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

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


28 February, 2013

Australian Muslim activists lose free speech case

Two Muslim activists accused of sending offensive letters to families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan narrowly lost a court appeal Wednesday that cited their constitutional freedom of speech.

Iranian-born Man Horan Monis, a self-styled Sydney cleric also known as Sheik Haron, was charged in 2009 with 12 counts of using as postal service in an offensive way and one count of using a postal service in a harassing way. Amirah Droudis was charged with aiding and abetting the offences.

The six judges of the High Court split on whether the charges were compatible with Australians' right to free speech. When the nation's highest court is undecided, an appeal is dismissed and the lower court decision stands.

That sends the charges to a lower court where they will be heard on a date to be set.

Monis allegedly wrote letters critical of Australia's military involvement in Afghanistan and condemning the dead soldiers. He also allegedly wrote to the mother of an Australian official killed in a terrorist bomb blast in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2009 and blamed Australian government policy for the tragedy.

His lawyers argued in the High Court last year that the charges were invalid because they infringed on Australians' right to freedom of political communication.

The Australian Constitution doesn't include an equivalent of the U.S. First Amendment. But the High Court has held for decades that the constitution contains an implied right to free speech because such political communication is essential to democracy. This right is not as extensive as that guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The pair had appealed in the High Court the unanimous ruling of three judges of the New South Wales state Court of Appeal in December 2011.

"Whilst at one level the letters are critical of the involvement of the Australian military in Afghanistan, they also refer to the deceased soldiers in a denigrating and derogatory fashion," their judgment said.

It is not immediately clear what potential jail term the charges carry.


Qld govt reveals school privatisation plan

PRIVATE companies will build and maintain 10 Queensland state schools under a Newman government plan.

The announcement comes just a day after the Queensland government revealed plans to privatise parts of the state's health system.

Treasurer Tim Nicholls says the Queensland Schools Project will see private companies contracted to finance, design, construct and maintain 10 new state schools.

Core education services will still be provided by Education Queensland.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek says the state needs new methods to build and finance schools to meet growing population demands and the plan will give "taxpayers the best bang for their buck."

The 10 new schools will include two high schools and eight primary schools catering for up to 10,800 students.

The minister said the schools would employ up to 540 teachers and 130 non-teaching positions, and the five-year construction phase would generate about 1,700 jobs a year.

Interested companies have until March 14 to register.

Queensland's Health Minister Lawrence Springborg announced on Wednesday that certain projects and services in Queensland Health would also be outsourced to the private sector.


Purge of NSW public servants to save $65 million

Under-performing senior public servants will no longer be allowed to languish on five year contracts, but be forced to meet tougher standards under a purge of the NSW public service that is expected to save $65 million in three years.

Premier Barry O’Farrell said he expected a 20 per cent reduction in the number of senior and middle managers within three years after the changes were fully implemented.

There are currently 3884 senior and middle managers working in the public service.

Mr O’Farrell said the changes to the senior and middle management would create "a more professional public service".

"We want an innovative, professional and accountable public service which encourages and rewards performance and delivers the best possible frontline services for local communities,” he said. "The NSW Government wants to reward talent, not time, in the public service."

Under the existing system, senior managers are employed on five year contracts making it difficult for the government to terminate their employment earlier if they are not performing.

The new system would provide an ongoing contract which was conditional on senior managers meeting performance benchmarks.

The government will also removed some levels of management to streamline the public service because it has found that under the current structure, there are some managers with no people to manage.

About 16 per cent of executive staff do not manage any people and, of those who do, around 30 per cent only manage one to three people.

Mr O’Farrell said a typical manager should oversee more than six people.

Cabinet has accepted the changes which also include reducing multiple layers of management and tightening procedures to "quickly and fairly deal with poor executive performance".

Government executives in different agencies would be brought under a single Act of parliament.

NSW Police, teachers and local health districts would be allowed to retain some independence.

Mr O’Farrell said research by the Public Service Commission had found the number of senior officers had increased from 280 in 1999 to more than 1,600 in 2012.


Conservative Senator attacks ALP over jobs

QUEENSLAND Senator Ron Boswell has blasted the federal Labor Government for the destruction of jobs, saying it was often the lowest-paid workers who bore the brunt of carbon tax, renewable energy and regulatory compliance costs.

"Australian businesses operate in an increasingly tough global marketplace but are being burdened down with government-generated costs that are destroying their competitiveness,” Senator Boswell said. "As a result, imports are rising and exports are falling. Under this Labor Government, Australia’s fastest growing export commodity is jobs.”

Speaking in the Senate today, Senator Boswell said most businesses had suffered but particularly food manufacturers and primary producers.

"The Australian Food and Grocery Council says production in its sector is down significantly and 7,000 jobs were lost in the industry in the 2011-12 financial year. According to the Council’s "State of the Industry” report for 2012, 335 businesses in the sector closed down or moved overseas.

"For example, Heinz has moved significant food processing operations from Brisbane and Melbourne to New Zealand. The currency difference and Australia’s extra on-costs, carbon tax and renewables tax mean it is 50% cheaper to do the work in New Zealand. In particular, New Zealand has the advantage of a minimal carbon tax – just one dollar and eleven cents per tonne of CO2. Australia’s Carbon Tax is 20 times more expensive, at $23 a tonne.

"Of course, when food processors shut down particular commodity processing lines or close their doors, this in turn affects Australian farmers. They lose markets for their produce. It has serious flow-on effect.

"This impacts real people. Farmers in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, traditionally a premier vegetable growing region, lost important markets when the Heinz Golden Circle cannery in Brisbane moved some processing lines to New Zealand factories using New Zealand product. It is a similar for tomato growers and other farmers in Victoria. They have been forced to cut back their operations and sack staff.

"It is the lowest-paid workers – people like farm workers and workers on food processing lines – who are bearing the brunt of industries’ extra costs from carbon tax, renewable energy taxes, regulation compliance and other burdens imposed by this Labor Government.”

Senator Boswell said the answer was to strip "unnecessary, unproductive, job-killing costs” out of the manufacturing process.”Get rid of the job-killing carbon tax and the renewables tax, and reduce the cost burden of regulations.”

Senator Boswell accused the Labor Government of substituting "stunts and thought bubbles” for sound policies and good government.

Press release

27 February, 2013

Dr Samy Nassief

The authorities seem to be very loath to take action against incompetent Egyptian surgeon Dr Samy Nassief, despite the harm he has done. A reluctance to criticize "overseas trained" doctors is probably involved. I reproduce below some press reports about him but immediately below I reproduce an email from a relative of one of his victims. There are also a variety of comments about him here. It would seem that he has a good bedside manner but minimal surgical skills -- JR

The email:

The matter is before the HCCC hearing in Sydney next week. The Government and medical system have been very uncooperative with regard to stopping the doctor from practicing. What makes me furious is this surgeon has caused other ladies to suffer. Is there any way we can expose further Dr Samy Nassief or find the women who have made comment so that other people are not hurt?

What the ladies describe as covers ups and unable to receive their medical information is all true. It has taken us 4 years, much heart ache to expose him and stop him from his poor workmanship.

However it is extremely hard to take the Government and health profession on. If you could at all help I would be most appreciative. I can’t help my sister, but if it saves another person’s life than it will be worth it. Please if we can contact the other women -- as you can understand time is of importance as the hearing is next Tuesday I need your urgent action. Many thanks

Incompetent Egyptian surgeon kills NSW woman

March 31, 2011

A COMPETENT surgeon should have known the reason for Heidi Clarke-Lewis' massive blood loss and been able to do something about it, an inquest into her death was told yesterday.

Professor Andrew Korda told the inquest a sharp medical tool known as a trocar had struck the 29-year-old's spine during an operation to remove an ectopic pregnancy, causing the fit, healthy patient to bleed to death.

Giving expert evidence yesterday, Professor Korda said it would have been "like hitting a nail into a wooden table" and should have alerted surgeon Dr Samy Nassief to the possibility of damage to major vessels.

Professor Korda agreed with assisting counsel Peggy Dwyer that he would have expected a "competent general surgeon" to identify the source of the bleeding, clamp major arteries and call for assistance if needed. "Most general surgeons should have enough rudimentary knowledge to repair a vascular injury," Professor Korda said.

Ms Clarke-Lewis died during the surgery for the ectopic pregnancy at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital on April 30, 2009.

A post-mortem examination found she died from an intra-abdominal haemorrhage, after injuries to her right common iliac artery and vein. Professor Korda said the trocar caused the damage to the artery, after entering her body about 2-3cm off target, and resulted in Ms Clarke-Lewis losing more than four litres of blood.

Dr Nassief should have made a larger incision to look for the site of the bleeding about 10-15 minutes into the surgery, he said.

"The appropriate response would have been to extend the incision and try and find out where the bleeding was coming from," Professor Korda said.

A second doctor called in to assist Dr Nassief made that larger incision after arriving in theatre about 90 minutes later but was not able to find the direct source of the bleeding in the time.

Nurse Cherie Anderson has previously told the inquest that she believed the trocar's safety mechanism failed, meaning that a sharp blade had been exposed within the stomach of Ms Clarke-Lewis.

Professor Korda said: "If a trocar is inserted in a manner in which it hits the fifth lumbar vertebra, no safety mechanism will protect the patient."

But he was not critical of Dr Nassief's decision to operate on Ms Clarke-Lewis because he said ectopic pregnancies were unpredictable.


Coroner's report

April 1, 2011

Deputy state coroner Hugh Dillon today laid the responsibility for Heidi Clarke-Lewis’s death with surgeon Dr Samy Nassief. The court heard Dr Nassief was out of his depth and parts of his evidence were at times "perplexing” and difficult to accept.

Heidi’s family said they were pleased with the outcome of the "shocking” week-long coronial inquest.

It has taken almost two years to come to a resolution after Heidi died during surgery to remove an ectopic pregnancy at Wagga Base Hospital in 2009, and father, Abbey Clarke, says the apologies have been somewhat comforting.

Family solicitor Tim Abbott, however, said it was likely the family would pursue civil damages against Dr Nassief.Mr Dillon praised the efforts of Dr Harrison and Dr Hicks and made recommendations on changes to hospital procedures, including recording surgeries.


Damages claim in surgery death settled

15 May, 2012

The family of a woman who died during emergency surgery at Wagga Base Hospital in 2009 has settled a damages claim. An inquest last year found Doctor Samy Nassief was responsible for the death of 29 year old Heidi Maree Clarke-Lewis.

Her husband and the Clarke-Lewis family sued the Murrumbidgee Local Health District and Doctor Nassief. Family solicitor Tim Abbott says the case has been mediated and finalised, with five undisclosed payouts.

Mr Abbott says the public may never know the outcome because the Health Care Complaints Commission holds closed hearings.

There is an assurance that a Wagga Base Hospital doctor found responsible for Ms Clarke-Lewis' death is working under supervisory conditions.

The Murrumbidgee Local Health District's Chief Executive, Susan Weisser says the conditions under which Doctor Nassief continues to work are set by the Medical Council of New South Wales.

The family's complaint against Dr Nassief is yet to go before the Health Care Complaints Commission.


27 February, 2013

Asylum seekers must respect the law: Bowen

ASYLUM seekers being housed in the community, in places like university campuses, must respect Australian law, Tertiary Education Minister Chris Bowen says.

A Sri Lankan asylum seeker is due to face court in Sydney on Wednesday after being charged with the indecent assault of a 20-year-old student at Macquarie University on February 21.

Asked if campuses were appropriate places to house asylum seekers, Mr Bowen said the law should be allowed to take its course.

"Australian law applies to everybody, including those who are being housed in the community as asylum seekers," the former immigration minister said. "The law should be allowed to take its course."

The 21-year-old Sri Lankan man was arrested on Tuesday. An immigration department spokeswoman said on Tuesday the man was not living in student accommodation at the university.

Campus Living, part of Transfield Group, provides services for asylum seekers, including temporary accommodation, under a 2012 agreement with the Red Cross' Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS).

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison called on immigration minister Brendan O'Connor to review his department's system for releasing people into the community.

"Such a review needs to look at where the 10,000 people currently are across Australia that have been released into the community," Mr Morrison told reporters in Melbourne.

He said the government had been asked last year if asylum seekers were being housed at Macquarie University.

"It's important that the government find out where these people are," he said.

"They need to look at appropriate guidelines and what is an appropriate form of accommodation for people who are released into the community on bridging visas."


State Government plans to allow logging in areas earmarked for national parks

THE State Government is about to reopen logging in about two million hectares of environmentally sensitive land put aside by the previous government.

The move will see timber felled in prime conservation areas that were earmarked for national parks.

Logging will resume in southeast Queensland, the western hardwoods area, cypress regions in the west, central Queensland and north Queensland.

A leaked email from Agriculture Department director-general Jack Noye to National Parks Department director-general John Glaister says Agriculture Minister John McVeigh has approved the logging.

The email also notes that it is proposed that logging be conducted without Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service approval for codes or harvest plans.

It sparked a vicious response from Greens environment spokeswoman Larissa Waters, who said the letter confirmed Premier Campbell Newman was an environmental vandal.

"The reopening of native forest logging will trash invaluable habitat for native wildlife, destroy carbon stores and is an economic risk, given plantation forestry is more sustainable and provides reliable employment into the future," Senator Waters said.

Mr McVeigh said the areas being reopened were not World Heritage-listed forests.

"They are areas that have been previously available and they will ... meet the highest forest sustainability management standards," he said.

"Many of these robust, former state forests had been sustainably harvested for a century and more, supporting regional towns before being locked up by Labor in its dirty preference deals with the Greens."

He said the Greens wanted to shut down local forest industries, which forced greater reliance on imports.

It is expected about 30,000ha per year will be logged on a 30 to 40-year cycle.

In 1999, the state government signed the South East Queensland Forests Agreement with the Queensland Timber Board and conservationists.

Its aim - and other agreements that followed - was to end disputes over what areas should be logged or conserved and for producing plantations such as between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast to gradually replace native forest logging over 25 years.

But logging companies in country towns such as Monto and Mundubbera, often major local employers, complained that the agreements starved them of logs.

Senator Waters said Mr Newman was determined to repeal all environmental protection.


High Court blocks mall preachers

THE High Court has upheld the Adelaide City Council's right to stop two brothers from preaching in the city's main shopping precinct.

In a judgment on Wednesday the court ruled against previous orders from the Full Court of the South Australian Supreme Court which said the council's action had infringed constitutional freedoms.

The case centres on brothers Samuel and Caleb Corneloup who are members of a group called Street Church and want to preach in the Rundle Mall without permission.

They fought against a council by-law which prohibited preaching, canvassing or haranguing on any road without a permit.

After the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the brothers, the South Australian government took the case to the High Court, which rejected the argument that the council's action was constitutionally invalid.

Justice Kenneth Hayne said the provisions were appropriate to prevent the obstruction of roads.

He said the council's action was compatible with responsible government.


Graduates failing bosses

THE literacy standards of higher education graduates have failed to satisfy more than four in 10 bosses in a survey, while 36 per cent are not impressed with numeracy levels.

The views are revealed in Australian Industry Group research to be unveiled at a tertiary conference in Canberra starting on Wednesday.

The survey of 500 companies from all sectors of the economy, but mainly in manufacturing and construction, asked employers how satisfied they were with university graduates, higher education providers and the training system that applied for positions with them. Only 58.8 per cent of bosses were satisfied with graduates' basic literacy. Views on basic numeracy were only slightly better, with 64.1 per cent of bosses giving graduates a pass.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox will tell the higher education conference most of the ratings were generally satisfactory.

"It is hard, however, to look past the figure that only 58 per cent of employers are satisfied or very satisfied with basic literacy and English of graduates," he will say, according to speaking notes.


26 February, 2013

Tasmanian police encourage drink driving

Tasmanian police have been left red-faced by a signage mishap on random breath-testing vans which encourages people to drink drive.

The vans have been emblazoned with the message: "Real mates don't let mates drink drive."

The slogan painted on the sides of vans used throughout the state shortens to "Real mates drink drive" when the sliding doors are open.

The signage was part of a major road safety campaign by police and included links to a website and social media page.

The Police Department has told officers to remove the slogans by the end of the week.

The department is yet to comment on the bungle.

It is not known how much the repainting will cost the cash-strapped department.


Another public hospital shocker: Baby born in Hospital carpark

THE birth of Paula and Scott Bailey's longed-for daughter should have been a time of joy.

But now all Mrs Bailey can think about is her harrowing birth in Nepean Hospital's carpark and the alleged attitudes of hospital staff who saw her.

The Dean Park couple had struggled to conceive for five years before their precious daughter Madison arrived on February 5 about 3am, weighing 3.08kg.

Mr and Mrs Bailey said they arrived at the hospital about 10pm but were sent home at 1am, without a proper medical assessment.

Mrs Bailey claimed a nurse told her: "That's pregnancy love, suck it up princess. You don't know what pain is but you will when the baby comes."

Shortly after arriving home, Mrs Bailey's waters broke and they drove back to the hospital, only to be ignored by emergency staff.

Madison was born in the hospital's carpark at 3am and it was only once her head was showing that staff came to the couple's aid.

Mrs Bailey said she was struggling to cope and that she was made to feel ashamed and embarrassed by the ordeal: "It is eating away at me and I keep hearing the (nurse's) voice in my head, but I'm trying my best to stay strong."

Mr Bailey said he was upset at what he claimed was the nurse's arrogance and lack of empathy.

"It was because of her actions that a beautiful experience was turned into this nightmare," he said.

"I am absolutely disgusted and appalled by the way we were treated by the staff at this hospital, and the lack of care and professionalism given by the staff."

They have lodged an official complaint with the hospital but said they had been "brushed aside".

Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District chief executive Kay Hyman told the Penrith Press the hospital was investigating the birthing incident.

"We are currently in contact with the family discussing their concerns," she said, but didn't comment on specific aspects of the complaint, such as the alleged comments made to Mrs Bailey at the hospital.

Their son Jacob, 9, was born at Nepean Hospital.


10PM: Mrs Bailey left her home at Dean Park for Nepean Hospital, having experienced contractions since 2pm.

1AM: Despite having regular contractions Mrs Bailey was sent home without a check-up.

1.45AM: Her waters broke at home and the couple again drove to the hospital. Upon arrival in the carpark Mrs Bailey was in considerable pain. Twice emergency staff came to see what was happening, only to walk away.

3AM: Madison was born in the carpark, and only once her head was showing did staff arrive to help, pushing aside Mr Bailey who consequently missed the birth.

6.20AM: Mrs Bailey was seen by a doctor after being left in a room sitting in blood since the birth.


Union grouchy over privatised hospital

PLANS to outsource to the private sector public health delivery at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital have been slammed by a key union as an attack on accountability.

Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg, who will deliver his much-anticipated health blueprint on Wednesday, has made it clear the Newman Government is keen to work more with the private and not-for-profit sectors to deliver public health care.

The model would be similar to Queensland Health's partnership with Mater Health Services which is paid by the taxpayer to care for public patients.

"If anyone's got a problem, look at the Mater Health Services, look at Mater Mothers', look at the Mater Children's, look at the great job they already do," Mr Springborg said. "We've been partnering with Mater Health Services since 1911 to deliver free public health services."

But Queensland Nurses Union secretary Beth Mohle said outsourcing more services would make the "health system less accountable".

"They're not subject to Right to Information. If there are concerns now about the level of accountability for health services, this is just going to make it even worse," Ms Mohle said.

Mater Health Services does not report to the same level as other public hospitals, providing no details on the QH website about patients' waiting time for an appointment at a specialist outpatient clinic, the so-called "waiting list to get on the waiting list".

But Mr Springborg said he was keen to ensure that when public health services were provided by private operators under new contract arrangements, they would be open to the same scrutiny as Queensland Health-run facilities.

Meanwhile, Kawana MP Jarrod Bleijie said he was confident Sunshine Coast University Hospital would remain a training hospital despite the University of Queensland withdrawing its agreement to provide medical school services at the $60.8 million health training centre.

UQ formed a partnership two years ago with the university and TAFE Sunshine Coast to establish a Skills, Academic and Research Centre at the new hospital.


Key climate change body loses Government funding

Amid much weeping and wailing and garnishing of teeth

A key research body charged with preparing Australia to handle the impacts of global warming is running out of money.

The National Climate Change Adaptation Research facility [NCCARF] has been running for five years but the Federal Government has decided not to extend its funding.

It means that from June the facility, which develops knowledge used by decision-makers from both the Commonwealth and industry, is expected to be wound up.

With more than 100 researchers set to be affected by the funding cut, Professor Jean Palutikof, director at the facility, says she is saddened and concerned that critical work may not being followed through.

"We've built up a lot of knowledge through our research programs that have really placed Australia in a very good position to deal with the challenge," she said.

"There are a lot of people out there now who know a lot about climate change and those people were not in that position five years ago.

"We might be seen an organisation that perhaps is meeting a future challenge rather than a current challenge although I have to say looking out of the window here in Queensland it looks to me like the challenge is pretty much here now.

"The bottom line is the activities of government in that respect of the present time are totally inadequate.

"Therefore we are also going to have to prepare ourselves to respond to the impacts of climate change that will inevitably happen because we haven't really managed that successfully on the mitigation front.

"When I say we haven't managed that successfully, I'm really talking about the global effort, not the effort of Australia individually."

Chief executive officer at the Investor Group on Climate Change, Nathan Fabian, says NCCARF has played an integral role in keeping the nation and industry up-to-date on what is proving an important global issue.

"Business is largely still working out what it knows and what it doesn't know about the physical impacts of climate change and to us," he said.

"NCCARF has played an important interpretive role between the science of climate change and its impacts on regions and resources and in some cases the assets that we invest in, so there is still an important role to be played."


25 February, 2013

Mungo still hates the rich

Because he writes with a jocular touch, Mungo MacCallum is not generally seen as the far-Leftist that he is. In his twilight years he seems in fact to have become near-Communist.

Gillard's refusal to wreck the Australian mining industry by imposing even more taxes and royalties than they already pay is deeply disturbing to him

To take Australia's biggest miner as an example, BHP is valued by the market as worth $190 billion. Its most recent profit was $5.7 billion. That amounts to a return of 3% on assets employed -- which is below the rate of return that some banks offer on your savings. And Mungo calls that very modest rate of return an "orgy of looting and pillage". Even after allowing for comedic exaggeration, Mungo is still all hate and hot air, in the best Communist style. No wonder he got only a third class honour (fail) from Sydney university.

Mungo makes no attempt to link to the facts the way I have done above because his hate needs no facts. He is quite happy to live in a fantasy world created by that hate. There is no truth in him, as Jesus said of the Devil (John 8:44). I don't believe in the Devil or anything metaphysical at all but there is certainly an evil in human nature -- and it is in Mungo, despite all his jocularity.

So it is all the more amusing that the only authority he quotes for anything is a hymn! See below -- JR

For months now critics of Labor in general and Julia Gillard in particular have been complaining that her government lacks a narrative - a simple story that defines what it is and where it wants to go.

But last week it appeared that the Prime Minister had come up with one, or at least the one she intends to take to the election. And it can be summed up in three words: eat the rich.

Of course, Labor's strategy is not quite as crude as the ironic Trotskyite slogan of the 1960s suggests. But it certainly looks as though Gillard is determined to turn back the economic revolution of the Hawke-Keating years and even the progressive forays of the Whitlam regime that preceded them to launch an old-fashioned Labor campaign based on the simple formula of Us against Them: Us being the workers and Them being the bosses.

This at least was the theme of the AWU conference last week at which she said she was proud to lead a union-based party and willingly accepted the embraces of Australia's best-known faceless men, AWU boss Paul Howes and his predecessor Bill Shorten.

It was Howes who set the tone with his description of the mining magnates as "robber barons", rhetoric more reminiscent of the 1930s Great Depression than of the boom years of the 21st century. But if this was supposed to be a challenge, then Gillard turned it down flat. She is completely unwilling to reverse her 2010 capitulation over the mining tax or to take any other serious measures to restrain the robber barons' orgy of looting and pillage - which leaves her entire campaign looking more like bluff and bluster than a genuine crusade on behalf of the downtrodden.

She and her Treasurer, Wayne Swan - himself a factional warrior for the AWU - are pretty good at verbal bellicosity; in recent times, Swan has invoked the spirit of Bruce Springsteen, derided his opponents as antipodean versions of the American Tea Party, declared war on the banks, and lambasted sitting ducks such as Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer.

But to date nothing serious has been done to rein in either their depredations or their profits; indeed, their balance sheets show that the government has treated them with a generosity bordering on dissipation. Gillard and Swan talk a good fight, but have been very reluctant to step into the ring.

The budget will show whether they are fair dinkum or not, and on the surface at least they might as well throw a few punches, because not only do they have nothing to lose, but they have a story to tell.

It has long been accepted that executive pay packets have become quite simply unconscionable; the gap between the top and the bottom, or even the middle, is now quite obscenely wide. And as the rich have grown richer, they have also become more arrogant and selfish; they now give proportionately less to charity than the poor and spend far more time and effort in rorting the system.

Last week alone, assistant treasurer David Bradbury drew attention to devices such as the one he termed the "double Irish Dutch sandwich", by which multinationals like Google avoid paying tax in Australia. It was revealed that the big coal power generators had not only passed all or more of the carbon tax on to consumers, but were trousering billions in compensation for their trouble.

And of course, those earning 90 per cent more than their fellow Australians continued to insist that they were not rich - well, not really. And if they were, well fair enough. As a letter writer to the Sydney Morning Herald once put it, the reason the rich need more money than the poor is obvious: the rich have greater expenses.

But any attempt to introduce a modicum of restraint into this manifestly inequitable system is immediately greeted with loud cries of "Class warfare! The politics of envy!" by those with the money and the power. It is taken as a given that there is no class in Australia, and therefore any attempt at closing the gaps in society is a sinister and wrong-headed attempt to promote not equality, but division. Robert Menzies set the myth in stone back in 1944. "We believe," pontificated the great man, "that the class war is a false war."

In fact our longest serving prime minister was an unashamed worshipper of England, an assiduous gatherer of imperial honours. No one joined with more gusto in the now forgotten third verse of the hymn "All things bright and beautiful":

The rich man in his castle

The poor man at his gate;

God made them high and lowly

And ordered their estate.

If ever there was a Bunyip Aristocrat, it was Ming, Knight of the Ancient Order of the Thistle and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

But, false though his premise clearly was, it appealed to the egalitarian streak in Australians, and is now considered unchallengeable. To take it on, Gillard and Swan will have to do more than simply promise the unions a blue collar future; after all, few present day Australians see their own, let alone their children's, future as a lifetime spent on the assembly lines.

And simply shovelling more lower and middle class welfare into the marginals won't cut it either. Not only is that unaffordable, it doesn't attack the real problem: the fact that the super rich are now seen to set their own salaries, choose whether or not to pay tax, and cynically ignore their obligations to the rest of the Australian community.

If Gillard and Swan want to be taken seriously, they will have to cut down a few tall poppies just for starters.

The political backlash will be fierce, but so what? Can things get any worse? And if "eat the rich" sounds a little too brutal for an election slogan, then how about "Time for a fair go"? Gillard, for one, should be able to relate to that.


Newspoll shows NSW Labor has lowest support for six months

To lose the election, Julia just has to lose Queensland -- but now she is losing NSW as well

THE latest Newspoll shows support for NSW Labor is at its lowest point for six months as a corruption scandal dims the party's prospects at a state level and federally.

In Queensland, it's not clear if Liberal National Party support is increasing or falling, but voters still rate it well ahead of Labor.

The NSW poll conducted for The Australian newspaper in January and February shows primary support for state Labor at 27 per cent, two points down on a poll conducted in November and December last year.

