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, 2014

Paid parental leave: NSW Senator John Williams says Abbott's scheme is too costly

Abbott's aim is to get mothers back into the home but is this the best way to do it?  A drastic decrease in the cost of housing (which is very high in Australia) would have a similar effect.  Such a reduction could be achieved by sending home all  unassimilated immigrants (essentially welfare-dependant ones).  That would free up (say) 100,000 dwellings -- and the law of supply and demand would do the rest

A Government senator says the economy is too weak to support Prime Minister Tony Abbott's $5.5 billion paid parental leave scheme.

It follows earlier reports today that the Commission of Audit has warned the policy is too expensive.

New South Wales Senator John Williams has told the ABC he wants to personally raise his concerns with the Prime Minister before stating publicly whether or not he will cross the floor.

The Australian Financial Review is reporting the Commission of Audit's first report, which the Government received nearly a fortnight ago, says the scheme is too costly and cannot be afforded with the budget in deficit.

The ABC has been unable to verify the report and a spokeswoman for Treasurer Joe Hockey says the Commission of Audit's "recommendations are confidential".

Senator Williams says he is concerned the economy is not currently strong enough to support the scheme.

"I've said all along, I don't have a problem with the paid parental leave scheme. That is our policy so long as the economy is strong, but I do have concerns about the strength of the Australian economy," he said.

"To me a strong economy in Australia [has] a four in front of unemployment – that's currently got a six in front of it and a four or close to four in front of economic growth - and we're currently growing at 2.5 per cent.  "So I do have concerns that the economy is not strong enough."

Asked if he would cross the floor, Senator Williams said he would not be making his position public until after he had the chance to talk personally to Mr Abbott about his policy.

"I'm going to have discussions with the Prime Minister prior to any decision I make and I think that's the right thing to do by the Prime Minister," he said.

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen seized on the report in the Australian Financial Review and urged the Prime Minister to dump his "excessive, gold-plated paid parental leave scheme".

Abbott defends his 'signature' policy

Mr Abbott told Parliament that he still "absolutely" stood by his policy.  "It's good for women, it's good for families and it's very good for our economy because if we can get the participation rate up, we will get our productivity up, we'll get our prosperity up, it'll be good for everyone," he said.

Mr Abbott says the time for his scheme, which would award new mothers six months at their full wage, capped at $75,000, had come.  "This is a policy which we took to the election and I have to say this is a policy that the Australian public well and truly understood when they voted in last year's election," he said.

But Senator Williams said there would have to be amendments to Mr Abbott's scheme because the Government did not have the majority in the Senate.

The Greens are refusing to support the scheme unless the cap is lowered to $50,000.  "If the Greens stick to their guns then I can't see it getting through the Senate," he said.  "We'll have to wait and see what comes up in front of us."

Several Government sources, who did not want to be named, told the ABC the Prime Minister's policy was friendless within the Coalition and some argued even within the Cabinet.

One Liberal says the policy was the first concern raised at every business function they had attended since the Prime Minister announced his policy to his surprised party room in 2010.


Move to limit ideological objections to Qld mining projects

The Queensland Government is looking to restrict who can object to mining applications, in a bid to crack down on what it calls philosophical opposition to projects.

Currently any group or person can object to applications, potentially sending the decision to the Land Court.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said it was "frustrating" for the Government.  "It's obvious that the current process allows individuals or groups who are fundamentally opposed to the coal industry - for whatever reason - to use the objection process to frustrate and delay those projects," he said.

"The people of Queensland have elected us as a Government based on developing our coal industry to supply the world markets and our processes need to allow us to do that."

In the next few weeks, the State Government will release a discussion paper looking at who can object to applications.

"What we're looking at is a process that will have an assessment process that is relative to the risk the project poses," Mr Seeney said.

"So for the really big projects I think it should be open to almost anyone, but for the smaller projects and for the lesser approvals ... there is a much different requirement."

Mr Seeney declined to spell out the definition of a big project.

The changes in the latest paper are broadly similar a 2013 discussion paper called Reducing Red Tape for Small Scale Alluvial Mining.

It suggests restricting objections to mining leases to "affected landholders" and local governments.

EDO chief solicitor voices reservations about changes

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland principal solicitor Jo Bragg says she has grave concerns about the impact this could have.  "It's hard to see what the Government means, but it appears to mean just a person where the mine is on their land," she said.

"But the community ... concerned about endangered species, groundwater - they should also be able to object as they can now."

As the discussion paper has not been publicly released, the Deputy Premier also declined to define an affected landholder.

In the Darling Downs community of Acland, some locals are concerned about how any potential changes could affect them.  The New Acland Coal Mine wants to expand to export up to 7.4 million tonnes of coal a year.

Veterinarian and farmer Nicki Laws is a member of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance and lives 30 kilometres away from the mine itself.

She says she wants to make sure her voice is heard.  "These ecosystems underpin us all, they underpin our communities, our living, our health, our prosperity as a district - so if we're threatening it, anyone should be allowed to comment on that," she said.

Mr Seeney said he would encourage everyone to participate in the discussion once the discussion paper is released.

"This proposal is about reviewing the assessment process, understanding the Government has a mandate from the people of Queensland and ensuring that the process allows us to fulfil that mandate," Mr Seeney said.

He did not provide specific examples of philosophical or vexatious objections.  "This review is not about any particular circumstance," he said.

"It's part of a broader commitment that we've given to the people of Queensland to review the assessment processes to ensure the projects the Queensland economy needs can proceed and respond in a responsible and appropriate way."


Bill Shorten apologises over mistaken comments to Parliament in defence on Stephen Conroy

A Leftist who makes up "facts".  How surprising!

Bill Shorten has apologised for mistakenly telling Parliament that Liberal frontbencher Michael Ronaldson called the former Chief of Army Ken Gillespie a "coward".

The Opposition Leader apologised on Wednesday night, after receiving a letter from Senator Ronaldson demanding to see the evidence for his "coward" claim. It also  came after a day spent trying to deflect attention from comments made by Labor frontbench colleague Stephen Conroy.

During Tuesday's Senate estimates, Senator Conroy sparked controversy by accusing Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell of participating in a "political cover-up" by citing operational reasons for not answering questions about the Abbott government's secretive border protection policies.

Trying to deflect attention from Senator Conroy's attack on General Campbell, Mr Shorten told the House on Wednesday: "What I also know is that . . . when Chief of Army General Gillespie was at estimates it was Senator Ronaldson who called him a coward," during debate on a motion to admonish Senator Conroy.

"I'm sure that, given his time again, Senator Ronaldson might have chosen his words differently," Mr Shorten said.

But the Special Minister of State, Senator Ronaldson, had no recollection of calling General Gillespie a "coward" at an estimates hearing in 2011. And when he phoned the General to check, the former Chief of Army also did not recall the exchange.

Senator Ronaldson wrote to Mr Shorten's office asking to see evidence for his claim.  "I wrote to Mr Shorten asking him to provide me with a copy of the transcript showing me where I allegedly said this," Senator Ronaldson said.

Mr Shorten's staff could find nothing in the parliamentary record to support his "coward" claim.

It is understood Mr Shorten received the letter from Senator Ronaldson at 7.20pm and at 7.26pm he entered the House to correct the record and apologise.

"This afternoon I referred to the Special Minister of State," Mr Shorten said. "At the time I had been advised that the minister had made the remark I attributed to him.

"Tonight at 7.20pm, I received a letter from the Special Minister of State advising that he has no recollection of making that remark.  "Therefore, I wish to correct the record and I apologise to the Special Minister of State."

Mr Shorten got the "coward" tip from his Victorian Labor colleague David Feeney. Mr Feeney had passed a note to the Opposition Leader telling him about Senator Ronaldson's alleged exchange with the Chief of Army in 2011.

When Fairfax Media called Mr Feeney on Thursday morning, the member for Batman admitted he might have unwittingly misinformed his leader.

"I witnessed a couple of sharp altercations [between Senator Ronaldson and General Gillespie]," Mr Feeney said, though acknowledging there was a difference between a "sharp altercation" and calling the Chief of Army a "coward".

"But the critical point here is that this is a device for the Liberal Party to avoid talking about issues that actually matter," Mr Feeney said, citing "secrecy, Manus Island, cuts to Defence and the difficulties that Senator Nash is experiencing".

Senator Ronaldson said he wanted a "formal retraction" from the Opposition Leader.  "The only way the record can be properly corrected is for a full and unequivocal retraction of the allegation and this must be done in the House by Mr Shorten," he said.  "Notwithstanding the rough and tumble of Parliamentary proceedings, Mr Shorten's accusation went way beyond acceptable standards."

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who initiated a parliamentary censure of Senator Conroy believes he can remain opposition defence spokesman provided he apologises to General Campbell.

Mr Wilkie said it was entirely appropriate to quiz General Campbell about Operation Sovereign Borders.  "But what happened was, Senator Conroy accused General Campbell of being complicit in a cover-up when there is no evidence," he told ABC radio on Thursday.  "It was a direct attack on his character and it was entirely unwarranted," he said.

Mr Wilkie said Senator Conroy should face the media and publicly apologise to General Campbell.  "Say he made a mistake, that he’ll learn from it and he’ll get back to work," he said.


NSW Government resists Commonwealth push for independent government funded schools

New South Wales is resisting any further embrace of the Federal Government's new $70 million Independent Public Schools initiative.

The reforms, launched earlier this month, include a goal of 25 per cent, or approximately 1500 existing public schools to become Independent Public Schools by 2017.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said on Sunday that he had letters from every state and territory, except South Australia, wanting to be part of the program.

But NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli says his state has already substantially gone down the road of school autonomy and is not planning to go any further.

"We've made it clear and New South Wales has gone substantially down the road of increased school autonomy. Public schools in NSW will manage 70 per cent of their budget up from the current 10 per cent," he said.

"So we have gone substantially down the road of school autonomy, New South Wales has done a lot.

"The Commonwealth have got their views and I have met with Christopher Pyne to talk about where our reforms actually meet the kinds of changes that he would like to see and we continue those negotiations."

He says it is powerful for public schools to be part of a system and he does not want that to change with more autonomy.

"You have got to have a balance between the power of principals to make decisions about their schools but also keeping the power of a system in place, " he said.

Mr Pyne says NSW wants to be part of the independent schools program and he will continue to work with Mr Piccoli.

"I'll be working with him to develop the kind of autonomy in schools that we both think is of an advantage to students, particularly, in bringing about good outcomes for students," he said.

Mr Pyne has denied there are any tensions between himself and the NSW Education Minister saying he feels "very positive toward Adrian Piccoli".

Political lobbying

The Federal Education Minister has urged MPs to talk to parents and teachers to encourage schools in their communities to become independent public schools.

Mr Piccoli says he does not have a problem with federal MPs lobbying schools.  "Federal MPs are entitled to write to their local schools," he said.

But the the Director-General of Education and Communities Dr Michele Bruniges has taken issue and written to the state's public school principals.

" NSW public schools operate as part of a school system. Individual schools are therefore unable to enter into any such arrangement with the Commonwealth government," she wrote.  "Any discussions about independent public schools will be conducted at a departmental level."


27 February, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG wonders why Qantas is in such a pickle


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks the ALP should apologize for its unfounded attacks on the Australian military

John Singleton calls Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett a ‘prick’, and CEO Greg Hywood an ‘idiot’ in extraordinary radio spray on 2GB

Fairfax are slimy Leftists and Singleton is libertarian but also in this case Singleton seems to be backed up by key players in the matter

IT would have to go down as the spray of the year: Sydney radio tsar John Singleton unleashed yesterday on his one-time would-be business partners at Fairfax Media, calling its chairman a “pompous pr..k” and the CEO an “idiot”.

Just months after the larrikin millionaire horse owner blew up a lifelong friendship with trainer Gai Waterhouse in the More Joyous scandal, Singleton has now declared war on struggling Fairfax.

And yesterday’s 20-minute spray on Sydney’s top-rating Alan Jones program on Singleton’s own 2GB can only be described as spectacular.

The Macquarie Radio Network’s majority owner ridiculed Fairfax’s management and share price, saying the company had “deliberately misled” shareholders over the collapsed merger talks between 2GB and 2UE.

Singleton suggested Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett should be president of the “Avoca bowling club” and claimed CEO Greg Hywood was a “third-rater” who had phoned him “almost in tears” over the money in consultancy fees down the drain when the talks fell over.

Fairfax Media and Macquarie Radio have ended protracted negotiations over a $200 million merger of radio assets. The deal would have combined Macquarie’s powerful Sydney station 2GB with Fairfax’s Melbourne-dominant 3AW to deliver pre-tax earnings of $32 million.

Singleton accused Mr Corbett of professing Christian values while buying into pubs and poker machines as CEO of Woolworths.

“I don’t profess Christianity and I don’t bash the bible. Nor do I ring people on Sunday nights sounding drunk outta my head. If he doesn’t drink, he certainly does a really good impression late on Sunday night. Let’s assume he was just tired. I am not making any allegations there,” Singleton said on air.

“If you are a proper chairman, a decent human being, not a precocious, pretentious pr..k — I apologise for that word — precocious, pretentious little whipper snapper like Roger Corbett.

“Roger wants to be chairman. Give the little bloke his chairmanship … he’s only got a year to go and then he can be president of the Avoca bowling club or rotary or something, some self-important, pompous, puffed-up job for him.

Of Mr Hywood he said: “He doesn’t know what he’s doing so he just hires consultants to tell him what to do. Obviously he does nothing except do what they tell him.”

The tirade was unleashed on air to Jones — who owns 12 per cent of Macquarie — yesterday morning after Fairfax newspapers on Monday published a report that the deal fell over “after it became clear star Macquarie shock jocks Alan Jones and Ray Hadley would not be part” of it. Singleton suggested the story was “verbatim” what Mr Hywood had told a key executive advising Gina Rinehart on her $200 million investment in Fairfax.

Mr Corbett and Mr Hywood declined requests to be interviewed yesterday.

However, in a statement yesterday Fairfax said that without certainty on whether Jones and Hadley were going to be part of the merger, the deal could not move forward.

“Anyone who had the misfortune of hearing John Singleton’s deluded and self-indulgent sprays on 2GB and elsewhere this morning can only feel sorry for the man,” the statement said.

“Amongst the myriad nonsense and highly defamatory remarks, Mr Singleton also failed to mention that his fellow shareholder and Macquarie Radio deal-maker, Mark Carnegie, refused to facilitate meetings with Mr Jones and Mr Hadley and walked out of a meeting with Fairfax representatives.

“Mr Hadley and Mr Jones are the key assets of any value in Macquarie Radio and without an opportunity to meet with them there was no point in Fairfax Media pursuing talks with the highly volatile and emotional organisation.”

Jones and Hadley both denied yesterday being the cause of the failed merger.

Singleton claimed Mr Hywood had wanted $300 million in the deal, making it financially unviable for Macquarie and denied reports that he could not finance it.

“The shareholders of Fairfax have been deliberately misled,” Singleton said.

Jones said on air yesterday: “Fairfax radio could hardly negotiate from any position other than weakness. But to suggest that I wasn’t prepared to be part of a proposed deal and that I couldn’t be persuaded to be part of a ... ‘joint-venture controlled by Fairfax’, I thought was laughable.  “No-one at Fairfax has ever spoke to me. The story is, to use a harsh word, another lie.”

Hadley said yesterday: “I have never had a conversation with anyone either at 2GB or Fairfax about any such matter. I have never spoken to Singo about it. It is a downright lie. I can only assume the (Herald) reporter got it from his masters.”

Mr Singleton also questioned Fairfax’s assertion it is independent, saying Mr Hywood and Mr Corbett wanted to meet Jones and Hadley “because before they made a firm offer they wanted to make sure they would be able to get on ... that they could control them, despite the charter of independence that they go on about.”

Mr Singleton is a lifelong friend of Gina Rinehart, who owns a $200 million stake in Fairfax and has been critical of its poor share price, which closed yesterday at 94 cents.


Businesses, residents hit by NBN switch

Spiro Kourkoumelis was shocked to learn this week that the telephone services vital to the operation of his bicycle shop in Sydney Road, Brunswick, would soon be dead unless they were reconnected to the national broadband network.

Mr Kourkoumelis' business is one of 2800 premises in Brunswick that will have their analogue internet and phone services shut down when NBN Co decommissions Telstra's copper network on May 23.

The switch-off will occur in the 15 towns and suburbs across Australia that have had the NBN's fibre cables in place for at least 18 months. About 2200 premises in South Morang will be among those affected.

Mr Kourkoumelis, who owns Ray's Cycles and AvantiPlus, and who played football for Carlton and St Kilda, said he heard about the imminent copper switch-off only two days ago, when a sales representative from the Summit IT group told him that he would have to switch over to a new system.

"Either I haven't been paying attention or I'm just too busy running my own business," Mr Kourkoumelis said. "I'm going to have to look into it because I need to get phones, my business relies on it."

Of the approximately 250 businesses approached by Summit IT, about 90 per cent weren't on the NBN and were surprised to learn that their telco services would soon be switched off.

Summit IT director Greg Lipschitz said over the past month his organisation has targeted small-to-medium enterprises in Brunswick's NBN catchment area.

"The interesting thing is that people don't particularly want to change. People are either confused because they're under contract with an existing provider or they don't understand what the change means to their business - the cost, the contractual obligations," Mr Lipschitz said. "The reality is that people have overlooked, in its entirety, the fact it's going to deliver your traditional service."

Access to the wholesale NBN network is sold via retail telcos, such as Telstra and Optus, which will usually bear the cost of installing the utility box required to connect to the network.

It took Katerina Angelopolous nearly 10 months to get a working NBN connection for her elderly mother living in Brunswick.

Ms Angelopolous said that she first ordered a new fibre service in April 2013. Her mother Anastasia, 80, requires a fixed telephone line to support a Mepacs personal alarm, a monitoring device whereby users press a button to call emergency services.

Telstra said it would be installed by October but it wasn't until last Friday that a technician visited her mother's house. Ms Angelopolous said elderly residents, particularly migrants, weren't capable of navigating the red tape required to get an NBN connection.

NBN Co spokesperson Trent Williams said that since November 2012 it has advertised the shutdown via local media, community information sessions and direct mail, as well as engaging local council and advocacy groups. The company has more information about the steps residents and businesses need to take to switch to services provided over the NBN as well as a list of service providers here.

Telcos such as Telstra, Optus and iiNet are also embarking on their own marketing campaigns.


Big Queensland shark catch

RECORD numbers of monster sharks are being caught off popular Queensland beaches as controversy rages about Western Australia?s new shark cull.

About 80 sharks have been snared by State Government shark hunters off the Queensland coast in the last two months alone, including a whopping 3.8m great hammerhead caught last month at Miami Beach. That’s the same length as a small car such as a Nissan Micra, which measures 3.78m in length.

The 80 sharks caught in the last two months include 50 classed as “particularly dangerous” because they are more than 2m long.

While last year’s catch of 686 sharks was down on the previous year the catch included the highest number of these “dangerous” sharks in three years.

Among the haul last year were six white pointers, including a 3.3m monster caught off Currumbin Beach.

Sharks caught so far this year include a 4.2m tiger shark at Rainbow Beach, a 3.95m tiger at Kelly’s Beach (Bundaberg), a 3.85m tiger shark at Tannum Sands and a 3.8m great hammerhead at Miami.

Shark Control Program head Jeff Krause said the figures prove culling helps protect swimmers from potential man-eaters.

His comments came amid ongoing protests over the WA shark cull prompted by a series of fatal attacks in the state, including that of Queensland surfer Chris Boyd who was mauled to death by a Great White in November.

Mr Boyd’s partner, Krystle Westwood, revealed last week she had been subjected to “disgusting” online attacks from anti-cull activists. WA Premier Colin Barnett said he was shocked at the “violence, threats and intimidation” by some protesters.

But Queensland’s shark cull has been running since 1962 and tens of thousands of sharks have been killed.

Mr Krause said an average of 500 to 700 sharks a year were caught by the network of baited drumlines and nets running between the Gold Coast and Cairns.

“Human safety must come first and that’s why the Queensland Government is committed to the shark control program,’’ Mr Krause said.

“The combined use of shark nets and drumlines in Queensland is effective in ­reducing the overall number of sharks close to popular beaches, making it a safer place to swim.’’

Mr Krause said not all sharks caught were killed, with threatened and “non-dangerous sharks released where possible”.

But Australian Marine Conservation Society director Darren Kindleysides said the shark control program was “effectively shark fishing” – killing and trapping large numbers of sharks and other marine creatures including whales, dolphins, dugongs and turtles.

“Just because it’s been in place for a long time doesn’t make it any better from an environmental point of view,’’ he said.

“It’s an expensive program and not necessarily effective. It is certainly not a complete barrier between sharks and swimmers and there are better alternatives with less adverse environmental impacts, such as better beach patrols.’’

Mr Kindleysides said Queensland was the only state that used both baited drumlins and nets to catch sharks.  He said NSW authorities at least removed its nets in winter during the annual whale migration.


Greenie polluters

A FAULTY switch and instruction manuals written entirely in Japanese have been blamed in court for why a ship owned by conservation group Sea Shepherd dropped up to 500 litres of diesel into the Trinity Inlet.

The environmental organisation, whose Australian arm is chaired by former politician Bob Brown, yesterday pleaded guilty to the marine pollution offence in the Cairns Magistrates Court.

Defence barrister Tracy Fantin admitted the irony of the charge given Sea Shepherd's charter to protect and preserve marine life around the world.

She said the spill, which took place while the ship was moored alongside a wharf at the Cairns Port on October 13, 2012, happened after a crew member named Gabor Nosty failed to manually flick the "low level" switch during a fuel transfer, despite being aware the switch was faulty.

The court heard Sea Shepherd Australia had only bought the boat, named New Atlantis, from Japan a week earlier and had yet to translate signage and manuals or repair the switch.

According to court documents, crew members had been given basic handover information but the chief engineer had to work out the ship's systems "by his own devices" due to instruction manuals and other materials all being in Japanese.  All crew members were volunteers and were either German, Dutch or American.

The court was told a passerby noticed diesel flowing into the sea about 6.30pm and tried to alert crew members before notifying the master of a ship moored alongside who boarded the New Atlantis and told them.

"She noticed a strong smell of diesel fuel and saw liquid running from the New Atlantis into the water," the court document read.

"The smell was so strong the passerby had to put a jumper over her nose ... "

It was estimated between 100 and 500 litres spilled out.

Magistrate Kevin Priestly called the amount "not insignificant" and questioned why a crewman was performing the fuel transfer and not the chief engineer.

Department of Transport and Main Roads prosecutor Anne Roseler called for a penalty of between $15,000 and $30,000. Mr Priestly adjourned the decision to a date to be fixed. Charges against Mr Nosty were dropped.


26 February, 2014

Muslim rip-off

Australia caught in 'cash-for-Halal' claim

THE body governing halal meat in Indonesia is accused of demanding tens of thousands of dollars in "donations" and travel expenses from Australian businesses.

Indonesia's Tempo Magazine reports that meat entering the country must be certified halal - that is, prepared under Islamic guidelines - by groups licensed by the Indonesian Clerics Council (MUI).

Tempo reports that Australian groups seeking certification must pay large "donations" to the MUI, and foot the bill for groups of its representatives to visit.

Head of Halal Certification Authority based in Sydney, Mohammed El-Mouelhy, told Tempo that even though he agreed to the terms, he never got a halal label and was never told why.

Tempo reports seeing receipts for one business' deposits to the head of the MUI, Amidhan Shaberah.

The largest was $10,000, apparently to stop the MUI revoking the license of a business called Australian Halal Food Services.

Australian abattoirs are also being made to pay hundreds so the approved groups can inspect their facilities.

Director of meat processors JBS Australia, John Berry, told the magazine the high cost of halal certification was limiting business and concerning meat exporters who deal with Indonesia.

AAP has approached the MUI for comment.

Indonesian Twitter users expressed outrage at the report.

Some called for the end of the MUI "monopoly" and many called its conduct "haram," or forbidden by Islamic law.

"Heart & conduct must be halal too," user Rudy tweeted.


Tim Flannery: Greenie Psychopath

It is typical of psychopaths to show no consistency in what they say.  They say whatever suits the moment

Former Chief Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery in 2007:

"We’re already seeing the initial impacts [of man-made global warming] and they include a decline in the winter rainfall zone across southern Australia, which is clearly an impact of climate change, but also a decrease in run-off. Although we’re getting say a 20 per cent decrease in rainfall in some areas of Australia, that’s translating to a 60 per cent decrease in the run-off into the dams and rivers. That’s because the soil is warmer because of global warming and the plants are under more stress and therefore using more moisture. So even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems, and that’s a real worry for the people in the bush."

Tim Flannery yesterday:

"To return to heavy rainfall and flooding, we have seen a real change in Australia, along with heat waves, in terms of rainfall and flooding. And just to remind people this comes with an economic cost, that’s Brisbane a couple of years ago (reference to a presentation slide). I still remember paying my flood levy, it should be known as the first climate change tax that we paid in this country. The Queensland floods in December 2010 was the wettest December on record in Queensland. Floods broke river height records at over 100 observation stations. And again just think of that graphic with normal distribution of the weather and how it has shifted where we’re going into that area now of record breaking events."

Flannery predicted global warming would give us fewer floods, now he says we’re getting more.


Rogue union want a cut of something they did nothing to deserve

Waterfront operator Patrick Stevedores has been secretly handed $18.5 million to compensate for disruptions caused by the expansion of the Port of Melbourne.

The Maritime Union of Australia is furious, claiming the secret deal underpins a taxpayer-funded push to casualise the port workforce.

In a report to the Australian stock exchange, Patrick's parent company, Asciano, last week confirmed it had received the payment because of the early termination of its lease at Webb Dock, an area of the port that is being redeveloped.

Patrick has already announced that as part of the redevelopment it will be offering redundancies to its 260-strong stevedoring workforce. The union says 80 jobs are likely to be lost with 73 per cent of the remaining workforce being employed as casuals.

In a leaflet for members, the MUA said the move was a repeat of the 1998 waterfront dispute, calling it a publicly funded payout "negotiated in a dodgy backroom deal with the state Coalition government and port corporation".

MUA assistant secretary Ian Bray said it was disgraceful that the state government had refused to reveal the size of the payout, with the money transferred directly to shareholders rather than being used to retain staff.

"If Patrick gets its way, three out of four workers at … Webb Dock will have to sit by the phone to be told two hours before a shift that they will be required, and there will be different start times for shifts each day," Mr Bray said.

The state government is keen to avoid inflaming the situation. Ports Minister David Hodgett said the payment was a commercial settlement between the Port of Melbourne and Asciano.

"Matters between the Maritime Union of Australia members and Asciano are best resolved between the two parties," he said.

Port of Melbourne spokesman Peter Harry said the payment was settlement for the early termination of Patrick's lease.

Asciano declined to comment, with a spokesman referring The Age to a footnote in the company's report to the stock exchange.


Warning to Michael Mann: apologise for your lie or risk facing from me what you’ve done to Steyn

Andrew Bolt

Open and shut case. Michael Mann is a liar:

Normally I do not sue, but this seems to me a special case.

Mann, the climate alarmist who gave the world his dodgy ”hockey stick”, is now suing sceptic Mark Steyn for mocking him and his lawyers have produced deceptive legal documents in his defence.

Mann has published an outright lie that defames me, and should face the same punishment he wishes to mete out on Steyn for mere mockery.

I do not lie and Murdoch does not pay me to do so. Nor has Mann singled out a single “lie” I’m alleged to have committed.

In fact, Mann is so reckless with the facts that his tweet links to an obvious parody Twitter account run by one of my critics, clearly believing that it’s actually mine.

I have sent Mann the following email:

Dr Mann:

I note your publication of the following defamatory tweet:

You have published an outright lie that defames me.

I do not lie and am not paid by Rupert Murdoch to lie. You have not identified in your tweet a single example of an alleged lie, which suggests you simply made up this defamatory claim.

Indeed, you were so reckless with the facts that your tweet links to an obvious parody Twitter account run by one of my critics which you have clearly believed is mine.

Your other link is to the website of a warmist journalist who for years was a Murdoch columnist, too, writing on climate change. Was he, too, paid by “villainous” Rupert Murdoch to “lie to public”?

I’ve since learned that you last year retweeted another defamatory comment: “No other media organisation in any other civilised nation would employ #AndrewBolt as a journalist”.

As it turns out, that, too, is incorrect. I am not only employed by News Corp but by Australia’s Network 10 and Macquarie Radio Network, where I host a weekly television show and co-host a daily radio show respectively. I have also appeared as a commentator on other media outlets, including the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Al Jazeera, the BBC and Canadian radio stations. I am very confident I would be able to find work as a journalist in another “civilised nation”.

I note this because repeated defamations under Australia’s law is evidence of malice – and your history of defaming me shows a complete disregard for the facts.

It is appalling that you could be so reckless, so spiteful, so destructive and so ill-informed. I have long doubted the rigor and the conclusions of your work as a climate scientist and often deplored the way you conduct debate, but even I had never before today considered publically calling you a liar.

I demand you delete your tweet and issue a public apology on the same Twitter account within 24 hours. Failure to do so will not only cast doubt on your commitment to truth in debates on global warming, but expose you to legal action.


Mann gives a very grudging “not necessarily” apology for his brazen lie (and follows it up elsewhere with a string of insults):

Too late. His mask has slipped. What else has he repeated - whether “science” or personal calumnies - that was false and motivated by spite or self-protection?


25 February, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says that the Greens and Labor are like Alice in Wonderland


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says that Medicare should be means-tested

Illegal immigrants turned back to Indonesia by Abbott government in lifeboat

AUSTRALIA has sent a group of asylum seekers back to Indonesia in a lifeboat, in the latest “turn back’’ under the Abbott government.

Senior Indonesian sources have told the ABC that the large orange lifeboat was discovered at about midday on Monday on the south coast of Central Java.

It said local media had reported that about 26 asylum seekers were on board, but it was unclear whether that figure also included the boat’s Indonesian crew.

The unsinkable lifeboats were purchased by the government as part of Operation Sovereign Borders, but it has refused to confirm their use in sending asylum seekers back to Indonesia.

The turn-back policy has angered the Indonesians, who have rejected it as a solution to people smuggling in the region.

Discovery of the lifeboat comes as the government is under fire over its border policies, following the riot at the Manus Island detention centre and the navy’s incursions into Indonesian waters.

A spokesperson for the Immigration Minister refused to confirm the report:  “In accordance with the Operation Sovereign Borders Joint Agency Task Force policy regarding public release of information on operational matters, the government has no further response on the issues raised.”


Coal seam gas debate has no place for scare campaigns

Peter Reith

Until last week I thought the NSW government had in effect banned the coal seam gas industry. The O'Farrell government has certainly abandoned public debate and as a result the greenies and Alan Jones have filled the vacuum with a lot of nonsensical claims.

But last week, the government designated a coal seam gas project in Narrabri as a "strategic energy project" which is meant to cut back on red and green tape.

Jones is in a different class to the greenies. He is a strong supporter of free enterprise. He supported me and Chris Corrigan over the waterfront dispute and he has been a strong voice for many good causes. But, for reasons I do not understand, Jones has a bee in his bonnet over the gas industry.

I became interested in natural gas at the request of the Victorian government, which was concerned at the impact of gas sales to China and its implications for the eastern Australia gas market. The massive developments in Queensland are already imposing transitional effects. There is a real prospect Sydney could suffer gas shortages causing major dislocation to business. Gas prices are already rising and it could take at least three years to supply additional gas to Sydney if everything goes well and if the government holds its nerve.

I do not discard community concerns about the gas industry. The NSW government has comprehensive regulations to manage it. Whatever the risks, they need to be addressed. But some activists are totally opposed to the gas industry regardless of the regulations and of the consequences.

The Greens also oppose coal and nuclear power and claim that solar and wind power can make the difference. It's hard to fathom why they oppose natural gas which has half the emissions of brown coal.

We all face risks every day. It's a risk to drive down the street or walk across the road. The question is whether the risks can be managed. Managing risk is the reality in Queensland, especially between farmers and the gas industry.

Professor Peter Hartley from Rice University in the US said: "There is no proven case of fracturing fluid or hydrocarbons produced by fracturing diffusing from the fractured zone into an aquifer." I believe you would be hard pressed to find any independently confirmed cases of water contamination as a result of drilling by the gas industry after more than 2 million fracking operations in the US.

There is a revolution in the US gas industry, to the extent that manufacturing plants that were established by the US in China are now popping up back home.

The US will soon have energy independence because of new technologies, such as fracking and horizontal drilling. In NSW and Victoria you would think the new technology is some form of plague.

The Santos project will face Jones leading the charge, microphone at the ready.

There are big changes under way in the NSW, Victorian and Queensland natural gas markets. Some big decisions will need to be made and they should be premised on the facts, the science and the public interest. The industry can provide jobs and rising living standards but for that to happen, there needs to be sensible debate, not a scare campaign.


Qld. Premier attacks penalty rates as too great a burden on business

PREMIER Campbell Newman has urged the Federal Government to consider a review of penalty rates, saying they are too great a burden on business owners.

Speaking in far north Queensland at the Mission Beach Visitor Information Centre, Mr Newman said ­operators were telling his ­Government that penalty rates made it uneconomical to open on public holidays, impacting the state’s tourism industry.

“Particularly restaurant ­operators will say they often get complaints from people who want to know why they’re not open on public holidays,” Mr Newman said.  “What they’re telling us is they’re paying people $50 an hour and it’s just not economical to open.  “I’m stating what the problem is and the Federal Government are the ones who need to have a look at it.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has asked the Fair Work Commission to look at penalty rates as part of its four-year review of the award wage system.

The move has angered ­unions, who say penalty rates make working in traditionally low-paid jobs in the hospitality industry worthwhile.  John Battams from the Queensland Council of Unions said Mr Newman’s support for the abolition of penalty rates showed he had learnt nothing from Saturday’s Redcliffe by-election defeat.

