AUSTRALIAN POLITICS ARCHIVE
Looking at Australian politics from a libertarian/conservative perspective...
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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 December, 2013
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is having a laugh at the Warmists stuck in the Antarctic ice
Climate policies helped kill manufacturing, says adviser
THE unprecedented cost of energy driven by the renewable energy target and the carbon tax had destroyed the nation's competitiveness, Tony Abbott's chief business adviser has declared.
Maurice Newman also says climate change policies driven by "scientific delusion" have been a major factor in the collapse of Australia's manufacturing sector. "The Australian dollar and industrial relations policies are blamed," Mr Newman said. "But, for some manufacturers, the strong dollar has been a benefit, while high relative wages have long been a feature of the Australian industrial landscape."
In an interview, Mr Newman said protection of climate change policies and the renewable energy industry by various state governments smacked of a "cover-up".
He said an upcoming review of the renewable energy target must include examination of claims made in federal parliament that millions of dollars were being paid to renewable energy projects that allegedly did not meet planning guidelines. Mr Newman's comments follow those of Dow Chemicals chairman and chief executive Andrew Liveris, who said Australia was losing its natural advantage of abundant and cheap energy.
"As far as new investments go, our primary energy sources of natural gas and electricity are now or will soon become negatives to any comparative calculation," Mr Liveris said.
"Average prices of electricity have doubled in most states in recent years and the unprecedented contraction in consumption threatens a 'death spiral' in which falling consumption pushes up prices even further, causing further falls in consumption," he said.
Mr Newman said Australia had become "hostage to climate-change madness". "And for all the propaganda about 'green employment', Australia seems to be living the European experience, where, for every 'green' job created, two to three jobs are lost in the real economy," he said.
"The scientific delusion, the religion behind the climate crusade, is crumbling. Global temperatures have gone nowhere for 17 years. Now, credible German scientists claim that 'the global temperature will drop until 2100 to a value corresponding to the little ice age of 1870'."
Mr Newman said the climate change establishment, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, remained "intent on exploiting the masses and extracting more money".
"When necessary, the IPCC resorts to dishonesty and deceit," he said.
In Australia, Mr Newman said, Victorian Democratic Labour Party senator John Madigan had told parliament how politicians and bureaucrats were paying tens of millions of dollars annually to wind turbine operators that had not received final planning approval.
"It could be hundreds of millions of dollars and we have a government that is keen to rein in the budget deficit," he said. "If you can save a million dollars that should never have been spent, we should be doing it."
Senator Madigan said the issuing of renewable energy certificates to one of the non-compliant wind farms, at Waubra in Victoria, reflected "a culture of noncompliance arising from systematic regulatory failure that impacts every wind farm in Victoria".
He said the issue involved "the pain and suffering of little people living in rural Australia, environmental damage, fraud on a grand scale, deception, lies and concealment".
The clean energy regulator has defended the decision to allow the Waubra wind farm to receive renewable energy certificates.
Mr Newman's comments came as the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission revealed that in the 18 months since the carbon tax commenced, it had received 3132 complaints and inquiries in relation to carbon price matters.
The Coalition has committed to bolstering the watchdog's powers, with additional funding and new penalties to ensure that companies lower energy costs after the repeal of the carbon tax laws.
The blight that is excessive bargaining
There is a queue of corporate beggars forming at the door of government, but I am putting the people in that queue, and their wealthy international owners, on notice.
Try to get your hands on our money, and you will find me shining a great big torch up your jacksi.
Luckily for us, enterprise bargaining agreements are public documents; if you have voluntarily locked yourself into ridiculous arrangements with a high fixed cost base, the spectacular incompetence of your local management team will be exposed for all to see.
Public sympathy will turn to scorn and the government will subsidise you at its peril. As Tony Abbott says, before you come looking to us for help, get your own house in order. After all, there is a "budget emergency" on.
The narrative many in this country would have you believe is this: Australia's high wage costs and unproductive work practices are commanded by law.
All manufacturing jobs will have to be heavily subsidised.
Major projects cost a fortune because the Fair Work legislation mandates that they must.
Enterprise bargaining with unions is compulsory and you are forced to agree with everything they want.
The only way out is for Abbott to bring in individual contracts and abolish the Fair Work system.
He won't do this because he is a ninny and scared of the Work Choices label.
Therefore it is hopeless; there is nothing to be done but whinge about our slow decline.
This narrative is extremely misleading. The reason I constantly rail against it is because it provides a convenient cover for corporate collusion with unions, incompetence, ignorance and sloth.
Believe in it if you must, but you will only perpetuate failure if you do.
I believe we must all do better than this, and my experience tells me we can.
Yes, our minimum wages are high by international standards but our biggest problems don't lie there because fewer than 20 per cent of workers are on the minimum wage. Dropping the pay of the person who makes the bed in your hotel room from 16 bucks an hour to 12 will not solve Australia's biggest problems.
Our big issue lies with the dramatic excesses of voluntary enterprise bargaining: 50 per cent of workers are on these arrangements and many of them are unaffordable and unsustainable.
Corporate leaders have told me of their unskilled workers making things like beer and car parts earning about $150,000 per annum.
I have seen the group certificate of a road worker on $330,000 and interviewed an entry-level boilermaker on $130,000. There are plenty of high wage examples around.
None of these wages were gained at gunpoint. Companies agreed to them voluntarily. And of course, no one is going to begrudge anyone exorbitant wages, as long as their taxes are not paying for them.
SPC signed its enterprise agreement just under a year ago. At that time it would have known it was in strife. Why did it sign the agreement and why did it give out pay increases of 5 per cent?
Toyota signed its current enterprise agreement in late 2011. It expires in 2015, but the document binds it to start negotiations in January 2015 for yet another agreement beyond this one.
That is madness.
Toyota also agreed to not "make any further claims in relation to wages or any other terms and conditions of employment and take any steps to terminate or replace this agreement without the consent of the other parties".
When a judge recently enforced this clause, everyone blamed the judge, who is duty bound to interpret the obvious legal meaning of the words.
I blame the person within Toyota who agreed to put the clause in a document and sign it.
Companies with terrible enterprise agreements have a wide range of options open to them. They can cease bargaining and let wages and conditions be "frozen" for a few years.
They can seek to leave wages the same but bargain for more flexibility. They can bargain downwards and reduce pay and conditions or they can attempt to dissolve the agreement completely by application to the Fair Work Commission.
Unfortunately, and here is where publicly listed companies baulk, all options involve recasting or severing their relationships with unions.
This requires strong leadership and industrial discomfort.
Managing in the listed company environment is often little more than a popularity exercise. When you've played Santa with shareholders' money for years on end how can you turn around and start being Scrooge?
When unions have always been "stakeholders" who you've had a "good relationship" with, how do you suddenly tell them to get knotted?
When you've always let the unions veto your industrial relations advisers, how do you defy them and hire a good cost cutter they hate? When you've always managed your workforce through the union reps, how do you bypass them and engage with the workers directly?
The Fair Work Act is simply a piece of machinery. With the right driver, the right results can be delivered. Unions have just always been better drivers. Listed companies are going to have to start hiring people who are just as good.
There are quite a few of them around, but they've all been black-banned in the past by unions and the companies have stupidly observed the bans. Legislation is never perfect but our problems are more cultural than legislative. Legislative change will come in time, I suppose, but in the meantime, we need cultural change to occur.
This will happen only if the discomfort of change is less than the discomfort of exposure. That is where I and my great big torch come in. Happy New Year to all.
Anti-terrorism laws a test of Attorney-General George Brandis' commitment to freedom of speech
Federal Attorney-General George Brandis has embarked on a surprising mission. Rather than following the antagonistic path of his Coalition predecessors, he is seeking to champion the cause of human rights. His goal is to reshape and lead the debate.
Brandis' intentions have been signalled with two announcements.
He has directed the Australian Law Reform Commission to identify where Commonwealth laws encroach upon traditional rights, freedoms and privileges and to determine whether such encroachments are justified. This audit will show how the extension of laws and regulations into almost every facet of Australian life, unconstrained by anything like a bill of rights, has come at significant cost.
His most prominent announcement was the appointment of Institute of Public Affairs policy analyst Tim Wilson as a "freedom commissioner" at the Australian Human Rights Commission. Wilson's brief is unashamedly to promote rights such as freedom of speech, which Brandis argues has been neglected by the commission.
Wilson's appointment should be welcomed. Rather than take the expected approach of starving the commission of funds and driving it into political irrelevancy, Brandis is hoping to redirect it.
The commission has a strong record of combating deep-seated discrimination on the basis of a person's race, sex or age. On the other hand, it has been conspicuously absent from debates on other rights, including freedom of speech, because no commissioner has had responsibility for the area. The commission will be a stronger and more effective body for addressing democratic rights of this kind.
Australian law provides only weak protection for freedom of speech and it shows. The freedom has been eroded by a myriad of state and federal laws. This needs to be tackled and it can only be hoped that this will not be overtaken by the battle over racial vilification and section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. That section could sensibly be pared back but repealing it would be excessive and counterproductive.
Brandis' commitment to human rights will be tested in the coming year. Some challenges will stem from Coalition policies, including those on asylum seekers. Governments have become used to trampling upon the rights and freedoms Brandis hopes to protect and so he will quickly run up against the plans of his colleagues. It will be interesting to see whether he has the will and the clout to get his way.
The biggest challenge may arise from Brandis' own portfolio. His responsibilities include unresolved problems stemming from the numerous anti-terrorism laws passed since September 11, 2001.
These problems have been brought to light by several inquiries and reports, most notably by the government's own adviser on such matters. Two reports released this year by Bret Walker, SC, the independent monitor of Australia's anti-terrorism laws, reveal how key parts of these laws are ineffective or unnecessary.
Walker's reports, along with the report of another committee convened by the Council of Australian Governments and led by retired judge Anthony Whealy, QC, identify a long list of laws that need to be fixed. Many trespass on the freedoms Brandis seeks to protect.
The list of changes includes abolishing preventative detention orders, under which a person can be held without charge for up to 14 days. Walker also argues that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation should no longer have an extraordinary power that enables it to detain in secret for up to a week Australian citizens not suspected of any crime.
Some of these laws have an invidious effect on freedom of speech. One bans any book, film or computer game that praises a terrorist act where this might lead a person, including a person suffering from mental illness, to engage in terrorism. Given that Australia's definition of terrorism encompasses the acts of people such as Nelson Mandela, there is real possibility that a book on his life could be censored.
Another law makes it an offence to disclose "operational information" about a person's detention by ASIO within two years of that person being detained. A journalist revealing such information, including the mere fact that someone was detained, can be imprisoned for up to five years. There are no exceptions for fair reporting or if a media story reveals ASIO has misused its powers or mistreated detainees.
A strong commitment to freedom of speech is not consistent with laws of this kind. Brandis has yet to make his position known but the early signs are not promising. When asked for his response to Walker's recommendations, he merely said that he would "carefully consider" them but that he otherwise had "no plans to make material alterations to the anti-terrorism legislation".
The Attorney-General cannot be a champion of human rights if he ignores prominent areas where such rights have been breached. He has made a positive start by engaging constructively in the debate but the real test will lie with his actions. His commitment to liberty and freedom will be compromised unless he tackles the hard cases, in addition to controversies such as section 18C.
Indonesia travel warning, citing terrorist threat
The Department of Foreign Affairs has issued a travel warning to Indonesia, including tourist hotspot Bali, because of the high threat of a terrorist attack.
The department's latest travel advice contains a warning that terrorists remain active in the country despite police efforts to stop them.
"Indonesian authorities have warned that extremists may be planning to attack churches in Jakarta, and elsewhere in Indonesia, during the 2014 new year period," the travel advice said.
Earlier this month national police chief Sutarman said there were indications that militants may be assembling bombs to target areas of worship.
"The terrorists have cells everywhere and they are active. We are continuing to pursue them," he told reporters, without giving details of specific targets.
DFAT warns the threat to Australians in Indonesia may reach beyond churches.
"Terrorists have previously attacked or planned to attack places where Westerners gather, including nightclubs, bars, restaurants, international hotels, airports and places of worship in Bali, Jakarta and elsewhere in Indonesia," it said.
There have been several attacks on Western targets in the past decade, including the 2002 Bali bombings which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
DFAT also notes that travellers to Indonesia could experience natural disasters like tsunamis, or be the victims of petty crime, drink-spiking and scams.
The advice does not recommend Australians stay away from Indonesia, but it does urge travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in the country.
However, Australians are urged to reconsider the need to travel to some areas including the provinces of Central Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua.
30 December, 2013
Featherbedded union wants taxpayer bailout
SPC Ardmona is going to be a big test in the new year
The government got off to a woeful start on this issue. Supporters are disgusted that Greg Combet was appointed to advise the Industry Minister on SPC's industrial relations.
The narrative that Combet will build around SPC Ardmona is likely to be this.
The workers are modestly paid, but our cost base in this country is far more expensive than New Zealand's, so we must give the company financial support to keep it here.
Comparisons between SPC and Heinz Watties in New Zealand will be made. Heinz Watties workers have base hourly rates ranging from $16.69 to $19.69.
From January 1, SPC workers' base hourly rates will range from $24.56 to $31.06.
What Combet won't tell the Prime Minister is that if SPC didn't have an enterprise agreement and just paid the modern award wage it would be paying base hourly rates in the $16.37 to $19.07 range.
This means the workers here could be cheaper than the ones in New Zealand. He won't say that the company voluntarily made its fixed cost base so high it now cannot function, and he won't use his skills to convince workers to go back to the award wage to save their jobs and the fate of the local growers that depend on them.
The entire SPC wages issue has been confused already. A figure of annual salaries about the $50,000 mark was floated and contradicts another figure about the $120,000 mark. Base rates are no indicator of true salaries in union agreements, which are cleverly written to pad salaries with loadings and penalties.
I would put my money on the $120,000 number, but to be sure the government should make the company show it the group certificates of every employee.
There are plenty of other morally questionable and fiscally irresponsible matters SPC has agreed to in its union agreement but I doubt Combet will be bringing these to anyone's attention.
Workers who start with the company must have a union official at their induction meetings; probably to heavy them to join.
All workers also are forced to purchase their own private income protection policy.
The union that covers SPC owns half of an insurance company that provides income protection, called U Cover. The union receives payments from U Cover annually in exchange for the workers it signs up. In 2011 the union's dividend from U Cover was $1,164,000.
SPC must allow the union to have eight delegates and must provide them with facilities and time to be unionists on site. Ten paid union meetings with workers can be held every year. Each union delegate is entitled to five paid union training days a year, capped at a total of 40 paid days per delegate.
If SPC workers are made redundant packages comprise four weeks' pay for each year of service plus notice and sick leave payout. Some workers' packages will be capped at 104 weeks, but some won't. If estimates of salaries at $120,000 are correct, that means long-term workers would be receiving packages of at least $250,000.
On the SPC issue, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Liberal MP Sharman Stone have already jumped the fence to side with Combet and the unions against the taxpayer.
The remaining hope for us is that Abbott holds the line. Apparently he is going to read a book on Margaret Thatcher during the Christmas break. Let's hope he eats lots of protein, watches some films on Muhammad Ali and listens to Eminem music at top volume. Happy new year, everyone.
From baristas to barristers: would you like a lawsuit with your coffee?
Grumpy customers who give their barista a mouthful about a lousy cup of coffee beware - delivering a serve to the employee could soon land you in court.
From Wednesday, workplace bullies can be ordered to curb their bad behaviour or face a $10,200 fine - and lawyers warn that the new rules extend beyond bad bosses and co-workers to people on the other side of the counter.
"You do have a lot of workplaces where the public come in and out, such as restaurants and shops," said Drew Pearson, a partner at law firm Herbert Smith Freehills.
"Customers probably don't have a full appreciation of the impact of their behaviour and the fact that it's caught by this law."
In June the Gillard government overhauled workplace bullying laws to allow workers to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop bullying where the behaviour is repeated, unreasonable and a risk to their health and safety.
If a customer's browbeating persists, workers can go to the Federal Court to enforce the order. It can impose a fine of $10,200.
Mr Pearson said the government had intended the laws to apply broadly to different types of workers, including contractors and work-experience students, but it was unclear whether it "fully appreciated the extent" of their reach. It was possible that not "as much attention was given" to the effect of the laws in workplaces that were more accessible to the public. "A lot of industrial law is obviously prepared with more typical or traditional workplaces in mind," he said.
Insurance brokers, financial advisers, lawyers and others dealing with abusive clients were potential beneficiaries of the laws, he said, although to be defined as bullying, the bad behaviour would have to take place on a number of occasions.
The commission could order bosses to monitor customers' behaviour or to stop any bullying. A breach of that order would allow the Federal Court to impose a fine on a company of up to $51,000.
John Hart, the chief executive of industry association Restaurant and Catering Australia, said applying the laws to customers was "a bit of a stretch" but there was an obvious lack of clarity about how they would apply.
"If you can extrapolate a law that's designed to cover the obligations of an employer to cover customers, I think we're demonstrating quite clearly that the laws have gone too far," Mr Hart said.
"If we have to wait for landmark decisions and interpretations by the Fair Work Commission, it's going to make it very difficult for us to implement those requirements with any sort of certainty for employers. That is one of our real concerns."
Health consultant flags emergency room fee to match GP co-payment proposal
A health consultant who called for a new fee to visit a doctor has suggested it could be extended to hospital emergency departments.
The Australian Centre for Health Research has made a submission to the Federal Government's Commission of Audit proposing a $6 fee for bulk-billed GP visits to keep the Medicare system going.
But the proposal has raised fears patients with minor health complaints would instead visit hospital emergency departments for medical advice, to avoid paying the GP fee, or avoid seeking help at all.
The author of the report, Terry Barnes, advised Tony Abbott on health policy when the Prime Minister was the health minister and an opposition leader.
"In terms of emergency departments, I think the simple way to deal with it is to allow the states to charge a matching co-payment for people who do go to an emergency department," Mr Barnes told ABC News Breakfast.
The report concedes co-payments will be "controversial and sensitive" if it deters people from seeking treatment for chronic and acute conditions but Mr Barnes says the likelihood of a small fee stopping people from seeking help is small.
"We think that $5 or $6 would not be enough to deter people from going to the doctors if they absolutely need to," he said. "We're saying this is quite reasonable to keep the whole system going.
"This is sending a price signal to people, there's no doubt about that... the level of co-payment we're suggesting is equivalent to a hamburger and fries or a schooner of beer, it's not a great deal."
Health Minister Peter Dutton has not ruled out a co-payment fee for patients visiting their doctors, saying in a statement the Government "won't be commenting on speculation around what the Commission of Audit may or may not recommend".
The report recommends capping the maximum number of co-payments to 12 per year which would mean the maximum extra burden for patients would be $72 per year. Doctors would also have the right to waive the fee for any patient in financial hardship.
Asked if Mr Abbott would support the idea Mr Barnes said the Prime Minister would never support something that was not considered "fair and reasonable".
"I think the Prime Minister is somebody who is up for a fight for good outcomes and for good policy... but it's up to the Commission of Audit and the Government to make their own decisions," he said.
Male domestic violence victims need more support
Jamie*, a minister of religion in his 60s, spent his 36-year marriage "walking on egg shells". He'd had a very controlling childhood where he'd been told to do the opposite of what he felt was right.
"That's partly why I fell in love with my wife," he says. "She reminded me of my mother." Within weeks of their 1971 wedding, she was throwing things at him, screaming she hated him, walking out and saying she would never come back. "I was far away from where my parents lived, and I thought I would be kicked out of the seminary if the marriage broke down," he says. "So I felt trapped. I just tried to work inside the system, keep things calm. Once the children started arriving, it was too late."
The blow-ups happened once a month at the start, but were almost daily by the end. "I was trying to hang in there," he says.
But 36 years seems a long time to hang in. "Guys can run away to work. I did a lot of running away to work. At home … I did a lot of numbing out."
About 10 years ago, she got on top of him in bed and started hitting him - windmilling at him, screaming that she hated him and that she hoped he would go to hell. He had never told anyone what had been happening - he's marked off dozens of items on a domestic violence checklist, including financial control, using sex for favours, limiting his freedom, pinning him on the floor, kicking the pets, humiliating him, putting him down in front of the children, bagging him to friends and colleagues - but the next day, on his regular morning walk with a pastor friend, that changed.
He started crying and spoke up. "I love you," his friend said, "I support you, but this is on some weird planet." Jamie felt ashamed; men are supposed to be able to take care of themselves, and he was letting a woman beat up on him.
Uncovering the staggering depth of brutality women used to be subject to at home without question - and denouncing it - is one of the signature civilising social movements of the past 40 years. To this day, women are more likely to be severely injured, assaulted or killed at home. But are a smaller but significant number of men victims of domestic violence, too? And are they falling through the cracks?
"Reactionary, traditionalist, conservative, chauvinist, wanting to put women back in the kitchen, like I'm some sort of right-wing homophobic misogynist woman-hater who wants to take away everything feminism has achieved," says Greg Andresen - head of the One in Three campaign aimed at raising awareness of family violence against men - running through names he's been called. He starts chortling. "It hurts to be called that stuff, especially when you look at all of our actions, all of our campaign material, everything we've done - there's not a skerrick of that in any of it." The campaign takes its name from a 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey that found 29.8 per cent of the victims of current partner violence since the age of 15 were male. Andresen believes the current thinking that domestic violence is 90-95 per cent men against women is wrong.
We think men are bigger and stronger, and can inflict more damage in a fight. Indeed, he agrees women are more likely to suffer systemic, continuing abuse, but argues other forms of abuse such as social isolation and emotional abuse can be "equally as controlling and as debilitating for the victim because they feel equally as trapped. There's somebody curtailing their freedom in these ways and you don't need to hit someone to do that. Women can do that just as much as men."
So, does One in Three's "29.8 per cent" mean one in three men is a victim of the headline bashings we associate with domestic violence and women? No, it doesn't. It reports incidents of partner violence - violence that's domestic, rather than "domestic violence" - which can be a one-off slap or months of unrelenting, one-sided abuse.
Still, a man slapping a woman isn't culturally acceptable, so should the opposite be?
Relationships counsellor Toni McLean worries abusive relationships can teach children the wrong way to resolve conflict. Research shows abuse can be transmitted down the generations. "We need to shift our focus from women victims of partner violence to victims of partner violence, and provide resources for dealing with all victims and all perpetrators. Children suffer regardless of which parent is violent," McLean says.
After reading a few studies you feel like you're watching a heavily annotated bunfight between researchers trying to show women are the overwhelming victims and others trying to show men are copping it just as badly.
"The problems are that the different definitions and research methodology researchers use, plus the reluctance of men to report, lead to different findings," says Professor Alfred Allan, from Western Australia's Edith Cowan University, who co-wrote a 2010 report, Intimate Partner Abuse of Men.
Says sociologist Dr Michael Flood, from the University of Wollongong: "There are heated debates among various advocates addressing domestic violence." Flood criticises One in Three for not focusing on the wider issue of men's violence against men. Neither does he believe "there are tens of thousands of men out there living in fear of their female partners and not being able to access services".
Yet even if women make up 90 per cent of all prolonged coercive domestic violence cases, then so do several thousand Australian men.
"The question of men experiencing violence is one that hasn't really been discussed," says Randal Newton-John, at MensLine, the national telephone counselling service. "It's generally seen as only happening to women."
There is no doubt from MensLine's experience that "we receive calls from men who are experiencing violence. Really, the important thing is to those men, how do they receive the help that they need to deal with that situation?" Police don't always believe complaints of domestic violence against men.
ACT teacher Ross Burdon, 54, has a DVO out against his ex-wife, who he met in the Philippines. When they fought, police would arrest him - charges would be dropped or defeated in court. He went to police with a complaint. "They said, 'She's a woman and how big are you?'." He showed them a video he had taken of her holding a frying pan. She had bashed holes in the door. She used to throw things, smash doors, once tried to hit him on the head with a pot plant. "We could be in the same room, her anger escalating and I knew- she knew it, too - that if she called the police there would be problems for me."
Then there is social isolation. Nothing NSW teacher Matthew* did was right, from mixing cordial to putting sunscreen on his two children. His wife would say he was strange and embarrassing. She didn't want to be seen in public with him. He started to believe there was something wrong with him. He would escape verbal abuse by sleeping in his car and sneaking home at 5am to get clothes to take to a local pool for a shower and a shave before work. "I was scared to stay in the house and too scared to return until I thought it was safe."
Bill* had been told for 18 months he was lazy - he couldn't work following a viral infection - and no one wanted to be near him. Police advised him to think about leaving the house after a row in which his wife of 12 years bit his wrist to the bone.
He thought he had nowhere to go, so he slept in his van for six weeks. There was a sports field in Camden, a river in Campbelltown, at a park, sometimes out at Bargo. Occasionally he'd stay at a servo because they had free showers. When the weather was really bad, an underground car park. One day Bill felt suicidal, and called the DoCS domestic violence hotline. The woman who answered told him only men abuse women. Mates rolled their eyes and said "man up".
Jamie was the only man in a discussion group at an Anglicare-run domestic abuse seminar in the 1980s. He was told if he treated his wife with respect then she wouldn't act like that.
Will*'s first relationship was coloured by growing up in a home where both parents were violent - he didn't know about healthy relationships, so when he moved in with a 40-year-old man as a 22-year-old the control was there from the start. He had to have sex whether he wanted to or not. He woke up several times a week to a kick in the face. He'd leave and always come back. One time the ex tried to brain him with a VCR. He didn't want to go to a hospital. He was ashamed of what had happened. He had mixed feelings about his mother staying in her abusive marriage, and here he was doing the same thing.
Melbourne psychologist Elizabeth Celi says there are three misconceptions about male victims: that men must be aggressors, they can take it because they're bigger, and that they must have done something to deserve it. "This is a gross injustice to a man on the receiving end of abusive and violent behaviour, as it simultaneously invalidates his experience while blaming him for the damaging words and behaviour coming his way," she says.
"We would never do this to female victims, yet it seems OK for male victims to be subjected to it."
Emma, a Sydney hospitality worker in her 30s, once broke an ex-boyfriend's nose. She left home at 14 and grew up on the streets, where she had to fight to survive. And so when she started a relationship - and she was only ever attracted to men she knew would never hit her - they would become her family, her everything.
Her violence would be triggered by coming down off strong drugs, as well as a cyclical hereditary depression - once a week, once a month. She would break things, throw things, lash out, punch, knowing they'd never touch her.
A 2012 NSW government report on domestic violence trends found "while men are less likely to be victims, the experience of those that are is equally as bad as that of other victims" - and that services for them are lacking. Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack wants more money aimed at addressing the causes of anger - and early intervention to empower men and women with tools to stop abuse. "I would love to see that non-judgmental, ideology-free support available to all victims, male and female," she says.
In NSW and Victoria, the main domestic violence lines are for women.
Men are referred elsewhere, including MensLine, and in Victoria, to the Men's Referral Service, which is designed to stop aggressive behaviour by men. "The vast majority of men contacting us as victims are most likely the perpetrator," says executive officer Danny Blay.
Newton-John says: "It's not easy for men to approach health services at the best of times. Men need to wait for a crisis. If they're on the receiving end of violence it might throw up questions about their masculinity and whether they deserve help. They do, but they question it."
Other countries have set up men's refuges. The Netherlands began a trial program in 2008 in its four biggest cities, with 10 places in each. They are used by victims, men beaten by their children or stalked, and young gay men from immigrant cultures. Adrie Vermeulen, co-ordinator of the Utrecht shelter, says that when it opened, most victims were Turkish or Moroccan, although there are now more Dutch. "We take them in our care and try to make a new future for them." Physical injuries are easier to spot and prosecute. But relentless verbal abuse can also damage. Studies have shown emotional pain lasts longer than physical pain.
The definition of domestic abuse in Britain now includes psychological intimidation - nothing but good news for anyone, female or male, at the receiving end.
"We get a lot of calls talking about emotional, psychological and verbal abuse," Newton-John says. "It's sometimes very insidious and difficult to understand personally the impact it's having, because you're not seeing broken bones or black eyes."
Recognising male victims doesn't mean dishonouring any female victims or redirecting resources. It can help reduce family violence further.
Matthew emailed to say he'd called the police to try to resolve an access issue and was directed to a domestic violence liaison officer. "She offered me a referral to counselling for victims of crime. I broke down crying. It made me feel like my perspective that I had been a victim had been validated by someone within the system."
28 December, 2013
No asylum seeker boat arrivals in past week, Scott Morrison reveals
The Immigration Minister says a total of 355 asylum seekers have arrived by boat this month - the lowest December number for five years. Scott Morrison has released a statement confirming there have been no boat arrivals in the past week.
Since Operation Sovereign Borders began three months ago 1,106 asylum seekers on board 22 boats have been intercepted by authorities. Mr Morrison says that is an 87 per cent decline on the three months preceding the policy.
"The Coalition's experience since coming to Government has shown that no single measure and no single partner is responsible for the dramatic fall in arrivals," he said in a statement.
"The boats have not yet stopped but they are stopping. The right policies are now in the right hands, and they are getting the right results on our borders, as we promised."
The population of the Government's offshore processing facilities includes 841 people at Nauru and 1,229 on Manus Island.
Jellyfish stings are best treated with a nice hot shower
Important info for tropical Australia
After being stung by a jellyfish, many of us will apply vinegar or maybe an ice pack.
New research from the University of Sydney suggests those treatments might just make things worse. Hot water immersion in a shower or under a tap could be better.
Despite jellyfish stings being a common problem, a summary of good quality research has not existed to guide effective treatment, said the senior author of the paper, associate professor Angela Webster.
"Many treatments have been suggested to relieve the symptoms of jellyfish stings, however it was unclear which interventions were most effective," the university's associate professor Webster of the school of public health said. "Our research showed that immersing the sting in hot water was 50 per cent more effective than ice packs in relieving pain," she said.
"A hot shower following bluebottle stings is the best treatment for pain. "Treating the sting with vinegar or Adolph's Meat Tenderiser, compared with hot water, actually made the skin appear worse."
The research would allow organisations like Surf Life Saving to make evidence-based treatment recommendations, she said.
Victorian students will get tough love lessons
VICTORIAN school students will be taught to toughen up and sort out their own problems amid concern too many lack resilience.
The delivery of sex and drug education will also be overhauled as part of the new schools initiative. It aims to help youngsters better deal with life's setbacks.
The State Government will today announce experts from the University of Melbourne will develop the resilience program, to be rolled out to state primary and secondary schools from mid next year.
It follows findings that developing students' social and emotional skills is critical to improving their academic performance and success in life.
"Education is more than teaching numbers and words - it's about preparing students for life during and after school," Education Minister Martin Dixon said.
"Victorian schools already have a strong wellbeing focus - making sure every student is supported to succeed at school. "The resilience framework takes the next step, teaching students how to make good decisions when faced with life's challenges."
Under the resilience initiative teachers and school leaders will get access to new online social, wellbeing and health resources which can be used in class or given to families to use at home.
Students will learn how to make informed decisions, when to ask for help and develop relationship and self-awareness skills. Advice about "respectful" relationships and health promotion will also be included.
University of Melbourne project leader Associate Prof Helen Cahill said the institution had extensive experience in delivering such programs.
"The resilience framework will equip educators with evidence-based approaches to promoting social and emotional wellbeing and health education in Victorian schools," she said.
Training to help teachers handle students who have challenging behaviour and advice for principals to deal with aggressive parents are also part of the welfare push.
Content will be tailored to students' age
Qld. eyes new back-to-basics exams for kids to make grade
STATE school maths and science testing is set for a shake-up with the Newman Government supporting reforms including the potential for external, HSC-style exams. The move could have wider implications for the future of Queensland's OP system, which is also under review.
Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek will today release his response to the parliamentary Education and Innovation Committee's inquiry into the way maths, chemistry and physics are being assessed in schools and its 16 recommendations.
The LNP asked for the inquiry after complaints from parents, teachers and academics about the current system.
Mr Langbroek said the Government backed the committee's recommendations and wanted the system to go "back to basics".
"The major outcomes of this will be a greater emphasis on numerical marking and a review of students' written assignments," Mr Langbroek said. "This is about getting back to basics, removing the confusion and allowing schools to make decisions about the best way to assess their students."
In a further indication the current OP (overall position) system for assessing senior students is on its way out, Mr Langbroek also expressed support for an external, HSC-style exam worth about 50 per cent of a student's overall mark in maths, chemistry and physics. All of the assessment is school-based currently.
He has asked the independent inquiry into the OP system, being carried out by the Australian Council for Educational Research, to consider the move and it is due to report back by July.
Under the plan, the number of inquiry-based assessments such as essays will be capped, while the senior heads of maths and science departments from about 400 schools will be compelled to attend workshops early next year to address "challenges and confusions" identified in the parliamentary inquiry.
Mr Langbroek said the workshops will be held by the outgoing Queensland Studies Authority which is due to be replaced by new body, the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, in July next year,
"The QSA will be directed to formally amend syllabuses to require that no more than two extended experimental investigations be conducted per subject per year as part of the implementation of the Australian Curriculum," he said.
"They will also write to all principals clarifying the use of numerical marking, and develop resources that explain how marks can be linked to syllabus standards and criteria."
27 December, 2013
The Human Rights gravy train
A lot of highly paid women
The Human Rights Commission annual report report for 2013 is here. On page 150 we get to see the staffing profile – 143 employees (of whom only 38 are male) – and the salary rank those individuals earn. More than half of the Commission are on salaries above $72,900. That is well above the median income for Australia. Over 90 per cent of the Human Rights Commission employees earns above the median wage.
I imagine Tim Wilson will be one of the statutory office holders. How much they are paid is reported on page 101 of the report.
So the top nine employees are the SES Band levels and the Statutory Office holders. Between them they earn $2.3 million (basic salary) out of a total salary and wages budget of $12.3 million. So 6.3 per cent of the employees take out 18.65 per cent of the total salary budget.
What else can we say about the salary and conditions of this organisation? Employee Benefits (salary + super + on costs and the like) came to $16,384,000. The federal government pumped in $17,979,000. So 91 per cent of all government expenditure earmarked for the AHRC is spent of salaries and wages and super (plus odds and ends). Another $6.9 million came from the sales of services and operating a sub-lease (Really?). So I reckon they have some $8.5 million to provide whatever it is that the AHRC actually does.
I don’t want to comment on the value of that $8.5 million (except to suggest that it is probably less than $8.5 million) but even in an accounting sense we the taxpayer are paying some $16 million in salaries to get $8.5 million of human rights programs.
CAPITAL CITY BAIL-OUT
Canberra is broke. And it wants your money. That’s the message from ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, who is pleading for a Holden-style bailout package to rescue her ridiculous territory from the expense of public service redundancies.
In one way, Gallagher’s is an understandable call. Like Holden, Canberra is union-dominated, isolated from economic realities and produces nothing that people want. It’s a slow and subsidised Commodore in a world of speedy VW Golfs. So why shouldn’t it receive the same generous treatment as the cash-strapped carmaker?
Well, here are a few reasons.
Like Washington DC under Barack Obama, Canberra enjoyed a massive public sector growth throughout Labor’s six years in power. While the rest of the country watched a federal surplus vanish, Canberra grew ever fatter. As the Canberra Times reported just a few weeks ago:
"Employment in the ACT’s public sector has exploded by 30 per cent in six years, far outstripping the other states and territories.
The territory government wages bill has grown by $685 million in the same period, blowing out by $110 million each year.
New Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the ACT’s public sector grew by more than three times the combined national average for state governments and local councils."
Having spent that money hiring public servants, Katy Gallagher now wants more money from you to pay out those public servants.
“It’s like the Holden package the Prime Minister just pitched to the Holden workers; they lost several thousand jobs in Melbourne and Victoria and we are potentially losing many many more from a smaller jurisdiction,” Gallagher claimed on the weekend.
The argument in favour of Holden’s package is that production line workers will need retraining to be employable in other areas. Is that even possible with public servants? Gallagher continued:
“And there is an equal argument to the Commonwealth; if your decision is going to force this on our community what are you going to do to support us through that change?’’
The poor community. It needs support during “change”. When it comes to begging, this is the most pitiful line since a stranger turned up at my house a few months back asking for a loan so he could visit his dying mother. Problem was, he’d forgotten that I’d already given him some cash just weeks earlier – and that was to retrieve his mum’s dead body from the hospital.
When you’re running a scam, it pays to remember the details. Back in May, for example, the ACT government easily found more than $300,000 to fund Skywhale, a grotesque but wholly accurate representation of Canberra’s reckless spending.
Maybe Skywhale could be wheeled out to cheer up depressed Canberra public servants as they face a bleak future of box wine and instant coffee. Problem is, having paid for the inflatable monster, Canberra has to pay for it again every time it appears. The fee for a Skywhale visit at Canberra community events is anything between $1800 and $7000, which is a lot to pay for giving your children nightmares that would frighten a meth addict.
If change is on the way for Canberra, the city is already well placed to cope without our help. A few years ago, the activist group GetUp! claimed that one in every 30 Canberra residents is a member. All GetUp! ever does is scream for change: to environmental policies, wages, transport, you name it. Seeing as they’re so well-versed on the subject, Canberra’s GetUp! lobby should become change consultants, helping public servants understand how debt happens when people stop giving you free money.
And Lord, how the money rolled in when Labor was in charge. At its peak, the completely pointless Climate Change Department sucked down $218 million per year. An impressive chunk of that cash was spent housing departmental staff in Canberra’s ritzy new Nishi building, now a monument to the ACT’s self-importance and Labor’s financial incompetence.
Speaking of monuments, that’s one of Gallagher’s plans for Canberra’s tax-funded renewal. “In 1996 the National Museum was the project, it drove jobs, it did get the economy moving along,” she claimed on the weekend. “That’s the sort of discussion we need to have with the Commonwealth.”
Let’s hope it’s a short discussion, ending with the word “no”.
But maybe I’m being too hasty. Perhaps a grand monumental project in the ACT would actually be beneficial to all of us.
I’m thinking it could possibly be something like a massive wall, sort of like the avant-garde structure that once dominated Berlin so impressively. This freedom wall, featuring artistic curls of barbed wire and uniformed “interactivity guides” in fortified turrets, could circle the whole city of Canberra.
After all, if they like socialism so much they should be allowed to enjoy it all by themselves.
