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?


31 August, 2014

HSU's Jackson lashes out at Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy as 'vultures'

Health Services Union whistleblower Kathy Jackson has accused Labor Party leader Bill Shorten and his allies of being in a "corrupt little gang" and of circling unions like vultures to further their own political power.

She has also called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to put the HSU into administration and accused the union of putting her through "judicial gang rape".

Speaking outside the royal commission into trade union corruption on Friday, Ms Jackson, who is on sick leave as national HSU secretary, accused Mr Shorten of being part of a "corrupt little gang" that put the troubled HSU into administration in 2012 for "their own political ends". "It was about protecting their power base," she said.

"This is a minister of the Crown abusing federal crown resources about putting this union into administration to advance his own political needs. "

Ms Jackson, who has been questioned in the commission about alleged misuse of a union slush fund, said the fund had been necessary to protect members from being taken over by the Labor Party's right-wing faction. She denied allegations she used the fund to pay for a divorce settlement with her former husband Jeff Jackson, or used it inappropriately for travel to Hong Kong and the US.

Ms Jackson said Mr Shorten and his ally from the ALP right, Senator Stephen Conroy, were circling unions like sharks to get more votes at ALP state conference.

"Slush funds, I agree, are abhorrent. But to play the game and to be an effective union leader, to be left alone by those vultures, namely Shorten and Conroy from the right, you need to be able to fight back and protect your patch from these people," she said. "They are cashed up, so you need to have these funds to make sure that these vultures that are circling these unions to take them over aren't able to do that."

Ms Jackson said she has written to Mr Abbott, who has previously described her as a "hero", asking him to put the HSU back into administration.

Ms Jackson side-tracked the commission for more than an hour on Thursday after she asked for barrister Mark Irving to be stopped from cross-examining her because she had had sex with him 21 years ago.

On Friday she said: "Forget the former lover stuff. Everybody makes mistakes and has a charity shag along the way. I just could not believe he had the audacity to sit there and want to cross-examine me."

Ms Jackson said Mr Irving was not "your normal ... barrister" and was part of a vendetta to bring her down. "Mr Irving is a combatant in this. Mr Irving has skin in the game," she said.

Mr Shorten declined to respond to Ms Jackson's claims, saying he will not provide a running commentary, but said the royal commission was being used to settle scores. "It will be up to the royal commission to sort out, amongst the evidence, what is right and what's wrong," he said.

Ms Jackson said the HSU had subjected her to "judicial gang rape".

"They've got lawyers, guns and money. You should ask them how many hundreds of thousands of dollars have they spent on getting Kathy Jackson," she said.

Asked whether, if she had her time again, she would have blown the whistle on former HSU boss Michael Williamson's corruption, she said: "I don't think so. Why would you go through this?"

Acting Health Services Union secretary Chris Brown said Ms Jackson should be credited for reporting Mr Williamson's corruption to police. "But that doesn't excuse her having done the same sorts of things as what Michael Williamson has. That is: misused members money for her own personal benefit and her own personal gain," he said.


Choice ridicules government's piracy crackdown

Consumer advocacy group Choice has stepped up its campaign against the Abbott government's proposed anti-piracy measures with a crowdfunded advertising campaign aimed at politicians.

The 30-second satirical TV advertisement depicts a fake "Minister for the Internet" who unveils a decidedly useless-looking "internet filter" as the government's "foolproof" solution to online copyright infringement.

"The increased price we'll all pay for the internet will be worth it for this 100-per-cent effective solution," the fake minister says.

The government last month released its Online Copyright Infringement discussion paper outlining three proposals that would see internet providers such as Telstra and Optus take a leading role in policing copyright infringement.

While not describing a government-run internet filter, the proposals would require providers to take "reasonable steps" to monitor and prevent copyright infringement by users. This could include blocking access to websites that contain infringing content.

The proposals also include extending authorisation liability, a policy that would effectively reverse the High Court's 2012 ruling that service provider iiNet was not liable for copyright infringement on behalf of its users.

The government is also considering allowing copyright owners such as movie and recording studios to take legal action against providers to force them to terminate offending individuals' internet connections.

Choice campaign manager Erin Turner said the government's course of action against online copyright infringement was "ineffective" and "high cost for low result".

"Anyone with access to basic technology or the ability to Google how to get around an internet filter is going to be easily able to circumvent these measures," Ms Turner said.

Internet providers - which have also opposed the proposals - were likely to pass the costs of compliance on to consumers, she said.

Rather than targeting consumers with its campaign, however, Choice will air its advertisement on WIN television in Canberra during a parliamentary sitting week in a bid to capture the attention of policymakers.

It will also deliver the $11,000 campaign nationally via YouTube.

Ms Turner said the key message to parliamentarians was that the government must "work smart, not hard, to stop online piracy".

"There's no independent evidence that the government's proposal will work," she said.

Instead, she said online piracy should be treated as a competition issue. She added the root causes of piracy in Australia - high prices and poor availability of overseas content - must be addressed.

"What we are looking for is affordable content, opening up access to international content markets," she said.

"We don't expect this will stamp out piracy 100 per cent - there will still be people who will illegally download no matter what - but if you want to fix the bulk of the problem in Australia then the best starting point is looking at this as a market and trying to find a market-based solution."

A parliamentary inquiry last year found Australians pay up to twice as much as overseas buyers for IT goods and services.

Digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Australia is urging the public to make submissions before the consultation period closes on Monday.

EFA executive director Jon Lawrence said the plan to extend authorisation liability was a "blunt instrument" that could also implicate providers of public Wi-Fi such as libraries, universities and cafes.

The provision for copyright owners to make court injunctions to block offshore websites was "entirely futile", he said.

"The Pirate Bay is the most blocked website in the world and they have no trouble doubling their traffic year-on-year."

Mr Lawrence said internet access was a basic right and the EFA opposed a policy of disconnecting repeat offenders for what is essentially a civil issue.

Both Ms Turner and Mr Lawrence said copyright holders had a legitimate right to protect their content, but that consumers had shown they were willing to pay for content at a fair price.

This was evident in the growing instance of consumers using virtual private networks to circumvent geoblocking and access US movie streaming service Netflix, which is not yet available in Australia, Mr Lawrence said.

The rate of piracy in the United States was shrinking alongside the rise of Netflix, he said. A Netflix subscription costs $US8.99 ($9.60) a month.

Choice has made six recommendations to the government in its submission, including monitoring the pricing of electronic products, removing import restrictions, and reforming legislation around geoblocking.

It also flagged "serious concerns" that internet providers would be encouraged to terminate customer accounts "on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations made by content owners", with "little to no safeguards in place to protect" customers.

It also raised concerns around a proposal that would give the government "carte blanche" to prescribe a scheme of its choosing if no effective agreement was reached by industry. The group called for further independent research to properly quantify the costs and benefits of any policy proposals on the matter.

A parliamentary inquiry last year found Australians pay up to twice as much as overseas buyers for IT goods and services.


Federal cops discredited

The Australian Federal Police should not be let "anywhere near" an investigation of fresh evidence casting renewed suspicion on the Calabrian Mafia for the assassination of Colin Winchester, according to a retired judge with extensive knowledge of the case.

The AFP was last week subjected to a blistering criticism for its failure to seriously and impartially investigate secret new information potentially linking the 'Ndrangheta to the 1989 killing of the assistant federal police commissioner outside his Deakin home.

John Dee, QC, retired Victorian judge and counsel assisting to the original inquest into Mr Winchester's death, believes an independent taskforce needs to be set up to properly look at the fresh evidence, utilising Victoria Police, a force with past intelligence involvement in the case.

A senior Victoria Police source said the creation of such a joint organised crime taskforce was feasible, albeit under an AFP lead, and said his state's detectives were skilled and well placed for such a job. "It can be done," he said.

Mr Winchester was said to have double-crossed members of the organised crime group, who believed the assistant commissioner had been paid off to guarantee protection over drug crops near Bungendore.

But 11 Mafia members, known as the "Bungendore 11", were later charged over the crops following a mission codenamed Operation Seville, which Mr Winchester had worked on in the early 1980s.

Links between the group and Mr Winchester's murder were only ever speculative, and extensive investigations failed to identify any individual suspect.

But the inquiry into David Eastman's conviction for Mr Winchester's murder this year unearthed new, untested claims that appear to have taken the Mafia theory further.

The evidence is highly sensitive and was heard in secretive and restricted hearings before inquiry head Acting Justice Brian Martin earlier this year.

Yet internal AFP documents showed the agency was reluctant to investigate the new claims.

They reveal the AFP had a policy of not looking at areas already investigated by Operation Peat, the original team on the Winchester murder.

They also reveal the AFP believed such an investigation would be an "unnecessary diversion" from the factual issues surrounding Eastman's conviction, and that public disclosure of the new evidence could result in public criticism of the agency.

Mr Dee said he believes the AFP are not the right agency to be investigating the 'Ndrangheta theory.

"I wouldn't allow anybody from the AFP to get anywhere near it, except on a peripheral basis," he said.

"I would think it'd be good to have a separate taskforce from [Victoria Police] to have a look at it, because they're well in touch with what's going on up there, and they're very experienced at what they do."

Eastman's long-term campaigner and former lawyer Terry O'Donnell also said the new claims need to be properly investigated, and supported a call for Victoria Police to look at the matter, given their background with the case.

Mr Dee, years before Eastman's trial, warned the AFP about their use of Victorian forensic expert Robert Collins Barnes.

He had worked with Mr Barnes on the trial for the infamous Russell Street bombing of the Victorian police headquarters in 1986, and believed Mr Barnes had not been independent and was trying to be the "star of the show".

It is now known that his warnings were accurate. Mr Barnes was found to be biased and his work deeply flawed in the report of the inquiry into Eastman's conviction.


Tasmanian conservatives' Forestry Bill passes first vote in Legislative Council

THE Liberals are on the verge of achieving their dream of ripping up the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, with the Forestry Bill passing an initial vote in the Legislative Council.

The Bill – passed by 9 votes to 5 – has now reached committee stage, with MLCs currently debating a list of amendments that were introduced last week.

The MLCs who voted against the Bill at its second reading were independents Kerry Finch, Ruth Forrest, Rob Valentine, Mike Gaffney and Labor MLC Craig Farrell.

In favour of the Bill were Liberals Vanessa Goodwin and Leonie Hiscutt and Independents Adriana Taylor, Tania Rattray, Rosemary Armitage, Robert Armstrong, Ivan Dean, Greg Hall and Tony Mulder.

In State Parliament this morning Resources Minister Paul Harriss said the Bill represented a turning point for Tasmania.

“For the first time it seeks to remove reserves from the clutches of the Green locksmiths,” Mr Harriss said.

Central to the Bill is the removal of 400,000ha of native forest from reserves created under the TFA.

Also in State Parliament this morning, Treasurer Peter Gutwein confirmed he had signed a “letter of comfort” assuring the Government could cover Forestry Tasmania’s debts.

The Greens have asked repeated questions in the House of Assembly on whether the Liberals were continuing to prop up the finances of Forestry Tasmania after removing the taxpayer subsidy FT received under the TFA.

Mr Gutwein said a letter of comfort was not unusual and that one had been supplied by the previous government.


Report shows the NBN is worth doing

The Vertigan report on cost-benefit equations for various broadband rollout options gives Labor's aborted fibre to the home project the dunce's cap. It reaches that conclusion after making assumptions about the future, however, and that's a fraught exercise.

Vertigan says that if government does nothing and the private sector rolls out broadband in high population density areas where it sees the strongest demand and the best revenue and earnings potential, the net benefit will be biggest, at $24 billion.

It says the Coalition's plan to roll out a "multi-technology" hybrid network that matches population densities with fibre to the premises, fibre to the neighbourhood node, wireless connections and satellite coverage produces a benefit of $18 billion. The benefit is lower than the one an unsubsidised rollout generates because the Coalition will still directly connect 1.5 million premises to broadband fibre, and extend to areas outside the cities that cost more to connect and generate less user activity.

The fibre to the premises rollout that Labor began and the Coalition killed off after it took power would also have delivered a benefit, Vertigan concludes, but a much lower one, only $2 billion. The report says this reflects the cost of rolling much more fibre, and a more extended construction phase and revenue ramp-up.

My first conclusion is that Malcolm Turnbull was right to argue patiently inside the Coalition when it was in opposition that while Labor's gold plated network should be scrapped, the concept of a national network should be retained.

Its hybrid rollout will create $6 billion less value between 2015 and 2040 than an unsubsidised, undirected private sector rollout would on Vertigan's calculation, but it will deliver a national network instead of an urban one.

Passing up a gain of $6 billion or $240 million a year between now and 2040 to achieve that outcome is politically acceptable, even if Labor had not signed watertight contracts with Telstra for its fibre to the home rollout. That locked in value for Telstra that will be preserved in the Coalition's modified project, and would spark multi-billion dollar claims for compensation if it were not.

As for whether the report conclusively condemns Labor's fibre to the home project, it is trite to say so, but only time will tell.

The report is lengthy and thorough, but it pivots on estimates of future demand for broadband capacity that are rooted in our understanding of what Broadband is today.

It says for example that video downloading and streaming is going to a key driver of broadband capacity demand in future. That's an obvious trend: the more interesting questions are how obvious it would have been 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, and what technologies and applications will be new demand in 10 or 20 years.

We can speculate, but we can't know: or as Sydney University associate professor and digital technology commentator Kai Riemer put it yesterday, we can make a reasonable fist of extrapolating the cost of building a new broadband network, but "the benefits it will unlock are fundamentally unknowable and unpredictable."

It cuts both ways, of course. The same unpredictability makes it impossible to assert that a fibre to the home rollout would have made a better fist of "future-proofing" Australia against communications technology developments.

Fibre still offers the best upload speeds, and unlike wireless it doesn't slow down as the number of users rises. For long haul, it appears to be unassailable. Wireless is increasingly competitive over shorter distances, however, and as the Vertigan report also points out, the lower cost, less ambitious hybrid network is less of an all-or nothing technological bet than the network Labor was building.


29 August, 2014

African predators in Sydney

A TERRIFIED woman who was chased by two would-be rapists along two trains in a 10km escape says she feared for her life.

The woman, identified as Merlyn, claims two men ­approached her at Wolli Creek station at 11pm on Tuesday night, calling her “babe” and trying to grab her, before she escaped by jumping on to an outgoing train.

Thirty minutes and 9.4km later at Beverly Hills, the scared 29-year-old was forced to fend off one of the same ­attackers with her umbrella outside Beverly Hills station when the attack escalated.

She said the terrifying ­ordeal started at Wolli Creek as one of the two men followed her down the stairs to a ­platform. After switching trains at Turrella and getting off near her home at Beverly Hills around 30 minutes later, she was terrified when she saw the same two men get off the train and again follow her.

Still visibly upset 12 hours after the alleged incident yesterday, Merlyn said she tried to fend off one of the men with her umbrella as he chased her down the middle of King ­Georges Rd in pouring rain while she screamed for help.

Later she was attacked again at Beverly Hills station, but managed to beat them off with

Later she was attacked again at Beverly Hills station, but managed to beat them off with her umbrella. Picture: Toby Zerna

With no one stopping to help Merlyn said she feared she would be killed or raped until a woman named “Helen” whisked her to safety in her car. “If not I don’t know what would have happened,” she said. Merlyn, who migrated from the Philippines eight years ago and has a four-year-old son, said she believed the pair were going to abduct and sexually assault her.

Merlyn said both men were aged 18 to 22 and of African ­appearance. One was skinny with curly hair, the other was fat. Police are investigating.


Islam in Australia: Living and dying for the flag of Allah

A SENIOR leader of radical Sydney-based Islamic organisation al-Risalah has denounced the Australian flag, as the group’s supporters posted Facebook messages about ­beheading “non-believers”.

Wissam Haddad, the head of the al-Risalah Islamic Centre in Sydney’s southwest, yesterday told The Daily Telegraph he followed the “flag of Allah” rather than the flag of Australia.

The flag, called the Shahada, is the same as the one used by Islamic State terrorists who have been spreading death and terror across the Middle East.

“For me to have the Shahada flag, as it’s called, that’s a flag that I stand and live and die for and I don’t stand and live and die for the Australian flag.”

It is frequently found on modern Islamic flags and over the last few decades has been adopted by Islamic insurgents.

Mr Haddad, who has ties to Sydney men fighting with Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria, avoids appearing in public and never allows his photograph to be taken.

He said his group was entitled to fly the ancient symbol. He cited the “genocide of Aboriginals” and the use of their flag as justification for supporting the Shahada.

Mr Haddad, who was not invited to join a group of Muslims for talks with Mr Abbott yesterday, has had eight social media accounts shut down, forcing him to rename his profile. He claims Muslims are being unfairly targeted both by Facebook and Twitter.

“I know a lot of people (who have had to shut down and restart their accounts),” he said. “Pretty much anyone very outspoken is getting their accounts shut down.”

In the past week, al-Risalah followers have posted messages about beheading, in the wake of the shocking image of Sydney terrorist Khaled Sharrouf’s son holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier.

This followed fellow terrorist and former Sydney boxer Mohamed Elomar posting similar photographs on Twitter. Al-Risalah members wear black supporter vests, which sell for $65.

The al-Risalah centre has hosted radical preachers, and Mr Haddad is a supporter of the Islamic State’s “Jizyah” protection tax on Christians and Jews in Syria and Iraq.

Also yesterday, teenage Muslim extremist Sulyman Khalid, who was arrested for an alleged hate crime against a Bankstown cleaner, has been released on bail. Mr Khalid, who calls himself Abu Bakr, will front Bankstown Local Court on September


Apartheid Billboard -- "Wrong in South Africa. Wrong in Palestine" -- taken down
Libel has never had free speech protections and the message on  the billboard is an egregious lie -- grossly defamatory to Israel and Israelis

The Free Palestine billboard that was taken down last week from its City Road, Southbank [Melbourne] position by oOh! Media pending a determination, will not be put back.  

The Chief Operating Officer of oOh! Media said that his company had decided the Apartheid message – Wrong in South Africa. Wrong in Palestine. was political and that it was within its rights to terminate the contract with Australians for Palestine.   He also advised that the Advertising Standards Board would not be making a ruling.

While clause 10.1 does allow for termination of the contract, the required seven (7) days written notice was never given.  Instead the billboard was arbitrarily taken down within 48 hours.  The company claimed that it had made its decision after considering the unprecedented number of complaints.

Ms Samah Sabawi speaking on behalf of Australians for Palestine said “that this action contravenes the rights to freedom of opinion and expression as set out in articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Australia is party.”

According to the website of the Attorney- General’s department, Article 19(2) of the ICCPR protects freedom of expression in any medium, for example written and oral communications, the media, public protest, broadcasting, artistic works and commercial advertising. The right protects not only favourable information or ideas, but also unpopular ideas, including those that may offend or shock.”

In regard to this particular advertisement, Ms Sabawi went on to say “that the advertisement was truthful and in no way offensive, and furthermore, that its message was informational and educational rather than political. It is shameful, “Ms Sabawi said,  “that in a democratic country like Australia, such pressure can contradict the opinions of the world’s two most eminent human rights proponents – Mandela and Tutu.”


Senate Must Seize Chance To Back Sensible Reform
The passing of the Government’s Fair Work Amendment Bill through the House of Representatives gives the Senate the opportunity to demonstrate that it is in support of sensible and balanced industrial relations reforms that will help boost economic and jobs growth. 

“Master Builders urges the cross bench Senators to seize this chance to back the Bill’s balanced productivity reforms which for the building and construction industry means it can increase its productivity and create jobs,” Wilhelm Harnisch, CEO of Master Builders Australia said.

“The Bill is a positive step in returning the industrial relations system to the sensible centre and includes reforms recommended by the previous Labor Government’s Fair Work Review Panel,” he said.

“Particularly important are proposed changes to right of entry provisions to end abuse by building union officials who use right of entry as an illegitimate industrial weapon and brutal exercise in power,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

“Claims by union officials that right of entry abuses are justified on safety grounds have been thoroughly discredited. Safety is paramount for contractors and workers on construction sites. However union officials continue to debase the importance of safety by using it as an industrial weapon,” he said.

 “Master Builders also supports reforms to Greenfields Agreements to curtail the ability of building unions to drive up costs and hold up the delivery of vital community infrastructure projects,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

“Why should the community have to pay more for less hospital beds and class rooms because of the union’s unjustified and unlawful behaviours on construction sites?,” he said.

“The Fair Work Amendment Bill does not constitute a return to WorkChoices but instead introduces common sense changes which will improve the productivity and job creating capacity of the construction industry and the broader economy,” he said.

“Master Builders urges the Senate, particularly the cross bench Senators to support this Bill when it comes before them,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.


Scientists reveal how they feel about climate change in handwritten letters and photos

Another attempt to substitute appeals to authority for actual evidence

SCIENTISTS can be a practical bunch, they deal with facts, data, hard evidence. But even scientists can lose their s*** sometimes and now they are revealing how they really feel.

Academics from around Australia have posed for striking photographs, while others have put their feelings about climate change in handwritten letters as part of two independent projects.

In one masters project, Australian National University student Joe Duggan contacted scientists and asked them to write the letters about how they felt about climate change.

“What follows are the words of real scientists. Researchers that understand climate change,” states the Is This How You Feel website, where Duggan is publishing the letters.

The letters feel more personal because they are handwritten and the passion, frustration and anxiety is palpable in some of them.

But there is also guilt that they too are left feeling apathetic because of the lack of action and interest in tackling the problem.

A letter from Dr Ailie Gallant of Monash University reflects many of her fellow scientists views: “I hate feeling helpless. I’m ashamed to say that, sometimes, my frustration leads to apathy. I hate feeling apathetic.  “All I can hope is that people share my optimism and convert it into Action.”

Duggan told that scientists were generally called on to communicate with the public about climate change using data and clinical prose but it occurred to him that this might not be the best way, and perhaps giving them an opportunity to express their passion might be a way of cutting through the apathy that many people felt about the issue.

“I’m not trying to convert denialists, I’m trying to reach people who are apathetic, who don’t have an opinion, to show them that climate change is relevant to them,” Duggan said.

On another website launched this month, some of Australia’s top minds have posed for striking portraits and describe what they are most scared of.

This includes earth system scientist Will Steffen of the Australian National University, who says his biggest fear is the loss of control of the climate system.

“If we push the climate too far, if we start losing ice too rapidly, start flipping things like the Amazon, then the internal dynamics of the climate will take over - and even if we pull emissions back, we won’t be able to stop very large changes - that’s my biggest fear.

“The thing people don’t realise, is getting emissions down is not only feasible but economically promising and will actually lead to a better life.”

One of the founders of the site, photographer Nick Bowers said the project was a labour of love that came about after conversations with two fellow creatives copywriter Rachel Guest and art director Celine Faledam.

“We were interested in environmental issues and discussed this constantly among ourselves, we all have young kids,” Bowers said.  “We wanted to try and bring authenticity and humanity to this issue.”

He said the scientists were photographed while they were being interviewed. This includes many prominent names such as mammologist and palaeontologist Tim Flannery.

Bowers said he thought scientists were more willing in recent years, to put forward their personal views as the information around climate change had become overwhelming.  “There’s more evidence of rapid change in climate and that it is going to effect us,” Bowers said.

While some critics have suggested climate scientists are motivated by grant money, Bowers said he got the sense that they just wanted the debate to move on so they could do other science.  “They want to get on with doing other stuff, they are sick of trying to spruik this stuff themselves.”

Duggan has also experienced a strong response from scientists willing to put forward their views. He said he had received about 20 letters from scientists in Australia and estimated that about 70 to 80 per cent of those he had contacted had responded.

“The thing that hits me the most, are that these people are the ones that understand the facts, that understand the data and can pass judgment on climate change and they’re scared. They are literally scared for the world they are leaving behind for their children.  “They get the statistics, they get the facts and they are scared.”

However, Duggan said that while he expected that fear would be the overriding sentiment, he did not expect how optimistic the scientists would be.  “They expressed optimism as well, even with all the problems, there was optimism that they could reach their goals.”


28 August, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is desperately hoping for some enlightened politicians

Lying old bag, Gillian Triggs

One hesitates to call the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, a liar but she leaves you little room to call her anything else. Her appalling display when chairing an inquiry into child detention on Christmas Island last Friday left Scott Morrison nonplussed and viewers of A-Pac Channel reaching for bricks.

“I’m a lawyer”, she screeched when asked to withdraw a claim that there were armed guards at the children’s detention centre. She refused, and continued to make ridiculous assertions that there wasn’t a blade of grass to be seen, that children were diseased, suicidal and Ill-cared for without decent medical facilities.

Having recently visited the site Ms Triggs was knowingly telling bald faced lies and was determined to mislead the Press who were eager to report her “opinions”, rather than those of Minister Morrison.

Such blatant dishonesty can be expected of [Greenie Senator] Sarah Hanson-Young, but not from a Human Rights Commissioner.

Ms Triggs, a confessed Lefty, was appointed to the position of President of the Human Rights Commission in 2007 and up until 2013 had ample opportunity to criticise the sparse facilities afforded more than twice the number of children detained under Labor. She chose not to.

Yet conditions at Christmas Island under Morrison are first class and above anything available to residents on the island. “Children have a fenced pool and access to swimming lessons, schooling, Tai Chi/Yoga, they participate in community sporting events, have a Persian band, disco, movie nights, picnics and many other activities, all supervised”, according to our Christmas Island contact.

“They have the best of medical care and are immediately flown to the mainland if specialist care is needed, I wish we had the same services ourselves”, he said.

“I find it most distressing that her professional ethics have resulted in the detainees being used as pawns for her political agenda.”

Perhaps Ms Triggs might reflect on the care she afforded her own child, Victoria, who she describes as, "being profoundly retarded as anyone who is still alive can be".

Triggs told the Melbourne Age, "Her condition usually results in death shortly after birth. In fact, the doctors kept saying to me, 'just leave her in the corner and she'll die.’ I know it sounds terrible, but I'd look at Victoria and think, 'Well, you're going to die, so I'm not going to invest too much in you.’”

But Victoria didn't die so, at six months of age, an impatient Triggs, found a family prepared to look after her. The family gave her the primary care she so desperately needed before she died seven years ago at the age of 21.

Now there’s a CV befitting a Commissioner for Human Rights.
Resign now Ms Triggs and stop degrading your commission and your adopted country. You are truly an obnoxious disgrace.


Some background on the old bag here

Tim Blair hits back over Muslim ghetto in Sydney

Last week’s column about Sydney’s Muslim heartland of Lakemba upset one or two people. Shouty lawyer Chris Murphy, guest Fairfax columnist Zeynab Gamieldien and the usual online types all decided that the piece was racist.

Apparently these people believe Islam is a race rather than a religion. Here’s a typically charming note from Twitter identity Melinda: “Tim, you’re a dumb, racist little bitch, you really don’t amount to anything, hope you die.”

Thankfully, for Mel and other fans, there is a quick way to sort this out. First, convert to Islam. All you need to do is recite the Testimony of Faith, which runs something like this: “La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad rasoolu Allah.” There you go. Job done.

Now try converting to Asian, or white, or Aboriginal, or some other race that you are not. It’s slightly more difficult.

While you’re struggling with that racial change, consider the reaction to revelations in my column that Lakemba’s Islamic Bookstore is selling books that demonise Jews, praise Hitler and slam women as unintelligent and worthless. “To try to paint the whole of Lakemba as being typified by the contents of an obscure bookshop really stretches the imagination,” wrote Canterbury mayor Brian Robson.

The shop isn’t obscure. It’s large and it’s in the middle of Haldon street. Moreover, it has been there for 16 years and is clearly profitable, which is more than many other Sydney bookstores can say. Note to Borders: maybe your chain would still be open if you’d concentrated on selling sexist and anti-Semitic texts in Sydney’s south west. Seems to be quite a market.

“Last time I checked, nearly every suburb in Sydney has bookstores, yet we don’t define the residents of those suburbs by what the authors of those books say or think,” wrote Labor’s member for Lakemba Robert Furolo. “That would be just absurd.”

Really, Bob? In almost every other Sydney suburb, a shop selling outright hate literature would face protests and closure. In Lakemba, however, it’s a successful business model.

At least those two mentioned the shop. A number of other critics couldn’t even bring themselves to acknowledge it. The Sydney Morning Herald‘s John Birmingham offered 341 words on my column last Saturday, all of them avoiding a certain awkward subject. “The truth of Lakemba,” he concluded, “is the greater truth of Sydney.” Birmingham wrote that from 1000 kilometres away in Brisbane.

Lakemba resident Zeynab Gamieldien, writing for Fairfax’s online ladypages, also side-stepped the book issue, merely noting that I’d provided “several quotes from three books he happened to spot amongst the hundreds on shelves.” As it happens, one of them – Women Who Deserve to go to Hell – was in the front window. On those quotes, it may be instructive to change a key word or two. Imagine the reaction if Sydney stores sold books containing these lines:

 *  “Is it allowed to support and love Muslims? No, it is not allowed.”

 *  “Men’s perfection is because of various reasons: intelligence, religion, etc. At most, four Muslims have this perfection.”

 *  “No one can deny the fact that the Muslims are the worst kind of barbarian killers the world has ever known!!! The decent great Adolf Hitler of Germany never killed in the manner of the Muslims!!! Surely only mad people or those who love killing infants, pregnant women and the infirm will think differently.”

Just a hunch, but that sort of thing might lead to a protest or two. When an Islamic store presents identical slurs against women and Jews, however, the PC crowd is absolutely silent.

Their standards are difficult to understand. A few weeks ago, for example, Sydney journalism academic Wendy Bacon led an attempted advertiser boycott of the Daily Telegraph after I ran an online poll making fun of feminist “frightbats”. Apparently it’s just fine, though, to sell books that claim women are worth only half the value of a man. And they are going to hell.

The ABC’s Jonathan Green performed an impressive leftist two-step, first describing my Islamic Bookstore criticism as a case of “book burning” then urging censorship of images showing the imminent Islamic State beheading of US journalist James Foley. Consistency isn’t exactly his strong suit – unless you’re talking about consistent cowardice in the face of Islam.

Anyhow, enough of this evidence-based malarkey. Time to get my apology out of the way.

For any readers who actually followed those instructions at the top of the column and converted to Islam, I neglected to include an important warning. Although converting to Islam is extremely easy, converting from Islam – particularly in the Middle East – may cause beatings, head loss and death by stoning.

Looks like you’re stuck with it. Sorry about that.


Pyne position the way to get budget through Senate

One moment last week it seemed that most of the budget had sailed through Parliament as if the need for fiscal repair had miraculously disappeared.  It looked like the government was going to wobble on its mantra on the need to repair the budget. Fortunately Finance Minister Mathias Cormann put that nonsense down at the weekend but one MP said to me that many were still wondering: what is the message we are supposed to be selling? It's a fair question. It still needs a clearer answer.

What I'm calling "the Pyne position" is the only way to go. If the Senate refuses to give the government the chance to keep its election promise to repair the budget then the government is perfectly entitled to cut somewhere else, where the government does not have to rely on the Senate. So, he might not want to do it, but Education Minister Christopher Pyne is not just within his mandate to cut research spending or some other university spending but he has an obligation to do so. That's not blackmail, as his opponents say - the Senate has deliberately reduced his options.

But on the other side of the coin, if the Senate is blocking revenues or spending measures and thereby limiting the extent of fiscal repair, the government should drop its own unfunded budget proposals. Unfortunately the government is intending to do the opposite and increase debt as a consequence. Apparently the $20 billion medical research scheme is to continue regardless of the reality that revenue from the co-payment is now unlikely to be supported by the Senate. In my view, the medical research scheme, which was only ever a poorly thought out and rushed political tactic to soften the blow of the Medicare co-payment, should be axed if the co-payment is rejected. I find it hard to understand how the government can talk about fiscal repair and then propose an unfunded new scheme. I thought unfunded schemes were one of the main legacy problems left by the dysfunctional Labor government. I also opposed budget measures for infrastructure spending before the budget even being announced because I thought fiscal repair was the number one problem. 

The rationale for infrastructure spending is that it is needed to stimulate a weak economy. Personally I doubt that it works as well as the Keynesians would claim. But the issue now is should the government be spending money it doesn't have? And if we want to do something, then why isn't the government pushing for labour market reform that would cost nothing to the budget but which would significantly improve economic performance?

Of course, the budget is not the only starting point for governments who like spending.

I now understand that the Abbott government is thinking seriously about proposing or part financing a whopping great big new gas pipe to bring gas from Western Australia to Sydney. Apparently the rationale is to supply gas to Sydney because it looks like there will be gas shortages that will affect business and maybe residential users.

I find it hard to understand why the Commonwealth would even be considering the matter when the prospect of gas shortages has been obvious for at least 18 months while NSW has done virtually nothing. Under former premier Barry O'Farrell, NSW had been largely paralysed by green campaigners who totally opposed any fossil fuels and had been given a platform by radio commentator Alan Jones. Nearly all their claims have been largely debunked by independent scientific advice from the likes of GeoScience Australia and others. Even if at the very last moment NSW finally wanted to do something about gas shortages, there is nothing to stop the NSW government fast tracking private sector gas production within NSW and running a pipe from northern NSW to Sydney. It would be cheaper than transporting gas from WA, much quicker to build and would utilise the coal seam gas now available in NSW.

The other reason for such a pipeline might be to permanently "import" gas into NSW. About 95 per cent of gas for NSW now comes from states other than NSW, and NSW users pay for that transportation. But it's a long way from WA compared with some coal seam gas in NSW.

I don't understand why the Commonwealth should be even thinking to clean up the consequences caused by the failures of the NSW government to ensure gas supplies to Sydney. A benign framework for infrastructure is essentially the responsibility of the states, even though Prime Minister Abbott wants to be the PM for Infrastructure. Infrastructure is a state responsibility and it makes no sense for the Commonwealth to fund some infrastructure such as roads but not rail. Only the states can take the comprehensive approach that is required to best plan the needs of our great cities and beyond.


School chaplain funding to go ahead despite High Court decision

THE Abbott government has moved to circumvent a High Court decision, allowing school chaplains to still be funded in schools.

In June the High Court ruled the scheme’s funding was not constitutional, awarding a Queensland father Ron Williams his second victory against the Commonwealth.

But today the Coalition has announced the program will go ahead, but instead of giving funding directly to schools, it will flow to states and territories.

In a statement, Parliamentary Secretary Scott Ryan said he would be writing to state and territory leaders “in the near future” inviting them to participate.

The scheme, which sees schools given $20,000, will still be exempt from secular workers.

“The Government believes that school chaplains make a valuable contribution to the wellbeing of students and school communities,” Senator Ryan said.

“I encourage State and Territory Governments to accept the invitation of the Commonwealth to participate in the National School Chaplaincy Programme and give all schools the chance to apply for funding for a school chaplain.”

Labor had opened the program up to secular workers, but the Coalition reversed that decision when announcing an extra $245 million over four years in the May budget.


New Poseidon aircraft on the way

AUSTRALIA is a big step closer to buying eight advanced Poseidon patrol planes from the US.

UNDER the deal worth up to $7 billion, Australia is buying the aircraft from the US Navy, which is in the process of acquiring them from manufacturer Boeing on Australia's behalf.
This is termed a Foreign Military Sale, where equipment is acquired through the US military.

Defence Minister David Johnston says these state-of-the-art planes will boost Australia's ability to monitor its maritime approaches.

The eight Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft will replace the RAAF's ageing Orion AP-3C aircraft which entered service in the mid-1980s and are due for retirement in the coming years.

The Poseidons will operate in conjunction with Triton unmanned surveillance aircraft and will be based at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia.

Delivery of the first aircraft is set for 2017 with all eight to be delivered by 2018.


27 August, 2014

Asylum seeker sent back to Afghanistan

AN asylum seeker is believed to be the first to be sent back to Afghanistan under the coalition government after losing a last-minute legal battle to remain in Australia.

THE 29-year-old Hazara man, know only as SZUYW, said "please help me" when told through an interpreter that the court wouldn't block the government's plan to deport him.

"I can only apply the law as I see it," Judge Nicholas Manousaridis replied during the brief judgment in the Federal Circuit Court. "The application for an order that the applicant not be removed is dismissed."

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said the man, who arrived in Australia in 2011, was due to fly to Afghanistan at 9.40pm (AEST) on Tuesday.

He fled Afghanistan afraid he would be harmed by the Taliban, the court heard.  "It will be the first forced removal of an Afghan asylum seeker to Afghanistan," Mr Rintoul said.

Several applications for ministerial intervention were lodged by the man when his asylum claim was being assessed, the court heard.

But only the Refugee Review Tribunal has the power to determine someone's immigration status and it denied the man in December 2012.

Since then conditions in the man's home district, Jaghori, have deteriorated, Mr Rintoul said.

"It makes no sense to send an asylum seeker back to Afghanistan when the country's descending into war," he told reporters after the hearing.

Judge Manousaridis said: "The security situation in that district is reasonably stable relative to other parts of Afghanistan. "There was not a real risk the applicant will suffer real harm in that district."

Another Hazara asylum seeker was last Thursday deported to Pakistan.


Blaming coal is reefer madness

ON Sunday, as NSW residents took stock of a week of torrential rain, The Sunday Telegraph broke the disturbing news that former NSW premier Bob Carr’s mothballed desalination plant was costing $534,246 a day in service charges.

For once it is hard to disagree with NSW Greens MP John Kaye who called the expensive and unnecessary piece of kit “a white ­elephant”.

Carr ordered the plant to be built in 2005, a year after the CSIRO had spooked him with a prediction that the state could be up to 6.4C warmer and 40 per cent drier by 2070.

“Frightening,” was Carr’s reaction. “Even small changes in average temperature have got enormous implications.”

Indeed, but even by the inflated forecasts of the time, the CSIRO’s figures seemed ludicrous. In hindsight, Carr would have done well to stick to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s advice, delivered in his final presidential speech in 1962.

“In holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

In October 2011, a coalition of eco-crusaders met in the Blue Mountains to try to build a united front against coal. A leaked strategy document, Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom, that emerged after the meeting gives an insight into their tactics.

“We urgently need to build the anti-coal movement and mobilise off the back of the community backlash to coal-seam gas,” it reads.

“We are seeking investment to help us build a nationwide coal campaign that functions like an orchestra, with a large number of different voices combining together into a powerful symphony.”

The anti-coal battle would be fought in the courts and boardrooms. Lawyers would be hired to mount challenges designed to frustrate and delay the expansion of the coal industry.

“We are confident that, with the right resourcing for both legal challenges and public campaigning, we can delay most if not all of the port developments by at least a year, if not considerably longer,” the document reads.

They would aim to create investor uncertainty and reputational risk “by symbolically contesting coal industry conferences and annual general meetings, ongoing direct engagement with ratings agencies and key analysts”. Queensland’s Galilee Basin was singled out for special attention. The activists recognised the proposed mines were at the expensive end of the cost curve and could be made un­viable.

In May a group of activists swarmed Deutsche Bank’s annual meeting in Frankfurt and were rewarded with a promise from the bank’s co-CEO, Jurgen Fitschen, that he would not entertain financial applications for port development at Abbot Point [without an assurance from both UNESCO and the government that it wouldn’t damage the reef.]

HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland made similar ­noises.

This sophisticated campaign of “law-fare” and divestment pressure is biting. Earlier this month Peabody Energy chief executive Greg Boyce urged the coal industry to do more to counter the attacks.

Greenpeace’s focus is not just on the big end of town. The anti-coal strategy document proposes the introduction of US-style community organisers to support and direct grassroots campaigns.

The big campaigners have opportunistically latched on to local issues and turned them into national ones. The impact of the protest against Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine has demonstrated the power of the country-cappuccino alliance.

Like the wilderness movement a generation ago, today’s Australian environmental activists are borrowing the tactics of America’s Sierra Club and adapting them to local conditions. Having succeeded in shutting down the dam construction industry in the 1980s, they now intend to do the same for coal.

It is against this background that Greenpeace’s contrived and belated campaign to rescue the Great Barrier Reef must be judged.

The reef’s recent deterioration is almost entirely due to the crown of thorns starfish and to storms, but Greenpeace is intent on convincing us that coal is to blame.

It is trying its level best to turn the expansion of the port facilities at Abbot Point to export coal from the Galilee Basin into the next Franklin Dam, despite the paucity of evidence it has to work with.

Dredging three million tonnes of clean sand and depositing it on more sand does not really cut it, particularly since the dumping site is farther from the coral reef than Calais is from Dover.

This is, however, a purely symbolic campaign. The battle for the reef, as the ABC’s Four Corners pitched it last week, is a battle of good and evil between coral and coal.

The recent breakthrough in the eradication of the coral-eating starfish barely rated a mention.

Teams of divers funded by the government have administered needles to hundreds of thousands of these noxious invertebrates. Farmers are being paid to keep rivers free of nutrients in which the starfish blossom.

Rays of hope such as this, however, cannot be allowed to dilute the apocalyptic narrative that is mandatory in ABC documentaries on the environment.

“How much do we really care about our most iconic national treasure?” Kerry O’Brien asked rhetorically. On reflection, that’s not a bad question.


Tony Abbott warned over backflip on hate spoeech

Tony Abbott has been warned by his own MPs that his decision to dump proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act will see Coalition supporters flock to Clive Palmer.

And several MPs have also cautioned the Prime Minister against dealing with certain Islamic groups.

Mr Abbott dumped his long-held promise to repeal section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act after a backlash from ethnic communities earlier this month.

He said he needed the support of the Australian Muslim community for proposed changes to anti-terrorism laws.

The decision to abandon the government's election pledge was raised in the party room on Tuesday by several MPs including Liberal senator Cory Bernardi and Nationals MP George Christensen.

Mr Christensen told the Prime Minister that for many Coalition voters, the decision to abandon making it no longer illegal to insult or humiliate someone on the grounds of race was the last straw. He said many were now planning to vote for the Palmer United Party instead of the government. 

Senator Bernardi told his colleagues he was disappointed the government had ditched its pledge altogether instead of coming to a compromise. He then went on to warn the Prime Minister against dealing with individuals such as the Sydney Muslim community leader Keysar Trad and groups like the Islamic Council of Victoria, parts of which have advocated for some aspects of sharia law in Australia.

Senator Benardi's caution were echoed by Liberal MP Luke Simpkins who told MPs the government shouldn't "give oxygen" to people whose plans are "inconsistent with the values of our country".

Senator Bernardi also formally told his colleagues he would be supporting crossbench senator Bob Day's compromise bill in the Senate, as previously revealed by Fairfax Media.

Another MP complained that the decision to abandon the repeal of section 18c was made via the media and without backbench consultation. However, the Attorney-General George Brandis said backbench dissent on the issue had been "very influential" in the government dropping the idea.


Restaurants claim victory in fight for lower weekend penalty rates

WEEKEND trading will be a bit more affordable for Australian restaurants following a hard-fought decision to reduce casual workers’ penalty rates.

Hospitality industry union United Voice had appealed a Fair Work Commission ruling to allow the reduction in weekend loadings from 175 per cent to 150 per cent.

But the appeal was dismissed by the Full Federal Court with Justice Rares, Justice Bromberg and Justice Griffiths ruling that the lowering of penalty rates should stand.

CEO of Restaurant and Catering Australia John Hart said the decision would provide much needed labour cost relief, and encourage businesses to remain open on Sundays.

“It’s taken 900-days and $1.8 million in legal costs but finally this decision has been made,” said Mr Hart.

“It will save restaurants around $120 million a year, and that saving will allow businesses to open, to provide staff with more hours and customers with more choice.”

