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

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


31 January, 2014

Abbott intensifies pressure on Labor to allow return of ABCC

THE Coalition has seized on fresh claims of corruption in the multi-billion dollar construction industry, saying Labor must now endorse the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Tony Abbott said the revelations demonstrated the pressing need for the reinstatement of the ABCC with "full power, full authority, (and) full funding".

"If the Labor Party is serious about tackling corruption, again, they will stop standing in the way of the re-establishment of a strong cop on the beat in that particular industry," the Prime Minister said.

As the government prepares to establish a promised judicial inquiry into union slush funds, new reports claim union officials are being bribed by corrupt companies to help them secure lucrative contracts.

Mr Abbott declined to say today whether the scope of the inquiry would be expanded in light of the latest revelations, or whether it would take the form of a full royal commission with coercive powers.

"The government will make appropriate announcements in due course," he said.

Mr Abbott said it was a "tragedy" that Labor had axed the ABCC, set up by the Howard government following the Cole royal commission into the construction industry.

"When the ABCC was operating ... we got a much stronger observance of the ordinary law of the land in the commercial construction industry," he said.

"Once you've got a strong cop on the beat, the whole culture of an industry improves."

Labor and the Greens are opposed to the restoration of the ABCC, which the previous Labor government replaced with the Fair Work Inspectorate.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz linked Labor's reluctance to restore the ABCC to its acceptance of $6 million from the CFMEU in recent years.

"That is why Bill Shorten and Labor are so heavily prejudiced against the re-establishment of the ABCC," he said.

Opposition workplace spokesman Brendan O'Connor said Labor had no tolerance for corruption, but the allegations should be tackled by police, not a rejuvenated ABCC.

"If people are committing crimes, if there are serious allegations of crimes, where better than to refer such matters to the police could there possibly be?" he told ABC radio.

He said the ABCC added an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and failed to improve productivity in the construction industry.

The construction union also urged police to investigate the allegations.

"These are serious allegations and our reaction is very clear the union has no tolerance for corruption among any of its employees, officials or representatives," CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan said.

He defended the union's dealings with companies linked to organised crime figures, saying it negotiated enterprise agreements with employers in the industry on behalf of members.

"There are a number of employers, and I stress employers, in the construction industry, who do appear to have links with criminal organisations," Mr Noonan said.

"That is not news to us. The union's responsibility is to represent our members in negotiations, not to select who employs them or indeed, who starts companies in the industry.

"The alternative would be ... that the union will play no role in ensuring minimum wages, standards and conditions for workers who are employed by that company."

Mr Noonan said he had investigated the union's links with a company linked to Sydney underworld figure George Alex, whose labour hire firm has a contract to supply workers on the Barangaroo building site.

He confirmed the union had an enterprise agreement with the company, but said it had played no role in helping secure its contract.

Lend Lease, the principal contractor at Barangaroo South, said it did not tolerate corruption and did not have direct dealings with companies employed by its subcontractors.

Mr Noonan said the union has sacked officials in the past for corrupt conduct, and would do so again if necessary.


Ex-cop targets building criminals

Qld. is not waiting for the Feds

QBCC's new commissioner Stephen Griffin is a former detective who worked in drug enforcement, organised crime and internal affairs in the New South Wales police force. Picture: Liam Kidston Source: News Limited

THE head of Queensland's new building and construction watchdog has vowed to crack down on corruption and organised crime within the industry.

Stephen Griffin starts his job as the Queensland Building and Construction Commissioner on Monday.

The former detective - who worked in drug enforcement, organised crime and internal affairs during his time in the New South Wales police force - said restoring confidence in the industry and eradicating corruption are among his top concerns.

His comments come as the Federal Government considers holding a royal commission into revelations unions in southern states were involved in corruption and organised crime.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has called for any inquiry to look into possible corruption in Queensland.

No firm links have been revealed here but Mr Griffin said that did not mean it was not happening.

"It would be wrong for us to suggest that it doesn't exist," Mr Griffin said.

"Our role at the QBCC will be to work very closely with the Crime and Misconduct Commission, the police and, if the Commonwealth Government comes up with a Royal Commission, work very closely with them.

"(We will) obtain the information we need to make sure that if there are people in the industry that are forming links or associations with organised crime, we remove them from the industry."

"We will be doing everything we can. If they are not fit and proper people, they will be removed from the industry."

Housing Minister Tim Mander said the Government was determined to ensure Queensland's building and construction industry was clean.

"If that type of activity is happening in the southern states it would be naive to think there wasn't some sort of element happening here," Mr Mander said.

The commission has the power to order investigations into building and construction licensees and resolve disputes between consumers and the industry.

The QBCC has replaced the controversial Queensland Building Services Authority which was disbanded in December after a parliamentary inquiry ordered it be scrapped and replaced.

Mr Griffin said his goal would be to ensure the new body represented the rights of customers and contractors equally and he intended to put his investigative skills to good use in the new role.

"The vast majority of the building and construction sector are very good, hardworking, law-abiding people and it's only the very small minority that you need to pay attention to so I will be making sure our resources are focused on those people," he said.


Queensland chief magistrate Tim Carmody warns judiciary against using position to criticise new laws

QUEENSLAND'S Chief Magistrate has told his colleagues Parliament runs the state and they should not abuse their positions by voicing personal political beliefs.

As the acrimonious relationship between the Newman Government and prominent members of the judiciary continues, Judge Tim Carmody called for each branch of government - the legislature, executive and judiciary - to "keep their hands to themselves", saying judges and magistrates "must not meddle" with laws enacted by the Parliament.

"The separation of powers doctrine is a two-way street," Judge Carmody said in a speech to a packed courtroom which included Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie and Chief Justice Paul de Jersey.

"In return for the unfettered independence to make decisions - regardless of whether others think they are right or wrong - judges must not meddle in the administration of enacted laws by the executive and departments of state.

"They do not have the liberty of allowing curial decisions to be infected by bias or extraneous considerations such as personal opinions or ideological political or religious belief.
2000-plus rally for bikies' rights 0:45

"It is clearly wrong, therefore, for judges to deliberately frustrate or defeat the policy goals of what they might personally regard as unfair but nonetheless regular laws under cover of office as a form of redress or amelioration."

Judge Carmody also took a swipe at members of the judiciary who sought to circumvent or criticise the Government's new bikie laws and tough bail conditions saying they were leaving the courts vulnerable to criticism.

Several bikies or associates have been granted bail following their arrest under the government's anti-association laws, including members of the so called Yandina 5.

"The paramount rule of democratic government is that Parliament is supreme," Judge Carmody said.

"The laws it makes are to be taken to be valid and in the overall best interest of the State unless and until held otherwise.

"The courts will be vulnerable to criticism, for example, if their members use the weight of their office to engage in the public debate or make comments about the comparative morality or fairness of regular laws regardless of which political party sponsored them, or routinely adopted approaches to bail or sentencing practices clearly at odds with legislative or administrative policy intents or legitimate criminal justice objects such as deterrence or community protection via hard line incapacitation strategies.


Tropical cyclone frequency falls to centuries-low in Australia

The number of tropical cyclones hitting Queensland and Western Australia has fallen to low levels not seen for more than 500 years, new research published in Nature shows.

But while that's seemingly great news for people in cyclone-prone areas, our new research into Australia's past cyclone records also highlights a serious risk.

Low-lying coastal areas such as Cairns, Townsville and Mackay in north Queensland have all been developed on the unproven assumption that the cyclone activity of the past 40 years will continue unchanged into the future.

The concern is that our new results closely matched several recent studies that have projected fewer - but increasingly intense - tropical cyclones for Australian region due to global climate change.

And if those projections prove to be right, we are taking a big gamble with existing homes, roads and offices, as well as threatening proposed developments such as the A$4.2 billion resort casino planned for low-lying coastal land near Cairns.

There is no such thing as a risk-free development, especially when building in cyclone-prone regions. However, being properly informed and cautious about developments in such regions is in all Australians' interests - because if we get it wrong, we all stand to pay through higher insurance premiums and largely taxpayer-funded disaster clean-ups.

Our study shows that current seasonal cyclone activity is at its lowest level in Western Australia since 500 AD and since about 1400 AD in Queensland. That decline began about 40 years ago.

While Australia's official cyclone records only date back to 1906, we can track cyclones further back in time using measurements of isotopes housed within limestone cave stalagmites. Those stalagmites grow upwards from the cave floor as rainwater containing dissolved limestone drips from the cave ceiling.

The isotope chemistry of tropical cyclone rainwater differs from that of monsoonal and thunderstorm rainwater. As a consequence, it is possible to analyse the chemistry of each of the stalagmite layers, which are approximately 1/10th of a millimetre thick, and generate a record of cyclones over the past 1500 to 2000 years.

My colleague Jordahna Haig then matched the isotope records with the Bureau of Meteorology's cyclone record over the past 40 years and generated a Cyclone Activity Index, which plots the seasonal activity of cyclones over the past 1500 years.

In the short term, the recent decline in tropical cyclone activity is good news for all those who live in and visit tropical north Queensland and Western Australia. However, there are some possible dark clouds on the horizon that we would be reckless to ignore.


Facebook shuts Australian  Aboriginal memes page

FACEBOOK has shut down a racist Facebook page which vilified Indigenous Australians with revolting jokes and illustrations, despite earlier telling a complainant the page was acceptable under its 'community standards' policy.

The Aboriginal Memes 2014 page was today shut down after a query from News Corp about why it failed to be classified as 'hate speech' under the social networking site's community standards policy.

It featured so-called jokes referencing the Stolen Generation and poverty among other issues too inflammatory to reference.

Facebook supplied a statement yesterday that said: "We remove content that is reported to us that violates our policies. Our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities that everyone agrees to when they create an account and which are linked to throughout the site explains what is and is not permitted on the site and explicitly prohibits hate speech."

But earlier the site had responded to a complainant with a statement that said: "We reviewed the page you reported for containing hate speech or symbols and found it doesn't violate our Community Standards."


It's a bit difficult to find out what we are not allowed to see but the two images below appear to be part of it.  One alludes to Aboriginal drunkenness, welfare dependency and foul language usage while the other refers to Aboriginal begging, which can be very intrusive.  "Centrelink" is Australia's major welfare agency and the female wants to get money from them for grog.

30 January, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is amused at the dilemma facing the ALP as they face  the call for a crackdown on corrupt unions

Navy abuse 'likely to be untrue': ABC

AN ABC news journalist has admitted asylum-seekers' claims of mistreatment by the Australian navy are "likely to be untrue" a week after the broadcaster claimed it had footage that "appears to back up" the allegations.

In an email to a former senior army officer, who forwarded the correspondence to News Corp Australia columnist Andrew Bolt, ABC national reporting team journalist Alison Branley sought off-the-record information from navy personnel.

"I have been tasked with finding some navy personnel who might be willing to speak to us in a background capacity - not on the record," she wrote. "It follows the story our Jakarta guy ran on the asylum-seekers' burns claims.

"My boss feels the allegations are likely to be untrue and we want to get people on board some of the ships up there to background us."

Her boss, national reporting team editor Jo Puccini, told The Australian last night she did not have a response to the revelation. An ABC spokeswoman said last night: "At no stage did the ABC report (the asylum-seekers') allegations as fact, and at no stage did the ABC express an editorial view in support of either the allegations or the denials.

Rather, it has at all times consistently sought information to either support or disprove these allegations. "In a climate where official information about asylum-seekers operations is scarce and hard to come by, the ABC makes no apologies for seeking as much information as it can from as many sources as it can to either verify or disprove the allegations at the centre of the story."

The spokeswoman said the leaked email showed the broadcaster continued to seek the facts.

"Any suggestion that in our reporting we (a) indicated the allegations were true or (b) now believe they are false is incorrect. The point of the email was to encourage navy personnel with any information which could possibly disprove the allegations to come forward," she said. The ABC did not deny the validity of the email.

The report, by ABC Indonesia correspondent George Roberts, featured claims Australian navy personnel beat and burned asylum-seekers during a tow-back operation this month.

It came despite strong assertions from the government and the Australian Defence Force that the claims were unfounded and another television network, Seven, treating the asylum-seekers' claims with much greater scepticism a fortnight earlier.

The report centred on video footage of the asylum-seekers receiving treatment for burned and blistered hands at a medical facility in Kupang, West Timor.

The asylum-seekers claimed the burns were a result of being forced to hold hot engine pipes by navy personnel. They also alleged they were badly beaten by navy personnel before their boat was turned back to Rote Island on New Year's Day.

Indonesian police said they were investigating the claims but later said all information of alleged abuse had come from the asylum-seekers.

"This video and the version of events given by Indonesian police appears (sic) to back up the claims of mistreatment first made by the asylum-seekers when they spoke to the ABC a fortnight ago," Roberts said in a video report.

ABC news director Kate Torney last week defended Roberts and his report, saying the ABC had approached the ADF for comment before publishing "and are still seeking their side of the story".

Editor of The Australian Clive Mathieson said last night: "If the ABC now believes the story is 'untrue', we look forward to seeing the correction."


PM Abbott blasts ABC reporting

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has accused the ABC of acting against Australia's interests, in a scathing assessment of the national broadcaster.

The ABC has been at the centre of political attention in recent months over its reportage of Australian spying on Indonesia - based on documents leaked by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden - and of claims asylum seekers may have been abused by navy personnel.

Interviewed on commercial radio on Wednesday, Mr Abbott took aim at the broadcaster's standards.

"It dismays Australians when the national broadcaster appears to take everyone's side but our own and I think it is a problem," the prime minister told Macquarie Radio.

"You would like the national broadcaster to have a rigorous commitment to truth and at least some basic affection for the home team, so to speak."

Referring to the Snowden documents, Mr Abbott said the ABC "seemed to delight in broadcasting allegations by a traitor".

"The ABC didn't just report what he said, they took the lead in advertising what he said. That was a deep concern," Mr Abbott said.

The ABC should report the news straight and should not "leap to be critical of your own country".

Labor communications spokesman Jason Clare said Mr Abbott had promised the day before the 2013 election that there would be no cuts to the ABC but was now laying the groundwork for cuts.

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi last year told a coalition joint party room meeting the government should cut the broadcaster's funding to balance the federal budget.


Abetz defends the "incorrect" Bernardi: what counts are the facts, not if someone is offended"

Eric Abetz, leader of the Government in the Senate, defends Liberal MP Cory Bernardi from the modern shut-uppers - people who demand important debates be shut down simply because they cause “offence”:

I contrast the lack of attention so far paid to Australia’s Secret War - Hal Colebatch’s book, with the affected morale outrage over another recently released book, which I can confirm I have also read cover to cover, word for word, and which I would also commend to you.

It was written by my colleague, Senator Cory Bernardi, and entitled The Conservative Revolution…

What was disappointing was the rank misrepresentation, from either sheer dishonesty or ignorance, by the gaggle of critics, of the inescapable conclusions of peer reviewed research cited in the book.

Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, claimed to be"offended" by Senator Bernardi’s commentary about so-called ‘non-traditional families’.  ‘As a step-father I am offended,’ he said.  The media simply ran the ‘I’m offended’ line.

You know the trip; “I claim victimhood.  I declare that I have taken offence.  So you cannot question me or assail me with undisputed, objective studies"… studies which actually tell us time and time again that the gold standard for the nurturing of children is a married man and woman with their biological children.

Do some such family units fail?  Of course they do.

Do some single mums and dads do a fantastic job?  Of course they do.

Do some blended families work exceptionally well?  Of course they do.

But that does not disprove the undeniable evidence that the gold standard and best practice model is the traditional family!

The thesis of Senator Bernardi’s book is that, as a consequence, public policy should be supportive of the traditional family.

Our would-be Labor Prime Minister claimed to have been offended by the articulation of these facts.

Mr Shorten, thinking that he had a knockout blow, rhetorically asked on what basis Senator Bernardi was suggesting these children are more likely to be criminal?

Well, let me answer Mr Shorten’s rhetorical question with a substantive answer, by reading to you what is in Senator Bernardi’s book, and I quote: 

“we know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are 5 times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; 9 times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.  They are more likely to have behavioural problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of this.  Can I simply observe that for the sake of our society these things need to be said.”

Oh…. and for the record, can I confirm the quote that I just read was an extract from Senator Bernardi’s book - quoting President Barack Obama’s Father’s Day address of 2008.

I wonder if the would-be Prime Minister Shorten would be as critical of and disrespectful to President Obama as he was towards Senator Bernardi?  I think not…

The fact that this ill-informed and embarrassing criticism came from Bill Shorten was bad enough.  Regrettably some came from within our own Party.

One criticism was that we could supposedly dismiss Senator Bernardi’s thesis and all its evidentiary basis because it was a minority view…

I would invite the Young Liberal Movement and young people more generally not to consider whether Senator Bernardi’s is a minority view or majority view, but whether it is right or wrong

SOURCE  Apparently drawing on Hansard

Censorship by Poetry Editor of Leftist "Little Magazine"

It is a cliche, the way conservatives and so-called progressives are said to regard each other. On the starboard side of political opinion the general view is that the left is simply misguided, many members of its various tribes perhaps capable of better things and deeper thoughts if only someone with time and patience would make an effort to explain it all.

And on the left, where perceptions tend to be rather more simple? Well they just think we’re evil.

Then again, there are also those on the left who might normally be dismissed at a glance but, due to some act of arrogance or idiocy, draw your attention by virtue of sheer, antic inanity. That whine of unctuous self-righteousness, their grasp of higher moralities which they alone may interpret and adjudicate, the tendency to believe that “shut up” amounts to an argument – well, you know the type. Normally, you wouldn’t worry too much about these sorts, as sooner or later most will nod along with some or other epistle in The Age until they are deeply and silently asleep. The 11,381st lecture about the perils of climate change or the joys of gay marriage can have that effect, even on the most ardent.

When such a featherhead is in a position of influence, able to advance or retard reputations and careers at the stroke of a pen, a closer look is warranted, unpleasant though it may be to pore over spite and pettiness in the fetid quarters of their native environment. In this instance the individual is Peter Minter, poetry editor and academic, whose pulpit for proclaiming on the moral worth of lesser mortals is that little-read and much-subsidised quarterly Overland, “the most radical of Australia’s long-standing literary journals.”

As singer, songwriter, poet and sometime-Quadrant contributor Joe Dolce noted on our website over the weekend, Minter informed him in writing and on the record that his verse would no longer be published in Overland, which just by the way of background was blessed with $399,000 in Australia Council grants between 2010 and 2013. The reason: his association with Quadrant. Dolce, who admits to voting Labor last September, was taken aback by Minter’s zeal in appointing himself Australian poetry’s blacklister-in-chief and, as the policy of exclusion sank in, by the thought that the policy might be at odds with the Australia Council’s goals, standards and procedures. He would seem to be right about that, going by the organisation’s mission statement in regard to literary journals:

“The Literature Panel aims are to encourage the writing and reading of Australian literature, to open up opportunities for our writers to earn from their creative work, and to keep the avenues of debate, discussion, analysis and criticism open.”

Nowhere does the Australia Council state or hint that it is acceptable to bar writers who do not happen to hate and detest the same people as the magazine’s editors. Legal minds might also have opinions on whether or not such a threat constitutes a secondary boycott.

Students of the left and its conceits will need no prompting to guess at Minter’s defence of his edict. Writing on the Facebook page of  theatre critic, “best-selling author” and friend Alison Croggon, herself  a recipient of $40,000 in 2013 from the Australia Council’s Literature Board, chaired by Twitter buddy and fellow traveller on the writers’ festival circuit Sophie Cunningham,  Minter in his prolix style laid out a case that might be summed up thus: Quadrant and Nazis, same thing really.

But don’t take our word for it. In his contributions to an entertaining, if increasingly unhinged, debate, Minter stands revealed in his own words. Note the snide jabs at Quadrant’s poetry editor Les Murray in this talk-to-the-hand response to Dolce:

Peter Minter – ” Joe, let me end with a very simple (perhaps brutal) analogy. I hope this goes to the heart of the debate raised about whether poems should be judged on merit, or whether they should be judged also on their political context. Let’s imagine we are in Germany in the 1930s. We are writing what we think are good poems, free of any overt political substance, and we decide to send them to the “Nazi Literary Weekly” for publication, because the poetry editor loves poetry and everyone thinks he is going to win the Nobel Prize and so they all suck up to him in order to gain the satisfaction of feeling that they are being ordained by the holy poet. The Big Poet publishes the poems and everyone feels nice. Nevertheless, and this is the crux, history will shine its irrevocable truth upon the poets who submitted their poems to the “Nazi Literary Weekly” and they will be forever stained by the association.

Have you heard of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger? Heidegger’s philosophy is certainly wonderful and extremely influential and should be considered “on its merits” in the same way people argue that poetry should simply be judged “on its merits”. And yet, Heidegger joined the Nazi party and his reputation, and the reputation of his philosophy, is forever stained by the association.

So you can say whatever you like about how wonderful it is to be published by Les Murray (those of us who know also know that this is not what it seems!!) the fact remains that those who choose to publish in Quadrant will be forever stained by the association (or by being published in Overland, depending on your perspective). You need to get over the adrenaline rush of seeing your name in print, and start thinking about where you want to see your name in print, and what it means.

This is not about limiting freedom of expression. We are in a free society and anyone can start any kind of magazine they like and publish what they want. What this is about is editorial responsibility and making ethical decisions about how and where you chose to publish.

No more correspondence will be entered into. Bye! “

There is undoubtedly compelling evidence of original thought in Minter’s  academic work, but the dog-eared equivalence he preaches between Hitler’s followers and Quadrant’s contributors suggests one would need to wade through it with a keen eye to be sure. By contrast, only an open ear is needed to absorb the pointed inquiries made by then-Opposition spokesman on the arts, Senator Eric Abetz, at an Estimates hearing about funding allocations .

As Abetz observed, it is either a remarkable coincidence that left-wing literary journals keep scoring bags of Australia Council cash while, year by year, Quadrant sees its stipend shrink. Or maybe, as the Senator intimated, the fix is in.

After this latest episode, perhaps someone in Tony Abbott’s government might like to weigh in on a taxpayer-supported literary magazine brazenly refusing to publish the work of those it identifies, to quote Minter’s pontification, as those “who choose to publish in Quadrant [and are] forever stained by the association.”

After that, who knows? Perhaps a full, sweeping review of arts funding, who doles it out and how, and why do some seem more blessed by the Australia Council’s largesse than others.


29 January, 2014

Australia's foreign-born population on the rise as record number of people become Australian citizens

A record number of people took the pledge to become Australian citizens at Australia Day ceremonies over the weekend, as the nation's foreign-born population continues to rise.

Almost 18,000 people became Australian citizens on Sunday, which has contributed to making more than a quarter of the country's population foreign-born.

The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show people born in the United Kingdom continue to be the largest group of residents born overseas, accounting for 5.3 per cent of the population, followed by 2.6 per cent born in New Zealand, 1.8 per cent born in China and 1.6 per cent born in India.

Monash University's population researcher, Dr Bob Birrell, says Australia is an attractive destination for migrants because of its affluence and substantial job opportunities.

"That along with the opening up of our migration program by successive governments has led to a record high influx of both permanent and temporary migrants in recent years," he said.

As Australia's total population approaches 23.5 million, demographer Bernard Salt says the country's population is growing at close to record rates.

"At the current time, it's largely driven by overseas migration, which is tracking around 230,000 people per year," Mr Salt said.

Dr Birrell says Australia's population growth is exceeding those of many other countries around the world.

"We're growing at about 1.8 per cent a year, which is much faster than the other western countries and indeed most Asian countries," he said.

'Better opportunities'

People born in Nepal, India and Pakistan are among the fastest growing groups of migrants in Australia.

Electrical engineer and musician, Ranjan Vaidya, grew up in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu and moved to Australia 15 years ago.

"I came to Australia mainly looking for better opportunities and also I heard about Australia as a fair go country, with hard working people," he said.

Mr Vaidya says most people from Nepal come for jobs, education and to get away from years of political instability.  "You have got a lot of things right here," he said.  "The political system is right, your economic system is right, all the prosperity, everything is right."

The main settlement point for those born overseas are the major cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, as well as south-east Queensland.  "That's where the jobs are," Dr Birrell said.

"It's also where the major migrant communities are located and Asian migrants in particular prefer to settle where there are established communities of their own ethnic and religious backgrounds," he said.

According to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, about 73 per cent of people aged between 15 and 64 have a paid job in Australia and the average disposable income is nearly $US29,000 a year.

Life expectancy at birth is almost 82 years and the OECD says there's a strong sense of community.

Mr Salt says people can also find their own community within Australia.  "Australia has a place, I think, for everyone," he said.

"If you want to do the outback thing you can, if you want city sophistication you can, if you want to raise a family in middle suburban you can do that as well."
Room for more

Geographically, Australia is very diverse with vast coastlines, beaches, tropical rainforests and snowfields in between major cities and country towns, while nearly 20 per cent of the land mass is classifed as desert.

As the planet's 6th largest country, Mr Salt says there's room for more people.  He believes Australia can grow to over 30 million over the next 50 years.

"I think we have a moral obligation if you like, to accept migrants from overloaded parts of the rest of the world," Mr Salt said.

"There's also an economic argument that as the baby boomers move beyond the working age into retirement we need more workers or tax payers."

But Dr Birrell says a growing population is not without its challenges.  "Worsening congestion, inability to keep up with infrastructure, education, health and other areas are where the pressure points are at the moment," he said.

In addition, he says finding a job is becoming more difficult than it was a few years ago and the cost of living is on the rise.

It's those challenges the nation's governments will have to carefully consider when planning for more people.


First shark killed in controversial WA catch-and-kill policy

THE first shark has been caught and shot dead under Colin Barnett's controversial shark-kill policy.

It happened before 8am this morning, less than 24 hours after drum lines and baited hooks were set off Old Dunsborough in the South-West as part of the WA Government's "shark mitigation program".

The fisherman contracted to set and monitor the drum lines was back on the water at 6am this morning to check the nine drum lines and their baits.

He discovered one had successfully hooked a large shark and the animal was reportedly shot four times before being towed "well out" to sea.  The species of shark has not been confirmed, but there was reportedly confusion over whether it was a tiger or bull shark.

Sharks under 3m are to be released if possible and those over 3m are destroyed.

At 2.45pm today, there were no reports of any more sharks being caught and killed.

Conservationists and green groups including the Animal Rescue Team immediately denounced the shark kill and labelled it a "slaughter".

By 4.15pm yesterday, nine drum lines had been set 1km offshore from Old Dunsborough and Castle Rock at Cape Naturaliste.

The drum lines were attached to the ocean floor by anchor and connected to buoys and baited hooks designed to snare big sharks.

Within a couple of hours, PerthNow in a nearby boat watched as a very big ray investigated one baited hook.

Under his contract with the State Government, the professional fisherman who set the drum lines must now monitor the coast 12 hours a day between 6am and 6pm, rebaiting the hooks and waiting for a catch.

Yesterday's start came amid strong protests from green groups and activists who were in Dunsborough but did not interfere with the operation.

Amy-Lea Wilkins, spokeswoman for conservation group Animal Rescue Team, said she had a team of 22 volunteers in Dunsborough, including a vet and a marine biologist who would enter the water with diving gear to free hooked sharks as well as by-catch, such as dolphins, turtles and rays.

"We don't want any marine life dying and we'll do our best to save any animals that are caught, including sharks," Ms Wilkins said.

Anti-cull campaigner Simon Peterffy, who has formed a "marine response unit", yesterday pledged: "We'll be stopping the hunt, we will be neutralising these drums and we'll be doing rescues of dolphins and other by-catch."

In his only interview from the back of his boat, the fisherman - whom PerthNow has decided not to name - said he used mackerel to bait the "very large" hooks but from next week he would be using "really good bait", salmon from South Australia.


When you need more power to keep the lights on the answer is most certainly NOT blowing in the wind


THANK God - or Gaia - for King Coal.  But for our coal-fired power stations, in last week's heat, the lights and air conditioners and everything else would have gone off for Victorians and South Australians.

If we'd been relying on wind farms, we would have had multiple blackouts and hundreds, if not thousands of extra deaths.

No doubt to Green fanatics like Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, that would have been a price worth paying - just like the thousand or more who have drowned because of the disastrous Labor-Green asylum-seeker policies - to enable her consequence-lite moral (actually, totally IM-moral) preening.

As my colleague Andrew Bolt has pointed out, back in 2011, Senator Hanson-Young was asked after another 200 people had been lured to their deaths by the Labor policies they supported, whether the Greens took any responsibility.

Her reply: "Of course not. Tragedies happen, accidents happen."

Presumably she's say the same at the many, many, more deaths that would occur in a heatwave, if we were crazy enough to embrace her dark-Green agenda and close down our coal-fired power stations and replace them - correction, pretend to replace them - with wind and solar.

The evidence is clear, unambiguous and undeniable. Except of course to deniers like Hanson-Young and Tristan Edis of the - embarrassingly, also our - Climate Spectator website.

When you need more power to keep the lights on, to keep industry working, to, at its most basic, keep people alive, the answer is most certainly NOT blowing in the wind.

When we needed more power last week, wind went missing in action. This truth is captured in the graphs.

When power usage was exploding from 6000MW to over 10,000MW and peaking above 12,000MW, the - already marginal - contribution from wind was almost invariably going down.

The graphs show that on only one day of the four-days of plus-40 degree heat across southern Australia, did wind provide anything close to a sustained - but still essentially insignificant - contribution to Victorian and South Australian power supply.

On each of the other three days, wind power essentially went missing for a number of hours right at critical times. On Tuesday, wind output dropped almost to zero for a sustained period right at the peak of the heat in the afternoon.

The data comes from the excellent windfarmperformance website of Andrew Miskelley. He collects the raw data from the official AEMO - Australian Energy Market Operator - feed, and publishes wind farm output at five minute intervals for the full 24 hours of every day.

The data gives the lie to the core claim made for wind farms - that if you scatter them across enough territory, the wind will always "be blowing somewhere."

Well, for three hours on Wednesday, we got barely 140 megawatts (MW) in total out the 28 wind farms "scattered" across NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

That's 140MW when demand was peaking at over 10,000MW. Thank you coal.

The wind farms are - jokingly - supposed to have a total capacity of 2660 MW. So we were getting power equal to just 5 per cent or so of that 'capacity.'

There are two other equally significant - and utterly damming - messages in the graphs.

The first is that it is precisely when you need more power, that wind falls off. When it gets hot.

Through most of the heat of Tuesday, that 2660MW of joke-capacity was producing 600MW falling to 400MW. On Wednesday, apart from the three hours of essentially nothing, for the whole of the rest of the day, we got barely 300-400MW.

Thursday was the only day where we saw a sustained, semi-reasonable contribution. But then it was still mostly only around 900MW.

Friday saw some hours of around 1200MW. Except it spiked down to 400MW, or less than 4 per cent of power demand - smack in the middle of the afternoon, when we needed the power most.

This points to the second damming message. Precisely because the wind can stop blowing - and as we can see, it can stop blowing right across Southern Australia at the same time - you have to keep real power stations ticking over all the time, to be able to pick up the slack.

Even warmist propagandist Edis tacitly - and completely unknowingly - admits this, in his ludicrous attempt to claim reliability for wind.

On his website he wrote that AEMO had an "ace up its sleeve" - being able to accurately forecast the amount of wind power that would be generated 24-hours in advance.

He charted the forecasts against the actual output and showed a remarkable - indeed impressive - co-relation.

Leading him to triumphantly conclude that gave both AEMO and the generators advance notice as to when "wind generation was likely to be low such that they can be prepared to fill the gap."

In doing so he beautifully - and so totally unknowingly - captured the point: that coal-fired power stations have to be kept ready to take over when …. the wind don't blow.

It also didn't help his case that his article carried a correction that the accurate forecasting wasn't 24 hours ahead but just a single hour.

What a way to run a grid - checking whether the wind is blowing and then 'forecasting' it will continue to for the next hour. And, oh by the way, having a nice coal-fired station to call up when it doesn't.

Further and fundamentally, we can handle this when wind is barely 5 per cent or so - 10 per cent on a rare good day or hour - of the grid. That's to say, while wind is still essentially a vanity highly expensive Green-warmist feel-good form of power generation.

It would be impossible - even with what Edis thinks is the luxury of a single hour's notice - in a grid where wind was a much bigger component. That would be especially so, if the coal-fired stations were actually decommissioned.

In the classic dishonest warmist way, Edis tries to suggest that wind is actually more reliable because in the middle of last week, one of Loy Yang A's generators went down, going from generating 450MW to zero in minutes.

"This outage was certainly not forecast in advance," he snarkily added.

No it obviously wasn't. But there's one huge difference in a rare accident to a single generator in a coal-fired plant and the times - the many times - that the entire wind industry goes to zero or near enough to zero.

Perhaps Edid can tell us how many times have all the generators in all the coal-fired stations gone to zero at the same time?

That's the absolutely damning point about the uselessness of wind. You can't just take a 'time-out' when they go to zero. You either have blackouts or you substitute.

You have to keep extra coal-fired - or gas - stations ticking over, literally 24/7, to be able to supply power when …. what's that phrase again? Oh yes …. when the wind don't (so often) blow.


School's $500 lightbulb bill

Doomadgee is an Aboriginal community

Doomadgee State School, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, was billed $200 for labour alone after the teacher was told workplace health and safety regulations prevented any staff member from buying and replacing the bulb themselves, The Australian understands.

Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek yesterday ordered an internal investigation into the bill, saying over-the-top red tape was adding to the spiralling financial costs of delivering services in remote areas of Queensland. The probe was launched after the internal document was leaked, according to sources, in a bid to expose waste and duplication of state and commonwealth services in some of the state's remote communities.
Mr Langbroek said Queensland's teachers and principals were beset with "crazy rules" that included a requirement that a school hire an outside contractor to retrieve a ball in the playground if it became lodged (for instance, in a tree branch) at a level of 1.8m or higher. "This is the sort of red tape that needs to end," he said. "It's crazy."There is no excuse for a $480 bill to put in a fridge lightbulb. The teacher is not going to get electrocuted putting it in."

I have already asked for a review on the type of regulation where a school has to pay someone to get a ball from a branch or a gutter that might be only 1.8m high. There has to be a balance.

The Newman government has already moved to find cost savings in the Education Department, opening up tenders for school maintenance contracts to the private sector. Mr Langbroek said it was difficult to find private contractors who could supply services in some of Queensland's more remote communities. Doomadgee State School, which has 303 students, is among the most expensive in the state, with commonwealth figures showing it cost taxpayers $15,879 for each student per year, compared with the state average of $9000.

The school - which offers prep to Year 10 in the indigenous community of 1500 people - is among the state's poorest performers with the lowest attendance rate in Queensland of just 54 per cent.

Mr Langbroek, along with Indigenous Affairs Minister Glen Elmes and Local Government Minister David Crisafulli, went to Doomadgee last week in a bid to lift the attendance rates, after a visit late last year by Premier Campbell Newman."We are trying to lift the attendance rates, trying to get community support to get these kids to school," Mr Langbroek said."We talked to the community, the council - it is very challenging."


28 January, 2014

Building union rocked by claims of corrupt dealing with crime figures in exchange for construction contracts

Union officials have formed corrupt relationships with organised crime figures, receiving kickbacks in exchange for arranging lucrative contracts in the construction industry.

A joint investigation by ABC's 7.30 program and Fairfax Media has discovered that bribery, extortion and threats of violence are used to cement the influence of crime figures on Australia's construction sites.

Companies connected to major crime figures have won contracts on private and government projects, including Victoria's desalination plant and the Barangaroo development in Sydney.

Evidence including covertly recorded conversations, bank records, police intelligence files and whistleblower accounts implicate a number of senior members of the influential Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) in New South Wales and Victoria in corruption.

In a secretly recorded conversation, one building industry figure tells a colleague that he has given cash bribes and other inducements to several members of the union's Victorian hierarchy, along with lower-level union shop stewards.

Labour hire companies have paid crime figures and union officials to obtain contracts for major building projects, even though some of those companies have become infamous for ripping off workers and leaving them without their entitlements.