The myth exposed: another “stolen generations” case fails in court
Yet another “stolen generations” case is lost in court, this one brought in Western Australia by two parents and seven of their children claiming the state failed in its fiduciary care.
The case has familiar elements, including claimants who’d constructed a memory of being the largely blameless victims of nasty officials, when in fact contemporaneous documents reveal the children were removed not because they were simply Aboriginal but because they were in great need. Those officials first stepped in when one child was taken to hospital as a six month old weighing half a kilogram less than she had at birth. Those officials acted under the Child Welfare Act which applied to all children, and they had monitored this family repeatedly after finding it lived in a dirty humpy with beds for just three.
Said the judge:
"The documents to which I have referred support three findings. First, Don and Sylvia’s living conditions, and their home environment relevant to the care of their children, were being monitored by officers of the Child Welfare Department in the years after the Siblings were removed from their care.
Secondly, the observations made by those officers, or information provided to those officers, was to the effect that until approximately mid-1970, Don and Sylvia continued to live in the humpy in circumstances which were largely unchanged (as compared with when the Siblings became wards) that they engaged in heavy drinking and that their relationship was marred by domestic violence.
Thirdly, that information was relied upon by officers of the Child Welfare Department in considering whether the Children should be permitted to return to live with Don and Sylvia."
The parents are listed in documents as having admitted most of their children into care themselves after being threatened with being taken to court for neglect. The father agreed to pay maintenance.
No “stolen generations” case has ever succeeded in court. The one case that is sometimes claimed as an exception - that of Bruce Trevorrow - in fact establishes that in South Australia there was no law permitting the taking away of children just because they were Aboriginal. In that case, a female welfare worker secretly broke the law by giving away to a foster family a baby she thought had been half-starved and badly neglected by a father she’d falsely assumed was a “habitual drunkard” and a mother she’d heard had “gone walkabout” from her family and had not visited her baby in hospital.
As the judge in that case ruled:
"Mrs Angas may have been well-intentioned ... but was well aware, or ought to have been aware, that the removal of the plaintiff from his family, and his placement with the Davies family, was undertaken in circumstances that were understood to be without legal authority, beyond power and contrary to authoritative legal advice."
But had Trevorrow been left where he was...
The “stolen generations” are a dangerous myth. No one has yet identified even 10 children stolen just because they were Aborigines, but so powerful is this myth now that I can identify children who because of it have been left in terrible danger - only to be killed, raped and die of neglect.
Western Australia to kill sharks -- Greenies disgusted
SHARKS bigger than three metres will be "humanely destroyed" with a firearm and discarded offshore, the tender for the State Government's baited drum line strategy reveals.
Commercial fishermen have until the end of next week to bid for the contract to deploy, manage and maintain up to 72 shark drum lines one kilometre off popular beaches in Perth and the South-West.
An "experienced licensed commercial fishing organisation" is sought for the service, which was announced following the death of surfer Chris Boyd, 35, at Gracetown last month.
The tender request includes new detail about the measure, including:
* Any white shark, tiger shark or bull shark greater than 3m total length caught on the drum lines will be "humanely destroyed";
* Current direction on the humane destruction of large sharks "involves the use of a firearm";
* Any sharks that are dead or destroyed will be tagged and taken offshore (distance to be confirmed) and discarded;
* In the initial stages of the program a number of sharks may be brought to shore;
* All other animals taken on the drum lines will be released alive "where possible";
* Any animals which are dead, or considered not in a condition to survive, are to be humanely destroyed, tagged and taken offshore for disposal;
* Drums will be supplied by the Department of Fisheries, but the bait will be supplied by the fishermen and preferably sourced from shark;
* The drum lines will be patrolled for 12 hours each day, between 6am and 6pm, seven days a week;
* Drum lines will be baited at both the commencement of, and prior to the end of, each patrol day, will all used baits disposed onshore;
* Exemptions from "various state legislation" which prohibit the take, or attempted take, of protected shark species will be provided;
* It is likely a 50m exclusion zone will be implemented around each drum line. Only vessels operated by the contractor will be allowed within the exclusion zone;
The successful firm will also respond to shark threats, including the deployment of additional drum lines within 30 minutes.
The document, issued by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, says the measure is a "direct response to the unprecedented shark fatalities that have occurred in Western Australia over the last three years".
Shark kill strategy 'disgusting'
Sea Shepherd Australia managing director Jeff Hansen described the measures as "absolutely disgusting" at a time when the rest of the world is moving towards shark conservation.
"I just don't know how the West Australian Government is getting away with what they are doing. We need more legal people to look into this to see how this is legal in this day and age," Mr Hansen said.
University of Western Australia shark biologist Ryan Kemptser, the author of an open letter calling for a rethink on the shark-bait policy, said: "Popular beaches and surf breaks can be protected just as effectively by simply moving sharks alive offshore instead of killing them and then dumping their bodies offshore, which is what the Government proposes to do.
"It would require exactly the same resources but it wouldn't result in killing any sharks, therefore protecting our local ecosystems."
Fisheries Minister Ken Baston today said since 2011 the State Government had invested $5m on taggging, deterrents and other innovations to better understand sharks.
"I agree research is important, however, we have seen seven fatal shark attacks over the past three years and it's time to put human safety first," he said.
"Western Australians who use the water expect the Government to take action to decrease the risk of shark attack at our popular beaches.
"Our new policy of setting drumlines to target sharks deemed a threat at these beaches will be in place very soon. The Government has committed to taking immediate steps, while continuing long term research."
As announced earlier this month, drum lines will be deployed 24 hours a day, initially from January until April.
25 December, 2013
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is skeptical of both big government and unions
Judgment a pyrrhic victory for car workers
Mordecai Bromberg, a net detriment to the quality of Australian life. One hopes his Melbourne Jewish community is not proud of him. In keeping with his Labor party connections, he is clearly loyal only to minorities rather than to what he probably sees as "the great dumb mass" of the Australian population
JUDGE Mordy Bromberg of the Federal Court is following a long tradition in Australian industrial relations - he has delivered an outcome more likely to see the workplace to close than allow common sense to prevail. The preservation of union-imposed wages and conditions is sacrosanct, even if it leads Toyota Australia to shut down its local operations.
In 1909, in the famous BHP Broken Hill mine case, the president of the commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, HB Higgins, made this famous remark: "I face the possibility of the mine remaining closed with all its grave consequences, but the fate of Australia is not dependent on the fate of any one mine, or on any one company, and if it is a calamity that this historical mine should close down it will be a still greater calamity that men should be underfed or degraded." The mine was suspended for two years.
More than a century later and the mindset of industrial relations regulators has not changed a jot: better for workers to be unemployed than allow a company to introduce cost-saving changes to work practices.
By way of background, Bromberg was asked to consider an application by four Toyota employees with union connections to prevent Toyota Motor Corporation Australia from asking the workers whether they would accept changes to a range of conditions set out in the present enterprise agreement.
According to Toyota Australia president and chief executive Max Yasuda, the local operation is under significant commercial pressure and, next year, head office will decide whether the Altona plant will maintain its export volumes.
To offset the cost of wage rises set out in the agreement, several changes were proposed that would "remove outdated and uncompetitive practices and allowances that increase the (company's) costs and reduce global competitiveness".
The company's original plan was that the proposed changes would be put to an employee vote on December 5. This vote has been indefinitely suspended as a result of Bromberg's decision. The changes being canvassed are significant. There are 22 items in all, including: reducing the minimum Christmas shutdown period from 21 days to eight days; cutting the number of paid trade union training days; removing specific wage allowances, such as working in dirty conditions; and eliminating annual leave loading.
In fact, the thing that strikes you most when reading through the 22 items is how Toyota let these egregious arrangements become part of the agreement in the first place.
Having said this, many of these conditions have accumulated through the years and the underlying award itself has some very restrictive elements.
In full knowledge of the pending closure of General Motors Holden, Bromberg still could not bring himself to conclude that Toyota had the right to ask the workers whether they agreed to the changes. There was always the possibility that the workers would have voted to refuse some or all of the changes, but the honourable judge decided that even asking was out of the question.
In a rambling and confusing decision, Bromberg declares that clause 4, dealing with no further claims of the enterprise agreement, means the company cannot ask the workers to consider the changes. This is notwithstanding the provision in the Fair Work Act that permits a reopening of agreements and the alteration of terms.
Of course, many of us believe that a deal's a deal. But as long as there is mutual consent, it is completely reasonable for the terms of a deal to be reconsidered if events alter significantly and changes to the agreement cannot be mandated by one side. This is the Toyota scenario.
But Bromberg's judgment is that the company can ask the workers only if they are happy to see clause 4 of the agreement altered or deleted. If they so agree, then the company can proceed to ask them whether they agree to all or some of the 22 changes.
Given the unions' role in the matter - principally the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union - you can bet your bottom dollar that the workers will be advised to vote against any change to clause 4.
This will mean that the present agreement will run on to 2015, by which time it will probably be too late and Toyota also will have announced its intention to cease producing cars in Australia.
One of the ironies of the Bromberg decision is his reference to the scope for liberal interpretation of the clauses of agreements in industrial relations.
The judge, however, opts to interpret clause 4 in a strict and literal sense, thereby preventing common sense from prevailing.
Of course, decisions of one judge can always be overturned on appeal. In an important recent case, the judges of the Full Bench had this to say about another decision by Bromberg, which had restricted the Victorian government's ability to impose a mandatory construction code of conduct: "Conclusions of this kind appear to us, with respect, to reflect value judgments rather than legal conclusions. In the circumstances of the present case, we do not agree that the state interfered with 'free bargaining'.
"It was open to the state to specify the conditions upon which it would consider tenders for each of the projects at issue and to make contracts including those conditions. In our view, there is no basis for any declaration that the policies, or the proposed contractual conditions, adopted or announced by the state were invalid."
If that is not the ultimate smackdown, I don't know what is.
When it comes to the Toyota case, it is true the company behaved irresponsibly in the past by permitting costly and restrictive work arrangements to build up.
But we are fast approaching D-day. Unless significant changes are made, and made quickly, then the last man standing in Australian automotive manufacturing will be out of here, just like the others.
Good one, Mordy.
Aboriginal deputy Ombudsman to focus on cutting waste
Don't hold your breath
An Aboriginal candidate will be appointed as a deputy to the state Ombudsman to help reduce the millions of dollars wasted in the battle to reverse chronic disadvantage in indigenous communities.
Ombudsman Bruce Barbour - who has highlighted the frustration of Aboriginal communities with the waste and condemned the "poor return" on the billions invested from state and federal coffers - has welcomed the NSW government's decision to address weak accountability for spending.
"Having an Aboriginal person in a statutory role of this type will allow my office to continue to strengthen its work with Aboriginal communities across the state and sends a strong message about the importance of improving the circumstances of Aboriginal people," Mr Barbour said.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Victor Dominello said: "This is an Australian first and demonstrates that the NSW government is serious about being held accountable for its actions. No previous government, state or federal, has opened itself up to this level of independent scrutiny of its Aboriginal-specific programs."
In 2011, the state Auditor-General and Ombudsman released reports highlighting inefficiency in government programs despite good intentions. Mr Barbour's report said more money was "not the solution" and he noted that, since 2008, federal, state and territory governments had committed an extra $4.6 billion to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous communities, and that the NSW government spent $2.65 billion in 2008-09 on delivering services to Aboriginal people.
He attacked poorly integrated services between agencies and "a disparate 'grab-bag' of programs without adequate accountability". At the same time, Aboriginal unemployment was three times greater than for the rest of the population; more than half of all juveniles sentenced to detention were Aboriginal, and they accounted for more than 80 per cent of young inmates in parts of western and northern NSW; many youths were skipping school; and indigenous children were at much higher risk of sexual assault.
"Community leaders have repeatedly told my office that they want 'the truth' to be told about the problems they continue to face and the reasons why," Mr Barbour reported.
They were "tired of seeing much-needed resources poorly targeted" and mostly blamed the absence of local decision-making and "clout" to direct services.
Local decision-making is among the ambitions of the government's plan for Aboriginal affairs, OCHRE (Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility, Empowerment). Mr Dominello said it was an Aboriginal leader who had advocated most strongly for an Aboriginal deputy ombudsman.
One of four Aboriginal members of his ministerial taskforce on indigenous policy, Stephen Ryan, said "accountability for service delivery was raised repeatedly by Aboriginal communities" and the role would allow more regular reporting and independent scrutiny.
Legislation will be introduced next year to enable the Ombudsman to appoint his Aboriginal deputy. Mr Dominello said it would help avoid the "train wreck" reports of the past.
In a report released on January 1 this year, Responding to Child Sexual Assault in Aboriginal Communities, Mr Barbour said the single biggest investment under an inter-agency plan, the $22.9 million Safe Families program, had "high expectations" of addressing abuse in five communities in western NSW but "fell well short on delivery".
OPEN LETTER CHALLENGES AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTER ON FRAUDULENT CLIMATE CLAIMS
Written by Dr Judy Ryan & Dr Marjorie Curtis
Below is a letter from Drs Judy Ryan and Marjorie Curtis to Mr Mark Scott, the Managing Director of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC). Up to 200 political, media and other interested, or possibly, concerned, parties such as the BBC, are openly copied in. Mr Scott is the first member of the Australian public to to be held accountable by public letter.ABC
Judy and Marjorie have been holding prominent Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) alarmists such as David Karoly, Tim Flannery, Will Steffen and Lesley Hughes individually accountable for close to one year now. The letters and email lists are on Judy’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/judy.ryan.75457?fref=browse_search. They will also be on the Galileo Movement Facebook page soon.
As many interested parties are openly copied in; the lack of response from the alarmist does not look good on the public record. A legitimate question is:- Why don’t they respond with the evidence to support their hypothesis? It should be easy. The case for holding CAGW alarmists individually accountable is building.
Sunday, 15 December 2013
Mr. Mark Scott
Australian Broadcasting Corporation GPO Box 9994
Sydney NSW 2001
Dear Mr. Scott:
We are writing this public email to you to express our concern regarding the biased, inadequate, incorrect, and alarmist reporting by the ABC on the subject of ‘Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming’ (CAGW), or any other weather related event.
We notice that you were made aware of this matter on the 15th February 2013 by notice delivered by registered post from Mr. Malcolm Roberts http://www.conscious.com.au/docs/letters/ABC-ManagingDirector.pdf.
In that notice you were asked to ensure that unless you, as the managing director of the ABC, have empirical scientific evidence that damaging warming is caused by human emissions of CO2, the ABC should cease making direct or implied public claims that it is. You were also requested to retract past such claims and associated claims if you did not have the evidence to back them up. You were further requested to ensure that future ABC broadcasts on climate and the environment be objective, factual, balanced and correct.”
You did not respond to that notice or act upon any of the reasonable requests therein. Under your stewardship, the ABC has continued the policy of biased alarmist, reporting on CAGW. As the ABC chief executive receiving a handsome salary from the taxpayers you are the one person most responsible for ensuring that the ABC reports truthfully, factually and in accordance with the ABC Charter.
As managing director of the ABC you are required to provide reliable, evidence-based information. That means no exaggeration of effects, no misleading allegations and no omission of evidence that does not support the CAGW hypothesis.
The definition of fraud is, according to Black’s Law Dictionary, quote: “a false representation of a matter of fact, whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of that which should have been disclosed, which deceives and is intended to deceive another so that he shall act upon it to his legal injury.”
The Australian people are experiencing financial disadvantage as a result of the Carbon Tax/ETS/Direct Action Policy and a host of other policies and administrative decisions driven by advice regarding the science of climate change. Much of that advice has been reported to the people via the ABC under your stewardship. Is that advice false or misleading? Does it deceive by concealing relevant facts? Has the ABC reported the evidence for and against CAGW in a balanced impartial manner?
A recent example of the ABC reporting (Dec 3rd 2013) can be seen here; http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2013/s3903815.htm
Another example; http://australianconservative.com/2010/03/their-abc-gags-bob-carter/
Under Australia’s strong democracy no one is above the law. Judges, politicians, scientists, academics, senior public servants, and managing directors can be held to account for breaching their fiduciary duty.
For this reason it is important that you read and respond to the evidence provided below:-
The first few bullet points are links to the evidence for the null hypothesis versus CAGW. They are three references out of many, many thousands.
Wolfgang Knorr (no significant change in the airborne fraction of human caused CO2 since 1850) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2009GL040613/abstract
Murry Salby (temperature, not man-made CO2, drives CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. ) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrI03ts--9I&feature=player_embedded
Since replicated by Pehr Björnbom http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/swedish-scientist-replicates-dr-murry.html
Roy Spencer and John Christie (all the IPCC models have failed validity testing) http://www.drroyspencer.com/2013/06/epic-fail-73-climate-models-vs-observations-for-tropical-tropospheric-temperature/
Green, Armstrong and Soon found that errors in the projections of the IPCC’s scenario of exponential CO2 growth for the years 1851 to 1975 were more than seven times greater than the errors from a no change from previous year extrapolation method.). http://econpapers.repec.org/article/eeeintfor/v_3a25_3ay_3a2009_3ai_3a4_3ap_3a826-832.htm
The next few bullet points provide the evidence that indicates that from as early as 1998 there was no overwhelming scientific consensus supporting CAGW. There are only a few studies that claim to have measured overwhelming scientific consensus for CAGW. We have read them and their critiques. The two main earlier ones are:-
(1) Doran and Zimmerman http://probeinternational.org/library/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/012009_Doran_final1.pdf (where the researchers selectively whittled down a sample of over 10,000 geologists to just 77 then measured scientific consensus on the basis of two questions neither of which mentioned carbon-dioxide).
(2) The Anderegg et al study 2010 was not a survey. It was merely a methodologically flawed, subjective count and categorisation of publications. (Ref ‘Taxing Air 2013 ‘by Robert Carter and John Spooner).
(3) The 2013 study by Cook et. al. is also a methodologically flawed count and categorisation of publications. http://joannenova.com.au/2013/08/richard-tol-half-cooks-data-still-hidden-rest-shows-result-is-incorrect-invalid-unrepresentative.
By contrast there are several robust measures of scientific rebuttal of CAGW
The online petition which was launched in 1998 by the first group of dissenting scientists and has over 31,000 scientists signatures http://www.petitionproject.org
The annual reports of the Non Governmental panel for Climate Change NIPCC (which is a scientific body founded in 2003 ) http://climatechangereconsidered.org/about-nipcc/#tabs-1-2
Various other methodologically sound surveys
The next few bullet points refer to evidence that indicates that CAGW is the current politically driven global scam.
Climate gate Emails 2009 (their content reveals scientific misconduct. The various investigations that found no misconduct BUT found that those scientists had refused to share their supporting data which shows a lack of transparency inconsistent with good science) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climatic_Research_Unit_email_controversy
Armstrong, Green and Soon (Their audit found that the IPCC procedures violated as many as 72 of the 89 relevant forecasting principles (p. 997))http://www.forecastingprinciples.com/files/WarmAudit31.pdf
Kesten Green (identified 26 historical alarmist movements. (None of the forecasts proved correct. Twenty-five alarms involved calls for government intervention. The government imposed regulations in 23. None of the 23 interventions was effective and harm was caused by 20 of them.) http://www.ipa.org.au/publications/1964/a-history-of-scientific-alarms
Impending legal action a possibility (John Coleman’s interview) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9HOlS0PPcw .
In our opinion the ABC is deteriorating into a malicious, self -interest group, led by you. As recent events have shown, you are prepared to place the security of the ABC’s salary structure above the national security of Australia and its people.
You have allowed senior ABC journalists to conduct a smear campaign against scientists and citizens who are skeptical of CAGW. http://catallaxyfiles.com/2012/12/18/will-maurice-newman-be-australias-lord-mcalpine-ii/
Having digested all of the above we allow you 21 days to either publicly renounce your alarmist claims on the ABC news, or publicly provide empirical data-based evidence, that is available for scientific scrutiny, to support them.
It is on the public record that we issued a similar opportunity to Professor David Karoly in March this year. You received a copy by registered post with delivery confirmation. As we said in that letter, if CAGW turns out to be a politically driven scientific scam “every day that you delay is one day longer that the Australian people will hold you accountable”.
In closing, if there is anything we have said that you think is untrue please click reply all and let us know and we will apologise.
Heiner Affair: Carmody Says Labor Covered Up Child Sex, PM To Be Charged
On Monday, 1 July, 2013, the 11th and, hopefully, final investigation into the ‘Heiner Affair’ concluded with Justice Carmody handing down of the final report of the Queensland Child Protection Commission Of Inquiry.
The Heiner Affair has been etched into the Australian psyche: it involves allegations of criminal conduct at the highest levels of Australian government, even Constitutional stewardship. Caught in the nebulous orbit of the nefarious matter sits successive Queensland Premiers, Chief Justices, a serving Prime Minister and a serving Governor-General. The latter two being the highest positions in Australian government.
On Monday, Tim Carmody handed down his report: it has received almost no media coverage, has appeared on only one radio program, but it is, without doubt, the most contentious report ever handed down on Government since Federation in 1901.
Carmody makes clear that those stewards, those at the very apex of Australian Government, be prosecuted for the wilful destruction of documents with the express purpose of covering-up the pack rape of a fourteen year old girl, a ward of the state, in the 1980s.
On 24 May, 1988, 7 children, 3 teachers, a staff psychologist and a youth worker, all attached to the John Oxley Youth Centre in Queensland, undertook a scheduled outing. By the end of the day, four boys had absconded (to be later captured by police) and a fourteen year old Aboriginal girl had been pack raped. A litany of judgement errors, failures of policing, and a scared teenage girl, all culminated in no person, even to this day, being charged with the sexual assault of that young girl – or even charges being laid against any of the 5 supervisors who oversaw the criminal rape of a minor in their care.
No one even lost their job.
A year later a special ministerial commission of inquiry was established, under Noel Heiner. From 1989 until this week, in 2013, there have been 11 separate enquiries on the matter, allegations of cover-ups at the very highest levels of the Australian Government, illegal destruction of documents, and the Australian Labor Party refusing the presentation of key Judicial matters to Parliament.
The Heiner Inquiry revealed systemic emotional, physical and sexual abuse of wards of state at the John Oxley Youth Centre, and a culture of child abuse within Queensland child welfare services in general. When it became clear that criminal and civil actions could proceed against it, in 1990, the Wayne Goss Labor cabinet, then under the control of now Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, ordered the destruction of all materials and evidence pertinent to the Heiner Inquiry including all Government communications regarding the matter.
The matter shifted immediately from Heiner Inquiry to Heiner Affair.
Here was a Government, openly and recklessly, destroying papers it had been court ordered to preserve for future criminal and civil proceedings.
Carmody found that the order for the destruction had been “most likely” authorised through a billet-doux. This is a meeting of the Premier’s Office with key public service personnel to discuss the upcoming Cabinet meeting, to agree on a position for each item on the Cabinet agenda. Crucially, it was in this meeting that the decision to order the shredding and destruction of all the evidence relating to the John Oxley Youth Centre and Heiner inquiry.
Kevin Rudd, the now Prime Minister of Australia, was then Chief of Staff to the Queensland Premier, a position he had held since 1988. The billet-doux was his baby, he would have been involved in it, completely.
The State Archivist was ordered to destroy the documents and evidence on the grounds it may have been “defamatory” to individuals if publicly released. The order did not indicate that the evidence was under a preservation order, the subject of an official Commission of Inquiry; nor did it reveal that solicitors had specifically requested the documents be made available to them.
On 23 March, 1990, a State Archivist accompanied the Cabinet Secretary, Ken Littleboy, to the Family Services Building with a box of evidence, audio and video tape and data tapes – and destroyed it all.
Tim Carmody found that the order to destroy these documents, and the act of their destruction, was a criminal offence: “On 5 March 1990 wilfully destroying a document that is known to, or may, be required in a ‘judicial proceeding’ so as to prevent it from being used in evidence was a Criminal Code offence under section 129.”
Interestingly, Carmody’s final report does not mention Kevin Rudd by name.
In 2003, the then Queensland Governor, Quentin Bryce, ordered on behalf of Labor Premier Beattie (who had taken over from Labor PremierWayne Goss) a report into the Heiner Affair. Upon completion of the report, Bryce and Beattie refused to make the report public, only adding fuel to the fire that the cover-up now reached the highest office in Queensland.
Interestingly, as a corollary, both Bryce and Beattie did make a similar report into child sexual abuse within the Anglican Church public, as a purely political device to embarrass the Liberal Federal Government under John Howard and force the then Governor-General, former Anglican Archbishop Peter Hollingsworth, to resign.
On 5 September, 2008, Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appointed Quentin Bryce as the Governor-General of Australia.
From 1989 until 2010, a series of enquiries were undertaken into the matters of paedophilia, rape and child abuse within Queensland’s child welfare and protection organisations. It was not until the Labor Government was blown out of office that a new Liberal National Government could start digging into the truth: and a shocking truth had been revealed. It shows that Labor Ministers actively covered-up and may have participated in the serial sexual abuse of children, creating a culture where sexual abuse was tolerated, even promoted, within the services – and investigations were doomed from the outset.
In 2010, the 14 year old victim of 1989 received an ex gratia payment of $140,000 from the Anna Bligh Labor Government. Payment she describes as hush money.
All she has ever wanted was for the boys that raped her and the people that covered it up to be prosecuted for their crimes.
First she was raped by her peers; she was raped again when those charged with protecting her refused to be her voice; only to be raped again and again by the system, over the next 22 years.
In 2012 the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard established the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse. The matters resulting from the Carmody report must be urgently reviewed under the broader auspices of the Royal Commission.
Next, the Queensland Government needs to establish a Parliamentary Inquiry that has the power to call Kevin Rudd, Quentin Bryce and many other prominent Labor officials and appointments to account for their role in covering-up the wide-scale child sex abuse under their own command.
Finally, the Queensland Department of Public Prosecution must order a criminal investigation by Queensland Police into the destruction of documents and the systemic cover-up of paedophilia by successive Labor governments, Ministers and political appointees across that State.
Labor must be held account; it is the only political party in Australian history to have so many convicted paedophiles in its ranks – and the only Governments to so outrageously and blatantly cover up these heinous crimes against children. It is a political party that has found itself at the centre of the biggest corruption scandal in western democratic history, anywhere, ever.
With such a tawdry criminal record the Labor Party would, in any other democracy on Earth, be labelled a criminal syndicate, banned from ever again contesting civil elections.
This is not a politically partisan attack, this is just a statement of fact.
We can not, as a society, allow such people to ever again hold power and authority over children its members see only as sexual chattel; to do anything less will mean we condemn future generations to the same depravity and fate we see parading before our courts, here and now.
24 December, 2013
SALVOS SACKED ON NAURU
...while interpreters still side with the illegals on Christmas Is.
A Christmas Island resident has expressed disgust to The Pickering Post at how Salvation Army employees, supported by Iranian and Afghani interpreters, have been instructing arrivals on how to cheat the system. “It’s beyond belief how we are paying them to actually coach the illegal arrivals to circumvent Australian regulations”, he said.
The Left wing Guardian On-line has dishonestly reported how distressed Iranian “asylum seekers” had made the journey without sanitation and arrived covered in faeces. “That’s simply not true said the resident”, who asked not to be named. “I’ve seen every boat arrive here and it seemed like most had been shopping at Harrods.
“Many women had bandages on their noses which we later found to have been nose jobs undergone en route in Malaysia. Some women had recent breast augmentations and had demanded mirrors so they could see how they looked.”
As reported here last week, the Salvos have been infiltrated by Green activists in Nauru who were advising male Tamil inmates on communal masturbation techniques. Since that report, the Government has cancelled The Salvation Army contract.
Illegal arrivals are being convinced to convert to Christianity (or at least to say they have) because the chances of being sent back home are far less if they can claim religious persecution.
Interpreters on Christmas Island are also telling women that their chances of getting to the Australian mainland are greater if they get pregnant.
“It’s a bloody joke”, said the Christmas Island informant. “This lot didn’t like the bloody toothpaste so a whole pallet load of Colgate was dumped in landfill and a new pallet of the preferred Macleans was flown in from Perth. “They didn’t fancy cricket as a sport either (they had permission to use the local residents’ cricket ground) so they demanded hockey sticks. Canberra agreed and quickly despatched 40 hockey sticks. "The trouble was that they were ice hockey sticks complete with a box of pucks.”
What is disturbing is that Green activists, operating as “Pink Salvos”, have undermined the good work the Salvos were doing. As a result they have suffered ignominious reputational damage and have been told their services are no longer required.
But most disturbing are the thousands of genuinely destitute refugees whose places are being taken by queue-jumping, well-heeled, illegal immigrants who are chauffeured around Jakarta airport duty-free shops before being escorted to smugglers’ boats, sans life jackets.
The loopy Greens, Gillard and Rudd have much to answer for
The Labor party's legacy of debt and destruction will hit us all
JOE Hockey must feel like a two-time victim of history. When he was first elected to parliament in 1996, the Coalition had just inherited an economy and a budget in trouble.
Labor had left John Howard and Peter Costello facing a deficit of $8 billion and a trade imbalance that had racked up a foreign debt of around $180 billion.
At least Labor had left them with the tools to fix it - in the macro-economic and productivity reforms undertaken by Keating and Hawke. They were also blessed to have stepped into government as the mining boom was about to get into full swing. They also still had big government assets to sell, such as Telstra.
Now, 17 years later, the Coalition has come to power claiming the burden of once again having to clean up a fiscal and economic mess left to them by a Labor government.
This task now falls to Hockey. And it is gargantuan. The fundamental difference between the tasks given to Costello and Hockey is that while Gillard and Rudd may have left Hockey with the problems, the economic cycle is in reverse.
There are few if none of the high value assets left to sell.
And the next wave of reforms that were needed to set the budget up to handle it were left to chance, which should be recognised as a fundamental failure of the Rudd/Gillard government to make the same sort of “express declaratory policy”, as Paul Keating once described his reform agenda.
Instead they wound back workplace flexibility, re-regulated financial services, dragged the chain on free trade, re-regulated taxation policy and introduced 22,000 new regulations.
The simple storyline is that Australia has come to the end of its terms of trade boom with falling productivity and an impenetrable sea of regulation. And the government has no money left to respond.
The perfect storm will come when all these factors converge with the ageing population and a declining tax base.
For people who can’t make sense of all the numbers that the government has thrown around this week to drill home the point that the country is in for a period of pain, Reserve Bank boss Glenn Stevens provided words that anyone should easily understand.
We are all going to have to change the way we think about government. It can no longer pay for the things people have come to expect them to.
Most Australians would have become familiar with the term “underlying structural deficit”. It is a problem in the budget that has been talked about for at least the past decade, although it started long before that. But it is now coming home to roost.
Both Labor and the Coalition government before it are to blame for it. The social spending and middle-class welfare that began under Howard and accelerated under Labor has become unsustainable.
Hockey knows that this will be politically difficult to unwind. His success ultimately can only be measured in levels of unpopularity.
The biggest drag on the economy over the next three years will be a lack of political will - and bipartisanship - to get it done.
This week’s mid-year budget update was as much a political manifesto for the Coalition as a financial record of the state of the nation.
With only a few days to Christmas, Hockey’s fear will be that its message will be lost over summer. So in case you weren’t listening, this is the message that the Treasurer wants Australians to take to Christmas:
"People are going to have to start taking personal responsibility for their lives."
This will come as a shock to an entire generation of Australians who have never experienced rising unemployment. But the culture of government bailing people out is over.
If this wasn’t clear enough in the attitude that it has taken to Holden, Qantas and SPC, it will become blindingly apparent when it starts hacking into the transfer payments system.
The changes to come that Hockey was trying to soften the nation up for this week will require a dramatic cultural change in Australia.
And it is as blunt as this: government will not be there to help us out.
Racist Muslim spokesman loses defamation case against radio station
The report below is from 4 years ago. I report it here because Trad has just lost his final appeal against the judgment. He will be up for hundreds of thousands of legal costs but the Lakemba mosque will no doubt help with that
KEYSAR Trad, the longtime spokesman for Muslim cleric Sheik Taj bin al-Hilaly, has been described as "racist" and "offensive" by a judge who today rejected his defamation claim against radio station 2GB.
Mr Trad sued the top-rating Sydney station in the NSW Supreme Court after presenter Jason Morrison described him "gutless" and " just trouble" for his conduct at a rally after the Cronulla riots in December 2005, The Australian reported.
Mr Trad's comment about the "shame of tabloid journalism' caused the crowd to boo and harass a 2GB journalist near the stage.
The reporter told Mr Morrison he feared for his safety, prompting the presenter to deliver his tirade the following morning, in which he also described Mr Trad as "disgraceful and dangerous individual who incited violence, hatred and racism."
In August 2007, a jury found Mr Morrison had defamed Mr Trad but Justice Peter McClellan found for 2GB in the second - or defence - phase of the trial that was heard in May, saying the statement were true and also protected as comment based on fact.
"There is little doubt that many of the plaintiff's remarks are offensive to Jewish persons and homosexuals," Justice McClellan said in his judgment.
"Many of his remarks are distasteful and appear to condone violence. "I'm satisfied that the plaintiff does hold views which can properly be described as racist. "I'm also satisfied that he encourages others to hold those views. In particular he holds views derogatory of Jewish people.
"The views which he holds would not be acceptable to most right-thinking Australians."
Mr Trad, who founded the Islamic Friendship Association, faces up to $400,000 in court costs and there are question marks over his credibility after Justice McClellan's scathing judgment.
During the trial he was subjected to close scrutiny about his public profile as Sheik Hilaly's right-hand man and he frequent statements he made to "clarify" the controversial views of the cleric.
These included comments that women who dressed provocatively were "uncovered meat" inviting the attention of rapists.
Mr Trad suggested Hilaly was "talking about people who engage in extramarital sex."
Neither Mr Trad or Mr Morrison were at Sydney's Supreme Court to hear the judgment. Outside court, a representative for Mr Trad said he planned to appeal.
Human rights narcissism: time for the axe
In recent days, there have been two appalling mob-frenzy attacks on Twitter, one attacking a young American woman, Justine Sacco, who was sacked from her job as a result of a single inept, mis-interpreted tweet. The other was an American reality TV star, Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty, for criticising homosexuality, while at the same time saying people should treat gays with kindness. He has been suspended by his network, A&E.
Free speech has never been more contested terrain. It does not help that there is a creeping rise of more bureaucracy, more direction, more codes and more compunction that are, by their very nature, an intrusion by the state into the lives of its citizens. Look no further than the scorching of Tim Wilson for having been appointed a Human Rights Commissioner last week, as if a libertarian has no place in the culture of human rights.
In a caustic analysis in Saturday's Herald of how Wilson, the director of policy at the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne, was appointed a commissioner, someone at the Human Rights Commission was quick to smear Wilson, anonymously:
"He has got no relevant qualifications at all. He has been a climate change denier, has done no law, little policy, he has an arts degree and a masters in something but he had no technical qualifications in this field at all. I would say most of the staff are better qualified than Tim is."
Meow. Anonymous quotes are the most dubious tool in the journalist's toolbox as there's so little accountability. I avoid them and use them sparingly. When journalists quote sources inside the bureaucracy or government it is nearly always near the top of the organisation because these are the people journalists deal with.
So this smear gets to the core of what is wrong with the Human Rights Commission and why the Attorney-General, George Brandis, is naive to think that by appointing a libertarian like Wilson, who is also gay, he is going to start to turn this deeply, slyly ideological organisation around. It is implacable.
In the last financial year, the commission spent $33.6 million running itself. Looking at the highlights in its latest annual report, the commission did some good work but nothing that could not be handled by a division of the Attorney-General's Department. It also did a great deal of make-work. It is clearly a bureaucracy in search of relevance.
The annual report, like the smear on Wilson, reflects the institutional narcissism of the commission, which exhibits the same characteristics of the individual functional narcissist:
1. An overdeveloped sense of one's unique worth.
2. An ability to talk a good game and elicit support.
3. An ability to express sympathy, but not empathy.
4. A deep self-absorption, masked by 1, 2 and 3.
5. Highly critical of others.
6. Yet easily aggrieved when criticised.
7. Incapable of taking blame.
Having observed the actions of human rights commissioners for more than 20 years, I believe Australia would be better served if the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 was repealed and the commission disbanded. Even such complete liquidation would not compensate for the commission's role in facilitating the greatest calumny ever made against Australia: that Australian governments committed genocide against the Aborigines. When this claim was tested in the courts it disintegrated. The commission has never paid a price for this divisive, corrosive and counterproductive lie. Like all narcissists, it cannot even see what it did wrong, let alone admit it or atone.
The Wilson gesture will probably prove to be a sideshow. With the new government facing a debt and deficit mountain, it should be taking a chainsaw to redundant bureaucracies and redundant laws. But that would require real steel, and Brandis, by tinkering, has just shown it is not there.
23 December, 2013
Aboriginal body investigated over misuse of funds
Misuse is absolutely routine for government-funded Aboriginal welfare schemes -- JR
The Australian Crime Commission has been investigating financial dealings associated with one of the nation's most important Aboriginal organisations, which delivers services to an area bigger than Britain.
The Global Mail and Fairfax Media have learnt that two men who have worked closely with Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation, which is based in the remote Northern Territory town of Tennant Creek, have recently assisted a commission investigator inquiring into the use of corporation money.
Although an ACC spokeswoman said that her organisation "cannot comment on who it is or is not investigating", the commission's national indigenous intelligence taskforce probes abuses of power and trust as part of its brief, alongside its main job of gathering intelligence on child abuse.
Controversy over the management of Julalikari, which services the massive Barkly region, where four out of five people are indigenous, is central to a rift within the Aboriginal leadership in Tennant Creek, 1000 kilometres south of Darwin.
A series of complaints has led several Canberra agencies to take a closer look at the operations of Julalikari, a housing body which also runs aged care and night patrols, work-for-the-dole and training programs, and delivers municipal services to Tennant Creek's town camps and remote communities. The two most serious complaints that have come to light are that:
In a town with a severe housing crisis and chronic overcrowding, demountable buildings purchased by Julalikari three years ago with $2 million of public money for housing and community centres, are lying unused and, in at least one case, trashed. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said it was "aware that the project has not been delivered properly".