Labor was last at 27 per cent in a poll conducted in July-August last year after dipping to only 24 per cent in March-April.

Support for the O'Farrell coalition government is up one percentage point, at 46 per cent, indicating a 60-40 split in favour of the coalition in two-party preferred terms.

The poll, published this morning, is bad news for federal Labor, with half of the party's 20 most marginal federal seats in NSW, and big swings against it widely tipped in western Sydney and on the NSW Central Coast.

Polls have shown support for Labor has been slipping since NSW's Independent Commission Against Corruption began hearing last year into allegedly corrupt conduct by three former state Labor ministers.

Today's poll result is also bad news for state Opposition Leader John Robertson whose support as preferred premier has slipped back two points to 19 per cent.

Premier Barry O'Farrell's support has risen four points to 48 per cent.

He has 43 per cent of voters satisfied with his performance and 38 per cent dissatisfied compared with 28 per cent satisfied with Mr Robertson and 35 per cent not satisfied.

Two Queensland polls released today reveal differing trends, but both show the LNP would still decisively defeat Labor in an election.

A ReachTEL poll shows primary support for the LNP rose by almost five per cent to 47.1 per cent over the last month, but a Galaxy poll indicates it fell to 43 per cent, down one per cent since November.

Labor's primary support slid by six per cent to 28.9 per cent, according to ReachTEL, but Galaxy respondents put support up at 34 per cent.

Premier Campbell Newman's management during the ex-tropical cyclone Oswald floods impressed ReachTEL respondents, with 20.8 per cent saying he is doing a very good job, up from 18.1 per cent in January.

But Galaxy says Mr Newman's support has fallen, with people unimpressed by his performance rising by four percentage points.

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell visiting Coonabarabran. in wesern NSW after fires devastated over 50 homes. Picture: Bullard Simon

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk isn't faring well either with 18.6 per cent of ReachTEL respondents saying she is doing a very poor job, up three per cent since January.

Galaxy shows Ms Palaszczuk has recorded a seven percentage point increase in the number of people dissatisfied with her performance.

The ReachTEL poll shows 0.5 per cent of respondents don't know who Mr Newman is, while 13.5 per cent of respondents have not heard of Ms Palaszczuk.

The response to a separate question in that poll, asking people if they believe the Newman government should lift the ban on uranium mining in Queensland, will be released at a later date.


Gillard trying to take control of schools

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is vowing to take on state governments which are unwilling to overhaul school funding, amid increasing hostility from some state and territory leaders.

Over the weekend, Victoria announced plans to implement its own scheme, with an extra $400 million in education funding focusing on areas of disadvantage.

Queensland is considering whether it should follow Victoria's lead in the absence of clear details from the Commonwealth on its proposal, and Western Australia has indicated it is not yet willing to sign up to funding changes.

Ms Gillard says she is committed to implementing the recommendations of the Gonski report, which suggested an annual boost to education funding of $6.5 billion.

"It will take political will to get this done. I've got the political will to do it, and we will fight through to get it done," Ms Gillard told reporters in Canberra.

"Now I hope that fight is concluded in April around the COAG [Council Of Australian Governments] table, but if there are states that are still holding out from giving kids the best possible education, then we will certainly fight on to secure that for those children."

Under the Gonski plan, each school would receive funding based on how many students are enrolled, with extra loadings for educational disadvantage, including students with poor English skills, disabilities or geographical distance.

On Friday, Ms Gillard told an Australian Education Union conference that if Labor lost this year's election, the opportunity to implement the Gonski report would also be lost.

The ABC understands that the Federal Government only plans to inject an extra $1 billion next financial year, with more money to be "phased in" over time.

Ms Gillard is hoping to reach an agreement with state and territory leaders within months, but several states appear unwilling to sign up in the absence of firm details.

It will take political will to get this done. I've got the political will to do it, and we will fight through to get it done.

Prime Minister, Julia Gillard
"We've had 18 months of Chinese water torture coming from the Australian Government, and the vast bulk of the populous have no idea what we're talking about," Queensland's Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek told AM.

"What we've seen from the Prime Minister is Julia Gillard saying 'this is what you'll get from the Labor government if we're re-elected'.

"And at the next COAG meeting in April, Premier Campbell Newman, along with the other premiers, will be put under pressure to agree to something, the detail of which we haven't seen yet.

"We can't sign up to Gonski until we see more detail."

Federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett says the Commonwealth is close to finalising its offer to the states, but he has declined to provide details about how much money is involved.

"My expectation is that in this week and the weeks ahead we will be sitting down and specifically going through with those states who are committed to a national plan for school improvement both what we believe are the necessary components of the plan, and also the likely offers that will come onto the table for us to pay our fair share - as we've always said we would do - and to seek the same from the states," Mr Garrett told AM.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett says most funding for government schools comes from state funding.

He says the Gonski report would mean more state funding for private schools at the expense of government schools, something he is not prepared to do.

"We don't have to change. They're our schools. We don't have to do anything," he told reporters on Friday.

"Gonski's a fair report and points to some real issues in education, but just because the Commonwealth Government thinks we should change our funding, doesn't mean we'll do that.

"And in fact we won't."

While visiting a school in suburban Canberra this morning, Ms Gillard announced the appointment of the first National Children's Commissioner, whose job it will be to advocate for the needs of young people.

"As Government gets on with doing tasks across a wide range of portfolios, the National Children's Commissioner is there to make sure that the outlook of children and their needs is always being taken into account," Ms Gillard said.

The Government has asked Megan Mitchell to carry out the role. She is currently the New South Wales Commissioner for Children and Young People.

Ms Mitchell says it is important to have a children’s advocate at a national level, to review federal laws and policies and to ensure compliance with international agreements.

"I'm really very, very keen to ensure that children’s voice is up there and heard by adults who are making decisions on behalf of and for children," Ms Mitchell told reporters.

"Personally and professionally, I do have an interest in ensuring that we identify kids that are at risk of disengaging from education and social life, as I think there are lots of implications of that.

"I'd like to look at the laws and policies of this nation - and states and territories - to make sure that we very early on pick up any risk factors for kids and act on that."

Ms Mitchell has been appointed for a five year term beginning on March 25.


Greens encouraging single parenthood

In accord with their generally very Leftist agenda. And they hate miners too

The Greens are proposing single parents receive a top-up to their welfare payments of up to $127 a week.

The Federal Government this year moved thousands of single parents onto the lower unemployment payment, Newstart.

The changes meant parenting payments were cut by up to $110 a week.

Deputy Greens leader Adam Bandt told the ABC's Insiders program his plan would effectively reverse those cuts.

"Labor really slugged single parents, especially those from January 1 this year who are forced to live on Newstart," he said.

"We're going to put forward a proposal that will allow single parents to work more hours, keep more of that money and have greater rights to flexible working arrangements with their employers, together with a small funding boost."

Mr Bandt says his proposal would cost an extra $340 million a year.

"You could pay for that just by closing one of the loopholes in the mining tax and you'd have change left over," he said.

"The people of Australia want to change the mining tax. The majority of the population is on our side. That we need a mining tax and/or that it should be increased.

"Let's raise the revenue to fund the services that Australians expect."


24 February, 2013

No reason for an Asian Century cultural cringe

The underlying fixation on cultural politics is a peculiar feature of the debate about Australia’s economic prospects in a global economy centred on Asia.

Academics, business leaders, and politicians all agree that prosperity in the Asian Century requires a serious cultural re-education.

Australians apparently lack the sensitivity and understanding to effectively compete in Asian markets and forge ever-closer ties with our northern neighbours.

These calls for deeper Asia awareness are reminiscent of the cultural cringe of a bygone era and undersell Australia’s natural strengths.

The idea that we are dangerously ignorant of the languages, cultures and mores of Asia is a step back towards a time when it was fashionable to deride Australia for being crude compared to European standards of sophistication.

It suggests Australians are embarrassingly Asia-illiterate and not quite ready to move beyond their parochial shores.

This view could be the result of the sneaking suspicion that the society that brought us the White Australia policy could not possibly be successful in the Asian Century.

Or maybe it is related to a generational lag of sorts. Many of the academics, business leaders and politicians calling for re-education grew up when Australia was probably not ready to effectively engage with Asia on many levels.

Although the origin of the Asian Century cultural cringe is unclear, it is obvious that it is out of touch with the reality of modern multicultural Australia.

As my latest research report shows, there are growing numbers of Australians with the Asia-relevant capabilities it is claimed we are yet to develop.

As well as making up seven of the top 10 source countries in the overall migration program, Asian nations dominate the skilled stream.

In 2010–11, six of the top eight source countries for skilled visa grants were from Asia, accounting for the arrival of more than 50,000 Asian migrants with business acumen, technical expertise and workplace experience.

This steady stream of new Asia expertise adds to Australia’s already large pool of readymade Asia literacy. Approximately 2.2 million people speak Asian languages at home, which equates to one in 10 Australians.

As a naturally Asia-savvy nation, Australia’s supposed unpreparedness to engage with Asia is just a phantom menace.


Australian government reducing legal immigration

THOUSANDS of low-paid foreign workers will be stopped from coming into Australia and taking local jobs under a crackdown on visas.

Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor revealed to the Herald Sun that growth in the 457 visa program was "out of step" with skills shortages and said the Gillard Government had evidence "rogue employers" were abusing it to get cheap labour.

The number of 457 visas has soared from 70,000 to 100,000 in the past two years.

Mr O'Connor said while some industries and regions had genuine shortages that needed temporary foreign workers, laws and regulations needed to be beefed up to stop rorts and close loopholes.

He predicted this could stop "thousands" of foreign workers taking jobs from locals.

"Rogue employers are deliberately employing people from overseas without giving a local a chance," he said.

It is the second time in three days the Gillard Government has moved to stem pain on a hot political issue after it reversed a $107 million funding cut to Victorian hospitals.

The changes, to be announced today by Mr O'Connor, include:

EXTRA investigation powers for inspectors to get information from bosses they suspect of being dodgy.

A NEW test to prove jobs were for "genuine" skills shortages because some employers were creating positions that were really "unskilled and possibly not even a real job".

CLOSING loopholes that allow foreign workers to be paid less than an Australian citizen by increasing from $180,000 to $250,000 the threshold at which they must pay "market rates".

STOPPING employers creating their own market to manipulate pay rates.

RAISING requirements for foreign workers to speak English.

RESTRICTING foreign workers being on-hired to a different employer in regions where there are not skill shortages.

CHECKING that employers offer training for locals to fill skills shortages before they seek foreigners.

"The Government cares about Australians getting jobs first," Mr O'Connor said.

"It has become clear that the growth in the 457 program is out of step with genuine skills shortages and the Government has evidence that some employers are using 457 visas to employ foreign workers over locals."

It has found skilled Australian tradespeople earning $220,000 were under-cut by foreign workers willing to accept $180,000.

Pay levels have been especially manipulated in the IT industry in Melbourne.

Low-skilled jobs have been dressed up as high-skilled ones with one company winning permission to bring in administrators who were really unskilled security guards.

And a Melbourne "start-up" company that didn't make money was created just to secure a cheap foreign worker for other duties.

Mr O'Connor also said the Government would examine the 457 visas of four Filipino welders at the centre of protests at a Werribee water project amid claims the system has been abused because there is no shortage of those skills in the area.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said last year there was "room for expansion" of the 457 program and said claims the market was being flooded with foreign workers was "ridiculous".


Authorities investigate how Health job given to fugitive

Your bureaucrats will protect you

MEDICAL authorities are investigating how an alleged con artist and fugitive was hired to run one of Victoria's top rural health services.

American health bureaucrat Ashton Foley, 40, was employed as Orbost Regional Health (ORH) chief executive in December.

This is despite being wanted for breaching a community order by fleeing the state two years ago and being jailed in the US over fraud and identity theft.

ORH senior vice-president Andrew Martin said they were not aware of Ms Foley's history at the time and were running a "formal investigation" into the recruitment process.

"We will be meeting with the recruitment company next week to ensure all procedures were followed during the recruitment process," Mr Martin said.

He was unsure whether a police check was conducted.

Ms Foley yesterday faced Latrobe Valley Magistrates' Court where Western Australian detectives applied for her extradition on charges of attempted extortion.

Police allege she demanded money she was not entitled to from her former WA employer, threatening to go to the media with confidential documents if they didn't comply.

The mother of seven, from Lake Bunga in the state's east, was granted bail and told to appear at a Perth court on March 1.

It is the second time this week she has faced a Victorian court. She was fined $1000 on Wednesday after pleading guilty to breaching a community-based order by leaving for WA in 2011.

That matter dated back to April 7, 2011, when she was put on the order for dishonesty offences, which had gained her a total of $4400 her lawyer said in court.

The Sunday Herald Sun understands the charges stemmed from not providing goods sold on eBay.

Recruitment company Health Financial managing director David Wenban believes all the correct procedures were followed when putting Ms Foley forward for the Orbost position, adding 10 references were checked.

But no calls were made to her former WA employee, who has since accused Ms Foley of providing false qualifications to get her job.

Ms Foley has been in the public spotlight since testifying in October to a WA Parliamentary committee about allegations of misconduct at the same workplace. She remains adamant she has done nothing wrong and the company is out to get her.


New figures show predicament of working poor

Close to 500,000 part-time workers in Australia want full-time employment but cannot find it, according to new figures.

The Bureau of Statistics has found more than one in four workers between the ages of 15 and 24 are looking for more hours.

The situation for women who are looking to increase their hours has also become worse.

The Bureau of Statistics figures relate to people who are underemployed - someone working part-time, doing less than 35 hours a week, who wants to work more.

Will Sutherland, a 23-year-old retail worker, is one of Australia's underemployed. He says he wants more shifts but cannot get them.

"For the last month, almost nothing at all, actually. I get called in really, really rarely," he said.

He says he a lot of spare time because of his lack of work hours, but he has no money to do anything.

"Most of the stuff that you want to do when you're not working costs money anyway," he said.

"So all the free time, you end up spending more because you're not working, so sometimes it can get really bad like that."

Mr Sutherland says his friends are in a similar predicament.

"I have very few friends who are working jobs who feel like they're being overworked," he said.

"Most of them would like to be working more, especially during the holiday break."

Mr Sutherland and people in a similar situation are known as the working poor; they live close to the poverty line despite having at least some work.

Bureau of Statistics spokeswoman Cassandra Gligora says there a couple of common reasons for the lack of available working hours.

"The most commonly reported reason underemployed workers gave for not finding work with more hours was that there were no vacancies in their line of work. This is most common for both men and women," she said.

"The next most commonly reported reason for men was no vacancies at all, whereas for women it was too many applicants for available jobs."

After the global financial crisis hit in 2008, the number of people who wanted full-time work but could not find it shot up.

From then on, it has remained fairly stable despite signs of a recovering domestic economy.

John Buchanan, the director of the Workplace Research Centre at the University of Sydney, says Australia has a low unemployment rate by world standards.

"But there's a sleeper in the Australian labour market and that's the large number of part-time workers who want to work more hours," he said.

"They're called the underemployed. That's a big chunk of the workforce, currently about 8 per cent."


22 February, 2013

Senate inquiry rejects 'offends and insults' law

A Senate inquiry has rejected the Federal Government's plans to prohibit conduct that offends or insults, saying the move could limit freedom of expression.

The inquiry has been considering a draft bill that wraps together five existing human rights and anti-discrimination laws.

The aim of the bill is to provide a clearer definition of what behaviour is considered unacceptable and how people can make complaints.

The draft includes a clause stating that unfavourable treatment of another person includes conduct that offends, insults or intimidates.

The Coalition and legal groups have raised concerns that would curtail freedom of speech.

Media organisations including the ABC, Fairfax and News Limited also argued against the clause, saying many media organisations publish or broadcast material that some members of the public will find offensive at times, ranging from satirical programming to political commentary.

Last month, former attorney-general Nicola Roxon acknowledged the concern and made the clause optional rather than mandatory.

But the Senate inquiry, which received more than 3,000 submissions, has recommended the clause be removed altogether.

The inquiry says the clause may have unintended consequences, including making it illegal to offend someone.

The Federal Government is not making any promises about agreeing to any of the recommendations.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says there is a lot in the report for the Government to consider.

"Public views, which are going to help the Government identify whether its intention of consolidating these important laws," he said.

"But it's an extensive report. It will require close consideration and a full response will be made shortly."

But shadow attorney-general George Brandis says the draft legislation is so flawed it cannot be fixed.

"It creates a scheme in which Government would be much more intrusive, much more invasive, effectively establish itself as an arbiter for community standards in a way we don't think is the role of the state at all," he said.


Labor has lost the plot, and the narrative

Waleed Aly says the ALP stands for nothing, which is pretty right. A party that stood up for the worker would reject all the Greenie restrictions that keep the workers poor -- but we see no sign of that. The trouble is that the ALP is now more the teachers' party than the workers' party

If you're inclined to take a long-term view of politics, the hand-wringing on whether Julia Gillard should stay or go is really just so much white noise.

Labor is in crisis, but not principally for the reasons that occupy the commentariat.

It's not about a bitterly divided caucus, or political miscalculations such as the ham-fisted Nova Peris saga. It's not even simply about policy missteps such as the creation of an impotent mining tax.

Labor's problems are not nearly so managerial and technocratic. They are much, much bigger than that.

Labor's problem is ideological. It doesn't really mean anything any more, and probably hasn't since Paul Keating lost power in 1996. Sure, Labor has had its moments - most notably in its campaign against WorkChoices, which jolted its ideological memory and gave it a momentary reason to exist.

But this was no ideological revival. It was reactive: a political opportunity well taken rather than a world view reborn.

Only John Howard's pro-business, anti-union zeal, unencumbered by any resistance in the Senate, made this possible. After WorkChoices, much as before it, what then?

This isn't an optional, esoteric extra. Governments ultimately thrive on narrative. Voters are not merely electing a suite of set policies. They are electing a party that will respond to future, unforeseen policy questions. They therefore need to know what you're about. That's what a clear consistent story tells them.

A party without a narrative is reduced to seeking your support as a lesser evil. Hence Labor's focus on Tony Abbott.

Every successful government can be summarised in a phrase or two. Bob Hawke: a new, deregulated, globalised economy. Keating inherited that story, then added Asia, a growing economic power in our backyard we should embrace by shedding our British skin. Howard was about nationalism, security and capital's triumph over labour. Everything - asylum seeker policy, counterterrorism, foreign affairs, even unsolicited social commentary about minority groups - was tailored to fit the story.

Exactly what story has Labor told us since 2007? It began with something about "Australian working families", but that too was a relic of the WorkChoices campaign. After that, it has been mostly a blancmange of conflicting messages. Perhaps it started when Kevin Rudd wanted to be "tough but humane" on asylum seekers. It took Gillard only a matter of days as Prime Minister to continue the incoherence, declaring both that the number of boat people arriving in Australia was much smaller than many imagined, before swiftly going on to reassure those worried about invading hordes that their concerns were legitimate, and that they're "certainly [not] racist". We learn nothing from this about how Labor sees asylum seekers. We learn only that it's trying to please everyone.

The problem persists even in Labor-friendly policy areas. Take education, where the Rudd government announced a bold new focus on literacy and numeracy, much as Howard might have. More recently, it commissioned the Gonski review, but tied its hands on the question of private school funding so the panel couldn't even consider cutting it. Then it pledged a response it is yet to detail or fund.

Indeed, its only real response to date has been a bill it hailed as the most important of last year, but which had nothing in it at all. Explicitly. It has a section specifically saying the bill creates no rights or obligations on anyone - especially the government. To paraphrase, "section 10: this legislation does not exist".

Even Labor's most significant reform, the carbon tax, merely symbolises the party's ideological malaise. The government's heftiest achievement isn't even its own policy. Indeed, it was so infamously promised not to be its policy.

Remember the citizens' assembly? That was Gillard's pledge before the last election: a random gathering of ordinary people who would somehow reach a consensus on pricing carbon. That's a process, not a policy. It's the kind of thing you do when you want to announce something but you're not prepared to commit to a compelling vision of your own.

As the opposition hammers it on Labor's broken pledge to deliver a surplus this financial year, the government seems to have found some coherence. Confronted with falling corporate profit (and therefore falling tax revenue), it had a choice: either keep finding cuts that would make lots of people unemployed and deflate the economy, or prioritise jobs and growth. It's a nice line. It sounds like a Labor line. But it follows years of saying the opposite; of elevating the surplus to some inviolable standard of good economic management; of saying the main game was giving the Reserve Bank "room to cut interest rates". And this in the face of the ever-lengthening queue of economists advising to the contrary.

In short, Labor had bought wholly into the Coalition's narrative for no discernible reason. It conceded the philosophical debate, then lost the political fight. So now, when it has finally found a Labor story to tell, it sounds convenient and insincere. Labor has become a liberal party, so it isn't even convincing when it sounds like itself.

That's not about incompetent leadership; it is the flipside of the Hawke/Keating legacy. Once Labor embraced a deregulated, liberal economy, the political landscape was forever changed, leaving a diabolical question for subsequent Labor leaders: what exactly is the point of Labor politics? The compromise has been to talk about Labor's "reforming tradition", but reform is an act, not an ideology. WorkChoices was a reform, too.

Labor has been chasing its base ever since. Often it watched helplessly as workers became small business owners and turned into Howard's socially conservative battlers. Labor cannot offer them industrial protection, and desperately doesn't want to offend their cultural sensibilities, which is why it says things like "tough but humane".

The result is that Labor cannot even compete on social and cultural politics. Hence the flight to the Greens, the party Gillard so venomously dismissed this week as a "party of protest". To which the most devastating reply is surely: "Fine. But what are you?"


Woolies chief questions regulation call

Woolworths has questioned calls for more supermarket regulation as the competition watchdog signals a renewed focus on market power.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has flagged it will heavily scrutinise the highly concentrated supermarket and fuel sectors amid claims the retailers have mis-used their market power by squeezing suppliers.

But Woolworths chief executive Grant O'Brien says more regulation isn't the answer and denies Woolworths is intimidating its suppliers, althoug he's admitted an anonymous complaints hotline for suppliers has uncovered a few cases of wrongdoing.

"When there are calls for regulating choice in a supermarket, I really start to wonder where the Australian consumers’ interests are being prioritised," he told the Queensland University of Technology forum late yesterday.

Mr O’Brien also insisted that Woolworths was not intimidating its suppliers.

"We have a very strict code in our business and all of our buyers, those people in contact with suppliers, have to go through that process before they’re allowed to be a buyer," he said. "We have a zero tolerance for anything that goes outside those codes."

But Mr O’Brien admitted an anonymous hotline for suppliers to lodge complaints had uncovered a few cases of wrongdoing.

"Very few because we get very few calls," he said.

Mr Sims said that since the last ACCC inquiry in 2008, global groceries giants had entered the Australian market and increased price competition.

"Aldi are are two to three times the size of Woolworths, Costco have come - they’re bigger," he said.

While Woolworths has defended its internal code, it continues to work with its main rival Coles, the Australian Food and Grocery Council and the National Farmers’ Federation on an industry wide code.

In a separate speech on Thursday, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the idea of a new code had merit, as long as breaches could be prosecuted under the Competition and Consumer Act.


Public hospital defends woman giving birth alone

A SYDNEY hospital says it wasn't understaffed at the time a woman was forced to give birth on her own and hasn't received a complaint from the new mother about her care.

The NSW government's budget cuts have been blamed for the "incredibly distressing" incident in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The Mount Druitt woman was reportedly forced to take painkillers from her own handbag to ease the pain of labour in the maternity suite at Blacktown Hospital.

She gave birth to a daughter before waiting up to 10 minutes before nursing staff arrived, the Nine Network reports.

"This is an incredibly distressing case and the health minister needs to explain how on earth this was allowed to happen," said opposition health spokesman Andrew McDonald.

He said other patients in the room came to the woman's aid after she called out for help.

But David Simmonds, acting director of nursing and midwifery at Blacktown Hospital, said the woman had not complained about her care.

"We take all patient complaints seriously. In this case staff have spoken regularly with the patient, however she has not raised a complaint," he said in a statement on Friday.

"We are looking into this matter and, as with all matters, we will investigate it thoroughly."

Mr Simmonds said the birthing and maternity units at Blacktown-Mt Druitt Hospital were well staffed with highly trained midwives.

"The maternity unit had a full complement of staff at the time," he said.

"Birth can be unpredictable and can at times come on quite quickly.

"Staff provided regular monitoring of the patient and offered the best possible care in the timeframe."


21 February, 2013

Freedom of speech struggling in Australia

If Muslims had wanted to disprove what Wilders says, they would have either stayed at home or attended the talk and listened politely. But they were too dumb for that. The obstructive response to the lecture by Wilders proved everything he said: That Muslims are intolerant and violent enemies of free speech and diversity of ideas

by Ronit Fraid

I went to hear Geert Wilders speak tonight. I already knew what he was going to talk about. I didn't go for the information.

I had already seen him on the telly when he was "interviewed" by Tony Jones. I didn't go in order to see him.

Had I thought about it consciously, I might have decided I didn't need to travel to Somerton and risk a confrontation with nasty protestors who might disturb my peace of mind with their violent rhetoric. But I didn't think about it. I just went.

Now that it is over and the unanticipated confrontation is over, I realise why it was important for me to go to hear Geert Wilders speak. It was important because I live in a free and democratic country, where people are permitted to have opinions and express their ideas. This is a country where people are allowed to disagree with each other and talk about difficult issues openly and without fear.

I went because I wanted to be comforted that my faith in Australia as a free and open democracy is justified and that the rule of law prevails, that freedom of speech has not been compromised by entities who don't believe in it.

I also went because I wanted to say to those who threaten our civil rights that they will not succeed. On the other hand, they did make it bloody difficult for everyone, in particular the organisers who had a nightmare job trying to book a venue...and because of the amount of security needed to keep Wilders safe and the huge police presence required to ensure that we, the peaceful audience, could enter the hall and listen to the speakers without incident.

Geert Wilders sends a strong message. It is a message about the nature of Islam and the effect of Islamic immigration on Europe. It is not a comfortable message and one doesn't have to agree with Wilders or listen to what he says. That is the free choice people make in much the same way that people make the choice to listen, to hear and to evaluate for themselves the importance of the message he brings. And that is a choice Australians need to protect fiercely...because without it we really are not free anymore; which goes to validate and support the very argument that Wilders is making.


Incredible Federal stupidity in cutting hospital funding

They must WANT to lose the election. This enables State Premiers to blame Gillard for all deficiencies in their hospitals

The federal government will consider restoring $404 million cut from hospital budgets around Australia this financial year following the reversal of a cut to Victorian funding and threat from the Prime Minister to bypass state governments and fund hospitals directly.

Health minister Tanya Plibersek said Prime Minister Julia Gillard had written to other states to say she would consider restoring funding to hospitals after a readjustment of population forecast figures in October had resulted in a $404 million shortfall this financial year.

The restoration of $107 million in funding to Victoria would be made directly to hospitals, bypassing the Baillieu government.

After the announcement of the new arrangement with Victoria, NSW and Queensland demanded the return of their share of cut funding.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said Ms Plibersek also had an obligation to reverse cuts in funding to other states.

"It doesn't relieve the federal government of its responsibilities to restore funding to all states and territories," Mrs Skinner said.

Mrs Skinner said the direct funding to Victorian local hospitals networks was "a very strange deal". "I'm absolutely stunned by it," she said. "It goes against entirely not only the COAG agreement but the spirit of the agreement in that specifically states that the states and territories are the system managers and that funding is to go through the states and territories for disbursement to the hospitals."

Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg demanded the Commonwealth restore $103 million in federal funding cut from the Queensland's allocation this financial year.