The CFMEU is able to pressure large builders to use certain contractors - including labour hire companies - by wielding the stick of costly industrial action and holding out the carrot of peace on building sites.

A Victorian CFMEU official, Danny Berardi, resigned immediately after Fairfax and 7.30 supplied evidence that he got at least two companies to help renovate his properties for free in return for getting them work on Melbourne construction sites.

Investigation into influence of Sydney crime figure

The CFMEU's national executive has also launched an internal investigation into the influence of Sydney crime figure George Alex in the union's NSW arm after a whistleblower questioned his relationship with senior union officials.

Mr Alex - a convicted criminal with links to Comancheros bikies, murderers and drug traffickers - runs a labour hire company that has landed lucrative contracts in NSW and Victoria, including the Barangaroo development.

It has been alleged that union figures helped Mr Alex obtain those contracts, despite the fact he has become notorious for running phoenix companies, which go bust then resurface under a different name. As a result, some workers have been left without their entitlements.

Late last year, Mr Alex's companies owed more than $1 million in workers' benefits and unpaid taxes in NSW and Victoria. The NSW CFMEU recently recovered $250,000 from Mr Alex.

In Victoria, Mr Alex employed Melbourne underworld figure Mick Gatto to negotiate with the unions and obtain work for his labour hire companies, Active and United.
Union chief concerned about claims of criminality

In separate statements to 7.30 and Fairfax Media, Victorian secretary John Setka and his NSW counterpart, Brian Parker, said the union played no part in deciding whether particular labour hire companies got contracts on construction projects.

"The union is not in a position to check the property, or other interests or connections of employers and managers of companies," Mr Parker said.

"The union might have a view about a contractor and their history of compliance, but ultimately, whether a subcontractor wins work is up to the builders who contract with them."

Mr Parker also said he had a "professional" relationship with Mr Alex, but no social relationship, and that he had not sought work for Active Labour Hire at Barangaroo.

CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan said he was "deeply concerned about any criminal activity in the industry", and urged anyone with evidence of criminality in the industry to report it to police.

"We will not tolerate corruption within the union," he told ABC News Breakfast.

"Construction workers are entitled and are proud of the fact we have had a strong and effective union in the CFMEU. Any individuals that have engaged in corrupt activity will not be continuing their employment with the union. They will be sacked."

Mr Noonan said he "absolutely refuted" suggestions that the union had been inactive in fighting corruption.

"Our policies are very clear on probity and corruption and on all of these matters, and we have dealt with them in the past," he said.

"The CFMEU is not the corporate regulator to approve which individuals and which companies can and cannot operate in the industry, nor are we the body that can investigate criminal matters. These are issues for ASIC and the police force and we have consistently called on them to do their job."

'Field left open for corrupt officials'

Nigel Hadgkiss, the director of the Fair Work Building and Construction Commission, has revealed law enforcement agencies have recently obtained evidence about "the payment of bribes to senior union officials" in Victoria.

However, he said that in the past, police had not acted on evidence of corruption in the building industry, leaving the field open for criminals and corrupt officials. He described this as "very frustrating".

History of corruption:

Claims of corruption in the construction industry are nothing new. In 2003 the Cole Royal Commission found:

    Widespread use of inappropriate payments in the industry

   Threatening and intimidatory behaviour

    Widespread requirements to employ union-nominated persons in critical positions on building projects

    Unlawful strikes and threats of unlawful strikes
In 2010, intelligence gathered by a Victoria Police and Australian Crime Commission drugs investigation revealed that Mr Gatto and his crane company business partner, Matt Tomas, were allegedly involved in "criminal activity in the building industry and narcotics" and have close connections to "the Hells Angels, the CFMEU and drug importers".

It has been alleged that two Victoria labour hire firms, KPI and MC Labour, have hired criminal figures and friends and relatives of union officials in return for help getting contracts on building projects, including the massive desalination plant in Gippsland.

A number of outlaw motorcycle gang members and other people linked with them were given jobs at the plant.

A KPI staff list sent to a major contractor at the Victorian government-funded Springvale Road overpass project reveals it is employing the relatives of two CFMEU shop stewards, two outlaw bikie figures and several relatives of Mr Gatto.

The labour hire companies sought favour with union officials by supplying gifts such as AFL grand final tickets, Formula One grand prix tickets, and trips to Crown casino's high-end Mahogany Room.
Government, builders call for re-establishment of ABCC

The Federal Government says the claims of widespread corruption and criminal activity by union officials strengthen the Government's case for re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

"Any argument against the re-establishment of the ABCC has just disappeared out the window," Senator Abetz said this morning.

"Bill Shorten and Labor need to acknowledge that there is corruption and there is a need for the ABCC."

Master Builders Association chief executive Wilhelm Harnisch says the allegations are unnacceptable and prove that the ABCC needs to be restored

"It was exactly these sorts of allegations that led to the establishment of the Cole Royal Commission," he said.

"These fresh allegations of corruption and criminality are totally outside the community's expectations of how normal people should behave and there must be a full inquiry to get to the truth."

Mr Harnisch says the allegations point to a culture of intimadation and coercion created by the building unions.

"These allegations also illustrate how the behaviour of building unions holds back the productivity of the construction sector to the detriment of the Australian community," he said.

Lend Lease chief executive Steve McCann told the ABC they have a "zero tolerance approach" to corrupt or fraudlent behaviour in the industry.


Federal government to seek independent review of the health impact of wind farms

The federal government will press ahead with "an independent program" to study the supposed impact on health of wind farms as it emerged a report on the issue has been handed to government but withheld from public release.

Activists, some linked to climate change sceptic groups, say people living near wind farms suffer sleep disturbance and other health effects from low-frequency noise and infrasound, with illnesses dubbed "wind turbine syndrome", "vibro-acoustic disease" and "visceral vibratory vestibular disturbance".

Various international and Australian studies have cast doubt on the sicknesses and the National Health and Medical Research Council began its review of evidence about the effects of wind farms for the government in September 2012. Its findings have been sent to the ministers of health, industry and environment and will be released publicly "in coming months", a council spokeswoman said

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said this month that research should be refreshed "from time to time" to consider whether there were "new facts that impact on old judgments".

"It is some years since the NHMRC last looked at this issue. Why not do it again?" he said.

A spokesman for Mr Abbott declined to clarify whether the Prime Minister knew of the council's latest study when calling for the council to reopen the issue.

Competing concerns

A "rapid review" of the evidence by the council in 2010 found "renewable energy generation is associated with few adverse health effects compared with the well-documented health burdens of polluting forms of electricity generation". About three-quarters of eastern Australia's power comes from coal.

Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at Sydney University, said Mr Abbott appeared to have been swayed by a tiny group of anti-windfarm campaigners, such as the Waubra Foundation, in calling for another study even before the survey of scientific literature is released.

"We all need to be concerned about whether he’s being influenced by little more than a cult,” Professor Chapman said, adding that research to date has failed to link wind farms under current noise guidelines with ill-health.

Sarah Laurie, chief executive of the Waubra Foundation, supports the extra study. “Research and data if done properly is what enables proper regulation,” Ms Laurie said.

The NHMRC study should not only look at noise impacts from wind farms but also similar effects from coal seam gas and open-cut coal mining operations, she added.

The wind industry is concerned the prospect of a new study is the latest sign governments are turning against renewable energy. Mr Abbott, other coalition figures and his senior business advisor Maurice Newman have lately blamed the Renewable Energy Target for pushing up power prices.

The goal, now set at generating 20 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, will be reviewed this year. Industry sources say the environment and industry ministries are resisting efforts to have the Productivity Commission - expected to take a hardline against the RET - conduct the review.


Work-for-the-dole could be expanded into aged care homes, Federal Government says

Newstart recipients forced to work for their welfare payments could be asked to volunteer in aged care facilities as part of a reinvigorated work-for-the-dole scheme.

The Federal Government wants to make good on its election commitment to reinstate the Howard-era program, but says much of the detail is still to be worked out, including when the scheme will restart.

Dole recipients would be asked to take part in civic maintenance, cleaning streets and parks, as occurred in the scheme's first inception.

Assistant Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker says it is also possible welfare recipients could work in aged care facilities, doing maintenance work such as gardening and painting.

"We would not intend that work-for-the-dole participants would be involved in the care of patients, but perhaps be involved in work that the facility could not otherwise do," he told the ABC's AM program.

"We'll be releasing the implementation for work for the dole in due course.

"There is not a start date locked in at this point in time."

The Government says its is focused on ensuring that the work-for-the-dole scheme does not remove incentives for paid work, and wants to place job seekers with not-for-profit organisations.

Mr Hartsuyker denied it would create a regulatory burden for charities wanting to engage in the program.

"We want to implement this program in a measured and a methodical way," he said.

Opposition demands details of work-for-the-dole scheme

Labor's employment spokesman Brendan O'Connor says making people on the dole work for their welfare takes them away from time they could spend finding a job.

"If you've been a long-term employee who's just been retrenched, the last thing you need is work experience, you may need skill acquisition," Mr O'Connor said.

Mr O'Connor has also called on the Government to provide more details about its plans.

"How much money is going to be dedicated to these initiatives? What engagement do they have with future employers who might want to employ people in this arrangement?" Mr O'Connor said.

"What are the workers' compensation arrangements? What is the public liability arrangements?

"There are so many questions, fewer answers than questions so far."

The Government says it is still working on the program for people on unemployment benefits and cannot say how much it will cost.


Brisbane tree pruning ban cut down by conservative admin.

A two-decade ban on Brisbane residents cutting trees on their properties has officially been lifted.

Amid much controversy, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk announced last year residents would be able to maintain the trees on their properties and nature strips that had previously been protected by local laws.

The amendment to Brisbane's Natural Assets Local Law was prompted by last year's Australia Day storm, when the council received more than 10,000 reports of damaged trees and spent weeks cleaning up.

Not only would the amendment slash red tape, Cr Quirk said, it would enable residents to regain responsibility for their own safety.

“The changes make it easier for affected property owners to understand what vegetation is protected, which works do not require a permit and which works do require a permit,” Cr Quirk said.

“This is a great result which achieves the right balance between respecting the environment and private property rights.”

Under the new amendment, residents can apply for long-term permits to prune street trees, eliminating the previous single validity permit requirement.

The number of categories of protected vegetation has been reduced from 11 to four.

All vegetation currently protected under the existing NALL will remain valid and the council will continue to require that any protected trees which are removed be offset with new ones.

Council officers will also have the power to issue on-the-spot fines to those who don't comply.

In leading the formal adoption of the amendment in October, Cr Quirk said there were nearly 600,000 street trees in Brisbane.

At the time, Opposition Leader Milton Dick raised concerns council's tree maintenance budget had been slashed.

"They have cut back the amount of tree trimmers across the city ... and as a result they have sent it out to the ratepayers to cut their trees themselves," he said.

However, Cr Quirk rejected the claim.  He said council's vegetation maintenance resources had been reallocated from trimming trees to cleaning up felled trees, removing debris from parks and streets and cleaning up the city's suburbs following last year's Australia Day storm event.

The NALL amendment came into effect on Monday.


27 January, 2014

Indonesian hypocrisy

Two democracies, neighbours, trading partners, no strategic tensions, no history of war. Australians had plenty of reasons to forsake Bali after the bombings there in 2002, the Jakarta Marriott Hotel suicide attack in 2003, the Australian embassy bombing in 2004 and the second Bali bombings in 2005 but they have kept going.

On November 21, I used this column to blast Prime Minister Tony Abbott over his handling of the Snowden spy revelations, saying he had been insensitive to Indonesia. On November 25, I blasted him again, saying he could have made the controversy a diplomatic victory instead of a debacle. "When Abbott spoke in Parliament I was thinking, 'No, this can't be happening'," I wrote.

Abbott was wrong then, even though he had nothing to do with the spying. But he is not wrong now. His government has quickly and successfully curbed the criminal smuggling operations from Indonesia, for which he has an emphatic election mandate. In this, the Indonesian navy has been almost invisible and its military ineffectual. Yet when an Australian navy vessel made a single, brief, unintended, inconsequential incursion into Indonesian waters, the Indonesian navy was mobilised as if it were a military threat.

Given all the events I have detailed above, this is towering hypocrisy. It proves that Jakarta has been largely indifferent to the systemic breaches of Australian waters by Indonesian boats, with Indonesian crews, from Indonesians ports. Its decision to militarise the ocean border with Australia over a minor breach is a triumph of jingoism and cynicism. It is no accident as Indonesia is in the midst of an election year and the government is still smarting from the Snowden spying revelations.

Indonesia's claim that Australian navy personnel may have tortured asylum seekers fits entirely with this cynicism. These claims are patently dubious given the long history of systematic deceit by those who employ people smugglers. Most of them have cynically destroyed their documents after reaching safety in Indonesia. There have been innumerable examples of self-harm and numerous cases of vessels being scuttled in open sea - brinkmanship of the highest order. Children have been deliberately placed at risk.

This latest example of unverifiable claims of torture follows this pattern. It is a variation on a theme. That the ABC should run with this story as if these claims of torture were credible is also a variation on a theme. It was the ABC that chose to damage Australia's relationship with Indonesia by publishing the Snowden spying leaks. It is the ABC that has a mother lode of form in portraying document-destroyers and ship-scuttlers as victims.


Speaking English an obligation: Senator Fierravanti Wells

As citizenship ceremonies and barbecues fire up across the country for Australia Day, a senior government MP called for migrants to speak English as their main language.

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, parliamentary secretary for social services and from the Liberals' hard-right faction, told Fairfax Media that speaking English is not only a personal responsibility, it is "an obligation to our country".

Senator Fierravanti-Wells spoke no English when she went to kindergarten as a little girl in Wollongong, several years after her Italian parents migrated to Australia.

On her first day at St Francis of Assisi school, she said, there were 75 children - three of whom spoke English. "It wasn't very difficult: within three months, we had all learnt English and we were all busy singing away with our Maltese teacher, who taught us," she said.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells said Australia Day was an apt time to discuss the "personal responsibility" of migrants to learn English.

But she went further, arguing that not only should migrants learn English as a second language, they should learn to speak it as their main language.

The importance of this, she said, was underlined by the experience of ageing postwar migrants, many of whom were suffering dementia and forgetting conversational English.

"Retaining a knowledge of one's mother tongue is important but not at the expense of learning English," she said. "Learning English as a second language is a struggle but, in the 21st century, English is even more important as we move from a manufacturing to a service economy.

"But it is not just a benefit for the nation. A lack of English has a personal cost, especially in an ageing population with health issues or for parents that cannot understand their child's teacher."

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will use an Australia Day address in Melbourne to call for multiculturalism to be put at the forefront of Australia's identity.

"From this day on, instead of talking about migration as a threat to the peaceful, multicultural nation we have built, let us see it as the irreplaceable element in the making of modern Australia," Mr Shorten will say.

"All of us, from the first Australians to our newest citizens, should be proud to live in a country that is the best hope of so many. Because welcoming migrants is not just the duty that a safe and civilised nation owes its region and the world. It is, as it has ever been, the driver of our national prosperity and the foundation of our national success."

Mr Shorten will argue that Australia urgently needs consensus.

"The sooner we recognise the benefits that migration brings, the faster we will arrive at a policy that truly reflects the warmth of the Australian people," he will say.

But Senator Fierravanti-Wells said that there was no argument from the government.

"[That] Bill Shorten insists on harking back to outdated views on multiculturalism is puzzling," she said.

"There is no need to 'fight' for the proposition that multiculturalism has been good for this country when, overwhelmingly, the community, the Prime Minister and the government are in furious agreement."


Adelaide City Council dumps hundreds of policies to save costs and improve customer service

ADELAIDE City Council will dump hundreds of policies in a bid to save its administration from drowning in bureaucracy, improve customer service and encourage entrepreneurs.

An audit has found 321 of the council's 501 policies - more than 64 per cent - were obsolete or in need of review.

The outdated or conflicting policies cover everything from parking, busking and smoking to tree planting, volunteering, workplace bullying, complaint handling and crime prevention.

Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood said a comprehensive policy review had not been done for "many, many years" and was needed to reduce red tape and "change the culture of the organisation".

"If you have a culture where you can't be flexible and come up with creative solutions because we've had 20 or 30 years of written rules and regulations, you don't encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs to put their best foot forward," he said.  "We certainly don't need a thick rule book that doesn't help creative people come up with solutions."

Event management and outdoor dining were two areas that needed simpler policies to make doing business in the city easier, he said.

The audit by KPMG covered the council's vast array of policies from high level strategic and corporate plans to action and management plans and hundreds of operating guidelines across every council department.  It found 206 policies were obsolete and 115 needed review.

A council report says the audit found staff were straining under the weight of "obsolete,  superseded, out of date policies and policies with no owner", that there was "no apparent process around rescinding policies" and "no central repository, oversight, (or) monitoring".

"Should the policy register continue to be out of date there is a risk that policy is not  relevant, usable or accurate," the report says.

"A risk approach has been taken to verify (that) policy documents do not have significance elsewhere in the organisation and therefore rescinding 206 documents provides minimal risk."

"This clean-up will mitigate any further confusion where documents have been superseded, duplicated or expired."

The clear out will also help identify "policy gaps".

"This will ultimately better support governance and policy development practices that are flexible and creative," the report says.


Rite of passage comes with a high risk for those seeking foreign adventures

In the early hours of January 11, Jan Meadows was lying in bed. Just after midnight she had sat up, wide awake. Her husband, woken by her stirring, asked what was wrong. "I don't know," she told him. "I just can't sleep." The time on her mobile phone on the bedside table was 4am.

A few minutes later, Meadows' phone rang. The flashing screen told her it was an incoming call from her 26-year-old son, Lee Hudswell, who was nearing the end of a two-week trip to Thailand and Laos. Meadows' mind was racing. "About 50 things were running through my mind: has he lost his wallet? His passport?" Meadows picked up the phone and asked, "Lee? What's wrong?" but it wasn't her son calling.

It was Scott Donaghy, one of two mates Hudswell was travelling with. "Jan, it's not Lee," he said. "I don't know how to tell you this," he kept saying. Meadows sat up in bed. "What is it, Scott, what's wrong?" she asked. "Lee has passed away," Donaghy told her.  "When I heard that," Meadows says, "I just started screaming."

Lee was one of the 1138 Australians who died while overseas in 2011-12, with illness the leading cause. Almost 9 million Australians travel internationally in any given year, the number of Australian tourists under 25 having doubled in the past decade. A 2013 report from independent policy think tank, the Lowy Institute, noted activities more likely to cause injury or death, such as adventure travel or extreme sports, are becoming more common.

Searching for new experiences by travelling internationally has been a rite of passage for many young Australians. But lots of young tourists leave behind parents who, while keen for their child to explore and experience the wonders of the world, are also fearful about the risks.

Lee Hudswell had travelled to Vang Vieng in Laos to have an adventure. The gregarious and talented sportsman with a degree in commerce from Wollongong University journeyed to the once quiet agricultural town, now packed with young tourists, to float along the Nam Song river on giant tractor tubes (known as "tubing"). At the time, cheap alcohol was sold by the bucket at bars on the edge of the river, and travellers got their thrills on rope swings, zip-lines, and giant waterslides.

Hudswell had climbed up a bamboo tower to have his second go on a zip-line strung high across the water. As he reached the end of the line he was flung awkwardly into the river. Young tourists on the banks noticed he hadn't surfaced and started calling to each other to look for him. The search became frantic. It took five or six minutes to pull Hudswell to the surface. He was unconscious. Scott Donaghy was one of Hudswell's friends who took him in a local tuk-tuk taxi to a nearby clinic; he died shortly afterwards.

Newspaper reports show Vang Vieng's tiny hospital recorded 27 tourist deaths in 2011 alone.

"Life is very difficult without Lee," says Meadows. "For the first six months I was in a daze. I drove through red lights, I left the gas stove on, I left the gate open in the paddock and our racehorses got out. It never leaves your mind."

Determined to save other young lives, Meadows lobbied Laotian authorities to have the zip-lines pulled down, along with the slides and swings along the notorious stretch of river. A few months after Hudswell's death the equipment was dismantled, and dozens of illegal bars were closed. "It was totally and utterly unregulated tourism," Meadows says.

David Beirman, senior lecturer in tourism at the University of Technology, Sydney, says certain events and activities in some countries encourage travellers to take risks. "Going with an unlicensed, unregistered operator who may be using faulty equipment can be a bit of a death trap," Beirman says. "I think a lot of younger travellers want to have intense experiences and so there is a tendency to expose themselves to risk a bit more than they would at home."

Paul Dillon, the director of Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia says a whole new industry in high-risk tourism has emerged in the past 20 years that encourages young people to push the boundaries. "The evidence is very clear that young people are aware of the risks and know what the consequences can be, but they think it won't happen to them," Dillon says. There is a tendency, Dillon says, that the shorter the trip, the more intense an experience young people will seek.

Melbourne psychologist Sabina Read says part of parents supporting, nurturing and raising an independent child is learning to let go. "Just having a child travel overseas is quite significant," she says. "It would be extremely unusual for a parent not to feel some sadness, anxiety, concern and a sense of loss of control in that process." But, she cautions, living in an anticipatory anxiety mode of what might go wrong is not helpful for parent or child. "Part of this process is to accept that we can't always protect our children, as much as it's our instinct to do so."

Exacerbating the difficulties for parents are the practical implications of the loss. "You have to negotiate a whole other country with their values, infrastructure, government and laws," Read says. "You specifically get on a plane where everyone is laughing and talking about where they are going and which hotel they are staying at, and you are going to identify or collect your child's body. That level of pain, distress and trauma is beyond comprehension."

In most cases, travel insurance can help families negotiate their way through unfamiliar foreign requirements. "For many families, their distress at the loss of a loved one is often compounded by the cost and complexity of the procedures in place overseas, for example post-mortem investigations and repatriations," says Justin Brown, head of the consular and crisis management division in the Foreign Affairs Department. Up to a third of Australians who travel don't take out travel insurance.

Increased demand for government help for overseas travellers is thought to have recently prompted Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop to flag a "user-pays" approach for consular assistance. Government funding may not be forthcoming if people acted in defiance of local laws, travelled without insurance, or ignored travel advice, Bishop warned. Many travel insurers will also refuse to cover travellers for illness, accident or misadventure if they believe that the traveller was inebriated at the time of the incident.

For many parents, trying to piece together the last moments of their child's life and the circumstances of their death can be incredibly distressing. "Part of the human psyche is wanting to know the details around the death," says Sabina Read. "Not being able to imagine what the landscape was like, or the culture of the people, or how exactly it happened, means that parents are dealing with an extra element of the unknown. "

After travelling to Thailand to repatriate her daughter's body in October 2012, Julie Fitzsimons says she will never go back. Nicole Fitzsimons, 24, was a talented dancer who was completing a degree in media and communications by correspondence at Griffith University. She was on holiday in Koh Samui and sitting on the back of a motorcycle driven by her partner, Jamie Keith, when a local Thai man on another motorbike hit the couple from behind as they turned into their hotel driveway. With no helmet for protection, Nicole suffered severe head injuries and died before her parents arrived.

"I didn't want to go to Thailand and I didn't want to see it [the place where Nicole died], but I'm glad I went," Fitzsimons says.

"We did a Buddhist ceremony and released her spirit. It was traumatic. But I know I'll never go back."

In the days before Nicole's memorial service, people told Fitzsimons they wanted to donate to a charity that focused on road safety and the dangers of riding motorbikes overseas. Fitzsimons says it was a way of channelling their grief.

Just months after Nicole died, 21-year-old Kate left her corporate job and became the face of the Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation. "I read the statistics of places like Bali where the hospitals there are treating up to 300 traffic victims every day, and I wanted to know why my sister wasn't given the chance to be educated about this before she went overseas," says Kate.

Last year Kate Fitzsimons travelled to 40 schools in NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory, raising awareness of travel safety overseas.

"This has been the most fulfilling, rewarding 12 months of my life. I never thought that I'd say that so soon after losing my best friend and sister, but I think she's up there opening doors … she's with me every step of the way."


26 January, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG sets out some qualifications for "Australian of the year"

Australia's migrants leaving their new home in search of a better life

A lot of Afghans move on.  No mention of them being missed

AUSTRALIA'S migrants are abandoning their adopted country at record levels - using the lucky country as a stepping stone to a better life.

The number of former migrants leaving country has doubled in just over a decade to 48,000 and last year made up more than half of all Australians moving overseas.

It is not homesickness driving the numbers, but a new wave of country-hopping migrants looking for the best deal.  "Today's migrants can use Australia as a stepping stone to go to other countries," said Associate Professor Val Colic-Peisker from the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University.   "They are skilled migrants who can then be headhunted by Scotland, Malaysia and other countries. They go where the best work is."

The most recent figures from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection show 40 per cent of migrants who decided to leave Australia did not return to their native home.

New Zealand was the first choice for country-hopping immigrants followed by Singapore, Hong Kong, the UK and USA.

Migrants from Afghanistan and South Africa are the most likely to move on, with more than 80 per cent moving overseas after settling here.  More than a third are employed as professionals or managers.

New Zealand's Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said Australian residents entering the country will "normally be granted a residence class visa to enter and stay, work and study in New Zealand", as long as they are of good character.

And providing information on permanent residency in Australia simplifies the process of achieving residency in Hong Kong.

Dr Yadu Singh, President of the Indian Australian Association of NSW, said Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates are the popular choice of former immigrants from India.  He said these countries are more accustomed to migrants in the workforce.

"Many come to Australia and are working in jobs they are over-qualified for because they are told they need local experience," he said. "This can lead to disillusionment and even depression. The opportunities and earnings can be better elsewhere."

According to Dr Singh, foreign companies will head hunt immigrants who have worked in Australia.  "Australian experience and even getting a degree or diploma makes them more marketable."  But New Zealand is not high on the list for Indian immigrants. "I know more people that are leaving New Zealand," Dr Singh said. "They wait three years to receive a passport and then come to Australia."

Westpac's Head of Migrant Banking, Jennifer West, is keen to encourage immigrants to stay in Australia because of the financial and cultural benefit they provide to Australia. Research by Westpac on new Australians, released to coincide with Australia Day, reveals migrants contribute $200 billion to the Australian economy annually and almost one quarter are in jobs earning $70,000 or more.

"The US, Canada and New Zealand are proactive in attracting new skilled migrants," she said.  "But our research shows Australians are welcoming of immigrants and Australia Day is a great opportunity to celebrate the role new Australians play in our society


Fascist tendencies in Australia

Salute exceptionalism in Australia...well, hardly. We are becoming suffused with an intrusive public health mantra that is the antithesis of exceptionalism. For those who believe there are proper standards for the relationship between authority and liberty, beware of post-modern Australia, where public health (sometimes known as population health) has become a role model jealous of uniformity and groupthink.

Australian public health authoritarianism manifests as funding of interventionism, premised on some valued 'public good' for which myopic individuals are neither personally accountable nor 'willing to pay.' The maintenance of 'civil society' hence becomes an excuse for meddling bureaucracies to save us from ourselves and for government interfering - usually at considerable unrequited cost - so prescriptively and in so many aspects of our lives.

Domestic swimming pool fencing is one of the most egregious examples. Australia has become a world leader in self-righteously enforcing costly pool fencing standards with scant regard to evidence of commensurate net social gain.

Well-intentioned post-natal nurses routinely follow up new mothers with intrusive questions in quite evidently innocent family settings about domestic violence.

Baby capsules (now costing some hundreds of dollars) must be fitted in motor vehicles by authorised fitting stations and need comply with stringent criteria without parallel in comparable countries (although paradoxically, taxis remain exempt).

Rather than prioritising risky road behaviours that constitute discernible threats to welfare, police are applauded for random breath testing for alleged alcohol misuse or for relentlessly apprehending minor technical transgressions of ever changing speed limits - without yielding differences in road safety statistically significant to comparable high income countries that concentrate simply on targeting reckless driving. Small wonder the time cost of metropolitan travel has become so burdensome.

The folly of poison scheduling in Australia restricts to pharmacies the sale of many non-prescription medicines of infinitesimal risk that are generally available in most other countries at a fraction of the cost in supermarkets.

Because of diminishing personal accountability, it has become judgemental and politically incorrect to 'stereotype' or target the source of readily identifiable human risks such as foetal alcohol syndrome. Analogously, in the early 1980s authorities ran their HIV/ AIDS 'grim reaper' campaign by inefficiently targeting the whole country.

Australia should seek to engender authentic personal accountability. Instead it celebrates the tyranny of costly and inefficient paternalism that stifles a willingness to weigh our own risk exposures. Obesity is one of the principal sources of Australia's burden of disease yet, although highly social patterned, its control and prevention strategy is a conspicuous failure - principally because of neglect to acknowledge it is ultimately much less a realm of public policy than of personal or parental responsibility (or ill-chosen parents).

Australia's bureaucracies should reflect upon the limits of power that society may justifiably exercise over individuals. John Stuart Mill called this liberty.


The ABC in their own words

Pickering has some interesting quotes below

While Left-Green commercial media drowns in red ink, the taxpayer funded ABC, still pining for Gillard, continues to defy its charter, openly seeking to discredit and undermine the Abbott Government... and not a murmur of disapproval from the responsible Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

Decent journalists have departed the dying Fairfax Press in droves leaving the dross free to practise their treachery and disdain for middle ground politics.

Left-Green journalists have now taken to cannibalising their own with tweets regarding respected centre-ground journalist, Gerard Henderson with:

“Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.” - Mike Carlton.

“What a haughty flapping half-arsed buffoon he is” - Malcolm Farr.

“You are a fool, Henderson, a malicious and mendacious piece of shit… Now F_ck off.” - Mike Carlton again.

“Old Australian saying. ‘He wouldn’t know a tram was up him unless the bell rang’. Wholly appropriate to Gerard Henderson” - Phillip Adams.

“Gerard [Henderson] is a complete f-ckwit”- Malcolm Farr again.

“The nation mourns Gerard Henderson. He’s in perfect health.” - Peter Van Onselen, SKY. I guess that means they disagree with "The Australian's" Gerard.

Sacked Left-Green scribes have drifted to the ABC, The Conversation, The Guardian On-line and other far Left media.

Sky gives Green Senators (the insane Milne and loopy Hanson-Young) exposure way beyond their political station.

Channel 7 is a rats’ nest of anti-Australian Lefties.

Channel 10 persists with "warmist" Bongiorno and his crazy pro-illegal immigrant stance.

Who really cares, they will die by their own swords soon enough, but the ABC belongs to us... and we want it back.

The pro-Jakarta public broadcaster has now placed itself firmly within the Indonesian crime syndicates’ interests and has incredibly implied the Australian Navy has insisted illegals hold on to hot pipes!

    Only a demented fool or a Green would believe the RAN practises torture.

The ABC has been allowed to run riot for far too long and the Gillard-appointed Leftie Chairman, Spigelman, and his co-conspirator, MD Mark Scott, are past their Labor Party use-by dates.

If the fiery anger in Morrison’s and Abbott’s eyes means anything then the guillotine is about to fall and Turnbull had better quickly decide what he wants to do...

...fiddle with the NBN and his donger at the same time or begin acting like a responsible Minister.


Self-inflicted damage set to be coming for NSW Police

Paul Sheehan

The NSW Police can be their own worst enemy. In recent weeks the Herald has reported and editorialised extensively about drunken violence, with great sympathy for the police who have to bear much of the brunt of this. But bubbling beneath the surface is a torpedo that is heading for the police, aimed by the police. This is going to be a self-inflicted harm.

The indications I am receiving point to the Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, leaving his job this year and Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn getting hit by collateral damage. There is no suggestion here that either of these officers has been guilty of misconduct, but both could be damaged by the misconduct of others.

Reputational damage is likely heading for the NSW Crime Commission, the star chamber of law enforcement in this state, which may have acted above the law.

More reputational damage is certainly heading for the Special Crime and Internal Affairs unit, which itself came under investigation for over-zealous pursuit of suspected police corruption. At the other end of the spectrum, the NSW Police Association has also caused a reputational problem for itself. As a former executive member of the association told me: "Increasingly, it has become little more than a branch of the Labor Party."

The sound and fury of the impact of the torpedo may be muffled by Premier Barry O'Farrell keeping a lid on a report pending from the NSW Ombudsman.

The person most likely to step up to the job of commissioner this year is Nick Kaldas, who holds the most operationally senior role of the three deputy commissioners. He already has oversight for the majority of the 16,000 officers in the force.

It does not hurt that Kaldas' investigative work is currently on display in The Hague where the United Nations' Special Tribunal for Lebanon is conducting the trial of four members of Hezbollah who have been charged, in absentia, with the 2005 car-bombing that assassinated Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri, and killed 22 more.

Kaldas served as the lead investigator for the bulk of the investigation. He laid an evidence trail that led to the leadership of Hezbollah.

The irony in all this is that Kaldas himself was one of the officers wrongly subjected to a wire tap during an internal police investigation that lurched out of control. That covert operation has become the torpedo.

The torpedo has a name: Operation Prospect. It has been run by the NSW Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, and has a budget of $3.5 million and two years to complete its inquiries, in secret, and report. The time for its report is approaching and the outlines of its main findings have taken shape.

Operation Prospect was set up in response to complaints lodged with the Ombudsman's office by about 50 serving and former police officers who had been the subject of wire taps by the special crime and internal affairs branch between 1998 and 2002.

Last year, Barbour told a parliamentary committee that Prospect's scope was "enormous", examining listening device warrants issued by judges that allowed the bugging of more than 100 police at a time. The investigation has examined wire taps of more than 100 police officers and civilians, including Kaldas, who were the subject of covert recordings by an operation code-named Emblems, run by internal affairs from 1998 to 2002.

Commissioner Scipione and Deputy Commissioner Burn had responsibility for internal affairs during some of this time and during the aftermath of Emblems, hence their vulnerability to collateral damage.

All complaints to the ombudsman's inquiry say there were no grounds for the surveillance and many claim their careers were damaged. These claims have the potential for litigation. This is of concern to the government even though the events and their aftermath occurred long before it took office.

Also of concern for the image of the police is the shrill anti-government language being used by leaders of the Police Association. The treasurer of the union, Sergeant Prue Burgun, wrote of the O'Farrell government in an opinion piece last month: "Get out of the pocket of the Australian Hotels Association." The vice-president of the union, Inspector Pat Gooley, was even more sneering and political in an open letter published on the association's website: "Where were you, George Souris on New Year's Eve? Somewhere safe, shielded from the horrors of what people can do to each other?"

If the police union wants to operate like a branch of the Labor Party, then the service will come to be regarded as a branch of the Labor Party, and the NSW Labor Party is no stranger to the abuse of power.


24 January, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is amused by attacks on the navy by the Fairfax press and the ABC

High private school fees don't guarantee a better education than a state school (?)

The hyphenated lady below offers only assertions rather than evidence -- assertions which implicitly brand as idiots the 40% of Australian parents who send their children to private High Schools.  Her basic claim is the same one that underlay America's failed "busing" policies  -- the claim that "society" is somehow benefited by throwing capable students into chaotic classrooms alongside less capable students


NEWS that a private school education now can cost the same as a small apartment for each child surely begs some serious cost-benefit analysis.  What is it that people think they are buying when they cough up that big chunk of dough?

A slow burn towards an excellent Overall Position score for their child?  Their kid's sure-fire success in life?  A well-adjusted, confident end product?  Someone with highly placed industry contacts to spare and a Certificate of Education to die for?

Stretch it in any human direction and it is certainly high risk in investment terms.  Most of all, I contend that such an investment, and the rush to do it, makes us all poorer.

The cost of education in Australia has risen at more than double the rate of inflation during the past decade and the perception that price point dictates quality has climbed in line with this.

In Queensland, about 70 per cent of students still attend state primary schools, with the remainder attending Catholic or private schools. In high school, the split is about 60-40.

Statistics released about six months ago showed the cost of raising children had doubled in five years, mostly because of childcare and education costs.

The drift towards independent schools makes Australia an oddity internationally. In the US, one-tenth of students receive private school education. In Britain it is even less than that.

The fact that our [federal] government [partly] funds independent schools makes us even odder.

The movement towards private schools is partly due to perception, some of which is rooted in increasing truth, and some is baseless scuttlebutt. The whispers grow into murmurs, then voices, then somehow become accepted fact.

