed with staff in the Torres Strait having access to two helicopters and multiple vessels.

The spokesman said ten people had arrived so far this year, the same number as in all of 2012 with just one in 2011.

"Clearly if the government is going to continue down this path, then clearly there are going to be calls on the Federal Government to increase the border protection position on the Torres Strait," Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Immigration chief Martin Bowles was ordered by Immigration Minister Tony Burke and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus to continue the domestic component of its $30 million PNG Solution advertising rollout during the election campaign.

Mr Bowles replied he would obey the Ministers but it is understood senior department officials were uneasy at the direction made during caretaker government.

The Opposition had opposed the continued local promotion of the resettlement solution but head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said in a letter to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that the conventions were "not legally binding" and "the department does not have the power to enforce the observance of the conventions."

Mr Burke said: "Nothing that he (Scott Morrison) has said changes the irrefutable fact that there are people in Australia in contact with people in the pipeline and if we are going to advertise to every relevant part of the smuggling pipeline then Australia has to be part of that."


Lebanese Muslims caught stealing handbags

It was to be Sydney's latest "glam raid" - $400,000 worth of handbags and other luxury accessories stolen from Louis Vuitton's flagship city store.

With a stolen Audi parked out the front for their getaway, three would-be thieves allegedly smashed a side door of the George Street premises just after 12.45am on Thursday to gain entry and grabbed all they could.

But in doing so they set of an alarm and within five minutes police were at the store, which was the target of a successful ram raid in February. Officers surrounded the area but it still took another hour before the three were caught.

They were allegedly found with their haul of handbags in the basement car park trying to steal another car.

Among those arrested was Bassam Hijazi, 33, a member of the Middle Eastern gang Brothers For Life, who was shot as he sat in a car in Greenacre in October. His friend and fellow Brothers For Life gang member Yehya Amoud was shot dead in the same attack.

Adam Achrafi, 18, and Naef Chaouk, 19, were also arrested over the alleged Louis Vuitton heist.

All three were charged with aggravated break, enter and steal and were refused bail when they appeared in Central Local Court on Thursday afternoon.

Detective Inspector Simon Jones of The Rocks local command praised the work of the police.

"We're excited the work that they did last night has resulted in, as I said, a quick arrest but ultimately putting three accused persons before the court fairly promptly," he said.

Sydney's high-end retailers have been the target of a spate of glam raids over the past year.

Kaftan queen Camilla Franks lost more than 700 garments in two raids on her Bondi store and once at Paddington last year. They were worth more than $240,000.

Italian fashion label Prada was struck last October when thieves reversed a car into its Castlereagh Street premises in the middle of the night and filled the boot with 15 racks of accessories.

Then in February came the first raid on Louis Vuitton.

Investigations into these other thefts are continuing.

A Louis Vuitton spokeswoman said the average price of the standard handbag range was between $1500 and $2000.

Exotic Brea bags made from alligator, snake and crocodile skins retailed for between $30,500 and $50,000. Made-to-order bags and one-off editions could fetch even higher prices, she said.


11 August, 2013

Left loses the plot on real life - and the meaning of borders

By Mark Latham

Not only has the Left’s open-door policy, as implemented by the Rudd government in 2008, led to 2000 people drowning, the fanatics who urged on this atrocity have shown no signs of contrition.


The above article of 10th. is behind the AFR paywall but I am not an AFR subscriber so can reproduce only the opening sentence.  I have read it in hard copy and it is a remarkably good article from Biffo so I hope to be able to reproduce it in full sometime.  He argues that the Left of the Labour party and the Greens (but I repeat myself) put ideology before reality  -- JR

UPDATE:  I have now retrieved the full Latham article.  It is below:

Left loses the plot on real life

The mistaken Left has forfeited its claim to moral superiority.

By Mark Latham

About a decade go, I noticed something distinctive about the Australian Left. It was wrong on every major issue for which the Australian parliament had legislative responsibility.

On economic policy, its belief in protectionism and industry welfare had been made to look ridiculous by the Keating revolution. Families which had been trapped for generations in blue-collar factory work were enjoying the benefits of economic liberalisation, business start-ups and booming prosperity. In social policy the Left's obsession with command-and-control public service provision was out of step with new attitudes in the outer suburbs. With extra money in their kick, people wanted to buy in the services which best suited their needs. It didn't matter whether these were publicly or privately run, as long as they got the job done. Customisation was king.

The other big issue was border protection. I was battling the Labor For Refugees group and its determination to abolish offshore processing and mandatory detention. When John Howard introduced his Tampa legislation prior to the 2001 election, I was one of a handful of Labor MPs who would have been comfortable voting for it On a question of competing interests (the needs of UN refugee camp asylum seekers versus unauthorised boat arrivals), the only way of avoiding a humanitarian disaster was to enforce the rule of law and an orderly, fair system of processing. I was perplexed as to how the Left could advocate open-door policies: an invitation for anarchy.

In each area, the so-called progressive wing of politics had failed. Why couldn't these people understand the basis of sound policymaking and social justice?

To answer this dilemma, I set about analysing the lifestyle and life values of the mistaken Left activists like the millionaire journalist Phillip Adams and my parliamentary colleagues representing gentrified inner-city boroughs. My conclusion was they had abstracted themselves from the empirical, commonsense views of suburban Australia. They saw issues as an exercise in ideological dogma, instead of problem-solving. Learning and adapting were foreign concepts.

The lessons of Whitlamism in the 1960s and Keatingism in the 1980s - that Labor is strongest when it relies on practical ideas drawn from suburban electorates had been forgotten. Ten years later, nothing has changed. Senators Kim Carr and Doug Cameron still regard government economic intervention as more important than market competition. The Left still talks about community services, such as school education, through the eyes of providers (teachers, union organisers and public servants) rather than recipients (students and parents).

For asylum seekers, the tragedy is doubly unfathomable. Not only has the Left's open-door policy, as implemented by the Rudd government in 2008, led to 2000 people drowning, the fanatics who urged on this atrocity have shown no signs of contrition.

Unmoved by rows of body bags and tiny coffins loaded onto planes, the Greens still see that boat journeys between Indonesia and Australia are an act of compassion. The blood on their hands has had no impact on their sense of right and wrong.

Privately, Labor's hard-Left faction despises the government's new Papua New Guinea solution but, out of self interest, it sees no point in opposing a vote-winning policy this close to an election.

Elsewhere in the media, apologists for the open-door/drownings policy have re-emerged, no less brazen than a decade ago. Three types of rationalisation are being used. The first is a straight denial of reality, the argument that deterrence strategies have never worked. Among  others, the clownish Charlie Pickering has repeatedly made this claim on Channel 10's The Project, ignoring the obvious success of the Howard government in stopping the boats, This is a strange reaction to truth. It is almost as if, psychologically, Howard's record in saving lives - something which runs against the grain of everything Pickering believes in - cannot be accepted as reality.

The second rationalisation is to downplay the significance of death. Last week, in an editor's note to subscribers of The Monthly, John van Tiggelen complained that Australia's "humanitarian obligations [have come] down to a single KPI: preventing the deaths of one in 25 boat people."

He lamented how "the complementary statistic, that of the  crushed hopes and condemned lives of the other 96 per cent, will remain invisible, untold and unrecorded".

 How can anyone look at the horror of boatloads of people drowning and try to establish some form of moral relativity against the circumstances of those still alive? The highest calling of one's conscience - in many ways, the emotion which sets our civilisation apart from the animal world - is for the preservation of human life.

If 4 per cent are dying, the only compassionate response is to address the problem directly, regardless of the economic interests of the remaining 96 per cent

The third stance is a surreal "business as usual" argument.

Last week, Adams returned to the opinion pages of The Australian on the boat people issue, rolling out words identical to those he used 10 years ago. He made no mention of the drownings, ignoring his long-running error in advocating policies that have made them more likely. Everyone else was at fault, all bar Adams.

Perhaps this tells us more about the Left than any other perspective.

When the world fails to comply with its ideological template, it uses ignorance as a way of keeping its beliefs alive. But then, when ignorance can no longer hold out the facts, when the evidence becomes overwhelming, it turns to Adams-style arrogance, lecturing others on where they went wrong.

The asylum-seeker crisis has changed Australian politics forever. The mistaken Left has forfeited its claim to moral superiority and a valid understanding of compassion. It now faces an uncomfortable truth. If left-wing politics means thousands of people drowning, we would be better off with no left-wing politics at all.

More Aboriginal children making it right to the top

I hate to spoil the party but few if any of these "Aboriginal" children will be black; most won't even be brown.  A tiny drop of Aboriginal ancestry is all that is needed for minority status in Australia.  The kids in the photo below are probably the brownest they could find

When Lincoln Whiteley arrived at Saint Ignatius' College, Riverview in year 7, the school was three times the size of his home town.

"I knew it was going to be massive but it was just ridiculous," the 17-year-old, who grew up in Geurie, about 30 kilometres south-east of Dubbo, said. "But now I'm used to it and it's nothing."

Lincoln is one of a growing number of indigenous students boarding at prestigious private schools.
Indigenous students

Boarding call: Saint Ignatius' College students Lincoln Whiteley, Denzel Tighe and Alex Barker. Photo: Janie Barrett JEM

Removing Aboriginal children from their communities is a sensitive issue. But some leading indigenous educators have endorsed boarding school scholarships as an initiative that could help some students escape the cycle of disadvantage.

Almost 3000 indigenous students are enrolled in boarding schools this year, according to the Australian Boarding Schools Association.

It is the first year the association has collected accurate figures but executive director Richard Stokes said the number of indigenous boarders was growing "enormously, exponentially I'd say".

Lincoln and 23 of his peers who board on Yalari scholarships were congratulated by Governor-General Quentin Bryce in Canberra on Friday for reaching year 12.

It represents a significant achievement for the not-for-profit organisation, which has grown from five graduates in 2010 and boasts a retention rate of 90 per cent.

In a speech earlier this year, indigenous academic Marcia Langton called for more partnerships between indigenous communities and top schools to enable more children to go to boarding school.

The Australian Indigenous Education Foundation is leading the pack with its rapidly expanding scholarship program, which has grown from one student in 2008 to almost 300 last year.

And St Joseph's College at Hunters Hill, which was one of the first metropolitan boarding schools to introduce a significant indigenous program, now has between 30 and 40 indigenous students each year, which is about 5 per cent of its boarding population.

But Yalari founder, Waverley Stanley, admits sending students from remote areas to boarding school is not without its challenges.

"For some of these children, for the first time in their life they're sleeping in a room by themselves in a bed without any siblings around," he said. "For some, playing football on a grass oval instead of hard red dirt is different, or going to sleep without any barking dogs around is different."

For it to work, he said, parental support was vital.  "It's about picking the right children, with the right family support to go to the right school," he said.

Stanley admits a number of students have dropped out.  But, of the 64 who have graduated, some have gone on to study physiotherapy, dentistry, teaching, fashion and vet science.

"I always remind these children that the only difference between this generation and their grandparents is educational opportunities."


Kevin Rudd's nightmare comes to life on his home turf

Miranda Devine:

LOOMING out of the pre-dawn darkness yesterday in Kevin Rudd's home electorate of Griffith was a formidable sight that would have sent a sliver of ice into the Prime Minister's heart, had he looked out the window during one of his famous periods of insomnia.

The three nuggety, super-fit men jogging together along the Brisbane River at 5.30am were the trio who have combined to attack Rudd in his heartland.

Dr Bill Glasson, the respected eye surgeon who is the Coalition's candidate in Griffith, Campbell Newman, the Queensland Premier, and Tony Abbott, the federal Opposition Leader.

Glasson's friendship with Abbott was forged when he was national president of the Australian Medical Association and Abbott was health minister. Now Glasson is trying to unseat Rudd in his own electorate.

He doesn't have much of a chance, since eclectic inner city Griffith is the safest Labor seat in Queensland, which Rudd holds by 8.5 per cent, and a ReachTEL poll last week shows Rudd retains a comfortable lead.

But no electorate in the country could match Griffith for the attention it's receiving from Glasson and his band of ardent volunteers, the blue-clad "Glasson Gladiators".

Glasson is making Rudd work hard for every vote at home, at a time when the Prime Minister is trying to run his election campaign almost single-handedly as well as run the country.  No wonder he is looking tired and out of sorts.

Queensland was the jewel in Rudd's crown, and his greatest selling point to colleagues, but a Queensland Galaxy poll published yesterday showed he hasn't achieve the promised boost and Labor's primary vote is stuck where it was at the 2010 election, at 34 per cent.  Rudd's honeymoon hasn't lasted long.

Two telling incidents during the week, which did the rounds of the internet, had Rudd looking flaky.