"Queensland should get that money back because it equals thousands of operations in Queensland," he told ABC radio. "It means that we won't have to cancel elective surgery for non-urgent patients and also it will mean that we'll be able to save some of the clinical jobs that are now at risk."

In October last year the federal government announced that it would reduce its health payments to the states by $1.6 billion nationally over four years after a review of population forecasts indicated a decline.

The backdown on Wednesday night comes after widespread concern about the closure of 350 beds and cancellations of thousands of operations around Victoria.

Speaking in Melbourne on Thursday morning, Ms Plibersek did not rule out further adjustments in the years ahead, leaving uncertainty about hospital funding around Australia for 2013-14.

She said any other funding boost around Australia for this financial year would go directly to hospitals and come from funding otherwise earmarked for those states.

Ms Plibersek said all threatened services must now be restored in Victoria and she was pleased that Casey Hospital, in Melbourne outer south-east, would not proceed with plans to close its emergency department overnight.

She said that she was "open" to making arrangements in others states similar to those she had announced in Victoria.

Ms Plibersek confirmed on Thursday that the $107 million Victorian rescue package consisted of $55 million budgeted for a project to streamline national and federal laws, and the rest from federal reward money for meeting health benchmarks.

She said there would be no need to allocate further rescue funding in the new financial year, and the federal government would continue to use the new, lower estimates of Victoria's population to calculate payments.

Speaking to reporters in Adelaide, the Prime Minister threatened to bypass other states and deliver funding directly to local hospital networks while cutting other state funding.

"I have said to premiers and chief ministers very clearly, that the federal government is not going to tolerate the continued playing of politics with health," Ms Gillard said.

"There is a very clear message to those premiers: we will go around you, we will deal direct with hospitals and local hospital networks, and we will rearrange your budget for you. "We will rearrange state budgets by cutting them back in other areas."

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said the Commonwealth funding was an interim measure, adding that "the damage has already been done". "The money will be welcomed by hospitals, but this is a short-term fix and we have certainly not had a long-term fix on this," he said.


Climate sceptic lets loose

LORD Christopher Monckton, one of the world's best-known climate change sceptics, breezes into Tasmania today with a warning the Greens are the new totalitarians and Labor is not much better.

Speaking from Melbourne yesterday, the outspoken British peer said there had been no measurable global warming for at least 16 years and quite likely longer, despite increases in carbon dioxide emissions. Lord Monckton said the science was collapsing around the alarmists and ordinary people were angry at the lies that had been told.

He said much of the debate was driven by left-wing politics. "The Greens are too yellow to admit they are reds," he said. "Labor is frighteningly close.

"The totalitarian left thinks they know best how we should live. It's about increasing the ability to interfere in every aspect of our lives, down to the last dim, flickering light bulb."

Lord Monckton described Australia's carbon tax as "fantastically cost-ineffective".

If the whole world adopted Australia's carbon tax scheme for 10 years, it would cost $317 trillion or 59 per cent of global GDP. This amounted to $45,000 for every person and all it would achieve was to forestall warming by about one sixth of one degree. It would be 36 times more expensive than paying the cost of adaptation to any climate change.

While carbon dioxide did have some effect on temperatures, he believed it was vastly overstated. He dismissed the idea of a scientific consensus as intellectual baby talk. "Science is a matter of verifiable proof. Climate science is much slipperier."

Asked about warming of the sea along Tasmania's East Coast, he said Australia was one of the only places where warm currents had had any effect, but the Great Barrier Reef had experienced no temperature change at all.

Lord Monckton is speaking at the University of Tasmania's Sir Stanley Burbury Lecture Theatre in Hobart tonight at 7.30


'I was capsicum sprayed and fined after going to woman's rescue'

He's lucky he didn't get shot. The Vic cops are good at that. Their tiny egos need a lot of propping up

A GOOD Samaritan who rushed to the aid of a woman "having her lights punched out" was gobsmacked to get a $553 fine from police in the post.

Aaryn Hayes, 25, was with friends in Brunswick St, Fitzroy, on Sunday morning when he saw a man grab a woman by the throat and throw her to the ground.

Mr Hayes grabbed the man towering over her and pinned him against a wall. Seconds later, police arrived and doused both men with capsicum spray.

"The guy was punching the hell out of this lady," Mr Hayes said. "I didn't punch him or hurt him. I simply grabbed him and moved him away from her to stop the violence.

"She was having her lights punched out - he was getting really stuck in - and people were just walking past. I had to help," he said.

Mr Hayes said while one police officer dealt with "the yelling and screaming offender", he explained to the other what had happened, and they helped him clear the spray from his eyes.

"Then the other officer came over and said I was disturbing the peace and acting in a riotous way.

"I was bewildered. I was just trying to stop a woman being beaten to a pulp and police were saying I was in the wrong for helping.

"I was with seven friends and my girlfriend, who were all witnesses. But when they spoke to the officer he threatened to arrest me and take me back to the station.

"Meanwhile the guy who attacked the woman was let go because the woman didn't want to press charges."

Mr Hayes said his shock was compounded on Tuesday when he received in the post a $600 penalty notice for "riotous behaviour". "I feel like a criminal for trying to help police," he said.

"I keep thinking, 'What if it was my girlfriend or mum who was being attacked, and no one helped?'. "It's not in my personality to walk by, but the fine has made me think twice."

Mr Hayes said he was seeking legal advice and would contest the penalty in court.

A Victoria Police spokesman, Belle Nolan, said: "It's believed a man in his 20s intervened in a verbal dispute between a man and a woman. It's alleged the man assaulted the victim, aged in his 50s, and refused to comply with police instructions to stop.

"He was sprayed with capsicum spray and received an infringement notice for riotous behaviour."


20 February, 2013

Leftists and Muslims try to prevent people from hearing Wilders

Video at link

A large group of angry protesters has scuffled with people attending a Melbourne speech by controversial Dutch MP Geert Wilders.

There were verbal exchanges on Monday evening as about 200 protesters wrestled with those trying to access the venue at Somerton, in the city's north.

The demonstrators took guests' tickets and pushed them to the ground.

"What are you doing? This is a democratic society. We're allowed to go in there," one guest told the protesters.

Mounted police then moved in, forming a line to try to stop the scuffles.

"We do not want this to be an issue of confrontation and we ask you to accept the rights of all the other members of the community," one policeman said. "If you do not move aside, we will be using force."

Most of the protesters, who chanted "racism, no way, we're going to fight it all the way", then moved on.

The group Students for Palestine organised the protest, and say demonstrators did not come looking for trouble.

"We were just standing there while actually, a number of people were charging at us, are hurting us," the group's Yasmin Shamsil said.

"There are actually people in here with bloody noses and these are all the demonstrators who are just peacefully trying to raise awareness of the fact that we oppose Islamophobia and all the things that Geert Wilders and the people who come to Geert Wilders' event preach."

The far-right politician's Australian speaking tour has been sponsored by a group called the Q Society, which is against multiculturalism.

Andrew Horwood from the Q Society blamed political correctness for the trouble.

"I think it's very sad that we've got to this stage with the cloak of political correctness that's descended on this land," he said.

"That it's hard for an organisation like this, a group of volunteers, to get places where we can freely speak and discuss something that concerns the future of this country."

Security inside the function centre was tight for Mr Wilders, who told an enthusiastic audience large-scale immigration by Muslims threatened the fabric of Australian life.

"I'm also here to warn Australia about the true nature of Islam," he said. "It's not just a religion, as so many people mistakenly think. It's primarily a dangerous and totalitarian ideology.

"And I'm also here to warn you what is happening in my native country, the Netherlands, that that might soon happen in Australia too if you fail to be vigilant."

Mr Wilders will press on to other speaking engagements across Australia, and no doubt more protests.


Abbott rejects Wilders's views on Islam as not applicable to Australia

Despite the evidence above that Islam is just as intolerant as Wilders says it is

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders is "substantially" wrong in his views on Islam, arguing there is not much Australia can learn from the Netherlands on the issue of multicultural integration.

Mr Wilders is in Australia as part of a speaking tour organised by the Q Society, which warns against the "Islamisation" of the country.

Mr Abbott says Mr Wilders is free to "say his piece", but says Australia's experience of multiculturalism is different from the Netherlands.

"Obviously he's entitled to his viewpoint, but I think that the Muslims in this country see themselves rightly as fair dinkum, dinky-di Australians, just as the Catholics and the Jews and the Protestants and the atheists," Mr Abbott told Fairfax radio.

"We see ourselves as Australians. "We don't like to divide ourselves on the basis of race, of faith, of colour, of class, of gender. "That's one of the great strengths of our country. "We are always conscious of what we have in common, rather than the things that divide us."

Mr Abbott was yesterday forced to defended the Coalition against accusations it was being "radicalised" by extreme right-wing political influences from the United States Tea Party movement.

Treasurer Wayne Swan used a speech to the Australian Workers' Union national conference yesterday to argue that the Coalition had "imported all the very worst aggressive negativity and reckless disregard for responsible economics from the Tea Party".

Mr Abbott responded by saying that the Coalition would always practice politics with an "Australian accent".

"We don't import our politics from overseas, we don't import our personnel from overseas," he added, in a thinly veiled reference to Prime Minister Julia Gillard's director of communications John McTernan, who is Scottish.


Racist "child protection" in W.A.

An Aboriginal baby was removed from his foster carer who he had spent the first seven months of his life with because she was non-indigenous.

Not only was the child removed from her care but according to the woman, he was placed in a home judged by the Department of Child Protection to be "inappropriate."

The case of a woman who wanted to be known only as "Audrey" and baby "Robert" was highlighted on Radio 6PR this morning.

Robert came to Audrey as a nine-week-old baby who had been born three months premature.

"There were drugs and alcohol involved with the parents, and also domestic abuse," Audrey said.

After caring for Robert for more about seven months, Audrey - who has been a foster carer for more than three years, taking children in on a short-term basis - was asked if she would be willing to take Robert on as part of a fulltime arrangement.

She said as a foster carer, she knew that a permanent arrangement still meant that the child could one day be reunited with his birth parents but was willing to take him on, which could have been an 18-year commitment.

At the same time, she knew that the DCP was assessing members of Robert's family as possible placements as well.

"Those were deemed inappropriate," she said.

"There was a placement that they were also looking at where an elder sibling of his resides, that was also deemed inappropriate because there were too many children in that foster home already."

She said five days after agreeing to take Robert on permanently, everything changed.

"I was notified that an indigenous elder had stepped in and that Robert was to be removed from my care, and two weeks later he was gone."

Audrey said she was told that she was no longer considered an acceptable full time carer for Robert as she was not indigenous.

"For me, the concern was Robert was very attached to me, he had bonded, he was healthy, he was thriving, and there was actually no need to remove him from my care."

She said Robert was then placed with his sibling in the home that was originally deemed inappropriate.

"Robert is now in a family where there are seven other foster children under the age of eight."

Audrey said the family has their own children as well as foster children.

"The last time I saw Robert, his health had deteriorated, there were several things brought up with his case worker that were noted, several conditions that he did not experience in my care, but he's still in that placement despite the health concerns," she said.

"After only a week in his new placement, he had severe nappy rash to the point where his bottom was bleeding.

"He had pale coloured stools, he had an ear infection, he was very untidily dressed."

She said never had these issues when in her care.

Audrey was concerned that the DCP had judged that an inappropriate indigenous placement was better than an appropriate non-indigenous placement.

"I was told by case workers that this was just what it was like for indigenous children in care and that I just needed to accept that," she said.

Audrey said she could not accept this situation.

"I don't think that's right for any children, they all deserve the same nurturing, love respect, they are children first and foremost and it's not acceptable that they are put in placements that their care is compromised," she said.

Audrey said that speaking out may result in her not being able to care for children in the future but was hoping that DCP would keep her on.

Aboriginal children make up about 45 per cent of all children in foster care in WA.

While Aboriginal people only make up 3.8 per cent of WA's population 1867 of the 3927 children in care in WA at the end of 2012 were Aboriginal.

According to the DCP's website, the department tries wherever possible to place Aboriginal children within their families and local communities to "safeguard their identities."

"In some cases it may be necessary to place children with families that are not of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, therefore we are always looking for more Aboriginal people from metropolitan, regional, rural or remote locations who may be interested in becoming foster carers."


Australian Green party leader has a tantrum

Greens leader Christine Milne says her party's agreement with Labor is effectively over, citing a string of Government policies including its refusal to redesign the mining tax.

In a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra, Senator Milne says it has become clear that Labor no longer has the "courage or the will" to work with the Greens on a shared national agenda.

"Labor has effectively ended its agreement with the Greens," Senator Milne told the audience.

"Well so be it. But we will not allow Labor's failure to uphold the spirit of our agreement to advance the interests of Tony Abbott.

"We will not walk away from the undertakings we gave not only to the Prime Minister, but to the people of Australia, and that was to deliver confidence and supply until the Parliament rises for the election. "The Greens will not add to the instability that Labor creates every day for itself."

While her announcement will add to the air of instability that often surrounds the minority Government, Senator Milne's decision to guarantee confidence and to continue passing budget bills means the current parliament will continue until the election, due on September 14.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Julia Gillard has released a one-line statement in response to Senator Milne's speech.

"This is a matter for Christine Milne and the Greens. We will always be the party that puts jobs, growth and work first."

Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan says the Greens have opposed several pieces of Government legislation over the past couple of years, and he does not think the decision will affect how Parliament operates.

He told reporters at the Australian Workers' Union national conference on the Gold Coast that Senator Milne's decision highlights the fundamental differences between the two parties.

"The Greens want to abolish the mining industry. That's right over on the fringe," he said. "The Labor Party and the Greens are cut from a different cloth. We don't pander to special interests on our left or on the right."

Fellow Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese believes Senator Milne's speech was fuelled by internal disunity within the Greens.

"We know that Christine Milne, since Bob Brown left the leadership of the Greens, has been under siege from the extreme elements of the Greens political party, led by Lee Rhiannon from New South Wales," he said.

Powerful union figure Paul Howes, who has publicly urged Labor to distance itself from the Greens, has also played down the end of the formal alliance.

"So what? I mean, the Greens haven't been supporting a whole range of Labor's initiatives in the Parliament," he told reporters at the Australian Workers' Union national conference on the Gold Coast. "There are numerous pieces of legislation in the Senate and in the House that the Greens have voted against. "Frankly, if Christine Milne wants to rip up an agreement? Excellent."

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz says despite Senator Milne's speech, the Greens will continue to prop up the Labor government through their guarantee of confidence and supply.

"Senator Milne's diatribe at the National Press Club today adds to the chaos surrounding this Government, but in reality nothing has changed," Senator Abetz said in a statement.

"The Greens have worked out how toxic the Labor brand is and are trying to distance themselves from it."

After the 2010 election, the then-Greens leader Bob Brown signed an agreement with Ms Gillard which helped Labor remain in office.

But the relationship between the two parties has been strained by a string of policy disagreements, most recently the push by the Greens to overhaul the mining tax following revelations it raised just $126 million in its first six months.

And Senator Milne fired another broadside at Environment Minister Tony Burke, describing his decision to reject a proposal to list Tasmania's Tarkine wilderness on the National Heritage register as "pathetic". "Minister Burke sold out the Tarkine to mining interests at the behest of New South Wales right [faction], Paul Howes."

"Only the Greens are standing up for the Tarkine - the largest tract of temperate rainforest left in Australia."

In March last year tensions between Labor and the Greens spilled over after Ms Gillard's described them as a "party of protest" which rejects the "moral imperative to a strong economy".

"The Greens will never embrace Labor's delight at sharing the values of every day Australians, in our cities, suburbs, towns and bush, who day after day do the right thing, leading purposeful and dignified lives, driven by love of family and nation," Ms Gillard said at the time.

Former Senator Bob Brown fired back, accusing the Prime Minister of "unfortunate and gratuitous" insults against the Greens which will "come back to bite her".


19 February, 2013

Merchants of hate rally for another protest

In the heading above and in the text beneath, behold a sustained outpouring of hate from Leftist journalist Paul Syvret, drawing heavily on his imagination. Compare the respectful treatment given by the mainstream media to the Leftist "Occupy" movement.

From the placards you can see that the rally was in fact principally an anti-tax rally, similar to the U.S. Tea Party. The "Juliar" placard refers to the fact that Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised before the election that she would not introduce a carbon tax. But she did anyway

MEMO to all readers who are not angry, self-righteous, middle-aged white people with deep wells of bile and resentment:

It is probably advisable that you avoid the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra a few weeks from now.

For on March 12, the malcontents and fringe-dwellers who brought us one of the great fizzers from 2011's political calendar, the Convoy of No Confidence (or No Consequence as Anthony Albanese dubbed it), are trying to get up an encore performance of sorts.

Rather than the stage-managed cavalcade of crackpots of 18 months ago, this looks like being more of a trickle towards the national capital - a Convoy of Incontinence, if you like.

This time around it is the "Rotten to the Core Rally", brought to you by the same bunch of climate-change deniers and ratbags who were bellowing about the carbon tax and waving "Ditch the Witch" and "Bob Brown's Bitch" placards.

The carbon pricing battle (what carbon tax?) having been lost, the focus has shifted to union corruption and, of course, the AWU.

This is all proof positive - although nothing has been proven unless you channel your news from the likes of Larry Pickering or former shock jock Michael Smith - that our Government is corrupt and democracy in Australia is dead.

Keynote speakers are to include Bob Kernohan, a former AWU Victorian vice-president.

At the time of the alleged fraud in the early '90s he was at war with the left faction of the union as part of a protracted internal power struggle and has made various allegations about Prime Minister Julia Gillard that have not been substantiated in the course of nearly 20 years. No axes to grind there.

Also on the soapbox list is David Flint, one time head of the Australian Broadcasting Authority, good mate of 2UE's Alan Jones and chair of Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy.

In between keeping Australians who don't believe in an Australian head of state informed with febrile updates on what Old Liz's corgis are up to, his Flintiness also heads CANdo - a far right group created by Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi that wants to become an "Australian Tea Party" and believes gay marriage could lead to Muslim polygamy.

He and the organisers of the Rotten rally, the grandly named Consumers and Taxpayers Association - with a whopping 461 Facebook "likes" (including one from yours truly, so I get the updates) - are clearly a meeting of minds.

Both seem to think the furore over Jones' "died of shame" comment regarding the Prime Minister's father were an over-reaction. CATA spokesman Jacques Laxale maintained last year that poor, hard-done-by Alan was a victim of cyber-bullying.

One of the principal organisers this time around appears to be one Anita Donlon, who writes: "This is our day to ALL gather in mass to show how we feel ... to turn the media around from being blinded by the truth ... we need the media around the globe to say 'CRIKEY!!!' there's an uprising in Australia against the government!!"

Yadda, yadda, yadda ... "Love peace and mungbeans. See you in Canberra!"

I've been in the media a long time and I can honestly say I have never been accused of being "blinded by the truth", mungbeans or no mungbeans, but never mind.

Donlon's a bit of a favourite of 2GB afternoon shock jock Chris Smith, who will broadcast his show live from the Rotten rally next month in an effort to whip up even more divisiveness and hate than he can normally manage from his Sydney studio.

The corrupt Prime Minister baloney aside, judging by the various web pages it is the usual shopping list of talk-back radio gripes that this Petri dish of intellects will be taking to Canberra for next month's world record whinge attempt.

"Illegal" immigrants, foreign workers, foreign aid, foreign investment, foreign imports and Muslims just about covers the White Australia element.

Poofters, dole bludgers, single mums, druggies, deliberately barren career women and lazy blackfellas ticks another box.

Then there's taxes, big government, government spending, government waste, government interference, government ...

And that's before we get to the real evils of corrupt union thugs and red raggin' commo greenie terrorists. And the United Nations.

What we obviously need - as the likes of the CATA people feel the need to constantly remind me via email - is an ELECTION NOW, because one that doesn't install their preferred version of government is obviously undemocratic and illegitimate and we need to keep voting until we get it right.


Aldi cheese is tops

Little guys cheesed off

AUSTRALIA'S artisan cheese and dairy producers are up in arms after a global supermarket chain wiped the floor with them at the annual Sydney Royal dairy awards.

Aldi, based in Germany but with stores across Europe, the United States, Britain and Australia, picked up 49 medals, including eight gold, and was named the most successful dairy produce exhibitor at the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW 2013 Cheese and Dairy Produce Show awards.

The results have prompted local crafters of fine cheese, butter and yoghurt to call for an overhaul of the judging system that would pit generic brands against one another only, while boutique producers would compete in separate categories.

Pepe Saya, who supplies butter to Neil Perry's Rockpool, Aria restaurant and Qantas first class, said while he fully supported the work of the Agricultural Society to grow the dairy industry, he personally stopped entering the awards after Coles started entering its generic brands.

"I don't believe that a non-manufacturer or a non-producer should be allowed to leverage off the Sydney Royal brand," he said. "Here's a brand that's been given to the philistines like Aldi, Coles and Woolworths. [But] what does it mean to have a gold any more? This is the disappointment. This is the heartache."

Michael McNamara, cheesemaker at Pecora Dairy in Robertson, NSW, and treasurer of the Australian Specialist Cheesemakers' Association, said the awards should be changed.

"The awards have become a parody of themselves if what they're taking is big, industrial products and putting them in the same category as hand-made, artisan products," he said.

"The [Royal Agricultural Society] is shooting itself in the foot."

Pecora Dairy won a handful of medals at this year awards and he insists his criticism is not sour grapes.

The RAS was not supporting rural communities to thrive by granting the same medals to cheap, mass-produced cheese and expensive, hand-crafted products, Mr McNamara said.

"It doesn't help farmers and it doesn't help create a vital, small producer industry in agriculture out there," he said.

A society spokeswoman said she was unable to contact the key dairy show award organisers and judges yesterday and Aldi Stores, based at St Marys, did not return calls.

The RAS, which has been judging dairy produce for more than 150 years, acknowledged Aldi's strong showing in its first year.


Magic-gas Discovery in Australia

It has been discovered that Australian coal has a magical property – it is one of a small group of coals which produces an invisible gas with super-natural properties.

This magic gas, carbon dioxide, first became famous for its claimed ability to warm the whole world, thus removing the threat of a new ice age. The British academic who reported this magic power claimed that winter snow would become "a very rare and exciting event”.

Then an Australian guru predicted that just a tiny addition of magic-gas to the atmosphere would abolish floods, and billions of dollars were spent constructing water desalination plants to combat his forecast of never-ending droughts.

Then after massive snows in Britain and huge floods in Australia, it was widely reported that magic-gas could produce both heatwaves and snowstorms, floods and droughts and even bushfires, cyclones and tornadoes, depending on the way the political winds were blowing in that country.

Strangely, only a few countries are able to produce "magic-gas”. A special exclusive club called the Kyoto Club was formed for these lucky countries. Membership fees are stratospheric, but members are rewarded with invitations to lavish UN conventions at top tourist destinations. However, many founding members have allowed their membership to lapse, leaving only EU, Australia and New Zealand as fully paid up members.

Coals burnt in Russia, India, China, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Canada and USA produce carbon dioxide but their gas apparently lacks the magic climate-altering properties of Australian magic-gas. Amazingly, these properties are lost if Australian coal is burnt overseas – once loaded on a ship the magic disappears.

There are a few unpatriotic Australians who think the whole "magic-gas” thing is a big con, and just an excuse for a new tax.

Worried that the world may become sceptical of the magic-gas story, CSIRO has been charged to re-educate these dangerous and deluded sceptics. Vast sums are also being spent by academics to invent more climate-bending properties for carbon dioxide, and regular dramatic announcements are expected on the ABC and the BBC.

By email from the satirical Viv Forbes []

Coal-generated power here to stay in Australia: study

Coal will be a significant part of Australia's power generation mix for at least another 20 years, according to a new study.

University of Queensland researchers say coal-generated power could be halved without compromising the country's power supply, but they argue it will take decades of "orderly transition" to completely move to clean energy production.

"It's not possible to make a transition where the lights don't go out without easing coal down fairly gradually," UQ Professor of Economics and study co-author John Foster said.

"At the moment, over 80 per cent of our power is generated from coal [and] in the context of our report, Australia is what we call a non-resilient economy in terms of its power - it's very heavily dependent on one source."

Mr Foster added that if Australia is to meet its 2050 emissions targets, the time for action is now.

"When you look into the engineering and all the details, you realise what a long time it takes to make these transitions - 20, 30, 40 years is the kind of time scale that you're talking about," he said.

"To get 80 per cent [clean energy] by 2050, we'd have to be starting right now with a fairly dramatically important shift.

"If it was nuclear, we'd have to start right now, you'd have to put more into carbon storage.

"So most of our scenarios, we just wouldn't get to 80 per cent by 2050."

While the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) agrees that Australia's use of renewable energy will have to ramp up considerably to remain on target, it believes that the production of adequate levels of renewable energy can be achieved within 20 years.

"In the last year alone, solar power has dropped in price by 45 per cent and 75 per cent in the last three years," ACF climate change program manager Tony Mohr said.

"And that's led Bloomberg New Energy Finance to conclude that wind power and solar power are both cheaper than new coal fired power plants in Australia right now.

"So I'd say that really, we're seeing a much faster shift towards renewable energy than we would have thought of even just a couple of years ago.

"In South Australia right now, in September last year, there was a couple of days there where wind power was contributing 55 per cent of South Australia's total energy supply and in Spain they've had records set of about 60 per cent.

"Now that's what we can do today, so it's realistic I think to expect we'll be able to do much better in 20 years' time."


18 February, 2013

Gillard in poll slump as Abbott surges

Gillard was largely an unknown at the last election. It is now clear to all what she is: a smooth talking meddler and waster of public money

Senior Labor MPs concede the latest opinion poll results should be a "wake-up call" to the party, warning that continuing speculation about a possible return of Kevin Rudd is hurting the Government.

The Nielsen poll, published in Fairfax newspapers, shows Labor's primary vote has dropped five points since December to 30 per cent, while the Coalition's has risen four points to 47 per cent.

After preferences, the Coalition has a thumping election-winning lead of 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

Labor frontbencher Simon Crean concedes the results are terrible news for the party just seven months out from the next election.

"It's a wake-up call isn't it. You can't gild the lily," he told Fairfax radio.

Fellow Labor Minister Greg Combet agrees: "There is no sugar-coating it, it's a bad poll today, there's no doubt about it".

The figures reveal a dramatic reversal in who voters would prefer as prime minister.

Support for Tony Abbott has jumped nine points to 49 per cent, while Julia Gillard's support has dropped five points to 45 per cent.

Asked this morning what has gone wrong, the Prime Minister declined to comment on the latest poll results.

"If I spent my time worrying about and commentating on opinion polls, then I wouldn't have the time to get my job done," Ms Gillard told Channel Seven.

According to the Nielsen poll, a significant majority of voters prefer Kevin Rudd over Ms Gillard as Labor leader, although that is largely driven by Coalition supporters. Among Labor voters, Ms Gillard remains more popular.

Even before today's poll, there was a sense of despondency within Labor ranks over the Government's performance, and internal tensions over the possibility of a Rudd comeback.

Yesterday, Mr Rudd said: "It's time this debate was put in cryogenic storage. Frankly, it ain't happening."

Mr Crean, who last week suggested Mr Rudd was doing "some good" for the party through his increased public profile, says internal issues have detracted from the Government's work.

Asked whether he thought Mr Rudd should "shut up" in the interests of the party, Mr Crean replied: "I don't think it's a question of telling him to shut up."

"I think it's a question of ensuring that he stays on the issue rather than just having the perception that it's a thinly disguised effort to promote him as the alternative leader.

"I think that, with one or two exceptions last week, that's what he was doing. I mean it was the fifth anniversary of saying sorry (to the Stolen Generations)."