The stereotyping goes like this: state schools are lawless, manky places where students run riot in overcrowded classes. Learning is difficult, problems are many, opportunities are few. Teachers are wrung out and parents don't really care.

Private schools are disciplined, ordered places. Teachers are the cream of the crop. Families who send their children there value education more. Children are given chances to do extraordinary things, get amazing support and are stimulated with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.

Of course neither is absolutely true or false, but still the cliches survive and thrive. [Both are true enough to be influential  -- JR]

The problem is that it leads conscientious parents to the conclusion that private schools are simply better and, because they don't want their children to be left behind, they want to buy their children a big slice of that.

Stripping the middle-class kids out of the state system leaves it weaker, has implications for future viability and has consequences for the children who remain in it.  [So capable children should be held back to help the less capable children? -- JR]

In places such as the US and the UK, public school students have parents who might just as likely be doctors and lawyers as farmers and tradies - or unemployed.

Here, most caring parents agonise over where to send their child to school. This is true of diligent state, Catholic and independent school parents equally.

We are defensive of our choices. Independent school parents don't like the word "elite" being used. State schoolies don't like the implication they have made the bogan choice or don't care about their kids.

Parents who don't want their child to be left behind study school results, and schools that have disproportionate numbers of advantaged students are always going to come up looking rosier next to a mix of all-comers.

Education minister Christopher Pyne says the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results show that money is not the answer for better educational outcomes.

But children from such homes are always going to do better, no matter where they learn. If they are read to, played with, exposed to culture, fed good food, have a home and a family, they have a real shot at being achievers academically. It is not rocket science.

And so we have a drift towards independent schools, partly driven by fear and partly because the more good people shirk the state system, the weaker the system becomes.

Make no mistake: there is more to education than coursework and achieving a certificate of education. And despite their claims, independent schools do not own the market on values, or building resilience or citizenry.

The bottom line is that an independent school isn't a broad mix of society, no matter how much parents might claim it is.

While there are certainly families whose finances are stretched and who make sacrifices for their kids to attend an independent school, the families who are truly disadvantaged could only have children there on scholarships.

Parents who pay for private school education, particularly for the most expensive schools, deny their children a basic education in what their own society is like.

In the wash-up, the cost-benefit analysis of investing heavily in a child's independent school education might be found to be worth it for a few, but the price is too high for society.


Human rights chief backs public servant's sacking over tweets

Tim Wilson says their right to freedom of speech is outweighed by their obligation to their employer

Ms Banerji, an immigration Dept. employee,  regularly posted hate-filled  tweets about Australia's immigration detention policies, the security company that works at detention centres, and government and opposition frontbenchers.  By day, Banerji’s job was to communicate government policy. By night, she was attacking that policy

Michaela Banerji was sacked by the Immigration Department over posts on Twitter. She argued in court the tweets were covered by an implied constitutional right to freedom of political opinion.

The debate was ignited again this week by the resignation of Australian Taxation Office official Darryl Adams, who said he was still being pursued over a tweet he sent from a parody account two years ago.

Public Service Minister Eric Abetz welcomed the resignation, saying it should be a warning to public servants that they had a responsibility to think before they tweeted.

Mr Wilson backed the minister's stance on Thursday, saying public servants had no constitutional or human right to break their employment conditions. "Of course people have a right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression, but these people have signed on to employment agreements," Mr Wilson said.

"So if [the tweeting] relates to the areas in which they're working in, as some of these cases do, then they really have opted out by accepting the employment questions.

"I don't think there's any ambiguity in some of them, that they shouldn't be engaging in public discussion about matters in which they are directly responsible."

Mr Wilson, who is outspoken on the topic of free speech, said public servants had the option of quitting their jobs if they were unhappy with the activities of their department.

"They have the choice to seek employment elsewhere if they wish to express those views," he said.

Asked if tweets sent under pseudonyms or from parody accounts might be treated more leniently, Mr Wilson said no.

"That's quite irrelevant because they have, in some cases, access to privileged information and they have signed up to those employment conditions," he said. "It doesn't matter, when it comes down to it, because they have signed up to those conditions. It doesn't matter if they then go off and surreptitiously do what they want to do.

"Their right to free speech is not being impinged at all. They have voluntarily signed up to a standard, a code, and if they are in breach of that code, the public service is well within their rights to terminate them."

Ms Banerji failed in her bid to have the Federal Court force the Immigration Department to reinstate her, and has taken her case to Fair Work Australia after rejecting a settlement offer from the department.

Mr Adams, who could not be contacted on Thursday, was punished in September 2012 for a tweet he sent in January that year describing anti-porn campaigner Melinda Tankard-Reist as "rootable".

He was investigated again after the matter was raised last year in Senate estimates and in the media. He was facing new "sanctions" when he resigned this month.


Joe Hockey warns union on Toyota's future

THE manufacturing workers' union is "at war with Toyota" and is threatening the car maker's future in Australia, Treasurer Joe Hockey has warned.

The company wants to slash labour costs by $17 million by cutting pay and conditions but is facing strong resistance from staff and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU).

Mr Hockey says the AMWU is playing a dangerous game.  "The union, the AMWU, is at war with Toyota," the treasurer told ABC radio today.  "They are creating the conditions that make it extraordinarily difficult for Toyota to continue producing cars in Australia."

The Victorian government this week presented its plan to save Toyota's local carmaking operations, asking the federal government to make a significant contribution to Toyota to ensure it builds the next-generation Camry in Melbourne beyond 2017.

The plan follows last year's decisions by Holden and Ford to pull out of local manufacturing in the coming years.

Toyota headquarters in Japan will announce its decision on Australian manufacturing later this year.

But Mr Hockey has again made it clear that he has no plans to extend subsidies.  "We are being fair dinkum with Australian business that you cannot continue to rely on government support, on taxpayer support, in order to remain profitable," he said.  "You actually have to be profitable on your own two feet like every other business in Australia."


ABC sticking to its illegal immigrant story as 'abuse' doubts mount

THE ABC has defended its editorial processes against a rising tide of criticism of its reports that Australian navy personnel beat and burned asylum-seekers during a tow-back operation earlier this month.

This is despite strong assertions from the government and the Australian Defence Force that the claims are unfounded and another television network, Seven, treating the asylum-seekers' allegations with much greater scepticism a fortnight earlier.

The reports, by ABC Indonesia correspondent George Roberts, featured prominently on the network's radio, television and online platforms on Wednesday. They centred on video footage of the asylum-seekers receiving treatment for burned and blistered hands at a medical facility in Kupang, West Timor.

The asylum-seekers claimed the burns were a result of being forced to hold hot engine pipes by navy personnel. They also alleged they were badly beaten by navy personnel before their boat was turned back to Rote Island on New Year's Day.

"This video and the version of events given by Indonesian police appears (sic) to back up the claims of mistreatment first made by the asylum-seekers when they spoke to the ABC a fortnight ago," Roberts said in a video report.

ABC news director Kate Torney yesterday defended the reports. "These claims are indeed difficult to verify and we have reported that too, along with Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's emphatic denials," she said.

But the claims, which were also broadcast to the Asia-Pacific region on the ABC's Australia Network service, have been emphatically denied by the head of the navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, and the government. Former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr told Sky News last night the claims should be tested but he was "disinclined to think that these are the things that Australian service people would do".

Tony Abbott, who last year accused the ABC of showing "very poor judgment" over its deal with The Guardian to air claims Australia spied on Indonesia in 2009, said on Wednesday there was "absolutely no evidence" the allegations of mistreatment were true.

Yesterday, The Australian revealed that two of the asylum-seekers were already suffering burns when navy personnel intercepted the boat, possibly caused when they tried to either restart or disable the boat's engine. And Indonesian police yesterday appeared to back away from suggestions they were endorsing the claims, saying the only evidence had come from the asylum-seekers themselves.

Australia Defence Association executive director Neil James said the reports should have been treated in the media with more scepticism and critical judgment.

He said that for the claims to be true, it would have taken several Australian sailors to hold an asylum-seeker's limbs against a hot engine. If that had happened, the other asylum-seekers would certainly have intervened.

"Australian sailors just don't do that and if one of them had he'd have been dobbed in by the others," he said.

Mr James added that when the Australians arrived at the scene, the engine of the asylum-seeker boat was already cold.

"If an Australian politician had made this claim it would have been challenged," he said. "It was particularly disappointing for the ABC to report this without applying more critical judgment.

"The chances of it being true were always much less than that of it being false."

Debate over the ABC's coverage spilled on to Twitter after Admiral Griggs dismissed the claims on Wednesday afternoon.

"Based on everything I know there is no basis to these allegations - none," he wrote on the social media site, triggering a deluge of responses, some of them challenging him to deny the allegations outright. Admiral Griggs responded: "I just did!!!!"

Among the Admiral's detractors was Dean Frenkel, a vocal expert and speech analyst who regularly contributes to ABC's The Drum and who referred to Admiral Griggs as a "dickhead" for his defence of the navy.

Another regular on The Drum, barrister and former Liberal candidate Greg Barns, weighed in, tweeting: "Scott Morrison, true to form, prepared to cover up alleged assaults by navy personnel. The navy is not beyond the law."

The Australian has confirmed Seven News received the same claims from the asylum-seekers, but chose to report them with greater scepticism along with still images of the burnt hands on January 9 and 10.

Seven Network director of news Rob Raschke said reporter Mia Greves and producers spent several days working on details of the story. "We realised we had to nail the details down," he said. "We had stills of the burnt hands but the issue was how they were actually burnt. We sought a response from both Immigration and Defence and the claims were strongly denied."

Greves said both she and her producer "were very sceptical from the start". She said: "We reported them only as claims and then we straightway showed Defence chief General David Hurley denying the claims."

Greves said the asylum-seekers made other allegations that they had been beaten, handcuffed and hit by navy members.

Seven also reported on its Sunrise program on January 9 claims by the asylum-seekers that the navy had ignored their requests to retrieve the bodies of companions who had drowned before the navy intercepted their boat. Seven put all the claims in writing to Mr Morrison before the January 9 broadcast and were given firm denials from both Defence and Customs. Mr Morrison later also denied that the claims were true.

The ABC reported the claims on its AM and PM radio programs and its main news bulletins, along with the denials by Mr Morrison. The claims were also broadcast into Asia on the Australia Network, although an ABC spokesman made clear Mr Morrison's denials were also broadcast.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop this month expressed concerns about programming on the Australia Network, which is run by the ABC as a "soft diplomacy" extension of the Department of Foreign Affairs. "I also have concerns about the quality of the programming and whether it is meeting the goal of promoting Australia's interests overseas," she said.

Torney yesterday described Roberts in a letter to The Australian as "a diligent, courageous and talented journalist".

"Along with other media we have interviewed the asylum-seekers making the claims of mistreatment, unlike other outlets we have also obtained video footage showing their injured hands, we have interviewed Indonesian police who confirmed that the asylum-seekers needed medical treatment and that they are investigating," she said.

Torney said the ABC approached the ADF for comment before publishing "and are still seeking their side of the story".

"No media organisation has done more than the ABC to investigate and expose the ramifications of people-smuggling through its extensive journalism across news and current affairs," she said.

"The mission of the Australian navy under Operation Sovereign Borders is certainly dangerous and difficult, but when serious allegations are made against our defence forces it is not the job of the national broadcaster to look away. The Australian shouldn't either."


23 January, 2014

Bill Glasson meets Leftist hate

I am enrolled in the electorate of Griffith, Kevin Rudd's old seat.  I used to get a nice Christmas card from Kevvy every year while he was there.  So I will be voting in the by-election caused by Kevvy's retirement. 

The LNP candidate for the by-election is Dr. Bill Glasson, a most energetic campaigner and an ophthalmologist by trade.  His father, also Bill Glasson, was a minister in the long-running Bjelke-Petersen government of Queensland.  So the present Bill has name recognition.

I was sitting in my usual Buranda brunch destination about mid-morning yesterday when Bill and a campaign assistant walked in -- also seeking brunch.  The assistant was a nice-looking young lady who might have been his daughter.  She had "Vote Bill Glasson" written all over her t-shirt so she was at any event a helper.

Bill & Co. sat down beside a lady in a green dress.  The restaurant was busy so some tables were right up against one another.  Bill chose one such table.  As the lady beside him got up to leave, she launched a furious verbal assault on Bill:  Quite egregious behaviour in a restaurant. 

I was too far away to hear what she was saying and I am pretty deaf anyway but a professional actor could not have done a better job of portraying rage and hate  than this woman did  -- finger pointing, tensed-up body and all other conceivable hostile body  language.  Bill just sat there.  She gave up after a few minutes and walked out.  She must have thought of more things to say, however, as she shortly thereafter came back into the restaurant and resumed her angry tirade at Bill.

It was a most remarkable assault on a man the woman did not know personally and who has never been a member of any government.  She appeared to have been blaming Bill for something some government had done but why she blamed Bill for it was  obscure.

When I had finished eating, I went over, shook Bill's hand, introduced myself as a Griffith voter and said I would be voting for him.  I then asked him what the lady had been on about.  He said it was confused but it was something about hospitals.  All Australian public hospitals are in a mess so that might be understandable.  The government that got Qld. hospitals into a mess was however the recently departed Leftist government.  So again, why blame Bill?

I then said to Bill:  "She was full of hate, wasn't she?".  He agreed.  Just his conservative political identity was enough to fire her up.

Green power was useless in this heatwave. Praise coal - and the “gold-plating” Gillard attacked

The worst heat often occurs when there is not a breath of wind, which is a problem if you rely on wind power for your airconditioning to survive a heat wave:

"WHEN electricity demand peaked at the height of this week’s heatwave in southern Australia, the total power output from the fleet of wind farms across Victoria and South Australia was almost zero..."

Figures supplied by the Australian Energy Market Operator show that between 11.30am and 4pm on Wednesday, as demand hit a daily peak of 33029 megawatts nationally, wind’s share of supply fell as low as 0.3 per cent. When the electricity price peaked at $6213 in South Australian on Wednesday in the half-hour to 4pm, wind was contributing 0.7 per cent to total demand.

And solar power remains more a green gesture than a major source of energy:

More than $2 billion of subsidised investment in over 2 million rooftop solar systems contributed less than 5 per cent of peak power demand in ­Victoria and South Australia during the worst of this week’s heatwave.

This goes straight to the madness of Labor’s crusade against cheap coal-fired power and of the Renewable Energy Target that is still backed by the Abbott Government. Why are we taxing cheap, reliable power and giving handouts to expensive, unreliable power that can’t even power airconditioning in a heatwave?

But this week exposed another fraud of the Left. Julia Gillard as Prime Minister tried to deflect anger at her carbon tax by attacking utilities for their high spending on making our power system able to cope with days of highest demand - typically days like the ones we have just had:

Ms. Gillard pointed her finger at the “gold-plating” of electricity infrastructure being a major driver of price hikes, rather than the carbon price and green initiatives such as supporting the uptake of solar panel systems:

“These energy price rises are well above the cost of the introduction of the carbon price and taking action on climate change. 9c of every dollar in an electricity bill is for the carbon price - and that’s fully compensated - while 51c is for the poles and wires.”

The Prime Minister also pointed out a quarter of all retail electricity costs is spent to meet the costs of peak events that last for a few days a year.

“One sixth of our national electricity networks - $11 billion in infrastructure - caters for peak events that last for barely four days per year.

I thought it astonishing that so many journalists fell for this red herring. Ask yourself: do you begrudge that investment now? Or would you have been happy for the power in Melbourne and Adelaide to have failed this week, at the cost of who knows how many lives of the elderly and frail?


Boys hospitalised after circumcision rite

The ritual is not really circumcision.  It is subincision, but it is still a gross form of child abuse.  Why can "culture" be deployed to excuse it?
A TRADITIONAL circumcision ritual that ended with three teenage boys in hospital was neither criminal nor child abuse, an investigation has determined.

The boys were part of a group of 20 circumcised in Borroloola shortly before Christmas as part of ancient rite of passage into manhood.

Garrawa elder Keith Rory told the ABC he believed the injuries - which were serious enough to require a 700km trip to Royal Darwin Hospital- were caused by a visiting family member who was still learning the ritual.

RDH would not comment on the extent of the injuries for privacy reasons.

Department of Children and Families CEO Jodeen Carney said the matter was investigated by the Child Abuse Taskforce, which included two police officers and a medical practitioner from the Department.

"CAT received an email in relation to concerns about the ceremony - the information contained in the email was inconsistent with information uncovered by the completed investigation and inconsistent with information provided by health staff involved in the treatment," she said.

Ms Carney said there had been no similar incident in recent history, but health professionals were now consulted before ceremonies because of past concerns.

The ritual is commonly practised in traditional communities. "This ceremony is really strong, it goes way back ..." elder Keith Rory told the ABC.

"People used different sorts of stuff with young men ... these days we get it from the clinic but in those days they used stone and stuff, they made it themselves.

"It is traditional stuff and it's sacred stuff."

It was also reported that while one of the boys had no regrets, his grandfather was very angry.

NT Attorney-General John Elferink said the finding meant it was no longer a matter for the Department.

"So long as it isn't child abuse - and it isn't- and so long as it isn't criminal - and it isn't- it is a matter for the parents."


State government minister says teacher selection criteria should be more strict

If he can get better candidates -- and that would be difficult.  Big money would be needed

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli says NSW needs to enforce stricter benchmarks for its teacher training courses, despite already having the toughest entry requirements in the country.

Mr Piccoli last week visited Finland, widely recognised as one of the world's leading education systems, where he says a highly-trained teacher workforce had been key to maintaining high standards.

Under the state government's new guidelines for teacher training to be implemented next year, school leavers will be required to score at least a band five, or more than 80 per cent, in three HSC subjects, including English.

But, after spending time in Finnish classrooms and meeting with the country's education bureaucrats, Mr Piccoli said "we then need to go to the next level".

"What I get out of what Finland does is that we need to take the measures we've already brought in and take them several steps further," he said.

"We need to have a much closer relationship between the universities and schools and have a very responsive approach. As soon as there's a change in what happens in schools, we've got to make sure that that change happens in universities in terms of what they're teaching."

The vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney, Michael Spence, said the government's focus should not be on who is allowed into teaching courses but who is admitted into the profession.

"I think the question about the quality of the employees in the NSW teaching workforce is not an issue for the universities to solve, it's an issue for the NSW government as an employer to solve," Dr Spence said.

"If he's interested in selection criteria, then he ought to be looking at the selection criteria for the teachers he employs. Why is there still a system in NSW where you can put your name down on a list and end up as a teacher? "

The head of the University of NSW's school of education, Chris Davison, said she was troubled by ongoing "public pronouncements by key stakeholders denigrating the quality of teacher education".

"We're concerned that that's actually having the opposite effect to what's intended, in that it's putting off people that do have a very strong interest in teaching because they think it's low on the pecking order in terms of public confidence and esteem," Professor Davison said.

Mr Piccoli said the main factor damaging the status of the profession was "the perception that anyone can get into teaching".

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne has said he will set up a ministerial advisory group on teacher quality.


22 January, 2014

Good for business; good for savers:  Australia has sound money

Officials figures to be released today are expected to show inflation remains well within the Reserve Bank's comfort zone.

The median estimate from a Bloomberg survey of economists is for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to rise by 0.4 per cent in the December quarter, continuing the trend of inflation tapering off in the final three months of the year.

The survey predicts the annual rate of inflation will hit 2.4 per cent.

Deutsche Bank chief economist Adam Boyton says the rate is exactly where the Reserve Bank wants it and another rate cut is unlikely.

"The RBA has done a pretty good job of keeping inflation almost right in the middle of that 2 to 3 per cent target band," he said.

"It tells us that the economy was probably running a little bit below trend but it doesn't really suggest an enormously weak economy."

Mr Boyton says cheaper fruit will offset more expensive vegetables in the December quarter, while a rise in the tobacco excise will also be a factor.

"While fewer and fewer people are smoking, the cost of cigarettes is going up, so there is still a bit of a weight there in the CPI for tobacco," he said.

"But it's also just the size of the increase. Even if something's relatively small in the inflation basket, a reasonable change in price can have a little bit of an impact on the bottom line."

He says cheaper fruit will offset more expensive vegetables in the December quarter.

Inflation would have to be significantly lower for the Reserve Bank to consider another cut, Mr Boyton says.


Mandatory eight-year minimum for drunk punchers

MANDATORY minimum jail sentences of eight years for alcohol or drug-fuelled "coward punch" crimes will be introduced by Premier Barry O'Farrell today.

In a bid to tackle alcohol-related violence, the Premier will finally bite the bullet after The Daily Telegraph's Enough campaign called for tougher penalties in the wake of the deaths of Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly.

Attorney-General Greg Smith's one-punch laws, which were to include a 20-year maximum, are now ­expected to also contain a minimum term if alcohol or drugs are involved - a first for NSW.

The maximum if alcohol is involved will now be 25 years.

However, if the assailant was unaffected by drugs or alcohol there will be no mandatory minimum sentence and the maximum will be 20 years.

The legislation was initially compared to laws in Western Australia - where no one has received the maximum sentence of 10 years jail.

Mr O'Farrell has been under pressure to introduce mandatory minimums for "coward punch" offences and to bring in Newcastle-style 1am lockouts to stem the violence in Sydney particularly in Kings Cross.

But it is believed his announcement today will fall short of calling for a reduction in trading hours. Yesterday Mr O'Farrell held one of the longest cabinet meetings in his time in office - about five hours - to deal with the issue. He said he was "confident the package being taken to cabinet addresses community concerns and will make a difference".

The announcement is also expected to include a "risk-based licensing scheme" under which pubs and clubs would pay extra if they had records of violence, if they traded for longer or were in designated danger spots.

Testing assault offenders for drugs and alcohol is also under consideration so that those who engaged in alcohol or drug-fuelled violence would receive tougher penalties under the legislation's "aggravating factors".

The testing would also identify to what extent the use of steroids and methamphetamine - known as "ice" - played a part in violence.

The Attorney-General's Department, in its submission to the Foggo review of the Liquor Act presented to the government last year, said that under the existing licensing scheme there was "no ongoing requirement to prove (premises) are fit to trade".

It recommended fees determined according to compliance with liquor laws.

The department also recommended tighter responsible service of alcohol training and compulsory refresher courses for bar staff, saying "some licensed premises continue to sell alcohol to intoxicated patrons".

"Around half of all non-domestic violence assaults reported to the police are alcohol related and a significant proportion of these took place within 50m of licensed premises," it said.

Labor leader John Robertson called for the government to bring in the Newcastle lockouts: "The Premier : "We have a Premier wholacks the courage to stare down the liquor industry."


Probe on academics uncovers new concerns

As UQ is where I got my first degree,  this bothers me.  It invites the skinger of forn to be pointed at all UQ degrees

AN investigation into two University of Queensland researchers accused of faking a landmark Parkinson's disease study has uncovered more concerns about alleged academic shortcomings associated with the pair.

Neuroscientist Bruce Murdoch and speech pathologist Caroline Barwood resigned from the state's top university last year, after a whistleblower complained there was no evidence their Parkinson's research was ever carried out.

UQ's vice-chancellor Peter Hoj was forced to ask the European Journal of Neurology to retract the 2011 article, after ordering a misconduct investigation.

The university could not find any data to prove the study -- entitled Treatment of articulatory dysfunction in Parkinson's disease using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation -- was conducted.

Professor Murdoch, who has published 13 books in the field of neurologically acquired speech and language disorders, was the lead author of the study, while Dr Barwood was listed as its third author.

The University of Queensland probe then examined more than 100 published papers associated with the pair -- as co-authors and separately -- since 2007.

The Australian understands the UQ investigation raised concerns about 11 papers published in seven journals. One of the papers has been repeated across two journals, a practice that is not allowed in academia. Another two are literature reviews based on the discredited Parkinson's research, while a third contains an apparent statistical anomaly.

"The university discovered no (further) instances of research not supported by data or of research undertaken without ethics approval," Mr Hoj said in a statement released yesterday. "It has, however, identified some concerns about the attribution of authorship of a small number of papers and the statistical approach taken in one paper. We have provided relevant details to the editors of the journals that published the papers. In all cases it will be up to the editors to determine what action to take now. There have been no formal responses from editors at this stage."

The Australian understands authorship issues can broadly refer to decisions about which academic is listed as lead author on a certain published paper. The lead author is usually the academic who undertakes the lion's share of the work.

The University of Queensland has not made findings of misconduct against either of the researchers. That part of the investigation was concluded after the academics had left the institution.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission is still investigating.

Neither of the researchers have spoken publicly about the allegations. The university also returned the first two instalments of a $300,000 bursary awarded to Dr Barwood by the Lions Medical Research Foundation. Foundation chairman Anthony Hodgson said yesterday the incident would not stop the organisation from financially backing the university's academics in the future. "We accept that it's a one-off thing," Mr Hodgson said.

The university's reputation has suffered after the airing of nepotism allegations relating to former vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield.


Miss Pinup Australia: A beauty pageant with a difference, from a time when more was left to the imagination

I remember the 50s well and agree that there was much good in them.  I even still have some 50s furniture  -- JR

It seems that going backwards is the only way forward.

More than 100 women will compete in this year's Miss Pinup Australia, a nationwide contest that promotes "good old-fashioned values", says founder Miss Pixie, who goes by her persona to avoid unwelcome public attention. This is the competition's fifth year.

In flowing full skirts and flawless make-up, contestants will flaunt cinched waistlines and evoke the opulence of a decade characterised by conservatism and an emphasis on femininity that would make any modern feminist cringe.

Authenticity is the key: entrants are required to dress, act and present themselves in true 1950s style.

It is a chance for women of all shapes and sizes to find their "inner pin-up", Miss Pixie says.

Hopefuls compete in a state heat in their nominated categories, proceed to a state final and then go into contention for the title of Miss Pinup Australia.

Lamenting a lack of self-respect in today's society, the 45-year-old dance instructor and photographer said the competition was bringing back the lost art of modesty. "We like to be treated as ladies but to be treated as ladies, you need to act like one," Miss Pixie says.

Turning the adage "less is more" on its head, she imparts traditional values on her clients because - as far as the '50s go - more is, in fact, less, she says.

"I think there is nothing wrong with covering your knees. A woman is a present. If you wrap the present and allow a man to use their imagination, then you'll find that you'll get the respect that you deserve."

However, it is not all about glamour, immaculate hairstyles and ruby-red lips. For Miss Bells B Ringing, 33, embracing a '50s persona has become a way of life.

"We can look at it [the '50s] in hindsight, but we're actually living it right now," she says.

Getting "pinned up" every day has emboldened her, "especially being a bigger girl [because] it's been hard for me all my life to try to find a confidence within myself, and I really love the way I look now," she says.

Miss Candy Floss, 28, believes there is much to be learnt from an era in which poodle cuts and pointed busts reigned, and she admires the way women conducted themselves with dignity.

The competition is not just open to the fairer sex; men are encouraged to channel their inner James Dean.

The live events will run between April and August, and members of the public are welcome to attend the shows.


21 January, 2014

Psychology is Australia's most overrated degree, Surveying is our most underrated

SCHOOL-LEAVERS considering studying psychology should have their heads read - it is officially Australia's most overrated degree.

Only 63 per cent of the psychology graduates found full-time work in their chosen field - and those lucky ones had a median starting salary of $47,500, only slightly higher than the $42,000 earned by factory workers.

According to the new study by McCrindle Research, surveying is the smartest choice for students, ranking as Australia's most underrated degree.

Australia suffering from high levels of youth unemployment, with more than a quarter aged 17-24 not in full time work or study.

But with surveyors, nine out of ten graduates found full time work in their chosen field - with a median starting salary of $52,000.

Adam Brown, a surveying recruitment specialist with Aspect Personnel, says 2014 should be a boom year for graduates, with building approvals at levels not seen since 2010.

"2013 was a tough year for building approvals, but that is set to change," Mr Brown said. "There will be an urgent demand to fill holes in surveying staff and clients will prefer graduates to train and give more bang for their buck."

Bryce Campbell, who has just completing his first year of surveying at the University of Newcastle, is hoping the buck will swing his way.

"Surveying isn't a popular degree," he said. "In my home town of Port Macquarie a surveyor I know said there is currently a shortage. By the time I graduate, there should be huge demand."

After graduating, his degree could mean working with roads, mapping, oceanography or something with volcanoes. "I haven't quite decided yet," said Mr Campbell.

Emma Eltringham, 21, from Melbourne, is excited about starting the first year of a surveying degree at the University of Melbourne and the future possibilities.  "There are so many options, but it is a stable career with long-term work," she said. "I am really excited about the opportunities it will bring."

Urban and Regional Planning, Rehabilitation and Electrical Engineering are other bachelor degrees creating employable graduates with our changing population driving demand, according to demographer Mark McCrindle.

"Australia's population growth is creating the need for more homes than ever and the redevelopment of many existing urban centres," Mr McCrindle said.  "This planning and construction boom is creating great opportunities for graduates in relevant fields."

While psychology was ranked as the most overrated degree, architecture came in second with 72 per cent finding work in the field, but earning just $32,500.

Just over half of Visual and Performing Arts students working full-time receive a job in their field of study, helping this degree to third place.

The majority of graduates in these degrees require further study and qualifications before commencing full-time employment, according to demographer Mr McCrindle.

But the research also reveals there is less work for graduates and they are increasing entering the workforce in debt.

Between 2011 and 2013, the number of graduates securing work within four months dropped from 76.3 per cent to 71 per cent.

And today there are 1.7 million Australians with a HECS debt, commonly owing between $20,000 and $30,000.


1. Psychology

Full-time employees working in this field: 63%

Median starting salary: $47,500

2. Architecture

Full-time employees working in this field: 72%

Median starting salary: $32,500

3. Visual and Performing Arts

Full-time employees working in this field: 52%

Median starting salary: $38,000

4. Social Sciences

Full-time employees working in this field: 60%

Median starting salary: $45,000


1. Surveying

Full-time employees working in this field: 90%

Median starting salary: $52,000

2. Urban/Regional Planning

Full-time employees working in this field: 81%

Median starting salary: $50,000

3. Rehabilitation

Full-time employees working in this field: 89%

Median starting salary: $50,200

4. Electrical Engineering

Full-time employees working in this field: 76%

Median starting salary: $60,000


NSW government cancels mining licences tainted by Eddie Obeid, Ian Macdonald corruption scandals

"Sir Lunchalot" (Ian Macdonald)

Premier Barry O'Farrell will use special legislation to tear up three coal licences worth hundreds of millions of dollars issued by corrupt former Labor minister Ian Macdonald and deny the companies that own them any compensation.

The announcement is likely to spark legal action against the government by listed company NuCoal and private miner Cascade Coal, which claim their investors are being punished unfairly.

On Monday night Cascade, which has previously valued its exploration licences at $500 million, said the decision was grossly unjust and would cause "irreparable damage to the reputation of NSW and raise significant questions of sovereign risk".

A NuCoal spokesman said there had been "zero consultation" between the government and the company over the matter and it would "pursue all legal avenues to obtain compensation". It has previously suggested it would seek at least $500 million if its licence was cancelled.

But residents affected by the proposed mines, including Bylong Valley Protection Alliance secretary Craig Shaw, said the decision was a "victory for the people of NSW".

"Hats off to O'Farrell and his government for making this move," Mr Shaw said. "It was really the only logical move that was possible after the ICAC findings. But, as they say, it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings and we were holding our breath just waiting to see."

On Monday, Mr O'Farrell said the move drew "a line under this sorry saga of Labor politics and corruption in NSW".

After sensational public inquiries last year, the Independent Commission Against Corruption found Mr Macdonald and his political ally, former Labor MP Eddie Obeid, acted corruptly by agreeing in 2008 to create a mining tenement over the Obeid family's farm at Mount Penny in the Bylong Valley.

The decision delivered the Obeids $30 million with the promise of at least $30 million more.

ICAC also found Mr Macdonald acted corruptly in 2008 in granting a licence at Doyles Creek to a company, Doyles Creek Mining, then chaired by former union official John Maitland. In December, ICAC advised the government that the licences - and another at Glendon Brook that formed part of the inquiry - were so "tainted by corruption" they should be cancelled.

It recommended the government legislate to give itself the power to confiscate profits made by those with knowledge of the corruption and compensate "any innocent person" affected by the cancellation.

In a statement after cabinet met on Monday night, Mr O'Farrell said the government would introduce legislation to cancel the licences but "no compensation" would be given.

Five of the investors in Cascade - coal mogul Travers Duncan, businessman John Kinghorn, lawyers John McGuigan and John Atkinson, and investment banker Richard Poole - were found by ICAC to have acted corruptly by concealing the Obeids' involvement in the mining tenement.

The government has not indicated whether it will also pass special laws to claw back profits from those who benefited from corrupt conduct. Such laws would go further than existing legislation to seize proceeds of crime because they would not require proof of illegality.

Mr O'Farrell said the bill would require the companies that now own the licences - NuCoal, which acquired Doyles Creek in 2010, and Cascade Coal in the case of Mount Penny and Glendon Brook - to hand over all exploration data and be responsible for rehabilitating the sites.

"There is no intention to immediately re-release the affected areas but any future process for issuing licences will be consistent with the NSW government's implementation of the ICAC's recommendations on probity," the government statement said.

"The legislation will indemnify the taxpayer from any possible claims relating to the issuing or cancellation of the licences."

A US investment fund, Ventry Industries, which holds 2.43 per cent of NuCoal, has said NSW would breach a section of the US-Australia free trade agreement dealing with confiscation of property without just compensation and due process. Managing director Rob Roy has threatened to lobby Congress and the US government over the matter.

Cascade argued ICAC's reasoning for recommending the cancellation of Mount Penny and Glendon Brook was flawed and warned of long and costly litigation.


Restaurant under fire for complaining about public holiday rates

A SMALL cafe in Adelaide has come under fire on Facebook after making public its dislike at having to pay workers 2.75 times the ordinary hourly rate of pay on public holidays.

The Bombay Bicycle Club in Ovingham set up a sign at the front of its restaurant outlining just how much it would cost them to open on a public holiday. They multiplied everything on the menu 2.75 times in an attempt to highlight the "stupidity" of the new rate.

The bread would be $19.25 under the cafe's calculations, while lamb korma was $65, salt and pepper squid $55, chicken schnitzel $48.50 and it would be more than $60 for a seafood pizza.

After receiving negative feedback in person, the cafe took to Facebook to explain the reasons behind the sign - but the instantaneous backlash forced them to pull the picture, and the sign, after just four hours.

"Here's a quick maths formula. Multiply zero (which equals the amount I will now spend at your establishment) by 2.75 and see what it equals," wrote one person on Facebook.

"Interesting to see that wages make up 100 per cent of your costs. While it must suck to have to compensate people fairly for working when everyone else gets a holiday, it must be nice not to have to pay for rent, insurance, or food," wrote another.

"Pay penalty rates you bourgeois swine!" commented someone after giving the establishment a rating of one star out of five.


Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews says Australia's welfare system is 'unsustainable'

The federal government says Australia's welfare system is unsustainable and changes need to be made. Source: AAP

THE federal government may consider introducing a universal welfare payment with top-ups for different need levels, to replace multiple types of benefits.

A 10-year report by the Department of Human Services shows more than five million Australians received an income support payment in June 2012, with Disability Support Pension recipients hitting 827,000 and the Newstart Allowance going to 550,000 people.

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews is concerned about growing numbers of people receiving the disability pension and Newstart, the general unemployment benefit.

"We must have ... a safety net for people who can't care for themselves ... but at the same time we have to ensure that the welfare system remains sustainable," he told ABC Radio.

"The best form of welfare is work."

Mr Andrews has appointed former Mission Australia head Patrick McClure to head a review of the welfare system.

The government is reviewing all welfare rules to see what can be done to decrease the number of people on the dole, including the possibility of eliminating the ability of those on welfare to refuse to take a job if it is more than 90 minutes from their home.

He says another proposal is for one universal welfare payment with top-ups for different levels of need, but that this is a long-term option.  "We have no immediate plans for that," he said.