Monies spent by Julalikari have allegedly been mismanaged. The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations earlier this year commissioned a special audit of Julalikari's accounts, following serious allegations of mismanagement by a former employee. ORIC says it is not now investigating Julalikari. But Julalikari's management declared, in a newspaper advertisement it took out in October this year, that ORIC has carried out an audit which found there had been no wrongdoing under any law or under Julalikari's own rules.
Within Julalikari, there have been moves to oust its charismatic general manager, Pat Brahim, who sits on numerous government committees. She chairs the advisory body for the Aboriginals Benefit Account, which (under federal government scrutiny) grants money from royalties paid by resources companies on the proceeds of mining indigenous lands.
Brahim has strenuously defended Julalikari against allegations that the organisation has suffered significant financial loss through nepotism and corruption. She says opposition to her organisation's management was driven by non-Aboriginal people in the town.
However, in the course of an investigation conducted over several months, we have found that Julalikari's critics were correct in at least one respect: Canberra has failed to ensure public monies were properly spent. At Tingkarli town camp, for instance, we found children playing inside a ruined demountable, which had been intended to serve as a community centre but is now a wreck of smashed windows, pocked fibre walls and gaping flooring.
Barefoot kids jumped from joist to joist, dodging the exposed nail heads in this flimsy building which, unconnected to utilities, has not hosted one community event since it was erected more than three years ago.
The children's only alternative playground is the street, or a dirt field, which people often drive across as a back road to the camp. When we visited, about 12 youngsters, aged from three years to teenaged, were playing house in the tattered demountable. They had made the skeletal remains of one room a kitchen and hung a makeshift curtain. But even as we watched, a little boy cut his foot. A small girl grazed her leg. Their siblings carried them away.
"It's not safe there now. The fibres are ripped apart. Sharp things stick out. Bricks are hanging down; what if they fall on top of them [the children]?" says Tingkarli resident Kelisha Green, 19.
Four other community centres and three bedsitter flats in kit form, which Julalikari bought using a June 2009 allocation of $2 million from the Aboriginals Benefit Account, also remained uncompleted.
None of these buildings "meets the needs of Aboriginal people and I doubt they'd meet the needs of anybody, including non-indigenous people", says Barb Shaw, the Barkly Shire Council president. She adds that people in the blue-ribbon Melbourne suburb of Toorak would never tolerate such small, hot quarters.
"To me they looked like temporary public toilet blocks that would have been put up for a festival or a carnival," Shaw says.
The Tingkarli demountable, plonked on a site without services, next door to the worn-out cement-block community centre it was meant to replace, symbolises government failure to track proper use of public funding, says Linda Turner, chairwoman of the local Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation.
Brahim says the demountable debacle was not Julalikari's fault. She says the Northern Territory government had failed to connect the buildings to services because of timing; it cut short a contract with workers who were meant to do the job.
She says Julalikari has asked the Territory government to pay for the power and water to be connected to the bedsits.
"The damage that you saw at Tingkarli, that was family members that allowed their children to do that," Brahim says.
"We've gone back to talk to them, to say that what we're going to do is take the demountable away and demolish the old community centre, the frame that's up there, and we're not going to put anything back there because … families are allowing their kids to go in and do the destroying, so there is no pride."
Shaw says it is unfair to blame the families. "Government have to take this responsibility. They have to be accountable for it," she says.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet responds: "We have been working closely with Julalikari to ensure the matter is resolved and the buildings are able to be used by the community as intended. The department expects the demountables to be properly completed and fit for use." However, Turner and Shaw believe that the federal government needs better checks to ensure funding produces results, including actually going to see how funds are being spent.
Tennant Creek has been divided on questions relating to Julalikari's money management since an unsigned copy of a December 2012 letter, written by Colin Gilson, a former Westpac bank regional manager who had worked as the organisation's director of community wealth, began to circulate early this year.
This letter, a copy of which we have obtained, was sent to former federal Aboriginal Affairs minister Jenny Macklin. In it, Gilson alleges that the dealings of Julalikari have been compromised by mismanagement, nepotism and corruption.
He alleges that such malpractice resulted in a "state of chaos" in the organisation's construction arm, and on spending money from the federal government's CDEP "work for the dole" scheme on items that were outside the government's regulations. He also alleges that equipment, including 20 generator sets and a $120,000 roller, had been stolen by Julalikari insiders. Gilson stands by his allegations.
Brahim has rebutted all such allegations. She said Gilson was motivated to try to discredit Julalikari by the fact that he was "an ex-employee, disgruntled, and he'd been terminated".
Shaw says it is "critical" that Tony Abbott, who has declared himself the "Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs", visit the Tennant Creek town camps.
"I don't see a federal minister coming to Tennant Creek and going out and visiting these Aboriginal families and seeing what's actually on the ground," she says.
Private ownership works for Aborigines too
Almost 10 years ago, the leader of an East Arnhem Aboriginal community arrived unannounced at CIS asking for help. His community’s children were not receiving any education so he feared that they would be condemned to a life on welfare. This plea led to the CIS finding practical assistance for the community and the development of our Indigenous program.
Since then, with volunteer helpers, the community has moved forward in parallel with CIS’ Indigenous policy development. Our research exposed the failure of ‘culturally appropriate’ Indigenous education while the Baniyala community now has an excellent school with the highest Indigenous school attendance in the Northern Territory.
From education, the focus has moved to housing. The community wants decent homes instead of the sub-standard dwellings into which they have been crowded. In keeping with the CIS’ liberal philosophy, we support home ownership as an alternative to public housing.
Over the last 50 years, 20% of Australia has been returned to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ownership. Few know that this land was returned without the provision for individual land title. Australia’s Indigenous lands are the largest area on earth where you are not allowed to own your home. All prosperous societies combine good governance of communal assets such as roads, parks and hospitals, with private ownership of homes and business. On Australia’s vast Indigenous lands, communal governance is poor and private ownership is non-existent. The misery of remote communities on Indigenous lands is the result.
This East Arnhem community commenced negotiations with governments and their statutory organisations to introduce 99 year leases for private housing. Progress has been slow.
To move private housing along, two modest houses have been built in Baniyala for private rental. These houses have kitchens and bathrooms - unlike the public housing provided in remote outstations. Two families now rent these houses. One family – parents plus children – was previously ‘housed’ in an 18 feet ‘donga’ container. The other family shared bedrooms in a dwelling that would be condemned as ‘unfit for human habitation’ outside Aboriginal Australia. In their new houses, these families are planting gardens and taking advantage of ‘quiet enjoyment’ – the right of a tenant or landowner to undisturbed use and enjoyment of property. When leases over the housing blocks are issued, the tenants have the option of getting a mortgage and buying these houses.
These first two houses built for private rental and ownership have easily disproved the mantras about housing on Indigenous land. For years it has been claimed that construction costs are too high and Indigenous incomes too low, and that unlike other Australians, Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders do not want to own their homes. These are excuses used to hide the discriminatory state and federal policies that deny individual property rights on Indigenous land. The CIS and a handful of volunteers are helping a remote Northern Territory community to drive changes in these policies
PM Tony Abbott pledges to ease the way for overseas adoption
Tony Abbott says he wants to make it "much much easier" for Australian couples to adopt children from overseas, saying tens of thousands of babies could be brought to Australia from orphanages.
The Prime Minister invited Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman and his wife, the adoption advocate Deborra-Lee Furness, to Kirribilli House on Thursday to announce that his government would deliver "reform on overseas adoption" within 12 months.
"There are millions of children in orphanages overseas who would love to have parents," Mr Abbott said. "And thousands of those, maybe even tens of thousands of those could come to Australia. "And we need to make it easier for that to happen."
Mr Abbott said that "for too long, adoption has been in the too-hard basket". "For too long it has been too hard to adopt and for too long this has been a policy no-go zone," he said. "That must change . . . And it will change within 12 months."
Mr Abbott said he did not underestimate the complexity of changing laws to make it easier for Australians to adopt children.
He has ordered the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to establish an interdepartmental committee on overseas adoption.
Mr Abbott said the government would work with premiers and chief ministers through the Council of Australian Governments process "to try to ensure overseas adoption is working in the best way possible".
"The committee will consult extensively and report to me in March 2014 including on the immediate steps that could be taken to make inter-country adoption easier and faster for Australian couples," Mr Abbott said.
The committee's report will be discussed at the next COAG meeting in April 2014.
Mr Abbott was also joined at Kirribilli House by NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell and NSW Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward.
Ms Furness, who founded the National Adoption Awareness Week, is a globally-recognised adoption advocate. She is the executive director of the Worldwide Orphans Foundation, patron of the Lighthouse Foundation for homeless youth and the International Adoption Families of Queensland.
Bureaucratic hurdles around Australia's adoption process have been a key focus of Ms Furness' advocacy, after she and her husband decided to adopt their children, Oscar and Ava, through the United States system.
In a speech to the Press Club earlier this year, Ms Furness slammed Australia's "anti-adoption culture" and said that extreme bureaucratic hurdles and invasive process deterred many would-be parents, leaving Australia with one of the lowest adoption rates in the world.
Adoption campaigners have also lobbied for a streamlined adoption process for the 18,000 children in Australia's care system, whereby adoption would be made available to foster parents after six months.
Ms Furness said on Thursday she was ecstatic, after years of adoption advocacy, to have support from the highest levels of government. "We always knew we needed a champion and a leader within government to bring about change," she said. "So let's aim for the top. I'm thrilled to have the Prime Minister on board."
Yet despite Mr Abbott's enthusiasm, a leading adoption advocate says the last thing Australia needs is another review into the adoption system when the federal and state governments had not "implemented the recommendations from the last one".
Ricky Brisson, the national coordinator for the Australian InterCountry Adoption Network, said the Abbott government should already know what it needs to do to fix the broken adoption system.
A 2005 review of the adoption system launched by Bronwyn Bishop, had identified the problems being spoken about today, she said.
"Each state has different legislation, policies and criteria", Mrs Brisson said, adding that varying requirements around factors such as age and length of marriage meant that people who started their assessment in one state would be forced to reapply when they moved states.
Why Jaydon can't read
In the most recent international assessment of primary school literacy achievement - the Progress in Reading Literacy Study 2011 - Australian and New Zealand students were at the bottom of the rankings for English-speaking countries. One in four Year 4 students in Australia and New Zealand failed to achieve the international benchmark for literacy that allows good progress through school.
This is not a new problem. Other international assessments and national testing programs like NAPLAN show an entrenched proportion of students with low reading levels after four or more years of formal schooling. Millions of words have been written and billions of dollars have been spent on government programs trying to fix this problem, to no avail.
The one thing that has not been tried is the one thing most likely to work - effective, evidence-based reading instruction in every classroom. A robust body of scientific evidence finds that effective reading instruction has five essential components - phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. For early success in reading, these skills must be taught explicitly and systematically.
Numerous reviews, surveys and inquiries have found that teaching degrees in Australian universities are not preparing teachers sufficiently well in these reading instruction strategies, based on scientific evidence of 'what works.' Education academics often argue that there are other kinds of evidence, such as case studies, qualitative research and action research. Such studies can provide useful information, but cannot be considered in the same league as studies using scientific methodology and which provide measurable and replicable results.
Reliance on poor quality evidence is not confined to university education faculties; it also plagues government policy development. Literacy policy has been routinely undermined by a failure to understand that reading research, especially as it applies to the early years and for struggling readers, is a highly scientific and specific discipline. Generalist educators and bureaucrats do not have the expertise required to guide policy in this area.
The new Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, plans to establish an advisory committee to guide policy development. The committee will have a strong document to work from - the report of the 2005 National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy. Hopefully some of Australia's internationally-regarded reading experts will be called upon to finally put it into action.
22 December, 2013
A specious defence of Judge Mordecai Bromberg in the Bolt free-speech case
The long and windy article below can be severely condensed with very little loss but I reproduce it in full for the sake of fairness. The article simply regurgitates what Bromberg said about Andrew Bolt's wrong "facts" in Bolt's articles about white "Aborigines".
Bromberg said he was not against free speech but merely opposed to Bolt making claims of fact that were not true. On that basis most issues of most Australian newspapers would be worthy of punishment. They often present as facts things that are not true (many global warming claims, for instance). The remedy for that however is for someone to present more accurate facts at a later date, not to involve the judiciary. Note that this was not a libel case but an anti-discrimination case.
And the examples of wrong facts given are tendentious. Everything Bolt said does have a basis in fact as far as I can see. Bolt was condemned for saying that "Anita Heiss had won "plum jobs"" when the job concerned was an unpaid one. But who says a "plum" job had to be a paid one? For many people fame and prestige are a bigger prize than money and the job concerned would undoubtedly have conferred a modicum of fame and prestige.
And note the hilarious claim below that Heiss's other appointments were not prejudiced because "Neither the arts board position nor the university job was reserved for indigenous applicants". Who said they were? The formal rules and the private criteria can be very different -- and given the ubiquity of "affirmative action" thinking among Leftists, there can be little doubt about what actually tipped the balance.
I could go on along those lines in discussing Bolt's other condemned facts but I think that readers can probably do their own dissections without further help from me.
And in the end Bromberg lets his own case down by conceding that he really thought that Bolt was being racist. Read with care the second-last paragraph below and you will see. That Bolt was motivated solely by a disgust at Aboriginal welfare provisions being ripped off was clearly not visible to Bromberg.
I am not surprised that Bromberg was over-sensitive about matters involving race. He is Jewish and Jews have a history which makes that understandable. But arriving at a strained judgment largely on the basis of his own sensitivities was very unjudicial. He should have recused himself from the case.
During the 12 months since journalist Andrew Bolt was found guilty of breaching racial discrimination laws — on the basis that his published facts were wrong — error and invective have continued to warp the debate.
Has Australia just experienced one of the great media heists in modern history?
It's a year since the Eatock v Bolt decision was announced on September 28, 2011, in the Federal Court, a landmark case brought under Australia's Racial Discrimination Act. And much of the subsequent commentary has been — like the Andrew Bolt articles that triggered the case — filled with errors and designed to sting.
For example, Justice Bromberg's judgment has been seriously misreported. Parts of it have been ignored completely.
It's telling that we should still need to ask: What was the real reason Bolt and the Herald and Weekly Times (HWT) were found to be in breach of the Act? How many untruths were published? And what motivated this "offensive conduct reinforcing, encouraging or emboldening racial prejudice"?
The applicant was Pat Eatock, a fair-skinned Aborigine, who brought the suit on behalf of herself and others, who claimed Melbourne's Herald Sun had accused them of pretending to be Aboriginal to gain benefits fraudulently. Attempts at conciliation had failed.
Rupert Murdoch’s HWT declined to appeal. Instead, it commenced a vigorous — and extraordinarily successful — campaign in the court of public opinion to undermine the judgment.
The applicants claimed two of Bolt's articles published in 2009, titled 'It's so hip to be black' ('White is the New Black' online) and 'White fellas in the black', were derisive and riddled with fabrications.
Justice Bromberg found in their favour. His findings were "that fair-skinned Aboriginal people (or some of them) were reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to have been offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated by the imputations conveyed by the newspaper articles" (summary 17); and:
"I have not been satisfied that the offensive conduct that I have found occurred, is exempted from unlawfulness by section 18D [guaranteeing free speech]. The reasons for that conclusion have to do with the manner in which the articles were written, including that they contained errors of fact, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language." (summary 23)
Rupert Murdoch's HWT declined to appeal. Instead, it commenced a vigorous — and extraordinarily successful — campaign in the court of public opinion to undermine the judgment.
To understand the process of attempting to undermine the judgment in the minds of readers, we need to grasp the intent of two provisions in the Racial Discrimination Act.
Section 18C requires that the articles were "reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people …" Hence for the HWT to have been in breach of the law, offence taken must be established.
The judge found that the applicants had been offended. That wasn't hard. Both sides knew this to be so beforehand. The contest wasn't about whether or not offence had been caused.
The case was about 18D, the vital section guaranteeing liberty of opinion and freedom of speech. "Freedom of expression is an essential component of a tolerant and pluralistic democracy," Bromberg asserted early in the proceedings.
The judge made it clear that 18D protects any opinion, however obnoxious or offensive — provided it is genuinely held, for academic, artistic or scientific purpose, or in the public interest, or in publishing a fair and accurate media report.
He repeatedly reinforced this: "Those opinions will at times be ill-considered. They may be obstinate, exaggerated or simply wrong. But that, of itself, provides no valid basis for the law to curtail the expression of opinion."
The issue central to the case was not whether Bolt's article was an expression of opinion, but whether the factual allegations on which that opinion was based were accurate. This question occupied most of the court's time and is the subject of the greater part of the judgment.
So the case was clearly not about freedom of opinion. It was about freedom to spread untruths.
In Bolt's articles Bromberg found inferences which leave "an erroneous impression", "gratuitous references" based on "a selective misrepresentation", and omissions which "meant that the facts were not truly stated".
He found assertions "shown to be factually erroneous", comment that was "unsupported by any factual basis and erroneous", asserted facts that were "untrue" and several contentions that were "incorrect" or "grossly incorrect".
His key finding was that "in relation to most of the individuals concerned, the facts asserted in the Newspaper Articles that the people dealt with chose to identify as Aboriginal have been substantially proven to be untrue". (378)
“Freedom of expression is an essential component of a tolerant and pluralistic democracy,” Bromberg asserted early in the proceedings.
For example, Bolt wrote that Anita Heiss had won "plum jobs reserved for Aborigines" at Koori Radio, at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board and at Macquarie University. (381) The Koori Radio job was a voluntary unpaid position. Neither the arts board position nor the university job was reserved for indigenous applicants. Three untruths there. In one sentence. More damagingly, Bolt asserted that Heiss had made a conscious "decision to identify as Aboriginal" and was "lucky, given how it's helped her career". Bromberg found, however that Ms Heiss "has Aboriginal ancestry and communal recognition as an Aboriginal person." And further, "She did not consciously choose to be Aboriginal. She has not improperly used her Aboriginal identity to advance her career."
Bromberg's conclusion was emphatic: "Untruths are at the heart of racial prejudice and intolerance."
The day after the judgment, the dissembling, the skewing of commentary away from the core of the judgment began. The Herald Sun led the resistance with a front page declaring 'THIS IS A SAD DAY' with a large photo of Andrew Bolt looking, well, sad. Bolt himself declared it a "terrible day for free speech in this country".
It was then widely asserted in Murdoch outlets, much of the rest of the media and even some legal opinions that the decision had attacked and diminished freedom of opinion.
A Herald Sun piece titled 'Ruling against Andrew Bolt will harm healthy debate', say libertarians' called for the Act to be reviewed.
The article quoted 10 'libertarian' commentators besides Andrew Bolt. On careful reading, however, only two were critical of the decision: academic and former Murdoch employee Andrew Dodd and Institute of Public Affairs director John Roskam.
The campaign was underway. Brendan O'Neill wrote in The Australian, "For simply expressing his opinion about the weird fluidity of modern-day identity politics, Bolt was found guilty of racial discrimination."
O'Neill called the judgment "shocking" and an "alarming attack on journalistic liberty", and described it as having "spectacularly illiberal implications" and as serving up "a double whammy of censure and censorship".
O'Neill's published article made no reference to the multiple errors of fact made by Bolt in his articles. He did quote paragraph 23 of the judgment, shown in full above, but the published piece omitted the two key phrases, thus:
"He [Bromberg] slated Bolt for 'the manner in which the articles were written', for their 'inflammatory and provocative language'."
What happened to "they contained errors of fact" and "distortions of the truth"? Gone. Edited out. Bolt himself was quick to quote O'Neill's treatise.
Former Liberal candidate Chris Kenny also railed in The Australianthat the finding "has drastic implications for free speech". He acknowledged there were misrepresentations. But, hey, so what?
"Errors are always unfortunate and sometimes egregious but in this case they are hardly the central point," Kenny wrote. "Some of what Bromberg cites as factual error is more a matter of emphasis. It is a canard to suggest the case was about disputed facts: it was about apparent offence caused by Bolt's controversial and strongly worded opinion."
Kenny then emphasised the key Murdoch talking point: "It is Bolt's opinions and the way they were expressed that are at the heart of this case, not his facts."
Incidentally, Kenny erroneously referred also to "the now banned columns". They were not banned. They are still accessible online, with the required corrective notice.
The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) has vigorously backed News Limited. An article by the IPA's James Paterson achieved wide circulation the next day via The Drum. It was quick to assert that Bolt had been prosecuted "for expressing an unfashionable opinion".
So the case was clearly not about freedom of opinion. It was about freedom to spread untruths.
That column — also posted on the IPA website — completely ignored the untruths, misrepresentations and omissions made by Bolt, noting disingenuously that he had merely written "a couple of controversial articles".
Not surprisingly, Fairfax media ran significantly different analyses. "Bolt was wrong. Spectacularly wrong," wrote David Marr in The Sydney Morning Herald.
"Freedom of speech is not at stake here," Marr argued. "Judge Mordecai Bromberg is not telling the media what we can say or where we can poke our noses. He's attacking lousy journalism. He's saying that if Andrew Bolt of the Herald Sun wants to accuse people of appalling motives, he should start by getting his facts right."
This was a minority view, however, drowned out by louder voices. Among lawyers to comment was Professor James Allan of the University of Queensland. In The Australian he called for the Act to be repealed. "Start with section 18C, the provision relied on against Bolt," he wrote.
Allan continued, "But on top of that, Bromberg decided that the onus of proof for triggering the section 18D exemption lay on Bolt and, anyway, that the articles as written were not reasonable nor written in good faith. It is not at all clear on what basis the judge comes to those latter conclusions other than he thinks Bolt was being gratuitously offensive, that Bolt made a few factual errors…"
Firstly, onus of proof for 18D has always been on the respondent. (paragraph 337) It rests with the applicant for 18C.
Secondly, the judge made the basis for his conclusions perfectly clear: "The deficiencies I have relied upon … are about deficiencies in truth. The lack of truth in conduct which contravenes 18C, seems to me to have an obvious bearing on whether the conduct should be exempted from unlawfulness by s 18D." (386)
Thirdly, there were not "a few factual errors". There were many. Some "grossly incorrect".
So how many errors were there? In all the volumes of commentary it seems no-one has counted them.
The Herald Sun's hometown rival newspaper, The Age, began a list in the early aftermath of the judgment, in an article gleefully titled "Andrew Bolt: Australia's least accurate columnist?"
The Age was content to stop at 13. Bromberg in fact identified at least 19 errors — in two articles. (Paragraphs 351 to 413)
Since the judgment, comments in the blogosphere have amplified the flawed analysis of the judgment and Bolt's professionalism.
Henry Thornton declared, "Bolt's mistake was to put unwelcome truths into print, to point out that the Emperor has no clothes …" Again, there's no reference whatsoever to the untruths.
And, bizarrely, "Honesty about this [Aboriginal and Torres Islander] industry is now a violation of the law as understood by the political activists who have captured control of the judicial system."
Sustained commentary throughout the past year has reinforced these strained interpretations. Despite claiming that he had been gagged, Bolt himself has maintained a continual offensive.
Last month, in The Australian Financial Review, Bolt told former opposition leader Mark Latham he was still "very depressed, very alarmed and very cynical about these laws".
"What does it say about free speech?" he asked the former Labor leader. "My columns were figuratively burned — that's what it was, it was book burning."
The remarkable success of the Murdoch campaign was confirmed last month when Opposition Leader Tony Abbott promised to repeal part of the Racial Discrimination Act.
"The article for which Andrew Bolt was prosecuted under this legislation was almost certainly not his finest. There may have been some factual errors. Still, if free speech is to mean anything, it's others' right to say what you don't like, not just what you do. It's the freedom to write badly and rudely," Abbott reassured the IPA.
Wrong and wrong. There's nothing 'may have been' about the errors. They were clearly identified — 19 of them. And the Act does not impede bad or rude writing. It impedes fabrication.
What the judge has made of the year's commentary we don't know. But we do have the view of one of his former associates.
Earlier this month Benedict Coyne, who previously spent time as Justice Bromberg's associate, responded to Mr Abbott's promise. "Mr Bolt's shoddy journalism, however, is an unlikely candidate, on its merits, to give rise to a reconsideration of part IIA of the RDA.
"The lesson that is ripe to be drawn from the facts of this litigation is, we suggest, not that section 18C should be repealed but, rather, that Mr Bolt should go back to journalism school."
Finally, why so many untruths in Bolt's pieces? Were they accidental? How so with "editorial oversight by an editor of the Herald Sun, whose function is to check articles and identify any changes that may be required"? (13)
These questions are left hanging in Bromberg's paragraph 458 regarding remedy, which has not been referred to in any analysis on record: "Mr Bolt and HWT contended that the terms of any declaration made should expressly state that the conduct in contravention of s 18C 'did not constitute and was not based on racial hatred or racial vilification'. It is contended that the inclusion of these words will facilitate the educative effect of the declaration made and contribute to informed debate. I do not regard the inclusion of the words suggested as appropriate."
So the question was left open: if, as Bolt and the HWT maintain, the articles were not indeed "racial vilification" and were not based on "racial hatred", then what were they?
Now Bromberg is doing his best to send Toyota Australia broke
Judges have discretion for a reason and Bromberg could easily have been unobstructive to Toyota. But he's got a job for life so why should he care about other people's jobs?
TOYOTA will challenge a court ruling that barred it from asking its workers to sacrifice wages and entitlements in an effort to slash costs at its Melbourne plant.
The Federal Court last week ordered the company to abandon putting a vote on a new workplace agreement to the 2500 workers at its Altona plant.
But Toyota lodged an appeal against the decision on Thursday.
Justice Mordy Bromberg found that Toyota breached the Fair Work Act by putting "further claims" in an enterprise agreement with the unions.
In his judgment, Justice Bromberg said Toyota proposed in November to vary the agreement by reducing employee entitlements, including wages.
But a group of four Toyota workers argued the proposal had breached the agreement and contravened section 50 of the Fair Work Act, and won the court's approval.
Toyota Australia president and chief executive Max Yasuda last week said the decision was a blow to the company's efforts to remain competitive in Australia.
Australia allegedly has its "hottest" year
While the global temperature remained stable, with annual average temperatures varying up and down by only tenths and hundredths of a degree -- So extra heat in Australia was balanced out by less heat in other places. In every year, some places will diverge (up or down) from the average more than other places do. That's how an average arises
2013 will go down as the year that registered Australia's hottest day, month, season, 12-month period - and, by December 31, the hottest calendar year.
Weather geeks have watched records tumble. These tallies include obscure ones, such as the latest autumn day above 45C (Western Australia's Onslow Airport at 45.6C on March 21), the hottest winter's day nationally (29.92C , August 31), and even Wednesday this week, with the hottest-ever 9am reading (44.6C, at Eyre weather station near the WA-South Australian border).
"We're smashing the records," says Professor Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of NSW. "We're not tinkering away at them - they're being absolutely blitzed."
Global interest in Australia's extraordinary year of heat flared early on. In January, when models started predicting heat that was literally off the charts, the Bureau of Meteorology added new colours to the heat maps - deep purple and pink - to accommodate maximum temperatures of 50-54 degrees. Moomba fell a shade short, reaching 49.6C on January 12.
But for Dr David Jones, head of climate analysis at the bureau, the year's stand-out event was a whole month largely overlooked by a media diverted by the football finals and federal elections. "From a climate point of view, what happened in September was probably the most remarkable," he says.
September's mean temperature soared to be 2.75 degrees above the 1961-90 average, eclipsing the previous record monthly deviation set in April 2005 by 0.09 degrees. Maximums were a stark 3.41 degrees over the norm, with South Australia's top raised by 5.39 degrees and NSW's by 4.68.
The heat swept away the previous September mean record by 1.1 degrees.
"To have 103-104 years of observations, you don't expect to break the record for a continent for a month by a degree," Jones says. "We're very fortunate we haven't had a month that anomalous in the middle of summer."
Summer was a scorcher. Sydney clocked its hottest day in records going back to 1859, with the mercury peaking at 45.8C on January 18. Hobart notched up 41.8C on January 4, its hottest in 120 years of data.
January baked, becoming Australia's hottest single month in the hottest-ever summer. The duration and area affected by the heatwaves - rather than heat spikes - came to characterise much of the year of exceptional conditions.
"January was incredibly hot for such a long time for such a large area," Jones says. "In many ways we were very fortunate not to have had a frontal system like Black Saturday [in 2009] to draw down that hot air into a coastal zone with a gale-force wind."
Fires destroyed hundreds of properties in Tasmania in January, and a similar number in NSW in October. The latter came after a remarkably warm and dry stretch, in which Sydney marked its hottest July and September, and second-warmest August and October.
Sydney's record year
"August was the first month in 2013 to see year-to-date records for Sydney," says Dr Aaron Coutts-Smith, head of climate monitoring in NSW for the bureau. "September onwards pushed us ahead."
Sydney's year will break the city's record for maximum and probably also mean temperatures, Coutts-Smith says. The former was running at 23.6C before Friday's blast of summer heat - well ahead of the previous high of 23.3C set in 2004.
The harbour city's average maximum is about 1.9C above the long-term norm - enough to match a typical year in Byron Bay, about 800 kilometres up the coast.
Australians might want to get out a map to consider conditions further north than where they live. Hot years are now about two to three degrees warmer than cool ones 100 years ago.
"It's a very large change," Jones says. "That's the equivalent of moving in the order of 300-400 kilometres closer to the equator."
Nowhere below average
For Australia, the year to beat for heat was 2005, when national mean temperatures were 1.03 degrees above the long-term average. As at the end of November, the country was tracking 1.25 degrees above the norm, with a hotter-than-usual December expected.
"As best as we can tell, not a single part of Australia has seen below-average temperatures for this year," Jones says, noting that the country hasn't had a cooler-than-average year for almost two decades.
Global temperatures are rising too. Last month was the hottest November in records going back to the 1880s, the US government reported this week. That put 2013 on track to be the fourth-hottest on record - behind 2010, in first place, and 2005 and 1998, roughly equal second.
Jones dismisses claims regularly aired by climate sceptics that the planet stopped warming in 1998.
Really? Only in his dreamworld. Below is the actual global temperature record for the 21st century. It oscillates but there is no rising trend. Note that it is calibrated in tenths of one degree. ALSO note that what he says about 1998 is absolutely false. Can we trust ANYTHING he says? It seems not. The data for the graph is from the University of East Anglia, a pro-Warmist outfit
"Certainly there is no global surface data set which shows 1998 was the warmest on record." Globally, the climate system holds significant heating momentum as humans continue to burn fossil fuels and drive the emission of other greenhouse gases.
Carbon dioxide levels rose 2.2 parts per million to 393.1 in 2012, bringing atmospheric levels to 41 per cent higher than in pre-industrial times, the World Meteorological Organisation said last month.
"If you actually look at the amount of heat that the earth's absorbing, it's tracking up almost monotonically," Jones says.
Pitman says 2013's likely global ranking of fourth-hottest year ever is exceptional not least because the most significant driver of climate variation - the El Nino-Southern Oscillation in the Pacific - remains in neutral mode. He likens this to the surprise when an athlete at sea-level breaks a record that had been set at high altitude.
"We shouldn't be breaking records in any years other than an intense El Nino," he says. "Quite why the globe is as warm as it appears to be is worrisome."
By extension, the next El Nino - in which the central and eastern Pacific Ocean usually warms up and eastern Australia gets drier conditions - has the potential to exceed this year's record-breaking Australian heat.
"If we get that additional anomaly, it might even be enough to trigger an awakening in the eyes of some of our leaders," Pitman says.
Scott Morrison's new rules to put asylum seekers back in detention
New rules to stop refugees being a 'nuisance'
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has identified asylum seekers congregating in large numbers in apartments as the type of "antisocial" behaviour that could see them thrown into detention under a new code of conduct for more than 20,000 irregular immigrants living in the community on bridging visas.
Under previous arrangements, anyone on a bridging visa alleged to have broken the law and facing criminal proceedings was returned to detention while the matter made its way through the courts, but the new code greatly widens the types of behaviour that can lead to the penalty.
These include "antisocial and disruptive activities that are inconsiderate, disrespectful or threaten the peaceful enjoyment of other members of the community".
"There have been complaints … about antisocial behaviour in terms of overcrowding in particular accommodation that have caused a nuisance to nearby residents and distressed elderly residents," Mr Morrison said on Friday. "Currently there's no provision to manage that behaviour."
People on bridging visas have limited work rights and receive less than $250 a week in welfare payments. They can wait up to five years to have their refugee status determined under the "no advantage test" introduced by the former Labor government.
As a result, many can be crammed into accommodation to save money, although Mr Morrison said this was not necessarily the type of overcrowding that would be deemed antisocial.
He pointed to "large numbers of people turning up to particular places and places that are being rented and that is not where they were living".
Labor's immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the code and definition of antisocial behaviour "reeks of being mean for the sake of it". "If people are breaking the law, there should be consequences," Mr Marles said. "But one of the key standards in Australia is the standard of fairness. "A situation where you don't break the law but you have simply upset someone and, without being tested, put in detention or even sent offshore is concerning. That is not fair."
Disobeying road rules, failing to comply with an instruction to undertake health treatment or refusing to co-operate with officials as they review their refugee claims are also deemed to be breaches of the code.
"I think it is quite helpful to be quite specific with people who are given the opportunity to live in the community what is expected of them," Mr Morrison said. "To assume they just know is naive."
He noted that, in serious cases, they could be sent to Nauru and Manus Island.
Meanwhile, Mr Morrison said he did not "backflip" when reversing his freeze on protection visas for asylum seekers, arguing the regulation was no longer necessary because he had introduced stronger rules.
But legal experts and the Greens say Mr Morrison is engaged in legal "trickery" and his regulation will either be struck down by the High Court or reversed when the Senate reconvenes in February.
20 December, 2013
Misbehaving asylum seekers to be sent offshore
ASYLUM seekers living in the community who breach laws like shoplifting and drink driving will risk being sent offshore under new rules.
The government will today release a code of behaviour that people on bridging visas will have to sign and follow, or risk being sent for processing on Nauru or Manus Island.
It comes as Immigration Minister Scott Morrison reveals 35 people have had their bridging visas cancelled since the election for charges and convictions including murder, domestic violence, rape, the sexual assault of a minor, people smuggling, shop lifting and driving under the influence.
Four of those cases were in Victoria.
All are now in detention in Australia, but people who breach laws from now on could be sent off shore, with the promise they will never be resettled in Australia.
"In serious cases, those who breach the code could be liable not just to be taken back into detention but transferred to offshore processing centres at Nauru and Manus Island, regardless of when they first arrived," Mr Morrison said.
The code says all laws, including road laws, must be obeyed, a person must not harass, intimidate or bully others or engage in "anti-social or disruptive activities that are inconsiderate, disrespectful or threaten the peaceful enjoyment" of others.
Mr Morrison said the code explained to people what Australian society expected of them and provided the opportunity for early warnings for less serous behavioural problems.
"The behaviour code makes it clear that anti-social as well as criminal behaviour will not be tolerated," he said.
More than 20,000 asylum seekers are living in the community on bridging visas.
The kneejerk ignorance of the Left
WHEN Tim Wilson arrived in Sydney for his introductory meeting with the Human Rights Commission yesterday, we caught up for coffee.
Minutes after our friendly chat, I saw firsthand on Twitter how his appointment as the new "freedom" commissioner has made him a prime target for the paranoid disdain of the digital Left. Someone had surreptitiously snapped a picture of us and tweeted it with the comment: " 'Freedom Commissioner' briefing News Corp just now. Easier to bypass the middleman I suppose."
The general social-media response to Wilson's appointment has been much more abusive - most people who argue against the Green Left Twitter zeitgeist expect no less.
Yet the descriptors of the former Institute of Public Affairs policy director have been wildly inaccurate, revealing both the ignorance of the critics and the strangely binary nature of the Twitter wars.
"Conservative", the tweets have screamed, "very right wing conservative" and "ultra-conservative right nutter".
ABC social media reporter Latika Bourke tweeted that she "initially thought it was a joke but not" and Labor MP Laurie Ferguson tweeted that the appointment was part of a "campaign for conservatives to denigrate minorities".
Because Wilson was a Liberal Party member, does not flow with the Green Left tide and has been appointed by the Coalition, Twitter has declared open season on him. Because there is no appetite or propensity for nuance in these digital debates, he is slated as a conservative.
Wilson is classically libertarian - driven by principle rather than ideology and sceptical of government intervention. He values individual freedom and responsibility.
So on the Twitter Left and love media's totemic issue - gay marriage - Wilson is a fellow traveller, or at least an intelligent advocate for marriage equality.
He has also opposed the interventionist welfare of Tony Abbott's paid parental leave scheme; has spoken out against Queensland Liberal National Party Premier Campbell Newman's legislative restrictions on association aimed at bikie gangs; and even cheered this week's High Court victory by unions over the NSW Coalition government's political-donation laws.
Is it fair to portray Wilson as right of centre? Sure. Is he a provocative and forthright advocate? Indeed. Conservative? I don't think so.
If his critics are to get the better of him, they'll have to get a fix on him first. And argue issues on their merits rather than resort to abuse and misplaced labels.
Tony Abbott announces final bailout for Holden workers
The Abbott government has unveiled a $100 million package to create new jobs for Holden workers facing redundancy, but flagged an end to so-called corporate welfare, insisting struggling manufacturers must fend for themselves.
In a clear warning to companies such as Toyota, Qantas and SPC Ardmona - all of which have been eyeing government support - Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday stepped up his rhetoric against company bailouts.
Insisting "no country has ever subsidised its way to prosperity", he said the federal government would concentrate on getting the "fundamentals" right by creating a good environment for business, rather than rescuing individual troubled companies.
He vowed he would not "make knee-jerk, piecemeal decisions in response to the crisis of the moment" - a reference to his government's refusal to promise subsidies to Holden and Toyota to keep the companies in Australia.
"This government will be very loath to consider requests for subsidies," he said. "We will be very loath to do for businesses in trouble the sorts of things that they ought to be doing for themselves."
His comments came after car maker Holden announced last week it was shutting its manufacturing operations in Australia in 2017, with the direct loss of about 2900 jobs, plus thousands more in the car components industry.
Mr Abbott announced a $100 million economic "growth fund" to help plug the holes in Victoria and South Australia left by the car maker's looming exit.