Liberal frontbencher Joe Hockey says the poll results confirm the sentiment he has been hearing from voters, that Labor needs time in the "sin bin".

"Whether it's state Labor, federal Labor - everyone is saying they need time out. They're more focused on themselves that they are on us, the people," Mr Hockey told reporters on the New South Wales Central Coast.

"The Labor Party's come back from these numbers before, but this time it's clear the problem is Labor.

"Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd. Tweedledumb, Tweedledumber. I mean, it doesn't matter. "The bottom line is, it's Labor and their policies."

The Nielsen poll shows more voters disapprove of Mr Abbott's performance than approve, but the margin has narrowed to 13 points compared with a 29-point gap two months ago.

More voters would prefer Malcolm Turnbull to be opposition leader over Mr Abbott, although his strongest support comes from Labor and Greens supporters. Among Coalition voters, Mr Abbott is more popular.

The poll was conducted a week after the Government revealed the controversial mining tax raised just $126 million in its first six months, well short of the $2 billion forecast for the 2012-13 financial year.

Since the last Nielsen survey in December, the Prime Minister has announced the election date, there has been a Cabinet reshuffle, and former Labor MP Craig Thomson was charged with fraud-related offences.

Nielsen's research director John Stirton says they are all likely to have been factors in the latest results and confirm a change in fortunes for Labor.

"This is the fifth poll published since the beginning of February that shows movement away from Labor and towards the Coalition," Mr Stirton told ABC News.

"So that means that there's been a change in the trend. There was a trend running from about May to November last year showing steady improvement for Labor.

"This one, along with the other polls released since the beginning of February, confirms that that trend has stopped and, in fact, [is] moving back the other way."

However, Mr Stirton says it is not impossible for Labor to win the election, pointing to John Howard's 2001 victory.

According to the Nielsen survey in April 2001, the Coalition was facing annihilation at the ballot box, with Labor leading 60 per cent to 40 per cent after preferences.

However, a series of events helped shift public opinion, including Mr Howard's decision to freeze petrol tax increases, the Tampa asylum seeker stand-off, and the September 11 terrorist attack in the United States.


Wilders denies he's the devil

CONTROVERSIAL Dutch MP Geert Wilders has delivered a message to Australia ahead of a controversial series of speaking events across the nation: “I am not the devil”.

The anti-Islam campaigner has been allowed to enter the country after the Federal Government relented and agreed to give him a visa, claiming it did not want to make him a cause celebre by continuing to block his trip.

His inflammatory views have created fiery debate in Europe for years and he is set to deliver the same message in Australia after being invited by the Melbourne-based anti-Islamisation Q Society.

The 49-year-old told News Limited he was not a "monster from Mars”, a bigot, an extremist, a racist, a far right-winger - nor anything else he has been labelled.

"I represent one million people in one of the most tolerant and oldest democracies in the world and I address real problems for real people which are ignored by the political elite, and say things about the nation of Islam; for me this is very normal, that is what I am,” he said.

Mr Wilders said he is a one-man mission to warn Australia of the dangers of Islamic immigration and loss of national identity.

"I hope you can learn from the mistakes we made about immigration and the lack of guts to define Islam for what it is,” he said.

"I am not talking about the people [Muslims]. I’ve met very friendly and hospitable people in Arab and Islamic countries. I am talking about the ideology of Islam.”

Wilders said he knew of the ANZACs story but warned the spirit that propelled our nation years ago was at risk of being lost.

"I believe Islam and freedom and incompatible and I think we should be awake to this terrible ideology that is coming to our countries and societies and getting stronger, stronger, stronger and we are not fighting it we are appeasing, appeasing, appeasing and we lost track of what we really are and what we should be and what our grandparents, also in Australia with the ANZACs, what they fought and died for to liberate Europe,” he said.

Wilders, who controls the balance of power in the Dutch parliament as leader of the fourth-largest political party, is scheduled to speak in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

The Islamic Friendship Association has said the Muslim community have the right to peacefully protest the speaking events but recommended people simply ignore Mr Wilders visit so as not to draw further attention to his extremist messages.


Miners criticise Gillard's jobs package

The mining industry has taken aim at the Federal Government's new jobs package, saying it will only increase the regulatory burden on the industry.

Unions have largely welcomed the plan, which includes new legislation to ensure major projects give local companies early notice of contract opportunities.

Projects worth more than $2 billion will also be forced to have an Australian Industry Opportunity officer in the workplace.

Ms Gillard says the plan is designed to keep the local manufacturing industry competitive, despite the high Australian dollar and other economic pressures.

But the Minerals Council has described the measure as unnecessary, unwarranted and inefficient.

David Boas from the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association agrees.

"We're a bit concerned that it does involve a bit more of regulatory creep with the provisions in there for Australian industry plans," he said.

A series of new manufacturing precincts will also be established to develop new products and skills to break into new markets.

The Government plans to fund the jobs package by removing a research and development tax break for the country's 20 biggest companies.

Ms Gillard predicts the plan will inject $1.6 billion into the economy.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the package deserves popular support, not nitpicking.


Victorian revival highlights lost ground on child welfare

Compulsory school attendance was introduced in Australia during the Victorian era in the later-nineteenth century. The Victorians were the first to recognise that the state had a role to play in promoting child welfare by requiring parents to ensure that their children received a minimum level of schooling. This was part of a broader movement to encourage respectable standards of behaviour by people of all classes.

The effort to bring about social improvement had largely succeeded by the early-twentieth century. Working class communities had embraced ‘middle class’ notions of respectability (work, marriage, sobriety, and thrift) that had proven conducive to the formation of functional families. A marker of respectability was the ability of parents to send clean, well-fed, and properly dressed children to school each day. A marker of un-respectability was enduring the shame and stigma of having one’s children rounded up by the truancy officer.

For a hundred years, society traded on the legacy of the Victorians, but things began to change in the aftermath of the social revolution of the 1960s.

The Sixties ethos of personal liberation undercut the Victorian behavioural code, which was fashionably dismissed as so much ‘bourgeois’ uptightness. Complacency also set in. Official enforcement of respectable behaviour seemed unnecessary. Rarely-needed truancy laws appeared ‘harsh’ and anachronistic.

In the modern era of free-flowing welfare, however, these attitudes have become socially disastrous.

Social norms have collapsed in a significant underclass of welfare-dependent and dysfunctional families, and the failure to regularly send children to school symbolises the breakdown of behavioural standards.

The response to rising levels of chronic truancy has been feeble. Woolly-minded sociologists have offered lame excuses about ‘poverty’, and the self-serving welfare industry has demanded higher government funding for ‘more support services’ to help ‘struggling’ parents. Meanwhile, educational faddists have prattled on about making school ‘fun’ so kids are ‘engaged.’ Too little attention has been paid to the best interests of children denied an education due to parental neglect.

Our thinking about child welfare now appears to be slowly coming full circle.

The Victorian Government has just announced plans to make it easier to fine parents whose children miss more than five school days a year without a valid excuse. This follows embarrassing revelations earlier this year that not one fine had been issued for truancy under new laws introduced in 2006.

The renewed, if much belated, attempt to revive the specter of the truancy officer and crack down on absenteeism is welcome. However, the need to punish parents who don't send children to school highlights the truly appalling amount of ground we have lost over the last 40 years.


17 February, 2013

Black Australian politician sparks race row after saying prison is good for Aborigines as 'it means they get to spend time with their families'

Rather sadly, the lady is right. Young Aborigines are very prone to extreme alcohol abuse. And they are often locked up for committing crimes whilst intoxicated

An Australian politician has sparked a race row after saying prison is good for Aboriginies as 'it means they get to spend time with their families.'

Bess Price, an MP for the sitting Country Liberal Party made the comments after the Legislative Assembly agreed to changes in mandatory sentencing for violent offenders.

Price, an Aboriginal Australian activist, was responding to the Labor Party's opposition to the law changes, which they said would see prison numbers increase significantly.

The member for Stuart argued that jail had benefits for young Aborigines.

'While they are being imprisoned, they don't get to drink, they don't get into trouble, they are fed three times a day,' she said.

'They are in there with their family members. 'They sleep in their language groups and they all come out of prison much healthier.'

Labor's Member for Nhulunbuy, Lynne Walker, said Price's comments were a 'sad indictment it is, of where our system is,' reported TNT magazine.

'When the Member for Stuart says that our families want our young people locked up, because prisons; they're safe places, it's where people can dry out for three months, it's a safe environment and where, sadly, a lot of family members are in there, so they're not alone.'

She told Parliament she was saddened by Ms Price's statement and said it painted a disturbing scenario.

The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) says the comments by Ms Price reflect a sad state of affairs according to ABC.

Several people took to Twitter to voice their annoyance at her comments.

@NATSILS who describe themselves as 'the peak body for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Services' wrote on their Twitter page 'Bess Price how wrong you are. Symptoms of the real issue. Poverty.'

One user wrote 'What a tragic, simplistic and scary view' while another accused her of creating 'an apartheid.'


Well intentioned but fiscally ludicrous

Well, the fiscal chickens have come home to roost. The government’s Wage Connect policy has proven so successful in finding businesses with their hands out that the ALP has been forced to place the program on hold until 1 July.

Wage Connect is a program designed to assist job seekers, who have little to no recent work experience, get back into a job. The program is restricted to those who have been unemployed for over two years.

Employers who offer full-time positions to inexperienced staff, providing them with on-the-job training, can receive subsidies to the tune of $5,900 per employee for six months to assist with training costs. This averages out to roughly $230 per week, equivalent to that of the Newstart Allowance.

The government had originally committed $85 million out of the 2011-12 budget to fund the program over the next four years. But since the budget, long-term unemployment has grown by 23,000 people to a total 253,000. Predictably, Wage Connect has proven popular with businesses eager to get their hands on some easy money.

The program has laudable objectives. The long-term unemployed often lack the skills and experience necessary to find even entry-level jobs, so any program that increases their chances of gaining employment ought to be considered. However it was entirely foreseeable that this program would burn a hole through its budget.

Many businesses in low-skilled industries regularly employ inexperienced staff. Offering these businesses subsidies simply pays them to hire employees they might already have hired.

Of course, many of these subsidies would have gone to the intended recipients; businesses weary of hiring inexperienced staff would have seen the subsidy as a just reward for taking a risk on inexperienced staff.

But there is a better way to get the long-term unemployed back into jobs, with no impact whatsoever on the government’s budget.

To give businesses a greater incentive to take on the long-term unemployed, the government could provide a six-month exemption from the minimum award wage.

This would give businesses six months to provide training, without the cost pressures imposed by minimum award wages. After six months – the same duration as the Wage Connect subsidy – the employee’s wage would go back up to its regular level.

This way, the long-term unemployed would have higher job prospects, employers would have an incentive to hire them, and the government would reduce the number of long-term unemployed job seekers drawing income support.

Scrapping Wage Connect subsidies in favour of a minimum wage exemption should be a no-brainer for any government wanting to stem the growth in long-term unemployment, particularly one struggling to produce a budget surplus.


Crash victims rescued from Lawyers

CAR accident victims will no longer be left waiting for years before being paid for injuries and payouts will be made without expensive legal fees under sweeping reforms of NSW's greenslip scheme.

The reforms, which the state Government believes will see premiums fall up at least 15 per cent, will set defined benefits for injuries and remove the need for victims to prove which driver was at fault.

Under the proposed reforms, a victim will bring the claim to their own insurer as with comprehensive motor insurance, rather than making the claim through the at-fault driver's insurance company.

The O'Farrell Government aims to ban ambulance-chasing lawyers from profiting from broken compulsory third-party insurance scheme.

The move will come as a welcome relief to the state's five million car owners, who now pay an average of $518 a year for a greenslip, up 70 per cent since 2008.

Premier Barry O'Farrell said the compulsory third party scheme had turned into "a lawyer's picnic", with less than half of the money from motorist's greenslip finding its way to accident victims.

"These proposed changes will drive down costs by ensuring the system is foc- used on those who are injured, not ambulance chasing lawyers," he said.

Compulsory greenslips supplied by private insurers NRMA, Allianz, CIC-Allianz, GIO, QBE and Zurich are the most expensive part of motor vehicle registration.

A review of the third-party insurance by the Motor Accidents Authority has found that since 1999, more money has been spent on lawyers' bills than on medical treatment and care for road accident victims.

This is because a person injured in a car accident must prove who is at fault in an accident, which often leads to lengthy court battles.

The unpredictable nature of claims also means insurers demand higher premiums.

Some examples of waste:

* A pedestrian hit by a car was awarded $6000 but legal bills topped $60,000 after a seven-year dispute.

* A person hit by a car got less than $30,000 for injuries while legal, investigation and medical expenses topped $190,000.

* A motorcyclist involved in an accident due to the road conditions was denied compensation but left with a $30,000 legal bill.

Minister for Finance and Services Greg Pearce said the NSW system was the least affordable in Australia.

Insurers last month asked Mr Pearce to approve 10pc increases which would add an extra $50 to bills.

"The majority of compensation is paid out between three and five years after an accident and often it's the lawyers who walk away with more money," he said.

"A 'no fault' scheme would reduce costs, create a more competitive CTP insurance market, and get money to those who need it the most, rather than lawyers, insurers and investigators."


Royal Darwin Hospital "shocking", AMA says

PEOPLE will die if a severe bed shortage at Royal Darwin Hospital is not addressed, the Australian Medical Association said.

The situation was so bad this week that two beds were crammed into many emergency department cubicles, admitted patients were left in corridors and nurses were running into the waiting room to treat people.

AMA NT president Dr Peter Beaumont said the situation would get worse unless governments increased health funding.

"People's lives are at risk under these circumstances," he said.

"Overcrowding leads to omissions. "People will die."

Australian Nursing Federation NT branch secretary Yvonne Falckh said the condition of the emergency department was shocking.

"I'm absolutely appalled that two patients were put in to each cubicle," she said. "There is a lack of confidentiality and privacy.

"What if one of them needed to use a bed pan or a bottle or even speak to the doctor?'


15 February, 2013

Free speech problems

Part of an opinion article by Richard Ackland is reproduced below in the interests of full and fair public discussion. Ackland is a Left-leaning Australian lawyer and the article below reflects the ambivalence many Leftists feel about hate-speech laws. They fear that such laws could ensnare them in the heat of political disagreements. But Ackland appears to think that some expansion of such law is needed and that the conservative impulse to get such laws expunged is wrong.

His argument against the conservative case put by Tony Abbott is however both "ad hominem" and misleading. The matter Abbott went to court over was a libel case -- in response to false and scurrilous allegations published about himself and a woman not his wife. It was not a case brought under anti-discrimination law.

Libel has always been recognized as not protected free speech in the USA despite their first amendment protections of speech so Ackland's apparent conflation of libellous speech with free speech is tendentious and misleading. He would seem simply to be making a snide point motivated by a need to discredit conservatives rather than by any intention of making fair comparisons. It is unworthy of Mr Ackland

Travelling on public transport can be traumatic. Particularly if you're the ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernandez with his young daughter on a Sydney bus, subjected to the racist rantings of an unhinged banshee. A French woman singing on a Melbourne bus was subjected to a similar tirade, but in that case it seemed to be more of a mob onslaught.

The law says people are not supposed to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate because of someone's race, colour or ethnic origin - in public, of course; at home you can pretty much be as vile as you like.

The previous attorney-general, Nicola Roxon, had been howled down because she suggested in an "exposure draft" of a new anti-discrimination bill that those terms should apply across the board in all cases of discrimination by means of "unfavourable treatment".

Free-speech champion Tony Abbott has promised to repeal this part of the Racial Discrimination Act in its current form.

The new Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, says he'll be agonising over getting the balance right between free speech and "protecting the community".

The ABC chairman, James Spigelman, said in a speech in December to the Human Rights Commission that words such as "offend" and "insult" go too far, that they impinge on freedom of speech in ways that words like "humiliate" and "intimidate" do not.

Presumably he means the free speech protection goes a notch higher if the basic requirements of anti-discrimination protections are at the humiliation and intimidation end of the nastiness spectrum.

We're playing here with the English language and the distinctions are not always visible. In every case the line between insult and humiliation may not be clear. But Spigelman is surely right when he says, "there is no right not be offended".

The long-serving Melbourne media lawyer Peter Bartlett recently said in an interview that "the present anti-discrimination legislation we've got is a significant problem for the media". He told the Gazette of Law & Journalism (interest disclosure: publisher is moi) that he's had to deal with discrimination complaints claiming that articles on paedophilia vilify all Catholics.

A newspaper report about a Turkish man's run-in with police has prompted a complaint that all Turks are vilified.

The Australian Financial Review had complaints from Italians in Melbourne over a drawing by Michael Fitzjames of the map of Italy which he called Berlusconia with the major cities given names like Necappi, Ponzi, Pestilenti, Spivi and so on.

It went on an on and cost the paper an enormous amount of time, energy and money. Interestingly, this case was brought under Victorian legislation, which deals with hatred and serious contempt - not offence or insult. Even at that higher standard, it still took ages to reach settlement.

Bartlett said: "Some of these complaints are ludicrous. There are more and more of them. Regulatory authorities are not looking at them and saying 'This clearly has no merit and should be dismissed.' It is very frustrating."

It's probably an unreasonable expectation that the number of ludicrous complaints will drop off if the law gets rid of "offend and insult" and just sticks with "humiliate and intimidate". Maybe, the Italians, Turks or Catholics will feel the humiliation rather than the offence.

While Abbott has pledged to get rid of "offensive" he, in his own defamation case with Peter Costello and their wives against Random House over the Bob Ellis's book Goodbye Jerusalem, was happy to be compensated for an even lower level of grief - "hurt feelings".

Hurt feelings are enough for Abbott to go running to the law but he won't allow anyone to seek a remedy for being offended or insulted.

In his free speech address last August he thought that the ancient common law offences of "incitement and causing fear" should be enough grounds for a racial vilification case.

It's not certain but he seemed to be saying that racial vilification should be left to common law, which means unelected judges.


Burn-off policy outrage in Tasmania

A GROUP of Tasmanian farmers say their livelihoods are being threatened by bureaucratic red tape stopping them from burning off on their land and putting their properties at risk of further catastrophic fires.

Lobby group leader and owner of Redbanks at Nugent, Sorell councillor Lindsay White, was due to take part in a teleconference last night with the NSW Volunteer Firefighters Association to give advice based on the issues facing Tasmanian farmers after the Lake Repulse, Forcett and Molesworth fires.

"Our group believes that farmers' property rights have been eroded over the past 30 years to appease the wishes of government departments," Mr White said.

"Farmers are unable to effectively manage their own properties because of the quagmire of red and green tape," he said.

The group has now met with Emergency Management Minister David O'Byrne and Tasmania Fire Service chief Mike Brown to voice their concerns and demand change.

A Facebook page has also been set up called "It's Our Land Too" calling for supporters, and Mr White wants to hear from other landowners struggling to deal with bureaucratic red tape.

The group says the Forcett fire would not have exploded into such a catastrophic event if Parks and Wildlife adhered to their reserves management plans and the Tasmania Fire Service "heeded the advice of local fire chiefs and farmers".

The TFS says it will work with farmers to address their concerns.

But Mr Brown said it was important to note that while the Forcett fire burned with the same ferocity of the deadly 1967 bushfires, there was no loss of life and far less property damage.

Carlton River farmer Leigh Arnold lost a shearing shed, wool shed and house in the Forcett blaze and says it was the final straw after hundreds of acres he planned to subdivide on his property were locked up after being deemed "potential foraging ground" for the swift parrot.


An extreme contrast between electric cars and V8s

Governments are pissing into the wind with their "green" car initiatives. Virtually nobody wants them.

Holden has revealed the V8 muscle car that will take on the American car industry at its own game.

The SS Commodore will form the basis of a $200 million export program that will see the car sold as a Chevrolet alongside the iconic Camaro and Corvette muscle cars.

The car will also take to America's oval race tracks, becoming Chevrolet's entrant in the Nascar series, which ranks second only to the NFL in television ratings.

Holden moved forward the unveiling of the new Commodore because the export version will be shown to the American public for the first time tomorrow, as part of the lead up to the legendary Daytona 500.

The car will have one of the most powerful V8s ever fitted to a locally-produced car and Holden will only sell the most powerful – and, likely, thirstiest – version.

The move flies in the face of the Federal Government's controversial Green Car Innovation Fund, which has pumped money into the local car industry to make it more environmentally friendly.

In an era of downsizing and more fuel efficient vehicles – Holden has invested tens of millions of dollars into the new Commodore to reduce weight and improve fuel economy by about 10 per cent - the country's newest export is also its thirstiest.

The export car will look almost identical to the recently-revealed VF Commodore SS-V, albeit with Chevrolet badges and – possibly – bonnet scoops to give it a more aggressive look.

However it's expected to get a 6.2-litre V8, which will outgun the Holden version that makes do with a 6.0-litre V8.

Holden has said it is looking to sell between 3000 and 5000 to Chevrolet in the US, where it will be sold as the brand's flagship performance sedan, the SS.

It will likely sit between the locally-designed Camaro two-door and the Corvette flagship as a four-door performance hero in the Chevrolet range.

However Holden insiders have suggested those sales estimates are "very conservative” and that executives on both sides of the Pacific hope to achieve higher numbers, reinforcing the demand for V8 sedans.

Even the Corvette – a purebred sports car – sells in far higher numbers; it has regularly accounted for more than 30,000 in annual sales and even since the global financial crisis has accounted for more than 10,000 sales annually.

In Australia sales of V8s are strong, too, with about one-third of all Commodores sold fitted with a V8.

The figures show that despite a global push towards fuel efficiency, Australians are reluctant to sacrifice power for fuel economy and environmental concerns.

Despite significant media coverage and new arrivals last year, fewer than 200 all-electric cars were sold in 2012, whereas more than 25,000 V8-powered cars were sold in Australia.


Unnecessary deaths in Aust emergency rooms

More than one-third of patients in Australia's hospital emergency rooms are not being seen in the recommended time, a report has found.

That can translate into "unnecessary deaths", according to the Australian Medical Association (AMA).

Last year, 66 per cent of patients categorised as urgent at public hospital emergency departments were seen within 30 minutes - the time recommended by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. That fell below the national performance target of 80 per cent.

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton says there is strong local evidence that people are at risk of injury and even death if hospitals don't have the capacity to meet patient demand.

"If there's insufficient beds in the system and we can't get people out of emergency it does cause harm," Mr Hambleton told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

"We do see unnecessary deaths that we do want to protect against."

The 2013 AMA Public Hospital Report Card found that despite a 10 per cent increase in federal funding since 2008 to 2011, there was no improvement in the performance of the nation's public hospitals.

The lack of improvement is a result of federal and state governments "playing the blame game", the AMA says.

"We've seen a lot of state governments withdrawing funds," Mr Hambleton said.

"And we've seen the federal government doing the same thing.

"We need to focus on solving the problem and not blaming each other.

"The fact is when you're sitting in emergency with your mum, you want to make sure that we've got the capacity to see her on time and have that chest pain sorted out."

Federal health minister Tanya Plibersek said the report card showed that work was required to improve emergency waiting times and elective surgery waiting lists.

"This report reminds us that we cannot slacken off; we need to be professional," she told reporters in Sydney.

Ms Plibersek said it was essential that federal and state governments worked together financially to enhance health care.

"Extra money has to come with better management, not just from the commonwealth, but also the states and territories," she said.

"Improving our health system has to be a partnership."

Ms Plibersek refused to be drawn on whether the states were responsible for the poor report card, telling reporters: "I'm not blaming anyone."


14 February, 2013

Nothing to fear from me, says Geert Wilders

CONTROVERSIAL right wing anti-Islamic Dutch politician Geert Wilders says Australia has nothing to fear from him when he visits the country next week.

Mr Wilders, speaking on the ABC's Lateline on Wednesday, said he was on a global jihad to preserve freedom.

He said he wants to warn Australia against allowing the mass immigration of people from Muslim countries "because Islam and freedom are incompatible".

"I believe with mass immigration into our free societies, those societies will change, and they will change for the worse," Mr Wilders said.

The leader of the Party for Freedom holds the balance of power in the Dutch parliament after receiving around 10 per cent of the national vote.

He wants to tell Australians that we must learn from the mistakes they made in Europe and be vigilant of Islam.

"It is not a religion of peace - it is a totalitarian ideology," Mr Wilders said.

He conceded that the majority of Muslims living in Europe were moderates but their religion of Islam was totalitarian that has no room for anything but Islam.

Mr Wilders said that when he visits Australia next week he not only wanted to talk to people who agreed with him but to those who did not.

"I am a lawmaker not a law breaker," he said.

When asked if he would be accompanied by Dutch Security Service he said that he could not talk about security arrangements or he would make himself more vulnerable.


Don't rely on the police for anything

Even a real bad egg is of no interest to them

Police handling of a violent criminal who repeatedly breached parole was grossly negligent, a coroner said.

The man went on a destructive rampage in July 2009, which ended when he shot himself during a siege.

Shane Andrew Robinson, 32, stabbed a police officer on the Barrier Highway in South Australia and stole the officer's car.

He had been pulled over for questioning about suspected criminal activity.

Robinson ran over a pedestrian with the police car, then went to a homestead near Yunta and held a 75-year-old woman hostage.

She was bound and assaulted during the siege, before Robinson shot himself.

Coroner Mark Johns said Robinson's violent actions could have been prevented had police done their job properly and pursued him when he started behaving erratically weeks earlier.

Parole Board executive officer Kevin Hill told the inquest the Correctional Services Department failed to immediately tell the board about a serious breach a month earlier, when Robinson tried to strangle his girlfriend and failed to report to his Corrections officer.

The inquest heard police were alerted, but follow-up of the domestic violence report was inadequate and no attempt was made to identify the parolee involved.

The coroner was told Robinson was not adequately monitored because a Corrections staffer was on leave.

"This is an unsatisfactory situation and has resulted in significant changes within Community Corrections since and because of Mr Robinson's death," Mr Johns said in his findings.

Robinson's mother Jacqui attended the inquest and publicly apologised for her son's horrific crimes.

She said she felt the system let her son down.

"I would like to apologise to the victims of this terrible crime, leading to my son's death. I feel that the system has let my son down, let my family down and let the victims and the police and the community down," she said.

The inquest heard Robinson failed to complete anger management, alcohol abuse and domestic violence courses recommended by his parole officer.

He failed to make appointments with a psychologist, despite counselling being a release condition.

In 2002, Robinson took hostage a teenage boy at a house at suburban Netley, threatened him with an axe and held a knife to the boy's throat.

Robinson was shot in the neck by a STAR Force officer during that siege.

He spent time in hospital, then was sentenced to six years in jail with a non-parole period of four years.

The offender was released on parole in December 2007.

The Coroner concluded there was gross negligence by authorities involved in Robinson's management, particularly SA Police.

"There were opportunities to intervene in the management of Mr Robinson in a way that might have prevented the events culminating in his death, thus saving not only his life but the serious sexual assault of an elderly lady and the serious stabbing wounding of a member of the police force," Mr Johns said.

He said Robinson should never have been allowed to live with his partner and her teenage daughters, given his convictions for serious child sex offences.

Mr Johns also was highly critical of the SA Police call centre's handling of the report Robinson had attacked his partner.

"In my opinion call centre operators and their supervisors must be provided with domestic violence training, which instructs them on how and when to deal with allegations of domestic violence and emphasises that, where it is not known that the victim is actually safe and that cannot be ascertained adequately on the telephone, a police patrol should attend," he said.

"The failure by anyone at the SAPOL call centre to bother to inquire as the identity of the perpetrator of the domestic violence allegation is profoundly disturbing.