Mr Andrews pointed out that the Newstart Allowance was indexed at a different rate compared to pensions.  "That provides in some instances at least a perverse incentive for people to want to get onto the disability support pension," he said.  "It's something which any government which is prudent about these things would have a look at."

He defended the Abbott government's generous paid parental leave scheme proposal, describing it as a work-related payment in the context of an ageing population and shrinking workforce.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he was alarmed by Mr Andrews' comments, warning aged pensioners could be on the government's hit list.  "If this government wants to save money, scrap your gold-plated billionaires', millionaires' parental leave scheme," he told Sky News.  He said the government should look at multimillionaires receiving tax-free income from superannuation.

Welfare Rights Centre director Maree O'Halloran said the idea of a universal welfare payment with top-ups sounded fair, but it could be complex to administer.


20 January, 2014

Newman and Abbott governments plan for immigrants and refugees to be sent to regional Queensland towns

Decentralization generally does not work.  Any cheers for Albury/Wodonga?  But Qld. is already naturally decentralized with some very attractive smaller cities so this might be a goer

IMMIGRANTS and refugees wanting to call Queensland home will be required to live in regional cities and towns to alleviate future growing pains in the southeast corner.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the Newman and Abbott governments have begun initial discussions about developing a quota system aimed at funnelling new arrivals into cities such as Cairns, Townsville and Rockhampton to promote growth.

Requiring prospective Queensland residents to live in a predetermined city for a designated period would have to be considered as part of their residency conditions to prevent people circumventing the decentralisation policy by moving shortly after they've been granted access.

Premier Campbell Newman said Queensland had a unique opportunity to grow regional centres unlike NSW, Victoria, South Australia and West Australia which were virtually single-city states.

"I have actually already had a discussion with the Federal Immigration Minister and we will work on some sort of plan or policy together to try and get people to go as immigrants and refugees to regional Queensland," he said.

Mr Newman said the governments would work together with councils to consider ways to prioritise residency applications for people prepared to live in certain areas.

Past Queensland governments have promoted similar decentralisation policies but have failed to have any demonstrable impact on channelling new arrivals away from Brisbane or the Sunshine and Gold coasts.

The Department of Immigration has schemes in place to attract residents with particular skills, such as the one that operates in West Australia, although the Queensland model would be based on the cities where they are prepared to live.

About 100,000 overseas immigrants move to Queensland each year and the state's population is predicted to rise from 4.5 million to eight million in 30 years.

Under the Queensland Plan, the Government wants 50 per cent of the population to live outside the southeast corner by 2034, meaning the regions would have to cater for another 2.3 million people.

Mr Newman said the Government would "positively discriminate" its infrastructure priorities in regional Queensland to compliment this growth which could prove cheaper in the long-term.

Mr Newman said he did not believe immigrants would bypass Queensland because they were being asked to consider cities and towns outside the southeast.

"The wonderful thing about these cities already in a world sense, in an international sense, is they are actually pretty nice places to live," he said.  "I mean you go to all these places, they've got civic centres, theatre companies, wonderful parks, beaches, great recreational and sporting facilities.  "Great infrastructure is already there."


Future Submarine project a farce that has missed a mention

The monster budget is coming, the one which, in a single blow, will make all the political debate since the federal election seem like an episode of Seinfeld, the show about nothing.

The strange thing is, as the government prepares its first budget and has set up the National Commission of Audit to prepare the way, one of the biggest, most dysfunctional, most wasteful and most misguided proposed programs has not even been mentioned. You could say it remains submerged.

Not a word has there been about this gold-plated, $30 billion sinkhole. The only sign that the Abbott government is preparing to confront this impending, unaffordable, inexcusable financial black hole was its announcement that former federal MP Sophie Mirabella was joining the board of ASC Pty Ltd, formerly known as the Australian Submarine Corporation.

ASC is a basket case. Its fingerprints are all over a sequence of expensive failures. It cannot be reformed, does not deserve to be saved and should be killed off before it can do any further damage to national security.

And yet the Royal Australian Navy expects that ASC will be the prime contractor of the most costly project in Australian defence history, the Future Submarine project, which it envisages will involve the construction of a dozen submarines, in South Australia, to replace the Collins-class submarines, also made in Australia and also a financial and operational sinkhole.

That this plan is even being put forward as a matter of policy by the defence bureaucracy shows how deeply ingrained is the cultural delusion and arrogance of the Australian armed forces.

The cycle of money-soaking arrogance runs like this: there is no hardware suitable for local conditions so the Defence Materiel Organisation must design tender specifications that are specialised for Australian needs. The local military-industrial complex will produce custom-modified, low-volume, high-cost military hardware that is the best in the world.

The reality, in a cycle repeated over decades, is the military-industrial complex produces gold-plated, high-maintenance products that never match hype and cost twice as much as they need to.

Whatever one may think of Mirabella, she is an economic dry and does not shirk the dirty work of confronting spendthrift bureaucrats, military brass and trade unions, all of whom have treated the Australian Submarine Corporation and the Defence Materiel Organisation as a giant honey pot.

Both organisations are impervious to competence. In 2011, the Labor government commissioned an audit of the navy's procurement process. It revealed a shambolic labyrinth that produced cost blow-outs and chronic delays. That same year, the navy received an SOS after cyclone Yasi smashed Queensland but was unable to deploy a single ship. All three of its large amphibious ships were out of service and two of them were so unseaworthy they never returned to service.

At the same time, the navy also had to scrap six large landing craft before they were even used, at a cost of $40 million, because they could not be loaded onto the motherships they had been bought for.

The opposition defence spokesman at the time, David Johnston, described all this as "an absolute walking, living, breathing example of incompetence". He is now Defence Minister, responsible for this fleet of foolishness.

The minister needs to be aware the military is as duplicitous as it is deluded. The culture of hazing and harassment, to which the military turned a blind eye for decades, proves that. In 2009, a report entitled Strategic Review of Naval Engineering delivered a scathing assessment of the navy's ability to keep ships in operation. That report was suppressed. It was kept from the then defence minister.

The idea that Australia should produce a dozen submarines in South Australia, at a projected cost of about $3 billion a vessel, is madness. One only need look at the the Collins-class submarines. They were manufactured in South Australia by the Australian Submarine Corporation at a cost of about $1 billion per submarine - far more than projected. The navy has never had more than two of the six submarines in service at any time.

The new submarines will have a unit cost that dwarfs the Collins-class subs if built here, or roughly three times the cost of acquiring the submarines from foreign shipyards. The navy disputes this disparity but history does not.

The grand South Australian submarine project is an unaffordable hold-over from Kevin Rudd's unbudgeted grandiosity. The government will save more than $20 billion if it brings this project down to size and offshore.

One only need to look at the navy's existing major procurement project, the Air Warfare Destroyer Program, to see costs blowing out and unforseen complexities. Every year produces another procurement embarrassment. This year, it is the fleet supply ship HMAS Sirius, commissioned in 2006. It will be taken out of service after just eight years because it cannot function adequately in rough seas.

Australia's defence establishment remains culturally fixated on big hardware when national security is increasingly determined by asymmetrical warfare, cyber security and intelligence gathering. A new and upgraded style of military security requires greater sophistication, rather than defence capacity being dominated by big boys with big toys. In this case, very complex, very conspicuous, very vulnerable and very, very expensive hardware at a time when software rules.


WA detention centres are 'dysfunctional'

Three asylum seekers escaped a Western Australia detention centre in 45 seconds last week, exposing major security flaws at the facility, a leaked report has revealed.

The January 12 break out was the third escape from the Yongah Hill Detention Centre in five months and an embarrassment for Serco, which manages Australia's detention centres and WA's prisoner transport system.

Documents reveal security weaknesses including asylum seeker access to the internet for maps, to book plane tickets and organise getaway cars through social media.

Detainees had also become more confident due to the number of recent escapes and the lack of penalties, while the voltage on the 3.2-metre electric fence at Yongah Hill was not strong enough to shock escapees and was easy to climb.

A Serco insider described the entire system as "dysfunctional" and said he was speaking out against "incompetence".

"There is no training given and everything is about money," he told The Sunday Times newspaper.

"Every time we have these incidents the main effort isn't improving, but more so passing the buck and looking for someone to blame."

Two of the Vietnamese detainees from the January 12 breakout have been caught, but the third remains on the run.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said recommendations made by Serco following any escape incident were considered and implemented if appropriate.

"There are service standards in place with regard to performance against the department's contract with its detention service provider, Serco, and compliance with these standards is regularly reviewed," she said.

"Security is a key performance indicator under the contract and there is provision for abatement for such breaches."

The incident happened a week after a rapist and alleged armed robber kicked their way out of a prison van at Geraldton Airport, prompting a 36-hour manhunt.

A third prisoner escaped from Serco's custody while being treated at Joondalup Health Campus on Friday afternoon and was caught on Sunday.

The prisoner ripped a metal rail off a wall and threatened staff, so guards shut him in a bathroom and it is believed he then climbed through the ceiling to escape.


One in every 40 serving police officers in NSW has committed an offence

THERE are 437 serving police officers with criminal convictions, that is one in every 40 officers.  It is an incredible increase of 230 per cent over the past five years.

Among the ranks is an inspector convicted of assaulting an off-duty ­officer and drink-driving while other offences include bashing, drink-driving, fraud, illegal use of guns and other driving offences.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that the 437 officers have 591 convictions against them. That is 256 per cent more than 2008 when, according to freedom of information figures, there were 166 offences between 133 serving officers.

Among them are 14 inspectors, five senior sergeants, 80 sergeants, 236 ­senior constables, 20 probationary ­constables and 13 student officers.

Policing expert Michael Kennedy said the reason for the increase was probably due to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione taking a tough line and a culture of police reporting and prosecuting their own.

"On face value these figures appear to be negative for the police but on the other side, Scipione does not interfere," Dr Kennedy said.

Dr Kennedy, a former detective and lecturer in policing at the University of Western Sydney, said some police chiefs in parts of Australia had been known for "having a word" with officers facing the criminal courts so they could resign quietly.  "But Scipione does not do that. If they are charged, he lets the system deal with them," he said.

Former assistant commissioner Clive Small said: "An increase of over 200 per cent over five years is a worrying trend that the police and the ­government need to keep an eye on."

In cases still in the courts, a female officer has been charged with stalking, intimidating and bugging, a male officer has been accused of setting up a bathroom spy camera to secretly film people and theft, lying and corruption.

Mr Scipione said he had no tolerance for officers who broke the law and committed serious offences.  "If an officer's offence causes me to lose my confidence in them, I will sack them. They will not be part of this police force," he said.

However he said less serious ­offences should not warrant the end of a career but often the workplace penalties were worse than court penalties with officers demoted.

"Yes, there are officers still in this ­organisation who we have charged and who have recorded a conviction," Mr Scipione said.

"In the majority of cases, these officers will have been convicted of a low range PCA or similar offence. While I am not happy about that, I don't believe that warrants the end of a ... career."

Since he took over as commissioner in 2007, Mr Scipione has sacked 87 officers under section 181D of the Police Act, which states the commissioner has lost confidence in them.  Those are officers who have not been reinstated by the Industrial ­Relations Commission.

Senior police are known to be frustrated with the IRC which has forced them to reinstate an estimated half of all sacked officers after appeals.

The IRC has made it clear in their decisions that even a high-range PCA or similar offence could never be grounds for dismissal.

Former sergeant Andrew Lawrance, who the commissioner tried to sack in 2010 because he used his penis piercing to open beer bottles, was reinstated by the IRC.

Mr Scipione was warned about criticising the commission in 2009 by Justice Frank Marks, who considered contempt of court proceedings against the commissioner.


19 January, 2014

Coalition set for clean sweep as year of elections begins

Lara Giddings' announcement of a Tasmanian state election for March 15 sets up the first quarter of 2014 as something of an election fiesta for Australia.

You may have sighed a sigh of huge relief when the clock ticked over on New Year's Eve, putting 2013 and all its electioneering firmly in the “last year” bin.

But 2014 is the new 2013 when it comes to elections.  The new year begins with a byelection in Kevin Rudd's old seat of Griffith on February 8.

They're already off and racing there. Today alone, we had Labor leader Bill Shorten campaigning in the seat, outrage over a Bill Glasson volunteer blocking a disabled spot and the Bullet Train Party posting spoof Kevin videos online.

Along with Griffith and Tasmania, South Australians will also vote in a state election on March 15.

And with the High Court currently considering what to do about the dud WA Senate result, there is a sporting chance there will be yet another vote out West in time for the new Senate to bump in on July 1.

On paper, the tide is coming in for the Coalition across the country.  Giddings and SA Labor Premier Jay Weatherill will have to fight hard and cross their toes to hang on to government.

Giddings on Thursday described herself as the proverbial underdog – and for good reason. The most recent EMRS opinion poll showed the ALP with just 22 per cent backing, compared to the Greens' 19 per cent, and the Liberals' 49 per cent.

In South Australia, Weatherill weathered a frosty Newspoll just before Christmas that had Labor at 33 per cent and the Liberal Party at 40 per cent.

So come the next COAG meeting in April, Prime Minister Tony Abbott could be blissfully facing Coalition governments all around the table, with the exception of Katy Gallagher's Labor government in the ACT.

(Although the full set of states may not last for long, with a one-seat margin in Victoria and a state election set for November 29.)

And yet, things aren't all cupcakes and rainbows for the Coalition in Canberra.

The week began with yet another opinion poll putting Shorten's Labor convincingly in front. Roy Morgan had Labor at 52.5 per cent two-party-preferred, compared to the Coalition's 47.5 per cent.

It would appear that the only honeymoon period Tony Abbott has had was with Margie in 1988.

No wonder Giddings was quick to frame her pitch to voters this afternoon around her opposition to Tony Abbott.

“We have an enemy before us called Tony Abbott, and the Liberal Coalition Government nationally, that is taking away reforms that we fought so hard for,” she said, nominating the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the National Broadband Network, health and education as key areas of concern.

Politicians are always at pains to stress that “the only poll that matters is election day”.

Lucky, then, that we have at least three such days coming soon


Businesses eye Holden factory

A number of international automotive manufacturers have expressed interest in Holden’s Adelaide factory following its closure in 2017, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has revealed.

Premier Weatherill revealed the news just before Christmas, following a meeting by key industry leaders to identify job-creation projects to absorb some of the 1600 job losses at the Elizabeth plant in Adelaide’s north.

“We're receiving unsolicited propositions from a range of companies and others that we've gone out and pursued ourselves. We're obviously working through them,” said Weatherill.

“It is sensible to consider other options and it's not just car manufacturers.

“There's also armoured vehicle manufacturers and other whole sectors that have completely different industry opportunities, for instance in the food industry.

“All of those things are on the table and they're being given consideration, too.”

Weatherill said an official response would be made this year and the SA government would also consider targeted support, including regulatory and financial assistance, to accelerate the expansion of existing companies.

The SA premier said he believed "tens of thousands" of jobs could be created to help counter the losses at Holden and its independent component suppliers.

The federal government announced a $100 million ‘transition’ package on December 11, including $60 million from the commonwealth and $12 million from the Victorian government, and called on the SA government to add $8 million.

Weatherill said his state government was prepared to put forward $50 million for the cause and challenged the federal government to increase support to $375 million.


Tenants feel heat after Housing NSW crackdown on pools

This seems excessive.  Safety should be the only concern.  Stuff "permission"

Housing NSW has demanded public housing tenants remove backyard swimming pools within 48 hours, after accessing the government's new swimming pool register to launch the crackdown on families.

Kim Sinclair has five children and five grandchildren using her above-ground pool to cool off in Sadleir, near Liverpool, when the mercury climbs in summer. The pool is fenced, has been at the property for six years and is well known to housing inspectors, she said.

But, after registering the pool online at a NSW government website to comply with new safety laws, she received a letter from Housing NSW declaring the pool was unauthorised.

"You must remove the structure within 48 hours of receipt of this letter," it said.

Ms Sinclair knows of other families who have received the letters despite their pools, some in-ground, being at the property for up to 20 years. An in-ground pool can cost $6000 to $10,000 to remove.

Housing NSW says public tenants are not allowed to install any pool, including inflatable and portable pools, unless they receive authorisation from the department on medical grounds.

Ms Sinclair's youngest children, aged 12 and 14, have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and another has asthma.

"I have a doctor's certificate saying the kids need the pool," she said.

The opposition has criticised the policy and the removal blitz.

Liverpool's Labor MP, Paul Lynch, said Community Services Minister Pru Goward was denying western Sydney families who lived far from the beach and could not afford frequent trips to the local pool the chance to swim.

"It's as if Housing NSW tenants have to be treated as though they're 'the undeserving poor'," Mr Lynch said. "In Minister Goward's view, it's a crime not to be rich and therefore you have to suffer through a Liverpool summer without a pool."

A Department of Family and Community Services spokesman denied Housing NSW had used the NSW government's pools register to initiate the crackdown.

Housing NSW used information obtained during regular property assessments to identify if properties complied with recent changes to the Swimming Pools Act, he said.

"Only unauthorised and potentially unsafe pools have been requested to be removed," the spokesman said. "This information was cross-checked against the pools register."

Tenants who had not sought permission to install the pool were asked to remove it, he said.

"Only a small percentage of public housing residents have installed swimming pools," he said. "Data is not yet available on the number of pools removed as many of the tenants voluntarily removed them without necessarily notifying Housing NSW."

Ms Sinclair has since been told a council inspector needs to approve her pool before Housing NSW will give permission for it to remain on medical grounds.


Cost no barrier for some as unis lose students to Oxford and Harvard

The number of Australians heading to the world's most prestigious universities such as Harvard and Oxford for their undergraduate degree is swelling, as students are lured by reputation and rich scholarly traditions.

But a leading education expert says the immense costs, up to $90,000 a year, will remain a barrier for all but a privileged minority or those with scholarships.

While 55,000 students received offers this week to study at NSW universities, many others were preparing for a year abroad.

Kim Zhang, who graduated from Pymble Ladies' College last year, will soon join an impressive list of Australians to have studied at Oxford University, including Tony Abbott and three other Prime Ministers.

The 18-year-old, who received an ATAR of 99.95, will travel to the oldest university in the English-speaking world to study the classics.

"It's one of the best places in the world for classical literature and philosophy and history," she said.

Australia is Oxford's fifth-largest source of international talent, with more than 300 Australians currently enrolled, of which less than a quarter are undergraduates.

In the US, two-thirds of the Australians studying at university are undergraduates or on exchange programs, figures from the Institute of International Education show.

Between 2012 and last year, more than 4000 Australian students were studying at American universities.

And, while there are more than 3000 institutions, Australians are well represented at the eight elite Ivy League universities in the US, with Harvard University the equal second most popular place for undergraduates to study and Princeton University equal sixth.

The most recent enrolment data from Columbia University in New York shows there were 116 Australian students in 2012, almost double the number in 2006.

Last year, the University of California, Berkeley had 65 Australians enrolled, Princeton had 30 undergraduates and 21 graduates and Yale had 42 students, including 15 undergraduates.

US consulate general public affairs officer David McGuire said the Ivy League universities were "highly selective".

Acceptance rates are as low as 5.69 per cent at Stanford University and 5.79 per cent at Harvard. In Britain, only 12 undergraduate Australians were accepted to study at Cambridge University in 2012 out of almost 100 applicants.

As well as competitiveness, Grattan Institute higher education program director Andrew Norton said cost would be a barrier for most students without scholarships.

"You'd expect some growth but I think the cost and social implications of studying overseas are still going to keep most people here," he said.

It is estimated Harvard costs an international student $73,000 a year. Cambridge ranges from $55,000 to more than $90,000.

By comparison, studying law at the University of Sydney while living at one of the prestigious on-campus colleges would cost about $30,000 without a government loan.

Jane McNeill, director of Hays recruitment in NSW, said a degree from a top university did not carry the advantage it once did.

"Today many employers value candidates with experience as well as a degree," she said. "The biggest advantage of a degree from a prestigious university is probably the alumni network and the connection you make with fellow students."


17 January, 2014

Sex fiend Robert Fardon wins fight for freedom after Newman Government drops court challenge

PREMIER Campbell Newman has fired another shot at the legal fraternity over the release of reviled sex predator Robert John Fardon.

Speaking at Kangaroo Point on Thursday after sections of the Government's new sex offender laws were ruled invalid by the courts, Mr Newman said he was disappointed with the outcome as were many other "fair minded people".

"Sadly in a time past, people like Mr Fardon would never have got out, and it really distresses me that today for whatever reason that is not the case, (and it) seems to be we have a lot of a legal system, but not enough of a justice system," said Mr Newman.

He rejected any suggestion the Government's laws designed to keep Mr Fardon behind bars were rushed, and drafted without proper consultation.

"We have on all occasions with changes to the law, sought top legal advice," Mr Newman said.

"But the legal system is an interesting system. It doesn't always serve up outcomes that the people expect."

He vowed to continue to try to find ways to keep dangerous sex offenders like Mr Fardon locked up and expressed concern that Wednesday's decision would see other rapists and pedophiles released back into the community.

"We have worked extremely hard to find solutions to some of these really vexed problems, these terrible criminals who've committed such awful crimes," said the Premier.

"The faith will continue but clearly in this case it's trying to lock the gate after the horse has bolted."


REVILED sex predator Robert Fardon has won his fight for freedom after the Newman Government abandoned a High Court challenge aimed at forcing him back behind bars.

The Attorney General will not appeal a court decision which declared sections of the Newman Government's new sex offender laws invalid.

The decision, made on high-level legal advice, clears the final hurdle for Fardon who has fought to be released for more than a decade.

Other notorious sex offenders could soon follow Fardon and earn their freedom, forcing authorities to closely monitor their movements in a desperate bid to prevent them reoffending.

Acting Attorney-General David Crisafulli said the Government had done more than any of its predecessors to keep Fardon behind bars

"We did everything we could but some of Queensland's top silks, including the Solicitor-General, all advised we were out of options," he said.

Fardon was jailed for rape, sodomy and assault offences and was to be released in 2002 but had his 14-year prison term extended under indefinite sentencing laws introduced by Beatiie government.

His case is being regularly reviewed by the courts.

Last year the Newman Government rushed through new laws which would have given them power to override the court and keep dangerous sex offenders in prison permanently.

Fardon remains under a 24-hour a day court-imposed curfew on the grounds of the so-called "garden of evil" at Wacol, where offenders on supervision orders are often housed by authorities, after the Court of Appeal ordered his release in December.

His conditions, which also include GPS tracking, a drug and alcohol ban and supervised trips into the community for medical and legal reasons, will eventually be reviewed by the courts.

Mr Crisafulli said legal advice advice clearly indicated a successful High Court challenge was unlikely.

"We kept Fardon in prison after successfully appealing his release last year and we lodged a subsequent appeal when he was ordered to be released again," he said.

Along with monitoring sex offenders released by the courts, the Newman Government continues to investigate ways to inhibit the release of prisoners deemed dangerous by experts after committing to make Queensland the safest place in Australia to raise a family.

"Protecting Queensland families should never have a price tag which is why we fought so hard to keep Fardon locked away for as long as we could," Mr Crisafulli said.

"We didn't want him out in the first place, but it's now a matter of keeping him on a very tight leash and working out ways to ensure other people like him are kept behind bars.

"Our resolve will not be broken and that's why we are working on toughening the existing legislation."

Victim Sharon Tomlinson, who was just 12 years old when Fardon brutally raped her at gunpoint 35 years ago, has warned the 65-year-old will reoffend.

Fardon's long history of sex crimes began as a teenager in 1967 when he was convicted of attempted unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl aged under 10.

The demise of laws allowing the Attorney-General to veto court release decisions will also leave the Government with few options in the case of killer Mark Richard Lawrence, 51.

Lawrence, who has been in jail since 1984 for the manslaughter of a female psychiatric patient and the later rape of a prisoner is due to face his sixth review of a continuing detention order.

Despite past convictions for aggravated assault against three boys and a girl, psychiatrists are expected to testify at his next hearing that the killer and sex predator was now a lesser risk of reoffending if released.


Co-payments key to affordable healthcare system

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair once said that it was impossible to have a serious discussion about the future solvency of Western governments without putting greater personal responsibility for health costs at the front and centre of the debate.

Unfortunately, Blair said this after he was safely retired from politics and didn’t have to cop any political flak for questioning the sustainability of a “free”, taxpayer-funded health system.

This appears to be the lesson of the debate over the proposed Medicare ­co-payment, which interest group after interest group has lined up to condemn, despite out-of-pocket contributions for GP services featuring in public health systems in social democratic countries, including New Zealand and Sweden.

At this stage, the Abbott government appears to be seriously contemplating the proposal, with the Minister for Health, Peter Dutton, signalling in-principle support for greater cost-sharing as a way to start getting on top of the ­ever-increasing cost of health to the budget. This is despite the opportunistic campaign launched by the federal opposition, which is keen to portray the idea of a co-payment with income-based exemptions as a mortal threat to Medicare.

This is ironic, because 20 years ago this was Labor Party policy. In 1991, the Hawke government was searching for savings in the midst of a recession. It decided to put the brakes on the rising cost of Medicare by introducing a $2.50 compulsory co-payment, excluding pensioners and other low-income groups.

This policy lasted only three months before being abolished by Paul Keating in return for the support of left-wing members of the Labor caucus in the successful leadership challenge that made Keating the prime minister.

Scrapping the co-payment is one of the worst public policy decisions of the Keating government. The Hawke co-payment policy simply recognised the iron law of economics: what is consumed for free will inevitably be overused or, if you like, “if it’s free, I’ll have two”.
Paying $6 or a similar sum is a small amount to access still heavily subsidised healthcare and deliberately so.

Co-payments of this magnitude work by restraining use without having a negative impact on health outcomes, as was proved by the famous RAND healthcare experiments. Having to pay the equivalent of the cost of a hamburger will make people think twice about whether they really need to see the doctor, while the expense is not large enough to deter the genuinely ill. The Medicare Safety Net is already in place to protect the chronically ill and compensate those with high out-of-pocket medical expenses, so the equity concerns cited by critics are overstated.

Critics are also ignoring the fact that GP visits are relatively low-cost health services and a co-payment doesn’t fully address the structural problems with Medicare.

Health insurance should ideally be used only to access high-cost services (which are usually provided in hospitals) that individuals could not possibly afford to pay for out of their own pockets.

Lower-cost health services should be considered a normal, everyday living expense for which people should make provision in their household budgets.

Imagine how expensive car insurance premiums would be if every time someone ran into a trolley at the shopping centre their insurer paid for the repairs with no excess charges applying? This kind of “first dollar” cover, which is what Medicare provides, is a fundamental reason why the cost of the system has continued to spiral.

The real solution for this rise, and the long-term health-funding challenges we face, is to ensure that individuals are required to pay for their own, affordable health services. This is the logic behind the idea of instituting for all Australians a personal “health savings account” funded along the lines of the superannuation system from which they would make withdrawals to pay for services such as GP visits, pathology tests and optometry.

The co-payments debate is an opportunity we shouldn’t miss to have the bigger discussion about personal responsibility for healthcare that Tony Blair says we have to have. It’s time.


Judges orders Queensland father to jail until daughter brought back from overseas

A Muslim, no doubt

A JUDGE has taken the extraordinary step of indefinitely jailing a father in Queensland for ignoring an order to return his young daughter from overseas, where he left her last year.

The father, who took the Australian child overseas without her mother's consent, then returned to Australia without her, has to stay in jail until she is returned.

Federal Circuit Court Judge Margaret Cassidy said it was so serious, with the child,overseas without either parent, that the father should be punished for contempt.

"There cannot be anything more important than returning this child ...with both parents here in Australia, to enable the court to be able to ascertain what is in the child's best interests," she said.

The girl's Queensland mother, an Australian citizen, is desperately worried about her daughter.

The mother believes her child is living in a basic village mud hut without electricity or plumbing and not going to school.

"This is the worst thing that can happen to a parent, not knowing what is going on," the mother said yesterday.  "It's been an emotional roller-coaster. I've had nightmares.  "I've been sleepwalking around the house, making her lunch boxes, looking for her in her room."

The mother said she did not want the father, who has been in jail since December, to stay behind bars. She just wanted their daughter back in Australia.

""All I want is Julie Bishop or Tony Abbott to say there is an Australian child who needs to be brought back to her parents," the mother said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it is providing consular assistance, but Foreign Minister Julie Bishop could not personally engage with every consular client.

"There is only so much that consular officials can achieve in this case, given that (the country where the girl is living) is not a party to the Hague Convention," a DFAT spokesperson said.

In jailing the father, Judge Cassidy said: "Retribution is called for because it is essential to the proper working of a court system that court orders are obeyed."

The father claimed a foreign court order meant he did not have to return his daughter to Australia, but Judge Cassidy said the documents did not say that.

The mother offered to pay airfares to Australia for her daughter and an adult and the judge said the girl could live with her father on her return.

The mother told Judge Cassidy she did not know the father, from whom she was separated, was taking their daughter out of school and overseas.

"I had no contact for two days and then I had a phone call from her saying 'Hey, guess what?", the mother said yesterday.

Federal Member for Brisbane Teresa Gambaro's office said it would continue to help the mother with Immigration and DFAT to ensure all consular support was provided.


Derryn Hinch refuses to pay fine, expects jail

Good on him!

Broadcaster Derryn Hinch says he will go to jail instead of paying a $100,000 fine for contempt of court.

Hinch, 69, was ordered to pay the fine - or face 50 days in jail - after breaching a suppression order about Melbourne woman Jill Meagher's killer.

"On principle I will not pay the $100,000 fine which was due today," he told the Seven Network on Thursday.  "Instead, I'll go to jail."

Hinch was found guilty of contempt for breaching a suppression order made by Victorian Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Nettle.

In sentencing Hinch in October, Victorian Supreme Court Justice Stephen Kaye said the former broadcaster's web posts had been populist and self-serving.  "Your conduct was grossly irresponsible," Justice Kaye told Hinch.  "Although you thought you knew better than Justice Nettle, clearly you did not."

It is Hinch's sixth conviction for contempt of court or related offences, a record which Justice Kaye said was disgraceful.

Hinch apologised at the time, but on Thursday said recent cases had prompted him to send a message to the judiciary.

"I'll go to jail for 50 days to draw attention to all the suspended sentences for crimes of violence and child pornography, for the obscenely short sentences given to king-hit killers," he said.

Hinch said he was unimpressed with the fact former magistrate Simon Cooper had avoided jail, despite pleading guilty to seven counts of indecent assault committed in the 1980s.

Hinch spent 12 days in jail in 1987 for contempt of court after he revealed pedophile priest Michael Glennon's prior conviction while a trial was pending.

He was sentenced to five months' home detention in 2011 after publishing the suppressed identities of sex offenders.

The magistrate, Charlie Rozencwajg, told him he would have had no hesitation in sending Hinch to jail had it not been for the broadcaster's poor health, having just received a liver transplant.

The former newspaper editor had a net value of $1.18 million and an annual income of $212,000, the Supreme Court was told last year.


16 January, 2014

Kangaroo in 400-year-old manuscript could change Australian history

A drawing of a kangaroo on a 16th century Portuguese manuscript could potentially change the world's understanding of Australia's history.

The manuscript, which is thought to date from between 1580 and 1620, appears to show a small kangaroo within the letters of its text. If the image actually is a kangaroo, the drawing suggests that Portuguese explorers may have discovered Australia before the first recorded European landing on the continent by Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon in 1606.

The document, which contains text or music for a liturgical procession, was recently acquired by the Les Enluminures Galley in New York, which has valued the item at $15,000 (£9,174). It was previously in the possession of a rare book dealer in Portugal.

Laura Light, a researcher at the gallery, told Australia's The Age newspaper that "a kangaroo or wallaby in a manuscript this early is proof that the artist of this manuscript had either been in Australia, or even more interestingly, that travellers' reports and drawings of the interesting animals found in this new world were already available in Portugal."

The text also includes the image of two half-naked men wearing crowns of leaves, which researchers believe may represent Australian aborigines.

Others, however, are not so convinced.

Dr Martin Woods of the National Library of Australia told The Age that "it could be another animal in south-east Asia, like any number of deer species, some of which stand up on their hind legs to feed of high branches".

Other researchers speculate that the manuscript may have come from slightly after Janszoon's arrival in Australia, or may date from a 1526 Portuguese voyage to Papua.

The gallery plans to display the document as part of an exhibition.


Australia turns back asylum seeker boat from Indonesia

Australia has turned back another boat which Indonesian authorities believe was unseaworthy, leaving local villagers to rescue stranded asylum seekers from the ocean.

Indonesian authorities have quoted the asylum seekers on board saying Australian navy personnel fired shots as part of the operation to turn around the boat carrying 25 people.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday morning denied gunshots have been fired by the navy while intercepting asylum seeker boats.

News of the incident came as the Indonesian government warned Australia that it was approaching a 'slippery slope' with its boats policy, specifically its recent purchase of large hard-hulled lifeboats to reportedly carry asylum seekers back to Indonesia.

This is the third confirmed tow-back of an asylum seeker vessel by the Australian authorities since December 13, despite the objections of Indonesian authorities. The other two boats were returned to Rote Island in far-eastern Indonesia.

A local police commissioner from southern Java, who did not want his name or his district published, has told Fairfax Media that villagers plucked a number of asylum seekers from the water a week ago, on January 8, after their boat was turned back by Australia.

The officer, quoting one of those on board, Snilul, 25, from Bangladesh, said the navy had "shot into the air just to scare them".

"The boat hadn't reached Australia - they were still at sea but they said they could already see Christmas Island," the officer said.

"But they said the Australian navy then drove them away and escorted them until they entered Indonesian waters again."

The boat had been carrying 25 people from Bangladesh and Myanmar and two Indonesian crew.

"There were four children, the youngest was one-and-a-half years; there were men and women. Nobody died in the sea," the police officer said.

The asylum seekers told him they had started off from Medan in North Sumatra and had been on the water for 10 days.

After the Australian ship returned them to Indonesian waters, they made their way to the southern coast of Java.

"Midday last Wednesday [January 8] people here in the village saw them swimming in the sea, so people helped them and told us [police] later on."

Asked if he believed the boat was seaworthy for 25 people, the officer said it had only been built for about 10 people.

Fairfax Media has confirmed with other local officials that the asylum seekers were taken to a hotel in the town of Rangkasbitung. A staff member there said the migrants had now left her hotel, but she did not know where they had gone.

Indonesia warns Australia of 'slippery slope'

The reports come as Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa sent a subtle warning to Mr Morrison following the Australian government's admission that it had bought lifeboats to carry asylum seekers in "on water" operations.

"Where will this lead to?" Dr Natalegawa told the ABC.

"Developments of the type that has been reported in the media, namely the facilitation by way of boats, this is the kind of slippery slope that we have identified in the past."

The Indonesian government strongly objects to the Abbott government's policy of using the navy to "turn back" asylum seekers boats. Dr Natalegawa suggested in his ABC interview that if Australia is helping asylum seekers return to Indonesia, that could be worse than simply turning boats around.

"It's one thing to turn back the actual boats on which they have been travelling," he said. "But [it's] another issue when they are transferred onto another boat and facilitated and told to go in that direction."

Dr Natalegawa did not say what actions Indonesia would take, but suggested the focus on asylum seekers was straining the Indonesian-Australian relationship.

"To be zeroing in on issues that, in a manner that tends to divide, is not helpful," he said

'Missing' boat may have returned to Indonesia

Meanwhile, asylum seeker sources in Cisarua, West Java, said they believed a boat carrying 54 people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Iraq had gone missing after setting off from the town on January 5 or in the early hours of January 6. But reports late on Wednesday night suggested the boat may have returned to Indonesia.

"There has been no news, no phone calls or contact by internet, no calls to their homes," the source said earlier in the day.

The smuggler was insisting that the boat had reached Christmas Island and that he had received a call from the Indonesian captain. He was demanding payment of money held in trust.

In his most recent press conference, Australian Operation Sovereign Borders chief Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell said no boats had reached Australia in the past three weeks.


Fatty O'Barrell doesn't know what side he is on

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell sent a condolence letter to the supporters of an "extremist" sheik known to security agencies in August 2012 after the cleric was killed alongside rebel fighters in Syria.