Had penalty rates been raised to 175 per cent, restaurateurs would have had to pay casual employees at level two and below, around $32 an hour.  Most of the workers receive a base rate of $18 an hour.

United Voice had challenged the commission’s decision to allow the reduction on the basis that cutting weekend rates would lead to high staff turnover in the industry.

The union represents about 120,000 hospitality workers.

Penalty rates have long been an issue for the restaurant industry with many now opting to close on weekends and public holidays rather than pay staff a premium.


26 August, 2014

Trade union royal commission hears allegations of bullying, harassment culture at Health Services Union

A royal commission into trade unions has heard fresh allegations of a culture of bullying, harassment and intimidation within the Health Services Union (HSU).

The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption has so far focused on the affairs of the union's number 3 branch in Victoria between 2003 and 2010, but has now turned its attention to the conduct of officers in the number 1 branch.

The hearing was told Marco Bolano and Diana Asmar ran for the position of branch secretary in late 2012.

Ms Asmar won the vote, but the role of assistant secretary went to Leonie Flynn, who ran on Mr Bolano's ticket.

What followed was a period of tension between the two office holders, with Ms Flynn alleging she was threatened by Ms Asmar.

Counsel assisting the commission Jeremy Stoljar SC said he had received damning evidence.

"They raise allegations against Ms Asmar of breaches of union rules and a culture of bullying, harassment and intimidation," he told the hearing.

Mr Stoljar said the role of assistant secretary "carries with it significant responsibilities", including management of financial affairs.

Ms Flynn said Ms Asmar obstructed her from performing her required duties by threatening to "have the rules changed" through the branch committee of management "for her to have financial control".

The commission has also heard allegations concerning Ms Asmar's approach to Right of Entry Permits.

The permits were issued by the Fair Work Commission and allow the holder to enter and remain on an employers' premises.
HSU staffer 'deeply uncomfortable' with carrying out instruction

Applicants must undertake training and sit an online test, but the hearing was told Ms Asmar instructed other members of staff to sit the tests "on behalf of other employees and organisers".

One of those staff members, Peggy Lee, has told the commission she carried out the instruction despite being "deeply uncomfortable" with it.

"Because of the pressure I felt I was under while at the branch, I actually completed Right of Entry tests for other people knowing it was wrong to do so," her statement to the commission read.

The Fair Work Commission was also investigating the matter after it received a complaint in September 2013.

Ms Asmar is expected to give evidence tomorrow.

She released a statement saying the allegations of wrongdoing and bullying against her were false and had been made by people with ulterior motives.

She said the claims were made by people with an election agenda and she was looking forward to setting the record straight when she fronted the inquiry.

Outside the commission she denied the claims.  "Are you a bully?" a journalist asked.   "Definitely not. Look forward to proving they're lies," Ms Asmar said.

Mr Stoljar said the branch went through "fraught and bitter" times between 2006 and 2009, when Jeff Jackson held the position of branch secretary.

Mr Jackson is the ex-husband of HSU national secretary Kathy Jackson.

Ms Flynn is currently on leave from her position as assistant secretary of the branch.

Kathy Jackson to appear again at commission

During the last hearing in July, the royal commission questioned Ms Jackson about a slush fund account in which members' money was allegedly used to pay off her personal credit cards.

The National Health Development Account (NHDA) was first set up in 2003 with a $250,000 payment from the Peter McCallum Cancer Institute.

The commission has been told that until 2010 funds from the number 3 branch bank account were transferred to the NHDA "on Ms Jackson's instructions".

Ms Jackson told the July hearing she could not recall details about a $50,000 payment she authorised from the NHDA.

She asked for legal representation when pressed about the matter by Mr Stoljar.

Mr Stoljar produced evidence that the money was paid to Mr Jackson and asked her why she did not disclose that.

Ms Jackson told the commission she had been "ambushed".

Ms Jackson is one of 24 witnesses expected to give evidence in Sydney in this latest hearing and will appear later this week.

The HSU is one of five unions being scrutinised by the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.


Construction sector plagued by phoenix tax, pay dodges

Some of Australia's biggest construction projects are being probed by regulators in relation to claims of corruption and tax avoidance.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) are paying special attention to what is known as phoenix activity in the construction sector, where companies go into liquidation to avoid paying entitlements to their staff.

The ATO and ASIC have joined forces with the Fair Work Building and Construction directorate to examine illegal phoenix scams which are costing as much as $3.2 billion per year.
Audio: Listen to Peter Ryan's report. (AM)

The investigations will also examine allegations that some scams in the construction industry have links to organised crime.

ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer told the ABC's AM program that the phoenix activity was focused on "off-the-books" sectors such as transport, security and cleaning services.

"Our intelligence suggests that there's a range of issues that arise in the construction industry," he said.

"What we're finding is that there is a disproportionately large number of cases perhaps because of the nature of the industry and the number of workers involved in those industries but, whatever the reason, it seems to be a target for this type of activity.

"We have found that the construction industry is a particular hotspot for phoenix company activity, and this affects not just the employees in the construction industry who might be affected directly because their superannuation entitlements might not be paid, or their leave entitlements might not be paid.

"But also, critically, other contractors - sub-contractors and sometimes head contractors - are affected by companies going out of business, doing so intentionally with the absolute deliberate intent of defrauding all of those creditors and employees."
Phoenixing costs up to $3.2 billion

Consulting firm PwC, in a study for the Fair Work Commission in 2012, found that illegal phoenix activity costs between $1.2 billion and $3.2 billion per year.

"From our perspective, we see just far too many individual problems that are caused by this type of activity, because it doesn't need to be a large amount of money if you've been gutted out of your leave entitlements or your superannuation entitlements," Mr Tanzer said.

ASIC has commenced a wide ranging program aimed at the construction industry in which 6,000 smaller companies were targeted, and hundreds visited, to be reminded that heavy penalties apply for proven phoenix activity.

Mr Tanzer said the investigations would examine claims that organised crime is involved in construction sector corruption.

"We are concerned that the construction industry in particular seems to be a target for this type of activity and it really can be quite pernicious and cause very serious effects for the employees and the other creditors of companies that phoenix," he added.

Phoenix activity, where a company "rises from the ashes" of liquidation, without paying taxes or entitlements, is constantly in the sights of ASIC and the ATO.

Greg Tanzer told AM that such activity appears to increase during softer economic times, such as those being experienced now.


Muslim apologists blind to radical reality

A motley group of some 60 self-proclaimed Muslim organisations or self-appointed leaders garnered publicity Wednesday with their snubbing of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s offer to discuss proposed changes to terrorist laws.

The ABC and Fairfax lapped it up.

But anyone who took the time to see who organised the ban and who signed up to its idiocy would have realised that the signatories did themselves a serious disservice.

Among those on the list was Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia, which supports honour killings, the Perth-based Aboriginal convert Mohammed Junaid Thorne who enjoys the support of extremist organisation Millatu Ibrahim, banned in Germany because of its ties to mass murder in Iraq, and the Sydney book shop al-Risalah, which has claimed its imam is terrorist Bilal Khazal who is serving a 12-year sentence for promoting violence against non-Muslims.

Muslim Leaders including Sheikh Isse Musse (centre right) leave Treasury Place in Melbourne after a meeting with Tony Abbott last week.
Organiser of the ban was self-anointed community activist and Muslim convert Rebecca Kay, who re-Tweets propaganda from the Hamas terrorist organisation and is married to a brother of notorious drug boss Abdul Darwiche, who was gunned down outside a Bass Hill service station five years ago.

The usual medley of Muslim student organisations also signed on, along with an assortment of imams, who, according to Kay, believe the proposed changes target Muslims unjustly – though she admits that the language of the law is neutral.

She says that in practise these laws will target Muslims because of a “trumped up” threat from “radicalised” Muslims returning from Irag or Syria.

She claims there is no solid evidence to substantiate this threat – despite the Facebook postings of various Australian-born murderers who have joined the murderous Islamic State posing with weapons and severed heads in their selfie videos.

The home-grown risk is real, as the British have discovered to their cost

She goes on to say that “racist caricatures of Muslims as backwards, prone to violence and inherently problematic are being exploited”, presumably a reference to psychiatrist Tanveer Ahmed’s prescient view that “there remains a marked difference in the way males are raised within some Lebanese groups which predisposes them to greater acts of anti-social behaviour” and his observation from studying Arab youths in prison that “there is a rampant anti-social character to some youths from this segment which stems in part from unsuccessful child rearing. The horrific moves towards terror acts can be seen as an ideological extension of a propensity towards bad behaviour, combined with an unshakable victim mentality.”

Kay and her followers haven’t come to terms with the hard evidence of beheadings of children as well as adults, crucifixions, and mass murder of fellow Muslims as well as the slaughter of apostates, Christians and other non-Muslims in areas where Australia’s terror tourists are at large.

The home-grown risk is real, as the British have discovered to their cost.

It’s now a dozen years since Omar Sheikh, a London-born private school and London School of Economics graduate, was in Pakistan after fighting in the Balkans and Kashmir. Ten years ago he was arrested and jailed for assisting in the kidnapping of three Britons and an American in India.

After being released in 1999 in exchange for the passengers and crew of the hijacked Air India flight IC-814, he was connected to the bombing of an American cultural centre in Calcutta in January 2002 and that same month organised the kidnapping and beheading of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Muslim leaders including Sheikh Isse Musse (centre) were involved in meetings with Prime Minister Tony Abbott last week.
In 2003, two British Muslims Asif Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif carried out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on behalf of Hamas, which Ms Kay gives succour to via her Twitter account.

Four British Islamist terrorists killed 52 civilians on July 7, 2005 in the first suicide bombings to take place in Britain. The former head of the Islamic Society at University College London, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted to explode his “underwear” bomb on a plane as it landed in Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. He was a follower of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was later killed in an American drone attack in Yemen three years ago.

Ms Kay’s claims are unsupportable. There is no reason why Australia is under any lesser threat from home-grown terrorists than Britain, the US, Belgium, the Netherlands or France – or Indonesia.

In an important interview with The Australian, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned violent Islamist extremism, labelling the actions of the Islamic State terror group as “embarrassing” and “humiliating” to the religion.

His government has banned the ISIS (now known as the Islamic State), which is supported by some of the signatories to Ms Kay’s statement, and called for respect for all religions – which some of Ms Kay’s supporters reject.

Acknowledging the reality that Ms Kay rubbishes, President Yudhoyono said a number of Indonesians have joined IS to fight in Syria and Iraq.

“Our citizens here in Indonesia are picking up recruitment messages from ISIS containing extremist ideas,” he said.

“The philosophy of ISIS stands against the fundamental values we embrace in Indonesia. Last Friday, in my state of the union address to the nation, I called on all Indonesians to reject ISIS and to stop the spread of its radical ideology.

“My government and security agencies have taken decisive steps to curtail the spread of ISIS in Indonesia, including by prohibiting Indonesians to join ISIS or to fight for ISIS, and also by blocking internet sites that promote this idea.”

Yet Ms Kay and her group are opposed to less radical actions proposed by the Abbott government.

It would appear that in Indonesia, which has the largest Islamic population of any nation, community leaders are helping the government communicate to their members the dangers of ISIS.

Which demonstrates just how isolated Muslims like Ms Kay and her radical supporters are from the rational world in their blind refusal to engage on the obvious problems of the radicalisation of young members of the Australian Muslim community.


Brisbane woman Kym Garrick banned from Port of Brisbane job over 'Coal Dust Free' car sticker

The Port of Brisbane has banned a security guard for displaying an anti-coal industry sign in her car.

Kym Garrick's employer Corporate Protection Australia Group fired her from her job at the port earlier this month, telling her it was because she displayed a sign that read "Coal Dust Free Brisbane".

Ms Garrick said she was warned about the sign by staff at the Port of Brisbane and initially removed it, then changed her mind and put it back.

"I felt angry, frustrated and belittled. Also, this is a democracy and I wanted to have my say on something that I truly believe should happen," she said.

The security guard has now been banned from all five of the Port of Brisbane's sites.

In a letter to Ms Garrick, Corporate Protection Australia Group said: "We acknowledge you did remove the sign, but recently returned to site with this sign displayed again. The Port of Brisbane have advised us that you are unfortunately banned from their sites."

A spokesman for the Port of Brisbane said the company would not be making any comment on the issue.

Corporate Protection Australia Group has confirmed Ms Garrick is no longer working for the firm.

A spokesman said she was removed from work at the port due to a security risk.

Ms Garrick reacted angrily, saying: "They don't want anyone to ruffle their feathers."

The security company has offered Ms Garrick another contract to work at a different site, which she has declined.

She has received legal advice that because of that offer, her chances at winning an unfair dismissal claim are slim.


25 August, 2014

Australia's BOM caught with its pants down

No surprise. NASA GISS does the same.  See also here and here and here

THE Bureau of Meteorology has been accused of manipulating historic temperature records to fit a predetermined view of global warming.

Researcher Jennifer Marohasy claims the adjusted records resemble “propaganda” rather than science.

Dr Marohasy has analysed the raw data from dozens of locations across Australia and matched it against the new data used by BOM showing that temperatures were progressively warming.

In many cases, Dr Marohasy said, temperature trends had changed from slight cooling to dramatic warming over 100 years.

BOM has rejected Dr Marohasy’s claims and said the agency had used world’s best practice and a peer reviewed process to modify the physical temperature records that had been recorded at weather stations across the country.

It said data from a selection of weather stations underwent a process known as “homogenisation” to correct for anomalies. It was “very unlikely” that data homogenisation impacted on the empirical outlooks.

In a statement to The Weekend Australian BOM said the bulk of the scientific literature did not support the view that data homogenisation resulted in “diminished physical veracity in any particular climate data set’’.

Historical data was homogenised to account for a wide range of non-climate related influences such as the type of instrument used, choice of calibration or enclosure and where it was located.

“All of these elements are subject to change over a period of 100 years, and such non-climate ­related changes need to be ­accounted for in the data for ­reliable analysis and monitoring of trends,’’ BOM said.

Account is also taken of temperature recordings from nearby stations. It took “a great deal of care with the climate record, and understands the importance of scientific integrity”.

Dr Marohasy said she had found examples where there had been no change in instrumentation or siting and no inconsistency with nearby stations but there had been a dramatic change in temperature trend towards warming after homogenisation.

She said that at Amberley in Queensland, homogenisation had resulted in a change in the temperature trend from one of cooling to dramatic warming.

She calculated homogenisation had changed a cooling trend in the minimum temperature of 1C per century at Amberley into a warming trend of 2.5C. This was despite there being no change in location or instrumentation.

BOM said the adjustment to the minimums at Amberley was identified through “neighbour comparisons”. It said the level of confidence was very high because of the large number of stations in the region. There were examples where homogenisation had resulted in a weaker warming trend.


More on BoM shenanigans

WHEN raging floodwaters swept through Brisbane in January 2011 they submerged a much-loved red Corvette sports car in the basement car park of a unit in the riverside suburb of St Lucia.

On the scale of the billions of dollars worth of damage done to the nation’s third largest city in the man-made flood, the loss of a sports car may not seem like much.

But the loss has been the catalyst for an escalating row that ­raises questions about the competence and integrity of Australia’s premier weather agency, the Bureau of Meteorology, stretching well beyond the summer storms.

It goes to heart of the climate change debate — in particular, whether computer models are better than real data and whether temperature records are being manipulated in a bid to make each year hotter than the last.

With farmer parents, researcher Jennifer Marohasy says she has always had a fascination with rainfall and drought-flood ­cycles. So, in a show of solidarity with her husband and his sodden Corvette, Marohasy began researching the temperature records noted in historic logs that date back through the Federation drought of the late 19th century.

Specifically, she was keen to try forecasting Brisbane floods using historical data and the latest statistical modelling techniques.

Marohasy’s research has put her in dispute with BoM over a paper she published with John Abbot at Central Queensland University in the journal Atmospheric Research concerning the best data to use for rainfall forecasting. (She is a biologist and a sceptic of the thesis that human activity is bringing about global warming.) BoM challenged the findings of the Marohasy-Abbot paper, but the international journal rejected the BoM rebuttal, which had been prepared by some of the bureau’s top scientists.

This has led to an escalating dispute over the way in which ­Australia’s historical temperature records are “improved” through homogenisation, which is proving more difficult to resolve. If Marohasy is right, contrary to widely published claims, last year cannot be called the hottest year on ­record. BoM insists it is using world’s best practice to determine temperature trend and its methods are in accordance with those of its international peers.

But in furious correspondence with BoM, Marohasy argues the computer “homogenisation” of the records is being undertaken in a way that is at odds with its original intent.

“In (George Orwell’s) Nineteen Eighty-Four Winston Smith knows that, ‘He who controls the present controls the past’. Certainly the bureau appears intent on improving the historical temperature record by changing it,” Marohasy says.

There has been correspondence between Marohasy and BoM involving federal MP Dennis Jensen and the parliamentary secretary responsible for the bureau, Simon Birmingham.

After taking up the issue for Jensen, Birmingham says he is “confident that the bureau’s methods are robust’’. On its website, BoM says it is “improving Australia’s temperature record” by carefully analysing records “to find and address spurious artefacts in the data, thus developing a consistent — or homogeneous — record of daily temperatures over the last 100 years”.

BoM says historic high temperatures are unreliable, some having been collected by thermometers housed in a beer crate on an outback veranda.

In response to questions from Inquirer, BoM says “the premise that data homogenisation results in diminished physical veracity — in any particular climate data set — is unsupported in the bulk of the scientific literature’’.

But Marohasy is not convinced.

“Repetition is a propaganda technique,’’ she wrote back to Birmingham. “The deletion of information from records, and the use of exaggeration and half-truths, are ­others.

“The Bureau of Meteorology uses all these techniques, while wilfully ignoring evidence that contradicts its own propaganda.’’

Marohasy has analysed the physical temperature records from more than 30 stations included in the BoM set that determines the official national temperature record.

And she remains disturbed by a pattern whereby homogenisation exaggerates, or even produces, a record of steady warming against a steady or cooling trend in the raw data.

Marohasy says the clearly ­stated intent of homogenisation is to correct for changes in equipment, siting, and/or other factors that conceivably can introduce non-­climatic factors into the temperature record.

“The bureau, however, is applying the algorithms subjectively and without supporting metadata, in such a way that the temperature record is completely altered, despite the absence of evidence that there were any changes in siting, equipment, or any other factor which could have conceivably introduced a non­-climatic discontinuity,’’ she says.

Marohasy says the “corruption” of the data was of no practical consequence to climate scientists at BoM because they do not use historical data for forecasting either rainfall or temperature — they use simulation models that attempt to recreate the climate based on assumed physical ­processes.

But she says the remodelling is “of considerable political value to them, because the remodelled data better accords with the theory of anthropogenic global warming’’.

Marohasy presented a paper on her research to the Sydney Institute earlier this year. She has since expanded the number of physical temperature records analysed and says the results have only added weight to her concerns.

At Amberley, in Queensland, temperatures have been collected at the same well-maintained site within the perimeter of the air force base since 1941.

But through the homogenisation process BoM has changed what was a cooling trend in the minimum temperature of 1.0C per century into a warming trend of 2.5C per century.

“Homogenisation has not resulted in some small change to the data set, but rather a change in the temperature trend from one of cooling to dramatic warming,’’ Marohasy says.

This has been achieved by jumping-up the minimum temperatures twice through the homogenisation process: once in about 1980 and then around 1996 to achieve a combined temperature increase of more than 1.5C. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, based in New York, also applies a jump-up to the Amberley series in 1980, and makes other changes, so that the annual average temperature for Amberley increases from 1941 to 2012 by about 2C.

In correspondence, Marohasy was told by NASA the Amberley data was adjusted to take account of historic temperature records at nearby stations.

But these 310 “nearby” stations stretched to a radius of 974km and include Frederick Reef in the Coral Sea, Quilpie post office in southwestern Queensland and even Bourke post office in NSW.

Considering the unhomogenised data for the nearest weather station, BoM’s jump-up for Amberley creates an increase for the official temperature trend of 0.75C per century. Temperatures at old Brisbane aero, the closest station that is also part of the national temperature network, also shows a long-term cooling trend.

“Perhaps the cooling at Amberley is real,’’ Marohasy says.

“Why not consider this, particularly in the absence of real physical evidence to the ­contrary?”

Another example is Rutherglen, a small town in a winegrowing region of northeast Victoria, where temperatures have been measured at a research station since November 1912.

There have been no documented site moves but an automatic weather station was installed on January 29, 1998.

Temperatures measured at the Rutherglen weather station also form part of the national temperature network (ACORN-Sat), so the information from this station is homogenised before inclusion in the official record that is used to calculate temperature trends for Victoria and also Australia.

Marohasy says the unhomogenised/raw mean annual minimum temperature trend for Rutherglen for the 100-­year period from January 1913 through to December last year shows a slight cooling trend of 0.35C per 100 years.

After homogenisation there is a warming trend of 1.73C per 100 years. Marohasy says this warming trend essentially was achieved by progressively dropping down the temperatures from 1973 back through to 1913. For the year of 1913 the difference between the raw temperature and the ACORN-Sat temperature is 1.8C.

BoM is adamant the purpose of homogenisation is to remove non-­climatic disconuities. But Marohasy says because there have been no site changes or equipment changes at Rutherglen, but very large adjustments made to the data, it is perhaps reasonable to assume that the bureau has changed the record for Rutherglen because it is very different to the record for the neighbouring stations.

According to a technical manual written by Blair Trewin from BoM, changes can be made where discontinuities are apparent when the trend at a site, for example Rutherglen, is compared with up to 40 neighbouring sites.

But Marohasy says analysis of nearby sites finds temperature trends show almost no warming during the past 100 years.

Marohasy says the changes to the minimum temperatures for Rutherglen are broadly consistent with many other changes made to temperature records for eastern Australia, which make the trends consistent with the theory of anthropogenic global warming.

But these changes are not consistent with the overriding principle of homogenisation, which is that changes should only be made to correct for non-­climatic factors.

In the case of Rutherglen, she says, the changes do not even appear consistent with a principle in the bureau’s own technical manual, which is that changes should be consistent with trends at neighbouring weather stations.

At Burke, in western NSW, BoM deleted the first 40 years of data because temperatures before 1908 were apparently not recorded in a Stevenson screen, the agreed modern method.

Marohasy says this could have been easily accounted for with an accepted algorithm, which would not have changed the fact that it was obviously much hotter in the early 20th century than for any period since. Instead, the early record is deleted, and the post-1910 data homogenised.

“Rather than searching for a real physical explanation for the early 20th century cooling at Bourke since the hot years of the late 1800s, the Bureau has created a warming trend,’’ Marohasy says.

“This homogenisation, and the addition of data recorded after 1996 from the airport, means that the official record shows an overall warming trend of 0.01C per century and 2013 becomes about the hottest year on record for Bourke.’’

BOM says major adjustments at Bourke related to site moves as well as comparisons with neighbouring areas, while the Amberley and Rutherglen adjustments also were made after comparison with neighbouring stations.

And the bureau says an extensive study has found homogeneity adjustments have little impact on national trends and changes in temperature extremes.


Jennifer's personal comments on the BOM

EARLIER this year Tim Flannery said “the pause” in global warming was a myth, leading medical scientists called for stronger action on climate change, and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology declared 2013 the hottest year on record. All of this was reported without any discussion of the actual temperature data. It has been assumed that there is basically one temperature series and that it’s genuine.

But I’m hoping that after today, with both a feature (page 20) and a news piece (page 9) in The Weekend Australia things have changed forever.

I’m hoping that next time Professor Flannery is interviewed he will be asked by journalists which data series he is relying on: the actual recorded temperatures or the homogenized remodeled series. Because as many skeptics have known for a long time, and as Graham Lloyd reports today for News Ltd, for any one site across this wide-brown land Australia, while the raw data may show a pause, or even cooling, the truncated and homogenized data often shows dramatic warming.

When I first sent Graham Lloyd some examples of the remodeling of the temperature series I think he may have been somewhat skeptical. I know he on-forwarded this information to the Bureau for comment, including three charts showing the homogenization of the minimum temperature series for Amberley.

Mr Lloyd is the Environment Editor for The Australian newspaper and he may have been concerned I got the numbers wrong. He sought comment and clarification from the Bureau, not just for Amberley but also for my numbers pertaining to Rutherglen and Bourke.

I understand that by way of response to Mr Lloyd, the Bureau has not disputed these calculations.

This is significant. The Bureau now admits that it changes the temperature series and quite dramatically through the process of homogenisation.

I repeat the Bureau has not disputed the figures. The Bureau admits that the data is remodelled.

What the Bureau has done, however, is try and justify the changes. In particular, for Amberley the Bureau is claiming to Mr Lloyd that there is very little available documentation for Amberley before 1990 and that information before this time may be “classified”: as in top secret. That’s right, there is apparently a reason for jumping-up the minimum temperatures for Amberley but it just can’t provide Mr Lloyd with the supporting meta-data at this point in time.

SOURCE (See the original for charts)

Clive Palmer and his Senate colleagues are a creation of the main parties' making

"Palmer was a splash of colour on a wall of grey. People voting for Palmer United Party didn't respond on an analytical level. They were responding to the pictures, the chuckling, the twerking, the colour and movement. And he campaigned well, he had a significant presence and a bold new logo."

This "presence", the election ad campaign, was funded with $12 million that Palmer misappropriated from his Chinese business partner, the state-owned Citic Pacific, according to the claim the company has brought against him.

If true, it would mean that Palmer had built his election campaign on money stolen from the Chinese Communist Party. Palmer denies the claim.

This was exactly the uncomfortable topic he was seeking to avoid this week when he launched his frenzied, calculated attack on China. The host of the ABC's Q&A, Tony Jones, was pursuing him over the question when Palmer activated the first rule of politics – the best form of defence is offence.

This deftly made Chinese "mongrels" and "bastards" who "shoot their own people" the topic of national outrage. This was a brilliant outcome from Clive's point of view.

Handled differently, the alternative might have been national outrage at Clive's alleged theft of the mongrels' $12 million to pay for his TV ads.

Palmer's policy offerings may be a jumble of nonsense, but he is no political dummy. He's a shrewd operator who studied at the knee of one of the masters of media management. Palmer was a press secretary to Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

The late Queensland premier used to call it "feeding the chooks" when he gave a news conference. His notoriously convoluted babble would keep the media guessing while he executed shrewd business and political deals behind the scenes.

Palmer's flailing attack on China was also a convoluted babble. For at least three reasons.

First, his target was plainly the Chinese government. Only the government could possibly be accused of shooting its own people, recalling the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Yet the next day he tried to extricate himself by saying he was referring to his business partner, Citic Pacific.

Second, his angry revulsion at a government that could "shoot its own people" is a complete reversal. In the years between Tiananmen Square and today, Palmer publicly fawned all over the Chinese government when it suited his business needs. He named his landmark coalmine planned for the Galilee Basin, and the biggest proposed coalmine in Australia, the "China First" mine. His anger flies under a flag of commercial convenience.

Third, he claimed that China had harmful intent against Australia because it wanted to "steal our resources", If so, the Chinese are doing a truly terrible job of it. These thieving "mongrels" paid $94 billion to Australia last year for its exports. This is more than any country has ever paid.

The Palmer tirade was jumbled, hypocritical and plain wrong, quite apart from being gratuitously offensive. But it worked as deflection.

Will it do serious harm to Australia's relationship with its biggest trading partner? No. Some Chinese entities may well use the outburst as an excuse to shun Australian dealings. But the Chinese trade with Australia as a matter of self-interest, not charity. And they know that Palmer does not speak for Australia. The government and opposition made that forcefully clear.

A Chinese general threatened to attack Los Angeles with a nuclear bomb a few years ago. Did this do any serious harm to the US-China relationship? No. All governments, including China's, know a blowhard maverick when they see one.

But the episode demonstrates that Palmer will recklessly endanger the national interest if it suits his own needs.

How did the main parties give him the balance of power? Palmer and his senators only have power when the other parties can't agree. The government has the numbers to get its legislation through the Senate if Labor will support it, or if the Greens will support it. Only when Labor and the Greens oppose the government does Palmer get to sit in judgment as the wielder of the balance of power.

And this is why Palmer's relevance is in the hands of the three main parties.

There is a good deal of scope for the main parties to make progress by talking to each other. Remarkably, a big potential agenda has gone unexplored so far.

The government has so far chosen to negotiate with the crossbench, including Palmer's senators, before Labor and the Greens. This is a matter of political vanity rather than political pragmatism. If the government will lower itself to negotiate with Labor or the Greens, it could well achieve some key goals.

And where Labor is intractable, the government has an unexplored opportunity to do business with the Greens. The Greens have 10 senators compared with Palmer's three or four. It sounds preposterous. But even the most anti-Greens members of the government have the ability to set ideology aside long enough to cut deals.

The leader of the government in the Senate, Tasmania's Eric Abetz, is probably the harshest critic of the Greens. As he likes to say, everyone has to have a hobby and tormenting the Greens is his. Yet even Abetz can cut a deal with ideological opponents. In student politics his conservative group formed a coalition with the campus Maoists. The reason for this unlikely alliance? To damage their mutual enemy, the Australian Union of Students.

What could they possibly agree on? For a start, there's the government's petrol excise proposal. By merely returning to a system of increasing the petrol excise in line with inflation, the government proposed in the budget to raise $2.2 billion over the next four years.

This would add just a couple of cents to the price of a litre of fuel in the first year, yet provide a steady revenue stream for the government to spend on road building. The plan is currently opposed by all the non-government parties in the Senate.

But this is also an environmental measure that, in principle, the Greens support. They've contorted themselves into the ridiculous position of opposing a prudent and modest environmental measure. Why? Because they insist the proceeds be spent on public transport rather than roads.

The Greens will never hold government. If they want to change, they must negotiate. The government's budget agenda is blocked and Palmer controls its destiny. If the government wants to get its way, it must negotiate. There is a potential win-win if both sides can set political pride aside.

Other key measures include the government's carbon farming initiative. It already has won passage of most components of its Direct Action carbon policy but faces a wall of Senate opposition on this last piece. It needs a deal.

The Greens are opposed to Direct Action. But they support carbon farming as a stand-alone initiative. The government and Greens have had some cautious indirect contacts on this and they both know there is potential for a deal. It's something they both want. Again, there's a possible win-win. All that's needed is to set political vanity aside and negotiate.

And they don't need to consult Clive Palmer. He need not control Australia's destiny if the main parties refuse to let him.


IVF pioneer Alan Trounson slams high cost of procedure in Australian clinics

IVF could be done for hundreds of dollars in Australia instead of about $8500 if clinics stopped charging what "the market will handle", a pioneer of the technology says.

Professor Alan Trounson, the scientist who led the team responsible for Australia's first IVF birth in 1980, is challenging fertility specialists to put people ahead of profits in a provocative speech to a conference in Melbourne this weekend.

The stem cell expert who introduced two world-first procedures that improved IVF success rates said the cost of IVF in Australia did not reflect the outlay by clinics or specialists, but rather supply and demand.

"The barrier to change is that medical professionals don't want to charge less because they make so much from treatments. They charge what the market will handle," he said in a statement released ahead of his appearance at the Society for Reproductive Biology forum Making Babies in the 21st Century.

The attack comes amid growing commercialisation of IVF in Australia, causing some to fear profit-driven business models will undermine the integrity of fertility medicine. Over the past 14 months, two of the largest providers - Monash IVF Group and Virtus Health, which runs Melbourne IVF, IVF Australia and the Queensland Fertility Group - have floated on the stockmarket with great success.

Professor Trounson, who made an undisclosed amount of money out of the sale of Monash IVF in 2007, said his Low Cost IVF Foundation could do a basic cycle for about $500 in Africa and Mexico, and that despite making this known, no Australian specialists had asked for his advice to try to emulate it. He said while Australian clinics may face costs associated with regulation, there was no reason why they could not cut prices, especially through automation in their laboratories to replace costly staff.

In Australia, most clinics charge about $8500 for an IVF cycle, but after Medicare rebates, the out-of-pocket cost is about $3000-$4000. Most clinics say these cycles have a 30 to 40 per cent success rate of a live birth, depending on the woman's age and circumstances.

There is also a small number of "low-cost" clinics emerging in lower socio-economic areas which perform IVF without a choice of doctor or additional services such as sperm and egg donation or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. These clinics advertise out-of-pocket fees ranging from $500 to $2000 per cycle and some do not offer embryo freezing for further attempts in future.

While the clinics are still new, one provider has estimated lower success rates of about 25 per cent per cycle. The main reason for this difference is that the clinics use less hormone stimulation to retrieve fewer eggs for fewer embryos. This means that if a woman is not successful in the first cycle, she will require repetitive stimulation for egg production and more surgical procedures to retrieve eggs.

In contrast, full-cost clinics usually use high-dose hormone stimulation to produce a lot of eggs for one surgical egg retrieval procedure to create as many embryos as possible. The embryos can then be frozen for transfer into the woman's uterus for future pregnancy attempts.

Professor Trounson said his foundation had also used a low-stimulation drug to produce less eggs, which meant a clinician could retrieve eggs from the woman in a few minutes with sedation, instead of a general anaesthetic. He said the success rate in dozens of women had been about 25 per cent per cycle. But he added that this was only suitable for women under the age of 38 and would not be used if men had sperm abnormalities that required other technology.

The CEOs of Monash IVF Group and City Fertility said Professor Trounson's $500 model was unrealistic for a developed country like Australia where clinics aim for gold standard, individualised treatment and employ highly qualified staff. 

Monash IVF CEO James Thiedeman said while his group aimed to make a profit for shareholders and did let the market decide the price, it also reinvested money into innovation to improve success rates and training of staff. He said there were no plans for automation of his clinics' processes.

"We're dealing with people's gametes here, so I'm always a little bit wary of automation," he said.

Adnan Catakovic, CEO and Scientific Director for City Fertility Centre, said while anyone could do a "cheap and nasty" IVF cycle, success rates were more likely to be 10 to 15 per cent with low-stimulation cycles, not 25 per cent. He said his group had no plans for automation and that it was "offensive" to hear such comments from Professor Trounson after he had made "a motza" out of the sale of Monash IVF.

"I think in the initial sale he made a fortune," Mr Catakovic said. "He is the Clive Palmer of IVF... He just loves stirring the pot."

A spokeswoman for Virtus Health declined to comment.


The unholy big push to rewrite history

SINCE last year’s election, there has been an unholy rush by participants competing to get their versions of history into print. First out of the chute was Rob Oakeshott’s own explanation for the failure of the nation to find any beauty in the ugliness of Julia Gillard’s minority government he helped install.

In The Independent Member For Lyne (that’s the title), he reveals how dopey he was to believe he could achieve anything meaningful.

Tony Windsor, who also dudded conservative constituents to support the loopy Labor-Green-independent disaster, was the subject of a very friendly biography (Tony Windsor, The Biography) by rural historian Ruth Rae.

Despite the best efforts of the author, she failed to persuade this reader that Windsor is anything more than a small-town wheeler-dealer with a massive chip on his shoulder.

All you want to know and more about Greg Combet — a throwback to an industrial era that saw union thugs smash their way into Parliament House, causing hearts to flutter among the wannabe revolutionaries at the ABC with his protests against modern wharf practices during the dock dispute — is in Fights Of My Life. Sure to be compulsory reading wherever the teachers’ union controls study lists.

Joe Hockey’s authorised biography Not Your Average Joe, by sometime ABC compere Madonna King, was the next to lob and play into the hands of those who were never sure of Hockey’s judgment.

This week Wayne Swan launched his work, The Good Fight. It’s about as honest as the string of Budget surpluses he never produced. Belongs on the fiction shelf somewhere near Oakeshott’s fantasy.

Still to come, Julia Gillard on Julia Gillard, Peter Garrett on Peter Garrett, and others as their egos demand.

Personally, I can’t wait for Paul Kelly to put the catastrophe in perspective in his book, Triumph And Demise, due next week.


24 August, 2014

Cory Bernardi on Keysar Trad

Many participants and observers of politics have concerns about how matters are portrayed in the media.

Some will maintain sections of the media report in a manner that favours the political left whilst others will say they favour the political right. (You could just as easily substitute ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’ in the previous sentence.)

Personally I think the varying viewpoints are a healthy and necessary aspect of having a free press. However, sometimes what is not reported is just as telling as the political slant a particular story is given.

In recent times I have had personal experience that I’d like to share with you. It illustrates how what we are not told can be just as important as what we are. It concerns a man named Keysar Trad.

Mr Trad represents a group called the Australian Islamic Friendship Association and is the ‘go to’ guy for all matters Islamic by much of the press and as such, he regularly features in the media.

He purports to be a bridge builder between the Muslim community and the rest of Australia. By his own admission his organisation has only twelve members, yet that supposedly merits him being labelled a ‘spokesman for the Muslim community’.

However, Mr Trad has an interesting history. He has been found by a court to be a ‘dangerous’ individual whom holds anti-Semitic views. He has been a translator for a jihadist publication and excused hateful comments by Australia’s then grand mufti. I could go on but for the full picture I suggest you read a speech I gave in the Senate about Mr Trad here.

Better still, listen to this week’s radio interview between Andrew Bolt and Mr Trad here.

Given his history and track record, one can reasonably ask, why is Mr Trad portrayed by the media as the benevolent face of the Muslim community in Australia?

It’s a question I have posed on many occasions to the media outlets that feature Mr Trad as a ‘spokesman’. None of these letters have been published nor responded to - with one exception; that being from Mr John Laws.

On one hand it is perfectly understandable that media outlets don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them but it is very poor form to hold an individual out to be something they are clearly not.

However more concerning to me was the decision by the ABC to delete factual comments about Mr Trad from a recent pre-recorded television interview - ostensibly in the interests of ‘time’.

I was asked by the presenter what the Muslim community could do to better engage with the rest of the population. My response was to stop having people like Mr Trad speak on their behalf because he is discredited and ‘dangerous’. I then ran through the court judgment against him.

All of that was cut from the interview. Perhaps it really was because of ‘time’ issues but I personally suspect it was more about protecting Mr Trad’s chequered history.

It’s not the first time we have seen the reluctance of sections of the media to report on significant matters. Julia Gillard’s union slush fund is another case in point or the steadfast refusal to present a balanced ‘climate change’ case.

The media has a huge role in shaping public opinion. We need a diversity of voices representing different perspectives on important matters. However, it is just as important that we are accurately presented with the full picture, not just some idealised representation of truth.

That is truly the first responsibility of the free press.

Via email

NAPLAN: IQ versus poverty

THE release of NAPLAN data ­always brings some sort of controversy. This year it was about a ­decline in writing performance, but a longer running controversy is the persistent gap in literacy and numeracy associated with socioeconomic status.

New research by Gary Marks, published in the Australian Journal of Education, finds that student achievement in the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy had a very weak relationship with SES, once prior achievement and school differences are taken into account. By far the strongest predictor of Year 5 and Year 7 NAPLAN scores was Year 3 ­NAPLAN scores; SES and school factors were relatively weak predictors. Student achievement in all of the NAPLAN domains was also highly correlated suggesting tests measure general ability.

This research supports other extensive research by Marks showing that cognitive ability (or IQ) is the single biggest influence on student achievement. It trumps socioeconomic status and school factors, including teacher quality. But this does not mean that socioeconomic status is irrelevant. It is clear to even casual observers that children from low SES backgrounds are at a higher risk of educational disadvantage than their higher SES peers. The question is when this disadvantage emerges and how. Marks suggests the impact of ­social inequalities on student achievement may have its roots earlier in the education and child development cycle than Year 3.

SES may not be the strongest predictor of achievement but, unlike cognitive ability, it is a factor that policy affects. To reduce the influence of SES on student achievement, we have to understand the relationship. Persistent poverty is implicated, and low parental education plays a part, but an important set of research findings on SES and literacy shows the relationship between socioeconomic disadvantage and low achievement is most strongly predicted by non-financial characteristics associated with low SES families.

Early language and literacy ­acquisition make a major contribution to later school achievement, and are influenced by genetic and environmental risk factors. Children in low-SES families are at higher risk of cognitive deficits from preterm birth and low birth weight. Children growing up in low-SES families are less likely to have homes that instil alphabetic and print knowledge and cultivate oral language skills such as vocabulary. Low-SES children are less likely to attend good preschools.

The effects of these characteristics and experiences are cumulative and interactive, creating wide language and literacy disparities as early as 18 months and evident on the first day of school.

The bad news is that these gaps usually persist and even grow throughout children’s school lives. At the individual level, low SES is associated with low parental expectations and poor school attendance. At the school level, SES effects are associated with school practices, the quality of teaching, and the school’s academic culture. These effects show up in ways not necessarily measured by NAPLAN or tertiary entrance scores, such as lower rates of school completion.

The good news is that effective initial and remedial literacy instruction and high-quality secondary schooling can mitigate the effect of SES. Children from low-SES backgrounds are the most adversely affected by low-quality instruction, but they benefit most from excellent instruction.

It is true that the correlation between SES and educational outcomes does not prove causation. It is also manifestly true that low SES does not destine a child to poor achievement. Yet the research in this area is building up good evidence of the predictive pathways, showing how these factors accumulate and interact across time to multiply the impact of disadvantage on some children.

Acknowledging that the relationship between SES and educational outcomes is attributable, in part, to other variables, does not negate its effect. Rather, identifying the factors that translate socioeconomic disadvantage into educational disadvantage, and understanding the processes by which they work, is the key to reducing its impact.


Watts happening? Electricity demand falling as prices continue to rise

That demand falls as price rises is not inherently surprising but there are some complexities in the matter

We know the two great certainties in life are death and taxes, but many thought there was a third: the inexorable rise in consumption of electricity. As the population grew and each of us got a little more prosperous each year, we'd use more power. The mighty electricity industry was built on that certainty.

Except that electricity consumption has been falling for the past four years. To say this has taken the industry by surprise is an understatement. For well over a century – even during the Great Depression – the quantity of electricity used in Australia each year was greater than the year before.

So what has caused our power consumption to fall rather than rise? The biggest single reason is the introduction from the late 1990s of regulations to increase the energy efficiency of refrigerators, freezers and many other residential and commercial appliances, and to increase the energy efficiency of new buildings.

Saddler estimates this explains 37 per cent of the 37 terawatt-hour shortfall from what might have been.

The next biggest part of the explanation is structural change in the economy away from electricity-intensive industries. Over the year to September 2012, three major NSW industrial power users – Port Kembla steelworks, Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter and the Clyde oil refinery – were partly or completely shut down. This explains 10 per cent of the 37 terawatt-hour shortfall.

The evidence also suggests that power consumption by other major industrial users has been little changed over the three years to 2012-13. Saddler estimates that this failure to grow explains a further 14 per cent of the shortfall, taking the total contribution from structural change to almost a quarter.

The next most important part of the explanation is the response of electricity users, particularly residential users, to the higher prices they were being charged. Saddler finds that after 2010 there was "an abrupt change in consumer responsiveness to higher prices".

This was the time when the possible effect of a carbon tax on electricity became a major political issue thanks to the efforts of Abbott and his "sceptic" mates. At the time, retail electricity prices were rising spectacularly, mainly because of a huge increase in spending on upgrading the transmission and distribution networks (poles and wires) to cope with an expected ever-rising peak demand on hot summer afternoons.

Saddler finds evidence to support his argument that all this carbon-tax-related fuss about the high cost of electricity caused many households to be a lot more conscious of what was happening to their power bills and to respond by finding ways to cut their usage – to the extent that they "have managed to completely offset the effect of higher prices on their household budgets by reducing consumption".

This highly unusual jump in the short-run "price elasticity" of electricity explains 19 per cent of the shortfall, he estimates.