"It shows a lack of interest and commitment to the job of policing and keeping South Australians safe. It shows a narrow focus on the immediate task and a desire merely to get rid of a problem with a minimum of effort."


Abbott backs plans to build more dams

A horror moment for the Green/Left

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says Australians need to get over their "dam phobia", amid reports the Coalition is considering a multi-billion dollar plan to build up to 100 dams across the country.

Mr Abbott says there have been too few dams built in recent years, and it is time to throw off the "green extremism" that has prevented new projects going ahead.

"What we want to avoid is the dam phobia which has afflicted our country for at least a generation," he told reporters this morning.

"We currently use about 6 per cent of our available water resources. Nine per cent is the international average.

"If we could lift our utilisation to the international average, our agricultural productivity would be massively increased."

The idea, contained in a draft discussion paper, has the enthusiastic support of the Nationals, but there are differing interpretations within the Coalition of what status the plan for more dams has.

The Coalition's environment spokesman Greg Hunt this morning said no decision had been made on any particular dam proposal, suggesting some may not be viable.

"We have no proposal for 100 dams as such," Mr Hunt told ABC NewsRadio.

"Those are initiatives which other people have suggested to us and we've simply chronicled the submissions."

But Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce has rejected suggestions the draft discussion paper was just a pre-election thought bubble.

"This has been worked on for nearly two years, travelling the countryside, examining sites over the past couple of years," Senator Joyce told reporters in Canberra.

"This is certainly not a thought bubble. This is a key policy.

"It goes to show the Australian people that whilst we have been in Opposition we can be diligently doing our homework and preparing ourselves for that opportunity if it comes, the honour of government."

The Coalition's plan for more dams was initially leaked to News Limited newspapers, prompting ridicule from Labor.

"This is a story about water, dams and leaks," Labor frontbencher Craig Emerson told reporters in Canberra this morning.

"Mr Abbott has had three leaks in three weeks. This is a strange way to release policy."

Dr Emerson says the Coalition now needs to explain how it is going to pay for the mutli-billion dams plan.

"The Australian people expect the release of fully costed policies, so that they know about the policies of both parties, and... where the money is coming from."

Mr Abbott says new dams would only be built after a thorough cost-benefit analysis, but argues many projects would not need government funding.

"The proponents would fund them because the spin-offs - in terms of agricultural development, in terms of hydro electric power, in terms of flood mitigation - are just really too good to ignore," he told Macquarie Radio.


Carbon farm funding arrangements questioned

The Federal Government has been questioned about why it did not demand a management plan before funding a carbon farming project in the Northern Territory.

Henbury Station in Central Australia was purchased by RM Williams Agricultural Holdings in 2011 for $13 million, of which the Commonwealth contributed $9 million.

It was pitched as Australia's biggest carbon farming project.

The plan was to destock the 5,000 square kilometre property, about 125 kilometres south of Alice Springs, and return it to its natural state to earn carbon credits.

After a change of project management late last year, there was talk of incorporating some beef production in the plan.

A draft methodology on running the property was submitted to the Government but this was returned to RM Williams Agricultural Holdings, with a request for more information.

No carbon credits have been earned by the project so far.

This week, National Parks Director Peter Cochrane was questioned about the project during a Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra.

He said a management plan had not been required before the contract was signed.

Mr Cochrane told the hearing a Carbon Farming Initiative methodology has still not been approved.

National Party Senator Fiona Nash described the situation as appalling.

"The whole process seems to be a bit of a shambles and there really is a real lack of transparency," she said.

"To give $9 million of taxpayer money to a private company to purchase a property and not expect something as transparent and basic as a final management plan before that money was handed over, I think, is just an extraordinary state of affairs."

She says running cattle on the property would be a complete breach of the funding agreement.

The Environment Department has been asked to report on what will happen to the Commonwealth money if the project fails.

A spokesman for RM Williams Agricultural Holdings says there is a detailed interim management plan in place at Henbury Station.


13 February, 2013

University focus as Rudd marks apology anniversary

Rudd is Australia's Obama in terms of saying stuff that sounds good but is totally empty of any contact with reality.

Blacks have had preferential access to universities ever since the Abschol sceme was set up decades ago. But very few of them are bright enough to handle university. And those that do get to university are, in my experience, just waved through regardless of their abilities

Thousands of people around the nation are marking five years since the formal apology and Mr Rudd has spoken of the need to boost tertiary access for Indigenous Australians.

Campaigner Brian Butler has been working to help Aboriginal people affected by forced removal of children from families over six decades.

He says the initial hope Mr Rudd gave Aboriginal people has long disappeared.

"Whether it's Kevin Rudd or anyone, no single politician is going to be able to make promises to the Aboriginal people because that's never happened before, things haven't progressed," he said.

"There might have been native title, there might have been a few payouts but it's still not reaching those people that are in this impoverished situation."

Mr Rudd was the keynote speaker at a breakfast held in Adelaide to mark the fifth anniversary.

The former prime minister said the latest Closing the Gap focus needed to be achieving university placements.

He said too few Indigenous students reached higher education and urged work to achieve a target of 10,000 extra Indigenous students going to the nation's universities.

"We must as a nation see the same number of Indigenous kids at our universities, proportional to their size and population in Australia ... and at present they are not," he said.

Mr Rudd said Indigenous participation in tertiary education should not be seen as "something exotic" but as mainstream.


Some feelgood tokenism

The House of Representatives has passed legislation recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first inhabitants of Australia.

The bill is considered an interim step on the path towards an eventual referendum for constitutional change.

Its passage through the Lower House this morning came on the five-year anniversary of former prime minister Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has described the legislation as a "sign of good faith" that Parliament is committed to righting the wrongs of previous actions.

"No gesture speaks more deeply to the healing of our nation's fabric than amending our nation's founding charter," she told Parliament.

"This bill seeks to foster momentum for a referendum for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples."

The legislation passed with unanimous support.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says constitutional recognition for Indigenous people is long overdue.

"We need to atone for the omissions and for the hardness of heart of our forebears, to enable us all to embrace the future as a united people," he told Parliament.

Mr Abbott has paid tribute to those who have worked to achieve reconciliation over a long period of time, including former prime ministers Gough Whitlam, Harold Holt, John Howard and Kevin Rudd.

He has also recognised the efforts of Ms Gillard.

"So often in this place, we are antagonists. Today on this matter, we are partners and collaborators," he said.

The preamble to the legislation notes that further consultation is necessary to refine plans for a referendum and to grow community support for the change.

"The Parliament is committed to building the national consensus needed for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our Constitution," the preamble states.

"The Parliament believes this Act is a significant step in the process towards achieving constitutional change."


Shale mining coming to Australia

A BAN on shale oil mining in Queensland will be lifted, creating potentially thousands of jobs and providing the cash-strapped State Government with a new revenue stream.

Natural Resources Minister Andrew Cripps will today announce plans to lift the ban, placing the Newman Government on a collision course with environmentalists.

The decision will mean the Government can count on new royalty revenue from shale oil, liquefied natural gas and uranium in the future.

The shale oil industry has been in limbo since 2008 after a 20-year moratorium was placed over a major deposit in north Queensland and the industry told it must prove its technology before the Government would give the green light to proceed.

Shale oil is a sedimentary rock that can be mined, crushed, heated and processed or heated in place to produce petroleum and other fuels.

The Newman Government's decision will allow one operator, Queensland Energy Resources, to progress its trial plant at Gladstone and seek approval for a full commercial operation.

Other potential operators are likely to kickstart the approvals process for their own operations in coming years, with 90 per cent of Australia's known oil shale reserves in Queensland.

However, the Government will maintain until 2028 the moratorium on the controversial deposit near Proserpine in north Queensland, which critics claim is too close to the coastline and sensitive wetlands.

Mr Cripps said the industry could provide huge economic benefits to Queensland, with the current resource considered capable of producing 22 billion barrels of oil.

"As the world supply of conventional crude oil diminishes, there are strong prospects for oil shale to become the next major source of liquid fuel supplies in Australia, and Queensland is well placed to lead that charge," he said.

Under the new shale oil policy, the Newman Government promised project proponents would have to demonstrate how they would meet high environmental standards.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell stressed approvals would be made on a "case-by-case" basis.

QER chief executive Pearce Bowman said the Government's decision recognised the potential importance of oil shale to Australia's transport fuel future, and QER's achievements in constructing and operating a clean and quiet technology demonstration plant


Big Federal bungle of "Super Clinics"

IN LIMBO: The GP Super Clinic at Redcliffe. If you are sick, don't wait for the Federal government to fix you up

REDCLIFFE'S five-storey GP super clinic is nothing more than a shell six years after it was pledged as one of four clinics for Queensland during the 2007 election.

Six super clinics, including those also pledged for Mount Isa, Townsville and Gladstone, still have not opened while four clinics promised in 2010 do not even have a funding agreement.

Delays in the program, which was supposed to bring 64 bulk-billing and late-opening GP clinics to communities around Australia, are exposed in a departmental spreadsheet outlining progress on the $650 million project ahead of today's Senate estimates hearings.

A spokesman for Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said 49 GP super clinics were operational, under construction or providing early services.

Explaining the delays, he said the Government had needed to find the land for the majority of super clinics.

"This differs to other government construction projects where the land is already identified and usually zoned for the intended use," he said.

"All GP super clinics provide bulk billing for relevant Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) services. All GP super clinics also have arrangements in place to ensure patients have access to after hours services."

Three of the clinics promised in 2007 and not yet open were expected to be operational by mid-2013, he said.

They included Gladstone, Townsville and Redcliffe. Wallan and Waneroo were expected to open by late 2014. Construction of the Mount Isa clinic has not started.

Federal Member for Petrie Yvette D'Ath blamed a lack of support from the State Government for the Redcliffe delay.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said it wasn't a state project.

"It is definitely a federal responsibility to get the GPs in there," she said.

The problems could come back to bite Labor at this year's election.

Labor needs to win seats in Queensland if it is to hold on to power. Some super clinics are in marginal or nearly marginal electorates. Mount Isa is in the seat of key Independent Bob Katter.

A consultant report commissioned by the Department of Health on the first seven GP clinics to open found only one GP super clinic was bulk billing all patients and it had to schedule appointments for just 10 minutes to achieve the volume required to make ends meet.

Some clinics had trouble attracting staff and patients because rival local doctors had run campaigns against them.

Opposition primary healthcare spokesman Dr Andrew Southcott said: "The Coalition believes that it would have been better to harness existing general practices and encourage them to expand."

Redcliffe Hospital patient Daniel Mulligan and his wife, Jeanette, said yesterday it was outrageous necessary health services weren't being provided after $13 million was spent.

"It's absolutely disgusting," said Mrs Mulligan, of Caboolture. "It's a dreadful waste of money."


12 February, 2013

Teachers at Islamic College of South Australia's West Croydon campus ordered to wear hijab or face sack

SOUTH Australia's biggest Islamic school has warned teachers, including many non-Muslims, that they will lose their jobs if they do not wear a hijab to school functions and outings.

Up to 20 non-Muslim female teachers, who do not wish to be named, have been told they will be sacked from the Islamic College of South Australia's West Croydon campus after three warnings if they do not wear a headscarf to cover their hair.

The order, from the school's governing board and chairman Faruk Kahn, contradicts the policy of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

Mr Kahn yesterday referred The Advertiser to AFIC for comment on the matter. "I have no comment ... I think you better go to AFIC, they are the only ones that are to make comment," Mr Kahn said.

School principal Kadir Emniyet did not return calls.

AFIC assistant secretary Keysar Trad said the policy was at odds with the national federation, but it was powerless to intervene.

"I'm aware there's a policy at that school with respect to the scarf," Mr Trad said.

"The AFIC policy is not to require any teacher to observe the hijab. In SA, the board itself has decided they want to operate in their way and we are not allowed to interfere in the matter.

"We maintain that staff should dress modestly but not be required by the nature of policy to wear the hijab."

Mr Trad said that matters of unfair dismissal resulting from teachers disobeying the school's hijab policy should be referred to Fair Work Australia.

"It's confusing for our children to see their teachers wearing the scarf in school and then they take it off when they are out shopping and the children see them there," he said.

"It is also a respect thing for our staff. If they are not Muslim they should not be forced to dress as Muslim."

One long-term teacher at the Islamic College of SA said a new school board was now "forcing teachers to put hijabs back on".

"There's no discussion ... you wear it or you're fired," the teacher said. "The teachers have always adhered to the policies and we are respectful of that.

"We are respectful of their religion but they are not going to respect us."

The college has about 800 students and 40 staff.

Guidelines from the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils to other Islamic schools do not require teachers to wear hijabs.

Glen Seidel, state secretary of the Independent Education Union, said the union was monitoring the policy.

"Essentially it means female staff have to wear a scarf covering most of their hair, and not have legs and arms exposed," he said.

"In 2012, the requirement was being managed moderately, but with a new principal in 2013 enacting the decisions of a very conservative school board, there is no room for compromise."

Mr Seidel said the union's view is staff should be free to decide whether to wear a scarf.

"The ultimate test would be in an unfair dismissal action to see if that requirement would be considered a `reasonable direction' and the termination therefore being reasonable.

"This is not a matter (in which) religious organisations are exempted from equal opportunity legislation in order to not cause offence to the `adherents of the faith'," Mr Seidel said.

"Non-Islamic staff are not being discriminated (against) in their employment as it is the same code for all.

"Non-Islamic staff can, however, feel rightly aggrieved that they are being coerced to adopt the dress code of a religion to which they do not belong."


University of Queensland study explores link between conservatism and happiness

DON'T be surprised next time you see former Prime Minister John Howard smiling - locally-conducted research has found those on the right of the political spectrum are happier than those on the left.

A study conducted by a team from UQ Psychology, at the University of Queensland, surveyed 816 undergraduate students to explore the link between conservatism and happiness.

Professor Jolanda Jetten said the findings indicated that conservatives were happier than liberals because of their strong ties to a large network of social groups and a greater access to "social capital."

"In 2008, New York University psychologists Jaime Napier and John Jost were the first to attempt to explain this difference in happiness, arguing that the happiness gap is caused by the difference in ideology between conservatives and liberals," Professor Jetten said.

"It appears (from our research) that what makes conservatives happy is not conservative ideology but rather their social and material advantage - the same advantage that makes conservative ideology appealing in the first place."

Fellow researcher Dr Fiona Kate Barlow said it was found that those with a higher social economic status have access to more group memberships and this created greater life satisfaction.

The study was conducted with support from a UQ Mid-Career Research Fellowship and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR).


Multiculturalists bury heads in sand

In a speech in January to the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies in London, Scott Morrison, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, signalled that if the Coalition wins this year’s election, an Abbott Government will make social integration and the promotion of Australian values its priority.

Morrison also indicated that an Abbott Government would move away from the emphasis that the official multicultural policy currently places on the promotion of cultural diversity. Morrison justified the Coalition’s approach by pointing to growing community concerns about multiculturalism. A 2012 Scanlon Foundation report found that people residing near areas with high-concentrations of residents who are culturally disconnected from mainstream Australian society were more likely to be lukewarm, at best and understandably, about cultural diversity.

Cultural dis-integration is a real issue in South West Sydney. The predominantly Lebanese-Muslim community that lives in and around the suburbs of Bankstown and Lakemba experience a range of social problems, including low educational attainment, welfare dependence, and crime. Religious extremism is also a problem, as was alarmingly demonstrated by the Islamist riot in the Sydney CBD in September 2012.

Morrison’s speech prompted this reply by Geoff Gallop, former Western Australian Premier, now Sydney University academic, which downplayed the significant challenge the Islamist riot posed to the idea of a peaceful and tolerant multicultural society.

Gallop maintained that if social harmony was under threat due to ‘putting differences ahead of unity,’ we should not focus on those groups who practice a self-imposed form of divinely-inspired, anti-Western and anti-women cultural apartheid, but should instead remember the ‘Australian-born and bred nationalists’ who rioted at Cronulla in December 2005.

Gallop ran a familiar multiculturalist line. Multiculturalists have always attributed community reluctance to embrace multiculturalism to racist attitudes among ‘non-ethnic’ Australians. Politicians who pander to so-called ‘populist’ concerns about multiculturalism have always been accused of seeking to return ‘open’ and modern Australia to the ‘closed’ attitudes of earlier times.

The reality, however, is that defenders of multiculturalism who are willing to discuss the disgraceful Cronulla riot, but who prefer to overlook the appalling Islamist riot, are ignoring the real issues of social cohesion that multiculturalism raises for liberal-democratic societies.

By refusing to discuss the significance of the violent protests orchestrated by local Islamists, they are not only burying their heads in the sand about multiculturalism, they are also endangering community support for Australia’s long-running and overwhelmingly-successful non-discriminatory immigration program.

For a mass immigration program to be politically feasible, it must have broad-based community support. Legitimate concerns about immigration leading to ethnic or religious-based social division need to be addressed — not dismissed as racist.

Politicians who seek to reassure the community that government policy is to integrate migrants irrespective of colour and creed into Australian society are hardly seeking to revive the bad old days of the White Australia policy. They are in fact establishing the policy framework that will help build popular support for Australia’s large and ongoing annual intake of migrants from around the world


The Karate Line?

How are welfare payments supposed to help people? The commonsense answer is that they help people pay for the basics of life, including food, shelter and transport, to name a few. But the recent debate over changes to the Parenting Payment suggests that welfare payments are intended to provide much more.

The changes, which came into effect from 1 January this year, have pushed tens of thousands of single parents of school aged children off Parenting Payment (which pays up to $663.70 a fortnight) and onto the less generous Newstart Allowance (up to $533 per fortnight). These payments do not include the hundreds of dollars that single parents also receive through family tax benefits or the schoolkids bonus.

The policy will generate savings to taxpayers of more than $700 million over four years and provide an additional incentive for single parents to work more. For some, it appears to be working. This article in The Age reports the situation of one parent choosing to work 20 hours a week more so she can pay for her kid’s karate lessons.

Other parents are choosing to cut expenditure. One affected parent complains the changes forced her to pull her son out of ‘footy, guitar lessons, swimming lessons and scouts this year.’ Claims along these lines have made ample fodder for human interest stories and the adequacy of welfare payments more generally.

The debate goes to the heart of the role of welfare payments. Are they to help some people maintain a lifestyle they have come to enjoy, or are they to help prevent people from going hungry and without shelter?

I think it is the latter, but it seems that for some, welfare payments are no longer about keeping people above the poverty line by providing basic support, but about keeping them above a ‘karate line’ — a line at which they can afford to do the things that they want to do while still receiving welfare payments — like sending a child to karate.


11 February, 2013

Hero soldier, Ben Roberts-Smith, to retire

I am sure that all patriotic Australians wish him well at this time. Photo of him with the Queen is an amusing contrast. Story here.

Judge Stephen McEwen terms child service officials controls freaks

THE protection of troubled children has been hijacked by obstructive control freaks who rely on psychological advice instead of obvious solutions, a judge says.

Senior Youth Court judge Stephen McEwen has levelled scathing criticism against the Department for Education and Child Development - formerly known as Families SA.

In a transcript obtained by the Sunday Mail, he said the department was paralysed by its reliance on a team of highly paid psychologists. He said dedicated, caring social workers had been handcuffed and vulnerable children left at risk of further harm.

"If this sounds a little bit like a dummy spit, that's because it is," he said. "I'm just sick and tired of that entire department being obstructive control freaks, constantly throwing up pseudo-reasons dressed up in social work speak for refusing to just have a look at the blindingly obvious.

"They hire people who are social workers who are trained and probably want to do social work, but they don't let them because no one will do anything without running it past a bunch of psychologists ... I think it is just utterly pathetic."

Judge McEwen was hearing the case of a boy, 14, charged with trespassing and theft offences.

At a hearing last year, he was told the boy repeatedly ran away from juvenile detention to live with his brother, 15, who was being housed at a different youth facility. He ordered the department to house the boys in the same facility as soon as possible to lessen their chances of reoffending.

This week Judge McEwen was told that had not occurred. Instead, the department's experts were "assessing the possibility" of supervised contact.

"A bunch of probably highly paid experts sat around at a meeting ... seven people all with titles like `senior this' ... and came up with that facile, pathetic nonsense," he said.

"What's happening in that department? I mean, do they have any stationery or do they have to send that to psychological services to decide whether to order any pens and papers? If they had a conference they wouldn't be able to provide coffee or biscuits because psychological services would be deciding what to provide."

Judge McEwen said the situation was shameful.

"Every one of those people who was at that meeting ought to go have a long, hard look at themselves in the mirror," he said. "We can't guarantee that (the boys) living together would work out and magically stop them offending ... but why not have a decent crack at putting them at the same place?"

It is not the first time Judge McEwen has criticised child protection services.

In October 2010, he ordered Families SA to counsel an 11-year-old offender and his parents. The department refused to do so, claiming Judge McEwen had exceeded his jurisdiction. "I don't want to pull rank here, but I will if I have to. Unilateral variation of court orders is, quite frankly, not on," he said.

One month later, the department asked Judge McEwen to cancel that same boy's bail because he had disobeyed it and skipped school.

"You've got a lad here who the department want me to jail - the very same department who did not do what I required of them," he replied. "I won't put him in custody unless someone from the department shares a cell with him."



Three recent reports below

Leftist leader against carbon tax

WESTERN Australia's Labor leader Mark McGowan has distanced himself from Prime Minister Julia Gillard by saying he opposes the carbon tax ahead of next month's state election.

But Mr McGowan says he does support an emissions trading scheme.

A Newspoll commissioned by The Australian newspaper shows voters find Mr McGowan likable and caring but most think Premier Colin Barnett is a better economic manager.

The poll, published on Monday, shows 54 per cent of voters believe Mr Barnett is more capable of handling the state's economy, compared to 33 per cent support for Mr McGowan.

But the leaders are tied at 81 per cent when it comes to having a vision for the state.

Responding to the poll, Mr McGowan said he opposed a carbon tax but was in favour of an emissions trading scheme, and he would support the mining tax only if WA got back the exact share it put in.

"We see Western Australia as being more than just mining, whilst acknowledging the importance of mining," he told News Ltd.

Newspoll has pointed to a landslide election win for the WA Liberals on March 9, putting it ahead of Labor 57 to 43 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

Australian Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt says Mr McGowan's comments show why Labor cannot be trusted on the environment.

He worries Labor could be "opening the door" for its MPs to vote against existing climate change law if it loses the September 14 federal election.

"Is this the first signal that WA federal MPs might not vote to keep this package," Mr Bandt asked reporters in Canberra.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese defended Mr McGowan's stance.

"I notice that he also said that he supported an emissions trading scheme," he told Sky News.

"Of course what we have is a fixed price on carbon evolving into an emissions trading scheme."

Mr Albanese talked up support in WA for Labor, citing big federally-funded infrastructure projects such as the Great Eastern Highway, Perth CityLink project and Gateway project.

Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella said Mr McGowan knew Australians were hurting from increased costs of living because of the carbon tax.


Climate boffins dine out on $1740 taxpayer dollars

A DOZEN Climate Change authority executives dining out at a posh Italian restaurant to get to know each other better left tax-payers with an almost $2000 bill.

The dinner was held so the executives of the outfit created in July to review and make recommendations about the carbon tax and other federal government green schemes could meet in "an informal setting" to better their "collective decision making" capacity.

Executives dined at swish Melbourne eatery The Italian Restaurant and Bar on a $135-a-head menu of New Zealand king salmon, calamari, caprese salad, southern supreme beef, gnocchi with oyster mushroom and vanilla panna cotta with dark chocolate.

The dinner, which the authority planned to spend $1620 on but receipts show a cost of $1740, on November 20 last year was the night before a major board meeting.

"It is bad enough that Labor established a raft of new bureaucracies to manage its carbon tax but now it seems that those bureaucracies are literally dining out on the taxpayer," Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham.

"Many Australians will rightly wonder why the carbon tax they're paying through their higher electricity prices is being used to pay for expensive dinners.

He said the Coalition would scrap the agency if it won the September election.

A spokeswoman for the authority said the meeting was to allow authority members to meet informally.

"We are a newly established agency, we have got nine authority members from diverse backgrounds and locations to date they have had one opportunity to meet informally," she said.

"We wanted to provide them with an opportunity for an informal gathering with both the board members and senior executives to get to know each other a bit better.

"They need to be able to be a collective decision making body so it is important they know each other.
"It was the night before one of our critical board meetings."

Authority members at the dinner included Bernie Fraser, Lynne Williams, John Marlay, Professor David Karoly, Heather Ridout, Elana Rubin, Professor John Quiggan and CEO Anthea Harris, the spokeswoman said.

In its first five months the authority has spent a total of almost $4000 on catering with one bill for a stakeholder meeting with authority staff at Sydney's Sofitel Hotel expected to cost $645.

Catering for meetings at Climate Change Authority offices has varied between $21.80 during staff interviews and $442.80 for a staff planning day in October, an answer to budget estimates has revealed.


CSIRO not scientific when it comes to climate: Report

Below is a summary of a much larger and very thorough document to be found here

Respected unpaid climate analyst, Malcolm Roberts, of Brisbane, Australia compiled the 'CSIROh! Report' on the invitation of ABC Radio’s Steve Austin. Across 29 pages Roberts details a litany of evidence proving that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national science agency, corruptly and unlawfully misrepresented science, climate and Nature.

Austin asked of Roberts, "Please read through the Australian scientific paper and identify where you believe the CSIRO data has been falsified or is wrong.” To complete his task Roberts engaged in detailed correspondence with CSIRO’s Chief Executive Dr. Megan Clark and CSIRO’s Group Executive-Environment Dr. Andrew Johnson; extensive analysis and research of CSIRO reports and discussions with former CSIRO scientists including former chief research scientist Professor Garth Paltridge.

With evidence presented by the above authorities Roberts put Aussie government’s climate science under the microscope to expose how bias and propaganda misled the public to support the government’s tax on carbon dioxide (CO2). Even-handedly Roberts concedes, "CSIRO has many fine people and a proud heritage. In areas outside climate it appears to have capability and credibility. That is threatened by CSIRO’s politicization.” But, critically, his findings reveal that CSIRO had no empirical scientific evidence whatsoever that human CO2 caused warming (see Appendix 2). Instead, the reports shows a dearth of actual evidence but the policies so far enacted are implicated in causing the needless deaths of more than 40 million people, mainly in Third World regions.

Four Failures to Find Fault

The key litmus test applied by the study was the requirement that CSIRO’s science should provide "yes” answers to these four key questions:

1. Is global ATMOSPHERIC temperature warming unusually in either amount or rate

and is it continuing to rise?

2. Does the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in air control or determine Earth’s temperature?

3. Does human CO2 production determine the level of CO2 in air?

4. Is warming catastrophic or even damaging?

Roberts, who also provides research for the Galileo Movement, demonstrates that CSIRO failed to show any actual "causal relationships” to validate even one "yes” answer. On the contrary, Roberts identified evidence that shows CSIRO scientists used taxpayer funds rather to advocate for global governance at United Nations (UN) conferences than evince empirical data to support their position. Roberts says, "This is consistent with CSIRO’s actions supporting implementation of UN Agenda 21, the UN’s campaign pushing global governance. It bypassed Australia’s parliament and people and threatens Australia’s sovereignty and our personal freedoms.”

What the study shows in answer to those four key questions is a very different reality as follows:

1. Global atmospheric temperatures peaked in 1998. Temperatures have since been flat

with every year since colder than in 1998. Since the start of atmospheric temperature

measurement in 1958 temperatures cooled slightly from 1958 to 1976. A sudden small

2. Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in air are a consequence of temperature, not a cause.