The letter mourned the death of 30-year-old Sunni sheik Mustapha al-Majzoub, whose public lectures vilified Syria's minority Alawite sect as "enemies against Islam" and urged people to join "the highest level of jihad" against them.

Majzoub -- whose moderate brother, Fedaa, campaigned for the NSW Liberals in 2011 -- claimed "the Jews" were "criminals", that natural disasters were Allah's "punishments" and compared magic tricks to "urinating on a copy of the Koran".

A week after Majzoub's death on August 27, 2012, Sydney newspaper An-Nahar published an Arabic statement from Mr O'Farrell mourning the death of the "respected cleric".

That was five days after The Australian quoted intelligence sources that said Majzoub was "known to law enforcement and the intelligence community for extremist views" and links to other persons of interest.

Mr O'Farrell was quoted as saying Majzoub's "death gives us a sad lesson that conflicts abroad, even if they were far away, can touch the lives of community members, and therefore we feel today how lucky we are to be living in the harmonious, pluralistic and diverse Australian society".

Majzoub's public lectures, shared via YouTube, depict a staunch recruiter for the Syrian rebellion who claimed that Alawite Muslims were "enemies against Islam" who "don't worship Allah" and "had a hand with every disbeliever who attacked our lands" including the 13th-century Mongols and 20th-century French. "What they are doing is beyond imagination," he said, adding "the Jews . . . are criminals too".


Time to scrap Lord's Prayer in Parliament: Greens

The Lord's Prayer in Federal Parliament is an anachronism, according to Greens senator Richard di Natale, who is calling to have the prayer scrapped.

The acting Greens leader announced on Tuesday that when Parliament returns in February, he will move to end the reading of prayers at the start of each sitting day.

He will ask the Senate's Procedure Committee to amend the standing orders and look to his Greens colleague Adam Bandt to do the same in the Lower House.

"We have a very clear separation between church and state in this country and the fact that we say the Lord's Prayer in the Australian Parliament, it is an anachronism," he told reporters in Canberra.

Senator di Natale said that "modern" Australia was made up of people who had different ideas about religion.

"We are here to represent everybody. We're here to represent people of all faiths. People who don't have a strong religious faith," he said.

Senator di Natale, who describes himself lapsed Catholic, says he had had an issue with prayers in Parliament since his first day as a senator in 2011. "It was quite jarring," he said.

But he has been prompted to comment this week after government curriculum reviewer Kevin Donnelly argued that schools were too secular.

"When you look at parliaments around Australia - they all begin with the Lord's Prayer. If you look at our constitution, the preamble is about God," Dr Donnelly said on Saturday.

Senator di Natale has not yet talked to Labor and Liberal MPs about his proposition but said he was looking forward to discussing the issue with his colleagues.

"[When the prayers are read] there are a lot of people who are silent or who are thinking of other things," he told Fairfax Media.

Federal Parliament has been reciting prayers at the start of each sitting day since 1901. Today, this includes a preamble and then the Lord's Prayer. Since 2010, sittings have also begun with an acknowledgement of country.

This is not the first time the issue of parliamentary praying has been raised. In 1997 former Greens leader Bob Brown unsuccessfully tried to remove the preamble and Lord's Prayer.

In 2008, former speaker Harry Jenkins led a similarly failed bid.

The Greens' idea did not gain support from practising Christian MPs on Tuesday.

Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss said the government had "no plans to change the standing orders".

Government Senate leader Eric Abetz said he strongly supported keeping the Lord's Prayer, arguing it was "a very rich part of our cultural tradition [and] a humble acknowledgement by the Parliament collectively of its responsibilities".

"The latest Green attack is part of their ongoing attempt to rewrite our history and deny our heritage," he said.

"Our nation's freedoms and wealth have been built on our religious underpinnings making us the envy of the world. The Greens’ refusal to acknowledge their country's own heritage and rich traditions and beliefs is as sad as it is divisive."

A spokeswoman for Labor's Senate leader, Penny Wong, indicated her party did not appreciate the lack of consultation on the issue so far.  "We don't intend to negotiate with other senators through the media," the spokeswoman said.

Labor frontbencher Mark Dreyfus, who is Jewish, pointed to the US model where the House and Senate's opening prayers can be lead by guest chaplains of many faiths.

"Many Australians have religious beliefs. Rather than abolishing the Lord's Prayer we should consider adopting the practice of the US Congress," he said.


15 January, 2014

Lecturers in world-first male studies course at University of South Australia under scrutiny

Feminists believe in free speech for feminists only

LECTURERS in a "world-first" male studies course at the University of South Australia have been linked to extreme views on men's rights and websites that rail against feminism.

The lecturers' backgrounds are likely to spark controversy, but organisers of the predominantly online course, promoted as the first of its type in the world, insist they are not anti-feminist and "it's very difficult for anybody who has opposing views to get a word in".

Two lecturers have been published by prominent US anti-feminist siteA Voice for Men, a site which regularly refers to women as "bitches" and "whores" and has been described as a hate site by the civil rights organisation Southern Poverty Law Centre.

The US site specifically welcomed the UniSA course as a milestone, editor Paul Elam saying it marked the end of feminists' control of the agenda.

One American US lecturer - US attorney and self-professed "anti-feminist lawyer" Roy Den Hollander - has written that the men's movement might struggle to exercise influence but that "there is one remaining source of power in which men still have a near monopoly - firearms".

He also argues that feminists oppress men in today's world and refers to women's studies as "witches' studies".

Another, US psychology professor Miles Groth, says that date-rape awareness seminars might be deterring men from going to university.

Mr Den Hollander has tried to sue ladies' nights for discrimination against men. He has likened the position of men today to black people in America's south in the 1950s "sitting in the back of the bus", and blames feminists for oppressing men.

The course, which has no prerequisites, begins this year and will canvass subjects from men's health to gender bias.

Course founder Gary Misan, from UniSA's Centre for Rural Health and Community Development, said they were "not anti-women" and that lecturers were associated with a range of groups.

"I wouldn't say any of them are extreme or anti-feminist," Dr Misan said.

"The aim of the courses are to present a balanced view and to counter some of the negative rhetoric that exists in society in general and in some areas of academe about men.

"It's very difficult for anybody who has opposing views to get a word in. As soon as somebody mentions anything they perceive as being anti-feminist, they're pilloried, and in some cases almost persecuted."

Dr Misan also said that writing something for a specific website did not necessarily suggest an affiliation.

Dr Michael Flood, from the University of Wollongong's Centre for Research on Men and Masculinity, said these types of male studies "really represents the margins".

"It comes out of a backlash to feminism and feminist scholarship. The new male studies is an effort to legitimise, to give academic authority, to anti-feminist perspectives," he said.

Flinders University School of Education senior lecturer Ben Wadham, who has a specific interest in men's rights, said there was a big difference between formal masculinity studies and "populist" male studies.

He said there were groups that legitimately help men, and then the more extreme activists.

"That tends to manifest in a more hostile movement which is about 'women have had their turn, feminism's gone too far, men are now the victims, white men are now disempowered'," he said.

"I would argue that the kinds of masculinities which these populist movements represent are anathema to the vision of an equal and fair gendered world."

Dr Wadham said that universities needed to uphold research based traditions instead of the populist, partisan approach driven by some.

Men's Health Australia spokesman and Male Studies lecturer Greg Andresen is also the Australian correspondent for US-based site National Coalition For Men, which declares false rape accusations to be "psychological rape", argues that talking about violence against women makes men invisible.

Asked about his connection to NCFM, he said they were the longest-running organisation in the world to look at discrimination against men and boys.

"Certainly they don't shy away from touching issues like false rape allegations, domestic violence, some of those hot topics," he said.

"We have had 20 if not 30 or 40 years where the only study on gender has been from a feminist perspective … that's why I think this course is so long overdue," he said.

UniSA's Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Professor Allan Evans, said the courses covered important men's health issues and would equip allied health professionals who deal with men's health.

"All new courses are reviewed thoroughly prior to being offered to ensure they are suitable and beneficial to our students," he said.


Joe Hockey sets hard line on handouts

TAXPAYER subsidies will not be paid to struggling companies that fail to fix their problems under a hardline edict from Joe Hockey aimed at forcing employers and unions to scrap workplace deals that push up costs.

Rejecting aid for "lazy" companies, the Treasurer told The Australian that federal cash would not be used to shore up dividends or to continue poor industrial practices.

Mr Hockey seized on an admission from General Motors yesterday that its decision to end manufacturing in Australia was made regardless of government incentives, as the comments escalated a wider fight over industry assistance.

The Treasurer cited the company's statements to accuse Bill Shorten of perpetuating the "fantasy" that the Holden factories, due to close in 2017 with the loss of 2900 jobs, could have been kept alive by a Labor government.

As attention turns to Toyota as the last local carmaker, Mr Hockey also attacked union leaders for being "hell-bent" on preventing the company from slashing costs by negotiating a new workplace deal.

"The government should not be subsidising poor workplace practices," he said in an exclusive interview.

The new message applies to all companies ranging from Qantas to fruit producer SPC Ardmona as the Coalition government fends off industry demands for handouts or intervention to fix business problems.

Mr Hockey said there were "inevitably" cases where federal government funds went into a company only to be paid out on dividends or higher wage claims rather than used to repair the business.

"It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to prop up unprofitable companies," Mr Hockey said.

"It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to ensure that shareholders get dividends. If we are going to provide any support to any company, we want to do a complete due diligence on a company's balance sheet.

"That was never previously done by Labor. That applies to any company as far as I'm concerned."

Ministers have grown increasingly impatient with companies wanting assistance in recent months, making it clear that any executive seeking a subsidy can expect intense scrutiny as well as pressure to cut costs.

The stance is already having an impact, with SPC Ardmona sacking 73 maintenance staff in favour of non-union contractors soon after federal cabinet last month rejected the company's initial plea for $25 million. The request is going back to cabinet later this month.

Qantas has also drawn criticism for seeking a public guarantee over its private debts, with Coalition sources expressing their frustration that airline chief executive Alan Joyce was trying to transfer his problems to the government.

Mr Hockey put all companies on notice that they would have to throw open their books if they expected government aid.

"We need to go through their balance sheets with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that when there is a cheque from taxpayers it's going toward the restructuring of the company rather than just simply propping up shareholder returns," he said. "But that is a last resort. The starting point is we are not in the business of subsidising commerce."

The Treasurer's comments in an interview yesterday came after General Motors' head of international operations, Stefan Jacoby, said the closure of the Holden factories in 2017 would happen regardless of government incentives.

"I initiated this decision as the leader of these markets and it was driven purely by business rationale, and not by any direction this government or any future government would give for their auto industry in Australia," he said.

The GM executive told reporters at the Detroit motor show that the sums could not add up for the manufacturing operations, regardless of the level of public assistance. "The decision was not made based on any incentives or any reductions of incentives - it was a purely business-driven decision."

Mr Jacoby confirmed that the board decision was made in Detroit just hours after GMH boss Mike Devereux addressed a Melbourne public hearing on car assistance on December 10. That means the decision was made before Mr Hockey told federal parliament on the same day that GMH should "come clean" on its plans.

Labor has accused Mr Hockey of driving the carmaker out of the country and has claimed a Labor government would have offered the assistance needed to keep the Holden factories and their 2900 workers. "If Labor had been in government we would not have let this happen," Mr Shorten told parliament on December 12.

South Australian Labor Premier Jay Weatherill, who faces an election in March, had also condemned the federal government by claiming a package of incentives could have kept the factories going.

Christopher Pyne, the government's most senior South Australian minister, said the Premier stood condemned for blaming Canberra for the GM decision in a bid to help win this year's state election. "Jay Weatherill's election strategy is completely in tatters - it's basically a carcass swinging in the breeze," Mr Pyne said in Canberra yesterday. "Jay Weatherill had planned to run his whole election strategy around blaming the federal government for the economic woes in South Australia."

But the Premier rejected the claims from Mr Pyne and similar charges from South Australian Liberal opposition leader Steven Marshall. Mr Weatherill said he would continue to campaign against the Liberals' decision not to increase subsidies to the automotive sector in the lead up to the March 15 election.

Mr Hockey claimed that Mr Shorten was misleading voters with the "fantasy" that a Labor government would have been able to keep the Holden operations.

Mr Shorten told The Australian last night that it was not all the government's fault that Holden closed, but it was "entirely their fault" that they did not "lift a finger" to stop it. "Joe Hockey goaded Holden to close and take these jobs overseas and he got his wish," he said.

The Treasurer countered the idea that limitless subsidies could be used to keep a company in Australia. "At the end of the day you're effectively nationalising the company if the subsidies are so great that the only way it can continue is if it receives government support," he said.

The fight over industry assistance will intensify over coming months as Toyota prepares for a decision in the middle of the year on whether to continue local manufacturing, as Holden's closure puts "unprecedented pressure" on the economics of the operations.

Toyota lost an attempt to reach a new pay deal early last month when the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union won a case in the federal court to block the changes, prompting the company to appeal against the ruling.

While Mr Jacoby cast doubt on Toyota's ability to keep operating as the sole Australian car manufacturer, the government is expressing confidence in the company's focus on exports and attempts to cut workplace costs.

Mr Hockey said workers would have to agree to new workplace rules to prevent Toyota quitting the country.


Australia's economic freedom outranks US

One of America’s best known conservative think tanks has named Australia as the world’s third most free economy, outranking the US after the debut of Obamacare.

The Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom  praised Australia’s low debt and “flexible” labour force. It found Australia’s freedom from corruption had slipped marginally, citing the Independent Commission of Corruption investigations in New South Wales Australia, but said that the rule of law remained strong.

“Australia’s judicial system operates independently and impartially. Property rights are secure, and enforcement of contracts is reliable. Expropriation is highly unusual,” said the report.

The report placed Australia after Singapore and Hong Kong. Australia was ranked third with a score of 82, just ahead New Zealand with a score of 81.2. The index, also published by the Wall Street Journal, found that America had slid from 10th place to 12th.

“Can you imagine if our Secretary of Defence announced that we were mostly strong, or kind of strong as a nation?” Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, a former Republican senator, said at the launch. “I don’t think we would sit still for that as a nation.”

In his keynote address in launching the index in Washington, DC, the Republican libertarian senator Rand Paul lamented the Affordable Healthcare Act in America as a “significant loss to freedom.”

The report evaluates countries on four broad areas of economic freedom: rule of law; regulatory efficiency; limited government; and open markets, and grants an aggregate score.

“Over the 20-year history of the Index, Australia has advanced its economic freedom score by 7.9 points, one of the 10 biggest improvements among developed economies,” says the report.

“Substantial score increases in six of the 10 economic freedoms, including business freedom, investment freedom, and freedom from corruption, have enabled Australia to achieve and sustain its economically 'free' status in the Index.”

.A Heritage Foundation analyst, Brian Riley, told Fairfax that while in the organisation’s view Labor’s stimulus package had been a negative, Australia’s bipartisan commitment to free trade and support for foreign investment as well as its relatively low tax rates, was enough to keep the nation’s score so high.

He said America had slipped in part because of increased regulation associated with the Affordable Healthcare Act.

The Heritage index is not without critics.

“In the hands of the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation, Washington's foremost right-wing think tank, however, an economic freedom index merely measures corporate and entrepreneurial freedom from accountability. Upon examination, the index turns out to be a poor barometer of either freedom more broadly construed or of prosperity,” wrote economist John Miller back in 2005.

“In other words, minimum-wage laws, environmental regulations, or requirements for transparency in corporate accounting make a country less free, whereas low business taxes, harsh debtor laws, and little or no regulation of occupational health and safety make a country more free.”

The Foundation noted that the Asia Pacific region was home to the world’s four freest economies, as well as three of its most repressed, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan and North Korea


ABC doesn’t believe in Right to free speech

THE left, be they from the ALP or the ABC, oppose free speech when it is their ideology which is under scrutiny.

That’s why there was a sustained outbreak of clamorous opposition to Senator Cory Bernardi’s middle-of-the-road discussion of cultural values last week.

The South Australian Senator broke two of the rules laid down by the left - he asked why no discussion of abortion is permitted in Australia though there are anything from 70,000 to 100,000 abortions carried out in this country each year, according to evidence given in Senate estimates - and he questioned whether single-parent families are the golden standard for child rearing.

Under leftist dogma, abortion, or the more politically correct euphemism, termination, should only be discussed by women. Then, using the usual distortions of the language which have seen homosexuals insist that they be called gays and that the descriptive noun marriage be corrupted to include same sex unions, the so-called progressives say they are in favour of a pro-choice policy on abortion which means in fact that women are rarely presented with any options, in effect - no-choice.By breaking these taboos, Senator Bernardi aroused the slumberous feminist lobby, few of whom it would seem have actually read his book, The Conservative Revolution, which was published almost a month ago and has been reviewed in numerous forums.

Senator Bernardi does not hide behind weasel words.

He is so plain spoken that most of the commentators who have attacked him have revealed their ignorance of his writings or have taken his words totally out of context.

He believes in the battle of ideas and thinks it is important for politicians to stand up for what they believe in. Indeed, he believes it’s the right and responsibility of every member of the parliament to engage in the battle of ideas.

“It’s absolutely critical that politicians are prepared to discuss ideas that are controversial,” he told me.

“Otherwise we are stuck with a tyranny of political correctness. That’s a stifling doctrine we need to rebel against in this country - that’s the revolution I am calling for.”

The Senator understands that abortion is an emotive topic, he understands - as most people do - that it can cause enormous stress and anguish, but he is also concerned that one in five pregnancies in this country are being terminated and believes that should be a cause for concern and debate.

He has not said we should outlaw or prohibit abortion but that was certainly the insinuation made by his critics.

His position on abortion is exactly the same as that as that held by former US president Bill Clinton - that it “should not only be safe and legal, it should be rare”.

Last January, in his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama echoed president Clinton’s remarks saying: “Today and every day, my administration continues our efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and minimise the need for abortion.”

That view is also held by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whom the members of the ALP and some commentators from the ABC have attempted to link to extreme anti-abortion views on numerous occasions when they attempt to drag his personal and private religious views into the political debate.

Senator Bernardi was also attacked by ABC breakfast presenter Beverley O’Connor for mentioning single-parent families in his book.

She framed her question: “The book really rails against non-traditional families; children within a gay relationship, children of marriage breakdowns. In 2014 now, this is a fact of life, this is not necessarily a fact that families want but it’s a fact of life isn’t it?”

In defence of traditional families, Senator Bernardi had written: “Why then the levels of criminality among boys and promiscuity among girls who are brought up in single-parent families, more often than not headed by a single mother?”

Had O’Connor wished to put the argument in an intelligent context, she might have noted that there was a footnote in the book which referenced a New York Time article on a Father’s Day address delivered by President Obama which said: “We know the statistics - that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioural problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundation of our community is weaker because of it”.

O’Connor’s approach to the Bernardi book exemplifies the arrant hypocrisy taken by so many at the ABC when they are wittingly or subconsciously taking up the cudgels for the left and Labor against conservative figures.

They so obviously inject and infect their interviews and assaults with their own personal political prejudices.

While O’Connor may not like the mainstream moral compass which has served society well for millennia, she and other critics should note that on these issues, Senator Bernardi is actually in excellent company.


14 January, 2014

Australian curriculum beyond saving

"LANGUAGE," claim the authors of the Australian Curriculum, "enables people to interact effectively." They then proceed to demonstrate in 238,000 laboured words that this is not necessarily the case.

The curriculum is written in the private language of educationalism, which, like Latin in the hands of the medieval clergy, serves to keep the rest of us in our place. The implication is that parents, employers and general citizens don't know what they're talking about. Curriculum development is a job for the experts.

The first task of the government's curriculum review panel should be to translate this doorstop of a document into English, eliminate the verbiage and publish it for public discussion. Forget all the stuff about content descriptions, content elaborations and learning continua.

Don't bother telling us that the English language "provides rich and engaging contexts for developing students' abilities," or that "texts provide the means for communication".  In our own inexpert way, we had sort of gathered that.

Just tell us how you plan to teach literacy and numeracy, and what else you are planning to put into the kiddies' heads.

Then we can let the public decide whether "creating a more ecologically and socially just world through informed action" is a task for public schools.

Do we want educators or evangelists? Do we send children to school to "create texts that inform and persuade others to take action for sustainable futures"? Should a child under 10 be expected to produce "a persuasive audio-visual text to promote action on an environmental issue" or "promote awareness about how people can reduce their impact on the environment"?

By Year 9, they will be encouraged to ponder "Gaia - the interaction of Earth and its biosphere" and to think about the "limits of growth - that unlimited growth is unsustainable".

They will be asked to "interrogate" Rachel Carson's The Silent Spring and 1970 editions of Mother Earth News magazine, before considering the "rights of nature recognition - that humans and their natural environment are closely interrelated".

The words "sustainable" and "sustainability" appear 139 times in the Australian Curriculum; "business" crops up six times, "markets" twice and "free markets" not at all. "Prosperity" features three times and "economic growth" is mentioned just once (and not in a nice way), for history is not the tale of steady improvement but just one shameful act after another.

Year 3 students will be taught significant days and weeks in the Australian calendar: Australia Day, Anzac Day, Harmony Week, National Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC week and National Sorry Day and Mabo day.

Doubtless this is uncontroversial stuff in the sheltered common rooms of public schools, salaried and superannuated from the bottomless pockets of the state. To much of the rest of Australia, however, this romantic, closed-minded view of the world seems eccentric. Non-expert citizens - that is those without a PhD in critical pedagogy - might wonder how a child infused with such a narrow world view, who finishes Year 12 without any appreciation of wealth creation, could possibly emerge equipped for the challenges of the 21st century.

The history curriculum includes the Harvester Judgment, but says nothing about the Sunshine Harvester, Australia's most successful manufactured export, made in the factory where the work conditions test case was struck. In 699 pages, the curriculum mentions capitalism twice, but merely as one of the "competing ideologies" to communism.

At every turn, the curriculum appears intent on taking the most dismal brutal view of every episode in human history. The industrial revolution's contribution to the world is restricted to "the transatlantic slave trade and convict transportation". It led, we are told, to "longer working hours for low pay and the use of children as a cheap source of labour" and is best interpreted through reading the works of Charles Dickens.

The reforming instincts of 19th-century liberals that led to the end of transportation, slavery and child labour are whitewashed from history.

The measurable improvements to diet and health, made possible by agricultural innovation in sheep breeding, frozen meat transportation and broad-acre farming, form no part of the story.

They would have sounded a discordant note in the curriculum's miserablist narrative of Australian history.

Instead, Year 4 students will be taught "historical terms for example 'penal', 'transportation', 'navigation', 'frontier conflict', 'colonisation' ".

In Year 6 they will be introduced to "experiences of citizenship and democracy" with reference to "internment camps during World War II, assimilation policies, anti-discrimination legislation, mandatory detention, pay and working conditions" and "children who were placed in orphanages, homes and other institutions".

After all, the curriculum helpfully reminds us, democracy is an abstract noun expressing an intangible concept.

The leaden imposition of "cross-curriculum priorities" indigenous awareness, engagement with Asia and sustainability contaminate the curriculum writers' thinking.

In English, "the priority of sustainability provides rich and engaging contexts for developing students' abilities".

In geography, "the sustainability priority and concept afford rich and engaging learning opportunities and purposeful contexts".

In history, sustainability "provides content that supports the development of students' world views, particularly in relation to judgments about past social and economic systems, and access to and use of the Earth's resources".

In mathematics, "sustainability provides rich, engaging and authentic contexts for developing students' abilities in number and algebra, measurement and geometry, statistics and probability".

Sustainability in science develops "an appreciation for the interconnectedness of Earth's biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere".

Christopher Pyne has been condemned as a culture warrior for having the audacity to question this tosh.

The opposition has accused him of attempting to politicise the curriculum, and has labelled his chosen reviewers, Kevin Donnelly and Ken Wiltshire, as ideologues.

If the Education Minister is to be criticised, it is for imagining this irredeemable document can be tidied up and put back on the shelf when the only realistic course of action is to tear the damn thing up.


Game finally up for carboncrats

Tony Abbott's likely repeal of the unpopular carbon tax this year reflects a global trend: the anti-carbon agenda is being subjected to the most intense scrutiny, and is found wanting.

The Kyoto treaty effectively expired a year ago. Prospects for a replacement are virtually zero. Rich nations are rejecting climate compensation for the developing world. Europe is in a coal frenzy. Germany, a former green trend-setter, is slashing unaffordable subsidies to the renewables industry. The European Parliament is losing confidence in the EU emissions trading scheme. No Asian nation has an emission trading scheme in operation. China's and India's net emissions are growing dramatically and governments, most recently Japan's, are abandoning earlier pledges to reduce their nations' carbon footprints. Even US Democrats, notwithstanding President Obama's direct action-style energy plan, won't pass modest carbon-pricing bills in the Congress. Add to this those debunked predictions (remember the vanishing Himalayan glaciers, disappearing North Polar ice cap?), and it is clear that Tim Flannery's moment has come and gone.

Meanwhile, 2013 marked the 15th year of flat-lined global surface temperatures, despite record levels of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere since 1998. And as the US shale "fracking" revolution shows, the most efficient way to cut emissions is not via command-and-control regulation but by allowing private drillers to expand natural gas production.

Of course, the environmental doomsayers remain apocalyptic. You try going on the ABC's Q&A and raise doubts about global-warming alarmism. You will still see the inner-city studio audience treating you not merely with hostility but with open-mouthed incredulity.

The climate-change Cassandras are increasingly marginalised here and abroad.

When they abuse, intimidate and victimise anyone with the temerity to criticise the fanaticism of their movement, the inclination of ordinary Australians is either to shrug their shoulders with a profound lack of interest or to grimace at this moral grandstanding.

Historians will probably look back at the years 2006-09 as the time when the climate hysteria reached its peak in Australia, when rational debate was at its most restricted and politicians at their most gullible.

These were the days of drought, unseasonal bushfires, An Inconvenient Truth, the Garnaut Report and, of course, Kevin Rudd's "greatest moral challenge".

Crikey, even Rupert Murdoch was "giving the planet the benefit of doubt".

Contrary to media stereotypes, many so-called sceptics - such as Abbott, John Howard, Maurice Newman and this writer - recognised that the rise in carbon dioxide as a result of the burning of fossil fuels led to moderate warming.

But because we questioned the doomsday scenarios and radical, costly government-directed plans to decarbonise the economy, we were denounced as "deniers".

Those days are over.

Thanks to Abbott's forceful critique of Labor's ETS/carbon tax, and the persistent failure of the carboncrats to reach legally binding global agreements, Australians have risen up against this madness.

At last, there is recognition not just that there are at least two sides to every story, but that when sophisticates seek to shut down debate, it amounts to an attack on the public interest.

That is why the anti-carbon zealots have become so defensive. The game is up.

The idea of climate mitigation - carbon taxes, cap and trade, channelling taxpayer subsidies to wind and solar power - destroyed the leaderships not only of Malcolm Turnbull in 2009 and Rudd in 2010, but also of Julia Gillard and Rudd (again) last year.

And although the Coalition's approval ratings have declined since the election, polls also show that opposition to the carbon tax remains high.

Last year's Lowy Institute survey said that only 40 per cent (down from nearly 70 per cent in 2006) think climate change is serious and requires action.

And yet, despite this changing (political) climate, Opposition leader Bill Shorten still opposes the repeal of the carbon tax.

If Labor's divorce from the Greens is genuine, he should support the PM's legislation, lest he meet the same fate as his fellow deniers and become a laughing stock.


Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to personally decide visa cancellations

IMMIGRATION Minister Scott Morrison will personally cancel the visas of undesirable residents from now on, denying them any right of appeal.

The announcement comes after the Administrative Appeals Tribunal stopped the planned deportation of New Zealander Sean Gabriel, who had a hand in the 2008 violent robbery of prominent Melbourne doctor Mukesh Haikerwal and four others.

That decision was made by the department, and Mr Gabriel's appeal to the AAT ended in a ruling he would have difficulty adjusting to life in New Zealand and should stay.

The decision was criticised by Dr Haikerwal, who worried victims' rights were not properly being considered.

Mr Morrison will personally oversee the cancellation of people's visas on character grounds - a decision that is not open to AAT review.

The minister's move came as another case emerged of the AAT allowing a Vietnamese man with a long criminal history to remain in Australia.

Tuan Anh Hoang, 40, successfully appealed against the cancellation of his visa despite a 17-year-long criminal record - driven by a need to fund his continuing heroin addiction - which included robbery, thefts, weapons offices and crimes of dishonesty.

Although there was "a significant possibility that he might reoffend", Mr Hoang's strong family connections in Australia meant he should stay, AAT deputy president Brian Tamberlin found.

"I consider that the degree and duration of Mr Hoang's ties to Australia over a period of 20 years ... outweigh the need for protection of the Australian community in this case," he wrote.

A spokeswoman for Mr Morrison said he was considering advice on both cases.

She said the previous government had delegated visa cancellations on character grounds to a departmental official.

"Had the decision to cancel Mr Gabriel's visa been made by the minister, it would not have been subject to review by the AAT," she said.

"Mr Morrison has asked the department to ensure that consideration of all visa cancellations and refusals based on character grounds are referred to him."


Real punishment for once

NRL player and tattoo billboard Russell Packer seemed a confident chap last week as he fronted court to be sentenced for the bashing of 22-year-old Enoka Time outside a Sydney nightclub.

And who could blame him? Considering the weak record of the NSW judiciary when it comes to assault sentences, the most Packer could have expected was a lecture from the bench and a good behaviour bond.

Little wonder that the former Warriors star reportedly told his father: "I've got two lawyers on it, dad, everything is sweet."

But Packer didn't reckon on the less than sweet attitude of magistrate Greg Grogin, a no-nonsense former NSW cop who evidently shares widespread community distaste both for vicious assaults and tame treatment towards those who commit them.

"Your behaviour on that night was nothing short of disgraceful," Grogin told Packer. "It is deplorable. You should be ashamed. The community is sick and tired of the behaviour you exhibited that night."

And then he sent Packer to prison for two years, to the general delight of NSW and the utter shock of Packer himself, who was variously described as "surprised" and "confused" by the sentence. His lawyer, Murugan Thangaraj, immediately admitted he had "no idea" a jail term was even under consideration, which might explain why his client didn't bother bringing a change of clothes to court.

Just think about all of this for a second. We presently live in a state where those who beat people to the ground for no good reason at all are actually confident that they will avoid justice even after being arrested and appearing before a magistrate.

In a civilised society, it should be reasonable enough to anticipate a jail term if you've bashed someone into unconsciousness and then decided to go on with the job, as Packer did, deploying both fists and feet while your victim is immobile and defenceless. Yet if Packer had fronted any magistrate other than Grogin, his confidence in avoiding jail might well have been completely justified.

Lawyer Thangaraj offered a curious defence of his client's actions, pointing out that Packer's initial swing at his victim was "not a king-hit".

Keep up with the linguistic trends, Mr Lawyer Man. The proper term is now "coward punch". And while it may be that the first punch thrown wasn't entirely unanticipated by Enoka Time - the pair were arguing over cigarettes allegedly taken from Time's female friend - how are we to properly describe Packer's subsequent blows?

After all, if a coward punch is one thrown without warning, what is a punch thrown when your target is unconscious and incapable of knowing that he's even being hit? We need a whole new pugilistic vocabulary to cover this sort of thing. Perhaps we could honour Packer's new NRL team by naming it a "Newcastle nightcap".

Packer mentor and ex-New Zealand rugby league player Davis Lomax blamed in part recent media coverage of violent incidents for Packer's jail term. "It seems a little bit harsh," the former international told Kiwi media. "That's not to condone what happened - but when I was over there, there was a lot of media about some stuff that has been happening around Kings Cross in Sydney, and guys getting knocked over."

Guys "getting knocked over"? That's a delicate way of putting it. On the weekend the family of Daniel Christie made the devastating decision to take the teenager off life support. Christie had been in a coma since he was "knocked over" during an unprovoked New Year's Eve assault in the Cross.

His alleged attacker now faces further charges in addition to his previous list of "knocking over" offences. Let's hope that someone of Greg Grogin's quality is running the show when this reaches court in March.


13 January, 2014

Abbott's hard line on boat arrivals pays off

THE Abbott government has won a mighty, if still provisional, victory against people-smugglers. Today, it is just under four weeks during which no illegal immigrant has arrived in Australia by boat, nor been taken into Australian immigration authority for transfer to Manus Island or Nauru.

This is the clearest and most emphatic vindication yet of the electorate's decision to change the government in September. It may be something of a turning point in modern Australian history. It offers Australia the chance of avoiding the European fate of creating a vast underclass of people alienated from their host society.

In many areas of national policy, the Rudd and Gillard governments had taken Australia down the disastrous European road. The Abbott government is returning to Australian traditions of governance and policy.

While Australia will still be one of the most generous societies in the world to refugees, they will arrive in an orderly and lawful manner and be chosen by Australian authorities.

The determined illegal immigration to Australia of recent years, coming from all corners of the earth but funnelled by boat through our north, will come to an end.

In six years of Labor government, more than 50,000 people arrived illegally by boat with a steady and alarming increase over the years. Hardly any were sent home.

Australia may now have turned the corner on this dark chapter of lost sovereignty and lawless migration, though it is too early to be definitive.

Conditions during most of the past four weeks have been good for sailing. The monsoon has arrived late in Indonesia and is just getting under way. There may well be weeks more before another boat trip is attempted.

The Abbott government will neither confirm nor deny the numbers, but in the past four weeks some five boats have been turned around or towed back towards Indonesia.

Operational secrecy has been central to the success so far.

Operationally, turning boats back is even more effective than transferring people to Manus or Nauru.  The arrival of people in Manus and Nauru often still triggers final payment for the people-smugglers, who continue to tell their customers that people housed on those islands will eventually get to Australia.

Failed illegal arrivals who return to Indonesia, on the other hand, demand their money back and tell everyone they know that the mission was a flop. Even if the boat is sound and the crew competent, they are met by the Australian navy and kept out of Australia.

Meanwhile, Australia continues to have, per capita, the largest permanent refugee resettlement program in the world. But these refugees are not self-selected nor chosen by illegal people-smugglers - they are all genuine refugees, and none of them drowns on the way here.

Nothing has been more controversial than the secrecy which Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has imposed on the operation.

In general, governments are always best advised to be as open and transparent as possible, but this is a uniquely complex policy question. If the government is successful in stopping the boats, people will probably tolerate a good deal of discretion. There are two compelling reasons for the secrecy. The initial proposal to restrict information came from officials. It is no coincidence that this so far remarkably successful operation has been led by a former Special Forces officer, General Angus Campbell.

The key difference between an SAS soldier and everyone else is what the boffins call the internal locus of control. To the greatest extent possible, the SAS imposes its control on a situation. Information is one crucial variable the government can control, so it does just that.

In one press conference Campbell outlined his reasons for wanting to restrict information. People-smugglers use Australian government information to advertise their product and claim payment. They use knowledge of where vessels are intercepted to plan future voyages. They use Australian announcements to claim credit for their product, even to know precisely what their competitors are up to.

Keeping your adversary as much in the dark as possible is an elementary principle of military operations. Information that leaks out is far less valuable to people-smugglers than information that is announced or confirmed by the Australian government.

The involvement of the Australian military has been central to this operation's success. This is not only because the navy has to carry out the most difficult elements of it, but also because the appearance of an Australian general running the operation, standing by the minister at the early weekly briefings, has conveyed a powerful subtext of resolve. The military also has extensive international connections, especially in Southeast Asia. This additional dimension of engagement and dialogue has been critical.

The people-smuggling industry is no longer confronting a Rudd or Gillard government half-heartedly taking measures they don't believe in. Instead, it is confronting an Abbott government, a wholly different beast. And it is confronting an operation led by a distinguished, determined and supremely competent Australian general.

The second reason secrecy is so important is because it is absolutely essential in dealing with the Indonesian government dimension of the policy. The Howard government turned back boats and the Indonesian government accepted this. The Howard government promised never to say anything about this publicly, and kept its word.

While the boat turn-backs have been reported in the media, the Abbott government has not confirmed them, and this gives Jakarta a necessary degree of breathing space.