“That result was people openly and actively saying the Government doesn’t consult, and it doesn’t have compassion for real people in society,” Mr Battams said.

“The fact is, the people who work in hospitality are among our lowest-paid ­employees and many would not survive without the ­payment of penalty rates.”


Cardinal Pell promoted to Rome

His Eminence is Australian-born and educated so it is a credit to Australia that one of its sons should rise to such a senior position.

In a sign of the times I notice that the COMUNICATO DELLA SALA STAMPA DELLA SANTA SEDE (Press release) appears to have been  issued in English and Italian only.  Latinists will mourn

POPE Francis has appointed Australian Cardinal George Pell to one of the church’s most senior positions in Rome.

Cardinal Pell will become the prefect for the economy of the Holy See and the Vatican — supervising the tiny city state’s economic and administrative affairs.

Pope Francis made the announcement­ at midnight (AEDT).

Cardinal Pell will be responsible for preparing the Holy See and Vatican’s annual budget as well as financial planning and enhanced internal controls, the Vatican said in a statement.

Cardinal Pell’s new position will rank on a par with the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin — an Italian.

Both men are likely to rank equal second behind the Pope, The Australian reported.

Cardinal Pell — the Archbishop of Sydney and formerly the Archbishop of Melbourne — will relocate to Rome.

No Australian cardinal has ever been appointed to such a senior position within the Catholic Church.

Pell has been close to all three recent popes.


24 February, 2014

Qld Premier rejects fizzy drink hysteria

PREMIER Campbell Newman has described his chief health officer’s call for parents to deny children soft drinks at weekend sporting events as over the top.

“We shouldn’t just be coming over the top and saying ban this and ban that,” Mr Newman said.  “It’s a free country. It was when I last checked and frankly these sorts of proposals are over the top.”

Mr Newman said people needed to “take a reality check” on the issue.  “I totally acknowledge that we have an issue about healthy living and obesity but I think that it’s about time we also took stock of how far we go with these things,” he said.  “When we were kids we did drink soft drink but we probably didn’t guzzle it every single day.

“I just think blanket bans, punishing the many for the sins of well maybe more than a few in this case is just not the way to go.

Qld Health's latest anti-obesity campaign addresses the "health age" of people. Are you eating yourself to an early grave?

“Let’s start in our homes with education so that people know how to properly bring up their kids and feed them.”

Overnight, The Courier-Mail reported that chief health officer Jeannette Young, who has targeted obesity as her major health challenge for the past two years, had called for parents to stand firm against children being allowed soft drink, whether it was in the home, at school or sporting events.

She said soft drink sales were already banned at state school tuckshops, but called on parents to extend that to weekend sporting activities.

“I can’t ban it, I’m not a member of the sporting clubs’ organising committees, but parents can call for a ban,’’ Dr Young said.

Queensland Health's latest anti-obesity campaign addresses the "health age" of people. Are you eating yourself to an early grave?

“You go along on a Saturday and there’s all these kids playing netball, soccer, cricket. It’s fantastic. They’re doing great physical activity and then they go and get a big can of soft drink.

“It’s reinforcing great behaviour with bad nutrition. There’s no nutritional benefit at all from drinking soft drink.’’

Dr Young’s plea comes with 27 per cent — or about 200,000 Queensland five-to-17-year-olds — classed as overweight or obese, and the figure is rising.

She said excess weight in children put them at high risk of adult obesity, bringing with it an increased likelihood of developing cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

“Unfortunately, it sets them up with bad habits that last a lifetime,’’ she said.

Dr Young said parents should stick to giving their children water and milk.


Dangerous new credit laws

Ominous changes to information held on your credit file will come into effect from the 12th of March this year.

What is most concerning about these new credit file laws is that credit providers can issue an “opinion” on whether you genuinely intend to repay a loan... and without your knowledge.

That “opinion”, may be arrived at by a snotty nosed kid who doesn’t like the colour of your eyes and that “opinion” may ruin your life without you knowing why.

Information and an “opinion” about you can, and will, be exchanged between credit providers and banks. There is also no doubt that employers, police, lawyers, partners, media, private eyes and the next door neighbour will be able to access that information without you knowing.

“Oh, we promise we will keep the data to ourselves”, say the credit providers. I say, “What a load of frog droppings!”

Forget Dun & Bradstreet, for less than $1,000 I can find out everything I need to know about you right now, and that’s without these new laws!

So, next time you apply for credit, be nice to the snotty nosed kid taking down your details because his/her “opinion” of your future intentions matters. And if you have a bad credit rating, $1,000 could change his “opinion” of you altogether.

Of course credit providers do explain that this new information they will hold on you should lead to overall lower credit card rates.

Wanna bet?


AFP drops Somlyay fraud claims

Accusations by the Leftist "Sydney Morning Herald" come to nothing

THE Australian Federal Police have dismissed fraud allegations against former Liberal MP Alex Somlyay.

There were claims the 23-year Queensland political veteran had billed taxpayers for his wife's employment but she had never been seen at the office during the past three years.

The AFP has reviewed documents related to the matter.

"The assessment of this matter did not identify any conduct by Mr Somlyay that would constitute a criminal offence," the AFP said in a statement.

It also looked at Mrs Somlyay's employment under her maiden name and receipt of payments for work performed.

Officers spoke to Mr and Mrs Somlyay.

"The AFP found no evidence of criminality relating to fraud against the Commonwealth to warrant an investigation," the AFP said, adding the matter was finalised.

In January, the Liberal Party banned MPs employing family members.


Like it or not, national character owes much to the mother country

It is safe to assume that the academics responsible for the Australian Curriculum would disagree with Daniel Hannan's proposition that the English-speaking people are blessed with an exceptional virtue.

Hannan, as it turns out, disagrees with national curriculums, and says the Coalition government will come to regret its decision to support one.

More of that in a moment, but first a warning: politically correct readers may find the views expressed in this article offensive.

Hannan is a British member of the European parliament and author of Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World. His unfashionable claim is that the British Empire was a force for good, and that far from saying sorry for colonial settlement we should be saying thank you.

The civic system to which Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US owe their stability and success began with a quirky idea that took hold on a damp isle on the western edge of Europe: the state should be subject to the law rather than the other way round.

Australia's most important resource is not natural but imported: the spirit of liberty under the rule of law brought here by the early settlers.

"It was a way of arranging their affairs that elevated the individual above the state and that elevated the rule of law above the power of the executive," Hannan told Inquirer in a phone interview from Brussels this week.

"That's the magic ingredient that led to modern capitalism and modern freedom. Everybody does better under that system.

"The reason why a child of Greek parents in Melbourne is better off than a child of Greek parents in Mytilene has nothing to do with race and everything to do with political structures."

The idea of Anglosphere Exceptionalism would have seemed too obvious to need stating in Australia a generation or two ago.

With the abandonment of the White Australia policy from the late 1960s onwards, however, and Britain's rejection of Commonwealth in favour of joining the EU, British patriotic sentiment became distasteful to the Australian intelligentsia, who came to view it as akin to racism. It is a criticism with which Hannan is familiar.

"That's the opening gambit of somebody who can't be bothered to read the thesis.It's demonstrably false. The Anglosphere is why Bermuda is not Haiti. It's why Hong Kong is not China. It's why Singapore is not Indonesia."

The notion that the dynamic qualities of Britishness were racially determined was a heresy that took hold in the 19th century and flourished until World War II, says Hannan.

"When I was last in Australia, I was struck, and quite moved, by the multi-ethnic make-up of the people who had come to listen to me hymning the virtues of the Anglosphere," he says.

"Personal freedom, free contract capitalism, the common law are things people want to buy in to. They cross half the world in order to find a better system."

The enabling principle of personal liberty was imported from Britain and then improved upon in the colonies, as Alexis de Tocqueville noted in his study of the US in the 19th century. "The American," Tocqueville wrote, "is the Englishman left to himself."

Australia, in Hannan's estimation, is "not a spill-over Britain, but an intensified Britain". The defining Australian character of egalitarianism, often seen as a rejection of the British class system, may owe more to the mother country than we are inclined to imagine.

"The British had, historically, been remarkably ready to defy their rulers," Hannan writes in his latest book.

"Australians took these characteristics much further. Any visitor to Australia is struck by the endurance of these characteristics: informality, bloody-mindedness, individualism, self-reliance, in short, is (John Stuart) Mill's libertarian philosophy made flesh."

Conservative critics of the national curriculum say it skates too lightly over the virtues of Australia's colonial heritage, a tradition they commonly describe as "Judeo-Christian". Hannan's conclusion is subtly different. Christianity, and particularly the Protestant tradition, may have provided the seedbed for personal liberty, but it was principally in Britain that it flourished.

"There is a unique lineage of liberty that you can trace back in the English-speaking world that is qualitatively different from the Polish experience, the Russian experience or the Italian experience," he tells Inquirer.

"It is true that it can't be wholly divorced from the religious context but the outcome of that has long since transcended its denominational roots. There is an Anglosphere culture that is as strong in Ireland or, for that matter, Singapore, as in Australia or Britain."

Yet, says Hannan, having developed and exported the most successful system of government known to the human race, the English-speaking intelligentsia is now walking away from its own creation.

Britain's intellectual elites see Anglosphere values as an obstacle to European integration. Contentiously, he concludes: "Their equivalents in Australia see them as a distraction from their country's supposed Asian destiny."

The Conservative Euro MP from Britain is keen to clear up any misunderstanding.

"To be absolutely clear, I do not mean that you should not be profiting from the economic growth of Asia -- you would be crazy not to do that," he says. "It doesn't follow that you need to redefine your political system. On the contrary; yours has demonstrably worked better than most of those on the Asian mainland.

"I was really struck when I was in Australia last that the kind of people who saw Asia as kind of alternative to the Anglosphere were the precise equivalent to British Europhiles, politically and socially. They were equally dominant in the same fields, in parts of the media and parts of academic life, and they had exactly the same attitudes British Euro fanatics have."

Nevertheless, he insists, the flight away from individualism has been slower in Australia and the US than in Britain, leaving us in a stronger position.

The marshalling of national resources by the British government during World War II was the precursor for the welfare state.

"Powers given to the government, supposedly contingently for the war effort, were not returned when the peace came," he says.
Since the early 1970s, Britain has faced a "huge additional nightmare": the EU.

"Being in the EU means accepting the primacy of EU law over national law. It's meant a revolution in our legal system and it's meant a revolution therefore in the assumption of what the government does," he says.

Hannan will be at the forefront of the campaign for a decision to withdraw from the EU at the referendum that David Cameron's government has promised.

"The great advantage of us leaving, apart from us being able to trade with the wider world, is that we would, I hope, rediscover the libertarian tradition that used to go with the common law," Hannan says.

In retrospect, Britain could not have timed its entry into Europe more badly.  "We joined in 1973 and Europe's growth came to end with the oil shock of 1974," he says.

"And just at that moment was when the Commonwealth began the economic take-off that continues to this day. It was a calamitous error economically, let alone the ties of sentiment and affection that bound us to the old dominions."

The challenge for Australia is to learn from the European experience and to resist the tyranny of an ever-expanding state, he says.

"It's very, very odd to have what you and we have, which is this system where nobody really wrote the law down, it just kind of emerged. It grew like your Great Barrier Reef, coral by coral, each case leading on to the next one.

"A consequence of that is that it is assumed that you are completely free except in so far as a law has had to be developed to protect somebody else's freedom. And that leads to a completely different mentality that, up until very recently, served to keep the state small.

"The other great civilisations of the world, the Mings or the Moguls or the Ottomans, all ended up going down the road towards high taxes, uniformity, bureaucracy and over-regulation. And they all went into decline.

"The Anglosphere was always a diverse plurality based on elevating enterprise and individualism. I'm not sure that this uniqueness will survive the expansion of the size of the state that we are now experiencing."

The expansion of the state, particularly the deadening hand of the permanent bureaucracy, is at the heart of Hannan's objections to national curricula.

"We introduced our national curriculum in 1988 when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, supposedly as a way of stopping loony Left teachers," he says.

"In fact it was immediately captured, totally predictably, by the very people it was supposed to deter."

We discussed the draft Australian Curriculum's priority themes of sustainability and Asian engagement.

"I can't imagine that the current Prime Minister of Australia would design a curriculum along the lines you suggest," says Hannan.

"Inevitably, if you give them a national curriculum, no matter how huge the conservative majority might be in parliament, it is going to be taken over by the cultural relativists and the politically correct."

Hannan's solution demands the exercise of personal liberty.

"The answer is not to get your guys in charge of it," he says. "The answer is to scrap it and let parents pick what schools they want, because they can invigilate the system a billion times better than any conservative politician."


23 February, 2014

Treasurer Joe Hockey warns age pension age may be raised to 70

AUSTRALIANS have been warned they will have to work longer, possibly to 70, before they have a chance of getting an age pension on retirement.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has backed moves by the British Government to hike the state pension age to 70 for those now aged under 30 and says Australia should consider doing the same.

As the Government looked for ways to rein in health and welfare costs as part of its ­Budget repair job, Mr Hockey warned the aged pension was becoming unaffordable.

He said the eligibility age of 65 for the age pension had not changed since it was introduced despite most people living much longer.

"It was set at that level in Australia in 1908 when life expectancy was 55," Mr Hockey said. "Now life expectancy is 85 and as of today, it’s still pension age 65."

Under changes introduced by the former Labor government, the pension age will increase by six months every two years from July 2017 and hit 67 in July 2023. Mr Hockey said he wanted the pension age to rise even higher.

UK Chancellor George ­Osborne recently outlined plans to lift the state pension age from 65 to 70 by the 2050s, in line with increases in life ­expectancy.

New Zealand is planning to lift its pension age to 66 in 2036 and Canada to 67 in 2023.

Increases in the pension age could have a flow-on impact on the age at which retirees can access superannuation without paying tax.

Mr Hockey did not mention super, but called for a debate about the cost of the age ­pension.

The Government currently spends about $39 billion on the age pension, and this is rising by about $3 billion a year.

The Productivity Commission last year argued that lifting the pension age to 70 would save taxpayers $150 billion from 2025-26 to 2059-60.

Seniors groups warned an increase in the pension age would hurt older people who struggled to find work, and could force more people on to the dole or disability pension.

"Without tackling mature-age unemployment first, government will be shifting people from one form of welfare to another," National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said.

"Raising the pension age is a simplistic approach to a deeper problem, and it is not a solution to the national welfare bill."

Amid signs the Government is also planning to introduce means-testing or co-payments to Medicare, Prime Minister Tony Abbott vowed to find better ways to spend the health budget.

Mr Abbott said he would keep his election pledge not to cut health or education funding in total but flagged changes to the way this money was spent.

"If we find a more efficient way of spending money ... we’d be crazy not to adopt it," Mr Abbott said.

"Plainly there are efficiencies that are possible in health and in a whole host of areas."


Sexism debate rages over all-male Athenaeum Club in Tasmania

DEBATE fired up yesterday over whether gender-specific clubs should be condemned to the sexist pages of history or preserved in the interests of the perfect scone.

Food critic Matthew Evans recalled being refused membership to the Tasmanian branch of the Country Women’s Association on the grounds he is a male.

"But I make a pretty bad scone, my wife makes a better scone," he lamented.

Following an article in the Mercury revealing that high-profile Tasmanian women are trying to prise open the doors of the gentlemen-only Athenaeum Club, opinions lined up on both sides of the issue yesterday.

Comments from readers exploded on the Mercury’s website, some demanding the club be "dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century" while others said it was no worse than female-only gyms.

The head of the Athanaeum Club issued a thundering private memo to all club members yesterday, expressing his deep concerns that a club member had leaked the issue to the media.

President Michael Dyson wrote: "We all should be gravely concerned that any member would cause this issue to be raised in the news media. The fact that it has occurred without any consultation with the committee or members of the club, and with complete disregard for the rules and conventions of the club is, in my view, disgraceful conduct that shows complete lack of regard for the club and its members".

The stoush follows club member and Denison MP Andrew Wilkie nominating Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks and author Heather Rose for membership — to be decided at a committee meeting on Monday.

Feminists called for the club to drop its stance, while the Country Women’s Association spoke in support of clubs that wanted to preserve tradition.

CWA Tasmania state president Shirley Morrisby said the female-only rule of her association dated back to early last century, when the wives of outback Queensland farmers needed a network.

She said husbands had a place with the CWA, but in a helping capacity.

Mrs Morrisby said she believed there was still a need for women to meet without men.

"Personally, I think it is still important because there are things women talk about, which they wouldn’t talk about in front of a man," she said.

University of Tasmania Associate Professor Imelda Whelehan said male-only clubs were a throwback to our colonial past and Hobart should move with the times, as was the case in the UK.

Prof Whelehan, a feminist cultural critic, said even the London Athenaeum Club had started allowing entry to women members more than a decade ago.

"The world moves forward and these clubs are increasingly out of step," she said.

Mr Evans said he hadn’t pursued the CWA on the issue because he "has a millions other things on" and he recognised he probably didn’t have the attention span for all the good work they did.

Mr Dyson said he had taken a lot of calls of support yesterday from people who believed the club should uphold its tradition.

But he did not want to comment any further on the issue because members’ interests had to be kept private.

"We are a gentlemen's club, we don’t like to get into arguments," he said.


Business figure to help lead sweeping review of Fair Work laws

The federal government is finalising plans for a sweeping review of the nation's workplace laws, and could hand-pick an industrial relations expert from outside the Productivity Commission to help lead it.

Before the election, the government promised a "genuine and independent review" of the Fair Work laws by the economically dry commission, to consider their impact on productivity, the economy and jobs, with a view to raising flexibility in the workplace.

The review comes as Employment Minister Eric Abetz revealed plans to introduce new laws next week that would allow workers to trade off conditions such as penalty rates in return for more flexible hours. Fairfax Media has learnt former Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson, a critic of the Fair Work laws, was informally sounded out late last year about participating in the review.

Mr Anderson is a respected former industrial relations lawyer who has worked for both Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Howard government workplace minister Peter Reith on industrial relations policy, but he is said to have turned down the opportunity.

Sources familiar with the government's plans said at least one senior figure from the business world could be drafted in to assist the commission with the review, with the government seeking "people with industry experience, not academics" to review the laws.

The terms of reference for the review have not been signed off by cabinet but will be finalised before the government's self-imposed March deadline.

The move comes after Fairfax Media revealed the government urged SPC Ardmona to reduce workers' wages in exchange for government assistance and signalled it would give Qantas a debt guarantee while welcoming the company's tough stance on industrial relations.

Mr Abbott was heavily critical of Labor's 2012 review of the Fair Work Act, which he said was "conducted essentially by the department and, naturally, the government reviewing the government has decided that the government doesn't have a problem".

The commission has six other reviews under way and there is a view in government that it would benefit from one or more outsiders being brought in.

The commission has six full-time and six part-time commissioners, though the terms of two members - Siobhan McKenna and Wendy Craik - are due to expire in June. Industry and business figures suggested to Fairfax Media that the Australian Industry Group's Innes Willox, Australian Mines and Metals Association chief Steve Knott and former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella could be brought in, though government sources dismissed all three.

Speaking at Melbourne University on Thursday, Senator Abetz said his new bills were likely to be brought to Parliament next week, implementing the Coalition's pre-election promises on industrial relations.

Among them would be changes to the Fair Work Act's "individual flexibility arrangements", brought in under former workplace relations minister Julia Gillard.

The laws dictate how employers and their staff negotiate conditions, and Senator Abetz said changing them would allow employees "to be able to work hours that suit them and their family-life balance".

Senator Abetz confirmed, when asked about the changes, that they would allow workers to trade off penalty rates for family time.

He stressed it would be employees who decided if this trade-off suited them, and not employers dictating that penalty rates be signed away. "If the worker is better off overall as determined by the worker, why should some collective agreement seek to deny the individual that right?"

The union movement leapt on the proposed changes, saying they were the first sign the Abbott government would restore the sort of individual contracts that were the hallmark of the Howard government's WorkChoices laws.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said the government had given employers the green light to cut wages, under the guise of greater flexibility.

"This is a blatant attempt to cut pay and conditions … despite all the pre-election promises," she said. "Minister Abetz talks about imaginary workers that want to give up penalty rates for nothing. We're yet to find a worker that thinks this is a good deal."



Childcare: a case study in regulatory capture

In recent weeks, the media has been saturated with solutions to the childcare problems Australia faces. With the Abbott government's Productivity Commission Inquiry into the sector (set up due to persistent complaints about lack of availability and prohibitive costs) planning to release a draft report in July, such 'solutions' are likely to continue.

In the meantime, childcare operators and stakeholders have come out of the woodwork to suggest magic bullets for the problems faced in the sector. Making childcare costs fully tax-deductible is a popular argument, though its advocates have not presented strong reasons why the benefits outweigh significant costs to the budget in terms of foregone revenue. Another chestnut is extending the childcare rebate (the non-means tested benefit which covers fees per child up to $7,500 per annum) to nannies and other in-home carers.

What's more interesting in this discussion, however, is what is not being said. The national conversation has been about fundamental changes to taxation law and/or a higher burden on taxpayers, instead of what's driving the problem: regulation.

Approved childcare services (that attract the childcare rebate) are regulated through a federal and state compact - the National Quality Framework (NQF). The NQF mandates minimum conditions for long day care and family day care services; conditions include 'improved educator to child ratios' and 'educators with increased skills and qualifications.' The Regulatory Impact Statement for the NQF, the Henry Tax Review and the Productivity Commission have all conceded that these conditions have a negative impact on the cost and availability of childcare.

Other regulations exist in addition to those in the NQF. Individual councils, through which family day care programs are run and educators employed, have their own, varied regulations. Local councils also arbitrate where centres can be established - and have the power to prohibit employer-provided childcare located in densely populated urban areas or industrial areas. A 2006 Inquiry into Work and Family found that fringe benefits tax legislation means there is little incentive for small- or medium-sized employers to jointly provide on- or near-site childcare for their employees.

It is important to look at how we can create a functional and accessible childcare system to free parents up to engage in work. If we take childcare seriously, we mustn't commit the grave error of thinking that writing a blank cheque constitutes a workable solution.


21 February, 2014

LOL: Tax Office forced to pay Rupert Murdoch $880m

Rupert is a hard man to toss

An $880 million payout to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has reignited the debate over whether global companies pay their fair share of tax in Australia.

News was paid the money after winning a long-running legal battle with the Tax Office relating to a 1989 restructure of the media empire involving billions of dollars and a company in the tax haven Bermuda.

The ATO had refused to allow the deduction but News Corporation defeated the ATO in the Full Federal Court in July and the money began flowing to the company over the Christmas-New Year break.

Mark Zirnsak, who is the Australian representative of advocacy group Tax Justice Network and was a member of a panel set up by the previous government to review the low tax paid by some multinational companies, said the payout "highlights the urgent need for reform of the global tax rules".

"Multinational companies should not be able to use their legal structures involving tax havens to dodge tax in ways that nationally based companies cannot," he said.

The payout represents a significant proportion of the $16.8 billion deterioration in the federal budget announced by Treasurer Joe Hockey in December.

It all but wipes out $1.1 billion in savings announced by Mr Hockey when he unveiled the midyear economic and fiscal outlook on December 17.

Mr Hockey did not mention the payout at the time, instead blaming the budget's "fiscal deterioration" on a softer economic outlook, downgraded exports forecasts and the previous Labor government.

Asked why Mr Hockey did not mention the financial blow, a spokeswoman said: "The speech on the day was about detailing the broad fiscal mess the government had inherited."

Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos declined to comment because of laws protecting taxpayer secrecy.

In 1989, following years of rapid overseas expansion, News Corporation was in the grip of a debt crisis which the following year would bring it to the brink of collapse.

News owed about $239 million more than it had in assets, with most of the debt due to companies within the group.

By taking out fresh loans funded by moving around ownership of the US operation and its half-stake in Bermuda-registered News Publishers Limited, which owned part of the South China Morning Post, News hoped to make itself more attractive to banks.

The restructure was funded by two cheques, totalling $3.27 billion, drawn on the account held by subsidiary News Finance at the Pitt Street, Sydney, branch of the Commonwealth Bank.

However, the money flowed back into the account the same day the cheque was drawn.

News subsequently claimed deductions for foreign exchange losses incurred because it later paid back loans denominated in US dollars in Australian dollars, which had fallen in value.

A panel of judges decided in favour of News Corporation on July 25, but the money did not immediately flow because the ATO was still able to appeal to the High Court.

The ATO's 28-day window to mount an appeal coincided with the federal election campaign, during which Mr Murdoch's newspapers ran heavily against the Labor Party and the then prime minister Kevin Rudd.


Failed asylum-seekers in U-turn to Malaysia

BOATLOADS of asylum-seekers who have failed to make it to Australia are being intercepted trying to return to Malaysia from Indonesia, says the head of Malaysia’s border command.

Mohd Amdan Kurish, director-general of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, said Australia’s crackdown on boatpeople was having a dramatic impact further up the people-smuggling chain, in Malaysia.

"We have seen a number of attempts for those boats that have failed to make it to Australia re-tracking back and Malaysia is seen as the possible destination for them to retreat to," Admiral Amdan said yesterday in Sydney.

"We have managed to intercept these people returning back from this adventure that they are trying to undertake to Australia, which they fail, and they re-track back their positions into Malaysia through the Straits of Malacca. We have seen this trend quite dramatically increasing in the Malacca Straits."

He said the boats intercepted had been carrying asylum-seekers from the Middle East and South Asia.

Admiral Amdan’s comments came after The Australian revealed Australia’s crackdown on boatpeople had caused a substantial drop in the number of asylum-seekers arriving in Indonesia.

Monthly applications for asylum-seeker registrations handled by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office in Jakarta fell 71 per cent between February last year and last month.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said Australia’s policies were benefiting the region by disrupting the people-smuggling chain.

"What those figures from the UNHCR already indicate is that drying up of the pipeline," Mr Morrison said. "When we stop the boats, you help the region ... if we have stronger borders then that relieves the pressure on our neighbours."

A senior Indonesian immigration official said yesterday the steep drop in UNHCR asylum-seeker registrations correlated with the department’s experience of unregistered "illegal immigrants".

In the 12 months to January, the number of unregistered asylum-seekers detected by Immigration had fallen 25-30 per cent.

"The number of people who have not been registered at UNHCR is also clearly declining," said the officer, who asked not to be identified.

The officer said it was clear asylum-seekers’ preference for Indonesia as a transit country had declined since Australia began taking a hardline against boatpeople resettlement last July.

Indonesia remained concerned about thwarted asylum-seekers "stacking up" in the country.

Agus Barnas, the spokesman for Politics Security and Law Co-ordinating Minister Djoko Suyanto, acknowledged the UNHCR Indonesia figures showed a reduction in asylum-seeker arrivals.

"Yes, but actually it still becomes problem for us because many (asylum-seekers) are stranded here," he said.

"It can create social conflict."

Jakarta wanted Australia to return to a regional, multilateral approach to refugee flows, Mr Agus said, "not just Australia getting the benefit without thinking about the impact in transit countries".

Malaysian officials yesterday inspected an Australian Customs Bay-class patrol vessel in Sydney, one of two such vessels to be given to Malaysia next year at a cost of $1.2 million to taxpayers.

The vessels will be used to patrol the Straits of Malacca, which separates the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Mr Morrison said the Straits of Malacca was a key pathway for people-smugglers making their way to Australia and other transnational criminals moving between Malaysia and Indonesia, and the vessels would support Malaysia’s efforts to police the crossing point.

"When we make our region’s borders stronger we make Australia’s borders stronger," he said.

Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid said that Malaysia and Australia had been co-operating to combat transnational crime, including people smuggling and terrorism. He said Mr Morrison would travel to Malaysia to sign a new memorandum of understanding, which would broaden the spectrum of transnational crimes the nations would work together to combat.


Health and physical eduction national curriculum proposes sex, alcohol and drug education for children as early as age eight

SEXUALITY, alcohol and drugs will be studied by schoolchildren as young as eight, while CPR will be mandatory in Years 9 or 10, under the Health and Physical Education national curriculum.

It is suggested children as young as 10 rehearse how to refuse drugs and be taught about products they can use to help manage puberty.

The final version of the HPE Australian Curriculum, which has been mired in controversy over issues such as puberty and sexuality, has been released this week, even though it has not yet been endorsed due to a review that is under way into the national curriculum.

One prominent think-tank is calling for the entire curriculum to be scrapped.

Institute of Public Affairs research fellow Chris Berg said the HPE curriculum focused on "diversity, social justice and consumerism" under the cross-curriculum priority (CCP) of sustainability and the IPA had concerns about "blatant ideology" in all of the CCPs.

"It is absurd that instead of using scarce school hours kicking a ball around, students will be taught the evils of consumerism," Mr Berg said.

But an Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority spokeswoman said there was only one reference to consumerism in the content elaborations and it, along with the CCPs, did not have to be taught.

She said consumerism included children understanding health messages like "slip, slop, slap", reading nutrition labels and examining body image.

"The focus of health and physical education is about helping children to develop the skills to lead active, safe and healthy lives," she said, adding it was up to teachers how the curriculum was implemented.

Sexuality is first mentioned as a focus area in Years 3 and 4 in the curriculum, which the spokeswoman said was about "helping children to manage physical and social changes, such as children learning about how friendships change as they grow older" in the younger year level.

Alcohol and other drugs is also listed as a focus area for the first time in Years 3 and 4.

Puberty will have to be taught from Years 5 and 6 after complaints from lobby groups pushed it up from Years 3 and 4.

A push for mandatory swimming lessons has not been successful, but water safety is mentioned in content elaborations for educators.

The state is expected to roll out the HPE national curriculum next year and in 2016.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said his ­office welcomed feedback.


AMAQ boss Christian Rowan sidelined after backing Newman Government doctor contracts

Doctors want their gravy

THE Queensland boss of the Australian Medical Association has been sidelined by his own organisation after telling doctors he supported the Newman Government’s public hospital contracts.

AMA federal president Steve Hambleton has taken over from Queensland president Christian Rowan as the public face of a campaign to force the Government back to the negotiating table.

Dr Rowan triggered doctor unrest by saying he was willing to sign one of the contracts, which he said had the "capacity to drive productivity, efficiency, value for money and enhance transparency of outcomes for the public hospital system’’.

The AMAQ is understood to have silenced Dr Rowan over talking publicly about the issue, referring all questions to his president-elect Shaun Rudd, or to Dr Hambleton, a Brisbane GP.

Dr Rowan, who has previously stood for LNP preselection, said last night he stood behind his previous comments.

He said he was in negotiations with the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service CEO about his own individual contract.

A meeting attended by hundreds of public hospital specialists at Brisbane’s Pineapple Hotel this week unanimously opposed the proposed contracts, bar one dissenting vote.

Doctors say key sticking points included inadequate dispute resolution procedures, the potential for doctors to be dismissed without cause and forced transfers.

Dr Rudd told the meeting by phone the AMAQ was 100 per cent behind the doctors’ campaign, describing the contracts as "unjust and unfair’’.

Premier Campbell Newman and Health Minister Lawrence Springborg have pounced on differences within the ranks of the AMA to refuse to reopen talks.

In a stinging letter to Dr Hambleton this week, they wrote: "The State Government has no intention of reopening negotiations on contracts for medical officers which have been concluded with your state arm, the AMAQ, with significant concessions.

"Notwithstanding that we will not be reopening negotiations on doctor contracts, the AMA, like its state arm the AMAQ, is always able to meet with the Minister for Health on health issues.’’

Dr Hambleton brushed aside the controversy as "a distraction’’.

He said meetings of doctors at hospitals throughout the state had strongly criticised the contracts.


20 February, 2014

Campbell Newman questions John Quiggin's power privatisation review

Quiggin is an old far-Leftist from way back.  His conclusions were perfectly predictable the moment he was hired

Economist John Quiggin's scathing review on energy sector privatisation across Australia is a "nice and interesting" academic exercise, Premier Campbell Newman says - but he urges people to examine the motive behind it.

Professor Quiggin's report found energy sector privatisation had been a "dismal failure" with increased power prices for consumers and large fiscal losses for tax payers.

It was commissioned by the Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union.

Despite not reading Professor Quiggin's report, Mr Newman turned his findings into an attack on the union.

"The first thing I ask, is what purpose has it been done for? As an academic exercise, it is nice and interesting, I look forward to having a look at it," he said.

"But why has the ETU spent their members’ money on this?  I'll answer the rhetorical question - we've already said we are not selling Ergon, Energex or Powerlink.  We've said that and down in Redcliffe today and yesterday and the day before, the ETU continue to run this deceitful campaign.  We are not selling the distribution and transmission entities, so what are they on about? Why do they waste their members’ money on this report?"

Mr Newman focused his attack on Redcliffe, where a byelection will be held this Saturday and said it was time for the union to "pack up and go".

"We have made a very clear commitment about asset sales, and yet the ETU down there in Redcliffe running a misinformation campaign," he said.

"It is just not true.

"... It is time for the ETU to tell the truth.  It is actually time for the ETU down in Redcliffe to pack up, stop harassing the people down there.

"The feedback we are getting are people are sick and tired of the ETU people being in their face and telling them these falsehoods.  They may as well pack up and go back to the various parts of Queensland they have come from, certainly most of them don't live in Redcliffe."

ETU state secretary, Peter Simpson, said the premier had "sour grapes".

"We are not harassing people, we have people in our ‘Not for sale’ campaign shirts, on the side of the road with street stalls," he said.

"If that is harassment, well I think the LNP are a lot worse than that.

"We are not harassing anyone, the feedback we are getting in Redcliffe is fantastic and I suggest the Premier has a taste of sour grapes from what I am hearing."

Mr Newman could not promise that power prices would go down if the government was given a mandate to sell the generating corporations, as it has planned.

But he said if "crazy schemes" such as the carbon tax and the Renewable Energy Target were scrapped, he could guarantee prices would decrease.

The federal government announced earlier this week it was reviewing the nation's RET, set by the previous Labor government at a fixed 41,000 gigawatt hours by 2020, with a report due to be delivered later this year.