This is the reverse of UN IPCC, CSIRO and government claims. It applies throughout

Earth’s history and over every duration. It’s true seasonally and long-term;

3. Nature alone determines levels of CO2 in air. This is the reverse of UN IPCC, CSIRO

and government claims. It means that cutting or increasing human CO2 production

cannot affect CO2 levels in air. It’s useless to cut human CO2 production;

4. Warmer periods in Earth’s history are highly beneficial to people, humanity, civilization and the natural environment. This is the opposite of UN IPCC, CSIRO and government claims. Warmer periods are scientifically classified as optimums.

As a result, this damning analysis, says Roberts, shows that CSIRO scientists are deeply enmeshed in producing corrupt UN IPCC reports. The evidence shows the IPCC colluded with CSIRO to enlist contributing scientists of various rank and to have papers referenced and presumably act as reviewers. Without applying any safeguards, CSIRO endorsed UN IPCC reports despite those reports being demonstrably corrupt and pushing a political agenda. UN IPCC contributors and officials are shown to have bypassed and at times prevented scientific peer-review. "As a method of quality assurance, the process of peer-review is now worthless” says the Roberts report.

Evidence reveals that all four UN IPCC reports to national governments and media—1990, 1995, 2001 and 2007—contradict empirical scientific evidence and provide no logical scientific reasoning for their core claim that human CO2 caused, causes or will cause global warming. "The corruption is pervasive, systemic and driven by a political agenda to achieve a political outcome,” says Roberts. Empirical scientific evidence and discussion in Appendix 4 reveals corruption of ground-based temperature data and of CO2 data used by the UN IPCC and CSIRO.The propaganda relied upon by alarmists is ostensibly that collated by former U.S. Vice President, Al Gore, shows Appendix 3.

Major international banking firm Merrill Lynch is implicated in the climate shenanigans. (Appendix 6). They and other international banks are shown to profit enormously from trading in CO2 credits. This relationship raises perceptions and questions about the opportunity for conflicts of interest.

Evidence Proves Natural Forces, not Humans Drive our Climate

This telling Australian report lays out in black and white that our atmosphere is not warming, much less unusually. "Fluctuations since 1958 reveal modest natural cyclic temperature variation.” While ground-based rural measurements reveal the same since 1890. In Appendix 4 it is shown that the strongest natural factors proven by empirical scientific evidence to control global climate. They are El Nino, La Nina and other regional ocean-atmosphere decadal cycles. Scientists have identified many factors driving climate. These include galactic, solar system, solar, planetary and lunar cycles ranging from 150 million years to 11 years. Strong drivers include:

* Solar: (1) variations in sun’s solar output; (2) Output of solar particles; (3) Sun’s magnetic field polarity and strength;

* Water vapour: (1) atmospheric water content; (2) Cloud cover;

* Cyclic regional decadal circulation patterns such as North American Oscillation and the southern Pacific ocean’s El Nino together with their variation over time;

* Ocean: (1) temperature; (2) salinity; (3) currents; (4) sea surface temperatures;

* Volcanic activity.

The above natural drivers are either omitted from, or downplayed in erroneous unvalidated computerized numerical models used by the UN. CSIRO has thereby used deception dressed up as science to cede sovereignty over Australian science to an unscientific and corrupt foreign political organisation pushing a global political agenda. "CSIRO is thus abetting systemic and pervasive documented corruption of science,” says Roberts.

Tellingly, the prestigious Inter Academy Council’s (IAC) August 2010 review of the UN IPCC showed that there were "crippling deficiencies” in UN IPCC processes and procedures that should have sounded alarm bells that CSIRO is supporting implementation of UN Agenda 21, the greatest threat to Australian sovereignty.

Roberts invites readers to examine the evidence on offer in this new study and to verify for themselves that CSIRO has misled the media. He points to three key falsehoods that any objective examination of the available scientific proves. They are:

1. Human CO2 controls and determines global temperature and climate. False;

2. There is an overwhelming consensus of scientists supporting that claim. False;

3. Catastrophic consequences will result at some unspecified future date from human disruption of global climate: sea level rise, extreme weather, floods, drought, snowfall, fires, ocean pH (alkalinity), disease, species extinction, ... All false.

"Through the National Press Club and media, CSIRO misled the people and parliament of Australia. CSIRO has been actively engaged in UN IPCC corruption of climate and science, " concludes the Brisbane climate analyst. How Steve Austin, the listeners of ABC radio and other Australian citizens react to these damning findings remains to be seen.


10 February, 2013

Huge wine ripoff in Melbourne restaurants

And it's not only in Melbourne. I rarely step inside a licensed restaurant and when I do I order Fourex Gold, Australia's most popular beer. Any shenanigans with that would be immediately obvious. The "smarties" below just lose themselves business. They clearly don't want repeat customers

MELBOURNE restaurants are charging diners three, four and even more than five times the retail price for bottles of wine. Many sell little-known wines from small vineyards and exotic overseas wines to prevent price comparisons and to camouflage gouging.

Several highly regarded restaurants such as Ezard, Vue de Monde, Jacques Reymond - where the cheapest glass of wine is $16 - and Stokehouse don't post their bottle prices online. Some reveal prices by the glass, and Donovans has a list but no prices.

At Ezard, a glass of By Farr "Farrside" 2010 pinot noir costs $30, yet a whole bottle (about seven glasses) of the 2009 vintage sells for $68.

At Rockpool, a Pewsey Vale riesling costs $45. The wine retails for $13.85 at Dan Murphy's.

At Southbank's Scusami restaurant, a Matua sauvignon blanc costs $55 - 5.3 times Dan Murphy's price of $10.40. A current-vintage Seppelt Chalambar shiraz is listed at $62.50 - 3.6 times the Murphy's price of $17.45.

Jacques Reymond says he does not post the wine list of his three-hat restaurant online because of its size. It contains about 600 bottles and his cellar has an average value of about $120,000. Cellaring the wines off-restaurant at a constant temperature and humidity is "very, very expensive", costing about $10,000 a year.

Mr Reymond marks up wines at between two and 2.5 times their cost prices. "If it's very expensive, we mark up much lower than with a current vintage costing much less."

Wine sales account for about a third of the restaurant's takings and half its gross profits.

To those who complain that wine in licensed restaurants is too expensive, Mr Reymond says: "Run your own restaurant and you will see what price you pay on your wines."

He says Australian wines are often "very expensive" compared with exotic counterparts.

Hell of the North, a Fitzroy restaurant serving reasonably priced, excellent food, lists a "house" white and red for $35. But owner-sommelier Mark Grixti brings them over from Margaret River as cleanskins and sticks on his own labels, naming the wine Roubaix. His usual mark-up is 2.5 times, but for bottles he buys for $50 and more he merely doubles the price. "It's how it has to be for us to get by," he says.

At The Point, Albert Park Lake, a bottle of Best's Great Western 2011 riesling costs $50. Its price at Dan Murphy's is $22.79.

Spokesman Rabih Yanni says The Point's cellar is worth a million dollars. It costs in lost income tens of thousands a year, and every Riedel decanter - the restaurant has eight - is priced at $400. And they get broken.

He says he is a "punter" who looks for value for money when he eats out. In a restaurant, he prefers to buy a $100 bottle of wine that has been well-cellared and is well served than an $8 bottle costing $35.

Profits from wine sales are "nowhere near as good as they once were", he says. A few years ago, The Point could make a gross profit of about 65 per cent from wine sales. These days, it is closer to 58 per cent.

Some restaurants decline to gouge. At EightyOne at Berwick, wines by the glass begin at $8, and by the bottle a dozen whites are listed between $30 and $40. A 2008 Cannibal Creek pinot noir from Gippsland costs $38.

Licensed restaurants generally dissuade customers who want to bring their own.

The president of Restaurant & Catering Victoria, Matteo Pignatelli, says diners don't factor in labour costs.

Industry practice is to double or multiply the cost price by 2.5 times. In the "old days", he says, mark-ups of four to five times were common, and today's wine-list prices are justified, depending on the wine and the venue.


Poor returns could force rethink of mining tax

THE government's controversial mining profits tax raised only $126 million in its first six months of operation, the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, finally revealed on Friday as Parliament prepared to force him to publish the figures.

Mr Swan did not rule out changes to the tax, which will now certainly not raise $2 billion over the financial year, as the government predicted in the mid-year economic forecasts in November - an estimate that was already less than the $3 billion forecast in the budget.

Mr Swan said the shortfall was due to lower commodity prices hitting the profits-based tax, but Treasury and the Tax Office would review all the reasons for the lower revenue.

The government also said it would not introduce another flood levy to help pay for the clean-up after the summer's natural disasters - the funds would be found from general revenue.

The Greens called on the government to back their legislation to plug the "loophole" in the mining tax that was caused by its promise to reimburse miners for state government increases in mining royalties. The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates the federal tax could raise $26 billion over four years if the loophole is closed and the rate is raised to 40 per cent.

The Coalition has pledged to abolish the mining tax and many of the spending promises linked to it, including $1 billion in tax concessions for low income earners this year.

Labor has been under pressure to reveal how much money the tax was raising. The Senate issued demands to the government and the Tax Commissioner, Chris Jordan, to reveal the figure and the shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, threatened to change the law to force the disclosure.

The tax applies only to coal and iron ore because it was watered down from Kevin Rudd's version when Julia Gillard became prime minister. The government had argued the tax was being paid by so few companies that revealing the total revenue would reveal what individual companies pay.

On Thursday, the Finance Minister, Penny Wong, tabled a statement in the Senate saying the Tax Office had advised that disclosure of details of collections for the first quarter of 2012-13 would breach taxation privacy restrictions.

Announcing the revenue figures for the first two quarters, Mr Swan released a minute from Mr Jordan saying he had "on balance" formed the view that disclosure would not reveal an individual company's tax details, in particular because the revenue raised in the second quarter of the 2012-13 financial year was "substantially larger" than the first.

"Revenues from resource rent taxes have taken a massive hit from the impact of continued global instability, commodity price volatility and a high dollar," Mr Swan said.

Mr Hockey said that coming after his abandonment of the budget surplus this year, the tax shortfall proved Mr Swan was "the most incompetent treasurer in Australian history" and called on him to resign. He said the government had locked in spending based on revenue that was not available and had "made promises it cannot pay for".


Julie Bishop says women can't have it all

IT'S the question women tie themselves in knots over, but Julie Bishop has a simple answer: "No, you can't have it all."

The deputy opposition leader, who has no children, said she understands the dilemma facing young career women and revealed the difficult choices she has made during a high-flying career in law and politics.

As Attorney-General Nicola Roxon announced she was resigning to spend more time with her daughter, Ms Bishop said she agrees with a US academic who argues it's impossible for women to have top careers and be mothers unless they are rich, self-employed or super human.

"I'm in the Anne-Marie Slaughter school - women can't have it all," Ms Bishop said. "They can have plenty of choices, but at the end of the day, they choose something which means they can't have something else."

Ms Bishop, 56, married Perth property developer Neil Gillon in 1986, but they

split after five years. She had always expected to have children, but said the circumstances didn't arise.

"I've never been though a grieving process and now I wouldn't, because what's the point?" she says. "I'm in my mid-50s. I'm not having kids, there's no point lamenting what was or what could have been.

"I was 40 when I went into politics and the window closes pretty quickly at 40. So politics is pretty much my life.

"I feel incredibly lucky that I've had the kind of career that is so consuming that I don't feel I have a void in my life."

Ms Bishop said one friend missed her freedom after having a baby at 37.

"At 37, that's when I decided to go off to Harvard and did all these things, and it was very much about what I wanted to achieve in my life," she said. "It can be challenging either way."

In her most frank interview yet, Ms Bishop also discussed her relationship with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, defended CSR over its handling of asbestos victims and revealed she planned a shake-up for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


Incredible lack of justice for one victim of crime in Vivtoria

Nobody could be bothered: Nick Clarke was bashed by 4 thugs in 2009 when he was 22yrs old. He got over the violence but the next three and a half yrs dealing with police, hospital, lawyers and getting compensation was a nightmare.

IN February 2009, I got gang-bashed. I'm writing this because the system of victim compensation is profoundly inadequate and needs addressing, but for the purpose of context, here's what happened.

It was a muggy summer's night, I was 22 and had been out with friends at a renowned Melbourne nightclub. Not long after midnight, I elected to walk the two blocks to my CBD apartment alone.

As I neared the end of the first block through an unusually quiet Chinatown, I stopped sharply and my heart skipped a beat, as a beer bottle shattered just in front of my feet. Sensing that it had come from the other end of the street, I addressed four young men who had been walking about 10 metres in front of me.

"Where did that come from?" I said as I craned my neck to the left and motioned to the far end of the street, assuming that they, too, had been surprised by the sudden appearance of the projectile.

All four men turned on their heels, and a ginger-haired man with a rat's-tail haircut and a cocky swagger led the group in my direction. With him were a heavier-set man of Pacific Islander appearance and two Caucasian men of medium build who both gave off the air of unthinking followers.

With his chin stuck up in the air and his chest expanded like a puffer fish, the leader snarled, "What the f--- did you say, c---?"

"Huh? I thought somebody had thrown a bottle at us? What … What do you mean?"

He grabbed me by my collar and shoved me back and forth at arm's length. I raised my arms in protest and implored the three henchmen to pull their friend off me. The bovines glared back.

"You faggot c---," the ringleader continued. Rational argument would not defuse the situation, and there was nobody within earshot to whom I could call out for help.

From behind the group of men, a white delivery van pulled into a side street no more than 30 metres away. I saw a middle-aged Asian man at the wheel. I knew that if I could attract his attention he might step in, or at the very least serve as a witness if it came to that.

Now I too straightened my arms, and set about physically manoeuvring the scuffle 180 degrees, so I could reverse towards the van and have all the men in front of me.

"I don't want to fight," I kept repeating, knowing the words were futile, but hoping they would buy me some more time.

After successfully drawing the scuffle to within a few metres of the van, I sensed no movement from behind. "Come on - beep your horn, call the cops or rev your engine … anything," I remember thinking, exasperated.

It was not to be. The first blow hit just below my right eye, the second caught my left, and my vision glitched like a worn VHS tape.

The male of Islander appearance, who had now become increasingly vocal, then stepped up and struck me with full force in the mouth. I had never been in a fight but it was just like Raging Bull - a surreal, disorienting subversion of reality that unfurls at half-speed, punctuated by flashes of light and primordial surges of adrenalin.

My teeth loosened and my head rocked back, but my life did not flash before my eyes. Instead, I revisited the tragedy that had befallen a school friend, who was assaulted in an eerily similar way several years ago. His head hit the pavement, and he never recovered - his brain was so severely damaged that he has remained in care ever since.

With this harrowing incident at the forefront of my mind, I purposefully hit the deck and covered my head.

Shins and feet soon dug into my back, and while the yelling continued, I could no longer decipher any of the messages.

Then my legs were in the air, hands rummaged about in my pockets, my phone was snatched and the chief assailant screamed frenziedly, "Give me all your f------ money!"

Now I was getting mugged, and I was aware that my late father's ring and necklace were likely to be targets. I reached into my back pocket and flicked open my wallet so they could see the contents. I had just visited the ATM in preparation for a music festival the following day, and hoped that the sight of a couple of $50 notes would prompt them to grab the money and run.

It worked.

My face numb and covered in blood, my clothes all torn and my back kicked in, I hauled myself off the ground and limped over to the van. The man still sat inside, avoiding eye contact. I pounded on the window to get his attention. "Thanks a lot, mate. I've got no money, no phone, my face looks like a car crash and you just sat there."

"I'm just reversing my van," he mumbled back sheepishly.

Before long I was in the back of an ambulance, off to emergency.

I reconciled myself to the violence of the incident pretty quickly. No reasonable person condones street violence, but any reasonable person appreciates that in every civilisation, in every continent, since the beginning of time, there have been angry, unevolved degenerates who want to beat people up for no particular reason.

That said, I did return to the same nightclub, at the same time on the same night for a few consecutive weeks by myself. I would scan around the rooms, looking for the four faces, quizzing people about their whereabouts on the date in question.

Had I spotted them I'd planned to call the bouncers over, have them contain the men and call the police; but it was much more about feeling some semblance of control in a situation where I really had none.

In terms of psychological damage, though, the wanton violence of this bashing does pale into insignificance when compared with the farcical fight for justice I have been forced to wage, for four years, in its aftermath. The following parties (whose individual identities have been hidden here) have, in every step of the process, been incompetent, verging on negligent.

The hospital: When I was attended at the hospital, a nurse felt around my face, mopped up the blood and handed me an ice pack. No scans. Perhaps she thought I was just another lout, out at night shooting his mouth off? When the swelling went down several weeks later, I sought out a 3D facial imaging scan for my clearly rearranged face, which confirmed I had a heavily fractured cheekbone. Given the time that had passed, it would now need to be rebroken and operated on to deal with its depression into my skull.

The police: Two young women came forward. It was incredible. They had been chatting to my assailants, who had been boasting about assaulting me. They visited their local police station, left their details, and waited to be contacted. Unfortunately, the relevant officers at this station either forgot, or never bothered, to pass this information on to anyone.

The lawyers: I sought financial compensation from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT), a government-run organisation that provides financial compensation and assistance to victims of crimes committed in Victoria.

A string of lawyers advised me to go elsewhere (I wondered: "Do they not like taking these cases on?") until I wound up with a lawyer who explained to me that in Victoria (unlike other states in Australia), there is no lump-sum compensation from the state in VOCAT claims; no recognition that the incident should not have happened. I could expect to receive a reimbursement to cover the stolen money, the damaged clothes, and any relevant medical bills.

She was completely wrong about the lump-sum claim; I was eligible for $10,000, plus reimbursements. She also lost all my medical papers and only ever responded to my inquiries (whereupon she would chastise the slowness of the VOCAT system) after months of my leaving messages with her secretary. I was clearly not a priority.

Two years in, I got a sheepish call from a lawyer at the same firm, saying he would now take care of the case. He started the process virtually from scratch, and tenaciously got my claim approved in its entirety, including a year's worth of self-defence classes and some psychological treatment.

The courts: Late last year a cheque arrived in the mail. I'm a video producer and presenter who works on contract, and at first glance I suspected I had invoiced for a job and was being paid by this dated, unorthodox means. The cheque, I noticed, was attached to a form stating it was from VOCAT, but there was no covering letter or explanation of how the figure they arrived at had been calculated, and no indication of the aforementioned classes and treatment I was now entitled to receive.

The psychologists: The free psychological treatment is supposed to be part of my compensation, but the psychologist I have recently approached is apprehensive about treating me because she does not want to get involved in the bureaucratic nightmare.

"Look, I know how much you've been through, and I hate to do this to you," she said last week, "but I'm also a small business, and every hour I spend on the phone trying to deal with these people is an hour I'm not making money. VOCAT are also asking me to prove my credentials - I've been doing this for 30 years, and now I'm asking for approval from these people? I understand now why so many of my colleagues avoid VOCAT cases like the plague. I think you're going to have to see if you can get anywhere with them and get back to me."

I made the calls to VOCAT and all relevant forms were submitted in November last year. "It usually takes a couple of weeks," VOCAT said. "You always say 'it usually takes a couple of weeks' - it's been 3½ years," I retorted. I have heard nothing since.

Far from feeling like a victim of crime, I have essentially been on trial. I have been consistently forced to prove myself, to hustle and fight for attention, let alone compensation.

I have spent countless hours driving to meetings, photocopying, resubmitting, calling, emailing and, ultimately, reliving this experience every day for four years, while the perpetrators of the crime left it all behind long ago.

Perhaps a dozen times since the incident, I could have elected to forget about receiving any form of compensation - just given up - and I suspect nobody would have contacted me about it, ever again. Nobody.

Last week, as I stood in the middle of a circle of eight males screaming abuse at me at a self-defence class, preparing to simulate a kick to the groin when prompted by the instructor, I was struck by a figurative one-two; the hopelessness of both my current predicament and my subsequent world view.

The hope you maintain as an angst-ridden, excruciatingly self-aware teenager, that adulthood will be a more agreeable undertaking, is quickly extinguished when you become an adult.

You realise that adults (even the ones you grew up wanting to be like - trusted people in positions of power) can behave in sad, imprudent and absurd ways. If I wasn't sure of it before, I certainly know now that the only people you can really trust are your close friends and your family.

As far as the assailants are concerned, the two young women returned to the station to find out why they hadn't been contacted.

Their persistence led to two of the assailants receiving probation, while the other two received a good behaviour bond and a fine respectively. I only learnt this late last year when I called the detective to gather information for the purpose of this article.


8 February, 2013

Tasmanian Greens headed for a rare defeat

FEDERAL Environment Minister Tony Burke is expected to make an announcement today allowing mining to go ahead in the Tarkine.

Mr Burke is scheduled to make an announcement on the heritage listing for the northwest Tasmanian Tarkine region in northern Tasmania today.

Although the state and federal governments were remaining tight-lipped about the listing last night, the Mercury understands Mr Burke will allow mining to go ahead in parts of the region.

Emergency listing for area that has become a political battleground between environmental groups, unions and federal and state political parties was allowed to lapse in 2010.

The State Government has called for mining to be allowed in parts of the region that has been home to mining for more than a century.

However, the region and has become an example of the anger directed at the State Government and its stablemates the Greens.

During a rally in Burnie in November, that attracted nearly 3000 people, Premier Lara Giddings and Resources Minister Bryan Green were heckled for being "in bed with the Greens".

A strong campaign by the Australian Workers Union included a delegation of miners going to Canberra to hand Mr Burke a petition signed by more than 6000 people.

Environmental group the Tarkine National Coalition spokesman Scott Jordan said last night he feared the Tarkine would be opened up for mining based on public statements from Mr Burke in the past.

"We are very concerned," Mr Jordan said. He has vowed to keep campaigning for the protection of the region.

There are about 10 new mines planned for the region over the next five years.


No free speech for army personnel?

The sacred sodomites being worshipped again

The Queensland Senate hopeful kicked out of Bob Katter's party for anti-gay comments now faces punishment from the Defence Force.

Bernard Gaynor, the former national secretary of Katter's Australian Party and a member of the Army Reserve, was suspended from the party last month after he tweeted that he would not allow gay people to teach his children.

A "hot issue brief" shows the defence force is worried about his "inappropriate" comment because media reports on the controversy mentioned his army service.

"The member's chain of command is seeking legal advice in relation to administrative action," the document says. Adverse administrative actions are "designed to admonish and correct unsatisfactory or unacceptable performance". But Mr Gaynor said on Thursday he stood by his position "that a parent should be able to choose who teaches their children".

Mr Gaynor was one of two budding politicians who had to give up their hopes of running for Katter's Australian Party after making comments about gay rights last month.

The other, Tess Corbett, withdrew her nomination for the federal seat of Wannon in Victoria after sparking controversy by claiming paedophiles would "be next in line to be recognised in the same way as gays and lesbians and get rights".


$10m funding boost for the Left's propaganda arm

The ABC has received $10 million in additional funding from the Federal Government to enhance its news output.

ABC News director Kate Torney says the funding will be used to enhance news and current affairs on radio, television and digital services.

Ms Torney says more journalists will be hired around the country and more cameras will be placed in regional Australia.

ABC News will also establish a fact-checking and research unit, and recruit a Freedom of Information editor.

"It's good news for our news and current affairs teams, for the many staff across other divisions who work with us to produce coverage for radio, television and digital platforms, and, most importantly, it is great news for ABC audiences," she said.

"This investment will deliver more quality coverage for Australian audiences and allow ABC News to enhance the service it has proudly provided for 80 years."

The ABC's managing director Mark Scott added: "I am delighted that we will recruit more journalists to deliver more in-depth quality reporting on the stories and issues that matter to all Australians


Smoking banned in children's playgrounds

You can't expect manners or consideration from addicts so you have to lean on them

The Victorian Government is moving to ban smoking in children's playgrounds.

The law will be changed so people will not be able to smoke in playgrounds, at swimming pools, children's sports grounds or skate parks. Offenders face a fine of $140.

Health Minister David Davis says the Government wants to reduce children's exposure to smoke.

"Children ought to be able to be in a playground, be at a skate park, be at a children's sporting event without encountering smoke, or the role model impacts of those who smoke," he said.

The Government will not say when it might ban smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas.


7 February, 2013

Australian politicians still trying to square the circle over Aborigines

They all want blacks to behave like whites -- but that's not "racist" apparently. Blacks, however, just go their own way -- which is their right

It isn't often that Tony Abbott begins a speech with the words "Paul Keating was right", but it happened during a rare outburst of bipartisanship when the nation's parliament reviewed progress toward closing the gap on indigenous disadvantage on Wednesday.

The Opposition Leader employed the words of the former Labor prime minister to define a mission that is embraced by both sides of politics and, increasingly, businesses across the country.

"As long as there is serious indigenous disadvantage in our country, it constitutes a stain on our nation's soul," Mr Abbott quoted Mr Keating as saying. "Until the first Australians can fully participate in the life of our country, we are diminished as a nation and as a people."

Mr Abbott also welcomed Prime Minister Julia Gillard's candour in delivering a mostly positive, but mixed, report card on progress towards meeting six targets that were agreed after former prime minister Kevin Rudd delivered the formal apology to the stolen generations in 2008. "We need this level of candour to achieve genuine progress and genuine closing the gap."

Ms Gillard reported that the pledge to deliver early childhood education for all four-year-olds in remote communities within five years would be achieved this year. Two other targets, the halving of child mortality rates within a decade and halving the gap in year 12 education attainment by 2020 – were on track to be met.

But Ms Gillard reported that, despite some progress, a "massive and unacceptable" gap remained between indigenous and non-indigenous employment and that in some areas of literacy and numeracy, results had gone backwards.

Only three of eight reading and numeracy indicators were tracking as expected and the other five required "considerable work", she reported. Moreover, the central aim of closing the life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians has become more daunting.

The annual report on progress says indigenous male life expectancy – where the estimated gap is at 11.5 years – will probably have to increase by almost 21 years by 2031 and observes "the current rate of progress will have to gather pace if the target is to be met".

Ms Gillard used her speech to attack moves by the Northern Territory and Queensland governments to wind back alcohol reforms, declaring: "I have a real fear that the rivers of grog that wreaked such havoc among indigenous communities are starting to flow once again.

"The government will take action in response to any irresponsible policy changes that threaten to forfeit our hard-won gains."

She cited the dismantling of the banned drinkers' register in the Northern Territory and the possible easing of alcohol restrictions in Queensland. Mr Abbott said he shared the Prime Minister's concern about the banned drinkers' register, saying it should be re-instated.

He also applauded Ms Gillard for her action to secure Labor's first indigenous member of the federal parliament in Nova Peris, saying: "I believe it would help us immeasurably as a parliament and a nation to have more indigenous people in this place to support the work of my friend and colleague, Ken Wyatt."

Both leaders committed themselves to the passage of the proposed referendum recognising indigenous Australians, with Ms Gillard declaring that, without it, the nation's story would remain incomplete "and the soul of our nation will remain unhealed".

Indigenous leaders welcomed the progress, but pressed both sides of politics to commit the resources to fund programs to close the gap. They also pressed for two new targets to be included to reduce incarceration of indigenous people and the level of violence in communities.


Revival of "Pacific solution" beginning to bite

The Australian Left has been forced to revive the illegal immigration policies of the conservative Howard government

THE boats are being readied along Java's west coast to ferry thousands of fresh asylum seekers to Christmas Island.

But some among the potential customers are having second thoughts, prompted by Australia's toughened policies.

They are not waiting for a boat, but for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to pronounce them genuine and find them a refugee visa. In the language of Australia's politicians, they want to join the queue and enter through the front door.

The difference, they say, is "the rule" - people arriving without a visa after August 13, 2012, could be sent to Nauru or Manus Island.