The first was his odd reaction to a cheeky five-year-old boy who upstaged him when he visited a Korean language class in the marginal Liberal electorate of Bennelong in Sydney.

Photos of cute Joseph Kim pulling faces and cavorting for the cameras behind the PM went around the world.  But Rudd didn't appear to find his antics amusing.

Video footage shows the PM turning to give little Joseph a high five, and then gripping the boy's fingers and holding on for a moment.

When the boy managed to extract his hand, he grimaced, and said "Ouch". Whether the squeeze was inadvertent or Rudd really was teaching the exuberant child a lesson only he would know. But the verdict on the internet was damning.

Later in the week, when Rudd introduced to the media his surprise new candidate for the Queensland seat of Forde, former premier Peter Beattie, cameras caught another peculiarity. While attention was focused on Beattie speaking, Rudd, standing in the background, was afflicted by a repetitive, involuntary twitch of his lower lip, which he periodically tried to mask with a smile.

The overall impression of Rudd from Week One is of a man who is not getting enough sleep, which would accord with stories emerging from Labor insiders, that he is back to his old tricks of phoning department heads at 2am.

If Rudd looked rattled as the week wore on, Abbott looked more comfortable, buoyed by strategist briefings on voter sentiment picked up in daily polling across marginal seats.

The best news for the Opposition is that voters are marking them well ahead of Labor on the question of who has a competent, united team that could form stable government and manage the economy into the future.

Public polls are also tracking in Abbott's direction, with a Nielsen poll yesterday finding the Opposition leader has outstripped Rudd on personal trustworthiness, 47 per cent to 40, reversing the situation of last month.

This finding will be especially galling to Labor because Rudd made "trust" the central theme of his opening speech of the campaign last Sunday.

Our national Galaxy poll today, too, indicates Rudd's honeymoon was short-lived, with a decline in both Labor's primary vote and Rudd's personal standing.

The poll also picked up a description of Rudd as a "fake", which the Coalition's internal polling had already detected. Hence, Abbott's repeated use last week of the phrase "fair dinkum" to describe himself, and "flim flam" to describe Rudd.

What's more, one in three respondents identified Rudd's chief weakness as his policy record.  Indeed, the campaign landscape is strewn with buried IEDs from Labor's past policy bungles.

That is why Abbott visited an insulation factory in Griffith on Friday, to remind voters, if they needed it, of the home insulation debacle that cost four lives.

Another sleeper issue is a hangover from Julia Gillard's hasty decision, in the middle of the 2011 mustering season, to suspend live cattle exports to Indonesia after a Four Corners program alleging cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs.

The numbers of live cattle exported to Indonesia fell from a record of 770,000 in 2009 to 278,000 last year, and the problem has been compounded by drought conditions this summer across northern Australia.

The industry has never recovered, and now that it is killing season, the aftershocks have spread to the entire country.

The glut of cattle in the north of Australia being transported down to southern abattoirs is causing problems for farmers in the south of the country. They now face long delays in getting their own cattle into abattoirs, and depressed prices.

Meantime, the resulting beef shortage in Indonesia is rarely off their front pages, annoying the public with inflated prices for meat as Ramadan comes to an end.

The problem may not have been Rudd's making, but he now has to wear his own mistakes from his first term, as well as Gillard's, not to mention any fresh ones he has made since retaking his old job.  It's a lot of baggage to be hauling around.


Kevin Rudd - hero or psychopath?

I have argued elsewhere that many leading Leftists are psychopaths so I find the analysis below reasonable.  The point that psychopaths have some advantages is made below and I also have an academic article to that effect

A GIANT ego. A narcissist. A micro-manager. An impulsive control freak. A haphazard and secretive decision maker.  This is not what Kevin Rudd's political enemies think of him. It's what many of his colleagues do.

Whether openly or whispered in hushed tones to journalists, this is the picture once painted by his fellow ministers, MPs, public servants and diplomatic associates.

It's a decent rap sheet - one that easily tops the usual bile directed at colleagues or opponents in the den of iniquity that is politics. But nothing that borders outlandish.

Then, one day, the dam broke. The outspoken and literally outgoing member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons took to Twitter and publicly declared his former leader a "psychopath". Among other less than genteel terms.

Gibbons is a man who is routinely and rightly pilloried for making crude, stupid and nasty remarks in the name of cheap publicity.  But this time the term took off, which perhaps says more about Rudd than it does about Gibbons.

So is it true? Is the man running this country really a psychopath, given the aforementioned ferocious descriptions appear to tick plenty of the boxes that define such a diagnosis?

Firstly, one has to demystify the term.  Such a designate is no longer deemed by experts to be the exclusive domain of murderers, serial killers and rapists.  No, you could indeed be sitting next to one. Your boss could be one, or, perhaps more likely, your high-flying CEO in his spacious corner office suite.

In fact prominent Australian psychotherapist John Clarke claims that between one and three per cent of the Australian population could be certifiably deemed psychopathic, and he warns not just police to keep a look out but companies and political powerbrokers.

Anthropologist Stephen Juan suggests that one in 10 companies are headed by a corporate psychopath.

It seems psychopaths are everywhere, and they are more likely to wear a suit and tie, than carry a bloodied weapon or be pointing a sawn-off shotgun.

"One of the misconceptions about psychopathy itself is that people think a psychopath goes out and kills people. By definition, they are somebody that is recklessly indifferent to any physical, emotional harm they may cause," criminal mind expert Steve van Aperen said.  "There are certainly many undiagnosed psychopaths in business and politics."

Juan says often people get confused between the terms psychopath and psychotic, which makes people less inclined to label someone as the former and thus grouping them with such fiends as Ivan Milat, Charles Manson or Martin Bryant. The distinction is reality, he says. Those suffering from psychosis have lost grip on reality. Those deemed psychopathic are very much aware of it, and are attempting to control it.

They are often easy to spot, Juan says, and follow a defined set of traits that set them apart from normality.  "The corporate psychopath is the type of psychopath that gets into politics because they are usually exceedingly ego-oriented - it is all about them. So even when they get criticism, it is still all about them," he says.  "They love the centre of attention. Good or bad they see themselves being the centre of the universe.

"They are the great users, the great manipulators, they often have aides and underlings do work for them, and expect blind loyalty but they don't give loyalty in return. They use everyone for gain.

"Everything is about them. If you talk to them in a conversation about your issues, they will immediately turn it around to their issues. It's as if no one exists other than them."

They are always exploiting issues for their own gain, says Dr Juan.

They climb the corporate ladder very effectively, they are often very charming and articulate, often very good looking which they use to their advantage.

It is the only thing they exist for. Themselves. They can't be trusted, they will lie to your face and deny they have when they are caught. They never own up to their own actions, they are always blaming others. They are polar opposites in public and private, with the former a place for their charm offensive to be exercised, and the latter a dark place of indifference and loathing.

It's the psychopath's modus operandi; a persona that they can't escape from, a disguise that soon becomes arduous to hide.

In a bid to unmask those with psychopathic tendencies and prevent crime, Canadian criminal psychologist and FBI adviser Robert D Hare created the Psychopathy Checklist in the early 1990s that remains the gold standed for reference.

Its defined set of traits include impulsiveness, superficial charm, grandiosity, callousness, manipulative, lack of remorse or guilt, propensity to blame others, poor behavioural control, egocentric.

Whether unfairly or resoundingly just, Kevin Rudd's name has oft been etched beside those traits, by members of his own camp or from across enemy lines.

His impulsiveness is well documented, from rushed decision making done without proper consultation with colleagues or stakeholders, to his "policies on the run" such as the changes to the Fringe Benefit Tax system that  crack down on salary-sacrificed cars, to the detriment of the struggling car industry.

On these rash methods, he is internationally renowned.  "He makes snap announcements without consulting other countries or within the Australian government," said a US Embassy official of Kevin Rudd in a leaked memo to the Whitehouse.

Superficial charm? The opposition have climbed aboard this freight train, frequently referring to the PM as fake. Even Fairfax editors denounce the man who is smiling, caring Kevin the Queenslander, but is vastly different behind closed doors, where no cameras lurk.

"Much has been written and said about Kevin Rudd when the camera is rolling and Kevin Rudd in private," editor of the Launceston Examiner, Martin Gilmour said.  "Based on my experience on Thursday morning when the doors closed, he was about as engaged and charismatic as a silt rake."

Grandiosity? Egocentric? Enter stage left, former opposition leader and intimidating hand-shaker Mark Latham.   "I mean this guy is a once-in-a-century egomaniac," said Mr Latham in his jilted-lover tome.

Poor behavioural control? The RAAF air hostess who copped a Rudd spray because his special meal wasn't available; the foul-mouth tirade delivered while filming a video message in Chinese; the exodus of 16 staff from his office in his first year as PM due to his "short fuse and unreasonable demands" and the current rumours that 80 per cent of his staff hate his guts.

In a News Corp Australia survey of 30,000 voters last month voters were given a list of words to describe Rudd.  The results were stark: smug, manipulative and egotistical.

Claude Minisini spent 15 years within the FBI's behavioural science division. In his opinion, Kevin Rudd is your classic organisational psychopath. Ticks every box, allegedly.

"One of the traits of a psychopath is a lack of remorse. Has Kevin Rudd shown that? In relation to the pink batts saga, has he ever come out and said sorry to individuals for him making that bad decision? The answer is no," Ms Minisini said.

"Is he indifferent, or does he rationalise having hurt or mistreated someone else? I suppose he ticks that box too. I would certainly say that he is impulsive. Has he failed to adequately plan ahead? I suppose he ticks that box too. Is he irritable and aggressive? Yes, he probably ticks that one.

Research conducted by Western Sydney University professor Peter Jonason claims that while Machiavellianism is apolitical in its nature, there is a "left-leaning bias for those individuals high on psychopathy".

"Psychopathy may thrive in more liberal areas because of the lessened focus on law and order. And thus, it is within liberal areas that psychopathy may have a freer reign, therefore, freeing up men to benefit from such an approach to life," he said.

But there are other known traits of the psychopath that Rudd bypasses. Psychopaths are usually submerged in sexual promiscuity (not sure a visit to Scores counts) and have poor marital relations.

Despite the obvious shortcomings, several clinical psychologists and researchers believe possessing the traits of a psychopath could be advantageous for someone seeking political power.

A research paper lead by Emory University's Scott Lilienfeld explored such issues, pinpointing which US presidents were more likely to exhibit psychopathic traits.

"Some psychopathic traits, such as interpersonal dominance, persuasiveness and venturesomeness, may be conducive to acquiring positions of political power and to successful leadership," the paper claimed. It cited Winston Churchill and Lyndon Johnson as perfect case studies, claiming both possessed very real characteristics of a psychopath, but who "managed to parlay these traits into political success".


Workers lodging claims over lookism, Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission reveals

Looks matter and hoping otherwise is pissing into the wind

WORKERS are lodging discrimination claims based on their looks, as bosses prize beauty over brains during job interviews.

Selecting and promoting workers based on their appearance - or "lookism" - has joined racism and sexism as forms of workplace discrimination, warns a University of Sydney report to be launched today by NSW Supreme Court judge Elizabeth Fullerton.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission revealed yesterday that dozens of workers have claimed discrimination on the grounds of weight, tattoos, hair style or even body odour.

In the past five years, 96 workers have alleged discrimination on the grounds of appearance - such as being "ugly" or blonde.

Another 107 people lodged discrimination claims on the grounds of obesity, 10 on being underweight, and 17 on their height.

Body odour was the grounds for two discrimination claims, hairstyles for 38 claims and 22 claims related to for tattoos and piercings.

A spokeswoman for the commission said she did not have details of how many cases succeeded.

Dress for Success, a charity that supplies low-income women with donated suits and office attire for job interviews, yesterday said first impressions not only count - but are key to - landing a job.

A third of the Dress for Success managers interviewed by the university researchers reported that at least half their clients had suffered discrimination based on their clothing.

"I think many employers want employees with less tats and piercings, and clothes that are more modest than current fashion dictates," one manager stated.

"Some use it as a screening tool in an economy when they have so many applicants.

"Business casual attire is accepted but a neat appearance is paramount - an amazing outfit on a dishevelled person won't too."

The founder of Dress for Success in Sydney, Megan Etheridge, said women could help overcome discrimination by dressing for the job - preferably in a suit.

"It's important to help women understand that being excluded on the basis of appearance is a very real issue," she said.

The researchers cite an Australian study that found good-looking men command an $81,750 salary, compared to $49,600 for men with below-average looks.

The researchers also interviewed job placement agencies who warned that employers would "look you up and down" and make a hiring decision before listening to "what comes out of your mouth".

One of the authors, Dr Diane van den Broek, said suits gave a message that "I'm ready to work".