South Australian Labor Premier Jay Weatherill blasted the fund as "hopelessly inadequate". He said his state would spend at least $50 million repairing the damage left by the Holden exit, but refused to commit to co-ordinating that with the federal package. Even Mr Abbott's Liberal colleague, Victorian Premier Denis Napthine, stressed the $100 million was a "first step" only, saying Victoria would need further federal help.
The $100 million will be used for grants and other support for manufacturing companies that hire former auto workers, car component companies that increase exports or switch to making other products and companies that commercialise new ideas for the auto industry.
Canberra has committed $60 million of the $100 million, and Victoria has pledged $12 million.
The rest is expected to come from South Australia and Holden itself, though neither was committing to a figure on Wednesday.
Mr Abbott also announced reviews into the Victorian and South Australian economies, which will consider how to retrain workers laid off by closures and look at moving Commonwealth services to regions hit by closures.
They will also consider the concerns of the naval shipbuilding industry, which says it faces a "valley of death" in Victoria and South Australia as work dries up.
Mr Abbott will chair a national taskforce looking at innovation, investment, productivity and the cost of energy.
Federal Labor attacked the size of the growth fund. Opposition industry spokesman Kim Carr said Australia was facing "probably the biggest manufacturing crisis in our history".
The Abbott government has cut $500 million out of the Automotive Transformation Scheme, set up under Julia Gillard, reducing it from $1.5 billion to $1 billion. It has also cut $215 million in funding that was to go to Holden to ensure it stayed here past 2020. It took out these hundreds of millions, Senator Carr said, but put only $60 million in the "rescue package".
Holden recently told the Productivity Commission that between 2001 and 2012 it averaged federal government assistance of $153 million a year and made an average profit of $50 million.
Glenn Thompson, assistant national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, described the assistance package as "cruel", accusing the Abbott government of chasing the car industry out of Australia. "According to conservative estimates, this will tear $21 billion out of the nation's economy," he said.
Australian Industry Group chief Innes Willox said the package would help develop Australia's manufacturing strengths "and areas of competitive advantage".
Renewable energy target faces cut by Abbott
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has signalled his government is preparing to slash Australia's renewable energy target citing "changed circumstances" and a desire to be an "affordable energy superpower".
Speaking in Canberra, Mr Abbott said the government supported the "sensible" use of renewable energy, but added the target was causing significant electricity price rises.
The target ensures that 20 per cent of Australia's electricity comes from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydro by 2020. It was first established by the Howard government, but was later beefed up by the Rudd government.
The Coalition has vowed to review the target next year. Some large companies, such as Origin Energy, have lobbied for the scheme to be reduced because falling energy demand means the target will likely be overshot and instead mean 27 per cent of Australian electricity will come from renewable sources by decade's end.
Mr Abbott said Australia had a comparative advantage in cheap energy that had to be maintained. He said when the Howard government first established the target very little renewable energy was being used, but now things had changed.
"We've got to accept though that in the changed circumstances of today the renewable energy target is causing pretty significant price pressure in the system and we ought to be a large superpower," he said.
"I mean, this country ought to be an affordable energy superpower."
The independent Climate Change Authority reviewed the target last year, recommending against a reduction because it would hurt investor confidence in clean energy projects.
19 December, 2013
Tim Wilson appointment to head Human Rights Commission stirs controversy
The Abbott government has sent shockwaves through the anti-discrimination and political establishments by appointing one of the nation's most vociferous critics of the Human Rights Commission as its new chief.
Tim Wilson, for the past seven years a policy director of the Institute of Public Affairs, a free-market think tank that early this year called for the abolition of the Human Rights Commission, will be informally known as the "Freedom Commissioner".
Mr Wilson, who resigned from both the IPA and the Liberal Party soon after the announcement, told Fairfax Media he was determined to "refocus" the commission on defending free speech rather than concentrating on anti-discrimination work.
Attorney-General George Brandis made it clear Mr Wilson's $325,000-a-year appointment was made on both political and ideological grounds.
"The appointment of Mr Wilson to this important position will help restore balance to the Australian Human Rights Commission which, during the period of the Labor government, has become increasingly narrow and selective in its view of human rights," he said.
On Wednesday, Senator Brandis said that he knew Mr Wilson was a very strong advocate of traditional, liberal rights, such as the freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
"I think he is the person with the policy background and the intellectual grunt of the public reputation to be just the person to be the Freedom Commissioner," Senator Brandis told ABC Radio.
The Attorney-General also argued that there was no contradiction between Mr Wilson's appointment and his previously expressed belief that the Human Rights Commission should be abolished.
"People can have a view about whether or not a particular agency or organ of government should exist or not but hat doesn't foreclose them for serving that agency or organ of government while its exists," he said.
When asked if he - like Mr Wilson - believed that Section 18 c should be abolished, Senator Brandis replied: "That's something I'm looking at at the moment".
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus described Mr Wilson's appointment as "dubious".
"How can Mr Wilson possibly undertake the role of a Human Rights Commissioner when it's obvious he has such contempt for the commission itself?" Mr Dreyfus said.
"By appointing Mr Wilson, Senator Brandis has sent a strong signal about exactly the kind of blatant political agenda he wishes to pursue as Attorney-General."
Greens legal affairs spokeswoman Penny Wright described Mr Wilson's views as "extreme".
"The Attorney-General has already made it clear he thinks some human rights are more important than others, including that free speech ought to trump anti-discrimination laws," she said.
Mr Wilson, who described himself as a "an economic and social liberal and a cultural and institutional conservative" conceded that "no doubt some people will find my appointment challenging". However, he did not expect any of his fellow commissioners to resign.
Commission president Gillian Triggs, who has been acting as Human Rights Commissioner since August last year, offered cautious support.
She said although Mr Wilson had been critical of the commission, it was implicit in his acceptance of the position that he recognised the commission undertook worthwhile work.
On Wednesday, Ms Triggs said she expected Mr Wilson to bring "some fresh air" to the organisation.
But he had to understand he had to work with other commissioners in his new role, Professor Triggs said.
"This is not the place for party-political rhetoric," she told ABC radio, adding the commission needed to be independent of government.
Professor Triggs said the commission could see some value in amending Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
"Of course it’s possible to tweak it to amend it to take bad language out, put new language in that strengthens it," she said.
Early this year, in a heated debate on ABC-TV with Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, Mr Wilson condemned the commission as a "silent observer" which had displayed a "massive absence of knowledge and judgment on freedom of speech" when the Gillard government tried to impose new regulations on the media.
Mr Wilson made clear on Monday he supported repealing the section of the Racial Discrimination Act that made it illegal to insult or offend people on the basis of their race.
Conservative News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt was found to have breached in 2011 section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act after he wrote two articles implying some light-skinned people who identified as indigenous Australians were doing so for personal gain.
Prominent members of the Abbott Coalition, particularly Senator Brandis, have been fiercely critical of the ruling and have moved to modify the section of the Racial Discrimination Act that landed Mr Bolt in trouble.
Joe Hockey swings the axe
A rapidly deteriorating budget has forced the Abbott government to order massive spending cuts, with the National Disability Insurance Scheme now in the crosshairs.
A range of programs in welfare, health, education and Aboriginal services face immediate cuts and billions more dollars are expected to be ripped out of Commonwealth expenditure in what Treasurer Joe Hockey is signalling will be a horror budget in May.
But the government will proceed with ditching the carbon price, even though it will cost $7.4 billion in revenue forgone, and with scrapping the profitable Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which will return $439 million in revenue over the next three years.
The first round of spending cuts are contained in the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook released on Tuesday.
These are expected to include changes to the bipartisan National Disability Insurance Scheme in a bid to curb federal deficits reaching a combined $123 billion over the next four years.
The government is in negotiations with the states over the NDIS and Finance Minister Matthias Cormann said the discussions were about "how the efficiencies and cost effectiveness of this very important commitment can be maximised".
While there is bipartisan support for the NDIS, the program is forecast to cost $22 billion in its first full year of operation, scheduled for 2019-20. The Coalition will examine how to rein in that cost by making it tightly targeted and run with a minimum of bureaucracy.
Education cuts of more than $1.5 billion include dumping the trades training centre program and slashing before- and after-school care by $450 million.
Indigenous Legal Aid faces a cut of $43 million.
There are also cuts of $10 million from the Children's Medical Research Institute; $12 million from the Millennium Institute, one of the largest medical research institutes in Australia working on cancer and leukaemia research; and $15.1 million from the cancer care co-ordinators program.
Health services have been cut by $150 million, including Westmead Hospital, which will lose $100 million over three years. But the budget outlook measures are just the beginning.
Warning that Australia's living standards are at risk if action is not taken, Mr Hockey said government spending growth under Labor had climbed to 3.5 per cent - well above the promised cap of 2 per cent in real terms once the economy was growing at trend.
The Treasurer outlined a bleak economic outlook, revealing an additional revenue shortfall of $16.8 billion for the year contributing to a deficit in June 2014 expected to reach $47 billion.
The Treasury forecasts also reveal escalating debt which, if left on its present path, would bring gross debt to $667 billion by 2023-24 - or about 26 per cent of gross domestic product.
Over the four-year budget period, gross debt is expected to hit $460 billion in 2016-17, the reason behind Mr Hockey's desperation to have the debt ceiling lifted to $500 billion before he reached agreement with the Greens to abolish the upper limit.
How Treasurer Joe Hockey can reduce Australia's $667 billion debt
EVERYTHING but raising the GST is on the table as the Coalition aims to tame its $667 billion debt bomb.
As Treasurer Joe Hockey launched a scathing attack on the previous Labor government for leaving a budget mess, a rollcall of potential and actual spending cuts emerged.
Mr Hockey unveiled the Midyear Economic and Fiscal Outlook in Canberra which showed that if left unchecked Labor's spending and policies would have resulted in a debt bomb of $667 billion in 2022-23.
He said it would not be politically easy but that hard decisions would need to be made in coming months about what programs and government spending needed to be reined in.
"All options are on the table," Mr Hockey said while ruling out changes to the GST.
"No government has ever achieved prosperity by simply raising taxes," he said.
Among the speculated cuts on the government's hit list include a paring back of Labor's National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann yesterday said the government was looking to make the scheme more efficient, flagging future potential cuts.
"We want to make it more efficient," Senator Cormann said. "We are having discussions about that."
His comments follow those of Tony Abbott who said following a meeting of COAG last week that the spending on the NDIS could he modified.
"We are all absolutely committed to the implementation of the NDIS … but we have got to implement it in a way which is fair and a way which is sustainable," Mr Abbott said.
The latest fiscal update shows budget deficits of more than $120 billion over the next four years.
The Coalition's flagship $5.5 billion-a-year paid parental leave scheme could also never see the light of day with the program stated as "not been finalised" in yesterday's MYEFO.
The scheme, which pays parents six months at their full salary, was one of Mr Abbott's signature policies going into the election campaign. However it has come under fierce criticism for being too generous.
"The PPL is something that needs to be looked at to help find savings," Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief Peter Anderson said.
The axe fell on several programs yesterday with education and environmental schemes some of the biggest losers.
A total of $998 million from Labor's Trade Training Centres and $450 million from after school care assistance was slashed.
A community infrastructure program worth $528 million was also cut to help pay for an extra $1.2 billion for schools funding announced by Christopher Pyne earlier this month.
"This is a lose, lose situation for school communities across Australia," Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos said.
"Vital national funding for trade training and before and after school care is being taken away so money can be given to the WA, NT and QLD governments that they don't even have to spend in education."
A total of $4.3 billion in savings was flagged yesterday through the abolishment of businesses and energy market compensation programs which were given to medium and large businesses impacted by the carbon tax.
In health, $265 million in hospital revamps was shelved. This included $100 million for the redevelopment of the Westmead Hospital in Sydney, $49 million for palliative care in Tasmania, $22 million for upgrades to St George Hospital in Sydney and $10m for the redevelopment of the Children's Medical Research Institute.
A total of $111.4 million in cuts were been made to the Humanitarian Programme, providing health support to refugees and other humanitarian entrants and $43.1 million is set to be redirected from the Legal Policy Reform and Advocacy funding, mostly benefiting indigenous Australians.
Is university worth it?
Are university degrees overpriced? How many students considered this question when choosing what and where to study in 2014, or the potential return on a six-figure investment?
Three years of a university undergraduate degree and lost wages during that time (assuming full-time work was available) would easily crack $100,000 for even general degrees. Wages aside, many students leave university with tens of thousands of dollars in loans that take years to repay.
Is the debt worth it? The standard answer – university graduates achieve higher employment and wage outcomes than non-graduates – is true of many students. But will that trend be as strong as the labour market is transformed and university graduates are less in demand?
Some universities are pushing for 10 per cent fee increases – at a time of rising graduate oversupply – such are their growing costs and funding pressures.
How many university graduates does Australian business need each year? A lot fewer than are being pumped through the system. Even professions such as law and veterinary science have recently warned of a graduate oversupply.
Yes, university degrees are highly valuable for the right students. As a part-time uni lecturer, I see students who develop terrific critical-thinking skills that will last a lifetime and repay the cost of their degree many times over. Also, some degrees are exceptional value considering the work that goes into each student and the resources available.
But I am concerned for the bottom half of students, many of whom should not be at university – at least straight after school – and who will leave with an average degree and a $40,000 debt, only to work in a succession of low-paid part-time jobs as they struggle to find professional employment.
Too many students go to university when they are not ready – or not at university level, academically and emotionally. Some young men, in particular, seem to have little or no interest in higher learning – only scraping a pass – even though they incur huge debt to laze about.
You could blame universities for this: lower entry requirements and softer marking in some courses compared with previous generations may have devalued bachelor degrees. If more people can do the course and fewer fail, is it still worth as much? And have universities, generally, sacrificed student quality in the quest for quantity?
However, the real problem is society attitudes: we still expect young people to spend years at university and pay huge course fees to prove they are smart and diligent enough to be employed in a graduate position. It’s dumb and outdated.
We railroad young people towards university straight after school, when many would be better off finding lower-paid work and studying part-time, or deferring full-time study until they are more mature, experienced and better able to fund their degree.
I’m worried about the outlook for graduate employment in Australia. One in eight employers recruited no graduates in 2012, down from one-in-10 a year earlier, Graduate Careers Australia reported in February. I expect that proportion to fall further in the next few years. My guess is there will be more stories about a rapidly deteriorating graduate recruitment market in the first half of 2014 or 2015.
I hear about employers deferring or reducing the size of their graduate recruitment program, given rising economic uncertainty and less incentive to invest. It’s an easy cost to cut when business is slow, even though it can have long-term repercussions when trade improves.
Perhaps less graduate employment is a cyclical consequence of a sluggish economy. I suspect it is as much a permanent, structural change as business recognises that:
* It can automate more graduate jobs or outsource them overseas.
* A worldwide shift towards micro-jobs and freelancing provides a much larger, more flexible workforce and less need to hire as many university graduates.
* The cost of hiring and training university graduates, some of whom may only work for the firm for a year or two, outweighs the benefits.
* Some university courses are not producing enough graduates of sufficient quality who can create short-term value for their employers, and are highly innovative and adaptive.
* Recruiting a large pool of graduates and developing the next generation of managers is no longer as pressing issue for as many companies.
* An increasing oversupply of graduates gives companies more recruitment options.
* A growing recognition that the rapid pace of change in global business means skills need to evolve faster than ever. Three years in a classroom might be less effective as a learning technique.
* Wages and on-costs for graduates in some industries are too high.
I wish more companies would take back part of the training function – greater on-the-job learning through internships and cadetships – and less reliance on full-time university study, at least at the undergraduate level.
More part-time study on top of full-time work; less full-time study. Earn and learn at the same time – not one or the other for three years when many students are still unsure about their favoured profession.
Working full-time and studying part-time for four or five years takes incredible commitment: I’d hire such a student any day over one who only studied full-time.
Even better would be a recognition that many young people are better off going to university in their mid to late twenties, after a few years in the workforce, and when they are ready to learn and have some real-life experience to back it up.
18 December, 2013
Two high school students take on teacher over climate and win standing ovation
A reader Russell writes in to tell me his Year 9 son Jordan and his friend, Tom, took on their teacher’s sacred belief in man-made global warming. Given no warning, and called insulting names in front of the class, they took up the challenge with gusto and stayed up til 1am that night to put the presentation together. Not surprisingly the teacher tried to pull out the next day, but the class would not let her.
One of the slides quotes Al Gore mocking “the tiny minority”, like the ones “who still believe that the moon landing was faked…”. Then it shows and quotes four Apollo Astronauts and Burt Rutan (the first private astronaut):
"The other week at school my eldest son (15) was challenged by his teacher to present to the class why he is a ”climate change denier”. He had to do this presentation the next day.
At the start of his class the next day he advised the teacher he was ready. She told him she wasn’t interested now, maybe another day. His classmates started heckling her saying ”You Chicken Miss”. She eventually agreed and got another teacher to sit in as well. Before my son spoke she showed the class the promo to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. After his presentation the class gave him a standing ovation. There is a lot more to this story, the above overview sort of explains what occurred.
To start his talk he read out five quotes from the ”US Senate Minority Report” below, then his power point. She made him stop the Prof Carter video 3min into it, the Prof Ball podcast about 5min in and let the class watch the other 10min video all the way through."
May there be a thousand young rebels following in their footsteps, says Jo.
Russell explained his son and friends get a hard time at school, though it seems, give their teachers a pretty hard time in return:
“…They [the boys] question everything they being taught and who’s the messenger. They know the truth about AGW, Sustainable Development, UNESCO,OECD, over population, open borders, media, communism, politics, the list goes on. One his mates sent the 10min video ”Agenda 21 for Dummies” reply all on the schools email, even the teachers received the link.”
“… there is some history with the boys and this teacher, she is a true socialist. One example of this is she told Jordan ‘His opinion is irrelevant, and only when you become an adult people will listen to what you have to say. Shut up, I am the TEACHER and you’re here to learn.’
I expect the teacher in question will not forget this lesson (though possibly she will interpret her mistake as being to let students speak).
Russell says that skepticism is alive and well in teenagers, despite them being raised on the climate dogma:
“Children are waking up to this hoax. I know of at least 50 kids in year 9 that realise this. I coach an under 15 rugby team and all 20 of them don’t believe in AGW, plus his large group of friends that attend different high schools in the area.
Sustainable Development has overtaken AGW. AGW is still pushed in the classroom but SD is across every subject.’
Australian Greens ignore Israel's rights
The Green party is full of old Commos and Trots -- JR
WHEN Norman Finkelstein, an icon of the anti-Israel movement, blasted the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign as a "duplicitous, disingenuous cult", his words were met with a great sense of betrayal among the campaign's adherents. After all, Finkelstein was once revered as a veteran campaigner who, among many other things, called Israel a "satanic state".
Finkelstein had experienced no great awakening. At the centre of his disassociation with the BDS movement, which has hijacked the Palestinian cause, is what he calls a "deliberate ambiguity" on Israel's basic right to exist. In Greens senator Lee Rhiannon, Australia has its own longstanding supporter of the anti-Israel movement. Unfortunately, the leaders of BDS in Australia have yet to heed Finkelstein's advice to be open about their aims and to cease their selective application of international law.
During a typically vitriolic and hateful speech in the Senate earlier this month, Rhiannon urged Australia "to cease military co-operation and trade with Israel ... as a small but significant step". In a new and bizarre line of attack, Rhiannon justifies this call on the basis that Israel perpetuates war and conflict to battle-test its weapons for "public marketing by the Israeli arms industry" as a means of boosting its sale of weapons to countries like Australia.
In her latest allegations, one detects a near pathological aversion to the Jewish state. As one would expect from Rhiannon, nowhere does she recognise that Israel has a very real and genuine need to defend itself. Nor does she entertain the idea that the Israeli army could have any legitimate defence function whatsoever.
To be sure, Israel exists only because it has defended itself from three invasions, two intifada, Iranian proxy campaigns, numerous border incursions, and the constant threat of war from enemies who do not bother to veil their desires to destroy Israel in the misappropriated language of human rights. This is the function of the Israeli army.
While presented as a pacifist's rebuke to militarism, Rhiannon's argument is steeped in double standards. If she opposes militarism in all its forms, why is Israel the only country with which Australia should sever military ties? If indeed her message is one of peace and demilitarisation, one could have expected her to start by calling for the disarming of a state less vulnerable than Israel.
There is also an uncomfortable inconsistency between Rhiannon's assault on Israel's means of defence and her history of support for the Soviet Union, which built and maintained an empire through force and coercion and whose arms exports had a uniquely deleterious impact on the world, not least in the Middle East. In the 1980s, shortly after Rhiannon led solidarity delegations to the Soviet Union, Moscow was responsible for 34 per cent of the world's arms trade, and supplied such states as Libya, Syria and Iraq. This is precisely the sort of hypocrisy to which Finkelstein refers.
While the anti-Israel movement goes to great lengths to demonstrate that its hatred of the Jewish state should not be mistaken for a hatred of the Jewish people, it is deeply troubling that Rhiannon's latest assault casts the Jewish state in a historically dubious and familiar light. The image of the Jew as a war profiteer, conspirator and driven solely by money is steeped in anti-Jewish tradition and it is alarming that such accusations have now been evoked and transferred to the Jewish collective, the state of Israel. Senator Rhiannon and her peers in the anti-Israel movement should recognise that advancing Palestinian rights does not need the denial of Israel's right to exist as a national home for the Jewish people.
The unspoken truth about marriage and kids
Couples should not have children if their relationship is not stable enough to merit getting married, a British High Court judge said last week.
Sir Paul Coleridge, speaking out before retirement from a long family law career, challenged the common notion that it makes no difference whether parents cohabit or marry. "One [arrangement] tends to last and the other doesn't," he said, quoting Marriage Foundation research suggesting children with unmarried parents were twice as likely to suffer a family break-up as those with married parents. The proportion of children born to unmarried parents in Britain reached a record 47.5 per cent last year.
Children in cohabiting families lag behind children with married parents in overall socio-emotional and general development.
When a British authority figure dares to give voice to concerns about this crucial social issue, it makes news because it is so rare. Here in Australia, too, there is deathly silence from our leaders - politicians, social scientists, the clergy, judges - about the increasing casualisation of relationships involving children.
Yet talk to people working with disadvantaged communities and you hear a very different story. They witness the effects on children of being raised in unstable relationships - effects well documented in Australia.
Using data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, Lixia Qu and Ruth Weston, from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, found young families with cohabiting parents were nearly three times more likely to break up than married families. The same researchers showed children in cohabiting families lag behind children with married parents in overall socio-emotional and general development, show poorer learning, more behavioural problems and experience poorer parenting.
Contrary to expectations, it has turned out that children don't provide the glue to keep cohabiting parents together. Marriage - often dismissed as just a piece of paper - does make a difference.
This year, the "Knot Yet" report on changing marriage patterns, by the Washington-based Brookings Institution, examined why this was so and suggested the answer may lie in the decision-making process.
Most people marry after a process of discovering mutual commitment to long-term goals. That's often lacking in cohabiting relationships where couples move in together sometimes because a lease runs out, or they are seeking cheaper rent, or it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Families that evolve from these non-decisions are, unsurprisingly, far less stable. The non-decisions apply also to child-bearing - the Brookings report notes the high incidence of unplanned pregnancy in these arrangements, with half of births to unmarried 20-something women "unintended".
The result, according to the report, is a growing social divide, with well-educated people still tending to marry and then have children, while lower socio-economic groups are more likely to have children in de facto relationships. These children often end up in single-parent families. This emerging difference in marriage patterns is adding to the gap between the haves and have-nots, increasing social disadvantage.
Of course there are de facto couples with lasting relationships and thriving children, but the broader patterns tell a different story - just as the 90-year-old who smokes has no bearing on the link between cigarettes and health risks.
Pope Francis recently announced he was surveying all Catholics about family life. His questionnaire, which seeks response from clergy, Catholic organisations and parishioners, expresses concern about social changes, including "the widespread practice of cohabitation", and asks about the prevalence of such couples in Catholic communities and problems with pastoral care in these circumstances.
Responses will be interesting, given that 40 years ago clergy readily spoke out about the benefits of marriage, whereas these days few dare raise the "M" question for fear of ostracising their shrinking pool of parishioners and attracting unfavourable media attention.
The media is part of the problem, given in their number are more than a fair share of cohabiting couples. For instance, the ABC is full of well-educated presenters and producers bucking social trends by successfully raising children in stable de facto relationships or single-parent families. They naturally resist any public discussion of their choices.
One example is Richard Glover, from ABC Sydney, who boasts of his long-lasting de facto relationship. He has publicly taken issue with my reporting of research on this subject. "Do our children miss out on anything?" he wrote. "Well, yes, Bettina … Principally, I think, they miss out on vases," he said, of his family's lack of expensive crystal vases commonly given as wedding presents.
Public discussion of this important social trend is discouraged by media players who won't acknowledge that their preferred lifestyle choices have very different consequences on the other side of the social divide - yet the impact on kids of the casualisation of family relations is no laughing matter.
Good ol' Fred -- Fred lives his beliefs
If the headlines marking their wedding were to say, simply, "Man marries woman," it might please the Reverend Fred Nile and his bride Silvana Nero, and it might please their Lord.
The couple were perhaps less pleased when, across the road from their nuptials on Sunday, a small group staged a protest ceremony for which the headline might read: "Man marries man-in-drag."
Here's a man, 70-something years old, marrying a woman of 55. Are they really going to procreate?
In this mock marriage, bottle blond Brae Michaels married bottle blonde Viva la Bang. She was radiant in a traditional white gown, if not as dazzling as Nile's younger bride, 55-year-old Nero, who wore an embroidered white dress.
Nile, the 79-year-old groom and Christian Democrat MP, came with subtle blond streaks in his hair. Only last month he declared he would celebrate the "victory" of his stand against gay marriage - and his part in the defeat of a bill in the NSW upper house that might have allowed it - with his own wedding.
He welled up with tears as Nero approached the altar of St Thomas' Anglican Church in North Sydney, where guests included O'Farrell government ministers Mike Baird, Greg Smith and Duncan Gay and Labor's Luke Foley and Walt Secord, while the best man was upper house Liberal MP David Clarke.
The bridal procession had been preceded by the blowing of the shofar, biblical instruments honed from the horns of rams or other kosher animals. The protesters refrained, for now, from using their loudhailer. It would have been of no use against the crescendo of organ, trumpets, bagpipes, drums, the South Pacific Island Choir and rousing renditions of Shania Twain and Michael Buble songs that provided the soundtrack to Nile's second wedding.
The celebrant Reverend Simon Manchester said it was important to Nile to have his family's support. Two of his sons, David and Mark, did attend. But another son Steve and daughter Sharon chose not to.
In June, one of Nile's children revealed they were "hurt and angry" he was remarrying so soon after his 53-year marriage to Elaine ended with her death from cancer in October 2011. Four months later, Nile saw Nero at a Christian Democratic Party meeting.
It was "love at first sight", he said then. He acknowledged "friction" with his children but said Elaine had wanted him to find a new wife. And he said Nero did not want to take their mother's place and would retain her surname.
"She will not become the new Mrs Nile," he said, and gushed about her "beautiful legs" and how "ravishing" she looked for their first date at a Monarchist League lunch.
On Sunday, the celebrant noted Nelson Mandela remarried in his 80s, making Nile a "youngster in his 70s". After exchanging vows, the youngster kissed his bride with such prolonged enthusiasm that Nero used a hanky to remove the lipstick smudge on his lips.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott sent them a message: "Marriage is about walking the same path together. It is a profound, rich and fulfilling journey that should draw out the better angels of our nature."
Viva la Bang would agree. She said Nile's "point of being against gay marriage is because the Bible says it's between a man and a woman for the means of procreation".
"Yet's here's a man, 70-something years old, marrying a woman of 55. Are they really going to procreate? So if they can get married, why can't we?"
As the wedding party emerged, the protesters resorted to the loudhailer: "Divorce the church from the state/Love is equal, don't preach hate." A woman returned fire with blasts from the shofar.
"I feel like going over there to thump one of them," a wedding guest said. A man wearing a magenta jacket that would have blended just as well on the other side of the street, said: "Stupid people. It's a federal issue, not state. And it's his wedding day … They're dicks."
17 December, 2013
How Labor booby-trapped Australia's future
When Joe Hockey was growing up and dreaming of becoming prime minister, he would not have imagined that his dream would lead him to joining a bomb disposal unit. Tomorrow, he will unveil the first bomb he must dismantle and it is almost nuclear in its capacity for destruction.
At 12.30 on Tuesday, Hockey, who has also been the stand-out thespian of the new federal parliament, will unveil the real horror, dysfunction and narcissism of Kevin Rudd's contribution to Australian political history, disably assisted by Julia Gillard.
Hockey will release the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook, known in the trade as MYEFO, which will show a budget deficit much worse than Labor led us to believe, probably close to $50 billion, debt obligations much higher than Labor led us to believe, and unfunded liabilities that are so irresponsibly crushing the government will have to walk away from many of them. The most monumental folly is the National Broadband Network, whose economic rationale was worked out on a piece of paper by Rudd. The scheme subsequently created by former communications minister Stephen Conroy would cost more than $70 billion and never recover its cost of capital. The Abbott government will have to start again.
Rudd also authorised the spying on the President of Indonesia and his wife, a booby trap that duly exploded in the face of his Coalition successor. Rudd also poisoned the relationship with China, with his lectures to Beijing, which has also come back to haunt the Coalition government. Then came Gillard, who directed a decisive shift of funding and power to the unions. She exposed the Commonwealth to a massive unfunded financial obligation for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
She provided political cover for the disgraced union official Craig Thomson. And she set up and then stacked the Fair Work Australia bureaucracy with former union officials and Labor lawyers.
Labor booby-trapped the future.
It is also busy booby-trapping the present, putting improvised explosive devices everywhere, with the help of the Greens. Together, they have engaged in scorched-earth, rearguard, morally bankrupt obstructionism as if the 2013 federal election was a meaningless exercise, the will of the people has no moral authority, and the idea of a mandate, delivered by the only poll that matters, is an empty ideal to be ignored. The worst among equals in this cynicism are Labor's leader, Bill Shorten, his deputy, Tanya Plibersek, and the Minister for Gutter, Anthony Albanese, assisted by the deputy leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt.
Contrast their scorched-earth cynicism with the response of the defeated Coalition government in 2007, when it conceded the public had rejected its Work Choices industrial relations policies and Labor had a mandate to create what would become Fair Work Australia. This was the great issue in 2007 (after the unions spent millions to make it so) just as the carbon tax and curbing people-smuggling were the great issues of 2013.
For the past year the Coalition restricted itself to a small but emphatic range of policies that clearly differentiated it from Labor: repeal the carbon tax, repeal the mining tax, re-introduce temporary protection visas (which closed off asylum status), re-introduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission and end Labor's deficit spending. This was the message. These policies became the mandate when Labor was thrown out of office in a landslide and the Greens suffered an even more emphatic 28 per cent plunge in their vote and lost the balance of power in the Senate.
And what do we get? Labor and the Greens opposing all four mandates, and everything else, and some of Labor's booby traps already exploding. Rudd's authorising of spying on Indonesia's President and his wife blew up on Tony Abbott, who suffered further damage as he doggedly covered up for Labor. Labor's multi-billion-dollar expansion into school education, a state issue, also exploded when Education Minister Christopher Pyne ineptly fumbled his attempt to rein in its costs and impositions.
The government must now wait until July 1 next year, when the new Senate is sworn in, and hope the independents and the eccentric Palmer United Party senators are more moral and pragmatic than the Greens, who think 8 per cent is a moral majority and a mandate to obstruct everything. Everything, that is, except removing the debt ceiling, where the Greens sided with the government, but only because they feared if they did not the government would start slashing spending with a chainsaw.
The key figures in dealing with Labor's booby traps are Hockey and Eric Abetz, the leader of the government in the Senate. Hockey has shown the most ticker in dealing with debt and deficit, and Senator Abetz has carriage of the crucial reform agenda in industrial relations. After Hockey, he has the most bombs to defuse.
Crucially, in addition to restoring the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and tackling the tainted culture of Fair Work Australia, Senator Abetz must navigate the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill into law. This is the bill that will drag the unions out of the 19th century. It establishes an independent watchdog, the Registered Organisations Commission, with powers modelled on those of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, to bring union governance into line with corporate governance.
The bill is designed to create a stronger, cleaner and more transparent union sector.
Labor and the Greens are opposing the bill at every step.
Liberal colleagues Cory Bernardi and Dennis Jensen criticise Malcolm Turnbull over gay marriage comments
Anger is rising within the Abbott government over Malcolm Turnbull's advocacy for gay marriage, with the Communications Minister publicly criticised by two backbench colleagues.
South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi has urged Mr Turnbull to either resign from the frontbench or stop commenting on "fringe issues outside party policy". And West Australian Liberal MP Dennis Jensen said Mr Turnbull's comments on gay marriage were "unhelpful" and not befitting a cabinet minister.
Mr Turnbull frustrated some of his more conservative colleagues when he told an interviewer on Sunday that Australia was getting out of step with similar countries on gay marriage.
He said Britain, Canada and parts of the US and South Africa had taken steps to allow gay marriage.
"So people of the same sex can get married in Auckland and Wellington, Toronto and Ottawa and Vancouver, in New York and Los Angeles, Baltimore and Cape Town, but not Australia," Mr Turnbull said.
Mr Turnbull, who declined to respond to his colleagues' criticisms, also said he expected the Coalition to eventually allow a conscience vote – a key step in getting legislation through Federal Parliament.
"It does start to look as if we're the ones out of step," he said. "If a free vote is allowed, I will certainly vote in favour of a marriage equality bill."
Senator Bernardi, who himself lost a shadow parliamentary secretary position last year for suggesting gay marriage might lead to polygamy and bestiality, did not appreciate Mr Turnbull's intervention.
"If Malcolm Turnbull wants to talk about fringe issues outside party policy, he should resign from the frontbench," Senator Bernardi told the ABC on Monday.
Senator Bernardi expanded on his comments in a written statement to Fairfax Media.
"Our longstanding party policy is that marriage is between a man and a woman," Senator Bernardi said.
"We should expect that all frontbenchers will reflect party policy.
"Our principle has always been that frontbenchers argue for changes in party policy through cabinet whilst backbenchers are free to discuss any policy ideas they like. You can't have it both ways."
Dr Jensen said he agreed that Mr Turnbull's public support for gay marriage was inappropriate.
"I think Malcolm sees himself as a little bit above the frontbench when he speaks about some sociological issues if you will," Dr Jensen told Fairfax Media.
"It's unhelpful. [Gay marriage] is something we decided on not long ago ... even if you had a conscience vote, it still would not have got up."
Dr Jensen said cabinet ministers should "stick to their knitting" and not veer outside their portfolios unless the Prime Minister directed them to do so. Backbenchers had more freedom to speak across a range of issues, but frontbenchers relinquished that liberty, Dr Jensen said.
"Malcolm should be sticking to his portfolio," he added. "There are clearly a lot of problems within the NBN that require addressing."
On Monday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott repeated his position that a conscience vote for the Coalition on same-sex marriage would be up to the party room.
"If there is a proposal put into the Parliament it will be dealt with by our party room in the normal way," he told ABC's Radio National.
"In the end, its up to the party room to decide what our policy is."
THE GREENS INFILTRATE NAURU'S SALVOS
Larry Pickering reports:
A senior Government official stationed on Nauru has described the current state of affairs as alarming, and in some cases almost comical, with costs running completely out of control.
“There are no port facilities here, we have to use barges and the only crane keeps breaking down”, he said
Daily 737 flights carrying supplies between Brisbane and Nauru are costing $114,000 each and often they transport as few as 3 or 4 people for specialist care. “People don’t realise that Nauru is half way to the US (I presume he meant Hawaii) and the larger C17s are burning up $400,000 a week in fuel”, said the official.
“The Salvation Army has been infiltrated by pink-haired, tattooed people with rings hanging from every orifice and boy, are they are causing havoc”, said the informant.
“The transferees are getting their clothing via the Salvos who in turn get it from Aussie collection bins. Thing is that they refuse to wear anything other than big brand name stuff like Dolce, Levi, Nike, Adidas etc.
“So the Pink Salvos are picking out the best stuff and giving it to the boaties while needy Aussies back home are getting left with crap”, he said.
“Iranians and Afghans, who are banned from having cigarettes since they burnt the place down, are dealing in contraband and, assisted by the Pink Salvos, are now getting all the smokes they want from down town.”
The official described the tolerated sexual behaviour of the all-male Iranians as disgusting and they have now been isolated in No. 2 Centre for health reasons.
“The Tamils are the best behaved and mostly follow Hinduism which does not allow masturbation, so it was arranged that they form circles on the floor and masturbate each other. Apparently that's permissible”, he said.
“The Pink Salvos also supplied inmates with hundreds of jars of Vegemite saying the vitamin B component would act as a repellent to the mosquitoes.
“Unfortunately none of them liked the taste so they smeared it over every part of their bodies. All you could see was their teeth.
"It then attracted every creepy crawly on the island and the whole camp had to be fumigated the next day.”
But the official had high praise for Minister Morrison, “At least he has been up front with us as to where this is all going”, he said.
Immigration minister quiet on future of asylum seeker humanitarian services
If you've read the above you will know why
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has shied away from spelling out what arrangements the government will make for humanitarian services provided to asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus once a $74 million contract held by the Salvation Army expires next year.
Questioned at his weekly media briefing in Sydney on Friday, Mr Morrison said a range of contracts for provision of services to offshore processing centres would expire soon and were "in the process of being determined with a view to improving our operational effectiveness at all of those centres".
He repeated claims of a $1.2 billion blow-out in the cost off-shore processing, blaming it on under-provision by his Labor predecessors. "They clearly didn't have their heart in it because they clearly didn't put the dollars into it," he said.
He said he was not surprised by a report released by Amnesty International this week heavily criticising conditions on Manus Island, because this was to be "anticipated from groups or politicians or others who have long opposed the policy of offshore processing".
But he said the government would respond to "practical observations that can be verified that would improve the operations of these centres".
He denied there were restrictions on the amount of water asylum seekers could receive on Manus, or that treatment of those living in the camp amounted to torture.
Mr Morrison also denied reports that detainees suspected of homosexual activity on Manus were being automatically reported by Immigration staff to local police, though he added that "service providers provide clear advice to transferees on the relevant laws of Papua New Guinea".