"If the RET goes, I can assure people their prices will come down," Mr Newman said.

"That's the trouble.  We've had all these crazy schemes, but they actually haven't cut the nation's carbon emissions anywhere near what they would need to. In terms of the cost on the economy, we need to see these crazy Labor schemes going, we need to see people like Yvette D'Ath, call out to her federal colleagues and say 'well let's get rid of them' and then we will make a meaningful impact on people's cost of living.  That's what I can promise people."

The government will consider a win at the next general election, expected to be held early next year, as their mandate to sell assets.


PM  downplays role of climate change in current drought

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has played down the role of climate change in the drought ravaging much of inland eastern Australia.

And he has indicated that the coming relief package for farmers will not take into account future increases in extreme weather events predicted in a new report by scientists.

At the end of a two-day tour taking in Bourke and Broken Hill in NSW and Longreach in Queensland, Mr Abbott said the present period of extreme heat and dry conditions – broken in part during his weekend visit – was not unusual for Australia.

"If you look at the records of Australian agriculture going back 150 years, there have always been good times and bad, tough and lush times," Mr Abbott said.

"This is not a new thing in Australia.  "As the seasons have changed, climatic variation has been a constant here in Australia."

Mr Abbott, who has previously dismissed a link between climate change and October’s early-season bushfires in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, ruled out taking the issue of a warming planet into consideration when preparing his drought-aid package for cabinet later this week.

"Farmers ought to be able to deal with things expected every few years," Mr Abbott said.

"Once you start getting into very severe events – one-in-20, 50, 100-year events – that’s when I think people need additional assistance because that is ... beyond what a sensible business can be expected to plan for."

A new report by the Climate Council – formed with public funding from the ashes of the Climate Commission, which the Abbott government abolished – says heatwaves are becoming more frequent, more intense and lasting longer.

It says Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide were already experiencing the number of annual hot days that had been forecast for 2030 in the first decade of the century.

The report, by Professors Will Steffen and Lesley Hughes and UNSW researcher Sarah Perkins, said: "Record hot days and warm nights are also expected to increase across Australia over the coming decades.

"For both northern and southern Australia, one-in-20-year extreme hot days are expected to occur every two to five years by the middle of the century."

Records melt

Those three cities, as it happens, have each broken heat records this summer.

Adelaide has had 13 days of 40 degrees or more, beating the previous record set more than a century ago, of 11 such days. Melbourne has hda seven days above 40 degrees, the most in any calendar year just six weeks in, while Canberra has had 20 days above 35 degrees, the most for any summer, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

The Climate Council report highlights the effect that increased heat is expected to have on agriculture, including reduced crop yields and lower livestock productivity.

The three regions  Mr Abbott visited all had their hottest six-month period between August and January, with rainfall as little as one-fifth of normal levels.

Cabinet is expected to consider an extra $280 million in low-interest loans for farmers, among other measures. 

Touring the Mount Gipps cattle and sheep station north of Broken Hill on Monday, he said there was  "a world of difference" between companies seeking handouts and farmers needing help to get through the drought.

Graziers have been offloading their livestock throughout much of inland eastern Australia as they battle to cope with drought and declining feedstock.

John Cramp, the owner of  Mount Gipps,  said the recent extreme heat in his region had seen his cattle remain near their water troughs rather than go in search of remaining grass.

"They won’t leave their water, they won’t poke out and get some feed," Mr Cramp said, adding that in his view "climates have always changed".


Trans-Pacific Partnership is a big deal, but hardly anyone knows

The Trans-Pacific Partnership could be Australia's biggest trade deal for decades, but most people have not even heard of it. A new survey by the Australia Institute found 55 per cent of respondents did not know about the TPP, as it is known. Another 19 per cent said "I'm not sure."

Consumer groups say the trade pact - which involves 12 Asia-Pacific nations including Australia and the US - could have a significant impact on consumers across the region. There are claims it will increase the cost of medicines, films, computer games and software. Critics believe it could compromise environmental protections and allow foreign corporations to sue Australian governments if their policies reduce future profits. A leaked draft suggests the US is pushing for criminal penalties, even jail, for illegally downloading popular television shows.

With issues like those at stake, you would expect debate about the TPP to be raging. But the Australia Institute survey found just one in 10 voters had even heard of it.

If the TPP is such a big deal, why is public awareness so low?

One reason is that trade pacts like the TPP are never hot topics. It's hard for the media to sustain interest in such an arcane and slow-moving process - the TPP negotiations have already been going for nearly four years. They are also shrouded in secrecy. It's become a convention for international trade agreements to be discussed behind closed doors. The TPP negotiating texts remain confidential under an agreement signed by the previous Labor government when the talks started. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade claims this confidentiality "safeguards our negotiating positions and strategies, which cover sensitive national interests in relation to market access and Australia's trade and commerce more broadly".

The Abbott government claims there has been "a lot of consultation" across industry sectors affected by the agreement, but consumer groups say they have been excluded from any meaningful dialogue. They've had to rely on leaked draft texts to get a sense of what is going on. Choice says it doesn't know what the final agreement will contain.

When voters were informed of the TPP's agenda they had strong opinions about many of the issues, the Australia Institute survey revealed. Nearly nine out of 10 surveyed wanted the public to have a say before the agreement was signed (only 5 per cent disagreed).

So far, both major parties have been strong supporters of the TPP. Australia joined negotiations when Labor was in power and the first round of negotiations was held in Melbourne in 2010. The Coalition government has been an enthusiastic participant since taking office last year. Trade Minister Andrew Robb claims many conspiracy theories are being peddled about the TPP. His spokesman said the claims of secrecy were overblown and a "straw man set up by anti-traders" in an attempt to undermine the negotiations.

Robb argues the TPP will promote regional economic integration in the Asian Century and give Australian businesses big trade opportunities. The countries involved in the TPP are responsible for 40 per cent of the world's gross domestic product and 26 per cent of its trade.

Robb says the text of the TPP will be "publicly released and subject to parliamentary scrutiny prior to its ratification" once the negotiating parties come to any agreement.

But consumer groups fear that process will not allow adequate public consultation.

They are not the only sceptics. The benefits of regional trade deals such as the TPP have been questioned by some economists who champion free trade but favour broader multilateral agreements. A study by the government's own Productivity Commission Report on Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements concluded that the benefits of such agreements "have been oversold" and called for an improvement in the process.

A deal as significant as the TPP should be fully debated in the community. It's not good enough that just one in 10 voters know about it.


Drop in asylum seeker boat arrivals hits charter operator's bottom line

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's mission to 'stop the boats' has taken a toll on airlines that once racked up big business flying intercepted asylum seekers across the region.

Fly-in fly-out and charter operator Alliance Aviation Services is searching for new clients to offset a downturn in ad hoc charters from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection now that unauthorised boat arrivals are at a standstill.

The Brisbane-based airline reported a 34.2 per cent fall in half-year underlying earnings to $7.1 million in the first half, based on a 9 per cent fall in revenue during the period as flight hours per aircraft fell.

Chief executive Scott McMillan attributed the lower earnings in part to the airline doing "a lot fewer charters" for the government since Prime Minister Tony Abbott was elected in September.

"It is a change in government policy," Mr McMillan told Fairfax Media of the loss of work, which he said had also affected other airline charter groups.

The Immigration Department reported maritime arrivals of asylum seekers had reached the lowest level in five years in the fourth quarter of 2013 and were 85 per cent lower than the same period of 2012. No new boats have arrived since December 19.

Mr McMillan said charters for the government and other businesses had typically brought in 20 per cent of Alliance's revenue, but he was seeking to reduce that by gaining exposure to more long-term resources contracts even though they tended to carry lower margins.

Alliance is currently in exclusive negotiations on a major contract in the mining sector which it could service with its existing fleet of Fokker aircraft following the return of a wet leased Boeing 737 in December. Mr McMillan said the new contract would help boost utilisation and profitability.

Alliance has forecast underlying earnings of $16 million to $17.5 million this year, down from $23.4 last year, but expects to return to beat the 2012-13 figure in the 2014-15 financial year.

Alliance declared a fully-franked interim dividend of 3.6¢ a share, down from 4.8¢ the prior year, but said the current payout was at the top end of the approved dividend policy.

The company's shares have fallen by 37 per cent over the last 12 months, compared with a 6 per cent rise in the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index over the same period.

Mr McMillan said his airline had been able to hang onto all of its contracts, despite some being put out to tender when they were up for renewal. Alliance competes against the regional/FIFO arms of Qantas Airways and Virgin Australia Holdings as well as other operators like Cobham Aviation Services.

Mr McMillan said he was more positive about the state of the mining market now than he was six months ago and expected it to improve again in six month's time.

"On the back of BHP and Rio's results they have done a pretty good job improving the efficiencies of the operations and getting costs down," he said. "The lower Australian dollar is helping everyone. Projects that probably were marginal are coming back."

Cobham Aviation Services chief executive Peter Nottage said he didn't think the resources sector would dive further, but expected a plateau for a point.

"It is a tough cycle, but we are riding the cycle okay," he told the Financial Review this week. "We are seeing fairly intense competition for new business and when renewals come up. That is compounded by competition between the two major airlines to get corporate accounts."


19 February, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says that Greenie policies make the effects of natural disasters worse

Australia reviewing  renewable-energy mandates

Comment from the USA
It was out with the Labor Party and in with the Liberal Party in the Australian elections last September (translation: the government switched over from six years of progressive dominance to their version of conservatism).

Part of Prime Minister Tony Abbot’s campaign platform was cutting government spending and taking a more reality-based stance on the country’s green commitments (including a deeply unpopular carbon tax), and he immediately started to make good on both of those promises by getting rid of the country’s Climate Commission and freezing renewables funding (not to mention his new government’s suggestion as to where the United Nations could stick their latest attempt to rope developed countries into a mutual impoverishment pact "global climate treaty").

Now, the government is moving forward on reevaluating the economic wisdom of their mandatory renewable energy target (RET), much to the chagrin of both Australian and global greens. Via Reuters:

The target to ensure Australia generates 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources in 2020 has been a boon to the nation’s wind and solar producers, but has been blamed by the conservative Coalition government for increasing power prices.

"In particular, the review will consider the contribution of the RET in reducing emissions, its impact on electricity prices and energy markets, as well as its costs and benefits for the renewable energy sector, the manufacturing sector and Australian households," Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said in a statement. …

Macfarlane said the outcome of the review was not set, though Environment Minister Greg Hunt last month proposed to delay the implementation of the target by five years. …

Green groups in Australia saw the appointment of Dick Warburton, a former Reserve Bank board member who has expressed doubt that carbon emissions cause climate change, as a clear sign that the government’s intention is to weaken or remove the target.

Which is probably a pretty good idea. The greens doth protest that weakening the target will ease investment in renewables and result in the country using more coal for electricity generation — but funnily enough, Germany’s very similar mandated energy targets of the past few years have in fact directly resulted in the country turning to coal for power generation, and a colossal waste of taxpayer money and loss of business competitiveness besides.


Brisbane Private school sacks rowing head coach David Bellamy over slang

Seeing that the word in question was my nickname in the army, I can't see what the fuss is about.  It's basically a jocular term, not offensive -- JR

ONE of Queensland’s elite private schools has sacked its director of rowing in a ­bizarre sex-talk scandal.

David Bellamy, one of Australia’s most respected coaches, was dismissed by Brisbane Boys’ College after telling rowers not to twirl their "wangas": slang for ­penises.

Bellamy also admitted using "theatrical body movements" and waving his finger in front of his trousers to mimic a penis as he spoke to 50 rowers and coaches on January 14.

Headmaster Graeme McDonald told staff of his dismissal in an email on February 11.

Angry parents have rushed to Bellamy’s support, saying the incident was blown out of proportion and his dismissal an injustice.

Bellamy declined to ­comment, but friends with intimate knowledge of the affair said he used the word humorously when giving the boys a serious warning not to repeat the sexual pranks that had marred a previous rowing camp.

There was laughter when Bellamy told the boys: "It doesn’t matter whether you believe every wife out there has had a wanga waved at them by their husband.

"It doesn’t matter what you believe is appropriate. It doesn’t even matter what I believe is appropriate. "What matters is that the headmaster of BBC does not consider this appropriate ­behaviour."

The Sunday Mail understands a mother who overheard the speech complained that Bellamy’s words and actions were inappropriate in a church school.

The college, run by the Presbyterian and Uniting churches, is understood to have received other ­complaints from parents whose sons had told them about the "wanga" word.


I am, you are, we are Australian

 by Andrew Bolt

I AM an indigenous Australian, like millions of other people here, black or white. Take note, Tony Abbott. Think again, you new dividers, before we are on the path to apartheid with your change to our Constitution.

I was born here, I live here and I call no other country home. I am therefore indigenous to this land and have as much right as anyone to it.

What's more, when I go before the courts I want to be judged as an individual. I do not want different rights according to my class, faith, ancestry, country of birth ... or "race".

Blog with Andrew Bolt

I'm sure most Australians feel the same. We are Australians together, equal under the law and equal in our right as citizens to be here. That's how we've been for generations. It's why we've welcomed lawful immigrants and damned racists.

But this Australia is now under severe threat. Most incredibly, that threat is now led by Prime Minister Abbott, a Liberal. Abbott says he wants a "national crusade" to change the Constitution to recognise Aborigines as the "first Australians".

"If we had known in 1901 what we know now, if our hearts had been as big then as now, we would have acknowledged indigenous people in the Constitution back then," he said this week.

This is nonsense. The writers of our Constitution no more lacked heart than do people today.

The difference is they were inspired by the creed that all citizens - those, at least, we admitted - are as one before the law.

True, they did not always live up to that ideal (although, contrary to popular myth, they granted Aborigines the vote in all states where they had the franchise).

But even if we don't always follow our moral compass, the answer never is to break it. Changing the Constitution to divide Australians between the "first" and the rest - on the basis of the "race" of our ancestors - is not just immoral and an insult to our individuality.

Worse, it is socially dangerous. This will not "reconcile" us but permanently divide. It would do no good to a single Aboriginal in bush camps, but would concede a critical point: that Australians in our most fundamental legal document are now to be divided by "race".

Abbott insists he will not endorse any change that will have that practical effect in the courts. He means to treat the Constitution in this matter as if it were just a history book, not the foundation of our law.

But once he concedes the principle he concedes everything.

He will not get the "reconciliation" he imagines, some shiny day when we all hug each other in happy tears.

He will instead license demands from people, particularly race industry professionals, who will in some cases be satisfied with nothing less than apartheid.

Consider the history of this disastrous "reconciliation" movement. First, we were told we simply needed to say sorry to be reconciled.

As Aboriginal activist Professor Mick Dodson claimed: "The apology has the potential to transform Australia and, once and for all, to put black and white relationships in this country on a proper footing."

Prime minister Kevin Rudd duly said sorry in 2008, but then another step was needed, after all - a law to recognise Aborigines as the First Australians.

As Ballarat elder "Uncle" Murray Harrison put it: "As far as I'm concerned this is what it's all about, just being recognised would put the icing on the cake, mate."

So last year Parliament passed an "act of recognition", but that wasn't enough, either. Now the Constitution itself must change, and already we're told even that won't do.

Abbott's chief adviser on Aboriginal issues, Warren Mundine, this week said we must then negotiate treaties with each of Australia's hundreds of tribal "nations" to "acknowledge Australia's right to exist".

Pardon? Argue with hundreds of Aboriginal "leaders" over whether our nation actually is entitled to exist? Have the incendiary debate Israel has with its Muslim enemies?

What next? Well, Aboriginal leader Sol Bellear, chairman of the Aboriginal Medical Service, Redfern, spelled it out on the ABC: a future in which "no Australian court has the right to sit in judgment of my people."

Indeed, we already have an "Aboriginal Provisional Government", led by Michael Mansell, with such a separatist agenda. So when exactly will we be "reconciled"? When our country is torn apart on ethnic lines, with more recently arrived groups demanding their own customary laws, too?

Stop now. Say no to racism. Say no to racial division. Say no to changing our Constitution.


The Green/Left kill another industry

Some 180 workers in western Sydney will lose their jobs when the last aluminium recycling plant in NSW closes.

"This is the next wave of blue collar job losses in western Sydney," said Australian Manufacturing Workers Union NSW Secretary Tim Ayres. "There have been jobs flowing out of the Toyota and Holden decisions and a series of closures over the last few months."

Mr Ayres said the firm is the only aluminium recycler in NSW, churning through 55,000 tonnes of scrap metal each year.  "What this means about NSW is it puts a question mark over whether we can recycle aluminium," Mr Ayres said.  "Recycling uses 5 per cent of the energy needed to produce aluminium. All of our scrap aluminium will have to be exported.  "From the recycling perspective, you'd have to be concerned about what this means."

Mr Ayres said the Abbott and O'Farrell governments had shown "hostile indifference" to the plight of manufacturing workers, which was creating a "jobs crisis in NSW and particularly in Western Sydney".

He said both governments had no plans to ensure Australia remained competitive in the manufacturing industry.  "They need to do something to make sure they are going to get into global race and compete," he said.

"Barry O'Farrell is refusing to get involved. The north west rail link is the biggest project around and there is no local jobs plan attached to it and no strategy to engage with industry to build a sense of common purpose."

The state government blamed the impact of the carbon tax on the manufacturing industry, but Mr Collison said its impact had been "minuscule".

NSW Treasurer and Industrial Relations Minister Mike Baird said the closure of any manufacturing facility and the accompanying loss of jobs is always a cause for concern.

"Through the carbon tax, federal Labor chose to remove one of Australia's key competitive advantages - cheap energy," he said.   "Manufacturing and manufacturing jobs in Australia rely on cheap energy, as we are a smaller market.

"With higher energy costs and increased manufacturing in neighbouring Asia, Australian manufacturers are clearly facing challenges in remaining open.

"It's time for federal Labor to support jobs and vote to repeal the carbon tax."

Mr Baird said the NSW government is supporting jobs by taking action to reduce electricity prices.


18 February, 2014

Australia in frontline of BDS campaign

Perhaps much of Jewish mentality throughout the ages has been to keep a low profile in the diaspora, but I believe that Jews need to fight back against the racist campaign of the BDS movement.

The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign against Israel today is fought on many fronts across the world. From Israel Apartheid Week at universities, to Danish Banks to academic boycotts and others. It’s even been fought in fizzy drink companies!

The organizers and supporters of this movement like to compare themselves to the campaign against apartheid in South Africa – in other words a good and moral battle against an evil system of injustice. They like to disguise their intentions by using terms such as ‘non-violence’ and ‘international law’.

However, there is nothing moral or just or good about this battle. It is an absolute front for modern day anti-Semitism. The examples are plenty, but here in Australia, a country of immense racial diversity, the BDS movement itself will find itself on the defense.

This Wednesday a lawsuit will resume at the Federal Court in Sydney against Jake Lynch of Sydney University, who is a prominent supporter of the BDS campaign against Israel. The lawsuit was filed by Israeli legal center Shurat Hadin on behalf of an academic Dan Avnon from the Hebrew University. Avnon wanted to do research in Australia but Jake Lynch refused to sign the application, stating his support for the BDS movement. The lawsuit alleges that Jake Lynch is violating Australia’s racial discrimination act by discriminating against Dan Avnon based on his ‘Israeli national origin and his Jewish racial and ethnic origin’.

In a lawsuit like this, there are Jews in Australia who are for it and who are against it. Perhaps much of Jewish mentality throughout the ages has been to keep a low profile in the diaspora, but I believe that Jews need to fight back against the racist campaign of the BDS movement.

Stuart Rees, a supporter of Lynch, has described the lawsuit as ‘absurd’ and accuses Shurat HaDin of acting as a legal attack dog for the Israeli government by using the law to silence the people who support the BDS movement, yet it is ironic for Rees to complain about the ‘law’ being used when it is the BDS’s goal to ‘force’ Israel to act within ‘international law’.

The reality is that if Jews continue to remain silent against these evil campaigns and do not challenge the lies that are being spewed with venomous hatred by the BDS and others, those lies in time will become ‘fact’ by virtue of the lack of an opposing view.

People are entitled to their views and no one is forcing them to buy gefilte fish at the local kosher deli, but when they abuse their professional position, as Jake Lynch has done in a discriminatory way, the line has been crossed.

Jews are known to be the people of the book, so it’s time to use that legal book – and throw it at them!


We’re paying for the teaching of Marxist politics

MARXISTS murdered millions and wrecked every country they’ve led. Yet 25 years after the Berlin Wall’s fall, they still cling to power in Australia’s universities.

Amazing. Yes, our universities are the last refuge of the Marxist — of people such as Victoria University politics lecturer Max Lane, recently on the executive council of the Revolutionary Socialist Party.

Lane is now with the Socialist Alternative, which urges "the smashing of the capitalist state apparatus", including the "dismantling" of "parliaments, courts, the armed forces and police".

Its followers "reject Australian patriotism" and "oppose all immigration controls", and Lane last week dutifully sent a letter to the Jakarta Post to warn its Indonesian readers our immigration minister is actually a pirate who kills innocent people.

"The forcible seizure of other people’s boats ... and the coerced towing them to a destination not of their choice would all seem to amount to piracy," Lane thundered. "These are immoral, inhumane acts.

"I would like to see Immigration and Border Protection Minister, Scott Morrison, and the puppet General doing his work charged with piracy and criminal negligence causing death."

It’s odd that we pay a man with such extreme views — and so ready to trash our reputation abroad — to teach students at a university.

Sure, universities should teach all perspectives, so an odd Lane here and there is a detour to be expected. But scores of them?

In fact, Lane is one of 12 academics listed to speak at Marxism 2014, a four-day conference over Easter, which the Socialist Alliance organisers persuaded Melbourne University to host on its grounds. (Would the university similarly play host to a conference of fascists?)

Twelve academics is an astonishing turnout of speakers for a conference to promote a totalitarian ideology which has caused such devastation.

But how well has the far Left captured our institutions — and public funding.

And so the Marxism 2014 speakers include, for example, Professor Jane Kenway, of Monash University’s education faculty, who teaches tomorrow’s teachers.

Then there’s socialist Rick Kuhn, a politics reader at the Australian National University; "socialist activist" Tom Bramble, a senior lecturer in industrial relations at the University of Queensland; Diane Fieldes, a teacher in industrial relations at the University of NSW; Lisa Milner, a filmmaker teaching media students at Southern Cross University; and Aboriginal radical Gary Foley of Victoria University.

Other speakers include academics whose influence goes beyond the students they teach.

Sarah Gregson, an industrial relations academic at the University of NSW, is also the president of her National Tertiary Education Union branch. (Her conference topic: "The RSL: foot soldiers of capital.")

Ali Alizadeh, who teaches literature and creative writing at Monash, also writes regularly for Overland, a far-Left magazine generously funded by the Australia Council with more of our money.

By coincidence, another speaker is Melbourne Workers Theatre co-founder Patricia Cornelius, a former academic now on the Australia Council’s Literature Assessment Panel, which helps to decide how much in grants to give magazines like — hey! — Overland.

Hmmm. Why is it that Marxists are so dependent on state funding?

And why do they get so much of it? Why, when even these Marxists’ children have shown their parents their politics is unworkable?

You see, Marxism 2014 will hold a "School of Rebellion" to teach children as young as five "constructive, collective and organised rebellion" with lessons on "why unions matter" and "organising a student strike", plus a little fun with "smashing capitalism: a piñata party".

But even the Green Left Weekly had to admit last year’s School of Rebellion ended with its 30 students rebelling against the school itself.

It reported the children were given a "graffiti workshop" which "involved the kids making their demands and ideas known with spray paint".

They sure did: "Their demands included, ‘Free internet’, ‘Free Food’, ‘Free everything!’ "

And then: "The older kids rebelled in a slam poetry session, electing a 10-year-old girl as their spokesperson and demanding to go outside and play soccer. Which they did."

Marxism in a nutshell: Here are mini-Marxists demanding everything be given to them free, and then refusing to work themselves.

And how often have we seen what inevitably follows: the state using force to make some work to provide what the others take, and to crack down on those who protest? There will be no graffiti workshop at the School of Rebellion this year.

That’s Marxism, kids. It’s amazing that after so many disastrous failures, your parents still believe this stuff.

But far worse is that so many of your parents’ gurus are in our universities, trying to turn them into Schools of Rebellion, too. And we pay them.


It’s only fair that Gillard shares blame for return to lawless unionism


IT is an honour to be rebutted by a former prime minister. But Julia Gillard’s claim, ("Laws and Fair Work", Letters, Feb 14) that I "misled readers" in describing Labor’s changes to the industrial relations laws does not stand up to scrutiny.

And even more important than errors in her claim are omissions which go to the heart of the current debate. Gillard’s contention is simply this: that she bears no responsibility for the industrial lawlessness which flourished under Labor.

As regards the building industry laws, she merely implemented changes retired judge Murray Wilcox had recommended. Far from doing "virtually nothing to police (the unions’) internal governance", as I had written, she not only retained the relevant provisions of Work Choices in the Fair Work Act, but strengthened them in 2012. And rather than trample on freedom of association, her legislation provides "more effective remedies in relation to breaches (of that freedom) than ever before".

Each of these assertions is incorrect, misses the point or both. I accept that the Wilcox review recommended that the Howard government’s building industry laws be modified. But even the review concluded that significant lawlessness remained and that strong powers were required to prevent it persisting.

Faced with that finding, a government which genuinely believed that (as Gillard had said) the industry needed "hard-edged compliance (with) no tolerance at all for lawlessness" would have monitored those changes to ensure they did not, in Wilcox’s words, "impede investigations of significant contraventions".

Instead, as the lawlessness spread, Gillard made further changes, not recommended by Wilcox, preventing the regulator pursuing matters once the parties to a dispute had reached an agreement, regardless of the tactics by which that agreement had been secured.

The consequences were entirely predictable: the thuggery escalated dramatically, as extracting an agreement, even by extreme means, now provided far-reaching protection from the law.

With Labor then standing by as the building union was found guilty of 30 counts of contempt in the Grocon dispute alone, Gillard’s protestations of innocence can hardly be taken seriously. Gillard’s claims with respect to policing unions’ governance are no more convincing.

Yes, the Fair Work Act kept the relevant provisions of Work Choices; but Gillard’s appointments to the Fair Work Commission, and the way the commission was then managed, guaranteed they would never be effectively enforced, as the Health Services Union scandal shows.

That scandal’s facts don’t need restating. Nor do Gillard’s assertions of "complete confidence" in Fair Work Australia’s inquiries. Yet her assertions were made, and vigorously repeated, despite mounting evidence of flaws in those inquiries that an independent review by KPMG found gravely compromised their quality, timeliness and value.

It is true that, as the crisis peaked, Gillard introduced stiffer penalties against union officials guilty of wrongdoing. But that came three years after the problems had become apparent and was little more than an attempt to deflect a far stronger response.

For Gillard to present herself as a stern enforcer of good governance is consequently absurd. Rather, her message to the unions was, as she herself said, "crystal clear" - "unionism ... is what defines us as a Labor party". And she would do whatever it takes to protect union interests.

Now Gillard maintains that far from imposing unions, the Fair Work Act enshrines Freedom of Association, including "the right to not be a member of a union and not to be represented by it".

But as the New Zealand Court of Appeal noted, Freedom of Association must preserve the "integrity of choice of the individual employee, and in particular of that employee who seeks to remain outside collective action".

Yet as well as gutting enforcement of the anti-coercion provisions, Gillard’s laws, by strengthening the award system and giving unions a crucial role in their determination, removed workers’ right to be employed on terms they chose. It was precisely so as to remove that right that Gillard made individual agreements virtually impossible; and it is thanks to that right’s removal that ACTU secretary Dave Oliver can proclaim unions "represent about 60 per cent of the workforce", although union membership is barely one-fourth that.

Ultimately, that was the objective: to entrench a union movement whose position was crumbling as workers voted with their feet. Two parts Fritz Lang to one part MC Escher, Gillard’s byzantine Fair Work Act sought to privilege unions in everything from rights of entry to control over superannuation funds.

Not that the workers themselves derived much benefit. Gillard willingly paints the Howard years as a gulag; but surveys show job security and work satisfaction (see chart) increased then, only to drop on Gillard’s watch.

And rising unemployment and falling participation rates highlight the gap between Gillard’s rhetoric that "a job is an incredibly precious thing" and the reality she left behind.

Yet Labor is fighting tooth and nail to keep even the worst features of Gillard’s legislation intact. Under the tax laws, a taxpayer can be subject to compulsory examination, without protection against self-incrimination, if the tax office suspects a contravention; so too, under the competition and securities laws, can any company director or manager; but Labor wants union thugs to retain protections other citizens are baldly denied.

Our industrial laws must do better than that. They should slam the door shut on intimidation and corruption. Rather than empower a sectional interest at the community’s expense, they should facilitate efficient contracting between employers and employees, thereby promoting trust in the workplace and encouraging secure, high-quality jobs.

And rather than partiality, they should be administered with competence and integrity.

None of that will happen without serious analysis of the system’s objectives and design.

And Gillard is right, "public policy debates are best informed by the facts". She would do well to heed her own advice.


How Queensland bikies are held in solitary confinement

Prison authorities refuse to release images of the cells being used to hold bikies in solitary confinement, citing "safety and security considerations".

The Sunday Mail, however, has used sworn statements from lawyers who represent the bikies to paint a picture of what is going on behind closed doors in our prisons.

According to those statements, prisoners are forbidden from wearing underpants and, in the bikies-only ­facility at Woodford prison, are clothed in pink uniforms.

They are held in lockdown for 23 hours each day in cells "the size of a large dining table", with only a mattress and a toilet.

According to some affidavits, the cells have been infested with cockroaches, ants and mites. There are surveillance cameras above the toilet, and above the shower in an ­adjoining cell, where inmates are given an hour a day "outside time".

That cell is the same size but with a "caged area to allow for natural light".

Cells are searched daily while ­inmates are forced to stand with their heads against the wall with arms raised.

Inmates are strip-searched ­before and after visits from their lawyers, and given half the standard daily food rations, their lawyers claim.

A government spokesman yesterday said the cells were "very different" than the picture painted. They all had a shower, a window, a sink, desk and chair, and bookshelves.

But Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said he made no apologies for being tough on members of organised crime gangs – and it was working.

"They used their notoriety to be top dogs in the prison population and they actually continued their illegal activities by dealing drugs and intimidating prison staff," Mr Bleijie said.

"Keeping them away from the general prison population has disrupted all of that and jail is now a real deterrent for them.

The prison regime is doing what it’s meant to do: We now have gang members resigning from their clubs and turning over a new leaf and some have had their restrictions lifted."
There are about 50 "Criminal Motorcycle Gang" prisoners held in Queensland jails.

The government says "health and psychological services" are offered to inmates, and gang members were able – like other prisoners – to participate "in meaningful activities."


17 February, 2014

‘Rainmaker’ PM pledges fair and responsible drought package

TONY Abbott arrived in the NSW outback town of Bourke today to talk drought — but instead brought more rain with him than the district has seen for two years.

As a thunderstorm pelted down on the shearing shed of 40,000-hectare Jandra station, the Prime Minister promised local farmers his government wanted to do more help them cope with the current drought.

"This is a great Australian sound, rain on a tin roof, but I am very conscious this has been a severe drought; it’s a natural disaster and a lot of people are doing it tough," said Mr Abbott, who is on a two-day tour of drought-hit western NSW and northwest Queensland.

"The important thing is that the government has a (farm assistance package) response that is intelligent, fair and (fiscally) responsible.

"But there will be better income support, better access to the loans people need and an emphasis on social support that farmers and rural communities need in times like this."

Cabinet is expected to sign off on a drought package in just over a week.

Jandra station owner Phillip Ridge welcomed Mr Abbott as a rainmaker.

"If I had known what he would bring; I’d have asked him here months ago," Mr Ridge said, as giant rain puddles, a sea of red mud and rows of bogged cars collected outside.

Rain also forced the cancellation of a later planned visit to a property near Longreach in western Queensland.

But Mr Ridge said one downpour would not break the two-year drought.

He said debt and high fixed costs were killing rural Australia.

He wants lower interest rates on cheap government loans available to help farmers through the drought. Rates are currently set at 5 per cent.

More than 70 per cent of Queensland and 62 per cent of NSW has not had significant rain for two years.

Mr Abbott and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce are touring drought-hit areas to hear directly how farmers would like the government to help.

"It’s very important to see and feel how you guys live," Mr Abbott said, having given up a seat in an air-conditioned four-wheel drive.

Cabinet will consider a drought assistance package for farmers in the next fortnight.

The Prime Minister said any government assistance package would ensure the agricultural sector survived the current drought, and that farmers remained viable, strong and producing food for export to Asia’s bombing markets.

But he said failing farm businesses would not be propped up.

Mr Ridge told Mr Abbott it was hard for any farmer to keep going, no matter how good, when it hadn’t rained for two years.

He said his sheep were weak, some had died, he was having to buy expensive hay to feed cattle and that his wool harvest was down by one third.

The Prime Minister flew from Bourke to western Queensland, where more rain forced him to cancel a visit to an outback property.

Instead, Mr Abbott addressed a meeting at Longreach’s Stockman’s Hall of Fame, telling them

he believed drought support was more akin to "natural disaster" relief than industry assistance.

The government has in recent times rejected funds for Holden and SPC Ardmona, despite Mr Abbott after the election declaring Australia was "open for business".

But Mr Joyce said he believed people in city areas would back a "significant" government support package.


PM shows the meaning of 'fair go'

There are few more quintessentially Australian terms than a "fair go". And there is no better phrase to draw together the events of the first parliamentary sitting week of the year - and indeed the start of the Abbott government's term.

A "fair go", according to Mark Gwynn, writing for the Australian National Dictionary Centre's Ozwords, was first recorded during the Queensland shearers' strike of 1891. As the Brisbane Courier reported on March 25 of that year, union leaders questioned whether they received a "fair go" in the course of their arrest for conspiracy.