He further calculates that the growth in output from rooftop photovoltaic solar and other small, distributed generators accounts for about 13 per cent of the shortfall. This, of course, is a fall in the demand for electricity supplied by the major, mainly coal-fired generators, not a fall in the use of electricity as such.

Saddler notes that for the past three years the annual peak demand has been falling, not increasing, despite the huge investment to cope with ever-rising peaks. When will this additional capacity, which is now built and for which all electricity consumers are paying – and will continue to pay for some years to come – be required, if ever, he asks.

Good question.


The problem with green corporate welfare

The government's detractors appear to have reasonable claims that some of their announced measures, such as more stringent job-seeking activity tests for Newstart recipients amid a more tightly regulated labour market and persistently slow economic growth, may need amending. But when invoking the argument that government policy measures will hurt low-income earners, these groups rely upon a highly selective citation of those policy issues exerting the claimed effects.

Strangely silent are the opposition, the Greens, most Senate crossbenchers, and the Bust the Budget crowd about how some long-standing government policies effectively serve to line the pockets of renewable energy suppliers and other crony eco-businesses, more often than not at the expense of poorer members of our community.

Even worse, the influential Greens have long supported economically wasteful and morally dubious green corporate welfare (as reflected in spending measures, tax concessions and regulatory mandates)  as a political imperative, and have won undertakings from successive governments to implement these perverse exercises in redistribution.

Moves by the Abbott government to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, backed by a $10 billion fund from taxpayers to bankroll renewable energies, low-emissions technology and energy efficiency ventures, has already been frustrated by opposition in the Senate.

The very mission of the CEFC is confused by statements, on the one hand that it aims to assist those projects that cannot attain finances through conventional financial channels, but on the other claiming to only finance projects that can repay investible funds and also achieve a positive rate of return.

It is reasonable to presume that clean energy projects expected to repay borrowings and achieve a good return will be funded by banks and other financial institutions as a matter of course, thus the CEFC threatens to crowd out private financing in its quest to pick politically attractive, yet economically dubious, winners.

There is also active political resistance against the proposed abolition of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, bankrolled by taxpayers, to the tune of $2.5 billion, in order to redistribute funds towards renewable energy project proponents and other speculative green high-rollers.

And this is not to mention all the other expenditures littered across other federal government portfolios, unrelated to environment or industry functions, and state government green programs including solar feed-in tariffs adding about 3 per cent to the average household electricity bill. Thankfully the carbon tax is now an unwanted relic of the past, its abolition in itself the subject of drawn-out political intrigues in the Senate. But it would be a mistake to conceive of green corporate welfare as being limited to the fiscal aspects of governmental activity.

The former Howard government introduced renewable energy requirements for electricity supply in 2001, with the goal of sourcing 20 per cent of Australia's energy from renewables by 2020, including 41,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity for larger wind and solar farms and 4000 gigawatt-hours for rooftop solar installations.

Since unconventional renewable energy technologies generate electricity at costs well in excess of conventional, coal-fired generation, regulatory targets mandating that renewable energies make a greater contribution to the supply mix leads to, other things being equal, upwards pressure on electricity prices passed through to the consumer.

It is estimated that the renewable energy target, currently subject to a government review, and even speculated as a candidate for abolition, adds another 3 per cent to the average electricity bill paid by householders.

Therefore, such green policies effectively transfer wealth from households and other consumers, including through higher electricity prices, to the big renewable industry players, all in the name of addressing climate change trends that Australian taxpayers alone cannot hope to resolve, even if they yearn to do so.

As University of Sydney academic Lynne Chester noted in a 2013 study, rising energy costs have led to low-income families forgoing basic material comforts, such as heating, and confronting other pressing hardships, a true indictment of the impact of green corporate welfare policy if there ever was one.

Randall Holcombe and Andrea Castillo, in their book Liberalism and Cronyism, explain that green-friendly policies typically serve as nothing more than old-fashioned crony capitalism dressed in the new garb of environmentalism, essentially as an appeal to current political fashion.

Environmental policies, in their words, "all share the common characteristic of putting government representatives in a position to choose the economic winners and losers.

 Modern environmental policy therefore resembles industrial policy in the sense that the government selects which firms should be favoured under the law."

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has asked Senate crossbenchers, and presumably other parties, to identify alternative savings as part of a fresh round of budget negotiations to secure some political order to fiscal proceedings.

If the opponents of the first Abbott budget genuinely wish to see an end to political privilege, and truly care about the interests of the poor, they should offer green corporate welfare, together with all other forms of fiscal and regulatory favouritism for traditional industries, as the first item for the chopping block.


22 August, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is celebrating the defeat of Clive Palmer by the Chinese.  The buffoon deserves it.

Australian Muslim leadership in chaos: Radicals reject Australia, boycott Tony Abbott

RADICAL Islamic groups have launched a scathing attack on the Prime Minister’s call for Australian Muslims to join “Team Australia”, urging all Islamic leaders to boycott meetings with the PM.

And in an extraordinary rift, the extremist Muslims have even turned on their own leader, Australia’s Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu ­Mohamed, lambasting him for meeting Mr Abbott on Monday to discuss new laws to safeguard Australians from a potential jihadist terrorist attack.

The Islamic Council of Victoria, which represents the state’s 150,000 Muslims, yesterday boycotted a meeting with the PM after earlier indicating it would attend.

And radical Sydney-based groups Hizb ut-Tahrir and al Risalah took to social media to attack Mr Abbott’s bid to unite Australians and protect the nation from extremist violence.

In a rare show of bipartisan support, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten backed the PM’s campaign to unite Australians under our flag. A spokesman for Mr Shorten said Labor Party stood behind Mr Abbott’s push for a united Australia.

The Daily Telegraph yesterday reported exclusively on radical Sydney Muslim leader Wissam Haddad’s rejection of the Australian flag in favour of the flag being used by murderous Islamic State terrorists in the Middle East.

ICV secretary Ghaith Krayem yesterday called on other Islamic groups to avoid talking with the Abbott government. The local branch of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah Association of Australia also pulled out of the afternoon meeting in Melbourne.

“We will not participate in staged processes that have no purpose other than as public relations exercises,” Mr Krayem said.

Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Uthman Badar, who supports “honour killings”, slammed the Grand Mufti, Dr Mohamed, for talking to Mr Abbott and releasing a statement saying the talks were positive.

“All those who signed that shameful statement coming out of the Mufti’s office gave Tony Abbott what he wanted: A rubber stamp for the terror law proposals,” Mr Badar told his Facebook followers.

A #BoycottTeamAustralia campaign was being supported on ­social media yesterday by Mr Badar and others over the proposed national security legislation changes.


The  Australia’s Constitution is perhaps the most successful written constitution in the democratic world


THE air is full of lamentations about our supposedly broken politics. Not just in Australia, but in the US. Not just on the Left, but on the Right. There is wailing about Clive and his antics. There is lamenting from ex-politicos, BBC types stationed here for a bit, from the big end of town.

Their gnashing of teeth and rending of garments sound like this: politics is broken; nothing gets enacted; why not just work together for the common good?

Really, it’s all nonsense. First, our political system is not broken. It is delivering what it is designed to deliver. Way back at Federation the men (and it was all men, so if you’re offended, tough) who put together our Constitution had two models on offer: one Canadian, the other American.

They chose the US model, both when it came to the sort of federal system we would have and to the version of bicameralism. Let me be blunt. Australia’s Constitution is the most American one going and perhaps the most successful written constitution in the democratic world. And I say that as a native-born Canadian.

Australia’s founders liked the Madisonian constitutional structure they saw in the US; they preferred its emphasis on a really strong upper house that could, and on a regular basis would, block what the lower house wanted to do. They liked the model of checks and balances.

True, our founders took that US model and, in my view, made it better: they got rid of its democracy-enervating bill of rights and substituted in a Swiss-style amending procedure that gives you and me a say in change, rather than leave it to the political class as in the US and Canada. (If it were left to the politicos we’d be a republic and we’d have recognised every ethnic group going.)

So when you buy the James Madison checks and balances, not surprisingly you buy lots of checks and balances. It’s hard to get things done. That’s not design failure. It’s what the design is supposed to deliver on occasion.

This will be annoying if you think government almost always gets things right. If the National Broadband Network, carbon taxes, paid parental leave and so on are virtually guaranteed to be good, then you want a New Zealand, British or Canadian setup where a party wins an election and does what it wants. There is no (elected) upper house blocking statutes.

If, though, you suspect government gets things wrong as much as it gets things right, then you are prepared to pay the price of gridlock and few things getting through. You, like Madison, think this is the lesser evil. Sometimes you will feel vindicated when a bill you don’t like can’t get through the Senate. Sometimes you won’t, when a budget measure desperately needs enacting. The two most successful models on offer in the democratic world are the British model, with next to no checks, and the US with loads of checks. It is far from obvious that Britain outperforms the US over time.

Of course there is no perfect choice. But the notion that the US is suddenly more partisan than in years gone by is garbage. And our founders even built in a mechanism the Yanks don’t have, the double dissolution. So in the end our more democratic lower house can prevail over the Senate. Make your case to the people. If the Senate blocks it, keep making the case and if needs be pull the double dissolution trigger. If you can’t sell your medicine, don’t blame the voters. It’s you.

As for the lovey-dovey ‘‘Let’s just hold hands and work together to make our country a better place’’, the point is that reasonable disagreement is a fact of life. The idea that one can explain moral and political disagreement in terms of me being God incarnate and you a defective, intellectually challenged git in need of re-­education is garbage and the natural home of the Greens. The rest of us should avoid it.

We are not living through the breakdown of politics. Voters may have made choices they regret. Any bets on whether a re-run today of the 2007 election would see Howard win? But in the end democracy is the worst form of government except for every other system going. It is not infallible. Right now the system is working as designed. Get the voters on board and our Senate will cave in like a house of cards.


Solar cycles linked to climate pause, assist in coastal planning

Australian data

LONG-TERM  natural cycles linked to the sun could explain the pause in global average surface temperatures and offer a better guide for coastal planners to predict sea level rises, storm surges and natural disasters.

Publication of the findings in Ocean and Coastal Management follows a decade-long struggle for the lead author, Australian scientist Robert Baker from the University of New England, whose work has challenged the orthodox ­climate science view that carbon dioxide is the dominant factor in climate change.

Dr Baker, a former chair of the International Geographical Commission on Modelling Geographic Systems, said what had been a purely scientific debate on climate change until 2005 had become political. His latest paper with his PhD student faced a ­series of ­objections from scientists close to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change but was published after an 11-member peer review panel voted 8-3 to publish. An editorial that accompanied the paper said it was an “excellent ­example of how to approach these complex issues that are now vulnerable to often irrational and heated debate instead of the ­required proper scientific discussion”.

The Baker paper suggests a ­hybrid model that allows future climate change to be estimated with or without human influences. The authors said this would provide a better legal foundation for decision making. Problems with coastal planning in NSW, based on sea-level predictions from climate modelling, were cited in the international paper.

The paper accepts that if there is a human influence on climate change, then it could result in a threefold increase in one-in-100-year extreme coastal events. But it says, as the hiatus shows, human influence can be overtaken by long-term natural cycles, making predictions less certain. The combination of natural and human-induced change in a hybrid model of natural cycles and human influence suggested by Dr Baker produces a “planner’s ­dilemma” of determining whether extreme events are natural fluctuations or from anthropogenic warming.

The paper shows, from scientific analysis of a large number of data sets, that previous fluctuations are periodic and likely to repeat, which has previously been ignored in climate models. According to the paper, the new model was able to simulate a number of climate features . This included greater heat uptake in the oceans to explain the present temperature “pause”; regional effects whereby global warming impacts were not evenly spread ; and planetary, lunar and solar cycles being embedded within the chaotic fluctuations in short-term mean sea-level data. Historic cycles could be predicted to repeat, except with the addition of anthropogenic warming, where the impact could be magnified.

The IPCC’s latest report said the “pause” was due to natural variation and ocean warming. Climate scientists say they expect warming to resume in the near future.


A small minority of ANU students march again over fee deregulation

Students at the Australian National University (ANU) have vowed to ramp up their opposition to the Government's proposal to deregulate student fees.  More than 200 ANU students in Canberra marched against the proposed deregulation of student fees.

The controversial policy was announced in the Federal Government's budget earlier in the year, but the proposal is yet to pass the Senate.

Organisers of the protest warned university fee deregulation would disadvantage students from lower income areas.

The protesters targeted Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Prime Minister Tony Abbott, but also the ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young, for supporting the proposed policy.

ANU student organiser Geraldine Fela has warned an uncapped university system could lead to degrees costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Our vice-chancellor Ian Young, who's also the chair of the Group Of Eight universities, has been championing fee deregulation from the beginning," she said.  "He's certainly I think feeling very uncomfortable on the campus."

Speaking at the National Press Club last month, Mr Young said fee deregulation, although not the whole answer, would enable universities to differentiate and play to their strengths, creating real competition in the sector.

He used his speech to urge the Senate to "rise above point-scoring and political trickery" and support deregulation.

Today students marched to the University's Chancellery building, where they were blocked by a small team of security guards.

There was a minor scuffle between protesters and security, before the students left the site.

In May there were fiery protests around the country, opposing the proposed changes


Old-fashioned slang for homosexuals lands Australian regional politician in trouble

The Northern Territory’s Deputy Chief Minister Dave Tollner is in trouble after being heard calling the gay son of fellow Country Liberals Party politician Gary Higgins a “pillow biter” and “shirt lifter.”  [He missed out "freckle puncher"]

The incident happened during a row over the content of a draft speech, reports the NT News. It may have serious fall-out, with Higgins reportedly telling the parliamentary wing that he would boycott all party meetings while Tollner remained in a leadership position.

Tollner has apologised to Higgins’ son for the comments, which have also been condemned by Chief Minister Adam Giles as “inappropriate” and “not acceptable.”


21 August, 2014

Palmer bites the dust in dispute with Chinese

Federal MP and mining magnate Clive Palmer has lost his latest legal battle against Chinese giant CITIC Pacific for control of a key Pilbara iron ore port.

The Federal Court has today issued two rulings adverse to Mr Palmer's company Mineralogy's interests at Cape Preston port, used to ship ore from the multi-billion-dollar Sino Iron mine, about 100km south-west of Karratha.

It has upheld an appeal by Hong Kong-based CITIC challenging Mineralogy's designation by the Department of Infrastructure and Transport as the port operator, in January 2013.

In a separate case, the Federal Court has dismissed an application by Mineralogy seeking to overturn the approval of CITIC's maritime security plan at the port.

The department had declared it was a "security regulated port", requiring a maritime security plan (MSP) to protect it from potential terrorist and other threats.

CITIC ships ore out of Cape Preston, after buying the rights to mine the $10 billion Sino Iron project from Mineralogy.

The decisions come after Mr Palmer's comments on ABC's Q&A program on Monday night, where he called the Chinese government "bastards" and "mongrels" and claimed they "shoot their own people".

He later issued a statement saying his comments were directed only at CITIC, with which he is engaged in several long-running legal disputes.

Port operation should be taken out of Mineralogy's hands: CITIC

Lawyers for CITIC had proposed the state of Western Australia, or the harbourmaster appointed by it, should be the designated port operator instead of Mineralogy.

They were appealing an earlier decision by the Federal Court dismissing their application for a judicial review of the designation of Mineralogy as port operator.

In its ruling on the appeal, the court has now found the Department of Infrastructure and Transport did not take into account CITIC's views as required by law when it made the designation.

"That approach was based on a misunderstanding of the statutory requirements and resulted in a failure by the [department's] delegate to carry out the task assigned to him," the court's ruling said.

CITIC, which said it had been exporting iron ore from Cape Preston since December, welcomed the court's decision invalidating the designation of Mineralogy.

"We look forward to the secretary for the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development designating a new port operator for maritime security purposes in accordance with the requirements of the law," the company said in a statement.

In November last year, the secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development had accepted CITIC's maritime security plan for Cape Preston port.

The department has rejected Mineralogy's own proposed maritime security plans several times.

In court, Mineralogy's lawyers argued the decision had seriously prejudiced its rights at the port.

They said the decision was not properly authorised, was an improper exercise of power, involved an error in law and lacked evidence to justify the approval of CITIC's marine security plan.

Mineralogy claimed CITIC had established a near complete "lockout" of its employees from the port.

But Justice Neil McKerracher has upheld the validity of the department's decision and found Mineralogy's complaints could not be sustained.

"In this instance, the approval of [CITIC's security plan] had none of the adverse consequences that Mineralogy has suggested," Justice McKerracher said in his judgement.

He added: "The reality is that it is [CITIC] that is conducting all activities of any significance at the port and it was in its interests, not some future potential interest of Mineralogy, that was affected by the secretary's decision."

CITIC said it was pleased with the ruling.

Justice McKerracher rejected Mineralogy's assertion the department's approval of CITIC's maritime safety plan was "to the exclusion of Mineralogy's MSP".

He noted Mineralogy still had a right and obligation to obtain approval of its own maritime security plan for the port.

He also found the approval of CITIC's safety plan had "no effect at all" on Mineralogy's arguments in other litigation with CITIC claiming it had exclusive right to occupy and operate the Cape Preston facilities.

Mineralogy was ordered to pay CITIC's costs in both cases.


Student test anxiety relieved by new research

While NAPLAN marks slip across the country, new research suggests letting kids look at exams before they begin can help reduce anxiety and improve performance.

Child development researcher and PhD student Myrto Mavilidi, from the Early Start Research Institute at the University of Wollongong (UOW), said that test anxiety is a major threat to student performance that can lead them to ‘choking under pressure’.

“The stress related to pressure-filled exam situations has physiological effects, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, emotional effects, such as worries about the situation and its consequences, and cognitive effects, such as working memory load,” Ms Mavilidi said.

“Our research has found that even letting students skim their exams for one minute before they begin can help to reduce anxiety.”

Researchers from UOW and Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands tested the math skills of 117 sixth grade students across primary schools in Athens and found that both low-anxiety and high-anxiety students were less stressed and achieved better results if they were allowed to scan the test beforehand.

The study, recently published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, also found that students with higher anxiety levels needed significantly more response time and greater effort because their working memories were consumed by negative thoughts, and so performed worse on their exams.


Must not oppose mosque building

A divisive social media page protesting the development of a mosque in Bendigo has been shut down by Facebook for violating its community standards.

The "Stop the Mosque in Bendigo" page claims it was closed over a post calling for Muslim leaders in Australia to sign "a Muslim charter of understanding” abolishing violence against other religions.

But some of those who reported the page to Facebook say they were told it was removed because it breached Facebook’s policy on hate speech.

The page sprang up earlier this year in response to a City of Greater Bendigo decision in June to grant a planning permit for a $3 million mosque, the first of its kind for the regional city.

It was taken down after at least two Bendigo residents complained about it to Facebook, the Bendigo Advertiser reported.

One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she made a report because she found the page’s contents embarrassing and unfair to Muslim people.

"I believe the page is hate speech and I don't think that the average Muslim person living in Bendigo should have to see the stuff that was on that page. The page promoted hate, fear and misguided intolerance and made me embarrassed to live in Bendigo," she told the Bendigo Advertiser.

Tara Harding, also a Bendigo resident, later posted on Facebook: "This was a great community effort by many of the Bendigo residents. I'm happy to say I too received a notification this page was shut down after reporting the page in July."

One of the administrators of the anti-mosque page, Monika Evers, dramatically withdrew a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal challenge to the planning permit after a legal bid to have her identity hidden was thrown out. 

She had told the tribunal she’d received death threats and feared for her safety. The other administrator of the page was a woman called Julie Kendall.

“You know we have been riding a very unpopular stance with our page by many Australians,” Stop the Mosque in Bendigo wrote in an email announcing the closure of the page on Tuesday.

The email went on to explain Facebook had unpublished the page after its administrators boosted a post by an ex-Muslim calling for a more moderate approach to other religions to be adopted by Muslim leaders.

The administrator wrote she was: “considering my options before resurrecting the page” and claimed it had previously been hacked “as part of an ongoing campaign to personally vilify me".

Dr Seyed Sheriffdeen from the Australian Islamic Mission, the group behind the mosque, said he had visited the page only once and found its contents to be “purely racist”.

The move by members of the Bendigo community to have it removed had been heartening, he said.

“It is nice to see people standing for justice and at least a fair go,” he said. “I’m really appreciating the amount of effort taken by local non-Muslim residents to stand up for justice in this community.”


Tasmanian abalone contain protein being developed for new herpes treatment

A fish processor's healed hand warts has alerted scientists to the herpes-fighting properties of the blue blood of the Tasmanian blacklip abalone.

Researchers have found the abalone from pristine bays along the state's coast contain potent anti-viral properties that chemical engineers and virologists have shown block the herpes virus's entry into cells.

Scientists have discovered the same protein that gives the blood its blue colour also has anti-viral properties.

Adrian Cuthbertson from Marine Biotechnologies Australia, which is working with University of Sydney staff and other researchers, said the potential of the abalone blood in developing a better treatment was a chance discovery.

"Initially we started out looking at the prospect of developing an immune support supplement, and that serendipitously led us to the discovery that it was effective on cold sores," he said.

Mr Cutherbertson said 10 years ago when the company was involved in abalone serum trials relating to cancer treatments, patients reported fewer cases of cold sore breakouts.

"Around the same time we had an employee responsible for loading and unloading abalone shell containers," he said.  "After a month of working with the shellfish, he found the viral warts which had plagued his hands for years disappeared."

Mr Cuthbertson said he then contacted chemical engineers at the University of Sydney and virus researchers at the Westmead Millennium Institute to work on the discovery.

Most herpes medication works to manage the symptoms, but the anti-viral properties found in abalone act as a preventative measure.

Professor Fariba Dehghan, director of the university's bioengineering research, said their study showed the particular abalone hemocyanin inhibited the herpes simplex infection.

She said hemocyanins had a primary function of collecting and delivering oxygen to tissues.

"We know once infection occurs the virus integrates itself into a body's nerve cells, where it lays dormant awaiting reactivation," she said

"When awakened it travels back along the nerve tracks to the surface where it takes the form of watery blisters and ulcers on the skin."

Professor Tony Cunningham from Westmead Millennium Institutes said researchers were confident they could develop a therapy to replace current treatments that shorten the disease but do not kill the virus.

"With the information we have now, we are hopeful that we can develop an anti-viral therapy that will prevent or reduce the recurrence of the virus and/or hasten healing of the lesions," he said.

Mr Cuthbertson said there was a potential for a boost to Tasmania's abalone industry when a commercial product was developed.

"In terms of the abalone industry for Tasmania, it has the potential to substantially increase the value of it - this is, if you like, the ultimate value-add process," he said.

"We've now got to the stage where there's every possibility that we can develop pharmaceutical drugs from some of the bi-products.

"We would be hopeful that in the next 18 months to two years that we've got some serious interest from pharmaceutical companies."

The anti-viral therapy's form is still unclear and researchers said it was possible it could be a cream, a nasal spray or a tablet.

The researchers said more than 70 per cent of Australians carried the herpes simplex 1 virus.

About 13 per cent carry the herpes simplex 2 virus, which can cause genital herpes.


20 August, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG notes that insulting speech is OK if Clive Palmer says it

Clive Palmer, the ultimate loose cannon

There will now be NOBODY who takes him seriously

Palmer United Party senator Jacquie Lambie has stuck her foot in it — again.  Tasmania’s PUP member today emailed a media statement and “opinion piece” regarding her boss Clive Palmer's tirade on Chinese “mongrels” on QandA last night.

In an inflammatory statement, Ms Lambie writes, “If anybody thinks that we should have a national security and defence policy, which ignores the threat of a Chinese Communist invasion — you’re delusional and got rocks in your head.  “Today China is controlled by an aggressive, anti democratic, totalitarian government. We need to double the size and capacity of our military right now.”

Meanwhile, the one politician Australia really wants to hear from this morning has chosen to keep his opinions to himself, as Clive Palmer continues to cop it after launching a tirade against the Chinese last night.  A spokeswoman for the Palmer United Party’s Chinese born senator, Dio Wang, who holds a seat in Western Australia, told Mr Wang had “no comment”.  According to the spokeswoman, Mr Wang was “preparing for upcoming back to back Senate sittings”.

Mr Wang was born in Nanjing, China, and emigrated to Australia in 2003. He has been an Australian citizen since 2009. He earned a Postgraduate Diploma in Planning and Design (Urban Planning) and Master of Engineering Structures at the University of Melbourne.

Wang was Palmer’s top candidate for PUP’s 2013 Western Australia federal election campaign.  He was initially caught up in the recount scandal, eventually winning with 12.3 per cent of the vote. He joined the Senate on July 1 this year.

Meanwhile, former One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has shocked Australia this morning by giving a measured and thought-provoking interview regarding Clive Palmer’s explosive tirade against the Chinese on the ABC last night.  In an interview alongside former radio shock jock Derryn Hinch on Channel 7’s Sunrise program, Ms Hanson criticised Mr Palmer for his tirade against Australia’s biggest trading partner.

On Q&A last night, Mr Palmer likened the Chinese government to “mongrels” and called them “b*stards” who wanted to “take over our country”.   In a broad spray the maverick MP accused the “communist Chinese government” of trying to take over Australia’s ports to steal the nation’s natural resources. “I don’t mind standing up against the Chinese bastards and stopping them from doing it,” he said on Q&A.

Treasurer Joe Hockey this morning said Mr Palmer’s comments are “hugely damaging”, arguing he is a big beneficiary of China’s investment.  “I would say to Mr Palmer please do not bring down the rest of Australia because of your biases.”

Mr Palmer has since attempted to defuse the situation, tweeting this morning that his comments were not in reference to “Chinese people”.

Yet in an unexpected twist, Ms Hanson criticised Mr Palmer, telling Sunrise he should “stick your nose out of other people’s business”.  “I never said what Clive Palmer said, and Tony Abbott thought I was his biggest headache,” she said.

“Maybe Clive Palmer should take a position over in China in Parliamentary seats.  “I’ve always said clean up your own backyard before criticising other people.  “It’s not up to Clive Palmer or anyone else. It’s not for us or Australia to get involved in that.”

Meanwhile, Julie Bishop said it was not appropriate for Mr Palmer to “vent his bitterness” on a television program over a business deal.  In an interview with 3AW this morning, she said she would be speaking with the Chinese embassy to explain that the comments were from just one member of parliament, but would not be contacting Mr Palmer.

The Palmer United Party leader is embroiled in a legal battle with Chinese state-owned company CITIC Pacific, which has accused the mining magnate of siphoning off $12 million in funds.  Mr Palmer has strenuously denied accusations his company Mineralogy misused CITIC Pacific’s cash to finance PUP’s federal election campaign. He said the matter was before the Supreme Court this week and he’d keep up the fight against the “Chinese mongrels”.


Dropping bombs and stoking feuds: the other side of Noel Pearson

He writes sensibly.  A pity his conduct does not match

Shortly after 11 am last Friday, Noel Pearson, chairman of the Cape York Group and a nationally prominent Aboriginal leader, walked into the newsroom of The Sydney Morning Herald and approached a senior editor. He proceeded to berate the editor, loudly, obscenely. He took off his jacket and told the editor he would “beat you to a pulp”. He also mentioned throwing him off the balcony. He dropped the “c” bomb repeatedly.

All in the middle of a metropolitan newsroom.

This is the other side of Noel Pearson, the unelected, unaccountable bridge-burner who has left a trail of damage and division that offsets and undermines his efforts to break the cycle of social dysfunction in many indigenous communities.

Tony Abbott is having a shocking run with his inner sanctum. He’s been putting out fires lit by his Treasurer, his Attorney-General, his Minister for Employment, his Treasurer, again, and now his personally appointed special adviser on indigenous affairs.

Abbott’s appointment of Pearson now looks well-meaning but obtuse. If Pearson were to ever appear in court in a defamation action over being called a bully, the court would be presented with voluminous evidence of his foul temper and self-indulgent rages, some of which have been recorded on tape.

One of his tirades was recorded by a former federal minister. Even after Pearson was advised he was being taped he continued a long, expletive-laden soliloquy of abuse and invective. The current Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, is also reported to have been subject to one of Pearson’s rages, repeatedly being told to “f--- off”.

The trigger for Pearson’s rage on Friday was an old sore, a profile published in Good Weekend  two years ago, on August 25, 2012, by Jane Cadzow. The profile was rigorously researched and crafted, a trademark of Cadzow’s work. She has won two Walkley Awards for feature writing and been a Walkley finalist four times.

Cadzow's request for an interview with Pearson had been turned down. Yet on the morning her profile appeared he was on the phone delivering a long blast of outrage. He was aggrieved that it had been written while he was receiving treatment for cancer and that Cadzow did not go up to Cape York when researching the story.

But Cadzow was not going to Cape York without an interview with Pearson. She also felt his rage over the phone vindicated her portrayal of his anger, based on many sources.

“His call went on so long,” she told me, “and I had so little chance to get a word in, that I even made a cup of tea … It was ironic that while he was complaining about the story his behaviour fitted exactly with the pattern I had reported.”

Her profile began with this confronting scene:

The meeting began cordially enough. A Queensland government delegation was in Cairns to confer with Noel Pearson, the most influential indigenous leader in the country. Pleasantries were exchanged as people took their places around the table, then the room fell silent while everyone waited respectfully for him to speak.

What followed, according to former parliamentarian Stephen Robertson, was "a tirade of expletives and abuse", including, more than once, the phrase "f---ing white c---s"...  starting very slowly, very deliberately, and speaking quite softly, then over the next 15 or 20 minutes reaching a crescendo".

Among those present was state environment minister Kate Jones, whose female adviser was dismissed by Pearson as an "arse-wipe". Robertson says his own chief-of-staff, an indigenous man, was called a "sell-out c---". Another member of the group sums up the rest of the diatribe: "'You f---ing white c---s', scream, scream, scream. Full on, for half an hour. Nobody could get a word in.”

The story presented a troubling portrait of a charismatic bully who has extracted millions of dollars of funding for indigenous programs from governments and corporations, via persuasion or browbeating. The portrait of Pearson’s older brother, Gerhardt, was also troubling. The profile was balanced with the many positives for which Pearson is famous - his intellect, his lucidity and his commitment to practical improvements for Australia’s poorest communities.

I’ve interviewed Pearson, seen him speak, seen a room captivated by his eloquence, and  written in his favour. But his positives are offset by his negatives, the feuds, the disdain, the costly demands on the public purse.

And his bullying is often premeditated. Cadzow interviewed many people including a former close associate of Pearson who became an adversary, Lyndon Schneiders of the Wilderness Society. He described how Noel and Gerhardt Pearson planned their intimidation: "They called it 'bombing'. When they were going to go in and make their views forcefully known to government, they were going on a 'bombing raid'. I watched them do it to advisers, to backbenchers, to ministers, to journos. It wasn't pretty."

Even the journalist who did more than any other to push the Pearson mythology, Tony Koch, came to regret his long silence about Pearson’s dark side. In a column for The Australian in April 2012, he wrote: “Instead of drawing people into his orbit, Pearson has succeeded in pushing almost everyone away.”

This does not augur well for his role as Abbott’s emissary. Pearson’s story forms just a fractional part of the tens of billions of dollars of government funding that has been funnelled into indigenous communities and programs with little impact on measurable improvement. The public’s exasperation and cynicism is rampant. It pays the bills.

Pearson’s most recent explosion, on Friday, is emblematic of a man who cannot control his anger or curb his ego. This does not serve his cause. It also damages the cause of the Prime Minister he is supposedly helping.


Qantas flies a flag for Labor with Recognise livery

QANTAS has for the first time in its 94 years turned its aeroplanes into political billboards. Worse, it’s doing it in a racist cause.

The national airline this week painted a giant Recognise slogan on a new QantasLink Q400, and all 31 aircraft in its Q400 regional fleet will soon sport the logo, too.

“As an Australian icon, Qantas is proud to lend its support towards ensuring the first chapter of Australia’s story and the people who forged it are recognised,” said Qantas group executive Olivia Wirth.

But Recognise is not just a campaign to change the Constitution to recognise Aborigines as the first Australians, which is supported by the Abbott Government.

The movement, whose joint campaign director Tim Gartrell is Labor’s former campaign director, wants even more.

It wants not just to divide Australians by “race” but to accord the Aboriginal “race” different rights.

It wants the Constitution changed to allow Parliament to pass “laws for the benefit” of indigenous Australians, to recognise Aboriginal “ languages were this country’s first tongues” and to ban racial discrimination.

These changes could actually mean different laws for different “races”, Aboriginal culture given special rights, and activists getting new weapons to shut down debates they define as racist.

And mind you: this stupid division is happening when many people identifying as Aboriginal actually have many non-Aboriginal descendants.

It is bad enough that Qantas backs something so racist. Worse is that it’s promoting a recognition campaign closer to Labor’s position than the Liberal one set by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Abbott wants only a minimalist change to the Constitution — little more than a simple recognition in the preamble that Aborigines were here before other “races”.

But Labor demands something much closer to the Recognise demands.

A week ago, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten declared “symbolic change is not good enough”.

Any change to the Constitution should be “substantive and substantial”.

So Qantas is not just helping to set Aboriginal Australians against non-Aboriginal. It is also helping Labor against the Liberals.

How useful that is for Qantas, after all its fights with Labor’s most powerful unions. Its real reconciliation is with Labor.


Cancelled: proposed speech by Muslim activist Uthman Badar at UWA

A speech by a controversial Muslim activist planned to be held at UWA has been cancelled by organisers, who claimed they were misled by an outside party.

On Tuesday morning, UWA's Muslim Students Association cancelled the speech by Uthman Badar after Vice-Chancellor Paul Johnson declared the activist had to renounce his alleged view that honour killings were morally justified.

Mr Badar attracted significant media attention earlier this year when he was booked to speak on morally justifying honour killing at Sydney's Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

Negative feedback forced the seminar to be called off.

Now the Australian spokesman for Hizb Ut-Tahrir - an international Islamic group that advocates sharia law - Mr Badar had been invited to speak at a forum at UWA held by the university's Muslim Students Association titled "Gaza Crisis".

The university's Muslim Students Association cancelled the forum, shortly after Mr Johnson said he required a written undertaking that Mr Badar abide by the university's code of ethics and conduct and renounce his views on honour killings "in all contexts".

Muslim Students Association executive officer Nazim Khan, an assistant professor at UWA’s Department of Applied Statistics, said the association had been misguided by a party outside the university.

He refused to name the man who booked Mr Badar but said they would not deal with him in the future.

“When we organised it, it was organised through one of our partners. We didn’t know who the speaker was, we just knew the topic,” he said.

“When it came to light who the speaker was, I didn’t recognise the name but once we discovered who he was, as an association we took the steps to cancel it.

“We have had some dealings with [the booker] before so we took it in good faith but we weren’t told who the speaker was, although this person did know.

“We trusted his judgement to get a speaker on the topic but when it came to light he had misguided us...we will be more vigilant in the future.

“We took the steps to make sure we didn’t damage our reputation within the university or the reputation of the university”

Vice-Chancellor Johnson had earlier labelled Mr Badar's purported views to be incompatible with UWA principles.

"Mr Badar has been reported to hold the view that so-called honour killings are morally justified," he said in a statement.

"This view is completely incompatible with the university’s principles.

"[Mr Johnson] requires Mr Badar to give an explicit, written public assurance that he is opposed to the cowardly and barbaric act of so-called honour killings."

Although Mr Badar was booked to speak at the Sydney festival, it was unclear if he held a view that honour killings were justified.

Mr Nazim said the Gaza Crisis forum may go ahead at a later date with more moderate speakers.


19 August, 2014

A Muslim suburb in Sydney

The Lakemba Hotel is one of the last Anglo holdouts in Sydney’s otherwise Middle Eastern south-western suburb. Frankly, the old joint – it opened in 1928 – isn’t putting up much resistance. Most nights the bar is closed by 8.30pm or so, because by then what few customers it attracts are insufficient to cover running costs.

Still, it’s friendly and hospitable. Staffer Poppy helpfully showed me to my $50 per night room, which is the only option in Lakemba for anyone seeking short-term rented accommodation. There are no other hotels or motels. In fact, there are no other rooms besides number 15, in the hotel’s residential wing. All the others are taken by boarders, one of whom has been here for 20 years.

It isn’t exactly luxurious. The room has a sink, which is nice, but nothing else by way of amenities. There isn’t even a Gideon’s Bible. Instead, reflecting certain demographic changes in the area, there is a Ramadan eating schedule.

Lakemba may be only 30 minutes from the centre of Sydney, yet it is remarkably distinct from the rest of our city. You can walk the length of crowded Haldon Street and not hear a single phrase in English. On this main shopping street the ethnic mix seems similar to what you’d find in any major Arabic city. Australia may be multicultural, but Haldon Street is a monoculture.

This does have its advantages. If you’re ever in need of groceries at 3am, head to Lakemba, where shopkeepers keep unusual hours, particularly during Ramadan. The food is delicious, of course. I recommend La Roche and Al Aseel, but all restaurants in Haldon Street are good. If you’re unfamiliar with Lebanese food, just go for anything with the word “mixed”.

And then there are the downsides.

A few weeks ago a large crowd of mostly young men assembled outside the Lakemba Hotel. Waving black flags, the men chanted:

Palestine is Muslim land
The solution is Jihad ...
You can never stop Islam
From Australia to al Sham.

I asked a non-Islamic local about that night. “You should see them when they really go off,” she said. “That was nothing.” Another non-Islamic woman said young men sometimes shouted “sharmuta” at her from their cars. She looked up the word online and discovered it was an Arabic term for prostitute.

Across the road from the hotel is the Islamic Bookstore, which bills itself as “your superstore of Islamic knowledge”. Three books caught my eye. Here’s an extract from Muhammad bin Jamil Zino’s What a Muslim Should Believe, a handy 64-page Q & A guide to the Koran’s instructions:
Question 43: Is it allowed to support and love disbelievers?

Answer: No, it is not allowed.

Well, that might explain a few things. The History of the Jews seems a bland enough title, but the back cover quotes lines from Martin Luther that were used by Nazi propagandists: “The sun never did shine on a more bloodthirsty and revengeful people as they.” The book offers this view, on page 16:

No one can deny the fact that the Jews are the worst kind of barbarian killers the world has ever known!!! The decent great Adolf Hitler of Germany never killed in the manner of the Jews!!! Surely only mad people or those who love killing infants, pregnant women and the infirm will think differently.

It goes on and on. Another extract:

"Humor and jokes are strictly forbidden by the Jewish religion.
This will come as a surprise to just about every Jew on earth. Another must-read is Mansoor Abdul Hakim’s charming 2009 text, Women Who Deserve to go to Hell. Turns out it’s quite a lot of them.

“Some people keep asking about the denizens of Hell and the reason why women will go to hell in large numbers,” writes Hakim in the book’s foreword, before listing various types of hell-bound females, including the grumbler, the quarrelsome woman, women with tattoos and women who refuse to have sex during menstruation. “Men’s perfection is because of various reasons: intelligence, religion, etc,” Hakim explains. “At most, four women have this perfection.”

Mix this level of ignorance and loathing with the Islamic community’s high rate of unemployment, and conflict is inevitable. The Islamic riots of 2012 ended up in central Sydney but began here in Lakemba and surrounding suburbs, where seething young Muslims formed their plans, including printing signs reading “Behead all those who insult the prophet”.

One of the men arrested in those riots was Ahmed Elomar, who was subsequently convicted for bashing a police officer with a flagpole. His lawyer claimed that Elomar was “overcome with the occasion”. The occasion continues. Lately Elomar’s brother Mohammed has posed with severed heads in Iraq, where he is fighting alongside fundamentalist Islamic State extremists.

Back at the pub, a staffer mentions rare moments of cultural overlap. “Sometimes the young blokes will come in here to buy Scotch,” she says. “They try to hide themselves under hoodies.” But when the staffer sees them later in the street, they don’t return her greeting. The hotel is haram – sinful and forbidden. Those early closing hours will eventually become permanent.


Andrew Bolt's interview with Cory Bernardi

Bernardi is a true conservative but an "extremist" to the LeftMedia

ANDREW BOLT, PRESENTER: The Abbott Government, last week, dumped its promise to reform the Racial Discrimination Act to allow more free speech. It said it had to do this to encourage Muslim Australians to help fight terrorism.

TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: When it comes to counterterrorism, everyone needs to be part of ‘Team Australia’. And I have to say that the Government’s proposals to change 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act have become a complication in that respect.

ANDREW BOLT: Well, it didn’t work. Muslim leaders have still condemned the government’s anti-terrorism proposals. And Liberal MP Craig Laundy, whose Sydney seat has a Muslim vote of more than 10%, also found this ‘Team Australia’ approach didn’t fly at a meeting of the Muslim Lebanese Association on Friday.

CRAIG LAUNDY, LIBERAL MP: The Prime Minister used a term, and it is one that is unfortunately disappeared into the ether this week, but it is one that I believe with my heart and soul. It is Team Australia. There is no… and laugh all you like.

ANDREW BOLT: Many Liberals members now feel sold out. Former minister David Kemp, for instance, asked what the party actually stands for if it cannot defend even free speech. Some Liberal Senators even plan to vote for Abbott’s abandoned free speech reforms when they are presented to parliament by Family First Senator Bob Day. Joining me is the co-sponsor of Day’s private members bill, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi. Thanks for your time, Cory.

CORY BERNARDI, LIBERAL SENATOR: It’s a pleasure, Andrew. Good to be with you.

ANDREW BOLT: Now, why are you cosponsoring Bob Day’s bill?

CORY BERNARDI: Well, Andrew, I believe in freedom of speech, and I think that the Liberal grassroots want to know that there are members of the Liberal Parliamentary party who are absolutely committed to it. And I have to say that the decision by the Government to abandon reform of 18C has disappointed many members of the Liberal Party. We always thought that, you know, the initial proposal put forward by George Brandis was a starting point for negotiations, but would find an accommodation that we could all agree on as part of Team Australia, Andrew.

ANDREW BOLT: Thank you for that. How many Liberals and Nationals do you think will vote for it in the Senate?

CORY BERNARDI: I wouldn’t even like to hazard a guess at it, Andrew. In the end I’ve made this decision because I believe that what Senator Day has put forward, or is proposing, is absolutely consistent with Liberal Party values. It’s to remove, you know, ‘insult’ and ‘offend’ from the 18C provision of the Racial Discrimination Act. I think most level-headed, considered people would think that’s a very sensible amendment to ensure that free speech is available in Australia without the threat of being taken to court or some tribunal, just because you’ve upset someone.

ANDREW BOLT: How upset is the grassroots, the Liberal grassroots,with what the Government has done with these free speech plans?

CORY BERNARDI: Well, Andrew, I have heard some advice from some of my colleagues that, you know, long-standing members of the Liberal Party have resigned, and you know that I have a weekly email newsletter. I canvassed this issue in that newsletter last week and received, quite literally, hundreds and hundreds of people who are saying that they’re disappointed. They’ve made different points how it could be improved or amended, but they’re just disappointed it’s been abandoned, full stop. Now, I don’t want to see the Liberal grassroots start to cast their eyes anywhere else. They’re frustrated already that the Government isn’t able to get through much of its legislative agenda, and I don’t want them to turn off the Liberal Party. So, I want to make sure that, you know, we can present something that is workable, that is acceptable to the majority of Australians, and I hope, I really hope, that Cabinet, and the Liberal Party, will consider supporting it.

ANDREW BOLT: Is there a general sense among the Liberal members you talk to that the Government isn’t really a Liberal Government, that it isn’t giving them much that justifies their support for the Government?