"The department is unaware of any claims or declarations of homosexuality or any reports of homosexuality being investigated by police at the centre," he said.
During the so-called operational section of the briefing, the military head of Operation Sovereign Borders, Major General Angus Campbell, made a point of quashing what he said were rumours being fanned by people smugglers that the government was going to change its stance on asylum seekers arriving by boat.
Saying he wanted his message heard directly by those in transit countries, General Campbell turned mid-conference to Mr Morrison to ask him pointedly whether the government was considering any change in policy. "Absolutely not," Mr Morrison said.
General Campbell sidestepped questions about the effects of continuing tensions between Jakarta and Canberra on combined efforts to defeat people smugglers, saying "those are issues at the moment for government-to-government discussions".
General Campbell said there had been two arrests on Thursday in relation to people-smuggling.
One, a 28-year-old Iranian, was arrested in Werribee, Melbourne, charged with aggravated people smuggling in relation to a vessel that capsized en route to Christmas Island on March 25.
The second man, a 25-year-old Indonesian, was arrested at Villawood in Sydney, charged over his role in crewing a boat that had capsized in August, with the suspected loss of five people whose bodies were never recovered.
16 December, 2013
Examples show Leftist hate is turning ugly
A WORD to the Left. Hasn't this bastardry gone too far? What do you want: bodies in the street? Three examples from the past week shocked me.
Example 1. The ABC's main TV news bulletin in Brisbane last Thursday showed the exterior and street number of the home of Bill Mellor, a decorated former army brigadier, and gave out his suburb. Mellor's wife was in tears and police rushed in to secure the house.
The reason? As the ABC report pointed out, Mellor was co-ordinating the Queensland Government's war against criminal bikie gangs linked to murder, rape, drug trafficking and extortion.
Why on earth did the ABC show bikies the home of the man overseeing the fight against them that has led to nearly 400 arrests? How could his home be relevant to its report?
There may be an innocent explanation involving extreme stupidity, but Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and others, me included, also suspect bias.
We already know the ABC last month published stolen intelligence on our spying in Indonesia, damaging our national interest without exposing any sin that needed correcting. It seemed the ABC's Leftist culture made it only too keen to rock the Abbott Government. Only too ready to undermine national security.
In the Mellor case, the ABC, an eager critic of Newman's conservative Government, may have been similarly seduced into forgetting its duty even to people with whom it has no political sympathy.
Once, the ABC had little problem with Labor premier Anna Bligh having her husband made a department head or one of her wedding guests made Queensland's top public servant.
But now it's all over Mellor's new job, after Labor shamelessly claimed Premier Newman was "appointing his mates". "We don't need the military running this state," Labor added.
All piffle, of course. Newman's "mate" was a man he'd served under at Duntroon 31 years ago. Mellor has since commanded the Australian force in Somalia, helped plan our intervention in East Timor and recently served as Queensland's flood recovery co-ordinator.
Nor is he in charge of police work. He heads a team of directors-general and senior officers to ensure government agencies work together against bikie gangs.
In any case, why show where he lives and put him in danger? Should I now show where ABC managing director Mark Scott lives to illustrate this latest example of an ABC out of control?
Example 2. Last week, Melbourne University's Professor Thomas Reuter wrote in the Jakarta Post to accuse Australia of startling crimes against Indonesia.
Reuter told his Indonesian readers the latest spy allegations were part of our "consistent unneighbourly behaviour" which he claimed included "attempts to assassinate (former president) Sukarno".
He even claimed Australian soldiers were "involved in massacres" of Indonesians during their struggle for independence from the Dutch.
Not mentioned in Reuter's list of our alleged sins was our strong support for Indonesian independence, our yearly aid of $500 million or our $1 billion donation in tsunami relief.
What the hell was Reuter up to? Surely he realised the danger of preaching such anti-Australian poison days after mobs besieged our Jakarta embassy?
Still, someone of the Left may think the more trouble for the Abbott Government, the better.
But most scandalous was that Reuter's stories of Australians massacring Indonesians or trying to kill their president seem figments of imagination - of Reuter's or that of his undeclared sources. Indeed, Reuter has since withdrawn his massacre claim, at least, admitting it "cannot be verified".
So what will Melbourne University - whose vice-chancellor organised the farcical 2020 ideas summit for his friend Kevin Rudd - do about a professor who makes such baseless and dangerous claims?
Example 3. Labor's Joy Burch is Education Minister in the ACT, in charge of children's schooling.
Well, look away, children, because last week your minister fired off tweets attacking federal Education Minister Chris Pyne when she read - and retweeted - one by an abusive Leftist calling Pyne a "c---".
Burch later claimed this was an accident caused by her "poor social media skills", and, true, she soon deleted the tweet. Yet for more than a day, she failed to apologise to Pyne.
Whatever the truth, the Left's abuse of the Abbott Government is already worse than anything complained of under Julia Gillard.
Tony Abbott has been called a "liar" by the Opposition Leader and pictured hanging from a noose on a poster at a same-sex marriage rally.
Someone operating in the Geelong Trades Hall set up a Facebook page urging Abbott's assassination, and The Age promoted "F--- Abbott" T-shirts sold by an Age columnist.
The hatred now has a dangerously violent tone, and I ask again - what does the Left want? Bodies in the street?
An Australian Green Party senator is a REAL watermelon
The ABC wins an admission from a Greens Senator that she was educated - as a guest - by a Communist regime long infamous for its brutality and oppression:
James Carleton: Tell me, you did study – correct me if I’m wrong – in Russia? The International Lenin School for around 6 months or so, when you were a member of the Socialist Party? Is that correct?
Lee Rhiannon: Yes. Yes. I’ve always been very open about my work and I’ve studied in many countries – political economy, Marxism."
Hold it there. How frightfully interesting. Caught on the hop, Senator Rhiannon admitted that she had studied at the International Lenin School in Moscow at the time when the communist neo-Stalinist (to use Mark Aarons’ term) dictator Leonid Brezhnev ran the Soviet Union. The year was 1977 and Rhiannon (born in 1951) was in her mid 20s....
But the point is that Lee O’Gorman (as she then was) undertook a course at the International Lenin School – which was an exclusive institution in Moscow which trained willing comrades for political action and which was controlled and funded by a totalitarian communist regime which locked up dissidents in psychiatric institutions and was overly anti-Semitic. The Greens Senator did not break with the pro-Moscow communists until 1990 – when she was close to 40 years of age....
MWD is astounded, absolutely astounded, that few members of the Canberra Press Gallery – outside the News Corp stable, where Christian Kerr has done considerable research – have focused on what Lee Rhiannon did between the ages of 18 and 39. Yet there has been excessive focus on David Marr’s unproven (and now revised) claim that Tony Abbott punched a wall at Sydney University when still a teenager. See MWD passim.
And then there is the matter of double standards. Imagine what ABC journalists would say if Cardinal George Pell confessed on RN Drivethat he studied at, say, the International Mussolini School in Rome financed by the French National Front. Just imagine.
Labor rewrites its recent history
HOOKED on instant gratification like kids to an Xbox, some of the sillier talking heads are demanding the Abbott government take responsibility for the mess Labor left (left in more ways than one) after six years in office.
There’s certainly no shortage of Christmas clowns in Canberra this month.
From the Opposition benches to the Press Gallery, troupes of overpaid jesters are spouting lines that must have come straight from the Christmas cracker factory.
Whether it is Opposition leader Bill Shorten, the usual gaggle of ABC geese or Channel 10s dyed-in-the-wool champion of the Left, Paul Bongiorno, it would seem that activities of the failed Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments are being airbrushed from the historical record with the same alacrity demonstrated by North Korea’s skilled revisionists.
To take the treatment of but two news examples that emerged last week, the collapse of Holden and the release of the real state of the NBN disaster, it would seem Labor and its cheer squad believe the Coalition was secretly running things even though it lost office in 2007.
Holden was a shot duck, and was always going to be a shot duck, even before Labor introduced industry-punishing measures like former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s penalising $460 million carbon dioxide tax and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s brutal $1.8 billion fringe benefit tax hit to car-leasing companies.
In just the last two years, the Labor government broke $1.4 billion in promised funding commitments as it vacillated on car industry policy.
Forget the crocodile tears being shed by the assorted union bosses and recall that Gillard once promised $34 million for Ford, which she said would create 300 jobs. Within eight months 330 employees had lost their jobs and Ford subsequently announced its departure from Australia.
Rather than blame Prime Minister Tony Abbott for Holden’s demise, as Shorten attempted to do on the last day of the parliamentary year, he should have been reminded by the media that Gillard, whom he supported before he knifed her to bring back Rudd, whom he had earlier knifed, had boasted last March: “It gives me great pleasure to be able to say to the House that we have worked together with Holden and we have secured Holden to manufacture cars in Australia for the next decade.”
Labor MP Nick Champion, whose South Australian electorate of Wakefield is home to many Holden workers, sent out a letter before the last election in which he wrote: “I have secured guaranteed support for GM Holden, Elizabeth, ensuring production until 2022.”
But Champion is not the most egregious of Labor’s galahs, he would be thrashed in any contest by former Treasurer and serial humbug Wayne Swan, for instance, or former Finance Minister Penny Wong, or that other former Treasurer Chris Bowen.
Who could possibly forget the sight of three departmental heads branding Rudd, Bowen and Wong liars after they attempted to claim the public servants had rubbished the Opposition’s policy costings?
Another contender for class fool is former Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare, now the shadow Communications spokesman, who shrieked about broken promises last week as the Abbott government started to get to grips with the massive catastrophe that is Labor’s NBN.
Now that the NBN’s new chairman has looked at the books and discovered that Labor’s dysfunctional plan for the broadband network would have cost a staggering $73 billion and missed Labor’s deadline by at least three years, Clare says the plan to apply a bandage to this haemorrhage constitutes a breach of “one of the most important promises it (the Coalition) made before the election”.
Can this galoot really think the Abbott government should have pursued Labor’s extravagant rollout, which the strategic review discovered would have needed $29 billion more than Labor’s forecast $44 billion, had it continued because of expected cost blowouts and totally unachievable revenue targets?
As Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the House Thursday: “The NBN has been shrouded in a web of spin, obfuscation and exaggeration. Forecasts have been set, missed, set again, missed again, set a third time, and missed a third time. Beguiling promises have been offered but not delivered.”
Releasing the report, he said: “Critically, this report is not reverse engineered to justify or rationalise government policy, whether set out in a speech, conjured up by press release or sketched on the back of a drink coaster.
“I emphasise this point because the facts so methodically presented in the review make it plain that the NBN is in a worse state than Australians have been told.”
PM Tony Abbott admits to spanking his children
Mr Abbott warns political correctness can go too far and says there is nothing wrong with gentle smacks
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has admitted he smacked his children when they were young and warned against bans that could take political correctness "to extremes".
Mr Abbott was commenting after the issue was raised in the first report submitted to parliament by the newly established National Children's Commissioner.
It highlights the United Nations' concern "that corporal punishment in the home and in some schools and alternative care settings remains lawful in Australia".
The UN Committee of the Rights of the Child document recommends "that corporal punishment be explicitly prohibited", but Mr Abbott said "a gentle smack" was fine.
"We often see political correctness taken to extremes and maybe this is another example," the conservative leader, who has three grown-up daughters, told Channel Seven television.
"I was probably one of those guilty parents who did occasionally chastise the children, a very gentle smack I've got to say. "I think that we've got to treat our kids well, but I don't think we ought to say there's no place ever for smacks.
"All parents know that occasionally the best thing we can give is a smack, but it should never be something that hurts them."
Corporal punishment of children is banned in more than 30 countries around the world, including Germany, New Zealand and Spain.
15 December, 2013
Hard multiculturalism's rise in Australia
Australia's success story of building a harmonious nation of immigrants is now threatened by the rise of 'hard' multiculturalism.
Hard multiculturalism opposes social integration by pursuing a program of cultural diversity which does not tolerate any divergent points of view.
When hard multiculturalists say we must treat controversial topics such as forced marriages and female circumcision with 'cultural sensitivity,' they begin to cast doubt on the very idea of a core national culture.
Of course, Australia is a cohesive and peaceful country. Multiculturalism is still popular here according to the 2013 Scanlon Foundation's Mapping Social Cohesion report. Our support for a tolerant, multicultural society sits at a healthy 84%.
Yet hard multiculturalists say the 'fair go' is no longer available equally to all Australians. The answer is for the state to manage cultural and ethnic diversity.
There are even demands for the Federal Parliament to pass a Multicultural Act to make sure multicultural policies are set in statute.
Hard multiculturalism is now posing questions about just how public policy promotes the peaceful coexistence of diverse people in one society.
What began as a sincere desire to eliminate racism and promote tolerance has turned into a determined drive to promote diversity as a moral and political end.
This determination has become an obsession.
Diversity is no longer something that exists naturally, as you might expect in a country that by 2010 had become the third-most culturally diverse nation in the world (after Singapore and Hong Kong).
Instead, diversity has become a moral objective promoted as an end in itself - precisely what is intended in the proposed Multicultural Act.
This obsession with diversity threatens individual liberty because it promotes the interests of particular groups over those of the individual.
The debate about hard multiculturalism is about the weight we should afford cultures other than the prevailing Australian one.
But in pursuing a vested notion of social justice, the demand for equal recognition should never trump the demand for liberty.
The fairest way to accommodate differences is by maintaining a stable framework of laws and institutions to guarantee the freedom of the individual.
It is time for the fetish of diversity to end and the advance of hard multiculturalism to be checked.
Peter Kurti is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies, and author of Multiculturalism and the Fetish of Diversity, released on 10 December 2013.multiculturalism to be checked.
A darker shade of green
Miranda Devine on the Sydney scene
THE rape of a Belgian tourist in a dark alley in Potts Point last month is a warning that environmentally sensitive street lighting will take a terrible human toll.
The 25-year-old was walking down a dimly lit Victoria Street from her serviced apartment to buy food at 8.30pm when a man forced her into the alley between two terrace houses.
It was so dark that the traumatized woman could not give police a description of her assailant, or even tell them the color of his clothes.
The alley where she was attacked is at the northern end of Victoria street in a residential enclave just a block from the bright lights and fleshpots of Darlinghurst Road.
And yet the lighting was like something out of the backblocks of St Ives: completely inadequate as a deterrent to crime.
There was a solitary lamppost near where the alley runs into the dead-end Tusculum Lane, positioned 6m south and covered by a tree canopy three storeys high. Nor is there any street light on that side of the road for 50 metres in the direction the victim was walking.
It was clearly an ideal spot for a predator.
To the council’s credit, it has installed three new lights since the assault and is planning to install extra lights at nearby Butler Stairs.
The new lights are the low energy LED (light-emitting diode) lights which the council is rolling out across Sydney to replace traditional street bulbs.
But the big worry is that LED lights will make Sydney’s dim lighting fade even more, thanks to Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s jihad against “carbon pollution”.
Sure, LED technology is terrific in an enclosed space for focused light but there are drawbacks when it comes to providing uniform illumination for pedestrians to walk safely.
LED lights are white and easier to look at ,without the halo effect of traditional street lights. They have the advantage of being more focused so that light doesn’t “spill” into houses.
But the light doesn’t spread as far, so the area of illumination is smaller. Lighting is further reduced by tree canopies, which abound in areas like Potts Point.
What’s more, LED lights don’t suddenly blow, but degrade over time which means residents may not notice as illumination fades.
And while LEDs measure up to the old lights in “lumen output”, the human eye doesn’t perceive the same broad coverage.
But street lights are council’s biggest single contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and our Lord Mayor is an ardent greenie.
She boasts that Sydney is the first city in Australia to roll out the new lights, after a trial in Alexandria Park, Kings Cross, Martin Place and Circular Quay. The venture will reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2,185 tonnes a year.
The council claims 90 percent of residents surveyed during their trial found the new lights “appealing”.
But when towns in the US and UK have trialled LED lighting residents complained about reduced illumination.
Almost every resident in the two streets in Salford, England, where LED lights were fitted in 2011 signed a petition asking, unsuccessfully, for the old lights to be reinstated.
In Sydney, AUSGRID maintains the traditional street lamps on Victoria Street under contract for the council. A spokesman said yesterday it was in discussions about upgrading lighting there but that council decides how many street lights to install and Standards Australia “dictates how bright lights should be.”
You can expect those lights to be dimmer in future since the Australian standard AS/NZS 1158 has been under review to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
More secret enviro-meddling will come from a body called the “National Strategy on Energy Efficiency” which has been working since 2011 on a plan to “significantly improve street lighting energy efficiency by 2020.”
We can assume “improve” is meant in the Orwellian sense, as cities around the world dim their lights.
Electric light has been the wellspring of human progress over the last century, protecting us from the creatures of the night. Now the luddites of the green movement want to send us back to the dark ages.
Car-makers: The answer isn’t more subsidies but saner unions
We have paid Holden annual subsidies amounting to more than $50,000 a year per worker, but high costs still killed it - and especially the high costs imposed by unions.
Now the unions at Toyota, also subsidised, seem hell-bent on killing our last car-maker, too. Grace Collier notes:
Now that Holden has announced its departure, we need to consider the Toyota situation, which will come to a head with a vote on its enterprise agreement tomorrow. In September 2011, thousands of Toyota workers went on a protracted strike to get a 12 per cent pay rise. The company caved in; a deal with a 13 per cent pay rise between then and March 2015 was given. Base rates for technical and trade workers are in the $65,000 to $97,000 range with generous allowances, loadings and penalties on top.
The Toyota enterprise agreement lists its “purpose” as “to achieve TMCA’s success as a Global Company” yet no single business contract could guarantee its failure more. This document, as much as Holden’s, reflects an extraordinary level of union control over daily workplace organisation.
When Toyota wants to hire someone, a union (employee) representative must sit in every single job interview as “an observer”.... A table in the agreement sets out exactly how many union representatives the company has to have in every section of the workplace and 10 paid union training days a year is given to union reps.
Toyota is allowed to hire casuals only from “time to time” and not at all without union agreement, although agreement must not be “unreasonably withheld”. Casuals can perform only the “agreed specified tasks” for the “agreed specified period” mandated by the union. “The maximum period for which a Casual Employee can work continuously on a full-time basis is one month” and any casual around for six months must be made a permanent employee.
Contract labour can be hired only after Toyota reaches “agreement with the relevant Union official and Employee (union) Representative”. Contractors around for 12 months must be made permanent employees.
This means Toyota can never really have a hiring freeze but are continually bound to a destructive cycle of taking people on before eventually having to make them redundant....
Over-staffing must be a big problem because the agreement mandates one team leader to look after “between 5-7 process workers”. Supervisors, whose base rates range from $75,000 to $103,000, are forbidden from helping with workloads…
If Toyota needs to dismiss someone, an outrageous procedure of at least three years and three months continuous disciplinary action is required before dismissal can occur. This defies belief.
The Holden demise is not all bad news
We're in danger of drowning under the bad news about Holden ceasing to manufacture in Australia from 2017 as the politicians try to blame each other, but not all of it is bad.
There's every chance the end of the Aussie-made Commodore doesn't also signal the end of the world. In no particular order, here's an attempt to put a little perspective into whirlwind:
* General Motors seems to be following the Ford model, so to speak. Manufacturing ceases but Australia retains "a global design studio". The Commodore platform developed here also is the basis for the Chevy Camaro. GM's new CEO (as of next month) is Mary Barra, currently global head of product development. Hopefully she has an appreciation of what we're capable of at the smart end of the industry.
* While Ford is losing 1200 jobs when it stops screwing nuts on bolts, it has said it will keep 1500. That puts the direct manufacturing task in some perspective. The greater value-add in manufacturing is just about everything except the actual manufacturing.
* Local parts makers dependent on local production have had plenty of warning to diversify and the smarter ones have been doing just that. Of course losing a key customer hurts, but there's a lesson here that there is only one market and it's global. No business can afford to be dependent on a single customer. Again, it's the "thinking" bit of manufacturing that's where the money is – the bits can be churned out wherever the quality/costs equation best works.
* The opportunity cost of spending government money to support an industry tends to be overlooked – but it's now up to the government to prove it can effectively invest the car industry assistance money better somewhere else.
* These have been very expensive individual jobs to subsidise. The industry likes to paint the subsidy as not-much-per-head of the Australian population – it looks much better than a-lot-per-Holden-employee.
* While many GMH employees on relatively high wages for manufacturing roles will find it hard to retrain and land jobs nearly as good, the unspoken reality is that many others at Holden (and Ford) will effectively be winning the lottery. The TV news stories always concentrate on the hard luck stories, not on the workers who were close to retirement or trying something else anyway and will now cop a rich and concessionally-taxed redundancy payment, some of them a hefty six figures. The usual line, "I've given the company 30 years and now they kick me out", is simply wrong. You've been paid well by the company for 30 years and now you're being paid especially well to leave.
* Pascoe's Law of Disaster applies: "If your house burns down, you're much better off if all the houses in your street burn with it." Because this is a headline-making closure with many people involved, there will be extra assistance given for retraining and local communities. Governments tend to get involved. Lose your job at the corner store and it's just tough luck.
* Remember the Newcastle experience: losing a major employer doesn't have to be a regional disaster. BHP closing its Newcastle steel works was billed as a catastrophe – now Newcastle wouldn't want a steel works if you gave it to them. (Clive Palmer tried to once in a typical bit of funny business with other people's money, but that's another story.)
* There's been a tendency to assume Toyota will surely go if Holden goes – it well might, but it's by no means certain if something near the current level of subsidies remain. Toyota tends to have a longer and more strategic view of its global business and production. The Australian dollar might be prohibitively high today, but it might not be in a few years. Don't count your closures until they're latched.
* We constantly underrate our ability to reinvent ourselves. Every Doomsday forecast ever made discounts mankind's ability to avoid or mitigate whatever the disaster might be. Most of the time, that's what we do.
* The way manufacturing is going, there will be fewer and fewer jobs in putting together cars anyway. Successful manufacturing of anything now is very highly automated.
* The touted number of jobs at risk sounds large, but is actually a small percentage of the 11.6 million Australians currently employed.
* Australia in 2017 won't be like Australia in 2013. Whether it will be better or worse, we're yet to find out, but we remain a rich, relatively well-educated nation with plenty of upside for doing whatever we do better than we do it now.There's not much point bemoaning the inevitable. Manufacturing cars in Australia simply does not add up – a small, extremely competitive local market with high costs and a stubbornly strong currency. For General Motors, Australian manufacture barely rates as a problem, it's just a distraction.
* Contrary to the knee-jerk reaction of politicians, no town or region is owed a living – industries and regions are forever in the process of rising and falling. Sometimes the freed-up human capital of one failing venture becomes an opportunity for another to start. Sometimes people just have to face the lack of opportunity in one place and move to where there is more. Spare me any attempt to manufacture nostalgia about South Australia's Elizabeth.
13 December, 2013
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is disgusted by the foul-mouthed speech from the Left
Abbott government to launch Royal commission into union 'slush funds'
The Abbott government will launch a royal commission into union "slush funds" in the coming months in a move that will place heavy scrutiny on union officials and senior Labor politicians.
The royal commission comes less than a fortnight after a Fairfax Media investigation uncovered millions of dollars in a string of secret union slush funds.
The series of Fairfax reports revealed the involvement of the NSW Right’s powerful Transport Workers Union in a $500,000 takeover of its own Queensland branch with the backing of the disgraced former HSU leader Michael Williamson.
It also reported the possible unlawful misuse of union and parliamentary staff by senior union officials and Labor figures.
Staff from the TWU’s national and NSW offices were sent to Brisbane and for weeks were paid to oversee an elaborate campaign including use of call centres, focus groups, bulk SMS messaging, and repeated mail-outs to members.
The Fair Work Commission has started making initial inquiries into the allegations.Before the 2013 election, the Coalition had promised a judicial inquiry into an early-1990s slush fund, the AWU Workplace Reform Association.
That fund involved then union official Bruce Wilson, the former boyfriend of Julia Gillard.
The former prime minister provided legal advice to Mr Wilson in setting up the association.
She has vigorously denied wrongdoing or any knowledge of the fund’s operations.But now the Abbott government is to dramatically widen the scope of that inquiry to a royal commission.
Attorney-General George Brandis confirmed it was "considering the scope and terms of reference" of its inquiry.
Full details are yet to be released.
Last week, Employment Minister Eric Abetz said, in response to the Fairfax reports, that there was an "endemic culture of illegality and funny money" in the union movement.Senator Abetz, speaking in Parliament, said workers were being ripped off by factional games in Labor.
"Those [Fairfax] revelations told us about hundreds of thousands of dollars being used to fight, not for trade union members, but union leaders and their fiefdoms and ALP endorsements," Senator Abetz said.
"In relation to the Transport Workers Union slush fund, that’s not just a Christmas social club, that is a huge amount of money. It is serious money with serious consequences.
Money held in secret funds, in buckets and in brown paper bags.
"Senior union leaders attacked the prospect of a royal commission as a "union-bashing exercise" and an attempt by the government to distract attention from the closure of Holden’s manufacturing business.
Australia's top court overrules gay marriage in capital
The decision means that the 27 couples who have wed since the ACT laws came into effect a month ago will have their marriages annulled as unconstitutional
Australia's High Court has struck down gay marriage in the nation's capital where dozens have wed under a landmark law, ruling that parliament must decide whether to approve same-sex unions.
Had the nation's top court upheld the Australian Capital Territory's gay marriage legislation it would have opened the door to similar laws being passed across the country, pressuring the government to make it legal at a national level.
In a unanimous decision, Australia's highest court ruled that the federal parliament -- not state and territory authorities -- had the ultimate say over marriage, and whether it was extended to same-sex couples was a matter for lawmakers.
"The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same-sex couples," the court said.
"That Act is a comprehensive and exhaustive statement of the law of marriage," it added.
"Under the constitution and federal law as it now stands, whether same-sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the federal parliament."
The decision means that the 27 couples who have wed since the ACT laws came into effect a month ago will have their marriages annulled as unconstitutional.
There were tearful scenes outside the court as those who had married digested the judgment, with Ivan Hinton describing it as "personally devastating" to have his vows to partner Chris Teoh overturned.
"In less than a week we've been married and we've been unmarried, at least on a legal level," he told reporters, fighting back tears.
"We're still married. I've made commitments to Chris to spend the rest of my life with him, through sickness and through health, in the good times and in the bad. Today's not particularly good."
Veteran gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome said the case represented major progress.
"Although there's been a defeat for marriage equality in the High Court today this week we've seen a much greater victory," an emotional Mr Croome said.
"For the first time ever same-sex couples have married on Australian soil. That has been a huge step forward and one from which there is no return."
Instead of "protests or politics, or even laws and the constitution", Mr Croome said the passage of the ACT laws had showed that gay marriage was about "love, commitment, family and fairness".
The ruling had also given campaigners a clear path forward, Mr Croome said, putting the ball squarely in the parliament's court, and affirming "for the first time ever" that lawmakers "definitely" had the power to make same-sex marriage legal. "Many people had assumed that until now but it has never been declared by the court," he said.
Others also took heart from the court's declaration that while the Marriage Act was restricted to male-female unions, the constitution did not inherently exclude same-sex couples from the definition of "marriage", underscoring that it was a political rather than legal issue.
Religious groups including the Australian Christian Lobby welcomed the ruling, saying gay marriage was irrelevant to most Australians and it was "time to move on".
Gay marriage has been explicitly outlawed in Australia since 2004, when then-prime minister John Howard amended the Marriage Act to specify that such unions were only valid between a man and a woman.
The conservative Tony Abbott-led government is opposed to gay marriage, despite Abbott's sister being a lesbian who is engaged and hopes to marry her partner.
Same-sex couples can have civil unions or register their relationships in most states across Australia but the government does not consider them married under national law. For legal purposes they are considered de facto couples and have exactly the same rights as married couples.
Why the Left takes joy in foul abuse
SO Joy Burch, the Education minister of the ACT, publishes a tweet describing her federal counterpart Christopher Pyne as a c**t - and gets away with it.
Her excuse for retweeting the foul abuse is that she is inexperienced on Twitter, despite the fact she has been publishing her thoughts on the social media site for four years, during which time she has written 1161 tweets.
“I haven’t finessed my social skills, my Twitter skills on this,” she said, while considering an offer by the University of Canberra for remedial social media training.
In other words, Burch has published six tweets a week for the past four years and she still hasn’t worked out how to use Twitter.
Slow learner, much?
Her boss, fellow feminist and Emily’s Lister Katy Gallagher, the ACT Chief Minister, accepted Burch’s explanation that the tweet - which she later deleted - was a mistake.
“I also believe that she has done the right thing and accepted responsibility for what happened ... and has offered an apology to Minister Pyne,’’ she said.
We all make mistakes. But imagine if the roles were reversed. Imagine if Pyne had used the most obscene word in the English language, describing an intimate portion of the female anatomy, in reference to Burch. He would be crucified. Twitter would be ablaze! The destroy-the-jointers would be apoplectic. The entire Abbott government would be implicated.
“If I had done that, before my head hit the pillow [Thursday night] I would have resigned or been sacked,” Pyne says.
“If it was me saying such a thing, the howls from the left would be cacophonous.”
But there has been barely a peep against Burch, who also happens to be the ACT’s Minister for Women. Moving right along. No double standards here.
That’s the Left for you, hysterical overreaction when it suits them, benign tolerance when it doesn’t. If you’re on their side, anything goes. If you’re a conservative, a minefield of ‘isms lie in wait - sooner or later you will be accused of sexism, racism, elitism, homophobia and misogyny.
Of course, the upside is that conservatives become battle - hardened and vigilant while their establishment foes grow sloppy and complacent.
The truth is that Burch doesn’t like Pyne because he is an ideological enemy and a fearsome warrior.
In fact there are few politicians as tough. Pyne relishes combat. As the much-loved youngest of five children growing up in Adelaide, he learned his skills at a family dining table where vigorous debate was nightly sport.
The photograph that had Burch and comrades so furious that they called him “c**t” last week shows Pyne smirking, or, as one tweeter put it, “smugly loitering”, in the background of one of those ranting press conferences NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli held about Gonski funding.
This was supposed to be the moment when Pyne was on the ropes, chastised by the media for executing backflips, supposedly humiliated by Prime Ministerial intervention, and yet here he was looking exceedingly pleased with himself.
How infuriating for his enemies!
Having unwisely promised to match the extra billions pledged by Labor before the election under the so-called Gonski model of redistributing education funding, the Abbott government is stuck with it.
But don’t expect Pyne to capitulate.
He knows giving extra billions to the very state education bureaucracies that have presided over a decline in standards over the past decade of record funding increases is no answer to our woes.
The latest OECD rankings show Australian students have fallen even further behind their peers in 65 industrialised nations, dropping out of the top ten for reading, maths and science for the first time.
The test results released last week show Australian 15-year-old students ranked 13th in reading last year, down from 9th in 2009; 19th in maths, down from 14th; and 17th in science, down from 10th. An earlier report showed the reading skills of our Year 4 students are the worst of every English-speaking country tested.
This sorry result is despite the fact Australia increased spending on schools by more than 40 per cent last decade.
More money does not automatically mean better education.
In fact it can make things worse, if you are just entrenching the progressive education ideology that has infected teacher training for decades, and which fails disadvantaged children the most.
Pyne understands completely.
“The failing in education is not money,” he says. “[What’s needed is] an acceptance that what we’ve been doing for decades doesn’t work. Child-centred learning, whole language teaching of reading, acceptance of failure, is not going to get our students to the top of the tree around the world.”
The federal government doesn’t control what happens in schools. But what Pyne can control is teacher quality, the single biggest determinant of student success.
“We are going to intervene in the training of our teachers ... to ensure that [when they graduate]from university they are properly trained in how to teach students to read, and to do so from phonics, through orthodox teaching methods.”
He has lots of other plans too, from expanding direct instruction to ensuring principal autonomy, all of which is anathema to the progressive education establishment.
He should wear their foul abuse as a badge of honour.
How General Motors Holden exited from Australia
In a seemingly calculated performance - one designed to flush out GM's intentions and back the car maker into a corner - the Treasurer said it was time for Holden to "come clean" and be "fair dinkum" with the Australian people over its future in the country. "Either you're here or you're not," Mr Hockey said.
Mr Truss chimed in by saying: "They owe it to the workers of General Motors not to go into the Christmas period without making a clear commitment to manufacturing in this country."
For Holden management, which had been in commercial-in-confidence discussions with the government for months, it was a clear signal that the federal cabinet had turned on the company, and wanted a swift end.
Holden staff members were not the only ones listening in to the "extraordinary" events unfold in Canberra. So was GMH managing director Mike Devereux.
For weeks Holden management had been fighting a battle over the timing of the announcement regarding the company's manufacturing operations in Australia.
The facts were simple to Mr Devereux's masters in Detroit. To them, Australia was suffering a severe case of "Dutch disease" - an economic malaise by which a mining boom had pushed up the local currency and wages for industrial workers.
Without government assistance, head office in Detroit had decided that making cars in Australia no longer added up - to the tune of $3750 a car per year.
Mr Devereux knew that with no money forthcoming from the federal government, the end was nigh. His team had already brokered an enterprise bargaining agreement with the unions that enshrined a three-year wage freeze and won an extra 16 minutes of work time per employee a shift.
Mr Devereux told the Productivity Commission he did not have to eliminate the entire $3750 gap, just enough to keep his masters happy.
"GM, where possible and where feasible, the general philosophy of our company is to build where we sell," he said.
What Holden needed was a further commitment of $150 million a year from the government through to 2020 - roughly $2000 a car built. With that, Mr Devereux could get the numbers to work. In return, Holden would continue making the VF Commodore and Cruze in Australia until 2017, and then commit to build GM's next generation global car in Adelaide until 2020.
"We need a public-private partnership over the long term to be able to be relatively competitive and to have GM be able to do what it wants to do, which is to build where we sell," Mr Devereux told the Productivity Commission hearing after an hour of questions. "Now, unless you guys have more questions, I need to move."
Mr Devereux's impatience was understandable. It was 10am and big moves had been announced back in Detroit. GM chief executive Dan Akerson had just handed over the reins to Mary Barra, the first female chief executive of a major auto company.
Compared with other events taking place on the GM "ecosystem", as Mr Devereux likes to call it, a Productivity Commission hearing in Australia was small fry. But all that changed during question time.
While listening to the words of Mr Hockey and Mr Truss, the Holden boss was on the phone to Detroit, where it was after 10pm.
Mr Devereux informed GM headquarters of the events in Australia. The decision was swift. Detroit pulled the pin. Mr Devereux would take up his position as vice-president of sales, marketing and aftersales for GM's consolidated international operations, based in Shanghai.
Mr Truss on Wednesday claimed he had been told by Holden that the government's actions had little influence on GM's decision.
But Mr Hockey appeared to concede the government was not willing to give money to Holden. "Ultimately, what it comes down to is prosperity only comes from hard work and enterprise; it doesn't come from the benevolence of taxpayers," he said.
After his phone call to Detroit, Mr Devereux booked a flight to Adelaide. "I wanted to tell my workers first," he said on Wednesday.
The Holden team hit the phones to spread the news. South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill and Victorian Premier Denis Napthine were next to be briefed.
BOOK REVIEW of The Age of Global Warming: A History by Rupert Darwall. Review by Australian scientist DAVID ARCHIBALD
As the pumped-up spectre of climatic catastrophe continues to deflate, Ruper Darwall's new book makes a handy guide to the conceits, careerism, delusions and blatant misrepresentations that debased the good name of science and set the stage for economic ruin
Rupert Darwall’s The Age of Global Warming: A History is a wonderful book, the best account of the politics of global warming to date — and the best likely to be written. It is engaging and doesn’t over-reach to become over-worked and tedious. As someone who has served as a foot soldier in the solar-science trench of the global warming battle for less than a decade, this book filled in a lot of the missing details.
It also offers some new insights. Environmentalism had a big run up from the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 to the first environmental conference in Stockholm ten years later. During that time, Ronald Reagan, as Governor of California, blocked the building of some dams and highways for environmental reasons, and Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Then the Yom Kippur began on October 6, 1973. Interest in environmental matters as a popular issue was sidelined for some time by wars and oil-supply shocks. Nevertheless, notions of wealth redistribution from OECD countries to the Third World continued to be generated, their rationale based on the novel concept of “environmental justice”. The movement thrashed around until it lit upon the issue that would take it mainstream. Initially, the health of the oceans was promoted as the big concern, but then global warming emerged as the issue able to get the best traction.
One of the missing details that this book fills in is the lack of economic modelling on global warming policies.darwall cover The first governmental review of the costs and benefits of mitigation measures was that of the George Bush administration in 1990. No other government bothered, being quite happy to sign up to commitments to deep cuts in emissions without knowing or caring about the economic consequences. That is what I found strange when I got involved in this issue. Do you remember when Kevin Rudd said that fighting global warming would cost a family just $1 per day, as if they were signing up to a World Vision child sponsorship plan or the like? Of course the economic consequences have been much more burdensome than that, underwritten by the indisputble fact that environmentalism needs prosperity to flourish.
The first people to lose their jobs in Australia due to the global warming scare were cement workers in Rockhampton. One of the more recent victims was a restaurant in inner Sydney, where the owners could not afford to re-gas their fridges – collateral damage in the war on Western civilisation. A warehouse burnt down in New Zealand because the owners tried to save money by switching to a hydrocarbon refrigerant. The economic consequences are now coming faster and harder. The Europeans have suddenly become much more aware of what will happen to their power prices under the global-warming legislation they have enacted. Seemingly none of them did any economic modelling of what would happen. They were so very happy to sign up to the cause and equally eager to coerce others into committing economic suicide as well. Now the consequences are becoming grimly apparent.
[Australian politician] Malcolm Turnbull, a climate change true believer, once said that for global warming not to be true, it would have to be the largest conspiracy the world has ever seen. Darwall details the first stirrings of that conspiracy in the 1920s, and he tracks its progress over the near-hundred years since. Did the scientists actually believe the theory they were advocating? It seems they did and simply cooked the books to show that it was happening, fervently believing reality would eventually catch up with their projections. Gaia had other ideas, however. The planet has refused to warm for very nearly two decades, and there is a growing body of evidence and observations that suggest we may actually on the brink of global cooling.