"If you go dressed in your own personal taste you could be too bright or too frivolous or too sombre," she said.

Professor Richard Hall, professor of work and organisational studies at the University of Sydney business school, said appearance was prized above performance in the hospitality and retail sectors.

"Boutique hotels and certain retail stores have a distinctive presentation not just with their infrastructure, but the style of staff," he said.

"Personality and looks are seen to be much more important than previous experience or their qualifications to do the job."

Australian Retailers' Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said stores wanted staff to fit their image.

"Let's take a Just Jeans or Jeans West, I don't think they'd want my 85-year-old mother serving there - or she'd have to be pretty funky ," he said.

"In the retail environment you cannot force people to wear particular types of clothing unless you're prepared to supply it."

Mr Zimmerman said employers needed to spell out their dress requirements at the stage of the interview.

Lawyer Kamal Farouque, principal of employment law at Maurice Blackburn, yesterday said "lookism" could be hard to prove.

He said workers outside Victoria could claim discrimination on the grounds of disability, which might cover appearance such as scars or birthmarks.

"Employers generally are not so daft to say they reason you didn't get a job is because you've got a scar or a birthmark or you're not good looking enough," he said.

Carole Haddad, the owner of Corcorz hair salon on Brisbane's South Bank, said her staff's presentation was crucial.

"Absolutely, how could it not have an effect on our customers?" she said.  "Our staff work so closely with our clients, things such as hygiene are so important."

Ms Haddad said the way potential staff presented at interviews was "shocking."  "And I think it is getting worse," she said.

"All of us have bad hair days but there must be basic standards. Things like well-groomed nails make a big difference."

Ms Haddad said she didn't mind her staff having tattoos, but preferred facial piercings were kept to a maximum of two.


9 August, 2013

Law requiring Muslim women to remove burqa to prove their identity to police introduced to WA Parliament

A NEW law that would require Muslim women to remove a burqa or niqab to prove their identity to West Australian police has been introduced to the state's parliament.

The legislation was drafted in specific response to public outcry about the case of burqa-wearing mother-of-seven Carnita Matthews, who had a conviction of knowingly making a false statement quashed.

Ms Matthews was originally given a six-month jail sentence after being found guilty of falsely accusing a senior constable of forcibly trying to remove her burqa when she was pulled over while driving in Woodbine in Sydney's southwest in June 2010.

She was later acquitted on appeal after the prosecution could not prove she was the woman who signed the statement while wearing the garment.

As part of WA's Criminal Investigation (Identifying People) Amendment Bill, the law will require "a person to remove headwear or do other things to facilitate the officer being able to confirm a person's identity".

Officers will also get explicit powers to detain a person while they comply.

It will apply to an item of clothing, hat, helmet, mask, sunglasses or "any other thing worn by a person that totally or partially covers the person's head".

The WA parliament will be told the law was in direct response to the NSW case. 

"Having regard to that case, the government has taken action to ensure that similar injustices do not occur in Western Australia," Attorney-General Michael Mischin said.  "The amendments provide a explicit power ... where the subject person refuses to remove an obstruction that is preventing the officer from being able to identify the person's face."


Kevin Rudd wrong as Queensland jobs jump

KEVIN Rudd has been thrown on the defensive on economic management after a surprise fall in full-time jobs offset by strong growth in Queensland that challenges his warnings about the damage from the state Liberal National Party government's "austerity" cuts.

Thousands of Australians gave up looking for work over the past month in a new sign of the weak jobs market, sharpening Coalition attacks on the Prime Minister yesterday, despite the addition of almost one million jobs since Labor took power.

The federal government hailed the steady unemployment rate - 5.7 per cent last month and still the highest level for almost four years - but economists warned that thousands more could join the jobless. The unexpected loss of more than 10,000 mainly full-time jobs between June and July fuelled economists' concerns the unemployment rate would climb higher than the 6.25 per cent forecast in last week's economic statement.

"We struggle to identify where new jobs will be created from here," said Stephen Walters, JPMorgan's chief economist, suggesting the transition from mining to non-mining growth was not going smoothly.

"The jobless rate probably still has some way to climb, most likely to 6 per cent by the end of this year and probably even higher in 2014."

The jobless rate, although well below that of most other industrialised countries, has been rising steadily since 2011, when it fell to a post-GFC low of 4.9 per cent.

The Rudd government conceded the "slight" fall in jobs but appealed to voters to remember the workforce had swelled from about 10.5 million since Labor came to power in 2007 to about 11.5 million.

In a challenge to one of Labor's key election strategies in Queensland, the latest figures showed the state gained 18,500 jobs and saw its unemployment rate fall from 6.3 per cent to 5.9 per cent.

Labor has attacked Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and his LNP government by claiming his cuts to 14,000 public service positions last year would damage the state economy.

UBS economist Scott Haslem said Queensland was the nation's "standout" performer, and Commonwealth Bank economists noted the state's "buoyant" conditions.

The results undercut Labor's warning that a federal government led by Tony Abbott would drive down growth by adopting the same "austerity" policies as Mr Newman, starting with an audit of spending to clear the way for cuts.

Mr Rudd argued yesterday that the weaker jobs outlook, including the 6.25 per cent unemployment forecast in last week's budget update, heightened the reasons for voters to back Labor's economic management.

"It is the core reason why the strength of the economy, the robustness of the economy, is core business for this election," he said. "Because the global economic pressures to which we are now subject, particularly from the end of the China mining boom, are going to impact on growth, impact on employment.

"I've been frank about that from day one (when) I returned to the position of Prime Minister."

Former Queensland premier Peter Beattie, standing beside Mr Rudd in Brisbane yesterday as he announced a plan to enter federal parliament, said industries such as mining services were the source of future jobs growth.

But opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey argued that the weak participation rate - the percentage of Australians in work or actively looking for work - meant that the flat unemployment rate did not reflect the weakness in the economy.

"That just illustrates we're in a deteriorating market that is heading towards an unemployment level of around 800,000," he said.

The participation rate fell from 65.3 to 65.1 per cent, the equal lowest level for more than six years.

As the Coalition came under questioning again over its plan to put a 1.5 percentage point levy on big companies to fund a parental leave scheme, Mr Hockey said the policy would help lift the number of people in the workforce.

"The participation rate is an essential guide to the confidence of Australians to get out there and look for a job," he said. "The fact that it is falling, that people are giving up looking for work, says everything."

The disappointing result would "concern" the Reserve Bank, said Citi senior economist Joshua Williamson, who like most economists expects the RBA to cut rates again by Christmas, although after the federal election.

Michael Workman, a senior Commonwealth Bank economist, said tourism and a revival in housing and construction in Brisbane and the Gold Coast were supporting jobs growth in Queensland.

"It appears the state has absorbed the public sector job cuts for now and the unemployment rate is stabilising around 6 per cent," he said. "While coalmining job losses have been significant, coal-seam gas is still generating work."

Tasmanian and South Australian jobs markets generated no new jobs over the year to July, and registered jobless rates of 8.2 and 7.1 per cent respectively, while NSW was the best performer, adding more than 60,000 jobs.

"We expect NSW to continue to outperform the other states on the jobs front as it will suffer less from any mining fallout and its housing sector is proving responsive to rate cuts," said Justin Fabo, a senior economist at ANZ.

Chris Bowen updated the government's jobless forecasts last week, suggesting a peak of 6.25 per cent next year, while St George's chief economist Besa Deda anticipate a rise to near 7 per cent by the end of next year.

"If the rebound in housing and construction doesn't occur as expected, the jobless rate would be even higher," she said. "Employment needs to grow by between 15,000 and 20,000 jobs a month to keep the unemployment rate stable and that's not happening."

The number of people claiming to be out of work last month shrank by 5700 to 705,400 people, while the total number of employed people stood at 11.65 million, the ABS report showed.

"Male-dominated sectors like manufacturing, construction, utilities and transport are bearing more of the economic slowdown than some of the service sectors," Mr Williamson said.


Wipe out Greens for good of all: Kennett

JEFF Kennett has unleashed a withering attack on the Greens, warning the minority party should be preferenced out of existence to protect the nation's economic and social fabric.

The former Victorian premier said the Liberal Party nationally should preference the Greens and independents last, even if it risked elevating Labor candidates.

His warning came as it emerged that the Liberal Party will almost certainly announce in the first half of the campaign that it will preference against Greens MP Adam Bandt, making it increasingly difficult for him to remain in the House of Representatives. Senior party sources said there was "no argument" within the Victorian party about Greens preferences and that the party would be doing whatever it could to ensure Mr Bandt lost the seat of Melbourne.

Mr Kennett told The Australian that the relationship between the Greens, the independents and Labor had been toxic for Australia in the past three years, undermining the nation's economic and social prosperity by creating unstable government.

Mr Kennett said it was crucial that a government be given the mandate to implement its agenda without the corrosive influence of the minor parties and the Greens.

"Hopefully we will not be about giving authority to minorities; that the public will realise that we have a responsibility to ourselves, for our children and the future of the country to give a government sufficient authority to govern," he said. "To that end, my view is that all independents and all Greens should be placed last, even if it means in some seats from our point of view a Labor candidate might win."

Senior Victorian Liberals said the federal division of the party had intervened in 2010 to preference the Greens, leading to Mr Bandt's election.

Senior party figures have told The Australian that the party has no option but to preference against the Greens.

This, sources said, would be an electorally successful strategy for the conservatives to help wipe out the Greens, which the Liberal Party believes have been given a platform by the Coalition's previous failure to attack the minor party by starving candidates of their preferences.

Another senior party figure told The Australian: "There is no division in the party . . . The Greens will not get our preferences."

In 2010, Mr Bandt received almost 80 per cent of Liberal preferences.

He holds Melbourne on a 6 per cent margin and gained 36.2 per cent of the primary vote in 2010, which, if replicated, is unlikely to be enough given the lack of Liberal preference flow.


Union fat cats

THE lucrative paypackets of Queensland's most influential union kingpins have been revealed for the first time, with bosses taking home more than $1.6 million last year.

The Newman Government's new industrial relation laws overruled union attempts to keep the information confidential, with the details tabled in Parliament last night.

In some instances, the union leaders are earning more than double the salary of most of the workers they represent.

The figures show Together union secretary Alex Scott was the top earner with $212,481 last financial year, including allowances and superannuation.

Together assistant secretary Julie Bignell earned about $177,223 while deputy secretary Kevin Place earned about $138,303.

Together Queensland published a graph alongside the wages of 10 of its officials showing they were paid less than public service department heads and Premier Campbell Newman and Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney.

Australian Workers' Union stalwart Bill Ludwig earned about $164,085 last financial year including board fees, while Queensland branch secretary Ben Swan earned $99,590.

Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates was paid a base salary of $156,187 in 2012-13, while QTU general secretary Graham Moloney earned a base salary of $153,396.

Queensland Nurses Union secretary Beth Mohle earned $205,894 including allowances and superannuation, while her assistant secretary Des Elder earned $181,899.

BLF state secretary David Hannah earned $172,107 in 2012-13.

Employer organisations such as the Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry are also required to reveal information on the pay of their top 10 office holders.

Unions had protested the new laws, labelling them an undemocratic attack on free speech.

They argued information on executive pay was already available to members.

But the Newman Government argued the laws were a necessary move to ensure unions and employer organisations were transparent in the wake of the Health Services Union credit card scandal involving Federal MP Craig Thomson.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie told The Courier-Mail that one Queensland union was already being investigated for potential breaches of the Newman Government's new laws just a month after they came into force.

Mr Bleijie said the industrial inspectorate was investigating whether or not the union, which cannot be identified as yet, spent more than $10,000 on a political campaign without balloting members first.

"There's one particular union that we've sought information from in terms of potential breaches of the campaign spending and whether they had their members' vote on spending $10,000 or more," he said.

"The deputy Director-General of Justice and Attorney General has written to this union and sought information about whether that particular campaign falls under the categories of the legislation.

"They wrote back and said, 'Thank you, we don't intend to respond to any of the issues you've raised', so the inspectorate have gone down there and met with the union and they are working through (the issues) now."

Mr Bleijie urged union members to go online and have a look at the information.

The information will also be audited by the industrial inspectorate.


8 August, 2013

Labor's illegal immigrant message is working, says minister

PEOPLE are getting the message about Labor's tougher stance on boat arrivals, Immigration Minister Tony Burke says

He says he's received reports from Indonesia that there are widespread demands from potential asylum seekers wanting their money back from people smugglers.

Mr Burke says they are realising they would be buying a ticket to Papua New Guinea or Nauru not to Australia.

"When I say the demands for money back are widespread, they are absolutely widespread," Mr Burke told reporters in Sydney.

"They realise that what they have paid for is no longer available to them."

"There is no doubt that the message is getting through."