CORY BERNARDI: I don’t think that’s the case, Andrew. There is a sense of frustration, there’s no question about that, but the frustration is borne by the fact that, you know, there are measures that are being taken forward, that can’t get through the Senate. There are road blocks there. Where there are rational road blocks or where there are sensible amendments that are proposed, I think Liberals are accepting of that. But it seems there’s an inconsistency, you don’t know what you’re dealing with. Now, ultimately, I’m a bit more optimistic than many that the Senate will provide a workable solution, but we’ve just got to settle down and get through that, and I think, then, the Government will start to hit its straps, and many more Liberals will think, well, finally we’re getting, you know, the changes through that are necessary.

ANDREW BOLT: Are you happy with Liberal Craig Laundy’s influence in dropping this reform to the Racial Discrimination Act? He says, “Labor is appealing more to Muslim voters, and the Liberals should also soften support for Israel, as well as free speech.”

CORY BERNARDI: Well, I certainly don’t agree we should soften support for Israel. You know, it’s a democracy in the Middle East, and they’re a great ally, I think we’ve got to continue the show them a great deal of support. But one point, I think, that is lost in this, 18C deals with racial discrimination. You know, Muslims are not a race, they’re a religious… a group of religious believers. So, 18C doesn’t deal with religious vilification. There is also, I have to say, Andrew, a sense of frustration and disappointment out there in the public that, you know, a small group of Australians can seem to dictate and determine what many consider is in the national interest, and that’s, I think, a sense of frustration that we’re going to have to deal with at some point in the future. We’ve got to manage for mainstream Australia, not for particular groups within it.

ANDREW BOLT: After this particular backdown, what hope has the Government got for its plans to change the constitution to recognise Aborigines as the first Australians?

CORY BERNARDI: You know, Andrew, I know there’s polarised discussion about this, as well. I’ve reserved my judgement because I haven’t seen what the proposed wording is going to be, but there are many conservatives out there who say, “Why are we tinkering with the constitution to implement, you know, some sort of racial bias or racial delineation within it?” We’re going to have to wait and see what is put forward. But I think there are many constitutional conservatives that have concerns about, you know, what may be coming down the pipe.

ANDREW BOLT; The Government has been struggling. I mean, it’s got a bit of dissent within its own ranks about things like this. Why do you think it’s having such trouble at the moment?

CORY BERNARDI: Well, Andrew, when you say the Government is struggling, I think they’re struggling to get their agenda through the Parliament, and, basically, through the Senate. But, you know, for backbenchers, like Mr Laundy and myself, we’re able to express, you know, different views, particularly if something hasn’t been discussed in the party room. Look, it’s, there’s just frustration, I think. We’ve just got to come to terms with that, you know, the complete Liberal agenda, or the Coalition agenda, is not going to be able to get through the Senate. We have some people with competing interests there, that have different views on how the country should be managed. Some are born more in reality than others, I have to tell you. But we’ve got to deal with them, we’ve got to make it work. And, you know, that’s what we’re coming to terms with.

And I have to make this point, that it’s only, we’ve had two sitting weeks where the new Senate has been there. We asked the new senators, who hold the balance of power, to make decisions that, perhaps, they weren’t entirely familiar with. They weren’t familiar with the processes. I’m optimistic, or, at least, I’m hopeful, I have to say, that, you know, over the coming weeks, they’ll understand their role and how to play it in a more constructive manner, and I think there’s reason for us then to think that we can get through some of the important reforms that we need to.

ANDREW BOLT: And, just finally, you lost your shadow Parliamentary secretary position for some comments you made on Islam, and then same-sex marriage. Has the Government tacked too far to the left? Do you think there are enough advocates for conservative politics within the Liberal Party? CORY BERNARDI: Well, I’ve been chastised many times for my comments, but I think when people reflect on, actually, the words that were spoken and the sentiments behind them, you know, in the fullness of time people will recognise that what I’ve said is entirely accurate. But, you know, that’s for others. I’m not here to wax and wane about that or complain. I’m a backbench conservative member of the Liberal Party and I’ll continue to advocate for what I think is international interests, and a conservative, put a conservative viewpoint through my party machinery.

ANDREW BOLT: Cory Bernardi, thank you so much for joining me.

CORY BERNARDI: It’s a pleasure, Andrew, thank you.


Greens in bed with thug union

In a last-minute bid to prevent the election of Liberal Senate candidate and former ACT leader Zed Seselja in 2013, the ACT Greens received the largest donation in the history of the party branch from the pro-Labor Construction, Forestry, Mining and Electrical Union (CFMEU).

Fairfax Media can reveal a $50,000 donation was made to the ACT Greens federal account, which can only be spent on federal elections or administration, on September 3 last year, in the dying days of polling. It was by far the largest single donation ever given to the ACT Greens party and was more than twice as much as was given to the Labor Party over the same period.

It was also four times as much as a 2012 donation from the CFMEU's ACT branch, which made a few Greens members ''uneasy'' at the time.

CFMEU ACT division secretary Dean Hall said the donation had not come from the Canberra branch but from the national division, meaning he had no direct knowledge of it.

But he said it would have been donated to keep the Senate balance of power out of the hands of the Abbott government.

"It was more about the balance of power in the Senate. We tried to find a situation where we didn't have extreme right-wing legislation being passed," he said.

"[The donation] would have been for the Senate campaign. At the time there was a chance that senator Seselja wouldn't get elected [and] I think that's what it was about, trying to secure the balance of power."

He said a very small amount of the donation would have been funded by ACT voters.

ACT Greens convenor Sophie Trevitt acknowledged the party had recieved a donation from the national branch of the CFMEU but would not say where the money had gone and what it was spent on.

She said they had accepted the donation on the basis it came from the construction division of the CFMEU, compared to the mining or forestry divisions, and was derived from union member fees.

She said the ACT Greens had a lot of common ground with the CFMEU in Canberra.

"[We] have supported their calls for safer and fairer workplaces and we have worked closely with the CFMEU to improve safety in the building and construction industry," she said.

When asked whether there had been any conditions on the donation, Ms Trevitt said the Greens did not accept donations with ''strings attached''.

"All donations go through a vetting process to ensure that donations are not accepted from organisations whose principles and ethics conflict with the Greens," she said.

A spokesperson for the CFMEU's national office said all the union's donations were published appropriately and they donated to a number of parties that supported workers' rights.

She also said she wanted to stress the union did not agree with all of the ACT Greens' policy positions.

Former ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur said there was a donations reference group within the party who veted every major donation and rejected it if it was inappropriate.

She said the Greens had tried to pass donation reform legislation through the assembly which would have only allowed donations from ACT electors, but it had been rejected by the Labor and Liberal parties.

Ms Le Couteur said after all, the Greens were a political party that wanted to get its candidate elected.

"Obviously we don't have anything like as much money as the Liberal or Labor parties [so] if they're playing by rules which allow donations from non-individuals then [refusing those donations] is a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face," she said.

"We'd like it to be otherwise but ... it isn't,"


Shock!  Public broadcasters trying to economize

The ABC and SBS are exploring options for the multicultural broadcaster to abandon its stand-alone studios and offices and move into the ABC's Melbourne headquarters.

The move would result in SBS vacating its flagship premises at Federation Square, which it has occupied for more than a decade, and share space with the ABC in a new five-storey production centre at Southbank.

Giving up its Federation Square lease would free up funds for SBS to spend on new programs and services, but would prove controversial internally because of concerns about undermining the broadcaster's unique identity.

It would also leave a sizeable hole to be filled at Federation Square, which has cemented a reputation as a cultural hub by housing SBS, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

Shared ABC and SBS facilities was a key recommendation of the Abbott government's efficiency review of the two broadcasters.

SBS's Federation Square headquarters, which includes television and digital radio studios, was opened with much fanfare in 2003 to house its 160 Melbourne staff. The ABC is building a $176 million headquarters, including a TV production centre, next to its existing Southbank offices to replace the historic studios at Elsternwick.

Fairfax Media understands the ABC is willing to configure its new premises to house SBS's Melbourne staff and believes sufficient space could be found.

The two broadcasters would be likely to share studio facilities, cameras, equipment and other back-office functions for the first time.

One option, favoured by the government, is for the ABC to rent the space to SBS at a peppercorn rate to show the broadcaster's commitment to saving taxpayer money.

The move would be a coup for Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has repeatedly said the government's efficiency review would encourage the broadcasters to take tough decisions they would otherwise have avoided.

Negotiations are said to be in a formative stage. Both broadcasters are bracing themselves for deeper cuts later this year after a combined $43.5 million base-funding cut in the May budget.

ABC managing director Mark Scott said last week: "We are working with SBS to see if, by working more closely together, we can make backroom savings while remaining independent editorially."

Earlier this year former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, whose government established SBS, said if SBS had to move in with the ABC then the ABC would swamp it.


18 August, 2014

Tony Abbott: pragmatic but don’t expect to see a U-turn

TWO urgent steps are needed in the essential repair job facing the Abbott government: the Prime Minister and Treasurer need to rethink their presentation of the budget and begin to prepare the next stage of their reform agenda.

The strength of the government’s position is that Australia, now living beyond its means, does face the need for substantial reform on both the spending and revenue sides of the budget with the inescapable reality of significant public hardship.

Community denial of this situation may be fading faster than the coalition of obstruction, Labor-Greens-Palmer, realises. But this will not assist Tony Abbott unless he can re-position his government and his message.

At stake is Abbott’s persona as a Prime Minister able to mobilise the battler vote to undermine Labor at the 2013 election. Labor’s branding of the budget as unfair is about far more than the budget — the aim is to ruin Abbott’s profile given that he will never be a truly popular PM.

“I am very proud of the budget,” Abbott said yesterday. But the test is not Abbott’s pride. It is about political viability and that means his ability to listen and adapt. Abbott and Joe Hockey need a circuit-breaker and there is broad agreement about how it begins — radical surgery on Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme to prove the government has listened and acted.

For Abbott, however, there is no U-turn. He will make concessions along the road, on PPL and on section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. But Abbott’s strategy is to operate from strength as a budget restoration and national security guardian PM. These are his foundation stones in office. His intent is to stay the course with some pragmatic adaptations.

There will be no lurch into a mini-budget, no panic into changing his Treasurer, no hastening into a ministry reshuffle or abandoning his budget repair objectives. The gulf between Abbott and the political commentary industry, as usual, remains huge.

Abbott understands that panic destroyed the former Labor government. The idea that Abbott might ditch Hockey is a fantasy: it would send the Liberal Party into a tailspin that would finish the government.

Abbott, Hockey and Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, met 10 days ago to review the budget position. The message is negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. The problem is that some of the new crossbenchers are so raw they don’t know what they want.

Ultimately, however, Abbott and Hockey must turn Senate rejection of many budget measures into a plus; at this point they need to initiate a new debate with fresh proposals, tough but fairer, as part of their budget restoration quest. That must involve revenue measures that hit the big end of town.

But the bottom line remains — the fiscal problem is a Labor legacy and Senate obstruction risks both a deteriorating budget and threatens investor confidence. Abbott believes the public will eventually accept the fiscal reality.

At the same time Abbott’s profile as national security guardian will remain high. Abbott believes US President Barack Obama may yet deploy ground forces into Iraq and, if so, Australia, probably the SAS, will be involved. There will be no independent Australian presence.

But if our allies commit then Australia will commit. It is the Abbott Doctrine. His message is that such an event would constitute humanitarian protection and have no parallel with the 2003 allied invasion to remove Saddam Hussein.

A few weeks ago Abbott was ready to send 1000 Australian troops into Ukraine. Detailed plans had been drawn up for a joint Dutch-Australia troop deployment. Abbott was deadly serious, but abandoned this option when it became unnecessary.

Abbott is determined to legislate new national security laws. He takes advice from the intelligence agencies at face value and with deep seriousness. Given the genuine concern about a domestic terrorist attack on Australian soil Abbott believes any prime minister who had advice to act and declined to act or backed down under pressure would be culpable of betraying his responsibility to protect the public. Such a failure would be graphically exposed and documented by an inquiry after any such attack.

ASIO Director-General David Irvine recently said Australians were involved in Iraq and Syria in unprecedented numbers mixing with “the worst of the worst”. This constitutes a new and fundamental security issue.

Past planning for mass casualty attacks in Australia has been foiled. But many Australians, Irvine says, have chosen allegiance with the most extreme groups drawn by the combination of violent ideology and nihilistic intent. They are involved in recruitment of others and spreading of panic.

While Abbott’s office runs too centralised an operation, Abbott’s instinct is to support his ministers and forgive mistakes. Contrary to reports, he has no intention of removing David Johnston as Defence Minister and, not surprisingly, believes Julie Bishop has been superb as Foreign Minister in the recent crisis.

Abbott sees Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull as one of the government’s most effective ministers but is unmoved by the torrent of media criticism that Turnbull should have been involved in the cabinet National Security Committee decision on metadata. The laws being discussed were the responsibility of the Attorney-General, not the Communications Minister.

Hockey’s blunder this week when defending indexation of petrol excise, saying “the poorest people either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far in many cases”, reduces our budget debate to even deeper tragic farce. Hockey was silly and insensitive.

There are two ways of looking at this: families in the top 20 per cent pay three times as much for petrol as families in the bottom 20 per cent yet poorer families pay a higher proportion of their income on petrol than better-off families. Consider, however, that in the current year indexation will add an estimated 1c a litre to the cost of petrol. That’s what this row is about.

Indexation would merely restore the status quo existing before John Howard’s abolition decision. Given that the nation has this tax, it is sensible to have it indexed. It is an efficient tax. Indexation raises significant revenue (up to $990 million by 2017-18). It has an environmental dividend. Given the budget position, the argument for indexation is persuasive.

This week Hockey’s poor language became the issue, not the measure’s merit. Labor and the Greens are playing cynical politics in rejecting this measure. That is widely recognised.

The idea that no single budget measure can be accepted unless it is progressive in its own right is ludicrous. That is no way to run a country or conduct public policy.

The truth is that Australia has pretty much the most progressive tax-transfer system in the OECD. It is widely recognised through means testing as the most targeted social security system; it is also recognised as having one of the most progressive tax systems in the OECD.

The upshot: Australia re-distributes more to the bottom 25 per cent than virtually any other industrialised nation. In Australia the bottom 60 per cent of households are net winners from the welfare state with the top 40 per cent of households the net contributors. This has been hardly mentioned during the recent hysteria that the nation’s social compact is being destroyed. The claim is nonsense.

Is the budget unfair? Yes, every analysis shows that. The problem is not so much individual measures but collective impact. For Abbott and Hockey, this is a policy and presentation problem.

Howard’s recent advice is pertinent. Howard says the public will accept tough budget measures provided two conditions are met: they must seem justified (that is, the problem is real) and they must seem to be fair.

Abbott and Hockey failed both steps at the outset. Across time, however, the public is starting to realise the budget needs serious repair. This begins to meet Howard’s first condition. But his second condition is not met.

“Once you decide to cut a deficit by action on the spending side you end up imposing a greater burden on low-income households because that’s where a lot of the money goes,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Saul Eslake said yesterday.

The logic is inescapable. When Abbott and Hockey regroup with a final budget containing a large black hole they will face two tasks. They will recommit to budget repair but they will need a new basket of measures to do the job. That means putting negative gearing and superannuation tax breaks for high-income earners on the table


NSW minister Dominic Perrottet endorses Uber and Airbnb

A senior NSW cabinet minister has endorsed ride-sharing service Uber and home-sharing app Airbnb by saying "governments should not stand in the way" of them despite both services being under scrutiny by his government.

NSW Minister for Finance and Services Dominic Perrottet said in a speech on Thursday night at Sydney's Intersect showcase that the apps – part of what he called the "collaboration economy" – were a good thing for society.

My view is that governments should not stand in the way of this change but seek to facilitate it.

NSW Minister for Finance and Services Dominic Perrottet
"As someone on the Liberal side of politics, we should welcome the sharing economy as something profoundly conservative," Mr Perrottet said.

He's even asked the Office of Finances and Services to consider using a car-pooling scheme for government employees using such apps and services, because he said they could help "drive savings".

"This is the free market on steroids. It's individuals, or businesses, seeking to make the best use of their existing assets, for a profit. It's being an entrepreneur at a grassroots level. It's a mix of technology, trust and low-cost options to effectively meet demand – and it's all done without government intervention."

The sharing economy was "here to stay", he added.

"The more people move online and take up social, mobile and reputational platforms, the more this is going to grow. It's an efficient use of resources and the uptake so far already shows that the market has spoken. My view is that governments should not stand in the way of this change but seek to facilitate it."

Mr Perrottet's comments came after NSW Roads and Maritime Services began cracking down on Uber by issuing fines to drivers. The City of Sydney has also warned residents they risked fines by sharing or renting out their home for money on Airbnb without approval.

On Friday, Roads and Maritime Services confirmed it was continuing enforcement action for drivers who are found to be breaching the Passenger Transport Act 1990.

"Fines already issued have been paid," a Roads and Maritime Services spokesperson said.

It is understood Mr Perrottet is making his views known to cabinet colleagues, including Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian.

Mr Perrottet said it was no surprise that "most left-wing jurisdictions like New York" cracked down on sharing economy companies. He did not mention the NSW government was cracking down on them too.

"This is because they are stuck in the old world of heavy regulation, union dominance, high fees, high taxes and inflated prices that please no one but those at the top who reap a profit," Mr Perrottet said of New York and other governments that had not embraced the new services.

"The sharing economy presents an opportunity for conservatives, if they are savvy enough to see it."

Mr Perrottet also noted and welcomed news the Western Australia Liberals passed a motion to consider the regulations surrounding companies like Uber last weekend.

Despite endorsing the apps, he said they should still be regulated.

"Some have argued that governments should play no role in regulating these new app businesses," he said.

"I disagree. I think we very much have a role in ensuring that the public are safe and things like health and safety are considered.

"These are paramount. Even the freest of markets requires some regulation to function."

The question for government should not be "should you regulate", he said, but "with what mindset do you regulate?"

"Do you regulate to stifle innovation? Or do you regulate to ensure certain basic principles like safety are met – and let the free market take care of the rest?"


Antisemitic abuse demands our leaders' condemnation

 Antisemitic attacks are on the increase in Australia. Conflict in Gaza as well as the rise of the vicious Islamic State have inflamed racial tensions here.

But the nostrums of political correctness and a fear of causing offence to certain privileged minority groups are making our leaders reluctant to speak out.

Now six Sydney schoolboys stand accused of chanting antisemitic abuse and threatening violent assault on a bus carrying Jewish school children.

Protests in support of BDS sanctions against Israeli businesses such as Max Brenner have normalised the idea that targeting Jewish groups is acceptable.

All six of the bus thugs come from prominent Eastern Suburbs schools. But so far, Education Minister Adrian Piccoli and staff in his department have said nothing.

Local police commander Jason Box thinks the racist attack was isolated and random, and thinks the disgraceful behaviour was really fuelled by alcohol.

Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Victor Dominello, says that all racial intimidation is deplorable. But few other senior state politicians have spoken out.

Even Premier Mike Baird has remained silent. The best the NSW Government was able to do was refer the incident to the State Transit Authority.

But an antisemitic attack on a bus is no more a transport matter than it would be a sporting matter had it occurred in the grandstand of a Saturday morning football game.

Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner has rightly condemned this behaviour as having no place in a harmonious, multicultural country such as Australia. But it is here.

A past President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies tells me this is the worst antisemitism he has seen here in more than 30 years of community leadership.

Placards at recent rallies in support of Israel called for peace and an end to the rockets. Those in support of Hamas bore images of a Jew drinking a child's blood.

The Scanlon Foundation's most recent Mapping Social Cohesion report shows that the vast majority of Australians support multiculturalism.

But true respect for multicultural diversity demands that we must work much harder to secure the safety and well-being of all ethnic groups in Australia.

Antisemitism is a scourge fuelled by bigotry, malice and hatred. All political leaders must condemn it unequivocally if their pursuit of tolerance is sincere.


NSW government gets it right on reading instruction

The best way to improve the quality of school education is to ensure that there is a good, if not great, teacher in every classroom every day. This is achieved by selecting the best candidates and educating them well. It sounds like an obvious strategy, but submissions to the federal government's review of teacher education argue that this is not par for the course in teacher education.

There is a growing consensus that entry standards for teacher education courses at university are often too low and must be elevated, based on consistent evidence that teacher quality is highly correlated with the teacher's own academic ability. But there is also the question of how well teacher education courses prepare prospective teachers for the classroom.

One of the most important responsibilities of primary school teachers, in particular, is to teach children to read. Obviously the home literacy environment provided by parents also plays a role, but the first two years of school are critical in a child's reading development.

The best evidence from methodologically rigorous, well-designed studies on literacy development shows that early reading instruction must have five key elements: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Research also shows that explicit and systematic instruction is more effective than teaching strategies that assume children will acquire these skills naturally, just by memorising words and being read to. Unfortunately, not all primary teacher education courses provide sufficient training and education on the essential elements of reading or the most effective pedagogies to teach them.

Phonemic awareness and phonics instruction, in which children learn that speech and language is made up of distinct sounds, and that these sounds correspond with the print on the page, are often the least well understood by teachers and therefore the least well taught. It is very difficult for teachers to teach what they do not know.

The NSW government has acknowledged that this is a problem and has moved to ensure that all teachers have the knowledge and skills to teach phonics effectively, by pushing universities to include phonics in teacher education courses and providing professional development to teachers. This is a landmark policy and, if implemented well, one which has the potential to have a significant impact on literacy achievement.


17 August, 2014

University rankings out again

There are now rather a lot of these rankings, all using slightly different methodology, but the latest out is the well established Shanghai Jiao Tong ranking.

No great surprises in the top ten, though Oxford would be sniffy about being ranked lower than Cambridge.

As usual, Australian universities had a good showing, with Melbourne in the top 50 and ANU at 74,  Queensland at 85 and UWA at 88.  Queensland is my Alma Mater so nobody can cast nasturtiums on my background.  My son is back there too.

And one of Brisbane's newer universities (Griffith) put out a press release expressing pleasure at being ranked 400th!  That is not as silly as it sounds when you realize that is 400th out of 10,000 -- and rankings lower than 500 are not released. Newer universities are somewhat disadvantaged by the weight that Jiao Tong gives to Nobel prizes and Fields medals.
And Israelis will be pleased that their small community produced two in the top 100 -- Hebrew and Technion. And that is despite the "brain drain" of Ashkenazim to American universities.  No Palestinian universities made it into the top 500, however.  I believe there is one. Maybe the Palis could send some suicide bombers over to Shanghai to show those Chinamen at Jiao Tong University a thing or two!

The first non-American university on the list was -- at 19 -- The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, which I know nothing about.  I have certainly never seen a paper from them.  Did Einstein go there or something?

The ranking of Leiden university in the Netherlands may indicate that there is such a thing as Dutch modesty.  They ranked at 77 when in the ranking system that they themselves run they come in only at 100!

Brits will be peeved that LSE made it only into the 100-150 bracket.  I gather that they have a lot of Muslims there.  And I was slightly peeved to see Sydney also in that bracket  I have a large document issued to me by that university. At least it did better than Macquarie, which was at 201-300.  I also have a large document issued to me  by Macquarie.

Three New Zealand universities made it into the top 500, which isn't bad for a country of only 4 million souls, though the ranking of Victoria University Wellington (401-500)  will disappoint many. I very nearly took a job there once.

The methodology used by the Shanghai rankings is entirely academic and research oriented. The project is supported by the Chinese government so it is a pretty good look "from outside".  The huge preponderance of American universities in the rankings would have to be taken with a large grain of salt if it were Americans who were doing the rankings but since the work was in fact done by Chinese academics, it is not subject to that suspicion.

Terrorism supporters to lose dole payments, says Tony Abbott

Australian terrorism supporters will have their unemployment benefits and other welfare payments cut off.

In a significant crackdown on homegrown extremists, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says new legislation would allow the Department of Human Services to cancel benefits to those assessed as a serious threat to national security.

"These new measures will ensure Australian taxpayers are not financing people known to be members of, or working with, terrorist organisations," he said in a statement on Saturday.

Mr Abbott said under current arrangements, welfare payments can only be suspended or cancelled for those who don't meet social security eligibility rules.

That includes failing to fulfil participation, residence or portability qualifications.

The government has already cut benefits to those abroad, but not extremists in Australia who continue to meet eligibility requirements.

Mr Abbott said he was committed to ensuring Australians engaged in terrorist activities were not receiving taxpayer-funded welfare payments.

He said legislation would be introduced to ensure benefits can be promptly stopped for people identified by national security agencies as involved in extremist conduct.

"The new legislation will enable the Department of Human Services to cancel a person's welfare payment if it receives advice that a person has been assessed as a serious threat to Australia's national security," he said in the statement.

Advice will be provided by the Attorney-General, Minister for Foreign Affairs or Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

"Ministers will exercise discretion and take into account all relevant factors including advice from national security agencies, before requesting cancellation of welfare payments," he said.

Mr Abbott said the government would also ensure relevant agencies worked more closely together to share information on issues of national security where that relates to cancelling welfare to those regarded as posing a threat.

"Australians travelling to Syria, Iraq, and other conflict zones to engage in, or support, terrorist activities are committing criminal offences," he said.

Mr Abbott said Australia's welfare system already allowed payments to be suspended or cancelled for those who don't meet their obligations.

"This measure is based on the same principle. It is designed to make sure taxpayers' money is not being used to undermine Australia's national security," he said.


Proposed Islamic school starts new push for registration in the ACT

An Islamic school, whose initial application to set up shop in the ACT failed after a highly critical review, have reapplied for registration under an altered name.

The Canberra Muslim Youth group have resubmitted an application for provisional registration for a kindergarten to year 3 school to open in 2015.

The group submitted the application under the new name "Taqwa School" after previously applying under "At-Taqwa School".

The proposal was opened to public comment in early August after it was submitted on July 30.

Hassan Warsi, the chairman of the board of governance for the school, declined to comment on the move, saying it was too early to do so.

The school was originally proposed for Gungahlin in 2012 and was rejected for registration last year by a review panel.

The panel's report said in February that the application failed to ensure staff were registered properly and that the education programs and curriculum were tailored for the students.

The review also questioned the financial viability of the school's application and said the group had so far failed to consider child protection procedures and background checks of volunteers.

The panel said interviews with the principal and board members "revealed an absence of thorough pedagogical understanding and principles of curriculum design, as it applies to a primary context''.

Andrew Wrigley, the executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of the ACT, said he was aware of the application.

"They have been working very hard on the requirements to gain provisional registration," Mr Wrigley said.

Mr Warsi is also associated with the Islamic Society of Belconnen, whose social media pages reveal the groups has been fund-raising within the Islamic community to get the school off the ground.

The school has lodged a development application for a site in Gungahlin to allow for the installation of fences, demountable classrooms and toilets.

An ACT Education and Training Directorate spokeswoman said a panel would now be appointed to report to the minister on the proposed school.


ABC bias against coal hurts the poor and the workers: Sell the ABC

A new report shows ABC journalists are fond of renewables and overlook their dismal economic value, while putting out bad news on coal, and ignoring the benefits of vast cheap profitable energy. Who could have seen that coming: a large public funded institution attracts employees who like large public funding?

The IPA arranged for a media analysis firm to compare the ABC reporting on coal and renewables.

The analysis of 2359 reports broadcast on the ABC over six months before March 15 this year found 15.9 per cent of stories on coalmining and 12.1 per cent of those about coal-seam gas mining were favourable, while 53 per cent of those on renewable energy were favourable.

It also found 31.6 per cent of stories on coal mining and 43.6 per cent of stories on coal-seam gas were unfavourable, while only 10.8 per cent of stories on renewable energy were ­unfavourable.

The ABC has become its own best case for privatizing the ABC. How much could we get? The funds from its sale, and the savings of the $1.25 billion it costs annually, would help to pay down the massive debt left by the Rudd-Gillard government.  The real benefits could be much much higher. The ABC has become an advertising agency for any group dependent on public funding. Without the constant one-sided promotion of wasteful spending, Australian policy might shift towards self sufficient entrepreneurs instead of rent-seekers. How many countless billions is that worth?

The economic situation of renewables and coal is blindingly obvious:

Brown and Black coal provide electricity in Australia at less than 4c /KWhr, while Solar costs nearly 20c.  Figures thanks to Alan Moran: Submission to the Renewable Energy Target Review Panel, IPA, 2014

Australian energy generation, coal, oil, gas, renewables, hydro, biomass.To put a perspective on it, coal is Australia’s largest exporter industry, producing 33% of our energy and a whopping 75% of our electricity. (Wind and solar produce all of 1%.) The coal industry provides the ABC with funds, via tax, while the wind and solar industries are a net drain on the public purse. The cheapest way to reduce CO2 (and by a whopping 15%) looks like being an upgrade for our coal fired plants so they are like the hot new Chinese plants. But how important is reducing CO2 to the ABC? Apparently it’s not quite as important as cheering on other big-government babies.

We can debate the environmental pluses and minuses of coal, but the economic case is a lay down misere. Renewables are anywhere from 200% to 500% more expensive.

The renewables industry on the other hand makes expensive electricity, which punishes the lower income earners and makes everything from health, to education to organic hemp hairshirts more expensive. Higher energy costs makes it harder for employers to employ people.

Because renewables are awful for the poor and reduce jobs for workers, we can expect the ABC will leave no stone unturned in accurately reporting the economic effect of renewables. Or not…

In a sane world we could expect a broadcaster serving the people  to relentlessly pursue poor government decisions — like, say, a plan to buy overpriced energy in the hope of changing global weather.


We’ll fight radical Islam for 100 years, says ex-army head Peter Leahy

AUSTRALIA needs to prepare for an increasingly savage, 100-year war against radical Islam that will be fought on home soil as well as foreign lands, the former head of the army, Peter Leahy, has warned.

Professor Leahy, a leading defence and strategic analyst, told The Weekend Australian the country was ill-prepared for the high cost of fighting a war that would be paid in “blood and treasure” and would require pre-emptive as well as reactive action.

“Australia is involved in the early stages of a war which is likely to last for the rest of the century,” he said. “We must be ready to protect ourselves and, where necessary, act pre-emptively to neutralise the evident threat. Get ready for a long war.”

Senior intelligence officials have moved to shore up public support for the Abbott government’s tough new security laws, including enhanced data-retention capabilities enabling agencies to track suspect computer usage.

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation director-general David Irvine said the proposed data laws, which require phone and internet companies to retain records for two years, were “absolutely crucial” to counter the jihadist terror threat.

The government’s security package also includes a $630 million funding boost to intelligence agencies and police to help prevent domestic terrorist attacks.

Professor Leahy — a former lieutenant general who ran the army for six years, from 2002-2008 — said the threat of radical Islam would require action on several fronts, including a strengthening of controls against biological, chemical and nuclear attacks.

It would also include greater protection for critical infra­structure and iconic targets against attack.

The Western withdrawal from Afghanistan did not constitute the end of the so-called war on terror, “nor, as was claimed by prime minister Julia Gillard, in January 2013, a transition from the 9/11 decade”, he said.

Michael Krause, a former senior Australian Army officer res­ponsible for planning the coalition campaign in Afghanistan, said he agreed “absolutely” with Professor Leahy. “I have seen these people,” the retired major general said.

“I know how they think. I know how they fight. There is no compromise possible.

“These long wars require long commitment to outlast radical ideas and provide viable, meaningful alternatives which require a whole-of-government response, rather than assuming the military can or should do it all.’’

Professor Leahy said politicians needed to “develop an honest and frank dialogue” with the Australian public.

“They should advance a narrative that explains that radical Islam­ism and the terrorism it breeds at home and abroad will remain a significant threat for the long term, it will require considerable effort, the expenditure of blood and treasure and it will, of necessity, restrict our rights and liberties,” he said.

Professor Leahy is the director of Canberra University’s National Security Institute and part of the Abbott government’s team carrying out a comprehensive review of Defence.

He said radical Islamists intent on a new world order were already a threat to the survival of nations in the Middle East and Africa.

If the declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq survived, bases would be established there for attacks on the West and that would embolden “home grown” radicals to attempt attacks in Australia. Military action would be needed to eliminate the threat.

Radicals saw the West as “the far enemy” and they were undoubtedly planning more attacks in Australia. Senior intelligence believes the view that the threat posed by radical Islam would pass was “optimistic”.

Mr Irvine, who took the unusual step of speaking to the media yesterday, said the current terrorism threat level of “medium” meant that a terrorism “event” in Australia was likely.

“Where our volume of work has increased is that this event could occur in a dozen different places now, whereas before it was in a small, refined area,” he said.

Professor Leahy said that when Australia did choose to be involved its aims must be measured and realistic, with nations under the greatest threat from radical Islamists supported while care was taken not to inflame local tensions.

The solution had to come from within the Muslim world, which so far seemed disinclined or unable to imagine a path to peace.

Professor Leahy said the threat was likely to worsen as radicals returned from overseas and the internet dumped Islamist propaganda into Australian
living rooms.

Some efforts at deradicalisation had begun but a much greater effort must be made to engage Muslim clerics and Islamic thought leaders to debunk radical ideologies being offered to young Australians.

“Dual nationality must be reviewed and, where appropriate, terrorists and their sympathisers either expelled from Australia or denied re-entry,” he said.

Professor Leahy said Australia must support moderate nations with radical Islamist problems, such as Indonesia and The Philippines.


15 August, 2014

Australia to offer refugee visas to Iraqi Christians and Yazidis

The Federal Government has opened its humanitarian refugee program to Iraqi Christians and Yazidis in response to the crisis in Iraq.

Under Australia's annual program, there are 13,750 places, but more than 4,000 visas are set aside to refugees who are "most in need of resettlement" due to desperate circumstances.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says the Federal Government is "deeply concerned" by the ongoing crisis in Iraq and has now listed Iraqi Christians and Yazidis as eligible for Special Humanitarian Visas.

A spokeswoman says more than 1,000 places were provided last year to to people and families affected by the Syrian conflict.

Treasurer Joe Hockey says there is a humanitarian crisis and Australia needs to do its part.
What do you think of the Federal Government's decision to offer humanitarian visas to Iraqi Christians and Yazidis?

"If we do not act now then it will be genocide on the scale that we haven't seen in the world for a long period of time. It is always the case that evil has its way when good people do nothing," he told ABC NewsRadio. "We have to stop the systemic slaughter of people wherever it might be in the world."

Labor's Immigration spokesman Richard Marles has welcomed the inclusion of Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing Islamic State militants.

However, Mr Marles says the 13,750 places in Australia's annual humanitarian intake is too low and it should be returned to Labor's target of 20,000.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young wants an additional 5,000 humanitarian places for Iraq introduced immediately.  "We need to be doing everything we can to help in the humanitarian effort. Those who are facing desperate and urgent persecution in Iraq and of course Syria," she said.  "This is doable. It is right thing to do and it makes sense."

Meanwhile Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed Australian forces have made their first air drop to Iraq's troubled Mount Sinjar region.

A statement from Mr Abbott's office says he visited the Australian base in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday night to witness personnel preparing for the mission.

An RAAF C-130J Hercules delivered 10 pallets of high energy biscuits and bottled water - enough for 3,700 people for 24 hours, according to the Prime Minister.

"Initial reports are that the drop was conducted successfully and the aircraft is returning to base," Mr Abbott said in the statement.

"The aid drops will continue until the security of the Yazidi civilians is assured and they can safely move from Mount Sinjar."


Suspected jihadists have welfare payments cut to stop Australia taxes financing terror

WELFARE payments to more than a dozen suspected jihadists have been axed to stop Australian taxpayers’ money being used to finance terrorist outrages in Iraq and Syria.

But the Federal Government refuses to say whether an audit has guaranteed the cancellation of all welfare to Australians suspected of joining the Islamic State.

Wanted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf, who was photographed executing Iraqi soldiers and whose young son was photographed holding a soldier’s severed head, received a $383-a-week disability support pension for several months. It lapsed after he left Australia on his brother’s passport.

An estimated 150 Australians have travelled to Iraqi and Syrian war zones.

“The Abbott Government has already cancelled welfare payments for a number of individuals who are overseas,” a spokesman for Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews told the Herald Sun.

“The Abbott Government is committed to ensuring Australians engaged in terrorist activities are not receiving taxpayer-funded payments.”

Yesterday Australia assigned two Hercules C-130 aircraft to drop food to 30,000 Yazidi Iraqis facing the threat of genocide in the Sinjar mountains.  And Prime Minister Tony Abbott would not rule out further military action in Iraq by Australian forces. “Australia should do what it can to protect people from potential genocide,” Mr Abbott said.

The “darkening” terrorist and humanitarian situation in Iraq and its ramifications for Australia was the Government’s highest priority, he said.  “We all know that the murderous hordes of ISIL — now the Islamic State — are on the march in northern Iraq,” he said.  “What happens in Syria and Iraq doesn’t happen in isolation. What happens in these countries does have ramifications in Australia.”

Mr Abbott’s office had previously vowed to investigate options to cease the international portability of welfare payments for people suspected by security agencies of joining militant or terrorist ranks.

An estimated 150 Australians have travelled to the Iraqi and Syrian war zones, about 60 of whom are thought to be on the front line.

It is understood a significant number were receiving unemployment, disability or family payments while at the same time being members of the Islamic State or the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front.

The Government is now considering further measures to stop welfare payments to militants engaged in foreign conflicts, including Iraq and Syria.

That may include red-flagging payments as part of a Customs revamp requiring people travelling to conflict zones to justify their journey.

Security analysts say it is not uncommon for Islamic fundamentalists in Australia, who often have large families, to not hold down full-time jobs and to be receiving a range of welfare benefits.

“We often drop the ball, where government departments don’t speak to each other,” the Monash University Global Terrorism Research Centre’s Greg Barton said.

Prof Barton said there was no formal research on how widespread social welfare payments to extremists were.

But extremists receiving them typically considered them as a way to take advantage of governments and which allows them to commit to their fundamentalist cause.

“We don’t know the scale of the problem, but these are the sort of things we should be following up on,” he said.

As part of Australia’s de-radicalisation program, Prof Barton said understanding extremists’ reliance on welfare was part of early intervention.

Mr Abbott said the horrifying picture of a seven-year-old boy, understood to be Sharrouf’s son, holding a severed head, was an abomination.

“One of the images that has seared itself into the consciousness, not just of Australians but of people everywhere, is the photograph that was published on the internet and subsequently in newspapers around the world of a seven-year-old Australian, born and bred, in Syria, waving around a severed head as if it were a show bag at the Easter Show,” Mr Abbott said.

“This is absolutely hideous. It is absolutely gruesome and it indicates the mentality of the people who are fighting with Islamic State and the other terrorist groups in the Middle East.

“It is absolutely essential that we do whatever we reasonably can to ensure that the Australian community is safe from people who have been radicalised, militarised, brutalised by the experience of engaging in terrorist activity in the Middle East.”


Greenies criticize new coal railway in Qld.

THE state's coordinator-general has approved Indian firm Adani's 300km rail line, linking the Galilee Basin with the Abbot Point coal terminal on the Great Barrier Reef.

But Australia Institute analyst Mark Ogge says the massive project will drive down global coal prices and could potentially cause the closure of Surat and Bowen Basin coal mines.

"This has all the signs of an economic train wreck for the state," Mr Ogge warned.  "If you are a farmer, tourist operator, manufacturer or coal miner other than in the Galilee basin, today's approval is almost certainly bad news for you."

Greenpeace's Ben Pearson was disappointed that the railway, planned to transport more than 100 million tonnes of coal per year, had been given the state's nod.  "It's very bad news for landowners along the route and it is very bad news for Australians who care about the climate and care about our Great Barrier Reef," he told AAP.  "We certainly haven't given up on stopping federal approval of the rail line."

But Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche congratulated Adani and described the rail and mine project as a pioneer plan.

Premier Campbell Newman said the project would be giving back to the state for at least 50-60 years.

But he's asked the coordinator-general to be mindful of impacts on landholders because local member and government MP Vaughan Johnson has concerns about the route.  "Vaughan is quite rightly being the voice of his constituents," the premier said.

"I have asked him (the coordinator-general) to be very mindful on the ground. We'll do our best to mitigate those impacts."

Federal government approval, required for the project to go ahead, is due by September 30.



In a briliant flash of Leftist logic, Labor MP Richard Marles says that that terrorism isn’t a Muslim issue because the Oklahoma bomber was a Christian  (He wasn't).

I tried to find some acts of terrorism committed by those of us of Anglo-Saxon heritage.

I realise you said we were also guilty of these atrocities, so I searched and searched but I could only find ones committed in an Islamic context. I'm terrible at researching.

So perhaps you could help me out here with some Anglo-Saxon events because it would be good if I had a complete list and not just Islamic ones... it really does make last month's list look a bit unbalanced. 