For those thoroughly bored with global warming, Darwell’s book still represents a very good read because it shows how public opinion is shaped and prepared for concerted and calculated multi-year campaigns at the international level. I have heard speculation that “global warming” is to be replaced as a poster issue for the environmentalist cause by the notion of “sustainability”. One of the first indications that such a switch in emphasis is in progress was a recent campaign by the NSW EPA against food wastage. Seemingly, the state agency is reading the cues and reacting to them.
The vast majority of our polity here in Australia are still afflicted by global warming, either as believers or in paying lip service to it. The country at this juncture is still destined for one pointless burden or the other – be it the carbon tax or “direct action”. Tellingly, while the new Liberal Government was elected on a pledge to abolish the carbon tax, it has kept the National Greenhouse & Energy Reporting Act (NGER) — the last dark deed of the Howard Government in 2007. Howard pronounced himself as agnostic on global warming, but for some reason was very efficient at bringing in legislation that paved the way for the carbon tax. He later rewrote his autobiography to explain that he was panicked by a tidal wave of environmentalism. It seems Howard thought he would use global warming as an issue to push Australia towards nuclear power. Instead, he cast himself as another of Lenin’s “useful fools”.
Belief in global warming has been a litmus test for our politicians. If they have ever believed in it, or uttered the inane “we have decided to give the planet the benefit of the doubt”, they are fools for being so easily deluded. Repeal of the NGER is now the litmus test. If that act is not repealed, then it will be self-evident our current crop of leaders is not serious about Australia’s economic health, national security, liquid fuel supplies and similar grave matters of state. Our country will continue to suffer until the issue of global warming is entirely behind us. Reading Darwall’s book will bring forward that frabjous day.
12 December, 2013
Abbott puts pressure on asylum-seekers
THE Abbott government is tightening the screws on the living conditions of about 33,000 asylum-seekers in the community on bridging visas by rejecting vulnerable support payments, delaying other assistance and letting visas expire.
The Australian has learned new applications for the Community Assistance Payment -- designed for the most vulnerable asylum-seekers in the community -- have been rejected in every case in the past two months and about 90 per cent of the time in the past six months.
Waiting times to secure interviews for the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme, which pays about $440 a fortnight, have also blown out from about six weeks to four months, according to those who work with asylum-seekers.
Red Cross staff who handle federal government contracts have been instructed to divert resources from administering the CAS program to the ASAS program.
The CAS program is designed for those with mental health conditions, disabilities, the elderly, traumatised people and children.
Asylum Seekers Centre chief executive Melanie Noden, based in Sydney, said the facility was now spending four times as much on emergencies as it was 18 months ago, and that asylum-seekers released from detention had in some cases been sent out into the community without support.
"We've had to close referrals from the Red Cross . . . because we've had 46 new cases in the last few weeks and 30 of those have been homeless," Ms Noden said. "The CAS program has all but closed." Ms Noden said one client had been released with basic Medicare support and managed to get a subscription for his diabetes medication, but had no money to pay for it.
"By the time he was found he was quite seriously ill," she said.
"I cannot tell anyone the official policies have changed but I know from the outcomes we are seeing that the way they have been applied has changed and that change has been recent."
Ms Noden said about half her clients had arrived in Australia by plane, and half by boat.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison denied there had been any crackdown on either CAS or ASAS payments and said the redirection of Red Cross resources reflected a downturn in the number of people released from detention since September.
He said the government was working to renew bridging visas "in line with new processes which are being finalised".
But a migration agent who works principally with asylum-seekers and did not want to be named said policy "interpretations" had combined to create a perfect storm of social discord.
"They can't work, they can't study, they can't scratch themselves without fingers being pointed and no one knows when it all might end, what lies at the end of the line," she said.
"Cracking down even more on this group has one purpose only. The government wants to make things so bad here the asylum-speakers just go home."
Opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles said there was nothing to be gained from "cruelty for cruelty's sake".
"If there has been a change of procedure under this government then it is very important the minister makes this change public and transparent."
Public sector wages grow by $750 million despite job cuts
The Commonwealth government’s workforce shrunk by about 1500 jobs in the 2012-2013 financial year, but its wages bill grew by more than $750 million, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
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The bureau’s latest snapshot of public sector employment and wages shows the federal government employed about 248,500 workers across its public service and non-public service agencies and departments, down from 250,000 the previous year.
But the data contained bad news for the Abbott government’s cost-cutting agenda, with wages growing to $19.7 billion, a 3.8 per cent increase from just under $19 billion in 2011-2012.
Across the sector, state governments employed 1.45 million Australians in June 2013, up slightly from the previous year despite cuts in NSW and Queensland, while local councils had 192,000 workers.
The bureau has put Australia’s public sector workforce at just under 1.9 million Australians with their wages and salaries at nearly $134 billion.
Court opens files on AWU 'fraud'
VICTORIA'S most senior magistrate has found reasonable grounds to conclude that Julia Gillard's former boyfriend was involved in a fraud, negating his right to claim privilege over documents held at her old law firm.
Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen yesterday granted Victoria Police access to 363 documents that have remained sealed since they were seized under warrant from Slater & Gordon's Melbourne office.
Fraud squad detectives sought the documents as part of their ongoing investigation into former Australian Workers Union boss Bruce Wilson and the AWU Workplace Reform Association "slush fund".
It is alleged Mr Wilson used the fund to siphon hundreds of thousands of dollars from construction giant Thiess and buy a house in the inner Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. After receiving evidence, including from lead investigator Ross Mitchell and Mr Wilson's former bagman Ralph Blewitt, Mr Lauritsen said he was satisfied each document that met the requirements for privilege was "prepared in furtherance of the commission of a fraud or an offence".
"The evidence of Blewitt establishes that Thiess was deceived," he said in his published reasons.
"It believed it was paying for a particular service. The association provided no such service.
"Wilson bought a home with some of Thiess's payments. Only he knows what happened (to) the rest."
Mr Wilson was in a long-term relationship with Ms Gillard when she provided legal advice to help establish the association while working at Slater & Gordon, later describing it to her employer as a "slush fund".
Money was withdrawn from the fund to purchase the Fitzroy house in Mr Blewitt's name at a 1993 auction, which Ms Gillard attended with Mr Wilson, who subsequently lived in the property.
Slater & Gordon handled the conveyancing and helped provide finance.
An affidavit sworn by Mr Mitchell, referred to in the court's decision, says evidence identified through the investigation indicates the creation of the association was "for the sole purpose of legitimising the 'false' invoicing for 'work' provided by the association".
Mr Mitchell says he is investigating four types of offence in relation to Mr Wilson and others: obtaining property by deception; receiving secret commissions; making and using false documents; and conspiracy to cheat and defraud.
"He (Mr Mitchell) now believes Wilson, Blewitt and others were involved in committing these offences," Mr Lauritsen said.
Ms Gillard has denied wrongdoing and said she had no knowledge of the fund's operations other than it was a "slush fund" for the re-election of union officials.
Mr Wilson has not been charged with any offence and has similarly denied any wrongdoing.
Astrid Haban-Beer, representing Mr Wilson, asked Mr Lauritsen to place a stay on his orders pending an appeal against the judgment. Mr Lauritsen asked Ms Haban-Beer whether she had seen the disputed documents, saying he found it "remarkable" an appeal would be lodged.
"If you haven't really got instructions, then you are wasting my time," he said. "You're seriously suggesting your client wants to appeal?"
He agreed to delay the effect of his orders until next Monday so appeal papers could be lodged.
The court will return on that day to hear further argument on a media application to access affidavits and other materials tendered in the case.
Mr Lauritsen said he had considered Mr Wilson's "remarkable" 7.30 interview last year in which he admitted the association's purpose was to fund election campaigns.
"He even ponders whether he used the expression 'slush fund' when speaking to solicitors," Mr Lauritsen said. "He then admits using its monies to buy the property, justifying its use by saying it was not union money.
"The payment from the association's cheque account to Blewitt coincided with the timing and amount of the deposit paid on the property. "None of the net sale proceeds went to the AWU."
Mr Blewitt has publicly admitted his involvement in an alleged union fraud and already waived his claim to privilege over the Slater & Gordon documents.
Lawyers for Mr Wilson have previously described Mr Blewitt as "inherently unreliable" and making his statements in a quest for indemnity from prosecution, but Mr Lauritsen said he had no reason to doubt Mr Blewitt's credit. "One does not reject a person's sworn evidence unless there is a powerful reason to do so," he said. "In the circumstance of delay between the events and the statement, Blewitt gave adequate detail."
Mr Lauritsen has warned that most of the documents date from 1995 and could disappoint police as a source for their investigation.
Top Marx for their ABC
There is a fair bit of truth in this satire
YOU don't get a lot for 14 cents these days: maybe a couple of lollies at those few remaining corner stores that still sell them individually, or the equivalent of two minutes parking at a metered spot in Brisbane's CBD. Don't dally.
But watch the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves as my nanna used to say. After all 14 cents a day adds up to about $51 over a year; enough for a slab of beer, half a tank of petrol (yes, I know, fuel efficiency is not my strong point) or perhaps a one-month subscription to Foxtel's basic service.
This may come as a shock, but that 14 cents a days is, on a per capita basis, what we are now paying for the pond scum of the Australian Left to run the socialist propaganda unit that the ABC is today.
Rather than having the free market choice to divert our hard-earned small change to something more culturally and intellectually rewarding like a four-week binge of Simpsons re-runs, we are instead compelled to pump it into a bloated Soviet-style bureaucracy infested with callow reporters, trainee talking heads and Triple-J alumni - ill-informed innocents the lot of them, peddling their infantile musings to an unsuspecting nation.
The ABC is an insidious beast, its tentacles poisoning the minds of our youngest and most impressionable, with even ostensibly educational programs such as Behind The News acting as little more than a propaganda platform for the ABC's agenda of taking us with it on the long march to socialist servitude. For God and Queen's sake people, it even promotes a compassionate line on refugees and gender equality, reports the warmist nonsense that "human-influenced" climate change might be a bit of bummer and corrupts young minds by referring to our Prime Minister as "Tony".
Have they no shame?
It has become a behemoth of suffocating size that is in denial about the leftist bias of its presenters, a political soapbox for the Left, a massive organ of state media, strangling private voices and imposing a Leftist orthodoxy.
The ABC - as the "right thinking" people who use the #theirABC hashtag are always on about - is traitorous, seditious and un-Australian and supports terrorists and thieves by daring to report on leaked documents that might embarrass our national interest and the "adults" who have finally taken over in Canberra. Osama bin Laden probably had the ABC app at the top of his smartphone screen.
Conservatives are their enemy; you can see it in the way they stack their current affairs and talk shows with only token appearances by sensible, right-thinking rationalists like Mark Textor or Sophie Mirabella.
My friends, the conspiracy runs deeper than the overt agitprop in our alleged "news" bulletins, with the crawling hive of fifth columnists at Ultimo using subliminal techniques to corrupt Australian minds to their chosen brand of reformist group think. If #theirABC (it's certainly not our ABC) was headquartered in Queensland we could run the lot of them out of town under our new Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment laws. Take that Paul Barry.
Forget the obvious spear carriers for the commies, climate alarmists and reffo apologists like "Red" Kerry O'Brien, Barrie Cassidy and Tony Jones. This is, after all, the same basket-weaving, hand-wringing, bed-wetting, polygamist collective that pays some of our 14 cents a day to the likes of Phillip Adams - a bearded, bomb-throwing apologist for single mothers, illegals and all manner of limp-wristed social justice causes if ever I saw one.
No, the cancer runs deep.
Burrow deeply enough and you can see it in programs even as seemingly innocent as Gardening Australia, with its green, climate change and pro-vegetables agenda. Take host Costa Georgiadis for example - the bloke looks like a weird ABC hybrid of Karl Marx and Castro trying to channel Rasputin on a bad hair day.
Do our children seriously need to be exposed to this?
And don't start me on Bananas in Pyjamas: two androgynous pieces of fruit (how gay is that?) consorting with a threesome of mixed-marriage teddy bears and a rat that works, no doubt at our expense, at some sort of communal (think communist, think commune) store. The ever prescient Cory Bernardi was right about that slippery slope - with that sort of mind-altering trans-flora-species correctness it's a wonder our kids haven't decided Play School is some sort of metaphor for group onanism.
Even before we get to the undisguised Marxist insurgency of twaddle like Gruen Nation, or, God forbid and think of the children (and innocent dogs), The Chaser, there is the hidden hive-think evident in the like of so-called comedian Adam Hills. Wake up people, the bloke was born with no right foot, how left-leaning can you get?
But then what do you expect from a collectivist cluster-bomb that describes a black, Maoist terrorist like Nelson Mandela as one of the great leaders of our modern era? I urge you all to write an angry letter to the Taxation Office demanding a rebate for your 14 cents.
You know it makes sense.
11 December, 2013
Four current articles below
Hoagy is at it again
After his own research showed that corals recover rapidly from damage, Hoagy went quiet for a couple of years -- but it looks like he is back at his old stand now. And even his fellow Warmists are predicting a temp rise of less than 4 degrees. And guess where corals thrive best -- in the warmest waters! Hoagy is a crook!
RISING sea temperatures might sound nice for us wanting to go for a warmer dip, but it could kill off the Great Barrier Reef by the end of the century, a scientist claims in a new book.
The coral would have to move 4000km southward over 100 years to survive scientists' worst-case scenario of a 4C degree rise in sea temperatures by 2100, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg says.
In his book, Four Degrees of Global Warming: Australia in a Hot World, the University of Queensland reef specialist says the outlook for the reef is bleak.
"In a four-degree world, the Great Barrier Reef will be great no longer. It would bear little resemblance to the reef we know today," he wrote.
"There is little evidence that marine resources like the Great Barrier Reef possess the resilience to withstand the impacts of a dramatically warming world." Even a more conservative 2C temperature rise estimate would likely be too much for the reef to handle, he wrote.
The death of the almost 2300km-long reef would destroy its $6 billion tourism industry as well as other areas like fishing. The book looks at how Australia will adapt to a warmer and drier climate in the next 100 years.
Warmer and more acidic seawater is a knock-on effect of increased atmospheric carbon levels.
Prof Hoegh-Guldberg wrote that sea temperatures rose by 0.5C in the 20th century but the effect is expected to speed up this century.
The result is that coral cannot move fast enough to cooler southern seas or genetically adapt fast enough to stay where they are.
"Unless we dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions which are acidifying our oceans and leading to their warming, we will face the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and serious decline in our marine resources," he wrote.
Coastal developments approved in Qld.
Greenies will all be holding their breath at the moment -- building up to a massive tanty. Note that Gladstone is South of the GBR anyway. There is no reef to speak of offshore from Gladstone
Several massive resource projects have been approved on the Great Barrier Reef coast by the federal government including the dredging and dumping of spoil near the reef and a new coal export terminal.
Environmentalists have hit out at the decision, with the WWF and the Greens saying it further industrialises and threatens the world heritage protected icon. Environmental campaigners Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Australian Marine Conservation Society, dressed as Nemo and turtles, will protest against the approval in Brisbane's CBD on Wednesday.
The projects approved by Environment Minister Greg Hunt late on Tuesday include the dredging of 3 million cubic metres of spoil - which will be dumped in the reef's waters - for the development of three coal export terminals at Abbot Point.
Mr Hunt also approved the building of a new coal terminal at Abbot Point by Indian mining giant Adani.
Approval was also given to a new processing plant for coal seam gas on Curtis Island, which includes 1.4 million cubic metres of dredging at Port Curtis and the mouth of the Calliope River near Gladstone. A pipeline to the plant - being proposed by Arrow Energy - was also approved.
In making the decision Mr Hunt said he had imposed 148 strict environmental conditions on the Abbot Point and Curtis Island developments. They included conditions to ensure the water quality impact from the dumping of dredging spoil was offset.
Mr Hunt said the offsets - which would stop sediments entering the Great Barrier Reef marine park from land sources such as farm runoff - would require an overall gain in water quality.
"It is important to note that each of these sites is already heavily industrialised and that the processes were highly advanced at the change of government," Mr Hunt said.
"The conditions I have put in place for these projects will result in an improvement in water quality and strengthen the Australian government's approach to meeting the challenges confronting the reef."
Water quality is a significant problem for the Great Barrier Reef with increasing pollutants and nutrients resulting in damage to corals, sea grass and other important marine habitats. There is also emerging evidence that poor water quality can encourage populations of a damaging starfish know as crown of thorns that has plagued the reef.
The World Heritage Committee has also been alarmed by increasing development on the reef's coast - with a number of major resource projects approved in recent years - and will consider in 2014 whether it should be placed on an "in danger" list of world heritage sites.
Richard Leck from WWF said Mr Hunt had failed the reef and had turned his back on scientific evidence of the damage dredging would cause.
"Approving a massive amount of sediment to be dumped at a time when the reef's health is so low, it really is against what the science tells us," he said.
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche welcomed the decision and said it confirmed that industry could co-exist with the reef.
WA shark policy a 'cull by another name'
The Green/Left never have cared about human life, of course. Six people being attacked warrant no action at all to them. They prefer sharks to people anyway
Experts and conservationists have bitten back at Western Australia's tough new policies to prevent deadly shark attacks, which include the establishment of licensed offshore "kill zones".
Following the sixth fatal attack off the WA coast in two years last month, the state government announced tougher measures aimed at preventing attacks, but denied it was a cull.
Professional shark hunters will be paid to patrol WA waters, with a licence to kill any shark bigger than three metres spotted in designated zones spanning large parts of the metropolitan and south-west coastline.
And baited hooks will also be placed along the coast to catch sharks, with a larger strike team ready to scramble into action in the event of an attack.
Premier Colin Barnett said he knew the measures were controversial but refused to acknowledge he was sanctioning a cull.
Shark academic Christopher Neff, from Sydney University, disagreed. "This is a tool that is used to kill sharks and to reduce populations - that is by definition culling," Mr Neff said. "It is an unfortunate policy."
Two 'Marine Monitored Areas', stretching one kilometre offshore from Quinns to Warnbro in the metropolitan area, and Forest Beach to Cape Naturaliste and Prevelly in the state's south, will be established in coming weeks.
And drum lines - drums with a baited hook fixed to the ocean floor and designed to attract sharks - will be placed one kilometre from the shore of beaches and surf breaks, and will be monitored daily.
Federal environment minister Greg Hunt was consulted about the policies before they were revealed.
But Greens senator Rachel Siewert said she would move a motion in parliament calling on the federal government to maintain protection of the great white shark.
"The WA government's announcement opens the door to sharks being caught and killed. Measures based on the capture and killing of a threatened and protected species is not a responsible step," Ms Siewert said.
Piers Verstegen, director of the Conservation Council of WA, claimed the move could actually increase shark attack risk.
"This new cull policy amounts to indiscriminate fishing, and will not only cull potentially risky sharks, but we can expect to see dolphins, turtles, seals, nurse sharks and a range of other marine life killed off our beaches."
Treasurer Troy Buswell, who gains the fisheries portfolio on Wednesday admitted it was likely other marine animals would be caught with the baited hooks, and it was possible tagged sharks used for research could also be caught by the new policy.
But the government insisted public safety came first.
"This does not represent a culling of sharks. It is not a fear-driven hunt, it is a targeted, localised shark mitigation strategy," Mr Buswell said.
Experts from the University of WA - who are working with the government on research into sharks - have already said a cull would be a pointless reaction, and that a surge in shark-bite incidents off WA's coast are linked to the growing population, which means more people in the water.
Bat removal in Charters Towers in north Queensland goes off with a bang
Hundreds of people lined the streets of Charters Towers in north Queensland yesterday to see 80,000 bats driven from the town.
The sounds of horns, helicopters, gun blasts and even fireworks last night filled the air in Charters Towers to try and scare away a colony of bats that have infested a local park.
The Charters Towers council says it was forced to take the drastic action after other measures did not work.
Local residents were overjoyed to see the animals go. "They're terrible and the smell pervades everything," one resident said. "The droppings - everywhere - you can't even park your car here for one day."
Shop manager Ayla Pott says the smell of the animals drive away customers.
"It stinks, it smells - some days it's that unbearable you can't open your doors," she said.
But conservationist Priska Sussli says the removal was inhumane, because some bats were too young to fly away.
"How can people do this, why?" she said.
"It's just very bad timing to do this dispersal."
The council will use the drastic measures every morning and night for the next 10 days and monitor the park to see if the bats come back.
10 December, 2013
Buck has to stop on saving icons
On February 6 last year, I wrote a column which began: "No Aussie brands are more ingrained in the national consciousness than Qantas or Holden but the flying kangaroo is facing extinction as a long-haul, full-service carrier within 10 years and GM Holden may not even last that long."
What an optimist I turned out to be. Twenty months on, what Qantas and Holden now have in common, apart from being cultural icons, is that neither of them is worth saving.
Why should taxpayers foot the bill when these companies' own staff don't commit to their company's long-term viability?
Qantas has just predicted a half-yearly loss of $300 million, foreshadowed major job cuts, had its debt rating reduced, and warned that its long-haul international operation is at risk.
General Motors has decided to shut down its Holden operation in Adelaide as part of a global consolidation. The operation has been living on the bubble for years after management and unions agreed to unsustainable enterprise bargaining agreements. The announcement of the closure is pending.
At Qantas, two years ago, several unions led staff through months of rolling industrial action, guerilla tactics and disruptions of service, accompanied by vituperative class warfare by union officials. It was designed to bring management to its knees unless unions got the pay rises and job security they were demanding.
The most conspicuous of the class warriors was Tony Sheldon, the national secretary of the Transport Workers Union.
Throughout this guerilla campaign there was zero restraint placed on the unions by the Labor government. It was not until management shut down the airline that Prime Minister Julia Gillard emerged from her union-addled inertia and the government moved to force a resolution of the dispute in the public interest. Not long after this campaign, which had a disastrous impact on Qantas, Sheldon was made national vice-president of the ALP.
Qantas bought short-term peace but the price was long-term decline. It has an unsustainable cost base. Now shadow treasurer Chris Bowen has declared that Qantas is too important to fail and urged the government to consider making a direct equity injection. This is classic Labor: subsidise the unions, rather than restructure the company, and pass on the cost to taxpayers.
Lest I lay the blame on only one side, Qantas' troubles have been unwittingly bipartisan: management has done its share via a grandiose expansion into Asia. It has deployed precious capital on a profitless push into Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Japan that has drained the group.
On Sunday, federal independent senator Nick Xenophon weighed in with a thrashing of management: "Under CEO Alan Joyce and chairman Leigh Clifford, Qantas has lurched from one failed strategy to the next … Joyce seems increasingly like a desperate gambler chasing his Jetstar Asian losses."
Holden management also warrants a bucketing. As noted in February last year: "Over the past seven years [the GM Holden collective bargaining agreement] has delivered a cumulative wage increase of 29 per cent, an average of more than 4 per cent per year - a real increase over inflation.
"The agreement also obliges GM Holden to pay generous redundancy benefits … It raises the question: why are Australian taxpayers being asked to make sacrifices, via subsidising higher costs, that the local auto-makers and their staff have not themselves been willing to make?"
Australian consumers are not interested in overpaying for transport. Government subsidies, without end, to companies with unsustainable collective wage agreements has been death by a thousand cuts, given Australia's car manufacturing base is too small to survive the enormous economies of scale and structural overcapacity of the global car industry.
Grace Collier, who has spent years in the industrial relations trenches working on both sides, first as a union official then as a consultant to management, has been warning for years that the management and unions at Holden have been signing suicidal enterprise bargaining agreements.
In The Weekend Australian she offered this broader advice to the Abbott government, which I pass on and endorse:
"Australia is at a crossroads. For 20 years, regardless of the legislation, about half of our companies have been incrementally enterprise bargaining themselves into bankruptcy, while the other half have not. Increasingly, many of those that have bargained are on the verge of ruin. A growing number will be seeking government subsidies during the next few years.
"Government policy on industry assistance should be this: if a company is paying its workforce more than the award wage, then it must not receive taxpayer assistance under any circumstances.
"Companies that are financially distressed because of unaffordable enterprise bargaining agreements should be instructed to lodge a form with the Fair Work Commission to have their agreement dissolved, at their own cost. All of their workers and unions should sign the form and be returned to the award wage before any of them even consider putting their hand out for money."
It was of more than passing interest to read on Saturday that China Southern Airlines had been considering a strategic investment in Qantas, as I am a member of the Chinese airline's frequent flyer program because I can fly business class for less than half what Qantas wants to charge, and for not much more than its economy fare.
China Southern has put aside that possible investment, but I have made the shift. Whether Qantas keeps flying internationally has ceased to be of concern to me, because I cannot afford to care.
Healthy food labels blamed for rise in obesity as Queenslanders fall into high sugar and fat trap
"HEALTHIER" foods could be to blame for rising obesity. New research from Nutrition Australia Queensland found 96 per cent of Queenslanders were unable to tell the difference between unhealthy and healthy food.
Sneaky labelling which touts high-sugar products as low-fat, and vice versa, makes it difficult for consumers to identify healthy choices.
High-sugar breakfast cereals, Caesar salads and frozen yoghurt often marketed as healthy alternatives are the most common culprits. The Nutrition Australia Queensland study found 78 per cent of people over indulged in the high sugar, high fat snacks once or twice a day.
NAQ senior nutritionist Aloysa Hourigan said confusion over what constituted healthy and unhealthy food was driving Queensland's obesity crisis.
"People are choosing foods that are often marketed as healthy but actually contain high amounts of sugar, fat and salt," Ms Hourigan said.
Did you know there are about 10 teaspoons of sugar in a can of regular soft drink?
"A lot of diet fads and marketing messages have added to the confusion. Many people are passing up healthy foods in favour of poor choices."
The survey found almost 80 per cent of people were eating 'extras' foods up to twice a day.
"By not knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods, Queenslanders are placing themselves at a higher risk of developing potentially deadly chronic diseases like heart disease and type two diabetes."
She said the findings were a grim reminder that more education was required to cut through confusing marketing messages.
"There was a widespread unawareness about how often we should be eating 'extras' foods like chocolate bars and potato chips," she said.
This exceeds the Australian Dietary Guidelines which suggest most Australians should eat little or none of these foods as part of a healthy diet.
"With this amount of confusion it is probably not surprising that recent research found Queensland has the highest rate of obesity in Australia."
Stephanie Nievelstein, 22, said she made an effort to choose healthy food options but understood why some people were struggling to tell the difference.
"It can be hard to tell what's healthy when packages market themselves as good for you or 99 per cent fat free," she said. "You need to look at the label on the back to see what's in it but even then it's tempting just to reach for the bikkies and chocolates and tell yourself it's not that bad."
Ms Hourigan recommended cutting back on high-sugar foods and keeping a food diary to track eating habits.
"Research shows recording how much you consume is one way to help reduce consumption," she said. "There are plenty of free apps that can help people record what they eat or alternatively the old-fashioned way of using a pen and paper can be just as effective.
"A single chocolate bar a day might not sound like much but over a year it could lead to weight gain of around 12kg a year. Simply saying no could help people shed up to 12kg a year."
Qld.: Sea levels no longer included in State Government planning
THE State Government has controversially removed sea level rises from planning policy so as not to inhibit development and to allow councils greater independence in deciding development issues.
The move has been dubbed a major legal and insurance nightmare, with the potential to send councils broke because a forecast 0.8m rise by 2100 has the potential to cause billions of dollars in damage.
Although 35,000 Queensland homes are at risk of inundation, Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the Government would not apply an arbitrary, blanket ruling on sea levels.
"We believe local governments are the best placed to make planning decisions according to their local circumstances and their communities and we are empowering them to do so," Mr Seeney said.
"Under the State Planning Policy, the State will still require councils to consider coastal storm surges and other natural hazards in preparing their local planning schemes.
"Queensland is not alone in adopting this approach. The NSW Government determined the same policy framework for their planning schemes a year ago."
Local Government Association of Queensland chief executive Greg Hallam said the issue was a legal minefield.
He said it could send councils broke and impact on residents because it might not be possible to insure properties in low-lying areas in future.
If the Government chose not to accept sea level rises, then councils should receive indemnity.
"We've been very clear on this. The Government can't have it both ways," he said. "If they don't think sea level rises will occur, fine, indemnify us."
Opposition environment spokeswoman Jackie Trad said the Government had abandoned any pretence of believing in or planning for the effects of any climate change.
"Because the Newman Government is refusing to act on climate change, future generations will have to pay the cost of coastal rehabilitation and repairing or relocating infrastructure and property damaged as a result of sea level rises," she said.
The Climate Commission has warned that scientific consensus on warming leading to sea level rises, heatwaves, bushfires and drought has strengthened.
Mr Hallam said the LGAQ accepted that sea level rises occurred but no one knew to what level they might go.
Ms Trad said developers would not have to deal with the consequences of bad planning laws, it would be average Queenslanders who would pay higher taxes and struggle to find home insurance.
Mr Hallam said the LGAQ as an organisation also was exposed because it owned Local Government Mutual Liability, the council insurer.
Mr Seeney declined to say whether he believed in sea level rises, if councils would be indemnified or who would pay for development which might be impacted. "...People should have the right to make up their own minds as to whether or not they'd like to live and work close to the ocean," he said.
A leaked Property and Infrastructure Cabinet Committee paper says: "Any local government that elects to include some allowance for sea level rise in their planning schemes will need to justify that the state interests relating to economic development are not materially affected by this."
The worst hit areas are deemed to be Cairns, Mackay, Hervey Bay and the Gold Coast.
Mr Seeney said the SPP was landmark reform that would revolutionise the way councils, the development and construction industry and the State worked together.
Minimum wage exemptions for long-term unemployed
The welfare lobby is up in arms over the Abbott government's decision to pause and review Wage Connect, Labor's subsidy scheme designed to help the long-term unemployed get back into work.
Under the scheme, if an employer hires a job seeker who has been unemployed and on income support payments for at least two years, they will receive $5,900 for this employee over six months. This averages to roughly $230 per week, almost as much as Newstart Allowance.
Groups like the National Welfare Rights Network point to Senate Estimates showing 47% of Wage Connect clients (employees) were in paid employment at the end of the six month program. Although this fact is used to try and justify expanding the program, employers could simply be keeping Wage Connect employees on the books for the required six months before moving them on. It is much more telling to know what the status is after 12 or 18 months, when the program has past completion.
The problem with the scheme, despite its reported success, is that it is far too costly, and, according to the new government, not targeted well enough. This is the second time the scheme has been paused because the funding allocated has simply not been enough to meet demand. The previous government committed $86 million over the next four years, yet if all 35,000 subsidies are utilised, the government will be looking at a $206.5 million bill.
A better, and cheaper, alternative is for employers hiring long-term job seekers to be exempt from the minimum wage requirements for six months.
This alternative would improve job prospects for the long-term unemployed and provide employers with an incentive to hire and train new workers. Importantly, it would not blow another hole through the Commonwealth budget.
Take the example of a minimum wage earner. A long-term job seeker hired on the minimum wage ($622.20 per week) under Wage Connect would cost the government $230 per week in wage subsidies.
By contrast, consider the example of a minimum wage exemption where the employee is earning half the minimum wage ($311.10 per week). Unlike the Wage Connect employee, this employee would still receive some of their Newstart Allowance, but the cost to the government would be just $92 per week.
The cost to the government per worker under a minimum wage exemption program would be 60% less over the life of the program - a significant saving for a government looking for cuts.
But an equally important advantage is that there are no limits on the program. Theoretically, all long-term unemployed workers could be hired under the program, moving off welfare, acquiring new skills and achieving a measure of financial independence.
While a review of Wage Connect is a step in the right direction, the government should also consider less orthodox programs, such as minimum wage exemptions.
9 December, 2013
You can't win: Tony was said not to get on with women. Now he is said to have a woman helper who is too powerful
There is no doubt that Peta Credlin is a fiercely effective offsider to Tony Abbott
Senior coalition minister Mathias Cormann has urged unnamed colleagues to “back off” from their destructive media attacks on the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Peta Credlin.
“The people that are briefing are disgruntled people,” Senator Cormann told Fairfax Media on Sunday. “They are certainly not interested in maximising our chances of success in the future”.
Senator Cormann, the Finance Minister and one of the most powerful figures in the Abbott government, came to the defence of Ms Credlin, who has been criticised by coalition MPs as a “control freak” in anonymous briefings to journalists.
The West Australian senator said coalition MPs should be thanking Ms Credlin for the central role she played in getting them into power, rather than resorting to cowardly anonymous attacks through the media.
“People that are out there briefing against her in the shadows should just back off,” Senator Cormann said.
Fairfax Media has been told that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who has been running tightly controlled weekly briefings about the Coalition's "stop the boats" policy, Operation Sovereign Borders, was chided by Ms Credlin as they left a cabinet meeting last month.
In the exchange Ms Credlin spoke about Mr Morrison's poor performance during a recent news conference.
According to cabinet sources, Mr Morrison did not take the criticism well and expressed frustration that he was not allowed to say much at his press appearances. According to one source who witnessed the exchange, Ms Credlin shot right back at Mr Morrison with: "We will tell you what you can say and what you can't say."
Mr Morrison's spokesman said the account was "complete rubbish". The office of the Prime Minister described the account of the meeting with Mr Morrison as "untrue".
In a rare public outburst last week, coalition Senator Ian Macdonald used a speech in the senate to complain of a culture of "obsessive centralised control" exercised by Mr Abbott's office.
Coalition MPs have privately expressed similar concerns after Senator Macdonald's accusations that "unelected advisers in the Prime Minister's office" were meddling too much in the minutiae of day-to-day proceedings.
Senator Cormann said the bitter MPs were criticising Ms Credlin for simply doing her job, which was to ensure the government worked as efficiently as possible and the best possible candidates were selected as staff for MPs.
“Peta Credlin has done an outstanding job for us in opposition,” Senator Cormann said. “She’s been central to get us back into government… She obviously has a very important job at the heart of the government and she will be central to our success”.
Ms Credlin has been Tony Abbott’s most trusted confidant since he took over as opposition leader in the lead up to the 2010 election.
Ms Credlin has been widely credited for coordinating a highly effective office and media strategy. She is seen by many as the most capable political operator in the Abbott government and on election night Mr Abbott described her as “the smartest and fiercest political warrior” he has known.
Australia's classrooms among world's noisiest
Australia has some of the noisiest classrooms in the world and is wasting teaching time but experts agree a quiet class is not always a good thing.
An international study has found 43 per cent of Australian students reported "noise and disorder" as factors in their classrooms.
One-third said they had to "wait a long time for the students to quiet down" and 38 per cent said students "don't listen to what their teacher has to say".
Sue Thomson, director of educational monitoring and research at the Australian Council for Educational Research, said the results - higher than in almost all comparison countries - were a cause for concern.
"Not only does it make it harder for students to learn when they're in a noisy classroom … they also have the problem of the teacher spending 10 minutes extra with classroom discipline issues and quietening the class down," she said. "If you accumulate that over a year, it actually makes quite a difference."
But Michael Anderson, associate professor in education and social work at the University of Sydney said it was important for teachers to distinguish between productive noise and distracting noise. "Noise can be productive when it comes out of collaborative learning opportunities that the kids are involved in," he said.
Leonie Burfield, principal of St Bernard's Catholic Primary School in Botany, likes to hear noise coming from her classrooms. "A good teacher can tell whether or not it's an on-task noise," she said.
The school has designed its classrooms with a range of different desk options so that collaboration is encouraged and students can choose their own learning style.
"You might see some children on the floor with lap desks, you might see some at individual tables," Ms Burfield said. "You'd see some children on lounges, other children might even be standing."
President of the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers, Kim Beswick, said that she would like to hear more students discussing maths in class.
"I don't think noise has to be a negative thing," she said. "It only becomes negative when it's undermining the teaching."
She said many discipline problems stemmed from a lack of respect for teachers.
"In Australian culture, there is a lack of valuing of education relative to other countries," she said.
"The Australian community views making the AFL draft as a higher achievement than going to university and doing a PhD. So that's the sort of environment teachers have to operate in."
Tax office deciding if anti-wind farm group Waubra is a charity
The tax office is deciding whether an anti-wind farm group linked to former Liberal MPs should retain its favourable tax treatment.
The Waubra Foundation has been classified a "health promotion charity" by the tax office, meaning its "principal activity is promoting the prevention and control of disease in humans".
It has also been granted deductible gift recipient status by the Australian Taxation Office, and donations of more than $2 to it are tax-deductible.
In the ATO's words, obtaining the status is a "relatively difficult process, for obvious reasons."
Donations to Waubra have helped fund legal challenges against wind farm developments.
Former health minister Michael Wooldridge is a director of Waubra, and former MP Alby Schultz is its patron.
The foundation says its main aim is to "educate others about the known science relating to the adverse health impacts of infrasound and low-frequency noise."
The health effects of wind farms has become an increasingly vexed question in the countryside, where there are dozens of farms operated by companies including AGL and Origin Energy.
Sydney academic Simon Chapman says the number of health problems linked to wind farms has reached 216. He has argued that bad publicity about the farms makes it more likely people will report feeling sick around them.
"Wind turbine syndrome" - health problems ranging from headaches, dizziness and insomnia, purportedly the result of the turbines' low-frequency sounds - is not recognised as a medical condition.
But, said Sarah Laurie, Waubra chief executive: "Whatever label is given to that range of symptoms, whether it is 'wind turbine syndrome' or 'annoyance' or 'infrasound and low-frequency noise syndrome' or something else, the facts remain that there are serious health problems occurring in some people which have been known to the wind industry for nearly 30 years."
A spokesman for Greens senator Richard Di Natale expected the review into Waubra's status by the tax office and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission to be finished this month.
The tax office has refused to comment, but described Waubra's situation as "curious".
In a recent Senate Estimates, Senator Di Natale asked how the tax office determined that an illness a group purported to prevent was actually an illness.
Tony Poulakis, the ATO's assistant commissioner, small and medium enterprise, replied: "I have to admit to not knowing the procedure in which we made those determinations well enough to answer your question."
Chris Jordan, ATO commissioner, responded that "It does sound a curious situation, but we will certainly take that on notice."
Figures put Labor Party under pressure to axe the carbon tax
LABOR'S $6 billion carbon tax reduced Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by less than 0.1 per cent.