Their question appears more than a little disingenuous in the context of the activities preceding their arrest - not to mention the fact that 13 of the unionists charged were sentenced to jail terms. The union leaders and unionised shearers had used physical force, and the threat of such force, to harass, bully and pressure non-union shearers and wool growers into ceding to their demands. The unionists were attempting to control whom wool growers could and couldn't employ, along with the terms and conditions of that employment. Their actions were the antithesis of a "fair go".

It's interesting to reflect on this as car manufacturers close and businesses are under pressure. We should ask ourselves whether unionism really gives workers - and the businesses who employ them - a fair go. After all, one can't exist without the other.

On Monday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced a royal commission on trade union governance and corruption designed to "ensure that honest workers and honest businesses get a fair go". The Prime Minister said: "Honest workers and honest unionists should not be ripped off by corrupt officials and honest businesses should be able to go about their work without fear of intimidation, corruption and standover tactics."

No Australian - apart from those engaging in intimidating, corrupt and standover tactics - would disagree with the statement. But such behaviour forms only part of the problem.

The additional challenge for the government, employers and unions in the context of the imminent closure of Australian car manufacturing, and pressures on a range of diverse Australian businesses, is to review our rigid workplace relations system and do something to fix it. After all, there's no point being entitled to some of the most generous employment conditions and highest wages in the world if you don't have a job.

If the government is brave enough to tackle this crucial policy area, the question is will the opposition and the media give the government a fair go to fix the system?

Will we ever see Labor act in the same bipartisan manner as the Coalition did when it was in opposition, particularly under leader John Howard during the critical Hawke-Keating economic reforms in the 1980s? Or, like the shearers' strike of 1891, will a fair go be a narrow one, defined by unions and Labor in their interests alone, rather than the interests of the nation?

The same questions might more broadly be applied to the reporting of, and reaction to, Coalition government decisions. Will good policy outcomes and the tough decisions be highlighted, or as seems the case, just those that are negative? Are we giving the government a fair go?

We've heard endlessly about the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection's alleged secrecy over asylum seekers, but virtually nothing about the fact that not one illegal boat or asylum seeker has landed in Australia for more than 50 days. In contrast, at one stage under Labor 3000 asylum seekers were arriving per month. One thousand people died at sea. And 14,500 genuine refugees, waiting their turn in refugee camps, were denied places in Australia because of illegal boat arrivals.

In the interests of a truly fair go, let's consider the first Rudd Labor government at the same stage. Looking back, Kevin Rudd's most memorable achievements five months into government seem to be visiting Cate Blanchett and her new baby in hospital and hosting the 2020 summit.

The contrast with the Abbott Coalition government could not be more marked.

The government is making tough decisions on manufacturing, immigration and the environment. Let's hope this extends to workplace relations reform, and if it does, for the good of all Australians, let's give it a fair go.


Victorian Primary school principals shut down religious education classes

Hundreds of primary school principals have stopped offering weekly religious education in schools, despite a legal obligation to offer the classes.

Current legislation states principals "must" schedule the contentious "special religious instruction" (SRI) classes in the school timetable when accredited and approved instructors are available, but Education Department figures suggest the number of Victorian state schools delivering SRI programs declined by almost a third in the past two years.

In 2011, 940 government schools delivered an SRI program, but by 2013 the number plummeted to 666 - a drop of 274. In real terms, 130,100 students received SRI in 2011, with just 92,808 in 2013.

Christian organisation Access Ministries is the leading provider of instruction, delivering 81 per cent of programs through its weekly 30-minute Christian religious education (CRE) classes.

Joe Kelly has been principal of Cranbourne South Primary School for 15 years, and acknowledged that until two years ago he had been "blindly supporting" Access Ministries' presence. That was until he took a closer look at the actual classes and curriculum.

"It is not education," Mr Kelly said. "It has no value whatsoever. It is rubbish - hollow and empty rhetoric … My school teachers are committed to teaching children, not indoctrinating them."

In early 2012, Mr Kelly sent Access Ministries a two-page letter explaining why they would not be allowed back in his school. He subsequently spoke to a representative of the evangelical organisation.

"We did meet, and we agreed in the end," Mr Kelly said. "His words: 'If the school does not want Access Ministries, we will not force our way in'."

Mr Kelly said his actions created no backlash from within the school community, and nor was there any reprimand from the Education Department for his defiant stance - something he hoped would give heart to other principals considering exercising discretion.  "A lot of principals feel as strongly as I do, but they are not comfortable being as provocative as I am," he said.

Education Minister Martin Dixon said he had "full confidence in school principals making decisions in the interests of their parent body and the school community".

Despite the decline in numbers, Dr Evonne Paddison, chief executive of Access Ministries, said CRE was a "choice" that the parents of nearly 90,000 Victorian children still make.  "Some areas are seeing growth and others not so," she said. "This is not an unusual pattern. CRE happens because parents want it."

Not all parents, of course. Members of the grassroots group Fairness in Religions in Schools have long agitated for change on this issue, and with some success.

Prior to August 2011, the SRI enrolment forms used by schools were "opt-out", meaning parents had to fill in the form or their child would automatically end up being taught religion, enrolled by default.

In the past two years, however, the forms became "opt-in", meaning parents have to make a conscious choice to enrol their child in religious education. This simple change had a massive impact on the popularity of SRI. Namely, far fewer kids are enrolled.

Emerald Primary School principal Mark Carver said before the form was changed, perhaps 75 per cent of students in a class of 24 would receive instruction.

"Last year that was dropping close to 50 per cent," Mr Carver said. "And once it gets below that, it becomes a difficult thing in terms of supervision."

Dr David Zyngier, a senior lecturer in curriculum and pedagogy at Monash University, said his biggest concern remained for parents who opt-in but did not understand what lessons were being taught, or that they were being taught by volunteers - not teachers.

"I have reviewed all six booklets produced by Access Ministries, and it's basically low order, unintelligent, busy work and rote learning," Dr Zyngier said.  "It horrified me. There's nothing educational about it. It's all about becoming a disciple of Jesus."

Dr Paddison said the trained volunteers implement a curriculum designed with four levels of primary schooling in mind, as outlined in the Victorian Essential Learning Standards.  "As any adult interacting with young children will have some impact, we aim to make sure it is a positive one," Dr Paddison said.


Let the demolition of rogue union begin

Paul Sheehan

It is common for people to take a voyeuristic schadenfreude in reading insults about others. I'm aware many readers like reading insults about this columnist, so let's get started. First, my corruption. Then my hypocrisy.

Federal Labor MP Laurie Ferguson posted an item on his website on April 16 last year: "The NSW Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by David Ballard against a decision where his witnesses' evidence was found to be 'false', 'implausible' and 'far fetched'. Will the Herald's Paul Sheehan offer profound (if delayed) apologies, after his advertising campaign for Ballard?"

Ferguson returned to the fray on November 27, via Twitter (a goldmine of indiscretion): "You were less interested reporting the absolute demolition of your close mate [Charkey's] court effort despite your friendly articles." A few minutes later he made a more direct accusation: "You are more than a close mate and you know the judgment was an unmitigated total demolition of your slanderous campaign."

Given that I have never spoken to the plaintiff in this case, building contractor David Ballard, a former boxing champion known as Charkey Ramon, before or after his original court case, Ferguson was not only wrong but he has nailed his colours to the mast of the under-siege Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. Let's just say his objectivity is clouded because his younger brother Andrew, a CFMEU official, was mocked by me for his performance under cross-examination in Ballard v Multiplex.

Then there is the CFMEU's staunch ally in the NSW Parliament, the Greens MP David Shoebridge. On May 22, 2012, he told Parliament: "I have known Andrew Ferguson for well over a decade, including in my professional capacity as a lawyer representing the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union from time to time … Now that a superior court of record has made a conclusive finding against the likes of Ballard … it is clear that Mr Ferguson and the CFMEU are owed an apology. We are all still waiting, Mr Sheehan."

I am familiar with the judgment of Justice Robert McDougall in this matter, all 76,000 words of it. In 2012 I prepared a robust dissent. It was withheld from publication on the grounds of prudence. Times have changed. The scale of corruption touching the CFMEU has become a public issue.

Let's just say I rate McDougall's judgment as highly as I rate the work of his fellow NSW Supreme Court judge Stephen Campbell in the matter of Regina v Kieren Loveridge. In November, Campbell held that Loveridge would spend a non-parole period of six years in prison for his unprovoked and fatal assault on Thomas Kelly, and unprovoked assaults on Matthew Serrao, Rhyse Saliba, Aden Gazi and Marco Compagnoni, all while he was on probation for a prior assault. This judgment was an insult to the grieving Kelly family and an assault on commonsense.

Now McDougall can observe the unfolding royal commission into the bribes, pay-offs and slush funds endemic in the construction industry, not unlike the evidence laid out in Ballard v Multiplex and the CFMEU. A former CFMEU official Craig Bates gave evidence he received payments from companies that wanted to remain "preferred contractors" of the CFMEU. A former finance director of Multiplex, Ian Widdup, gave evidence he made secret cash payments of hundred of thousands of dollars to the union from Multiplex. Former CFMEU organiser John Henderson gave evidence Ballard was forced off a job by the union. Len Anthony gave evidence the CFMEU wanted Ballard out of the industry. former Multiplex employee Joseph Taylor said he attended a meeting where it was decided to lock Ballard out of a construction site, leaving his equipment locked inside.

McDougall inherited this case after the original judge fell ill and thus did not see the overwhelming bulk of the evidence first hand. He found the testimony of the whistle-blowers insufficient as the plaintiff, and two of his key witnesses, Bates and Widdup, had been found to have given false evidence in other matters. The crucial element was the judge's disdain for the criminal history of Bates, which utterly infected his credibility in this case.

Ballard lost his case and again on appeal. His witnesses were shredded by a battery of silks. His personal finances were shredded by the standard legal tactic when big confronts small - attrition via process - and a bill in excess of a $1 million.

The defining fact, which no amount of lawfare can wash away, is that Ballard was an independent contractor who fell foul of the CFMEU and paid a price. Anyone who still doesn't think that collusion has been built into the industrial landscape for decades, at a cost of tens of billions of dollars, should consider the words of Ken Phillips, executive director of the Independent Contractors of Australia, who told me on Friday: "There is an industrial relations cartel in Australia of big unions and big corporations that have been cutting industrial relations deals then passing on the higher costs … The ICA has presented a 10,000-word submission to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into the construction sector which details our argument that a cartel exists, where major construction companies and unions work to suppress competition in the sector, and we identify cost blowouts of around 20 to 30 per cent."

Last week, I spoke to the solicitor who did most of the work for the plaintiff in Ballard v Multiplex, to see how Ballard was holding up. She did not know. But she did say this: "Every time I think about this judgment, it makes me angry." Let the royal commission roll on


16 February, 2014

Victor Dominello: 'What is happening to our country?'

This guy hasn't got a clue.  The crimes have nothing to do with us ordinary Australians.  The culprits were respectively a Muslim and Africans whom we unwisely let into our country.  If he had a clue he would be moving to stop such immigration

A NSW minister has revealed how he wept while overseas and questioned his conviction that Australia was the best nation on earth when he heard the horrifying news about two NSW girls – a 14-year-old allegedly gang raped in a park and a 12-year-old whose father allegedly condoned her illegal "marriage".

"I shed a tear, more than one," Victor Dominello, the Minister for Citizenship and Communities, told the Premier’s Multicultural Media Awards on Thursday night.

He told the audience that he came to the event "with a heavy heart". He had just returned from India, where he had heard the stories about the girls.

Mr Dominello admitted he wondered: "What is happening to our country?"  Despite his long conviction about the greatness of Australia, he thought: "We may not be the best country on earth."

He despaired at what led boys and men to harm girls and women.

"We need to be raising boys to be gentlemen, who will protect our women, not raise a hand against them," Mr Dominello said to wide applause from the audience.

The alleged rape at Doonside ignited some racial tensions after the victim, from the Pacific Islander community, described her attackers as African.

Mr Dominello did not mention any ethnic groups but he stressed such crimes were not new, and he pointed out that the killers of Anita Cobby, who was abducted at Blacktown in 1986, had the names Murphy, Murdoch and Travers.

However, he implored the gathered media – as members of "the fourth estate" – to put the spotlight on the unacceptable treatment of girls and women.

A 16 year-old boy has been refused bail over the alleged gang rape.

The Premier's Multicultural Media Awards recognises excellence in journalism across media outlets in NSW's multicultural community.


Carbon tax figures add to pressure to repeal

Australian companies paid $6.6 billion in the first full year of the carbon tax, with the seven biggest electricity producers each slugged more than $250 million.

The first annual tally of carbon tax liabilities, released on Friday by the Clean Energy Regulator, was largely as forecast.

But the Abbott government seized on the sheer scale of the figures to increase pressure on Labor to "get out of the way" of its election promise to abolish the tax. Opposition leader Bill Shorten has vowed to block the government's carbon repeal bills in the Senate.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the "hit on the economy" from the tax was worse than Labor had predicted when the Gillard government introduced it last year.

He said the cost to the economy was $7.6 billion once reduced fuel tax credits and charges on the refrigeration and aviation industries were considered.

Of the 348 companies that paid the tax, NSW-based Macquarie Generation had the biggest bill at nearly $470 million. Great Energy Alliance, the company behind Victoria's Loy Yang power plant, paid $425 million.

Sixteen of the top 20 carbon tax contributors were power companies, with a combined bill of $4.1 billion, according to the six-monthly update by the Clean Energy Regulator.

Manufacturing companies paid a total $1.1 billion.

Mr Hunt used the numbers to renew the attack on Labor which has defended the tax.

"All Australians can blame Bill Shorten [for] helping to push up electricity bills and the overall cost of living," he said. "It's time for Labor to get out of the way and support the repeal of the carbon tax."

Mr Hunt said the $7.6 billion paid by companies had resulted in only a 0.1 per cent fall in emissions. Proof, he said, that "it doesn't even work".


NSW national parks open to amateur shooters

The first hunt by licensed amateurs in a NSW national park will take place on Saturday near Griffith as police continue to search for shooters who illegally gunned down six brumbies in a state forest to the north.

On Saturday, four volunteer hunters will target feral goats at the Cocoparra Nature Reserve under National Parks and Wildlife Service supervision as part of a controversial three-year state government trial.

The reserve is one of 12 parks opened to amateur hunting by the government after Premier Barry O'Farrell struck a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party to get electricity privatisation legislation through the Parliament.

National Parks said the hunting was designed to help protect the Cocoparra Pomaderris, a native shrub, and the Inland Grey Box woodland endangered ecological community.

The reserve will be closed while the hunting takes place.

Licensed hunters were allowed to resume unsupervised shooting in about 200 state forests this month following a six-month hiatus. The Department of Primary Industries, which oversees licensed hunters, said almost 700 permits had been issued within nine days of the ban being lifted.

But by Sunday, six wild horses - two mares and four stallions - were found illegally shot dead at Newnes State Forest near Lithgow. Police are investigating and have ruled out two hunters who had permission to shoot in the forest around the time the horses' bodies were found.

Investigators nonetheless believe the fatal shots were the work of experienced marksmen.

The Chifley local area command crime manager, Inspector Luke Rankin, said police had spoken with both hunters registered through the Department of Primary Industries to shoot in the area. "We're pretty certain that they weren't involved," he said. "We believe this is an instance of illegal hunting."

Police are appealing to the public for assistance. "People that were camping there would have heard [the rifle shots]," Inspector Rankin said.


The Federal Government uses a comic book to stop the boats

THEY are the Government’s new secret weapon to stop the boats: comic books. has learned this picture-based novel, written in the dominant Afghan languages Dari and Pashto, has been distributed overseas as part of an effort to discourage asylum seekers from coming to Australia by boat.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the book was distributed under the Abbott and Rudd governments.  He said the book was originally developed and distributed under the Rudd administration.

It has an emotional plotline.  Meet our protagonist. He’s an asylum seeker. He lives in squalor and works as a mechanic.

He dreams of new beginnings. Perth, in particular.

The lead character pays to flee his country.  And has a tearful goodbye.

He flies to another nation.  And he meets up with a stranger. That person, who we assume is a people smuggler, shows him a photograph of a boat.

With a worried look in his eyes, he boards a crowded vessel headed for Australia.

It all goes wrong.  The asylum seekers encounter dangerous swell

The asylum seekers are picked up by the Navy ...

And are taken to a detention facility.

He longs to go home and imagines dancing at a party.

The final page contains a stark warning.  "If you go to Australia without a visa on a boat, you won’t be settled in Australia".

The Government has launched similar advertising campaigns in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Indonesia "using a range of channels and languages", including TV, radio and press advertising.

Diaspora communities here in Australia have also been targeted by a campaign.

SOURCE  (See the original for graphics)

14 February, 2014

Finally, a Conservative Leader

A view from America

In the middle of 2013, a French journalist asked me who I thought was today's outstanding center-right head of government. After a few moments' thought, I responded: "She died in April. Requiescat in pace."

Looking around the world, the search for what might be called a full-spectrum conservative government leader was, until recently, a depressing exercise. On many issues, Britain's Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron seems positively ill-at-ease with most of his own MPs (and certainly grass-roots Tories) who are more-than-a-few clicks to the right of him. Across the Channel, most European center-right governments are pursuing policies best described as marginally-less-social-democratic than those of the left. In Latin America, the picture is equally disheartening, especially after Michele Bachelot's return to the Chilean presidency, following what some regard as a mediocre performance by the hitherto-governing center-right administration.

Lately, however, there has been a sign of hope. And it comes in the form of Australia's new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. Thus far Abbott has matched his open adherence to distinctly conservative convictions by implementing policies that reflect those principles.

Elected prime minister in September last year, Abbott is in many respects the left's nightmare come true. For one thing, he's a practicing Catholic, who, though he doesn't draw attention to his faith, is generally associated in people's minds with the Church's conservative wing. Among other brickbats, that's earned him (rather sectarian) epithets such as the "mad monk."

At the same time, Abbott possesses - like his political mentor, Australia's most successful modern conservative politician, John Howard - the common touch. In private and public, he comes across as rather normal and unpretentious. In Australian politics, that will take you a very, very long way. But Abbott is unique insofar as he combines an ability to communicate with ordinary people with being that rarity among conservative politicians: someone genuinely interested in ideas.

I can't think of any other contemporary government leader who would quote one of modern conservatism's leading intellectuals, Roger Scruton, in a speech to the World Economic Forum. A Rhodes Scholar and Oxford graduate, Abbott actually reads serious books, is well acquainted with the writings of conservative luminaries old and new, and somehow managed to find time while being an MP and cabinet minister to contribute articles relatively regularly to serious-minded Australian conservative and free market publications such as Quadrant and Policy. In short, he's unafraid to bring intellectual steel into the public square.

p>Even more worryingly for the left, however, Abbott has been willing to buck the "popular" (i.e., lefty) wisdom on many occasions because of his beliefs. In 2009, he became leader of the then-opposition Liberal Party after resigning from the shadow cabinet and leading a parliamentary revolt against a Cameron-like leader who had signed up holus-bolus to the climate change agenda. "Unelectable" was most Australian commentators' verdict on Abbott. How wrong they were.

Abbott's willingness to match his ideas with corresponding actions has been very evident of late. On economic policy, his government has moved in the opposite direction of those who favor Dodd-Frank-like behemoth approaches to the financial industry. Instead it's opted to simplify regulation. As the minister responsible for the reform bluntly pointed out, "no amount of legislation will ever be a guarantee against another Storm Financial." Indeed it's often excessive regulation that creates opportunities for financial shenanigans by industry insiders.

Regarding the welfare state, Abbott's minister for Social Security, Kevin Andrews (another conservative politician-thinker), has announced a major overhaul of a welfare system that was starting to drift in a distinctly European-direction. Predictably the left are up in arms. But so too are those rent-seeking Australian businesses who now find themselves dealing with a government uninterested in subsidizing them. That's nothing, however, to the fury that greeted Abbott's disbanding of the climate-change bureaucracy established by the preceding Labor government.

Abbott has also long understood that conservative governments can't treat cultural issues as the orphans of their policy agenda. He's never hidden his belief that Western civilization is generally a very good thing - particularly its Anglosphere component. Nor have Abbott's views on social issues ever won him applause from the left. On these and other subjects, Abbott has stressed he's never been impressed by the "inevitability" argument that's invariably trotted out by progressivists as they try to stream-roll their preferred objectives. That suggests Abbott isn't likely to fall for the trap which John Stuart Mill proposed as the best way to transform conservatives into liberals: i.e., you convince conservatives that a liberal position is actually a conservative view.

The first sign of Abbott's seriousness about obstructing the left's long march through the institutions was his government's appointment of the policy-director of the center-right Institute of Public Affairs to the nation's Human Rights Commission. This was widely seen as the beginning of an effort to re-balance an organization long criticized as monolithically left-wing. Since then Abbott has indicated that major changes are coming to the ABC: Australia's government-funded institutional - and ideological - equivalent of the BBC. The left isn't disguising its nervousness.

Along the same lines, Abbott's education minister, Christopher Pyne, has initiated a review of the national curriculum implemented by the previous government. A moment's glance at the curriculum's treatment of history soon illustrates the extent to which it seeks to downplay Australia's indisputably Western heritage. In the words of Sydney's Cardinal George Pell, "Europe, Britain and the United States are mentioned 76 times, while Asia is referred to on more than 200 occasions." This disparity is odd because although Australia is certainly in Asia, no objective observer could say that Australia is "of" Asia. Moreover, while Australian students learn about "Gaia" and other deep-green fantasies in grade 9, many Australian universities find they need to put the same students through remedial English classes once they begin college.

Then there are Abbott's initial steps on the international stage. Take, for instance, his recent remarks at Davos. Much of the address was devoted to pushing a strong free trade agenda and insisting that governments should let business do what it does best: promote lasting economic growth. "After all," Abbott said, "government doesn't create wealth; people do, when they run profitable businesses."

In the same speech, however, Abbott made the conservative point that economic prosperity and freedom can't be sustained in a value-neutral world. Nor did Abbott shy away from relentlessly pressing one of the most important moral arguments for free trade articulated long ago by Adam Smith: that economic freedom, combined with the right institutions, radically reduces poverty faster than any other approach. "No country," Abbott added, "has ever taxed or subsidized its way to prosperity."

All in all, the address added up to a solid integration of sound economics with conservative principles. That's what makes Abbott different from, say, Canada's Stephen Harper or Spain's Mariano Rajoy. Abbott happily engages in the indispensable task of moral suasion in favor of conservative positions. What's more, he's quite good at it. With his rare combination of plain-speaking and intellectual substance, Abbott makes conservative ideas sound, well, reasonable to the average voter.

Of course no conservative government can do everything. Even Margaret Thatcher couldn't shrink the state's share of GDP during her time in office. Australia's three-year parliamentary terms additionally limit any government's room for maneuver. Abbott also surely knows that not all his MPs embrace all his views. The Liberal Party has always been an amalgam of Whigs, Tories, classical liberals, social conservatives, free marketers, protectionists, quiet religious believers, equally quiet skeptics, assorted careerists, and unabashed pragmatists.

Yet, like John Howard, Abbott has thus far proved adept at managing those differences. He also appears to grasp that what the conservative historian Maurice Cowling once said of the Tory party applies equally to its Australian equivalent: its business is to win elections. This is important, not just because ideological puritanism sometimes make the perfect the enemy of the good. It also matters because if Abbott's government can maintain its current course and win elections, Abbott has an outside chance of doing, albeit in a more modest way, for his generation of conservatives across the world what Reagan and Thatcher did for theirs.

For a "mad monk," that would be no small achievement.


CFMEU chiefs blacklisted from all Victorian building sites

MORE than a dozen militant union chiefs have been slapped with building site bans in a dramatic escalation of hostilities in Victoria's $39 billion construction industry.

Mugshots of officials, including CFMEU state secretary John Setka and his chief lieutenants, will be sent to building site managers.
The Master Builders Association of Victoria, which represents 7500 building companies, has issued the picture gallery, saying the unionists' right-of-entry permits issued under federal law had lapsed.

MBAV industrial relations general manager Lawrie Cross told the Herald Sun that the list and photographs would be a new tool in the fight against unlawful entry.  "Project managers on sites can use this to identify those officials who do not have permits," he said.

The builders' fightback came as the Federal Government launched a widespread royal commission into corruption and bribery in the building industry this week.  The $100 million inquiry is expected to focus on unlawful entry to building sites and standover tactics as part of its probe.

Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz supported the MBAV's move, saying that officials walking on to sites without permits was a "perennial problem in Victoria".

The list of officials from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union who have no valid right-of-entry permits include its entire leadership.  Mr Setka, assistant secretaries Shaun Reardon and Elias Spernovasilis, president Ralph Edwards and vice-presidents Noel Washington and Derek Christopher top the list.  There are 13 banned CFMEU workers on the list, including organisers Mick Powell and Paul Sullivan.

Union officials are supposed to provide 24 hours' notice for entry for industrial relations disputes but can go on site immediately if they identify a safety concern.

But builders complain the right of entry is abused and officials come on to sites to go on "fishing expeditions", which leads to penalties for late jobs.

A memo to builders, seen by the Herald Sun, details the officials who do not have the right to visit construction sites.  "Attached is a list of current personnel from CFMEU Vic & Tas (Construction and General) in relation to their current federal right-of-entry permit status as at the 11th of February 2014," the statement says.  "Any personnel in red do not have a federal right-of-entry permit and can be refused entry onto your site under all circumstances as they do not have authority to enter your workplace under the Fair Work Act 2009."

Senator Abetz said illegal entry to building sites could be included within the royal commission if there was evidence.
"This has been a perennial problem especially in Victoria," he said.

The Herald Sun understands some officials allow their right-of-entry permits to lapse to make it more difficult to have them removed.  Building company bosses then only have the option of calling police to have officials removed for trespassing.

Mr Setka has convictions for trespass dating back to 1987.
Christopher was convicted and fined $1500 last year for an incident on a building site.  Christopher pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court in August.


Greens to move motion to remove Lord's Prayer in favour of 'silent reflection'

The Lord's Prayer will be put on the parliamentary chopping block on Thursday and replaced with silent reflection, if the Greens have their way.

Greens spokesman on multiculturalism, Richard Di Natale, will move a motion in the upper house on Thursday morning to refer the prayer to the Senate's Procedure Committee.

Senator Di Natale's motion will ask the committee to consider amending section 50 of the Senate's standing orders to replace the prayer with the following:

"Senators, let us in silence pray or reflect upon our responsibilities to the people of Australia, to the States and Territories which we represent, and to all future generations."

This text is based on what the ACT legislative assembly says at the start of its sitting days.

Federal parliament has been reciting prayers at the start of each sitting day since 1901 - a practice that Senator Di Natale argues is an "anachronism" in today's multicultural Australia and a breach of church-state separation.

Senator Di Natale first announced his plan to get rid of the Lord's Prayer last month, while Christine Milne was on leave and he was acting Greens leader.

He says that since then, his plan has received unanimous support from within his party, but had a mixed reaction from other MPs.

Senator Di Natale said he had also received some "gentle ribbing" from fellow MPs during the prayers in the Senate this week.

Coalition MPs are not expected to support the Greens move in the Senate.

In January, government Senate leader Eric Abetz said he strongly supported keeping the prayer, describing Senator Di Natale's move as a "Green attack" as part of "their ongoing attempt to rewrite our history and deny our heritage".

DLP senator John Madigan dismissed the idea at the time, saying it was ironic that a man whose last name translates to "of Christmas" was trying to change parliamentary prayers.

Labor has not had an official position, although lower house frontbencher Mark Dreyfus, who is Jewish, has called for a multi-faith model, rather than abolishing the Lord's Prayer.


And not a drop to drink without a certificate

A reader is astonished:

"I work in the food and beverage industry in South Australia, and just thought I would forward you on this bizarre and ridiculous junk that I spend many hours attending to every week. I have just been informed that I need to be registered to provide drinking water to patrons."

Astonishing. Just read all the questions on that form at the link.  Bureaucrats are tougher on people who’d give you water than on people who’d let you thirst.

Let us now rewrite St John’s Gospel in the manner now preferred by the South Australian Department of Health:

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. Besides, I have not filled in my Application for Registration as a Drinking Water Provider.

10 Jesus wept.


13 February, 2014

50 days of failure for people smugglers

The latest Operation Sovereign Borders weekly update reveals that for 50 days there has not been a single successful people smuggling venture to Australia by boat, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Scott Morrison said today.

Operation Sovereign Borders is preventing criminal people smugglers from fulfilling their promise of passage to Australia.

Not only will people seeking to come illegally by boat not be settled in Australia, under the Abbott Government's policies they will not get here.

There is still a long way to go but 50 days of failure for the people smugglers should be welcome news to anyone who wants to stop criminal people smugglers putting people's lives at risk.

The last people smuggling venture that made it to Australia and had all passengers handed over to Australian immigration authorities was on December 19 last year.

The government is also continuing to remove illegal arrivals to Australia who are found not to be in need of Australia's protection.

This week 46 Sri Lankan nationals were removed to Sri Lanka including 37 involuntary removals.

The Abbott Government is not just stopping the boats as we promised we would do at the last election but we are sending back those arrivals Labor allowed to illegally enter Australia by boat during their failed years in government.

This is the resolve that is needed to get the job done.

This week, during my second visit to Malaysia as Minister, I announced Australia's intention to hand over two Bay Class patrol vessels to Malaysia to enhance the Malaysian Government's maritime enforcement and deterrence capability.

The strong co-operation of the Malaysian Government in efforts to prevent people smuggling as part of the Coalition Government's regional deterrence framework is appreciated.

This latest measure strengthens the agreement with Malaysia secured late last year to further disrupt and prevent people smuggling operations in and through Malaysia by air, land and sea.


Mother Barred from Pool for Wearing a Dress Says There’s a Way Around Rule: Be a Muslim

An Australian woman said she was prevented from swimming in a public pool because she wore a dress instead of traditional swimwear — but may have gotten a pass if not for one small issue.

"I can only let Muslims in the pool in dresses," the lifeguard said Friday according to Katherine Pulo, 39, who was interviewed by the Illawarra Mercury.

Pulo said she’s worn the dress previously without incident and asked the lifeguard, "How do you know I’m not Muslim?"

"You’re not Muslim," she said the guard replied.

Pulo issued a complaint with the local council, citing discrimination.

After she arrived at the Olympic Pool in Kembla, about an hour and 20 minutes south of Sydney, with her two sons, 8 and 5, they called for her to join them in the water. But Pulo replied, "I can’t," she told the Mercury.

"I feel discriminated against," Pulo told the Mercury. "Just because I’m not bound by a religion shouldn’t mean I can’t dress modestly. It’s my choice. Why should I miss out on going for a swim because I’m conscious about my body?"

A friend of Pulo, Fiona Garcia, whose daughter was swimming with Pulo’s children, said she approached the lifeguard over the incident, telling him, "This is discrimination."

Informed that he would be the subject of a complaint, the guard replied, "Put in two [complaints]," Garcia told the Mercury.

Wollongong City Council’s manager of property and recreation, Peter Coyte, said swimmers at the city’s public pools were required to wear "swimming attire" in the water.

"Council works within guidelines set out by (New South Wales) Health, and therefore doesn’t permit the wearing of inappropriate clothing, or ‘street’ clothing, due to potential health risks," Coyte told the Mercury.

Signs were posted at all council-run pools, advising swimmers that appropriate swimming attire must be worn in the water, and lifeguards were required to enforce the rule, a council spokeswoman said.

Yet the council apologized and indicated it would investigate Pulo’s complaint.


Embarrassing nanny state red tape strangling builders in South Australia

BUILDERS are spending more than 20 hours on jobs that should take six, and are forced to complete complicated risk assessments for basic tasks because of "embarrassing" overregulation, their peak industry group says.

In its latest policy release, the Master Builders Association has put forward a six-pronged plan to tackle red tape and duplication of regulation, including the establishment of a South Australian productivity commission to report on statewide economic issues.

The recently appointed director of policy for the SA branch of the MBA, Ian Markos, said a "nanny state" approach was stifling job creation.

"There's a raft of laws and regulations. You've got employment laws, you've got taxation laws, you've got environmental laws, you've got work health and safety laws, local council regulations. We're saying enough is enough," he said.

"We have members telling us of six-hour jobs taking 21 hours, seven-page risk assessments required to use a silicon gun, even when the same information had already been recorded on another form, and even bricklayers battling to understand what their 'hierarchy of controls' are when building a small wall."

The MBA says builders have been forced to:

EMPLOY three people for a full day to install a window when the underlying job took two people only three hours.

SPEND more time filling out a risk assessment on a crane than the crane took to unload the steel on a building site.

PAY safety consultants to interpret safety laws before being given reports they still cannot understand.

COMPLETE a consultation document and written risk assessment before safety barriers could be installed to protect the public.

However, as a former regulator with SafeWork SA, Mr Markos acknowledged the difficulties associated with streamlining a bloated bureaucracy.

"When you're talking about bureaucrats, they have a vested interest in writing laws and writing codes to maintain their job," he said.

"A lot of those bureaucrats have never worked in the private sector. A lot of them don't even mix or meet with the people in the private sector, or have a real understanding of how these rules may affect the people that are trying to run a business and employ people."

Romaldi Constructions managing director Mario Romaldi said the Federal Safety Commission was a prime example of unnecessary duplication that was taking a toll on the industry.

"Why have our state-based legislation if the Federal Safety Commission is going to overrule it?" he said.

"While having to manage the copious amounts of paperwork, the guys working on site don't have enough time to keep their eye on the actual safety issues."

"It is very costly, and especially these days when lots of us are working for small margins, to have that cost imposed could be the difference between winning and losing projects."

The MBA is also calling on the State Government to:

REQUIRE all new legislation to be supported by a regulatory impact statement and cost-benefit analysis and be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

LOBBY the Federal Government to close the Federal Safety Commission.

REMOVE barriers to local participation in State Government projects.