List of Terror Attacks For the Past 30 Days only

Date Country City Killed Injured Description

2014.08.06 Syria Damascus 16 79 Two children are among sixteen civilians killed when an Islamist brigade sends shells into their neighborhood.
2014.08.06 Iraq Sadr City 31 34 Thirty-one people at a Shiite shopping center are reduced to pulp by Sunni bombers.
2014.08.05 Afghanistan Uruzgan 7 0 A Taliban in police uniform drugs and murders seven Afghan cops.
2014.08.05 Pakistan Liaquatabad 2 0 Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat gunmen open fire on a Shiite-owned salon, killing an uncle and his nephew.
2014.08.04 Pakistan Karachi 1 0 The 65-year-old principal of a Christian school is gunned down in a targeted attack.
2014.08.04 Iraq Deir al-Zor 15 120 The Islamic State sends rockets into three non-compliant villages, killing fifteen civilians.
2014.08.04 Israel Jerusalem 1 6 An Arab rams a bus and mows over a rabbi with a tractor.
2014.08.03 Egypt Sheikh Zuweid 1 4 A 6-year-old boy bleeds to death after being hit with a rocket fired by religious hardliners.
2014.08.03 Somalia Mogadishu 3 7 Three elderly female street cleaners are dissembled by an Islamist bomb.
2014.08.03 Nigeria Kaduna 1 17 Muslims fire into a Catholic church, killing a guard and injuring several worshippers.
2014.08.02 Iraq Kirkuk 1 0 Activists behead a citizen who refuses to swear allegiance to the Islamic State.
2014.08.02 Bangladesh Rangpur 1 0 A religious minority is beaten to death by a Muslim gang.
2014.08.01 Iraq Sadr City 9 21 A Sunni car bomb along a busy street in a Shiite district claims the lives of nine innocents.
2014.07.31 Lebanon Tripoli 1 7 A civilian is killed when Sunni radicals toss a bomb under a bridge.
2014.07.30 Somalia Hosingow 1 0 A mother of two is shot to death for refusing to wear the hijab.
2014.07.30 Iraq Sadr City 16 28 Sunnis detonate a car bomb amid restaurants and shops populated by Shia, laying out at least sixteen.
2014.07.30 Nigeria Kano 6 6 A female suicide bomber detonates at a university, killing student volunteers.
2014.07.30 China Kashgar 1 0 A pro-government imam is stabbed to death outside his mosque by religious radicals.
2014.07.30 Pakistan Quetta 2 0 Two Hazara Shias are gunned down in a targeted sectarian attack.
2014.07.30 Iraq Baqubah 15 0 Fifteen Sunni civilians are captured and executed by Shia militia.
2014.07.30 Iraq Anbar 6 6 A brutal Mujahid car bomb claims the lives of six people.
2014.07.29 Libya Benghazi 30 81 Thirty people are killed when Islamist fighters overrun a military base.
2014.07.29 Nigeria Dogo Tebo 11 37 A suicide bomber sends eleven worshippers at a rival mosque straight to Allah.
2014.07.29 Afghanistan Kandahar 2 1 Two people are assassinated by a suicide bomber who hid the explosives in his turban.
2014.07.29 Iraq Tikrit 200 0 The Islamic State releases a video showing the mass execution of hundreds of Shiite men and boys.
2014.07.29 Syria Raqqa 35 0 ISIS posts thirty-five more heads in the town square.
2014.07.29 Pakistan Lower Dir 6 0 A half-dozen people inside are killed when Taliban militants assault a house.
2014.07.29 Bangladesh Sylhet 1 100 One person is beaten to death during a riot sparked by a non-fasting person attending Eid prayers.
2014.07.29 Nigeria Anguwar Bolawa 2 0 A second suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque leaves two dead.
2014.07.29 Pakistan Charsadda 2 1 Fundamentalists are suspected of shooting two off-duty policemen to death.
2014.07.29 Libya Benghazi 3 0 Three civilians are killed when an Islamic militia rocket hits their house.
2014.07.28 Pal. Auth. Gaza 10 46 Nine children are among ten killed when a Hamas rocket falls short.
2014.07.28 Nigeria Katarko 8 12 Pro-Sharia militants throw explosives into homes and shoot those trying to flee.
2014.07.28 Pakistan Gujranwala 4 8 Two young girls are among four members of an Ahmadi religious minority family burned alive after an angry mob sets fire to their home over alleged 'blasphemy'.
2014.07.28 Israel Nahal Oz 5 0 Hamas terrorists tunnel into Israel and murder five soldiers.
2014.07.28 Philippines Talipao 23 11 Women and six children are among twenty-three machine-gunned point-blank by Abu Sayyaf.
2014.07.28 Nigeria Kano 0 6 A Fedayeen suicide bomber blows herself up at a shopping mall.
2014.07.28 Nigeria Kano 3 8 A female suicide bomber detonates at a gas station killing three other women lining up to buy kerosene.
2014.07.28 Iraq Baghdad 3 0 Three women are handcuffed and shot in the head by Mujahideen.
2014.07.28 Israel Eshkol 4 9 Four civilians die from a Hamas rocket.
2014.07.28 Iraq Baghdad 14 0 The bodies of fourteen male victims of sectarian killings are found bound and tortured.
2014.07.28 Iraq Baghdad 6 21 Mujahideen bombs claim the lives of six Iraqis.
2014.07.28 Egypt Sheikh Zuwaid 1 10 A 9-year-old girl dies from shrapnel produced by an Islamist rocket.
2014.07.28 Pal. Auth. Shejaiya 20 0 Twenty Palestinian protesters are executed by Hamas for protesting Hamas.
2014.07.28 Thailand Narathiwat 1 0 A villager on foot loses his life to suspected Muslim gunmen.
2014.07.28 China Xinjiang 37 13 Thirty-seven (mostly ethnic Han) civilians are slaughtered by an Islamic mob armed with axes and knives.
2014.07.28 Pakistan Jamrud 1 0 A local soldier is kidnapped and beheaded by religious radicals.
2014.07.27 Nigeria Kano 5 8 Muslim extremists throw a bomb into a Catholic church, killing five worshippers.
2014.07.27 Iraq Taji 6 0 An entire Shiite family of six is found beheaded in their home by Religion of Peace rivals.
2014.07.27 Pakistan Jamrud 1 0 Members of a religious group behead a former member.
2014.07.27 Afghanistan Spinboldak 2 0 A child is among two people taken out by Shahid suicide bombers at their home.
2014.07.27 Thailand Pattani 1 7 A young girl is reduced to pulp by an Muslim 'insurgent' bomb.
2014.07.27 Yemen Abyan 2 11 Two others are killed by suicide bombers.
2014.07.27 Israel Border 1 0 A soldier is killed by a Hamas rocket fired into Israel.
2014.07.27 Pakistan Karachi 2 1 A 6-year-old girl is among the casualties of an Islamist shooting attack.
2014.07.27 Nigeria Hong 30 0 Thirty villagers are slaughtered randomly by Boko Haram gunmen.
2014.07.27 Nigeria Shafa 2 0 Two men are shot to death by Boko Haram.
2014.07.27 Pakistan Mirokas 1 0 Militants fighting for Sharia kill a bus driver with a roadside bomb.
2014.07.27 Iraq Jurf al-Sakhar 3 4 Islamic State terrorists attack a police station and kill three officers.
2014.07.27 Nigeria Kano 0 5 A female suicide bomber detonates along a city street.
2014.07.27 Iraq Tuz Khurmato 2 4 Two women are pulled into pieces by a Jihad car bomb at an outdoor market.
2014.07.27 Cameroon Kolofata 10 1 Boko Haram kill ten people and kidnap at least one woman.
2014.07.26 Thailand Betong 2 52 Muslim terrorists set off a car bomb in front of a hotel that claims the lives of two young people.
2014.07.26 India Saharanpur 2 19 Two Sikhs are murdered in a violent Muslim attack.
2014.07.26 Pakistan Karachi 5 0 Five Shiites are shot to death by Sunni radicals in three separate attacks.
2014.07.26 Egypt Rafah 4 5 Four children are wiped out by a rocket fired by Islamic militia.
2014.07.26 Nigeria Hawul 2 0 Two Christians are beheaded by Boko Haram.
2014.07.26 Afghanistan Marjah 4 4 Four civilians are disassembled by a Taliban bomb.
2014.07.26 Pakistan Gulshan-e-Iqbal 1 3 A prayer leader is murdered outside his mosque by Religion of Peace rivals.
2014.07.26 India Sopore 1 4 One person dies when a Muslim extremist tosses a grenade into the street.
2014.07.26 Syria Azaz 4 4 Islamists set off a bomb in a vegetable market, killing children and the elderly.
2014.07.26 Pakistan Zubaida 1 1 A teenage girl is murdered by her conservative brother on suspicion that she is having sex.
2014.07.26 Libya Benghazi 34 87 Three dozen people soldiers are killed during a sustained assault by Ansar al-Sharia.
2014.07.26 Iraq Taji 6 0 Six security personnel are captured, handcuffed and shot in the head by Sunni extremists.
2014.07.26 Libya Tripoli 23 0 A rocket fired by suspected Islamic militia hits a house and kills twenty-three laborers.
2014.07.26 Tunisia Kef 2 6 Armed fundamentalists ambush and kill two local soldiers.
2014.07.25 Yemen Baida 5 2 al-Qaeda members fire heavy machine-guns into a police checkpoint, exterminating five officers.
2014.07.25 Egypt Sheikh Zuwaid 2 0 Two army officers are shot to death by suspected Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.
2014.07.25 Afghanistan Ghor 15 0 Three women and a child are among fifteen Shiites singled out and pulled off a bus by dedicated Sunnis, who bound their hands and then execute them.
2014.07.25 India Sopore 1 0 A local cop is gunned down by Lashkar-e-Toiba militants.
2014.07.25 Syria Raqqa 50 0 At least fifty Syrian soldiers are captured and beheaded by Islamic State militants, who then post the heads on a long row of fence posts.
2014.07.25 Iraq Kirkuk 4 15 Four Shiites are liquidated by a targeted bomb attack.
2014.07.25 Iraq Tikrit 18 0 Eighteen suspected victims of the Islamic State are found bound and executed.
2014.07.25 Pakistan Dera Ismail Khan 2 0 Religious radicals kill two meat shop employees with a bomb.
2014.07.25 Cameroon Bargaram 4 0 Four Cameroon soldiers are killed during a cross-border raid by Boko Haram.
2014.07.24 Afghanistan Takhar 6 26 A Fedayeen suicide bomber on a motorcycle slaughters six people at a packed market.
2014.07.24 Iraq Taji 61 19 A massive suicide attack on a convoy transporting prisoners leaves sixty dead.
2014.07.24 Afghanistan Nangarhar 2 1 A Shahid suicide bomber takes the lives of two local cops.
2014.07.24 Nigeria Garubulu 15 0 Islamists enter a village and calmly machine-gun fifteen residents.
2014.07.24 Afghanistan Herat 2 0 Two female aid workers for a Christian charity are shot to death by Muslim radicals.
2014.07.24 Iraq Baghdad 21 33 A double car-bombing rips through a commercial district, snuffing out the lives of over twenty innocents.
2014.07.24 Syria Raqqa 19 0 Nineteen people are reported dead following a double suicide attack.
2014.07.24 Yemen Lahj 1 0 al-Qaeda gunmen pick off a man outside his home.
2014.07.24 Nigeria Kano 1 8 Boko Haram is suspected of a bombing that leaves one dead in a bus park.
2014.07.23 Iraq Sharqat 1 0 A female politician is murdered by IS fundamentalists.
2014.07.23 Somalia Mogadishu 1 0 Fundamentalists gun down a female singer turned lawmaker.
2014.07.23 Israel Eshkol 1 0 A civilian is killed by a Hamas mortar round.
2014.07.23 Iraq Jalawla 6 0 Islamic State gunmen execute six people for being related to a policeman.
2014.07.23 Iraq Samarra 8 0 Eight Iraqi soldiers are kidnapped and executed by Islamic radicals.
2014.07.23 Nigeria Kawo 50 37 At least fifty people at a market are incinerated by a suicide bus bombing, including woman and children.
2014.07.23 Pakistan Karachi 1 0 A 60-year-old Shiite man is gunned down by Sunnis while buying fruit.
2014.07.23 Nigeria Kaduna 35 14 Three dozen people bleed to death following a suicide bomb attack on a rival cleric and his followers.
2014.07.23 Pakistan Karachi 1 2 Gunmen attack a vehicle carrying a Shia family, killing the mother.
2014.07.23 Pakistan Badaber 1 2 Tehreek-e-Taliban members attack the home of a judge, killing a guard.
2014.07.22 Libya Benghazi 5 4 A twin suicide bombing leaves five others dead.
2014.07.22 Philippines North Cotabato 1 0 One other person is killed when Bangsamoro Islamic gunmen attack a convoy.
2014.07.22 Afghanistan Kabul 4 11 A Taliban suicide bomber murders four people outside an airport.
2014.07.22 Iraq Nahrawan 5 13 Sunni bombers take down five patrons at a Shiite market.
2014.07.22 Iraq Kirkuk 6 0 ISIL kidnap and murder six taxi drivers.
2014.07.22 Iraq Baghdad 33 50 A Holy Warrior detonates a suicide shrapnel bomb at a packed entrance to a Shiite neighborhood, taking the lives of three dozen innocents.
2014.07.22 Iraq Diyala 5 0 Five civilians are captured and publicly executed by the Islamic State.
2014.07.21 Afghanistan Lashkar Gah 2 9 A Shahid suicide bomber takes out two locals.
2014.07.21 Iraq Baqubah 3 4 Islamic State send mortar shells into a family home, killing three members.
2014.07.21 Libya Benghazi 16 81 Sixteen people are killed during an attack by Ansar al-Sharia.
2014.07.20 Iraq Mahmoudiya 11 31 Eleven are killed when Sunnis rain down mortar shells on a Shiite religious procession.
2014.07.20 Pakistan Hayatabad 2 0 Two security guards at an industrial complex are murdered by Muslim radicals.
2014.07.20 Afghanistan Peshawar 2 0 Two guards at a market are gunned down point-blank by Taliban.
2014.07.20 Iraq Abu Ghraib 5 0 Five Shiites are taken out by a Sunni roadside blast.
2014.07.20 Libya Benghazi 47 120 A week-long assault by Islamic militia on an airport leaves forty-seven dead.
2014.07.20 Libya Benghazi 1 0 A foreign worker is singled out and beheaded for not being Muslim.
2014.07.20 Iraq Mosul 1 0 A university professor is murdered by Islamists for speaking out on behalf of abused Christians.
2014.07.19 Iraq Abu Dashir 9 21 Nine people lose their lives to a vicious Shahid suicide bombing in a Shia neighborhood.
2014.07.19 Israel Dimona 1 3 An Israeli civilian is killed by a Hamas rocket that also severely injures children.
2014.07.19 Iraq Khazimiyah 3 15 Terrorists set off a car bomb near a bus stop that leaves three dead.
2014.07.19 Israel Ein Hashlosha 2 2 Palestinian terrorists tunnel into Israel and shoot two soldiers to death.
2014.07.19 Syria Raqqa 1 0 A second woman is stoned to death by IS, this time after her new husband discovers that she is not a virgin.
2014.07.19 Nigeria Damboa 100 0 Boko Haram return to the site of an earlier massacre and machine-gun over one-hundred more villagers before raising their black flag of Islam.
2014.07.19 China Memetjan Jumaq 1 1 Islamic extremists enter a home and stab a woman to death.
2014.07.19 Egypt al-Farafrah 22 4 Twenty-two local soldiers are incinerated by an RPG attack blamed on fundamentalists.
2014.07.19 Nigeria Gwoza 6 0 Radicals tie the hands of six villagers and then slit their throats while shouting praises to Allah.
2014.07.19 Iraq Baghdad 15 42 Three Islamic State car bombs produced fifteen dead Iraqis.
2014.07.18 Syria Tabaqa 1 0 A young woman is stoned to death in the public square for adultery.
2014.07.18 Pakistan Peshawar 1 3 Muslim terrorists kill a police officer with a bomb.
2014.07.18 Afghanistan Laghman 1 14 A civilian is sectionalized by a Taliban bomb blast.
2014.07.18 Pakistan Mansehra 2 6 A prayer leader is among two murdered by Religion of Peace rivals.
2014.07.18 Kenya Witu 7 5 Seven people on a bus are machine-gunned by al-Shabaab Islamists.
2014.07.18 Iraq Balad 6 0 A half-dozen Iraqis are picked apart with ISIS mortars.
2014.07.18 Nigeria Damboa 21 0 Religion of Peace proponents massacre over twenty villagers with automatic weapons and explosives.
2014.07.18 Pakistan Jamrud 8 0 Eight security personnel die when pro-Sharia gunmen open fire on their traffic checkpoint.
2014.07.18 Pakistan Peshawar 4 0 Four people are killed when the Taliban open fire on a car.
2014.07.17 Syria Homs 270 0 Islamic State militants attack an oil field and execute nearly three hundred civilians and guards.
2014.07.17 Thailand Narathiwat 1 0 A 49-year-old Buddhist is cut down by Muslim gunmen.
2014.07.17 Iraq Nineveh 13 0 Thirteen Yezidi religious minorities are kidnapped and executed by Islamic State.
2014.07.17 Iraq Baghdad 4 12 An Islamic State suicide bomber takes out four people near a Shia mosque.
2014.07.17 Iraq Taji 6 18 A half-dozen Iraqis are pulled into pieces by a Shahid suicide bomber along a crowded street.
2014.07.17 Iraq Sinjar 10 0 Ten Shabak religious minorities are kidnapped and executed by Islamic State.
2014.07.17 Pakistan Hangu 6 3 Suspected Sunni terrorists set off a roadside blast that claims the lives of six innocents.
2014.07.17 Iraq Muqdadiya 10 0 Ten Iraqis are kidnapped and killed by Islamic State.
2014.07.17 Iraq Tikrit 3 4 At least three others are killed during a massive Fedayeen suicide assault on an Iraqi camp.
2014.07.17 Pakistan Ghundi 8 3 Eight security personnel lose their lives to a Taliban attack.
2014.07.17 Pakistan Ganj Chowk 1 0 A Shia businessman is murdered by sectarian Jihadis.
2014.07.16 Iraq Mosul 1 0 A video surfaces of a handcuffed woman strangled to death by an Islamic State member.
2014.07.16 Nigeria Sabon Gari 7 0 Seven family members are murdered by Boko Haram while trying to bury victims of a previous attack.
2014.07.16 Tunisia Chaambi 15 23 Ansar al-Sharia militants slaughter fifteen local soldiers as they are sitting down to eat.
2014.07.16 Iraq Ramadi 5 10 Five Iraqis lose their lives to a Fedayeen suicide bomber.
2014.07.16 Syria Damascus 4 20 Sunnis send mortar rounds into a marketplace, killing four patrons.
2014.07.16 Pakistan Sharifabad 1 2 A shopkeeper is murdered by Sunnis for being Shia.
2014.07.16 Yemen Baida 2 1 al-Qaeda militants machine-gun two off-duty cops.
2014.07.15 Pakistan Mir Ali 5 8 Five local soldiers are cut down by armed religious radicals.
2014.07.15 Afghanistan Urgun 89 42 A Shahid suicide bomber at a market sends eighty-nine souls to Allah.
2014.07.15 Israel Erez 1 1 A 37-year-old distributing food dies from a Hamas rocket.
2014.07.15 Nigeria Dille 38 20 Pro-caliphate militants slaughter over three dozen residents and burn churches in a raid on a Christian farming village.
2014.07.15 Afghanistan Kabul 2 5 A Taliban bomb takes out two minivan passengers.
2014.07.15 Iraq Sadr City 14 54 Fourteen people are killed when Sunnis bomb a Shiite market.
2014.07.15 Nigeria Huyim 9 0 Nine Christians are slain by Boko Haram.
2014.07.15 Iraq Madain 9 0 Nine people are reported dead following a Mujahideen bomb blast.
2014.07.15 Nigeria Sabon Gari 20 0 Boko Haram massacre twenty villagers.
2014.07.15 Pakistan Hangu 1 0 A 40-year-old Shia teacher is shot to death by Religion of Peace rivals.
2014.07.15 Iraq Tikrit 12 28 Two suicide car bombers murder a dozen Iraqis.
2014.07.14 Israel Be'er Sheva 0 3 Two children are among three seriously injured by a Hamas rocket.
2014.07.14 Nigeria Zamadede 11 0 A mother and her two children are among eleven hacked to death by Fulani terrorists.
2014.07.14 Libya Benghazi 1 6 Islamic militia fire a rocket into an airport, killing a guard.
2014.07.14 Iraq Baghdad 4 12 Sunnis set off a bomb in a Shiite district, killing four.
2014.07.14 India Lalmonirhat 0 4 Jamaat-e-Islami attack a Hindu family in their home.
2014.07.14 Iraq Baqubah 7 0 Seven people are kidnapped, tied up and executed by sectarian rivals.
2014.07.14 Iraq Saadiya 12 0 Twelve tribesmen are detained and summarily executed by Islamic State.
2014.07.14 Iraq Muqdadiya 8 0 Eight young men are executed by Islamic State members.
2014.07.14 Mali Moustarat 1 7 A suicide bomber kills a French peacekeeper.
2014.07.14 Nigeria Borno 27 0 Over two dozen Christians are massacred by Islamists, in an attack on three churches.
2014.07.14 Nigeria Dille 1 4 A pastor is murdered by Boko Haram. His wife and three young children are kidnapped.
2014.07.14 Iraq Baghdad 3 8 A Jihad bomb blast near a car dealership ends the lives of three innocents.
2014.07.13 Iraq Baghdad 6 7 Two bombs, one near a crowded market, leave six dead.
2014.07.13 Afghanistan Herat 11 4 A suicide attack is among several that leave eleven Afghans dead.
2014.07.13 Thailand Narathiwat 1 0 A 62-year-old Buddhist woman is picked off by Muslim gunmen.
2014.07.13 Iraq Duluiya 12 0 A dozen Iraqis lose their lives to an ISIS assault.
2014.07.13 Iraq Mosul 10 0 Ten Shabak religious minorities are reported kidnapped and executed.
2014.07.13 Iraq Ishaqi 4 0 Four members of a family are disassembled by Mujahid bombers.
2014.07.13 Libya Benghzi 26 11 Over two dozen people are killed in an attack claimed by Islamic militia.
2014.07.13 Syria al-Qaim 4 0 Four locals are publicly executed by pro-Sharia militants.
2014.07.13 Iraq Mosul 2 1 IS bombers take out two women.
2014.07.13 Egypt al-Arish 8 25 Two children are among eight innocents taken out by an Islamist rocket.
2014.07.12 Malaysia Mabul Island 1 1 Abu Sayyaf members kill a guard by firing randomly into a resort.
2014.07.12 Afghanistan Pajwai 8 2 Five women are among eight civilians sent to Allah by Taliban bombers.
2014.07.12 Afghanistan Jalalabad 2 4 Two people are taken out by a suspected suicide car bomber.
2014.07.12 Iraq Zayouna 33 18 Fundamentalists enter a brothel and massacre over thirty people, including twenty-eight women.
2014.07.12 Pakistan Karachi 1 0 Sectarian Jihadis shoot a man to death at his pump shot.
2014.07.12 Algeria Sidi Bel Abbes 7 0 Religion of Peace activists blow up seven security personnel on patrol.
2014.07.12 Pakistan Karachi 1 0 Religion of Peace rivals assassinate a seminary teacher.
2014.07.12 Pakistan Mamond 3 2 Three border guards are gunned down by Sunni extremists.
2014.07.11 Iraq Anbar 11 24 Eleven Iraqis are killed by Islamic State militants.
2014.07.11 Pakistan Abbottabad 2 0 A Shia father and son are shot to death by dedicated Sunnis.
2014.07.11 Iraq Kirkuk 28 25 A Shahid suicide car bombing ends the lives of twenty-eight innocents, including women and children.
2014.07.11 Israel Ashdod 0 3 Three people are seriously injured when Hamas sends a rocket into a gas station.
2014.07.11 Syria Rahjan 18 0 At least eighteen people are killed during an al-Nusra attack that begins with a suicide bombing.
2014.07.11 Yemen Hardramawt 1 0 al-Qaeda fundamentalists shoot a man to death in his home for 'practicing black magic'.
2014.07.11 Iraq Shurqat 3 0 Islamic State members murder three civilians and put their bodies on display.
2014.07.11 Kenya Mombasa 1 0 A financier is killed in a war between rival mosques.
2014.07.11 Cameroon Bonderie 2 1 Two locals are slain by Boko Haram gunmen.
2014.07.10 Pakistan Karachi 1 0 A shopkeeper is murdered by Sunnis for being Shia.
2014.07.10 Iraq Samarrah 4 2 Four Iraqis are taken apart by a Mujahid roadside bomb.
2014.07.10 Afghanistan Kohsan 6 3 The Taliban murder six employees of a de-mining company.
2014.07.10 Afghanistan Ghor 7 0 Seven Afghans bleed to death following a Taliban roadside bomb.
2014.07.10 Thailand Yala 3 0 Militant Muslims ambush and kill off-duty three police officers.
2014.07.09 Thailand Yala 2 0 Two Buddhist nursing students are gunned down at a market by suspected Muslim terrorists.
2014.07.09 Dagestan Kizilyurt 1 0 Suspected religious extremists tie a man up and stab him to death.
2014.07.09 Iraq Mansuriyah 9 38 Nine soldiers are killed in an ambush by Islamic State militants.
2014.07.09 Afghanistan Kandahar 9 9 A woman is among nine killed during a massive Fedayeen suicide assault.
2014.07.09 Syria Khatab 14 0 Seven women and are among fourteen villagers massacred by Sunni 'rebels'.
2014.07.09 Egypt al-Arish 1 4 Fundamentalists set off a roadside bomb that leaves one dead.
2014.07.09 China Xinjiang 6 1 Six ethnic Han farmers are stabbed to death by Muslim terrorists.
2014.07.09 Iraq Babil 2 13 Two Jihadi car bombs kill two Iraqis.
2014.07.09 Iraq Khamissiya 53 0 Fifty-three victims of a mass sectarian execution are found dumped in a Shiite town.
2014.07.09 Pakista Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 3 4 Three people lose their lives to suspected Taliban.
2014.07.09 Dagestan Khasavyurt 1 0 A police officer is gunned down by Islamists.
2014.07.09 Pakistan Shakardara 1 0 A member of a peace committee is shot to death by activists fighting for an Islamic state.
2014.07.08 Somalia Mogadishu 14 4 al-Shabaab militants attack the presidential compound, killing over a dozen guards.
2014.07.08 Iraq Samarrah 8 9 Two Mujahid bombs produce eight dead Iraqis.
2014.07.08 Afghanistan Parwan 16 14 A Taliban suicide bombing at a medical clinic leaves sixteen dead, including eleven students.
2014.07.08 Pakistan Achini 3 1 Lashkar-e-Islam gunmen open fire on a group of villagers outside their residences, killing three.
2014.07.08 CAR Bambari 17 14 At least seventeen people are killed when Muslims attack a Catholic church sheltering civilians.
2014.07.07 Afghanistan Herat 5 1 Five police officers are murdered by the Taliban.
2014.07.07 Iraq Baghdad 7 17 A Fedayeen suicide bomber in a packed Shiite district sends seven souls to Allah.
2014.07.07 Yemen Abyan 2 5 An al-Qaeda attack leaves two dead and five injured.
2014.07.07 Iraq al-Meshag 3 10 Islamic State militants shoot three villagers to death.
2014.07.07 Iraq Adhaim 4 0 Four Iraqis are murdered by Jihadis.
2014.07.07 Iraq Tikrit 1 0 A civilian is kidnapped and executed by ISIL.
2014.07.07 Kenya Wajir 1 6 One person bleeds to death after suspected al-Shabaab throw a grenade into a restaurant.
2014.07.07 Kenya Lamu 2 0 Two Christians are killed in their own church by Muslim radicals.
2014.07.07 Sudan South Kordofan 10 0 Ten Christians are targeted and murdered by the Islamic government, including four children and an elderly woman. Their church was also destroyed.
2014.07.07 Thailand Yala 1 1 Muslim militants ambush a security patrol, killing one member.
2014.07.07 Afghanistan Kunduz 5 4 Five children are disassembled when the Taliban send an RPG into their home.
*Phew, that was long, but if you could just add a few Anglo-Saxon atrocities I would be really grateful, you know, just to even it up a bit.


14 August, 2014

Great Barrier Reef still facing significant threats, assessment for World Heritage Committee shows

Panic about the reef is a hardy perennial;  I remember it from 50 years ago.  But coral recovers quickly from damage.  The Greens would only be happy if all human influences were removed

Two major reports into the health and management of the Great Barrier Reef have found parts of the World Heritage site are still under pressure and the central and southern areas are deteriorating.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt today released a strategic assessment and a five-yearly outlook for the reef.

The United Nations' World Heritage Committee is concerned about the Abbot Point port expansion and the plan to dump of three million cubic metres of dredge spoil within the marine park.

It is due to decide next year whether to list the reef as a World Heritage site "in danger".

The outlook report, prepared by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), found the health of the reef was still worrying compared to its last report five years ago.

"Even with the recent management initiatives to reduce threats and improve resilience, the overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef is poor and getting worse," the authority's chairman Russell Reichelt wrote.

While pollutants entering the reef had measurably reduced since 2009, the greatest risks have not changed.

They include climate change, farm run-off, coastal developments and fishing.

In recent years, a series of major storms and floods have affected an ecosystem already under strain, and the accumulation of all impacts had the potential to further weaken its resilience.

"This is likely to affect its ability to recover from series disturbances, such as major coral bleaching events, which are predicted to become more frequent," the report said.

"The Great Barrier Reef is an icon under pressure.

"Without promptly reducing threats, there is a serious risk that resilience will not be improved and there will be irreversible declines in the region’s values.”

The report found the northern third of the region has good water quality and its ecosystem was in good condition.

However, the habitat, species, and ecosystem in the central and southern inshore areas had continued to deteriorate because of human use and natural disasters.

The dugong population, which was already at very low levels, had declined further in those areas.

Overall, some species were rebounding, including humpback whales, estuarine crocodile and loggerhead turtles.

Hunt confident reef won't be listed as 'in danger'

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said there had been some improvements, but there needed to be more.

"The report is a mixture of pressure and progress," he said.

"In the south, there were some real negatives, to be honest. Now is the moment that we have to turn around the reef."

He said he was confident the Government would do enough to save the reef from being listed "in danger", including reducing port developments.

"It was put on the review list on somebody else's watch," he said.  "Our task is to not just remove it from the watch list, but to make sure the reef recovers to its former glory."

Environmentalists want the Government to commit billions to reduce water pollution.

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O'Gorman said billions were being spent to save the Murray River, and the reef needed the same commitment.

"Australians are deeply concerned that our national icon is dying on our watch," he said.


Crime rates fall across Canberra as jail admissions increase

The latest criminal statistics for the 2014 June quarter show a total of 20,088 incidents were reported to ACT police, the second lowest number reported per quarter since 2009.

ACT crimes in 2013-14 financial year

Crime    Change

Robbery, extortion, related offences    Down 23%
Property damage    Down 23%
Environmental pollution    Down 23%
Motor vehicle theft    Down 14%
Break and enter    Down 8%
Dangerous/negligent acts    Up 57%

The drop in crime corresponded with a 9 per cent increase in admissions to Canberra's jail during the 2013-14 financial year.

During the 12 months to June there were 556 admissions to the Alexander Maconochie Centre, 48 more than the previous year.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell tabled the figures in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

"While we still have more work to do, the results reported in the June 2014 ACT Criminal Justice Statistical Profile demonstrate this government's continued commitment to reducing crime and increasing community safety," he said.

Decreases have been reported in property crime with robbery, extortion and related offences down 23 per cent year-on-year.

Reports of property damage were down 23 per cent, motor vehicle theft was down 14 per cent and burglary, break and enter was down 8 per cent.

ACT Chief Police Officer Rudi Lammers said environmental pollution crime was also down by 23 per cent.

"It's due to a property crime reduction strategy that we set in 2010 with the ACT Government, a target to reduce crime across the board by 10 per cent.

"In many cases, we've met and exceeded those targets."

Assaults and sexual assaults also continued to fall, down 11 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.

But the report also notes that during the year to June, there was a 57 per cent increase in dangerous or negligent acts that endangered people.

During the year, 428 such offences were reported to police, compared to 272 offences the previous year.


Uriarra solar farm west of Canberra will increase bushfire risk: report

A proposed solar farm near Uriarra Village west of Canberra would increase the risk of bushfire, a report commissioned by residents has found.

Elementus Energy has submitted an application to build a 26,000-panel solar farm near the village, which could power more than 1,400 homes.

But residents have long called for its relocation further away from their homes.

The report by fire analysis expert Helen Bull found the solar farm would increase the likelihood and risk of fire affecting the Uriarra Village community, and proposed tree screening could hamper firefighting efforts.

But the company behind the project has argued that infrastructure at the site would mitigate the risk of bushfire in the area.

The report recommended the proponent work with the fire services and community to further investigate risks presented by the project and opportunities to improve fire-response times.

"A fire burning in the proposed screen planting is expected to impact on the village through radiant heat and ember attack, although the effect would be short-term," the report said.

Ms Bull's report was partly based on a review of the development application and a site inspection, and noted there were limitations to its analysis, including limited information and a short time frame for its preparation.

Uriarra residents' spokeswoman Jess Agnew said the report's finding strengthened residents' arguments for the relocation of the solar farm.

"Now this is what we've been pushing for all along and this finally confirms what we need as well as putting the 22 kilowatt power lines underground," she said.

Solar farm will 'mitigate bushfire risk'

But Elementus Energy's managing director Ashleigh Antflick told told 666 ABC Canberra Uriarra residents already lived in a zone of high bushfire risk and previous plans for the village had called for dense visual screening along its northern edge.

"My suggestion to the villagers is the use of the land across the road from the village will in fact be a bushfire mitigant for them because we will be taking very good care of the land upon which the solar facility is located," he said.

"The screening that we've proposed is there obviously to mitigate the visual impact of the solar farm and that it represents a fire risk in and of itself we can I think accept.

"But what you need to do is look a bit further beyond the trees themselves and say in the direction that a fire would ordinarily approach Uriarra Village where those trees could become a concern, what are we doing?

"What we're doing is having a very well managed 40 hectare solar farm site where there are significant pieces of firefighting infrastructure including roads for Rural Fire Service vehicles to make quick and speedy access right to the very far edge of the site."

Mr Antflick said there would also be a 40,000 litre water tank on the site and the company had shifted the planned solar farm away from the village at residents' request.

"The nearest home is 150 metres away from the leading edge of the nearest solar panel," he said.


Middle Eastern crime gang linked to violent gaming venue robberies

Mostly Lebanese Muslims

A Middle Eastern crime gang armed with guns and knives is behind a string of robberies at gaming venues across Melbourne's north and west, police say.

Officers said the syndicate, with members aged as young as 16, stormed eight businesses in recent months, threatening staff with weapons before making off with cash.

The Armed Crime Squad released footage of some of the robberies, showing the masked offenders punching patrons, smashing property, and jumping behind counters to empty registers.

Detective Inspector Stephen Clark said the gang had stolen more than $100,000.

"It appears at this stage that the armed robberies have been committed by the same Middle Eastern crime syndicate," Detective Clark said.

"On each occasion the offenders, who we believe are aged between 16 and 25 years, were armed with a firearm and an edged weapon, and threatened staff."

The robberies occurred at Laverton, Epping, Thomastown, Kealba, Fawkner and Moonee Ponds between June 2 and August 11.

Police charged two people aged 16 and 21 with armed robbery earlier this month.


13 August, 2014

Fairfax media (SMH and "The Age") dumbs down and dodges serious topics such as the Labor party's wasteful broadband project

THERE is a special place where no one cares how much the NBN costs. This is the Twittersphere where people such as the ABC’s technology editor Nick Ross are wide-eyed about “one of the most exciting and important things to happen to Australia ever”.

When The Australian questioned the efficacy of the project this shouty, opinionated and millimetre-deep world objected to the scrutiny. The Labor government played to social media’s twisted conspiracy theories as “citizen journalists” told us “Why Murdoch’s media is gunning for your NBN” even though News Corp clearly stands to benefit commercially from faster broadband. This is where we see how the fun and bluster of Twitter has a pernicious effect.

Social media creates myriad connections that are useful for those in politics and the media who want to share feedback and information. This newspaper embraces these innovations, making our content more accessible and interactive. But nothing in the digital world can replace experience, knowledge and wisdom from mature journalists and commentators. The “digital first” strategy at our Fairfax Media competitors is already leading to a dramatic dumbing down of their content, with a deleterious impact on the national political debate.

Whether their desire for social media adulation leads them to naive acceptance of the NBN, recruitment of inexperienced journalists based on their Twitter followings, or the constant recycling of sex-related stories on their websites to provide click-bait, Fairfax is insulting its traditional readership in a race for digital domination. Yet it will never be able to compete with the free services of Mail Online at the tabloid end, or Guardian Australian and the ABC at the Green-Left end of the market. Frankly, Fairfax deserves to fail because in this pursuit it has eschewed a serious role in national affairs.

We see this in the shallow, ill-informed and abusive behaviour of Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton. It is surprising the paper  sat back and allowed Carlton to hurl profane abuse at its own readership. Yet Carlton is given space to simply parade his prejudices, spit his bile and indulge in personal vendettas — in a similar vein to Mark Latham in The Australian Financial Review stablemate. Rather than maintain dignity on social media and engage with readers, Fairfax is uploading the news standards, jejune opinions and crass manners of Twitter into its major mastheads.

Yesterday Network Ten’s political editor Paul Bongiorno told ABC Radio National listeners that the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments could be excused for skipping a cost-benefit analysis of the nation’s largest ever infrastructure project. “Some people know the cost of everything but the value of nothing,” he ventured, with a level of economic irresponsibility that once would have been unthinkable in his position. But hey, Twitter loves it.

When political journalism can be reduced to chasing retweets or building a following it is little wonder some politicians seeking media adulation are led down the same path. Julia Gillard and her team often seemed to convince themselves they were rebounding as social media endorsed their latest lines on misogyny or media bias. But the siren song of the Twitterati only lured them ever further to the treacherous fringes of public concerns. Substance must win out in politics and the public must be able to find it somewhere.



Treasurer Joe Hockey is suing Fairfax Media for defamation because they implied he takes bribes and the matter was in court again on Thursday for a directions hearing. Fairfax have retained the corrupt barrister Sandy Dawson to represent them which gives a strong indication of what Fairfax’s defence strategy will be. That being to lie, lie and more lies. I put some questions directly to Fairfax and Mr Dawson and as you will see below they were not forthcoming with responses.

The court case has a huge public interest given the serious allegations that Fairfax Media have made and if substantiated go to the heart of Joe Hockey’s credibility and suitability not only as treasurer but also as a MP. Therefore the public should expect that the matter will be conducted in a true and just manner. It should not be another political judgment or one that is tainted by dodgy conduct by the lawyers involved.

Yet Fairfax Media do not seem to care less and have flagged that they will be playing the case dirty given their retention of Sandy Dawson. The Australian public deserve better especially from a media company.

Does Joe Hockey have a case?

I wrote previously that it is a bad move for Mr Hockey to sue for numerous reasons.  It is probably worse now given that the hearing is set for March which is the same time as the NSW Stale Election and corrupt political donations will be a big issue especially after the revelations at ICAC this week.

Be that as it may, Mr Hockey is entitled to sue for defamation and unless Fairfax can point to some specific situation or evidence where Mr Hockey has done someone a favour in return for their donation then Fairfax might lose the case.

Mr Hockey claims that the Fairfax articles in May “conveyed a series of defamatory meanings including that he “accepted bribes paid to influence the decisions he made as Treasurer”.

Interestingly Joe Hockey chose to pursue his claim in the Federal Court which rarely hears defamation matters instead of the Supreme Court of NSW which is the main forum for defamation cases in NSW. I think even Mr Hockey knows how dodgy the Supreme Court is.


Failure to condemn them encourages anti-Semites

"In 25 years of documenting anti-Jewish activity in Australia, I have never before witnessed so many overt, unapologetic expressions of anti-Semitic vitriol."

by Jeremy Jones

LAST month in France, a mob surrounded a synagogue, yelling “Hitler was right!” and “Death to the Jews!”

In Berlin, a demonstration ­allegedly concerned with the safety of the population of Gaza included the chant of “Jew, Jew, cowardly swine, come out and fight on your own”.

This week in Sydney, Jewish schoolchildren on a bus were threatened by a group of teenagers whose verbal abuse included “Heil Hitler” and “We’re going to cut your throats”.

A Hamas official, on Lebanese television, claimed Jews killed Christians to use their blood in making the unleavened bread eaten on the festival of Passover.

A Turkish singer was supported by civic and political ­officials when she tweeted: “If God allows, it will be again Muslims who will bring the end to those Jews”, and then “May God bless Hitler”.

A speaker at a rally in Antwerp led the chant “slaughter the Jews” and an imam in Italy called for Jews to be killed “one by one”, claiming Jews’ “hands are soiled with the blood of the prophets”.
A Sydney-based Facebook group provided a platform for contributions such as “we don’t want Jews in Australia — go back to Europe, another Hitler can ­appear and finish you scums off”.

When the rabbi of the Jewish community in Casablanca, Morocco, was badly beaten as he walked to synagogue, passers-by ignored his appeals for help.

The hashtag “Hitler was right” went viral last month.

Tweeted by people claiming to be Arab, African and of other types that Nazi racial theory condemned as lower than human, and permitted on moderated discussion sites hosted by self-declared leftists, it featured in demonstrations through the streets of Sydney. Emails I have received during the past fortnight have included phrases such as “Jews are just shit”; “kill Jew women and kids”; the Jews’ “evil nature” is a global problem; and “what a repulsive race you Jews are”.

In 25 years of documenting anti-Jewish activity in Australia, I have never before witnessed so many overt, unapologetic expressions of anti-Semitic vitriol.

My colleagues in Europe are going through much worse as social media provides a megaphone for malevolence and extreme right-wingers, Islamist fascists, cynical Marxists and Christian ­supercessionists, creating an amorphous, mutually reinforcing subculture of racist bullies. When a Belgian doctor refuses emergency medical care to a Jewish woman, it hardly matters if the motivation is far-Right, extreme Left or Islamic or Christian quasi-theology.

When a Spanish writer calls for the expulsion of the country’s entire Jewish community, when Jewish people, in country after country, on every continent, report abuse and assault, all who think seriously about the state of humanity recognise there is a real problem that needs addressing.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s Social Democratic Foreign Minister, put it this way, in a piece published on July 31: “Unfortun­ately, we have been familiar with the phenomenon of latent anti-Sem­itic sentiment, which manifests itself in excessive criticism of Israel, for a long time.”

He concludes: “Yet what we are experiencing now is still shocking: people have shouted slogans expressing a hatred towards Jews which beggars belief. It makes anyone’s blood run cold.”

The chairwoman of the European Network Against Racism, who declares open “support for the Palestinian cause”, made an unprecedented call for other Palestinian supporters to stop “per­petrating racist calls and denying the rights to security and protection of European Jews”, concluding: “Hatred is hatred, wherever it comes from and whatever its shape.” Her statement came after a Berlin imam claimed Jews “act like sole rulers of the entire world and disseminate corruption” and urged God to “kill every last one of them and not have pity on any of them”, and demonstrators from Antwerp to Australia chanted “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Mohammed is returning”, an anti-Jewish battle cry.

Last year, hundreds of men and women from many countries, cultures and creeds came together in the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, after which I was appointed to chair the working group on interfaith dialogue as a means of combating anti-Semitism, and am in contact with many Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and others — all of whom report increasing confidence and confrontationalism from bigots within their communities.

Muslim figures in Britain have expressed concern at the behaviour of Muslims involved in anti-Jewish behaviour. The Asian Image newspaper has attributed to Muslims attacks on a Jewish school and a rabbi, calls for the bombing of synagogues, physical violence against a schoolboy and vile social media campaigns.

“Hate crimes,” it editorialised, “only serve to make a bunch of brainwashed and easily influenced individuals feel a sense of superiority and satisfaction that they have ‘done their bit’ to help fellow Muslims.”

The Council of Mosques and the Union of Moroccan Mosques in The Netherlands also issued a call for tolerance recently, specifically to Jewish “brothers of the holy book”. Conversations I have had with Muslim Australians have reflected a genuine unease at the degeneration of serious political conversation to a pretext for racist anti-Jewish propaganda.

Between October 1989 and September last year, on behalf of Jewish community organisations in Australia, I logged reports of 616 incidents of physical assault on individuals and damage to property, 1446 examples of harassment and intimidation not involving physical contact, 959 instances of anti-Jewish graffiti, and more than 2700 telephone calls, faxes, emails, letter campaigns, posters and leaflets targeting Jewish Australians with threats and abuse.

Anti-Jewish commentary in the media, activities by organisations and individuals designed to defame, demean and intimidate Jewish Australians, anti-Jewish religious preaching and other manifestations of anti-Semitism have been documented on an infrequent but regular basis in the same period.

What is unprecedented is the volume of anti-Jewish comments given platforms on social media, the viral spread of anti-Semitic slogans and defamation, and the domination of so much public discussion by racist loudmouths.

An essential element of successful cultural diversity, and an important component of combating anti-Semitism and other ­racism, is unambiguous, auth­oritative condemnation of such behaviour by political, religious and other leaders.

Despite everything I have written being on the public record, there seem to be more Australian politicians willing to excuse the racism at anti-­Israel rallies than to condemn it.

In the past, bodies tasked with promoting community harmony have issued declarations to the effect that foreign conflicts should not be the pretext for racism in Australia, but they have been all but invisible in recent weeks.

Jewish Australians should not, must not, be the loudest voices condemning an ill that affects ­society as a whole.


Dr. Patrick Moore's tour of Australia?