Mr Burke said the only way to stop people smugglers was to take their product and customers away, and that was starting to happen.

He also said a "very significant number" of people who had been transferred to PNG's Manus Island were now in talks with internationals organisation of migration organising their transfers back home.

He said that could be done fairly quickly if they still had their identity documents with them.


Torres Strait Islanders win High Court bid for native title commercial fishing rights

A group of Torres Strait Islanders has won a bid to secure commercial fishing rights under native title.

The group wants to build an economic base from commercial fishing in a vast area of sea between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

The case was strongly opposed by the Commonwealth and Queensland governments, and the fishing industry.

No one contested that the Islanders held native title over the 40,000 square kilometres of sea, but it was argued those rights no longer extended to the commercial trade of marine resources such as fish.

The Queensland Government argued native title rights over the area had been extinguished by a law that controls commercial fishing.

But the full bench of the High Court found those commercial rights still exist and have not been extinguished by Commonwealth and state laws.

The commercial native title rights are still subject to the commercial fishing licensing regime.

The native title claim was first lodged in 2001 and today's ruling is the final legal step.


Small differences in workplace policies

Labor had hoped to resuscitate the spectre of the Coalition's unpopular WorkChoices policy that cost it government in 2007.

But, since the opposition outlined its modest workplace policy in May, it has got little traction in the community. The debate has moved on to other areas such as education and immigration.

That careful policy, launched by Mr Abbott and workplace spokesman Eric Abetz, disappointed the business community, which is in the mood for radical reform.

In their 38-page policy document, Mr Abbott and Mr Abetz promised no major changes to Labor's Fair Work Act.

This meant no changes to unfair dismissal laws, penalty rates and other contentious areas until after the 2016 election. In the meantime, Mr Abbott says, workplace laws will be subject to a Productivity Commission review.

Professor Andrew Stewart, an industrial relations expert at the University of Adelaide, says an Abbott government "would see very little change" for employers and employees in the private sector.

"Most of the relatively limited policies that the Coalition has announced are heavily directed towards a handful of militant unions," he says.

These include the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and the Maritime Union of Australia, he says. "So the great majority of employees and businesses would see very little change," Professor Stewart says.

The Coalition's more generous parental leave plans will be a key difference, Professor Stewart says. "But as I read it, Tony Abbott's way of dealing with the massive internal criticism of this policy is to put off legislating it as long as possible," he says.

Retailers in particular had wanted Mr Abbott to do much more to reduce penalty rates, on Sundays in particular.

In changes made to the Fair Work Act this year, Labor entrenched penalty rates for unsociable hours in modern awards. It also expanded the right to request flexible work hours, and required employers to consult on roster changes.

In return, employer groups attacked Labor for giving too many advantages to unions, at the cost of employers' needs.

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman says a Coalition victory would be preferable for his members. But it, too, has gone nowhere near far enough for his members' liking, he says. "We really need to have some serious discussion about penalty rates on weekends," Mr Zimmerman says.

Retailers are among several industries - hospitality is another - calling for penalty rates to be all but abolished. But an Abbott government has promised only to review the penalties system, not change it.

Retail employs about 10 per cent of Australia's workforce, second only to healthcare and social assistance.


Election outcome boils down to who can be taken on trust

Paul Sheehan

The next 30 days will have the political class providing an ever-replenished smorgasbord of vote-buying, policy debates, policy analysis, gotcha moments, opinion polls, opinion poll analysis, betting odds, personality scrutiny, personality disorders, spats, tiffs, stand-offs, trolling, conspiracy theories, character assassination and micro-dissections, little of which will decide the election.

It rarely does. The political class, the group who care most about politics, do not decide elections. Elections are determined by the vast majority who feel either indifferent or uncomfortable with active politics. Even though there will be more analysis than ever before, more tools, more polls and more technology, the election will be decided by taking the measure of the credibility of the two main alternatives. What decides the election can be described by a single word.


Kevin Rudd got it right when, announcing the election on Sunday, he said: "This election will be about who the Australian people trust to best lead them through the difficult new economic challenges which now lie ahead."

He was right, too, in choosing to fight a presidential campaign. Tony Abbott should be chastened by Rudd's improbable resurgence since he deposed the women who deposed him. The electorate lacked faith in Julia Gillard's robotic performance and was going to throw her out, but the polls reveal the electorate has never warmed to Abbott. He, too, has been suffering from the same robotic condition that afflicted Gillard.

If the election is about trust can the electorate trust Rudd? It disapproved of his political assassination. It approved of his political redemption. But how is it going to react to his narcissism? It was evident from the opening seconds - not even minutes - of the formal 2013 election campaign, after the flight path of his aircraft was tracked on Sky News (more dissection, more tools, more micro-analysis) on its way to Canberra before Rudd disembarked and announced the election date.

In his opening statement of campaign Rudd, he said he would offer "a positive vision" for Australia. That promise lasted about 15 seconds before he said: "Tony Abbott has a different approach. He'll bang on with the same negativity that we're all sick of. He's only got three-word slogans because he doesn't have the ticker to debate his real agenda."

His opponent has no guts, he bangs on, he only offers three-word slogans, whereas Rudd offers, "A New Way".

Casting himself as an underdog, Rudd then offered this: "Mr Abbott's advertising campaign will be massive, funded by the massive war chest he's amassed from a whole range of vested interests in industry, not least the tobacco companies."

If the Coalition had a "massive" campaign war chest, what would Rudd call the $30 million the federal government is spending at his behest on a national advertising campaign warning that anyone who arrives in Australia by boat and without a visa will never be settled in Australia?

This is the greatest moral contortion, the most cynical piece of election-eve expediency, the brutalisation of vulnerable asylum seekers, threatening to consign them to a row of tents on a malarial island off the coast of a failed state. It was Mr Positive who created this mess, this worst-of-both-worlds debacle, a $10 billion hole in the budget. When Rudd first came to office he made a great show of claiming the moral high ground and removing what he called the "stain" of offshore processing of asylum seekers. What was a stain has now become a necessity. It can't work, but Rudd will clean up the mess after the election.

Rudd has lied. I use the term "lie" as in lie, as in knowingly saying something that he knows not to be true. After shadow treasurer Joe Hockey stated the obvious, that the decision by the Reserve Bank to reduce interest rates to their lowest level in 53 years was a response to a softening economy and rising unemployment, Rudd claimed Hockey, and the opposition, wanted families to pay higher interest rates.

The Prime Minister is throwing dust and debris into the eyes of the debate. He is running against "vested interests". He is running against "big tobacco". He is claiming credit for a AAA credit rating he inherited. He is running against Rupert Murdoch who, suddenly, is Tony Abbott's "mate". As if the pounding the News Corporation newspapers have given his government had nothing to do with policy debacles.

What Rudd is not doing is running on his record. He can't. The blow-out in boat arrivals, in the deficit, in the federal debt, in the cost of energy, ensure that if ran on his record instead of running a campaign of distortion and deflection he would lose, and lose badly.


7  August, 2013

High court supports mining tax

Miner Andrew Forrest has lost his High Court challenge to the Minerals Resource Rent Tax.  The tax applies to profits for coal and iron ore projects above $75 million.

Mr Forrest and his Fortescue Metals Group had argued that the tax discriminated between states and interfered with the rights of states to control their own mineral resources.

He was supported in his challenge by the Queensland and Western Australian governments.

The court unanimously rejected the challenge, saying the act does not discriminate between the states or give preference to one state over another, and ordered Mr Forrest to pay costs.

Federal Treasurer Chris Bowen welcomed the decision and reaffirmed the Government's commitment to the tax.

"It makes a necessary and reasonable contribution to our tax base in Australia," he said.

"I understand it was controversial when it was brought in and it will go up and down from time to time, but now that it's in we wouldn't change it."

However, the tax's future is uncertain despite the ruling, with the Coalition pledging to scrap it if it wins the election next month.

Mr Forrest and his companies told the High Court that the tax was unconstitutional because it discriminated between the states that use royalty levels to attract investment.

Under the tax, companies pay 22.5 per cent on profits above $75 million from iron ore and coal production but can deduct state royalties from that.

The mining tax raised only $126 million in its first six months and the Federal Government's latest economic statement has revealed that revenue forecasts for the tax continue to fall.

When announcing the revenue figure in February, then treasurer Wayne Swan blamed slumping commodity prices, however generous asset deductions have helped offset the cost to miners.

The 2012 financial reports of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto showed tax credits worth $644 million and more than $1.1 billion respectively.

Hancock Prospecting's 2012 financial report shows it has an even bigger credit against the mining tax worth $1.16 billion.

WA Premier Colin Barnett says he is not surprised by the High Court's decision and says he would have liked to see the tax overturned.

"The State Government wasn't formally a part of the case but we did in a sense intervene," he said.

"We did so to reassert the state's ownership of the minerals. We didn't want the issue of the MRRT to cast doubt over who owned the minerals."

Fat Prophets resources analyst David Lennox says those credits can be used to directly reduce miners' tax liabilities now and into the future, until they run out.

"Exactly as we saw with BHP, Rio and Fortescue, they [Hancock] actually booked a credit for the minerals resource rent tax for 2012 of $1.2 billion," he said.

Fortescue's estimated tax asset brings the total mining tax credits of the big four iron-ore producers to almost $6.4 billion.

Jeffrey Knapp, a University of New South Wales accounting lecturer, observed that: "Over future periods they're entitled to deductions because the values of their assets for tax purposes are deemed to be higher than the book value they use for their assets in their financial statements."


Kevin Rudd rules out changes to GST as Hockey denies report he is considering tax hike

But can you believe the broken promise party?

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has vowed there will never be a GST increase under his government, and attacked the Coalition for "clearly" having a hike on its agenda.

According to a report in the Australian Financial Review, Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said examining the GST is "part of the equation" to simplify the tax system.

He says his comments have been misrepresented, but Mr Rudd says the report shows the Coalition plans to not only increase the GST, but also widen it to cover food.

Mr Rudd pointed to the paper while on the campaign trail in western Sydney this morning, labelling it a "big, big development in the election campaign".

"You've had one Liberal premier after another saying the Goods and Services Tax has to be increased, and now you have Mr Hockey ... saying that it is part of the equation," Mr Rudd told reporters.

"This is a massive issue for Australian families across the country.

"If you're going to jack up the Goods and Services Tax, you've got to be upfront with people about how much, and what it's going to cost them.

"If you're going to have a debate about cost of living pressures, a Goods and Services Tax on practically everything that families buy is the most fundamental thing of all."

The Prime Minister added: "The Australian Government that I lead will not increase the GST, nor will it expand its scope."

Moments after Mr Rudd wrapped up, Mr Hockey took to Twitter to refute the claims.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has previously said a Coalition government would release a white paper into Australia's tax system, which could include a review of the GST.

He addressed the GST issue while confirming a pledge to cut the company tax rate by 1.5 per cent from July 2015.

"If it comes up in the consultations, we will consider what they come up with, but the fact is we have no plans whatsoever to make any changes to the GST," he said.

"I also point out that you can't change the GST in any significant way without the consent of state governments, including a Labor state government."

He was flanked by Mr Hockey, who added the Financial Review was "dead set wrong".

"Basically one paper beat it up and they got it wrong. What we have said emphatically is any change in relation to the GST or major taxation change will go to the people," he said.

Mr Hockey's assistant treasurer, Mathias Cormann, had earlier told the ABC a Coalition government would "have a conversation with the Australian people about the need for tax reform over the medium and long-term".

"Our focus will be on lower, simpler, more efficient taxes," he said.

The Coalition's company tax cut - a campaign sweetener for business will cost the budget $5 billion over the forward estimates - could be the single biggest single spending commitment of the campaign.

The Coalition says the plan has been costed but is yet to spell out the costing details.

The Government has seized on that as proof the policy can only be funded through harsh spending cuts or a GST hike.


Papua New Guinea to create new visa class for resettled refugees

Papua New Guinea's foreign minister says his government intends to pass legislation setting up a new visa class so refugees can live in the country.

Both PNG and Nauru have recently signed agreements with the Federal Government, which will see refugees who come by boat to Australia resettled in the Pacific nations.

The Opposition has ridiculed the Nauru deal because it has emerged the island nation does not have a permanent residency visa class.

Furthermore, the MP representing Manus Island, Ronnie Knight, last month predicted no refugees would be resettled in PNG because of its strict citizenship rules.

But PNG's foreign minister, Rimbink Pato, says the deal his country has struck will involve legislation ensuring refugees can live there.

"Once they are determined under PNG law that they are genuine refugees then there will be legislation passed, which will ensure that they are recognised or they're given a different class of visa under our law," he said.

"So I can say to you that the process and the terms are well and truly working."