SIMPLIFY tendering processes.

RECOGNISE, emphasise and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit.



Disrespecting Christ

Josh Ladgrove's one-man show, Come Heckle Christ, will feature at the festival later this month despite more than a dozen official complaints.

The show begins with Ladgrove, who has long hair and a beard, arriving on stage in flowing robes and sticky taped to a makeshift crucifix.

However, the comedian says the show is not a commentary on religion.   "The show is just an opportunity for the audience to come along and heckle an idiot - that's me - for an hour," he said.  "It's an entirely improvised show; there is no script, there is no premise, there's no preconceived idea of what needs to be said.

"It absolutely does not have to be about religion or Christianity or Jesus; it's simply a means to an end and a catchy title."

Ladgrove says he performed the show at last year's Melbourne Fringe Festival without complaint and is surprised at the reaction ahead of the Adelaide shows.

"I didn't think that Jesus was a particularly controversial topic," he said.  "I didn't think it was something that was so sensitive that it was off limits.

"Surely if we can't poke fun at religion and if we can't exercise our freedom of speech, then what's the point of being a free democratic society?"

However, Reverend Fred Nile from the Christian Democratic Party in New South Wales has taken to Twitter to query why the South Australian Government and BankSA were supporting "anti-Christian hate".

He says "free speech does not justify blasphemy" and has urged people to email both the State Government and BankSA and ask them to stop the show.


Disrespecting Islam

COMEDY is known for pushing boundaries. But Susan Provan has some she will not cross. The extensively travelled director of Melbourne's International Comedy Festival has zero tolerance for racism.

Her stance on racism raised the ire of the Herald Sun's right-wing columnist Andrew Bolt when she deliberately crossed two American comics off the festival's invitation list in 2003 after they made derogatory jokes about Muslims. But Provan is unapologetic.

"It worries me, the whole governments' exacerbation of fear that is going on in the world at the moment, and I think the Muslim community particularly are suffering here," she says. "I've been incredibly lucky in that I have been able to travel to a lot of these places and I just think if people could have a wider sense of other communities, they would be a lot more relaxed and less fearful about perceived threats."

But doesn't that mean racially charged events of the past year will not be the stuff of gags at the 20th comedy festival?

Not at all, she insists. "Comedians have always commented on what is going on in the world and deliberately set out to shock and challenge, whether you agree with them or not. When something big happens, comedians talk about who is going to dare to stick their toe in the water and do the first jokes about something that is devastating. It's always interesting to see how it is perceived."


12 February, 2014

More multiculturalism in Australia:  Gang rape by Africans

COMMUNITY leaders have warned of possible reprisal attacks by Blacktown’s Pacific Islander community targeting young African-Australian men in the wake of the gang-rape attack on a 14-year-old Islander girl.

Blacktown Uniting Church Reverend Liva Tukutama said it was vital he and other Pacific Islander leaders reached out to African leaders to stop the young men of their communities seeking vengeance.

Meanwhile the victim’s mother says her daughter has been "broken into pieces" after what police described as a "horrendous" sexual assault by up to six men.

With tears welling in her eyes, the mother of the girl said she was heartbroken, furious and wanted to kill the attackers who had left her daughter traumatised beyond words.

The devastated mother’s comments came the same day a CCTV image of a man at a nearby bottleshop provided to The Daily Telegraph was passed on to police as part of the extensive investigation into the incident which has shocked the city.

"I’m feeling angry and disgusted at what’s happened to my daughter and I want to catch those mongrels and kill them," the girl’s mother said.

"My daughter is broken into pieces. To herself, she feels ugly. Since this happened she is always putting her head down …. It’s disgusting what they did to her.  "She is a beautiful, nice girl — beautiful, beautiful."

She said the 14-year-old was too traumatised to tell her or her sisters about what had occurred and was devastated that online bullies had already targeted her daughter for simply being in the park where the sexual assault took place at night.

She was reportedly "hanging out" with two friends in Bill Colbourne Reserve, Doonside around 11pm on Saturday night when the trio noticed "five or six" African-Australian men drinking alcohol.

The Daily Telegraph has obtained CCTV footage of a man buying a bottle of alcohol from the Doonside Cellars about 9pm on the night, who was yesterday identified by one of the victim’s friends as a member of the group in the park. Police are reviewing the CCTV image from the bottle shop and other businesses as they hunt down the rapists.

Bottle shop staff have confirmed that the timestamp vision is 90 minutes slow since the CCTV’s timer is not calibrated to the correct time.

A receipt corresponding to the filmed purchase show indicate the sale was made at 8.58pm.

At 11pm that night the teenage girl became the victim of a prolonged gang rape described by Superintendent Gary Merryweather as "horrendous" and "unprovoked".

It is understood the girl — who was being consoled by friends at school yesterday — was walking home when one of the men "touched her inappropriately".

That man and the remainder of the group then allegedly "overpowered" the teenager in the park before raping her in an ordeal that last 30 minutes, Supt Merryweather said.

After the rape, the victim raced to the nearby home of her friend whose family members described her as "almost inconsolable" and "practically hysterical".

The victim’s friend, who cannot be identified, told The Daily Telegraph he had seen a group matching a description of the alleged offenders drinking from a liquor bottle shortly before his friend was raped.

"We were just hanging around," he said. "I had to leave the park ...(The victim) is stressed today."

The girl’s friend said the men were known drug dealers and that that the third friend in the group had intended to make a purchase.

The friend’s mother is understood to have called police and the young victim was taken by ambulance from the home a few hours later.

"Being of such a tender age she is traumatised to an extent that I can’t even describe at this stage," Supt Merryweather said.


Labor backpedals on call for navy inquiry

LABOR has backflipped on its call for an inquiry into the navy over allegations of asylum seeker abuse, saying it has every confidence in the servicemen and women on the high seas.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten on Saturday issued a statement clarifying Labor was not seeking an inquiry into the navy's alleged conduct, despite earlier comments to the contrary by an opposition MP.

"Our navy servicemen and women do an outstanding job on the high seas," a spokesperson for Mr Shorten said in a statement to AAP.   "The opposition has every confidence in the skills and professionalism of our navy."

Earlier shadow parliamentary secretary Matt Thistlethwaite said claims that sailors had burned asylum seekers should be treated with "healthy scepticism", adding he had confidence in the navy.

But given the allegations were still being aired, he said an independent investigation would be appropriate.  "That's the best way to vindicate the Australian navy," he told Sky News on Saturday.

The suggestion sparked an explosive response from Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who issued a lengthy statement blasting Labor as weak for supporting "baseless sledges" against the navy.

"Unlike the Labor Party, the government will continue to back our navy and customs personnel in the face of these wild, unsubstantiated allegations," he said.

"Labor's call for an inquiry, thereby legitimising these outrageous and unsubstantiated claims of torture, is a vote of no confidence by Labor in our navy and Customs and Border Protection Service."

The opposition said the minister was being "hysterical", and the culture of secrecy around border protection wasn't making the navy's job any easier.

Customs and Border Protection also issued a statement on Saturday, hosing down claims it would be launching fresh inquiries into the abuse allegations levelled at the sailors.

"Border Protection Command remains confident its personnel continue to act with the highest levels of professional conduct in a demanding and difficult environment," the statement said.


Paying piper for slander begs answers

"OUR" ABC and the late US senator Joseph McCarthy have a lot in common.

Both are guilty of making reckless and unsubstantiated accusations and public attacks against individuals and institutions that hold views contrary to their own.

At least Senator McCarthy correctly identified the very real Communist infiltration of senior circles in the US State department. The ABC’s success rate is not as good.

It has been reduced to publishing secret documents - stolen by an American defector - that undermine the security of Western democracies.

Now the ABC has joined Fairfax Media in an attempt to undermine the Coalition’s all-too successful Operation Sovereign Borders exercise that has halted the flow of illegal people-smuggler vessels.
Stopping the boats also means stopping the deaths at sea that Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young dismissively refused to accept any responsibility for by saying: "Tragedies happen, ­accidents happen."

Both the ABC and Fairfax have done their best to justify the publication of uncorroborated claims of torture by RAN personnel made by disaffected illegal people-smuggler clients.

On Friday, finally gave them a deserved broadside, saying Customs and the RAN had saved "thousands of lives" between Christmas ­Island and Java over the past four years.

"My people have been spat on, abused, treated like servants, and have ­endured all of that to save more than a thousand lives, and yet they’ve also had to endure the horror of fishing out hundreds of people floating dead in the water," he said.

"I am absolutely sick to the stomach that this Australian iconic news agency would attack the navy in the way that it has."

Senator Johnston joined the growing chorus for an ­investigation into the ABC, saying naval personnel were heroes.

"If ever there was an event that justified a detailed inquiry, some reform, an investigation of the ABC, this event is it," he said. "They themselves have cast a giant shadow over the veracity of their reporting and yet they’ve besmirched these hardworking people."

ABC chief Mark Scott would not respond.

Showing far greater leadership, Senator Johnston stood up for the men and women who have to deal with illegal boat arrivals and told of the onerous service they provide.

"I have got people on nine-day turnarounds to Christmas Island, I’ve got post-traumatic stress to deal with … and I’ve got unsubstantiated allegations. Let’s get a bit real here and give somebody a bit of natural justice please," he said.

"Let’s see the allegations first, let’s have more than just rumour, innuendo, and hearsay please.

"When you give me something to act upon that is more than just hearsay, innuendo and rumour we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it."
He said he had spent a week aboard an Armidale-class ­patrol boat and had the greatest confidence in the service men and women. "I’m backing them at every turn of every corner. I have not said much because, I have to confess, I was extremely angry. I ­required some time to cool off.

"They are heroes. They have done a courageous - laden with integrity - difficult task thrust upon them by probably the greatest policy failure Australia has ever seen."

Foreign Minister Julie ­Bishop agrees: "There most certainly should be an apology.

Our navy personnel are working in very difficult circumstances. In the recent past they’ve had to deal with over a thousand deaths at sea from asylum-seeker boats sinking at sea," Ms Bishop said.

"The ABC claimed there was evidence to support claims our navy had deliberately mistreated asylum seekers by causing them bodily injuries, that they’d deliberately abused them. Well, those claims have not been substantiated.

"The ABC management admits it got it wrong, but it refuses to apologise. If these claims were made against individual navy personnel, it would be the basis for a defamation action."

The relevance of the ABC is under question as it never has been before. The emergence of the internet as a major international news source has ­undermined any relevance the disputed Australia Network may once have had.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull believes that live streaming of ABC News 24 would effectively and more cheaply satisfy the Australian Network audience.

Merging ABC and SBS has been mooted. The actual need for expansive taxpayer-funded communication networks operated by the government must be questioned.

Public broadcasting should be paid for by those it plays too, and receive a greatly reduced level of taxpayer support.

Those who want to pay for "our" ABC should be able to do so, those who feel that it is no longer "ours" should not be obliged to


Put charities commission on backburner

The New Zealand Charity Commission was in operation for half a decade before the NZ government decided it wasn't providing value for money and abolished it. In the UK, the Charity Commission for England and Wales has stuck around for decades despite multiple reports declaring it is not providing value for money - the latest such report was released just this week by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee and deemed the commission 'not fit for purpose.'

Compared with those countries, Australia is lucky. We can abandon our experiment with this failed model of charity regulation after just one year.

The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) was created by the Gillard government in December 2012 to reduce red tape, enhance public trust in charities, and police fraud and wrongdoing in the sector.

So far, the ACNC has not made significant progress on these goals, and the international record of charities commissions suggests that future success is unlikely. On public trust, for example, it is noteworthy that in early 2013 Australians already rated charities more trustworthy than Federal Parliament, the High Court, or the ABC. More importantly, trust levels in Australia were approximately the same as in England and much higher than in New Zealand, both of which had charities commissions at the time.

On red tape reduction, the ACNC has so far failed to obtain the cooperation of the state governments of NSW and Victoria. Considering the large portion of the charity sector's regulatory burden that state governments represent, no serious effort to reduce red tape can proceed without those governments' cooperation.

Donors must be able to give to charities with confidence. Fortunately, the kind of oversight that gives donors confidence can now be conducted without added layers of red tape.

Wealthy philanthropists, who represent an increasingly important segment of Australia's charitable donation market, usually conduct their own research. They review a charity's finances and operations, and after their donation has been spent, they evaluate what kind of 'social return on investment' the charity was able to achieve.

For small household donors who may not have the means to conduct extensive research on their own behalf, a new resource has emerged: online charity evaluators. These sites compile information about charities - statistical data as well as more holistic information - and then organise this information in a way that is accessible to the average non-specialist who just wants to write a cheque to a good cause.

 It is vitally important to preserve the separation between the institutions of civil society and government. Abolishing the ACNC is the first step in preserving charities' independence and returning their regulatory burden to a reasonable level.


11 February, 2014

Greedy unionists and an impractical judge have destroyed Toyota manufacturing in Australia

The "conditions" insisted on by the unions were absurd

Toyota’s decision to halt local vehicle manufacturing in 2017 is a bigger body blow than Holden’s decision late last year to do the same.

Holden had more iconic significance – Toyota even boasts in its TV commercials that it is hip to be square – but it is Toyota that is Australia’s big vehicle exporter, and the company considered to have the best chance of surviving.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane argued on Monday that Australia absorbs hundreds of thousands of redundancies every year, but as he also acknowledged, this is a huge moment for Australia.

It’s a test of the economic model that leaves Australia open to import competition and trusts that innovation will, in time, not only replace jobs that import competition destroys, but create ones of the same or better economic and social quality.

Three vehicle makers - Ford, Holden and Toyota – have announced that they intend to quit Australia in less than a year. Australia will have no vehicle manufacturing industry from 2017 onwards, a situation that is almost unique in the OECD, and there’s plenty of candidates in the blame game.

Two of the vehicle-makers, Holden and Toyota, have announced their decisions since the election of the Abbott government, which campaigned promising to cut assistance to the vehicle industry.

Toyota’s decision also comes after it failed last December in an attempt to alter its enterprise agreement with employees, with the Federal Court supporting a union-backed argument that it could not ask its factory workers to vote on the changes.

Middle East exports

Toyota was considered to be Australia’s most commercially viable vehicle maker because its vehicle exports to markets including the Middle East gave it additional manufacturing volumes and economies of scale that could not be extracted from the relatively small Australian domestic market.

Some also thought that as the last vehicle-maker standing it would be the focus of government support. It may well have also seen local sales rise after its competitors departed in 2017, as "buy Australian" demand switched over.

Toyota has decided to go anyway.

The high Australian dollar had hurt it in export markets, it said, adding that it was also hurt by relatively high manufacturing costs and low economies of scale.

It has however gone ahead with the pullout, even though at the current level of about US89.3c, the $A is about US21c or 19 per cent below its August 2011 high.

Toyota has also taken the decision even though it has launched an appeal against the Federal Court decision stopping it from putting workplace changes to its workers that could have cut its production costs by about 15 per cent.

Profound problems

The implication is that the problems Toyota and the rest of the industry face in this country are profound.

The Industry Commission estimates that about $30 billion of assistance flowed to the vehicle makers between 1997 and 2012.

However, production of vehicles here is only still about 1 per cent of the overall global production total. Toyota produced just over 100,000 vehicles a year and experts have told the Commission that a production run of at least 200,000 vehicles a year is needed to be globally competitive.

The Federal, Victorian and the South Australian governments at least have some time to prepare for the evaporation of the industry in 2017.

Long-term, government needs to create the right conditions for new businesses to emerge. That is one of the Abbott government’s mantras, and Toyota’s decision will give its push for labour law reform momentum.

Governments also have to shelter the economy from the shock of the closures, however, and the exit of Mitsubishi’s from car making in Adelaide that began in 2004 is that re-training programmes are crucial. Most Mitsubishi workers found new jobs quickly – but they were most often lower paying ones.


Culture wars flare as Brandis rewrites the rights agenda

ATTORNEY-General George Brandis is out to remake human rights by reshaping the human rights bureaucracy and by reminding us of the origins of the concept in the enlightenment and in classical liberal philosophy.

He is constructing a philosophical argument to justify his political plans.  They have two prongs.

Brandis is out to lash the Left, to claim the mantle of the defenders of human rights for the Liberal Party - his own small-l liberals in particular, not the conservatives whose calls for burka bans and the likes can smack of populist authoritarianism.

Last week Brandis told this newspaper the members of the Human Rights Commission due to retire this year may not be replaced, floating a consolidation of the current eight positions: the President, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, the Age Discrimination Commissioner, the Children's Commissioner, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, the Race Discrimination Commissioner, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and the latest commissioner, "Freedom Commissioner" Tim Wilson.

Then, he indicated that this could be dealt with by the Coalition's commission of audit of government.

Now, Brandis has gone further in fleshing out his plans, telling Inquirer he is developing a package of proposals to be released in the first half of the year.

He is coy about the detail of what they may contain - but firm and forward on the thinking behind them.

"When was the last time in this country that there's been so much constructive debate about human rights than since the announcement of Tim Wilson," Brandis tells Inquirer.

"As Tim Wilson said last week, human rights are the basis of classical liberalism and this government means to remind people that the human rights they enjoy are because of the values of classic liberalism, a political philosophy that has always been resisted by those on the left."

Brandis foreshadows that the debate will "evolve and expand", a clear hint that his package will be designed to carry public opinion.

What is driving the moves?

The government is smarting at this week's announcement by the commission's president, Gillian Triggs, that she will conduct an inquiry into the state of asylum-seeker children in detention. The last of these was held during the Howard years.

A clearly angry Brandis tells Inquirer that the Howard government had released children from detention and was "well on the way to solving the problem" of asylum-seekers now.

The number of children in detention in the Howard years peaked at 842 in September 2001. It reached a high of almost 2000 last July, two months before the federal election.

It is now estimated that there are about 1028 children in asylum detention in Australia and Nauru.

"The only government that didn't suffer a Human Rights Commission inquiry into children in detention is the government that created the problem," he says.

But the inquiry is only a mosquito bite. There are far deeper-reaching forces at work; forces that explain the mixture of politics and philosophy Brandis is putting forward.

If the government chooses to condense the commission, it can immediately point to events under the Rudd and Gillard governments.

The last full-time Human Rights Commissioner was appointed by the Howard government in 2005. After 2009, the position was occupied part-time by the then president, Catherine Branston, until the term ended.

When Wilson formally steps into the role in 10 days' time, the position will have sat vacant since August 2012, a total of nearly 20 months.

Brandis can argue that Labor neglected broad-based concepts of human rights in favour of identity politics - and this is the launching point for the philosophical attack on both the opposition and the commission and the philosophical justification for changes he aims to make.

In section 5.2 of the Human Rights Commission's December 2012 submission to the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee's inquiry into the draft of the Gillard government's controversial - and ultimately scrapped - Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, the commission stated: "The commission welcomes the continuation in the bill, consistent with the commission's recommendations, of the existing specialist commissioner positions. The commission does not oppose the removal of the Human Rights Commissioner position."

This is the clincher for the government and critics of the commission such as the Institute of Public Affairs.

They see this as proof the commission cares little for the rights of individuals but is a $25 million-plus a year taxpayer-funded tool for proponents of identity politics to advance left-leaning causes through allegations of discrimination.

Triggs tells Inquirer: "The commission did not oppose the removal of the human rights commissioner position simply because it had been performed by the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission - both by my predecessor, Catherine Branson QC, and myself. In relation to these two positions, the commission had in recent years adopted the view that there was congruence in the Australian Human Rights Commission president taking on the role of human rights commissioner.

"From a purely resourcing perspective, we had found that the president's role could effectively accommodate the functions of this position as well. Additionally, the same act of parliament, the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986, provided for the creation of both positions, whereas, at the time, the creation of the other individual commissioner positions were each either provided for or relied upon by separate individual acts."

Triggs warns a consolidation of commissioners would stretch both time and resources. "It would mean that the commissioner who would now have to take on a second commissioner role would be stretched over two, or more, positions," she says. "In their current single-commissioner areas, commissioners work hard over often very long hours. To have to perform more than one commissioner role will necessarily mean they can achieve less in each area and risks one area becoming subsidiary to the other. We know these tensions exist because the commissioner positions have been consolidated in the past."

She says her staff are already acting at "absolute capacity", adding "while we will endeavour to do as much as we possibly can with the resources we are given, less funding means less resources, which means we simply will not be able to do as much work or address as many areas as we would like." Triggs continues: "Each year the number of complaints we receive continues to increase. We fear a reduction in funding would also adversely impact on our ability to deliver this service as well as we currently do."

Hugh de Krester, executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre, warns: "Any review must be genuinely focused on strengthening the commission and must be on the basis there will be no weakening of its mandate, independence and resources."

But a former commissioner, Sev Ozdowski, says there is room to consolidate positions.

He points out that he held the roles of both human rights commissioner and disability discrimination commissioner during his term at the commission last decade, while his colleague Pru Goward carried out the roles of both age and sex discrimination commissioner.

He also adds that the children's commissioner has little to do, saying most issues in that area are matters for the states.

"You don't need to have a huge number of commissioners," he says.

Ozdowski is concerned that anti-discrimination issues trump human rights matters at the commission and says he believes Brandis "really needs to put human rights on the national agenda".

"What is has happened over the years is all the equity issues and inquiries into anti-discrimination issues became the sole focus of the commission and civil liberties were totally neglected," he said.

"Partly it's a problem of the legislation. We don't have a bill of rights in Australia and if you look at the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights it's only appended to the Commission Act, but there is no implementing legislation."

These are matters Senate deputy leader Brandis has thought long and hard about. The right moves could reshape the human rights bureaucracy and our concepts of human rights.

Success would be a huge victory in the culture war.

And the honours would go not just to the Liberal Party, but the conquering general himself: Brandis.


Unions' scams about to get hammered

Paul Sheehan

The hammer will come down on Monday. With each passing week, with every denial of every policy mandate, with every blocked vote by Labor and the Greens, the federal government has responded by simply widening the scope of what cannot be blocked: a royal commission into slush funds that Labor and the Greens have been acquiescent about for years.

Every week since the federal election, Labor or various unions have given the government another nail with which to hammer the old scams that have gone unchallenged, the "training" funds, the "charities", the industry funds, the protection payments, the hiring agreements, all designed to be off the union's balance sheets and beyond scrutiny.

It could have been so much simpler had Opposition Leader Bill Shorten not deployed scorched-earth tactics since becoming leader of the Labor Party.

What started out as a specific undertaking by Prime Minister Tony Abbott on November 29, 2012 - that, if in government, he would appoint a judicial inquiry into how the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association was used to buy a property at 1/85 Kerr Street, Fitzroy - has instead grown into a wide-ranging royal commission.

The only question the government wanted answered was how an AWU official came to own that Fitzroy property with no record of this in the AWU accounts.

Then came the politics of "no". No mandate. No compromise. No reform. No countenancing the compromise suggested last week by Paul Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, the job Shorten held before going into Parliament.

Instead, Shorten has helped goad the government into a royal commission into improper financial transactions that can range across the entire union movement. As recently as last week, the terms of the proposed inquiry were narrower than what will be announced this week.

Having rejected legislation to re-establish the Australian building and construction commission, despite an outbreak of lawlessness since it was dismantled by the Labor government, and having rejected legislation to set up the registered organisations commission, designed to prevent the sort of abuse revealed by the Craig Thomson scandal, Shorten and the Labor Party and the unions can now deal instead with a formidable former high court judge, Dyson Heydon, QC.

Heydon will be empowered to investigate any transactions made off the books by any union, he will have the power to compel witnesses to testify and the power to recommend criminal prosecutions.

The object of the Heydon royal commission will be to examine "irregular transactions", which means it can cast a net wide enough to capture bribes, pilfering, secret election funds and protection rackets.

It is now implausible that there is not some systemic corruption within sections of the union movement given the antics of the Construction Forestry Mining and Engineering Union, the Health Services Union, the Transport Workers Union and, of course, the Australian Workers Union. Among others.

Shorten has said a royal commission will be a witch-hunt, a waste of money and that corruption should be investigated by the police. But, by his own actions, he has made this royal commission deeper and wider.

On Sunday, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Ged Kearney chimed in at a media conference: "This is nothing but a witch-hunt designed to weaken unions, to stop unions standing up for decent wages so that Australians can maintain a decent standard of living."

The problem is that some union officials have been looking for more than a decent standard of living by dubious means by way of their unions. Craig Thomson has been exposed. Michael Williamson has been disgraced. The CFMEU is in reputational meltdown.

Apart from more rorts within the CFMEU being exposed on Monday, and others exposed recently involving labour supply contracts at the Barangaroo site in Sydney, and a rolling series of similar controversies elsewhere, consider the Drug and Alcohol Foundation set up by the CFMEU's construction division. In 2012, The Financial Review reported that the board of the foundation resigned after about $1 million was diverted from the charity to the union.

Or consider the Industry 2020 fund set up by the AWU in 2008. Former prime minister Julia Gillard was a guest speaker at its inaugural fund-raiser at Flemington racecourse, which generated about $120,000 in profit. ASIC records show that Industry 2020 was a registered company under the sole directorship of an AWU official. The company is now under voluntary external administration.

Then there are the "training" funds, which have been especially problematic. One such fund was set up by the NSW branch of the TWU, with a board that did not meet, which published no accounts and engaged in activities that were confidential. Whistleblowers within the union have claimed it existed to siphon funds coerced from employers.

That is a conventional racket, but the TWU has used unconventional funding. Before the 2007 federal election, a company called Global Media was set up, with an office in the marginal seat of Lindsay. Its only known client was the TWU. It is believed it did not file a declaration with the Australian Electoral Commission even though it engaged in election-related spending.

The list goes on and on. It has been going on for years, as the 2001 Cole royal commission revealed. Another hammering commences soon, only this time its scope will be much greater.


Left ready to repeat its mistakes by marching to the same old drum

THE Left love a protest - at least when they are not in power - and they are getting their placards out of their toolsheds as we speak.

When the Labor-Greens alliance was in government, protests were frowned upon.

For all the fuss, the infamous "ditch the witch" and "convoy of no consequence" protests against the carbon tax in 2011 were, well, inconsequential.

Sure, they were howled down by politicians and the love media but, really, they were relatively small gatherings in peaceful, if angry, protest against the broken promise - they gained notoriety because of placards with nasty and sexist denunciations of Julia Gillard.

If you are looking for an ugly protest in modern politics, you can't go past the broken glass and blood in Parliament House's main foyer when rioting unionists and other protesters stormed the building in 1996, just six months after the election of the Howard government. The established order - 13 years of federal Labor government - had been turned on its head and the Left was voicing dissent.

Although delivered through the ballot box, the Coalition's landslide was seen as a travesty and the bitterness overflowed in violence.

About 60 police and protesters were injured, 50 were arrested and a handful of protesters were charged and convicted. John Howard was left standing in a ransacked gift shop, trudging over the high moral ground.

Planned for weeks by the ACTU, the "Cavalcade to Canberra" objected to industrial relations changes, but grew into a catch-all protest encompassing environmental, indigenous and welfare gripes.

Importantly, the union leadership disowned the violence (although union organisers were among those convicted). No doubt, the fact that the ACTU lost control of the situation damaged reputations and weakened its political standing.

In hindsight, the riot can be seen as a vengeful tilt at the windmill of reality; it was ugly and it presaged a decade where the hardest elements of the Left were never able to accept the legitimacy or success of the Coalition government.

Counter-intuitively, when you consider the barbarity of that event, the Left went on to argue that the government was brutish and adept at appealing to barbarians in our midst.

From paint bombs and car eggings to burned effigies and death threats, Howard absorbed much hate over almost a dozen years.

The bitterness and resentment was reflected in the colourful invective of political opponents and much of the commentariat, whose distaste for Howard tended to morph into disdain for the mainstream Australians who elected him. This was the physical and superficial side of a deeper problem.

The Left, generally, and Labor, specifically, saw the Coalition's ascendancy as an affront.

The electorate had either got it wrong or the people were a bunch of rednecks, all too easily manipulated by evil appeals to their darker angels - so-called dog whistles.

This imperceptive, patronising and delusional view was widespread and, of course, self-defeating. While it didn't do much for the nation - fuelling divisions and injecting unnecessary friction into the political process - it did most harm to the Left.

Because, instead of examining their principles and policy mix, Labor (and the Greens) busied themselves attacking Howard, entrenching their positions (especially on border protection) and, effectively, denigrating the voters who supported the strong border-protection regime, abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, budget cuts or whichever policies were in the frame.

That we must learn from defeat is one of those truisms that is almost too much of a cliche to mention. Yet as this political year unfolds it is one Labor and the broader Left need to consider before they repeat the mistakes of the Howard years.

Self-examination is not always easy, but as Henry Miller wrote, in an illuminating paradox, "the most difficult way is, in the long run, the easiest".

All the signs are there - from the so-called government change-deniers - that the crushing electoral defeat of the Labor-Greens alliance is being contested rather than accepted, resented rather than digested.

Bill Shorten, as I mentioned last week, has locked Labor on the wrong side of crucial arguments; the carbon tax, border protection and union corruption.

And whether it is the ABC over-egging allegations against the navy, premature calls that the Indonesian relationship is on the rocks or the rush to blame Joe Hockey's comments for Holden's departure, many in the media have been keen to see the Coalition fail on their terms.

Some Abbott government failings are already apparent - such as mistaken commitments to expensive and centralist national education and disability programs, and silly excursions into government-funded marriage guidance - but these are not the touchstone issues Labor and the Greens want to contest.

The policies they want to fail - border protection, Indonesian relations and indigenous affairs - are where Abbott is performing strongest.

Yet, undeterred, the protests are gathering steam.

A substantial online campaign is underway to promote a "March in March" movement that has all the hallmarks of the 1996 "Cavalcade on Canberra".

The big difference - understandable given what happened last time - is that the union movement is staying well clear of it.

With 27,000 "Likes" on Facebook, it promises to stage marches in all capitals as well as country towns.

Borrowed from US protests of the same name, "March in March" claims to be an informal collection of "non-partisan citizens", which is strange given they are united by a partisanship against Abbott.

A link from their page offers more details about their issues via the private blog of Sally McManus, NSW branch secretary of the Australian Services Union.

However, she told this column she "has no idea" why the group links to her and says neither she or her union have any involvement or knowledge of the campaign.

On Facebook, "March in March" promises "three days of peaceful assemblies, non-partisan citizens' marches and rallies at federal parliament and around Australia to protest against government decisions that are against the common good of our nation".

It kicks off on Saturday the 15th (the Ides of March and the day of the South Australian and Tasmanian state elections) and culminates with the Canberra protest on the Monday.

To most Australians it might seem a premature, if not bizarre, event given how little has changed - beyond the stopping of boats - since last September.

But apparently many Australians are "deeply concerned with the way our country is being governed".

The Canberra Balloon Spectacular is on that weekend; serious progressives might be better off taking a soothing flight over Capital Hill and contemplating their own policy prescriptions.


10 February, 2014

Multiculturalism alive in Australia

The religion concerned is not named, for some strange reason,  but we read elsewhere that the pair met at a mosque.  So they are obviously both Presbyterians

A Lebanese man living in Australia on a student visa will spend his first night in jail after allegedly "marrying" a child bride in a religious ceremony.

Ahmad Chamma, 26, allegedly met a 12-year-old girl in the Hunter region in 2013 and became involved in an ongoing sexual relationship with her. The pair then allegedly moved to a house in Sydney's southwest, where they continued the relationship.

Police claim the man and child were married in an Islamic ceremony in NSW earlier this year and the girl is now 13.

He was charged with 25 counts of sexual intercourse with a child between 10 and 14 years.  The sexual assaults took place between January 1 and February 4.

Wearing a striped polo shirt and a black beard, the man made a brief appearance at Burwood Local Court on Friday and spoke via an Arabic interpreter.  The Newcastle University student made no application for bail and it was formally refused.

The court heard he will make a bail application during his next court appearance on February 12 at the same court.

NSW Community Services Minister Pru Goward said the case was brought to the attention of authorities by Centrelink.

Ms Goward said anecdotal evidence suggests forced marriages between children and adults was an ongoing issue among Sydney communities.  "This is a very secretive practice ... but it is not an unknown practice," she said.

"I understand there are actually a significant number of unlawful, unregistered marriages to underaged girls in NSW, particularly in western Sydney, southwest Sydney and the Blue Mountains."
The girl has been taken into state care.


Illegal immigrant realities and the puerile misrepresentation of them by the Leftist media

Greg Sheridan

The Canberra/Jakarta imbroglio over boats is intensely complex, with many different moving parts. So far the Abbott government has handled it with operational and diplomatic competence. But it poses a broader challenge to Australia's political maturity. The imbroglio involves a serious disagreement between Jakarta and Canberra.

The government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono would rather Australia did not turn boats around and tow them back to the edge of Indonesian waters. The Abbott government has decided that this is the only effective way to combat people-smuggling, an illegal industry the Indonesian government itself opposes.

The hysterical reaction among ABC and Fairfax commentators to this disagreement puts a question mark not over the Abbott government, but over the broader maturity of the Australian political class.

The question is whether the political and commentator class is capable of analysing and responding to a policy disagreement between Australia and Indonesia with anything approaching calmness, rationality, balance, a sense of proportion and some basic knowledge.

By far the most foolish analysis, important only because it is representative, was written by Laura Tingle in The Australian Financial Review. She wrote that: "The Indonesian navy is now not patrolling looking for asylum-seeker boats but for the Australian navy."

This is completely untrue and was never true at any point.

Tingle went on: "Indonesia watchers also warn of even darker currents. They point out that China has already provided naval patrol assistance to both Fiji and Vanuatu. An overstretched and very pissed-off Indonesia might be prepared to consider also accepting some assistance."

To compare the strategic outlook of Indonesia with that of Vanuatu is almost deranged. But to think that a disagreement with Canberra over boatpeople would lead to a fundamental pro-Chinese strategic realignment by Jakarta, or that sovereignty-obsessed Indonesia would allow the Chinese to take over patrolling duties in its coastal waters, is beyond absurdity.