As PM Tony Abbott ratchets up the pressure on Labor's Bill Shorten to axe the carbon tax by Christmas, the new figures will be released this week by Australia's National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.
They reveal that the introduction of the carbon tax coincided with a reduction of greenhouse gases of around 300,000 tonnes in the first full financial year of operation.
While the carbon tax is now $24 a tonne, the effective cost of the emissions reduction on the basis of revenue raised is $21,000 per tonne.
The official register of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions will reveal that in the financial year before the carbon tax was introduced Australia produced 546.2 million tonnes of emissions. After the carbon tax was introduced, the emissions dropped to just 545.9 million tonnes. These figures do not include fuels and refrigerants.
Climate Change Minister Greg Hunt said the best Christmas present Labor could give voters was axing the carbon tax.
"Bill Shorten simply refuses to accept the outcome of the election. He doesn't care about rising power bills or the will of the Australian people," Mr Hunt said.
"As we enter the final parliamentary sitting week of the year, Bill Shorten needs to get out of the way and allow the government to scrap the carbon tax."
Opposition climate change spokesman Mark Butler said Labor supported axing the carbon tax but not replacing it with a slush fund for polluters.
"We went to the election with a policy to get rid of the carbon tax. The debate is over what you replace it with. That's why we are arguing the case for an emissions trading scheme," he said.
"The biggest contributor to carbon pollution is the electricity sector and so that's where you want to see change. And we did see change in that sector during the first year. The Coalition's policy is a dressed-up slush fund to pay polluters that is supported by no one."
The new figures reveal NSW produces more greenhouse gas emissions than any other state. But Queensland has the most companies paying the tax upfront. The cost of the carbon tax on electricity generators and other polluters is then passed on to consumers through higher electricity prices. Victoria is closely behind Queensland in total emissions.
In NSW and the ACT, there were 72 companies paying the carbon tax and overall the state produced 78.6 million tonnes of emissions. WA produced 42.2 million tonnes with 63 companies forced to pay the carbon tax. In SA just 11 companies paid the carbon tax, producing a modest 4.4 million tonnes of liable emissions. Tasmania produced just 1.7 million tonnes.
8 December, 2013
Does PISA mean we should give a Gonski?
The two big education stories this week have been about school funding and student performance.
On Monday, federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced he would honour his pre-election commitment to deliver the first four years of a six-year funding deal offered by the previous Labor government. This package of funding and reforms was based on the recommendations of the Gonski review of school resourcing and governance.
Pyne's version is different to Labor's - he has pledged to give all states and territories the extra funding they are entitled to under the new funding model, whether they have signed an agreement with the Commonwealth or not, and he will remove many of the accountability requirements and regulations.
On Tuesday, the results of the latest Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) were released. PISA has been conducted every three years since 2000, and assesses the reading, maths and science literacy skills of thousands of 15 year old students around the world.
The PISA 2012 report showed that Australia's international ranking had dropped, as it has in every testing cycle since 2000. This was widely interpreted as a sign of a dire decline in Australia's performance, yet there are other factors to consider.
The number of countries participating in PISA has doubled from 32 in 2000 to 65 in 2012, creating substantial changes in the rankings. Many of the countries that have displaced previously high-ranked countries are not countries at all. The 'partner economies' that dominate the top ranks are East Asian cities or city-states, and Liechtenstein, a country with just 36,000 people. No useful policy conclusions can be drawn by making simple comparisons between these disparate countries and cities.
It is more appropriate to look at Australia's progress over time, which does show a statistically significant decrease in reading and maths mean scores over the PISA testing period, and a non-significant decrease in science. The drop in the mean scores is due to an either stable or growing proportion of students in the lowest performance bands and a shrinking proportion of students in the upper performance bands. We should be concerned about these numbers, but the performance of students in Shanghai and Liechtenstein is of limited value for policy solutions.
Inevitably, connections have been drawn between the issues of funding and performance. The Sydney Morning Herald and the author of the Australian PISA report have claimed that the PISA results demonstrate the need for increased funding for disadvantaged schools, and for the 'Gonski' model in particular.
Increased resources to schools can make a difference, but only if spent prudently. This has not been characteristic of funding increases in Australia in the past; hopefully it will be in the future.
Foreign fishing boats stopped off Darwin
TWO foreign fishing boats have been stopped in northern waters in the past week for alleged illegal fishing, Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison says.
A Border Protection Command "asset" intercepted the first alleged illegal foreign fishing vessel last Friday and a second on Wednesday, Mr Morrison said in a statement.
"A significant volume of fresh and stowed catch was discovered on the first vessel including giant clams, live crayfish, hawksbill sea turtles, sea cucumbers, shark and frozen fish. The second vessel was found with an amount of reef fish on board," his statement said.
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority is conducting further investigations into the activities of the vessels found off Darwin and considering charges against the crew.
The maximum penalty for illegal foreign fishing can be up to $1.275 million depending on the size of the vessel.
Highest court orders immediate release of serial rapist Robert Fardon, rules new sex laws invalid
REVILED sex predator Robert Fardon is a free man after the State Government last night abandoned an 11th-hour bid to keep him behind bars.
Queensland's highest court yesterday dealt the Government a crushing double blow, ordering the immediate release of the 65-year-old serial rapist.
The Court of Appeal in Brisbane also ruled invalid the Government's new sex offender laws, which allowed Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie to keep sex offenders behind bars in prison despite court orders.
The decision means leaves the new laws are now in tatters. They cannot be applied unless re-drafted or until a High Court application, which would occur only in the rare event the Government is given special leave for the case to be heard.
Mr Bleijie is considering appealing in the High Court.
The Court of Appeal, comprising justices Kate Holmes, John Muir and Hugh Fraser, unanimously dismissed Mr Bleijie's appeal to reverse last month's Supreme Court decision to grant Fardon supervised release.
The court said Mr Bleijie's claim that Fardon remained an unacceptable risk to the community was "opaque" and lacked "supporting evidence".
The court also ruled that sections of the Criminal Law Amendment (Public Interest Declarations) Act 2013 were invalid.
In its written decision, the Court of Appeal said the laws were "repugnant" and eroded the integrity of courts to make decisions and in effect "undermine the authority of orders of the Supreme Court".
"These (legal) amendments are within that exceptional category of legislation which is invalid on the ground that it is repugnant to (the) institutional integrity of the Supreme Court," the court said.
Lawyers for Mr Bleijie immediately applied to have the release order stayed pending further legal argument.
But late yesterday that application was withdrawn, paving the way for Fardon's immediate release.
No reason was given for the withdrawal, with Justice Muir adjourning the hearing without submissions being made.
While Fardon is technically free to live anywhere under supervision, it is expected he will for now live in housing outside Wacol Correctional Centre, in Brisbane's west.
The site, dubbed the "dangerous sex offender precinct", is where Fardon lived when he was first released in 2006.
One of Fardon's victims, Sharon Tomlinson, burst into tears after the announcement. Outside court her tears turned to rage.
"This man will reoffend and someone (innocent) will have to pay the price. (Crime) survivors and the community are no longer safe," she said.
"I hope he's not coming after you or someone you love."
Barrister Dan O'Gorman, for Fardon, said his client would be relieved the Court of Appeal had ruled in his favour.
He said Fardon had great respect for the courts and was committed to abiding by the strict conditions he must obey as part of his supervision order.
Those conditions, imposed by Justice Peter Lyons on September 27, include GPS tracking and a drug and alcohol ban.
Sources last night told The Courier-Mail Mr Bleijie was "nothing short of livid".
Mr Bleijie said the Government would continue to do everything it could to keep people like Fardon in jail. "We want to make sure we protect the women and the children of this state from these vicious, nasty sexual predators," he said.
Fardon has waged a 10-year battle for freedom after serving the full sentence he received for the rape, assault and sodomy of a woman in 1988.
The violent assault happened when Fardon was released from jail on parole after serving eight years of a 13-year sentence for the rape and assault of a girl, 12, and wounding of her 15-year-old sister.
Gluttons for government intervention
The anti-obesity movement, unlike the targets of their attention, moves fast. As soon as they achieve one policy objective, it's on to the next.
Last week, the second annual Obesity Summit was held in Canberra by the not-for-profit health-promotion group Obesity Australia. Among those attending were many of the same activists who in June convinced the Gillard government to sign off on a new 'Health Star Rating' system for food. The government pledged that this anti-junk-food labelling system would become mandatory if, after two years, not enough food producers had signed on voluntarily.
Five months later, the health-mongers have already developed a new policy wish list, including extra taxes on unhealthy food, legal restrictions on food advertising aimed at children, and guidelines for GPs designed to make obesity a topic of every doctor's visit.
John Funder, head of Obesity Australia, says that the proposed GP guidelines would force patients to hop on the scales any time they visit a GP, even if they originally came in 'because they've got a cold or a broken toe.' The idea is to embolden doctors to raise the awkward subject of weight loss, since according to Funder, many GPs now consider mentioning a patient's weight 'an intrusion.'
Considering the intrusiveness of some of the exams these doctors routinely perform, and the various intimate, personal, and gastroenterological questions they ask their paper-gown-clad patients, Funder's proposed salve for their delicate sense of awkwardness may be a solution in search of a problem.
The second main policy push at the summit was a campaign to get the Australian Medical Association (AMA) to label obesity a 'disease.' The American Medical Association officially designated obesity a disease in June, but here in Australia the AMA has been reluctant to follow suit.
Calling obesity a disease sounds like a kind-hearted and non-judgmental way to reassure the overweight that their condition does not necessarily indicate a moral failing. But this policy push has nothing to do with overweight Australians' self-esteem and everything to do with obtaining government subsidies for 'stomach stapling' and other bariatric surgeries.
There are a multitude of weight-loss systems available on the market that are less expensive and less drastic than surgery, from nutritional counselling to personal fitness training to Jenny Craig. If our rule of thumb for government intervention is that the state should step in only when the market fails to provide, weight loss fails the test.
Four days after the Obesity Summit closed, the federal government announced a new Diabetes Task Force to be co-chaired by the doctor who gave the summit's opening lecture, which was titled, somewhat histrionically, 'An Obesity Apocalypse: Can It Be Averted?' That is as far as the government should go in supporting Obesity Australia's misguided policy agenda.
6 December, 2013
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG celebrates the life of Nelson Mandela
Problems for NSW Liberals
A corruption scandal threatens to engulf the O'Farrell government next year as it prepares to seek a second term in office after energy and resources minister Chris Hartcher resigned from cabinet following raids by investigators.
Mr Hartcher, who remains the MP for Terrigal, announced his resignation on Wednesday only weeks after the offices of his fellow central coast Liberal MPs Chris Spence and Darren Webber were raided by officers from the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
ICAC is believed to be investigating whether political donations were secretly funnelled through a front company for the benefit of the three MPs before the 2011 state election.
Last year Fairfax Media revealed the suspension of two of Mr Hartcher's staff - senior electorate officer Ray Carter and policy adviser Tim Koelma - after the Liberal Party referred allegations they had breached donations laws to the Election Funding Authority.
Mr Koelma resigned from Mr Hartcher's office shortly afterwards, while Mr Carter remains suspended on full pay more than a year later.
It was subsequently revealed a $5000 payment to a company owned by Mr Koelma, Eightbyfive, from Wyong builder Matthew Lusted, sparked the referral by the Liberal Party. Mr Lusted was a preselection candidate for the federal seat
of Dobell on the central coast. Fairfax Media has since been told Mr Lusted was approached for the payment by Mr Carter shortly before the March 2011 state election.
It is understood Mr Lusted's name and others were given to Mr Carter by Wyong mayor Doug Eaton. Mr Eaton has previously refused to comment due to ICAC secrecy provisions.
Property developers have been prohibited from donating to candidates in NSW elections since 2009.
The new Liberal MP for Dobell, Karen McNamara, has also been drawn into the scandal over questions surrounding her fundraising for Mr Webber's election campaign. During her preselection interview for Dobell, Ms McNamara claimed to have raised as much as $100,000 for Mr Webber's campaign.
But this was questioned at the time by Liberal state executive member Hollie Hughes, who had confirmed that official party receipts were far lower.
The discrepancy is believed to have prompted the Liberal Party to examine donations to Mr Webber and Mr Spence and later refer allegations about Mr Carter and Mr Koelma to election funding authorities.
Ms McNamara's husband, John McNamara, was a Wyong Liberal councillor between 2008 and last year. Ms McNamara has previously said she had complied with her obligations as Mr Webber's campaign manager "to the best of my knowledge" and would assist with any inquiries.
The investigation by the Election Funding Authority was referred to ICAC earlier this year. ICAC is believed to be preparing to hold public hearings into the central coast donations matter next year, complicating the Coalition government's preparations for its campaign to seek re-election in 2015.
In a statement, Mr Hartcher said he had resigned following "the issue of a search warrant by the ICAC against me" but that he was "confident I will be cleared of any wrongdoing".
"This is the first contact I have had with the ICAC and given that their investigations have thus far had an unknown timeframe, it is appropriate that I resign," he said.
Premier Barry O'Farrell said in a statement from India, where he is on a trade mission, that Mr Hartcher informed him of his decision on Wednesday. He thanked Mr Hartcher "for his services to the government and the state".
Mr Hartcher is the second casualty from the O'Farrell cabinet after Greg Pearce was sacked as finance minister over a perceived conflict of interest relating to a government board appointment.
Opposition leader John Robertson said the O'Farrell frontbench was "unravelling."
Joe Hockey gets help from Greens over debt
Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey has mocked Labor’s response to a deal he struck with the Australian Greens to end the row of the debt ceiling, calling it "absolutely bizarre".
Mr Hockey on Wednesday reached the extraordinary last-minute deal with the Greens - once dubbed "economic fringe dwellers" by the government - to scrap Australia's $300 billion borrowing limit.
The rare Coalition-Greens alliance, designed to circumvent Labor's opposition, means the Treasurer will no longer have to seek parliamentary approval to lift the maximum borrowing cap.
The deal requires further debt reporting in the budget and its updates.
Greens leader Christine Milne said the debt ceiling had been a "toxic political tool" that rendered the Australian debate around debt artificial.
The new agreement will allow for a "reasonable debate" to take place, she said.
But shadow treasurer Chris Bowen questioned how the new measures would improve the transparency over debt.
"More transparency is always welcome but the ultimate transparency is seeking parliamentary approval and having to answer questions," Mr Bowen told ABC radio.
To suggest that the new requirements would boost transparency "is a bit of a big call", he said.
He accused the Greens of an about-face on the debt issue, saying Senator Milne had originally opposed lifting the ceiling to $500 billion.
"She’s gone from saying that the increase wasn’t justified to ‘why do we have this debt limit at all’," Mr Bowen said.
Mr Hockey said that the reaction of Labor to the debt deal was "absolutely bizarre".
"It’s like a husband being upset that their ex-wife went off and had a cup of coffee with some other man," he said, in reference to the Greens support for the minority Gillard government.
Labor’s Kelvin Thomson joked that the Greens-Coalition alliance was "a bit more than a cup of coffee".
"I think it’s the candlelit dinner and flowers," he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
The Coalition, which railed against debt continually while in opposition, will have unrestricted access to credit, only having to issue a statement to both houses of Parliament every time it racks up another $50 billion in debt.
With just days to go before the existing legislated debt ceiling was reached on December 12, the Treasurer sealed the agreement late on Wednesday with Greens leader Christine Milne.
To do so, he has agreed to increased reporting requirements to Parliament on the nature of Commonwealth borrowings and the ongoing debt position of the government, but Parliament will have surrendered its capacity to veto government borrowings.
Mr Hockey praised the Greens for coming to the "sensible middle" on economic policy.
"The Labor Party is stuck in the basement on economic policy and all of their own making," Mr Hockey told Sky News.
Senator Milne was due to introduce the legislative repeal of the debt ceiling in the Senate on Wednesday evening with a view to the controversial bill being passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday.
The strange political marriage came after Coalition frustrations reached boiling point as Labor and the Greens used their combined numbers in the Senate to block an increase to a new limit of half a trillion dollars - a $200billion increase in one increment.
In a letter to Senator Milne on Wednesday, Mr Hockey wrote: "We have agreed to repeal the current legislative limit on the total face value of stock and securities on issue set out in the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911."
Earlier in the day, Labor had sought to head off the deal which it knew would render its opposition to the proposed $200 billion debt increase irrelevant.
In response to a question from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he agreed that the Greens were on the economic margins.
"I agree, Madam Speaker, that the Greens have been economic fringe-dwellers, and that just means that [Labor] members opposite are worse," he said.
Labor brandished a photo of Senator Milne in the lower house to taunt the government, suggesting it was taking its orders from the minor party.
It was the second day in a row that her photo had been used after Immigration Minister Scott Morrison made the same case against Labor on Tuesday when it sided with the Greens to block temporary protection visas.
Under the arrangement, Mr Hockey has agreed to "comprehensive debt reporting" in the annual budget papers as well as in other regular economic statements and forecasts.
There will also be additional debt statements tabled in Parliament within three sitting days of a $50billion increase in debt, setting out the reasons, the extent of the debt incurred as a result of falling revenue, higher spending, capital purchases, or payments to states and territories.
Other transparency measures have been agreed to but the statements will not set out specific borrowing purposes in all cases, despite a Greens request for that level of detail.
Shadow finance minister Tony Burke was furious, and slammed the Coalition for breaching its intentions to reduce debt and its statements opposed to dealing with the Greens.
He said Mr Hockey "was no Peter Costello" and had even suffered the humiliation of not getting to announce the move, which had been announced first by Senator Milne.
"In one stroke today, they cut a deal with the Greens, to make Australia's debt allowed to be unlimited," he said.
"The level of hypocrisy today from the government is way beyond where I thought they would be."
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox strongly supported the removal of the debt ceiling, saying it was "good public policy".
He said the ceiling was an "artificial device" that imposes unnecessary inflexibility and creates unhelpful openings for political opportunism.
"It is vital that we have transparency of, and clear accountabilities for, public finances but the debt ceiling is a poor substitute for these and, at best, gives a false assurance that appropriate restraint is being exercised," he said in a statement.
The deal came at the end of a day in which a grim-faced Treasurer faced up to news he said showed the economy was "stuck in second gear".
The economy grew by just 0.6 per cent in the September quarter and grew 2.3 per cent over the year, well below the 3 per cent annual growth rate regarded as normal.
However Mr Hockey said the outlook was worse than the figures suggested.
So-called net exports accounted for 90 per cent of the growth over the past year.
They were unusually high because export volumes were climbing as imported machinery for mining collapsed.
"We have some challenges ahead as mining investment drops from around 8 per cent of gross domestic product to somewhere per cent over the next few years," Mr Hockey said.
That is going to create a growth hole in the economy.
On the positive side the exchange rate was coming down, interest rates were historically low and retail sales, consumer confidence and business confidence were lifting. But they weren’t yet lifting by enough.
The mid-year economic and fiscal outlook due within days would "clearly illustrate the full state of the books we have inherited". But it would not be used to unveil "a massive round of spending cuts,” other than those needed to pay for the extra $1.2 billion of spending on schools announced on Monday.
Questions of spending would be left to the May budget which would be drawn up after considering the report of the Commission of Audit due in January.
Even in the budget there might be fewer cuts than some have been expecting. "We are not obsessed with cuts," the treasurer said.
"We've got to fill the hole. We've got to find ways to stimulate the non-mining side of the economy. That means re-tooling the nation. So much of what Tony Abbott and Warren Truss and myself are focused on is about how we can stimulate productive infrastructure investment."
Senior public servant Tara McCarthy sacked for being a whistleblower, ICAC hears
The head of the NSW State Emergency Service, Murray Kear, sacked a whistleblower who raised concerns about the misuse of funds by one of his mates, a corruption inquiry has been told.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption heard on Tuesday that Mr Kear "allowed the importance of ... mateship to permeate the manner in which he administered a significant public entity".
Mr Kear sacked Deputy Commissioner Tara McCarthy in May after she initiated investigations into the use of SES funds by her fellow deputy, Steven Pearce.
The ICAC heard Mr Kear and Mr Pearce had known each other since at least 2006 and "the two men and their families holiday together".
Counsel assisting the ICAC, Michael Fordham, SC, said Mr Kear faced a potential criminal charge if the inquiry found Ms McCarthy was "terminated as a reprisal" for investigating Mr Pearce.
Ms McCarthy was employed in November 2012 to review procurement contracts and deliver budget savings.
In his opening address, Mr Fordham said Ms McCarthy's moves to ensure "appropriate governance" relating to overtime, use of motor vehicles, parking and travel caused some "disquiet" in the SES ranks.
She had investigated the use by Mr Pearce of his corporate credit card to pay for roof-racks "to carry surfboards" on his SES vehicle and later to pay for electric brakes to be installed "for the towing of his camper trailer".
Mr Kear signed off on the installations on the basis the money was repaid 15 months and two years respectively after the events.
After further credit card statements were brought to Ms McCarthy, she engaged public service auditor IAB to do a "desktop audit", which uncovered potential irregularities totalling more than $11,000.
Ms McCarthy had also raised concerns about Mr Pearce approving $60,000 worth of overtime for one colleague, the private use of a company car by another, and entering into two consultancy agreements worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The inquiry heard Mr Pearce "provided badging and logos" so the contracts would look like SES documents. The contracts were later terminated.
"The 1902 short story about a cursed talisman that grants wishes, The Monkey's Paw, written by W.W. Jacobs, opens with the line: 'Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it'," Mr Fordham said.
"Commissioner Kear and the SES needed an efficient, process-driven person to guide the SES and improve its governance. That is exactly what it got in Ms McCarthy.
"Having got governance and accountability it began to interfere with what seems to have been regarded as an appropriate status quo."
Mr Fordham said Ms McCarthy saved the SES "significant amounts of money" during her tenure.
Despite the fact that there were "never any competence or performance issues" arising out of her employment, she was not given a chance to comment before she was sacked.
"It is telling that a cab had already been arranged to take Ms McCarthy home," Mr Fordham said.
"Commissioner Kear openly stated that one or both of his deputies had to go. He chose Tara McCarthy."
The inquiry heard that Mr Kear had made false statements to ICAC investigators. He also failed to 'identify, acknowledge of appropriately manage the clear conflict of interest that arose out of his relationship" with Mr Pearce.
Mr Kear took leave earlier this year pending the outcome of the inquiry.
An unfortunate sense of humor
Many people find an Indian accent amusing and some are good at imitating it. Jokes in public can be unwise, however. Monty Panesar is actually England-born of Indian descent. He is a Sikh
An Australian cricket announcer has been sacked on the spot after using an Indian accent to pronounce the name of Engand spinner Monty Panesar.
David Nixon was fired from his match-day duties by Cricket Australia after his announcement in England's tour match at Traeger Park.
He appeared to mock the cricketer, who plays for Essex, and was relieved of his duties after lunch on the second and final day.
There were reports that he used an Indian accent when announcing the name of England bowler Monty Panesar, but CA would not comment on the specifics of the dismissal.
But Nixon took to his Twitter account to explain that his 'style' did not work with the broadcaster. He wrote: 'Really? I love Monty P - cult hero. He should bat 3. My style didn't fit theirs. That's all.'
The announcer concerned was known for banter
Cricket Australia apologises for 'offensive' Monty Panesar tweet
I don't really see what's offensive. Panesar is a Sikh and their turbans tell us that the guys in the picture are Sikhs. And Indians are fonder of bright colours than Anglos are. Why are we not allowed to mention that Panesar is a Sikh? He even wears a Sikh head-covering while playing. Sikhism is a religion, not a race
Cricket Australia has apologised for referencing England spinner Monty Panesar with a photo it tweeted of four bearded men wearing turbans.
CA posted the picture - taken from Instagram - on its official Twitter account late Thursday morning, day one of the second Ashes Test in Adelaide, with the caption: "Will the real Monty Panesar please stand up".
The men were dressed in bright purple, red, green and yellow clothes, depicting children's TV characters the Teletubbies and orginated from here.
The tweet sparked claims of racism and CA promptly deleted the post. "We apologise for any offence caused by our earlier tweet. That was certainly not the intention. It has been removed," it wrote.
5 December, 2013
Cut ABC funding, urges Senator Bernardi, as Coalition ramps up attack on the national broadcaster
The ABC's funding should be cut and the national broadcaster forced to sell advertising and paid subscriptions online to compete with commercial newspapers, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi says.
"I don't want to see a state run media effectively dominating this landscape," the South Australian senator said.
Senator Bernardi's call for ABC funding cuts, which he made in an interview on ABC radio on Wednesday morning, comes amid widespread anger within the Coalition about the ABC's collaboration with The Guardian Australia to report on the alleged phone-tapping of the Indonesian President, its perceived left-wing tendencies and its $1.2 billion annual budget.
Such is the ABC-directed anger within the government that, in a rare move, Prime Minister Tony Abbott publicly condemned the chief executive of the national broadcaster, Mark Scott, for exercising "very, very poor judgment" by publishing the Indonesian spying revelations, leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
"The ABC has grown exponentially over the years," Senator Bernardi told ABC radio on Wednesday. "And now it's basically encroaching into the newspapers of the 21st century, which is the online space."
Senator Bernardi said he was happy for the ABC to keep its radio and television stations, but not for it to publish free news on its websites. This would destroy newspapers published by Fairfax Media and News Corp, Senator Bernardi said.
So strong are the feelings within the Abbott government against the ABC, that a joint party room meeting on Tuesday was dominated by criticisms of the national broadcaster, led by Senator Bernardi.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull attempted to fend off a mini-revolt in the Coalition party room over the ABC, telling the meeting that he believed the ABC did a pretty good job of observing its charter, but was open to criticism for what he called outdated work practices.
He denied that the national broadcaster was contributing to the ruin of newspapers, arguing the publishing industry suffered from a lack of advertising revenue, not from a lack of readers.
However, Mr Turnbull agreed with Mr Abbott, in a rare rebuke of the national broadcaster, that the ABC should not have collaborated with The Guardian to "amplify" or advertise the spying story.
Mr Abbott has so far resisted pressure from within his party room to announce cuts to the ABC's funding.
In the party room meeting, Senator Bernardi described the ABC as a "taxpayer-funded behemoth". He was joined in his attacks by the Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and Senator Ian Macdonald, among others.
Senator Bernardi also criticised the ABC for what he characterised as muddled priorities which, he said, saw the board go to extraordinary lengths to withhold the salary information of its senior broadcasters while showing no such reluctance to reveal information detrimental to the national security interests of the country.
He said there was a compelling case to consider breaking the ABC into two entities with the traditional television and radio operations protected to ensure services in the bush and regional Australia, while the online news service could be disposed of.
"It is in the national interest, the budget interest, and the competitive media interest, that the broadcaster be separated," he later told Fairfax Media.
According to multiple sources in the meeting, the trio of Ms Bishop, and senators Bernardi and Macdonald, received "warm" support for their assessments that the broadcaster had failed to maintain political balance, and was using its annual $1.1 billion taxpayer funding to crowd out commercial news organisations in breach of its charter.
Senator Bernardi described its behaviour as "cannibalisation of commercial media".
So much for the Southern summer: snow predicted in Southern Australia today
Snow will fall on Victoria's Alps on Thursday as a cold blast of wintry air hits the state.
Between 10 and 20 centimetres could fall on the Alps, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, while rain will continue steadily elsewhere. Already more than 30 millimetres of rain has fallen in Melbourne and regional areas.
"We'll see that snow falling, snow down to 1100 metres on Thursday," said Bureau forecaster Michael Efron. "We'll see that really cold air arriving over the state."
Nearly 20 millimetres has fallen on Melbourne since rain began on Tuesday night. Falls have been markedly heavier in the south-eastern suburbs, with Moorabbin receiving 30 millimetres and Mentone, Hampton and Sandringham 29.
Elsewhere in the state, Mt Buller has had 45 millimetres and Mildura, 35. Melbourne could get another 10 to 20 millimetres on Thursday, said Mr Efron, and parts of Victoria between 10 and 20.
A top of 17 is expected for Melbourne on Thursday, with gusting south-westerly winds. "It could feel a lot colder than 17 with those winds," said Mr Efron.
Fortunately, the cold won't be around for long. Friday will be 20 ndegrees, with a shower or two, but Saturday will be warm and 27, Sunday a shower or two and 29. Monday and Tuesday will have temperatures in the low 20s.
"Saturday is looking the best day in the outlook," said Mr Enfron.
Morrison visa halt 'brutal': Labor, Greens
IMMIGRATION Minister Scott Morrison has been labelled brutal for banning new permanent protection visas for asylum seekers already in Australia.
Mr Morrison has used his ministerial powers to put an immediate cap on the number of protection visas for people who have arrived by boat. That means the number has been limited to 1650 until at least July next year, when the cap will be reset.
The minister blames Labor and the Greens for playing parliamentary games by combining in the Senate on Monday to scuttle the coalition's re-introduction of temporary protection visas (TPVs).
Greens MP Adam Bandt condemned both Mr Morrison and Prime Minister Tony Abbott for "acting like thugs" and leaving refugees in permanent limbo.
"What a way to treat some of the world's most vulnerable people who have come here seeking help," Mr Bandt told reporters.
"This is a government that is revealing its former brutality day by day."
Labor MP Kelvin Thomson disagreed with Mr Morrison's description of the disallowance motion as an "own goal" for Labor and the Greens, and voiced disappointment the refugee intake will not reach the former Labor government's 20,000 a year.
"I think that's a pity ... a move in the wrong direction," Mr Thomson said.
"What we can do is be decent, generous and compassionate citizens, and have a refugee program of the order of 20,000.
"There's no reason why we can't accomplish that."
PISA report finds Australian teenagers education worse than 10 years ago
AUSTRALIAN teenagers' reading and maths skills have fallen so far in a decade that nearly half lack basic maths skills and a third are practically illiterate.
The dumbing down of a generation of Australian teenagers is exposed in the latest global report card on 15-year-olds' academic performance.
Migrant children trumped Australian-born kids while girls dragged down the national performance in maths, the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, released in Paris last night, reveals.
Australia's maths performance dropped the equivalent of half a year of schooling between 2003 and 2012.
And rowdy classrooms and bullying are more common in Australia than overseas, the report says.
China tops the latest league table of 65 countries in maths, science and literacy.
The average 15-year-old student from Shanghai is nearly two years ahead in science, and a year and a half ahead in maths, than a typical Australian teen.
Four out of 10 Australian students flunked the national baseline level for mathematical literacy - compared to just over one in 10 in Shanghai and two in 10 in Singapore.
At least one in three Aussie students fell below the national baseline level for reading and science.
The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) called on governments to "act now to stop the slide".
The ACER director of educational monitoring and research, Sue Thomson - who wrote the Australian chapter of the PISA report - said Australia now has fewer top-performing students, and more at the bottom.
She said the reading results showed Australian students were illiterate in a practical sense. "It's not saying they're totally illiterate or innumerate," she said. "But they don't necessarily have the skills they need to participate fully in adult life."
A year after former prime minister Julia Gillard set the goal for Australia to rank among the top five nations for reading, maths and science by 2025, the latest PISA report shows Australia has fallen further down the ladder.
As the debate over school funding continues, the results also reflect how increased spending on education has failed to arrest the slide of other countries, including the United Kingdom, which despite an increase of billions of dollars in funding is producing high school graduates who trail almost every other developed country.
Australia still performs above average for developed countries within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - but its ranking has dived over the decade.
Poland has now leapfrogged Australia in maths, helping push Australia from 11th place 2003 to 19th in 2012.
Australian teens came fourth in PISA's world literacy rankings in 2003, trailing only Finland, Korea and Canada. But they now rank an equal 13th with New Zealand.
The ranking for science fell from 6th place in 2006, to 16th place in 2012.
Australian girls' performance in maths has fallen to the OECD average - dragging down Australia's result. But boys are a year behind girls in literacy levels at the age of 15.
PISA exposes an educational underclass in Australia - with a two and a half year gap between the performance of students from poor or indigenous families and those from well-off households.
Dr Thomson said taxpayer funds should be targeted to disadvantaged students. "Just putting more money in won't work, but targeting money will work," she said.
Dr Thompson said Asian education systems, such as Singapore, gave more remedial attention to children lagging at primary school so they did not fall behind.
The PISA report shows that migrant students performed best in the Australian test.
Even in English literacy, 14 per cent of foreign-born students were top performers, compared to 10 per cent of Australian-born students.
Indigenous students or those living in remote areas were twice as likely to do worst in the PISA tests.
Students from wealthy families were five times more likely than the poorest students to excel.
But results also varied widely within schools, between classes.
"A larger-than-average within-school variance means that, for Australian students, it matters more which class they are allocated to than which school they attend," the report says. "(However) the choice of school still has a significant impact on outcomes."
Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne - who this week pledged to give the States and Territories an extra $2.8bn in funding for schools over the next four years - said Australia's results had declined despite a 44 per cent increase in education spending over the past decade.
"These results are the worst for Australia since testing began and shows that we are falling behind our regional neighbours," he said. "For all the billions (Labor) spent on laptops and school halls there is still no evidence of a lift in outcomes for students."
Australian students also reported a higher frequency of noise and disorder, and teachers having to wait for students to quieten down, than the OECD average.
More than 40 per cent of Australian students reported that "family demands" interfered with their school work.
One in five students felt they did not belong, were not happy or were not satisfied at school.
Australian Greens spokeswoman for schools, Senator Penny Wright attacked the Abbott government for handing the States "no strings attached" schools funding.
"It is deplorable that in the 21st century, Indigenous students are two and a half years behind non-indigenous students, and that kids in remote areas are as much as 18 months behind children in the city," she said.
The Australian Education Union blasted the results as a "wake-up call" for the Abbott government to increase funding to schools in poor areas, and set higher entry standards for teachers.
Nearly 15,000 Australian students aged 15, from 775 schools, were selected at random to take the PISA test last year. More than 51,000 students in 65 developed countries took the test.
4 December, 2013
The fix is in at fair work agency
PUBLIC trust in institutions is an important ingredient of social harmony and economic efficiency. In the absence of confidence in the workings of governments, courts, tribunals, regulators and public bodies generally, compliance with rules and laws can break down and order can crumple.
Luckily, in Australia, there is widespread support for most of our public institutions, support which is generally deserved. But there are exceptions. One obvious example of an institution of which the public has every right to be suspicious is the Fair Work Commission, a successor body to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
Misleadingly referred to as the "independent umpire", the staffing of the FWC was so distorted by the Labor government in favour of former union officials and Labor-affiliated persons that the public should doubt its impartiality - indeed, the common sense of its decisions.
And the performance of the organisation in dealing with clear regulatory breaches by a registered trade union suggests that some of the staff are more motivated by pleasing their (Labor) political masters than actually complying with the law.
Needless to say, these are serious accusations. But the weight of evidence from the past four-or-so years confirms the picture of an organisation that is stuffed to the gills with appointments based on political affiliation and decisions that are influenced by partisan bias.
When the new tribunal was established by the Fair Work Act 2009, both the then-prime minster, Kevin Rudd, and the workplace relations minister, Julia Gillard, ruled out any stacking.
"I will not be the prime minister of this country and appoint some endless tribe of trade union officials and ex-trade union officials to staff the key positions of this body," declared Kevin Rudd.
But this is precisely what happened. Of the 27 appointments made by the Labor government, 18 were either union officials or Labor affiliates. And of these appointments, nearly one-third were at the presidential level. The FWC is now a ridiculously top-heavy organisation, with half of all the members at the presidential level.
And just take a look at the salaries. The total annual remuneration of a vice-president is $534,000 and of a deputy president, it is $435,000. Even the more junior commissioners earn $358,000. In other words, nice gig if you can get it, particularly as most senior union officials, unless you are from the Health Services Union, earn considerably less than $200,000.
There is, of course, the possibility the appointees to the FWC will act in a detached and even-handed way. But, alas, it has not been the case. One member of the tribunal is so inclined to hand down lop-sided and prejudiced decisions that many of them are appealed. And as many members seem to take only a passing notice of the legislation that is intended to govern their decision-making, a large number of inconsistent decisions have been handed down, causing havoc for those parties that are bound by incoherent rulings.
The Australian Mines and Minerals Association, the resources industry employer group, has outlined a number of areas of significant inconsistency. These include: whether employers have the right to test for drug and alcohol use by workers; whether accessing pornographic material is the basis for justified dismissal; whether assaulting a fellow worker is the basis for justified dismissal; whether annual leave can be cashed out; and whether individual flexibility agreements must actually deliver on their promise.
If that is not bad enough, take the performance of the FWC in relation to the handling of the misuse of funds by officials of the HSU. Given the political sensitivities of the case - Craig Thomson, former HSU national secretary, was by then a critical member of parliament keeping Labor in power - the lack of urgency applied to the case is malodorous, nay, shocking. And when we learn that the prime minister's chief of staff contacted relevant persons within the FWC, the reputation of the tribunal is further undermined. There can be no legitimate reason even information gathering for this person to have contacted FWC staff.
And when the heat was soaring in the kitchen and there was a possibility that the general manager of the tribunal might be called before a Senate committee to explain the course of events in relation to the HSU investigation, the Labor government conveniently appointed this person a commissioner of the tribunal, thereby preventing him from answering any questions.
If there is one event that should seriously alarm the public and completely undermine its trust in this institution, it is this one.
But there's more and we can thank then workplace relations minister, Bill Shorten, for completing the destruction of the integrity of the FWC. There are a number of parts to the story, but the most egregious is the appointment of two vice-presidents, positions that had previously not existed. Egged on by the president of the FWC, who by rights should have expressed no opinion on the matter, the Labor government appointed two friendly vice-presidents to quash the two Coalition-appointed vice-presidents with (lower) deputy president status. It was this brazen. Even the Law Council of Australia was unimpressed.
The two Coalition appointees have been effectively marginalised by the president, with one of the new vice-presidents, in particular, being allocated a disproportionate number of significant full bench cases.
The reputation of the FWC has hit rock bottom. It has become a machine for approving unfair dismissal claims. Its handling of the recent penalty rates and apprentice pay cases underscores its complete lack of understanding of economics. More generally, many of its decisions are quite bizarre and anti-business.
I'm just pleased that the overpaid members of the FWC will increasingly find themselves overwhelmed by individual grievance cases as bullying is shifted into its jurisdiction. Of course, most members of the public have no knowledge of the operations of the FWC. If they did, it would make their hair curl - like mine.