The PNG government has signed the Memorandum of Understanding with Australia formalising the deal to send all asylum seekers to Manus Island.

Australian Immigration Minister Tony Burke was in Port Moresby to witness Mr Pato sign the document late yesterday afternoon.

Mr Burke says there can be no doubt about the desire of both country's to tackle people smuggling.


Government may sack bureaucrats named in $1b Qld Health payroll bungle

Fire a bungling bureaucrat?  Unheard of!

The State Government is considering sacking bureaucrats who were named and shamed by the Commission of Inquiry into the Queensland Health payroll debacle.

The payroll failure has cost taxpayers more than $1 billion.

The inquiry found the former Labor government settled with IBM when it could have recovered more money through legal action, but did not criticise the decision.

It found the health payroll debacle was partly the fault of public servants, who failed to manage the project properly.

The inquiry says department directors-general capitulated when negotiating with IBM, with the State Government making a timid and ineffectual response to the payroll failure.

Some of the public servants are still employed by the Queensland Government.

The ABC understands the State Government will put forward a motion in Parliament tomorrow on taking 'strong action' against those named in the inquiry's findings, which could include sackings.

The inquiry found the Queensland Government cannot recover any money from IT company IBM for the failure of the payroll system and it will face no legal action.

However, Parliament is likely to debate a motion to stop awarding contracts to the IT company unless it proves it has acted to prevent similar problems in future.

Meanwhile, IBM has disputed some of the findings of the inquiry.

The company says as the prime contractor for the upgrade, it bears some responsibility.

But it says most of the blame belongs to bureaucrats who did not tell the company what they need or fix the scope of the project.

The former Labor Government surrendered its ability to sue IBM for breach of contract when it settled with the company after the failure.


6  August, 2013

Bureaucracy reigns supreme at Gold Coast hospital

Too bad about the doctors

A BALI bombings surgeon has been sacked as director of surgery at Gold Coast Hospital after leading a doctor revolt over allegations including a "dangerous" bed shortage and workplace bullying and intimidation.

Neurosurgeon Dr Teresa Withers and fellow senior doctors have hired high-powered lawyers to fight hospital management after she was dumped from the post she had held for 12 years.

Dr Withers, whom former premier Peter Beattie flew to Darwin to treat victims after the 2005 Bali bombings, had been raising allegations of mismanagement at the Gold Coast Hospital which she and other doctors claim is endangering patient safety.

They say their 'serious concerns' about issues including a "life and death" acute bed shortage and "a culture of fear and intimidation" have been swept aside, and complaining doctors sacked.

But the hospital has denied sacking Dr Withers, saying she was simply restructured out of her job.  CEO Ron Calvert said claims Dr Withers had been sacked were "simply untrue".

Mr Calvert said a restructure had been needed because the hospital was moving to a new $1.8 billion facility at Parkwood, with five new services including cardiac surgery, neonatal intensive care and radiation oncology.

"As a result of this necessary restructure a number of new roles have been created, particularly at a clinical management level, and others including the Director of Surgery role will no longer exist," he said.

The Courier-Mail revealed yesterday doctors had documented more than 20 "near misses" at the hospital under controversial measures to meet emergency department targets.

Earlier this year, 50 doctors unhappy with Mr Calvert's management petitioned the local health board for a crisis meeting.  But they say that despite 90 doctors attending the meeting and passing four resolutions, including "the right to work without fear of intimidation", their concerns were dismissed by the board.

Lawyers for the doctors have now written to the board calling for an independent investigation. They have threatened to go to the Crime and Misconduct Commission and Healthy Quality and Complaints Commission unless their demand is met.

Dr Withers' husband, pediatrician Dr Stephen Withers, said the hospital was a "train wreck".  He said a shortage of beds for acute care patients had been "continually" raised with Mr Calvert but they were still being put at risk by being discharged too early to "non-monitored" wards.

Patient safety was also being compromised by decreasing numbers of nurses, Dr Withers said.

He said Mr Calvert was embarking on a major restructure of the hospital without consultation with senior doctors, at the same time as the hospital was preparing for the upheaval of moving into a new $1.8 billion facility at Parklands.

"This will be one of the biggest hospital relocations ever undertaken in Australia and at the same time, we are undergoing a major restructure - it's truly bizarre," he said. "This is a $1 billion organisation being run by someone who seems to be completely unaccountable to anyone and an inexperienced board that doesn't seem to give a crap.  "I think the board is failing the people of the Gold Coast abysmally."

Dr Withers said the doctors' only interest was patient care.  "We're really worried about the quality of health care on the Gold Coast and the safety of patients," he said.

"Many of us are in fear of our jobs if we speak up and the treatment given to my wife bears that out. She is a good person, she works hard and she tries to help people and for that, she's sacked."

Mr Calvert said the director of surgery position would "no longer exist" as part of the restructure but staff who had appropriate qualifications could apply for new "executive clinical director" positions.

"Like any organisation going through significant transformation, we understand that these changes are difficult for all staff," he said.

"While we take all concerns extremely seriously and are committed to a full investigation to ensure continuous improvement, we are hearted by recent evidence that shows we are improving health outcomes for the Gold Coast community."

Mr Calvert said an independent review had been ordered into concerns raised by doctors about emergency department targets.

Board chairman Ian Langdon said Gold Coast Health was delivering "outstanding service ... and too often the ongoing dedication of staff is forgot or undervalued whilst others air their disagreements".


Why have we got a peanut running a hospital?  I quote:

Ian [Langdon]  has a strong background in agribusiness, food production and marketing. Ian was appointed as Chairman of the Peanut Company of Australia in March 2008 after joining the Board in March 2005. He was Chairman of Australian Co-operative Foods Ltd (the Dairy Farmers Group) from 1989 until its sale in November 2008. Ian was also a director of Rabobank Australia Limited 1995-2004, Pivot Limited between 1993 and 2003 and Delta Electricity 2000- 2006.

Sydney Muslim sheikh admits sending abusive letters to dead Afghanistan veterans' families

A man accused of sending abusive letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan has formally pleaded guilty in a Sydney court.  Man Monis, who also uses the name Sheik Haron, sent the letters between November 2007 and August 2009.

A court has previously heard the letters criticised Australia's involvement in Afghanistan and labelled the soldiers murderers.

Monis sent letters to the families of seven soldiers killed in action, as well as one man who died in the 2009 Marriott Hotel bombing in Indonesia.

Bree Till received a letter in March 2009, less than a fortnight after her husband Brett died in Southern Afghanistan.  It opened with condolences, before becoming abusive.

"This man accusing my husband of being a child killer whilst dictating how I should raise my children," she said outside court today.  "The fact that there was any question as to whether this was right or wrong, that was difficult."

Monis has pleaded guilty to 12 counts of using a postal service to offend on the grounds of recklessness.

His co-accused, Amirah Droudis, has also pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting Monis, after she sent an item of mail in May 2008.

Monis gained notoriety by chaining himself to a railing outside a Sydney court in 2009 in protest against the charges he was facing.

In February, he also lost a High Court challenge to the charges, after claiming they were unconstitutional.

The case had been seen as an important test of the implied right to freedom of political speech in the Constitution.

Monis left court today with two fingers in the air, signifying the peace sign.  [Maybe!]


How the West was lost - zero jobs growth for Labor's heartland

FEDERAL and state governments have failed to create any new private sector jobs in Labor's heartland of western Sydney since 2006, with the region facing an unemployment crisis, a damning new report reveals.

And they have been warned that, without policy to address it, the western suburbs face a "jobs deficit" of up to 500,000 places by 2051.

The statistics are contained in a report by the Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's Department of Infrastructure and Transport.

The report covers the period of the last year of the Howard government and most of Labor's state and federal governments.

It paints a damning indictment of government policy failure in the key seats both Labor and the Coalition have to win to form government.

The report was released before the government's emergency economic statement which admitted the national jobless rate next year would rise to 6.25 per cent - a high not seen since 2002. It reveals successive jobs targets for the western Sydney region, including Parramatta, set by state governments between 2006 and 2011 had failed to be met.


Car watchdog 'toothless' on VW fault

It's in the pocket of the car-makers

Australia's car safety regulator has been labelled a toothless tiger after it failed to conduct a full investigation of dozens of complaints from Volkswagen owners, and instead handed them over to the car company.

Wayne Belford, whose fiancee Melissa Ryan died on the Monash Freeway in 2011 after her Golf appeared to suddenly lose power, is furious with the Department of Infrastructure and Transport after it notified him that it had found "no evidence to support a systemic issue" with Volkswagen vehicles. This is despite Volkswagen recalling almost 34,000 cars in June due to a problem with its direct-shift gearboxes.

"The department is a toothless tiger," Mr Belford told Fairfax Media. "Why have a department if they are given anecdotal evidence and they haven't the gumption to do an investigation and instead just pass it back to Volkswagen to handle in-house? In terms of accountability and recourse, the department is a waste of time."

Since Fairfax Media's investigation of Volkswagen vehicle faults began in May, 62 owners filled out the forms on the department's website to notify it of a safety issue. But instead of investigating, the department told Mr Belford it had done an "initial assessment" and found no systemic issue.

"The complaints received cover a wide range of different vehicle types, with different problems occurring at different points in the vehicles' lives," it wrote to Mr Belford.

If it had found evidence of "a wide scale or systemic issue", the department said it would ask Volkswagen to investigate. A manufacturer-led investigation is in line with Australia's recall process, a system largely self-regulated by the car companies.

A coroner's inquest on Ms Ryan's death triggered a massive response from hundreds of frustrated and angry Volkswagen owners who had suffered the same sudden deceleration - often in busy traffic and at intersections - that Melissa Ryan may have experienced. Despite issuing recalls for the DSG problem in countries such as Japan, China and Malaysia, Volkswagen ignored the Australian market.

Of the 300 Volkswagen drivers who came forward to Fairfax Media reporting a sudden loss of power, 88 per cent were driving cars with automatic transmissions and the rest were manuals, like Melissa Ryan's car. The department and Volkswagen has done nothing to address the concerns of manual drivers.

The coroner, who recently deferred her finding on Ms Ryan's death, has said she will write to the department seeking information on "specific action" being taken to investigate "numerous complaints" about Volkswagen vehicles that may have relevance to Ms Ryan's case. The coroner is yet to decide whether to include evidence from 30 owners of manual Volkswagens who experienced sudden loss of power in dangerous situations.

Mr Belford has collected statutory declarations from these drivers, which he says are "very expansive and damning" of Volkswagen.

Volkswagen Australia said it had not been asked by the department to investigate, but it was contacting the 62 owners who had complained to the regulator. Models recalled in June include Polo, Golf, Jetta, Passat, Caddy, Audi A1 and A3, Octavia and Superb. Volkswagen has promised the DSG problems will be rectified.

But the recall has been a frustrating process for many Volkswagen owners who face a long backlog and have found it hard to get through on customer phone lines. Few have had the faulty part replaced.

Many feel the recall was too narrow and have missed out, especially those with the original versions of the six-speed DSG wet clutch.

"There are still quite a lot of unhappy people … who are basically being told their problems are just a character of the car," said Gavin Smith, Volkswagen enthusiast and moderator of an online Volkswagen forum.

Volkswagen Australia spokesman Karl Gehling urged owners with problems to contact Volkswagen.

The department has consistently refused to answer questions about its handling of the Volkswagen faults and, specifically, why the company was not pushed to recall its cars in Australia despite recalls in other countries.


5 August, 2013

Marine life on the move due to global warming --  says CSIRO

Now that global cooling has set in. it will be moving back

The first global snapshot of marine life shifting under climate change has found it is on the move towards the poles at a rate of about seven kilometres a year. Fish and other marine creatures are seeking cooler habitat much faster than terrestrial life, according to an international study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In Australia, this re-shaping of the marine ecosystem will have significant repercussions for people such as fishers, according to CSIRO marine ecologist and study leader Elvira Poloczanska.

Dr Poloczanska, of the University of Queensland, and 18 international colleagues found no doubt about who was responsible for the greenhouse gas-related warming of the ocean's upper layers. "Global responses of marine species revealed here demonstrate a strong fingerprint of this anthropogenic [caused by humans] climate change on marine life," the paper said.

Dr Poloczanska said in Australia's south-east, tropical and subtropical species of fish, molluscs and plankton were shifting much further south through the Tasman Sea.

A 2010 CSIRO study found that warm surf-zone species such as silver drummer were more abundant, while the range of others such as snapper and rock flathead has increased.

In the Indian Ocean, a southward distribution of seabirds has been detected, as well as a loss of cool-water seaweeds north of Perth.

The latest study assembled a data base of 1735 marine biological responses around the world, where climate change was considered to be a driver in species movement.