That a senior member of the Canberra press gallery could print such infantile nonsense, which could only emerge from a complete lack of knowledge about anything to do with Indonesia's strategic culture, demonstrates how extremely ill-equipped many mainstream commentators are to deal with anything related to Indonesia at all.

Such sentences are an insult to the intelligence of The Australian Financial Review's readers and severely degrade the Australian policy debate.

So what really is going on with Indonesia?  It's important to try to have some sense of both sequence and context.

The Indonesian government suspended co-operation with Australia on combating people-smuggling not as a result of Tony Abbott's boats policy but in response to revelations by Edward Snowden that our intelligence agencies had tapped the phones of the Indonesian President, his wife and senior associates. These actions occurred when Kevin Rudd was prime minister and were approved by cabinet ministers.

The Indonesians themselves want people-smuggling to stop but have no idea how to achieve this. Their only policy suggestion is further region-wide talks under the Bali Process. There is nothing wrong with such talks but they don't constitute action on people-smuggling. Such talks have been going on for years and produced nothing much.

That is not to say that regional co-operation is not important. The Abbott government has been working hard with regional governments. Just this week it announced the donation of two Customs vessels to Malaysia for use in combating people-smuggling. That the Malaysians would accept such a gift is a sign of a very good relationship.

Jakarta ended co-operation on people-smuggling because it thought this would hurt the Abbott government and make it more likely to yield to its demands, mainly a promise of no further spying, arising from the Snowden issues. The chief real consequence was that Australian personnel no longer participate in land-based disruption activities against people-smuggling syndicates within Indonesia. Typically, Australian agencies provided the funding, and some of the intelligence, for such operations. These are now much less frequent and effective.

Jakarta held that no nation should undertake unilateral actions. But this suspension virtually forced Canberra down a unilateral road.

Apart from Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, the two key figures in the government operation are Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell and the head of Customs, Mike Pezzullo. Much rightly has been written about the effectiveness of Campbell, but Pezzullo is also a hero here. A former deputy secretary of the Defence Department, he is relentlessly energetic and has a hyper problem-solving, can-do approach. Between the two of them, they came up with the innovation of using virtually unsinkable lifeboats to return asylum-seekers to Indonesia if they disabled their own boats.

Thinking one step ahead of the people-smugglers has been critical to the success, so far, of Operation Sovereign Borders.

The Indonesians have been hostile to the boats turnaround policy itself, and to the minor, incidental breach of their sovereign territorial waters by the Australian Navy. But again, the sequencing and timing of these reactions is important.

The Indonesian government did not react to these events when it first heard about them. At every point Canberra has kept Jakarta meticulously informed of what it is doing. Jakarta reacted only when these became issues within the Indonesian media and politics. With elections looming in Indonesia, a whiff of anti-Canberra sentiment is as useful in Jakarta as it often is in Perth.

Inquirer can reveal exactly how the breach of Indonesian sovereign waters by the Australian Navy occurred. The 12 nautical mile zone of a nation's sovereign waters is not calculated just by being 12n/m from the shore at every point. Rather, to calculate this zone you draw a series of straight lines from 12n/m out from one headland, the point of the mainland jutting farthest out to the sea, to the next salient point. Thus if the shoreline in part is shaped like a large bay, the 12n/m sovereign zone will be considerably more than 12n/m out from the inward curve of the bay. Thus Australian ships at all points were attempting to be 12n/m from the Indonesian shore, but when they communicated to the Indonesians the precise points at which they had turned around the various boats the Indonesians calculated these on a map and came to the conclusion that, technically at least, they breached Indonesia's sovereign waters.

At least some Indonesians would have been happy if the Australians had promised not to do it again and shut up about it. But the Australian authorities decided they needed to tell the truth and publicly apologised.

This led to some bellicose statements by an Indonesian air force spokesman that the The Australian Financial Review misinterpreted so wildly. But a day or two later, Senior Security Minister Djoko Suyanto got his spokesman to say: "The increased security measures in the southern part of the country is in order to anticipate increased illegal migrant activities."

Not the least of the ironies of this situation is it appears all to have been a typical Jakarta shadow play anyway. It is unclear that any Indonesian military assets have been moved at all, though this did not stop the aforementioned Financial Review article seriously claiming, with utter fatuousness, there was a chance of someone in Indonesia's or Australia's militaries firing "a pot shot" at each other.

It is the case that Indonesian politics is complex, fissiparous, culture-specific, high-context and difficult for outsiders to follow. It is also the case that in the repertoire of the international people-smuggling industry blackening the reputation of Western law enforcement and military agencies, and hopefully therefore provoking litigation and paralysing inquiries, is a standard piece. The Australian political class needs a great deal more sophistication and, frankly, a great deal more basic knowledge, to cope effectively with these challenging realities.


Forgotten: Historic hot temperatures recorded with detail and care in Adelaide

What I found most interesting about this was the skill, dedication and length of meteorological data taken in the 1800?s. When our climate is "the most important moral challenge" why is it there is so little interest in our longest and oldest data?

Who knew that one of the most meticulous and detailed temperature records in the world from the 1800?s comes from Adelaide, largely thanks to Sir Charles Todd. The West Terrace site in Adelaide was one of the best in the world at the time, and provides accurate historic temperatures from  "Australia’s first permanent weather bureau at Adelaide in 1856?. (Rainfall records even appear to go as far back as 1839.)  Lance Pidgeon went delving into the National Archives and was surprised at what he found.

If we want to understand our climate the records from the 1800?s in Adelaide are surely worth attention?

The BOM usually shows graphs like this one below starting in 1911. You might think you are looking at the complete history of Adelaide temperatures and that smoothed temperature is rising inexorably, but the historic records remain unseen. While "hottest" ever records are proclaimed in the media, few go hunting for older hotter records. Yet, one of the hottest temperatures recorded in Australia were recorded in 1828, and raging heatwaves with temperatures over 50C occurred in the 1800s. In 1896 a monster heatwave across the nation killed hundreds, and people were even evacuated on emergency trains.

BOM temperature records for Adelaide ignore older warmer days: BOM

The old equipment was not identical to modern stations, but it was recorded diligently and with expert attention, and in the same location for over 120 years. When compared side by side, the older types of screens produced slightly more  extreme temperatures than the Stevenson screens but this does not mean that the old recordings should be forgotten. With careful adjustment the Adelaide record could be one of the longest in the world. Strangely, no one seems too interested. If these old records showed Adelaide was way cooler in the 1860?s, do we suppose an eager PhD student would not have jumped at the chance to splice historic old and new records into a long alarming graph and a popular thesis? The question begs…

I fear the cult of the young means the smarts of the oldest of old-timers is automatically discounted, yet those old codgers  from the 1800?s  weren’t necessarily old at the time, and were connected to the harsh realities of the natural world in way that soft cushy net-connected university grads could not imagine today.

Below, notice how commonly those red spikes go about 40C? Adelaide gets scorched nearly every year. It’s summer.


GetUp exposed: George Soros' tentacles reach into Australia

The left-wing activist group, GetUp claims it is "an independent grass-roots community advocacy organisation."

GetUp’s founders David Madden and Jeremey Heimans are heavily involved in a number of similar US and global left-wing activist groups, each of which is tied to the shadowy billionaire, George Soros.

 GetUp was inspired by, and modelled on similar US groups, such as and Win Back Respect. Madden and Heniman were co-founders of Win Back Respect. According to public records published on, when they were drawing expenses from the group in 2004, the major donor that year, with a contribution of $150,000 was George Soros.

Madden and Heimans are also involved with another Soros-financed left-wing activist group,  Public records reveal that between January 2003 and December 2004, Soros contributed $2,500,999 to

Madden and Heimans are co-founders of the global activist group,, an organization that the Canadian Minister John Baird in 2008 labelled as "shadowy foreign organization tied to billionaire activist George Soros."

Madden and Heimans can hardly claim that GetUp is non-partisan when its original board members included Australian Workers Union secretary Bill Shorten, Australian Fabian Society secretary Evan Thornley, green activist Cate Faehrmann, and left-wing trade union researcher and "community organiser" Amanda Tattersall. The largest donor to GetUp in 2010 with a donation of $1.1 million is the CFMEU.

GetUp’s benefactor, George Soros is clearly partisan. Of the $3.5 million in recent campaign donations made by Soros, 99.84% was donated to Democrat candidates and organisations.

The $3.5 million is just the amount declared as political donations. Soros has poured untold millions into numerous political, activist and media front groups. In 1973 in an attempt to defeat George Bush at the forthcoming election, Soros gathered a group of left-wing activists and Democrats at his mansion and helped found, with a donation of $10 million, America Coming Together (ACT), a grassroots activist group designed to co-ordinate all his other front groups.

When the US brought in laws limiting political donations, Soros used his considerable clout to circumvent the laws by inspiring new legislation allowing the so-called "527" organisations to raise funds without breaching the laws. Hence the myriad of Soros activist groups can raise funds without limitation on the basis that they are not political groups. So while they may not donate to political parties they can run very effective advertising campaigns and stunts that clearly target one party and favour another.

It is clear that GetUp follows the Soros model in Australia. It is set up as a "non-partisan" activist group to harvest donations that are exempt from Australia’s political donations laws. The corporate entity, Getup Limited does not appear on the Australian Electoral Commission’s list of "associated entities", even though it claims on its website that is legally obliged to disclose donations over $11,200 to the AEC.

The group utilises the funds together with the energy of its well-meaning activist members to target the conservative parties with stunts and advertising campaigns whilst pushing left-wing agendas such as global warming scaemongering, the carbon tax, same- sex marriage and the release of illegal refugees from detention.

From the GetUp website: "GetUp does not back any particular party, but aims to build an accountable and progressive Parliament - a Parliament with economic fairness, social justice and environment at its core."

"GetUp is a not-for-profit and receives no money from any political party or the government. We rely solely on funds and in-kind donations from the Australian public."

GetUp are just another Union front.

THE union movement has emerged as a key financial backer of the advocacy group GetUp!, with six unions pouring more than a million dollars into its election purse in the past three weeks alone.

GetUp! has splashed nearly $1.5 million on TV advertising since the campaign began, meaning the unions have effectively supplied two-thirds of its advertising budget.

The organisation’s director, Simon Sheikh, refused to name the six unions yesterday, saying they wanted their identities kept secret until after donor returns are filed with the Australian Electoral Commission.

No money from any political party, but plenty from one party’s (ALP) chief donors.


9 February, 2014

Royal Commission into union corruption confirmed

Attorney-General George Brandis says a Royal Commission into trade unions will tackle the "systemic", "ingrained" corruption in the labour movement.

And he has accused federal opposition leader Bill Shorten, a former trade union leader, of opposing a Royal Commission because he was the "nominee off the trade union movement".

Senator Brandis confirmed on Sunday the announcement of a wide-ranging judicial inquiry was imminent, declaring it would be "irresponsible for the government not to respond in an appropriate way" to public concerns.

The inquiry would examine allegations of impropriety at the health services, construction and Australian workers unions.

"The revelations we have seen in recent months suggest it is much more widespread and systemic and an ingrained problem with the trade union movement than mere slush funds," he told Sky News.

"You'd expected Bill Shorten to protect trade union bosses, because Bill Shorten was a trade union boss and is only the leader of the Labor Party today because he is the nominee of the trade union movement.

Senator Brandis dismissed Mr Shorten's call for a joint police taskforce, rather than a judicial inquiry, as "lame".

Mr Shorten wants a multi-jurisdictional taskforce, led by the Australian Federal Police and include state police forces, to investigate the corruption allegations.

Labor's workplace spokesman Brendan O'Connor said on Sunday the opposition would not support a royal commission because it did not have the power to arrest criminals and would not be able to act quickly enough to tackle corruption.

"Our view is let the crime-fighting agencies fight crime-fighting agencies fight crime,' he told the ABC.

"The [government] agenda - it sounds like a political agenda. It sounds like a political timeline rather than a crime timeline."

The Abbott government has been poised to call a Royal Commission for weeks. News Limited reports today that former high Court judge John Dyson Heydon will lead the inquiry.


Public hospital cuts could ease health crisis: think tank

Targeting inefficiencies in the public hospital system could save $1 billion a year, a former top health bureaucrat has found, dwarfing the possible savings from a controversial proposal to charge $6 for GP visits.

Stephen Duckett, a former head of the federal Health Department, has told the National Commission of Audit "there is considerable scope for efficiency improvement in all states and territories in delivery of public hospital services". Early work suggests such efficiencies could save up to a billion dollars a year.

Dr Duckett, now the health program director at the Grattan Institute, has identified significant variation in the average costs of similar procedures between states and between individual hospitals.

"For example, the cost of a hip replacement in hospitals which do a lot of them varies 100 per cent."

At the six public hospitals that perform the most hip replacements, the average cost varies from less than $10,000 to more than $20,000.

Dr Duckett said the research, to be published next month, showed the average cost of hospital care varied. He has previously suggested the Commonwealth could save a further $2 billion a year by changing the way it pays for drugs.

Dr Duckett's intervention comes as Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned the nation to prepare for pain in the May budget, while Health Minister Peter Dutton has warned that health costs will become "unmanageable" without change.

Health spending has grown faster than any other area over the past decade, largely due to increased spending on hospitals. If current trends continue, health spending is set to consume an extra 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product by 2023.

Dr Duckett warned against "panic" about the sustainability of the health system, arguing "overall" the Australian system was efficient by international standards.

"We're cheaper than the average of developed countries in terms of cost per head of population and we're better than the average in terms of life expectancy," he said.

He urged against "quick fixes" such as the $6 GP co-payment proposed by Terry Barnes, a former policy adviser to Mr Abbott. Mr Barnes told the commission his proposal would deliver $750 million over four years in savings by reducing "avoidable" GP visits.

But Dr Duckett said evidence showed countries that strengthened their primary care systems were able to save money by treating problems before they became acute.

Mr Barnes said public hospitals sucked in resources that could otherwise be spent on primary care and prevention. But he said the introduction in July of activity-based funding - under which the Commonwealth provides its share of hospital growth funding based on a national efficient price - would drive improvements. He said the public was willing to make a greater contribution to the cost of their treatment, despite doctors and other health groups being almost unanimously opposed to his idea.

Alison Verhoeven, the chief executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, said there may be efficiencies to be made but added: "We don't think efficiency should come at the cost of providing good access to services to all Australians, particularly those in regional, rural and remote areas where it can be more expensive to deliver services."

Neal Blewett, health minister in the Hawke government when Medicare was introduced, said hospitals must be made "much more efficient".


Gillard's coastal shipping mess

Hiking costs for everyone in order to prop up a few Bolshie unionists

Every day, Australian ships ply the coastal waters with their loads of interstate cargo - ships with names like the Portland, the Victorian Reliance, and the Tasmanian Achiever. Also doing the job are vessels from the other side of the planet - such as the Norway-registered Hoegh London, Liberia's Maersk Dubrovnik, or Panama's Navios Soleil.

Shipping goods interstate is not the primary purpose of these foreign vessels, of course. They sail to Australia with foreign cargo, unload, sail to another Australian port, load fresh cargo, and sail overseas. But when sailing from one Australian port to another, they usually take goods for the short haul.

And that is the problem for Australian shipping. Foreign-registered vessels were once minnows in the coastal goods market but, thanks to cut-price rates - afforded by generous overseas tax regimes and cheap foreign labour - they have shifted most of the sea freight since 2010.

As a result, the number of Australian-flagged coastal cargo vessels has more than halved, from 55 in 1995 to 23 in 2012. Industry sources put the present figure at 18 and estimate it could halve again, to just nine within two years.

Concerned over the prospect of the extinction of Australian shipping, the Gillard government passed laws in 2012 to revitalise the sector, providing tax and depreciation breaks. As part of the changes, foreign ships handling interstate goods had to pay their crews Australian wages, had to undertake at least five coastal voyages in a year and could only be hired if no Australian vessels were available.

Shipping rates have since surged - as has the ire of customers. Rio Tinto unit Bell Bay Aluminium told the Productivity Commission inquiry into Tasmanian shipping its freight costs had soared 63 per cent as a result of the 2012 laws.

The inquiry also heard that the legislation required, for one company, an extra 1000 hours of labour annually to administer. The Department of Infrastructure, meanwhile, estimates the cost to the Australian economy at $202 million in addition to $70 million a year in forgone tax revenue.

The Productivity Commission inquiry is continuing, but the draft report, released two weeks ago, condemns the Gillard changes.

"Given higher shipping costs, adverse effects reported by Tasmanian shippers and … the likely deleterious impact on Australian businesses … the justification for the 2012 changes is now questionable," it states.

The Abbott government has foreshadowed a fresh review into coastal shipping and the inquiry's draft recommendation urges the review proceed "as soon as possible". "The objective of the review should be to achieve the most efficient coastal shipping services feasible for Australia."

Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss, who is responsible for shipping, has signalled that the 2012 laws are dead in the water. "Shippers tell me that container rates from Melbourne to Brisbane are almost twice the cost of those from Singapore to Melbourne," he said in October. "Bulk freight rates on the east-west route have reportedly doubled in the past year. It is cheaper to transport sugar from Thailand than from Queensland.

"To put it bluntly, there is no point in artificially propping up our coastal shipping industry if it is unable to compete - it will have an impact on the broader economy. Let me make it clear - I want a strong Australian shipping industry with an increasing market share. I want vessels to be Australian flagged, but most of all I want an industry that is efficient, reliable, safe and doing the job that its customers expect."

The free-market Institute of Public Affairs has long argued for deregulation of coastal shipping. Cabotage - protection of Australian-flagged ships against foreign competitors - had existed in some form since Federation, but that was no reason to keep it going, said research fellow Aaron Lane.

"What some shipping industry representatives want to do is tinker around the edges with the legislation or wind it back pre-2012. While that would be a good start … I don't think there should be any coastal shipping laws at all."

Lane, who appeared before the Productivity Commission inquiry with an IPA submission, said it did not matter whether a ship was Australian or foreign registered. "At the end of the day it doesn't matter if you have one Australian-flagged ship or a hundred … 85 per cent of coastal shipping freight is bulk products. It's about making those goods cheaper, it's not about propping up Australian-flagged vessels. What matters is, are these ships providing a cheap and efficient transportation system for producers of bulk goods?"

Lane was scathing about the 2012 laws and pointed out that the Fair Work Act of 2009 also affected shipping costs.

"For the first time in 200 years of coastal shipping, the foreign vessels that solely employ foreign crews were made to pay Australian wages. That has never happened before," he said, describing Bell Bay Aluminium's 63 per cent increase in shipping costs as "extraordinary" and "incredible".

The idea that the 2012 laws would, in the long term, bolster the numbers of Australian-flagged vessels was flawed, he said. "Protectionism never works in the long run. Protectionism never starts an industry. It never increases, it always eventually gets to the point where it has to be opened up to trade."

More optimistically, Lane believes there will always be an Australian-flagged fleet. International ships go from port to port on an ad hoc basis whereas local vessels can offer a timetabled service. "International vessels are carrying interstate freight when it's convenient to them," he said. "There's always going to be a demand for freight that needs to get to its destination by a certain deadline. There will be a market that remains for Australian operators to take advantage of that situation."

Finally, he rejects the idea that national defence requires a domestic maritime fleet. "The same argument is touted for keeping Qantas as a national carrier. The Commonwealth has to maintain a defence force and I think the defence force should be adequate."

Despite the desire of the IPA and the Business Council of Australia to fully deregulate the industry, the Coalition was unlikely to do so, said Angela Gillham, manager of industry operations at the Australian Shipowners Association. "That would mean foreign-flagged vessels could move any domestic cargo wherever they liked without needing a licence. That's not a probable solution, not even with this government. It would take a very brave government to get rid of cabotage completely," she said.

The ASA - whose members use both Australian and foreign-flagged ships - rejected deregulation but would also like to see the 2012 laws changed, Gillham said.

The requirement that foreign vessels make a minimum of five coastal voyages a year caused particular resentment, she said. Nor were taxes lowered enough to make Australian vessels competitive.

"The zero tax regime was actually just a tax deferral," she said. "As soon as you went to pay shareholders, it was taxed at the full rate. It's competition that has driven Australian operators out of the market. We just can't compete on the same cost base."

The real growth for Australian shipping, she believes, may lie in international trading rather than coastal trading. Ten per cent of the world's sea trade passes through the nation's ports, overwhelmingly transported by foreign-flagged ships. Australian-flagged international ships, however, are at the same tax and wages disadvantage as their coastal counterparts. There were only six such ships at present, said Gillham, but with the right reforms this could change.

"We don't see a huge potential for growth in coastal trading. The real growth area is for Australian companies taking Australian international cargo."

This would require legislation to permit a mix of Australian and foreign crews as well as tax changes.

"We think it is in the national interest to have a vibrant and viable Australian shipping industry. We're an island nation. We rely on shipping," she said. "Our view is that changes to the 2012 act would take the heat out of the issue and solve most people's major concerns."

The Maritime Union of Australia, in its submission to the Tasmanian inquiry, also believes tinkering with the 2012 act is the way to go and has condemned the Productivity Commission's draft recommendation.

"A review could be a useful mechanism to … clarify some ambiguities and flaws in the legislation," it stated. However, "what the Productivity Commission is clearly proposing is wholesale deregulation of Australian coastal shipping - the repeal of the 2012 act. What is proposed is not even a return to the previous permit system or some form of regulatory framework that promotes competition … this is, in effect, a recommendation for the complete dismantling of an entire Australian service industry."


Nazi strip show outrage

Even mocking Hitler is unsafe

ORGANISERS of the Fringe Festival have defended a free public performance held in Civic on Friday night that featured a performer in a Nazi-style uniform and wearing a Hitler moustache who stripped down to her underwear, amid claims it was anti-Semitic.

ACT opposition multicultural affairs spokeswoman Giulia Jones said the burlesque performance, which allegedly also featured a man pretending to masturbate, was offensive.

She called on Multicultural Affairs Minister Joy Burch to explain how approval was given to spend government funds on support for a show that, in her view, was offensive and racist.

"There were lots of kids around at the time, there were families," Ms Jones said. "The real issue we need to know is how the minister thought it would be acceptable to hold a show with Nazi references within the footprint of the multicultural festival where we had Jewish, German and other stalls nearby?"

The director of the show - titled Die Fringe Burlesk! - Jorian Gardner, said he apologised if anyone took offence but the whole point of the event was to be edgy, and screening meant the show was not directly visible from Civic Square.

"We had a girl dressed up in a fuehrer's outfit and she had gold wings - and I'm not sure Hitler had wings - and she danced around with a Hitler accent," Mr Gardner said.

"If anything it was making fun of Hitler; it was not anti-Semitic in any way shape or form, and everyone who was here was having a laugh at the ridiculousness of it.

"Often with satire it's subjective, I guess, and in this case I think most of the audience saw it was a funny satirical skit, nothing else."

Mr Gardner said it had been the biggest night in the festival's history, and he had not received a single complaint from the jubilant crowd.

"We've given fair warning … of the risque nature of the show; no one can say we haven't promoted it. If people are coming to a burlesque show and a comedy show, they need to know what they're up for and that comedy could push the boundaries. You've got to deal with it."


Julie Bishop's stance on the legality of Israeli settlements appears to be right

Julie Bishop is the Foreign Minister in Australia's conservative government  -- a government which I am pleased to say is very pro-Israel

Julie Bishop had some sensible things to say in Jerusalem, as she broke ranks from a cosy, normally unexamined international consensus: the idea that, by permitting Jewish residence in the West Bank, Israel is violating international law.

Asked if she agrees Jewish communities located beyond the Arab/Israeli 1949 armistice lines are illegal, Bishop replied: "I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal."

Her reply has drawn attacks from perfervid Palestinian spokesmen - such as Palestinian Authority veteran official Saeb Erekat - who cite Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. But what does Article 49 actually say?

Drafted to outlaw the horrors of Nazi mass deportations, Article 49 prohibits "individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the occupying power or to that of any other country, occupied or not". It ordains that "the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."

"Transfer" is not rigorously defined in international law, but it has an accepted meaning: it entails some form of compulsion. Yet Palestinians are not being deported from the West Bank to another territory. Nor are Jews being deported from Israel to the West Bank; they are moving of their own free will.

The West Bank, illegally seized by Jordan in 1948, captured by Israel following Jordanian attack in 1967, is unallocated territory under international law. Only Israeli annexation or an Arab/Israeli agreement could alter its status - neither of which have occurred. In short, Article 49 has no bearing on the situation, as it deals solely with sovereign territories.

The original international decision at the 1920 San Remo Conference earmarking this territory for Jewish settlement has never been superseded by an internationally binding agreement. The 1947 UN partition plan, which sought to create Arab and Jewish states, could have been such an agreement, but it was rejected by the Arab powers and Palestinian Arabs. Being a UN General Assembly resolution, the plan had no legal force of its own.

In contrast, the 1993 Oslo Accords do possess legal force, but as these contain no prohibition on the existence and growth of these Jewish communities, Jewish rights remain unimpaired. Whatever one's view of the conflict, all should be able to agree on this. Yet Erekat denies it, even though the Palestinian Authority he represents signed the agreements.

He cited two other legal sources: the 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion, and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. He didn't mention that the ICJ opinion was advisory and therefore non-binding, nor the perversion of legal norms by which it arrived at its conclusion - the ICJ opted to spuriously invest a General Assembly resolution with the authority for a legal determination of this kind.

The Rome Statute, which Erekat says makes Jewish settlement illegal, says nothing about Israel or the territories in question. It reiterates the Fourth Geneva Convention's prohibition on transfer of populations. It seemingly widens the scope of "transfer", by adding "directly or indirectly", but if compulsion is the touchstone, these qualifiers change little. But even if they did, some 40 countries, including free societies such as India, Israel and the US, have either declined to sign or to ratify the Treaty, making its application here nugatory.

Erekat is also incorrect to assert that the Abbott government's position represents an aberration. While differing from her predecessor, Bob Carr, Bishop's position is consistent with Australia's historic bipartisan stand.

Bishop was right to dismiss the notion that Jewish residence in the West Bank is illegal as the flat-earth assertion that it is. Inasmuch as this fiction inflames Palestinian ambitions to delegitimise Israel and uproot hundreds of thousands of Jews, it presents a profound obstacle to peace settlement.


7 February, 2014

Dose of realism from leading unionist

What he proposes is basically Fascism but any hint of co-operation with the government is a good starting point

Tony Abbott must feel pretty lucky. He wins a leadership ballot at the end of 2009 in which he initially had no intention of even nominating, and just over a term later is Prime Minister.

Australia promptly wins the Ashes in a 5-0 clean sweep. Then, having ducked serious industrial relations reform for fear of sparking a difficult war with the unions post-WorkChoices, the nation's most powerful union leader offers to help him do just that.

The national secretary of the Australian Workers' Union, Paul Howes, even goes as far as to validate employer complaints, admitting unions demonised WorkChoices for their own propaganda purposes and abused their workplace leverage to achieve unsustainable wages growth in some sectors.

It follows Howes' previous endorsement of the Abbott government's policy of applying criminal penalties to union officials found guilty of malfeasance. Howes' idea of an industrial relations "grand compact" remains vague, and has already attracted its share of sceptics, but it could be a political and economic game-changer.

It potentially offers the chance of fundamental reform in an area normally characterised by such entrenched adversarialism that progress is contentious and gains have tended to be temporary.

As he said in his National Press Club address on Wednesday, as a union official since 1998, he had worked under eight "significantly different" industrial relations laws.

This is what Howes calls the "industrial relations see-saw", in which the ascendant side imposes its will on the other until such time as the power relation shifts.

Clearly, the last election marked one of those shifts and Howes, who is as astute a reader of the political landscape as there is within the union movement, has read the situation. His solution revives memories of the prices-and-incomes accord achieved under Bob Hawke's Labor government in the 1980s. That is both its strength as an idea and its weakness.

The accord required unions to surrender their industrial power to demand above-the-odds wage rises, in exchange for moderate wage outcomes and improvements in the social wage in areas such as Medicare, employer superannuation, and so on.

It paved the way for growth after significant restructuring of the economy through such things as financial deregulation, dismantling of trade barriers and privatisation.

But it was a different time.

Like Howes, government and employers are also reading the mood. Their assessment is that Howes is proposing a return to the corporatism of the accord, where big unions, big employers and the government set the outcomes in order to deal unions back into the game.

And their response is to say this is not the workplace relations system in Australia any more.

Still, with Bill Shorten characterising everything the government is proposing as anti-worker union-bashing, the olive branch being extended by Shorten's successor at the AWU must feel like manna from heaven.


Conservative State government to mothball gas-fired power station

Amid Greenie heartburn

The low-emission, gas-fired Swanbank E power station west of Brisbane will close for three years because it has become more lucrative to sell the gas than to burn it and sell electricity.

The station’s owner, [Qld.] state government-owned Stanwell Power Corporation, will instead re-start the coal-fired Tarong power station to meet electricity demands.

It is cheaper to produce electricity from coal than from gas, however coal produces almost twice the greenhouse emissions of gas.

Stanwell says that will mean 25 jobs will go from Swanbank E, while the Electrical Trades Union’s Peter Simpson argues 33 of the 40 staff at Swanbank E will lose their jobs.

The jobs will not be recovered at Tarong, which lost 130 jobs when their two coal-fired units were closed down in late 2012.

Stanwell is the largest electricity generator in the state, providing 45 per cent of Queensland’s electricity.

Swanbank E near Ipswich - described as one of the most efficient and advanced gas-fired power stations in Austalia - will be closed for three years from October 1.

Staff will be offered voluntary redundancies or positions at one of Stanwell’s 10 power plants.

Swanbank E produces 385 megawatts of electricity from gas from Roma.

The plant produces 50 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than an average coal-fired plant and uses only one quarter of the water, its website says.

Instead, Stanwell will bring back the coal-fired units at Tarong over two years, which together produce 350 megawatts of electricity.

Stanwell will bring back Tarong’s unit 4 power plant "later in 2014" and its unit 2 power plant in mid-2015, Stanwell Corporation chief executive Richard Van Breda said.

"The exact timing for the return to service of both units depends on market conditions and portfolio requirements, which Stanwell will continue to review," Mr Van Breda said.

Queensland has a massive oversupply of electricity generation capacity.

At 4pm on Wednesday, the demand for electricity in Queensland was 3055 megawatts.

Queensland’s electricity generation capacity is around 14,000 megawatts, although it varies with weather conditions.

As one example, on the very hot January 4th 2014, the capacity was 8280 megawatts.

A Stanwell spokesman said their decision was all about revenue.

"We can generate more revenue by selling the gas than we can if we were to take the gas and burn it for electricity generation," the spokesman said.

Stanwell bought gas entitlements into the future from the major gas companies for Swanbank E power station for three years.

"If we were to take that gas, then burn it for electricity - in the current market where we have a huge oversupply in Queensland at the moment - well we’d make more just selling the gas."

Stanwell, despite being a government-owned utility, operates under an independent board.

The Queensland Government is considering selling Stanwell after the next election.


Aunty's too big for her own good

THE ABC's bias wouldn't be so serious if the ABC wasn't this dangerously big - bigger than is legal for any other media organisation.

Attention Tony Jones, Fran Kelly, Paul Barry, Virginia Trioli, Phillip Adams, Robyn Williams and the ABC's other Leftist hosts.

Imagine if every single one of the main ABC current affairs shows were hosted not by the likes of you, as they now are.

Imagine them all hosted instead by me and fellow conservatives Janet Albrechtsen, Gerard Henderson, Tim Blair, Miranda Devine, Piers Akerman, Tom Switzer and Rowan Dean.

Imagine Four Corners no longer hosted by a former staffer of Gough Whitlam but of John Howard. Insiders no more hosted by a former staffer of Bob Hawke but of Tony Abbott.

Imagine the result: an ABC that no longer crusaded on boat people, same-sex marriage and global warming, but on free speech, climate scepticism and free markets.

Get it now? Realise how unfair it would be to have the taxpayer-funded ABC completely in the hands of one political caste?

See how dangerous, too, for this one political caste to control such a state-run behemoth, running multiple radio and TV networks in every city, as well as an online newspaper, all bought with $1.2 billion a year of taxpayers' money.

But all this week, the ABC's staff have been in denial, even about their own bias. Most ludicrous was Q & A Leftist host Tony Jones getting his carefully stacked panel - four fellow Leftists, two conservatives - to debate whether the ABC really was unbalanced.

But most telling were the excuses ABC hosts made for the ABC hyping claims by asylum seekers that the Navy deliberately tortured them by forcing their hands on hot engines. Only on Wednesday - days after all but one of the boat people retracted their claims - did ABC boss Mark Scott grudgingly admit its reporting should have been "more precise" - but even then ABC hosts insisted such lack of precision was just a mistake, not evidence of bias.

Indeed, Insiders host Barrie Cassidy earlier defended the ABC's reporting of the "torture" claims: "It's not for the ABC to be sceptical or make a judgment in this sense."

Really? If it's not the ABC's job to be sceptical even of wild claims against the boat policies of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, why was the ABC super-sceptical of factual claims against prime minister Julia Gillard?

The ABC refused to report even that police investigating the AWU scandal had raided Gillard's former law offices under a warrant naming her.

When listeners asked why, it sniffed: "Reporting that the prime minister of the nation is under police investigation is an enormously significant call to make. It cannot be made on supposition, on rumour, or on hearsay."

Likewise, the ABC ran dead on Climategate - leaked emails showing climate scientists colluded to massage data and silence sceptics of the ABC's global warming faith.

ABC host Jon Faine, a warmist, declared he "wouldn't spend time on it" on air because it was not "actually of any significance" and the scandal "suits the conspiracy theorists beautifully".

Being slow to report claims that don't suit you and fast to report ones that do is actually called bias, guys.

In a private media outlet - whether Fairfax or Murdoch papers - such bias is no crime. Their money; their free speech. But the ABC is different and not just because it is financed by all taxpayers under a charter obliging it to reflect our diversity.

IT is also different because it has grown so huge.