As you would expect, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has issued a statement saying the Abbott government may be in breach of international law. This is standard issue UN boilerplate nonsense. There is nothing the Abbott government has done, nor anything the Howard government did before it, which breaches the UN refugee convention in any way.

If Abbott is successful in stopping the boats altogether, the electorate will be satisfied and his government will surely run the line at the next election that a vote for Labor is a vote to restart the illegal boat trade.


Leftist hate at any whiff of conservative convictions

"We know the statistics - that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioural problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it." - President Barack Obama, Father's Day speech, 2008.

Yes, we do know the statistics. But that hasn't stopped an avalanche of hate - and I use the word advisedly - being unleashed against Cory Bernardi for quoting and echoing the sentiments of Obama in his book The Conservative Revolution (Connor Court 2013).

The big whisper going around now about Bernardi is that he is gay. The preposterous logic goes like this: Bernardi hates gays, he is obsessed by the subject, which means he is probably a repressed, self-loathing homosexual.

No less than a federal MP and Liberal backbencher, Warren Entsch, has promoted this absurdity. On Tuesday, he told Fairfax Media: "He's obviously got an obsession with people that are gay. It worries me. You've really got to watch out for those that have these obsessions. He who protests the loudest …"

Entsch himself is obviously gay if we apply his own tortured logic. Unlike Bernardi, he has long been obsessive about gays. For 10 years, he has campaigned against his own party's position on same-sex marriage and promoted a private member's bill in support of gay marriage (although he drew the line at supporting the Greens on the issue). The subject of gays caused him to go into party discipline meltdown and traduce the reputation of a colleague with smears, exaggeration and innuendo.

Let's look at the timeline of hate.

Monday: the first story that suggested Bernardi's book was controversial appeared, as night follows day, on the ABC. Within hours of the ABC report, and interview by Bernardi on ABC TV following up on that report, Bernardi's office in Adelaide was inundated by phone calls. "The office was overwhelmed with calls," Bernardi told me. "There was clearly an orchestrated campaign of abuse which was levelled at my staff."

Tuesday: The phone and email campaign extended to Amazon, where hundreds of negative reviews of The Conservative Revolution were published by people who had not read the book. and the comments at the office became more personal. "There were questions to my staff like 'Can you ask Cory how I should insert my tampon, as he wants to tell all women what to do?"' Bernardi said. "My female staffers were told things like, 'How can you work for such a bigoted c---', and 'You have betrayed the sisters by working for him, you treacherous bitch'. Some left recorded messages. It was clearly an orchestrated campaign."

Wednesday: Entsch weighs in via Fairfax Media, insinuating Bernardi is a self-loathing homosexual and asking what Bernardi would think if a member of his family turned out to be gay: "Would he advocate sterilisation?"

This is despicable, and there is a subtext to this. After the Coalition won government last year, Tony Abbott dropped Entsch from the position of chief whip. And Entsch is friendly with Malcolm Turnbull, who is openly contemptuous of Bernardi. Entsch even mentioned Turnbull in his attack on Bernardi, saying Turnbull had been raised by his single father and was not a lesser person for that.

Thursday: a reaction to the hate campaign, with a heavy flow of supportive calls and emails. "Interestingly, the email feedback has been overwhelmingly positive," Bernardi said.

All week, Fairfax Media has published a string of negative reporting, commentary and remarks about Bernardi, yet in this coverage no one has even pretended to have read the book. If they had, they would see Bernardi quotes a plethora of studies and that it was a British Family Court judge, Sir Paul Coleridge, not Bernardi, who came up with the phrase that traditional families should be the "gold standard" as the best protector of children's welfare. Based on his Family Court experience, the judge said family breakdown was the root cause of most social ills and warns: "What is a matter of private concern when it is on a small scale becomes a matter of public concern when it reaches epidemic proportions."

In his book, Bernardi sums up his argument on families with this: "Social policy should continue to advocate for the best possible social environment for children. More often than not, as studies have shown, that environment is a family with a child's married biological mother and father. Of course, there will always be exceptions to this - some traditional families fail miserably at childcare and some step-families do a wonderful job of raising children - but it should not deter society as a whole from encouraging its citizens to pursue the traditional family model."

Not exactly rabid. The same cannot be said for the parade of bigotry over the past seven days - absurdly claiming to be in defence of tolerance.


Abbott government planning 'repeal day' to cut 8000 laws

The Abbott government is planning a "repeal day" in parliament in March when it hopes to axe more than 8000 federal laws in a push to cut red tape costs.

The Australian reports that the "repeal day" is scheduled for the final parliamentary sitting week in March and is part of a federal government plan to slash red tape by $1 billion a year.

The Statute Law Revision Bill and the Amending Acts 1901-1969 Bill will propose slashing 8000 redundant laws going back around 100 years.

On the same day, parliament will be presented with a number of bills proposing the repeal of "burdensome regulations".

The bills are to be debated in the coming weeks, with the government reportedly claiming they'll represent the ``biggest single reduction in federal laws ever put before the commonwealth parliament".

The "repeal day" concept is said to be borrowed from the US, where congress has regular repeal days.


School reform leader backs maths, science

ONE of the architects of the Abbott government's school curriculum reforms says more students should be encouraged to pursue maths and science.

The coalition on Friday announced that Kevin Donnelly, a former chief of staff to Howard government minister Kevin Andrews, would be one of two men to review the national schools curriculum.

Mr Donnelly said education should be pared back to basics.  "We really do need to look at how we teach mathematics and science and English," he told Macquarie Radio on Monday.

"We really do need to know whether the millions and millions of dollars that's gone into education over the last 20 years, where results have flatlined or have gone backwards - we want to know how effective that money has been."

He said successful school systems in Finland, Korea, Singapore and Japan showed moves to "cut it right back to the basics" instead of teaching "edgy babble" had been effective.

"We aren't getting enough young people to do mathematics and science, chemistry, the harder mathematics subjects in years 11 and 12," Mr Donnelly said.

"Part of the reason is, especially (at the) primary, lower secondary (level), unfortunately there are teachers teaching mathematics who aren't properly trained."

He also criticised what he said was a "politically correct" approach to classroom discipline.  "Teachers can't raise their voice, they're not allowed to criticise children or admonish them because that's going to hurt their self esteem apparently," he said.


12 January, 2014

Bad luck Sarah, but that boat won’t float

Piers Akerman

OUR ABC, and Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, choked the pre-election airwaves with wild predictions that the Coalition’s turn-back-the-boats policy was unworkable.

Now the evidence is in that a number of boats have been successfully turned back, both the national taxpayer-funded broadcaster and the Greens immigration spokesman are conducting their own reversal of sorts - they are now noisily protesting that the boats should not have been turned back.

Hanson-Young, who appears to have been given a permanent news slot at “our” ABC, is competing with the cicadas for cacophany.

The Senator flippantly shrugged off any Greens responsibility for contributing to the deaths of about 200 people who tried to enter aboard an illegal people smuggler boat in December 2011 with the astoundingly superficial comment: “Tragedies happen, accidents happen.”

Hanson-Young is now dismayed the Australian naval personnel may be responsible for saving lives at sea.

Speaking to “our” ABC after Indonesian authorities reported at least two illegal people smuggler boats had returned to Indonesia (there have been more), the pointless South Australian said the people-smuggler passengers “could have drowned”.

Her stupidity was in marked contrast to the measured words of the Indonesian police chief Senior Commander Hidayat on the island of Rote, who explained to Indonesia’s Antara news service why the Australian navy provided the passengers with life vests and communication equipment before sending them back into Indonesian waters.

“The Australian Navy knows the local ship crews will usually put leaks in boats that aim to enter Australian waters, thus they took the initiative to anticipate it,” Hidayat said.

It is obvious from the Indonesian media reports that the Abbott government’s policy of permitting the Australian military to oversee Operation Sovereign Borders in concert with its Indonesian counterparts is bearing fruit.

Unlike the Rudd government’s unsuccessful policies, supported by Hanson-Young and her Greens colleagues, the new approach has already discouraged hundreds, if not thousands, of people from risking their lives attempting to enter Australia illegally.

Indonesian military commander General Moeldoko has said the Australian government’s decision to turn back a boat carrying would-be migrants attempting to reach its shores was “justifiable” as he had made an agreement with the Australian Defence Force.

He said both countries had agreed to the action: “Following (our) halted military co-operation with Australia, (Australia’s) defense force chief (General David Hurley) called me to discuss several issues, including how to deal with the boat people.

“He told me Indonesia should understand if Australia drove back undocumented migrants attempting to enter the country using Indonesian boats or if any Indonesians were found aboard. I have agreed. Therefore, we don’t need to feel offended.”

General Moeldoko would be bemused to learn his clarity of thought would enrage Hanson-Young and those at “our” ABC, who have worked so hard to undermine Australia’s national interest by fomenting distrust between Australia and Indonesia.

Former Labor leader Mark Latham was absolutely correct when he said the Greens and the Labor left and their “so-called compassionate” approach to asylum seekers was causing deaths at sea.

“You can’t be compassionate and you can’t have a good heart, you can’t have a good soul, if you encourage people to get on boats that sink,” Latham told Sky in 2011.

“And people just need to understand that the real compassionate policy is to stop the flow of the boats.”

The Indonesian police have confirmed that the boats turned back were “rented” from Indonesian fishermen and the crews which were endeavoring to help the undocumented arrivals enter Australia were Indonesians.

Unfortunately they escaped after the local Indonesian police transferred them as well as other crew and passengers to Kupang.

The contrast between the Abbott government’s approach to illegal entrants and that of the Rudd and Gillard governments could not be sharper.

Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd trumpeted his foreign policy forays at mega-volume, dismaying our neighbours and eroding their trust.

Similarly, Julia Gillard showed a total lack of diplomatic skill when she shut down the important live cattle export trade without any consultation with either the Australian beef industry or the Indonesians.

Having Australian generals deal with their Indonesian counterparts collaboratively on the people-smuggler policy has isolated grandstanding politicians like Hanson-Young, and the Labor Opposition leadership team of Bill Shorten, Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek and Tony Burke.

Even Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, ANU-schooled and Labor-leaning, has been dealt out of the main game, which he hinted at by refusing to comment on the reports of boats being towed back to Indonesia because they were operational matters.

Natalegawa is too shrewd a politician to take on the large and important Indonesian military institutions within months of a national election in Indonesia, no matter how much air time and print space the ABC and Fairfax offer him.

With the “unachievable” policy of turning back the boats looking better every day, it is the Labor left, the Greens and their media cheer squad who have been left high and dry.



... but it's about to get a lot harder

The Federal Government is slowly dismantling the Green rorts promoted under Gillard... it was a very expensive three years. Union heavies may have “gifted” the top job to a known communist crook [Gillard] but she then needed to sleep with the Greens to keep it. The ALP looks back on the marriage with dismay as it now tries to divorce itself from the wreckage of that unholy alliance.

Let’s face it, the Greens (who make the ALP look like far Right fascists) are a malignant group entrenched in the States of Tasmania and South Australia, coincidentally the only two States that have had their economies systematically trashed.

Tasmania’s Lara Giddings faces a dilemma. The ALP needs to sever all links with the destructive Greens to have a hope in the looming State election but, depending on the outcome, she may have to do a Gillard and allow the foxes back in the henhouse.  The ALP hasn’t yet learnt its lesson in integrity.

The carbon tax is a Green initiative Gillard initially wanted no part of. It is the devil’s trident of treachery. One, redistribution of income, two, destroy a minerals based economy and three, provide the UN with the finance to impose a one world government.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation was the Greens’ cherry on top and it was gifted ten billion dollars to finance crazy green concepts that must have first been rejected as unviable by the private sector.

The Greens rushed as much of the $10 billion out the door before the last election. A tsunami of money for schemes, like in the previous post, was available to anyone who typed in, “ a result of global warming” at the base of their mission statement.


Snails and CO2

Hope you are seated for this because it could ruin your day. “Effects of climate change could hinder a sea snail’s ability to leap away from predators on one foot”, Queensland researchers say. Did I read that right?

The study, reported in the Fjii Times, shows the Conch snail, found in sandy areas off coral reefs, finds it difficult to quickly jump out of reach of prey when exposed to higher levels of carbon dioxide.

Dr Sue-Ann Watson of James Cook University’s Centre of Excellence, who is a self-confessed global warmist, says the chemical CO2 disrupts the snail's neurotransmitter receptor, causing it to have a delayed response.

“The snail either stops jumping or takes longer to jump when exposed to the levels of carbon dioxide projected for the end of this century”, the marine biologist said. (Have you fallen off your chair yet?)

"This might leave the three to four centimetre Conch snail more vulnerable to the dart of the slow-moving, predatory Cone shell.

"Snails normally move slowly and crawl around on their one big foot," Ms Watson said.

So, the level of carbon dioxide in eighty six years’ time (projected of course by our global warming friends) might affect a sea snail!

Bloody hell, that makes the Syrian crisis look like a picnic.

But every dark cloud has a silver lining... in eighty six years’ time it seems the deprived, slow-moving Cone shell will find it much easier to get a feed. Phew, global warming isn’t all doom and gloom after all.

I phone-messaged Sue-Ann to ask if the dung beetle was getting enough tucker at her Centre of Excellence, but I have yet to receive a reply.


Christopher Pyne appoints critics of school curriculum to review system

Education Minister Christopher Pyne has taken the first step towards reforming the national school curriculum, by appointing two staunch critics of the current system to head up a government review.

On Friday, Mr Pyne announced that former teacher and Coalition advisor Kevin Donnelly and government academic Ken Wiltshire would lead the review, which is due to report back by mid-year.

Labor and the Australian Education Union have swiftly criticised the process, accusing the Coalition of threatening to politicise the school curriculum.

The curriculum review was part of the Coalition's 2013 election platform and Mr Pyne has previously criticised what he describes as too little emphasis on "the non-Labor side of our history".

In an opinion piece in The Australian newspaper on Friday, Mr Pyne added that "concerns have been raised about the history curriculum not recognising the legacy of Western civilisation and not giving important events in Australia's history and culture the prominence they deserve, such as Anzac Day".

Mr Pyne told reporters in Adelaide that he wanted to implement any changes from the review in 2015, after consulting with state and territory counterparts.

He dismissed questions about the impartiality of Professor Wiltshire and Dr Donnelly, saying: "I'm very confident that Ken and Kevin will bring a balanced approach."

Dr Donnelly, who is a former chief of staff to Liberal frontbencher Kevin Andrews, has previously criticised a "cultural left" bias in the education system. Professor Wiltshire has labelled the current curriculum as a "failure" with poor and patchy content.

The Education Minister said he had not appointed a bigger committee to review the curriculum as he wanted a "robust" outcome, rather than a report that pleased all stakeholders.

Mr Pyne said that Dr Donnelly and Professor Wiltshire would look at the process of how the curriculum is developed as well as its content.  "I have asked them to gather the views of parents, state and territory governments and educators to inform their analysis."

Describing himself as a "curriculum nerd", Dr Donnelly said on Friday that it was an honour to be appointed to the role.  A prolific writer, Dr Donnelly has previously written that many parents consider the practices of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people to be "unnatural".

He has also advocated for resources to be directed at teaching young people "Australia's western heritage and Judeo-Christian tradition".  "The language we speak, listen to and read is English and before children are made to learn an Asian language it might be a good idea, firstly, to ensure that they have mastered their native tongue," he wrote in a 2012 opinion piece for the ABC.

Labor's education spokeswoman Kate Ellis said that Mr Pyne's review threatened to take the national curriculum backwards.  "The curriculum should not be treated as a political football - politicians should not be determining the details of what is taught in the classroom," she said.  "States and territories - Liberal and Labor - have agreed to an independent board to set curriculum. But today, Christopher Pyne is threatening to take us backward by making this more about politics and less about learning."

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos also expressed concerns about the review, arguing that the current curriculum is developed by experts and signed off by state and territory ministers.  "The curriculum must be balanced and I believe that the statements made thus far are without foundation," he told ABC Radio on Friday.  "The curriculum should not be politicised."  [Unless it is Leftist, of course]

The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority is currently responsible for developing the national curriculum for all school students.

Mr Pyne has previously said ACARA is "not the final arbiter on everything that is good in education".


10 January, 2014

Sydney's charming Lebanese Muslims at work


Behind bars may be the safest place for Farhad Qaumi.  The alleged leader of the notorious Brothers 4 Life gang was shot in the shoulder 10 days ago, part of what police believe is a deadly internal power struggle involving several shootings in recent months.

Then on Thursday, Mr Qaumi was arrested over a string of drug supply and firearms offences following co-ordinated raids by the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad on properties in Sydney and on the central coast.

Police say Mr Qaumi, 31, and his brother Mumtaz Ahmed Qaumi, 29, are leaders of the Blacktown chapter of Brothers 4 Life, a criminal group founded by convicted murderer Bassam Hamzy, who is serving a 22-year sentence in Goulburn's Supermax jail.

It is alleged that since July last year, the brothers have knowingly directed the criminal activities of the faction, which has been involved in tit-for-tat violence with its Bankstown sister chapter in recent months.

At least two men have been killed and several wounded as gun-toting gangsters compete to fill the power vacuum created by the arrest of kingpin Mohammed Hamzy over the October 2012 murder of fellow gang member Yehyah Amood. Mr Hamzy, 28, was one of a dozen members arrested in November last year.

Police Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas said those arrests, combined with this week's raids, have halved the size of the gang.

"Our sense is that the numbers are certainly small and shrinking by the day," he said. "Speculation that this is the end of the group is probably premature. While these are significant arrests, this is not the end."

The heavily tattooed Mr Qaumi is no stranger to prison, having previously been charged with three murders, although he was never convicted over those deaths.

And he would have known he was a marked man after receiving a gunshot wound to his shoulder when at least 18 bullets were fired at the 32-metre motor yacht Oscar II as it pulled into Rose Bay wharf about 11.30pm on New Year's Day.

For months, police have been frustrated by the refusal of people involved in the violence to co-operate. But the walls of silence are gradually breaking down, Mr Kaldas said. "We pretty much know what has happened with just about all of the shootings that have occurred in Sydney in the last 12 months," he said.

The Qaumi brothers did not apply for bail in Wyong Local Court and it was formally refused. They will reappear in Central Local Court next month.


Radical feminists show their nasty side in campaign to support illegal immigrants

It should be noted that the campaign to stop illegal immigrants coming has bipartisan support in Australia  -- and huge support in the population as a whole

Last week refugee advocacy groups including RISE (which represents refugees, survivors and former detainees) reminded Australians that women in detention do not have easy access to products like tampons and pads. They are forced to queue to get handouts - and when they get to the head of the queue, they get one or two doled out like special precious gifts.

Now this kind of ritual humiliation doesn't happen in every single detention centre. And it doesn't happen all the time. [Maybe it only happened once.  Any excuse will do for a feminist to draw attention to herself.  Truth optional]

But the fact that it happens at all is a symbol of the way in which successive governments have treated those who come to our shores seeking protection.

Kon Karapanagiotidis, who was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2010 for his human rights work with refugee support, says this practice has gone on for years. Kon says those who say it doesn't happen are lying - the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, which he founded 12 years ago, has received these reports for some time.

So a bunch of us at feminist action group Destroy the Joint decided there was only one way to get Scott Morrison's attention. And that was to give him a monthly reminder. We've asked women around Australia to write to Mr Morrison asking him to change the procedures for access to what are described as feminine hygiene products. But not just those little form letters - but ones with an appropriate message: either a pad or a tampon. Also totally ok to send mooncups and sponges.

Don't send used ones. That would be revolting. Unsafe and unhygienic. Those of you who think that would be amusing must know it's not Morrison opening his own mail. It will be a poorly paid administrative assistant who will be instructed to stop the flow as soon as possible. So feel free to write on clean, unused sanitary products with red nail polish or waterproof markers. But send the message.

It's pretty hard to communicate with Morrison to see what he says about these claims. I've given up calling his office because the media team doesn't return calls. Morrison has been on leave from his regular Friday briefings for at least the last two. Reporters have had to wait to get a royal proclamation to hear whether the briefings are going ahead.


Homosexual Brisbane man Ali Choudhry given temporary halt on deportation as tribunal hears case

Note that he was NOT ordered out because he is homosexual.  He is just a chancer

A gay man living in Brisbane has won a temporary reprieve from being deported to Pakistan where he could be jailed for his sexuality.

Ali Choudhry has been living in Brisbane for four years with his partner, Brisbane neuroscientist Dr Matthew Hynd.

He is due to be deported after his application for a partnership visa was refused by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.

His supporters say he is at risk of being jailed for his sexuality in Pakistan, where he does not read the language and has few contacts because he grew up in the United States.

Mr Choudhry and Dr Hynd were one of the first gay couples in Queensland to register their civil union on March 12, 2012.

Despite this, Mr Choudhry says the Government has ruled it does "not consider that you are in a long-standing relationship".

He has now lodged an appeal to the Migration Review Tribunal (MRT) and the Immigration Department says he can remain in Australia on a bridging visa while the appeal is considered.

"A bridging visa is granted whilst an application is being processed. At no time was Mr Chaudry in danger of being deported," a spokeswoman for the Immigration Minister said.

Mr Choudhry says he met with authorities on Tuesday morning.

"The official told us that until MRT makes their decision I'm OK to stay in the country," he said.

"But he was adamant not to give us anything in writing even though we asked him several times."

Mr Choudhry was born in Pakistan but grew up in New Jersey in the United States before going to university in Canada.

The spokeswoman for Mr Morrison says same-sex partners are assessed no differently than de facto heterosexual couples.

She says Mr Choudhry did not satisfy the requirements for a partnership visa.

"Mr Choudhry came to Australia as a student in 2009. He applied for a further student visa in March 2011 but was refused as he had not enrolled in his course," the spokeswoman said in a statement.

"He was then unlawfully in Australia for four months before lodging a partner visa application."

On his crowd-funding project on Pozible to raise funds for the MRT appeal, Mr Choudhry says his student visa paperwork was never received during the chaos of the Brisbane floods in 2011.

Mr Choudhry and Dr Hynd were one of the couples who lost everything in the flooding.

The Immigration Department says because Mr Choudhry did not hold a "substantive visa" at the time he did not satisfy the requirements for a partnership visa.

"He needed to provide compelling reasons why he should be granted the visa while onshore in spite of being in Australia unlawfully," the spokeswoman said.

If Mr Choudhry is deported he will attempt to get a tourist visa so that he can stay with friends in either the US or Canada. However, the visa would only last three months.


Overseas education crucial to universities

INTERNATIONAL education is Australia's fourth biggest export earner, providing crucial cash flows for universities. But newly released archives reveal a Cabinet power struggle between ministers focused on revenue and those concerned with aid.

International education in Australia began as a post-war overseas aid scheme, with students from the Asia-Pacific region sponsored to study here under the Colombo Program. But by 1987, these students were paying about 45 per cent of the average commercial fees.

Education minister Susan Ryan wanted the payments maintained at that level for the next three years, saying the Overseas Student Charge had risen annually since 1980. "There have been rises of the order of 40 per cent in each of the last two years," Senator Ryan noted in a March 1987 submission.

She advocated "certainty and predictability" in the charge, partly because of the effect "controversy surrounding the charge has on Australia's image as an attractive destination".

Senator Ryan said the charge had reached a "practical ceiling" because it was almost as high as the full fees paid on some commercial courses. "To increase the current level of OSC would bring into question the whole rationale for the subsidised program."

A draft press release included in the submission lauded the overseas student program's benefits in ``reinforcing understanding and goodwill and in more firmly establishing Australia as a friendly neighbour in the Asia-Pacific".

But other departments were hostile to the proposal. "It is not apparent that the benefits of the program justify such a large subsidy to overseas students," says a summary of Treasury's views.

"Increases in the OSC to date do not appear to have deterred applications," Treasury noted, adding that it would agree to more enrolments "subject to full fees being levied."

The Department of Foreign Affairs argued for annual increases in the charge until ``full cost recovery" was achieved, while the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said fixing future years' charges constituted "an inflexible constraint on future budgetary planning".

The Expenditure Review Committee said the charge should be lifted to 55 per cent in 1988, 65 per cent in 1989 and 75 per cent in 1990. But this was overridden by Cabinet, which settled on 55 per cent for all three years.

Cabinet also accepted Senator Ryan's recommendation that the annual intake quota be set at 3500 students "provided that aggregate student numbers do not in future years significantly exceed the current level".

Last year there were over 500,000 foreign students in Australia.


9 January, 2014

Australians want boat arrivals treated more harshly: poll

Most Australians think asylum seekers who arrive by boat are not genuine refugees and there is strong support for the Abbott government to treat boat arrivals more harshly.

A nationwide opinion poll by UMR Research shows that 59 per cent of people think most boat arrivals are not genuine refugees.
A poll shows most Australians want the government to treat asylum seekers more harshly.

Thirty per cent of Australians believe that most asylum seekers are genuine refugees, even though between 70 and 97 per cent have been determined to be refugees. Photo: Sharon Tisdale

The poll, based on a nationally representative sample of 1000 online interviews, shows only 30 per cent of Australians believe that most asylum seekers are genuine refugees while 12 per cent are unsure.

A strong majority of Australians, 60 per cent, also want the Abbott government to “increase the severity of the treatment of asylum seekers.”

Groups most strongly favouring harsher policies are older Australians (aged over 70 years – 68 per cent), and self-employed people (71 per cent). People in Queensland and Western Australia are slightly more supportive of a more severe approach (65 per cent and 64 per cent respectively) than in Victoria and NSW (both 62 per cent).

Only 30 per cent of Australians think asylum seekers should not be treated more severely, while 9 per cent are unsure.

A majority of Australians - 59 per cent - oppose refugees receiving government welfare assistance. Only 27 per cent believe that refugees should receive government support.

The latest polling results come as Fairfax Media reports that the Abbott government is buying up to 16 hard-hulled lifeboats - similar to those carried by cruise ships and oil tankers - to which asylum seekers will be transferred and returned to Indonesia if their vessels are unseaworthy.

Indonesian police have said Australia has recently turned back two asylum seeker boats, prompting Jakarta again to voice its condemnation of the policy.

In a standoff at sea in November, Indonesia refused to take back an asylum seeker vessel on the grounds that it was unseaworthy.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has refused to confirm or deny the purchase of lifeboats or the reported recent turning back of asylum seeker boats, citing the need to "protect the security of our operations".

The poll shows the government's current treatment of asylum seekers is approved of by 48 per cent of Australians and 39 per cent disapprove. The poll does not show, however, how many of those who disapprove think the government's policies are too lenient or too harsh.

According to the Australian Parliamentary Library's research service, between 70 per cent and 97 per cent of asylum seekers arriving by boat at different times have been found to be genuine refugees.

Under the former Howard government's "Pacific Solution", 1637 unauthorised arrivals were detained in the Nauru and Manus Island detention facilities between September 2001 and February 2008. Of those 70 per cent were found to be refugees and ultimately resettled to Australia or other countries.

During the Rudd government approximately 90-95 per cent of refugee assessments completed on Christmas Island resulted in protection visas being granted. 99.7 per cent of people from Afghanistan (the majority of whom arrived by boat) were assessed as genuine refugees. Grant rates for protection visas for people from Iraq, Iran and Burma, many of whom also have arrived by boat, were also high, ranging from 96-98 per cent.

However the latest UMR polling, conducted in the second week of December, shows that public perceptions of asylum seekers are quite different from official assessments.

Residents in NSW (61 per cent) and Queensland (66 per cent) are more likely to reject the description of most boat arrivals as refugees than Victorians (54 per cent). There is also a significant division in attitudes in metropolitan and regional Australia with people outside major cities less likely to see asylum seekers as refugees (25 per cent against 33 per cent of people in cities.)

People aged under 30 years (35 per cent) or who are university educated (39 per cent) are more likely to think people travelling to Australia by boat are genuine refugees. People who are self-employed (70 per cent), aged between 50-69 years (65 per cent), or over 70 years (67 per cent), or who have a TAFE or trade qualification (66 per cent) are more likely to think asylum seekers are not genuine refugees.


Public sector jobs in ACT drop to lowest ever recorded levels

Public sector job prospects in the capital collapsed late last year to their lowest ever recorded levels, new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals.

The bureau's latest job vacancy snapshot shows just 300 government jobs were up for grabs in the ACT in November 2013, the lowest level since records began 30 years ago.

In November 2012 when there were 800 jobs available the government sector in Canberra.

There was dismal news too for the city's private sector workers with non-government job vacancies down by nearly 25 per cent from last year, way below the national Australia-wide trend that saw vacancies across Australia slump by 15 per cent.

There were just 2300 jobs vacant in Canberra's private sector in November 2013, according to the bureau, down from 3100 the previous year and way down from an all-time-high of 5500 in November 2010.

The numbers represent all government sector jobs the territory including the Australian Public Service, and broader federal sector as well as ACT Public Service and other government employers.

The figures were published on Wednesday and were taken in the wake of the Abbott government's hiring freeze on the Australian Public Service, Canberra's biggest employer, and several years of cost cutting and efficiency dividends under the previous Labor government which also cut into public sector jobs in the capital.

The previous lows of just 400 public sector vacancies in Canberra were recorded by the ABS between 1996 and 1997 as the then newly elected Howard government imposed deep cuts on public service numbers.

The highest ever recorded number of public sector vacancies in Canberra came in the dying days of John Howard's government in 2007 when 2400 government jobs up for grabs in the capital.


Baccalaureate studiers at private school top HSC's best performer

Eight International Baccalaureate students at one Sydney private school scored the top ATAR of 99.95 compared to six HSC students at James Ruse Agricultural High School, raising questions about whether the alternative qualification gives students an advantage in university admission.

The diploma, which is not allowed to be taught in NSW public schools, was offered at 15 private schools last year as an alternative to the HSC.

When results were released on Saturday, 11 of the state's 450 IB students, or 2.44 per cent, received the top score of 45, which translates to an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank of 99.95.

By comparison, 48 out of almost 55,000 ATAR-eligible HSC students achieved the same result, a rate of 0.087 per cent. While the IB students make up a tiny sample of the wider community of school-leavers, the year's results suggest they were 28 times more likely to achieve an ATAR of 99.95.

The president of the Board of Studies, Tom Alegounarias, said the top IB mark would be equivalent to several marks at the top of the ATAR scale for an HSC student.

"And you couldn't reliably differentiate any more specifically than that," he said.

The lowest score for a student who passed the IB translated to a 69.35 ATAR, which was higher than the median ATAR of 69.20 among HSC students.

The IB scores range between 24 and 45 and any score above 33 translated to an ATAR above 90.

The director of information services at the University Admissions Centre, Kim Paino, said the high performance among IB students partly reflected that it was only offered in "private schools of a particular demographic". But she said it would be hard to argue the top-ranked IB student deserved anything other than the top ATAR.

"I mean, that would be quite controversial," she said. "And if there are that many good IB students this year, then good luck to them."

The principal at the MLC School in Burwood, Denice Scala, said her IB students felt more in control of their study because their grades did not depend on ranking or scaling and there was not a limit on how many students could receive the top marks.

"They know, if they get the assessment results that they want, what their ATAR will be," she said. "So there are no surprises."

A third of the school's students chose the IB over the HSC last year and more than 90 per cent of those students achieved a score equivalent to an ATAR above 90. None of the school's HSC students received the top ATAR of 99.95. "We certainly don't choose to do the IB because of the conversion to the ATAR," she said.

"We chose to do the IB because of the fact that it's really rich in what it offers our students."

IB students must study six subjects, as well as a 4000-word research essay, study the theory of knowledge and undertake community service.

MLC School student Emma Williams, who received the top IB score of 45 on Saturday, said the IB "definitely" translated favourably to the ATAR. "I'd say that's probably one of the main advantages of the IB," she said. "If you're prepared to work hard in either course, I would definitely suggest the IB to anyone."


Labor's green tinge fattened the goat cheese circle of public servants in the big cities

KEVIN Rudd, his loyal deputy Julia Gillard and their trusted treasurer Wayne Swan were elected in November 2007 to look after the interests of Australian working families.

With such a high-powered team and a strong Australian economy, what could possibly go wrong? The Labor government had inherited a labour market that was generating almost as many jobs as could be provided annually by growth in the civilian population 15 years and older. Australia's participation rate was 65.2 per cent and rising, and the unemployment rate was 4.1 per cent and falling.

Between November 2007 and November last year we had the speed bump of the global financial crisis, but the stimulus temporarily returned job creation to Howard government levels in late 2010.

By then the NSW Right and their mates in the Australian Workers Union had ditched Rudd and replaced him with their former lawyer, Gillard. Swan was about to be elected as the world's best treasurer and all looked under control, especially after Labor's factional wide boys had frozen out that pesky Lindsay Tanner from finance and replaced him with one of their own, Penny Wong.

To mind the shop, throw in a few former house guests of disgraced former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid, such as Stephen Conroy and Tony Burke, and you had a real can-do cabinet. They even had AWU strongman Bill Ludwig's son Joe to keep the minutes. Then the team was able to crack on with extensive re-regulation of the labour market and the creation of Fair Work Australia and a wide range of sweetheart deals with its union mates at the ACTU.

In between Joe Ludwig found time to work his magic on live cattle exports and relations with Indonesia. We saw schemes from Conroy such as the National Broadband Network, which has 3000 staff including 400 on more than $200,000 a year. Actual homes connected? Well that's another matter entirely. But at least they had targets.

More modest efforts included Medicare Locals to take over after-hours schemes already run by local doctors, and these needed armies of public service administrators, accountants, lawyers and auditors.

There were deals with unions on coastal shipping routes and deals to take childcare money off working mums and give it to unions looking after childcare workers. This last one was probably not the smartest way to improve participation rates for working mums.

The real honey pot for the public sector teachers unions was locking the commonwealth into permanently funding public schools for state governments.

This was heaven on earth for the ACTU, now run by white-collar unions that were able to match the taxing powers of the commonwealth with one of the biggest state government spending obligations.

A marriage based on the self-interest of public sector unions and premiers was truly a romance for the ages.

Despite all this compassion and all the factional deals, by November last year the labour market was generating jobs for only one in four potential new entrants to the workforce.

When benchmarked against figures for November 2007, the participation rate was down 0.8 per cent and the official unemployment was up by 1.3 per cent.

Underemployment, which mainly affects part-time working women chasing more hours of work, was at 7.8 per cent compared with 7.9 per cent during the worst days of the GFC.

Particularly affected by underemployment were women aged 35 to 44, the group that funds consumer spending in younger working families. These would be the same working mums who could no longer afford four days of childcare a week because their money had been siphoned off to fund a union membership drive for childcare workers.

Labour force underutilisation (which equals underemployment plus unemployment) was running at 13.7 per cent in November last year, compared with 13.6 per cent during the GFC.

So what went wrong?

The politest way we can put it is that the people who hired themselves to look after the working families of Australia from November 2007 did very well, but those being helped did not fare so well, despite all the love and attention.

The official Australian Bureau of Statistics numbers summarised in The Australian's online Jobs Profile tell the story.

Six out of 10 or 576,000 of the additional 957,000 people employed between November 2007 and November last year obtained jobs in the combined industries of health, education and public administration. The combined industries grew from 23.7 per cent of the workforce in November 2007 to 26.7 per cent of the workforce in November last year.

There was, after all, a lot of help to be given to needy working-class families.

These predominantly white-collar jobs tend to be publicly funded or regulated, are strongly unionised and show in our election profiles as equally strong Greens voters. You may have noticed a few of them running the ACTU. By contrast, the combined industries of manufacturing, construction and transport are likelier to be employed in the private sector, are relatively unionised and show in our election profiles as strong Labor voters.

These three industries shared in none of the additional 957,000 jobs created during six years of Labor governments and in fact lost a combined 3300 workers. Their combined share of employed persons fell from 24.1 per cent in November 2007 to 22.1 per cent in November last year.

Both of these industry groupings started six years of Labor governments in November 2007 with about 2,500,000 workers. The white-collar group of helpers reached 3,100,000 by last November , while the blue-collar group being helped stayed on 2,500,000 and when Rudd lost office last year they were 600,000 jobs behind their white-collar counterparts.