"The leading edge or 'front line' of a marine species distribution is moving towards the poles at the average rate of 72 kilometres per decade," Dr Poloczanska said. "This is considerably faster than terrestrial species moving poleward at an average of six kilometres per decade . . . despite sea-surface temperatures warming three times slower than land temperatures."


Green tea extract has anti-cancer potential

Study in laboratory glassware only

A green-tea extract could help destroy deadly childhood cancers that are resistant to traditional chemotherapy, ground-breaking NSW research has discovered.

Cancer researcher Orazio Vittorio says a modified antioxidant called catechin can kill 50 per cent of the cells from neuroblastoma cancers within three days in laboratory studies.

On Friday night he was awarded the Kid's Cancer Project Award in the NSW Premier's Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research, which will give him $25,000 to put towards developing potentially life-saving treatment from his research.

Neuroblastoma is the most common cancer to strike infants, and has the lowest survival rate of all childhood cancers.

Catechin, extracted from green tea, is thought to be a promising cancer treatment, but its instability when it enters the body limits its effectiveness.

Dr Vittorio worked with a team of chemists to modify the catechin into a more stable form.

"The modified form of catechin is effective at destroying neuroblastoma cells that are highly resistant to conventional chemotherapy, yet has minimal effects on normal cells," said Dr Vittorio, from the Children's Cancer Institute Australia and the Lowy cancer research centre at UNSW. "Now I'll be able to build on this research and work towards an effective therapy for aggressive neuroblastoma".

Dr Vittorio, who survived kidney cancer five years ago, said that as his as-yet unpublished results were preliminary, he did not know how long it would take to develop treatments. "But as a father of a boy who is two years old and a cancer survivor, I'm doing my best to win this," he said.

His was one of 10 awards valued at $395,000. Premier Barry O'Farrell presented the award for outstanding cancer researcher to Professor John Thompson for his work in melanoma research.

David Currow, the chief executive of the Cancer Institute and Chief Cancer Officer, said as we learnt more about cancer, it was becoming clear no single solution would be found.

"Through our investment in research excellence we are enabling our talented researchers to come up with a wide range of innovative and practical solutions that make a very real difference," he said.


Prime Minister Kevin Rudd must explain how Australia blew almost $1 billion on projects in Afghanistan

IT'S time for Kevin Rudd to tell us all he knows about the waste of hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money on "white elephant" reconstruction projects in Afghanistan.

Hospitals and schools were built with not enough doctors, nurses and teachers and there was bribery and corruption in allocating much work, a bipartisan Senate Foreign Affairs committee found.

However, Australia's misadventure in Afghanistan is a scandal that dare not speak its name.

Prime Minister Rudd was foreign minister as the full extent of the folly began to emerge. So far he has said nothing, not in public anyway.

He visited Afghanistan again recently for a photo opportunity but spoke not a word of the controversy which has embarrassed the Department of Defence and Australia's international reputation.

In March 2011, Rudd flew to Afghanistan to open a $233,000 mosque built by Australian soldiers in Sorkh Murgab, in Uruzgan province.

In a solemn ceremony with much hand holding, Rudd joined the Uruzgan Governor Mohammed Omar Shizad and local leaders in cutting the ribbon.

The goodwill project, like many others in Afghanistan, quickly soured.

The Taliban declared the mosque a no-go area because it was built by Australians. A newspaper report said the Taliban threatened to punish any mullah who led prayers there, presumably because it was built by Christians.  So the handsome, copper-domed mosque sits empty, a tribute to poor management and jingoism.

More costly blunders stretched back over two decades, the Senate committee reported to Parliament.

Professor William Maley, who heads the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian National University, told the committee the Australian aid may even have made matters worse by fuelling corruption.

Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith this week ignored an invitation to comment. It's time they told Australians where their money went.

It is known that Australia has generously pumped $710 million into reconstruction projects since 2001, with another $250 million pledged until 2016.

The Senate committee praised the quality of Australia's reconstruction work but was highly critical of the lack of accountability in spending.

Expenditure will be nearly $1 billion by the time the projects are complete.

The committee, chaired by Senator Alan Eggleston, found Australia's efforts were blighted by bribery and corruption in allocating contracts and jobs.

The inquiry heard illiterate "teachers" were given school jobs by relatives in high places or corrupt government "powerbrokers". Poor attendance at some schools built by Australians was also blamed on a Taliban ban on girls aged over 10 from attending any school at all.

Millions of dollars may also have been squandered on well-built roads and bridges that are rarely used because locals are afraid to travel on them.

An Australian-built sewage treatment plant on the outskirts of Tarin Kowt isn't operating because no technicians were trained to run it.

Critical hospital services were "far from satisfactory", the committee found.

The committee said Australians deserved a full explanation. Indeed.

Eggleston told me yesterday there had been no response from the Rudd Government.  "There are very serious questions about the expenditure that needs to be answered," he said.

He said the lack of response was "disappointing" and "poor".

Eggleston said threats of reprisals against worshippers attending the mosque were an ominous sign.

The Taliban had regrouped as a formidable force, he said, and remains a threat to a peaceful transition when Australia and the US withdraw next year.

Underlying many of Afghanistan's woes is the opium and heroin trade, which the committee heard permeates every level of society. Opium poppy production in Afghanistan provides 90 per cent of the world's heroin.

The Senate committee was told what international law enforcement officers already know: opium poppy cultivation generated large criminal profits that undermined governance, fuelled corruption, nurtured dysfunctional politics and stimulated conflicts.

It was in this evil atmosphere that Australia continued to hand out money.

A total of 154,000ha of poppies were cultivated last year despite an eradication program.

Is it any wonder that Australia's good works are tainted by corruption?

The committee was especially critical of the Australian Defence Force and demanded it explain "a significant and serious miscalculation" of $200 million over six years. The committee found hundreds of millions were spent without proper accounting.

"The committee has evidence that the quality of work produced under Australian Defence Force supervision is high but understands that while a project can be 'beautifully constructed' it may not be operational," it said.

The committee said some funds were "wasted, misdirected, poorly targeted, or of limited benefit".

It added: "The committee has seen no evidence suggesting that Australian government agencies delivering aid to Afghanistan have attempted any genuine critical evaluation of the effectiveness of Australian aid, including an assessment of the cost-effectiveness of aid programs.

"Information is available on the inputs and when recording outcomes the information is often restricted to quantitative information such as schools, clinics and roads built but with no indication about how these facilities are making a difference.

"Such reporting presents an incomplete picture and may mask serious underachievement.

"The committee does not share AusAID's confidence in the robustness of its evaluation and reporting on Australia's official development assistance to Afghanistan."

The committee said Australian aid in Uruzgan produced "tangible benefits" such as schools. And our aid helped the provincial government develop a cadre of trained public servants.

"Some witnesses, however, expressed reservations about the effectiveness of aid delivered by the Australian Defence Force in Uruzgan, suggesting that some projects were 'quick fixes and unsustainable'."

The committee tabled comments from NGOs who reported "government corruption or bribes demanded from powerbrokers was one of the single largest sources of waste".

One local NGO representative admitted bribing government officials to ensure projects were completed and "alleged that bribery is widespread in the province and organisations often have no choice if they want to continue to operate. Corruption is like a virus," it noted.


Qld. school subject review considers axing mandatory languages

Language studies rarely lead to fluency

LANGUAGES could be dropped as a compulsory subject in state schools in a move teachers warn would disadvantage Queensland children.

A review of mandatory languages in Years 6, 7 and 8 is also considering whether the subject should be dropped in primary school, after Education Queensland (EQ) recommended the subject start in Year 7, once the year level moves into secondary.

In documents obtained under Right to Information, EQ says a Prep to Year 6 languages focus "is not recommended".

"Commencing languages in Year 7 would allow for efficient focusing of curriculum time in Junior Secondary," a Ministerial briefing note states.

"Consequently, in Prep - Year 6 it would allow more time for schools to focus on EQ core priorities as stated in United in our Pursuit of Excellence. A second consideration is whether languages are mandated."

In the note Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek is warned of problems sourcing language teachers in rural areas, with more than 1200 students learning the subject through Distance Education, and that some school communities and parents are against it being mandatory.

Mr Langbroek said a review into the mandatory languages policy was under way.

Japanese is currently the most popular language in state schools, followed by German, French and Mandarin.

Modern Language Teachers' Association of Queensland president Cynthia Dodd said she believed Year 7 was too late to start languages because students attitudes had hardened by then and research showed children were more receptive to languages in the early years.

P&Cs Qld CEO Peter Levett said research showed it was beneficial for students to learn a language, although there were two schools of thought on whether it made a difference if it started from Prep or not.


4 August, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is getting a bit rude about the huge deficit just revealed in Australia's finances

A Queensland university accused of spying on student whistleblower who made claims of research misconduct

A nasty little tale of crookedness and attempted coverup.  The VC of QUT is Peter Coaldrake, a Leftist bureaucrat rather than an academic, so putting the organization first is to be expected of him.  He has a track record of suppressing dissent to protect his organization

QUT has been accused of "spying" on a student whistleblower whose allegations of research misconduct have caused a scandal involving the university's vice-chancellor, the Federal Government and the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

Life sciences postgraduate student Luke Cormack, 30, attended counselling sessions organised by QUT after last year presenting allegations of apparent falsification of research in a scientific paper by some lab colleagues.

Mr Cormack claims that at the second one-on-one session in April 2012, the counsellor admitted he had been briefing QUT's Registrar's office on their meetings.

"I went in there with the impression that my meeting with him was confidential," Mr Cormack told The Courier-Mail.

He said that at the second session, he had told the counsellor he was writing to the editor of the journal that had published the paper to alert him to the alleged problems.

"It was then that I asked him if our meeting was confidential," Mr Cormack said.

"He said 'no'.  "He told me, 'Based on the nature of your concerns I've had to report this to the Registrar's office. However, if there's something that you don't want me to say, then you can tell me'.  "I was just shocked. I had told him everything about my situation."

Mr Cormack's complaint prompted an internal inquiry, which found "inadvertent" errors acknowledged by the researchers but cleared them of misconduct. The CMC accepted that finding.

But the US journal that published the paper in 2010 retracted it this year.

The National Health and Medical Research Council, the federal agency that provided a $275,000 grant to the research team, this week declared it was not satisfied with QUT's handling of an investigation into how the grant was obtained.

The agency said it wanted to bring in the Australian Research Integrity Committee, a body set up in 2011 to ensure research misconduct is investigated properly, to review the procedures used by QUT.

The NHMRC is also investigating a separate allegation of "one purposeful exaggeration" of data that is not part of the QUT inquiry.

The Courier-Mail has put Mr Cormack's allegations to QUT.

University Registrar Shard Lorenzo said: "The University does not provide information on matters relating to individual students."


Another huge budget shambles - now we're $30 billion in the red

UNEMPLOYMENT will return to its highest levels in more than a decade, with the government warning of a slowing economy and an unprecedented $100 billion collapse in revenue.

As Labor officials prepare for the Prime Minister to call a September 7 election this weekend, the nation was warned we are headed for a crisis.

More than 800,000 Australians will be out of a job by the middle of next year, the highest level since 2002. The budget will fall further into the red, with the revelation it had already blown out by $12 billion in just 80 days.

Invoking desperate measures to cushion the economic shock, Treasurer Chris Bowen announced a further round of tax hikes and budget cuts worth $17 billion to limit the damage.

He blamed the economic slowdown on China for a further $33 billion in revenue losses, bringing writedowns to almost $100 billion over the next four years. Almost $18 billion of that, however, was caused by lower income tax receipts as workers' wages continue to stagnate.

The May budget forecast a $18 billion deficit for this year will now reach $30.1 billion, Mr Bowen revealed. And the national debt will soon surpass $300 billion. But he suggested any attempts to stem the revenue losses in the face of slower economic growth with more savage spending cuts risked killing the economy and adding to further job losses.

Unemployment is set to rise from 5.45 per cent to 6.25 per cent this year, with economic growth also expected to contract from 2.75 per cent this year to 2.25 per cent.

Citing optimistic Treasury forecasts, Mr Bowen claimed things would improve by 2015-16, with a return to surplus of $4 billion for 2016-17 and a miraculous drop in unemployment to 5 per cent.

Claiming the economy was not in crisis but in "transition", Mr Bowen released the government's economic election plan yesterday by allowing the budget to book $54 billion in deficits over the next two years.

Mr Bowen admitted his statement was the economic plan Labor would take to the election. He challenged the Coalition to adopt the measures.

"This is our economic plan. It has our bottom line in it, it has our costing and our funding proposals," he said.

"The government is doing this in a transparent way. The alternative government should be doing the same. Australia is undergoing an economic transition, not a crisis, a transition which needs careful economic management. The world is growing more slowly and is having an impact on Australia."