    The Galileo Movement is proud to announce that Dr. Patrick Moore (Greenpeace Co-founder), has accepted an invitation to visit Australia later this year. Dr. Moore is a Canadian and a respected leader in the genuine environmental movement.
    Patrick has a fascinating background as an environmental activist (initially Greenpeace), Ecologist, Sustainability campaigner and most recently as a sensible, ‘science-based’ environmentalist, and importantly, a sceptic of catastrophic man-made global warming. His personal website is
    Patrick’s lecture at the recent International Climate Change Conference in Las Vegas is on video. It outlines his journey from eco-warrior to defender of science, logic and the environment. He explains his scepticism of recent catastrophic global warming claims here:
    His tour will include personal meetings with journalists, politicians and business leaders. He’ll include public lectures and town hall meetings for the general public across Australia.
    We believe that his visit can have a substantial influence on decision makers in Australia, on both the scientific arguments against man-made global warming and promoting sensible environmental policies.
Via email

12 August, 2014

"Flores man" just had Down's syndrome

This vindicates what was my conclusion from the start:  That Flores man was not a new species. The small stature of the person seemed to indicate a new species to many but that was not in fact unusual in Australia once. And Australia and Indonesia are of course neighbouring countries. 

All mention of Australia's first inhabitants --a pygmy race -- is normally suppressed these days but there are old photographs to prove their existence. And one (height 3'7") was alive until recently. They have now interbred with the Aborigines but some are still very short.  Their last holdout was in Kuranda and one day in 2004 a very short man walked right past me in Kuranda's main street. 

So I think an explanation of the bones as those of a very short person with Downs syndrome covers the evidence very well

The oldest case of Down's syndrome? 15,000-year-old 'Flores man' bones are not evidence of a new human species, study reveals

In October 2004 skeletal remains found on the island of Flores in Indonesia hinted at a previously unknown species of human that existed 15,000 years ago.

Called Homo floresiensis, the species was dubbed a ‘hobbit’ as it was smaller than any other known species of human.

But reanalysis has revealed that it may not be a new species at all, but rather a human that has features consistent with someone with Down's syndrome.

The latest findings, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted by an international team of researchers.

They suggest that the single specimen on which the new designation depends, known as LB1 after the cave it was discovered in - Liang Bua - does not represent a new species.

Indeed, aside from LB1, no substantial new bone discoveries have been made in the cave since this finding.

‘The skeletal sample from Liang Bua cave contains fragmentary remains of several individuals,’ said Dr Robert Eckhardt, professor of developmental genetics and evolution at Penn State University.

‘LB1 has the only skull and thigh bones in the entire sample.’

The first indicator that the finding could be explained by Down's syndrome was craniofacial asymmetry, a left-right mismatch of the skull that is characteristic of the disorder.

The 15,000-year-old skeleton, officially known as Homo floresiensis, got its nickname from its squat stature.

The 3-foot (1-metre) tall, 30-year-old female was based on remains that were uncovered in the Liang Bua cave on the remote Indonesian island of Flores in 2003.

Since the discovery, scientists debated whether the specimen actually represents an extinct species in the human family tree, perhaps a diminutive offshoot of Homo erectus, a 1.8-million-year-old hominid and the first to have body proportions comparable to those of modern Homo sapiens.

The researchers noted this asymmetry in LB1 as early as 2006, but it had not been reported by the excavating team and was later dismissed as a result of the skull's being long buried, he said.

Initial descriptions of Homo floresiensis focused on LB1's unusual anatomical characteristics: a cranial volume reported as only 380 milliliters (23.2 cubic inches), suggesting a brain less than one third the size of an average modern human.

The skeleton also had short thigh bones, which were used to reconstruct a creature standing only 3.5 feet (1.06 metres) tall.

Although LB1 lived only 15,000 years ago, comparisons were made to earlier hominins, including Homo erectus and Australopithecus.

Other traits were characterised as unique and therefore indicative of a new species.

But a thorough re-examination of the available evidence in the context of clinical studies, the researchers said, suggests a different explanation.

In the first place, they write, the original figures for cranial volume and stature are underestimates, ‘markedly lower than any later attempts to confirm them.’

The researchers have consistently found a cranial volume of about 430 milliliters (26.2 cubic inches).

'The difference is significant, and the revised figure falls in the range predicted for a modern human with Down's syndrome *from the same geographic region*, Dr Eckhardt said.

LB1 is shown in three different views to illustrate facial asymmetry. A is the actual specimen, B is the right side doubled at the midline and mirrored, and C is the left side doubled and mirrored. Differences in left and right side facial architectures are apparent, and illustrate growth abnormalities of LB1

LB1 is shown in three different views to illustrate facial asymmetry. A is the actual specimen, B is the right side doubled at the midline and mirrored, and C is the left side doubled and mirrored. Differences in left and right side facial architectures are apparent, and illustrate growth abnormalities of LB1

The original estimate of 3.5 feet (1.06 metres) for the creature's height was based on extrapolation combining the short thigh bone with a formula derived from an African pygmy population.

But humans with Down's syndrome also have diagnostically short thigh bones, Dr Eckhardt said.

Though these and other features are unusual, he acknowledged, 'unusual does not equal unique.

'The originally reported traits are not so rare as to have required the invention of a new hominin species.'

Instead, the researchers build the case for an alternative diagnosis: that of Down's syndrome, one of the most commonly occurring developmental disorders in modern humans.

'When we first saw these bones, several of us immediately spotted a developmental disturbance,' said Eckhardt, 'but we did not assign a specific diagnosis because the bones were so fragmentary.  'Over the years, several lines of evidence have converged on Down's syndrome.'

A previously unpublished measurement of LB1's occipital-frontal circumference - the circumference of the skull taken roughly above the tops of the ears - allowed the researchers to compare LB1 to clinical data routinely collected on patients with developmental disorders.

Here too, the brain size they estimate is within the range expected for an Australomelanesian human with Down's syndrome.

LB1's short thigh bones not only match the height reduction seen in Down's syndrome, Dr Eckhardt said, but when corrected statistically for normal growth, they would yield a stature of about 1.26 meters, or just over four feet, a figure matched by some humans now living on Flores and in surrounding regions. [Vietnamese can be very short too]

These and other Down-like characteristics, the researchers state, are present only in LB1, and not in the other Liang Bua skeletal remains, further evidence of LB1's abnormality.

'This work is not presented in the form of a fanciful story, but to test a hypothesis: Are the skeletons from Liang Bua cave sufficiently unusual to require invention of a new human species?' Dr Eckhardt said.

'Our reanalysis shows that they are not. The less strained explanation is a developmental disorder.

'Here the signs point rather clearly to Down's syndrome, which occurs in more than one per thousand human births around the world.'


Liberal Party members threaten to quit party after Tony Abbott's backdown on changes to race hate laws

Dozens of disillusioned Liberal Party members have approached the Institute of Public Affairs, the free market think tank says, threatening to quit the party because of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's broken promise on the Racial Discrimination Act.

The IPA has emailed its supporters pleading for cash to fund a $38,000 attack ad which will use the Prime Minister's own words against him.  "Tony Abbott has given up but the IPA never will," the email says.

The IPA will quote from Mr Abbott's speech to the IPA in 2012 when he said "freedom of speech is an essential foundation of democracy".

And in a further rebuff of the Prime Minister, the IPA is offering donors a copy of his comments signed by the News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt, who was successfully prosecuted under the current laws.

Mr Abbott phoned Bolt and John Roskam from the IPA to tell them he would be announcing the government would be abandoning its reforms ahead of Tuesday's public announcement.

Mr Roskam from the IPA urged the Coalition not to underestimate the "white hot anger" of the Liberal faithful in response to the "broken promise".

"We have been contacted by many IPA members who are also Liberal Party members who have said they will resign their membership from the Liberal Party over this broken promise from the government," he told Fairfax Media.

"The feeling from many supporters of the Coalition is a combination of deep sadness and disappointment and white hot anger."

He warned the Liberal Party base was becoming increasingly unhappy about the Coalition's decision to break key election commitments.  "This comes on top of Tony Abbott increasing taxes, not cutting spending and now implementing potentially a vast government program of surveillance of every Australian," he said.

"What many people can't understand is that he will compromise on a fundamental freedom but not an expensive, ineffective welfare scheme for the middle class."


Labor, Greens prove themselves to be slaves to terrorists

LABOR, Greens and what passes for leadership in Australia’s Muslim community are united in opposition to a new suite of anti-terrorism laws proposed by the federal government to deal with the threat posed by jihadists returning from foreign conflicts.
The Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed has called on “all fair-minded Australians” to support a Muslim-driven campaign against the draft laws.

The ubiquitous Keysar Trad from the Sydney-based Lebanese Muslim Association has called the federal government’s plans to beef up terror laws ­"deplorable" and “divisive”.

The Greens and Labor, which are both also trying to curry favour with the Muslim community and woo their inner-urban constituents, have expressed their opposition to the suggested changes. The Greens could never be relied upon to put matters of national security foremost.

Labor, however, has supporters in mainstream Australia who would be dismayed to learn their party’s leadership has now committed itself to the elitist view that national security is part of a conservative conspiracy, and that the party’s political interests are better served pandering to minority ethnic communities.

Moreover, the proposed changes — particularly those relating to the retention of metadata records — are not dissimilar to plans circulated by the former Labor attorney-­general Nicola Roxon two years ago.

On Friday, the director-­general of ASIO David Irvine and the deputy commissioner of the Australian Federal Police Andrew Colvin tried to address some of the misinformation the ABC and Fairfax media have been promulgating.

The principal points Irvine made was that though the current terrorism threat level is “medium”, that is, a terrorist ­attack is likely and could occur, there is increased concern that there could be multiple attacks in “a dozen different places”.

With as many as 150 Australian-born jihadists fighting in Syria and elsewhere with murderous terrorist organisations, he did not need to expand on the nature of the threat.

Both men stressed that the changes they sought from the government were necessary, in line with international security requirements, and essential to meet the changing communications technologies.

They were, said Irvine, an “absolutely crucial tool to protect Australia and Australians”.

Colvin used the identification and capture of ABC staffer Jill Meagher’s killer as an example of the use of metadata to illustrate the need to ­access stored communications information. Without accessing the metadata, he said police “would not have solved the crime as quickly as we did”.

With evil braggarts including convicted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elo-mar, who was pictured holding the severed heads of Syrian government soldiers, threatening to enact the same sort of horrific crimes in Australia, the need to give the security authorities the assistance they seek is obvious.

But they both also stressed that such material was also valuable in eliminating suspects from suspicion.

Which leaves the civil liberty argument and the discrimination argument mounted by the Muslims, Labor and the Greens looking pathetic.

The proposals do not represent an expansion of powers, rather they are designed to ­ensure that the data currently available remains available.

With evil braggarts including convicted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elo-mar, who was pictured holding the severed heads of Syrian government soldiers, threatening to enact the same sort of horrific crimes in Australia, the need to give the security authorities the assistance they seek is obvious.

Labor and the Greens can suffer whatever electoral backlash occurs when one of the nut jobs breaches the security barrier, and there have been a number of horrendous attacks thwarted through good intelligence and policing.

The Muslim community, which is by no means homogeneous, must at some time confront the core differences between ­Islamic philosophy and Western ­culture.

Those who support a global caliphate, the goal of many of the jihadists, have no place in Australia. Their ideology is ­obviously at odds with the goals of a liberal democracy.
For too long our liberalism has meant that we have been excessively tolerant of the ­intolerant.

Nor should the ongoing Gaza situation influence Australian Muslims.

Hamas is a terrorist organisation, it is proscribed by our laws, its supporters are just as opposed to the values of our ­nation as they are dedicated to the murder of every Jew and the extinction of Israel.

As the Hamas constitution, or charter — never rescinded nor amended since it was first published in 1988 — says: ­"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

Hamas defines its struggle as “against the Jews,” who are “smitten with vileness wheresoever they are found”.

If our security agencies need the tools to deal with those who foster such sentiment and support terrorism, they should have them.



Australia’s Islamic minority of 2.21 per cent is holding a squirrel grip on our Parliament. At least 15 Federal seats are now in the hands of Islamic voters with populations of between 5 per cent and 22.67 per cent with many more seats likely to swing on the Islamic vote.

Two seats that have over a 20 per cent Islam component are held by Labor, including “Blaxland” 22.67 per cent (Jason Clare) and “Watson” 20.25 per cent (Tony Burke).

Despite the swing to the LNP at the latest election, all but 3 of the 15 seats are held by Labor with the next election promising a clean sweep to Islam/Labor of up to 21 seats with substantial Islamic minorities.

Labor is pro Palestinian for good reason and the Coalition is desperately placating Islamic leaders at every turn as Islam permeates our Parliament.

Australian voters who follow the Jewish faith comprise of less than 0.5 per cent of the electorate with the highest numbers in the seat of “Wentworth” 12.6 per cent (Malcolm Turnbull).
The Jewish vote, which is mainly centred in traditional LNP seats anyway, has little effect on a Federal election.

Anyone following Federal elections will have noticed that a 5 per cent swing will win most seats, 10 per cent is a given and 20 per cent a flat out certainty.

Apart from the last election, Western Sydney holds the key to who gains office Federally and Islamic contenders are now standing for pre-selection in red ribbon ALP seats and winning.

Tony Abbott’s latest announcement of anti-terrorism legislation was met with bitter objections from Islamic leaders, claiming they were being targeted, while Labor’s Richard Marles  claimed those of us with Anglo-Saxon heritage were also guilty of terrorism.

Marles’ extraordinary (tho’ not unexpected) statement is a forerunner to Labor’s intention of electorally climbing into bed with Islam. After all, it has worked extremely hard to succour those of the Islamic faith and has no intention to desert them in 2016. The Islam vote now holds the key to Labor’s return to office.

The cornerstone of stemming Islamic influence on the Australian landscape was Section 18C but unfortunately that was left in the hands of a bumbling Senator Brandis who literally couldn’t sell an ice cream to an Arab.

While 18C remains, this post is illegally offending those of the Islamic faith on the basis of religion or ethnicity, and that's the way Labor and Islam want it to stay.

Perhaps law-abiding Islamists remain deafeningly silent over the little Aussie boy holding up the head of an infidel for fear of offending Australians and being in breach of 18C... yeah, right.


11 August, 2014

It will take a brave police commissioner to ignore 3 QC's opinions that GILLARD has a prima facie criminal case to answer

Today The Australian publishes Hedley Thomas's story quoting a QC's opinion written by Russell Hanson QC. 

This is in addition to the QC's opinion rendered by Western Australia's former Corruption Commission chief Terry O'Connor QC published here.   Mr O'Connor QC's opinion is that Gillard has a prima facie criminal case to answer.

And in September 2011 (before 2UE suspended me from the radio) I engaged Peter Faris QC to advise me on the potential criminal liabilities Ms Gillard faced - you can find my brief to Mr Faris and the questions I sent Ms Gillard as a result below.

You might recall the Fairfax "news" organisation charged me with bringing the company into disrepute by asking unauthorised questions of the Prime Minister.   Well plenty more are now arising for The Offender.

Here is some of Russell Hanson QC's opinion in The Australian today.

"A FORMER top criminal defence lawyer has reviewed reams of evidence about the AWU slush fund scandal at the ongoing Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, resulting in his legal opinion that Julia Gillard has problems best resolved by a jury.

Russell Hanson QC, who helped run several royal commission-style probes before his retirement, based his detailed review on sworn witness statements and oral testimony at the commission, as well as key documents including Gillard’s exit interview from the law firm Slater & Gordon in 1995.

Hanson says: “I am of the view that there has been sufficient evidence given, in a form admissible in a criminal trial, to entitle a jury to find criminal conduct on the part of (former Australian Workers Union boss Bruce) Wilson and (former AWU official Ralph) Blewitt.

“In Gillard’s case, I come to the same conclusion based on the evidence given, supplemented by evidence in the public arena, namely her own public statements.

“The evidence is overwhelming that the Workplace Reform Association (slush fund) was a sham from start to finish.

“There seems to me to be clear and apparently reliable evidence that Wilson was giving Gillard substantial sums of money for her (home) renovations. Where did it come from? From the (slush fund)? Did Gillard know this? What’s a married man with a family in Perth doing paying thousands of dollars for her renovations? Could she possibly think it was coming out of his own pocket? Tell it to the jury.”

Hanson says that if building company Thiess was unaware that its donations were not to be used for the association’s stated pur­poses of improving worker safety and skills, then Thiess was deceived into parting with its money, and each time there was a payment, an offence of obtaining money by false pretences was committed by those perpetrating the pretence. He says that if the deception of Thiess were planned, then all those who were a party to that plan were parties to a conspiracy to defraud.

Alternatively, if Thiess were aware that there were no “training” services provided by the associati­on but paid up for the sake of industrial peace, then the offenc­e committed was obtaining money by menaces — blackmail.

“Blewitt and Wilson are shown to be involved in these offences, as set out above,’’ Hanson says. “In Gillard’s case, once it is seen that she drafted the objects of the asso­ci­ation, while knowing that its true purpose was otherwise, she is shown to be a party to a plan to defraud donors to the fund (conspiracy to defraud), or a party to a plan to extract money from ‘donors’ by blackmail. Proof that the association’s purpose was other than as stated is in her own words, where she describes it as a ‘slush fund’ for finan­cing election campaigns.

Ms Gillard was emphatic in her statements to her managing partner Peter Gordon - in a recorded interview - that her understanding of the purpose of the Association was that it was a slush fund.

"It's, it's common practice, indeed every union has what it refers to as a re-election fund, slush fund, whatever, which is the funds that the leadership team, into which the leadership team puts money so that they can finance their next election campaign. It is not proper to use union resources for election campaigns so you need to finance them yourself. Some of them, you know, they can cost $10,000, $20,000 -- they're not cheap. So the usual mechanism people use to amass that amount of money is that they require the officials who ran on their ticket to enter payroll deduction schemes where money each week or fortnight goes from their pay into a bank account which is used for re-election purposes from time to time. They also have different fundraisers, dinners and raffles and so on to amass the necessary amount of money to mount their re-election campaign.


The thinking behind the forming of incorporated associations is that it had been our experience that if you did it in a less formal way, you just had someone, say Fred Bloggs, say, oh look, I'll just open a bank account and everybody can put the money into there, the problem developed that when the leadership team fractured, as relatively commonly happens, you got into a very difficult dispute about who was the owner of the monies in the bank account, so it was better to have an incorporated association, a legal entity, into which people could participate as members, that was the holder of the account."

In that context, it will be very hard for a police force to justify any failure to charge Ms Gillard.

I would not like to be the police  commissioner who defies 3 QCs and patently obvious prima facie evidence.



In an astonishing Fairfax report, compiled from freedom of information documents, an estimated 120,000 illegal entrants flew into Australia between the years 2008 and 2013... and they remain here on fake passports and false documents.

The majority of illegal fly-ins are on fraudulent student visas and work permits and they departed mostly from Middle Eastern hot spots, including Afghanistan, under the auspices of people smugglers.

Perhaps Sarah Hanson-Young might be convinced to call these people illegal immigrants? Hmmm, no. Sarah will shed another tear while she describes them as more desperate refugees escaping persecution.

The SMH complains that. “... they arrive unchecked while the Government focuses on stopping boats.”

    In a comprehensive lead article not once is it mentioned that illegal arrivals on both boats and planes began and continued under the Gillard/Rudd regime.

Fairfax continues, “The confidential Immigration Department files reveal repeated internal warnings over several years that widespread visa fraud is 'business as usual' yet remains largely untreated because the department's investigation and enforcement capacity had collapsed.

“... an internal inquiry into Afghan visa applicants in 2012 assessed that more than 90 per cent of cases contained fraud of some type and raised people smuggling, identity fraud, suspected child trafficking and national security implications.

“Also, a 2010 report reveals that immigration investigators had uncovered a Somali people-smuggling cell in Melbourne linked to terrorist suspect Hussein Hashi Farah, who ‘is believed to have links to the al-Qaeda offshoot al-Shabab’ and who fled Kenyan counterterrorism officials using an Australian passport in 2010.

“But the departmental file shows that a 2009 investigation into the cell's activities was deemed low priority and ceased due to a lack of resources". Hmmm, 2009? Again no mention of the responsible Government of K. Rudd.

* “Tens of thousands of immigration fraudsters living freely after being assisted by migration crime networks exploiting weaknesses in working, student, family and humanitarian visa programs, including loopholes that have left the department sometimes 'generating the fraud'.

* “The (immigration) department is 'responsible for granting a record number of student visas to people who may not be considered genuine students as well as granting permanent residence to skilled migration applicants who do not have the appropriate skills being claimed.

* “In 2013, department chiefs were warned in a confidential report that the agency's investigations arm had collapsed, risking the integrity of its programs and ultimately national security."

Hmmm, let me think, I'm almost certain that was under the Gillard Government.

Fairfax continues, “A 2010 report into a Somali people-smuggling network stated that despite evidence pointing to multiple breaches of the Criminal Code Act and the Migration Act, the department had secured only one minor prosecution. Media attention and three PMQs [prime minister briefings] on this issue have not been enough for the government to address this situation, the immigration file states.

“Another 2010 report states that evidence uncovered to date indicates that fraud within the General Skilled Migration program is extensive with estimates at around 90 per cent [or] more than 40,000 suspect visa applications lodged per year for the last three years.''

And still no mention of the culpable governments of Gillard's or Rudd's.


Muslim groups threaten SMH boycott over loss of antisemitic Mike Carlton

MUSLIM groups have condemned the suspension of Fairfax columnist Mike Carlton and have accused the media organisation of losing its independent and respected stance.

In a letter to Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood and Sydney Morning Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir, the Australian National Imams Council, Islamic Council of NSW and the Muslim Legal Network NSW among others say they will boycott the SMH unless the outspoken writer is reinstated.

Carlton resigned as a columnist for Fairfax after being told he would be suspended over his use of offensive language towards readers complaining about a July 26 column and accompanying cartoon about the war in Gaza.

This morning Carlton revealed on Twitter he has pneumonia and had left hospital today.

The letter from the groups to Fairfax said: “As representatives of the Muslim community we have always regarded Fairfax to be one the more balanced media organisations in the country and where possible we have cooperated with your journalists on countless stories,”

“But with the resignation of Mr Carlton from your publications we have now lost one of the very few voices advocating for the Palestinian cause in the country.”

The letter says the groups will consider notifying community organisations and spokespersons to cease cooperating with Fairfax journalists for media interviews.

A media campaign targeting Fairfax advertisers is also being considered.

In response to a request for comment on the letter, a Fairfax spokesman told AAP: “We understand and respect that there are strong views being expressed by many parties.

“But the Herald will not be swayed from its longstanding and ongoing commitment to providing fair, independent and balanced news and reporting.”

On Wednesday Fairfax news and business publisher Sean Aylmer said the problem was the way Carlton treated readers after they contacted him with issues about both the column and accompanying cartoon. Carlton resigned when Aylmer told him he would be suspended for several weeks.

In the letter sent to Fairfax today, the Muslim community groups also condemned the cartoon that accompanied Carlton’s column.

“It was indeed a racist cartoon that implicated the Jewish people in the actions of the Israeli state by using Jewish symbolism and stereotype,” the letter said.

“However, the apology from Fairfax makes it clear that Fairfax has been put under pressure by the Israeli lobby.”

The letter also accuses the paper of double standards and compares Carlton to another Fairfax columnist, Paul Sheehan, whom the group accuses of “habitual and countless offensive remarks about Muslims and Islam”.

“Despite the Muslim community being outraged and writing countless correspondences to Fairfax management about their concerns, no such scrutiny was applied to Mr Sheehan,” the letter said.

Carlton said via Twitter today that he had pneumonia.

“Out of hospital this morning,” he said. “Deepest thanks for thousands of supportive tweets and emails. Feel I have many good friends.”


Australia faces unprecedented oversupply of energy, no new energy generation needed for 10 years

Increased costs have reduced demand

South-eastern Australia will not need to ramp up energy generation for the next 10 years, even under a worst-case scenario, a report says.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) report says Australia is facing an energy glut never before seen in the history of the national electricity market.

It raises serious questions about the ongoing viability of existing coal-fired power stations, but might also result in more pressure on the Federal Government to reduce the Renewable Energy Target (RET).

A spokesman for AEMO, Joe Adamo, says there is no additional generation required to maintain the reliability.

"Now, that's under all three scenarios that we model. So what we're saying is that there's an oversupply of generation capacity at present. It doesn't affect the reliability," he said.

For the next year alone, Australia will produce up to 8,900 megawatts more than is needed. That is around four times the power produced in a year by Australia's largest coal-fired power station.

Electricity use in Australia has been falling now for about four years due to the take-up of rooftop solar systems, greater use of energy-efficient appliances and the downturn in some manufacturing industries that use lots of electricity.

"Many of them will have to trade unprofitably as many of them already have been doing for the last year or two," Mr Sadler said.

Just last week energy company HRL announced it would close a small coal-fired power station in Victoria's La Trobe Valley.

"It was one that was kind of earmarked for closure some three or four years ago but was propped up by some of the industry assistance measures of the previous Labor government," the Alternative Technology Association's Damien Moyse said.

"Those measures have now run out and so as soon as they have that power station has found that it's no longer economical to operate.

"That's really because there just isn't the need for so much base load power at the moment," he said.

Despite the oversupply, Australians have continued to pay more for their electricity.

"The prices have been rising because of the other parts of the cost of electricity, which is the cost of getting it from the boundary of the power station through the meters of all the individual consumers," Mr Sadler said.

"And that's considerably more than half of the total cost of the total electricity that's supplied to households or small businesses.

"That's the part that's been rising very rapidly over the last three or four years."

While all this has been going on, the Federal Government has been reviewing the Renewable Energy Target, which stipulates a certain amount of renewable electricity should be in use by 2020.

The big electricity companies have been lobbying the Government to axe or at least reduce the RET because renewables like wind and solar are hitting their bottom line.

"On a demand basis we don't need any additional investment for generations for some time, and that's what the AEMO report says," Mr Moyse said.

"But the mechanisms that leverage investment into renewable energy and into low-carbon technologies like the Renewable Energy Target are not about, ultimately, providing enough electricity supply to match demand.

"What they're about is industry development and restructure mechanisms. They're trying to, over time, restructure the industry so that more of our generation, irrespective of what the demand level is, comes from renewables or low-carbon technology and less from carbon-intensive generation, such as coal and gas."

At present there are millions of dollars in renewable projects sitting on the shelf while their developers wait to see what the Government does with the RET.

The bottom line, Mr Sadler says, is that there is no future for the large-scale renewable sector in Australia without the RET.

But he says that goes for other technologies too.

"In fact, some of the very new gas-fired power stations are going to be withdrawn from the market in a few months' time even though they are the newest power stations in Australia, apart from the renewable ones, because of the high price of gas means that they can't compete in the current market," he said.

In the meantime, Australians are increasingly voting with their wallets as electricity prices continue to rise.

There are around 1.5 million rooftop solar systems in the country and the number is increasing.


Children who miss school days are hugely disadvantaged

How alarming then that so many Aussie kids are missing school. The average public school student in NSW is absent for almost three weeks each year. Three weeks! That’s not just a few silent letters, but whole tracts of maths and the entire periodic table.

High school students are worse — an OECD survey in 2012 revealed almost a third of Australian 15-year-olds (32 per cent) said they’d skipped at least one day of school in the previous two weeks. Compare that with the UK (18 per cent), New Zealand (17 per cent) and Japan and Korea (less than two per cent) and it becomes clear we’re raising a generation of slackers.

Until recently, it was the disadvantaged in the firing line. Hence Tony Abbott’s new policy to get indigenous students back in the classroom by docking their parents’ welfare payments if they don’t attend. A similar scheme was trialled in disadvantaged areas in Queensland, but abandoned in 2012 after only a 4 per cent increase in attendance rates.

So far, so predictable. Except it’s not. Because as the authors of a study have found, the new truants are just as likely to come from middle class households where mum and dad think nothing of taking young Toby out of class for a month to go to Europe. Or for a spontaneous week skiing. You don’t need to be able to spell hypocrisy to know that’s what this is.

Absenteeism is no longer a socio-economic issue, but a cultural one, and it’s poised to make dummies out of all of us. This week, the first major study linking poor attendance to lower NAPLAN results found that even a single absence can lead to a decline in academic performance.

“A 10-day period of unauthorised absence in a year is sufficient to drop a child about a band in the NAPLAN testing,” says the report’s co-author, Stephen Zubrick, from the University of Western Australia.

I’ve argued vociferously against the likes of Mark Latham, who says we should look to Asia for our education model. No one wants our happy-go-lucky, sand-and-surf kids to be stuck in learning gulags with small pillows strapped to their wrists so they can snatch sleep between round-the-clock lessons.

But if we’re to increase productivity, hone our intellectual capital and compete globally, we have to get serious about education and, at heart, that means recognising that school is a child’s job. Whether they’re a barefoot kid in the Kimberley or a private school girl a la Ja’mie, their role is to learn. That means grammar and algebra, not the tapas bars of Barcelona, because it’s convenient to tag a month in Europe onto Dad’s business trip to Spain.

Childhood is not one long Cheezel party. Yet increasingly, it seems the same parents who are over-invested in their child’s schooling — complaining about teachers, questioning results — are under-committed when it comes to their child actually attending. This, too, is the first generation raised by parents who constantly offer choice. “Oh you don’t want to go to school? OK.”


10 August, 2014

Big news on jobless data burying the bigger problem - youth unemployment

Headline rate probably a measurement error

I hate to say it, but the spectacular events that hit the headlines aren't necessarily the things most worth worrying about. The big news on the economy this week was the spectacular jump in the unemployment rate from 6 per cent to 6.4 per just during July. Not a big worry.

Question is, what does it prove? That the economy fell into a hole around the middle of the year? Doubt it. There's little other evidence that it did and a lot that it didn't.

That the slow upward creep in unemployment we've been seeing for about two years may have accelerated? Doubt that, too. Again, the other economic indicators aren't pointing that way.

(Indeed, some economists have been wondering if unemployment was close to peaking. So far this year employment has grown by an average of 15,600 jobs a month, compared with just 5100 a month last year.)

That the unemployment figures are volatile from month to month and this is an unexplained statistical blip that should be corrected next month? Seems a bit too big for that.

Truth is it's hard to know what the problem is. Easier to be sure when we've seen another month or two's figures.

But my guess is it's a once-only upward step in the measured rate of unemployment, caused by a seemingly small change in the questions that people in the Bureau of Statistics' monthly survey are asked so as to ascertain whether they've been "actively" seeking a job if they don't have one.

The change – made partly because of the switch to searching for jobs on the internet rather than at Centrelink – seems to have led more people to be classed as unemployed and fewer as "not in the labour force".

If this guess proves right, it's not so worrying. It doesn't change reality, just the way we measure it. In any case, we've long known that the official measure of unemployment is very narrow and understates the extent of the problem.

That's why the bureau publishes every quarter a broader measure of unemployment, which takes the official unemployment rate and adds the under-employed – people with jobs who aren't working as many hours a week as they'd like to – to give the "labour force underutilisation rate".

The figures for May show narrowly measured unemployment of 6 per cent, and an underemployment rate of 7.5 per cent, to give a broader measure of 13.5 per cent.

Less spectacular than this month's jump in the official rate but, to me, more worthy of worry is news that hasn't hit the headlines: the rapid worsening in teenage unemployment.

Whereas so far this year the trend rate of overall unemployment has risen by 0.2 percentage points, the trend rate for people aged 15 to 19 has risen by 2.8 percentage points to 19.3 per cent.

Note, this doesn't mean almost one youth in five is unemployed. Most people that age are in full-time education, so aren't in the calculation. Turns out about one in 20 of all 15 to 19 year-olds is unemployed and looking for a full-time job.

Many people have it in their heads that unemployment rises because people lose their jobs and employment falls. That's true only in recessions. It's rare for employment to fall – it fell only briefly even during the global financial crisis.

No, the main reason unemployment rises outside of recessions is that the economy isn't growing fast enough to employ all the extra people joining the labour force from education, as immigrants or as mothers rejoining.

That's what's been happening over the past two years. And young people – particularly those who leave school or training too early – have borne most of the burden of insufficient job creation. We should be doing much better by them than Work for the Dole and denying them benefits for six months to keep them hungry.

But there's nothing spectacular about this quiet suffering, so it doesn't hit the headlines. Much better to scandalise over factory closures, which surely signal the end of the world. So let's look at the facts on retrenchment, courtesy of a Bureau of Statistics study.

About 2 million people left their jobs over the year to February 2013 (the latest period for which figures are available). About 60 per cent of these left voluntarily and 21 per cent left because of their illness or injury, leaving 19 per cent – 380,000 – who left because they were retrenched.

That's a rate of retrenchment of 3.1 per cent. The rate hit 4 per cent in 2000, but then fell to a low of 2 per cent in 2008, just before the global financial crisis, then increased sharply to 3.1 per cent in 2010, where it has pretty much stayed since.

Over the year to 2013, all industries experienced retrenchments, but the most were in construction, 65,000; retailing, 40,000; and manufacturing, just under 40,000.

But the number of people employed in particular industries differs a lot so, judged by rate of retrenchment, utilities and construction come equal first with 6.4 per cent, then mining with 6 per cent, pushing manufacturing into fourth place with 4.5 per cent.

The rate of retrenchment is consistently higher for men because men tend to dominate those industries where retrenchment rates are higher, whereas retrenchment rates tend to be lower in industries dominated by women workers, such as education and health.

The likelihood of being retrenched falls as your level of educational attainment rises. We're more conscious of older workers being laid off but, in fact, retrenchment is greatest among workers aged 25 to 44.

And what happens to people who're laid off? For those retrenched over the year to February 2013, half were back in jobs by the end of the year, leaving 29 per cent unemployed and 21 per cent not in the labour force.


The political significance of the section 18C debacle

Many Australians think that multiculturalism means better restaurants. I doubt they thought it meant that Muslim and other ethnic lobby groups would wield the power of veto over important national policies.

That the sectional interests of organised ethnic groups might subvert the national interest has long ranked high among the concerns about multiculturalism articulated by critics on the centre-right.

That such concerns are legitimate has been verified by the debacle that is the Abbott government's decision to break its election promise and abandon its commitment to abolish section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

When announcing the policy U-turn, the Prime Minister said that the government's push to restore free speech in Australia had complicated negotiations with the Muslim community over new counter-terrorism laws.

This was a remarkably frank and alarming admission. It implied that Muslim organisations would not join 'Team Australia' and back measures to stop Islamist fanatics harming innocent Australians of all creeds and colours unless the government caved in on section 18C.

The Abbott government has not only sold out the democratic right to free speech of all Australians to help itself politically with the ethnic lobbyists and 'human rights' lawyers opposed to repealing section 18C. What is worse are the political consequences of the government's actions, which are likely to embolden the Muslim lobby at a time when it is discovering just how much political muscle it can flex.

In response to the war in Gaza, some state and federal Green and Labor MPs have publically condemned Israel, and one federal Liberal MP has encouraged Australia to adopt a 'more neutral stance on Israel.'

These calls to revise Australia's traditional, bi-partisan foreign policy of support for Israel are motivated by raw political calculation for the reasons set out by former Foreign Minister Bob Carr in his diaries released earlier this year.

Carr's book detailed the circumstances surrounding the rolling in Cabinet of the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2012, which led to Australia abstaining on the vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the recognition of Palestine's observer status at the UN. Carr explained that the Cabinet-revolt was in response to electoral concerns that the original 'No' vote in the UN backed by Gillard would see the Labor Party lose support among Muslim voters in key Labor seats in South Western Sydney.

The final indignity of this sorry episode is the fact that one needs to worry whether it is legal to discuss its political significance. With section 18C still on the statute books, who knows who might take offence and decide to wage some 'lawfare' to shut down debate about a subject of national importance.


Russia will continue to buy Australian WINE despite introducing harsh import bans

Russia has introduced trade sanctions on Australia which will block hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Aussie imports each year - but they will continue to import our wine.

Russia has banned agricultural products from Australia and other western countries after they imposed their own sanctions against Moscow over its policy in Ukraine following the MH17 disaster.

The retaliatory ban covers all imports of meat, fish, milk and milk products and fruit and vegetables.  But bizarrely, President Putin has approved the importation of Australian wine.  In 2013, Russia consumed $4.7 million worth of Aussie alcoholic beverages.

The federal government says it's disappointed by Russia's trade sanctions on Australia. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed that Australia are working towards harsher sanctions, now that Australian personnel are returning to the Netherlands.

Prime Minister Abbott was reluctant to strengthen sanctions against Russia whilst personnel on the ground were only 'within 20 or 30km from the Russian border.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday the 'full embargo' would come into effect immediately and last for one year, unless 'our partners demonstrate a constructive approach' in regards to sanctioning Russia.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says it's disappointing that Russia has retaliated rather than adhere to international concern and stop the flow of weapons to Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.

It's believed Russia supplied the weapon that was used to down flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people, including 38 Australians.

'The Australian government will do everything in its power to minimise the impact on Australian agricultural producers,' she told AAP in a statement.

Australia had acted in line with others in the international community in imposing sanctions on Russia, she said.

Russia's sweeping move will cost western farmers billions of dollars but could also lead to empty supermarket shelves in Russian cities.  'Of course this is a serious decision for the suppliers of such foods from these countries,' Mr Medvedev said.

The ban will not cover baby food and people will still be able to buy the banned products abroad if they want, but Mr Medvedev warned those who tried to profit from reselling them would be 'harshly punished'.

Experts said that local producers would find it hard to fill the gap left by the ban, as the nation's agricultural sector had continued to suffer from poor efficiency and shortage of funds.

The damage to consumers inflicted by the ban would be felt particularly hard in big cities like Moscow, where imported food filled an estimated 60-70 percent of the market.

Mr Medvedev said Russia could go further and ban western carriers from flying over Russia on flights to and from Asia - a move that would significantly swell costs and increase flight time.

He said there has been no decision on that yet, and wouldn't specify when and under what conditions the move could be taken.

He made it clear that Russia hoped the sanctions would make the west revise its policy and stop trying to pressure Russia with sanctions.  'We hope our partners will put a pragmatic economic approach above bad policy considerations, and they will start thinking instead of trying to scare us,' he said.

The decision shows that President Vladimir Putin has no intention of bowing to western pressure over Ukraine and will instead try to strike back at the west.

The U.S. and the EU have accused Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March, of fomenting tensions in eastern Ukraine by supplying arms and expertise to a pro-Moscow insurgency, and have imposed asset freezes and loan bans on a score of individuals and companies.


Jewish schools in lockdown after Bondi race hate bus attack

ARMED guards, police patrols and traffic escorts greeted Jewish families yesterday as an unprecedented security crackdown was imposed across the eastern suburbs in the wake of the anti- ­Semitic attack which left a city shocked and shaken.

Jewish colleges across Sydney were placed on high alert in the wake of Wednesday’s terrifying attack by six drunken teenagers which left a busload of Moriah and Mount Sinai schoolchildren traumatised.

The gravity of the distant Gaza conflict shattered what should have been just another day for children as young as six and seven at the Jewish eastern suburb schools.

They were confronted by uniformed police officers on their buses and armed security guards clad in bulletproof vests at the schoolgates.

Police have so far made three arrests in relation to the incident involving six teenagers, aged between 14 and 17. They allegedly boarded the 660 school bus and hurled anti-Semitic abuse and threatened to cut the throats of its young passengers. Police are hunting three more people.

The six teenagers who allegedly boarded the school bus and began chanting “heil Hitler”, “kill the Jews” and “Palestine, Palestine” will be dealt with under the Young Offenders Act if charged, which means they will avoid jail and criminal convictions.

It is understood all six youths live around Sydney’s eastern suburbs and attend public schools.

A Moriah College student told The Daily Telegraph last night the incident was being widely discussed and condemned by the school ­community.

“We’re all shocked that something like this could happen in Australia,” he said. “Teachers were telling us it’s something you’d expect to see in Europe.”

He said his school bus was escorted by security personnel yesterday morning and an increased security presence — including armed members of the Board of Deputies’ Community Security Group — was visible throughout Moriah.

The school’s principal John Hamey, in a letter sent home to parents, described the attack as “random”

He said steps were being taken to ensure students wouldn’t be exposed to such abuse again.

“The college, in conjunction with the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and CSG, has already commenced discussions with the (State Transit Authority) to minimise the possibility of a recurrence of this sort in the future,” he wrote.

Mr Roberts also personally escorted schoolchildren to and from buses yesterday.

Police nabbed five drunken youths following a separate incident in Rose Bay around 3.30am yesterday morning and learned that three of those teens had been involved in the anti-Semitic tirade.

CCTV footage from the bus provided by the State Transit Authority was forming part of the police investigation.

The driver of the 660 bus at the time followed protocol and will not be suspended, an STA spokesman said.

Jacqui Blackburn, whose 12-year-old daughter pleaded with the driver to kick the six youths off the bus, said the 25 children on-board were still traumatised by the ordeal.

Police said last night there was no evidence of any physical violence.

The alleged victims were yesterday being interview by police in the presence of guardians.


Anti-protest laws draw demonstrators to Tasmanian Parliament

Proposed anti-protest laws have drawn demonstrators to a union-organised rally outside the Tasmanian Parliament.

However, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) concedes its opposition to the Tasmanian Government's anti-protest laws is not shared by all its members.

Under the new laws, people who disrupt workplaces faced $10,000 spot fines, with three-month mandatory jail sentences for repeat offenders.

Proposed laws:

Protesters may not cause or threaten damage to a business
Police can direct protestors to leave a business or "business access area"

Police can remove any obstructions to a business and people may not prevent them doing so

Inciting any of these acts is an offence

Police can demand proof of identity

Police can arrest without warrant and remove people from a business

Officers can use necessary force to perform these powers

The laws were passed by Tasmania's Lower House in late June and are now before the independent-dominated Upper House.

The changes have been criticised by opposition parties, civil liberties advocates, environmental activists, lawyers and unions.

The CMFEU says the laws go too far, and today joined 15 other unions at State Parliament lawns to call on the Upper House to reject them.

CFMEU national secretary Michael O'Connor said some members of the union supported what the Government was doing.

"We've communicated with our members, and as I've said there are different views here, but quite quickly, from my point of view... I'm saying to you that this legislation is way too wide for the purpose," he said.


8 August, 2014

Immigration officer warns on risk to national security

An Immigration Department manager has warned agency chiefs in a confidential memo that the collapse of the department's investigations arm has led to the spread of migration fraud and increased the risk to national security.

An internal briefing document written in early 2013 by immigration official Wayne Sievers and addressed to immigration secretary Martin Bowles says investigations teams in several state offices were "unviable".

The still serving official's report, obtained by Fairfax Media, calls for an independent inquiry into the decline of the risk, fraud and integrity division of the department and outlines the "very real concerns held by present and former staff".

Mr Sievers' concerns are separately detailed in several other confidential departmental files written by other immigration officials and obtained by Fairfax Media.

Mr Sievers, who for seven years was assistant director of the department's national investigations services unit has also claimed department executives are more concerned with keeping its deficiencies secret than acting on fraud.

"The main investigation office in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra are being stripped of staff and resources," he said. "They are approaching the point of being non-viable.

"Meaningful investigation and prosecution activity has effectively ceased [in the Melbourne office]. I see no reason to doubt the situation is different in any other office," he said.


Labor’s chaotic, costly and disastrous broadband path

IN his audit, Bill Scales has skewered Labor’s $43 billion infrastructure vanity project and its serial policy follies in trying to bed down its signature National Broadband Network.

During its six years in office, Labor racked up a miserable public policy record, setting new lows in Canberra for governance, credulity, value for taxpayers, cabinet processes and behavioural standards. It churned through ideas as quickly and wastefully as it burned its leaders. We saw an impregnable border regime dismantled, leading to the arrival of more than 50,000 asylum-seekers and at least 1200 deaths at sea. There was the world’s most economically costly carbon tax and a boneheaded mining tax that raised little revenue but was accompanied by $17bn in unfunded bribes to voters. A panicked fiscal stimulus after the global financial crisis was perhaps double what it should have been. The home insulation fiasco and the school halls builders’ bonanza were typical of a government that had not only lost the plot but had lost its mettle.