"If the rule was not announced then maybe I'd have arrived two, three months ago, I would have arrived in Australia," Mohamad said. "But because of that rule we are waiting. And not just me … there are a lot of people that are waiting for a visa."

Before the rule was introduced he tried take a boat to Australia but says, "I missed it".

He says Labor's policies have been responsible for a steep drop-off in people making the trip from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Indonesia. Those with good reason to fear for their lives still come, but many don't.

"It's stopped - 50 per cent it's stopped, and people are not coming. They are not coming because of that rule." It worked, Mohamad said, because of the stories of people going crazy when sent to Nauru.

Waiting in Indonesia, though, is tortuous. A UNHCR place is reckoned to take three years - during which time they must often beg money from their families to support them in a country where they cannot work.

They were sent originally to be providers for those families, not a burden.

"The Australian government announced, 'Don't go by boat, every year we [will] send 1000 visas'. But we've seen nothing," says an older man, Muhammad Juma, who has waited for almost two years already, much of it in a shabby detention centre.

Many, though, are still taking the illegal route. Last weekend two boats arrived on Christmas Island, one carrying 132 people. As the monsoon season ends and the sea grows calmer, sources say, people smugglers have 50 or more boats ready to sail.

Ashya Danesh has with him his wife, Golsaman, and two sons, Ammer, 16, and Mahdi, 12. Mr Danesh is tortured by his inability to support his family.

The boys cannot go to school in Indonesia and none of them is allowed to work. "If UNHCR helps us and gives house, money, we stay [in Indonesia]. If not, we go by boat," Mr Danesh says.

Rosia - a rarity in that she's a middle-aged woman travelling alone - is also looking for a people smuggler, but does not know how to find one. "I will go on a boat. It's difficult for me to stay here. We don't have any money. A long time we stayed here … no interview with UNHCR." Asked if she was worried about sinking, she smiles: "I don't worry. It's in God's hands."

No one Fairfax Media spoke to this week were familiar with the Opposition's policies, including the latest statements by its immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, that all boats from Sri Lanka would be intercepted by the navy in international waters and turned around. But they know enough to realise no Australian politician is their friend.

"I don't care about the election or things because when a rule is announced that will be followed by the government," Mohamad said.


Fear of Muslim hate cows Australians and impededs free speech

Two of the films nominated for best picture in the coming Academy Awards, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, contain warnings, with plenty of creative licence but also plenty of historical accuracy, about the challenge to democracy posed by a resurgent strain of uncompromising Islam.

The threat has been deemed real enough in the Netherlands, which now has more than a million Muslims in a nation of 16.7 million people, for a million Dutch voters - one in seven - to vote for the Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, who will be making a lecture tour in Australia later this month.

Four years ago, in an interview with ABC Radio, Wilders was asked why he wanted to curb Muslim immigration to the Netherlands. He said the integration of Muslims was failing:

"If you look at all the statistics, you see that non-Western people, often from … Morocco and Turkey … are over-represented many, many times when it comes to crime, when it comes to prison population, when it comes to illiteracy, when it comes to dependency on social benefits.

"We see also in the second-biggest city of the Netherlands, Rotterdam, that in three years' time the majority will be from non-Western backgrounds. You see in the same city, and most of the south … 55 per cent of the Moroccan youth under the age of 24 have been in contact with the police. You see that there are more mosques being built than churches. You see that once again the Dutch people are tolerant … but they fear for the identity of their own country."

All of this is contested territory. Muslims protest about being lumped in with the fundamentalist fringe. They protest, too, that traditional problems associated with immigration are conflated with Muslims.

What is not contested is that a dangerous Islamic fringe is active in numerous countries. Wilders will be accompanied to Australia by five Dutch police officers. He lives under permanent 24-hour security.

Fear has arrived here before him. On Wednesday, the organiser of the tour, Debbie Robinson, told me yet another venue had cancelled and there had been another act of corporate suppression directed at the tour.

"This morning the venue in Sydney cancelled. There was a meltdown. The events manager at the venue was screaming. Right now we have no Sydney venue."

It was not her only setback. "Yesterday PayPal froze the funds in the account that is processing ticket sales. They will not tell me why. All staff keep saying is the account is under review. It's been like an Orwellian nightmare."

This follows a refusal by Westpac to allow her to set up a payment system and refusal by more than a dozen venues to host a Wilders event, citing security concerns.

The first attempt at a lecture tour last year was cancelled due to visa problems. The then minister for immigration Chris Bowen delayed granting a visa until after the cancellation.

This was just the start. On January 21, the president of the Q Society, Geoff Dickson, sent an invitation to 830 state and federal politicians in all parliaments: "On behalf of Q Society of Australia I would like to issue you a warm invitation to attend one of the speaking engagements we are offering to listen to the Honourable Geert Wilders."

The invitation said Wilders would be speaking in Melbourne on February 19, Perth on February 20 and Sydney on February 22.

"Mr Wilders is a Dutch politician who heads the Party for Freedom, which won 10.1 per cent of votes in the Dutch House of Representatives at the September 2012 elections. Mr Wilders will be here to share his experiences on how Islam is changing the Netherlands in particular and Europe more generally.

"Q Society is a volunteer, Australia-wide organisation whose charter is to educate Australians as to how Islam may change this country … We believe Islam is different from other religions and poorly understood …

"If, in 20 years, some Australian politicians are living under armed guard because of comments they have made about Islam, we believe we would have failed as individuals, and collectively as a society, to protect our democracy and our freedom."

Of the 830 invitations sent out, only four were accepted. The other 99.5 per cent of politicians declined or did not respond.

Robinson is disheartened by all the fearfulness. "The Sydney event may have to be cancelled if I can't even get a venue. I'll have to refund everyone. This is supposed to be a democracy but something Orwellian is going on."


Queensland school principals says subjects cut and less time for student welfare after staffing cuts

HIGH schools have cut subjects and told teachers to spend less time on student welfare as a result of staffing cuts in the state sector.

President of the Queensland Secondary Principals' Association, Norm Fuller, said student welfare and the subjects offered had been the biggest losers following cuts to resource teacher positions.

The State Government announced last year it would redirect 200 secondary resource teacher positions back into the classroom to cope with enrolment growth as a budgetary measure.

The Government has denied the teachers were cut, instead saying they were redirected to where they were needed most - in the classroom.

Mr Fuller said the resource positions were used to run smaller class sizes in less popular subjects and give year-level co-ordinators more time to spend on student welfare.

As a result of the cuts Mr Fuller said: "Some of our secondary schools no longer offer both ancient history and modern history, they only offer one history subject".

"Many schools have combined Year 11 and 12 classes in the same subject, for example chemistry," he said.

"Other subjects are not being offered because they had low numbers - economics, accounting, maths C, physics, geography. More students are having to enrol in the School of Distance Education to access subjects of their choice."

Mr Fuller said most of the larger state high schools had chosen to reduce student welfare, with some telling year level co-ordinators there "is not as much time this year for you to be able to follow up on students.

"It is sad, but time has got to come from everywhere and the priority is the teaching in the classroom and having teachers in front of classes," he said.

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said there was one less position in every state high school and the impacts Mr Fuller described would be "long-term and ongoing".

State Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said principals would determine whether particular subjects were offered based on student demand.

"As has always been the case, if only a few students want to study a particular subject then it may be provided through distance education," he said.

Asked if he was concerned about teachers being told to cut back on student welfare he replied: "Individual principals have the resources and experience to ensure student welfare is provided".

He did not answer whether he still believed the staffing changes weren't affecting frontline services in schools.


6 February, 2013

Another Perth restaurant with attitude

I find that the sort of bad service described below is actually rather common in fancy restaurants everywhere. The staff are too often up themselves. But it seems to be particularly bad in Perth.

I eat out frequently and have long done so. But these days I eat almost exclusively at ethnic restaurants, where both the service and the food are almost invariably good.

I ordered Peking Duck at a local Chinese restaurant last week and the duck was being carved in front of us within 15 minutes. It was perfectly done too. In my experience, you can't beat Chinese restaurants for service. It's always been a mystery to me why other restaurants can't seem to emulate them.

Hint: Avoid like the plague any restaurant that advertises "innovative" cuisine. The egos you are likely to find there will be elephantine and the food will likely be small serves on large plates

The debate over customer service in Perth has been renewed after a disgruntled customer posted his email chain with a restaurant owner online.

Hadyn Green, a retired police superintendent, was disappointed after waiting more than an hour without receiving his meal or an apology at Northbridge restaurant Positano, but was more shocked with the response from its managing director when he complained via email.

Instead of receiving an apology, Mr Green was told "If you wanted fast food you should have gone to McDonald's" and "I don't need you or want you to come back".

When Mr Green said he would post the email chain on Facebook and restaurant review website Urbanspoon, the response from Positano was: "It's only miserable people like yourself who write pathetic reviews. Get a life mate and if it makes you feel better to write a review then go right ahead... Your threats don't worry me at all. If you think you are smarter then me why don't you come and try to run my restaurant".

Mr Green isn't alone in expressing his distaste on Urbanspoon; of 78 reviews listed for the restaurant, 38 were negative and Positano has just a 51 per cent approval rating.

However, Positano managing director Anthony Brekalo called the complaint "ridiculous" and said it was rare they received a complaint.

"He's misunderstood what I've said to him," said Mr Brekalo. "He's taken this too far, he's come in at 8 o'clock on a busy night and expected to sit down, get his main and get out by 9 o'clock."

Mr Brekalo admitted he had regrets about his emails since they had been posted online, but stood by what he said. "I didn't think the guy would be as spiteful as that," he said. "I tried to be nice to him at the beginning, but I don't want customers like that."

"That happens quite a bit, people will say things, they'll find a long black hair in their food and my chefs don't have long hair, they've all got short hair," he said.

He believed the incident was representative of a trend in people expecting too much from restaurants.

"Customer service to me: we're in the business to make money, we're not there just to be a convenience to people who want to eat out," Mr Brekalo said. "We're also trying to make a living, it's not a Hollywood lifestyle.


Google claims victory in court battle with Australian watchdog

This was a stupid prosecution from the beginning that has cost the Australian taxpayer a lot of money for no apparent reason. But the ACCC is something of a bully organization. Most businesses settle with them rather that wear the expense of court proceedings. Getting into the High Court was no strain on Google's funds, however

Internet search giant Google has won its legal battle with the consumer watchdog, after the High Court overturned a ruling that the company had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had taken legal action against Google over sponsored links its search engine delivered in response to searches for particular companies. The sponsored links took the user to the websites of rival companies.

The full court of the Federal Court found Google had engaged misleading and deceptive conduct by publishing these links.

Google appealed to the High Court which today unanimously found in its favour.

The High Court found that Google did not create the sponsored links and ordinary reasonable users of Google would have understood that the sponsored links conveyed the representation of advertisers, and Google's conduct was not misleading or deceptive.

John Swinson, technology partner with law firm King & Wood Mallesons, said the 5-0 judgment in Google’s favour, after it had previously lost 3-0 on an earlier appeal, would be welcomed by tech companies as it limits their liability for actions by users of their technology.


Strict new hygiene rules for childcare will wrap kids in a bubble, says AMA

KIDS will be banned from blowing out candles on communal birthday cakes, under strict new hygiene rules for childcare. But doctors warn the latest National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines go too far in "bubble-wrapping" children.

The NHMRC is urging childcare centres to stand up to parents who insist on sending a sick child to daycare - even if they have a medical certificate.

And daycare staff will now have to wash toys, doorknobs, floors and cushion covers every day.

The new guidelines state that kids who want to blow out a candle on their birthday should bring their very own cupcake - to avoid blowing germs all over a shared cake.

"Children love to blow out their candles while their friends are singing 'Happy birthday'," the document says.

"To prevent the spread of germs when the child blows out the candles, parents should either provide a separate cupcake, with a candle if they wish, for the birthday child and (either) enough cupcakes for all the other children ... (or) a large cake that can be cut and shared."

The NHMRC says children who play in the sandpit must wash their hands with alcohol sanitiser before and afterwards.

But the Australian Medical Association warned the clean-freak regulations place "kids in a bubble".

"If somebody sneezes on a cake, I probably don't want to eat it either - but if you're blowing out candles, how many organisms are transferred to a communal cake, for goodness' sake?" AMA president Steve Hambleton told News Ltd.

He also criticised the rule requiring children to wash their hands before and after playing in a sandpit. "Just wash your hands before you eat," he said.

"It's normal and healthy to be exposed to a certain amount of environmental antigens that build up our immune systems. "If you live in a plastic bubble you're going to get infections (later in life) that you can't handle."

The NHMRC document sets out the "exclusion periods" for sick children to stay home, depending on the illness. It states that centres "will not be influenced by letters from doctors stating that the child can return to care".

"Parents may find an exclusion ruling difficult, and some parents may put pressure on educators to vary the exclusion rules," it says. "These parents are often under pressure themselves to fulfil work, study or other family commitments."

The NHMRC says the best way to "avoid stress and conflict between parents and educators" is to have a written policy setting out when children must stay home.

But Dr Hambelton said a child's GP was in the best position to clear a child for daycare.

"You don't want to put kids into childcare with infectious diseases but at times you find a child has a post-viral cough that is not infectious, and I'm very happy to certify they can go to school," he said.

Australian Childcare Alliance president Gwynn Bridge yesterday said she was certain that parents did not disinfect the door handles at home every day, as the new rules will require of centres.

"We want children to be healthy but world research is now saying a little bit of dirt is healthy," she said.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, who launched the guidelines yesterday, said the advice was "if you're sick you should stay home".


These corals would find global warming a snack

Hoagy and his friends screech about a 2 degree temperature rise killing off Australia's coral reefs. In the Persian gulf, however an extra 8 degrees doesn't bother corals. And the Warmists below admit their confusion

We tend to associate coral reefs with tropical seas of around 28 degrees, where even slight warming can have devastating effects on corals. But in the Arabian/Persian Gulf, corals survive seawater temperatures of up to 36 degrees Celsius every summer, heat levels that would kill corals elsewhere.

In their study, the NOCS team worked closely with NYUAD researchers to select and characterise model corals from the Arabian/Persian Gulf, which will facilitate future molecular-scale investigations into why they can tolerate heat stress.

"We have established successful laboratory cultures of Gulf corals,” said Dr Jörg Wiedenmann, Head of the Coral Reef Laboratory and Senior Lecturer at University of Southampton Ocean and Earth Science, both of which are based at NOCS. "This will greatly accelerate the progress of unravelling the mechanisms that underlie their surprising heat resistance.”

Reefs are made up of many species of coral, each of which have a mutually beneficial, or "symbiotic”, relationship with algae living in their tissue. These algae supply vital nutrition to the host but are sensitive to environmental changes including increases in seawater temperature.

Even a temperature rise of just one degree Celsius can harm the symbiotic algae, which in turn can increase mortality in corals. The associated loss of symbiotic algae is known as "coral bleaching” because the white skeletons of the corals become visible through the tissue depleted from the algal pigments.

"In Gulf corals, both the coral host and the associated algal partners need to withstand the high seawater temperatures,” said Dr Wiedenmann who led the study.

But the scientists were surprised to discover that the algae in Gulf corals belong to a group not known for its thermal tolerance.

"We see that the algae are indeed special but in a way that we did not expect,” said Dr Wiedenmann. "The algae that we found in most of the corals in Abu Dhabi reefs were previously described as a ‘generalist strain’ that is usually not found in corals exposed to high levels of heat stress.”

"The system seems to be more complex than it is commonly thought but now we are in an excellent position to tackle these important questions.”

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has recently granted funding to Dr Wiedenmann and the Coral Reef Laboratory, so that the team can do just that. The researchers will build on their previous findings and use their model corals to investigate the molecular mechanisms that allow corals to thrive at extreme temperatures.


5 February, 2013

Teen tells Carmody Inquiry about violent world of youth residential care

A TROUBLED teen has given the Carmody Inquiry into child protection an expletive-ridden insight into the violent world of youth residential care.

The boy - who turns 17 this year - took the stand yesterday to tell lawyers about his life which includes round-the-clock staff, two cars, and a cleaning and cooking service.

The youth who gave evidence was removed from his mother when he was about 15 and now lives in a group residential home costing $800,000 per annum.

He was the only occupant for up to six months of last year.

The Carmody Inquiry has turned the spotlight on residential care after police gave evidence residential care homes - run by private companies and costing more than $1000 a day per child - are swallowing up police resources with constant callouts, often relating to violent crime, runaways and drug abuse.

Counsel Assisting Ryan Haddrick told the inquiry the cost of the homes was a "scandal" while other witnesses have questioned whether more than 600 youths living in residential care have any chance of improving their lives.

The 16-year-old boy who fronted the inquiry yesterday and cannot be named said the youth workers who cared for him had to do what he wanted in terms of cooking, cleaning and clothes washing. "They have to bow to me," he said.

The boy also said he was aware no one could physically touch him by law.

His mother - "she never wants me back" - would slap him if he swore, he said.

But after moving into state care he had learned his rights. "They are not allowed to belt anyone," he said.

Under cross-examination from Mr Haddrick, the youth appeared supremely confident.

He told Mr Haddrick that he looked forward to having his own subsidised unit to live in later this year, where he would only be required to pay 25 per cent of the rent - using welfare benefits to cover the cost.


Conservative retracts Hitler comparison

But Jewish politician refuses to retract similar accusation

Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne has retracted comments he made over the weekend in which he compared the Government with a movie scene about the demise of Adolf Hitler.

Following the resignation of two senior ministers, Mr Pyne declared: "This Government is starting to resemble a scene from Downfall and the Prime Minister is presiding over a divided and dysfunctional Government."

His comments prompted demands for an apology from Labor frontbencher Mark Dreyfus, who described the remarks as deeply offensive.

"It is deeply hurtful to Holocaust survivors, it should be deeply offensive to any right-thinking Australian," he said.

"Certainly anyone who knows anything about Hitler's Third Reich, because that's what he's referring to, would know this is a disgraceful comment to make.

"I call on him to withdraw it and apologise for it."

This morning, Mr Pyne said he was not suggesting the Prime Minister bore any resemblance to Hitler, but that the chaos in the Government was similar to a scene from Downfall.

"I'm not necessarily apologising to Mark Dreyfus - because his is confected outrage designed to get a headline," Mr Pyne told Sky News.

"But if anybody else has taken offence at that, well of course I retract the statement."

He has called on Mr Dreyfus, who is Jewish, to apologise for comments he made in 2011 in which he likened Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's campaign against the carbon tax to Nazi propaganda.

"To call Tony Abbott Joseph Goebbels two years ago and not to apologise was an outrageous and sick thing to do and he should apologise for that," Mr Pyne said.

"I'm bigger than Mark Dreyfus, he can't apologise.

"Two years later he's still clinging to the idea that he was right and I'm quite happy to retract that statement if it clears the air. Mark Dreyfus should do the same."

But Mr Dreyfus says his comment was quite different because it was "very specific and targeted" to the propaganda techniques.

And he has hit back at Mr Pyne's "callous non-apology".

"Mr Pyne's description this morning of my personal response to his remarks as 'confected outrage' is grotesque," Mr Dreyfus said in a statement.

"The circumstances of my father and grandparents' arrival in Australia are detailed in my first speech to Parliament and have been on the public record since 2008."


Conservatives beat Labor on donations list

The Coalition has comprehensively beaten Labor when it comes to financial donations and income, according to figures released by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).

The federal and state divisions of the Liberal Party received a little over $55 million during the past financial year, while their Nationals colleagues reported just over $8 million.

In contrast, Labor's federal and state branches recorded just under $50 million in income.

Various clubs and hotel associations donated almost $500,000 to the Coalition but only about $50,000 to the ALP.

The Government fought a drawn-out battle with clubs last year over plans to introduce new restrictions on poker machines. The legislation passed both houses of Parliament in November.

According to AEC figures, Philip Morris and British American Tobacco donated a combined total of just $8,000 to the Liberal Party during 2011-12, significantly lower than the year before.

The Labor Party's biggest donors were unions and the Canberra Labor Club, which operates poker machines in four venues. It also declared $800,000 in donations from John Curtin House Pty Ltd.

The Liberals' single-biggest donation came from the Cormack Foundation, which provided $2.3 million. The Free Enterprise Foundation Pty Ltd donated $490,000.

The Greens received $25,000 from Val Waldron. It also received $12,500 from the ACT branch of the CFMEU.

The Greens say there needs to be more regulation of political donations, while independent MP Andrew Wilkie has called on the major parties to reject "dirty money" from the poker machine industry.

"Like tobacco industry donations, it's entirely unethical for political parties to accept close to $1 million in donations from people who profit from the misery of problem gamblers," Mr Wilkie said in a statement.

"No-one hands over that sort of money without expecting something in return.

"Donations like this corrupt proper political process and are every bit as dodgy as bags full of cash changing hands in corrupt developing countries."


Inconvenient truth from Australia: Sea level rise is decelerating

A paper published in the Journal of Coastal Research finds that sea level rise around mainland Australia decelerated from 1940 to 2000. According to the latest NOAA sea level budget, global sea levels rose at only 1.1 - 1.3 mm/year from 2005-2012, which is less than half of the rate claimed by the IPCC [3.1 mm/yr] and is equivalent to less than 5 inches per century. Contrary to alarmist claims, sea level rise decelerated over the 20th century, has also decelerated since 2005, and there is no evidence of any human influence on sea levels.
Is There Evidence Yet of Acceleration in Mean Sea Level Rise around Mainland Australia?

P. J. Watson


As an island nation with some 85% of the population residing within 50 km of the coast, Australia faces significant threats into the future from sea level rise. Further, with over 710,000 addresses within 3 km of the coast and below 6-m elevation, the implication of a projected global rise in mean sea level of up to 100 cm over the 21st century will have profound economic, social, environmental, and planning consequences. In this context, it is becoming increasingly important to monitor trends emerging from local (regional) records to augment global average measurements and future projections.

The Australasian region has four very long, continuous tide gauge records, at Fremantle (1897), Auckland (1903), Fort Denison (1914), and Newcastle (1925), which are invaluable for considering whether there is evidence that the rise in mean sea level is accelerating over the longer term at these locations in line with various global average sea level time-series reconstructions.

These long records have been converted to relative 20-year moving average water level time series and fitted to second-order polynomial functions to consider trends of acceleration in mean sea level over time. The analysis reveals a consistent trend of weak deceleration at each of these gauge sites throughout Australasia over the period from 1940 to 2000. Short period trends of acceleration in mean sea level after 1990 are evident at each site, although these are not abnormal or higher than other short-term rates measured throughout the historical record.


4 February, 2013

Many new to trades lack basics, say employers

BAKERS who can't bake bread, butchers who can't make sausages and hairdressers who can't shampoo hair - welcome to a new generation of qualified professionals.

Tradespeople have slammed the current apprenticeship system, with a national skills shortage leading to newly qualified butchers, bakers, hairdressers and chefs who are unable to complete basic tasks.

Many trades have moved from requiring long-term work experience and compulsory TAFE time to flexible systems with on-site training and competency tests, with some bakers now qualifying in 12 months.

Old Fernvale Bakery owner Bill Rose said the skill level of qualified bakers was "ridiculously embarrassing", and many couldn't even bake a loaf of bread.

"Trying to employ a baker who can bake is the most difficult thing to do in this country," he said. "I can get 60 resumes from people who are qualified and simply can't even bake a white loaf of bread." "They have no idea how to make a pie and I can't remember the last time a baker applied for a job who could bake a cake."

Mr Rose said bakers who completed their apprenticeships through supermarket chains often did little baking and were "unemployable" in a traditional hot bread shop.

Uncle Bob's Bakery owner Brett Noy said many qualified bakers now didn't know how to follow a recipe, mix dough or use a thermometer. "They can't even make scones," Mr Noy said. "There are many housewives in Brisbane who have a greater baking knowledge and talent than what's coming out of our apprentice system," he said.

The baker - who is captain of the Australian Baking Team and operates four branches in the southeast - said reduced training could affect food safety standards. He said he had taken his concerns to the government but with nil effect.

The problems are not limited to the baking industry.

Super Butcher general manager Terry O'Hagan said qualified butchers coming through the supermarket system needed retraining and often had little to no experience sausage making, meat boning or breaking down lamb and beef.

"There are people that have a butcher's certificate that you can't call butchers," he said. "It really annoys me that those certificates can be handed out just like that, because they just don't have the skills."

He said the current system was failing apprentices as well as the industry, and needed to be changed at a government level.

Victoria Point's Beautify Hair Design manager Dana Kovacic said the salon industry had similar problems, and she had fielded job applications from qualified hairdressers who didn't know how to shampoo hair or do a basic children's haircut. "We can't employ someone and we've been looking for six months because they can't even do the basics," she said.

Ms Kovacic said in one demonstration a fully qualified hairdresser had bleached her hair so badly that it melted off in the applicant's hands.

She said the lack of knowledge in combination with the chemicals used in the industry could be dangerous, and hairdressers should have to pass an independent examination before becoming qualified.

Belmont-based School of Culinary Excellence owner, chef and trainer Alison Taafe said she had met qualified chefs who were unable to make basic sauces, run a service properly or prepare meat, despite having passed skills tests. "It's very obvious that some of them have been put through their apprenticeship and are not competent in certain things," she said.

She said the apprenticeship system needed to go back to basics to ensure people with the qualifications could actually do the job.

Queensland Education, Training and Employment Minister John-Paul Langbroek said that he was confident in the quality assurance framework. "The Newman Government is committed to ensuring training qualifications are of industry standard," Mr Langbroek said.

He said oversight of qualifications and training providers was regulated by the Australian Skills Quality Authority, and encouraged those with concerns to contact them.

ASQA chief commissioner Chris Robinson said since its inception in mid-2011, the body had received more than 600 complaints against training providers, and 184 training providers had been refused registration or had their registration cancelled or suspended.

"The quality of Australian training is pretty good, overall, but there are some real issues in the system where people are not providing adequate quality and not doing assessment properly, and there are people coming through and getting assessed as having competencies they don't have," he said.

But, he said, problems in the apprenticeship system were not endemic, and said the body had found only about 5 per cent of providers had serious issues in training provision from the country's 4900 training organisations. "We are highly concerned with what is a minority of providers who are not providing training that meets the national standard and we're aiming to deal with them," he said.

Outgoing Federal Skills Minister Senator Chris Evans said the State Government was responsible for the arrangements between apprentices, businesses and training providers, and the Federal Government had made a record investment of almost $1.5 billion in the Queensland training system.

"Unfortunately, our investment in quality training hasn't been matched by the Newman Government which has announced plans to slash its investment and cut the number of TAFE campuses by half," he said.

A National Skills Standards Council spokesman said a review was under way into vocational education and training standards. He said learner outcomes were a significant issue in the review, and new standards were set to be implemented from 2015.


Gillard knows how to stop the boats

Amanda Vanstone

As the September 14 election approaches, we will no doubt hear more from both major parties on the issue of border control. At least we have agreement on some aspects of this policy area. Both parties understand that there are many, many more refugees in the world than we can afford to accept. They agree that the government decides how many we can afford to take and they agree that those who come by boat, because they can afford to pay a people smuggler, should not have an advantage over poor refugees waiting in camps. Offshore processing is an essential and agreed part of achieving that aim.

If Labor really wants to stop the boats, it should toughen up and agree to reinstate temporary protection visas (by any new-fangled name they may choose to make it look a bit different) and to cut off family reunions. We will have to wait and see if that reality dawns. Labor has come kicking and screaming to adopt so much of the Howard policy agenda. This extra little bit shouldn't be too hard. It would certainly blunt the Coalition attack on the ALP in coming months.