This shedding of these blue-collar construction, manufacturing and transport jobs under Labor was concentrated in labour force regions in outlying suburbs such as Gold Coast North in Queensland, or Fairfield-Liverpool in NSW.

But conventional unemployment rates did not capture the real loss of employment opportunities in these regions as many joined the hidden unemployed outside the official labour market, while more mobile workers moved to regions of higher labour demand in Western Australia.

The best example of this trend, Gold Coast North, was losing up to one in four employees at various times between November 2007 and November last year, but at the same time was returning an unemployment rate of zero per cent, which invalidates the unemployment rate as an economic indicator in the present economic climate.

Given the high levels of discouraged workers and hidden unemployed in the labour market, a rise in official unemployment rates in some of our depressed regions such as Gold Coast North and Fairfield-Liverpool and perhaps even at the national level would be a sign of growing confidence in the economy rather than the reverse.

To neutralise the impact of hidden employment changes, our labour market profiles now place a higher priority on participation rates across the regions and pay more attention to underemployment and underutilisation at the national level.

When we ranked the 69 regions to show the greatest drop in participation rates we noted that the 18 hardest hit regions included seven of the 14 Queensland regions, indicating the serious decline of the Queensland labour market in the past six years because of a contraction of the tourist sector, a drop in population growth and a loss of building and manufacturing jobs.

We also saw a range of outer urban and adjoining rural areas across most states where regional economies had suffered substantial falls in workforce participation. This is where we traditionally find large proportions of the more activist religions, such as Pentecostals and Mormons, groups that had been loyal Rudd supporters in 2007. These postcodes are clearly identified in the interactive map in The Australian's online edition.

Also losing jobs from six years of Labor governments were middle-income families with four-bedroom McMansions and 30 to 34-year-old mothers of two children. When Rudd was first elected in 2007 these young mums lived in labour force regions with an average chance of getting a job; now they have as much chance as sea-change regions containing large groups of 70 to 74-year-old women.

These demographics represent the classic swinging voter group and no government can expect to be re-elected if it presides over a fall in participation rates for this key group.

We projected these trends on to federal electorates to show in our online Jobs Profile the 24 electorates with the biggest gains and falls in participation rates between 2007 and last year.

The electorates gaining jobs under Labor tended to be wealthy inner-city seats with high Greens votes, while the electorates losing jobs under Labor were lower-income, outer-urban seats with few Greens voters.

For the 12 seats that grew increasingly prosperous under Labor, the Greens vote averaged almost 16 per cent. For the 12 seats that lost jobs under Labor the Greens vote averaged 6.4 per cent.

The correlation between Greens primary votes and the improvement in participation rates was 0.78 and significant to 99.9 per cent confidence levels.

It seems that the biggest political losers from six years of Labor governments were young swinging voter families and traditional blue-collar Labor voters.

The biggest winners were well paid, public sector Greens voters living inside the goat cheese circle of our major cities. These helpful people in the ACTU public sector unions have prospered and continue to do so under Tony Abbott, who has declined to revisit Labor's re-regulation of the labour market in his first term and instead has come up with a paid parental leave scheme for rich kids that looks as if it could have been written by the Greens because it was.

If the Prime Minister doesn't ditch dopey ideas such as this one and refocus on the labour market for real working families he won't have to worry much about what he does in his second term because he won't get one.

Which won't concern the ACTU or the Greens or Labor's factional wide boys because then they can go back to sharing the love.


8 January, 2014

Public needs education to stop blow-out in healthcare costs

Former Liberal health minister Kay Patterson says people must be educated about the cost of health services they use, warning the government faces tough choices as the health budget comes under "enormous" pressure.

Dr Patterson, who was health minister for almost two years immediately before Tony Abbott, said many changes, including ageing, increased obesity, new drugs and technologies, and antibiotic resistance, had combined to place "enormous demands" on the budget.

"If we want to have the level of healthcare we have now, we need to make choices," she said, adding she sympathised with the cabinet.

Dr Patterson would not comment on a proposal by a former adviser to Mr Abbott as health minister, Terry Barnes, for a $6 fee to visit a doctor.

Mr Barnes' proposal, made in a submission to the government's Commission of Audit, has been widely criticised by doctors and health groups, who have warned it risks hurting the poorest and sickest, and overwhelming hospital emergency departments. Labor has vowed to fight the proposal, which it has branded a "GP tax".

Mr Barnes submission estimated his proposal would save $750 million over four years by reducing unnecessary GP visits.

Dr Patterson said while the public was more informed about what services were available, there was not enough awareness of the cost they carried to the public purse.

"What we must do is make people understand the cost of health," she said.

As health minister, Dr Patterson said she introduced a policy of printing the full cost of drugs on labels for those subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Many patients told her they were surprised to learn they were getting hundreds of dollars worth of medicines for a fraction of their cost.

"People didn't know how much they were being subsidised," she said. "Even some of the doctors said, 'I can't believe how expensive that was', and they were prescribing it.

"The community needs to understand the multitude of pressures that are placed on health costs and it will not go backwards."

Health Minister Peter Dutton said spiralling health costs would become "unmanageable" without change. Pointing to 120 per cent growth in the cost of Medicare over the past decade, Mr Dutton said some believed the rate of growth was "unsustainable".


Regulator urges Tony Abbott to act on privatisation

The national competition regulator has urged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to sell assets such as Australia Post and Medibank Private and push for the privatisation of state-owned energy companies, The Australian Financial Review reports.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said the federal government's root-and-branch review of competition laws would be more far-reaching than business expected. The review should recommend the government relinquish control of long-held assets to maximise productivity and create the greatest benefit to consumers, he said.

"I think it will be the most important driver of how Australia improves its productivity," Mr Sims told The Australian Financial Review. "Of all the reviews going on, this will be the most important because it will be removing impediments to competition right across the economy.

"Government ownership versus private ownership massively affects the incentives people have to drive productivity change," he said.

Mr Sims said consumers would have paid lower electricity prices if the assets had been in private hands.

"There is no doubt in my mind that energy prices, particularly in NSW and Queensland, would now be lower had the private sector owned those network business rather than them staying in the pubic sector," he said.  "I don't think there is any doubt about that."

Outlining his priorities for this year, the ACCC boss said he would continue to pursue large penalties against big companies for breaching consumer laws, was preparing for a series of ­significant merger decisions and was closely monitoring petrol prices.

Petrol discount limit

Mr Sims said the deal with Coles and Woolworths to limit shopper docket petrol prices to a maximum of 4¢ a litre should start to have an impact this month.

"It comes into effect on 31st December and people can still run off the discounts they already have. But I would see early in the new year you will start to see the effect," Mr Sims said.

In addition, the major investigation into the two big supermarket chains and their suppliers, which could result in enforcement action, would be completed by March.

The Prime Minister has launched a scoping study for a sale of Medibank Private but has promised not to rush any transaction.

The country's biggest health insurer was valued at $4 billion during the Howard government years and its sale is expected to help pay down government debt, which is forecast to peak at $400 billion within four years.

"I strongly believe that the private sector owning commercial assets will bring about a lot more productive use of the assets than government ownership of the assets," Mr Sims said.

Australia Post tipped for sale

There is speculation that the Coalition might follow Britain, which privatised the national mail service for a likely windfall of more than $2 billion.

The Institute of Public Affairs, among other bodies, has called for the sale.

Australia Post chief executive Ahmed Fahour told The Australian Financial Review last year that a sale would make no practical difference to the way he runs the business.

The ACCC chairman said the review into competition law should also examine beefing up the regulator's powers to examine the misuse of market power and collective bargaining and strengthen various industry codes.

It could also remove barriers to competition and recommend law reform across a range of industries, including coastal shipping "where it is very hard for foreign vessels to stop in more than one port".

Mr Sims dismissed recent calls by former ACCC boss Graeme Samuel to break up the competition watchdog to hive off consumer protection matters as well as access regimes for monopoly assets to new specialised regulators.

"I think that misunderstands the synergies about the roles. Splitting it up makes no sense."


Uni faces heat over lecturer’s Syrian talks

SYDNEY University is under increasing pressure to take action over the meeting between Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and an Australian delegation that included senior lecturer Tim Anderson.

A group of federal MPs has written to vice-chancellor Michael Spence to express concern about the meeting, which took place late last year.

The group is being co-ordinated by Andrew Nikolic, the Liberal MP for Bass, who spent nearly 30 years in the armed forces, including as a UN military observer in the Middle East at the time of the first Gulf War in the early 90s.

Signatories include Josh Frydenberg, the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, and former West Australian treasurer Christian Porter.

"Now is the time for the leadership of Sydney University to tell us what it thinks of its senior lecturer's activities," Mr Nikolic told The Australian.

"The UN estimates that over 100,000 people have died during the current Syrian conflict. International sanctions are in place against the Assad regime.

"In providing this media opportunity for Assad and supporting the Assad regime, Anderson is in direct conflict with UN resolutions and Australia's diplomacy."

The letter to Dr Spence says the visit has "been exploited for propaganda purposes by Syrian authorities, who claim the Australian delegation's purpose was to express solidarity with the Assad regime and to oppose Western intervention" and warns Dr Anderson's participation could damage "Sydney University's proud reputation for academic excellence".

It asks whether Dr Anderson's "radical" views are endorsed by the university, whether he was required to notify or seek its approval before going to Syria, and if his actions were consistent with the university's values and code of conduct.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne said he could understand the concerns of Mr Nikolic and his colleagues.

"Obviously, many members of parliament are concerned to ensure that the reputation for high quality that Australian universities have earned over decades is not threatened in any way," Mr Pyne said.


Extremist Boffins ‘Risk' to Uni Repute

ACADEMIC extremism risks damaging the standing of Australia's universities, says Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

His comments come in the wake of the controversy over the support for the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement by Sydney University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and The Australian's revelations this week that a Sydney University senior lecturer was part of a WikiLeaks Party delegation granted an audience with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, where they affirmed "the solidarity of the Australian people.

"The commonwealth government's highest priority in higher education is quality," Mr Pyne said in a carefully coded caution.

"Every vice-chancellor should always be reviewing whether their university is meeting high standards of quality in order to protect its reputation but also Australia's international reputation in education."

Mr Pyne hinted that Sydney University vice-chancellor Michael Spence and bodies such as its senate, which had a string of left-leaning celebrity candidates including columnist Peter FitzSimons, ABC broadcaster Andrew West and former state minister Verity Firth recently elected to its ranks, should act.

"Each university is responsible for its own governance, but universities should avoid needless controversies that damage their reputation (and) also make Australia look less respectable to our potential international student market," he said.

Mr Pyne used diplomatic but firm language to warn higher-education institutions against ideological self-indulgence that could sabotage the sector.

"One of the most important things that the government can do is build revenue to universities by growing the international student market," he told The Weekend Australian.

"Universities should be partners in this goal and ensure that their reputations support rather than hinder that."

Sydney University acting vice-chancellor Tyrone Carlin declined to say whether he was concerned academic Tim Anderson's visit to Syria with the WikiLeaks group would damage the university's standing.

"The University of Sydney believes it is essential for academics to be able to able to express their views publicly on any matter within their area of expertise," Professor Carlin said.

He said he was satisfied with the recruitment practices of CPACS and the Department of Political Economy, where Dr Anderson works, and the scholarly credentials and academic rigour of both bodies.

Dr Anderson has backed calls by Jake Lynch, the CPACS chief, for Sydney University to sever its ties with Israeli institutions.

Associate Professor Lynch's support for the BDS movement, which explicitly equates Israel with apartheid-era South Africa, has been condemned by Mr Pyne and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who this week called the WikiLeaks delegation's endorsement of the Assad regime "extremely reckless".


7 January, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is amused at just how freezing American Warmists must be feeling right now

No penalty for carbon polluters

COMPANIES will not be punished if they fail to meet their carbon emissions targets under the Coalition's Direct Action plan.

Instead, the government will introduce "flexible compliance arrangements", some of which are more generous than those argued for by industry.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt told The Australian yesterday the Direct Action scheme, outlined in a green paper now open for comment, was not designed to be punitive.

But acting opposition environment spokesman Tony Burke said Direct Action was "a dressed-up slush fund, which is ineffective and costly".

"What is clear in the green paper is that there is no requirement for business to reduce carbon pollution," Mr Burke said. "The policy offers no response for businesses that increase pollution."

Under the Direct Action proposal, companies would be expected to meet individual baseline targets for carbon dioxide emissions. To reduce national emissions, the federal government would purchase the lowest cost carbon abatement from a range of projects under a reverse auction scheme.

A set amount of money had been set aside to buy carbon abatement to meet the national commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

The federal government has been widely criticised for using taxpayers' money to buy carbon emission reductions, as opposed to Labor's carbon tax, which raises money direct from business.

However, Mr Hunt said Labor and the Greens had announced schemes worth $30 billion to prop up businesses under the carbon tax. These included the Clean Energy Finance Corporation ($10bn), Jobs and Competitive Program ($9.2bn), Energy Security Fund ($5.5bn), Australian Renewable Energy Agency ($3.2bn), Coal Sector Jobs package ($1.3bn) and Clean Technology programs ($1.2bn).

Mr Hunt said additional benefits from the Coalition's Direct Action approach would come about through the creation of new carbon abatement businesses and innovation. Since the release of the green paper, shortly before Christmas, industry groups have been considering their response.

The Australian Industry Group has said it was "time for the real work for business and government on a final policy design that can achieve the bipartisan emissions reduction goals at least cost to the economy and without compromising competitiveness".

A key issue would be how to encourage business to meet its emissions targets.

Failure by individual companies to meet baseline targets would increase the task for the federal government, and taxpayers, to meet Australia's national target. But the green paper said the government had a clear objective not to raise revenue from companies that did not meet their carbon-reduction target.

"Consistent with this intention, in the event that an entity did exceed its baseline, there would be flexible compliance arrangements available," the green paper says. "One approach that could be considered would be to set an initial transition period during which compliance action for exceeding baselines would not apply. This would enable businesses to make investments in emissions-reduction projects, potentially with support from the Emissions Reduction Fund."

The government said the period of non-compliance would need to be limited to avoid the risk of locking in increases in emissions that would make the task of reducing national emissions more difficult and costly.

The green paper says another approach could be to allow a multi-year compliance period, where a facility could exceed a baseline in one year as long as its average emissions over the compliance period remained below the baseline.

Further flexibility could be provided by enabling businesses to "make good" by purchasing emissions reduction credits to bring their net emissions back within baselines.

These credits could be used as an offset for emissions growth occurring at a facility.

Some companies have argued they should be able to buy international carbon permits to satisfy any penalty obligations incurred from the government.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the inclusion of overseas abatement credits in the policy mix "would be prudent and makes sense ... These international units are vital to reduce the costs and risks of climate policy for Australia, which faces higher domestic abatement costs than most other countries."

Mr Hunt said the issue of overseas permits was still being considered. But the Ai Group and the Business Council of Australia want the Productivity Commission to design the Coalition's direct action plans.


Unionism:  How sweet it is

Why don't unions pay tax?   Why do unions have monopoly rights to provide services that members are forced to pay for?   Why do unions get government grants?   Why do union officials enjoy protections that company directors don't?

And when will the Federal Government do something about the rorts?

No unions pay tax. None whatsoever, and never have. All unions receive significant government grants to carry out their work. They all live in a tax-free, loosely regulated bubble. The rest of us can only dream of such a blessed existence.

There are a few key differences between the employee unions and the employer unions.

The employee unions are much more effective. Their people are more cunning, tougher, braver, stronger and far better organised. When employee union people tire of the game, they have their own political party, the ALP, as well as an entire industry superannuation sector, in which to seek a job.

If they can't get a safe seat or a job on a super fund, they know the ALP will look after them with some other appointment somewhere. This means they don't have daily work worries over silly things like always obeying the law and being nice to the employers they deal with. They know as long as they are a faithful union warrior, they will always be looked after.

The people in the employer unions, when they tire of the game, don't have any guaranteed future career. They hope to be "looked after" by the Coalition, but know they are unlikely to be. The Coalition doesn't look after its friends very well at all, which is - I suppose - why it has far fewer friends than the ALP does. This means employer union people have to safeguard their future by doing a lot of sucking up to the people in the ALP and employee unions at the same time they are supposed to be opposing them. This makes them rubbish at their job.

When you work for an employer union, you can't run around kicking unions out of workplaces or winning against them or anything crazy like that. It doesn't matter if your member (business client) is virtually bankrupt and needs you to, if you do things like that, your career is over.

So what employer union people have to do is justify their hopeless performance by convincing their members that the legislation is so slanted against them that giving in to the unions is the only lawful option.

Employee unions pay their leaders much less than the employer unions do. The community is horrified if a union leader earns $500,000 but wouldn't blink to hear that an employer union leader earns the same or much more.

Despite this, employee unions never complain about employer unions. Employee union people think of employer union people the way you and I think of pets. Employer union people think of employee union people the way you and I think of a gang of muggers.

Employee union people always make sure they appoint employer union people to the boards of their superannuation funds. This throws them a bone and guarantees that when the Liberals get in, they are less motivated to properly reform the sector.

The AI Group holds a privileged position in our country. Its financials for the year ending June 30, 2012, show tax exempt revenue of $78,182,988. Employee costs of $58,727,554 for an estimated 350 staff show an average spend of $167,793 a person. The AI Group has net assets of $59,564,648.

An employee union in the manufacturing sector, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, also has a healthy set of books. Its report for the year ending September 30, 2012, shows tax-exempt income of $54,350,676, including $11,844,175 of income from other ventures. The AMWU has net assets of $102,500,297.


Australia 'forces' asylum seeker boat back to Indonesia: reports

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has refused to comment on reports an asylum seeker boat headed for Australia has been "driven" back into Indonesian waters by the Australian navy.

There are conflicting accounts of when the boat or boats were allegedly turned back, with the Jakarta Post referring to an incident on Monday, while other reports say the turn-back happened shortly before Christmas.

It is unclear whether the news outlets are referring to the same incident, and the Abbott government has refused to confirm or deny that the incident took place.

The Jakarta Post says a boat carrying 45 "illegal immigrants from Africa and the Middle East" was about to enter Australian waters on Monday but was "immediately forced into Indonesian waters". The ABC quotes Indonesia's government newswire Antara as reporting that a boat carrying 47 asylum seekers was intercepted by the Australian navy on December 13 and "forced back" to Indonesia.

Both news reports are attributed to the Indonesian police chief Hidayat.

In a statement on Tuesday morning, Mr Morrison said the government would not comment on reports of "on-water activities" for "operational security reasons".

"Australia respects Indonesia's territorial sovereignty and will continue to do so, just as Indonesia has stated it respects Australia's territorial sovereignty," he said in a statement.

"It is not the policy or practice of the Australian government to violate Indonesian territorial sovereignty. Any suggestion to the contrary is false.

"People should not seek to come to Australia illegally by boat. It is dangerous and the Australian government's strong border protection policies under Operation Sovereign Borders mean that they will not succeed in what they set out to achieve."

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said Mr Morrison needed to clarify today what had happened and the circumstances in which the alleged incident occurred.

"We should not be finding out from the Indonesian media before we find out from our own government," Senator Hanson-Young said.

The asylum seekers "could have drowned", she said, adding that the towback practice was dangerous and legally questionable.

When the Abbott government took office Mr Morrison said he would give weekly briefings to update the public on his "Operation Sovereign Borders" asylum seeker policy and the number of boat arrivals.

He established a routine of holding a press conference every Friday, in which, accompanied by Sovereign Borders commander Angus Campbell, Mr Morrison would give a statement and then answer journalists' questions.

But the Friday before Christmas, Mr Morrison told journalists that would be his last question and answer session for the year and he would be issuing written statements instead.

Mr Morrison's promise to "turn back boats where it is safe to do so" was a key plank of the Abbott government's election promise to "stop the boats".

But the Indonesian government does not accept the turn-back policy, and Jakarta's irritation with the plan was inflamed further during the recent diplomatic feud over revelations that the Australian government monitored the phones of the Indonesian president and his wife.

Mr Morrison tried to return a boatload of asylum seekers to Indonesia in early November but failed to convince Indonesian officials to accept its return.

The Abbott government capitulated and ordered a Customs boat to take the asylum seekers to Christmas Island.


Another brick in the wall of Gen Y cultural decline

Schools need to inspire an appreciation of high culture in the younger generation

Christopher Bantick

In this age of selfies and X-Factors, spare a thought for the insidious damage being done to Australian serious culture. Given that Pink Floyd may have sung, "Teacher, leave them kids alone", should we be bothered? Yes, very bothered indeed.

The reality that is hidden from many in the Australian community is just how pervasive the celebrity culture is in changing young people's thinking. Moronic introspection is celebrated as significant and worthwhile. If you think I am overstating the case, well consider this.

The vanity that is lauded as virtue pervades the culture to a corrosive extent. Young people have lost the capacity to actually know when something is art, and worthy. Instead, they hang on every word of their latest celeb mouthing inanities.

Taiwan-born director Ang Lee says he makes films to, wait for it, "understand more about himself". If that isn't a 70-millimetre selfie, what is? Then there is the toe-curling indulgence of those music stars, like Sydney singer-songwriter Josh Pyke. He's a 36-year-old who claims that he now "feels he has learnt to sing". Oh please! Can you imagine Pavarotti saying anything so crass?

Or how about this kind of Pyke self-centred twaddle: "I know I can write a song every day and sing it in my voice and it will be OK, but that is not what I do it for. It's about figuring out what your reason is for doing what you're doing."

The kids lap up this kind of self-conscious exhibitionism as a "serious" statement, as they have precious little comparative comment beyond what is shouted out to them from fanzines and blogs of banality.

So who's at fault? Schools need to do more about bringing a little elitism back into the awareness of culture. High culture: fine art, opera, serious drama and music that requires patience and understanding needs to be embedded into the curriculum.

In Australia, elitism is a dirty word. But maybe our jingoistic egalitarianism has gone too far with the sense of cultural equity. Who knows what a sonnet is, a partita, a motet, or who was Goethe or Christopher Marlowe? As for ballet, forget it. There are many other examples.

Why this matters is that without a sense of cultural elitism, then the high cultural markers will atrophy. We'd rather get all teary with Leonard Cohen than concentrate, really concentrate, on Mahler.

The impact this will have on audiences is cause for concern. In the next two decades, the elders or keepers of the cultural treasures will be gone. Their patronage at the box office, let alone their philanthropy, will end. Then what?

Where are the audiences going to come from if today's students have no urbanity and cultural background other than popular cultural indulgences? This is already happening. Ticket prices are not the cause either. Top rock acts are far dearer than most classical musical performances and one Rolling Stones concert ticket would buy a brace or two of good theatre tickets.

What is clear though is that if you go to an opera, a concert of searching classical music or an art show that is not a blockbuster, you'll soon see who's there. Grey hairs and blue rinses. Why? Because they have had the cultural background today's youth lacks.

Sure, private schools are in effect nurseries, or, if you like, the last bastions of elitism. I teach in one and I teach serious, classically demanding literature. Yes, it is elite, consciously so, but anything is elite if it is not pandering to the lowest common denominator. How can a book about a vacuous Sydney teenager reflecting on school, like Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi, be compared with Jane Eyre? It can't.

This goes beyond subjective taste. Does Lou Reed compare with Segovia? It's a no-brainer. Still, Lou Reed took endless column inches of adulatory, valedictory prose recently because of what he achieved (not a lot).

The callow kids suck up their smoothies of cultural pap when anyone says something "pithy" out of an inarticulate, drug-fuelled haze. But "pithy" is a relative term. Listen to Kurt Cobain who sprayed a generation with teen spirit and left this "mortal coil" (Shakespeare in case you didn't know) with the following memorable statement:

"I don't have the passion any more, and so remember, it's better to burn out than to fade away. Peace, love, empathy."

Compare the immortal lyrical beauty of John Keats, who also died young and said, "I feel the daisies growing over me."

The ambivalence Australia has to any mention of cultural elitism is reflected in its suspicion of what appears to be difficult to understand. In this sense, schools have opted out of their responsibility to simply lift the cultural standard from Banksy to Hogarth.

The fear I have, is that ignorance will be seen as preferable, even desirable, while serious theatre is unviable, serious literature is not published, concert programs are reduced and other forms of cultural elevation are lost.


6 January, 2014

Cricket wrapup

Ben Stokes

With a complete whitewash of the England team now in place one has to wonder where they went wrong.  I am going to suggest that they did not have enough South Africans in their team this time.  It's a long time since the England team has been an English team so even their wins are not much credit to the English.  And their most acclaimed player this time around was a New Zealander -- Ben Stokes.  If they had all played like Stokes they might have  won. 

As it was, one of their South African players -- Trott -- went home early with depression and another -- Pietersen -- was unlikely to have his heart in the game because of a big bust up just over a year ago which could have had  him expelled from English cricket altogether -- if they had not needed his skill with a bat.  His loyalties clearly were not with England last year and it's hard to see how they could have recovered after the shellacking he got subsequently.  I append below a relevant comment from last July by someone who knows a lot more about English cricket than I do

Of the 11 players likely to take the field at Trent Bridge, three - Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior - were born in South Africa.

And if you look at the members of the 30-strong England Performance Squad named for the 2013 international summer, no fewer than eight were South African by birth.

Aware of the sensitivities of the issue, the England and Wales Cricket Board ruled last year that, in future, cricketers who move to England after their 18th birthday will have to live here for seven years before they qualify to play for England.


Less maths makes HSC physics 'dumb'

The Board of Studies will review the HSC Physics syllabus this year to assess whether a move away from mathematical content had weakened the subject.

University lecturers said high school physics had been "dumbed down" and focused on the history of physics at the expense of rigorous mathematical analysis and problem-solving. As a result, they said, students often arrive at university with a distorted view of what physics is and whether they are good at it.

There are a substantial number of marks assigned to answering what I think are frequently Mickey Mouse questions

The debate adds to concerns raised by Australia's chief scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, about the national shortage of science, technology, engineering and maths skills. In 2012 he released a report saying it was in the national interest to strengthen the science and maths supply line as a matter of urgency.

Yet HSC enrolments show students increasingly opt for general mathematics instead of the more challenging 2-unit maths. And the proportion of students studying physics is sliding.

The associate head of teaching and learning in physics at the University of Sydney, Associate Professor John O'Byrne, said the "crashing numbers" in physics were part of the reason the mathematical content of the subject was reduced when the syllabus was restructured about a decade ago.

"They're trying to present a physics course that will attract a range of people," he said. "You don't do that by making an intensely mathematical physics course, unfortunately."

But Richard Hunstead, who is a physics lecturer at the University of Sydney and assesses HSC exam papers for the Board of Studies, said he is uncomfortable with the "touchy feely" questions.

"There are a substantial number of marks assigned to answering what I think are frequently Mickey Mouse questions, which rely on rote learning and parroting back material from the textbook," he said.

"This is one of the things that irks me when I review the paper each year. It appears the Board of Studies is quite adamant that they want to make it an all singing and dancing course that has a more wider compass if you like. It touches on more subject areas but it does it in rather superficial ways." Consequently, he said, some students arrive at university without the adequate "mathematical competence or insight".

"I think the level of maths that is now expected of students in the HSC has actually dumbed down what we are able to offer in first year [university]."

The first-year physics director at the University of NSW, Elizabeth Angstmann, said the HSC course was more of an arts subject than a science.

"About a third of the syllabus is history-based, rather than actually solving physics problems," she said.

The president of the Board of Studies, Tom Alegounarias, said it was "a substantial exaggeration" to suggest HSC physics was more of a history than a science. But he conceded there was "more language in it and less scientific and mathematical analysis".

While he was not certain why the changes to the subject were made, he said that "I can imagine it was about communication being just as important as the maths".


Abortion condemned

 Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has labelled pro-choice advocates "pro-death" and accused some women of using abortion as "an abhorrent form of birth control".

In his new book The Conservative Revolution, Bernardi said it was "horrendous and unacceptable" that the abortion "death industry despatches 80,000 to 100,000 unborn children [in Australia] every year".

The Abbott Government backbencher also denounces non-traditional families, surrogacy and euthanasia, laying out five pillars for a "conservative revolution" in which he calls for the restoration of the traditional family model over all others, the ABC reports.

"Given the increasing number of 'non-traditional' families, there is a temptation to equate all family structures as being equal or relative," he writes.

"Why then the levels of criminality among boys and promiscuity among girls who are brought up in single-parent families, more often than not headed by a single mother?

"What is missing in the push for human cloning, in vitro fertilisation and surrogacy, for example, is the understanding that children come into families as gifts, not commodities."

In a call to arms to fellow conservatives, Bernardi writes that Australia has lost its direction in part due to the absence of religion in politics and says the greatest threats to Christianity are the "green agenda" and Islam, which he believes to be incompatible with Western beliefs.

"I believe that by stripping God and religious principles from our culture (and our politics) we have become a nation which does not know which port it is sailing to," he writes.

Senator Bernardi, a key member of the Liberal party's right wing also advocates a return to individual workplace agreements despite Prime Minister Tony Abbott acknowledging that the former Howard government's WorkChoices policy was "dead, buried and cremated".


Greenie Council slapped for sea-rise panic

A NSW judgment has castigated a local council that permitted a couple to build a house on a beachfront plot, on condition they tore it down in 20 years assuming UN predictions of sea-level rise and coastal erosion come true.

NSW Land and Environment Court senior commissioner Tim Moore struck down the condition, saying in his judgment that Great Lakes Council had held a "Damoclean sword" over Greg and Lesley Newton, who had sought to build on a vacant block at Jimmys Beach on the mid-north coast of NSW.

The judgment has been hailed by a lobby group representing coastal home owners in the region, who are facing similar "time-limited consents" based on dire UN International Panel on Climate Change predictions of rising sea levels.

It comes when, as revealed by The Australian, the NSW government, infuriated that some coastal councils are unquestioningly adopting the IPCC predictions and imposing often severe planning restrictions, is preparing to issue instructions for them to apply common sense.

It is a victory for the deputy mayor of Great Lakes Council, Len Roberts, who led a minority of councillors against a majority headed by Mayor Jan McWilliams who voted to impose the time-limited consent on the Newtons.

Commissioner Moore struck down Condition 7 in the development approval, which was limited to a period of 20 years, at which point the owners would have to hire a consultant to re-examine coastal hazards. Unless the council decided sea-level change and coastal erosion were not developing as predicted, the owners would have to abandon the house.

In his judgment, Mr Moore said the condition was unfair, since when the Newtons bought the block a year ago, there was nothing in the council or title documents that suggested any such severe development approval conditions would apply based on coastal hazards.

"Although Condition 7 is cast in terms that hold out a prospect of some future reconsideration of its impact toward the time that the Damoclean sword is scheduled to drop, the burden placed on whoever might be the owners of the dwelling at that time is not an insignificant one -- there is no guarantee of an extension," Commissioner Moore said in his judgment.

"Holding out such an illusion of hope, in itself, is unreasonable in circumstances where the outcome is highly speculative."

Mr Roberts, who has long experience in local government, including the then local government appeals tribunal, told The Australian that commissioner Moore's decision set a precedent that was likely to be adopted by coastal councils in NSW. "I knew this was possibly going to be a test case," he said.

Mr Newton, who owns Woolwich Marina in Sydney, said he and his wife would now proceed to build a house at Jimmys Beach, but were considering suing the council for allowing them to buy it with no warning that severe development conditions would be applied only months later.

Commissioner Moore ordered the retention of a condition of the development approval requiring the Newtons to build bigger than usual footings and foundations.


5 January, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is pretty disturbed by Marijuana legalization

How would your life compare? Australia vs US where it counts

The figures below are pretty wobbly but there is no doubt that Australians live a lot longer, which is a bottom line of sorts.  The elephant in the room is of course the different racial mix in the two countries.  Australia is almost completely white and East Asian.  So only a comparison with American whites would be really informative

WHILE the United States is the world's superpower, Australia is arguably stronger in many aspects.  So how do the two compare? has compiled the facts and figures to compare what really counts - the quality of life in each nation - and show you how your life may differ if you lived in  the US.

If you lived in the US you would likely be paid more for a professional position and less for a minimum wage job.

You'd also find it harder to get a job in the first place - unemployment is nearly twice as high in the US and the gender pay gap is significantly wider. Australian women earn 83.1 per cent of a man's average salary. US women earn just 77 per cent of what the average US man makes.

On the upside you would probably make more money in the US. In 2008, the median household income was $37,690 for Americans compared to $27,039 in Australia, in US dollars (purchasing power parity) according to the OECD.

However, you are also more likely to live in poverty in the US. The UN Human Povery Index shows that 12.2 per cent of Australians live on less than half of the median income, considered the best gauge of wealth distribution.

For US citizens, the number of people living on that amount or less jumps to 17 per cent.

Both Australia and the US have similar histories founded on immigration. But in the US today you have less than half the chance of knowing someone born in another country than in Australia.

Just 12 per cent of Americans were born outside of the US. More than one in five Australians (27 per cent) were born overseas.

For every 1000 people in Australia, there is a net migration increase of 6.03 people, almost two whole people above the United States’ 4.18.

More American finish high school, but Australians study for longer.

Australians spend an average of 21 years in education (from primary through to university), far above the 16-year average of Americans. But as you can see in the data above, more US citizens over the age of 25 have completed high school.

According to the US Census, 38.54 per cent of all US citizens over the age of 25 had obtained an Associate or Bachelor’s degree. More than 59 per cent of Australians had obtained an Advanced Diploma or Bachelor's degree by 2006.

If you did gain a tertiary education in the US, you would pay much more for it - an average of $20,517 a year for a private independent institution. In Australia, that's just $7902.

 The US spends more on healthcare per capita than Australia but many US citizens still suffer under exorbitant costs. In 2007, 62 per cent of people filing for bankruptcy cited high medical expenses.

Of the total expenditure on health in the US, the government contributes 18.7 per cent. The Australian government spends 70 per cent.

The top five causes of death are the same for both nations, with similar rates of fatal cancer, but cardiovascular disease is responsible for 1.3 times the number of deaths.

And respiratory diseases cause nearly 60 per cent more deaths per 100,000 people in the US than in Australia.

If you lived in the US you would be twice as likely to have HIV/AIDS. The number of people living with the illness is 0.6 per cent in the US and 0.3 per cent in Australia.

There are 2.999 doctors for every 1000 Australians, just above the US rate of 2.672.

The Australian lifestyle is good for you.  Australians live 40.8 months longer than our American counterparts, making it to the ripe old age of 81.9 on average.

Australian women born today have a life expectancy of 83.9 years, longer than US women at 80.8 years. The difference is similar for men with 79.3 years expected life time for Aussie blokes and 75.6 for Americans.

Infant mortality is also higher in the United States with 6.06 deaths out of every 1000 compared to Australia’s rate of 4.61/1000.


Greenies protest shark kill

Sharks just do what Greenies would like to do  -- reduce the population

PROTESTERS vow that yesterday's passionate rally at Cottesloe is just the starting gun on their campaign to scrap the Barnett Government's shark catch and kill policy.

And as the Greens said their lawyers were exploring a legal challenge, acting Premier Kim Hames said the Government was unmoved by the furore and would press ahead with the plan to place 72 baited hooks off beaches from Friday.

Speaking after 4500 protesters gathered on WA's most iconic beach, Dr Hames said there would be a bigger public outcry if anyone sabotaged the drum lines.

"What . . . if someone gets taken on the Rottnest Island swim for example, or a child at Scarborough Beach? Where will their protest be then?" he said.

Meanwhile, the Greens said their lawyers were investigating the legality of killing protected shark species.

They are also looking into so-called "irregularities" in the tender to maintain the shark drum lines, which will be deployed 1km off beaches in Perth and the South-West.

Great white, tiger and bull sharks will be shot and discarded at sea, most likely in waters past Rottnest Island. A contract to patrol the lines will be awarded to commercial fishers late this week.

Protesters said the turnout at Cottesloe indicated the level of opposition to the policy, which was announced after the death of surfer Chris Boyd near Gracetown in November.

Sea Shepherd Australia director Jeff Hansen said: "Western Australians have spoken. It's the biggest rally I think we've ever seen in WA - and it's for sharks. People are educated and they understand the importance that sharks play in our oceans.