While no single policy disaster can fully convey Labor’s dysfunction, wrongheadedness and ineptitude, the NBN boondoggle should be the one from which the nation’s officials and lawmakers draw textbook lessons in what not to do with taxpayers’ money. Former communications minister Stephen Conroy should not be maligned for dreaming big — just for all the things he did after getting his one idea in life, derivative as it was. In making his 2007 pitch to defeat John Howard, Kevin Rudd became seduced by the focus group research that suggested Australians wanted something big to show for the mining boom, a nation-building project like the postwar Snowy Mountains hydro scheme. Picking up on the zeitgeist, Labor’s mission became the pipes that carried the internet and promised voters a fibre-to-the-node NBN that would cost them $4.7bn. That plan was flawed. Labor assumed it could tender out the job of upgrading Telstra’s copper network to a third party.

In the sure hands of Mr Rudd and Senator Conroy, and no doubt copious supplies of Post-it notes, napkins and highlighter pens, in April 2009 the vogue-ish, minimalist NBN morphed into a fibre-to-the-premise behemoth, as did the cost. With Telstra out of the picture, Labor was determined to go it alone. Mr Scales, a former head of the Industry Commission, precursor to the Productivity Commission, found that the public policy process for developing what he termed NBN Mark II was “rushed, chaotic and inadequate”. He found there was only perfunctory consideration by cabinet of the nation’s biggest infrastructure project. “There was no business case or any cost-benefit analysis, or independent studies of the policy undertaken, with no clear operating instructions provided to this completely new government business enterprise, within a legislative and regulatory framework still undefined, and without any consultation with the wider community,” the report said. As well, he concluded NBN Co, a start-up, was not fit for the purpose of delivering the high-speed network on time; it was an “impossible assignment”.

That Labor’s policymaking was so haphazard and cavalier will not surprise our readers, given our unerring scrutiny of the NBN. When Fairfax newspapers finally get around to reporting these damning findings, their readers may get a sense that their paid watchers were asleep at the keyboard. To be kind, Labor also was suffering memory loss. It neglected its own miserable history of picking winners — inexcusable for Queenslander and state bureaucrat Mr Rudd and Victoria’s Senator Conroy — and ignored its best tendencies to deregulation. Here was a case where prudence demanded a government be technologically agnostic — yet it chose broadband over wireless. Since the Hawke era, Labor had tried to promote telecommunications competition. Again, it would eventually seek to impose a new monopoly with NBN Co.

The Abbott government is trying to get the project back on time and on budget. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull made the right call in appointing Ziggy Switkowski to chair NBN Co. Mr Turnbull will also soon consider the cost-benefit analysis and regulation review by Michael Vertigan. It should be a no-brainer, but Mr Scales has recommended that major projects worth more than $1bn be subject to a cost-benefit analysis before being built, with the findings released. He calls for more independent scrutiny of proposed infrastructure when part of a party’s election pitch. The bureaucracy needs to upscale its expertise around large projects. As well, Mr Scales calls on politicians and officials to learn from failed processes. Taking stock, resetting parameters, is what Labor should have done before scaling up its NBN fantasy in 2009. If Labor is to avoid these self-defeating mistakes in the years ahead, it needs to end its broadband denialism and move quickly away from the dismal Conrovian morass. In its darkest days of rage and recklessness, Labor hit many false notes. The NBN debacle is the Rudd-Gillard government’s theme song, with its haunting crescendo of strange beats and wild cries.


Internet history will not be stored: govt

New data retention laws will include the internet sites people visit, the Prime Minister has said. Source: AAP

THE federal government will not require internet companies to store people's web browsing history as part of its new counter-terrorism plans, despite the prime minister suggesting it would.

TONY Abbott created confusion around the suite of measures on Wednesday when he tried to explain what types of customer metadata telecommunications companies would be required to keep for two years.
While it's expected the information about Australians' calls, texts and emails will be included, Mr Abbott suggested web browser history could also be captured.

"It's not what you're doing on the internet, it's the sites you're visiting," he told the Nine Network on Wednesday morning.

"It's not the content, it's just where you've been, so to speak."

But the prime minister's office later clarified his statement, saying browser history was not metadata and government agencies would still need a warrant to access such information.

Defending the data-retention plans, Mr Abbott described metadata as not being the "content of the letter but what's on the envelope".

In relation to mobile phones, metadata includes information such as origin and destination phone numbers, the billing name and address of both parties, time and duration of the correspondence, and the telecommunications tower used.

It does not include the content of the correspondence.

Online metadata covers the user-specific internet identifier code, IP addresses visited and the time, duration and number of visits.

It does not include the content of web browsing.

Mr Abbott said telecommunications companies already kept such information, and the government was simply asking them to continue to do so.

"I have no doubt the civil libertarian brigade will do their best to stop this but my responsibility as prime minister is to keep our country safe," he said.

"All of the expert advice from every single counter-terrorist agency is that this information is absolutely essential if we are to maintain our vigilance against terrorist activity."

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor respected the fact that national security laws needed updating for the modern age.

"But we also have concerns that when you store so much information about so many Australians that this needs to be done very carefully and in a considered way ... so there is no risk that ordinary Australians are being treated as if they are criminals," he said.

Mr Shorten was also concerned that internet service providers might pass the cost of their data storage on to customers.

Attorney-General George Brandis said the electronic signature of websites could be recorded under the new laws, but clicks within a particular website would not.

"When you visit a website, people browse from one thing to the next (within the same site)," he told Sky News.

"That browsing history won't be retained and there won't be any capacity to access that."

However, the metadata being sought by agencies included the electronic addresses of visited websites, which computer accessed them, the time they were accessed and the durations, he said.


Breakthrough in the Australian State of NSW: Government  go-ahead for fracking project

NSW is very fearful of unconventional gas, even though the neighboring State of Queensland is gung ho about it

AGL Energy has moved a step closer to developing a controversial coal-seam gas project in New South Wales after the state government allowed it to conduct fracking activities at four test wells.

The Gloucester project is significant because it could provide the state with 15 per cent of its natural-gas needs and power close to one million homes if it goes lives in 2016 as planned. Energy companies, including AGL, say the state is facing a supply squeeze, as three giant gas-export projects in neighbouring Queensland threaten to deplete domestic reserves when they start up next year.

Proposed developments in NSW, however, are facing stiff opposition from environmentalists and farmers concerned that drilling practices for extracting methane trapped in coal seams could contaminate underground water supplies.

AGL’s decision to invest in the project will partly rest on the results of the four-well pilot project, which will test the quality of the resource. To proceed with the tests, the company had been relying on state government approval for it to carry out hydraulic fracturing, a controversial drilling technique that cracks underground rocks using high-powered bursts of water, sand and chemicals.

“This will not be the only solution to our reliance on gas from interstate, but it is a significant and vital step in the right direction to improve supply for NSW,” state Energy Minister Anthony Roberts said today.

NSW currently provides only 5 per cent of its own natural gas, but this could rise to 20 per cent if the Gloucester project goes ahead, AGL chief executive Michael Fraser said.

None of the Gloucester project’s output would be exported overseas, he said.

NSW has some of the country’s toughest coal-seam gas rules, having banned wells within two kilometres of residential areas, and land containing vineyards and horse studs. The rules, which came into effect in October, forced AGL to write down the value of its proposed Camden and Hunter gas projects.

The Gloucester project is in a more remote area, so it isn’t exposed to the same regulatory impediments.

The project, however, is still likely to face opposition from environmentalists and some farmers and community groups that claim it is still too risky.

Credit Suisse last week said it has only attributed $88 million in value to the project out of a $347.5 million book value, due to delay risks.

The broker said AGL might have to guarantee land values in the areas to win the blessing of farmers.

“A coordinated campaign targeting AGL’s electricity and gas customers could result in customer loss,” it said.

The state government’s tough stance is in stark contrast to neighbouring Queensland, where companies including ConocoPhillips and Total SA are spending more than $60 billion combined to liquefy coal-seam gas for export to Asia.


7 August, 2014

The war in Gaza has generated outspoken antisemitism in Australia

“Zionist scum” daubed on the wall of a Jewish school in Perth. A Jewish man in Melbourne beaten up in the street while wearing a T-shirt with Hebrew writing.

As shocking as these incidents are, they have been the only “attacks” on the Jewish community in Australia since the launch of Operation Protective Edge.

Yes, there have been the pro-Palestinian rallies through our major cities where thousands march decrying Israel, while brandishing banners and placards that equate the Jewish State’s actions with those of the Nazis.

But while the community remains on high alert and fearful of the worst, Australia so far has been spared the anti-Semitic violence and vandalism witnessed on the streets of Europe.

That said, there is a considerable air of disquiet and unease, resulting from relentless assaults on Israel in the media.

What many consider the worst examples emerged last weekend with a segment on Channel Nine’s current affairs program Sixty Minutes titled “Unholy War” presented by Allison Langdon, and a column by veteran journalist Mike Carlton published in The Sydney Morning Herald and on the website of its fellow Fairfax newspaper in Melbourne The Age.

To say they were unbalanced in their coverage of the conflict is an understatement.

To use a word such pundits are so fond of using in the context of condemning Israel, they were downright disproportionate, laying blame solely at the feet of Israel.

Did either Langdon or Carlton mention Hamas’s stated commitment to the destruction of Israel or the terrorist atrocities and rocket attacks that predate this current conflict and have precipitated every conflict in recent years including this one? No

Did either of them mention the disengagement from Gaza and the various offers of West Bank land for peace that could and should have laid the foundations for a Palestinian State? No

Did they mention Israel’s documented attempts to minimize civilian casualties as opposed to Hamas’s documented use of human shields, its policy of firing from residential areas and storing armaments in schools? No

Did Langdon, when musing on the security barrier, care to inform viewers that it had been built to prevent the suicide bombings that had claimed hundreds of lives – and that it had succeeded? No.

In fact, her broadcast was textbook Israel bashing right from the get-go. She interviewed relatives of murdered Palestinian teen Muhammed Khdeir. But rather than interview the relatives of any of the three murdered Israeli teens Gil-ad Sha’ar, Naftali Fraenkel or Eyal Yifrah – or indeed the relatives of any victims of Palestinian terror – she interviewed two right-wing settlers, from the “All this land is ours” extreme.

For good measure, Langdon also interviewed a left-winger to confirm how rotten the Israeli state is in its treatment of the Palestinians.

Any interviews with extremist Palestinians who call for Israel’s destruction? Of course not. Because then it might seem Israelis genuinely have something to worry about, and that the victims of Israel’s aggression might not all be quite the innocents that the program is seeking to make out?

Throw in words like “apartheid” and some highly dubious historical comment about Israel being “carved out” between two Palestinian territories, and this shoddy piece of journalism hit its target.

Carlton’s column, however, was altogether more insidious. Vitriolic in its condemnation of Israel, not only were words such as “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing” and “fascism” used, but the author went on to say these “atrocities” were being “committed by a people with a proud liberal tradition of scholarship and culture, who hold the Warsaw Ghetto and the six million dead of the Holocaust at the centre of their race memory.”

This was no longer just a venomous swipe at Israel in a mainstream newspaper, this was about “a people” and “a race” – a people and a race who should know better because of what they themselves went through. In short, they should know better, and they are no better … than the Nazis.

Throw in a cartoon of a big-nosed, bespectacled man wearing a kippah and sitting in an armchair with a Star of David on the back – pressing a remote control that detonates an explosion in Gaza – and in a country which hosts the highest number of Holocaust survivors outside of Israel, it’s little wonder that many in the community were reminded of the caricatures of Jews they’d seen in Der Sturmer.

Responding to the TV broadcast and the column, this week The Australian Jewish News took the unprecedented step of publishing its editorial column on the front page of the paper. Under the headline “Media Disgrace,” The AJN called on its readers to cancel their subscriptions to Fairfax.

“Shame on those Australian journalists who are fanning the flames of hatred against Jews and Israel,” the paper declared. “Shame on 60 Minutes. Even greater shame on Fairfax.

And noting the alarming rise of anti-Semitism overseas and the incidents that have occurred on these shores, the paper reflected, “In these troubled times it behoves our media to act both responsibly and with integrity, not to stir the pot.”

The pot though has been stirred. And our front page is now itself making the news with various media outlets reporting on our call to action

Does Carlton have any remorse for fanning the flames?  His Tweet on it says it all: “read it, and thought it the usual febrile froth from the Likkud lobby. Ho hum. Didn’t mind at all.”

Let’s just pray that those who read his column think it’s just “febrile froth” from a ranting columnist. Otherwise the vandalism at the Jewish school in Perth and the attack on the Jewish man in Melbourne may simply be the precursors to far more and far worse acts of anti-Semitism in the days and weeks to come.


Mike Carlton, abusive SMH columnist, used the same ugly language which the left abhors

Carlton has always been a hate-filled extreme Leftist.  Abuse is his modus operandi

FORGET Mike Carlton’s original Israel piece, which contained some insightful commentary on how Israel’s centre right government has shifted the political goalposts, thus cajoling many moderate Israelis to support the Gaza madness.

Forget, if you can, the cartoon that accompanied his column, which was inexcusable in its imagery which evoked the way Jews were portrayed during the Nazi era.

The issue at stake here is not whether fallen Fairfax columnist Mike Carlton was right or wrong about Israel. The only issue is that he has been deemed to have responded inappropriately to readers on email and social media, unleashing all sorts of put-downs and expletives.

On this issue, his bosses were clear.  “You just can’t do that,” Fairfax business publisher Sean Aylmer said on radio. The language was “not acceptable in the workplace.  “No one has the right to treat readers that way.”

Sydney Morning Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir was equally blunt in his official statement.  “I have become aware that Mike Carlton has corresponded with some Herald readers and letter writers using inappropriate and offensive language. This behaviour is completely unacceptable,” he said.

In response to Fairfax management’s words, Carlton took the classic schoolyard “they did it first” defence.

The thing to remember about Carlton’s tone is that he is on the political left. This is the same side of political opinion which for years has campaigned for moderation and sensitivity in language. Many on the left reckon that the old adage of “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” doesn’t always apply.

They have a point too. In fact they’re spot on. Sometimes, names really can hurt. That’s why the left has for many years made a big thing of encouraging, nay DEMANDING, the use of sensitive language in relation to women, the disabled, minorities and others.

We, the largely politically unaligned majority, have sometimes lampooned such language as “political correctness”. But overall, we play along because we’re reasonable people. You want us to call a “waitress” a “wait person” or refer to the “blind” as “visually impaired”? Fine. More than happy.

But Carlton has been the opposite of sensitive with his language. Again, this is not about Israel. This is about decency, about not vilifying others with words as weapons.

What really rankles with this drama today is the people lining up on social media to support him. Effectively they’re saying “hey, no one has the right to use insulting language, unless of course they’re my good mate Mike”.

There’s more, much more, and the outpouring of support for Carlton is all the worse given the timing. Many decent Australians are today rejoicing at the repealing of proposed changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Federal Attorney General George Brandis had planned to make it effectively easier to insult people. He was going to remove the wording that says you can’t “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate others because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin”.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott clearly decided it was too hard to get all that through the Senate, and that his time might be better served, you know, governing the country and all that.

So great news, Australia. You are still most definitely NOT allowed to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate others because of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin”. The law remains intact. So does good old Aussie decency. Offensive behaviour shall be frowned upon. Unless your name is Mike.

It’s perhaps with that in mind that Fairfax bosses today suspended Carlton (who then resigned).

What’s less clear is how the people who so wholeheartedly support the Racial Discrimination Act also support this foul-mouthed, abusive former Fairfax journalist.

As you read this, Carlton is already receiving job offers on social media from a raft of people whose print and/or online publications wouldn’t dream of insulting and abusing strangers. Why the double standard? It doesn’t even begin to make sense.


Tony Abbott says proposed Racial Discrimination Act changes won’t be revived

Mike Carlton should be charged under it

TONY Abbott has ruled out reviving incendiary reforms to the Racial Discrimination Act, as Andrew Bolt warned Jewish leaders would ultimately regret opposing the Prime Minister’s agenda.

However the Executive Council of Australian Jewry immediately hit back, claiming free speech had become “more frank and robust” since the controversial section 18C — which makes it an offence to offend, insult or humiliate someone on the basis of their ethnicity — was introduced.

The Prime Minister yesterday announced the decision to cut the government’s losses, abandoning proposed changes to race hate laws after a co-ordinated and sustained campaign against the free speech amendments that left the Coalition battered in ethnically diverse communities, particularly in western Sydney.

Mr Abbott conceded the proposed changes had become “a needless complication” in the government’s relationship with ethnic minorities, especially in the Islamic community, as he called for national unity to combat terrorism.

Mr Abbott had promised to repeal section 18C after the law was successfully used in 2011 against Bolt, a News Corp Australia columnist.

Bolt last night lashed Mr Abbott for breaching the election commitment.

“He’s saying to make the people who might feel picked on by the terrorism measures — which referred obviously to the jihadists, Muslims, people from the Middle East, they’ll feel picked on — he’s going to drop 18C so they’ll feel less picked on or feel more defended,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.

“But wait; don’t we need a frank debate — more frank than it’s been so far — into how the Islamic culture, the Muslim culture, people from different certain Muslim countries in the Middle East, how they integrate here?

“The Jewish leaders now should look very, very deeply into their souls at what they have helped wrought and ask themselves, are you seriously safer now as a result?”

Peter Wertheim, executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said he understood Bolt’s disappointment but rejected that section 18C had restricted free speech.

“If anything, public debate in Australia has become even more frank and robust. The law does not make race a taboo subject,” Mr Wertheim said.  “There is no issue, and no side of the argument on any issue, that is off limits. There is no matter of public interest that cannot be fully explored without denigrating people because of their race.”

Mr Abbott called Bolt yesterday ahead of the announcement to tell him the reforms were “off the table”.

Mr Abbott, when asked if the reforms were only “off the table for now”, told ABC Radio: “No, no. It’s off the table. It’s off the table. It’s gone. It’s disappeared.”

Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson, a civil libertarian appointed by the Abbott government, also criticised the government’s decision to abandon the changes.

“Politicians shouldn’t be worried about critics; they should actually be interested in creating the structures and frameworks in our society so that people’s human rights can be protected, not appeasing to groups just because it makes their life easier,” Mr Wilson told ABC Radio.

“The whole basis of human rights is to protect people against the majority group, so when there are a lot of people organised in favour of censorship that is not a justification to silence people.”


Tough terror laws target jihadis

SECURITY laws will be tough­ened to prevent a surge in domestic attacks from jihadists being “radicalised and militarised” in overseas conflicts, as Tony Abbott embarks on the biggest expansion of counter-terrorism powers in more than a decade.

Federal agencies will gain $630 million, as well as stronger powers to arrest Australians who return from foreign conflicts, in a controversial move that drops the presumption of innocence when prosecutors seek convictions and jail terms.

The government will also expand its ability to suspend passports to prevent suspects from leaving the country when they ­appear set on suicide attacks or joining terrorist groups.

Amid growing concerns over Australian jihadists boasting of their crimes in Iraq and Syria, and urging others to do the same at home, the Prime Minister called for “national unity” to back the tougher laws. But the reforms sparked fears last night of an invasion of personal privacy from laws that would force internet providers and phone companies to keep every record of a customer’s phone and web use for at least two years.

A political challenge appears certain as some crossbench senators warn against giving more money and power to national ­security agencies while the Greens reject the data collection laws and Labor reserves its position.

Redefining his government’s priorities, Mr Abbott dumped a divisive reform to racial discrimination laws in the name of building support from ethnic communities who were angry at the prospect of softer protections against racism.

“I want the communities of our country to be our friend, not our critic. I want to work with the communities of our country as Team Australia here,” he said.

The Prime Minister also warned of a big rise in the number of suspects who could attempt a “mass casualty” attack on home soil given there are now five times as many Australians fighting with terror groups in Syria and Iraq as there were in Afghanistan in the past.

Of about 30 Australians who fought with terrorists in Afghanistan, 25 returned home and two thirds of that group were later involved in domestic terrorism, the government said.

“If we see anything like the same ratios in respect of people coming back from Syria and Iraq, the potential for terrorism in this country has substantially increased,” Mr Abbott warned.

“The numbers of people who might potentially need to be ­closely monitored have substantially increased. And that’s why we do need this carefully judged but proportionate increase in the resources available to our security and intelligence agencies.”

The Prime Minister acknowledged that he could need Labor support to get the reforms through parliament and said he had offered a briefing to the opposition to outline the changes.

Bill Shorten said there was “no doubt” the nation’s security agencies needed the right powers but he signalled a political dispute ahead on the “data retention” laws in the light of intense criticism from free speech advocates.

“There is no doubt that our ­security agencies need the right powers to keep Australia safe, so the principle of supporting and building our national security is a bipartisan principle,” he said.

“But Labor also respects the concerns about people’s privacy. It is most important that in the pursuit of national security, that we make sure that we respect the concerns of not treating ordinary Australians as criminals. There is great complexity in maintaining and storing information about 23 million Australians and we need to ensure that we get the balance right between making sure that we have strong national ­security and the rights of our citizens to their legitimate privacy.”

The data retention plan also sparked concerns within the government about whether cabinet ministers were fully consulted on the changes before they were leaked to the media.

The Institute of Public Affairs attacked the proposal as a ­“repressive and expensive” way for the government to monitor its own citizens.

A bill to expand the powers of the national security agencies is already before parliament but the new reforms will be included in a new bill, the Counter Terrorism Foreign Fighters Act, which will be introduced at the end of this month or early next month.

The data retention laws will be the third tranche of the changes and will be finalised after talks with industry. Widening the net in future investigations, the government will amend the definition of terrorist activity to include the promotion and encouragement of terrorism. It will also enable the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation spy agency to keep using questioning and detention powers after they are due to expire in July 2016.

The Australian Federal Police will be able to keep using control orders and preventative detention orders beyond December next year, when those powers were meant to expire. AFP powers to search suspects and seize evidence will also be extended. A critical change is the proposal to lower the burden of proof when people enter Australia after travelling to areas where terrorist groups are active. The change would effectively assume the guilt of someone returning from places such as Iraq and Syria, putting the onus of proof on the individual to convince authorities they were there for humanitarian or family reasons.

Mr Abbott said the changes were needed because of the difficulty of finding proof when an Australian was involved in “unspeakable” crimes overseas.


Moree Solar Farm Puts Big Solar in Big Sky Country

PM Abbott plans to scrap the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. The sooner he gets it done the better

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) today announced $101.7 million of support for Moree Solar Farm, which upon completion will be one of the largest solar plants in Australia.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht congratulated renewable energy company Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) who are set to begin construction on the project shortly.

"Moree Solar Farm will be the first large-scale solar plant in Australia to use a single-axis horizontal tracking system, where panels follow the sun across the sky to capture sunlight and maximise power output," Mr Frischknecht said. "The 56MWac (70MWp) farm will produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 15,000 average New South Wales homes."

Mr Frischknecht said the Moree community would benefit from the project and had been keen supporters, along with the Moree Plains Shire Council, for several years. "The $164 million Moree Solar Farm will benefit the local economy and will also deliver an estimated 130 local jobs during the construction phase over 2014-2016.

"More than 50 locations around Australia were investigated before the developers selected the site 10 kilometres out of Moree in NSW's northern wheat belt, an area known as 'big sky country'. The location benefits from high levels of solar radiation and also allows the solar farm to connect to the national electricity grid."

Mr Frischknecht said the project, which is also being supported by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, would aim to demonstrate that large-scale solar power plants can be constructed and operated within Australia's major electricity grids.

"ARENA will work with FRV to share the valuable knowledge gained in delivering the Moree Solar Farm with the rest of the industry," Mr Frischknecht said. "We recognise reducing early mover disadvantage and supporting the transfer of information will help advance development of more utility scale solar plants in Australia."

Moree Solar Farm is a solar flagship project ARENA inherited when it was established in July 2012. Last week another former flagship project supported by ARENA reached a major milestone when the first of approximately 1.35 million panels were installed at AGL's large-scale solar plant in Nyngan, NSW.


6 August, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG mocks the Left for their love of Muslims and their hatred of Israel

Leftist Aboriginal senator calls constitution 'white fella rulebook', makes impassioned plea for recognition

I competely fail to understand this.  Australia has already had a (successful) constitutional referendum in 1967 which explicitly recognized Aborigines as citizens and which gave the Federal government the power to legislate on their behalf.  Agitators such as the one below apparently know no history or law.  If they do, all I can make of it is that they now want something official that praises them, which would be blatantly racist

Nova Peris has told the Garma Festival in East Arnhem Land that constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people will have to become a cause for white Australians, not just Indigenous people.

The Northern Territory's Labor Senator and first Indigenous woman elected to federal Parliament was speaking on a panel about the push for a referendum.

The panel included a range of political figures including former deputy prime minister John Anderson, the first Indigenous person elected to the House of Representatives Liberal, MP Ken Wyatt, and the head of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council, Warren Mundine.

Senator Peris told the gathering she wanted to speak from the heart.

"As an Aboriginal person and a politician, there's a saying, 'you lead first with the heart then with the head', and I have to refrain myself at times from saying the things I really want to say because of my political hat," she said.

"So I'm going to take the political hat off for a moment, because what we're trying to do is to get an entire country to recognise 2 per cent of the population."

Senator Peris raised the high rate of Indigenous incarceration and wider public perceptions of Aboriginal people.

"This is a problem we're going to face because white Australia think we get too much, but every single day we're going to need a helping hand because for too long we have been squashed from the earth we came from," she said.

"Until you truly shift the mindset of white Australians and make you realise that everyone is here, you've all benefitted from 200 years of systemic injustices that have occurred in this country."

She compared the constitution with Aboriginal culture and traditional law.

"This constitution is a white fella rulebook, it's Australia's rulebook, our rules are unwritten laws, and we've had that for thousands and thousands of years," she said.

Senator Peris said the drive for constitutional change would have to come from white Australians.

"This movement needs to come from white fellas, because you need to realise that you're here in this country and us as Aboriginal people, we are prisoners in our own country," she said.

"And until you realise that we are literally just wasting our efforts... it's not a wrong made right.

"I don't want to be an Aboriginal politician going out there or a traditional owner and begging white fellas to recognise us, because you're killing us, you're killing our spirit."

Senator Peris said the push for constitutional recognition could not afford to fail.

"We've been talking about this for decades and decades and decades, and it can't fail. It simply can't," she added.

"If this is about anything it's about Australia acknowledging and recognising the true history of this country.

"Because in the wider community it's irrelevant, when we've got chronic disease, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, high incarceration, low education - you list it, it could go on forever and ever.

"It can't from us, it's gotta come from you, the non-Indigenous people, who call this place home."


Biased and hyocritical attack on judge Carmody

FEW political commentators try as hard as Tony Fitzgerald to present their own political views as non-partisan.

Fitzgerald’s frequent press releases have for some time carried express disclaimers, that he has “never been a member or supporter of any political party” and doesn’t know “any member of any Parliament anywhere”.

He has now abandoned this practice and with good reason. Were he the official leader of the Opposition, he could not have done a better hatchet-job on the Newman Government.

Which is fine. In a democracy, all citizens are entitled to push the barrow for whichever side of politics they support. What sticks in my craw, however, is the gobsmacking hypocrisy from the once-celebrated corruption-fighter.

Fitzgerald obsesses over the youthfulness of the state’s Attorney-General. He does not mention that, in his early 30s, Jarrod Bleijie is about the same age as Fitzgerald was when appointed the state’s (then) youngest-ever QC.

Fitzgerald says that Chief Justice Carmody “had briefly been a Family Court judge”. In fact, Carmody’s five years on the Family Court is double Fitzgerald’s time as a Federal Court Judge before appointment as Court of Appeal president.

Fitzgerald describes as “startling” and “politically charged” Carmody’s recommendation to prosecute Goss government ministers who (as he concluded) acted illegally in deciding to shred the Heiner documents. Yet Fitzgerald himself recommended “startling” and “politically-charged” prosecutions of ministers in the Bjelke-Petersen government.

Fitzgerald describes Carmody’s appointment as “opaque”, but few judicial appointments could rival the opacity of Fitzgerald’s own. An unprecedented legislative amendment empowered the Governor in Council to fix Fitzgerald’s remuneration package, making his salary a state secret.

Fitzgerald says that Carmody was promoted “without plausible explanation”. But he never made similar comments about appointments – equally lacking any “plausible explanation” – by the Goss, Beattie and Bligh governments.
Justice Tony Fitzgerald in his Brisbane chambers in 1998, prior to taking his position on

Justice Tony Fitzgerald in his Brisbane chambers in 1998, prior to taking his position on the NSW Supreme Court bench.

In 1998, no “plausible explanation” supported the appointment of a junior District Court judge to replace Fitzgerald as president. Justice Margaret McMurdo has turned out to be (in Fitzgerald’s own words) “one of Queensland’s most respected judges”.

But Carmody is streets ahead of where McMurdo was at the time of her elevation to the state’s second-highest judicial office. Both were educated at highly regarded secondary schools, Brisbane Girls’ Grammar and Nudgee College. Their first legal jobs were each with the Public Defender’s Office where McMurdo chose to spend most of her practising career.

When appointed, McMurdo had just two years’ experience of the rigours of private practice. Carmody has practised at the private bar for about 20 years.

In 1999, Carmody received the ultimate professional recognition when Chief Justice de Jersey appointed him Senior Counsel. Thereafter, he conducted cases of sufficient size or complexity to warrant leading counsel. McMurdo was never a silk, and had no such opportunities to conduct large and complex civil cases. Unlike Carmody’s experience on the Family Court, McMurdo had never been a judge of a superior court of unlimited monetary jurisdiction. Nor had she ever carried the responsibility for heading a court, which Carmody did as Chief Magistrate.

Nor did McMurdo have a track record to compare with Carmody’s, whether as a meat packer, as a sworn officer of the Queensland Police Service, as one of the counsel assisting the Fitzgerald inquiry, as a special prosecutor, as counsel assisting the Connolly-Ryan inquiry, as Queensland Crime Commissioner, or as head of the Child Protection Commission of Inquiry.

Each has an impressive extrajudicial curriculum vitae. McMurdo is on the Law Faculty Advisory Committee at QUT; QUT appointed Carmody as an adjunct Law Professor. Both were awarded the Centenary Medal in 2003. The difference is that few such professional or community accolades preceded McMurdo’s appointment as president. Again, Carmody begins well ahead of where McMurdo was at that time.

Admittedly, McMurdo had one advantage over Carmody. She hails from a distinguished legal family. Her father was a solicitor; her uncle a Supreme Court judge; a cousin was a respected barrister; and her husband, then a leading commercial silk, is now also a judge. Carmody could not boast any similar connections.

If Carmody is underqualified for the position of Chief Justice, then, applying the same reasoning, McMurdo was totally unqualified for elevation as Court of Appeal president. Yet Fitzgerald saw no reason to defend the office which he had recently vacated from being “demeaned”; nor, apparently, did it occur to him that other judges of the Supreme Court were “grossly insulted” to be leapfrogged by a junior District Court judge.

Given that Carmody starts with far greater advantages than McMurdo ever did, one can feel optimistic he will confound his critics, as McMurdo has done. He deserves the chance to do so. It will be better for everyone concerned if that happens without sniping from the sidelines, even on the part of the most distinguished of has-beens.


Victorian laws to put neglectful parents on notice

The Victorian Government is putting neglectful parents on notice with new laws designed to make it easier for foster carers to become permanent carers to the state's most vulnerable children.

The parents of children placed into state care will have to prove within a year that they can properly care for their children or risk their children being placed into permanent care with other families.

The ABC can reveal that the Napthine Government will introduce new laws into Parliament tomorrow which are designed to reduce the reliance on residential care places for the state's most vulnerable children.

The move comes after the ABC revealed shocking details of the sexual and physical abuse of children in residential care, and of paedophiles trading cigarettes and alcohol for sex with children living in the units.

The Government will double the penalty to six months jail for those who lure children away from state care.

The offences relate to harbouring or concealing a child in care or inducing a child to be absent from care without lawful authority.

The Minister for Community Services, Mary Wooldridge, says the amendments to the Children, Youth and Families Act are designed to give more certainty to vulnerable children, who currently spend an average of five years inside the child protection system before a final decision is made about where they should live.

"This is about young people in the out of home system having greater stability, permanency and a plan for the future and putting that in place," she said.

While the Government still prefers to place children back with their families where possible, if parents are unable to show that they can clean up their lives within 12 months the children will be permanently housed with their extended families or another family altogether.

Further attempts to return the children to their parents will not be made, but if the parents are making significant progress, they could be given an additional 12 months to show that they can care for the child.

Ms Wooldridge told the ABC the changes were designed to give more stability to children, and encourage more families to become carers.

"It's very clear, if you become a permanent carer you are a carer with exception over all others, you do maintain contact with the parents but it is a long term care arrangement," she said.

"That will mean people will be more prepared to transition from foster carers to permanent carers, some people may come into the system and chose to become permanent carers straight off the bat."

The CEO of MacKillop Family Services, Micaela Cronin, welcomed the new measures but said they must include greater support for carers and parents who are trying to prove they can look after their children.

"At the moment there's not a lot of resourcing for permanent placements, once someone becomes permanent the state tends to step out," she said.

"If we are going to move to permanency much faster then we'll need to know how we're going to support those carers in an ongoing way."

Critics of the new measures say they fail to address the reasons for abuse and neglect in the child protection system.

Howard Draper, a lawyer with over 30 years experience in the children's court, says that speeding up the decision making over where a child should live won't prevent abuse. 

Mr Draper criticised the government for relying on what he calls "well meaning amateurs".

"Even if you do reduce the timescale from five years to six months, I can't see it's going to make any difference," he said.

"The sort of children we're talking about, these extremely vulnerable children, they're not going to be permanently placed anyway because they are so damaged."


Joe Hockey accuses Fairfax Media of ‘malevolent’ attacks

JOE Hockey has accused Fairfax Media of spreading “malevolent”, “deliberately misleading” and “deceptive” claims about his government’s budget and his use of ministerial travel perks.

The Treasurer’s extraordinary attack focused on two articles published today in Fairfax newspapers, including one based on Treasury advice that low-income households would lose most from his government’s welfare cuts.

The other article claimed senior government ministers, including Mr Hockey, appeared to have “a taste for VIP jet travel similar to that of the previous Labor government”.

Mr Hockey, who is already suing Fairfax Media for defamation, accused the newspapers of “misleading and deceptive information provision to the general public”, at a time when it was apologising for an allegedly anti-Semitic cartoon that prompted a Jewish community boycott.

Mr Hockey claimed Fairfax Media’s coverage of the Treasury analysis, also published in The Australian, failed to take account of the higher rate of income tax already paid by higher-income households, or the pensions and subsidies already paid overwhelmingly to low and middle-income families.

“The information as presented is deliberately misleading and it does not represent the true state of affairs,” Mr Hockey told the Nine Network.

Mr Hockey also denied excessive use of “special purpose” flights since winning government.

“I’m prepared to match my bills with any of my predecessors at any time,” Mr Hockey said.

“So, once again, the same newspaper engages in misleading and deceptive information provisioned to the general public.

“I saw that they were apologising for one of their cartoons on the weekend and, you know, there’s a lot of misinformation that is coming out and I think sometimes it is quite malevolent out of those papers.”

Opposition treasury spokesman Chris Bowen told ABC Radio of the Treasury documents, obtained under freedom of information: “Of course you’ve always got to look at the budget in total but this is quite strong data that the government wanted to keep hidden.

“Of course there’s a whole range of matters right across the government which impact on families, but this (Treasury advice) is the direct impact of decisions in his budget.”

The opposition declined to comment to Fairfax on the government’s use of VIP aircraft. In the Rudd government’s six weeks leading up to last September’s election, Labor ministers took 42 flights on routes that are covered by Qantas and Virgin, Fairfax reported.


5 August, 2014

Sydney newspaper apologises for 'anti-Semitic' cartoon after Attorney-General brands it 'deplorable'

The cartoon was clearly implying that the Jewish guy in the chair was using a remote control to blow up Gaza,  which is a terrible distortion of the deadly risks that Israeli soldiers take in Gaza -- leading to death for some of them.

A newspaper has been forced to apologise for publishing a cartoon that showed a Jewish man   watching the bombing of Gaza from his armchair to accompany a column about the Middle East crisis.

The Sydney Morning Herald was slammed by the Attorney-General and the Jewish community for using the drawing of an old man seated in an armchair emblazoned with the Star of David, watching comfortably from a hill as bombs dropped on Gaza.

The paper's Editor-in-Chief Darren Goodsir on Monday said it was a 'serious error of judgement' when they published the cartoon drawn by Glen Le Lievre on July 26.

'The Herald now appreciates that, in using the Star of David and the kippah in the cartoon, the newspaper invoked an inappropriate element of religion, rather than nationhood, and made a serious error of judgment.

'It was wrong to publish the cartoon in its original form,' Mr Goodsir wrote.

His apology came after the Attorney-General George Brandis reportedly accused Fairfax Media of publishing anti-Semitic commentary on the Middle East.  'I thought the cartoon was deplorable,' Senator Brandis told The Australian.

The Sydney Morning Herald said the cartoon was based on real life photographs that showed men seated in chairs 'observing the shelling of Gaza from the hills of Sderot'.

The column's writer Mike Carlton tweeted examples of such photographs on Monday.

'It was wrong to publish the cartoon in its original form. We apologise unreservedly for this lapse, and the anguish and distress that has been caused,' the Herald's apology continued.

Carlton told Daily Mail Australia on Monday that although he does not wish to comment on the cartoon that was used to illustrate his column, he stands by every word that he wrote.

'It is not anti-Semitic to criticise Israel. Just this morning the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon,  condemned an Israeli air strike on a school as a "moral outrage and a criminal act".

'While I have been fiercely slandered by the Jewish community, I have received overwhelming majority support from the wider Herald readership,' he said.

In his strongly-worded article, which came as a reaction to the death of hundreds of Palestinians, Carlton said Israel 'is waging its own war of terror on the entire Gaza population of about 1.7 million people. Call it genocide, call it ethnic cleansing: the aim is to kill Arabs'.

He said he believed that the Israeli response to attacks from Hamas 'has been out of all proportion, a monstrous distortion of the much-vaunted right of self defence'.

However, the Australian Jewish News website criticised Carlton's column, calling it 'insidious'.  'This column was no longer about a country, this was about a people and a race,' the editorial said.  'How low can a columnist in a mainstream newspaper sink? How low can a mainstream newspaper sink?,' it asked.

Around 1,700 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since the latest conflict began more than three weeks ago. It's reported 66 Israelis - all but two of them soldiers - have also died.


Crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm rules out backing PPL, Direct Action, in talks with Joe Hockey

The Federal Treasurer's round of cross-bench diplomacy is in trouble, with Joe Hockey battling to get support for some of the Government's signature budget measures and policies.

Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm says he has told Mr Hockey he will never support the Abbott Government's Direct Action climate change policy, nor the $5.5 billion paid parental leave (PPL) scheme.

Mr Hockey has been meeting with crossbench senators to try to win their support for billions of dollars worth of budget initiatives, as well as the PPL.

The Direct Action scheme, the Coalition's replacement for the carbon price, includes a $2.5 billion pledge for a competitive grant-style Emissions Reduction Fund and a plan to plant trees, but the policy lacks majority support in the Senate.

"Irrespective of what you think about climate change, that scheme won't do anything," Senator Leyonhjelm told reporters in Sydney today.  "It won't reduce emissions."

Not all of Direct Action needs to be passed by the Senate; Environment Minister Greg Hunt says some of it can be passed by regulation.

A 2010 document outlining the Direct Action Plan on Mr Hunt's website predicts the policy will cost $3.2 billion over four years.

Senator Leyonhjelm says Australia cannot do anything in the absence of the rest of the world acting on climate change.  "Even if everybody turned off their electricity, shut down their cars, did nothing to emit a thing for the next 12 months, it would not make the slightest bit of difference to global warming anyway," he said.  "Australia's economy is too small."

The Liberal Democrat senator also says he has made his opposition to the taxpayer-funded PPL scheme clear in talks with Mr Hockey.

"Paid parental leave, it would never have my support," he declared.  "I think the Government's priority should be on making childcare affordable by reducing the regulatory burden that drives up the cost of childcare."

Palmer United Party (PUP) leader Clive Palmer is a known critic of the PPL, and has today promised the scheme will not pass while his party holds the balance of power in the Senate.

Mr Palmer says that while the Government has not discussed the PPL with him, he views it as "simply inequitable", and he will be pushing for his own alternative plan to get more women back in the workforce.

Mr Hockey has conceded "there is a lot of work to do" to secure support for the PPL, including from some of the Government's own backbenchers.

As well as talking to Senator Leyonhjelm, Mr Hockey has met with independent Senator Nick Xenophon, Family First Senator Bob Day, and PUP's Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie.

He will soon meet DLP Senator John Madigan and Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir.  "I'll meet with anyone who is sensible," Mr Hockey told Channel Nine.

"The independent senators so far are proving to be sensible, unlike some of the others in the Upper House."

The Government is struggling to win support for a number of controversial budget changes, including the plans for a Medicare co-payment, and moves to increase fuel excise.

Voter support for the Coalition has slumped in the wake of the May budget, which critics have described as unfair.

Today Mr Hockey said Treasury Department figures published by Fairfax Media under Freedom of Information laws, which said low-income families would be worst hit by the budget, were "misleading".

"It fails to take into account a range of things, like higher income households pay half their income in tax. Lower income households pay virtually no tax," he said.

In the past few years, budget papers have included tables outlining the impact of measures on individuals and families with different household budgets - but the information was not included this year.

The ABC had also put in an FOI request for the information, but it was rejected.


Business head calls for fewer uni students

Australian universities are enrolling too many domestic students who should opt for vocational education and training instead, a leading business figure says.

Catherine Livingstone, the new Business Council of Australia president, said a large number of school leavers would be better off undertaking education and training that gave them job-related and technical skills first.

 At an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce lunch in Sydney last week, Ms Livingstone gave her first major speech as BCA president to argue that building innovation infrastructure would ensure a strong and competitive economy in a rapidly changing world. She said better teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics was an essential part of this push.

In an interview she said urgent intervention was needed in the education and training system as early as kindergarten, to protect future prosperity.

Asked about the government’s plans to allow universities to set their own fees, Ms Livingstone said the price signal would give school leavers a greater opportunity to weigh up the benefits of different types of education.

"I would say there are too many people going to university and not enough going through the VET system," she said. "It does not preclude them from later entry into the university system. I just think some students would be better off with vocation and skill training and having work experience."

Ms Livingstone, however, expressed concern about postgraduate university students paying fees for the first time and the "unintended consequences" of certain decisions, such as the cuts to high level research having a disproportionate impact on collaborative research programs with business and other institutions. She said Australia needed to support a greater number of students undertaking high-end research.

Her comments were made before a speech by Group of Eight universities chairman Ian Young to the National Press Club last week when he revealed that many elite universities, such as his own Australian National University, would probably enrol fewer students under a deregulated fee system.

The enrolment figures of Australia's top research universities, such as ANU, Sydney and Melbourne, exceed world standards; they typically reach up to 50,000 students, compared to Stanford in the US with 15,000.

This is because, under the capped fee system, universities must enrol huge numbers of students to subsidise their research programs.