As immigration minister in the Howard government, I am pleased that Labor has at least accepted some of our border protection policies. But I am also irritated. Why? Because Labor constantly sought to portray my party as a bunch of old racists.

The coward's way, which was frequently chosen, was to call John Howard a dog whistler. This sort of rubbish can easily be peddled through interest groups and those commentators keen to use the opportunity to define themselves as being opposed to racism. Now that Labor has similar policies to Howard's, I do not hear them whistling any dog tunes. Funny about that. Perhaps Labor sought to portray the Liberals as racists to assuage some guilt about the ALP's past, or at the very least to divert voters' attention from Labor's record.

If you know any servicemen who served in Timor during World War II, you might ask them about the extraordinary role played by the Timorese criados in helping our troops. While you're there, ask them about the anguish of knowing that we refused to open our hearts and evacuate these people who risked their lives to save Australian lives. We left them behind to face an unsafe and unhappy future.

Then there's former Labor leader Arthur Calwell. He should rightly be acknowledged as the father of our modern immigration system - although you will not hear a Labor person admitting that Robert Menzies, as the then opposition leader, played a critical role in getting it accepted and laid the first brick in Australia's bipartisan approach to immigration by urging the government to be adventurous rather than cautious.

But there was a darker side to the policy; there was a rule (which proved ineffective but demonstrated intent) that there should be 10 Britons for every non-white alien. And returned servicemen with Japanese war brides found Calwell not only unmoved by their desire to bring their wives home but bitterly opposed. He said that while "Any relatives remain of Australian soldiers dead in the Pacific battlefields", it would be "the grossest act of indecency to permit any Japanese of either sex to pollute Australian shores".

Calwell fought vigorously after the war to have Chinese, Malay and Indonesian wartime refugees deported. He had a special bill drafted to deal with one, Mrs Annie O'Keefe, an Ambonese woman with eight children who had fled to Australia with them. Her husband had died fighting the Japanese and she had remarried an Australian. Only the good offices of the departmental secretary saved her.

Then there's Calwell's infamous line about two wongs not making a white. Some argue it was taken out of context, but not that it wasn't said. Calwell was a zealous supporter of the White Australia Policy. In contrast, only a few years later, under the Liberals, Paul Hasluck, as administrator of the territories, was able to secure agreement that Chinese and mixed-race people in Papua New Guinea were able to settle in Australia and become Australian citizens.

Getting closer to the issue of border protection, one might find former Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew's biography illuminating. He was particularly affronted by the Whitlam government's proposal that Singapore should allow some 8000 Vietnamese refugees to disembark there, whereupon Australia would choose less than 200 to accept here. Singapore could worry about the others.

Whitlam was not a racist. As former Labor minister Clyde Cameron tells the story, Whitlam's opposition was more political. Cameron and Whitlam's deputy, Lance Barnard, had organised a flight in April 1975 to bring Vietnamese orphans and babies to Australia. Cameron says Whitlam justified cancelling the flight by saying he wasn't having "Vietnamese Balts coming to Australia".

If you believe Labor, you might believe it was only because of Whitlam that the White Australia policy was undone. You might be surprised to know that the father of Australian multiculturalism, Professor Jerzy Zubrzycki, concluded that the policy "had its demise at the hands of mainly Liberal ministers and finally of the Whitlam Labor government".

The Australia prime minister Lee Kuan Yew most admired was Menzies. The postwar Menzies government was a strong supporter of the Colombo Plan, a key element in our early relations with Asia. People with long memories understand the forward and outward-looking policies Menzies implemented. Lee said Menzies understood "that sentiments and ties of kinship could not displace the realities of geopolitics and geoeconomics in the post-imperial world". That understanding from an Australian can be phrased another way: The Asian Century is around the corner. And yet Julia Gillard seems to think she discovered it!


Leftist "Justice Reinvestment" just another reinvention of a failed idea

The Australian Senate is conducting an inquiry into the value of a Justice Reinvestment approach in Australia with a particular focus on Aboriginal people in prison. However, the assumption underpinning Justice Reinvestment—that the prison system is a failure—ignores the fact that many offenders are in prison for a reason. Prisons serve a purpose and help protect society by taking out of circulation violent and repeat offenders.

Justice Reinvestment is a concept from the United States which proposes redirecting money spent on prisons into programs to address the underlying causes of offending in communities with high levels of incarceration.

Advocates of a Justice Reinvestment approach use the high costs associated with incarceration to argue for more non-custodial sentences such as diversion. Many people believe Aboriginal people are unfairly targeted by police and arrested for relatively minor ‘social nuisance’ offences, but this ignores the fact that a large proportion (50 per cent) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are in jail for serious crimes (homicide, assault and sex offences).

Rather than just asking why Indigenous people are over-represented in Australia’s prisons, we also need to ask why certain Indigenous Australians are committing such serious crimes.

The National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee estimates alcohol is a factor in up to 90 per cent of all Indigenous contact with the criminal justice system: 87 per cent of all Indigenous intimate partner homicides are alcohol related, and 63.8 per cent of Indigenous adult offenders report drinking alcohol before being arrested and placed in police custody.

Unemployed Indigenous people are also 20 times more likely to offend and end up in prison than employed Indigenous people.

A 2012 study in Queensland found the most chronic and costly offenders were from remote and very remote locations where there is appalling education and few employment options. In the remote community of Yuendumu in the Northern Territory, one out of every six residents (93 people from a total population of 587) is in prison.

To address the underlying causes of Indigenous offending, we need to focus on education and employment, and not be waylaid into thinking the answer lies with yet more ‘culturally appropriate’ or ‘Indigenous distinct’ programs. Worryingly, some supporters of Justice Reinvestment are already arguing for ‘culturally appropriate’ initiatives such as Indigenous healing centres.

Justice Reinvestment supporters talk as if offenders are victims of the criminal justice system, forgetting the actual real victims, and their right to some sort of redress. Diversion programs to provide employment and training for young offenders may be worthwhile but waiting till someone offends to provide education and employment training is too late. Improving educational outcomes should not be reliant on the diversion of funds from prison services but a basic right that states and territories should be covering in their education budgets.


Language policy gone loco

For every story of sovereign debt risks in Europe and US fiscal woes, there is a reminder of Asia’s bullish economic ascension.

The Liberal Party’s latest policy document, Our Plan – Real Solutions for all Australians, reflects this shift in the world’s centre of economic gravity. Noting that the Asia-Pacific region will be home to 66 per cent of the global middle-class by 2030, the Liberal Party wants Australia to ‘develop more Asia-capable talent.’

As well as a two-way ‘Colombo Plan’ redux that will send Australian students to Asian universities, the policy sets a target of 40 per cent of Year 12 students studying Languages Other Than English (LOTE)—with particular emphasis placed on Asian languages.

Like the discontinued Keating and Rudd government-era initiatives, this latest proposal to increase the number of students studying LOTE flies in the face of the practical considerations at the forefront of students’ minds.

As edifying as learning another language might be, it is unlikely to be an appealing choice for many students trying to edge out their peers in tight ATAR competitions.

On top of the great challenges of absorbing a new and incredibly complex system of communication, many students suffer the added disadvantage of not having the trump card of a native-speaking parent.

Battling through years of tortuous tones or confusing conjugations will hardly seem worth it when their likely competition is exposed to the language every night at the dinner table.

Many students will also conclude that the long-term career benefits of LOTE study are often exaggerated by language study advocates.

As I have argued elsewhere, English will probably remain the global lingua franca in the Asian Century.

There are approximately 2 billion English speakers worldwide; 800 million of which are in Asia—far more than the entire Anglosphere.

One-third of the world’s population is already studying English, and by 2050, four of the six most populous countries in the world (India, the United States, Nigeria and Pakistan) will have English as an official language.

To be sure, studying LOTE is by no means a waste of time. Learning another language provides a rewarding entrée into another culture and is a useful tool for leveraging oneself into careers in diplomacy, business, hospitality, and a host of other fields.

Nevertheless, the difficulty of language learning and the global dominance of English suggest that the target of 40 per cent of Year 12 students studying LOTE is loco.


3 February, 2013

Dutch MP sparks call for face-off

The organizers are doing their best to prevent conflict but the expectation of Muslim aggression is well-founded. Just look back at last Anzac day in Sydney

Anti-Muslim groups are urging Australian "patriots" to gather at public meetings by the controversial Dutch MP Geert Wilders, ready for trouble and a no-holds barred fight.

Tensions have been mounting over the impending visit of the far right-wing politician who has been accused of Islamophobia and racism.

One group, Australian New Nation, has been encouraging followers to react to any threat or sign of violence from Muslim protesters who might attend.

On its website, the group has posted an audio from "Radio Free Australia, the voice of white revolution in Australia" warning them to "expect an Islamic rent-a-crowd outside screaming and foaming at the mouth like the evil bastards they are".

"We encourage all patriots to exercise their legal right of self defence if any ragheads try to prevent them accessing the venue, or threaten, or use violence against their person once they try to strike the first blow, everything that follows is self defence on your part," it said.

The vitriolic broadcast, which lasts almost 10 minutes, goes on to say, "go … and be prepared to defend yourself and if they take a swing at you, they push at you, they spit on you, don't hold back. You have a legal right of self defence do what should be done to this rag-head camel f--- … Islamic filth who have no place in civilised society."

Muslim leaders have been encouraging their community to ignore Mr Wilders's visit and not to draw attention to his views by protesting.

The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Hafez Kassem, questioned what the authorities were doing about the "provocation by rednecks". "Surely they must be monitoring this," he said.

Keysar Trad from the Islamic Friendship Association said while Muslims should have every right to protest peacefully, it would only draw attention to Mr Wilders. Mr Trad recommended the community ignore the event.

Social media sites protesting against Mr Wilders's visits to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth have also been the target of hate messages.

Stepan Kerkyasharian, the head of the Community Relations Commission of NSW, said he had not had any complaints so far about Mr Wilders's visit, but it was clear the Muslim community was concerned about the outcome of his tour.

Mr Kerkyasharian said it was important other groups that may have their own agenda do not try to use his visit as an opportunity to vent their own venom. "We do not want anyone looking for an opportunity such as a visit from someone from overseas to try and undermine our cohesive, co-existence," he said.

The Federal Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, last year said he would not use his ministerial powers to stop Mr Wilders from visiting Australia on a speaking tour.

The tour has been organised by the Q Society of Australia. A spokeswoman said this week that there had been steady ticket sales online, ahead of a radio advertising campaign which starts next week.

The venues of the meetings are being kept secret until 48 hours before the event and will be revealed only to registered ticket-holders.


Climate signals uncertain in Australia

Australia is a big place (MUCH bigger than Texas) so tends to have both droughts and floods at roughly the same time (in different parts of the country) so it takes a Warmist to extract any generalizations from that. Even they are growing hesitant, however, as we see below

For Australia, 2013 looks like being a "year of living extremely" if January is anything to go by.

The Bureau of Meteorology says January was the hottest ever month in just over a century of records. Nationwide, the January average maximum temperature anomaly was 2.28 degrees, "a substantial increase" on the previous record of 2.17 degrees set in 1932. [And it was similarly hot way back in 1790]

And, thanks to the unusual scale of the massive heatwave that dominated the first half of January, all states and territories posted above-average temperatures, the bureau said

This week's floods, of course, added to the extremes. The Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, warned damage to the state's economy was $2.4 billion and rising, eclipsing the $2.388 billion bill from the huge flooding of 2011. Insurers don't think it will be that bad for them.

Add in record low rainfall for much of southern Australia, a flurry of bushfires and it looks a lot like climate change is kicking in - or does it?

Professor John McAneney, the director of Risk Frontiers, an independent research group funded mostly by the insurance industry, says that based on a database of natural hazard events in Australia, including some dating back to 1803, "there has been no increase in the frequency of natural hazard events since 1950".

But what of the spiralling insurance claims in the wake of hailstorms, floods, cyclones (think Yasi at $1.4 billion) and bushfires ($4 billion for Victoria's Black Saturday firestorms)?

"What we can see very clearly is that when this dataset … is corrected for the increases in numbers of buildings at risk and their value, no long term trend remains," Professor McAneney said.

"It is indisputable that the rising toll of natural disasters is due to more people and assets at risk."

He said US hurricane modelling to identify a signal climate change is contributing to storm strength suggests it could be a while before the data is definitive. Averaging 18 different climate models, "it's going to take 260 years", he said.

"This whole thing about climate change being responsible for an increase in extreme weather, or natural disasters, is just a fiction really."

Cue howls of protests from climatologists and cries of "gotcha" from climate change doubters? Not quite.

Some climate change signals are clearer than others, and there is no reason to ignore the direction most indicators are clearly pointed, said Andrew Ash, director of the climate adaptation flagship at the CSIRO. "It doesn't mean all extremes are changing," Mr Ash said.

Take temperature, for instance. The weather bureau notes that during 2001-11, the frequency of record high temperatures in Australia was 2.8 times (for maximum temperatures) and 5.2 times for minimums than the rate of record low temperatures.

Sea temperatures are also increasing, with waters in the Australian region [Only in the Australian region? Sounds like a local phenomenon, not a global one] about 0.6-0.7 degrees warmer than they were in 1900, said Neil Plummer, assistant director of the weather bureau's climate information services.

Add a warmer atmosphere - with temperatures about 1 degree higher than pre-industrial levels [i.e. over 150 years!] and rising - there is little doubt more moisture can be held and then dumped in the form of more severe rain deluges.

A peer-reviewed report for the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate by researchers including Seth Westra, a hydrologist at the University of Adelaide, bears that out. The report found statistically significant increasing trends globally of annual maximum daily precipitation, using a dataset of 8326 high quality observing sites with more than 30 years of records. [Yet Warmists contantly tell us that it is drought that proves global warming!]

The median intensity of extreme precipitation increases "in proportion with changes in global mean temperature at a rate of between 5.9 per cent and 7.7 per cent per degree, depending on the method of analysis," the report found.

The big wet, when it comes, is getting wetter. But what of Australia? The weather bureau says it depends where you look.

The annual number of days with more than 30 millimetres of rain from 1950-2012 has decreased in the southern and eastern parts of the country but increased in the north.

And as for the frequency of disasters, such as cyclones, the answer is complex because there aren't many instances in the record to count.

"Because you're dealing with a very small number of very extreme events … the size of the signal you would need to have before it was statistically significant is detectable is quite big," said Blair Trewin, a senior climatologist at the bureau.

"The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence."


'Jobs for mates' under Victora's conservatives

The Labor party set the example .... Drag down standards and that can well become the new standard

THE state government has appointed dozens of Coalition backers and former MPs - including one of Ted Baillieu's relatives - to plum positions on boards and agencies around the state.

Despite Mr Baillieu slamming the former Labor government every time a so-called "jobs for mates" scandal emerged, little appears to have changed since the Coalition came to office two years ago.

An analysis of appointments in health - where Victoria and Canberra continue to trade blows over hospital funding - shows many positions have been given to former ministers, MPs, political staffers and party officials.

For instance, Kennett government minister Mark Birrell was made the deputy chairman of VicHealth, former health minister Robert Knowles was appointed to the Royal Children's Hospital board, former Caulfield MP Helen Shardey was made chairwoman of The Alfred hospital, and former Nationals MP Noel Maughan was appointed chairman of Goulburn Valley Health.

The water industry is similar. Former Kennett government treasurer Alan Stockdale is chairman of City West Water, former minister Geoff Coleman is on the board of Westernport Water, and former upper house MP John Vogels is on the Wannon Water board.

Mr Baillieu's brother-in-law Graeme Stoney - a former MP - was granted a role on the board of VicForests, while some of the Premier's former top aides have also received government roles.

They include Michael Kapel, Mr Baillieu's friend and former chief of staff, who is now based in San Francisco as the Commissioner for the Americas, and Di Rule, who was a key adviser to Mr Baillieu in his early years as opposition leader, and is now on the board of the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority.

The appointments are among dozens in the past two years given to government associates. Mr Baillieu's spokeswoman Kate Walshe insisted that all were made after an "extensive selection process to identify qualified, skilled and experienced individuals for the position, unlike the previous Labor government who unashamedly made partisan appointments without regard to their ability or experience to perform the duties of the role".

Opposition scrutiny of government spokesman Martin Pakula rejected this claim, accusing the government of blatant hypocrisy. "Having once been horrified by jobs for the boys, Mr Baillieu has now made an art form of it," he said. "If you have ever been a Liberal MP, candidate or staffer, you're pretty much home and hosed for a cushy government gig."

Appointing party "mates" has long been an issue at Spring Street. Former Labor premier Steve Bracks came under fire early in his first term for appointing an old friend, Jim Reeves, to head the Urban and Regional Land Authority.

Mr Baillieu was then opposition planning spokesman and a vociferous critic of the decision, citing it as an example of "special access" for government mates. A decade later, his government picked Liberal Party stalwart Peter Clarke - Mr Baillieu's close friend - to lead planning authority Places Victoria.


First it was the Greeks, now it is the French

Fleeing to Australia to escape a job drought at home

EIGHT years ago, it was just an online message board for people in France wanting to swap photos and stories on adventures in Australia.

But at an Australian-themed pub in the heart of Paris, they are now queuing up out the door, literally, for help to migrate to Australia in what last year saw a bigger rise in the number of French nationals going Down Under than those from the UK.

And part of the exodus is to escape France's dire economic woes which one French government minister described this week as a "bankrupt state".

"Yes of course we are overwhelmed by the response because it started just with a place for messages on a website but now you can see a lot of French people want to go to Australia, G'Day Sunday organiser Cedric Barusseau said yesterday from the Australian themed Oz Cafe on the busy Rue Saint-Denis.

The latest Department of Immigration figures show 20,086 Working Holiday Maker Visas were granted in the last year, a rise of 8.4 per cent compared with rises to Australia for people from the UK of 7 per cent and 6.4 per cent for Germans.

The latter two nations accounted for more in real numbers but the rise of the French as a percentage was greater.

The rise in working visa for the French is also 50 per cent higher than just five years ago; in the last year the number of French coming to stay is also twice as many as Italians (9600 people) and all the Scandinavian countries put together including Sweden (4772), Denmark (1484) Finland (1181) and Norway (617).

Mr Barusseau said he now holds meeting four times a year and attracts between 400 and 500 people wanting to know about jobs, accommodation and Australians generally.

The meetings are held at an unrelated Aussie bar to give them that first taste from the Aussie bar staff.

Mr Barusseau said he had also now partnered with Etihad airlines and other firms to package the migration process.

When asked where they were all heading, Mr Barusseau was clear: "Sydney of course, it'salways Sydney, the Opera House and these things. At the beginning they just want to get to Australia and all they know is Sydney and kangaroos and Uluru and that's all. After, when they take more information, they discover other parts of the country. They go to Sydney first then move about the country to other cities."

He said despite huge costs of living in Australia and the cost of the visas and economic hardship in France, young people particularly were still willing to travel.

"There is still a lot of different people, but mostly those aged early 20s, perhaps just finished university or taking a break of one year between degree years and a lot of people who simply can't find jobs in France and they think it easier in Australia so want to try."

University Student Stefany Tapia doesn't know her final destination yet but her and boyfriend Marcial Gras just want to arrive in Sydney and start from there.

Like Elsa Ryan and Virgile Craplet, they pored over maps of Australia to see where they could travel and work.

Her visa is for one year but there is an option to extend. "We just want to go there and see," she said.

France's Employment Minister Michael Sapin caused controversy on Wednesday after he described France as bankrupt. "There is a state but it is a totally bankrupt state that is why we had to put a deficit reduction plan in place and nothing should make us turn away from that objective," he said.


1 February, 2013

Unofficial forecaster got recent Australian long-range weather forecast pretty right

Hayden Walker is the succesor to Lennox Walker who was in turn successor to the famous Inigo Jones, who was condemned as "unscientific" for his emphasis on solar activity as an influence on weather. He made good long-range forecasts, however. Farmers planned their planting and harvesting by him. They did not expect him to get the day right but getting the week or even the month right was still very valuable to them.

In the light of the week of sub-cyclonic weather that North Queensland has just had -- and which reached into Southern Queensland for a few days -- Walker would seem to have got close to reality. The forecasts below were reported on Nov. 20, 2012 and seem pretty right as of 30 January, 2013.

In the rest of the article excerpted below, none of the official forecasters even tried to make long-range predictions. More on Inigo Jones here

Brace for summer of wild weather, says forecaster

Fourth generation long-range weather forecaster Hayden Walker said the Coast would experience more storm and rain activity for the rest of November, before the weather tapered off in December and January.

"For the start of 2013, the forecast is for good to heavy rain in January," Mr Walker said. "It won't be as substantial as some years.

"We've seen in the last two to three years an increase in sunspot and solar activity - it intensifies the heavy rain and flooding."

Mr Walker said while the weekend's storm activity had broken the heat, the rest of spring and summer would be "humid and uncomfortable".

Despite cyclones being predicted for south-east Queensland this summer, Mr Walker believed cyclonic activity would be confined to northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.


Patients wait years for elective surgery in Queensland public hospitals

ALMOST 2300 patients who had elective operations in Queensland public hospitals last financial year had waited longer than 12 months for their surgery, a report says.

But doctors say many more Queenslanders are waiting years for potentially life-saving procedures, and their waits will only get longer as budget cuts take effect.

The Productivity Commission's latest Report on Government Services shows Queensland public hospitals fared favourably compared with other states in relation to elective surgery during 2011-12.

Australia-wide, 2.7 per cent of patients admitted to public hospitals from elective surgery lists during the 12 months had waited more than 365 days for their operations, compared with 2 per cent in Queensland.

Of the 114,328 patients who received elective surgery in Queensland public hospitals last financial year, 90 per cent were treated within 147 days.

But the report only captures elective surgery patients who received treatment last financial year, not those still on waiting lists.

It also fails to provide comparative data between the states on the so-called "waiting list to get on the waiting list", detailing the time it takes to consult a public hospital specialist before a patient can even be put on the elective surgery list.

Queensland started publishing those figures late last year, showing an eight-year wait for some patients to see a public specialist.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Alex Markwell said the report should be treated "with caution".

"I am inherently uncertain about that data because of the way that we triage our patients into elective surgery lists in Queensland," Dr Markwell said. "They may wait five years before they're actually seen in outpatients to then get put on the elective surgery list."

Dr Markwell said she expected Queensland's elective surgery waiting lists would blow out further as thousands of health workers lost their jobs.

"Princess Alexandra Hospital has put category 3 surgery on hold until at least June," she said.


Thomson arrest rocks Labor

The surprise arrest of beleaguered former Labor MP Craig Thomson has sent shockwaves through a government that was just coming to terms with its brave new world of a hyper-extended election campaign.

Mr Thomson's case, which has been a running sore for Labor, has now entered a critical phase just as Prime Minister Julia Gillard had seized the initiative with her September 14 election announcement.

Government and opposition figures reacted cautiously to the news of Thursday's arrest, eager to avoid the legal pitfalls of commenting on matters before the courts.

Mr Thomson faces 150 charges of fraud, any one of which has the potential, if he were found guilty, to force his disqualification from Federal Parliament. But legal experts said it was unlikely that court proceedings would be concluded before the election.

A more immediate threat comes from the massive hit to the MP's finances associated with funding his legal defence.

Fairfax Media last year revealed that NSW Labor had paid almost $350,000 in legal costs relating to Mr Thomson before the MP was suspended from the party in May.

An extract of a report from NSW Labor's finance committee, prepared for the state conference, showed $240,000 of that amount was to cover a defamation settlement with Fairfax Media.

It is understood that party officials had been worried that if the ALP had not footed the bills, Mr Thomson could have gone bankrupt, disqualifying him from being an MP and causing a byelection that could imperil the minority Gillard government.

It remains unclear how Mr Thomson will meet his new costs, having left the party and having no visible means of outside support.

If a byelection were required, it would be a matter for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Anna Burke, to issue the writs. But with an election date set, that is seen as unlikely.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was alerted to the news about Mr Thomson's arrest during the question-and-answer session of his National Press Club address.

"We have certainly respected, or tried to respect, the rule that you do not comment on the specifics of cases which are currently before the courts and we will respect that rule," he said.

But he said the matter again raised questions about the judgment of Ms Gillard, whom he claimed ran a "protection racket" for Mr Thomson. The Opposition would continue to pursue those judgment questions.

Coalition workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz questioned what Ms Gillard knew and when, hinting that she might have been tipped off before she announced the election date on Wednesday.

This suggestion was rejected by Ms Gillard while she toured flood-affected Bundaberg, describing Mr Thomson's situation as "something for the police". Asked if she had any prior knowledge about the arrest, she said: "Of course not."

Trade Minister Craig Emerson would not be drawn on whether Mr Thomson, now an independent MP, should stand at the next election. "Let the investigative processes continue without political interference," he told Sky News, adding that Mr Thomson was entitled to the presumption of innocence. "There has been no finding of guilt against Mr Thomson," he said.

Mr Thomson has strenuously denied that he misused union funds to pay for prostitutes, air travel, entertainment and cash withdrawals when he was Health Services Union national secretary from 2002 to 2007.

His lawyer, Chris McArdle, was scathing about the arrest process as he defended his client's innocence. He criticised the way police had handled the arrest, complaining that journalists had received more warning than Mr Thomson.

A spokesman for NSW Police said Mr Thomson had been arrested because he refused an invitation before Christmas to surrender himself. "I believe that, from reading the warrant, he was invited to travel to Victoria to surrender himself prior to Christmas, he didn't do that," he told reporters.

The spokesman described Mr Thomson's demeanour as calm. "He's accepted what's been said to him, he hasn't argued."

Mr McArdle denied the NSW police account, saying Mr Thomson had only been invited to go to Victoria for an interview. "It is untrue to say we were invited to go and surrender our client for arrest," he told ABC TV. "If we had been given that invitation, we would have done so."

He explained that Mr Thomson had declined to be interviewed because he lived in a liberal democracy, "whereby you are not obliged to answer questions".

Mr Thomson will be disqualified from Parliament if he is convicted of a criminal offence that carries a jail term of one year or more.

HSU national president Chris Brown said that the union had received the news about Mr Thomson's arrest on Thursday, "like everyone else".


Bloated railway organization shrinking at the top

NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian says jobs might go in the latest RailCorp review Picture: Nic Gibson Source: The Daily Telegraph

NEARLY 200 senior RailCorp executives will have to reapply for their jobs - the latest get-tough policy from Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian as she strives to restructure the organisation

About 180 executives, all on more than $130,000 a year, will have to prove that they are up to the task - or lose their jobs to others.

The move comes after RailCorp chief executive Rob Mason has also been told he will have to reapply to be CEO of either new organisation.

The jobs spill is the latest in Ms Berejiklian's "Fixing the Trains" policy, kicked off last year by an announcement of 750 voluntary redundancies to RailCorp middle management, with 665 having been accepted to date.

Since then the Minister has axed another 230 positions and announced a reform of maintenance work so 450 maintenance jobs will be cut.

The 180 positions will be advertised externally, from this weekend. There are plans to also make other senior staff at RailCorp compete for a job.

The new rail operators, Sydney Trains and NSW Trains, will begin on July 1 and will replace RailCorp. Ms Berejiklian has demanded the senior positions be advertised, with her office saying she wants to "ensure a new culture and new talent comes into the organisations and that the best RailCorp employees stay on".

"I said on day one that fixing the trains was about a complete overhaul of rail services in this state and this next step is to make sure we have the best people in senior positions - whether they be from outside or from within," Ms Berejiklian said.

"Our customers are demanding a change and I'm determined to see significant improvements, especially around customer service and making sure there are less back office middle managers and more people out on the platform helping passengers.

"These senior staff are the people I will be holding to account and they are the people the public expects to deliver a new level of customer service."


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