We actually have laws to stop commercial media companies from being as big as the ABC is now because we think such power in one set of hands is too dangerous.

Trouble is, those laws do not apply to the ABC. No commercial media company is allowed to control television licences that let them reach 75 per cent of Australians, but the ABC reaches 98 per cent.

No commercial company may control more than two radio stations in the same place, but the ABC controls five in all our big cities.

No commercial company may have a radio and a television station in the same place. The ABC does.

No commercial television station may also own a newspaper in the same area. The ABC does, having an online news site and the online The Drum, modern newspapers in the digital age.

So why is the ABC allowed a reach and influence we've agreed is too dangerous to allow anyone else?

Why, when it is so partisan, do we tolerate such an abuse of that massive power?


Joe Hockey gives government much-needed direction

Joe Hockey is supplying something the Abbott government has been lacking — a purpose.

In its first months the government had trouble graduating from opposition to a ruling footing. It campaigned for office on the promise to get rid of Labor; once there, it struggled to find any other purpose or agenda. Hockey is providing both.

The purpose is to impose the virtues of the Protestant ethic of work, thrift and self reliance. The irony is that it's being done by a Palestinian-Armenian Australian Catholic. "The age of entitlement is over," Hockey said on Monday. "The age of personal responsibility has begun."

He'd talked about the perniciousness of the age of entitlement while in opposition. It was interesting in a hypothetical kind of way. But Hockey is turning it into reality.

Already we see the Treasurer leading the government in resolute decisions. The end to Holden's taxpayer-funded death throes was an act of political bravery. The decision last week to deny SPC Ardmona a government handout showed this was not merely a matter of money. The fruit canner was asking for $25 million, less than previous governments have given to renovate footy fields in marginal electorates. This was a decision about a principle and precedent.

Hockey was unmoved that the firm, owned by Coca-Cola Amatil, was the dominant employer in a marginal electorate: "This is not the proper use of taxpayers' money," Hockey told ABC radio.

On Monday the Treasurer confronted the demands of farmers. Hockey rebuffed the public campaigning of his cabinet colleague, Barnaby Joyce, to give farmers help with restructuring their bank debts: "They should speak to the people that they owe the money to as a starting point."

Hockey has so far stood firm against major employers, their unions, agriculture and his own colleagues as guardian of the public purse and spokesman for private virtue. And he has prevailed. Of course, it's the traditional role for the treasurer to be the hard man. Some never manage to achieve it. Wayne Swan, for instance.

But Hockey can only succeed with the acquiescence of his Prime Minister. So far, Tony Abbott has been fully supportive. Hockey's big test, his first budget, lies ahead. His credentials will be defined by it. So will Abbott's government.


6 February, 2014

Leftists wail at losing their grip on the young

THE vicious attacks on the expert chosen by Christopher Pyne to review the national education curriculum show just how much is at stake for the cultural revolutionaries dumbing down our schools.

Dr Kevin Donnelly is their worst nightmare, appointed to snatch the curriculum back from the brink of disaster.

For his trouble he has been falsely branded a paedophile, Islamophobe, homophobe, misogynist and Christian.

In the sewers of Twitter, people have wished him dead and asked him for his opinion on vibrators.

Among his and Queensland academic Ken Wiltshire’s tasks is to decide whether the three priorities of the new curriculum - sustainability, indigenous history and culture and Asian engagement - make any sense.

Absurdly, even in maths the curriculum claims "sustainability provides rich, engaging and authentic contexts for developing students’ abilities in number and algebra".

Good grief. Pyne has rightly queried this politically correct attempt at brainwashing. He ought to rip the curriculum to shreds, but he is taking the gentle approach.

Clear-thinking Donnelly is the perfect choice. An unabashed critic of moral relativism, he wants education to be about "objectivity and truth". He believes students should understand the foundations of Western civilisation and Australia’s Judeo-Christian heritage.

He thinks academic rigour and phonics and even - shock, horror - rote learning might be a good thing.

He is against the fashion of students "constructing" their own knowledge.

When university students need remedial reading classes, he knows something is wrong.

"The penny has dropped that what we are doing isn’t working well enough," Donnelly told me. "In terms of falling standards something has to be done."

Most parents would agree but the Marxist teacher unions are beside themselves, trawling around for something, anything, to discredit him.

The latest ploy was a story this week claiming Donnelly is homophobic because he once wrote, in his 2004 book Why Our Schools Are Failing, that teachers should not push leftist propaganda on gender and sexuality.

Donnelly criticised Australian Education Union policy that "homosexuality and bisexuality need to be normalised" in the classroom and "heterosexism" (the idea that heterosexuality is the norm) must be stamped out.

He cited the example that Cinderella and Romeo And Juliet are "condemned as heterosexist because they privilege traditional views about heterosexual love".

Essentially, Donnelly’s view was that sex education is a sensitive and controversial topic and that parents have the right to know what is happening in the classroom.

The AEU seized the bogus story as "yet another reason why Kevin Donnelly shouldn’t be anywhere near a curriculum review".

Others on Twitter claimed he would "rather have our youth committing suicide than be educated … If Kevin Donnelly comes anywhere near my children I can’t be held fully accountable for my actions. What a creep."

The denizens of Twitter take their lead from the bile emanating from the education establishment, unions and academics who have presided over falling standards.

Worst was former NSW education director-general Ken Boston, who took to ABC radio last month with an extraordinarily unhinged tirade: "Kevin Donnelly is a polemicist. He’s not taken seriously. He doesn’t engage with reasoned argument or evidence. His views, or rantings frankly, are well-known and have been disregarded for many years. His publications are regarded as specious nonsense."

And on and on he went for five minutes. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Donnelly could hardly be better qualified. He holds a master’s of education and a PhD on school curriculum, was on the panel of examiners for Year 12 English in Victoria and the Board of Studies.

He also was a secondary school teacher for 18 years. He is a thoughtful man who has devoted his life to education.

Boston, on the other hand, has a doctorate in "coastal morphology". The 70-year-old devoted himself to the study of saltmarsh grasses into his 30s when he changed careers to become an education bureaucrat in Ballarat. Remarkably, he rose to the top of the NSW Education Department and landed a plum job in London as chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority but left in 2008 in a national fiasco over school tests. London’s conservative Daily Telegraph said that during Boston’s six years at the authority it "presided over the dumbing down of the curriculum, a decline in the rigour of tests and hyper-inflation in the results".

He is hardly in a position to criticise Donnelly.

But all the vitriol is like water off a duck’s back to Pyne. The more the Left criticises Donnelly, the more he knows he’s on to a good thing. For our children’s sake, let’s hope its not too late.


Taming the rogue building unions

New reports claim that union officials in the building and construction industry are being bribed by corrupt companies to help them secure lucrative contracts. Allegations of corruption, however, are nothing new.

Following allegations of widespread criminal activity in the building and construction industry in the early 2000s, the Howard government set up the Cole Royal Commission (2001 - 2003) to shed light on the degree of lawlessness in the industry.

Although the commission did not find definitive evidence of criminal activity, it did find that the industry was characterised by widespread disrespect for the rule of law. In terms of the unions, the commission found widespread illegal strike action, right-of-entry abuse, pattern bargaining, abuse of OH&S laws (covert strike action) and intimidation tactics.

But there were also plenty of problems on the employer side - unsafe work practices, intimidation tactics, underpayment of wages and conditions, and sham contracting.

In response to the Cole Commission, the Howard government rightfully set up the Australian Building and Construction Commission to undertake ongoing investigations in the industry.

Instead of another Cole Commission, the government should, together with the opposition (and maybe even the Greens), restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission's powers, which Labor watered down in 2012.

Labor's changes stopped the regulator from prosecuting parties in cases where the parties had settled or discontinued the matter, meaning unions or companies could intimidate and coerce each other to force financially crippling settlements, without fear of retribution from the regulator.

One of the most important changes was to reduce the maximum penalties for industrial law breaches: from $22,000 to $6,600 for individuals, and from $110,000 to $33,000 for organisations.

If penalties for IR breaches are not sufficiently large, there is no effective deterrent. Penalties as low as $33,000 are chump change for major construction companies or the CFMEU, for example.

The government should go one step further and remove any cap on maximum penalties. The commission could then apply whatever fine they deem appropriate for the case at hand.


NBN in focus ahead of Malcolm Turnbull's arrival in Griffith

The National Broadband Network has become the focus of the Griffith byelection campaign ahead of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull's arrival in the electorate.

Labor candidate Terri Butler and shadow communications spokesman Jason Clare campaigned in Griffith on Tuesday morning, with the NBN firmly on their agenda.

But Liberal National Party candidate Bill Glasson insisted Griffith residents would not be worse off under the Coalition's plan, which would remain in place whoever won Saturday's byelection.

Ms Butler said all homes and businesses would have received the NBN within the next three years had Labor won the 2013 general election.

The Labor Party, led by former Griffith MP Kevin Rudd, convincingly lost the election to the Tony Abbott-led Coalition, which won 90 seats to the ALP's 55, including the now-vacant seat of Griffith.

"Griffith is a growing area, with many local businesses reliant on access to high speed, quality broadband, and this access also impacts on the value of people's properties and on where people choose to live in the electorate," Ms Butler said.

"Under Labor, all of Griffith would have received the NBN, but under the LNP that won't happen."

Despite the Abbott government's unassailable lead in Federal Parliament, Mr Clare said there was a "lot at stake" in Saturday's byelection for Griffith voters keen on faster broadband.

Mr Clare said the Coalition's NBN was a "second rate copper network that is nothing more than a pale imitation" of Labor's scheme.

In a question and answer session with Brisbane Times readers on Tuesday, Dr Glasson said Griffith voters would be well served by the Coalition's version of the NBN.

"We have a coalition NBN plan which aims to deliver fit for purpose outcomes to meet the data needs of whatever facility we are aiming to service," he said.

"We will certainly deliver fibre to our businesses, hospitals, schools, government agencies etc and in terms of the home we will have fibre to the node (the box in front of your house) and with this we can deliver up to 50 megabits per second or higher.

"This will be delivered two years earlier and $27 billion less in cost than the proposed Labor plan."

Dr Glasson was an "NBN champion" – a voluntary position for high-stature people to promote Labor's NBN – prior to his preselection as an LNP candidate.

Mr Turnbull, whose portfolio puts him in charge of the NBN, will arrive in Brisbane on Tuesday night to assist Dr Glasson's campaign in Griffith.

Mr Turnbull and Dr Glasson have a scheduled stop at the Carindale Westfield Shopping Centre on Wednesday morning.

Both Dr Glasson and Ms Butler will take part in a candidates’ forum at Davies Park, West End, on Wednesday night, along with eight of the other nine candidates.

The other candidates expected to be in attendance are Geoff Ebbs (Greens), Ray Sawyer (Katter's Australia Party), Christopher Williams (Family First), Timothy Lawrence (Stable Population Party), Melanie Thomas (Pirate Party), Anne Reid (Secular Party) and independents Travis Windsor and Karel Boele.


Black privilege AND Muslim privilege mean you can do no wrong

What is it with footballers of all codes? Rugby League star Blake Furguson, after repeated other offences, has been found guilty of groping a woman’s breasts in a Cronulla nightclub. CCTV evidence shows him also forcing his hand up her dress and grabbing her front bottom while she struggles to free herself from the oaf.

Crumbs, tennis players and golfers don’t do this sort of thing, do they?

That sort of unprovoked sexual assault has to be worth at least a couple of years in the brig, right? Wrong! Magistrate Jacqueline Trad handed him a two-year good behaviour bond instead.

Furguson’s gobsmacked lawyer, Adam Houda claimed, "We are not happy with this. We will appeal this in a superior court." What are we not happy with, Mr Houda? The guilty finding, the feathered penalty, or is this sort of sexual assault justified?

Of course media has not commented on the case, other than to report it, for good reason. (Just ask Andrew Bolt.) You see Mr Furguson is an Aborigine and blame has instead been heaped upon the Raiders’ football club for not "taking care" of him.

Maybe I’m old school, because if I had snuck even a kiss from someone I didn’t know I’d reckon I was doin’ okay. Even then I would have been quite prepared to cop a smack in the face in return for trying.

What makes an adult male believe he has the right to molest a female?

What the hell gets into a bloke’s head that convinces him to sexually abuse a woman minding her own business?

Does Mr Furguson believe women have no rights, does he believe they are mere chattels for his crass entertainment?

Then it all became clear, you see his cousin and mentor Anthony Mundine had convinced him to convert to Islam.


5 February, 2014

Why funding private schools is a smart idea

The school year has only just begun and, already, it's open season on attacking Catholic and independent schools.

With headlines like "Private schools do not deserve a cent from our public funds" (The Guardian, 28/1), "Private schools reap government funding at expense of public schools" (The Sydney Morning Herald, 28/1) and "Abbott's Gonski to hit public schools harder" (The Age, 30/1), parents could be forgiven for thinking that private schools are a drain on the public purse and that they do not deserve financial support.

Wrong. Instead of being a drain on taxpayers' funds, private school parents pay taxes for a public school system they don't use plus school fees. The fact that 34.9 per cent of students around Australia are enrolled in Catholic and independent schools saves state, territory and Commonwealth governments billions of dollars every year.

The savings to the taxpayer represent the additional cost to government if the private school sector closed and students had to be enrolled in state schools.

As noted in the just released Productivity Commission's Report on Government Services 2014, while governments invest on average $15,768 per government school student in terms of recurrent costs, the figure for private school students is only $8546. The reality is that even though Catholic and independent schools enrol 34.9 per cent of state and territory students, such schools receive only 22.4 per cent of what state and Commonwealth governments spend on education in terms of recurrent costs.

Instead of private schools "draining government schools of much needed public resources", as argued by Luke Mansillo in The Guardian, the fact that such schools exist frees up funds that governments can then redirect to their own schools.

It should also be remembered that education is a public good and every child, regardless of the type of school attended, deserves government support. School choice is supported by the Gonski review of school funding.

When attacking funding to Catholic and independent schools critics are guilty of perpetuating a number of other myths in addition to the furphy that private schools are overfunded and a drain on the taxpayer.

Jim McMorrow, in a recently released report commissioned by the Australian Education Union, argues that the Abbott government is guilty of financially penalising government schools as a result of restricting the Gonski-inspired funding agreement to four years instead of the six agreed to by the previous ALP Rudd government.

Ignored is that the funding promised by the Rudd government in the final two years, as it was beyond the four years of the budget forward estimates, was hypothetical - in other words an imaginary pot of gold that had as much chance of materialising as Lasseter's Reef.

Luke Mansillo is also wrong to claim that parents are mistaken if they believe that private schools outperform government schools in terms of academic results.

Two researchers from Curtin University, Paul Miller and Derby Voon, after analysing national literacy and numeracy test results (NAPLAN) conclude, "The results also indicate that test outcomes vary by school sector, with private schools having higher school-average scores. Even after differences in schools' ICSEA are taken into account" (ICSEA is a measure of a school's socio-economic profile).

Gary Marks, a researcher at the University of Melbourne, makes a similar point when he notes that private schools achieve stronger results compared to most government schools and that, "even when taking into account differences in ability levels and socio-economic backgrounds of students attending government, Catholic and independent schools, substantial sector differences remain".

Based on his analysis of literacy and numeracy tests and year 12 results Marks also argues "attendance at a private school was associated with higher chances of completing school and university even when taking into account differences in socio-economic background".

And the benefits of a private school education continue many years after leaving university as suggested by research carried out by Nikhil Jha and Cain Polidano of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.

In their paper the researchers argue, "wage rates for Catholic school graduates progress with labour market experience at a greater rate, on average, than wage rates for public school graduates. Importantly, we find no evidence to suggest that these benefits are peculiar to Catholic schooling, with similar benefits estimated for graduates of independent private schools. These findings suggest that private schooling may be important in not only fostering higher academic achievement, but also in better preparing students for a working life."

It is clear that there is a good deal of research arguing that private schools achieve strong results, even after adjusting for students' socio-economic background, and that such schools compared to government schools are underfunded by government.


Leave sex lessons to straight teachers, writes Pyne's reviewer

Kevin Donnelly, chosen to review the national school curriculum, says many parents believe the sexual practices of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals are "decidedly unnatural" and has questioned whether students ought to learn about such relationships at school.

In a book he wrote in 2004, Mr Donnelly also seems to suggest that only heterosexual teachers have a right to teach students about sex.

The book, called Why Our Schools Are Failing, was commissioned by the Liberal Party-aligned Menzies Research Centre. Malcolm Turnbull, who was chairman of the centre at the time, wrote the foreword.

Mr Donnelly uses the book to criticise aspects of state curriculum he believes have contributed to declining standards in literacy and numeracy in Australian schools. He lays much of the blame on "political correctness" and the "left-wing academics, teacher unions and sympathetic governments" that have conspired to infuse state curriculums with politically correct material.

He is also critical of the Australian Education Union for arguing that school students ought to be taught about non-heterosexual relationships and safe-sex practices "in a positive way".

Mr Donnelly wrote: "The union argues that gays, lesbians and transgender individuals have a right to teach sex education … and that any treatment of sexual matters should be 'positive in its approach' and that school curricula should 'enhance understanding and acceptance of gay lesbian, bisexual and transgender people'."

"Forgotten is that many parents would consider the sexual practices of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals decidedly unnatural and that such groups have a greater risk in terms of transmitting STDs and AIDS."

Mr Donnelly was appointed to review the national curriculum by Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

Mr Pyne said he was certain Mr Donnelly would bring a "balanced approach" to the task, along with the other appointee, Queensland academic Ken Wiltshire.

Mr Donnelly was contacted by Fairfax Media but he did not wish to comment.

Opposition education spokeswoman Kate Ellis said Mr Donnelly's views were "extremely offensive, dangerous and extreme" and had "absolutely no place in our schools". A spokesman for Mr Pyne said Mr Donnelly and Mr Wiltshire had been "specifically asked" to ensure the curriculum was balanced and diverse.

Shelley Argent, from the support group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, called Mr Donnelly's views "ridiculous".

"Children are not created or made or encouraged or recruited to be gay by learning about homosexuality in the classroom," she said.

NSW Teachers Federation president Maurie Mulheron said: "You cringe at some of those statements … You can only assume Mr Pyne is being deliberately provocative."


Ignore the hysteria: it's time we privatised the tone deaf, left-leaning ABC

No media organisation is above criticism - even from a prime minister. That's especially the case when the media organisation in question is funded by taxpayers.

The reaction to Prime Minister Tony Abbott's criticism of the ABC has bordered on the hysterical.

Former ABC managing director David Hill told Fairfax Media Abbott's criticism was "dangerous". The Age's political editor Michael Gordon labelled it "astonishing". The Guardian's Katharine Murphy warned darkly that things might "escalate".

The ABC is not such a faultless organisation that it should be above criticism. As a media outlet totally funded by taxpayers, it deserves much greater scrutiny, and has special obligations to be rigorously fair, balanced and impartial. As an organisation, it has shown itself to be tone deaf when it comes to the legitimate concerns of many Australians, that it leans to the left and is not a welcome home for conservatives or classical liberals - particularly among its salaried employees.

In many ways the ABC has made a rod for its own back. Its defenders are right to argue that it should not be an uncritical cheerleader for Australia, and that it should place the pursuit of truth above nationalism. The ABC was perfectly entitled to report on revelations from Edward Snowden on the growing apparatus of state surveillance in much of the Western world. It was a legitimate news story unquestionably in the public interest, and ignoring it would have done Australians a disservice.

But at the same time as it claims to be a news organisation dedicated to the pursuit of truth at home, it also assures Australians that it is best placed to sell our wares abroad. In bidding - aggressively - for the Australia Network tender, the ABC opted to become a tool of diplomacy on behalf of the federal government. The ABC is set to receive $223 million over 10 years to promote Australia's interests in our region.

That's not an appropriate role for any media organisation - public or private. It hopelessly conflicts its news gathering operation and opens the ABC up to criticism that it undermines Australia's interests through its reporting. That's why it is in the ABC's best interests that the federal government is now considering axing the Australia Network service altogether. The Abbott government should go a step further, and privatise the ABC - but not because it is unhappy with their journalism.

Ultimately the case for reforming the ABC does not rest on one week of reporting. If there was ever a case for a taxpayer-funded state broadcaster, it doesn't exist today. Australians have at their fingertips access to more news from more varied sources than ever before. Online, every niche interest and point of view is well covered. And as private media companies continue to struggle with profitability, the continued lavish funding of the ABC only serves to undermine their business model further.


Tim Wilson: 'total free speech' needed for Human Rights Commission

The Australian Human Rights Commission should not always be "singing from the same song sheet" but include diverse opinions on issues such as free speech and racial slurs, incoming commissioner Tim Wilson says.

Mr Wilson told the Liberal Democratic Party conference in Sydney on Sunday that he was looking forward to energising the commission and would be pushing for "almost total free speech".

The commission needed more diverse voices within it, the commissioner-designate said.

"What we shouldn't have is the commission always singing from the same song sheet. Sometimes differences of opinion can add value and build the integrity of the commission," he said.

Federal Attorney-General George Brandis has directed the Australian Law Reform Commission to investigate laws that unnecessarily encroach on traditional rights and freedoms.

"Clearly one of the first debates we will have is on free speech, and particularly the sensitive area of the Racial Discrimination Act," Mr Wilson said.

The act set the bar far too low in restricting speech, he said. "The limits should only be to the extent that speech conflicts with other human rights, notably when speech explicitly incites and provokes violence against others."

It was unjust that people who felt offended by comments had recourse to laws based on their racial identity, but homosexuals insulted on the basis of their sexual orientation had to wear it, he said. Only removing such a law could address the unjust nature of it.

"Compulsory legal limits on speech based on acceptable conduct can undermine human rights," he said. Public debate as well as government, business and sports codes of conduct and voluntary social norms could be more effective in driving changes towards acceptable speech and behaviour.


4 February, 2014

Do lesbians make good parents?

Most of the concerns people have about children raised by "two mommies" are social and psychological.  But psychology and sociology are playgrounds of the Left.  I have taught in both psychology and sociology Departments of Australian universities and find sociologists in particular to be almost amusingly Leftist.  Karl Marx is still their chief inspiration.

So you know what to expect when you find studies by social scientists that tell us anything about homosexuality.  Homosexuals these days are a positively revered class who can do no wrong.  So finding out what is actually going on from such sources is a major challenge.  It is however a challenge I often took on in my own research career.  If you read the "small print" (usually the "Results" section of a research report) you get at least a hearty laugh.  The statistics obtained in the course of the research often contradicted the conclusions drawn by the researcher.  But statistics frighten people so they get away with it. I actually used to teach statistics, however, so I had a ball.

And it all comes back to me when I read the latest article in an obsessively Leftist newspaper  about homosexual parents.  The article pulls no punches.  It is headed Study finds same-sex parenting is not harmful for children".  No nuances there!  An excerpt:

Children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well in their education, emotional and social development as those raised by heterosexual parents, new research shows.

The report on same sex-parented families in Australia, commissioned by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), found "there is now strong evidence that same-sex-parented families constitute supportive environments in which to raise children".

The findings are at odds with Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi's recent comments that the "gold standard" for children's development is having a biological mother and father who are married.

Report author Deb Dempsey, who reviewed all the research on same sex-parented families, said there was a wealth of evidence that showed the children were doing fine."

Well, author Cosima Marriner is right about a conflict of findings.  Conservative authors generally come to much more adverse conclusions.  So what is going on?  I did my usual trick and looked up the original research report.  I immediately found that Cosima had been a very naughty girl.  The research was about lesbians only.  The authors concluded that there was too little research about male homosexuals available to draw any conclusions.  So Cosima definitely over-generalized.

The real fun of the fair however came in a section of the report that was rather forbiddingly titled "Methodological issues and studies of children's wellbeing".    I reproduce a couple of paragraphs from it:

"Evaluating the effects of family structures upon children's wellbeing and development is complicated, particularly when the population of interest is a very diverse, stigmatised, numeric minority. Some questions have been asked about the methodological rigor of research studies on the wellbeing of children raised in same-sex parented families, by scholars who (implicitly or explicitly) have political or moral objections to same-sex parenting (see Marks, 2012; Regnerus, 2012; Schumm, 2012) and by those who do not. For instance, Tasker and Patterson (2007), two respected psychologists who support the rights of lesbian and gay parented families and have published widely on various aspects of the wellbeing of children raised by lesbian and gay parents, commented that the field would benefit from a wider variety of data collection methods. They noted that most of the data collected about children raised in lesbian and gay parented families comes from self-reports by their parents, supplemented with psychometric testing of children by the research team. Few studies have been blind, or made use of psychometric tests administered independently of the researchers. That said, many researchers emphasise the importance of contextual, qualitative studies in learning about the family experiences and processes in same-sex parented families from the point of view of parents, children and other family members (Biblarz & Savci, 2010; Dempsey, 2012b; Goldberg, 2010; Goldberg, Kinkler, Richardson, & Downing, 2011; Lindsay et al., 2006; Riggs, 2007).

Researchers in this field have noted a range of limitations with regard to how their samples of participants are drawn. Although this is beginning to change, many studies are based on small and homogenous samples of highly educated and middle-class participants. Many of the comparative studies conducted to date on children or young adults raised in same-sex parented families are based on volunteer samples of participants rather than random samples. This means that it is unknown how representative and generalisable the studies' results are. Further to this, many researchers in this field note that their participants were mostly white and well educated, which does not reflect the likely socio-economic, ethnic and racial diversity of the same-sex parenting population. That said, it is important to emphasise all research designs have limitations and not to dismiss the cumulative findings from many small scale or volunteer sample studies, as some critics of this literature attempt to do (see Marks, 2012; Regnerus, 2012; Schumm, 2012). Amato (2012) indeed pointed out that if there were noteworthy harms accruing to children resulting from parental homosexuality per se, which is often the concern of those scholars who criticise research designs and methodology, these would be revealed in research on high socio-economic, ethnically homogenous samples of parents and children."

So there you have it.  The data was mostly what lesbians say about themselves and their children:  Self report studies.  Does anybody sniff bias there?

But it gets worse.  Most of the studies were of high status parents:  Richer and better educated.  So the studies were  not even a fair sample of lesbians.  ANY children of high status parents should have done better at school etc.

And if you look at it with my perverse eye you see a suppressed correlation.  If the studies showed (which they mostly did) that the children of such parents only did "as well as" the children of heterosexual families that means that something has been suppressing the status advantage that the Lesbian children should have had.  And what could that be?  Would it be the fact that they had no daddy?  That's what it looks like.  Once you control for education in homosexual/heterosexual comparisons, the homosexual children come out looking disadvantaged.  Some studies did apparently control for education but it seems that most did not.

So where do we go from there?  Is it just too difficult to examine fairly the questions involved?  I think it is  -- but only if we  rely on social science research.  Demography is informative too.  What if we interview actual prison inmates, drug addicts etc.  And what if we find that a higher than proportionate percentage of them do not come from a normal heterosexual family with both a mommy and a daddy regularly present?  That is what we find and that is what the redoubtable Senator Bernardi was referring to

But no research involving people will ever be watertight so in the end we always have to draw our conclusions on a balance of probabilities.  And our conclusions will always be influenced by our other beliefs.  Cautious conservatives, for instance, will shudder at the thought of experimenting on children -- while  Leftists will always think that the existing state of society is so unsatisfactory that anything which might improve it should be tried.  It would be nice if Leftists would admit to uncertainty on some occasions though.  I just did. Are you listening, Cosima? -- JR.

Failed refugees to get marching orders, says Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

THE Abbott government is fast-tracking the removal of asylum seekers who arrived by boat and have had their refugee claims rejected by authorities.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre claims it has been told of secret plans for a "mass roundup" of asylum seekers in the community for detention and possible deportation.

It also claims asylum seekers who have had their refugee applications rejected by the Immigration Department and Refugee Review Tribunal would be offered six-week bridging visas and "encouraged" to make arrangements to leave the country.

If they did not leave voluntarily they would be detained and face potential deportation.

The centre's chief executive Kon Karapanagiotidis told AAP an immigration detention centre in Darwin had been earmarked as a "removal centre".

The move could affect people who plan to seek judicial reviews or ministerial intervention.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the government was taking steps to "remove failed asylum seekers from Australia who wish to stay indefinitely at taxpayers' expense".

"Once you have had your asylum claims assessed and rejected not just by the department but also on appeal, it's time to go home," he said in a statement today.

If people co-operated with the department it would be willing to allow them to remain in the community while they arranged departure.

"For those who do not wish to co-operate and seek to frustrate the process, then the government is left with no option but to take them back into detention," Mr Morrison said.

Where asylum seekers had sought judicial review their cases will be allowed to run their course.

Detention of people involved in ongoing cases was decided on a case-by-case basis, Mr Morrison said.

"Any suggestion that anyone is being forced to abandon their appeals is nonsense."

The government has softened its stance on the refugee appeals process.

Before the election the Coalition had promised to abolish the Refugee Review Tribunal and instead task a single case officer to review failed refugee claims.

It also vowed to axe access to legal aid for appeals.


ALP's union ties under fire

A majority of people believe the Labor Party should distance itself from the union movement, according to an exclusive national poll.

Conducted a day after Tony Abbott stepped up his attacks on corrupt union conduct, the poll suggests the Prime Minister is on fertile political ground in his bid to link the multiple scandals plaguing unions to the ALP and particularly the leadership of Bill Shorten.

A Fairfax-ReachTEL poll found 52.5 per cent of respondents agreed that Labor should "distance itself from the union movement" - twice as many as those who backed the status quo. One in five of the 2146 respondents were undecided.

The return of Mr Shorten from a week-long trip to Europe on Monday is expected to renew attacks by the Coalition on the issue of union misbehaviour and Labor's refusal to accept the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Mr Abbott has sought to wedge the Opposition Leader by asking if he is "on the side of law-abiding citizens or … people with a tendency to break the law".

Prompted by Fairfax Media reports that officials at the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union had been bribed by corrupt companies for access to lucrative construction jobs, the government will widen its promised judicial

inquiry into union slush funds. Mr Abbott is expected to make an announcement before Parliament returns next week, with speculation that the investigation will have the far-reaching powers of a royal commission.

ACTU president Ged Kearney has dismissed a royal commission as a "witch hunt" and Mr Shorten – a former leader of the Australian Workers Union – will maintain calls for police to investigate alleged wrongdoing at the CFMEU rather than a labour movement-wide investigation.

But the latest scandal has revived discussion within Labor about democratic reforms, with some wondering whether Mr Shorten will take on union power in favour of the rank and file membership – an issue in the spotlight during the return of Kevin Rudd to the prime ministership and again during the Labor leadership election won by Mr Shorten.

The Labor Party, particularly in opposition, is reliant on union money to finance its operations and campaigns. In return, unions dominate votes on the conference floor and powerful administrative committees at state and national level.

A Labor source said of Mr Shorten: "People aren’t expecting him to put his weight behind those [union-related] issues."

On Sunday, a former Labor premier of Western Australia, Geoff Gallop, warned his party it underestimated the public sentiment against union influence at its peril.

 "They have to realise there is a world out there waiting for a genuine social democratic party," he said.

AWU national secretary Paul Howes, a protege of Mr Shorten, said he would not comment directly on the poll’s result but said there was little evidence of any negative impact from the union movement on Labor.

"For the first time in about five years, Labor is ahead in the polls under a leader in Bill Shorten who is closely associated with the union movement," he said.

John Graham, the left assistant secretary of NSW Labor, has been a voice for democratic reform but said unions remained a core element of the ALP. "Labor knows it needs to change to open its structures up, but without the unions Labor risks losing its original burning cause – lifting the fortunes of working people," he said.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz said Labor "is only interested in helping feather the nests of union bosses and the faceless men".

"Labor is a product of the unions and Bill Shorten is a product of union deals and power plays. Labor will never change while the union bosses and faceless men are in charge," he said.

 The poll found men were more likely to agree that Labor should cut ties (56.8 per cent) than women (48.4 per cent), and those aged over 65 were most likely to support the proposition (59.5 per cent).


Great Barrier Reef: Governments say world heritage site not in danger from development

Australia has argued it is making substantial progress on the United Nations' requests for better protection of the Great Barrier Reef and that it should not be listed among world heritage sites "in danger".

In a progress report to the UN World Heritage Committee, the federal and Queensland governments say the natural values the reef was protected for are still largely intact, although in parts - such as inshore areas south of Cooktown - they are declining.

The report was delivered to the UN on Saturday, a day after final approval was granted to dump in the reef's waters 3 million cubic metres of dredging sludge from the expansion of coal export terminals at Abbot Point.

The World Heritage Committee has threatened to put the reef on a list of world heritage sites considered "in danger" after becoming concerned in 2012 about the effect of numerous resource projects slated for the reef's coast.

Australia needs to show significant progress on UN recommendations for better reef management to avoid a downgrade. Tourism operators warn an "in danger" listing will damage the reef's international reputation and their businesses.

The governments' report points to several programs to reduce threats, including a sustainability strategy, water quality measures and a draft Queensland ports strategy.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said there was genuine improvement in reef indicators in regard to dugongs, turtles, seagrass and coral. The Coalition had rejected Labor's multiple new-port strategy and was containing development to five existing port areas, he said.

"It is a permanent task for every Australian government to protect and maintain the reef. Nobody can ever rest on that, but there should be no way the reef can and should be considered 'in danger'," Mr Hunt said.

Australian Coral Reef Society president Peter Mumby said many people had argued convincingly that the reef was in the worst shape since monitoring began. He said the progress report downplayed industrial development threats, including port and agriculture expansion, that could add as much as another 14 million tonnes a year of damaging sediment to reef waters.

University of Queensland coral reef ecologist Selina Ward said the Abbot Point decision was dangerous because the best modelling showed dumped sediment would drift to outer areas, damaging coral and seagrass.

The government progress report said extreme weather and climate change were the biggest threats to the reef. It also pointed to nutrient and sediment run-off from land clearing and agriculture, and associated spikes in crown-of-thorns starfish numbers.