"Save Our Sharks", "Cull Pollies Not Sharks" and "Stop Cullin Barnett" were among the banners held aloft as the crowd chanted: "Two, four, six, eight - we don't want your bloody bait".

Ben Taylor performed a welcome to country ceremony and told the crowd that great white sharks were part of his culture.

"Colin Barnett should hang his head in shame for what he is doing. We must all stand together against this," he said.

Organiser Natalie Banks, a scuba diving instructor, invited the protesters to turn and bow to the Indian Ocean. She vowed to continue the fight and is planning a second rally for February 1.

Simultaneous protests were yesterday also held in Bunbury, Broome and the eastern states. Ms Banks estimated more than 4500 were at Cottesloe.

Surfer Cody Robinson, 18, of Port Kennedy, was among them and said: "I have told my family that if I get eaten by a shark I don't want any harm to come to it because I was fully aware of the risks when I went in the water."

Mother-of-two Kellie Pearse, 30, of Clarkson, added: "There is no science behind this decision. I don't go out too far in the water because I'm scared of sharks, but I don't want to see them being killed."

Other beachgoers, however, backed the State Government's new stance.

Gerald Simenson, 79, who has swum at Cottesloe beach since he was four years old, said: "If sharks come within 1km of the shore they should be destroyed. I am for survival, I want to live and I want to enjoy the ocean."

Mosman Park agricultural banker Crawford Taylor, 46, added: "If this helps to keep people confident in the safety of beaches then I am for it until we get more information.

"If you are in government, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't in terms of trying to protect the public at beaches."

The Greens' Lyn MacLaren said her party was pursuing legal avenues to stop the "illegal" killing of great white sharks.

"Whether it's an injunction or something taken up in the federal parliament, we don't know that yet," the member for the South Metropolitan Region said.

Dr Hames said drum lines had been used in Queensland for 10 years and the hooks used off WA would be bigger to reduce the risk of bycatch.

Ross Weir, founder of Western Australians for Shark Conservation, urged boaters to document evidence of dead sharks and bycatch, which he suggested could include smaller sharks, turtles and dolphins.

Labor's fisheries spokesman Dave Kelly spoke against the "indiscriminate killing of sharks", but said legal options "were not immediately apparent".


The bowler's view of  Piers Morgan

Brett Lee also thinks Morgan acquitted himself creditably in dramatic cricket episode

Piers Morgan salutes the crowd after facing deliveries from former Test cricketer Brett Lee (in red shirt)

Sydney Sixers pace ace Brett Lee admitted he would not have wanted to face the barrage he unleashed at English TV host Piers Morgan in a television stunt that resembled the first public stoning in Australia.

Lee, who at 37 still approaches the 150km/h mark with the ball, was criticised by New Zealand great Richard Hadlee for subjecting Morgan to a seemingly life-threatening over for a segment on Channel Nine's Cricket Show.

Morgan challenged Lee to a duel via Twitter to prove a point to the English batsmen about courage under fire after he watched them get bounced out of the Ashes by Mitchell Johnson. Morgan finished the over battered, bruised and with a broken rib but Lee told Fairfax Media he simply gave the media celebrity what he craved - the chance to educate "keyboard warriors" about how tough it was to face extreme pace.

"At the end of the day Piers Morgan is a great guy, he totally gives it to people on Twitter [where he boasts 3.9 million followers] but what I love about him is he stands by his word," said Lee.

"When I was going into the nets to bowl at him he said, 'Make sure you go flat out,' because he thought if I went half-hearted it wouldn't look good. [Morgan] said he wanted to know what it felt like for the English batsmen to face 150 km/h bowling - and he did it.

"Yeah, he might've got a broken rib in doing it and while he might have backed back a bit … I wouldn't call it backing away … that was a natural step a batsman would take. Considering he hasn't played a top level of cricket, but he does have a great cricketing brain, you have to take your hat off to him … I wouldn't have got in there and faced that."

Lee admitted the crowd that milled around the MCG's practice nets to jeer Morgan and urge him to take the Englishman's head off, generated an electric atmosphere. He said "natural instinct" also played a big part.

"It was like a cauldron," he said. "There were about 5000 people watching [at the nets] and a million people watching on TV. It was my full intention to bowl the first ball over his head, but when I was about to let the ball go I saw his feet move and decided to chase him - it was my natural instinct that took over.

"When I bowled it I said, 'Oooh!' and he said, 'Oooh!' when it hit him - but he was fine. If someone is facing 150km/h the keyboard warriors and armchair critics say it's easy when they're getting caught behind or stepping away, but I can tell you it's a lot harder than what it looks."

Lee said he'd received plenty of feedback from people in non-cricketing nations, America included, following Morgan's effort. "It's gone worldwide but it wasn't about me maiming someone at all - I don't aim to hurt people. It was about educating people what it's about to face fast bowling and [it was] also Piers backing up his comments."


Brisbane motorist fined for leaving car window slightly down on hot day

A FATHER who left the window down on his parked and unattended car on a scorching summer's day has been slugged with a fine that has left him hot under the collar.

Julian Harris was visiting family in Brisbane's north on Sunday when he decided to leave two windows down "three to four" centimetres to let some of the hot air escape from the parked car on the 34C day.

It was a decision that left the father of one with a $44 fine and a rap across the knuckles from police.

"It was 34 degrees so I left the windows down slightly so it wouldn't be boiling hot for my 3-year-old son when we got back in.
Julian Harris with his three-year -ld son Javier.

"I was trying to do the right thing…it's just what you do with it being so hot in Queensland."

Mr Harris returned to the car, which was parked on Windsor Place at Deception Bay, about two hours later to discover the fine for an offence he had never heard of.

Under Queensland law, if a driver is more than 3m from their car, the vehicle must be "secured" with the engine off, hand brake applied, ignition key removed (if no one over 16 remains in vehicle) and windows up with a gap no more than 5cm.

Perplexed by his fine, the Albany Creek resident attended the police station and spoke to the officer who issued the ticket.   "I asked him if he had any measurements and he said no…he just told me he had an accurate eye."

"The officer said he had the window on video but told me that he didn't have time to show me."

Mr Harris, 21, said the policeman suggested in future he leave "where he is half an hour early to unlock the car and let it cool" in the future.

Shocked by the fine, the apprentice plasterer took his ticket to the Australian Street Car Magazine Facebook page as a warning to others.

Dale Brown, media manager for the magazine, said readers were reporting petty fines "all the time".  "Police have discretion to use and in this instance we would have thought it would have been better to use this discretion than to write the ticket.

"We understand the police have a hard job to do but I am sure they have better things to be doing than booking a father for having his window open a crack to keep the heat down in his car."

Mr Harris said a friend of a friend was booked for the same offence within hours in Nundah, in Brisbane's inner north.  "It would have been better to leave a first and final warning," he said.

Police refused to say whether there was a current blitz on the peculiar offence.

"Vehicle security remains part of ongoing Community Safety and Crime Prevention strategies designed to help reduce property crime," a spokeswoman said.

Police yesterday told The Courier-Mail officers were required to prove all offences beyond reasonable doubt but didn't comment on the specifics of Mr Harris' case.


3 January, 2014

No GP fee for families, pensioners

THE man who proposed a $5 fee on bulk-billing doctors to the government's razor gang has backed down after four days of criticism and wants families and pensioners exempt from the charge.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's former health adviser Terry Barnes says he is feeling "harassed" by the criticism his proposal has generated and that his plan may need fine tuning.

It comes as former Australia Medical Association president Bill Glasson, who is running as a Liberal National Party candidate in former prime minister Kevin Rudd's seat, has backed the $5 fee.

"I do support an affordable price signal, but we have to make sure it wouldn't impact on the most vulnerable in our society, especially children, the elderly, Indigenous and patients with chronic conditions," said Mr Glasson.

"If you can afford to pay you should pay, to keep the system fair and affordable," he said.

Terry Barnes, who proposed the $5 fee to the government's commission of audit to save $750 million over four years complained on Twitter on Thursday about being "harassed by the left".

And then he said : "Based on reaction I'm coming to think bulk billing only for concessionals & families with kids may be more effective".

Mr Barnes said he was struck by the robust comment and criticism his proposal had met after first being revealed in News Corp's Sunday newspapers.

"From the reaction over the last week it is clear to me there is a willingness to debate this issue and look at the parameters of bulk billing," he said.  "I am not resiling from a co-payment at all," he said.  "Like any proposal it is there to be worked on," he said.

He said his plan could be fined tuned by exempting families and welfare recipients from the $5 charge.  Alternatively, he said instead of paying the charge for 12 visits it might only apply for six visits to the doctor a year (the average number of doctors visits per person per year).

Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King yesterday demanded Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirm whether he supported Mr Glasson's views and "clarify if this is now government policy".

"The Prime Minister needs to explain how imposing a new GP tax is 'fair and affordable', as his candidate in Griffith claims," she said.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has joined the Australian Medical Association expressing concerns about the proposed $5 charge it calls a "tax".

"The RACGP rejects any proposal to reduce the rebate payable per general practice consultation through Medicare on the assumption that a co-payment will be introduced to cover a gap previously covered by Medicare," RACGP Vice-President, Associate Professor Frank Jones said .

"Implementing an additional barrier to accessing healthcare services at a general practice level will only further disadvantage both the general practice profession and patients alike," he said.


Stuck on a ship of (cold) fools

An editorial in The Australian newspaper

YOU have to feel a touch of sympathy for the global warming scientists, journalists and other hangers-on aboard the Russian ship stuck in impenetrable ice in Antarctica, the mission they so confidently embarked on to establish solid evidence of melting ice caps resulting from climate change embarrassingly abandoned because the ice is, in fact, so impossibly thick.

The aim of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, led by Chris Turney of the University of NSW, was to prove the East Antarctic ice sheet is melting. Its website spoke alarmingly of "an increasing body of evidence" showing "melting and collapse from ocean warming". Instead, rescue ships and a helicopter, all belching substantial carbon emissions, have had to be mobilised to pluck those aboard the icebreaker MV Akademik Schokalskiy from their plight, stuck in what appears to be, ironically, record amounts of ice for this time of year.

In that lies a hard lesson for those who persistently exaggerate the impact of global warming. We believe in man-made climate change and are no less concerned than others about it. But the cause of sensible policy is ill-served by exaggeration; there is a need for recognition of the science, which shows there are variations in how climate is changing and what the impact is, or will be.

Professor Turney's expedition was supposed to repeat scientific investigations made by Douglas Mawson a century ago and to compare then and now. Not unreasonably, it has been pointed out Mawson's ship was never icebound. Sea ice has been steadily increasing, despite the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's gloomy forecasts. Had the expedition found the slightest evidence to confirm its expectation of melting ice caps and thin ice, a major new scare about the plight of the planet would have followed. As they are transferred to sanctuary aboard the icebreaker Aurora Australis, Professor Turney and his fellow evacuees must accept the embarrassing failure of their mission shows how uncertain the science of climate change really is. They cannot reasonably do otherwise.


The ‘Stolen’ Degeneration

Some twenty cases have now gone before the courts, but only one has produced a positive result for the plaintiff. The latest ruling specifically refutes claims that children of mixed race were for a period of time taken from their homes in the name of "assimilation"

Justice Janine Pritchard  in the WA Supreme Court on December 20 rejected claims that from 1958-79 there was any official program in WA to implement the so-called Stolen Generation policy. Her judgment dismissed damages claims by the Aboriginal Don and Sylvia Collard and seven of their children removed or made state wards.

She specifically dealt with a claim that the children were removed “pursuant to a policy of assimilation of aboriginal children.” She found the children were instead removed, mainly to Sister Kate’s in Perth, to safeguard their physical welfare.

This is the twentieth case in State, Federal and High Courts involving significant Stolen Generations claims, and the nineteenth to see the claims thrown out. Justice Pritchard found:

“The references to ‘assimilation’ in the evidence I have set out above are not sufficient to support a finding on the balance of probabilities that at the time of the wardships there was, within the Department of Native Welfare or the Child Welfare Department, the pursuit of a policy of assimilation of aboriginal people into white Australian society through the wardship of aboriginal children.

“More particularly, there was no evidence that the decisions to apply for each of the Children to be made wards were made in the pursuit of a policy of assimilation of aboriginal people into white Australian society. Rather, the evidence supports the finding that the decisions to apply for the Children to be made wards, and subsequent decisions at various times not to return them to the care of Don and Sylvia, were all made having regard to the welfare – albeit primarily the physical welfare – of the Children.”

Even counsel for the Collards conceded late in the case that ‘assimilation’ was not a motive for the removals, and during the case they only pushed the assimilationist line half-heartedly. The Commissioners for Native Welfare at the time were Stanley Middleton (1948-62) and Frank Gare (1962-79). Both emphatically rejected the idea of removals of half-castes for racist reasons.[i]

The only pieces of evidence Justice Pritchard found for any assimilation policy was a letter from a bishop in the Kimberley to the Native Welfare Minister in 1962, claiming the department policy was assimilation and urging that the policy (which he favoured) be pursued only with caution. The department replied that it was already being cautious about it.

There were also references to Sister Kate’s Home assisting the assimilation process, e.g. because the part-colored children were fully incorporated into white, aged-based classes at the nearby state school. But in the Collard case, the authorities remained keen to re-unite the family, subject to the Collard parents improving their living conditions and lifestyle.

In his Stolen Generation apology of 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd emphasised that ‘forced removal’ of Aboriginal children was happening ‘as late as the early 1970s’. He said, “The uncomfortable truth for us all is that the parliaments of the nation, individually and collectively, enacted statutes and delegated authority under those statutes that made the forced removal of children on racial grounds fully lawful.”

The Pritchard judgment, in respect of post-war WA at least, shows that Rudd’s claims are nonsense. She outlines in scores of pages of detail, how WA authorities and public servants did their best to procure the physical welfare of the vulnerable Collard children. She details how WA officialdom from the late 1950s gave increasing weight to children’s emotional well-being, once the importance of parental rather than institutional care was recognized.

She acknowledges that in those times the State had different views and knowledge about children’s best interests compared with today. She notes that in 1958 there was not a single tertiary course in social work in the State, and only one social worker in the entire WA Child Welfare Department.

Justice Pritchard’s findings mirror those of Justice Maurice O’Loughlin  in the Cubillo-Gunner case in the NT Supreme Court on August 11, 2000. He rejected that there had been in the NT any “wide-spread, indiscriminate removals of part Aboriginal children” when Lorna Cubillo and Peter Gunner were removed for welfare reasons in 1947 and 1956 respectively. Nor was there any policy to ‘breed out’ half-castes (one element of the Stolen Generation hypothesis first promulgated in 1981 by then ANU post-graduate student Peter Read in a 21-page polemical pamphlet he claimed to have written on a single day).

In SA, the Trevorrow case involved an unlawful removal of Bruce Trevorrow as an ailing one-year-old from his parents in early 1958. The removal was done by a well-meaning but inexperienced Aboriginal welfare worker, contrary to official policy. Trevorrow  was adopted by a caring white couple but his life became dysfunctional. He won $775,000 damages in  2007-08. This remains the only successful “Stolen Generation” case, although it in fact demonstrated that   SA government policy was against any racial removals of half-castes, rogue welfare workers notwithstanding.

In Victoria, the Aborigines Welfare Board from 1957 had no power to remove Aboriginal children, and six government-sponsored reports from 1996-2003 failed to find any evidence of policies for half-caste removals (contrary to Rudd’s later assertion). Nor could these six inquiries locate any individuals who fitted the bill as ‘stolen’.[ii]

Moving north, removals in NSW from 1912-68 totalled 2600, of whom two-thirds were simply teenagers boarded out for apprenticeships, as occurred with white children. The other third were largely orphans, neglected, destitute, in moral danger or abused.[iii]

In Queensland from 1908-71, only 249 Aboriginal children were officially removed from their parents and put in institutions, reserves, and missions. That is, about four per year, for all reasons.[iv]

In the WA case, Justice Pritchard found that welfare workers acted reasonably in separating the Collard  children from their parents. The following examples give some of the picture:

# The five-month-old baby Ellen in March 1958 was in hospital from “malnutrition and lack of proper care” and had lost 1lb of her 6lb 3oz birth weight. Officials said they were unwilling to return her to a 4×4 metre tin humpy with dirt floor, with only two or three filthy beds for two adults and six children, and no power, running water or sanitation.

#  One daughter recalled that in the humpy,   the parents slept in the double bed with daughters Glenys, Eva and Beverley. Sons Donald, Darryl and Bill shared the single bed and Wesley slept in a pram by the double bed. When the double bed was too crowded, Beverley would sleep in the boys’ bed. A visiting welfare officer reported that when he visited the humpy, there was no food in it, although the Collards said they acquired food as needed. At Sister Kate’s, the children were treated for trachoma, vermin and ringworm.

# An official file note from 11 January 1968,  included:

“On the 8-1-68 I saw Mrs Sylvia Rachael Collard in Narrogin. She told me that a few days before her husband had given her a severe thrashing, and had beaten her up so much that she had spent three days in the Pingelly Hospital. She stated that this sort of thing had now been going on for 20 years or so, and the time had now come when she was scared to go back to him…”

# Don had nine convictions between 1955 and 1973 for drunkenness, one for assault, one for drunken driving while under suspension, one for disorderly conduct (yelling, fighting and screaming with his wife), one for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, one for stealing and receiving, and one for driving under suspension. Sylvia had three convictions including one for drunkenness.

As an illustration of cognitive dissonance, while concerned people condemn the WA welfare fieldworkers and policies of half a century ago for insensitivity, today’s removal situation is seriously worse.

Despite Rudd’s 2008 demand that “the injustices of the past”, i.e. forced removals, ‘never never happen again’, about one in 19 Aboriginal children nationally are removed and in care. All-up, there were 12,385 Aboriginal children removed and in care in 2010–11. Moreover, nearly a third are in care with non-Aboriginal carers.[v]

In Victoria in 2011-12, nearly one in ten Aboriginal children were removed from their families, at least temporarily.[vi]


Absurd judgment: 87 year old man dies – time for compo

A WOMAN has won the right to a war widow’s pension by proving her late husband’s death was linked to the excessive salt-eating habit he developed as a serviceman.

After serving in the tropics during World War II, Queensland cane cutter and farmer Clement Hutton loaded all his food – from apples to porridge and rice – with salt.

His widow Shirley Hutton, 83, of Maroochy River on the Sunshine Coast, told the Administrative Appeal Tribunal her husband, who she married in 1951, developed his taste for salt during his Army service.

Mr Hutton was diagnosed with hypertension in 1997 and died after a stroke in July 2012 aged 87.

Mrs Hutton claimed her husband’s stroke was linked to his hypertension which was linked to his excessive salt intake which began during his war service.

While the death of a loved one must always be traumatic it is hard to understand why the widow of a 87 year old man should be treated equally with those women whose husbands actually died during the war, or who bore the stress of having a husband fighting in the war. I wouldn’t have thought that 87 would be an unusually young age for a WWII veteran to have died.


2 January, 2014

Bad news for Greenies:  Koalas spotted in new parts of Australia, including upper Blue Mountains

Greenies love to shriek "Endangered!" any time anybody proposes to do anything near a Koala.  This might spike their guns a little

Koalas have been found living in parts of Australia where they have never been seen before, researchers say.

A nationwide survey by the National Parks Association (NPA) found the animal living in the upper Blue Mountains of New South Wales, for the first time.

They have also been spotted in the NSW Southern Highlands, Port Stephens and Maitland, as well as known hot spots in the Northern Rivers and Gunnedah, also in NSW.

"I think the population is just so low that people weren't sure that they were even still there," said Dr Grainne Cleary of the NPA.

"They are just at such low density, unless you're going out looking for them you just don't see them.

"Some of it could have to do with the connectivity and that the koalas can move back into these areas that they weren't found in before."
What more should be done to bolster Australia's koala populations? Leave your comments below.

The NPA recruited the public to participate in the Great Koala Count by going in search of the animal and sending in their findings.

More than 850 people took part and logged about 920 koala sightings over the course of 10 days in November.

Dr Cleary says the results will help communities bolster conservation efforts.  "This data goes very much back to the community that collected it to help protect their koalas," she said.

"They're looking at planting trees in areas where koalas are to increase connectivity between populations - now I can give them a map of where their koalas are.  "We'll also give it to the councils to make sure they can include it in their koala comprehensive management plans."

The survey also shows koalas are picky about where they choose to live, opting for good quality land and soil.

"If the vegetation was right you will get high densities in certain areas, which was interesting," said Dr Cleary.

Known hot spots such as the Northern Rivers and Gunnedah featured strongly in the survey, as well as the Gold Coast and Brisbane, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

The Great Koala Count will be held again next year.


Fishery folly

The Greenies are all for "renewable" resources  -- except when it comes to fish

The most interesting person at the table, for me, was a commercial fisherman, which meant he lived far outside my urban bubble. He loved what he did, and was a conservationist, but he felt besieged. Along with the rest of his industry, he believed Australia was engaging in what I term fish porn.

Thanks to the zeal of the environmental movement, personified by the Greens, Australia has shrunk its fishing industry by 90 per cent even though it is one of the most highly regulated and scientifically scrutinised in the world. In so doing, we are pushing demand to all the wrong places. As the fisherman said:

"If we are not using our own marine resources but are enjoying a seafood meal at the expense of someone else, it's an immoral position to be in."

He directed me to a documentary, Drawing the Line, financed by a Northern Territory mackerel fisherman, Bruce Davey, which put the case that Australia, by closing off 3 million square kilometres as marine reserves, would do more harm than good to global fish stocks.

"The irony is," Davey says, "as we have less and less domestic catch, the fish we import is more and more from less sustainable fisheries … places like China, Thailand, Africa." The documentary quotes Colin Buxton, of the University of Tasmania, warning: "The mere act of drawing a line doesn't confer any protection at all. All we are doing is eliminating fishing."

My fishing friend also loathed the carbon tax and thought it had been highly corrosive to business while achieving nothing. He even checked his electricity bill later and called me with the numbers: in December 2010, his monthly bill was $1617. Last month it was $2255, an increase of 40 per cent in three years, with no expansion in usage or equipment.

This increase, plus ever-increasing compliance costs, made him decide not to hire a part-time assistant, so he saw the tax as a job-killer and price-riser.


Muslim barbarism in Australia

THE female genital mutilation of children is much more common in Australia and by Australians overseas than authorities can detect, NSW Community Services Minister Pru Goward says.

The man had his then nine-month-old girl circumcised while abroad in February 2012, police allege.  They were alerted six months later after the girl's mother took her to the doctor.

It is unclear in what country the alleged procedure took place.

Following investigations, the father was arrested on Tuesday and charged with procuring female genital mutilation. He will face Manly Local Court on January 28.


Share market ends boom year

After trading a little down, then a little up, the share market has failed to add to its 15 per cent annual gain on the last trading day of 2013.

Closing early at 2:10pm (AEDT), the All Ordinaries index finished down 5 points at 5,353, and the ASX 200 also lost 0.1 per cent to end the year at 5,352.

That close for the benchmark index of Australia's top 200 companies represents a 15 per cent gain in share prices over the year, while including dividends would yield an annual return of just over 20 per cent.

The big companies outperformed the smaller firms, with the Midcap 50 index of medium-sized firms up 12.6 per cent in price and just under 17 per cent in total returns including dividends, while the Small Ords index of market minnows posted a 3.8 per cent capital loss, with investors still slightly behind even after dividends.

However, while the big firms delivered better returns on average, the top total returns out of the 496 companies in the All Ordinaries were delivered by smaller firms.

Winners and losers

The winner for 2013 was almond producer Select Harvests, which delivered a total return (including dividends) of 323 per cent.

Others in the top five total returns were Hutchison Telecoms (183 per cent), takeover target Warrnambool Cheese and Butter (166 per cent), BT Investment (158 per cent), and veterinary clinic operator Greencross (152 per cent).

While smaller firms were the biggest winners, they were also the biggest losers, particularly in the resources sector: Discovery Metals (-97 per cent), Mirabela Nickel (-97 per cent), Nucoal Resources (-94 per cent), Tanami Gold (-94 per cent) and gold explorer Red 5 (-93 per cent).

Miners also dominated the list of the largest falls among the top 200 biggest listed companies: Silver Lake Resources (-84 per cent), Resolute Mining (-66 per cent), Newcrest (-65 per cent), Evolution Mining (-64 per cent) and mining engineering and construction firm Forge Group (-63 per cent) were the biggest losers - Forge made the list despite surging more than 200 per cent in the past six trading days.

Despite complaints about unfair competition from GST-free overseas online rivals, retailers were the best performing sector in the ASX 200, with two featuring in the top five individual gains.

Cynics of the legal profession may not be surprised by class action law firm Slater and Gordon topping the list of best ASX 200 total returns (135 per cent).

The rest of the top five was made up of JB Hi-Fi (123 per cent), Village Roadshow (119 per cent), Kathmandu (115 per cent), and online real estate classifieds company REA Group (114 per cent).


1 January, 2014

PM Tony Abbott to start 'conversation' on Indigenous recognition in 2014

I have no idea what this is about.  The 1967  referendum removed all discrimination against Aborigines from the constitution but also gave parliament the right to make laws especially for the benefit of Aborigines.  What else is needed?  The 1967 referendum got 90% approval

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he will use 2014 to start a "conversation" about recognising Indigenous Australians in the constitution.

The former Labor Government shelved plans for a referendum on the issue because it argued there wasn't enough community support.

Mr Abbott has used his New Year's Day message to flag that he will make garnering support a key priority for this year.

"I will also start the conversation about a constitutional referendum to recognise the first Australians," he said.  "This would complete our constitution rather than change it."

Mr Abbott's intention has been welcomed by Warren Mundine, the head of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council.

But he says more debate will be needed to build a strong case for change. "For it to be successful, the proposed wording will need to be right," he said.

"It's not only just about the majority of people supporting it, but you have to get a majority of states.  "That double whammy makes it a bit more difficult, so I suggest caution.

"But at the same time I think we just need to get on with the job and start getting the wording right."


Former Labor party leaders tell Tony Abbott to slash spending

BOB Hawke and Paul Keating have urged the Abbott government to slash spending and speedily repair the budget bottom line, arguing they faced up to a similar challenge in 1986-87 when the terms of trade collapsed and the dollar plummeted.

"It's a very, very large budget deficit that you're looking at, projecting $47 billion, and they seem to be walking away from the suggestion that they can move into surplus in this first term," said Mr Hawke, the prime minister from 1983 to 1991.

"What is required is the same thing. You've got to have a prime minister and treasurer, and a competent ministry which understands the issue and is prepared to make hard decisions. So it's the same challenge."

Mr Keating, treasurer during the period, told The Australian that having informed voters "we couldn't go on maintaining the standard of living we had become accustomed to", he had to follow through with "structural adjustments to the economy and cut spending across the board".

"The broad lesson is to inform the public of the problem and then earnestly pursue the remedies," he said.

"When you're cutting outlays like we were, we had outlays growing at less than the inflation rate for a number of years, you've really got to want to do this. You've really got to have the skills."

The Australian's interviews with the two former prime ministers coincide with the release today of the Labor government's 1986-87 cabinet papers by the National Archives of Australia. Mr Hawke and Mr Keating pointed to $5.5bn made in savings over 1986-87, which is the equivalent of about $30bn in today's terms, as a share of the economy.

Government spending from 1986-87 to 1988-89 grew at a rate less than inflation, the only time that occurred in a 40-year period.

The budget returned to surplus in 1987-88 and remained in balance for two additional years, after the government inherited a $9.6bn deficit from the Fraser-Howard government in 1983.

The mid-year fiscal and economic outlook released last month revealed a projected budget deficit of $47bn this financial year. If the same level of savings made between 1986-87 and 1988-89 were repeated today, the budget would return to surplus in two years.

Spending fell from 26.9 per cent of GDP in 1986-87 to 23.1 per cent of GDP in 1988-89. Two-thirds of the savings were cuts to recurrent spending. In today's terms, this is a saving of about $60bn.

In separate interviews, Mr Hawke and Mr Keating also criticised the quality of MPs from both sides of politics, arguing that today they lacked a diversity of work and life experience.

"It's a problem on both sides," Mr Hawke said. "In some ways it's more of a problem for the conservative side of politics because Labor still has people who are ideologically driven and are prepared to go in and make sacrifices. On the conservative side, you're not surprised that they don't want to go in and subject themselves to this increasing intrusiveness of the media into their private life."

"I think the experience pool was much broader (in 1986-87) than now," Mr Keating said.

"We have seen a big change in parliamentary staff becoming ministers. Some are really good, like Chris Bowen, but there are a lot of very ordinary people who have never quite had that broader experience. In the end it's going to sap the vitality of the government and its wisdom."

Mr Hawke urged both parties to support a referendum to allow people to serve in cabinet without having to be elected to parliament.

"You would have a limited number of people who could be called in and serve, and be entitled to sit in parliament in respect of any issue concerning their portfolio, but they wouldn't be a full member of parliament," he said. "It would add considerably to the strength on both sides."

He reiterated his call for state governments to be abolished to achieve a more streamlined, efficient and effective structure of government. "I would love to think that both parties had the guts to face up to this issue of the states," he said.

Mr Hawke also responded to Mr Keating's criticisms of him in a recent four-part series with ABC journalist Kerry O'Brien.

"I don't see any need to rewrite history," Mr Hawke said. "I know what the facts are, my colleagues know what the facts are, and I feel I have no need to regurgitate history to justify myself."

The 1986-87 cabinet papers cover the period when Mr Keating said Australia risked becoming a "banana republic" due to falling national income sparked by a terms of trade crisis.

Mr Keating said he did not regret making the comment as it was important to be frank with voters about the scale of the challenge "and seize the initiative to reform".

He said Mr Hawke did not see the need to respond quickly and decisively to the crisis. On a May 1986 newspaper article, he wrote that Mr Hawke was suffering from a "mental fog".

Mr Hawke said the treasurer's banana republic warning was "unnecessarily dramatic" and "over the top". He said the government had a record of reform since 1983 and didn't need to be "galvanised" into action.

Mr Keating argued that the reform agenda he drove set up Labor to win a third term in government in July 1987 - a first for Labor. As early as March 1986, two months before his banana republic comment, Mr Keating warned cabinet about the crisis and urged remedial action.

"There was a lot of affection between Bob and me, but I still had to drive the show," Mr Keating said. "When I would get resistance from him, I'd push him."

Mr Keating said Mr Hawke initially opposed his proposal for a July 1987 election after cutting deeply into government outlays. He wrote in a newspaper article at the time that Mr Hawke said it would be "f . . king mad" to do so. Mr Hawke later called an election for July 11.

During the 1987 election campaign, Mr Hawke promised that "by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty". Although the introduction of the family allowance supplement helped to reduce disadvantage, Mr Hawke now says the pledge was "stupidly truncated". He said he should have said: "There will be no financial need for any child to live in poverty".

Among the other issues in the cabinet papers released today are: the deregulation of home loan interest rates; the burying of the Australia Card; the failure to achieve national land rights legislation; the defence white paper; adding Queensland's wet tropics to the World Heritage List; opposition to mining in Antarctica; grappling with the threat of terrorism; and sectoral industry reform.


Newman faces a storm on climate

THE terms of reference for a planned examination of the renewable energy target were still to be decided as a storm of controversy erupted yesterday over comments by Maurice Newman, Tony Abbott's key business adviser.

The full scope of the federal government's review of green energy policies would not be finalised for several weeks, a government spokesman has confirmed.

Mr Newman won support from industry groups for his comments in The Australian yesterday that misguided climate change policy was largely to blame for the collapse of Australian manufacturing.

He said an upcoming review of the RET should include an examination of payments already made to renewable energy projects. But Mr Newman was sharply criticised for rejecting the theory of climate change and the global industry it had spawned.

Mr Newman said the climate change establishment, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, remained "intent on exploiting the masses and extracting more money".

"When necessary the IPCC resorts to dishonesty and deceit," Mr Newman said.

ALP acting spokesman for environment, climate change and water Shayne Neumann said Mr Newman had "embarrassed Australia by calling the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change "deceitful and dishonest".

Climate change campaigner Tim Flannery was quoted as saying Mr Newman's attack on the IPCC and climate change was "gouty festive season ramblings".

But Professor Flannery said Mr Newman had to be taken seriously because of his role as the head of the Prime Minister's business advisory group.

Writing in The Australian, Mr Newman said Australia had become "hostage to climate change madness". But he said: "The scientific delusion, the religion behind the climate crusade, is crumbling."

The ALP said Mr Newman's comments proved "the Coalition is not serious about taking action on climate change and does not accept the overwhelming evidence of a changing climate."

Mr Neumann called on Mr Abbott to withdraw comments that damage Australia's relationships with its trading partners, all of whom accept that climate change and are taking steps to reduce carbon pollution.

Mr Abbott was on leave yesterday and unavailable to comment, but a government spokesman said the terms of reference of the review of the RET was yet to be decided.

Responsibility for the RET is split between Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane.


Medicare about to cover dental care for poor children

More than 3 million children will be eligible for Medicare-funded dental care under a scheme starting on Wednesday.

The $2.7 billion scheme is the final element of a dental package negotiated by the Greens with Julia Gillard in return for their support for her minority government.

Under the scheme, families who receive Family Tax Benefit Part A will be eligible for $1000 worth of Medicare-funded treatment over a two-year period.

About 3.4 million children between the ages of two and 17 are expected to benefit.

As opposition leader in January 2012, Tony Abbott declared that it was his "aspiration" to extend Medicare to cover dentistry.

Greens senator Richard Di Natale used the launch of the children's dental scheme to challenge Mr Abbott to commit to a broader scheme. In 2012, Mr Abbott said the big problem with Medicare was "that it supports treatment for every part of the body except the mouth".

In 2007, Mr Abbott - then health minister in the Howard government - introduced a Medicare-funded dental scheme for sufferers of chronic disease.

The scheme was abolished by Labor to help fund the new scheme, but Senator Di Natale said it was evidence of Mr Abbott's commitment to including dental care in Medicare.

The Greens want Mr Abbott to implement their scheme for Medicare-funded dental care for all Australians by 2018. In the next stage, about 3 million pensioners and recipients would be included in 2015, at a cost of $1 billion a year. The full scheme would cost $8.5 billion in 2018-19.

"We're challenging the Coalition to back up their rhetoric with a promise," Senator Di Natale said.

He said the Greens were open to negotiation on how such a scheme would be funded, adding that while the party preferred it to be paid for by a redesigned mining tax and by ending fossil fuel subsidies, it was prepared to consider an increase in the Medicare levy.

Health Minister Peter Dutton said the Coalition would like to improve dental care but was hamstrung by the "historic debt and deficit" left by Labor governments.

Labor frontbencher Shayne Neumann called on the government to quarantine the children's dental scheme from cuts being considered by the National Commission of Audit.

Senator Di Natale said that while the children's dental scheme was enshrined in legislation, he was worried another element of the Labor-Greens package - $1.3 billion for dental care for low-income adults in the public system - could be a target for savings.


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."

Index page for this site


"Tongue Tied"
"Dissecting Leftism" (Backup here)
"Australian Politics"
"Education Watch International"
"Political Correctness Watch"
"Greenie Watch"
"Food & Health Skeptic"
GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.


Coral Reef Compendium
"Marx & Engels in their own words"
"A scripture blog"
"Some memoirs"
Paralipomena 3
To be continued ....
Queensland Police -- A barrel with lots of bad apples
Australian Police News
Of Interest


"Immigration Watch International" blog
"Eye on Britain"
"Paralipomena" 2
"Leftists as Elitists"
Socialized Medicine
Western Heart
QANTAS -- A dying octopus
BRIAN LEITER (Ladderman)
Obama Watch
Obama Watch (2)
Dissecting Leftism -- Large font site
Michael Darby
AGL -- A bumbling monster
Telstra/Bigpond follies
Optus bungling
Vodafrauds (vodafone)
Bank of Queensland blues

There are also two blogspot blogs which record what I think are my main recent articles here and here. Similar content can be more conveniently accessed via my subject-indexed list of short articles here or here (I rarely write long articles these days)

Main academic menu
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basic home page
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