If elite universities are allowed to increase their fees then they will be able to reduce the size of their institutions and offer a more personalised learning experience, Professor Young said. This is exactly what some of his fellow vice-chancellors have told him they will do.

He said this downsizing would have a "trickle-down" effect throughout the university sector and lead to more high-achieving students attending regional and suburban universities.

"In a sense, if you’re not a Group of Eight university that should be good news, because what it means is it’s going to free up in the future more capable students for other institutions," he said. "I think there will be a trickle-down or a flow-across effect as a result of that, and I think that will be good for the quality of education we provide and indeed for the quality of research we provide."

Regional Universities Network chairman Peter Lee said he was "very sceptical" about Professor Young's predictions.

Professor Lee, who is the vice-chancellor at Southern Cross University, said any slimming down at elite universities would happen gradually over a long time frame.

He said he doubts that regional universities would benefit from a "trickle down" of high-achieving students who could no longer find a place at elite universities.


Self-righteous Greens must obey law

‘‘IF you are going to steal,’’ they say in America, ‘‘steal big.’’ Jonathan Moylan did just that: by issuing a fraudulent ANZ press release claiming the bank had withdrawn its support from the Maules Creek mining project, he knocked $300 million off the market capitalisation of Whitehaven Coal.

But far from imposing the maximum penalty for market ­manipulation of 10 years in jail, the NSW Supreme Court has now let him off with a gentle slap on the wrist, releasing him from a sentence of 20 months’ imprisonment in exchange for $1000 and a two-year good behaviour period.

Moylan, you see, is a green; and although “the market was manipulated, vast amounts of shares were unnecessarily traded and some investors lost their investment entirely”, the court concluded leniency was warranted, as the anti-coal activist, who has a long string of trespass offences to his name, did not act for or obtain a personal financial gain.

No, Moylan wasn’t motivated by a thirst for yachts, fast cars and the company of starlets. He gets his kicks dreaming of a world without coal.

But if fanaticism excuses crime, are jihadists now entitled to issue misleading financial information about Jewish-owned companies in their quest for the global ­caliphate?

Or is there one law for the zealots of Gaia and another for everyone else?

Moylan was hardly unaware that he was committing a crime. On the contrary, immediately before issuing the fraudulent press release, he downloaded the relevant legislation, which specifies that the maximum penalty for the offence of market manipulation was doubled in 2010, reflecting the harm fraud does to investors and to public confidence in the financial system.

But Moylan was convinced that “change doesn’t happen without people taking risks”; so he methodically prepared his crime, creating a false web address with the ANZ’s name, analysing previous ANZ market announcements, illegally copying the ANZ logo, and identifying the names and phone numbers of the ANZ officers listed on press releases of investor information.

He also studied the impact that market developments had had on Whitehaven’s share price, found its share price to be “volatile” and concluded that Whitehaven’s “current profit margin is paper thin”. It must have been obvious to him that his false press release could cause chaos.

And indeed it did. On the day of his fraud, trading in Whitehaven shares was three times greater than it had typically been, as panic-stricken small investors and managed funds liquidated their holdings, taking heavy losses.

Nor did Moylan try to prevent the chaos once it started to unfold. Masquerading as an employee of the ANZ to a journalist who phoned the number he had given, his first reaction was to try to bluff his way through. It was only when it became clear that the press ­release was a hoax that he fronted up, and even then he continued to lie, including to callers from the ANZ itself.

Yes, once he was uncovered, Moylan confessed; but the evidence against him was overwhelming. It is also true that he subsequently apologised to the ­investors he harmed. But as the court found, until sentencing loomed, “many of the earlier expressions of remorse were somewhat qualified”, and he has never expressed regret for the damage to the ANZ’s reputation and to Whitehaven Coal itself. Instead, he blamed the media for not spotting the fraud more quickly and submitted that “the journalists more than the offender ought to be held to account for the ultimate effect on the market”.

Moreover, Moylan is no Nelson Mandela: lacking the moral courage to take responsibility for his actions, he “chose not to give evidence at the sentencing proceedings”, preventing “his understanding and expectations” of how the market works from being ­tested.

This was, in short, “offending attended with a considerable degree of planning and premeditation”, whose consequence in terms of “actual damage was considerable”, undertaken in full knowledge of the penalties by a well-educated man who “has been prepared to break the law on a number of occasions”.

Sure, he sought “to further the causes in which he believes”. And he is, no doubt, full of “passion and concern for social justice”. But he committed the serious crime of fraud, using “thorough planning so that at least in the short term the recipients of the false media release would believe the truth of what was contained within it”.

The leniency therefore not only adds insult to the injury Moylan’s victims suffered; it also suggests an abhorrent double standard, in which the self-­appointed guardians of the planet are shielded from the law’s full force.

Yet it would be wrong to blame the court alone. Rather, its decision reflects an environment in which, day after day, the Greens, led by Christine Milne, paint mining coal as a crime, thus legitimising those who, having failed to convince voters of their cause, descend into illegality to prevent mining occurring. And it is merely the latest incident in which the greens and their fellow-travellers celebrate actions, such as those of the Sea Shepard, which flaunt a disregard for legalities.

But to have one law for the greens and another for everyone else is to have no law at all. If that is where we are, then our clocks, like Baudelaire’s, should have their hands removed and bear the legend “it is too late”. Too late for thought; but not too late for stupidity so grievous as to slow the rotation of the earth. Too late for honesty; but not too late for the shrill arrogance of the self-righteous. And worst of all, too late for justice, which, no longer blind, has been struck deaf and dumb.



4 August, 2014

Tony Abbott's paid parental leave scheme deferred with no due date in sight

Legislation for Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s prized $5.5 billion paid parental leave scheme has been quietly shelved and is unlikely to be put to Parliament this year, sources have revealed.

The move is aimed at quelling backbench dissent on the issue and is also a recognition it may be voted down by rebel government senators if put to the test.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said in June that PPL legislation would be introduced ‘‘soon’’ and described as ‘‘absurd’’ suggestions the policy had been stalled due to internal unrest.

But a government source said the scheme had been placed in the “too-hard basket” because the Coalition was fighting on too many fronts and struggling to get its basic budget measures passed by the Senate.

Several other sources said a message had been discreetly sent to Mr Abbott that his pet policy could face an embarrassing defeat in the Senate.

Coalition senator Ian Macdonald had been an outspoken critic of the policy and welcomed the delay.

“I’m pleased that Mr Abbott has listened to the overwhelming majority of Australians in deferring the scheme until the country can afford it,” he said.

Nationals senator John Williams had previously said the scheme should only be introduced when the economy was performing strongly, when there was a “four” in front of economic growth and the unemployment rate.

“Affordability remains the issue and also the problems in the childcare industry need to be addressed,” he said.

Crossbench senators Bob Day and Nick Xenophon urged Mr Hockey to scrap the scheme during budget negotiations in Adelaide last week.

When challenged, Mr Abbott refused to back down on the scheme, saying he did not break his promises and his critics would be the first to attack him for going back on his word if he heeded their calls.

But Senator Day said the “world had changed” since Mr Abbott surprised his party room with the policy in 2010 and “the electorate would not see it as a broken promise”.

“What you never have, you never miss,” Senator Day said.

The Greens were the only crossbenchers supporting Mr Abbott’s scheme but said there had been no negotiations since earlier this year when they demanded the government spelt out the details of how the scheme would work and insisted it be funded entirely by business.

“We’re just waiting to see if it’s still a policy they want to pursue,” Greens MP Adam Bandt said.

Mr Abbott’s “signature policy” would award new mothers their full pay for six months, capped at $50,000, after the birth of their child. It would be partly funded by a 1.5 per cent levy on big companies.

One source said the idea was friendless within cabinet, the exception being Mr Abbott. Business also opposed the scheme. Last week outgoing NAB chief executive Cameron Clyne said it would cost the bank $100 million in extra taxes and would not improve workplace productivity. He also believed the money would be better spent on childcare.

If the paid parental leave bills establishing Mr Abbott’s scheme were passed early next year, it could be running in time for the planned start date of July 1.

Labor’s scheme awarded mothers 18 weeks' leave, paid at the minimum wage.


NT nuclear waste dump could 'close the gap' for Aboriginal people: Bob Hawke

The storage of nuclear waste in the Northern Territory would help "close the gap" for Aboriginal people, creating financial opportunities, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke says.

And he told the Garma Festival in north-east Arnhem Land last night that NT Chief Minister Adam Giles was "keenly supportive" of his proposal.

In an address, Mr Hawke repeated his long-held belief nuclear generated power was essential for tackling climate change - and Australia had "a responsibility and an obligation" to take nuclear waste by-product.

Mr Hawke said a report he commissioned during the later stages of his prime ministership found the "safest remote geological formations for this purpose... were in the Northern Territory and to some extent in Western Australia".

"In creating a safer energy cycle in a world facing a threat of global warming, we would not only be doing good for the rest of the world, we would be doing enormously well for Australia, as the world would pay handsomely for this service," Mr Hawke said. "And we would do particularly well for Aboriginal Australians."

Adam Giles 'keenly supportive' of NT nuclear waste dump: Hawke

Mr Hawke said he had discussed the proposal with Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles.

"[Mr Giles] tells me he's been approached by a number of elders who, like himself, are keenly supportive of this proposal," he said.

Mr Hawke said such an enterprise would need to be owned and controlled in the public interest by the Government - and "none of this should happen without full discussion with and the consent of Aboriginal leaders".

In 2005, Mr Hawke urged Labor to rethink its uranium policy and promote Australia as a safe place for nuclear waste.

"If we were to do that, we would have a source of income – forget about current account deficit," he said, adding that such income could be allocated to addressing environmental issues in such as salinity, and also flow on to Aboriginal communities.

"We can revolutionise the economics of Australia if we did this."

Comment was being sought from Mr Giles.

Hawke government treaty hopes still alive

At Garma last night, Mr Hawke said he had hoped agreement would be reached on a treaty with Australia's Aboriginal people during his time in public office.

"It saddens me that this aspiration has not yet been fulfilled. It is still my hope that this may come to pass," Mr Hawke said.

He said a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution was "long overdue".

"I know this is a long-held aspiration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples - the list of leaders who have called for recognition in the constitution is long and distinguished," he said.

"This will be the chance for all Australians... to acknowledge the awe-inspiring achievements of the first Australians (as) the rightful opening chapter of the Australian story."


Free to choose in health

A Medicare co-payment is one way to share the cost of health and enhance the sustainability of the health system. Unfortunately, the politics of health seem destined to defeat the Abbott government's plan for a $7 out-of-pocket fee for GP and other medical services.

An alternative way to achieve health reform is by giving Australians greater choice in how health services are financed.

Those who wish should be allowed to opt-out of Medicare voluntarily in exchange for opening a Health Savings Account (HSA).

Those opting out would trade their Medicare entitlements for an annual Health Voucher (indexed) for deposit into an HSA that could be linked to an existing account-based superannuation scheme. The voucher would be worth average per person government spending on health - approximately $4,300 in 2011-12.

HSA funds would attract the same 15% concessional tax rate as superannuation during its accumulation phase. HSA account holders would draw upon such reserves to meet the cost of specified health expenses, including GP services and other non-hospital care, chronic and catastrophic health events, health insurance premiums, co-insurance and deductibles to cover hospital treatment costs. Upon retirement the health accumulation reserve would merge with the pension fund.

Integrating saving for health with saving for retirement would require adapting the superannuation system by modifying the 'sole purpose test' to permit existing accounts to carry reserves for current and future health expenses, and to facilitate their access before retirement.

This health model would emulate the way Singapore has developed a low-cost and cost-effective, savings-based health financing system. It would encourage saving for unforeseen high-cost health events rather than paying for high-frequency, low-severity contingencies. High-deductible insurance tables would offer the benefit of risk pooling for an account holder's exposure to outlier high-cost claims such as for hospital or day surgery treatment. A market for these new tables (separate from the existing community rated system) would quickly develop, probably offered through existing registered health insurers or other institutions operating HSAs on behalf of their holders.

To the extent that Australia has gone some way towards privatising the public pension system by shifting from Pay-As-You-Go taxpayer funding to Save-As-You-Go self-funding for retirement, there are good reasons on the grounds of sustainability and efficiency to emulate this transition for health services by diluting the monopoly of Medicare.

Finally, Medicare opt-outs would circumvent the politics of health.

Those who wish to remain with Medicare would be free to do so. And those who wanted a more efficient and cost-effective alternative to a taxpayer-funded, universal health system would be free to choose to self-finance their own health care.


The farmers' rights tensions that preceded fatal shooting of environmental officer Glen Turner

Epic fields of wheat and barley separate the dirt road where Glen Turner died in a burst of gunfire and the farm where Alaine Anderson is feeding a rescued koala that, without her help, will not survive.

“If we can save these koalas and their habitat, then Glen’s death will not be in vain," says Anderson. "His children can know that his life counted for something very important.”

She respected Turner, the compliance officer from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage who was shot in the back on Tuesday evening, allegedly murdered when he confronted 79-year-old farmer Ian Turnbull about excessive land clearing on his family’s properties at Croppa Creek, north of Moree. Turnbull’s family has described a man pushed to the edge by his court battles over native vegetation laws.

Lionel and Alaine Anderson have been on their Croppa Creek farm for almost 35 years. Like Turnbull, they are broad-acre farmers of wheat and barley. But they have also preserved much of the remnant brigalow and belah woodlands that are critical to the northern koala and other endangered species, and, they say, to the health of their farm. Alaine is a volunteer koala carer for the WIRES wildlife rescue service.

“After this awful week,” she says, “I want the koala to become a symbol of healing in our community.”

The Moree Plains Shire needs some healing. “Violence was always going to happen,” mayor Katrina Humphries ventured on Wednesday. A toxic well of anger, she says, has built up between environmentalists, governments, miners and farmers, and on multiple fronts: coal seam gas, water rights, the NSW Native Vegetation Act and restrictions on what farmers can do with their own land.

The federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has weighed in to say farmers overwhelmingly hate the vegetation laws. But much of the tension is between farmers and farmers, not farmers and blow-in greenies or bureaucrats. Sometimes it is between the smaller family farms and the bigger “agribusinesses”. Some dare to dob in neighbours for illegal clearing.

In two extreme cases, farmers who insist upon anonymity say their cars, fences and gates have been vandalised. One's ute has been rammed with a bulldozer and his phone line has been cut. A neighbour has trespassed by sending in a gang with earth-moving machines to clear remnant woodlands; they have bulldozed Crown access roads and farmed over them. “It’s like a bad western movie,” they say.

Some Moree locals are angry, though, about the mayor’s assessment of a tragedy waiting to happen. Cafe owner Shane Brooker says: "The feedback I’m getting from customers – and that includes some prominent farmers – is it makes us look like rednecks. We understand the Native Vegetation Act can be harsh, but I haven’t spoken to anyone today who thought it was inevitably going to lead to violence."

Humphries responds: “No one, but no one, is condoning what’s happened, but my goal is to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We can’t stick our heads in the sand and pretend there isn’t a problem because there bloody is. I’m fed up to the back teeth with politicians who won’t stand up and talk about this … We’ve all got some blood on our hands. We’ve all known this has been an issue for quite some time, and it’s not been addressed.”

Turner had been threatened previously. “I’m not frightened,” he told a local. But he was frustrated at having too few resources to prosecute land clearers over a vast swathe of NSW. Croppa Creek was a hot spot.

Last month, the Northern Inland Council for the Environment wrote to Environment Minister Rob Stokes to complain about the “failure” to enforce the law against farms run by Turnbull’s family.

In late June, the Office of Environment and Heritage launched a Land and Environment Court prosecution against Turnbull and his grandson Cory for clearing on the younger man’s farm Strathdoon. Ian Turnbull had already pleaded guilty to clearing on his son Grant’s neighbouring farm Colorado. On Thursday, a bulldozer on Colorado worked on multiple piles of felled trees, all set ablaze. On Friday, the court upheld the family’s appeals to reduce the extent of remediation work ordered on both farms.

The mayor wants the killing extricated from a broader public discussion, but she says the pendulum has swung too far against farmers’ rights. The state government is already in the process of swinging it back with plans to allow farmers self-assessment for routine and low-impact clearing. Environmental officers fear this will only make enforcement harder and embolden flagrant land clearers.

Turner had something in common with his alleged killer. He was a farmer. He grew up on a farm. He enjoyed his property near Tamworth with his wife Alison, 10-year-old daughter Alexandra and nine-year-old son Jack. The Moree Koala Group has established a fund to help his family.

“The northern koala is almost finished,” says Anderson. “If we can prevent that, Glen will not have died in vain. Otherwise he’s just collateral damage, and I will not have that.”


3 August, 2014

Australia in the grip of a ‘new stolen generation’?

The story below is totally biased.  It makes no mention of the high and chronic rate of alcohol abuse in Aboriginal families or the harsh way  Aboriginal men treat their women and children. I  have seen both with my own eyes.  Because of the "stolen generation" myth (triggered by child welfare authorities taking children away from severely dysfunctional Aboriginal homes) all State child welfare departments became very wary of removing Aboriginal children from their homes.  The result was a lot of dead and injured children.  It now seems that they have mostly returned to their  statutory responsibilities towards the children and are rescuing them once again

THE rate of indigenous children being taken from their families has become so rife, more are being removed today than at any other time in Australia’s sordid colonial history.

Figures reveal the number of indigenous children being forcibly taken from their homes has risen almost 400 per cent in 15 years, prompting Aboriginal Elders to condemn what they are labelling a ‘new Stolen Generation’.

Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander children represent 4.6 per cent of the Australian population, and a whopping one third are in ‘out of home care’.

According to the Federal Government’s 1997 Bringing Them Home report, the number of indigenous children removed from their families at the time was 2785.

Fast forward fifteen years to 2012, where a report by the Federal Government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare recorded the instance of removal had risen almost 400 per cent to 13,299.

“More than 14,000 Aboriginal children are in what they call ‘out of home care’ in any given night in Australia,” said Paddy Gibson, a senior researcher at the University of Technology, Sydney.

“That is a far greater number of children removed in any year over the Stolen Generations period.”

According to Mr Gibson, Australia has essentially returned to an “assimilation policy” where mass removal of Aboriginal children is being used as a strategy to “deal with questions of Aboriginal disadvantage, just as it was in the Stolen Generations era”.

But the Federal Government has washed its hands of the problem, with the Minister for indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion, telling “Child protection is the responsibility of the states and territories. At all times and in all circumstances, the best interest of the child is paramount.

“However I do encourage states and territories to work harder to find solutions, where possible, within the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family. Experience has shown that where issues can be resolved, the extended family is at the centre of the solution.”

In NSW nearly 6300 indigenous children are wards of the state. That’s nearly 10 per cent of the state’s Aboriginal children. Meanwhile, only 1.6 per cent of white children have been removed.

According to the Northern Territory Children’s Commissioner’s annual report, indigenous children were 395 per cent more likely to be put into care than non-indigenous children.

In the year to June 30, 2013, 624 indigenous kids were removed in the Northern Territory, in comparison to 126 non-indigenous children.

Child protection services have denied having an unfair focus on indigenous communities, claiming it is beyond the Department’s control and that the health and welfare of the child was at the core of the department’s interests.

“The NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) has a statutory responsibility to protect children, and will only remove a child or young person as a last resort when court order finds there are serious concerns for their safety or wellbeing, said a spokesman.

“The decision to remove a child from its family is not taken lightly by the Children’s Court, which treats all cases equally, no matter what the racial or social background.”

FACS pointed to the 2014 Report on Government Services, which stated NSW had the highest percentage of indigenous children in out of home care placements with relatives or kin (63.6 per cent of indigenous children as compared to the national average of 51.5 per cent).

But Mr Jackson remained unconvinced.  “Yes we do have drunks, yes we do have druggies, some of them are mothers even, but in the wider family, not all of them are drunk or drug-affected,” he said.

“When you walk into an Aboriginal house, the first thing you see is a wall covered with photos. “Photos of family of those who have gone, those have just come and those who are in between and growing. Walk into the kitchen, the fridge is covered with children’s drawings. That is a normal home.

“That is pride in your family and children, and that is not being recognised.


Leftist advisers betray Tamil illegals: All 157 now sent to Nauru instead of the Tamil homeland in India

ALL the 157 people, including 50 children, who left India almost six weeks ago on a people-smuggler’s boat will arrive at the Nauru ­asylum-seeker camp today from the Curtin detention centre in Western Australia after refusing to see Indian consular officials.

The Abbott government decided to send all those from the boat late yesterday to the Pacific nation’s detention centre because they decided not to meet Indian government officials after re­ceiving advice from refugee ­advocates.

The boatload of people, mainly Tamils who had fled Sri Lanka to India, now face months on Nauru while their asylum claims are processed and the prospect of being sent back to Sri Lanka if they fail to qualify as refugees.

Australia’s deal with India on the return of Indian residents who sought to come to Australia by boat has also ended with the asylum-seekers’ refusal to be ­interviewed.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told The Weekend Australian last night: “Those who have been transferred to Nauru will now likely never go back to India and will certainly never be resettled in Australia. Should they be found to be a refugee, they will be resettled on Nauru, not Australia. If they are not found to be a refugee, they will go back to Sri Lanka, not India.

“Going back to India, where they are likely to have family and friends, is no longer an option for those who were living there. They passed up that option when they chose not to meet with Indian consular officials in Australia.  “This is regrettable, dis­appointing and could have been avoided.”

After refugee advocates spoke to three leaders of the 157 people, the government was told on Thursday the asylum-seekers would not meet Indian consular officials who were going to assist in their return to India.

Mr Morrison had organised a deal with India to take back the Indian residents, as well as non-resident Tamils, who had left from India’s southern coastal city of Pondicherry, near Tamil Nadu, in June. They then spent a month on board an Australian Customs vessel after being intercepted in internationals waters.

“The Australian government created a rare opportunity with the government of India for many of the 157 people who were on that voyage from India, including up to 50 children, to go back to where they were living in safety in India, where they have family and friends, rather than go to Nauru,” Mr Morrison said last night.  “This opportunity has been squandered.”

Mr Morrison said Immigration officials had warned the asylum-seekers of the alternative of going to Nauru if they did not meet the Indian representatives.

He said it appeared the decision not to see the consular officials had been taken “on the advice of advocates and lawyers who spoke to the leaders of the group”.

“If this is true, these lawyers appear to have put their own political agenda against the government ahead of the welfare of their own clients,” he said. “There are now around 50 more children on Nauru, many of which, if not all, could have been going back to India as a result of the humanitarian option for return secured by my visit to India last week.

“There were only ever two options here: return to India or offshore processing on Nauru. The government was clear about this and provided the options.

“The result of this venture means that, unfortunately, the ­arrangement with India has come to an end. There was always the risk that advocates would seek to frustrate the initiative, to the detriment of those they claim to support, as it would appear they have on this occasion. The result is that those on that voyage are now even worse off.”

Last weekend, the 157 people were transferred from the Customs ship to the Cocos Islands and then flown to the mainland and housed in the mothballed Curtin detention centre. Indian consular officials from Canberra were ready to go to Curtin to ­interview them with a view to returning them to India.

On Wednesday night, the Immigration Minister, in an interview on the ABC’s 7.30 program, warned that a failure to see consular officials could mean the 157 people would be sent to a “third-party country” for offshore processing as asylum-seekers.

“It is rare for India to concede bringing back someone who is not a citizen but they’re prepared to do that for humanitarian ­reasons,” Mr Morrison said.

“If they’re receiving advice, whether it’s from lawyers or advocates or others, to refuse that then they will be passing off the opportunity to potentially return to India where they were safe. They will go to offshore pro­cess­ing and that’s where their claims will be assessed. They will never ever be resettled in Australia … and nor will they probably ever be able to go back to India.”

Refugee advocates had sought orders from the High Court while the people were held aboard the Australian vessel to prevent them being sent back to Sri Lanka where they feared persecution because they were Tamils.

The government told the High Court there was no intention to send the 157 people back to Sri Lanka as it negotiated with India to take back the people who were Indian residents and had departed from India.

The Australian government decided to bring the people to the Australian mainland because it would be quicker and safer for Indian officials to interview the ­asylum-seekers face-to-face.

Mr Morrison has described the 157 asylum-seekers as “economic migrants” because they had come from India, where he says they were safe.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young campaigned for the asylum-seekers to be allowed to seek refuge in Australia because they faced persecution in India.

Refugee advocates have also sought compensation for the ­asylum-seekers from the government for “false imprisonment” on the Customs vessel.

Yesterday, in the first monthly update for Operation Sovereign Borders on illegal boat arrivals, Mr Morrison said the 157 passengers from the boat intercepted in June were the first to be transferred to Australian Immigration authorities in almost seven months, since December 19 last year.

Mr Morrison said in July 2013: 48 illegal boats arrived with 4236 people on board; there were 33 Search and Rescue incidents involving illegal boats that Border Protection Command personnel assisted; and 18 people died or were presumed lost at sea, including a baby.


Abbott's Green Army ready to march (but it's not work for the dole)

The government's $525 million Green Army conservation initiative was rolled out on Saturday.

Launching the project at Carss Bush Park in Sydney's south, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Environment Minister Greg Hunt said it would be the largest environmental workforce the country had mobilised. About 2500 young people were expected to join up this year to work on 250 projects around Australia.

"It's six months of good work and good comradeship that you can come back and look at in the years ahead and say, 'I did that for my country'," Mr Abbott said.

"This is not a work for the dole project, I want to stress this. It's an environmental traineeship."

The workers would be paid between $10 to $16 an hour while engaged in the project, less than minimum wage but higher than the Newstart or Youth Allowance rate.

Mr Hunt said he didn't anticipate the hourly rate would discourage young Australians from signing up.

"They not only earn the funds, but most significantly the work skills, and hopefully they'll come out of it with certificates and occupational health and safety training and first aid training," he said.

The number of participants was expected to rise to 15,000 by 2018.

The Green Army, one of a range of proposals put forward by the federal government as an alternative to the repealed carbon tax, will recruit young Australians to engage in restoration and heritage protection projects.

The project will include pest animal management and the monitoring of threatened local animal species.

Workers will be able to obtain certificate I and II qualifications in various environmental fields for their efforts.


Federal Government departments spending big on office upgrades

THE federal Department of Human Services is spending about $1 million a month on office upgrades and refurbishments, at the same time as it prepares to crack down on welfare recipients.

And it is not the only government department splurging sizeable sums of public money.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has also splurged on a set on new lockers for public servants working at its Canberra office, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $50,000.

As dole recipients and pensioners feel the pinch of the Abbott government’s end of entitlement, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent by the welfare department, DHS, on dozens of “minor works”, desk changes, and carpet upgrades.

Between February and June this year, the Department of Human Services spent more than $6.5 million upgrading and consolidating its Centrelink and Medicare shopfronts across the country.

Government documents returned to the Senate, on request from Labor frontbencher Joe Ludwig, also show DFAT authorised $51,000 to replace the lockers in the gym of the department’s Canberra office.

The project management fees for the expensive locker upgrade cost $4,600 alone.

DFAT also spent close to $850,000 refurbishing another part of its Canberra office, including spending $77,000 on architectural costs.

In contrast, it cost the Department of Foreign Affairs just over $5,000 to upgrade a loading dock at Sydney Airport.

Senator Ludwig attacked the government’s decision to spend taxpayers’ money on upgrading its facilities, accusing the government of having “twisted priorities”.

“The government should be standing up for working people instead of building lockers for gym shorts,” he said.

At the Department of Human Services, $159,000 was spent on “minor works and desk changes” for an Adelaide office, $38,000 was spent increasing desk numbers and carrying out minor works in Moreland in Victoria, the refurbishment of a DHS centre in Southport in Queensland cost $92,000 and “minor upgrades” to a centre in Sydney’s Surry Hills cost taxpayers $25,000.

DHS general manager Hank Jongen defended his department’s spending. He said the 140 one-stop-shops around Australia offering both Medicare and Centrelink services required ongoing maintenance.

“A large proportion of our expenditure is linked to the transition to these one-stop shops and while there is an initial cost to relocate services under one roof, there are longer-term savings to be achieved,” he said.

Mr Jongen said the department had already delivered more than $350 million in savings to the government by making its service delivery more efficient.

The Department of Foreign Affairs did not response to questions from News Corp.


1 August, 2014

Dole overhaul: Employment Minister Eric Abetz hints at 40 job applications policy backdown

Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz has given a strong indication the Government is willing to back down on its plan to make unemployed people apply for 40 jobs per month.

The idea has been criticised by crossbench senators and several business groups who warn it will put an unfair burden on small businesses.

The current requirement is for jobseekers to apply for 20 positions per month.

Senator Abetz has told the ABC's PM program that there has been some "pushback" to the Government's plan.

"It would be fair to say ... that there's been some pushback in relation to the requirement of asking people to apply for 40 jobs per month," he said.

Senator Abetz said the Government is willing to listen to alternative views as it considers reform of the dole system.
The Government might scrap plans to make the unemployed apply for 40 jobs per month. Have your say.

"We undertook what we believed would be a fair consideration of an application of a job every morning and every afternoon - [that] should not be too onerous," he said.

"There doesn't seem to be a community complaint with the cut-off of 20 job applications per month, so one assumes one might be able to increase that without too much extra community concern.
Audio: Abetz admits 'push-back' on dole plans (PM)

"We will take that all into account and if we have been over ambitious with a figure of 40 - and we'll come to that conclusion after all the community consultations have taken place - we will consider that."

The Opposition says businesses will receive a deluge of fake job applications under the proposed reforms.

The Business Council of Australia has previously said the Government should allow jobseekers to focus on applying for jobs they have the best chance of winning.


Hostages to a renewable ruse

IF there is a sound more pitiable than the whine of a pious environmental activist, it is the wail of a ­financier about to do his dough.

The mournful chorus now wafting from Greg Hunt’s waiting room is the sound of the two in unison, pleading with the Environment Minister to save the life of their misshapen bastard child, the renewable energy target.

You have to hand it to Hunt, who either has nerves of steel or is stone deaf, for he has retained both his cool and his fortitude.

The RET review by Dick Warburton on the government’s behalf has brought the rent-seekers out in force, for billions of dollars of corporate welfare is resting on its outcome.

As it stands, the RET will produce a bounteous return for a small group of investors shrewd enough to get into the windmill game while the rest of us are slapped with four-figure power bills.

Wind farms may be ugly but they are certainly not cheap, nor is the electricity that trickles from them. No one in their right minds would buy one if they had to sell power for $30 to $40 a megawatt hour, the going rate for conventional producers.

But since the retailers are forced to buy a proportion of renewable power, the windmill mafia can charge two to three times that price, a practice that in any other market would be known as price gouging.

As if a $60 premium were not reward enough, the transaction is further sweetened with a renewable energy certificate that they can sell to energy producers who insist on generating power in a more disreputable manner.

The going rate of $40 a megawatt hour means the total income per megawatt for wind farms is three to five times that of conventional power, and unless the government changes the scheme that return is only going to get better.

In an act of rent-seeking genius, the renewable lobby managed to persuade the Rudd government to set the 2020 target as a quantity — 41 terawatt hours — rather than 20 per cent of overall power as originally proposed.

Since the target was set, the energy generation forecast for 2020 has fallen substantially, meaning the locked-in renewable target is now more like 28 per cent.

That will send conventional producers scrambling for certificates, pushing up their price beyond $100. It’s a mouth-watering prospect for the merchant bankers and venture capitalists who were smart enough to jump on board, and brilliant news for Mercedes dealerships on the lower north shore, but of little or any benefit to the planet.

The cost of this speculative ­financial picnic will be about $17 billion by 2030 or thereabouts, ­according to Deloitte, which produced a report on the messy business last week.

Since the extra cost will be added to electricity bills, the RET is a carbon tax by another name, a regressive impost that will fall most heavily on those with limited incomes, such as pensioners.

The lowest income households already spend 7 per cent of their disposable incomes on energy, according to the Australian Council of Social Service. Energy takes just 2.6 per cent of the budget of those on high incomes.

Thus under the cover of responding to climate change — “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time” — billions of dollars are taken from the poor and given to the rich investors in the unsightly industrial turbines that are blighting the lives of rural communities and stripping value from the properties of people who just wish to be left to live in peace.

If the anti-Abbott budget bashers who are squealing about a minor adjustment to pension indexation were serious, they would demand the end of the RET’s iniquitous transfer of wealth.

Yet ironically they find themselves on the side of crafty merchant bankers in the romantic expectation that this complex ­financial ruse is doing something to assist the planet.

To speak up in opposition to this social injustice is to find oneself condemned as a climate change denier, right-wing ideologue, apologist for the coal industry or, worse still, to be ignored altogether, as the ABC’s Four Corners managed to do in its renewable energy special last month.

The corporation flew reporter Stephen Long to California to tell us how wonderful the renewable energy bonanza is going to be and how foolish Tony Abbott’s government is to even question the proposition that too many windmills are barely enough.

“This government has an ideological agenda,” insisted John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Council.

“They want to carve out the impact of renewable energy on the network and they want to stop renewals in their tracks.”

Jeremy Rifkin, author of a book called The Third Industrial Revolution, told Long: “Australia’s the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy. There’s so much sun; there’s so much wind off the coast, and so it makes absolutely no sense when you have an abundance of renewable energy, why would you rely on a depleting supply of fossil fuels with all of the attendant ­consequences to society and the planet?”

Fatuous arguments of this kind are rarely challenged on the ABC, nor are the purveyors of renewable energy subjected to the degree of scepticism that others with corporate vested interests can expect. Instead they find themselves in the company of a cheer squad.

“The new developments with renewable energy and storage seem to have passed the Prime Minister by,” Long editorialised halfway through his dispiriting ­report.

Finally, however, as Long was about to run out of time and throw back to Kerry O’Brien, he let slip the awkward truth he had managed so far to avoid.  “Yes, it costs money to create the infrastructure for renewable energy,” he says. “A lot of money.”

Indeed it does, and if the arbitrary, inefficient and regressive mechanism of the RET is all that is left to overcome that hurdle, we may as well give up.

It is through this complicated method that the consumers are forced to pay a subsidy to wind farms without the need for a ­carbon tax.


Appalling transport bureaucracy in NSW

Every Herald reader should know about the Guangzhou Metro because it provides an insight into the mind-boggling mediocrity of Transport for NSW, for which we all have to pay, including those who don't use public transport.

In 1992, the Guangzhou Metro did not exist. Construction began in 1993 and Metro Line 1 began operating in 1997. There are now nine interconnected lines and 164 stations, providing more than 2 billion passenger journeys a year in one of the largest cities in China.

Last year, I bought a ticket card from a machine at one at Guangzhou Metro stations and it was easy.

During the 20 years it took Guangzhou to go from having no metro system to operating one of the largest in the world, with a simple-to-use automated travel card system, the NSW transport bureaucracy achieved nothing, while spending millions on bureaucrats studying the issue.

This obdurate commitment to impracticality transcends politics. It defeated the Greiner, Fahey, Carr, Iemma, Rees, Keneally, O’Farrell and Baird governments, eight governments that could not conquer the culture of Transport NSW and state rail on the issue of ticketing.

In Hong Kong, the Octopus card was introduced for mass transit in 1997. It has proved so successful and intuitive that 95 per cent of the population use the card. It became the model for the Oyster Card used on the London Metro.

The Octopus card was introduced 17 years ago. NSW Transport has been talking about its own card for longer. The problem is the same as it has ever been: an iron-bottomed, process-fixated, micro-managing bureaucracy unable to implement what most major cities now take for granted.

If the government wants to outsource and privatise the entire ticketing process the public will not care. They want to buy cards at railway stations and bus terminals. They want a simple fare structure that can be used across the system. They want cards that are easy to top up. As they have in Melbourne.

Card machines in stations. Simple fare structure. Transportable across the system. Easy to use, even for tourists and occasional users.

In the past month, I have bought a Metro card at a ticket booth in a New York subway station and topped it up on machines in subway stations; I bought a BART card from a ticket machine in a San Francisco subway station and topped it up at other ticket machines; I bought a Myki card at a train station in Melbourne and topped it up at Myki machines.

But, oh no, that’s not good enough for Sydney. Instead, in the past week, we have seen all the people with new Opal cards who, having waited a week to have the card mailed to them after applying online – more bureaucracy – got on a bus only to discover that a new Opal card does not work on a bus. They had to go to a railway station, and run it through an Opal machine, before the card will activate. This is absurd.

Thousands of others have had to line up to buy Opal cards at the one of the grossly inadequate number of venues where card machines are installed. The bureaucrats have no intention of fixing this problem. They want people to buy Opal cards online. The front-page headline of the Herald on Monday, on a story describing the rollout of the $1.2 billion Opal system, used the term "fiasco".

Instead of providing an intuitive card system that builds on the one that exists, the NSW Minister for Transport, Gladys Berejiklian, wants to push customers to buy Opal cards online. She wants people to have "registered" cards. She wants to maintain a complex fare structure, which grinds commuters who travel at peak times so that they not only have crowded public transport they also have to pay the highest prices for the privilege.

Everyone knows that Minister Berejiklian is dedicated to the job and devotes more hours to the transport mission than anyone in the state. But the political reality she has to deal with is that not having ticket machines for the Opal card at railway stations and bus terminals is a political problem because it is so contemptuous of commonsense and utility.

It has always been the problem that instead of installing an existing card system that works the NSW transport bureaucracy wanted an advanced system with a complex fare mix. So it took 20 years to get nothing. Now it has finally made a billion-dollar move that creates more problems for consumers.  

This goes way beyond teething problems. It illustrates the disconnect between the bureaucracy and its customers. It is also a failure of political direction. Gladys, your Opal is no gem.


Victoria bans religious groups from running prayer groups, handing out Bibles in state schools

Victoria has banned religious organisations from running prayer groups, handing out Bibles and delivering other unauthorised information sessions in state schools during school hours.

The directive has been issued by the Education Department under recent changes to the delivery of Special Religious Instruction (SRI) to students in public schools.

A government spokeswoman said the directive only affected religious activities that were run by unaccredited teachers or external groups.

But Dan Flynn from the Australian Christian Lobby said the guidelines appeared to cover all activities by students.

"In the SRI policy, the formal wording appears to ban prayer groups, youth groups, clubs, info sessions or workshops," Mr Flynn said.

"It says that those forums or the events constitute promotion of specific religions in schools outside SRI and are not permitted.

"It's one thing to say that education in state schools should be secular - we agree with that - but it's quite another step to drive any religion out of schools, particularly at lunch time when the children are free to form their own clubs and do their own activities.

"This is a serious limitation on freedom of association, freedom of religion for high school students and state school students."

Parent Lara Wood from Fairness In Religions In Schools (FIRIS) said the claim that students' rights were being infringed was "absurd".

"It's not against any individual students of faith expressing their faith or bringing a Bible into school and praying," Ms Wood said.

"These new clarifications of the law are saying that religious groups and corporations can not use our schools as mission fields to come in and use the schools as an extension to operate their youth ministry.

"This is really no different then if the Minister of Education said to the Liberal or Labor Party that you can't go into schools at lunch time and hold political rallies."

Distributing Bibles to students banned in schools

The changes to the religious instruction policy were prompted by a report that found the state's key provider Access Ministries had breached its guidelines by handing out a so-called "Biblezine" containing homophobic material.

Under the guidelines, which came into effect this month, accredited instructors are permitted to teach a maximum of 30 minutes religious instruction per week, as part of the scheduled curriculum.

But the Government's School Policy Advisory Guide stated that religious instruction could not be taught in schools outside of these approved classes.

    SRI cannot and does not take the form of prayer groups, youth groups, clubs, information sessions, or workshops... Any other forums or activities as noted above, would constitute promotion of specific religions in schools outside SRI, and are not permitted.

It would also be against the guidelines for anyone, including approved providers, to distribute "religious texts (e.g. Bibles)".

However the rules would not stop students from learning about religious celebrations, such as Christmas, Eid or Hanukkah.

    Students may be taught about a religious celebration, festival, special event etc., as part of the general religious education curriculum at a school by government school teachers.

    This may include recognition of and educational activities relating to key religious celebrations such as Christmas, Eid, Hanukkah and others.

And students would not be prevented from praying.

    For the avoidance of doubt, students engaging in prayer in observation of their religion at lunchtimes is not SRI as there is no element of "instruction".

    Such prayer cannot be led, conducted by or at the instruction of staff or parents/visitors/volunteers.

Ms Wood said under the new guidelines, parents must also now give their written consent for their children to attend SRI via a new government-approved form.

She said that while religious instruction had been opt-in in Victoria since 2011, the new forms would make it clear to parents the difference between religious education and instruction.

"Many parents have been under the false impression that it's education about many religions, and we've always believed that once parents know the facts they'll make an informed choice," Ms Wood said.

"It does give informed consent now to parents and lets them know that it is instruction in how to live according to that particular faith that they're learning about, not education."


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?

My son Joe

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative

Bureaucracy: "One of the constant laments of doctors and nurses working with NSW Health is the incredible and increasing bureaucracy," she said. "It is completely obstructive to providing a service."

Revered Labour Party leader Gough Whitlam was/is a very erudite man so he cannot have been unaware of the similarities of his famous phrase “the Party, the platform, the people” with an earlier slogan: "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer". It's basically the same slogan in reverse order.

Australia's original inhabitants were a race of pygmies, some of whom survived into modern times in the mountainous regions of the Atherton tableland in far North Queensland. See also here. Below is a picture of one of them taken in 2007, when she was 105 years old and 3'7" tall

Julia Gillard, a failed feminist flop. She was given the job of Prime Minister of Australia but her feminist preaching was so unpopular that she was booted out of the job by her own Leftist party.

A great little kid

In November 2007, a four-year-old boy was found playing in a croc-infested Territory creek after sneaking off pig hunting alone with four dogs and a puppy. The toddler was found five-and-a-half hours after he set off from his parents' house playing in a creek with the puppy. Amazingly, Daniel Woditj also swam two creeks known to be inhabited by crocs during his adventurous romp. Mr Knight said that after walking for several kilometres, Daniel came to a creek and swam across it. Four of his dogs "bailed up" at the creek but the youngster continued on undaunted with his puppy to a second creek. Mr Knight said Daniel swam the second croc-infested creek and walked on for several more kilometres. "Captain is a hard bushman and Daniel is following in his footsteps. They breed them tough out bush."

Index page for this site


"Tongue Tied"
"Dissecting Leftism" (Backup here)
"Australian Politics"
"Education Watch International"
"Political Correctness Watch"
"Greenie Watch"
"Food & Health Skeptic"
GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.


Coral Reef Compendium
"Marx & Engels in their own words"
"A scripture blog"
"Some memoirs"
Paralipomena 3
To be continued ....
Queensland Police -- A barrel with lots of bad apples
Australian Police News
Of Interest


"Immigration Watch International" blog
"Eye on Britain"
"Paralipomena" 2
"Leftists as Elitists"
Socialized Medicine
Western Heart
QANTAS -- A dying octopus
BRIAN LEITER (Ladderman)
Obama Watch
Obama Watch (2)
Dissecting Leftism -- Large font site
Michael Darby
AGL -- A bumbling monster
Telstra/Bigpond follies
Optus bungling
Vodafrauds (vodafone)
Bank of Queensland blues

There are also two blogspot blogs which record what I think are my main recent articles here and here. Similar content can be more conveniently accessed via my subject-indexed list of short articles here or here (I rarely write long articles these days)

Main academic menu
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basic home page
Pictorial Home Page
Selected pictures from blogs (Backup here)
Another picture page (Best with broadband. Rarely updated)

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