It said pollution from other sources, including port development and dredging, "is minor but may be highly significant locally and over short time periods".

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said the governments' progress report had identified the port development impacts as being minor and temporary.


3 February, 2014

Tony Abbott proves liberal economic credentials with SPC decision

I WAS there the day Tony Abbott insulted a marquee-full of economists.  It was two and a half years ago and Tony Abbott was speaking at a lunch organised by the Melbourne Institute attended by some of the country's top public and private sector economists, including his now boss of Treasury Martin Parkinson.

Asked why most economists believed in a market-based solution to climate change, rather than his own Direct Action scheme, Abbott replied: "Maybe that's a comment on the quality of our economists rather than on the merits of argument."


It wasn't the first time Abbott had expressed disdain for economists:  "I have never been as excited about economics as some of my colleagues. I find economics is not for nothing known as the dismal science," he said in an interview in 2003.

But it should not be forgot that Australia's Prime Minister does, in fact, have a degree in economics from the University of Sydney.

And it seems like he has finally decided to use it.

Abbott pinned his free-market colours to the mast at an important speech at Davos earlier this month - the premier annual gathering of the world's economic and business elite.

The former Roman Catholic seminarian urged attendees to become "missionaries for freer trade" and fight protectionism whenever and wherever it may raise its ugly head.

Free trade was a well-trodden path to wealth creation, he explained. "Over time, everyone benefits because, in a global economy, countries end up focusing on what they do best. A more global economy with stronger cross-border investment eventually helps everyone because it generates more wealth and ultimately creates more jobs."

And, as it turns out, Australia is not very good at canning fruit.

Putting his words into action, Abbott last week successfully stared down a three hour bid in cabinet by Nationals colleagues to secure a $25 million taxpayer handout for the embattled fruit cannery, SPC Ardmona.

Free trade and the rigours of globalisation are perhaps the primary reason why SPC's factory - which must pay far higher wages than in competitor countries - is unprofitable. That, and it seems Australians don't much fancy tinned fruit any more.

SPC's cannery in Shepparton employs about 3,000 workers, but it has been operating at a loss of more than $400 million in recent years, according to local Liberal member Sharman Stone.

It's only natural to worry about the loss of Australian jobs.

But a job in an unprofitable company is a job already lost.

The premier will hold crisis talks with S.P.C Ardmona.. after the federal government rejected the fruit processing giant's bid for a bailout

The only way to create jobs is through the efforts of profitable companies.

As Abbott told Davos attendees: "You can't have strong communities without strong economies to sustain them and you can't have strong economies without profitable private businesses."

"After all, government doesn't create wealth; people do, when they run profitable businesses."

Has Abbott finally revealed himself as a true economic Liberal, willing and able to hold the line against the Nationalist impulses of his own party to protect failing businesses?

I hope so. His government's rejection of a foreign investment take over of Graincorp by a US food conglomerate was not a promising start.

But last week's decision, combined with the previous decision to stop handouts to Holden, marks an important line in the sand.

Abbott has signalled clearly that the era of rent-seeking businesses going cap in hand to government to plaster over the weaknesses in their business case is over.

Of course, Abbott's admission that we are not very good at tinned fruit raises an obvious question: what are we good at?

It's a question we need to ask ourselves again and again.

Turns out, we're good at plenty of things, not least being blessed with significant mineral wealth and a climate suited to cultivating a range of agricultural pursuits.

Our highly skilled and educated workforce is also great at delivering professional services, like accounting, banking and legal services.

And we're not too shabby at making some things too.

About 200 kilometres down the Hume Highway from Shepparton, a Melbourne based firm is manufactures high tech parts that are exported to Boeing for use in its aeroplane wings.

As Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, said recently: "I don't think we're in that space because we're cheap labour - they're good at it. They have excellent innovation and technology, and I can't see why there isn't a future for various kinds of manufacturing like that."

Abbott has declared Australia is "open for business" and this week's decision adds an important caveat. Australia is only open for one type of business: the profitable kind.

Economists would approve.


Australian voters' support for republic hits 20-year low.  Monarchy still strongly favoured

Increasing publicity in recent years for two very popular Princes  -- William and Harry -- has no doubt helped.  Duchess  Kate has been a big help too

Backing for an Australian republic has collapsed to a 20-year low, with just 39.4 per cent of Australians saying they support a republic.

Support was lowest among older Australians and Generation Y voters, with people aged 35 to 65 most supportive of Australia abandoning the monarchy.

An exclusive ReachTEL poll of more than 2100 Australians, conducted on Thursday night for Fairfax, shows 41.6 per cent oppose the country becoming a republic, and 19 per cent had no opinion on the issue.

Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy national convener David Flint said the findings were a "time bomb" for the republican movement, with support among 18 to 35 year olds at 35.6 per cent. More people in this age bracket oppose a republic than support it. Only people aged over 65 had a lower rate of support (30.7 per cent) for Australia becoming a republic.

"That is a time bomb, I believe, for republicans, because you don't have that investment for the future," Professor Flint said.

Not only were young people uninterested in a republic, he believed, they were favourable to the monarchy partly because of the star power of the "young royals", Princes William and Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.

But Geoff Gallop, chairman of the Australian Republican Movement, said: "Polls will come and go, but we've been encouraged by the support we've been getting, and our campaign will continue." Mr Gallop said higher support for a republic among Generation X and baby boomer voters could be explained by them having participated in the 1999 referendum, and remembering the 1975 constitutional crisis.

The poll was conducted less than a week after Prime Minister Tony Abbott named General Peter Cosgrove as the next governor-general, the Queen's representative in Australia. Mr Abbott said he could "not think of a better person" to fill the governor-general role than General Cosgrove. "Throughout his life, he has demonstrated a commitment to our country and a commitment to service," Mr Abbott said. "He has given service of the very highest order to our country. I am confident that in this new role he will continue to deliver to a grateful nation leadership beyond politics."

General Cosgrove was roundly endorsed by male voters in the ReachTEL poll, with 61.9 per cent of men saying the decorated veteran was a better choice than Quentin Bryce. Ms Bryce, who five years ago became the first female governor-general, is due to retire next month.

Women were more supportive of Ms Bryce, with 47.4 per cent saying she was a better governor-general, compared with 52.6 per cent of women supporting General Cosgrove.

In November, Ms Bryce used the final Boyer lecture of the year to publicly support the push for Australia to become a republic. Ms Bryce said she hoped the nation would evolve into a country where same sex marriage was legal, "and where perhaps, my friends, one day, one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation's first head of state".

At the time, Mr Abbott, a staunch monarchist, said: "It's more than appropriate for the Governor-General, approaching the end of her term, to express a personal view."

According to the ReachTEL poll, women were less likely to support Australia becoming a republic (with 36 per cent support) than men (with 43 per cent support).


Australian Trust In Government Is Suddenly Rising Faster Than Anywhere In The World

Mr Abbott take a bow

Australians are generally a more trusting lot than other nationalities, according to the global Edelman Trust Barometer out today.  This is led by a 30 per cent jump in people trusting government while the rest of the world looks down.

But when it comes to politicians, the leaders of government, Australians just can’t bring themselves to believe they tell the truth.

The Edelman Trust Barometer, which studies 27,000 people in 27 countries each year, shows Australia is moving against trend with a rebound in trust.

Globally, trust in government has fallen to an historic low of 44 per cent from 48 per cent.

But in Australia increased trust in the institution of government is up 13 percentage points to 56 per cent.

However, three in five Australians (60 per cent) do not trust government leaders to tell the truth regardless of how complex or unpopular it is.

And two in five Australians (40 per cent) do not trust government leaders to make ethical and moral decisions.

Michelle Hutton, chief executive officer for Edelman Australia, says that prime minister Tony Abbott was rebuilding trust and business confidence when he announced Australia was "open for business".

"While this year’s results (Edelman Trust Barometer) paint a rosy picture for government and business, expectations are high and, as recent history has shown us, Australians have a low tolerance for leaders that fall short of what was promised," she says.

And building trust can mean business success as well as doing better at the polling booth, says David Brain, the President and CEO of Edelman Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa.

"We’re found that trust has a consistent meaning in all languages," he told Business Insider Australia.

He says trust for a business means money, with customers buying more goods or services, recommending to friends and being prepared to pay a higher price.

"We always ask the question: Do you trust them to do the right thing?"

This year, Australian results reveal an average increase in trust across all government, business, non government institutions and the media, rising by eight points among the informed public to 58 per cent.


Trust in business has hit its highest level since the Edelman Trust Barometer started covering Australia in 2009, rising 11 points to 59 per cent among the informed public.

Australians now expect business to play a much bigger role around the debate and design of regulation, with 73 per cent believing government should not be working alone when setting policy.

Despite increasing confidence in business and its role in broader society, Australians largely want government to apply greater scrutiny on the private sector.

According to the Barometer, almost half (47 per cent) claim the financial services industry does not have enough regulation, while 58 per cent want increased regulation on the energy sector.

Ms Hutton said:

    "It has typically fallen under the remit of government to create the context for change. Today, people expect businesses to play a bigger role in shaping a positive future, trusting business to innovate, unite and deliver across borders, but as the Edelman Trust Barometer reveals, only under the watchful eye of government. CEOs must now go beyond their operational remit to become chief engagement officers, educating the public about the context in which their business operates."

Small Business

Australians show a preference for family-owned (76 per cent) and small to medium-size enterprises (67 per cent), trusting these types of businesses to do what is right.

Less than half (42 per cent) said the same of big business, demonstrating the continued support Australians show for local businesses.


Australian army in the grip of homosexual correctness


In what may come as a surprise, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is now prohibiting Christian soldiers from practising their faith, even when not in uniform or on duty. It was certainly a surprise to me — not so much because I have served this nation while being a practising Catholic for more than 16 years, but because it was written in black and white in a letter from the Chief of Defence Force (CDF), General David Hurley. It was titled Notice to Show Cause for Termination of Appointment.

These are the exact words that the highest-ranking military officer in Australia signed off on last August:

"I respect your religious beliefs and your right to have, and express, opinions contrary to ADF and Government policy. However your public articulation of these matters whilst a member of the Army Reserve, whether or not you are on duty, or in uniform, undermine my confidence in your ability to uphold the values of the Australian Army and your effectiveness as a leader in today’s Army."

In a more recent letter, the CDF stated that he accepted I had served well since 1997 in both permanent and part-time capacities. He also acknowledged that I had performed well on operations, received the US Meritorious Service Medal, was a competent officer with Arabic skills, reported well, was cordial in the workplace and had been cleared by Defence in both administrative and disciplinary investigations.

Unfortunately, it was in a letter titled Termination of Service Decision. In it, the CDF concluded my retention was not in the Army’s interests.

My crime was not to perform badly in the workplace. In fact, the ADF has not allowed me to participate in any Defence activities for a year because the leadership believe my personal political activities to protect the right of Christian schools not to hire homosexual teachers are offensive. Therein lies my sin: I have offended the Defence Force Gay and Lesbian Information Service (DEFGLIS).

The fact that this organisation exists probably comes as a surprise to many, and quite possibly a shock. It has been given command of Australian soldiers speech, even when out of uniform, and Defence flies its members to international military conferences promoting homosexuality. It campaigns politically to remove freedoms and funding from Christian schools, with the specific aim of forcing them to hire homosexuals. But it does not just confine itself to that issue. The DEFGLIS Chairman, Squadron Leader Vince Chong, appeared before a parliamentary committee to support homosexual marriage. He was given this opportunity precisely because of his role leading this Defence-backed lobby group. He even received a Defence Force commendation, not because he was good at his job, but for his activities managing DEFGLIS and its political campaigns.

How times have changed since I signed up as a bright-eyed and cheery teenager to serve this nation. When I joined to protect the freedom that Australians enjoy, I never imagined facing the sack because I expressed Catholic beliefs that a not-yet-formed, Defence-supported, homosexual lobby group would find disagreeable.

The only reason that DEFGLIS has such an influence over my career is because the ADF has allowed itself to become politicised and politically correct. Defence leadership have formed the view that wherever there is a clash between Christian values and homosexual political activism, the latter will prevail. Christian members can serve today, but only if they are silent. Going by this trend, chaplains will be pulled tomorrow. By Friday next week, Christians will be banned, around the same time it becomes compulsory to wear the Army’s new cufflinks that proudly display the revered Rising Sun emblazoned over a rainbow backdrop.

OK,  I’m kidding about the timeline — but I do not jest about the Army’s new and freely issued jewellery. The cufflinks came out late last year, the same day The Australian reported the ADF had briefed the new Abbott government about a funding shortage.

There is no greater example of this politicisation than in the ADF’s decision to allow uniformed participation in the Mardi Gras (below). This permission grants homosexual members dispensation from rules that all other ADF members must follow regarding political activity and unacceptable behaviour. Defence policy on political activity clearly states that members are entitled to join political parties and express political views, but not as Defence members. Uniformed political activity is rightly banned. That means that I can campaign against homosexual marriage, but not in uniform. Nor can I presume to speak on behalf of Defence while doing so.

However, DEFGLIS has not only convinced the CDF that my personal activities in that regard are homophobic, but that I should lose my commission as a result. But that is not the extent of the problem. The constitution of the Sydney Mardi Gras states clearly that a key object of the parade is political activity. Defence personnel marched, in uniform, with Labor, the Greens, Australian Marriage Equality and even the Wikileaks Party, who were campaigning for Julian Assange, the man holed-up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for releasing classified documents. Conservative parties and politicians are routinely and roundly  ridiculed and abused by the Oxford Street paraders. It is blatant hypocrisy for the ADF to tell Christian members that they cannot conduct private political activity, while allowing homosexuals the opportunity to campaign in uniform.

Unfortunately, despite concerns over this politicisation, this is not the greatest problem with uniformed involvement at the Mardi Gras. There is currently a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. Defence is hypersensitive to sexual scandals. Yet it allowed homosexual members to march in solidarity with groups whose official Mardi Gras description informed the public that they were sexual perverts. Soldiers marched with groups of almost entirely naked men who performed lewd, sexual acts in front of watching children. It is a breach of ADF computer usage policy simply to view the official Mardi Gras website. Its image gallery shows photographs of Defence personnel alongside pornographic images of other Mardi Gras participants.

I detailed graphic evidence of this in an internal Defence complaint, highlighting that ADF policy forbids sexually explicit activity in its workplaces, activities or social functions. I also presented evidence that Defence insulted Christians by marching with homosexuals carrying signs stating ‘Jesus is Gay’. However, this was trumped by a one-page, unformatted complaint DEFGLIS lodged against me, alleging that I was homophobic.

The DEFGLIS complaint was elevated to a high-level investigation under Defence (Inquiry) Regulations 1985. My 26-page document was dismissed on the basis that I had provided no evidence. In the new age world, pictorial evidence that Defence personnel supported homosexuals engaging in sexually explicit behaviour in front of children is trumped by allegations of homophobia. Months later, via Freedom of Information, I discovered that Defence’s only comment on my evidence was that it would not be good for PR if personnel marched with groups carrying signs stating "Mohammad is Gay".

I was also charged with 12 counts of breaching military law. The logic was that I had brought the military into disrepute by pointing out that its members marched in a sexually explicit parade.

Although Defence disciplinary and administrative investigations eventually cleared me of all wrong doing, it is of little comfort. The CDF is pursuing termination of my commission anyway. In the same letter in which he limited my rights to practise my faith, General Hurley wrote that rather than placing any "significant weight" on whether or not I had "technically breached" Defence law or policy, he would give greater weight to his own view that I was demeaning of homosexuals, transgender persons and women. This was even though a Defence inquiry had cleared me of those allegations, as put forward by DEFGLIS.

I wish to continue serving in the Australian Army. I am proud of my service and of what our military should be. I do not intend to lose this battle, but I also believe in Divine Providence. To paraphrase the words of the great American comedian, Bob Hope, the ADF has just made homosexual political activity legal, maybe it’s better I’m kicked out before it becomes compulsory.


2 February, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is having a laugh at shark culling -- both at sea and on land

Feminists will always be a disgruntled minority of harpies huddled in a corner moaning to one-another

Most women will acknowledge some feminist sympathies  -- equal pay for equal work etc.  But I am not talking about those women.  I am talking about the feminists you encounter at universities and writing in the papers.  They are often quite good at changing official policies (generally set by men) but their influence on the behaviour of other women is minimal.

The big and unsurmountable problem for feminists is that young women are intensely interested in young men.  They are more interested in young men than young men are interested in them.  As a result, young women tend to PANDER to young men.  There!  I've said it.  The word that sends feminists molten.  A women pandering to a man deserves the lowest depths of hell and damnation from a feminist perspective.

I am moved to those thoughts by something I saw this morning as I was having a cup of tea with Anne at the seaside (Wynnum).  It was a classical example of the pandering I just mentioned.

What was happening was that two young men  -- perhaps around age 20 -- were fishing without much success.  But fishing they were and they stuck at it despite catching only the occasional tiddler.  And they had a girl with them, a rather aspirational girl of about 18, about 5'5" tall with fair skin, blue eyes and blonde hair.  And she was in great shape wearing tight short denim shorts.

So what was she doing?  She was just there for the company.  She did have her own fishing rod and cast it in a few times but mostly she just pottered around or sat in a nearby shelter watching.  She was there because the men were there and for no other reason.  They paid their fishing much more attention than they paid her but she was nonetheless in great good humor, full of smiles.  She  was happy just to be there with the men.

And that is how it goes in the teenage years.  And as the years progress it gets even worse from a feminist perspective.  Young  women enter into intimate relationships with men -- not even requiring a wedding ring first these days.  But a wedding is still the vision for most women.

So feminists are up against human nature just as much as other  Leftists before them.  Leftists once thought that they could mould  a "new Soviet man" but were thwarted by human nature.  They simply drove Soviet man to drink. A new feminist man is just as remote.  Feminized men tend in fact to be rather despised by most women.  Most women like men to be men.  Look at all the women who "wait" for husbands and boyfriends in the armed forces who are "away" on deployment.  Such a relationship looks a very bad deal from a certain point of view.  But men in the forces tend to be real men -- and women will put up with a lot to have such a man.  Where it matters, feminism is an abject failure.

PM threatens to deport asylum seekers if they 'are irritating, spit or swear in public'

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been accused of abusing his power after drafting a code of behaviour for asylum seekers that threatens to deport them for ‘irritating people, disturbing someone or spitting or swearing in public’.

Australia’s tough stance over asylum seekers from Indonesia has soured relations between the two countries in recent months and this document is not likely to improve matters.

The number of asylum seekers from Iran, Afghanistan, Myanmar and elsewhere reaching Australia in Indonesian fishing boats has soared in recent years and Australia has occasionally used its Navy to tow boats back to Indonesian waters.

Now those who manage to make it to Australia’s shores will have to sign a new code of behaviour, currently in draft form, which sets out how they’re expected to behave.

The document, which applies to those arriving by boat - or 'illegal maritime arrivals' - was leaked to The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

It states that they are banned from ‘irritating people’, ‘disturbing people’, ‘damaging property, spitting or swearing in public’ and ‘other actions that other people might find offensive’.  ‘Spreading rumours’ at work or ‘excluding someone from a group or place on purpose’ are also banned.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said punishment for code of behaviour infringements could vary.

It said: 'It could start with just a warning, you may have your Red Cross payments reduced or stopped all together or you may be placed in detention in Australia or offshore on Nauru and Manus Island.'

Kon Karapanagiotidis, a spokesman for organisation, told The Telegraph: ‘No other industrialised nation criminalises everyday behaviour. The idea that spitting in public or getting a parking fine is enough to get you sent to an off shore detention centre is extraordinary. It is an abuse of power and creates a climate of terror for asylum seekers.’


Jakarta's warships to target refugees

A clear win for Tony Abbott's strong line

THE Indonesian navy has added three small warships to its southern patrols, with Jakarta declaring they are there to intercept people-smuggling boats, not to deter Australian incursions.

"The increased security measures in (the) southern part of the country is in order to anticipate increased illegal migrant activities," said Agus Barnas, spokesman for Senior Security Minister Djoko Suyanto.

As tempers calm following Australia's admission of "inadvertent" territorial-waters incursions and a subsequent apology, the Indonesians have reversed a

plan to send a second frigate, the heaviest and best-armed ships in their fleet, to join the southern patrols.

Instead, three aged Parchim-class "mini-corvettes" have been dispatched.

The navy stepped up patrolling of the waters south of Java last week, in a move announced as part of Jakarta's response to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's admission that border-protection vessels had breached the 12 nautical miles territorial-waters limit several times.

Tony Abbott yesterday likened the incidents to "Test cricketers occasionally drop(ping) catches" -- mistakes, he said, the navy and Customs would not repeat.

"Now, as Scott Morrison and (Operation Sovereign Borders commander) General (Angus) Campbell announced regretfully a week or so back, unfortunately on a number of occasions inadvertently we did enter Indonesia's territorial waters," the Prime Minister said.

"We deeply regret that, we fully apologise for it and I think the Indonesians have accepted our apology."

The Indonesian government has demanded "formal clarification" of the breaches; Canberra has given no undertaking to provide an explanation.

Immediately following the Australian admission on January 17, the Co-ordinating Ministry for Politics, Legal and Security Affairs announced the strengthening of naval patrols in the area.

Mr Agus then cited both Indonesia's "right to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity" and its commitment to addressing illegal immigrant movements.

During the following days, sections of the domestic media and some politicians and commentators claimed the Indonesian military was responding proactively to the risk of further Australian incursions.

Mr Agus said yesterday the increased naval activity in southern waters was not directed at the Australians but at people-smugglers.

Whether a second frigate or additional mini-corvettes were used to bolster border security in southern waters was a matter for the navy's fleet commanders, he said.

Air force spokesman Hadi Tjahjanto has also denied reports that the service's Sukhoi fighter squadron and radar installations were placed on alert against Australian territorial incursions.

Air Marshal Hadi said last Friday the air force had not received any orders to intensify operations.

The Australian understands three German-built mini-corvettes, each displacing about 800 tonnes compared with the 2200 tonnes of the navy's six frigates, have been sent to join the southern patrols.

Southern waters patrols are shared between the navy's Western and Eastern fleets, based in Jakarta and Surabaya.

The patrols now involve a frigate, four mini-corvettes, and four fast patrol boats.

Mr Morrison at the weekend welcomed Indonesia's navy deployment as "a very strong deterrence to people-smugglers".


Greenie shark lovers

People have never been a Greenie priority

Anthony Joyce once shared the Western Australian government's views on sharks after he found his foot in the jaws of one while surfing.

But the surfer from Sydney's northern beaches, who was pulled on to the beach at Narrabeen last October bleeding profusely from a wound lined with puncture marks, has done what says is a "180" on his initial support for the culling of sharks over three metres.

"The amount of sharks they are going to kill is going to make no difference in the scheme of things," he said.

Mr Joyce said, since undertaking three months of research that included talking to shark experts and marine biologists, he now supports greater government support for marine biology programs and shark education in schools and through surf lifesaving.

Mr Joyce, who took three months to enter the water again after his shark bite, soon hopes to get back on his board.

He was one of thousands of people gathered on Manly Beach on Saturday to protest against WA's shark culling policy. The policy, introduced after a fatal attack off Gracetown in November, intends to target tiger, bull and great white sharks longer than three metres that come within a kilometre of the shore.

The Manly rally was one of many held around Australia and New Zealand.  Witty signs, foam shark fins and chants of "stop the cull" filled the idyllic beach.

Among the protesters was James Cook, a 27-year-old who said he was more likely to be king hit than attacked by a shark. His mother, Katherine Cook, was equally outraged at Australia's desire to kill the marine animals.  "I'm really angry and incensed that we can't co-exist with anything," she said. "We are going into their [sharks'] environment. Why can't we co-exist?"

She said more people died across the world each year from being hit by coconuts than shark attacks.

Thousands of Western Australians also rallied at Perth's Cottesloe Beach, calling for an end to the state government’s policy.

The protest came hours after an under-size two-metre shark, believed to be a tiger shark, was pulled from a baited drumline off Leighton beach by Fisheries officers. The animal - the second to be killed under the program - was dumped further offshore.

The first rally at Cottesloe - the home suburb of WA Premier Colin Barnett - on January 4 drew an estimated 4500 protesters while the event on Saturday attracted about 6000 people, with speakers including Greens leader Christine Milne and state Labor leader Mark McGowan.

"Rights, rights, rights for great whites," the crowd chanted. One placard read: "Sharks are more important than human recreation".

The Liberal-led government believes a string of fatal attacks in WA waters in recent years has dented tourism, particularly the diving industry and says beachgoers must be protected.

But Virgin Airlines boss Sir Richard Branson, who is fighting China’s shark fin trade, told the local Fairfax radio station on Friday that the catch-and-kill policy would backfire, driving away tourism.

Mr Barnett, who is in Africa for a mining conference, has come under immense pressure to call off the cull, including having the windows of his Cottesloe office smashed by a protester.

The baited drumlines are scheduled to remain in metropolitan and South West waters until April 30.

WA shark expert Paul Sharp said the baited drum lines might actually increase the risk of shark attacks.  "Simply having those baits in the water will result in excited and stimulated sharks," he said at the Manly protest on Saturday.  "Like any other animal, when they are excited, there is a greater risk of an accident happening."


As Labor digs in to protect the status quo, Tony Abbott is preparing to take unions to the scaffold

The grim news this week of systematic thuggery and criminality on building sites confirms three facts of life in Australia.

First, that the quarter-trillion-dollar-a-year construction industry has returned to business as usual a decade after the Cole royal commission found an "urgent need for structural and cultural reform".

Second, that Labor has unlearnt everything it used to know about being a broad political party and has retreated to being a narrow sectional one. Labor under Bill Shorten is defending the indefensible in the construction industry in an effort to protect malfeasance in the construction union.

Third, that the Coalition is prepared to tackle the problem in the building sector, but that deep in its genes it is determined to wage a much bigger confrontation with the union movement.

It begins with the building industry. The Abbott government will reconstitute the extraordinary body that the Howard government created to attack criminality in the industry, the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Labor went to the elections of 2007 and 2010 supporting the ABCC, recognising that it was doing important work to improve productivity and lawfulness. But it was cut short seven years into its campaign to clean up the sector.

When the construction union asked then prime minister Julia Gillard to abolish the ABCC, she obliged, "to protect her own arse", as one of her cabinet ministers put it. The unions were Gillard's internal power base against Kevin Rudd.

Today Labor and the Greens, both recipients of donations from the construction union, are combining in the Senate to block the return of the ABCC. They are using unconventional tactics, with multiple referrals to various Senate committees, to delay a vote on the government's bill.

What's wrong with Labor's position? It says that, if there are allegations of criminality in the building industry, police should investigate in the normal course of enforcing the law. There's no need for a special body or a royal commission. This seems reasonable, but it is, in fact, a pretext for preserving the status quo.

How? The police and other enforcement authorities are notoriously reluctant to pursue investigations into the building industry. The ABCC commissioner from 2005 to 2010, John Lloyd, now the Red Tape Commissioner for the Victorian government, explained:

"Traditionally there's been a shrug of the shoulders" among the enforcement authorities. "The attitude is, 'that's the way the industry is, it's a tough industry, and we don't want to get involved'.

"And people in the industry don't want to talk. There's a code of silence. If you're seen to be co-operating, you are subject to reprisals against your business or against yourself."

He knows. The ABCC under Lloyd brought more than 90 civil cases for breaches of industrial law, and it enjoyed a success rate in the courts of 85 per cent. But it also referred to the police and other enforcement authorities 39 cases of suspected criminal conduct. Lloyd is today aware of none that was pursued.

The ABCC might have been able to follow up and jog the police into action, but its premature demise means that it didn't get the chance.

Labor and the Greens can protect the construction union, the CFMEU, only until July 1, when the new senators take their seats. Abbott is very likely to prevail in the new Senate. The new ABCC will then be empowered to clean up the industry.

It will be commissioned to police the unions but also the employers - for every union official taking a payoff there is a company making a payoff. Collusion is at the heart of the problem.

At the same time, the Abbott government will have ready a royal commission into corruption in the union movement.

This is where the horizon broadens dramatically, from one sector to all sectors; where the Coalition's deep DNA asserts itself, and where the big confrontation looms.

This was an opportunity created by the conduct of some of the unions and their officials and Labor itself. Three major stories of union corruption ran for most of Labor's term in office. One was the misuse of union funds by then Labor MP Craig Thomson when he was an official at the Health Services Union. Another was the flagrant corruption and greed of Michael Williamson when he was an official at the HSU and simultaneously national president of the Labor Party. Third was the revisiting of the slush fund and misappropriation of money by Bruce Wilson when he was an official of the Australian Workers Union and boyfriend of Gillard.

In opposition, Abbott capitalised on these union scandals to promise a judicial review of the misuse of union funds, if elected. He was elected. This judicial review is to be a royal commission, planned to be announced in the next few weeks.

Public opinion has already been prepared, largely by the corrupt union officials and the publicity their cases received over the past five years. "When you say 'unions' to focus groups, they think 'workers'," says a Coalition strategist with access to the party's research. "When you say 'union officials' to focus groups, they think 'cheats, grubs and corruption'. That's why we always say 'union officials' - it's a very pejorative term. The public is with us."

But the Abbott government wants to wait a few weeks more before announcing the royal commission. Why? Because every day's news is bringing the problem home to the public.

"Before you give the punters a solution, they have to understand there's a problem," says the strategist. "The more attention on this in public, the more we're seen to be responding to a problem, not running an ideological exercise."

The problem is certainly real, especially in the construction sector. Lloyd says that in the life of the ABCC, "the industry's conduct improved, although I don't think the culture did, and now my impression is that the conduct has deteriorated again. I'm surprised to see that bikie gangs appear to be entrenched now, from the news reports."

A former royal commissioner into the NSW construction sector in the early 1990s, Roger Gyles, seems to agree: "The sorts of problems that I saw, that [Royal Commissioner Terence] Cole saw, are not only re-occurring but apparently may be at a more serious level with the involvement of bikies," he told The Australian this week. "The problem is there seems to be no effective action by anybody." And the industry is vastly bigger now. Since the first incarnation of the ABCC in 2005, the annual value of construction sector turnover, excluding housing, has grown fivefold to $262 billion in 2013-14, IBIS World says.

But while the Abbott government will seek to address real problems, its larger response through a royal commission and other measures is also deeply ideological.

The royal commission's terms of reference will be wide. It will be mandated to examine not just the unions that have drawn recent publicity for their corrupt practices, the HSU and the CFMEU in recent years and the AWU in the Wilson era, but the entire union movement.

And the government will ask it to look at corruption widely defined, including misuse of members' funds. The government has a shortlist of candidates to conduct the royal commission. The main criterion is that it's a "kick-arse commissioner", according to a person involved in the decision.

The Abbott government hopes and trusts the royal commission will set off a three-year internecine war pitting union against union. "It'll be every union for itself," says a strategist. "There's nothing better than that."

The intention is to allow the union movement to damage itself. One result would be to weaken the institutional basis of the Labor Party.

The Abbott government has learnt from the mistake of the Howard government. It plans to carefully fillet the workplace to separate workers' pay and conditions from the unions. The workers are to be unaffected. The target is the union organisations. Abbott, inoculating himself against the inevitable Labor accusation that he wants to attack workers' pay, this week repeated his pledge that he wants Australian workers to be "the best paid workers in the world". On most comparisons, they already are.

In the meantime, the government will have the Productivity Commission reviewing the workplace system and producing recommendations for reforms.

These recommendations could very well affect workers' pay and conditions, but Abbott has promised that he will take to the next election any changes that he might propose to workplaces and working conditions.

So it's a two-term process. First, attack the unity and the power of the unions. Second, consider changes to the workplace.

And while the second term is still a long way off, the ultimate aim of the government was set out in a landmark speech this week by Abbott's Industrial Relations Minister, Eric Abetz:

"We are still yet to complete the process identified by Gerard Henderson," head of the Sydney Institute and former Herald columnist, "in 1983 of transforming the award system from a prescriptive means of regulating the workforce to that of a simple safety net above which economic reality can prevail".

Abbott's is not the first government to propose this goal. Paul Keating set out his aim for a system that puts "primary emphasis on bargaining at the workplace level within a framework of minimum standards provided by arbitral tribunals. It is a model under which … awards … would be there only as a safety net.

"Over time, the safety net would inevitably become simpler," Keating said. "We would have fewer awards, with fewer clauses."

Abetz embraced the Keating vision: "To this end I am on a unity ticket with Mr Keating."

The construction industry needs to be cleaned up, but we now see the Abbott vision extends far beyond.


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

Bureaucracy: "One of the constant laments of doctors and nurses working with NSW Health is the incredible and increasing bureaucracy," she said. "It is completely obstructive to providing a service."

Revered Labour Party leader Gough Whitlam was/is a very erudite man so he cannot have been unaware of the similarities of his famous phrase “the Party, the platform, the people” with an earlier slogan: "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer". It's basically the same slogan in reverse order.

Julia Gillard, a failed feminist flop

A great little kid

In November 2007, a four-year-old boy was found playing in a croc-infested Territory creek after sneaking off pig hunting alone with four dogs and a puppy. The toddler was found five-and-a-half hours after he set off from his parents' house playing in a creek with the puppy. Amazingly, Daniel Woditj also swam two creeks known to be inhabited by crocs during his adventurous romp. Mr Knight said that after walking for several kilometres, Daniel came to a creek and swam across it. Four of his dogs "bailed up" at the creek but the youngster continued on undaunted with his puppy to a second creek. Mr Knight said Daniel swam the second croc-infested creek and walked on for several more kilometres. "Captain is a hard bushman and Daniel is following in his footsteps. They breed them tough out bush."

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Coral Reef Compendium
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Paralipomena 3
To be continued ....
Queensland Police -- A barrel with lots of bad apples
Australian Police News
Of Interest


"Immigration Watch International" blog
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"Paralipomena" 2
"Leftists as Elitists"
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QANTAS -- A dying octopus
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Obama Watch
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