Coalition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey accused the government of losing control: "The budget is in freefall. The budget has fallen $3 billion a week over the last 10 weeks.

"It's blatantly obvious - Labor has lost control of the budget and is losing control of the economy."

New taxes and spending cuts worth $17 billion were also announced, including the 0.5 per cent bank levy, an FBT tax crackdown, 60 per cent rises in tobacco excise and a raid on un-used superannuation accounts.

Families were spared any cuts to welfare payments or family benefits. Instead foreign aid and defence spending was targeted.

The public service will also be targeted for a further $2 billion in savings through an increase in the efficiency dividend from 2 per cent to 2.25 per cent.

Treasury will also pocket $582 million from idle superannuation accounts after raising the minimum inactive claim threshold for the third time in a year.

ATO figures suggest 120,000 accounts will be hit by the decision to raise the threshold from $2000 to $6000.

Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia CEO, Pauline Vamos last night accused the Rudd government of "desperately grabbing for any cash they can".

"It's bizarrely opportunistic. They're now looking for any revenue they can," she said.

Financial Services Council CEO John Brogden said: "Labor should be consolidating peoples' superannuation, not putting it into consolidated revenue."


Stamp duty hobbling housing mobility, economists say

THE huge cost of stamp duty is stopping nearly 40,000 Australian home moves each year.

Research has found abolishing the tax could help ease the housing squeeze, allowing younger families and older retirees to more easily find more suitable housing.

The total loss to the economy from reduced sales is worth around half a billion a year, according to the study by two prominent Australian economists based on millions of property transactions.

State governments receive around $12 billion a year in stamp duty revenue, but this has fallen in recent years because stagnant house prices have led to fewer transactions.

People who do move are now paying more, on average, because higher house prices push them up into higher stamp duty tax levels.

"The average stamp duty rate on house sales rose from 2.4 per cent in 1993 to 3.3 per cent in 2005 largely due to 'bracket creep' during a period of rapid house price growth rather than legislated increases in rates," the study by economist and Labor MP Andrew Leigh and Ian Davidoff, a former adviser to Julia Gillard and now an economist at the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC, found.

Every 10 per cent increase in stamp duty was found to lower property turnover by 3 per cent in the first year and 6 per cent over three years.

"Impeding housing mobility may cause individuals to forego better job offers in other regions (thereby reducing productivity of co-workers), or to commute overly long distances to a new job (thereby increasing road congestion)," the study finds.

"Housing transaction taxes may lead to misallocation of the housing stock, by effectively discouraging young families to upsize their housing and by discouraging retiree households from downsizing."

The study found that while property purchasers technically paid stamp duty, really the effect was to reduce house prices by the same amount, meaning property sellers really bore the cost of the tax.

Abolishing stamp duty would lead to property prices rising by the same amount. But increasing property turnover would be of benefit to both buyers and sellers, Dr Leigh said.

"The most important thing is that some trades that were killed by stamp duty now take place. They benefit both buyer and seller, and the value of that happiness we estimate at around $500m per year."

State treasurers took a proposal to the federal government in late 2011 to abolish their stamp duties in return for a bigger share of federal government revenue. They were dismissed by the then federal assistant treasurer David Bradbury as "ridiculous".

Stamp duties on other transactions were abolished as part of the introduction of the GST in 2000.


Understanding the Left

From an Australian Jewish viewpoint

I might have finally understood the Left. The stance of the Left is best explained by one of my favourite jokes – the social worker joke:

"Two social workers are walking down the street late at night. As they turn a corner, they see a man lying in the gutter. He is bruised and bleeding, his clothes torn, and he is moaning with pain; clearly he has been attacked. He sees the two people and calls to them "Please, someone help me!”

And one of the social workers turns to the other and says: "Whoever did this to him needs help!”"

This joke epitomizes the seemingly inverted attitude of the Left towards so many things today.

The Left love the victim or underdog in any conflict. In particular, they love someone they think they can help (whether they can is another question). In the joke, the man lying in the gutter is clearly a victim but can he be helped by a social worker? What he needs is urgent medical assistance. Instead the social worker wants to seek out the ‘root cause of the conflict’ and fix that. Why did the perpetrator of the attack do such a thing?

In the world of the Left there is no absolute good or bad. There’s actually not much free choice either. People are a product of their upbringing and the circumstances they find themselves in. These circumstances are what forces people to do what they do. So the perpetrator is the one truly deserving of help – that person is the true victim of their circumstance who was forced into crime. If only we can fix that person and people like them, crime would disappear!

For the Left, there is no such thing as a terrorist. They are ‘militants’ or ‘freedom fighters’ – heroes fighting for the most noble cause of freedom. Can there be a greater calling? Being ‘freedom fighters’ means their enemy are those who are depriving them of freedom, which in turn causes their ‘despair’, which forces them to do terrible things, like murder innocent civilians by blowing themselves up.

If Islamist leaders hate Jews and Israel and openly declare their intent to destroy them, the view of the Left is that it could not be because they have some twisted ideology, or are just plain bad folks. Rather, it must be because of something Israel did which causes them to be radicalized. Therefore, the onus is entirely on Israel to change, and/or to appease them. Whether it’s truly in Israel’s power to do anything about this is irrelevant. Nothing is ever asked of a victim. Israel is expected to free convicted murderers in order for the Palestinians will agree to come to the negotiating table!

In 1948 and 1967, Israel was the victim. That ‘plucky little country’ was surrounded by enemies seeking her destruction. The Left rallied behind Israel back then, but not any more. Why? Israel made the terrible mistake of defeating her enemies at war, then building a successful country instead of wallowing in self-pity and victim-hood. Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries made new lives for themselves. They can no longer be helped – they fixed themselves! What’s the Left to do except turn the tables and turn David into the new Goliath?

Asylum seekers try to reach Australia by the boat-load. They take huge risks to escape their home countries and seek out a safer, better life in a first world country like Australia, which is signatory to conventions governing the way we must deal with refugees. So if only they can get here, all will be well. We have a view of the tail end of their journey – the final boat leg across treacherous waters from Indonesia and thereabouts. But in fact, their journey starts well before that. We have no idea how much they have paid, how many have died along the way and what they have been told by people smugglers. Yet the view of the Left is that we are entirely responsible for providing first world refugee settlement services wherever they need them. Their view is that they are forced by their circumstance to take a dangerous boat ride and we must do whatever we can to help them.

Is taking out full page ads in newspapers declaring that they will not be settled in Australia the answer? I doubt it. For all we know, they may choose to believe the people smugglers instead. Will establishing refugee assessment centres in Asia fix the problem? It will fix it for some, but is unlikely to make a serious dent nor to stop the people who don’t want to be processed in Indonesia from taking a boat. Because as many refugees as we help, there will always be many more we cannot. But the Left will not stop campaigning until they help everyone in the world.

This bizarre inversion comes from from a fundamental view on the nature of people. If you believe that all people are essentially good, then you are stuck with a question: why do good people do really bad/dangerous/risky things? The only possible answer is that it’s because they have been provoked; because some ‘root cause’ has led them down this path.

By maintaining this view of people the Left believe they can fix the whole world. But in a world where there is no shortage of bad, what if the Left’s view of the world is flawed? What if there are people who are genuinely evil? People who view appeasement as weakness and either pounce on it, or shift the goalposts so that consensus is never reached, or until their true motives are revealed? What if wars must be fought and won to defeat those who wish our destruction? Unfortunately, we cannot count on the Left to fight these wars.


3 August, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is concerned by Australia's increasing level of debt

2 August, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is appalled by the election victory of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe

New Rudd Government tax on bank deposits will hit you

BANKS are expected to cut interest on deposits to make up for $733 million being taken by the Rudd Government as an insurance levy that will prop up its embattled Budget.

The "savings tax" would mean a customer with a $100,000 deposit could lose $4 a month in interest.

But the Government says the typical household has $10,000 in the bank and the loss would be less than 50c a month.

The change, to be announced in today's mini-Budget by Treasurer Chris Bowen, could spark a battle with the banks who say the .05 per cent levy is unnecessary.

Senior banking sources last night told the Herald Sun it was likely to be passed on directly to customers.

The change will apply to deposits of up to $250,000 for each account in banks, mutual banks and credit unions from January 2016.

More than $4 billion was wiped from the value of the nation's major banks yesterday on fears the levy will crimp earnings and hurt dividend payouts and superannuation.

Shares in the Commonwealth Bank - Australia's biggest savings bank with a deposit book of more than $170 billion - fell 1.5 per cent.

The bank tax is being made on the advice of Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens and the International Monetary Fund to build up a buffer to protect deposits if a bank was to fail.

Today's mini-Budget will also contain a $5.3 billion increase in tobacco tax.

The smokes tax will increase the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes by $5.25 over four years.

In just three months since the Budget was handed down, the revenue that was expected has deteriorated by about $20 billion.

Mr Bowen will announce more spending cuts to plug the hole and stay on track to return to surplus by 2016-17.

"That does require some difficult decisions, he said. "But we're not going to cut right back to the bone, we're not going to cut basic services, we're not going to cut schools and hospitals."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the Government couldn't control its spending.  "Whether it is a bank deposit tax, whether it is an increase in cigarette tax, it's all a hit on you," he said.

After meeting Mr Bowen yesterday, Australian Bankers' Association chief executive Steven Munchenberg warned the proposal was "unnecessary" and would hurt depositors.  "We already have a very safe and well capitalised banking system," he said.  "We don't support it and don't think it is valid and it is ultimately likely to be passed on to customers."

Under existing rules, if a bank collapsed the Government would cover the cost of protecting deposits by winding it up, and could put a levy on other banks.

The change would collect money gradually into a special fund as insurance against any crisis, but would also improve the Budget bottom line by $733 million.

Households have just over $600 billion on deposit, according to the latest data from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.  This is almost double the pre-GFC period when they hit a low of $307 billion.

Analysts warned any knocks to confidence in the banking sector would be bad for the economy and bank stocks in particular.

Australia's big four banks generated more than $13 billion in profits in the first six months of this financial year.

Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb said today's economic statement will be "an emergency mini-budget, because on the eve of an election the chickens have finally come home to roost. "They've constantly over-egged revenue forecasts and cry 'woe is me' when money doesn't come in," he said.


As utilities bills soar, South Australians to pay $90 extra a year to account for solar rebate

HOUSEHOLDERS will pay an extra $90 a year for the next three years on their power bills to pay for the State Government's generous solar rebate scheme.

Retailers are bracing for a late rush on solar systems as the scheme enters its final month for new customers to sign up, which could inflate the cost of the scheme even further.

SA Power Networks (formerly ETSA) estimates the scheme will cost $1.53 billion over 20 years - and every South Australian is paying for it via their electricity bill.

It has forecast the average amount recovered from residential customers to subsidise the solar rebates will be $90 a year for the next three years, before dropping to $72 from July 1, 2016, when the 16c scheme closes.

A staggering 140,000 householders have so far installed a solar meter - 17 times more than the 8,000 then-Premier Mike Rann estimated when he launched the scheme in 2008.

They are receiving either 44 cents or 16 cents per kilowatt hour - depending when they signed up - for the energy their systems generate back into the power grid.

New details of the added costs to power bills are the latest blow to family budgets.

Consumers will pay an extra $30 a year to prune trees near power lines, as revealed in The Advertiser yesterday.

Households have also been hit with rises up to $100 a year in gas prices, while petrol costs have reached their highest levels in five years.

Water bills have also soared to pay for the $1.83 billion dollar desalination plant.

The state's leading welfare lobby group, the SA Council of Social Services, says the combined impact of these price rises on household budgets is "massive".

"Especially for those on fixed and low incomes," SACOSS executive director Ross Womersley said.

"And its impossible to avoid these cost increases because they are essential services and we need them."

The solar scheme costs were an "unfair burden" on low-income earners because they "can't afford solar panels but they are subsidising those who can and who are reaping the savings on energy bills," Mr Womersley said.

However, solar system retailer Zen Energy said the power being put back in the grid by panel owners was reducing transmission costs.

"If it weren't for solar panels SA Power Networks would most likely have to spend more money on the grid to supply that extra electricity," Zen Energy founder Richard Turner said.

When the solar scheme was launched in 2008 the government estimated it would attract 8,000 customers.  But the scheme's generosity has resulted in a massive blowout in uptake and a subsequent cost to electricity consumers.  The total cost of the solar subsidy scheme - which runs until 2028 - will average out at more than $1100 per householder.  This year alone SA Power Networks said the scheme will cost $100 million.

And the company expects a rush of new customers will sign up before the September 30 deadline for the 16c feed-in tariff is reached.

"We anticipate in excess of 10,000 customers may sign up and have metering installed for the 2016 scheme before it closes," a spokesman for SA Power Networks, which recovers the cost of the scheme on behalf of the government, said.  "On our current expectations, it is likely that total scheme payments will exceed $1.53 billion dollars by 2028."