Refer racial vilification straight to police: inquiry
Serious cases of racial vilification could be referred directly to the police for full investigation with a view to possible criminal prosecution under changes recommended by a NSW parliamentary inquiry.
The inquiry has also recommended the NSW government increase the period within which criminal complaints can be lodged from six months to a year, review current penalties for serious racial vilification and give police training about the offence.
However, it has rejected calls to lower the bar for prosecutions so that offensive racial slurs could be criminally prosecuted even if they do not incite violence.
The inquiry into racial vilification laws in NSW was initiated by the upper house Law and Justice Committee after a request by Premier Barry O'Farrell last year.
Mr O'Farrell said he was concerned there have been no successful criminal prosecutions in the history of the laws and that they have fallen out of step with community expectations.
The inquiry focused on Section 20D of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, which deals with the criminal offence of "serious racial vilification" and requires proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" for a prosecution.
Penalties of up to $5500 and six months' jail apply to anyone found guilty of inciting "hatred", "serious contempt" or "severe ridicule" of a person or group by threatening physical harm to them or their property or inciting others to do so on the basis of their race.
Yet not one of the 27 complaints referred to the Anti-Discrimination Board for criminal prosecution since 1998 has been prosecuted.
In the final report tabled in the NSW Parliament on Tuesday, committee chairman David Clarke, a Liberal MP, said the the operation of Section 20D had been hampered by "a number of procedural impediments".
The report recommends allowing the president of the Anti-Discrimination Board to refer serious racial vilification directly to police, rather than having seek consent from the Attorney-General, who then may refer it to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
It points out that while there is a 12 month timeframe in which to commence a prosecution under the Anti-Discrimination Act, the Criminal Procedure Act only allows six months.
The committee said this could prevent serious racial vilification matters being prosecuted and recommends extending the time within which a criminal matter can be commenced to 12 months.
The inquiry also recommends changing the law so serious racial vilification can be prosecuted even if the perpetrator is mistaken about the race of the person they are allegedly vilifying.
In their submissions to the inquiry, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the NSW Community Relations Commission called for a radical overhaul of the laws, arguing that the reference to physical harm should be removed.
The board of deputies suggested a new offence of "conduct intended to harass on grounds of race" be introduced to allow criminal prosecutions for racial harassment that involves threats, intimidation or "serious racial abuse", whether or not a physical threat is involved.
The groups called for larger fines and jail sentences of up to three years.
The inquiry said the government should "review the adequacy" of existing penalties but agreed with stakeholders who argued that criminalising racial harassment would "unduly infringe on freedom of expression".
It said any amendments made by the government following the recommendations should be reviewed by the committee in five years.
If in place at the time, the recommended changes could have made it easier to criminally prosecute broadcaster Alan Jones for labelling Lebanese Muslims "vermin" and "mongrels" who "rape and pillage" in an April 2005 broadcast before the Cronulla race riots the following December.
Jones was instead ordered by the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal to apologise on air, which he did last December. Last month he was granted the right to an appeal.
Criminal prosecution of a woman who racially abused the ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernandez on a Sydney bus in February might also have been possible under the proposed changes.
Bleak employment prospects for young Australians
Young Australians have presented a bleak picture of their employment prospects, with only half believing they will get a job in their desired occupation and a quarter fearing there won't be enough work or training opportunities available when they finish school.
The survey of 15,000 people aged between 15 and 19 for Mission Australia found that the economy was the most pressing concern for young people.
Mission Australia chief executive Toby Hall said fear of unemployment was prevalent among both affluent and disadvantaged young people.
"It's a major concern across the social spectrum," he said.
Youth unemployment is up to three times higher than the average unemployment rate and one in four youths aged between 18 and 19 are not fully engaged in work, school or training.
Mr Hall said young people risk falling into an employment black hole unless policy makers rethink how to help young people into the workforce.
"We know that young people who don't finish year 10 and go into the workforce without qualifications are pretty much guaranteed to live their whole life in poverty," he said.
"They might not get that message when they're in year 8 but that's the reality of what will happen to them. We need to prepare young people to become part of the workforce Australia needs in the future."
Young women also expressed concern about discrimination at work, with females in full-time work earning 17.5 per cent less than full-time male workers, according to the ABS.
"If they do get a job, they are not going to be paid as as well as a male," he said. "Young women are saying this is unfair."
But the young women surveyed said they were more likely to pursue further education, with 70 per cent intending to go to university, compared with 57 per cent of males.
Marrickville student Eloise Willis-Hardy, 18, has just finished the first year of a communications degree at UTS and believes most graduates don't get the job they want.
"There is an expectation that it will be near impossible to go straight into a job of your choice," she said.
"The other expectation is that you'll have all this paid experience in the area you want to work in. Usually, a degree isn't enough. It's annoying. You go straight from school into a degree that you think will get you a job – but mostly that's not the case."
Maddison Potter, 19, had to move from Sydney to Brisbane to study for a degree in business and creative industry at QUT and expects she will have to continue moving to find work when she finishes her course.
"There aren't that many jobs in the creative industries and there is a lot of competition for the jobs that are there," she said.
"I have a feeling I'll be moving around a lot, looking for work, because it will be hard to find a job."
Their friend Bradley Gimbert, 19, of Marrickville, is working part-time in a cafe while he focuses on playing guitar and saving up to go overseas.
"I just haven't thought too much about a long-term career at the moment, to be honest," he said. "I would love to be able to make a bit of money and then travel."
ABC Catalyst TV show on cholesterol gets results
THE fallout from the controversial ABC TV Catalyst program on anti-cholesterol drugs is gathering pace with three in four doctors reporting patients have stopped their medications.
Almost half of the patients that have stopped their drugs are considered at high risk of a heart attack.
The ABC's own health expert Norman Swan has warned "people will die" as a result of the Catalyst program that questioned the role of cholesterol in heart disease and the benefit of statin drugs that reduce cholesterol.
Drug company Merck Sharp Dohme commissioned a survey of 150 doctors a week after the Catalyst program aired on ABC TV and found two in three had patients who had stopped taking the drugs or considered ceasing them.
A follow up study just released has found that had increased to three out of four doctors on two weeks later on November 21.
Again, half the patients who had dropped their medicine were considered at high risk of a heart attack.
And nine out of ten doctors told the survey they feared they had patients who had stopped their drugs without consulting a doctor.
The survey found two in three patients who wanted to drop their anti-cholesterol treatments after watching the Catalyst program cited side effects as another reason for stopping their drugs.
Almost a third said they wanted to drop their medication because of the cost.
Merck Sharp Dohme manufactures a cholesterol lowering stating drug called zocor.
The Catalyst program was based on the evidence of a group of doctors and a supplement salesperson who are all promoting their own books on the subject.
The Australian Medical Association branded the program "sensationalist" and the chair of the Australian Advisory Committee on the Safety of Medicines asked the ABC to pull part two of the program off the air.
One doctor responding to the Merck Sharp Dohme survey said "the Catalyst program has been the most biased and damaging TV show ... medically ... in years".
Another doctor commented that "it was a rubbish and biased program in the same grain as anti-vaccination propaganda".
"There should be a governing body to stop idiots reporting on shows like Catalyst that can have devastating results to the overall health of the community.......and Medicines Australia worry about us hard working Dr's being influenced by a pen or a dinner! " another doctor said.
Most of the doctors surveyed said they would not change their prescribing of statins as a result of the Catalyst program.
However, 14 per cent said they would decrease their prescribing of statins to low risk patients.
Shortly after Catalyst went to air the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) in the United Kingdom announced it would reconsider its guidelines on the drugs as new evidence suggest more people could benefit from them.
Leading researcher and cardiologist Professor David Colquoun says a 1996 Australian trial of over 9,000 patients that he took part in found decreasing cholesterol in people who had experience a heart attack reduced the risk of stroke by 20 per cent, the need for a heart bypass by 25 per cent and a further heart attack by 30 per cent.
3 December, 2013
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop is a true supporter of peace in the Middle East
Australia's decision to change its position and abstain on two United Nations resolutions regarding settlements and the Geneva Convention was the act of a true supporter of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Explaining the decision to change the vote, a spokesman for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the shift "reflected the government's concern that Middle East resolutions should be balanced" and said: "The government will not support resolutions which are one-sided and which pre-judge the outcome of final status negotiations between the two sides."
The reality is that the UN's entrenched biases against Israel - reflecting the imbalance of power between one Jewish state versus 22 Arab states plus 56 majority Muslim states - have rendered it ineffective as a mediator. Arab states have long sought to use the UN to delegitimise Israel and seek an affirmation of the narrative about Israel being a usurper state existing on "stolen" Palestinian land.
Thus the resolutions in question presuppose the final borders of Israel and a Palestinian state, which undermine agreements made at Oslo that such issues be directly negotiated by the parties. In addition, it encourages the Palestinians to walk away from negotiations with Israel and pursue their goals in international forums.
Highlighting how ridiculous the UN has become recently was an unlikely source. A UN interpreter, unaware that her microphone was on, said: "I think when you have, like a total of 10 resolutions on Israel and Palestine, there's gotta be something, c'est un peu trop, non? [It's a bit much, no?]. There's other really bad shit happening, but no one says anything about the other stuff." Laughter erupted among the delegates. But the matter is not funny.
By the end of its annual legislative session, the General Assembly is expected to adopt 22 resolutions condemning Israel - and only four on the rest of the world combined, with only one on the Syrian civil war that has led to more than 100,000 deaths and the use of chemical weapons.
Ms Bishop clearly recognises this problem, and this is doubtless why Australia decided to change its votes on two typically one-sided resolutions from "in favour" to "abstain". These resolutions made prejudgments on key issues to be negotiated between the parties while making no demands of the Palestinian side, refusing to specifically acknowledge Palestinian terrorism, incitement or the rejectionism of Hamas, which rules Gaza. Australia's allies the US and Canada voted against these resolutions.
The resolutions were regarding the applicability of the Geneva Convention and settlements in the West Bank. A true friend of peace recognises that while settlements are an issue that must be resolved in negotiations, housing construction in settlements is not the main obstacle to peace, as construction in West Bank settlements is not absorbing additional land that will ultimately be part of a Palestinian state, as is widely implied.
Israel has not built any West Bank settlements for more than 15 years. Since 2003 all settlement growth authorised by Israel has occurred within the existing boundaries of long-standing settlements under an agreement reached between Israel and the United States.
Furthermore, settlements themselves take up less than 2 per cent of the land in the West Bank, a fact acknowledged by Palestinian leaders. Finally, most settlement blocks, where the vast majority of recent construction has occurred, have long been expected to be retained by Israel in exchange for land swaps with the Palestinians. Even the Arab League has endorsed this idea.
The official position of every successive Israeli government since 1999 has been to support a two-state outcome and Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert offered a Palestinian state on land equivalent to nearly all of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Arab neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem. Meanwhile, demonstrating Israel can adjust its policy on settlements to facilitate peace talks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instituted a 10-month moratorium on building in settlements in 2010 and recently cancelled controversial Housing Ministry long term plans for settlement units.
Israel and the Palestinians are in the midst of negotiations and together they will confront many tough issues: the future of Jerusalem, refugees, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, relations with Hamas and settlements.
A true friend would know it is essential for the parties to decide the outcome of negotiations and encourage maximum flexibility rather than support UN resolutions trying to dictate what that outcome should be.
Primary school bans leather footballs
A SCHOOL has banned children from using leather footballs and soccer balls after concerns were raised about possible head injuries.
Only 'soft' balls are allowed in the playground under new rules introduced at Albert Park Primary School.
Experts have backed the move but warn parents and teachers not to be lulled into a false sense of security.
The school introduced the new ball rules in a bid to lessen the impact of stray balls which hit students in the head.
Assistant principal Sue Pattison said the school's almost 450 students shared an oval little bigger than a basketball court, increasing the chances of an accident.
About 480 students are expected to attend the school next year.
"We still want kids to be able to run and play - it's an important part of having a break - but to do it in as safe an environment as we can manage," Ms Pattison said. "It's really just about prevention of major injuries."
The soft balls, introduced last term, are constructed of foam or have a foam layer under the skin.
Students who bring their own equipment must comply with the requirements. Regular basketballs and tennis balls are allowed.
"We didn't actually have a major increase in incidents but it is a proactive decision because it's a busy yard," Ms Pattison said.
Under Education Department rules the parents of any child who suffers a head injury must be notified. Albert Park contacts parents even if children are hit with a softer ball.
Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health neurosurgeon Prof Gavin Davis said softer balls were likely to reduce minor head injuries like lacerations and fractures but may not necessarily reduce concussion.
Concussion was more commonly caused when children fell over and hit their head or if it collided with another child's body part.
"It's an admirable intention to reduce head injuries with a softer ball," Prof Davis said. "In general the principle is sound - in application it's not always the case."
"Education about recognising and acting on concussion was vital, he said.
Kidsafe Victoria executive officer Melanie Courtney said use of soft balls was an "innovative" way to ensure safety in a cramped playground.
Victorian Principals Association president Gabrielle Leigh said it was important each adapted to their settings to ensure student safety.
Federal Education Minister calls for return of phonics
SCHOOLS have failed to help a generation of students who struggle to read, prompting an Abbott Government pledge to bring back phonics in "a big way".
Education Minister Christopher Pyne has outlined the principles of his new needs-based funding model for the nation's schools that he will unveil next year, focusing on teacher quality, traditional literacy learning methods including phonics (which involves sounding out the letters in words), principal power and parental engagement.
But he has also admitted he couldn't promise that no school would lose a dollar, arguing that the states ultimately decided individual school grants.
Mr Pyne sparked national controversy after he revealed he was going "back to the drawing board" on Labor's Gonski reforms because a majority of states had not signed legally binding agreements.
Accused of junking an election promise that he was on a "unity ticket" over the funding model for public and private schools, a defiant Mr Pyne said he was ready to "take on the education establishment".
A father of four, Mr Pyne said he had a deep understanding of learning difficulties after members of his own family had struggled to read.
"While it might have been pursued with all the goodwill in the world, there's no doubt that literacy standards for Australian students have declined measurably," he said.
"We are very determined and I am personally very determined to drive an agenda in literacy that focuses on phonics. It's far too important to turn a blind eye to what is failing our students in Australia and I am not prepared to do it."
Phonics is regarded by advocates as superior to more recent "whole language" learning, which is based on teachers providing a "literacy rich environment" combining speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
Mr Pyne said getting results was not simply about funding but better teachers, school autonomy and parental engagement.
He said claims by state ministers that public schools would bear the brunt of any cuts were wrong.
"Why on earth would I be an enemy of public schools? They educate two-thirds of our students," he said.
"We send the money to the states and they apply the formula. So for them to say that somehow we may have to make a commitment that no school will be worse off -- it's quite impossible for us to follow through with that commitment. Because we don't actually apply the model in the final instance," he said.
Australian Olive Association ad campaign on substandard imports
The standards for olive oil production in Europe do appear to be appalling. I buy Australian olive oil purely to be sure it is olive oil I get in my olive oil bottle
LOCAL olive oil makers will launch a $300,000 national ad campaign tonight after failing in a two-year bid to have what they say are substandard imports comply with Australian standards.
Australian Olive Association CEO Lisa Rowntree said the campaign was "a last-ditch effort" as various authorities had failed to enforce the same standards on imports as applied to local olive oils.
"We had been hoping the regulators would step in and not leave a lot of this decision-making to consumers but they don't seem to want to do that," she said. "We need to now educate consumers ourselves."
But Paul Berryman from the Australian Olive Oil Association, which represents olive oil importers, hit back saying there is room for everyone, local and imported, refined and pure olive oils and the focus should be on using olive oil fit for purpose.
"What everyone should be doing is promoting the use of good olive oil and that is what we are trying to do but they (the AOA) seem very much intent on denigrating imported oil," he said.
"We consumer in Australia 55,000 tonnes of olive oil and Australia produces (about) 15,000 tonnes of olive oil, so they can't even meet supply, so why they are carrying on as they do I don't understand."
Ms Rowntree said the campaign was "not import bashing".
"We are happy to call our product what it is and we don't mind competing head to head with imported product as long as it is labelled correctly and the claims it makes are true," she said.
AOA testing over two years found that, of 106 imported oils representing 40 different brands, 77 per cent failed the Australian Standard.
The EU admitted last month that olive oil is the No. 1 product most at risk of food fraud, including the substitution of Greek olive oil for Italian oil to the addition of refined or cheaper oils such as corn, hazelnut and palm oil.
Refined oils are often labelled as "Pure", "Light" and "Extra Light" and make up about 45 per cent of Australia's total olive oil consumption, which is almost two litres per person per year.
"In Europe they don't make claims like pure and light and extra light because they are meaningless and they are not terms that are used. But in Australia they are allowed to happen," said Ms Rowntree.
"These people are able to label a refined, bleached, deodorised product with terminology that intentionally confuses a consumer."
Australians have doubled their consumption of locally produced extra virgin olive oil to 31 per cent of total consumption in the past 18 months and grocery sales of local olive oil are expected to exceed $100m by 2014.
The three-week national ad campaign, starting tonight on television and followed up in print, will be fronted by nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan.
"People assume that be buying a European oil you are going to be getting a better oil," said Dr McMillan. "In fact that is not true at all. Europe do produce some great oils but they are keeping it for themselves and the stuff that they send over to Australia is the real substandard stuff unless you spend a lot of money in your local posh shop."
Local chefs backing the campaign include Stephanie Alexander.
"I would like to convince as many consumers as possible that Australia extra virgin olive oil is the freshest product and that it doesn't age," she said.
"You don't need to keep a bottle of olive oil for three years in the back of the cupboard because that's the worst possible thing you can do with it."
2 December, 2013
LEFTIST JOURNALIST ASSESSES TONY ABBOTT’S ACADEMIC CAREER AT OXFORD – BUT NOT LEE RHIANNON'S AT MOSCOW’S LENIN SCHOOL
Rhiannon is a Trot masquerading as a Green. She is now a senator
What a truly fascinating piece by Mark Kenny on the Fairfax Media website last Monday. Mr Kenny revealed Tony Abbott’s results in his Philosophy Politics and Economics (PPE) course at Oxford University some three decades ago. This followed research by journalist James West published in the Junkee website and in The Guardian. In fact, Mr Abbot received a respectable Second Class degree – quite good in view of his non-academic interests in politics and sport.
Your man Kenny wrote that “Mr Abbott struggled to gain the highest marks for his efforts” in the PPE program but provided no evidence of any such “struggle”.
Meanwhile, neither Mark Kenny nor any of his fellow members of the Canberra Press Gallery have bothered to follow-up on, or even report, MWD’s “scoop” about Lee Rhiannon’s (nee Brown) apparent post-graduate study at the International Lenin School in Moscow in the mid-1970s.
The Greens Senator has refused to confirm or deny that she did a course in Moscow during the time of Leonid Brezhnev’s communist dictatorship. As Professor Helena Sheehan of Dublin City University has documented, the International Lenin School was established by the Soviet Union “to train leaders of the communist movement” and “to facilitate” the progress of Bolshevik revolution around the world.
Graduates of the International Lenin School include Stanlinist hacks like Erich Honecker and Wladyslaw Gomulka. And then there is Lee Brown (who changed her name to Rhiannon), the daughter of Communist Party of Australia members Bill and Freda Brown.
According to Mark Kenny, Tony Abbott “struggled to gain the highest marks” at Oxford University in the early 1980s. But Mr Kenny has shown little interest in exploring Lee Rhiannon’s (nee Brown) intellectual struggles at the International Lenin School in Moscow in the mid 1970s. Can you bear it?
Education systems need hard lesson
THE feral critics of federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne made one simple but seriously-flawed assumption when they attempted to savage him over the former Labor government’s terminally damaged Gonski education reform.
In the collective view of the leftists at the ABC and Fairfax Media, the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Labor governments possessed some degree of competency. That’s a bad place from which to make any assessment of the programs they left in place - like Gonski.
Respected businessman David Gonski must rue the day he agreed to look into the education funding shambles for former prime minister Julia Gillard.
In the end, it became nothing more than an ideologically-driven scheme to bribe state and territory leaders.
To think it would ever break with Labor tradition and achieve success was always too much to ask for.
But a few Pollyannas remain ever willing to sacrifice thoughtfulness for wishy-washy idealism, despite the evidence of such lethal failures as Labor’s pink batts scheme, its tragically fatal border protection scheme, its extravagantly wasteful and inefficient national broadband rollout, its laughable carbon tax and ineffective mining tax. Media figures tripped over themselves in their rush to embrace Gonski as the latest educational panacea.
But what was it ever going to achieve beyond increased funding - Labor’s ever-ready toss-more-money-at-the-problem universal but always ineffectual solution?
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell should have been aware of the risks posed in getting into bed with Labor, as should his Education Minister Adrian Piccoli. They should have given more thought to the substance of Gonski rather than let themselves be dazzled by the cash Gillard was offering to entice them and other states to sign up. In education, principles as well as principals count.
The key defect in what is now known as Gonski is that Labor gutted the plan of genuine forward-thinking reform and ensured that it was about nothing more than cash handouts which Labor would place on the national credit card.
There is nothing wrong with that, if it’s affordable. The big error lies in believing money is the sole answer to educational problems.
In the past decade the education budget has increased by 40 per cent but results have declined in real terms across every subject. Australian taxpayers pay $42 billion a year for shocking results.
The Abbott government has been faced with the choice of continuing to fund bad policy and fail our children or trying to help them gain from their schooling. Given that the federal government doesn’t own any schools or employ any teachers, the choice seems simple.
Give the states and territories some guidance on curricula, replace the hideously ideological literacy program, for instance, with the universally accepted and proven phonics method of teaching reading, improve the quality of teachers by getting more involved in teacher training within universities, permitting school principals to assume greater responsibility and enjoy greater autonomy and, crucially, actively promote the engagement of parents or grandparents in the education of their children and grandchildren.
What happens in the classroom has far greater influence over a child’s education than the amount of money being handed out.
It is clear Pyne is relentlessly focused on teacher quality and training and understands that university students who don’t understand basic principles of English, let alone science or maths, are being trained as teachers.
They are the victims of failed educational fads and yet are expected to be able to teach future students.
The most hysterical criticism of the Abbott government’s plans for education has come from the teachers’ unions, because they can see their control being diminished as principals are given greater responsibility.
Hypocritically, the leftists who have always campaigned for more state schools are opposed to the creation of more state schools if they are to be given greater independence.
Independent state schools introduced in Western Australia are now so successful they are luring pupils from non-government schools, which upsets teachers’ unions and the left enormously.
The schools are owned by the state but run by principals, with involvement from parents. Parents say the education their children receive at such schools is transformational.
Pyne firmly believes he was elected to make a real contribution, not merely occupy a seat in parliament. He knew he was always going to be attacked by the educational establishment for identifying its core weakness.
Labor never tried to make the necessary changes because it didn’t want to create conflict with its trade union support base.
While the Abbott government has not cut the education funding agreed to during the forward estimates period, it is going to insist on value for money.
That’s a principle which principled principals will happily agree to.
Is Australia responsible for a slowing in the sea-level rise?
I also scoffed at this study -- on 21 August
COMMENT TO FASULLO, J.T., C. BOENING, F. LANDERER, AND R.S. NEREM, AUSTRALIA'S UNIQUE INFLUENCE ON GLOBAL SEA LEVEL IN 2010-2011
GEO. RES. LETT., 2013, IN PRESS
By Albert Parker
The lack of global warming over this century in the measurements of ground and deep oceans temperatures and the lack of positive acceleration in the measurements of sea levels suggest that the climate models have greatly exaggerated the influence of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide emission. However, rather than feeling uncomfortable with possibly wrong theories, many authors have recently re-focused their attention from “warming” to “weather extremes”, blaming climate “variability” and “uncertainty” for the lack of warming, or sorting out the most unrealistic explanations for the lack of warming of temperatures and accelerations of seas as it is the case of the claimed storage of 4.572·1012 m3 of water in Australia discussed in the commented paper.
The latest news about global warming report of temporary falls of the rate of rise of sea levels because of formation of Lake Eyre in Australia.
“Global sea level has been rising as a result of global warming, but in 2010 and 2011, sea level actually fell by about a quarter of an inch. Scientists now say they know why: It has to do with extreme weather in Australia. The sea level drop coincided with some of the worst flooding in that continent's history. Dozens of people died and torrents washed away houses and cars, forcing thousands from their homes. Some of those floodwaters simply ran back into the ocean, so they didn't affect sea level. But a lot of that water was trapped on the Australian land mass. That's because the continent has an odd geography.” writes Richard Harris  reporting on a work recently published by John Fasullo and others in the paper here commented .
The claim by Fasullo surprisingly accepted in the peer review is that “Australia's hydrologic surface mass anomaly is responsible for the fall in the reconstruction of global mean sea level.” Apart from the fact that the global mean sea level (GMSL) reconstructions are not measurements but very questionable computations, it appear unbelievable that the natural formation of Lake Eyre in the centre of Australia can be considered responsible for a drop of a quarter of an inch in the GMSL.
Lake Eyre (Kati Thanda) is the lowest point in Australia, at approximately 15 m below sea level (lowest point when empty) and when it fills is the largest lake in Australia and the 18th largest in the world. The temporary shallow lake is found in South Australia some 700 km north of Adelaide. The surface area is 9,500 km2 maximum, with average depth 1.5 m every 3 years and 4 m every decade.
A good reviewer of the paper by Fasullo should have asked him why the 2010-2011 pattern is not evidenced a decade before in the GMSL computation that started early 1990s. Similar rain falls were indeed experienced about a decade ago , but the oceans did not fall that much.
Same good reviewer should also have asked Mr. Fasullo if he considers conservation of mass must be enforced when asserting that “the sea level dropped by a quarter of an inch during these raining times for Australia though normally it rises by an eighth of an inch per year and since that time the global sea level has risen by nearly an inch”. Approximately 72% of the planet's surface totalling about 3.6x108 km2 is covered by saline water. In terms of the hydrosphere of the Earth oceans contain 97% of the Earth's water. Half inch of oceans translates in 4.572·1012 m3 of water. The average deep of Lake Eyre should have been 486 metres to store all that water that it does not seem to be the case.
Same good reviewer should have asked Mr. Fasullo why all the long term tide gauges continue to show same oscillations about a linear trend without any sign of accelerations since the beginning of the 1900 and during the two decades of the satellite reconstruction of the GMSL [4-10].
Same good reviewer should have asked Mr. Fasullo why there should be a rise in the level of the oceans if the thermometers have measured a flat ocean temperature up to 2000 m the first decade that measurements have been collected  and the ground temperatures have also been stable.
Same days Scott Simon  reports on the opportunity to cool down the warming climate with engineering projects. “Draft report from the intergovernmental panel on climate change was leaked to the media this week. The scientists will report to the U.N. that it is nearly certain that human activity has caused most of the earth's climate change over the last 50 years. Now, this leak is certain to rekindle debates about how best to contend with events like increasing temperatures and rising sea levels, and it might make some people take a new look at what's called geo engineering.” writes Scott Simon.
The best energy policy options according to many climate advocates is to impose huge taxes on everything is carbon related to subsidise projects such as building machines that would suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, reflecting sunlight away from the earth, changing the hydrology of a continent and similar.
With reference to this latter option, it has already been proposed to flood Lake Eyre with seawater brought to the basin via canal or pipeline to increase rainfall in the region downwind of the lake . If the computations of Mr. Fasullo are correct, this would certainly reduce at least temporarily the rate of rise of sea level , but we do have some doubts about the “sustainability” of digging channels of almost 700 km from the sea to Lake Eyre then to be kept clean of salt deposits all with tax payers’ monies.
SOURCE (See the original for references)
Australian pride is restored. This is no small accomplishment, considering the depths to which we sank in 2009, when then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered this wince-making speech to that year’s United Nations climate conference in Denmark:
“Before I left Australia, I was presented with a book of handwritten letters from a group of six-year-olds. One of the letters is from Gracie. Gracie is six. ‘Hi,’ she wrote. ‘My name is Gracie. How old are you?’ Gracie continues, ‘I am writing to you because I want you all to be strong in Copenhagen. Please listen to us as it is our future.’ I fear that at this conference, we are on the verge of letting little Gracie down.”
We were a different country back then, outsourcing economic policy to babies and actually admitting it to the world. Happily, things have changed. For this year’s UN climatefest in Warsaw, Poland, Tony Abbott’s government didn’t even bother to send the environment minister, much less the Prime Minister and his pre-teen fan mail.
Instead we sent some delegates who quite properly treated the whole exercise as a lark, much to the consternation of Gaia’s little Gracies. “They wore T-shirts and gorged on snacks throughout the negotiation,” fumed Ria Voorhaar, a spokeswoman for the Climate Action Network. “That gives some indication of the manner they are behaving in.”
Back in 2009, Rudd negotiated pointlessly for 40 hours, grabbing just one hour of sleep. This year’s Australian delegates don’t go for that sort of nonsense. “They made an intervention that late-night negotiations were bad for health and should be stopped,” complained Voorhaar.
And the meetings were indeed halted, with many blaming the snack-chomping Aussies and their t-shirts. “Their behaviour caused over 130 developing nations to abandon discussions on the controversial issue of climate compensation at 4am,” seethed Sophie Yeo of the activist group Responding to Climate Change. “It is one thing to be tired in a negotiation meeting, another to turn up in pyjamas,” huffed EU negotiator Paul Watkinson on Twitter. “Respect matters.”
With all due respect, the EU and the UN can shove it.
The Australians’ fine performance in Warsaw recalls the great Ipswich Meat Battle, when Queensland abattoir workers set a new global standard for environmental negotiations. One April morning in 2006, the workers arrived at their abattoir to find animal activists had chained themselves to the facility’s killing area.
Rather than give up and go home, however, the industrious workers advanced on the chained idiots. As the ABC reported: “The 12 protesters got a fright when meatworkers took matters into their own hands and used angle grinders to cut the chains off the activists so they could get back to work.”
Police are usually called to deal with protesters. In this case, the protesters actually called police. “The workers, they were standing around cheering and whooping and yelling and making lewd comments,” protester Angie Stephenson wailed. “We had to call the police and tell them to get out here straight away.”
“We begged for the police,” confirmed another protester, Patty Mark, who said that the abattoir owner joined about 40 of his workers in removing the stupid activists.
“They were yelling and screaming, and he got the angle grinder himself and started to cut right near where we were chained,” pity Patty pleaded.
“It was terrifying. We didn’t have protection on our eyes. The sparks were flying.”
If ever we send any further delegations to UN climate talks, these boys should lead the way. “Like, this guy was basically coming at us with an angle grinder, so there were people shaking, there were people in tears,” said protester Noah Hannibal. “And he was just saying, you know, ‘I’m enjoying this.’ “
That’s the spirit. The UN better get used to it.
1 December, 2013
Indonesia ready to work with Australia again
Grievous news for the Leftist hysterics at the ABC and the Sydney Morning Herald
The political row over allegations that Australia spied on Indonesia appeared to ease Wednesday after their leaders issued conciliatory statements and agreed to set up "a code of conduct."
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told reporters he will send either Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa or a special envoy to Australia to discuss the code of conduct that would allow the two countries to continue cooperating on a number of issues, including intelligence information sharing, military and police.
Jakarta downgraded its relations with Australia last week after it emerged that the phones of Yudhoyono, his wife and other leaders were bugged by Australian agencies in 2009.
Following the reports, cooperation between the militaries and law enforcement agencies of the two countries was suspended, including work on the thorny issue of people smuggling. Indonesia also recalled its ambassador to Australia.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot has refused to confirm or deny the reported allegations, which emerged from documents provided by U.S. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
But Yudhoyono said he has received a quick reply to a letter he sent to Abbott outlining his concerns.
"The Australian prime minister's commitment is that Australia will not do anything in the future that will be detrimental or disturb Indonesia," Yudhoyono said, without providing specifics. "This is the important point."
Abbott welcomed Yudhoyono's statement and described the proposed code of conduct as a "good way forward."
"It was a very warm statement. It was a statement that was very positive about Australia," Abbott told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday. "I'm going to reflect on the statement over the next day or so and then we'll be responding more fully," he added.
Education funding model lost in translation
Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne is today meeting with his state and territory counterparts. On the agenda: scrapping the school funding system that was five years in the making and has not even been implemented yet.
NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT signed bilateral agreements with the former federal Labor government which would have delivered an extra $10 billion in Commonwealth funding between 2014 and 2019, but with only 28% of the funding forthcoming in the first four years. The big cash splash would have taken place in 2018 and 2019, just beyond the current budget forward estimates.
Prior to the federal election, Pyne sensibly refused to commit to the funding slated for 2018 and 2019, promising only to deliver the first four years of the deal. Pyne's decision to get rid of Labor's 'Better Schools' funding model at some point during that time was always on the cards, it has just happened sooner than expected.
A key point to remember is that the federal government does not decide how much funding will be provided to state schools. Each state and territory has its own funding mechanism.
The Better Schools model calculates a nominal amount for each school and then, in the case of state and Catholic schools, hands its share of the total over to state authorities to distribute in their own way. Independent schools are the only schools to receive funding based directly on the Better Schools model.
Another key point is that the Better Schools model is not the same as the 'Gonski' model that was proposed in the review of school funding in 2012. It is much more complicated and difficult to administer and implement.
The most important features of the 'Gonksi' model were that it was simpler, more student-centred, and took a more neutral approach to funding schools in different sectors. These features were lost in the translation to Better Schools.
Hopefully, in the next twelve months, Minister Pyne will come up with a model that achieves the same objectives without breaking the bank. It won't be easy.
Greens urge Labor to back move to challenge re-introduced Temporary Protection Visas
The Greens want no border protection at all. TPVs were a key element in the Howard strategy that stopped the flow of illegals
The Greens are urging Labor to back their challenge over the recently re-introduced Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs).
The Government has started issuing the visas, which grant refugees protection for up to three years but prevents them from applying for permanent protection, to asylum seekers who are found to be in need of Australia's protection.
The visas allow people to work and access Medicare, however they are denied the opportunity for family reunification.
Reintroducing TPVs, which were abolished by the Labor government in 2008, was a key Coalition election promise.
The Greens are vehemently opposed to the TPV and Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young will try to overturn the visas in the Senate this Monday afternoon by bringing on a disallowance motion for debate.
But Labor's support will be vital if the motion is to succeed.
"Look, this is a test for the Labor party. They went to the election saying they did not support Temporary Protection Visas," Senator Hanson-Young said.
"Back in 2008, they removed John Howard's Temporary Protection Visas. "They did the right thing then and this is an opportunity to do the right thing again." It is still unclear how Labor will vote.
If Labor and the Greens do team up in the Senate to abolish the TPVs, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says there are other forms available.
"My message for the Labor party is, if they want to completely ignore the last election as they have on other issues like the carbon tax, and deny that the coalition has steadfastly held to the position of Temporary Protection Visas being the central plank of our border protection policy, and they want to team up with the Greens to deny that, well that's a matter for the Labor party and they'll have to explain that," he said.
In a statement, shadow immigration minister Richard Marles says that Labor's stance on TPVs is long-standing and well known. But he also says the legislation put forward by the Government is yet to be considered by the Caucus.
Numbers of Aussie heading to UK drops yet numbers of Brits moving here remains steady after 20 years
AUSTRALIANS are no longer the biggest migrators to the mother country with better a lifestyle, wages and working conditions keeping them at home.
But new figures released in London show the British don't just watch our TV shows, drink our beer and enjoy fierce sporting rivalry; they also continue to flock Down Under to live, in a migration pattern largely unchanged for more than two decades.
The UK's Office for National Statistics report showed in the 12 months to June this year, 503,000 people moved to the UK, a slight drop from the previous year, including 27,000 Australians.
For the first time the Chinese were the biggest migrators to Britain with 40,000 citizens moving in, followed by India, Poland, the USA and Australia and Spain equally rounding out the top 5.
Ten years earlier, in 2002, Australians were in top spot of migrators to the UK followed by the Chinese, Americans, South Africans and Germans.
Twenty years ago it was pretty much the same except there were more New Zealanders than South Africans. Those were the days when Earls Court was known as Kangaroo Valley, the TNT magazine was the travellers bible both in size and religious following and there was a Walkabout pub everywhere you looked.
The attraction to the UK then had always been cultural and financial, with the pound at one stage worth three times as much as the dollar. But the past few years has seen a reversal of fortunes and more Aussies stayed away or returned home from Britain, attracted by the stronger economy back home.
The trend began in about 2007 with the downturn in the British economy and jobs market and has continued to today. That social change has also been reflected in other ways with Earls Court somewhat gentrified and an expensive place to live, TNT is the size of a large newsletter and last month the flagship Walkabout in Shepherds Bush in west London closed down due to lack of expat support. The original Walkabout in Covent Garden also closed earlier this year.
On the flip side, in 1992 Australia was the second highest emigration destination for Britons after the United States but then from 1997 to 2012, it has remained as the top choice.
That means Australia continues as one of the few countries in the world to consistently remain on top for immigration and emigration with the UK.
Ironically, a raft of visa changes in Britain has made it harder for its own citizens who have married a non-Briton or EU citizen to return home as a couple or a family, prompting many to continue to live "in exile" in non-EU countries including Australia. It's designed to weed out sham marriages but has affected genuine Australian-British relationships and families.
Migration to the UK is currently a hot topic in Westminster with Prime Minister David Cameron looking at cutting access to social benefits for migrants coming in, predominantly from the EU.
Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.
Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here
For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.
Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).
For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security
Two of my ancestors were convicts so my family has been in Australia for a long time. As well as that, all four of my grandparents were born in the State where I was born and still live: Queensland. And I am even a member of the world's second-most condemned minority: WASPs (the most condemned is of course the Jews -- which may be why I tend to like Jews). So I think I am as Australian as you can get. I certainly feel that way. I like all things that are iconically Australian: meat pies, Vegemite, Henry Lawson etc. I particularly pride myself on my familiarity with the great Australian slanguage. I draw the line at Iced Vo-Vos and betting on the neddies, however. So if I cannot comment insightfully on Australian affairs, who could?
On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.
I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.
I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!
I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.
The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"
UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.
Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.
A delightful story about a great Australian conservative