Melissa Richards, of Unley Park, said installing solar panels was a "no-brainer".  She and husband Heath installed a solar system 12 months ago at a cost just under $7,000.

"Solar obviously decreases power costs and the 16c feed-in tariff combined with a top up from our retailer is a bonus which definitely helps," the 26-year-old full time mum from Unley Park said. "We have probably halved our electricity bills which were running at $300 a quarter." [At the cost of everyone else]


No hospital beds for ill newborns in Victoria

Overwhelmed Victorian hospitals are closing their doors to critically ill infants, putting pregnant women and their newborns at risk of being transferred interstate this week.

Leaked documents show all of Victoria's neonatal intensive care units at the Royal Children's, Royal Women's, Monash Medical Centre and Mercy hospitals were either "closed" or "restricted" for new patients on Thursday.

The closures coincided with the transfer of a critically ill infant from Victoria to a South Australian hospital in the middle of this week. It is unclear, however, if the flight was forced by a lack of resources in Victoria.

The confidential report from the Victorian Perinatal Information Centre also revealed that all four hospitals were working beyond capacity, with more patients in their intensive care units than they are usually staffed for.

Reasons cited for the closures in the report included "no staffed beds", "nursing staff"', "no physical space" and, in the case of Mercy and Monash, "equipment".

Doctors who did not want to be named told Fairfax Media that overflowing units running at 100 to 105 per cent capacity were becoming too common in Victoria.

They said the stretched units were putting vulnerable babies at higher risk of medical errors and infections while also causing some pregnant women and their infants to be transferred between hospitals for stays that could last months far away from their homes.

The doctors said road and air transfers were particularly risky for critically ill infants.

In some cases, they said, a lack of resources had caused twins to be separated from each other and their mothers for significant periods of time.

A spokeswoman for Victorian Health Minister David Davis said two babies had been transferred interstate this year, with one from Horsham, near the South Australian border, occurring this week.

The Victorian branch president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Stephen Parnis, called for "a significant and urgent injection of resources" and said the report confirmed the state had been caught unprepared for the baby boom of recent years.

"What it's saying is that there is little or no slack in the system if you are a very sick newborn," he said.

The closures come amid growing concern that the former Labor government built the new Royal Women's and Royal Children's hospitals without enough capacity to meet growing demand.

In 2011, the Victorian Auditor-General said the government had failed to plan for changing demand for maternity care, causing hundreds of women to give birth in Sunshine Hospital's emergency department.

While the Coalition promised to add 800 new beds to the system in its first term, Mr Davis has repeatedly refused to detail where all these beds are.

A spokeswoman for the minister said the government had allocated $2.2 million in the recent budget for five additional cots, "which makes a total increase of 11 cots since coming to government".


NSW Scandal will drag down federal Labor, says Rees

Former premier Nathan Rees believes the NSW corruption inquiry has wounded federal Labor's election chances and has told ALP members who continue to resist party reform to "get out".

He said the infamy of former ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald would affect the federal election campaign.  "My estimation is that the ICAC revelations have dragged Labor's federal primary vote down 2 to 3 per cent in NSW," Mr Rees said. "In what is likely to be a tight election, this is clearly an issue."

Mr Rees said party members who have been pushing for reform have had to "argue, push and cajole every inch of the way".

"In the aftermath of the ICAC revelations, anyone who doesn't think we have to reform has rocks in their head," he said.

"If people don't understand the need for reform at this point, then they never will. Those people should not be the handbrake on our efforts to modernise the party."

Mr Rees said there were people within his party who have argued against a need for change and who have insisted the 2011 state election was just a cyclical problem that would correct itself over time.

He said his message to those people was to "get out" and to stop using the Labor Party as their "plaything", "fiefdom" or "social worker".

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said he was "disgusted" by the revelations from the hearings and his intervention in the NSW branch was based on the core principle of "zero tolerance for corruption".

The ALP national executive met on Thursday afternoon and unanimously endorsed a package of NSW reforms which include scrapping faction-controlled tribunals and replacing them with an independent judicial body. Any NSW ALP member found guilty of corruption will be expelled from the party and anyone investigated for corruption and who brings the party into disrepute will be suspended.

A senior party member said Thursday's meeting was a "sober reflection on the events of the last 24 hours but a unanimous endorsement of the report and the direction of the reforms". NSW Labor's administrative committee meets on Friday morning.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has said the Prime Minister could not wash his hands of the party bosses and the Sussex Street machine. "We hear Mr Rudd saying that he is disgusted by corruption, but Mr Rudd is only Prime Minister because the NSW Labor Party put him there. And if he ever seriously tackles the rottenness at the heart of the NSW Labor Party, he will be dealt with by the warlords of Sussex Street again as he was back in June of 2010," he said.

Mr Abbott said the federal ALP could not escape its state branch, claiming the Prime Minister's acceptance of NSW general secretary Sam Dastyari into the Senate and former assistant secretary Matt Thistlethwaite, running for the seat of Kingsford Smith, was a symptom of the "NSW disease moving to Canberra".

He said Mr Rudd needed to "come clean" about the dealings his ministers had with Mr Macdonald and Mr Obeid. This included Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr, who appointed Mr Macdonald to the ministry when he was premier, and Immigration Minister Tony Burke, who had stayed at the Obeids' ski lodge, Mr Abbott said.


1 August, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is predicting that the corruption in the NSW Labor party will hit Canberra

Abbott to make union bosses liable

The opposition's plan to impose harsh criminal penalties, including personal fines of up to $340,000 and five-year jail terms for union officials breaking the rules, is to be a top-order priority for an Abbott government.

While Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has previously flagged putting union officials on the same legal footing as company directors, he will reveal on Wednesday legislation would be introduced in the first sitting week of the new parliament.

The change is the central part of the Coalition's policy for better transparency and accountability of registered organisations, which looks to: "Amend the laws to ensure that registered organisations and their officials have to play by the same rules as companies and their directors; ensure that the penalties for breaking the rules are the same that apply to companies and their directors, as set out in the Corporations Act 2001; and reform financial disclosure and reporting guidelines under the Registered Organisations laws so that they align more closely with those applicable to companies."

The opposition has long believed that different legal remedies between shareholders on the one hand and union members on the other, following malfeasance, has rendered individual union members powerless in the face of union corruption.

While unions and the ALP have traditionally resisted the toughening of such rules, the Australian Workers' Union national secretary, Paul Howes, has broken ranks to embrace the change.

"I can't see any reason why anyone in the [union] movement would fear having the same penalties that apply to company directors. If you're a crook, you're a crook," Mr Howes told Fairfax Media earlier this month.

"As far as I'm concerned, there's no penalty harsh enough for those who rip off workers and that's what dodgy union officials do. I can't understand why the penalties in the Corporations Act weren't pushed through when the government legislated earlier this year."

Recent scandals such as the high-profile Health Services Union corruption case in which credit cards were used by officials for personal gain and for buying gifts, flights, accommodation, and even prostitutes, have highlighted the inadequacy of penalties under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009.

Mr Abbott will argue the current regime setting maximum fines of up to $10,200 is insufficient to discourage corruption.

Mr Abbott will also announce on Wednesday the inclusion of a small-business representative to attend the G20 business forum known as the B20.

He will tell the NSW Business Chamber's third annual congress that with close to half the workforce employed by small businesses, it was an oversight by Labor not to include a dedicated small-business representative in the B20.


State govt. Slams Rudd’s TAFE Takeover Bid

Kevin Rudd’s latest plot to takeover Queensland’s TAFEs has been panned by Education, Training and Employment Minister John-Paul Langbroek.

Mr Langbroek said Kevin Rudd has just two answers to any policy question, throw more money at it or take it over.

"Mr Rudd wanted to take over hospitals a few years ago, but instead stood idly by while $103 million in Federal funding was ripped out of Queensland’s health system,” Mr Langbroek said.

"Now Kevin Rudd is in the process of trying to take over schools while today’s thought bubble is a TAFE takeover.

"After what he did to Pink Batts, the Carbon Tax, the School Halls shambles and other policy disasters, we don’t want him anywhere near Queensland’s TAFEs.”

Mr Langbroek said the Prime Minister wanted to accumulate responsibilities like properties on a monopoly board.

"The last thing we need to address a skills shortage is a federal takeover of TAFE,” he said.

"Time and time again, Kevin Rudd has proved his ineptitude at managing policy implementation.

"Queenslanders can’t afford for him to tamper with TAFE and jeopardise the quality of our training.”

Mr Langbroek said the Newman Government had released a detailed action plan for Vocational Education and Training in Queensland.

"Great Skills. Real Opportunities is a comprehensive policy response based on recommendations from an industry led taskforce,” he said.

"If we are to continue growing a strong, four pillar economy, Queensland must look at ways of increasing productivity and increasing participation in the workforce.

"To boost productivity and participation we want more Queenslanders gaining quality qualifications that are needed in the economy.

"We are lifting quality by creating a contestable training market which will encourage innovation in service delivery, course content and training outcomes.”

Mr Langbroek said the Federal Government had the opportunity to support these desperately overdue reforms but was resisting at every step of the way.

"We signed a National Partnership on Skills Reform in April 2012, but not one dollar flowed to Queensland for 14 months because the Federal Government played politics with the issue,” he said.


Woolies CEO defends use of fuel discount vouchers

WOOLWORTHS chief executive Grant O'Brien has defended his company's use of fuel discount vouchers to lure shoppers into its supermarkets, after the competition regulator foreshadowed court action to prevent use of the promotional tool.

Mr O'Brien said Woolies would continue to offer the discounts to its shoppers, who can generally receive 4 cents per litre off the price of fuel at Woolworths petrol stations in return for spending at least $30 in Woolworths supermarkets.

"Fuel discounts have been in place for 17 years at Woolworths, so it's not new ... it's provided greater value to customers, and value that they're happy with – they vote with their feet," he said.

However Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims has raised concerns over the periodic increase of these discounts to 8c and even 45c per litre.

Mr Sims said yesterday that such large discounts were only possible because Woolworths was able to subsidise fuel prices with its supermarket earnings, which could not be matched by other petrol station owners and could therefore have a negative impact on competition in the fuel sector in the long term.

The ACCC has said it has no power to ban shopper dockets but could "take court action seeking injunctions to stop the conduct and seeking penalties in appropriate cases".

Mr O'Brien said that Woolies did not have a ‘see you in court’ attitude and if necessary would use the money currently used to fund fuel discounts for other promotional activity

"If you're not going to spend that money on discounts, yes, that money is available, and we then have choices on what we do with that money in terms of the offers we make to customers," he said.

"We'd make sure that we at least maintained the offer to customers moving from one to the other, making sure they continue to get the benefits to their cost of living budget that we currently provide."

Woolworths today reported sales of $59.16 billion for the past financial year, up 4.3 per cent from the previous 12-month period, or 2.4 per cent when the benefit of an extra week's trading was stripped out.

The Australian food and liquor business, the company's biggest contributor of both sales and earnings, reported sales of $40.03bn, up 6.6 per cent or 4.7 per cent when the extra week’s trade was removed.

In an indication the company is still cutting prices to attract customers, average prices in the food and liquor division fell by 3.5 per cent in the fourth quarter and 2.9 per cent over the year.

Petrol sales were $6.8 billion for the financial year, down 0.8 per cent excluding the extra week, which Mr O'Brien attributed to a shift toward more fuel-efficient cars.


Australian study: Rich kids thinner

And lower class kids are fatter.  Whenever it is examined, social class is an important health predictor

RICH kids are thinner than their poorer classmates, who are more likely to grow obese in primary school, new research shows.

The Murdoch Children's Research Institute study of 4000 Australian children shows that disadvantaged kids who are overweight or obese by the time they start school are more likely to put on weight as they grow up.

Researchers tracked the children's weight from the age of four and five, to the age of 10 and 11.

It found 15 per cent preschool kids were overweight and 5 per cent obese.

By the age of 10 or 11, 20 per cent of the children were overweight and 6 per cent obese.

Rich kids tended to lose weight as they grew older, but those from poor families were more likely to remain chubby or put on even more weight.

Poor children were nearly four times more likely to remain "persistently obese" than their wealthier classmates.

The difference in weight between rich and poor children more than doubled between preschool and Year 5.

Lead researcher, Professor Melissa Wake, said disadvantaged children had "significantly higher" risks of growing overweight or obese.

"Clearly, targeting children with early overweight and low socio-economic background - particularly those from socially disadvantaged families - must be a top intervention priority," she said.

The research was part of the federal government's longitudinal study of Australian children, and was published today in the international journal PlosOne.


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

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

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative