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?


30 January, 2015

It's just not cricket

Jenny Lindsay

Is there no escaping the nanny state telling me how to live my life!

The Australian summer holidays is a time to relax, overindulge, forget about the problems of the world and watch some cricket.  If you were, like us, watching sport on television in regional NSW, SA, NT or Queensland you were forced to endure lectures about, among other things, how you should help someone get home safely if they have been drinking, that sexual preference has nothing to do with playing sport, and that alcohol is bad for pregnant women.

The ads were endless and were played during virtually every ad break over the five-day test! there is apparently no money in advertising real products in the country.

In the past year or two, regional television ad breaks were populated with short segments highlighting the beauty spots in various regional towns around Australia.  These ads were the TV equivalent of muzak - banal and mildly annoying - but as least they were not preaching at me.

Every one of the ads this past season undoubtedly had a worthy message, but they are also examples of the subtle undermining of civil society.  It is saying that we as individuals, families and communities are not capable of coming to the right conclusions about what behaviour or action is appropriate.  The constant chiding and advising diminishes us as human beings.

As a parent I knew there was a time when I had to let go and allow my kids make their own decisions, whether I thought they were right or wrong. The state is acting like a parent who never lets go.  It assumes we are incapable of making the right decision in any situation whether it be how we drive, how and where we drink, how we communicate with people and how we choose to live our lives.

I'm back in Sydney now.  The Australian Tennis Open is on and I'm cheering the ads that are trying to sell me fast food, car insurance and phone plans.  Whether I make the right choice or not is not the point.  The point is that it is my choice.


School funding mess no surprise

The key findings of the latest OECD report Education Policy Outlook 2015 - that school funding in Australia is a mess and school performance is stagnant or declining - will be surprising to precisely no-one.

The report says that school funding in Australia "lacks transparency and coherence", and it is difficult to determine how individual schools are funded. This is despite a "comprehensive and independent" review of school funding which led to the development of a new federal funding model embedded in a new education act, and detailed funding agreements with the states.

It is possible, at least, to now work out how schools are funded if you have sufficient time and interest - but it is not easy. And since the current federal government has decided it will not implement the funding model in full, things will change again from 2017.

A certain amount of complexity in school funding is the inevitable result of having two levels of government providing funding to three distinct school sectors in eight states and territories. It is difficult to envisage how it would be possible to make funding more uniform and consistent in any kind of incremental way that tries to appease all interests. A more coherent school funding system will come about only through a brave and radical change to a student-centred voucher system, in which all children are allocated an individual educational entitlement they can use at any school.

Fortunately, improving the literacy levels of Australian students does not depend on funding reform. It requires one thing only - for teachers to use proven, evidence-based reading instruction in the early years of school and to provide effective interventions for struggling readers. Regular readers of ideas@thecentre will be familiar with this argument.

However, one of the most striking things about the OECD report is how strongly Australia features. Australian governments have been very busy with educational policy reform over the last eight years or so, and their efforts have largely been focused on the right things, from the OECD's perspective at least, things like increasing school autonomy, improving teacher quality and developing school leadership.

Whether or not Australia's initiatives to achieve these goals will be effective are, as yet, not known and possibly never will be,  since another key finding of the OECD report is that trillions of dollars have been spent internationally on education reform without rigorous evaluation to determine whether they have worked.  Australia is no exception.


Stop the state 'playing Dad'

Gary Johns has argued that compulsory contraception is needed to stop women having children and relying on the state to support their families.

A better way to address this form of welfare dependency is to bring the outdated parenting payment system into line with modern ideas about women, work and family.

Prior to the 1970s, there was no welfare for single mothers. Having children outside of marriage was considered socially unacceptable, and traditional social values were upheld by the draconian policy of forcing unmarried mothers to give up their babies up for adoption.

The presumption was that women without breadwinning husbands would be unable to combine child rearing with paid work. Forced adoption was therefore intended to prevent unmarried mothers and their children inevitably requiring public assistance.

The social revolution of the 1960s rapidly altered social attitudes to sex, marriage, and children. This led to the introduction in 1973 of the 'supporting mothers' pension, which meant unmarried mothers no longer needed to give up their children for financial reasons.

The right of single mothers to receive welfare was hailed by the feminist movement for liberating women from the patriarchal institution of marriage and eliminating economic dependence on men.

But, ironically, the state was called on to step into the place of absent husbands and fathers because the sexist presumption remained that women could not combine paid work and motherhood.

These days it is increasingly common for women with children - whether married , divorced, or single - to work outside the home.

We no longer think that a mother's place is in the home... unless they are on parenting payment!  Why should only some mothers choose not to work and receive a guaranteed taxpayer-funded hand out until their youngest child turns eight?

Parenting payment is an anachronism. Sole parents should only receive the family tax and childcare benefits that all families qualify for. Those who do not work should receive Newstart and be subject to the mutual obligation requirements designed to encourage the unemployed into work.

Stopping the state from 'playing Dad' would remove the incentive to have children - an incentive created by the more generous, and activity-test exempt, parenting payment. This, in turn, would encourage women to take a more responsible attitude to their fertility.

A policy that made combining work and motherhood mandatory would promote Johns' objective of ending welfare-dependent parenting without getting into the messy business of compulsory contraception.



Three current articles below

How a garden pest is slowing Sydney’s progress: Projects stymied by green tape protecting frogs, bats and snails

GREEN tape protecting endangered plants and animals is delaying projects worth billions across the state, with contractors forced to search for snails, count bat colonies and protect pygmy fish.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal green tape delays will impact the north coast’s Pacific Hwy upgrade, while preparations of the Badgerys Creek airport site are likely to be affected by a list of 45 threatened species ranging from eastern bent-wing bat to the red crowned toadlet.

North West Rail Link contractors were told to search for the cumberland plain land snail before construction on the $8.3 billion rail link began.

The snail — which looks similar to the exotic garden snail — has already been identified as a “high risk” threatened species on the Badgerys airport site.

Endangered plants are also afforded high priority on major road and rail projects, with buffer zones put in place, while seeds are being collected on the North West Rail Link for replanting.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt last year slapped 26 conditions on the 155km Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Hwy upgrade that’s already four years behind schedule. Mr Hunt imposed strict conditions to protect the pygmy perch and giant barred frog.

He also ordered the RMS to implement a Ballina Koala Plan despite three separate reports already compiled by experts on fauna, fish and flora. Mr Hunt said the Abbott government was working with NSW to deliver a “one-stop shop for environmental approvals”.

Under the proposed new structure, duplication and red tape would be phased out, but as the months drag on and with no timeline on when the streamlined process will be in place, major projects are expected to be delayed under the old system.

Mr Hunt’s spokesman confirmed the Badgerys Creek Environmental Impact Statement would include threatened species such as birds and bats, which have already been identified as being vulnerable to plane strikes.

NSW Planning Minister Pru Goward said the government was frustrated efforts to “streamline approvals” had been blocked in the Senate.

National Roads & Motorists’ Association president Kyle Loades said the group was concerned the highway upgrade’s 2020 deadline would not be met.

Mr Loades said protecting the environment was important but there was a community “expectation that it is done within reason”. He highlighted the danger of delays to key road projects surrounding Badgerys Creek, saying while it was appropriate to investigate the impact the roads may have on “local colonies of bats and birds”, western Sydney residents should not have to experience the same delays that has slowed down the Pacific Hwy upgrade.

Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott said high environmental standards were important but should not “unnecessarily hold up major projects”.

“Governments at all levels need to redouble efforts to reduce overlap and inefficiency in planning approvals laws, including environmental approvals,” Ms Westacott said.

A Transport for NSW spokesman said three North West Rail Link environmental impact statements were approved between 2012 and 2014 and as part of that process there was no change to the route alignment and construction of the rail project was “ahead of schedule”.

A WestConnex spokeswoman said EIS documents for the M4 widening and M5 interchange pledged to conduct “pre-clearing surveys” prior to construction.

The WestConnex project had searched for threatened species including bats and the green and golden bell frog.


Greens slam conservative Qld  government's casino plan

One wonders what this has got to do with the environment.  Just another anti-people push

THE Newman government's decision to green-light three new casinos for Queensland reeks of backward thinking and a "third world" approach to development.  THAT'S according to the Greens, who have slammed the Liberal National Party on the scheme, two days out from Saturday's election.

The state government is fielding expressions of interest from parties interested in securing approval for one of three new integrated resort developments.  One site is slated for the Queen's Wharf precinct in Brisbane, with two more proposed for regional Queensland.  The government announced last year these approvals would come with casino licences.

Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters said extra casinos would turn Queensland into "the problem gambling state" of Australia, and instead the government should look at creating jobs in fields like renewable energy and eco-tourism. "Let's actually invest in Queensland's brains and capitalise on our natural beauty," Ms Waters said.

She says if Queenslanders want to gamble they are more than welcome to do so at the state's four existing venues.

Ms Waters' federal colleague Richard Di Natale says the Newman government's commitment to casinos and coal industries, rather than new sectors and technologies, has hallmarks of a "third-world dictatorship".

Local candidate Kirsten Lovejoy says art shows, festivals and new parklands - not poker machines - should be brought in to revamp the Queens Wharf entertainment zone.

Expressions of interest for the Integrated Resort Developments close on March 31.


Peer-reviewed study shatters claims that wind turbines are “safe”

Australia’s leading acoustical engineer Steven Cooper found that a unique infrasound pattern, which he had labelled “Wind Turbine Signature” in previous studies, correlates (through a “trend line”) with the occurrence and severity of symptoms of residents who had complained of often-unbearable “sensations”.

These include sleep disturbance, headaches, heart racing, pressure in the head, ears or chest, etc. as described by the residents (symptoms generally known as Wind Turbine Syndrome (WTS), or the euphemism “noise annoyance” – ed). (1)

The acoustician also identified “discrete low frequency amplitude modulated signals” emitted by wind turbines, and found the windfarm victims were also reacting to those.

The Wind Turbine Signature cannot be detected using traditional measuring indexes such as dB(A) or dB(C) and 1/3 Octave bands, concludes his study. Narrowband analysis must be used instead, with results expressed in dB(WTS).

He suggests medical studies be conducted using infrasound measurements in dB(WTS) in order to determine the threshold of what is unacceptable in terms of sound pressure level.

The findings are consistent with the official Kelley studies published in the US more than 30 years ago, which showed that infrasound emitted by early, downwind turbines caused sleep disturbance and other WTS symptoms (2). These studies were shelved, upwind turbines were designed, and the regulatory authorities simply trusted the wind industry’s assertion that the new models did not emit dangerous infrasound. The Cooper study now proves they were wrong.

Another conclusion of his study is that the Danish method used for measuring low-frequency “noise annoyance” near wind farms is inadequate. So are the wind turbine noise standards applied to wind farms in Victoria, Australia and New Zealand, known as New Zealand Standard 6808. Just as inadequate are all other standards regulating “annoyance” near wind farms around the world. They simply don’t take infrasound into account.

The Waubra Foundation, Dr Sarah Laurie, Dr Nina Pierpont, Dr Robert McMurtry, Ms Carmen Krogh, Dr Michael Nissenbaum, Dr Chris Hanning, Dr Jay Tibbetts, Dr Sandy Reider, Dr David Iser, Dr Amanda Harry and scores of other medical practitioners and researchers from around the world are vindicated by this benchmark study, as are the residents reporting WTS symptoms themselves, many of whom have had to regularly or permanently abandon their homes.

Regarding the future, Steven Cooper recommends that further studies be conducted in order to establish “a threshold to protect against adverse impacts.” (1)

He also writes: “the vibration surges described by some residents as disturbance during the shutdown could be attributed to wind gusts exciting resonances of the blades/towers and requires further investigation“. (1)

This is a turning point. The wind industry can no longer claim that their machines do not emit enough infrasound to affect residents, nor that health professionals publicising the problems and calling for further research are causing the suffering, nor that wind farm victims are causing their own woes (the often-used argument that “it’s all in their heads” – i.e. the “nocebo effect”). Yet the wind industry and its abettors had clung to that straw despite the numerous accounts of ill-effects on animals. (3)


29 January, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is having a laugh at Al Gore and the freezing weather on the American East coast

Wild speculation masquerading as research

No regard for the facts at all below

AUSTRALIA’s two biggest science and weather bodies, CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology have released new climate change data and information on how it will affect Australia.

“There is very high confidence that hot days will become more frequent and hotter,” CSIRO principal research scientist, Kevin Hennessy said.

“We also have very high confidence that sea levels will rise, oceans will become more acidic, and snow depths will decline.

“We expect that extreme rainfall events across the nation are likely to become more intense, even where annual-average rainfall is projected to decline.”

According to the CSIRO report, in Australia specifically, oceans will become much warmer and more acidic [Impossible.  It's one or the other]. Cyclones will decrease, but when they do occur they will be significantly fiercer and occur further south.  Droughts will become more intense and ‘severe’ bushfire ratings will become more common.

Water temperatures will also continue to rise, which means storms can suck up more moisture resulting in heavier rain and snow fall.

Dr Karl believes there are also two lesser-known phenomenons that we should all get our heads around because of their impact on the future: permafrost and arctic meltdown.

“Permafrost is defined as any ground that has been frozen for at least two years, with one quarter of all the land mass in the northern hemisphere being permafrost,” he says.

The problem with permafrost is that with temperatures rising and more permafrost thawing, enormous amounts of harmful [??] carbon contained within the ice are being released into the atmosphere. About 1.7 trillion tonnes of organic carbon, or four times the amount humans have dumped in modern times, could be released, says Dr Karl.

Since 1980, 80 per cent of the Arctic summer ice has been lost which is resulting in more extreme weather across the world and new areas for oil and gas companies to drill.

How will this affect us?  Homes will be destroyed, food will become more expensive and lives will be lost.

According to the National Climate Council, hundreds of thousands of coastal homes are at risk, with 80 per cent of the Victorian coast and 62 per cent of the Queensland coast at risk of being wiped out by 2100.

One of the hardest hit areas could be the Gold Coast, a massive tourist drawcard and an economy worth $1.5 billion per year.

With droughts intensified, farmers will struggle to grow crops, resulting in them losing their livelihoods. But on top of that, our food will become much more expensive, for everything from meat to Weet-Bix.

The government’s Australian Climate Change Program warns that an increased number of bushfire days could result in more homes and lives lost as they become harder to fight.

Dr Karl points out that in Australia, our biggest issue will come from heatwaves caused by rising temperatures.  “Heatwaves have killed more Australians than all other natural hazards combined,” he says. 

“In the European heatwave of 2003, some 70,000 people died. The Russian heatwave of 2010 killed around 55,000 people.”

“Back in 1961, heatwaves with temperatures significantly above average covered 1 per cent of our planet’s land area. By 2010, this had risen to about 5 per cent. By 2020, it’s expected to rise to 10 per cent — and for 2040, to 20 per cent.”

What can we do about it?

“We have to move to a 100% renewable energy based country,” says Matthew Wright, the Executive Director of Zero Carbon Australia and 2010’s Young Environmentalist of the Year.

“We need more resilience on our buildings so they consume energy more efficiently and also move towards using electricity in its place.”

Our government also has more work to do. “We need to make sure governments put in legislation that make sure energy companies don’t block people from installing solar panels,” says Mr Wright.

“It’s also risky for the Australian people that our government has clearly steered towards an economy for coal producers.”


Qld. ALP all at sea over spending

QUEENSLAND always had a reputation for being a fiscally conservative state. In 2003-04, Queensland’s general government debt was only $2.7 billion and the debt held by the government owned corporations was just above $10 billion.

General government debt is now close to $50 billion and another $30 billion is held by the GOCs. That’s more than $17,000 for every man, women and child in Queensland.

The Queensland Opposition’s Fiscal Strategy isn’t so much a strategy for paying back debt, but a recipe for a Fiscal Magic Pudding.

It is designed to prove that Labor has a plan, while justifying its opportunistic opposition to asset leases and keeping key public sector unions happy. But electors should not take it seriously.


To start with, it double counts income, proposing to direct already-committed dividends to repaying debt. If it is going to repay debt, where is the money going to come from for already-committed programs as well as the promises Labor is making to increase spending in other areas?

Either promises will be broken, cuts made or taxes raised. If the document were serious, these possibilities would be detailed.

It also relies on the unlikely proposition the Opposition, should it be elected to government, will run surpluses in each of the next 10 years amounting to $12.142 billion.

There hasn’t been a budget surplus in Queensland for 10 years under the Bligh, and now the Newman governments, and this year’s projected surplus is a tenuous $188 million.

So impossible was the situation, the last Bligh government itself privatised $18 billion worth of assets. But here’s the thing – the debt continued to rise because Labor, in government, found it impossible to rein in spending.

Labor’s plan doesn’t address the issue of whether the Government should be in these businesses or not.

At a time when Labor is spruiking “new green industries” it seems quaint that they are proposing to fund Queensland’s future using what is effectively a geared sovereign wealth fund based on legacy assets in only one industry subject to environmental and financial risk. Ironically, the Queensland government will be one of the biggest carbon emitters in the country.

If your investment adviser suggested you should put all your eggs into the one high-risk basket and borrow heavily to do so, you should probably call the corporate cops, because they could be another Storm Financial. But this is the course local Labor is “seriously” suggesting that Queensland take – and without any attempt to look at alternative returns that might be available, or the risks that they are undertaking.

Labor also has an extraordinarily optimistic view of the course of dividends from the GOCs. Treasury, by contrast, regards the dividend flow to be highly uncertain and subject to potentially unmanageable risks, particularly given the concentration of the assets in electricity. If Labor were serious about the government running investments to pay back government debt, then it would set up a structure like the QIC or the Future Fund, have transparent arms-length management and reporting, targeted returns and a conservative attitude to portfolio risk.

What they wouldn’t do is hold on to assets, just because they are the assets they hold now. With capital markets the way they are, it is likely that, second rate as these assets are, they would find a buyer at top dollar who would be prepared to back their ability to make the organisations more flexible and efficient and get a good return on their investment.

They can also do this whilst reducing costs for consumers. Queensland, with government owned power, has some of the highest bills in the country, higher than states such as Victoria with privatised power generation. The sale of Medibank Private at the top range of estimates shows just how hungry capital markets are at the moment.

The Opposition also discounts the flexibility they would gain by paying down debt now in the event that another financial crisis were to occur.

As the biggest per capita debtor state in the country Queensland is dangerously exposed if lending conditions tighten.

And as the Government is demonstrating, there are alternative community investments, such as transport infrastructure, which some of the funds raised from privatisation can fund.

In reality, Labor’s plan to repay the enormous government debt will not work. There is no way that two thirds of dividends can be quarantined while running operating surpluses. And bear in mind, there is absolutely no scope to make needed investments in the state other than by raising more debt.

Higher taxes might be part of the mix but that would kill the growth prospects that Labor is so keen to promote.

The end result would be taxpayers left holding unprofitable assets, paying much higher taxes for the privilege and with debt again on the ascendant.


In Index of Economic Freedom, U.S. Is only 12th Freest Economy

Australia (4th), New Zealand (3rd)  and Canada (6th) much freer.  USA only just pips bureaucratized Britain

There is no single formula for overcoming challenges to economic development and maintaining economic dynamism, but one thing is clear: Around the globe, governments that respect and promote economic freedom provide greater opportunities for innovation, progress and human empowerment.

The 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, released today, tracks policy developments affecting economic freedom across the world by looking at four primary areas: rule of law (property rights, freedom from corruption), government size (fiscal freedom, government spending), regulatory efficiency (business freedom, labor freedom, and monetary freedom), and market openness (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom).

Here are five key points you should take away from this year’s Index:

*    The United States continues to be only the 12th-freest economy, seemingly stuck in the ranks of the “mostly free,” trailing such comparable economies as Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland. Although the downward spiral in U.S. economic freedom since 2008 has come to a halt with modest gains in six of the 10 economic freedoms, the 1.6-point decline in overall economic freedom over the past five years reflects broad-based deteriorations in key policy areas. Increased tax and regulatory burdens, aggravated by favoritism toward entrenched interests, have undercut America’s historically dynamic entrepreneurial growth. As Americans more than ever look to their future with growing frustration, 2015 should be the year of action to put America back on the path to freedom and revitalize its entrepreneurial pulse.

*    The global average economic freedom score has advanced to its highest level ever. Despite the continuing challenges that confront the world economy, the global average economic freedom score has improved over the past year by one-tenth of a point, reaching a record 60.4 (on a 0-to-100 scale) in the 2015 Index. Although the rate of advancement has slowed in comparison to last year’s near record 0.7-point increase, the world average has now reached a level a full point higher than that recorded in the aftermath of the financial crisis and recession.

*    101 countries, the majority of which are less developed or emerging economies, showed advances in economic freedom over the past year. 37 countries, including Taiwan, Lithuania, Georgia, Colombia, Israel, Cabo Verde, Montenegro and Côte d’Ivoire, achieved their highest economic freedom scores ever in the 2015 Index.

*    Competition for the top spot in the Index rankings has intensified more than ever. The 2015 Index has recorded a number of noticeable realignments and achievements within the top 20 global economic freedom rankings. For example, although Hong Kong has maintained its status as the world’s freest economy, a distinction that it has achieved for 21 consecutive years, the gap between that territory and Singapore, the second-freest economy, has further vanished.

*    Countries with higher levels of economic freedom continue to outperform others in reducing poverty, achieving greater prosperity, and ensuring broader progress in many dimensions of social and human development. As the Index has catalogued, nations with higher degrees of economic freedom prosper because they capitalize more fully on the ability of the free-market system not only to generate, but also to reinforce dynamic growth through efficient resource allocation, value creation and innovation. Policies that promote freedom, whether through improvements in the rule of law, the promotion of competition and openness, or suitable restraints on the size and economic reach of government, turn out in practice to advance practical solutions to a wide range of economic and social challenges.

A recurring theme of human history has been resilience and revival. The country profiles in the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom include many examples of countries that have accelerated their economic and social progress in the face of difficult challenges and a sometimes harsh international environment. Their successes can be emulated by others. The Index charts not just one path to development, but as many as the ingenuity of humans can produce when they are free to experiment and innovate.


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): A Game Changer?

In 2013 the University of Queensland joined edX, the international consortium led by Harvard and MIT whose goal is to create and deliver learning through MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses. UQx, the University of Queensland's title for its MOOCs, was born. By the end of 2014 there were nearly a quarter of a million enrolments from more than 250 countries and regions in UQx courses. That is nearly five times the University's current regular enrolment.In MOOCs all content, exercises and assessment are delivered on-line on the Web. The courses are free and available to anyone anywhere. They provide a marvellous way to showcase the University's teaching, and to help the University reach of the implied goals in its name: a universal learning resource.

But MOOCs also constitute a challenge to existing teaching and learning practices. Around the world many leading university teachers are putting their current course content on-line in mini-MOOCs, exploiting the "flipped classroom" to secure contact time with the students for discussion and tutorial work.

There is a broad shift towards student-driven "active" learning. Some MOOCs are now available for university credit. And there are degree courses taught entirely through MOOCs.

These are potentially disruptive influences. The University of Queensland is among an elite international group of universities leading the exploration of the possibilities of edX and online courses. But what will our University look like if the lecture is effectively replaced by online learning, and if students can study from anywhere on the planet?


28 January, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is amazed at the Qld. Leftist leader pandering to the Greens at the expense of jobs

NSW Leftist leader shafts rogue union

The ETU is a very thuggish union

Opposition leader Luke Foley has put himself at odds with the union representing NSW electricity workers by backing deep cuts to state-owned power company revenues over the next four years which could mean the loss of up to 4600 jobs.

On Monday, Mr Foley reiterated support for a draft determination of the Australian Energy Regulator that slashes electricity company revenues between 2014-19, arguing the cuts would lead to lower electricity prices.

Mr Foley said he backed the draft AER determination "because I support lower power prices for households and businesses across NSW."

But the statement puts Mr Foley sharply at odds with the NSW Electrical Trades Union, which has been been lobbying against the draft revenue cuts which could spell the loss of as many as 4600 jobs.

Asked about Mr Foley's support for the cuts, NSW ETU secretary Steve Butler said it was the wrong position.

"The ETU's position is that we are opposed to the draft determination and would be critical of anyone who supports it," he said.  "Obviously, we believe [Mr Foley's] view is the wrong one."

Mr Butler said the draft determination "jeopardises safety, reliability and job security".

Asked if he shared the union's concerns about job losses, Mr Foley said: "I'll leave negotiations to the electricity businesses and the unions.

"For me, the aim of the state's energy policy has to be delivering affordable electricity to consumers."

In November the AER flagged cuts of around 30 per cent to revenue that may be earned by the state-owned electricity companies Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, Essential Energy and Transgrid between 2014-19.

But on Friday, Mr Foley attacked the NSW government after the businesses responded to the AER's draft determination by proposing much smaller revenue cuts.

Mr Foley said this would mean higher electricity bills. He accused the government of trying to "push and cajole the AER into backing off their draft determination so NSW can get a better sale price for [the] businesses".

Premier Mike Baird has said he will lease Transgrid and 50.4 per cent of Ausgrid and Endeavour to the private sector if the government is re-elected on March 28.

When the draft determination was released in November, NSW Energy Minister Anthony Roberts welcomed estimates that it would lead to annual cuts of up to $210 for households and $360 for businesses.

But if the AER abides by the companies' proposals the savings would be considerably less. On Monday, Mr Roberts declined to endorse the revised proposals by the electricity businesses.

However, he said "the timeframe for delivering further savings is a crucial part of this determination process, a point which the network businesses will be further discussing with the AER."


Climate alarmists all choked up without reading the fine print

By MICHAEL ASTEN (Michael Asten is a professor of geophysics at Monash University, Melbourne.)

LAST week delivered for the global warming debate, the most anticipated data point of the decade. The year 2014 was declared the hottest of the past century, by a margin of 0.04 degC. The news has been greeted with enthusiasm by those who attribute all warming to man-made influences, (notably in the Fairfax press in Australia), but few commentators have qualified their comment with the observation that NASA put an error margin of +-0.05 C on their result.

The figure below shows global surface temperature as compiled by NASA for the past 134 years. Single data points (years) are unimportant. The 5-year moving average in red is a more useful indicator of temperature trends, and its slope shows clearly the steady rising trend from 1980 to 2000, and the temperature pause from 2000 to present. Anyone with a high-school science education can look at such a graph and form their own conclusions, but four of the most important are that

 *  The slope of the rise from 1980 to 2000 is about 0.19 degC per decade (the rate consistent with current warming models for “business as usual” CO2 emissions)

 *  A closely similar rate of rise in global temperature occurred from 1910 to 1940, pre-dating current high CO2 emissions

 *  Pauses in the rate of rise occurred from 1880 to 1910, from 1940 to 1970, and from 2000 to present.

 *  The model trend as computed by the IPCC continues upwards from 2000, but the pause is a clear break of observed earth behaviour away from the models.

The pauses are regarded by the majority of scientists (both within and outside the conventional anthropogenic global warming camps) as being attributable to natural cycles in global climate, although the two groups favour different causative mechanisms.

What is surprising is that, instead of reading the multiple patterns in such a graph, enormous global publicity has followed on that single point of 2014 — even though we won’t know for a decade whether it represents a break from the current “pause” trend. Thus John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute, greeted the 2014 result with the comment “This data shows not only a series of alarming years but decades of warming to make an undisputable trend”, which suggests a lack of awareness on his part of the steep warming trend which occurred from 1910-1940 without significant man-made assistance, and the pause from 2000 which occurred despite current CO2 emissions.

Will Steffen of the Climate Council also finds cause for alarm in the 2014 data point, using the occasion to release a document titled “Off the charts: 2014 was the world’s hottest year on record” in which objective graphical analysis as we teach in high schools is replaced with poetic subheadings personifying the climate as “Angry Summer”, Abnormal Autumn” and “Scorching Spring”.

We can also look back to 2007 for a fascinating morsel of history; the figure shows at that year there is a clear hint of the start of the pause, although not statistically significant at that time. When Bob Carter, a former head of the Department of Earth Sciences at James Cook University, called attention to the discrepancy between the changed temperature trend versus the modelling predictions, Andrew Ash (then acting director of the CSIRO Climate Adaption Flagship), stated “Professor Bob Carter claims that ‘no ground-based warming has occurred since 1998’. This is an unethical misrepresentation of the facts”.

I suggest this is an incredible accusation to make against a scientist who has read (correctly, as history shows) a trend in a global temperature data set. When comparing Carter’s observation with pronouncements prompted by the single 2014 warm temperature point, we see a disturbing double standard in how scientific commentary is received. (In defence of the management of CSIRO I note that CSIRO has not issued a media release related to the 2014 temperature data point).

Some climate scientists will counter my views with claims that 21st century temperatures are cause for great concern because they are “the hottest ever”. Multiple lines of geological and historical data show they are not. Observations of past surface temperatures constructed from chemical composition of clam shells as far apart as Iceland and the south China Sea point to global temperatures of medieval times (800-1300AD) being warmer than those of today, and those of Roman times even warmer. The message is, the Earth can and does cool and warm on time scales of decades to millennia, and CO2 emissions are not the dominant driver. Our grandchildren will be best served if we devote our Direct Action strategies towards robust protection of communities from effects of drought, fire and floods. All have been a part of our history. And history guarantees all will be a part of our future.


Jo Nova comments

"We skeptics get excited about unusual things. The Australian published Michael Asten today in the Op-Ed pages, and took the extremely rare step of publishing a scientific graph (!) with a few error bars and everything. Newspapers publish economic graphs all the time, so it’s nice to see the scientific debate getting a bit more sophisticated than just the usual “deniers are evil, government climate scientists speak the word of God” type of stuff. (In the Enlightenment, data was a greater source of authority than any human; how we pine for those days.) The only thing the story should have added was a note that reminds us that the not only was the “hottest” record not beyond the error bars but that it did not occur in satellite measurements. I’m sure a lot of people mistakenly think that NASA might use satellites, but they prefer highly adjusted ground thermometers next to airport tarmac instead.

The headline on that graph could have been “Climate scientists don’t know what caused most of the big moves on this graph”. Some mystery effect caused the warming from 1910-1940. In ClimateScienceTM it is OK to call that “natural variability” and pretend to be 95% sure whatever it was has now stopped.

S.A.: Police Complaints Authority report found Constable Norman Hoy was unprofessional bully who was rude, arrogant and harsh to drivers

Nasty old goat got let off a charge because his form was not revealed

CONSTABLE Norman Hoy was a threatening, harsh, unfair, arrogant and rude bully whose insulting, unprofessional behaviour breached regulations, according to a damning Police Complaints Authority report.

The Advertiser today can reveal details of 11 Police Complaints Authority inquiries into Const Hoy, who was acquitted by a District Court jury last Friday of assaulting millionaire Yasser Shahin.

Within hours of the not guilty verdict being handed down by a jury, Const Hoy’s legal team, accompanied by SA Police Association President Mark Carroll, served an injunction on The Advertiser banning publication of the complaints.

That gag order was to remain in force until a hearing in the District Court today — however Const Hoy’s lawyers advised, just after 8am, they would not be pursuing their action.

Judge Paul Slattery formally dismissed the injunction just after 11am. He ordered Const Hoy, through the Police Association, to pay The Advertiser’s legal costs.

The injunction temporarily stopped The Advertiser from publishing details of a 2009 Police Complaints Authority report which concluded the “common theme” of complaints from members of the public against the 59-year-old traffic cop were descriptions of him as:

THREATENING, harsh, unfair and unfriendly.

ARROGANT and rude, someone who looked down on drivers.

A POLICE officer who made drivers feel like second-class citizens.

A QUITE aggressive, frightening bully.

ANGRY, confronting and intimidating while yelling at and embarrassing drivers.

One complaint, in 2008, arose from Const Hoy pulling over and defecting a luxury car because its front passenger window’s tint was too dark — two years before his clash with Mr Shahin over the tinting of his Rolls Royce.

In a sequence of events similar to those involving Mr Shahin, Const Hoy told the driver to “shut your mouth” and “don’t have a hissy fit”.

Last week, a District Court jury cleared Const Hoy - described by SA Police Association President Mark Carroll as a “hero cop” for preventing a serious crash on the South Eastern Freeway - of assaulting Mr Shahin, one of South Australia’s most successful business figures.

Prosecutors had alleged he exceeded his lawful authority by grabbing Mr Shahin while defecting his 2008 Rolls Royce for apparently having windows which were too dark.

Mr Shahin’s family company, Peregrine Corporation, owns several of the state’s most profitable retail businesses, including On the Run, Smoke Mart and Krispy Kreme.

During the trial, Mr Shahin told jurors Const Hoy was “hostile” and “hellbent” on bullying him, and had “shoved and grabbed” him during the traffic stop in the Adelaide CBD in September, 2010.
Mr Shahin denied he did “everything in his power” to ensure he was charged.

In his evidence, Const Hoy said he had “no choice” but to grab Mr Shahin because the “intimidating, threatening” businessman would not obey his directions.  He denied he engaged in “a power play” with Mr Shahin to show that he “was the boss”.

After 75 minutes’ deliberation, the jury found Const Hoy not guilty.

It can now be reported Mr Shahin’s complaint, to the Police Complaints Authority, was the 12th matter filed against Const Hoy.

The PCA report did not form part of the evidence against Const Hoy in his trial.

According to the report, another driver recalled an encounter with Const Hoy in 2008 where he felt the “rudeness and aggression” displayed toward him was “totally unacceptable”.

“Const Hoy said ‘look, do you want me to explain this to you or not?’ and when the driver said ‘no, I don’t’, he replied ‘well shut up then!’”.

The PCA report, written in 2009, says that when Const Hoy felt the driver was showing “further agitation he said words to the effect of ‘don’t have a hissy fit, let me finish what I was saying, will you?’”

Const Hoy told the authority he was merely seeking to “control” the driver, who was “verbally bullying me”.  He said he “made a deliberate choice” of those words to “have him (the driver) comply”.  “I believe (the driver) was rude to me and verbally trying to bully me,” the report quotes Const Hoy as saying. “He showed no respect for my position and I believe he was trying to influence my decision by his actions.”

The PCA disagreed.

“I find it ironic that Const Hoy should accuse (the driver) of using bullying tactics,” its report says.

“This is the very thing that (the driver) and numerous other, quite separate independent members of the public have accused Const Hoy of over the past 18 months.

“I recognise that not all of these complaints have been substantiated, but I also recognise that SA Police management have concerns that there may be a performance problem underlying this series of complaints.  “I share those concerns.

“In the past 18 months, Const Hoy has been complained about on 11 occasions ... most, if not all, of these complaints (describe him) as rude, threatening and/or aggressive.”

The report is critical of Const Hoy’s handling of the 2008 matter.

“Having considered the evidence, I have formed the view that Const Hoy handled this situation poorly and that his use of the words ‘shut up’ and ‘shut your mouth’ were both unnecessary and unprofessional,” it says.  “In my assessment, (his) conduct breached Police Regulation 17 in that it was both insulting and disrespectful to this complainant.”

The report notes SA Police management had advised Const Hoy would be counselled and receive further training.

“I propose to simply reinforce and support the need for the speedy development and implementation of an appropriate intervention strategy,” it says.  “In the event he continues to generate complaints of this kind, then any future recommendations I make will be more punitive in nature.”

The report seen by The Advertiser was obtained from a complainant to the Authority, not from Mr Shahin, his family nor anyone connected with them or their business interests.

When Const Hoy was approached for comment last week - through the Police Association - his lawyers responded with a letter warning they would sue for defamation.  Const Hoy’s legal team then applied for the interim injunction, which prevented publication of the story until today.

The Advertiser has again approached Const Hoy, through his lawyers, requesting his comment on the 2009 PCA report.

In a statement his afternoon, Police Association president Mark Carroll said it was “quite common” for police to receive complaints from motorists. “Drivers who commit traffic offences hardly relish receiving fines for their transgressions ... high emotion often accompanies their reactions,” he said.

“For this reason, and in the interests of full transparency, many traffic officers like Const Hoy purchase and use their own body-worn video or audio devices - as he did after he was the subject of complaints to the PCA.”

Mr Carroll said the evidence gathered by such devices was “usually compelling”, as “was the case” in Const Hoy’s trial. “It was surely a huge reason for the jury’s not guilty verdict,” he said.

“Cases like this illustrate why the Police Association has, for many years, lobbied strongly for body-worn video to be standard issue for all frontline police.  “We shudder to think what the outcome of this case would have been without Const Hoy’s audio evidence.”

Mr Carroll also urged the public keep “perspective” about the matter.  “Let’s remember that Const Hoy was shown by the unanimous decision of a District Court jury - and the subsequent comments of Judge Paul Rice - to have conducted himself entirely lawfully in his interaction with Mr Shahin,” he said.


Gillian Triggs warned against reliance on foreign rulings

THE federal government has warned Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs that it “fundamentally disagrees” with the way her organisation has ­relied on foreign rulings that have no legal force in Australia.

The warning is contained in a letter that also accuses the commission of adopting “an expansive reading” of its own jurisdiction that “overlooks its legislative underpinnings”. It says the government is particularly concerned about the commission’s “reliance on jurisprudence from other states’ domestic legal systems and other documents which are not binding on Australia”.

The concerns are in line with last week’s criticism of the commission by Deakin University law dean Mirko Bagaric, who believes the commission was wrong to base a decision in favour of Indonesian killer John Basikbasik on an international treaty that does not have legal force within Australia.

Professor Triggs had recommended that Basikbasik, who has been assessed as a danger to the community, should be released from immigration detention and paid $350,000 compensation for a breach of his rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The government’s letter to the commission came three months after the Basikbasik case when the commission was about to conclude another case in which it proposed to rule against the government over what it said were breaches of the ICCPR.

The Australian Human Rights Commission Act requires the commission to protect all human rights but parliament has not enacted a law making it possible to enforce rights outlined in the ICCPR. The government’s letter says the commission can arrive at its own views on the nation’s obli­gations under international treaties but it “fundamentally disagrees with the commission’s interpre­tations of Australia’s international human rights obligations”.

The government’s letter indicates that Professor Triggs is likely to face a broader range of questioning at Senate committee hearings next month. Liberal senators have already said they plan to ask her to explain the Basikbasik determination as well as the commission’s “whole agenda”.

Coalition senators are expected to again ask about a decision to delay the commission’s inquiry into children in immigration ­detention until after the election.

The growing criticism of the commission is at odds with the views of 25 human rights lawyers and academics who last week published an open letter supporting Professor Triggs and stating that the “relentless attacks” on her had been based on a misunderstanding of the commission’s role.

The case that triggered the latest flare-up concerned four Aboriginal men with disabilities who were being housed in a Northern Territory prison. Three had been unfit to face trial and the fourth had been found not guilty by ­reason of mental impairment.

The government’s letter accuses the commission of trying to hold the federal government responsible for the actions of the Northern Territory government and this failed to pay due regard to the allocation of responsibilities under the Constitution between commonwealth and states and territories. It also “overlooks the legislative underpinnings of the commission as a creature of commonwealth law and as such attempts to bring any human rights matter within the jurisdiction of the commission”.

This meant the commission’s report on the Aboriginal men was “glossing over the allocation of powers between the commonwealth and the government of the Northern Territory to arrive at a view that the commonwealth is responsible for the government of the Northern Territory. As we do not accept such an expansive reading of the commission’s jurisdiction, we have not ­addressed the merits of the arguments raised in any detail,” the letter says.


27 January, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG criticizes Leftist support for penalty rates (Higher pay for weekend and night vwork)

You can't makes whites out of blackfellas

Successive governments of all stripes have tried everything -- but nothing works

Australia's native people mostly call themselves "blackfellas".  Interesting that only the Latin term "Aborigines" is used below

ALMOST 1½ years into the initial term of Tony Abbott’s Coalition government and the latest drastic overhaul of indigenous affairs policies and programs, the great mystery overhanging remote ­Aboriginal Australia has only deepened.

It is the besetting question no one in the circles of administrative power wants to ask clearly, or answer squarely: Why aren’t the men and women of indigenous communities across the deserts and the north sending their children to school, seeking out jobs and training opportunities, engaging with the scores of programs under way in their midst? Why, given the vast social engineering efforts launched for their benefit, are the people of the remote bush townships and outstations failing to thrive? And what more, beyond the measures tried already in the past decade of large-scale interventions, can be done?

Among the architects of new policy initiatives, the standard assumption is that the legacy of passive welfare is to blame for this persistent failure of response in the target populations of the centre, the Kimberley, Cape York and the Top End. Simply design the right combination of constraints and incentives, they argue, and human nature being what it is, all will improve in time.

But the emerging picture of policy fiasco is disquietingly stark. Despite the blizzard of despairingly tweaked official statistics and assessments of progress, the “gap” persists; even though measures of indigenous wellbeing are routinely presented so as to blur the distinctions between the remote bush and the towns and more settled regions, the landscape is plain. Across the country, remote community schools are empty and ineffective, grog and drugs loom large, health is poor, preventable illnesses rampant, feud and family violence pervasive; even the make-work jobs for locals tend to go unfilled.

The dramatic change expected in the wake of the 2007 Northern Territory “Emergency Response” and allied programs around the remote bush has simply not materialised. For a range of expert observers, there is now a dark conclusion to be drawn. Remote Aboriginal Australia is more than merely indifferent or disengaged: it is pursuing a mingled strategy of noncompliance and resistance to outside authority — and from this diagnosis several consequences flow.

The way the commonwealth bureaucracy and successive governments have reached the present impasse is instructive. By 1999 the new native title system had been launched and bedded down. Attention turned to the worsening condition of the bush. Cape York reformer Noel Pearson put forward his argument that passive welfare was the chief factor behind remote community anomie, and that alcoholic drinking should be treated as a cause, rather than a symptom, of social collapse.

These views won converts in the government of prime minister John Howard, whose activist indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough based the Territory intervention on the three principles of enhanced child protection, alcohol bans and welfare income management. This was a stripped-down version of the reform recipe being tested in four Cape York communities in concert with the Queensland government, and it would be extended, retouched and widened in its geographic scope by Labor under minister Jenny Macklin between 2008 and 2013.

Pearson’s schema won the day not only because of its upscale presentation and strong media support but because it came with a prescription, a cluster of linked programs to change behaviour: if parents failed to send their children to school their welfare income would be quarantined after review by a local panel, the Family Responsibilities Commission. The logic was straightforward: welfare simply paid without reciprocal obligation was sapping the autonomy and judgment of remote communities. They needed the guidance of a penalty-and-incentive model.

This became the ruling paradigm, with bipartisan political support. Welfare quarantining and close surveillance were enshrined as the mainstays of remote community administration in the Territory: a network of outside overseers is still in place, backed by trainers, job skills instructors, community capacity builders and engagement officers. From Mount Isa to Kalgoorlie, public servants now report and assess all signs of community advancement. These are well advertised by governmental media: upbeat spin and announcements of transformative new schemes have become the order of the day.

So things stood when Abbott took the reins in September 2013. In his opposition years he had made a habit of sitting down with traditional leaders and working alongside community members, and all this was more than show, it was a statement of intent. The Prime Minister was also close to the Territory’s centrist chief minister Terry Mills, who had recently won office with the solid backing of Aboriginal bush voters and was just beginning a redesign of the Territory’s relations with its remote communities.

It felt like a new dawn in Canberra, at close to midnight. A good four decades had gone by since the welfare net came down on remote indigenous Australia, the “sit-down” money times began, the outback cattle industry was modernised and station life for Aborigines vanished in the dust; four decades since drinking in town camps first became entrenched. Two full generations, in indigenous life. The last chance had come to cut into welfare dependency while senior remote community members who remembered another system were still living.

Abbott had given undertakings that he would consult and listen to Aboriginal voices in crafting his approach. Of course, when the maelstrom of office hit he found he had no real time to give to such a marginal portfolio. How to proceed? He held one simple truth fast: education was the key. Bush children had no hope without schooling. Abbott selected as his minister Nigel Scullion, from the same party as his Territory ally, Mills. But within months Scullion’s faction had deposed the elected chief minister in Darwin, torn up his program of reforms and brought in a group keen to break the political power of the large Aboriginal land councils and gain easy access to indigenous land: it was a change of course felt in the bush as a shock betrayal.

As a check to Scullion, Abbott had singled out Alan Tudge, a former associate of Pearson. He also looked for some blue-sky thinking: philanthropist Andrew Forrest, abetted by Melbourne academic Marcia Langton, produced a report on training in the bush that recommended a steroid expansion of compulsory income management’s scope and the creation of a largely cashless remote area economy to fight the scourge of drink and drugs. Abbott brushed these draconian plans aside when they were first presented to him, but the bureau­cracy in Canberra smiles on them and is keen to implement some of Forrest’s recommendations.

It is clear enough, by now, what happened to the Prime Minister’s indigenous affairs dream. When he came to office he had no seriously developed or fine-grained blueprint for transforming the bush, despite his feeling for its plight and the length of his waiting time as leader of the opposition. He swiftly brought the entire indigenous affairs bureaucracy into his own department and charged Scullion with prosecuting his one big idea, the compulsory school attendance agenda. And he adopted the cause of the constitutional referendum on Aboriginal recognition as his grand symbolic issue.

Only now, halfway into his initial term, is Abbott poised to commit the government to a new set of practical reform measures. What course will he choose? Advice comes to Abbott from a tight circle, including favoured members of the indigenous political class, but he has no real access to community-based voices, and his impulse to involve bush leaders has evaporated. His counsellors all believe in the primacy of economic signals as the most effective agents of social change. As a result, the commonwealth is now on the verge of adopting an intensification of approach — more stringent management of welfare income, more reciprocal obligation to work for transfer payments, more controls on substance abuse, more concerted action on parental neglect and domestic violence.

A milder version of this policy set has been in place in remote north Queensland, the Territory, parts of desert South Australia and much of the outback west for seven years. As a result, the impact of such top-down controls has been much studied and the outcomes tabulated.

The school attendance project being run by Abbott’s department provides the latest example. It covers 30 target schools in the Territory and a handful elsewhere, and has enlisted and paid some 300 community members to get children to go to school, at a cost of more than $30 million. An increase of 15 per cent in attendance has been claimed by the program managers, but this is a fiction: numbers have actually fallen in many schools, the reporting method is flawed, the numbers are grotesquely padded.

The record of the north Queensland “direct instruction” schools in boosting attendance has been more promising, yet the broader impact of Pearson’s long-running Cape York reform project in its four trial communities is much more ambiguous. The landscape there is one of stabilisation, at best, rather than revolutionary behaviour change. But the most telling research has been carried out in the Territory’s swath of intervention communities.

The largest of these evaluation reports, examining all aspects of the intervention, was released late last month, after long delay and with much reluctance, by the Department of Social Services. The study had been run over four years by an expert team; the sample was large, the range of data broad. For those who had put their faith in controls as triggers for behaviour shifts, its conclusions were startling. It found that compulsory welfare income management had not promoted “independence and the building of skills and capabilities”, nor had it changed patterns of spending on food, tobacco or alcohol. Rather, it had increased a sense of dependency on welfare and removed the burden of personal management from community people.

The take-out was pretty clear: the intervention’s flagship measure had been a costly waste of time. But government ministers promptly seized on the review’s findings as evidence of the need for much stricter income management. They argued that if remote area Aborigines were not responding to the sanctions placed on them, they had too much welfare cash on hand, and therefore 60 or 70 per cent of the welfare payment should be restricted to the “basics card”, rather than the present 50 per cent.

The idea was simple: disempower to empower; limit economic freedom to set free people’s minds. The parliamentary secretary assisting Abbott in the indigenous field, former management consultant and Cape York expert Tudge, gave the strong version of this thesis in The Australian last month, citing a Mornington Island study showing half of all welfare payments were spent on drink: a level that would defeat the present setting of the basics card.

This study, carried out in the 1990s and published in 2002, was the pioneering work of the profound and humane anthropologist David McKnight, whose constant focus was the colonial encounter. He saw no simple solution to the alcohol plague. He traced the despair and social breakdown on Mornington to the coming in the 70s of the local government shire, which stripped autonomy from the local Lardil people and gave them in its stead the welfare benefits that tore apart traditional ways of life.

Can the sharp remedy now being proposed by Tudge, Forrest and the government’s coterie of advisers make inroads, and reverse the long decline and fall of the Aboriginal bush? The commonwealth is the last authority willing to engage. The state government in South Australia has given up on social remediation projects in the Pitjantjatjara communities, and wants to adopt full-scale welfare income control. The West Australian government has canvassed a sharp reduction in remote support funds that would see a number of smaller communities and outstations shut down. And the Territory’s priorities are clear: it has just opened a $500m jail and launched a mandatory rehab scheme that has already recorded its first death in care; a new courthouse and new police stations are under way; it has assembled a crack team of lawyers for its bid to have the Aboriginal land rights act watered down in the coming year.

On the ground, signs of positive behaviour change are increasingly hard to find. Broome is flooded by remote community dwellers from the Kimberley and desert who gather there in camps to drink; in Alice Springs, there are 15 thriving sly-grog sale outlets unknown to the police, who pride themselves on their effective bottle-shop controls. The towns to the south of Cape York are fringed by seasonal drinking humpies, all currently occupied.

What is the group psychology underlying this pattern? Can it be that the remote population is not susceptible to economic pressure, or that intervention is proving counterproductive? What if the control programs are now generating defiance and sabotage?

In all the long official debate on the bush communities and their condition, there has been a blanket reluctance to take the harsh politics of the frontier seriously, or consider the impact when two distinct worlds and their perspectives meet. But close, committed observers free from governmental ties and consultancies and keenly aware of the indigenous thought-world have come to a contrarian position: one that demands attention as policy lines are hardened for the years ahead.

The most prominent exponent of this viewpoint is the Territory’s leading public intellectual, Rolf Gerritsen, a professor at Charles Darwin University’s Northern Institute. He knows the Roper Gulf region closely; he also knows the political economy of the centre and the north. He was for four years director of social and economic policy in the Chief Minister’s Department. After his resignation in 2006 he blew the whistle on the Territory’s large-scale diversion of commonwealth funds earmarked for remote areas to its own metropolitan priorities. Gerritsen believes that remote settlement Aboriginal men and women have adopted a strategy of covert resistance to the intervention and its associated programs.

At the heart of his analysis is an awareness of the persisting difference between the values of “our” mainstream society and the traditional Aboriginal world, with its emphasis on reciprocal responsibility and its strong belief in individual autonomy. Thus “we” are inevitably seeking to re-engineer “them”. For Gerritsen, bush Aborigines are not merely Australian citizens: they are also a dispossessed people, conscious their world is occupied by outsiders. They collaborate with the occupiers, and acquiesce, and also resist, and the strain of resistance strengthens when their limited free agency in life is infringed. They have two quite separate modes of expression: one for when white people are around, one for themselves.

Hence the school attendance puzzle, and scores of others like it. When asked, or “consulted” in public, Aboriginal parents all say they want their children to go to school, but that commitment may be insincere, or may waver, or be countermanded by dislike of the school, or the teachers, or the actions of the government and its local figureheads. Constraint is still the chief weapon of the state: Aborigines are being asked to adapt — “we are requiring them to become like us” — and they object, and fail to comply. This is what social policy observers then tend to describe as “dysfunction”.

There are several ways this pattern manifests itself in the bush. The resistance can be overtly political. Black votes were responsible for removing NT Labor in the 2012 election; when the conservative regime broke its promises to the bush, voters swung and gave Labor a rare good result in the Territory regional seat at the 2013 federal poll.

Individuals also act this disobedience out. Young Aboriginal men between the ages of 15 and 35 are the “zealot” resisters who engage in substance abuse, drive unregistered vehicles unlicensed, are fined repeatedly and then go to jail, thus “confirming the significance of their rebellion”. Their behaviour becomes “a resistance to what the white society has in mind for them”. Illegal card gambling is a form of rebellion. So is littering in communities, and in towns. Drinking, which the authorities prohibit or seek to limit, is itself a weapon — a deliberate gesture of “rejection of the conqueror and all he stands for”.

The rebel withdraws from the victor’s realm: and it is very striking how many well-trained community men and women refuse to work. Trained teachers don’t teach, builders don’t build, while more than 30,000 young Aboriginal men from remote areas have forgone their benefits and refused to submit themselves to the job search discipline of Centrelink.

This analysis of conflict between two cultures leads to a dark concluding point: self-­neglect, poor health and social harm are also expressions of what Gerritsen sees as the veto Aborigines hold in their hands over Australian society and its representatives: “Governments think they have power over Aboriginal welfare recipients, but Aboriginal people, in their failure, in their covert resistance, can place pressure on government.”

This version of the remote community context is in diametrical opposition to the consensus position of the indigenous affairs establishment, which likes to present a map of constant slow progress in the bush as newer and more enlightened strategies are brought to bear on the hapless native population. The upturn in outcomes is always just ahead, or just beginning to be visible in the reports and statistics.

Can Gerritsen be right? The evidence is suggestive — and bush Aboriginal people tend to smile quietly when asked their view. Resistance shades into pure reserve, and into indifference. Damian McLean, president of the Ngaanyatjarra shire in the far western desert, places the weight in the seven ultra-remote communities he represents on withdrawal as much as on defiance. He has watched aghast over the past half-decade as official policy blow after blow has damaged the resilience and capacity of the indigenous bush: “Successive Australian governments have been increasingly dismissive of the collective and individual indigenous identity, and insistent on compliance with social norms: school attendance, transition to work, home ownership and economic participation.”

These norms coerce, but have little transformative impact. In fact the world of the far western desert is still very internal to itself, McLean contends: “Its people are aware that they have limited interest in the things that engage the white world and they know that the outside world would find the practices at the heart of desert life quite confronting. And the intimidating impact of welfare reform drives people further into their own world, and makes them less confident and safe to feel out the wider world.”

Such sketches of the attitudes in the remote bush fit precisely with the outcomes: it is hard to point to a single top-down social reform or employment or home ownership project in any part of the centre or the north that has taken off. This may well be because the intervention has never been “owned” by the communities it affects.

In the Cape, a mounting hostility towards the Family Responsibilities Commission is palpable in the four trial communities. Social and medical workers on the front line know that wellbeing in their host communities is on the decline and that agents of the outside world are increasingly viewed with suspicious eyes.

What might be done to change this picture, and enlist the support of remote Aboriginal Australia’s men and women in a journey towards a fuller, easier participation in the mainstream? An article in next week’s Inquirer will seek to outline a fresh approach.


ABC uses "Have you stopped beating your wife" question to imply that mining is allowed on the Barrier Reef

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Malcolm Turnbull says an ABC survey question about mining in waters near the Great Barrier Reef “does not appear to be accur­ate” but placed responsibility on the broadcaster’s board of directors.

The ABC was accused last week of “push polling” with a “mischievous” question in an online Queensland election survey, which asked voters how much mining activity they thought should be permitted in the waters around the reef.

The possible answers included “much more”, “somewhat more”, “about the same as now”, “somewhat less”, “much less” or “don’t know”.

The question was included in the broadcaster’s Vote Compass poll — an online venture with the University of Queensland and Canadian research firm Vox Pop Labs — which matches respondents’ policy leanings with the parties’ policies.

“The policy about mining on the Great Barrier Reef is quite clear and the way it was described or summarised in that question does not appear to be accurate to me,” Mr Turnbull said.  “But the responsibility for ensur­ing the ABC news and information is accurate and impartial is up to the board of directors.”

The Whitlam government ruled the 344,400sq km Great Barrier Reef Marine Park off-limits to mining in 1975.

Mr Turnbull said he did not want to give a “running commentary” on the ABC but told The Australian: “Their act is very, very clear. “Under Section 8, the responsi­bility of ensuring that the ABC’s news and information is accurate and impartial lies with the board of directors.

“The ABC is a government broadcaster, it belongs to government, but we don’t control the editorial line.”

Last week, Liberal National Party senator Matt Canavan demanded the “mischievous” question be removed and accused the ABC of “push polling” by using the survey to influence votes.  “That question-and-answer set indicates to any reasonable person that the Queensland government allows mining in the waters­ of the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.  “It’s a bit like asking a question on public urination. Should you do it somewhat less, somewhat more, much less, much more? The question is absurd.  “That behaviour is prohibited, the way mining in the GBR is ­prohibited.”

The ABC has declined to change the question, claiming “mining activity” includes more than actual mining.

Vox Pop Labs director Cliff van der Linden supported the ABC’s position, saying the LNP was sent the questions ahead of time to provide its answers and it was “implicit” the party could have challenged the wording of the questions.

In an opinion piece for the ABC’s The Drum, Mr van der Linden said the “fundamental shortcoming” with Senator Canavan’s argument was there was no acknowledgment of mining activity near the Great Barrier Reef that “extends well beyond drilling”.

“This includes but is not limited to shipping lanes through the reef for coal exports, demands by mines on the local water supply, and the recently scrapped proposal to dump dredge from coal port developments on the Great Barrier Reef,” he wrote.

“Asking Vote Compass users about how much mining activity should be permitted in the waters around the Great Barrier is thus a perfectly legitimate question.”


Education expert supports university deregulation

A FORMER key policy adviser to Labor has blasted both sides of politics for the stalemate on higher education, urging the party to abandon its opposition to fee deregulation and “get over its sentimental attachment to the Whitlam legacy of free educatio­n’’.

Professor Peter Noonan, one of the nation’s leading education policy experts, also wants the Abbott government to back down on its holy grail of full dereg­ulation by appointing an independent body to advise on the best model to prevent excessive tertiary student fee increases and rein in the risk of taxpayer-funded bad HECS debts.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne is working to lock in Senate crossbench backing for the government’s higher-education changes, including offering a compromise which could trade away $2 billion in budget savings to win support for dereg­ul­ating the tertiary sector.

The government has won praise from Universities Australia and vice-chancellors for being prepared to move on its proposal for a 20 per cent cut to university course funding in order to allow to institutions to set their fees.

Key independent senator John Madigan revealed last week his willingness to continue negotiating on the reforms, joining a number of his colleagues in declaring the current funding level “unsustainable’’.

But the government faces fierce opposition from Labor, the Greens and other crossbenchers, including the Palmer United Party.

Professor Noonan — who was on the Rudd government’s 2008 Bradley review, which uncapped student numbers, and served as a key policy adviser to former Labor education minister John Dawkins when fees and the Higher Education Contribution Scheme was introduced in 1989 — said Labor couldn’t afford to run a scare campaign on the reforms and had to be constructive.

He told The Australian parliament could endorse “fee variability” in a two-stage process, starting with parliament agreeing to establish a body that could recommend a model with the right market constraints within months. The model could then be voted on in parliament in time to meet the start date of the government’s higher-education reforms next year.

Professor Noonan said the government’s commitment to full fee deregulation was bad economics given the market was distorted by cheap student loans that blunted price signals, and it had no accountability on how universities spend fee money.

“To call that micro-economic reform would be heroic,” said Professor Noonan, a professorial fellow at the Mitchell Institute in Melbourne. “Anyone who thinks that a system that blunts price signals can simply underpin price deregulation doesn’t understand economics.”

He said the government’s plan to make universities use some of their premium fee revenue for scholarships risked inflating fees and would be used by universities as simply a marketing tool. Student disadvantage should be addressed by the welfare system.

He also attacked Labor, saying fee variability was logical, would make the system financially sustainable and would boost quality if done right. Professor Noonan said it was also unfinished business for Labor after it began deregulating student numbers in 2010: “Labor has to get over its sentimental attachment to the Whitlam legacy of free education.”

He warned that if Senate negotiations allowed full fee deregulation, any Labor government wouldn’t be able to afford to wind it back and the party therefore needed to be constructive to ensure the market design was right.

“There is no doubt there are risks for Labor in this and it would be seen as a backdown … but trying to pick up the pieces after it has happened will be a bigger problem,” he warned. “Labor can’t afford to run some scare campaign. They need to be constructive.”

Professor Noonan dismissed proposals for a full review of fee deregulation, saying there had been enough reviews, going back decades. He warned that if the process dragged on the opportunity for good policymaking could be lost in the noise of the next election.


Cairns to get new CQUniversity campus

Not quite sure of the rationale for this but it does look like an upgrade for my old home town

Mock-up of future new campus building

Cairns’ elevation to the status of a two-University city is being confirmed today (FRIDAY) following the major announcement of CQUniversity’s much-anticipated CBD campus, CQUniversity Cairns Square.

Located on the corner of Abbott and Shield Streets, the multi-million dollar campus will attract thousands of domestic and international students, create over 50 jobs, and generate an economic spin-off worth almost one-quarter of a billion dollars to the local economy.

The social, cultural and economic potential of Cairns is set to flourish with a wave of new course offerings, research facilities, international students, skilled graduates and competition brought about by the arrival of the CQUniversity CBD campus.

Vice-Chancellor Prof Scott Bowman said the time was right to expand into a multi-story, full-sized, face-to-face campus following the phenomenal growth of its Distance Education Support Centre in Florence Street.

“For a number of years we’ve been overwhelmed by the community’s response to our Study Centre, but we’ve always been limited by how much we could offer because of its size. We’ve been busting at the seams there for quite some time - it’s been incredibly popular with students,” Prof Bowman said. 

“A full-sized campus is the next logical step for us in Cairns.

“We run incredibly vibrant, multicultural CBD campuses in the heart of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne along a very similar model to what we will be building here. In many ways Cairns has an even stronger global brand than these cities, and certainly a more exciting future, so we know the model will work,” Prof Bowman said.

Today’s announcement is supported by a $1M commitment for engineering labs at CQUniversity Cairns Square earlier this week by the Queensland Premier and local MP Gavin King. This will allow the introduction of Cairns’ first four-year, on-campus engineering degree.

Fit-out of CQUniversity Cairns Square will begin in March, with the campus operational by Term Two 2015, and with a comprehensive roll-out of new courses ready for the 2016 student intake.

New campus facilities will include engineering labs; research facilities; high-tech classrooms, theatres and teaching spaces; meeting rooms; library; student recreational and social spaces; and staff offices


26 January, 2015

Childcare costs on the rise

The story below is from the SMH so you are not told that the ivory tower mandates driving these costs were put in place during the last ALP federal government.  There is great doubt that the mandates (more staff per child; Higher qualifications for staff) will deliver any tangible benefit

Families will have to pay up to 60 per cent more for childcare services, because of greater demand for staff and higher staff qualifications, Child Care NSW has warned.

Its president, Nesha O'Neil, said changes to government legislation have increased childcare prices significantly in the past decade, ultimately leaving families who require child care services significantly out of pocket.

But prices are set to again rise steeply in 2016, driven by increased staff numbers and higher costs, she said.

"Staffing costs make up about 80 per cent of operation costs, so even a slight increase will affect costs," Ms O'Neil said.

"By increasing the number of staff required to look after children, and the qualifications of those staff, the price to families increases."

Almost 257 000 families use approved childcare in NSW and Ms O'Neil said the increase in costs would force families to make alternative decisions such as relying on "back yard care" or quitting work and relying on welfare payments.

Principal research fellow at the University of Canberra Ben Phillips, said parents would remain short-changed despite government subsides, as childcare prices continued to climb.

"The trend we have seen over the past five or six years is a strong increase in childcare prices and there has been no requisite increase in the childcare benefits or childcare rebate and that affects everybody across the board it leaves plenty out-of-pocket costs for families."

The most recent Productivity Commission identified childcare as one of the greatest factors preventing women from participation in the workforce.

"It does mean a very difficult decision for the mother when considering whether to return to work or whether to increase her hours, given that the financial payoff is really quite slim," Mr Phillips said.

With the maximum amount of Child Care Rebate totalling $7500 per child per year, parents with children in Long Day Care often run out of government-assisted funding months before the end of the financial year with some childcare rates as high as $170 a day.

"It is pretty quick that families meet that cap so it tends to mean that after about three days of childcare a week you are paying for all of your childcare out of pocket and that's probably why a lot of woman don't work more than three days a week," Mr Phillips said. 

He said there wasno easy solution to making childcare more affordable but that he believed child care subsidies were the best option for mothers.

"Increasing childcare subsidies will be difficult in a tight budget for 2015-16, however, re-directing some of the proposed expanded paid parental leave scheme would be desirable."

"Child care subsidies are more effective in helping women return to work than a very expensive payment for leave."

Ms O'Neil said the cost increases directly impacts on affordability for families and their investment in early childhood education.

"Women want to work, parents want the best for their kids, and study after study shows that investment in early childhood education reaps rewards for years afterwards for society and the economy – so it is a mystery as to why the government would draw the purse strings tighter."


Pauline Hanson gets it only partly right

In the past Hanson has tapped into worries about Asian immigration and entitlements for indigenous Australians, and now she has identified Muslim Australians as her next bogeyman.

On the back of our recent freedom of speech debate, rebooted by the fallout from Paris’s Charlie Hebdo massacre, Hanson presents a challenge. Rather than attack her we should challenge her where she is wrong and welcome a debate about any real issues she identifies.

A touchstone for Hanson’s new crusade is Halal registration. She says it should be illegal for companies to pay for Halal certification of their food products.

“When I see 2.2 per cent of our population are Muslim in this country and yet the other 97.8 per cent are paying for this,” she rants. “I reject this.”

This is the reason for her “I will not buy Vegemite,” pledge.

If Hanson wants Muslim immigrants to assimilate you’d think she’d favour smoothing a Halal path to Vegemite on toast. Even aside from that silly paradox the anti-Halal campaign is ridiculous.

Perhaps these registrations can sometimes be a rort but if companies are prepared to pay the fee for Halal labelling there is no problem. It can help them market to Muslim customers at home and can be essential for exporting to Muslim nations.

The anti-Halal movement seems to be classically xenophobic and should be dismissed on logical grounds. Some of our supermarkets have kosher aisles and brands seek approval for all kinds of labels, from organic or gluten-free status to heart health and environmental ticks.

Halal certification ought to be welcomed as another marketing tool.

Hanson says Muslims “come here for a new life and I have no problem with that” but complains “we can’t sing Christmas carols because it offends others”.

She also is “totally opposed to the burka”, claiming many women are forced to wear it.

This is where her anti-Muslim rant comes up against the stifling effect of political correctness. We have seen attempts to downplay Christian references at Christmas but this is hardly the fault of Muslims — more likely it stems from the activism of bureaucratic secularists.

But while most Australians would not be as strident as Hanson on the burka there is little doubt many worry that the covering of Muslim women is an open form of oppression.

This is a legitimate issue for discussion, especially among feminists and Muslim communities, and Hanson shouldn’t be condemned simply for raising it.

It also goes to her core complaint about lack of assimilation or how Muslims “will not change their ways but want to change our ways”.

Again, most of us wouldn’t be so confrontational but a discussion about assimilation should not only be tolerated; it is desperately needed.

The radicalisation of young Muslim men, born in our suburbs and educated under our freedoms, who have then gone overseas as ­jihadist Islamic State recruits, is of grave concern, especially to the majority of Muslims who are politically moderate.

Shouting down Hanson, or demonising anyone who echoes her views, will not help. It will only confirm an unwillingness to confront the issues, and we have seen plenty of this national squeamishness lately.

The contortions performed by many to deny the Islamist extremist motivation behind the Martin Place siege were extraordinary.

This jihadist denialism suggests to the mainstream that the political class is incapable of handling obvious challenges — so it only fuels the fear Hanson aims to harness.

The best way to combat One Nation fearmongering is to inject more frankness into our public debates.

One person who did that this week was Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith in his compelling Australia Day address. He explained: “the freedoms and rights we’ve always fought for and won at great cost to our own are again under serious and continuing threat.”

Roberts-Smith, now working in business, explained how our military are in the frontline of a battle against the “lethal forces of terror” and that Martin Place showed we were “neither remote nor immune” as he matter-of-factly listed it with 9/11, Bali, Paris and other attacks.

“As Australians witness these things in the midst of our ordinary lives … reading about young people leaving the country to join a raging, borderless jihad,” he said, “the outlying world of Australian soldiers fighting Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and Iraq seems to come within touching distance of domestic, civilian life.”

He is right and, unsurprisingly, brave.  Courage is not just needed on the frontline but in mustering the confidence to speak honestly against Islamist terrorism while simultaneously embedding our tradition of tolerance.


Charming multiculturalist going to jail at last

He is an Algerian Muslim.  Background on his obnoxious behaviour here

QUEENSLANDERS were outraged by footage of his racist attack on a train security guard but, after a series of second chances in the court system, Abdel-Kader Russell-Boumzar will finally see the inside of a jail cell.

The 17-year-old from Paddington was refused bail in the Brisbane Magistrates Court yesterday for his part in an allegedly violent bashing at a skate park in The Gap on Wednesday.

Russell-Boumzar was charged with two counts of assault occasioning bodily harm in company and for breaching the strict bail conditions granted to him in October after he was charged for a rant at train security guard Josphat Mkhwananzi, 56, that went viral on social media.

It’s not the first time Russell-Boumzar has appeared in court since October. He was fined $350 for breaching bail and being intoxicated in a public place during Schoolies at Surfers Paradise in November and charged with indecently dealing with a child after he allegedly dropped his pants in front of a 12-year-old at The Gap on December 4.

He was also ordered to do community service this month after pleading guilty to being a public nuisance and narrowly avoiding an assault charge for hitting a French backpacker.

Police prosecutor Sgt Matt Kahler said the teenager was a very high risk of committing further violent offences if granted bail.

He said Russell-Boumzar and two co-accused allegedly confronted other young men at the skate bowl in The Gap as he was returning from the police station to report as per his bail conditions.

The court was told the teenager allegedly pushed one of the two complainants in the throat during the exchange.

Lawyer Ed Whitton said his client had the support of his parents and grandparents and recently commenced treatment on a mental health plan.

He said Russell-Boumzar “strayed” into the skate park and denied pushing one of the alleged victims in the throat.

Magistrate Tina Previtera remanded Russell-Boumzar in custody to appear in court again on March 16. She added the charges against the teen were serious and that they were allegedly committed while he was subject to a strict bail regime.


‘We must have the freedom to offend anyone’

Australian cartoonist Bill Leak on satire, censorship and mocking Muhammad

Since the massacre of the Muhammad-mocking cartoonists, we’ve heard a lot about French satire, and about how it differs from other national satires. Apparently it’s rougher, cruder, more soixante-huitard in its scattergun spirit than, say, British satirists’ pops at the powerful. Where we’re all gentle prodding and occasionally garish caricatures of Cameron and Co, the French take a merde on anyone and everyone. But what about non-European professional piss-takers? What about those on the other side of the globe, say, in that land where women glow and men chunder, where, believe it or not, drawing Muhammad has also become a risky business of late?

‘It’s getting a lot easier to offend people because they actively seek out offence. The self-righteous these days like nothing more than taking affront.’ So says Bill Leak, Australia’s bawdiest, and ballsiest, cartoonist. Resident drawer at The Australian — Oz’s only national broadsheet, set up by Rupert Murdoch in 1964 — Leak has aimed his masterful pen at all sorts over the decades. He infuriated then Labor PM Kevin Rudd by turning him into Tintin (he also infuriated Herge’s estate), and he upped the cartoonish ante against Rudd’s successor Julia Gillard precisely when she started moaning about the Murdoch-owned media being too harsh on her (and, outrageously, like a female, flame-haired version of Charles I, set up a judge-led inquiry to ‘do something’ about what she saw as the biased, ie. Gillard-critical, press). But recently, Leak, like other cartoonists around the world, has found that those of a furiously Islamist bent ‘like to take affront’ more than most.

Three days after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, on 10 January, he drew a pic of Muhammad for The Australian. ‘I woke up the next morning and could feel a fatwa coming’, he says. His cartoon, which was reported on in news outlets around the world, many of them clearly startled that a cartoonist would rib the prophet so soon apres Charlie, showed Jesus having a go at Muhammad. Jesus is holding up the Koran and saying, ‘I’ve told you this needs a sequel!’, a reference to the fact that the Bible has both an Old and New Testament. Muhammad tells Jesus he can’t go back to Earth and sort out a sequel now because he’ll get ‘crucified’. It ended up being Leak who felt that a crucifying might be in the offing. Odd things, or rather odd people, started appearing around his home. The police were called. Leak drew them a brilliant cartoon of what one of the odd people looked like. Precautions were taken. But Leak has no regrets. ‘I think it’s worth the hassle because I’m one of those strange people who’s as optimistic as I am cynical, and I think a lot of good will eventually come of all this.’

But Leak didn’t only deride the religion whose adherents had taken such ostentatious offence at Charlie Hebdo. He also fired his ink at a newer religion: the ‘Je suis Charlie’ moment, when vast numbers of people, including politicians who can’t spell the word liberty, marched in solidarity with the French mag. The day after his depiction of the prophet, he produced a cartoon depicting ‘A right bunch of Charlies’, showing a crowd of people, including some of Oz’s illiberal leftish politicians, saying in unison: ‘Free speech! Free speech! Aslongasitdoesn’toffend!’ It’s not surprising Leak would lay into those who pay lip service to free speech yet who balk at, and try to muzzle, anything offensive; after all, his motto, as outlined in UnAustralian of the Year, his 2013 collection of drawings and thoughts, is: ‘Freedom of speech is the freedom to offend and that means the freedom to offend anyone.’

Leak is stinging on the ‘Je suis Charlie’ fashion. Of the million folks who marched in France he wonders about the thinking of the ‘970,000 of them who never bought [Charlie Hebdo] and wouldn’t be rushing out to buy copies now if they hadn’t suddenly turned into fashion accessories’. As for the politicians who marched for Charlie — ‘it wasn’t a demonstration in support of free speech, it was a celebration of freedom of hypocrisy’, he tells me. ‘They were delighted that sanctimony had survived the carnage unscathed. To have the courage of your convictions, you need two things: courage and convictions. If you don’t have any of either of them, go out and march in solidarity with someone who does and people will think you’ve got both.’

Born in 1956 and celebrated for his serious portraits as much as his contrarian cartoons — he’s painted Gough Whitlam, Robert Hughes, Barry Humphries as Sir Les Patterson — Leak is in a good position to make fun of both Islam’s offence-takers and the seemingly more secular, progressive policers of offence who pepper mainstream Western politics and activism. For he’s a possessor of what he calls the ‘larrikin streak in the Australian character’. Larrikin is an Australian-English word which first emerged in the nineteenth century to refer to ‘young urban roughs’ (of which there were many Down Under) but which is now used to describe those who fart in the general direction of political and moral convention. Given that Oz was once described by DH Lawrence as a place where ‘nobody is supposed to rule, and nobody does rule’, given that one of its national heroes is a thief and cop-killer (Ned Kelly), and given that much of this hot nation still remains so stubbornly un-PC that the poor Guardian has had to set up shop there just to teach the sunburnt natives a thing or two about their ‘poisonous political climate’, it’s not surprising that this massive country of very few people has produced more than its fair share of mickey-ripping cartoonists over the decades. And, to my mind, Leak is at the top of this estimable pile of pisstakers.

Leak’s larrikinism means he doesn’t restrict himself to puncturing the most obvious forms of authority, as many a Western cartoonist does — he also lampoons newer, more insidious forms of often progressive-painted authoritarianism. He describes some of the people he likes to rile — ‘those who refer to themselves as progressives [but] are united by their hatred of progress… Keyboard warriors who have names beginning with @ and don’t differentiate between emotions and ideas’. He recognises that it isn’t only angry men in beards and cloaks who want to shut down — or even shoot down — offensive material these days; so do implacably Western, university-educated purveyors of political correctness, which Leak tells me is ‘a means of imposing totalitarianism by stealth, perfectly suited to the cowardly’. He wonders how the architects of the Enlightenment itself might have fared if they, like us, had been surrounded by armies of shushers and censors saying ‘You can’t say that!’. He says: ‘The iconoclasts, rabble-rousers and ratbags who thrived in the milieu enlivened by satire and invective that gave birth to the Enlightenment were exactly the sort of people the purse-lipped prohibitionists of the green-left intelligentsia militate against today.’

Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, the leaders of Iran, the mad Islamic state, greens, the PC, the pseudo-progressive, even Mother bloody Teresa — no one is safe from Leak’s larrikinism. (One of my all-time favourite Leak cartoons was his tribute to Christopher Hitchens upon his death in 2011, which showed Hitch horrified to find himself in Hell and thus clearly wrong about there being no God. But he finds himself shovelling hot coals next to Mother Teresa. ‘Oh well, at least I was right about you…’, he says.) Leak regularly rips new ones for climate-change alarmists; what he calls ‘baby doomers’ (young-ish adults who think everything on the planet is going to shit); bossy new authoritarians; pretend progressives. Of that last category, he says they ‘consider themselves radical [but] are anything but’: ‘They love to label as conservatives and sneer at people who believe the world was a better place when their ancestors lived in neat bungalows and had standards while they themselves believe the world was a better place when their ancestors lived in slime and had gills.’ Yep, we have our fair share of those here, too, Bill.

Leak’s devotion to sticking one in the eye of convention extends beyond the pages of newspapers. A couple of years ago, he designed cardboard covers for cigarette packs so that smokers would have something nicer to look at than the gangrenous limbs and rotting hearts our contemptuous public-health overlords love to plaster fag boxes with. Leak’s covers celebrated the pleasant, post-coital and manly aspects of smoking. ‘Smokes for blokes’, one of them said. But he was advised to ditch the covers because he might have faced a legal challenge from the Aussie government, which was then forcing through its plain-packaging law. As a then Labor health minister said of Leak’s lark: ‘Everyone likes a laugh, but when so many people die from smoking, it doesn’t seem so funny anymore.’ See? It ain’t only Islamists who think some things mustn’t be made comedic.

But Leak thinks that even in Oz, birthplace of larrikinism, once renowned for its innate, maybe convicts-derived disrespect for authority, the satirical edge is being blunted. ‘You’d think the last people to succumb to the contagion of PC would be our cartoonists, but the fact is most of them have positively embraced it, while revelling in the popularity they’ve been afforded as a result’, he opines. ‘Most of them are now so PC your average Islamist fascist wouldn’t regard them as offensive enough to shoot.’ It’s a similar story here in Blighty. I had to laugh when, after Charlie Hebdo, the Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson stood up for the right to offend and listed some of the people he has offended: Zionists, Republican Americans, Catholics, Russians, Serbs. It was like a roll-call of the British political elite’s own pet-hate foreigners! You’ve offended Zionists? How brave! And Serbs? Those people the armies of the West demonised and bombed for 20 years? What were you, cartoonist-in-chief of Western imperialism? As is the case with so many modern cartoonists, even the grotesqueness of Rowson’s drawings cannot disguise the fact that they embody the dinner-party prejudices of the most influential sections of society. Too much satire today strokes received wisdoms and flatters easy political stances rather than really lighting the fire of ridicule under the arse of authority. Even Charlie Hebdo mainly went for relatively easy targets: right-wing and racist politicians loved by few, and, of course, the Catholic Church, bete noire of the right-minded everywhere.

Leak is different: he rails against those who want to ban racist words as much as he does against racists, against killjoy greens as well as hypocritical politicians, against nutty Islamists as much as our own leaders who kill off liberty in the fight against nutty Islamists. (A recent cartoon showed a ‘Radical Without A Cause’, a spotty youth in an ISIS t-shirt telling his mum and dad he was off to ‘join his brothers in the war on Western freedoms’. ‘No need for that, son — they’re giving them away’, reply the parents.) And he thinks we need to recover the old stab of satire, its once glinting, unforgiving edge. ‘Most people adopt ideologies in preference to thinking for themselves because it takes courage, as well as a certain level of audacity, to express views of your own that run contrary to popular opinion’, he says. ‘And no one wants to be unpopular these days — except for weirdos like me.’


25 January, 2015

"Peaceful" rally from which 14 people were removed for breaching the peace

Logic flies out the window where Muslims are concerned

Hundreds of people have gathered at a rally in Sydney's west in protest over negative coverage of Islam and treatment of the prophet Mohammad.

While police said more than a dozen people were moved on from the rally for breaching the peace, the event was peaceful.

Among the 800-strong crowd in the Muslim enclave of Lakemba, placards were held up with the slogan: "Je Suis Muslim" or "I am Muslim", evoking the same sentiment that became a touchstone for many in the wake of attacks in Paris.

Organisers of the Our Prophet, Our Honour rally said it was intended to be "a peaceful and respectful event" to counter negative coverage of Islam and the lampooning of the Prophet by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Speaking at the rally, outside the Lakemba train station, local Muslim leader Sufyan Badar told the crowd it was also in response to the waves of protests in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Mr Badar said the protests in the name of free speech had nothing to do with freedom. "We also gather to place the politics of the events in France in the correct context," he said.

"Freedom is the smokescreen with which Western politicians and media conceal the underlying issues.  "In reality free speech is one of the many political tools that are used to maintain dominance over the Muslims."

Earlier, Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned against the rally being used to incite terrorism, saying he hoped few people would attend.

Mr Abbott said called on more Muslim leaders to distance themselves from "evil things that are done in the name of Islam".

Hamzah Qureshi, a spokesman for the controversial group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which helped organise the event, questioned the prime minister's comments and the suggestion the event could incite violence.

"No one should be asked to apologise for or distance themselves from something they are not responsible for," Mr Qureshi said.

"I would, however, mention that it's interesting that the question of whether a Muslim event will be peaceful or violent consistently seems to come up."

Police later said in a statement that the event had been concluded peacefully, although 14 people were removed for breaching the peace. No charges were laid.


Suppressed evidence got aggressive South Australian cop off the hook

The case was largely one man's word against another so the credibility of the cop was central.  We appear to have evidence, however, that he perjured himself.  Subsequent to his acquittal, he obtained a legal order to suppress the report below of that evidence -- so he himself knows how crucial the extra evidence is.  The case should go to appeal

JURORS in the Norman Hoy trial were never told that, in the moments after Yasser Shahin drove away, the police constable was recorded calling the millionaire businessman "a dick" who "made it big".

The Advertiser can now reveal prosecutors unsuccessfully tried to have another section of Const Hoy's audio recording played to the jury, saying it ran contrary to the evidence he gave under oath.

The legal stoush over the recording - parts of which were listened to by more than 27,000 people on - can be reported following Const Hoy's acquittal yesterday.

In his evidence, Const Hoy said he did not know who Mr Shahin was during their abrasive September 2010 encounter, and the businessman's identity only "sunk in" 15 minutes later.

That testimony, on January 19, prompted prosecutor Nick Healy to ask the jury be sent out of court so he could raise an issue with Judge Paul Rice.

He said his concern centred on the extended version of the audio recording Const Hoy had made of the alleged incident, which had been played for the jury numerous times.

"As Your Honour may or may not be aware, the audio that was recorded by Const Hoy was considerably longer," he said after jurors left court.  "There is a considerable amount of audio there and, indeed, a conversation with his sergeant that appears to be at the scene immediately after Mr Shahin leaves.

"It's actually Const Hoy who advises his sergeant `it's the Shahin family', the sergeant says `who are they?' and Const Hoy says `they made it big on Smokemart and all this'.

"Then there is considerable conversation talking about `they've got all these houses in Burnside and they want to build a mansion up there'."

Mr Healy asked the jury be played the section but Marie Shaw, QC, for Const Hoy, objected. She said counsel had agreed, prior to the trial, that only the section recounting the incident itself would be played.

Mr Healy said the situation had changed.  "That evidence was not to be led on the basis this witness would not get in the box and start denying, if you like, any contemporaneous knowledge of who Mr Shahin is," he said.

"There's a fair bit of evidence to the contrary, and a subsequent conversation with his sergeant includes when Const Hoy says Mr Shahin was `being a dick'."

Ms Shaw insisted that conversation occurred 15 minutes after Mr Shahin left the scene, which Mr Healy said was "news to me". Ms Shaw accused the prosecution of "ambushing" her client.

"What is the Crown seeking to do with this evidence? Pluck out bits and pieces of this conversation to attack Const Hoy on the way he discussed it with his sergeant?" she asked.

Judge Rice upheld Ms Shaw's objection, saying he did not "think it was proper" the additional section of the recording be played to jurors.

Original report here

Will Annastacia Palaszczuk be an Anna Bligh Mark II?

Comment on the upcoming Queensland State election.  Bligh was the previous ALP Premier. Palaszczuk is the aspiring one.  There is no doubt Bligh was out of her depth

The blunt reality is that Bligh’s government was one of the worst in Queensland history. Neither the Premier Bligh nor her government was up to the job. Its defeat last election was primarily because of its incompetence. It is little wonder that eight key members of the Bligh team, including six former Ministers, retired at the state election. They simply gave up on Bligh and Queensland Labor.

The theft of $16 million of public funds under Labor’s noses by a Queensland Health employee was the last straw in a history of incompetence that ranges from the health payroll debacle to poor financial mismanagement that led to the loss of Queensland’s cherished AAA credit rating. There was 16 million reasons for Queenslanders to vote against Bligh.

Many senior Labor figures found the Bligh government so embarrassing that they distanced themselves from it at an alarming rate.

When former premier Peter Beattie handed over to his deputy, Bligh, in September 2007, the popular Labor government enjoyed a two-party preferred vote of 59 per cent and a primary vote of 50 per cent. The transition followed years of Beattie promoting Bligh over other ministers into tough portfolios to enhance her experience.

At the time it was regarded as an ideal transition. Bligh enjoyed strong public support until her policies and performance showed a rapid decline. It was a serious error of judgment on Beattie’s part to promote Bligh when there were more talented choices available, including John Mickel and Rod Welford. It seemed Beattie was more interested in putting Queensland’s first female premier into office than promoting the best candidate.

State Labor’s problems started when Bligh became more focused on image than on performance. Her promotion of inexperienced supporters like Kate Jones into cabinet at the expense of senior colleagues (such as Mickel, who is now Speaker; former police minister Judy Spence; former attorney-general Kerry Shine; and former ministers Lindy Nelson-Carr, Robert Schwarten and Margaret Keech) was designed to make her government look good but took its toll in poor administration in transport, health, infrastructure delivery and water, and in the cost of electricity.

Bligh’s failure to sack former health minister and close friend Paul Lucas over the health department’s payroll fiasco showed personal loyalty had precedence over performance.

There also was not enough focus on detail. Instead, Bligh concentrated on managing the latest political disaster. The damage from this crisis management soon became irreparable. Also, many members of Bligh’s cabinet were bone lazy. Government ministers were rarely seen at business events in Brisbane or in key regional centres and LNP frontbenchers were being openly courted as future ministers.

The Bligh government lost the links with business vigorously developed by Wayne Goss and Beattie. It was a pale imitation of past Labor governments. The fat bureaucratic structure of super departments was so cumbersome that one director-general was responsible to several ministers, making the public service process-driven rather than outcome-focused.

Besides, the quality of directors-general slipped as Bligh appointed favourites or ideological fellow travellers over quality candidates. This resulted in a failure to properly oversee projects such as the desalination plant on the Gold Coast and the water grid; cost overruns on infrastructure; the protection of farmland from the expansion of the gas industry until it was too late; failure to build cyclone-proof infrastructure along the coast before last summer’s cyclone season; and accepting without question the recommended electricity price hikes from the regulator.

The government also blindly followed Treasury’s line to abolish the fuel subsidy, which means Queenslanders now pay more for fuel.

The Bligh government ran away from tough decisions on matters such as the 10 per cent mandatory level of ethanol in fuel; taking the fight to Kevin Rudd’s federal government over the building of the Traveston dam; and the use of recycled water.

Crucially, it caved in to union demands for budget-breaking enterprise bargaining deals that helped drive the state over the financial brink. This was the underlying reason for the state’s loss of its AAA credit rating.

The only tough decision the Bligh government made was on the sale of government assets such as railways to fund the budget shortfall. But even here Bligh made a hash of its implementation by not putting the issue to the people in the 2009 state election, thus costing her valuable credibility. The deal also meant Bligh sold off Queensland’s most profitable parts of Queensland Rail and kept the unprofitable parts.

On last election night, Labor seats fell to the LNP throughout the regions because of how the QR sale was handled. The Bligh government was guilty of 4 1/2 years of dysfunctional administration and Queenslanders knew it. Deputies were often promoted beyond their abilities into the top job.

Bligh was such a deputy and state Labor paid the price and would do so again as they are not ready to govern in Queensland just yet.


Massive review into workplace laws to examine penalty rates and the minimum wage

Penalty rates, the minimum wage and the workplace flexibility of 11.5 million Australian workers will come under the microscope in a sweeping review of the industrial relations system.

In an interview to mark the launch of five issues papers that set out the key areas the inquiry will put under the microscope, Productivity Commission chief Peter Harris has promised the review of Australia's workplace laws will "bust myths" in the broadest review of IR laws in a generation.

The long-awaited review of Australia's workplace laws will examine the effect of the minimum wage on employment, how penalty rates are set and what economic effect the loadings have on business and employees.

The issues papers were accidentally published online on Thursday ahead of the embargo being lifted.

The review was meant to be published on the Commission's website at midnight but went live on the homepage on Thursday morning and was seized on by at least two Labor MPs who tweeted a link to it, breaking the embargo.

Enterprise bargaining, individual agreements between employers and employees, unfair dismissal, anti-bullying laws and public sector employment issues will all be examined too.

Mr Harris stressed the "human dimension" of the labour market would be considered by the economically dry Commission and that "no nation aspires to be a low wage economy. This is not a review aimed at cutting wages or removing conditions".

"When we look at the minimum wage for example, we won't be looking at the minimum wage in isolation, we will be asking questions, what can we demonstrate in Australia about its impact on employment?"      

"Whether or not there is an impact from the minimum wage on employment  - we will try and prove up that, or determine it is a myth."

Mr Harris predicted lots of submissions from employer groups calling for more flexibility in the workplace but cautioned "it's worth bearing in mind that employers also want certainty" and that the "flexibility to do what" was something that needed to be better defined.

"We'll be considering this from the perspective that almost all of us have a stake in this system, those of us aged between 15 and 64, roughly speaking, either want to participate in the system and are training to do so or are participating in the system."

The findings of the review, which are due in November 2015, are expected to help frame the Coalition's second term IR policy. The review, a pre-election promise from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is launched against a backdrop of a push from the backbench and business groups for cuts to penalty rates and greater workplace flexibility.

The paper states that the inquiry is not "intended to maximise the benefits to any particular group" and that the Commission will consider the social and economic aspects of the workplace system.

The paper also notes there is "little consensus on the effects of modern changes in minimum wages on employment and equity," and promises to attempt to "unravel this contested area of economics".

It notes Australia has a high minimum wage rate relative to median earnings when compared to other OECD countries  – though this is declining – and points out significant variations from state to state in the minimum wage relative to average weekly wages.

The current minimum wage in Australia is about $33,000 a year, or $16.87 an hour.

On penalty rates, the paper notes that 116 of 122 modern awards specify penalty rates, albeit at different levels and that "while there are relatively few contentions about additional payments for overtime and shift work, there are polarised views about the appropriateness of weekend penalty rates in some sectors".

Submissions are invited on how penalty rates are determined, what changes could be made to the system and on whether wages would fall if penalty rates were deregulated.

The situation in the UK, New Zealand and the US, where penalty rates are generally not required on the weekend, are also to be taken into account by the review.

The National Employment Standards, which govern entitlements such as long service leave – the conditions of which vary from state to state – will also be examined.

The release of the issues paper will help frame a political fight between the Coalition, business, the opposition and unions over workplace policy.

Labor employment spokesman Brendan O'Connor called on the government to "immediately rule out attacking Australian workers' penalty rates, allowances, the minimum wage and other working conditions".

"Earlier this year I said WorkChoices was merely sedated, not cremated as the Prime Minister had promised. Well, the sedative has worn off," he said.

"The last 'review' that examined workplace laws was the Abbott government's Commission of Audit and that recommended a reduction of the minimum wage by 1 per cent a year for a decade in real terms."

But Employment Minister Eric Abetz has repeatedly stressed the government has no plans to make changes to penalty rates, which are set by the Fair Work Commission.

The focus of the issues papers accords with the draft terms of reference for the review, leaked to Fairfax last year, which made clear pay and conditions and penalty rates would be examined.

In September last year, Senator Abetz told Fairfax Media he had neutralised a potential political campaign from Labor and the union movement over a possible return to WorkChoices – an assertion that is contested by organised labour.


23 January, 2015

Is a $500,000 private school education really worth it?

A point overlooked below is that in choosing your son's school, you are choosing his friends for life.  Except for the army, men rarely make new friends far into adulthood, and even if they do, their old school friends will still usually predominate in their friendship circle.  So choosing a school is choosing a lot for a son.  What sort of friends do you want  your son to have?  He will tend to have smarter and more socially competent friends if you send him to a private school.  And if you send him to a sink school ....

All parents know that having children is like firing up a backyard bonfire but you substitute wads of cash for kindling and wood, but this week's study about the cost of private schooling would give anyone pause.

The Australian Scholarship's Group's research showed that a baby born in 2015 would cost over half a million dollars to be educated in Sydney's private schools.

Forget the six-million-dollar man, we have the half-million dollar kid – and we two of them!

But you are only going to get sticker shock if you insist on putting your kids into a private school and I don't plan on doing that. There are a number of factors at play here, not least the cost of the schooling and my inability to pay for it.

One problem is that "private schools" often seem to come under an umbrella brand that brings with it a belief of quality when, just like public schools or even hospitals or restaurants, quality varies quite significantly. For some private schools you may be getting top quality, out-of-the-box education, but at others you are just paying a lot more for a fairly standard education.

Many people send their kids to private school in the belief it comes with more advantages than the quality of teaching, that it can help one muscle in on the old boys' network.

There is little doubt that this network can be of some assistance. As an inexperienced twentysomething my friend, a former Geelong Grammarian, got us a face-to-face meeting with a member of the Fairfax family to discuss our fledgling men's magazine and there was little doubt that his school contacts were instrumental in getting that meeting. It certainly wasn't our business plan for the magazine, because we didn't have one.

But it is not the shortcut to nepotism many in the Comments section of school news stories like to believe, our would-be patron was polite but firm about our need to go and get our shit together before bothering to sit down with him or anyone else again (and quite rightly so).

There is also a fairly irrational fear of public schools. Just like the private equivalent these vary greatly and you need to do your research but we are lucky in Australia to not have to worry about our kids having to pass through metal detectors.

After spending the past two years in Singapore, paying a private school fee for a public school level of schooling I am readily embracing the amazing offering that is a virtually free education in this country and more of us should do the same. If more of the families that wanted their kids well educated put their efforts into the public system it would surely improve. Perhaps this huge hike in private schools fees is actually a boost to the public system, making their elite nature even clearer and sending the upper middles back into the arms of the state.

Other downsides for me include the fact many private school kids have to travel further to get to school (we know one mum with a nearly two hour school run between two far-flung male and female private schools) and the fact that you often have to select these school so far in advance that you can't know they are a good fit for your kids.

The question of what school to go to is more than a Naplan score or a natty blazer, it is the people, the community, the proximity to friends and after-school play. There are so many variables that you can't be sure you will achieve the desired result you had pictured when they were an infant – no matter how much you pay.

And what about the opportunity cost to a $500k education? Few of us will be able to pay such bills without forgoing certain things, things like the mind-opening world of international travel. I would not trade my kids Cambodian road trip for private schooling, if you can have both knock yourself out but at these projected rates that will not be a large slice of the population.

Far too many assumptions are made about schooling choices. We recently met a family from the US on a trip through Indonesia. When they said their kids – four of them 17 through to 11 – were home schooled our first instinct was to inch slowly away from them on our tiny boat. But spending a few days with these caring, erudite kids was a great reminder or our inbuilt prejudice as they were some of the most calm, well-rounded young people we had ever come across.

Now home schooling is not for us. And it's not the cost that is putting us off, it's the fact that we might have to reintroduce the cane for it to work. But private school is something I know is not the right fit for us either. I want my kids to have diverse range of fellow pupils, of races, of backgrounds. I do not want the common unifying factor to be the almighty dollar.

This is a very emotive debate but it is often framed in the reductive cry of wanting "the best" for our kids. We all want to give our kids a great start and, with some budgetary axing and a second job, I could probably send my kids through the private school system, but like a lot of things – as a not-particularly wealthy parent – it comes down to value for money.

And, at a half-million-dollar price tag, I do not see the clear and overwhelming benefits of a private school education.


'Strong welfare cop': Scott Morrison's new self-proclaimed title

He stopped the boats, now he's going to stop the rorts. New Social Services Minister Scott Morrison has issued a warning to would-be dole bludgers, Disability Support Pension rorters and terrorists who want to wage war while on government benefits: a tough new welfare cop is on the beat.

In one of his first broadcast interviews in his new portfolio, the former immigration minister told Sky News' Graham Richardson that Australians "generally are quite happy to have a system that helps people who are genuinely in need and deserve our support".

"But what they won't cop, just like they won't cop people coming on boats, is they're not going to cop people who are going to rort that system," he said. "So there does need to be strong welfare cop on the beat...I will be doing that because I want to make sure this system helps the people who most need it."

It's a marked change of tone from his predecessor Kevin Andrews, who always seemed happier handing out relationship counselling vouchers than cracking down on welfare recipients.

Cutting back on welfare spending, Morrison explained, is needed to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. "I see achieving the NDIS as one of the worthy goals of going through the hard tasks of reforming the welfare system to make sure we can accommodate this," he said.

Labor announced the scheme, which is all well and good, Morrison said. Now the Coalition must deliver and fund it.

While Richardson ostensibly hails from the opposite side of politics (he's a former Labor social security minister, no less), this was not blowtorch-on-the-belly stuff. For anyone fed up with the adversarial style of interviewing served up on 7.30, Lateline or even Today, Richo's your guy.

"You're the tough guy of the place, you also know which way is up, I think you know the electorate pretty well, I don't think you live in some on-high castle, I think you've been pretty good at what you do," purred Richo.

Morrison's face beamed brighter than the MCG floodlights.  It was just the beginning.

"You and Julie Bishop have been the standout successes of a government that hasn't gone all that well in its first 15 months, 16 months," Richo continued. "Whether you want to admit that or not everyone knows it ... that's a fact."

Morrison responded in turn, prefacing his answers with "you make a good point" and "that's a good question".

A rare and welcome ray of bipartisanship in these politically polarised times.


Why private health insurance is getting so expensive, and what can be done about it

For private health insurance customers who cannot understand why their premiums are set to rise at triple the rate of inflation, the experience of CUA Health may shed some light.

The fast-growing health fund just paid out its biggest claim ever. A patient receiving end of life care in an intensive care unit just cost the fund $270,000 over a few months. "That was unique," chief executive Philip Fraser told Fairfax Media. "But utilisation across the board is rising."

In line with other insurers CUA Health, which has 50,000 members and premium revenue of about $118 million, is facing a rise in the cost it pays hospitals and healthcare providers of "about 6.5 to 7 per cent", he said.

"Australians are living longer and they're using their health funds more."

Fairfax Media has revealed that insurance bosses expect new Health Minister Sussan Ley to approve an average industry premium rise of between 6 and 7 per cent, which is triple the rate of inflation.

The reason for the hefty rise, which is scheduled to come in on April 1, is because of rising use of health services, increasing care costs and more expensive medical technology, the executives said. This results in what the industry describes as high claims inflation.

The rise will come after an average boost to premiums of 6.2 per cent was approved by former Health Minister Peter Dutton in 2014, and rises of between 5.1 and 5.8 per cent in the four prior years were approved by Labor ministers.

Executives have mixed views on how the rising cost of cover will impact the $19 billion industry, with some, but not all, warning affordability is becoming an issue.

But they all agree that left alone claims inflation will continue to rise. So what is the answer?

The chief executive of listed fund nib, Mark Fitzgibbon, proposed three solutions to ease the pain: encouraging greater take-up of insurance by young people; increasing collaboration between insurers and healthcare providers; and reconsidering risk equalisation - the policy that shares the costs of the industry's most expensive customers among all funds.

Mr Fitzgibbon said because young policyholders do not require the same level or frequency of care, they can reduce costs on a per policy basis. "The younger the insured population the lower the rate of [claims] growth," he said. "[Insurance] depends on having a lot of good risk to support the poorer risk."

Healthcare collaboration

Health insurers want to play a greater role in determining where and how their members are treated, as well as in preventative care. Mr Fitzgibbon said greater collaboration between insurers and health professionals is needed to "avoid unnecessary hospitalisations".

The holy grail for insurers - and a subject which they lobby heavily on - is to collaborate with general practitioners, but by law they are prohibited from playing a role in primary health care. Mr Dutton made comments about potentially reviewing these rules, but it is unclear what path Ms Ley will take.

Risk equalisation

This scheme partially compensates health funds for the hospital costs of high risk patients. It supports "community rating", which means funds can't price their policies based on risks such as age and pre-existing conditions. Equalisation shares a proportion of costs for members aged 55 years and older on a sliding scale with the industry. Funds pay a share based on the size of their membership.

However Mr Fitzgibbon argued it drives up prices, discourages young people from signing up and creates little incentive for funds with an older population to behave in a way that improves their members' health and reduces the need for care.


Amusing: Foreign backpackers recoil after trying new Vegemite crust pizza... but Australians love it so much they'd 'have it for breakfast'

I'm a bit surprised the Poms didn't like it as their Marmite has a similar taste.  But Marmite doesn't have the big following in Britain that Vegemite has in Australia

They say there's a fine line between genius and insanity and Pizza Hut will have the country divided on which category their new Vegemite crust pizza falls in to.

Just in time for the Australia Day weekend, Pizza Hut has launched the quintessential Aussie pizza, combining two of the country's most loved foods - cheese and Vegemite.

In a promo for the new pizza, the fast-food chain took to Noah's Backpackers at Bondi Beach to carry out a taste test on non Australians, in a quest to prove the pizza is 'Made for Australians'.

Not surprisingly, travellers from Spain, The Netherlands, France and Chile were appalled at Pizza Hut's latest crust-stuffer, with some describing it as 'disgusting' and 'horrible'.

The 'Mitey Stuffed Crust Pizza' takes a regular cheese-filled crust of molten mozzarella and fills it with Australia's favourite breakfast spread, but judging by this video, the Vegemite pizza craze won't be going any further than our shores.

The video, which has been viewed over 82,000 times since it was uploaded on Monday, begins with a booming didgeridoo playing in the background, as the Vegemite spread is squeezed onto the pizza crust.

The taste testers seem genuinely pleased that they are about to receive free pizza until they see the black crust.

'Is that a Yorkshire pudding?' a girl from the UK asks, insisting that the pizza doesn't smell that bad. 'What's the black thing' a girl from Germany asks, later questioning the cameraman on whether or not there's 'sh**' in the pizza crust.

A range of wild guesses are thrown around as the astounded backpackers try to distinguish exactly what they've eaten.   'Medicine? Petrol? Fish jam?' the men of the group say as they appear to be resisting the urge to vomit.

Two men from Chile are persistent that the Vegemite is fish jam, claiming that the substance is 'horrible'.

One man looks defeated as he realises that this is one of the most-loved foods in Australia. 'But if females in Australia like this I don't know, they're very crazy people,' he says as he relaxes with a beer.

Cementing the fact that this pizza has been created solely for Australians, two Aussie men take to the couch a the end of the promo, and devour the controversial treat.

'That's nice, I'd have it for breakfast I reckon,' one of the men says. 'Yep, full of Vegemite keeping Aussies strong' the man in the blue hoodie says.

Pizza Hut has more than 14,000 restaurants around the world but the Vegemite crust is only available in Australia. It will cost $3 extra to add to any pizza.


22 January, 2015

An Open letter to Anthony Chisholm, State Secretary  of the Qld. ALP

Dear Anthony,

I’m writing with respect to the ALP advertisements on privatisation currently running on TV, which can be viewed by clicking on and

These advertisements contain a number of untruths.

As the Australian Institute for Progress stated at the beginning of this campaign, “Repetition of untrue slogans on the basis that the more frequently and loudly they are repeated the more likely voters are to believe them to be true is not a democratic practice, and we call on the political parties to avoid it”.

Our institute favours full privatisation of the assets that the government is leasing and we are happy to have that argument in the context of an election, and to support all parties that support that position. However the argument should be had on a factual basis.

The untrue assertions in these advertisements are:

That the government is proposing to sell these assets for 99 years
That electricity prices will be higher as proven by privatisation of electricity assets in Victoria

The government is not proposing to sell these assets, and that is plain from the Strong Choices Final Plan. They are leasing rather than selling the assets. On this point the ads also imply that the arrangement is for 99 years, when it is for 50 years with an option for a further 49 years. A lease is not a sale, neither economically nor legally.

Furthermore the facts do not bear out the assertions in the first ad that when they have “sold” the assets “[j]ust like they did in Victoria” that electricity bills will increase because “…electricity bills in Victoria have skyrocketed”. Or the assertion in the second ad that “The only reason someone buys an asset is to make money from it, so you’ll pay more.”

The most recent study into electricity pricing, by Ernst Young, clearly shows that not to be true, as per the table below. Electricity bills in Victoria are lower than in Queensland, and have increased less since privatisation occurred some 19 years ago.

I have enjoyed our chats about campaigning in the past, but this is no way to run an election in a modern democracy.

I look forward to your response and the ALP withdrawing these ads and entering into some serious debate about the merits, or otherwise, of the issues.

Graham Young
Executive Director
Australian Institute for Progress


As former Vic. Premier Jeff Kennett sees it

IT’S an inescapable fact that the past seven years have been the most abysmal and wasteful period of federal leadership since World War II.

We have experienced a political famine in which personality politics, a failure of vision, a lack of preparedness by incoming governments and a total absence of consistent messages have left the public confused and lacking trust in our federal leaders.

If there were to be a federal election tomorrow, I dare say the Coalition would be defeated easily, as it should be — not only has opportunity been wasted but there has been no consistency in domestic policy.

Tony Abbott said last year he was going to clean the barnacles off the hull of the ship of state. But the change in health policy over the doctors co-payment fee suggests the barnacles are very quickly devouring the ship itself.

Last week was a public relations disaster for a Government without direction. And if it is true, as it was reported, that the Prime Minister rejected advice from Treasurer Joe Hockey and then health minister Peter Dutton over the co-payment, you have to wonder who the PM is listening to.

If they are junior staff, they should be sacked as they are clearly living on another planet. If the PM made the decision himself then he is leader in name only and out of touch with the community.

That is not to say those who can afford to be paying more for our healthcare shouldn’t be doing so. I do not mind a payment being levied to reduce bad practices and unnecessary demand. But the groundwork hasn’t been done for any price adjustment.

We all wear increases in cigarette prices, petrol taxes, council rates and utility charges. Surely being able to better fund a health service is more important. Yes, we know costs have gone up and, yes, we know the Medicare charge is now covering less than 50 per cent of the cost of health services. We know we are going to have to pay more to maintain our excellent health service.

So explain the situation better and hold the line. Keep it simple, stupid.

So there’s not much support for the Government.

The Opposition? No support there either. Most of us know they created the financial mess the Government is trying, but failing, to address. Yet Labor under Bill Shorten simply opposes every measure put up by the Government to tackle the situation.

The Greens? Mere opportunists without any economic credibility. They promise the world knowing they will never be held to account as a government. They have no sense of what is in the Australian interest and use their numbers in the Senate irresponsibly.

But given the loss of confidence in the two major parties, the fairies at the bottom of the hill would probably maintain their vote if an election were held today.

The Palmer United Party? I think it is always a problem when a person names something after himself. It’s an example of another great opportunity missed. Commercial core principles have been bypassed for short-term popularity. The PUPs have popped and will never be any stronger than they are today.

The independents are many, but of varying talent and experience. One I know and respect is Senator Nick Xenophon. But he has announced he is going to stand candidates at the next election, threatening his strength and independence. The Xenophon United Party? XUP?

Nick must not be distracted from using his influence to make things happen in Canberra.

Australia’s future must belong to the brave and the bold. Unless those in Canberra break the mould that has existed for the past seven years, I suspect an election in two years would result in more independents standing and winning seats, simply because the public are disillusioned by the federal class — because no one will actually lead.

The states have a much better leadership. NSW’s Mike Baird is showing strength and boldness of policy, consistency and compassion.

Campbell Newman in Queensland has had the toughest gig in town having inherited an $80 billion debt. An election there in 10 days will decide whether Queenslanders have the balls to see the job through, or will risk the gains made to date.

Victoria, of course, has a new Government under Daniel Andrews. Let’s hope Labor does a good job for all our sakes.

In South Australia, Jay Weatherill played a deft hand to win the last election. Time will tell whether his policies are changing to reflect the new challenges in his state.

WA’s Colin Barnett is being buffeted by the downturn in mining revenue and a lowering of investment in new developments but is an experienced set of hands.

In Tasmania, a new Government under Will Hodgman has started well, but needs to pedal hard and fast to rebuild Tasmania’s economy. But Tassie is a place of opportunities and could yet surprise us all.

So the states are better led than is the country, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some standout performers in Canberra.

Andrew Robb in Trade is securing opportunities for Australia that are generational. Julie Bishop is doing a great job in Foreign Affairs. But it’s a pity their good work is being lost in a sea of mediocrity.

Yet, there is always hope. And I live for tomorrow.

So I challenge our federal politicians to prove me wrong. In a year I shall revisit this subject and it would be gratifying to be able to report substantial improvement. It is in your hands.

Have a good day.


Qld. Labor very vague about the economy

Some vague assertions about TAFE seems to be all she can think of.  So what will they spend and how will they fund it?

OPPOSITION Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk insists she is offering Queenslanders a viable alternative economic plan.

"Absolutely,"Ms Palaszczuk said.

"When I talk about jobs I am talking about growing the ecomony. You talk to anyone walking down the street. The measure of how the economy is going is whether or not you have a job.

"I outlined our plans to grow the economy and get people into jobs, and it starts with TAFE.

"Our Advance Queensland policy is about growing innovation and getting the best and brightest minds here in Queensland and attracting them from overseas. "That will then flow on to create jobs."

Ms Palaszczuk also denied she was devoting too much time talking about Premier Campbell Newman plan and not enough time outlining hers.

"Campbell Newman’s track record is not jobs. "He has cut frontline services. When you cut frontline services and you rip 24,000 jobs out of the economy, it slows the economy right down. We are passionate about jobs.  "I will continue to talk about jobs because jobs are good for the economy."

She also rejected suggestions she had not done enough to differentiate herself from the previous Bligh Government.

Earlier, The Courier-Mail reported Annastacia Palaszczuk has continued her policy-lite approach during the election, skipping the key issue of the economy to attack Campbell Newman during Labor’s official campaign launch.

Speaking to a packed audience of party faithful in Ipswich, the Labor leader yesterday accused Premier Campbell Newman of "arrogance", "mismanagement" and "twisted priorities".

Ms Palaszczuk claimed the LNP had brought back the corrupt "brown paper bag" era, prompting criticism from Mr Newman that Labor was resorting to the same "personal attacks" as the 2012 election.

"We have seen the LNP open the door again to those carrying brown paper bags,’’ she said. "We also see the undermining of the state’s corruption watchdog and the trashing of Fitzgerald inquiry recommendations."

Mr Newman said Ms Palaszczuk was using the same tactic as her predecessor Anna Bligh because she was out of ideas.  "We saw this from Anna Bligh last time," he said.

"Last time, they ran a campaign about negativity and personality politics.

"This time, they’re doing the same thing. Why? Because they have no plan for Queensland. They don’t have the leadership, they don’t have the ticker to sort out the financial problems that we inherited. They certainly don’t know how to create jobs and so they engage in this sort of thing."


God needs to start smiting these idiots
Piers Akerman

ABOUT now, God must surely be considering sacking his senior management and public ­relations people and wondering how to get his business back to basics.

Globally, the major religions seem to have been placed in the hands of consultants – the usual practice of managements which don’t have a clue – with predictably regrettable results.
Management of the Muslim brand has gone to the dogs with every other certifiable idiot calling himself an imam or an ayatollah and issuing fatwahs that make the mark a mockery in the modern world.

Just last week a prominent religious scholar in Saudi ­Arabia issued a fatwa against building snowmen in the ­kingdom, stating the practice was not acceptable to Islam. According to a Gulf News ­report, which has so far been unchallenged, Mohammad Saleh Al Minjed said people must not build any snowmen or snow models of animals.

As snow fell across the desert, the scholar set out guidelines for children and others who wanted to play outdoors. Making snow models of lifeless things, such as ships, fruit and buildings, was apparently acceptable in Islam, he said, but “it is not permitted to make a statue out of snow, even by way of play and fun”.

Clearly, this is one member of Team Islam who poses a threat to the brand and should lose his franchise. But his chuckleheaded humbug currently falls at the lower end of the lunatic ladder.

Sitting a few rungs up are the hashtag heroes who have abandoned Australia at the urging of some fairly adept manipulators who appeal to their teenage fantasies with offers of slave girls, virgin brides and the opportunity to use the sort of firearms they might normally only drool over when playing video games.

Unfortunately, they are also eroding the Muslim brand they claim to be defending because as everyone has been told ­repeatedly, Islam is the religion of peace. God clearly has his work cut out bringing these barbaric oafs to heel.

Christianity can’t escape criticism either, and God must wonder how so many of his followers of that faith permitted various strands to be intellectually hollowed out to the point of meaninglessness.

It was a lot simpler in the old days when God spoke ­directly to franchisees and gave instructions carved in stone. Now messages are workshopped by a racially and sexually diverse committee of guitar-strummers and delivered in a gender-neutral tone.

At least we can be grateful that He has not descended into the utterly ridiculous realm of ­ineffectual hashtaggery, bumper bar or button protestations and ribbon waving as a substitute for action.

US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron held their joint press conference on Friday at which Mr Obama announced that the US, UK and its allies were “working seamlessly to prevent attacks and defeat these terrorist networks”.

It was impossible not to ­recall Michelle Obama’s press conference last May at which she lambasted the truly evil ­Islamist Boko Haram terrorists who had kidnapped 276 girls from a secondary school in north-eastern Nigeria weeks earlier. Mrs Obama brandished a hand-written placard which read #Bring Back Our Girls. The girls, all Christian, haven’t been brought back.

In its most recent atrocity, Boko Haram’s Islamist butchers murdered as many as 2000 in brutal attacks earlier this month.   Another rogue action by a recalcitrant franchisee but at least Mr Cameron acknowledged the difficulties faced when he told the joint press conference that the world faced “a poisonous and fanatical ideology”.

But whether he or Mr Obama can actually “confront it wherever it appears” is a very open question.

Mr Obama has shown himself to be dangerously weak in the war against terrorism and US foreign policy is in free fall.

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard was ­remarkably prescient when he warned eight years ago that an Obama presidency would be a boon to terrorists.

God must have his hands so full at the moment with wannabe martyrs queuing up for their suicide suits that it seems selfish to contemplate sending a prayer in His direction. Maybe an email, in the cyber Cloud, to be opened at leisure, perhaps?

Realistically though, I’d rather He concentrated on sorting out the assorted franchisees who have brought the whole religion business into such disfavour.


21 January, 2015

Abbott not fond of sharks

And the Greenies are furious.  A Greenie is a type of shark, after all.  They're just as anti-people

The Abbot government has been accused of backing away from its international obligations on animal conservation after it declared it would opt out of protecting five shark species.

Australia is submitting a "reservation" to ensure a recent international listing granting protection status to three species of thresher shark and two species of hammerhead does not take effect in Australian waters.

Humane Society International has described the move as an "unprecedented act of domestic and international environmental vandalism".

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals gave new protection status to 31 migratory species at a conference in November.

The listings were agreed to by consensus, with Australia among the countries present for the talks.

But the government has had a change of heart and is seeking to opt out of co-operating with other countries to protect five of the shark species, arguing that Australia already has sufficient protections in place and the listing would have unintended consequences for fishers.

Alexia Wellbelove, senior program manager at Humane Society International, said the government was responding to complaints from recreational fishers who catch and release the sharks, and commercial fishers who can accidentally trap them while hunting for other fish.

If the five shark species were given international protection status, Australian laws would kick in, making it an offence to kill, injure, take or move the species in Australian waters.

The listings were due to take effect next month.

"We just think it's really unbelievably disappointing because Australia has always led the way on shark conservation and this is really a step backward," Ms Wellbelove said.

"It's a very sad day for protection of the marine environment if we take the easy road and opt of these things, rather than taking steps to protect our domestic waters."

In a letter to Human Society International, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said Australia already had "strong domestic measures in place" for the five shark species in question but this did "not negate our support for international action related to these species, or for shark conservation more broadly".

Nine other migratory species given listings at the convention can be found in Australia and the protection status will apply.

Mr Hunt said Australia was seeking a reservation for the five shark species because a listing would have unintended consequences for fishers as a result of Australia's laws being tougher than required by the convention.

"Not doing so could see recreational fishers being fined up to $170,000 and face 2 years in jail, even when fishing in accordance with their permits," he said.

"There are still strong measures in place to protect thresher and hammerhead sharks in Australia and these will continue.

"The Australian government will continue to actively participate in shark conservation under the convention as a signatory of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks, and through $4.6 million funding for shark research and conservation activities."


Our great stories need a place in the classroom

By Brian Johns, the former managing director of the ABC, SBS and publishing director of Penguin Books Australia

As a child I was not given "children's" books. During our weekly visit to the local School of Arts Library in Cairns, my mother steered me to the "serious" adult section.

It wasn't until later that I discovered the delight and joy of gems like Mem Fox's Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, Pamela Allen's Who Sank the Boat and Libby Gleeson's Amy & Louis.

These books resonate with our children (and us) because they are surprising and engaging reads written by superb storytellers and brought to life by talented illustrators.

These books and many more have been given a new lease of life through the ambitious new website, Reading Australia, which was started when it became obvious to me and others that Australia's great books were barely getting a look-in at schools. Somehow our books had dropped off the reading lists of most teachers.

I couldn't fathom that a child could go through school without walking hand-in-hand with our literary treasures. After all, if a love of literature hasn't started at home with the bedside story, then the classroom is surely the next touch point. That's not to say schools aren't doing a great job, but our homegrown stories reflect our natural surroundings, and what makes us who we are.

So a few heads got together to find out what was missing. As it turns out, many books were out of print, but more urgent than that was the availability of resources for teachers.

To solve the problem, the not-for-profits Copyright Agency, the Australian Society of Authors and the major English and literacy educator associations have all worked hard to create resources for teachers to bring Australian stories back into the classroom.

As teachers are preparing to return to school, they can now source 62 curriculum-linked resources for books, plays and poems for kindergarten to year 12 at Reading Australia. Essays responding to the works from writers such as Germaine Greer, Malcolm Knox and Geordie Williamson bring deeper perspectives to the texts for young adults.

Some of the books teachers and students are rediscovering include new classics, such as Oscar-winner Shaun Tan's The Arrival and Jeannie Baker's Mirror, as well as old favourites such as Miles Franklin's My Brilliant Career and Ruth Park's Playing Beatie Bow.

President of the Australian Literacy Educators Association, Robyn Ewing, reviewed all of the junior primary resources and praises the fact they are written by teachers from across Australia. This geographic spread recognises the knowledge and insight teachers have about what will switch children on to reading.

She says: "Quality literature can and should be a centrepiece from which teachers can build students' reading, writing and language skills".


They're killing off Tom!

But he's not going away, the sports betting brand headed by a fourth generation Aussie bookie in a slick suit and a smile, is about to become a piece of history.

The move has been on the cards for a while. British betting giant William Hill bought in 2013 for a reported $34 million. But the business has continued to trade under the name, with the son of leading horse trainer Gai Waterhouse continuing to front the business for promotional purposes.

William Hill has also since acquired major Australian sports bookie Sportingbet, and the iconic Centrebet, the Alice Springs-based agency which in the 1990s was the first global betting agency to dream up the idea of betting on elections and reality TV shows.

William Hill announced today that it will launch its global betting brand in Australia, replacing its three existing brands, Sportingbet, and Centrebet.

Sportingbet will be the first to be rebranded, changing to William Hill ahead of the upcoming Autumn Racing Carnival and the 2015 NRL and AFL seasons. The rebranding of Centrebet and to William Hill will follow in "due course", a company spokesman said.

But young Tommy won’t be left out in the cold. Since last year he has been CEO of William Hill Australia and will continue in that role.

"The change to William Hill will give us a recognised and respected international brand with which to compete at the highest level in Australia’s competitive market," he said today.

"It will also allow us to work much more closely with global racing and sporting bodies and provide our Australian customers with more diverse betting opportunities," he added.

Founded in 1934, William Hill brands itself as "The Home of Betting" and is the UK’s biggest bookie.


Vast waste by Victoria's Labor government

Spending a billion to get nothing

Andrews Government faces massive compensation bill to axe East West Link. Mr Andrews said the consortium contracted to build the 6.6km road would be refunded for any work it had done on the project before it was cancelled by Labor.

But he would not say what further compensation would be paid to the East West Connect consortium, saying negotiations were ongoing.  "There are issues around costs that have been incurred, and we were very clear about, it’s appropriate to refund people costs that have been incurred," he said.

"That’s a usual practice, whether you are building a house worth two or three hundred thousand dollars or a much bigger project."

Mr Andrews said he couldn’t say how much taxpayers would have to pay in total to scrap the contract for the project.

"It would be inappropriate for me to put a number on it. We are going to work through these issues responsibly, carefully... I am not going to run a commentary on it."
Mr Andrews was asked whether the government would consider legislating to invalidate the contract and avoid compensation. "I wouldn’t rule that out," he said.

He said the previous government had left Labor a "mess" to deal with, and should "hang their head in shame".

"Having said that we need to work through, and we are, the mess that has been left to us."

The premier said he had a clear choice on whether to break his promise on scrapping the "dud" East West Link or deal with the contract signed by Premier Denis Napthine.

"I will not break the commitment I made before November 29th," he said.  "We are not building this project, it is a dud project."

Deputy Premier James Merlino told 3AW today: "There will be a settlement reached with the consortium, there was always going to have to be."

But he refused to reveal more details including possible financial costs, saying: "I’m not going to conduct negotiations over the airwaves."

The Herald Sun can reveal that key members of the consortium that signed the contract to build the Link want at least $1.2 billion to walk away from the dumped project.

Banks and superannuation funds that financed the deal are leading the hardline push.  But they are at odds with partner and construction giant Lend Lease, which is understood to be taking a more cautious approach for fear a fracas may dent its chances for future government jobs in Victoria.

It’s understood that Lend Lease favours a settlement amount in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Herald Sun can confirm that, in the wake of weeks of frantic negotiations with the consortium, there is a dawning acceptance within the Labor Government that it will have to write a taxpayer-funded cheque to rip up the contract for the 6.6km road.

The Government has engaged businessman and former MCG Trust chairman John Wylie and gun Arnold Bloch Leibler lawyer Leon Zwier to help it argue its case.

Mr Wylie was heavily involved in complex government business cases such as the privatisation of Qantas and of the state’s power industry.

Uncertainty about the looming cost to taxpayers of compensation poses problems for Budget planning.

It could also embarrass Mr Andrews, who repeatedly said the contracts — signed by the Napthine Government in September — were worthless.

Four days before the election, he said: "Be very clear about this: there will be no compensation paid."

Mr Andrews revealed in September that he planned to dump the $6.8 billion toll road and said then he expected "some modest compensation".

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said Labor only had itself to blame for the scale of the compensation payout.

"Labor knew their claim that (East West Link) had no binding contract was wrong. It will now cost $1 billion to scrap a roadway that Melbourne needs," Mr Guy said on Twitter today.

The consortium that won the contract for the $6.8 billion toll road includes Lend Lease, French group Bouygues, and Spanish company Acciona.

A complex network of institutions, including local and international banks and super funds, financed the deal.

A source said CEOs of the major partners, including from overseas, came to Melbourne before Christmas, and "made clear they would be pursuing their legal rights as contained in the contracts’’.

This was understood to relate to the sum the group believed it would be owed.


20 January, 2015

Local gas prices set to soar as exports to Asia get under way

While most of us were on holidays, something happened off the coast of Gladstone in Queensland that will have hip-pocket implications for consumers across the eastern states.

In late December, British energy giant BG Group sent the first ever shipment of liquefied natural gas from Australia's east coast, using gas from the state's booming coal seam gas industry.

Granted, it sounds far removed from everyday life for most of us. But this cargo load is the start of a trend that will dramatically increase how much households pay for gas used for hot water, cooking, or heating.

It is predicted to push up many households' utility bills by a similar amount to the carbon tax, but there are no plans for compensation. And as you'd expect with a jump in the cost of living of this size, this one is producing some seriously flimsy economics.

First though, back to that shipment. Not only was it the first time that CSG has been converted into LNG, the exportable form of gas. More importantly for consumers, it was the first time gas has been exported from the east coast of Australia at all, and there is much more to come.

Origin Energy and Santos this year also hope to start pumping cargo loads full of the stuff, to be sold to buyers across China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and other Asian nations.

Economists are keeping an eye on these projects – and others in WA – as there are predictions they could make Australia the world's biggest exporter of LNG by 2018, overtaking Qatar. LNG looks set to become our second biggest export behind iron ore.

But what will affect households directly is how this massive new industry transforms the domestic gas market.

Now that the east coast is able to export gas (WA has been doing it since 1989) producers have the option of selling to buyers in Asia, who are willing to pay much, much more for it than we have been.

Historically, the east coast gas market was insulated from the rest of the world, and the domestic wholesale price was stable at about $3 to $4 a gigajoule. Now, there are buyers across Asia prepared to pay $12 or $13, even when energy markets are in turmoil as they are at the moment.

That translates to much higher domestic prices. When you account for the costs of converting the gas into LNG and shipping, it still suggests a domestic gas price of $6 to $8 in the wholesale market. That is, a 100 per cent increase from the long-term average.

So far, the NSW regulator has approved a 17.8 per cent rise in retail gas prices between 2014 and 2016, partly in response to the new export boom.  Victorians face a similar jump over the next few years because its producers can also sell their gas to the north.

And these increases are just the beginning, with further significant price rises expected for the next few years.

As this extra cost is passed on to users, it will push up utility bills significantly. A report by the Grattan Institute's Tony Wood last year estimated the average Melbourne household gas bill would jump $300 a year because of the changes over the next few years, while the average Sydney bill would rise by more than $100.

That compares with the extra $270 a year that Treasury estimated we'd be spending on gas and electricity because of the carbon price.

Cost increases like this are understandably causing plenty of concerns for the more vulnerable consumers and affected businesses. Governments in NSW and Victoria are investigating the issue now.

And it is in this heated environment that business groups are mounting a campaign based on flawed economics.

In submissions to a NSW parliamentary inquiry, industry groups and AGL have repeatedly claimed that increasing the supply of gas in NSW would be one way to limit the impact of the gas price shock.

More specifically, they argue, the government should stop getting in the way of the industry's plans to dramatically expand the extraction of coal seam gas, despite all the environmental and community concerns.

It's economics 101, right? Lifting supply should push down the price. Except in this case, the claim is a furphy.

As the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) says in its submission, the amount of coal seam gas being extracted in NSW has a minimal impact on what the state's residents pay for gas. That price is now being set in the international market.

"As domestic gas prices are set largely by international gas prices, the development of coal seam gas reserves in NSW would impact domestic gas prices to the extent it impacts the international market," IPART says.

When you consider that NSW's gas reserves only meet 5 per cent of its own needs, the state's industry is clearly nowhere near the scale to affect global prices in any plausible scenario. To imply that it could is misleading.

The bottom line is that gas prices are set to soar because the long-sheltered domestic market is being linked to global prices via exports.

When utility bills are already such a sensitive issue, the industry does itself no favours making self-serving and misleading claims about how to these price pressures might be curbed.


PNG government speaks out on claims of violence at Manus Island detention centre

The Papua New Guinea government have denied that local police stormed the Manus Island detention centre as the number of asylum seekers staging a hunger strike grows and water has been reportedly cut off in parts of the facility.

Two-thirds of the population of the Manus Island centre are now refusing food as detainees grow increasingly desperate to avoid the Australian government's plan to resettle them in PNG, which is expected to begin this week.

Refugee advocates say that the water in the Delta compound has now been completely cut off, forcing asylum seekers to drink from drains. It is believed a number of asylum seekers have barricaded themselves inside their compounds as part of the protest.

On Monday morning, PNG's Immigration Minister, Rimbink Pato, confirmed that protesting asylum seekers on the island had sewn their lips together, swallowed razor blades and had also started swallowing washing powder.

But Mr Pato said reports that the local police had entered the facility at the weekend were false.

"Despite claims by agitator groups in Australia, at no time have police been called upon to enter the facility," the minister said in a statement.

"Each case of self-harm is being investigated by medical personnel and appropriate action is being offered to the individuals concerned."

Refugee advocates claimed that PNG police had entered the centre in riot gear over the weekend, but Fairfax Media understands it was the emergency response team from Wilson security.

Fairfax Media has also confirmed a number of protesting asylum seekers were taken to the Chauka compound over the weekend, which is a smaller compound used to discipline asylum seekers acting aggressively.

In a letter obtained by Fairfax Media, asylum seekers from the Foxtrot compound wrote to Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton saying: "If you do not wish us to come to Australia, then that's ok. It's your country. But it does not mean you have the right to settle us in PNG."

Many of them have been imprisoned in the centre for more than 18 months, the letter said.

"We are not toys for you to play with and not animals to imprison us here. "If you send us back to where you found us, it is better for us to live with sharks and sea whales than to stay one more day with inhumane people.  "We can say that when we woke up today, we are resolved to die here in order to bring back our dignity and our freedom."

The Immigration Department and Mr Dutton's office have been contacted for comment.

On Saturday, Mr Dutton said the escalating hunger strike would not change the government's resolve to resettle the men found to be refugees in the PNG community. He also denied security guards had "violently engaged" with the asylum seekers at the weekend.

"I reiterate that while people have the right to protest peacefully, the government will not waver on its successful border protection policies which have saved lives and restored integrity to our humanitarian programme," Mr Dutton said.


Free speech and the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo

The debate about reform of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act has bubbled up again in the wake of the slaughter at the Charlie Hebdo office, and has been met with predictable outrage over political point-scoring from opponents of reform who argue debate should not be re-opened.

For what it's worth, I agree. The debate should have never been closed in the first place.

It is a strange defence of freedom of expression that simultaneously condemns the killing of people for drawing cartoons and implicitly affirms that Australian law should nevertheless have a chilling effect on those who might produce similar words or images.

Implicit in the exhortation to restrict speech are the ideas that free speech is a zero-sum game where the 'loser' is almost always a minority community; that minorities gain little from freedom of expression and that they do not lose much from restrictions on speech.

The reality is that, across the globe, people fight for liberal democratic ideals and for free speech in particular. Just this week, Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1000 lashes for calling himself a liberal. Anti-blasphemy laws - part of India's strange tradition of secularism - undermine free speech in that country in the name of unity. Free speech is no less important in the Western world, and the same conviction that defends it abroad should defend it here.

Minorities of all stripes - Muslims included - can and do defend the liberal democratic values that underpin our society, and this includes the right to free expression. The solidarity expressed in #JeSuisCharlie was complemented by #JeSuisAhmed, in honour of the French Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet who was gunned down outside the Charlie Hebdo office. The Muslim mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, alsoused rather colourful language when defending the centrality of a free press to Dutch society.

While it's obvious that some speech does offend and hurt particular minority communities, it does not follow that restrictions on speech are therefore necessary. Free speech is just as important to minority communities as it is to society as a whole. British author Kenan Malik argued in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre that "once we give up on the right to offend in the name of 'tolerance' or 'respect', we constrain our ability to challenge those in power, and therefore to challenge injustice". It is patronising to suggest otherwise.

Jonathan Rauch wrote "the open society is sometimes a cross we bear, but it is also a sword we wield, and we are defenceless without it". He was writing specifically about one particular minority community, but it's a lesson we could all bear to learn.


The silly season GST debate

A public debate about the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is something we have to have, but considering some of the recent contributions, the silly season wasn't a good time to start it. Consider the following examples.

The 10% GST rate has been described as merely an 'introductory' rate (like a teaser home loan interest rate) which was never meant to remain. That would be news to a lot of people.

Related to that is the notion that Australia's rate is well below the OECD average (19%), and therefore there is plenty of scope to increase it.  The OECD countries that have such high GST (VAT) rates also have much higher levels of government spending and overall tax burdens. It is not obvious why we should follow their tax policy examples, considering the economic strife many of them are in.

Much of the commentary has focused on broadening the GST to cover items such as uncooked food. One claim was that the Abbott government already has a mandate to broaden the coverage because the Howard government won the 1998 election proposing to include all food in the GST base! Whatever there is to the mandate theory, it doesn't stretch back 16 years and six elections.

Another suggestion is that the GST should be broadened to cover private school fees and health insurance premiums because these are mainly paid by rich households.  This would make the GST more selective and distorting, not less. If the tax is to be extended to education and health (a contentious issue that raises more complexities than food), it should be to all education and health services, not just ones picked out for 'tax the rich' reasons.

If the GST is ever increased or broadened, it is likely to lead to a higher overall tax burden. A trade-off between (say) a broader GST at a 15% rate and a top income tax rate of (say) 33% as in New Zealand is nice to contemplate but unlikely to be achieved.


19 January, 2015

No wonder 40% of Australians have private health insurance

See for example the disastrous situation described below -- where a "free" service is just not good enough by any criterion. 

Private health insurance is affordable in Australia.  Many people on relatively low incomes have it.  It is a significant budget item for many, however, so the majority would rather spend their money on beer and cigarettes than on insurance.  So they rely on the taxpayer for "free" health care.  They rely on bureaucratic healthcare provision.

And the ineffectiveness of that gets steadily worse.  Bureaucracies do not die overnight.  They are like cancer, slowly growing but they will kill you eventually. They gradually choke themselves to death.  And what we read below shows that process to be in an advanced state in Australia  -- the State health services all go back many decades.  And the services will get even worse in future.

So the present situation is in fact mostly fair.  If you put your money into beer and cigarettes instead of health insurance you deserve only third-rate care and that is what you get. You are mainly raiding people who have already paid for their own care and asking them to pay for your care too.

The solution to the problem posed by the situation below then is to get the beer and cigarettes money redirected into private health insurance -- so that the government system is left to care for the few who cannot afford even beer and cigarettes.  If that were done, much of the demand would be taken off the government service and the genuinely poor would get better service. 

So if you see the situation described below as a problem, your rational response would be to mandate private health insurance for all but the very poor.  If you don't like the compulsion in that you can console yourself that the existing system may be rather horrible for many but it is at least fair for the great majority.  Most of those being poorly treated could have chosen otherwise

I have a fairly average health insurance policy so my treatment in a recent health emergency is instructive.  I had an attack of kidney stones.  So I went straight to the Wesley private hospital here in Brisbane -- a church-run hospital named after two great Christians. Within less than two hours of the pain developing, I was given morphine as pain relief and within 6 hours I was on the operating table.  The ideal is possible and readily available in Australia.  It just isn't free

A Sydney hospital left a patient in its emergency department for almost six days, prompting condemnation from an expert in emergency medicine.

Details about the incident are scarce. But a hospital source said the patient was  admitted to Blacktown Hospital's emergency department on Wednesday evening the week before last.

The hospital confirmed the patient had been sitting in a recliner chair in its emergency department and was discharged at some time on Tuesday last week.

"This is absolutely extreme," said Clinical Associate Professor Paul Middleton from Sydney University. "In 25 years working in hospital emergency departments I've never seen anybody stay for that long.

"The lights are on all the time. It's noisy. There are wailing children, mental health patients, people pissed off with waiting and shouting; there's trauma; there's blood and there's vomiting. It's not a place to spend a long time. Patients don't do well [in emergency]."

The hospital, citing patient confidentiality, declined to provide details about the patient's illness. It said they had been treated while in the emergency department and been referred to hospital specialists.

Danny O'Connor, the CEO of the western Sydney local health district, said the patient was discharged after the hospital was satisfied with their progress.

Mr O'Connor also said the case "presented many social complexities" and that the hospital continued to care for patients who were unable to leave for "family or social reasons".

But Professor Middleton said a ward was the only place for a patient in hospital that long.

"There are also alternatives to staying in hospital [such as refuges]," he added.

The Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, declined to comment.

"Our members are sick of being abused by patients who are facing major delays," said Judith Kiedja from the nurses' and midwives' union.

The union advocates the government impose a ratio of one nurse for every three patients to maintain standards of care. Blacktown's emergency department has often run at twice that ratio of nurses this fortnight.

Tanya Whitehouse, from the Macarthur Domestic and Family Violence Service, said she found the case baffling.

"If the patient was facing domestic violence or homelessness, they should have seen a social worker and been found a refuge," she said.

A spokesman for the Family and Community Services Minister, Gabrielle Upton, said over the next three years the government would "invest a record half billion dollars to tackle homelessness across the state".

This latest case comes after a fortnight of major delays at Blacktown Hospital, where between 40 and 60 beds have been closed for the holidays.

A dozen patients, half aged over 80, were waiting more than two days in emergency two weeks ago.

There were further delays last week. Paramedics waited for 17 hours to hand one patient over to the care of the hospital.

"If they're closing that many beds it's a potential for disaster," Professor Middleton said.


The no-compromise Greenies

Wilderness areas must not be made accessible to visitors

THE Tasmanian government is on course to "trash" the state's wilderness world heritage area if proposed tourist development goes ahead in the region, former Greens leader Bob Brown says.

"TASMANIA'S unique status in having the only world heritage area on Earth actually labelled 'wilderness' should be thrown out if this selfish land-grab goes ahead," Dr Brown said in a statement on Sunday.  "This will trash decades of community commitment to Tasmania's wilderness pre-eminence.  "The brigade backing the government ... has dollar signs in its eyes."

The comments come as the Hodgman government is said to be pushing ahead with moves to allow tourist development in the previously off-limits World Heritage wilderness.

Large swathes of the 1.58 million hectare Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area will reportedly be opened to development under a new draft management plan released last week.

The tourism industry is backing the changes, but conservationists say the plan has the potential to allow damaging large projects.

Dr Brown said the area would have to change its name if the plan went ahead.

"Wilderness fame, more than anything, is the factor raising Tasmania's visitor numbers and tourism jobs by 10 per cent per annum," Dr Brown said.  "Let our beautiful island at least retain its integrity. It could be renamed the Tasmanian Once-Was-Wilderness World Heritage Area."


Libertarian Senator returns as good as he got

I personally would have ignored the abusive Leftist.  On rare occasions I do give some abuse back but I never stoop to foul language in doing so.  I do not wish to sink to their level.  I am pretty good at pointing out personal faults and weaknesses of the abusers, though

Senator David Leyonhjelm is unrepentant after calling an abusive correspondent a "communist turd".  The libertarian Senator has confirmed he also told a constituent to go away - in graphic terms - in an expletive-filled rant on his taxpayer-funded email account.

Senator Leyonhjelm’s correspondence was then published on a blog by the target of his abuse, who suggested his suggestion that he "go f--- yourself’’ represented a suggestion that he "self harm".

The row erupted after anti-discrimination campaigner and gay activist Gary Burns emailed NSW Senator Leyonhjelm and South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi.

In the email, Mr Burns opening salvo was to describe the MPs as "you two unAustralian pathetic little turds".  He warned that if they allowed anyone to publish images ridiculing Jews or Muslims they would be in contempt of the anti-discrimination laws.

Senator Leyonhjelm returned fire, observing he was a "communist turd", prompting some support from libertarians on Twitter.

But Mr Burns said: "This is the same imbecile calling for Australians to carry guns." "This boofhead is not a fit or proper person to represent the good people of NSW. I’ve been called many things in life but never a communist," he said.

"When I received the offensive email from the Senator I was so shocked I clutched my pearls and reached for the smelling salts."

Mr Burns has previously sued broadcaster John Laws under the Anti-Discrimination Act for calling gay men "pillow biters".

"Senator Leyonhjelm’s credibility as a Member of the Australian Parliament wouldn’t be capable of buttering a plate of parsnips for the dinner table. The idiot should go and live on Gobo Island with a pet sheep," he said.

In response, the NSW Senator fired off a second email to Mr Burns encouraging him to take the action he suggested earlier.

"Dear Gary. It appears you have not yet acted on my advice. Please do so. Go f--- yourself as soon as possible. The world will be a better place," it said.

A spokesman for Senator Leyonhjelm confirmed the emails were written by him


Queensland election 2015: parties launch campaigns

This campaign is an excellent example of how Leftists live in an eternal and unprincipled present.  The Left is attacking the ruling conservatives over the sell-offs of government property that the conservatives are doing.  Yet the last Leftist government also did big sell-offs, including the government freight railroad.  What is good for the goose is evidently not good for the gander.  What makes a policy right when Leftists do it but wrong when others do it?

4.24pm: Queensland Premier Campbell Newman acknowledged used part of his keynote speech at his re-election relaunch today to address polls that show both major parties will head into the final two weeks of the campaign neck and neck.

"Polls confirm that a hung parliament here is a very real possibility," Mr Newman told about 1000 party faithful.

"Palmer, Katter and the Greens political party have done a deal to try and deliver a Labor government that will be at the mercy of their every whim and that is a recipe for chaos." Mr Newman urged voters to abandon their right to preference all candidates and simply vote one for the LNP.

"Only by voting one for the LNP in local electorates right across this state can you ensure we stay on course for a brighter future and a stronger Queensland," he said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott was noticeably absent from the launch, with Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Senator George Brandis the only members of the coalition’s federal leadership team in attendance.

Mr Newman and other speakers focused on the LNP’s Strong Choices campaign throughout the launch, with Mr Newman even mentioning the word "strong" or one of its variants 34 times during his 24-minute keynote address.

2.51pm: Queensland Premier Campbell Newman pitched funding for schools at his re-election launch today.

1.48pm: Clive Palmer has missed his own party’s Queensland election campaign launch. His minders cited the flu as the reason Mr Palmer failed to attend the PUP launch on the Sunshine Coast earlier today.

But Palmer United Party state leader John Bjelke-Petersen was on hand to do the honours. He promised the party would abolish payroll tax to revive Queensland’s economy.

"Companies will move their offices and their activities from Sydney and Melbourne and Queensland will boom," he told the crowd at Mr Palmer’s Coolum resort.

"There is no better way to create employment in Queensland than to offer real incentive for people to do business right here in Queensland," he said.

The move would allow the "real serious problems" of a high cost of living to be addressed - a problem which "has been brought about primarily by poor government decisions and policy", Mr Bjelke-Petersen said.

Queensland’s current payroll tax imposes a 4.75 per cent levy on businesses that pay more than $1.1 million a year in wages.

Premier Campbell Newman on Friday recommitted to a previous target of increasing the threshold to $1.4 million in three years. PUP proposes that levy be dropped to zero to attract more business to Queensland.

Payroll tax was "highly inefficient and damaging to the economy", Mr Bjelke-Petersen said.

The party also vowed to support the development of the Maroochydore Airport into an international airport and restore the maintenance of main roads to the Department of Main Roads, claiming that contractors are given most of the work.

Mr Bjelke-Petersen is running for the Queensland seat of Callide against deputy premier Jeff Seeney.

1.18pm: Campbell Newman has pitched the launch of his re-election campaign today with new funding for schools and sweeteners for the young and Brisbane voters as he again warned Labor could take government in a hung parliament, Michael McKenna reports.

In a slick launch ahead of the January 31 poll, the Premier announced a suite of new funding targeted at seats and voters wavering from their support for the LNP in 2012. Southeast Queensland residents were offered $50 cuts to their water bills and $118 savings for young drivers about to get an open licence.

Mr Newman also announced a LNP government will set aside $1 billion from its proposed privatisation plan to build 23 new schools. The funding is the most expensive commitment of the campaign. The LNP government has already committed almost half the $8.6 billion — set aside for infrastructure fund from the proposed $36 billion of port and electricity assets — in new initiatives, particularly around marginal seats in North Queensland and the Sunshine Coast.

1.12pm: The Labor campaign has jetted from Cairns to Townsville, making it the third visit to the blisteringly hot north Queensland city in the first 13 days of the state election campaign, Sarah Elks reports.

Annastacia Palaszczuk’s repeated visits reveal just how keen Labor is to win back the six marginal north and far north Queensland electorates it lost in the 2012 landslide to Campbell Newman’s Liberal National Party. The LNP’s launch is on in Brisbane today, so Ms Palaszczuk’s strategy appears to be focused on keeping her policy powder dry. There were no new policies announced either yesterday or today.

The first stop in Cairns was Barron Gorge hydro power station — owned by Stanwell, one of the government-owned corporations slated for privatisation under the Newman government. And in Townsville, Ms Palaszczuk will continue her anti-privatisation message, attending a rally in the north Queensland capital The policy difference is the key contrast between the ALP and the LNP ahead of the January 31 poll.


18 January, 2015

Job snobs: Aussie dole bludgers too lazy to pick up $250 a day picking fruit

YOUNG, jobless Aussies are lazy and unwilling to break their welfare dependence, ­according to leading wine producers and citrus growers who are becoming ever more reliant on backpackers to stay in operation.

Despite an urgent need for unskilled workers, regional Australia is struggling to ­attract young people from the city despite youth unemployment in Western Sydney peaking at 17 per cent, forcing growers in the nation’s food bowls to look overseas.

Wine growers in the Hunter Valley who still rely heavily on fruit pickers, claim there has been no interest from ­unemployed youth in Sydney to earn easy cash — up to $250 a day — picking grapes, as the region prepares for today’s official start of the 2015 harvest.

So it is backpackers or bust, with several operators claiming without the injection of foreign workers, many wine producers in the Hunter Valley would cease to exist.

‘‘We would probably be stuffed without them. The problem is, our unemployed don’t have to work, it’s too easy for them, plus a lot of them come with baggage; real problems,’’ winemaker and former chairman of the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association’s viticulture committee Ken Bray said.

‘‘They are too reliant on welfare and don’t want to go where the jobs are.’’

While most of Drayton Wines grapes are picked by a mechanical harvester, manager John Drayton said the winery still uses backpackers to pick from older vines.

He, like Andrew Pengilly from Tyrrells Wines, rarely gets ­interest from locals or those struggling to find work two hours away in Sydney.

Wine growers in the Hunter Valley who still rely heavily on fruit pickers, claim there has been no interest from ­unemployed youth in Sydney

Across the state’s Riverina, the food bowl of NSW, the need for unskilled workers continues undiminished, despite it qualifying for the Howard government initiative to give foreigners an ­extension to their working visa if they work three months in rural Australia.

While the need for workers grows, the appeal for ­unemployed city residents appears non-existent.  ‘‘There are definitely a lot of opportunities in rural Australia, but it seems people think the change would be too stressful. 

"We don’t have fast food joints open 24 hours a day, or big shopping centres,’’ Griffith orange grower Vito Mancini said.  ‘‘Just come out for a month, try it out. Don’t say there is no work about, because there is plenty.’’

Fellow Griffith farmer David Dissegna said: ‘‘The unemployed don’t want to do this kind of work. We would be in dire straits without foreign workers.’’

Fruit growers are not the only business owners lobbying the government to relax 417 visa restrictions, ahead of the tabling of the Northern Australia Development whitepaper next month.

In regional Queensland backpackers are keeping towns afloat. ‘‘We’ll give a job to anyone who’ll pull on a pair of work boots and have a go,’’ McKinley roadhouse owner Aidan Day, 65, said.

The number of working holiday visas has grown by a third since 2008 and visas for 18-to-30-year-olds are being fast-tracked to 48 hours.

IN Germany Denny Spaeth sits ­behind a desk working in a car manufacturing plant, but in ­Australia he is a man of the land, driving a forklift and heaving ­pumpkins out of the ground.

Mr Spaeth and girlfriend Jennifer Herde, a kindergarten teacher, are among the flood of European backpackers who earn travelling money working as fruitpickers. They are not afraid of a hard day’s work.

The couple arrived in Australia in August and worked for two months in Ayr, near Townsville, picking pumpkins, watermelons and squash. Mr Spaeth was able to earn $23 an hour driving a forklift.

The couple will spend the next month pricking grapes in the ­Hunter Valley. Mr Spaeth said they had loved their time Down Under and working on farms was hard but satisfying work.

"It’s life experience. You learn a lot about yourself and it would not be bad for young people," he said.


Newman vows to cut payroll tax

A tax on jobs is always obnoxious

QUEENSLAND Premier Campbell Newman denies he broke a 2012 election promise after he committed to a reduced target of payroll tax cuts.

MR Newman on Friday visited the electorate of Chatsworth, in Brisbane's east, to pledge the Liberal National Party (LNP) will progressively raise the payroll tax exemption to $1.4 million by 2017.

"It means that thousands of companies will not need to pay payroll tax," he said at an engineering facility.  "Indeed, companies with a payroll of up to $5.5 million will see significant reductions."

The move would constitute $100 million of foregone revenue.

But it was a theme familiar from the 2012 campaign. Prior to the LNP's landslide win at the last election, the LNP had pledged to raise the threshold to $1.6 million over six years.

The government delayed the promise for two years in 2013, citing the impact from natural disasters, and it was due to commence mid-2015.  "When we were first elected, we found in the Commission of Audit that the picture was very, very bleak," Mr Newman said.

He denied it was broken promise.  "It represents us delivering what we said we'd deliver on. We're delivering it in a financially responsible manner," he said.  "We're going to get there. We did reduce taxes and charges. We wanted to do more.  "This is proof going forward because we've budgeted in these reductions that we will deliver them for business."

Mr Newman also promised that a re-elected LNP government would not introduce any new taxes in its next term.

He said Queensland would lead the nation with an economic growth rate of 5.75 per cent in 2015-16. "We will go into a surplus position for the first time in 10 years and we have budgeted for these initiatives because we have a plan," he said.

The premier pointed to Thursday's job figures, which showed Queensland's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate drop from 6.8 to 6.1 per cent in December, as vindication of the government's economic strategy.  "There is no better place in Australia than Queensland to set up a business and grow a business."


Terrible politics in Queensland but there’s no denying the economics

IT must take world-class political ineptitude to engineer the possibility of electoral defeat less than three years after winning office in one of the biggest landslides in parliamentary history.

Yet this is what the Campbell Newman-led Liberal National Party appears to have wrought in Queensland, with polls giving Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk an outside chance of becoming the state’s 39th premier following the snap January 31 poll.

But bad politics doesn’t necessarily mean bad economics, which is what ultimately matters for the prosperity of Australia’s third- biggest state. The Newman government has at least recognised the need to rein in spending and officious regulation, deflate a public sector bloated after 14 years of profligate Labor government and revitalise the state’s ageing infrastructure.

Labor, meanwhile, can have no meaningful plan while it remains wedded to public ownership of electricity provision. Thanks to its own prior recklessness, there aren’t the funds.

Since its March 2012 election, the LNP has cut annual expense growth from 9 per cent a year under premiers Peter Beattie and Anna Bligh over the decade to 2012 to 1.2 per cent.

Despite the political cost, the Newman government has trimmed the public sector — which swelled by more than 30 per cent between 2004 and 2011 to 207,000 — to a more reasonable 195,000.

It has also freed more than 9000 small businesses from onerous compliance with environmental regulations as part of a campaign to cut green tape by 20 per cent.

The LNP’s plan to spend $9 billion updating and expanding the state’s infrastructure from the mooted $37bn proceeds from selling the state’s electricity distribution network will help bolster economic growth and jobs at a time when the resource sector is suffering.

The global price of coal, the state’s biggest export, has plummeted more than 35 per cent. Meanwhile, the oil price has sunk to a five-year low, dragging down with it the revenue potential of the state’s massive liquefied natural gas reserves (whose price is linked to oil) for government and private sector alike.

While Australia’s economy grew by 2.7 per cent over the year to September, Queensland’s shrank by 1.8 per cent. The state’s unemployment rate has risen from 5.5 per cent in March 2012 to almost 7 per cent, compared with 6.3 per cent across Australia.

Indeed, if re-elected, the Newman government might want to consider spending even more of the privatisation proceeds on infrastructure. That, at least, is what the NSW Liberals are doing. They, by contrast, are poised to romp back to victory despite courting their own share of political embarrassments.



By Australian cartoonist Paul Zanetti

I may not like being called a bloody wog, dago, Itie bastard but I will fight for your right to call me one. Or anything else you like.

In return I’ll call you a dumb, hick redneck skippy, draw a cartoon of you, put it on Facebook and then we’ll have a drink. Your shout. Well, you started it.

You see, my fragile, sensitive feelings come second to my freedoms, and yours for that matter.

I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s when life was more rough and tumble. We called a spade a bloody spade. It wasn’t about intolerance because Australia opened its arms to people from all races, cultures and faiths. I’m a product of that openness and warmth, and this friendliness continues to this day, as long as it’s mutual.

When I grew up, political correctness was a futuristic nightmare, best described today as ‘A doctrine…which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.’

Today, freedoms we once enjoyed have been eroded and in some cases destroyed by the PC brigade, all too quick to take ‘offence’ at the drop of a hat, but quick to condemn or vilify anybody who doesn’t subscribe to their wooly world view.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about free speech after the attack on the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Everyone became ‘Charlie’, a symbol of uncompromising free speech, everyone including the hypocrites responsible for shackling free speech.

In Australia the lightning rod for free speech is Section 18C of The Racial Discrimination Act.

Simply put, that part of the Act says you can’t offend someone (other than in private) based on race, colour or national or ethnic origin. In other words, it’s illegal to hurt someone’s feelings.

The next part of the Act, Section 18D, makes exceptions. You can hurt someone’s feelings publicly if it’s in cartoons, in opinion columns (fair comment), artistic works or in the public interest or if what you say is factual, or scientific, or if you believe it.

But, someone can argue that you didn’t really believe what you said publicly, and haul you in front of the courts. That’s how ludicrous it all is.

As someone who was a regular target of idiots who picked on me because of my last name, and heritage, I’m proud to live in a country where you are free enough to call me whatever you like. As a kid, I didn’t run to the teacher or school principal each time it happened. Section 18C is a legal version of crying to the teacher. I handled it my own way. I drew very compromising cartoons of the idiots and stuck them up around the school corridors. Didn’t take long before they were my ‘friends’.

The Liberal party went to the last election promising to repeal this muzzle on free speech, but Abbott decided to not keep this promise, too. He cowered to ‘community groups’ such as the Jewish and Islamic groups (and the self-titled ‘progressive’ left) who united to pressure the Abbott government to go weak at the knees. They did.

The irony is, that religion isnt covered in The Racial Discrimination Act, so anybody can still criticise Muslims or Islam without any legal consequence, but the Jews (a race) cannot be vilified by any Muslim, or other. Let’s just take a look at what’s written in the Qur’an while we’re at it. Who’s feeling like a winnable legal stoush?

In the US free speech is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution of The United States. We don’t have any such safeguard here.

Larry Flynt is a grub, a pornographer and somewhat of a hero to defenders of free speech, including me.  More than just about anybody, he has defended the protection of every American’s right to say what they think.

Flynt is the publisher of Hustler magazine, the third biggest selling porn magazine in the ‘70s and ‘80s after Penthouse and Playboy. It was the trashier of the three and lived most of its printed life in the sewer (I can say that without fear of Flynt suing me, thanks to the free speech laws Flynt championed). In one of the editions of the mag, Flynt lampooned loud mouth Christian evangelist, Jerry Falwell.

What Flynt said about Falwell in print was crude, involving incest with Falwell’s mother in an outhouse, in a satirical full page ad. Hustler had a long record of parody ads of famous people and ‘their first time’.

The Falwell satire was typically ludicrous. The page included the disclaimer in small print at the bottom of the page, reading "ad parody—not to be taken seriously."  Falwell sued, anyway.

In a long running case, Flynt eventually won under The First Amendment. His right to take the piss, poke fun at public figures is protected.

Flynt summed it up best himself: "If the First Amendment will protect a scumbag like me, then it will protect all of you. Because I'm the worst."

Yes, Flynt was defending himself in legal action, but it was in his act of pushing the boundaries that sparked the fight. He went to extremes to fight for and protect the right of every American to be free in what they say. He paved the way.

Flynt was imprisoned 9 times fighting for the right to say and publish what he thought. He was also shot at outside a courtroom and remains in a wheelchair to this day.

In protecting his First Amendment rights Flynt says, "Fighting those battles wasn’t easy. I’ve been shot and paralysed as a result of it. But freedom of speech is not freedom for the thought you love, it’s freedom for the thought you hate the most. You have to get your head around that."

As far as expanding the First Amendment rights, Flynt says the less governmental interference, the better.

"The greatest right that any nation can afford its people is the right to be left alone. Every American feels that way. Unless they’re breaking the law, they want to be left alone."

Charlie Hebdo carried the flame in France. Every cartoonist and journalist who died at work by the spray of bullets from cowardly, medieval ideologues brandishing Kalishnakovs were martyrs for free speech. They pushed the boundaries regardless of the consequences.

In Australia we have very few prepared to defend free speech.

One is cartoonist Larry Pickering. He did so in the 1980s with his famed ‘politically candid’ calendars where he depicted our politicians warts and all in the nuddy. As funny as they were, they pushed the limits of satire and free speech.

Joh Bjelke Petersen wanted them banned in Queensland, where they were sold under the counter in a cover, yet displayed hanging over the front counter in all their glory in most other states. It could have been the way Larry drew Joh.

Gough Whitlam tried to sue Pickering for his depiction of a post-sacked wounded Whitlam with band-aids all over him, including on his dick. Whitlam contrived some silly argument that Pickering was inferring that he had syphilis and was wearing a band aid to cover it up. He wasn’t of course, but Gough being a QC thought he had Pickering.

Larry said, "Well how do we know you don’t? You’ll have to drop your strides in court and prove it."  Gough dropped the case instead.

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo atrocity, Pickering chose to again push the boundaries for free speech by drawing a cartoon of the Islamic prophet Mohammed.

Soon after, he was visited by counter terror police, late last Sunday night, telling Pickering he would have to be placed under surveillance because he’d ‘upset a few people’.

But whatever they believe, that’s their right and freedom to believe, just so long as they don’t want to force their beliefs on us, which they seem to be very keen to do, most often at the point of a gun or a sword.

In a free society, we should be free to ‘upset a few people’ without fear of legal or personal reprisals. As Pickering said in many of his TV and radio interviews over the past 48 hours, "If we don’t have our freedom of speech, we aren’t truly free."

Today in Australia, it’s the self-titled, so-called ‘progressives’ (the left) who are fighting for the removal of free speech in Australia. They are fighting to keep the muzzling Section 18C of The Racial Discrimination Act.

Ironic, huh? Progressing us all backwards.

There are many other examples of the ‘progressives’ reversing hard won freedoms by the real progressives, those who fought in actual life-risking battles for our freedoms - our military.

Progressives are those who stand up and fight for our freedoms on the front line, not those who fight to erode our rights.

In this country a good start for true and total free speech would be the repeal of the repressive Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Free speech is 100% free, not sort of free-ish. And that’s coming from a wog, dago Itie.


16 January, 2015

Detroit motor show surprise: Holden designs Buick luxury car for China and potentially Australia

The ALP started the folly of Australia building its own cars -- at great cost to the car buyer. Subsequent Labor governments trimmed the protections back but Tony Abbott finally abolished them.  So the folly will end soon.  But the prophets of doom did not reckon on Australians having some genuinely marketable skills.  So Australia will still have a presence in the industry

THE next generation Holden Caprice luxury sedan — best known for its popularity on hire car ranks at airports — is likely to come from China when Holden shuts its Adelaide factory in late 2017.

General Motors unveiled a Buick luxury sedan in Detroit overnight that was designed and built in Holden’s styling studios in Port Melbourne.

Although it was a concept car designed for this week’s Detroit motor show, the showroom version is expected to be made in China in the next two years.

Of the 1.2 million Buicks sold globally last year, 920,000 were made in China and it is the second biggest General Motors brand globally.

The car was unveiled by former Holden boss Mark Reuss.

The Buick Avenir — French for "the future" — was a joint design effort between Holden’s styling studios in Port Melbourne and General Motors’ design centres in Detroit.

And Holden built the car by hand before it was airfreighted to the US just before Christmas.

"Australia is really good at some of the bigger luxury cars," said Mr Reuss.

"The car was built in Australia at Holden, in their shops, and the interior and the exterior was a joint effort between (Australian and US) studios."

For now, though, the Buick Avenir is just motor show tease. The company wouldn’t say what type of engine is under "the hood" but Mr Reuss did confirm it was rear-wheel-drive, like the current Holden Caprice luxury sedan.

However, Holden insiders have told News Corp Australia that the Buick Avenir will likely be made in China and sold globally.

It may also come to Australia as the eventual replacement for the Holden Caprice, once the Elizabeth car factory falls silent in late 2017.

The Buick Avenir will not reverse GM’s decision to close the Holden factory but it does underline Australia’s transformation into a design and engineering hub, rather than a manufacturing hub, for the automotive industry.


Abbott government to consider even more spending cuts?

The Abbott government will consider making even more spending cuts in coming months as it deals with the dramatic fall in global oil and gas prices, new Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says.  But economists say it may not be necessary.

One month ago the federal government's mid-year budget update revealed a budget blowout of $10.6 billion, thanks to huge falls in the price of iron ore and coal.

At the time of the announcement, Treasurer Joe Hockey said the government did not plan to make savage spending cuts in response to the blowout because the cuts could exacerbate Australia's already weak economy and rising unemployment.

He said he would rather prioritise economic growth over a return to surplus.

But in the weeks since then, the decline in the prices of iron ore and coal have been joined by huge and unexpected falls in global oil and gas prices.

The price of a barrel of oil has fallen from $US93 ($114) in September to just $US45.70 this week, while liquefied natural gas prices have dropped to $US9.70 for 1 million BTU, half the peak reached a year ago.

The oil price declines have helped petrol prices touch a six-year low, in a boon for consumers, but they could also hit Commonwealth government revenues by billions of dollars via lower company tax receipts and royalties.

Now Mr Frydenberg has warned that the government will have to take these new price falls into account as it prepares its next budget – which is due in four months – and that means more spending cuts will have to be considered.

"Australia focuses its exports on resources and LNG is one of those resources … [we've seen a] fall in the iron ore price by around 50 per cent from the beginning of last year, we've seen the oil price fall by a similar figure, we've also seen downward pressure on coal and wheat," Mr Frydenberg said on Wednesday.

"The numbers will be reviewed when it comes round to the next budget in May but there's no doubt this is putting pressure on government revenues.

"[This] underlines the reason why we have to bring spending under control … we'll announce any further changes in the context of the next budget but we're very conscious we have a structural deficit and we need to bring spending under control."

But HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham says the fall in global oil prices ought to provide a net benefit for the economy, so even more spending cuts may not be necessary.

He says lower oil prices will boost economic growth, and that in turn will encourage employment growth and boost company tax receipts, and that these should override any declines in mining royalties associated with lower LNG prices.

"The lower oil price is, on net, a positive story for Australia and for the government," Mr Bloxham told Fairfax Media.

"The lower petrol prices, and lower energy costs for Australian households and businesses, should support more growth in household spending and business investment. Those things are likely to translate into more tax revenue for the government overall.

"You've got to be careful not to look at this as some partial analysis that just looks at LNG, you've got to consider the broader effects on the overall economy."

Mr Hockey said in December that the Abbott government would allow Commonwealth revenues to take a hit to absorb the fall in the terms of trade, rather than cut government spending too deeply.

"Previous governments have chosen, in these sorts of circumstances, to spend more money, we haven't," the Treasurer said.

"What we have chosen  to do is to allow the revenue to take the hit but continue with our path of fixing up spending, having structural saves that over the medium-term deliver a sustainable surplus and a believable surplus


Unemployment rate drops to 6.1%, 37,000 jobs created

Australia's unemployment rate dropped to 6.1 per cent in December from a revised 6.2 per cent in November, after the creation of more than 37,000 jobs during the month.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday that the number of people employed rose by 37,400 to 11.67 million in December, against market expectations of 5,000 newly employed.

The participation rate climbed from 64.7 per cent of the population to 64.8 per cent.

The figures were much better than expected, and the Australian dollar spiked about half a US cent to around US81.90 cents.

The increase in employment was driven by increased full-time employment for both females - up 23,300 - and males, up 18,200," the ABS said.

"The increase in full-time employment was marginally offset by a fall in part-time employment, down 4,100," it said.

Improvement was seen across most state and territories, with the unemployment rate down 0.1 percentage point to 5.9 per cent in New South Wales; down 0.3 percentage points to 6.5 per cent in Victoria; and 0.7 percentage points to 6.1 per cent in Queensland. However, in mining-intensive Western Australia, the unemployment rate surged 0.7 percentage points to 6 per cent.

 The latest data is likely to influence Reserve Bank of Australia thinking on monetary policy this year, although erratic figures last year undermined market faith in the ABS's labour force series.

"Again, based on errors from last year the data may not be as significant as it reflects," Quay Equities in note.  "However, on the data we do have it is a good yet volatile number, [which] probably gives the RBA the scope to delay any short term interest rate cuts," Quay said.

ANZ said in a note before the data release, however, that weaker growth and lower inflation in 2015 would "provide the RBA with a reason and the scope to take the cash rate down 50 basis points to 2 per cent over the first half of the year".

"The case for rate cuts has been building over the past two months, with weaker-than-expected GDP numbers released in early December and ongoing softness in non-mining activity outside of residential construction," said chief economist Warren Hogan.

"The big fall in global energy prices means lower than previously expected inflation in 2015 provides the scope for lower interest rates," he said.


Political hot potato: WA government rejects calls for Soviet-style regulator to be abolished

A recent photo of Tovarich Barnett

PICTURE the scene: tonnes of produce sits rotting in fields as government inspectors stop and search vehicles for contraband vegetables. This isn’t Communist Russia — this is Western Australia in 2015.

A WA farmer is giving away 200 tonnes of ‘illegal’ spuds as a public protest against a bizarre, Soviet-style Ministry of Potatoes, which imposes strict controls on the production and distribution of the vegetable.

Like in Soviet Russia, the WA Government wants to control supply to keep prices steady.  In WA, the powerful Potato Marketing Corporation controls who can grow potatoes, how many hectares can be planted and the varieties produced.

The PMC, established under the Marketing of Potatoes Act 1946, also has the power to search vehicles suspected of carrying more than 50kg of potatoes, demand the details of the driver and impound any ‘illegal’ potatoes.

Tony Galati, who has been battling the regulator for the last 20 years, is facing the threat of prosecution for growing about 10 per cent more than his allotted potato quota, The Australian revealed this week.

Mr Galati began giving away the roughly 50,000 4kg bags at his Spudshed stores today. The potatoes would be worth about $600,000 at most supermarkets, where potatoes usually sell for $3 a kilo.

The Barnett government has refused to abolish the outdated PMC for at least two years until the next election, despite a report from its own Economic Regulation Authority in favour of the move, and evidence that the bureaucracy pushes up costs and stifles productivity.

The Labor opposition is leading the growing calls for the PMC to be scrapped. Opposition spokesman Ben Wyatt said the heavy regulation of potatoes in WA was "well past its use by date" and stymied productivity and choice for consumers.

The PMC is the last regulator of its kind in Australia, and widely considered an anachronism in a free market. It sets the price growers receive and acts as a monopoly wholesaler.  Around 80 farms pay licence fees under the system, and growers fear many could go out of business if the industry were deregulated.

Simon Breheny, director of the Legal Rights Project at free-market think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs, said the PMC was a Soviet-style form of industry control designed to protect potato farmers at massive cost to consumers.

"The story of the WA potato farmer giving away tonnes of produce is reminiscent of crops left to rot in Soviet farming collectives," he said. "It’s an extraordinary situation for potato farmers to be in."

Bodies like the PMC were once common in a range of primary industries including milk, eggs and wheat — milk pricing and supply were regulated by state and federal governments until the late ‘90s, for example.

Mr Breheny said history showed removing price controls resulted in lower costs for consumers. "Competition means some producers will survive and others won’t, but that is the reality of a free market. At the end of the day the outcomes for consumers are always better with greater competition."

The WA Potato Growers Association is in favour of keeping the PMC, with chief executive Jim Turley calling for Mr Galati to be prosecuted for overplanting.  "We have a regulated system of 1000 tonnes a week. If all of a sudden someone wants to give away 200 tonnes, that is going to affect the price of potatoes," he told The Australian.


15 January, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is  one of many who see hypocrisy in the demonstrations supporting Charlie Hebdo

Feel-good friends of free speech

Janet Albrechtsen

ON Sunday in Paris, in cities across Europe, in Britain, the US and Australia too, people flocked to join marches declaring ‘‘Je suis Charlie’’. Good on them for showing solidarity with the French satirical magazine that, unlike most other news outlets, published cartoons about Mohammed in 2006, was firebombed in 2011, its offices and journalists targeted by Islamic terrorists last week when 12 people were murdered. Here in New York, a tiny shop on a street corner on SoHo has stuck up a ‘‘Je suis Charlie’’ poster in its dirty window. On a chilly New York day it warms your heart. It makes you feel good.

But that’s all it does. We won’t win this long and sinister battle over Western freedoms with unity walks, neat slogans and hashtag trends on Twitter.

Among the leaders standing shoulder to shoulder at the front of the free speech march in Paris on Sunday was Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. How about he return home and release from prison journalists such as Peter Greste? Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu marched too. Perhaps he should admit that marching for free speech doesn’t sit well with Turkey holding a two-year record — ahead even of Iran and China — for jailing the most journalists. When Turkey reverses that record, it can hold its head high at free speech rallies. Anything less is shoddy grandstanding.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was on the streets of Paris too. Invigorated from leading the way in defending free speech, let’s hear the Chancellor declare back home that even difficult debates about immigration and integration must be had, that after all it’s the commitment to difficult debates that tests our resolve about free speech. Let’s hear Merkel remind us that free speech means defending the rights of those with views you find abhorrent, offensive, insulting. The easy part is agreeing with those who share your views. The rubber hits the road when debate gets sticky. Let’s hear the free speech Chancellor say that the thousands of Germans who recently gathered to protest their concerns about the Islamification of Germany are entitled to express their views.

Barely two weeks ago Merkel appealed to people to stay away, saying the people organising these protests have cold hearts "often full of prejudice, and even hate". Trying to stifle the debate, church leaders in Cologne turned off the lights of the local cathedral so the protests would be in the dark. In Dresden, the opera house bosses extinguished its lights too so protesters couldn’t be seen against the building. Turning off the lights sums up Europe’s cultural malaise, explaining why thousands of ordinary Germans joined extremists concerned about Europe’s mealy-mouthed commitment to Western values.

And while Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was not at the Paris march, he was quick to say, following the terrorist attacks, that we must never compromise our values in defending them. It’s a fine statement.

But how does it sit with his decision to drop reforms of 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, a section that prohibits speech that is offensive, insulting, language that humiliates or intimidates? Section 18C is a direct hit on free speech in Australia. Section 18C feeds the marketplace of outrage where people are treated as victims and encouraged to scream loud to shut down debate they find offensive. Hence Andrew Bolt’s legitimate opinions were struck down when a judge, relying on section 18C, said he objected to the "tone" of Bolt’s column.

The only difference with the attack in Paris is the terrorists opted for guns, rather than laws, to shut down offensive words and pictures. The means is different. The aim is the same.

Former prime minister John Howard told me in an interview to be aired tomorrow night that he was disappointed when the Liberal Party shelved reform of 18C as too hard. Howard said he was encouraged by senior members of the party — including Attorney-General George Brandis — to publicly defend reforming section 18C, only to see the party dump free speech reform.

Yes, sometimes it is hard defending free speech. Heart-warming statements are easy. Revitalised on the free speech front, now is the perfect time for the Abbott government to make the case for free speech, explaining why free speech matters, that free speech tests ideas, making the good ideas stronger and striking down the dumb ones, that shutting down speech creates martyrs, that speech that is offensive today is sometimes at the vanguard of progress tomorrow.

So let’s not kid ourselves about unity marches and free speech slogans. Many of the people declaring "Je suis Charlie" are not Charlie. Not in the least. And more’s the pity. They have nothing in common with Charlie Hebdo and the iconoclastic offensiveness the French newspaper delights in causing to religion, to politicians, to pop culture and the rest.

Because if they are Charlie, then surely they are also Michel Houllebecq, the French novelist hauled in front of a French court for inciting hatred. If they are Charlie, they are also Andrew Bolt and Mark Steyn.

Yet there was no mass outrage about the free speech battles faced by Houllebecq, Bolt or Steyn. Instead, too many, especially on the Left, defend laws that restrict free speech. If the free speech walkers are Charlie, they are also Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Yet the Muslim-born writer is regularly criticised by the left intelligentsia as too provocative when she speaks out the importance of defending Enlightenment values. In April last year, 8 days after announcing it would award an honorary doctorate to Ali, a campaigner for women’s rights, Brandeis University cowered to critics and decided to pull the award.

As Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Bernard Holtrop told a Dutch newspaper on the weekend, "we have a lot of new friends." Holtrop then said "We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends … They’ve never seen Charlie Hebdo." "A few years ago, thousands of people took to the streets in Pakistan to demonstrate against Charlie Hebdo. They didn’t know what it was. Now it’s the opposite, but if people are protesting to defend freedom of speech, naturally that’s a good thing …"

Yes, it’s a good thing. But it’s only meaningful in a battle over Western values if we, the people, and our leaders do something more than protest and talk.

In the hours after the Paris terrorist attacks, Newsweek featured this headline: "After Paris Attack, News Outlets Face Difficult Choice Over Controversial Magazine Covers." Difficult? Really? How little we have learned. Publish the damn covers. As political academic, Jytte Klausen, ironically from Brandeis University, said last week, "The editors and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were targeted because, over the past five years, they have been left alone standing in defence of press freedom against the jihadist Kulturkampf."

When Australians who march under the chic ‘‘Je suis Charlie’’ slogan start demanding we repeal section 18C, then they can claim legitimate solidarity with Charlie. Until then, their actions are feel- good gimmickry. Charlie Hebdo deserves the last word. In 2012, Gerard Biard, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief explained his magazine’s decision to publish the Mohammed cartoons: "If we say to religion, ‘You’re untouchable’ we’re f. ked."


Some Australian Muslim leaders support Charlie Hebdo’s right to offend

LOCAL  Muslim leaders have backed French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, saying while some may find its subject matter ­"offensive, freedom of speech is essential to a functioning democracy".

Community leader Keysar Trad and refugee advocate Jamal Daoud yesterday said they disagreed with depicting Mohammed — in line with their religion — but expressed their support for the magazine’s right to publish whatever it liked, irrespective of what people might think.

The cover of the latest edition — published six days after Islamic extremists stormed its head ­offices in Paris in an attack that left 12 dead — pictures ­Mohammed shedding a tear while holding a sign reading "Je Suis Charlie" — I am Charlie — under the headline "All is forgiven".

"While the cartoons may be ­offensive to some Muslims, the magazine has been doing the same thing with religious leaders and has been doing it for years," Mr Trad said yesterday.

Last week’s attacks were "first of all against Islam". "It doesn’t matter what the motives of the ­attackers are, it leads to a concerted international criticism of Islam,’’ he said. "What has been achieved by this attack?"

Mr Daoud, an aspiring politician and spokesman of advocacy group the Social Justice Network, said Charlie Hedbo, like all publications, should be entitled to print what it liked.

"Everybody who ­believes in freedom of speech should condemn these attacks," Mr Daoud said. "As Muslims we have more responsibility than others to send our condemnation, we should come forward and say ‘not in our name’.  "If we refuse to send our condemnation it will be seen by ­extremists as us supporting them."

Support for the magazine from sections of the Muslim community has also prompted calls for the repeal of the controversial section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

As reported by The Australian yesterday, Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson said section 18C would "ensure (the magazine) would be shut down" if it was based in Australia, a view supported by several media law experts.

Not all local Muslim groups are in support of the magazine’s right of free speech. Islamic group Hiz but-Tahrir, whose stated aim is to overthrow democracy and political freedom and take control of the world, condemned the magazine and the French government’s support of it following the attacks.

Spokesman Hamzah Qureshi said the magazine was "vile", however the attacks had given it more power. "The magazine has now obtained for itself a politically justified position that has been propped up by European politicians by their participation in Paris demonstrations," Mr Qureshi said.

"These degrading, narcissistic and demeaning views are now far more acceptable because it is being held as the standard for free speech."

Mr Daoud was highly critical of Hiz but-Tahrir and said it was ­"another side of (terrorist group) ISIS".  He said the group and its apparent expansion here highlighted growing problems Australia faced with Islamic extremism.  He said the absence of broader condemnation of terrorist activities by the wider Muslim community meant extremist groups were given undue prominence.

"They take over and become the voice of the Muslim community but they are not the mainstream," Mr Daoud said.

The government was failing in its attempts to deradicalise extremists and prevent radicalisation. "We need to do something about this, we need a plan, we need a holistic approach," he said.

Hiz but-Tahrir has refused to condemn both the Paris attacks and last month’s deadly siege in Sydney’s CBD.

In a statement, the group’s first since the Sydney siege, Hiz but-Tahrir described the show of support for the victims of the Paris massacre as the same as separate "Islamophic" demonstrations ­occurring in Europe.  "Both rely on the same underlying narrative that positions Muslims as the problem," the group said.

"There are some that question the apparent hesitance to condemn attacks such as those carried out at Charlie Hebdo.  "But the fact is that this reluctance is a conscious or subconscious desire to resist a vile, racist and narcissistic worldview that highlights and humanises European life but dehumanises and makes invisible non-European life."

The group said its "refusal to succumb to the woeful moral ­ambivalence of the West" should be a "cause for celebration, not a cause for condemnation".


Sydney siege male hostages shouldn’t get bravery awards, says NSW MP Fred Nile

MALE hostages who fled the fatal Sydney siege shouldn’t receive bravery awards, NSW MP Fred Nile says.

The divisive figure reckons Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson, who were both killed along with gunman Man Haron Monis in the 16-hour siege, should receive the awards.

But the men who escaped from the Lindt Cafe don’t. "They should get recognition for what they suffered as hostages but I don’t think they should get bravery awards," Mr Nile told Fairfax Radio.

"Maybe they could have done something more to protect the women.

"Normally bravery awards are given for an act of bravery — that somebody actually does something. They haven’t done anything."

Giving bravery awards to those male hostages who fled would diminish the worth of the medal, the Christian Democratic Party leader added.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott earlier this week requested Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove support a push to honour the victims, surviving hostages and emergency services with bravery awards.


Must not criticize cyclists

FAMILY Feud has enraged cyclists by asking competitors this question. "On the popular game show, host Grant Denyer asked competitors to name "something annoying that a cyclist might do?".

This of course has enraged the cycling community who took to Twitter to voice their thoughts including comedian and cycling enthusiast Charlie Pickering.

The aim of the game is to select the most common response to each question, as voted on by an audience of 100.

Among the winning answers on the board was ‘Taking driving lane’, ‘cut you off’, ‘everything’ and ‘wear lycra’.

Australian Cycle Alliance president Edward Hore says he is shocked by the question.

"Seriously, the hatred against cyclists has to stop. We are all someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter," reported veooz.


Cyclists can be very annoying -- and while they are, they will be disliked. If they stuck to cycle paths, there would be less hostility

14 January, 2015

Tony Abbott baits jihadis with hated Daesh tag

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott has moved to rebrand terror group Islamic State by calling the evil jihadis a name they hate — Daesh.

The PM urged others to join him and stop calling the murderous hordes ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) or IS (Islamic State).

His decision, to be mirrored by government MPs and officials, was made after talks two weeks ago with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

"Daesh hates being referred to by this term, and what they don’t like has an instinctive ­appeal to me,’’ Mr Abbott told the Herald Sun.  "I absolutely refuse to refer to it by the title that it claims for itself (Islamic State), because I think this is a perversion of religion and a travesty of governance."  "I’ve never used that term and I would strongly counsel people against ever using the presumptuous title that they have given themselves.’’

Daesh is from an acronym formed from the Arabic spelling of the terror group’s name — al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa al-Sham.

International media has been reporting terror leaders’ threats to "cut out the tongues’’ of those referring to them as Daesh, or DAIISH, as it is also known. There are several theories on why the name is so ­despised, which include ­reports it was first used by supporters of Syrian President ­Bashar al-Assad whom IS is seeking to overthrow.

There are also reports it closely mirrors the Arabic words "daes’’ which means "to trample down or crush’’’ and "dahes’’ which reportedly means something similar to "one who sows discord’’.

The move to rebrand IS comes as western nations, ­including Australia, work to strip away any legitimacy the terror group is trying to build. "The reason why ISIL — or Daesh, as I’ll continue to refer to it — is an issue for Australians is because its ­apparent success in Syria and Iraq has galvanised the people prone to extremism right around the world, and it has become the inspiration for the potential terrorists,’’ Mr Abbott said.

"Given that the fight begins in Iraq and Syria, we probably should refer to this organisation by the term that is most used by its opponents in those countries — that is, Daesh."


Australian cartoonist Larry Pickering placed under police protection

Australian cartoonist Larry Pickering has been placed under protective police surveillance after he posted a picture depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad on his website.

Detectives from Queensland Police visited the controversial cartoonist at his home on Sunday evening and told him he was being put under high-priority protective surveillance, News Corp Australia reported.

"I guess they must have picked up some intelligence or chatter after I did the cartoon," Pickering told News Corp.  "They gave me their details and special phone numbers and said if I call they will be there in minutes."

Pickering posted a drawing on his website on Friday depicting the prophet on a spit roast, skewered on a pencil.  

Police reportedly told Pickering to warn them if he was planning to post any similar images in the future.

The security detail comes after the deadly attack on the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday.

Pickering has long been a controversial figure, and most recently came to prominence after waging a vitriolic campaign against former prime minister Julia Gillard when she was in office.

SOURCE  See the toon here

Gillian Triggs’s advice a ‘betrayal’ of women

She's an evil old bag

DOMESTIC violence experts have condemned Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs’s recommendation to release back into the community a man who beat his de facto wife to death, lambasting her call that he be compensated for his detention as a "betrayal" of abused women.

A string of immigration ministers have acted to keep Indonesian killer John Basikbasik in immigration detention since he completed a seven-year manslaughter sentence in Queensland for brutally bashing his partner over the head with a ­bicycle. She was almost four months pregnant.

Dr Triggs is now under pressure to explain her finding that Basikbasik should be released and paid $350,000 compensation, as revealed by The Australian last week. The case is due to come before a Senate hearing next month.

Domestic violence specialists yesterday said Dr Triggs’s recommendation that Basikbasik be freed with conditions such as curfews and regular reporting raised the risk of other women being attacked.

DVConnect chief executive Diane Mangan, who runs Queensland’s domestic violence hotline, said she fully supported the government’s attempts to keep Basikbasik behind bars.

"You wouldn’t come across one person who works in domestic violence that agrees with the Human Rights Commissioner," Ms Mangan said. "There were no human rights for that woman and that unborn baby.

"If you can beat a pregnant wife to death, you are more than capable of being a threat to another woman."

Dr Triggs last year found ­Basikbasik’s human rights had been breached by holding him in immigration detention rather than monitoring him in the community, recommending he receive $350,000 compensation for his "arbitrary" detention since the prison sentence ended in 2007.

Her 4000-word report failed to mention that Basikbasik’s 28-year-old Australian partner had been pregnant when he killed her, or that he had a history of breaching court bail conditions.

Ms Mangan said women fleeing domestic violence would feel "absolutely betrayed" if the Papuan refugee received a single cent.

"Any money to be paid should be paid to the family of the woman who was killed," she said.  "That man was well fed and cared for in an Australian jail; he doesn’t need any compensation."

Basikbasik has been convicted of numerous violent offences since he arrived from Papua New Guinea in a canoe in 1985.

A psychiatrist who assessed him in 2008 found he was at high risk of further violent offences and would not benefit from treatment, having shown little insight into his aggressive behaviour.

University of Queensland social work lecturer Deborah Walsh said she would be very concerned if Basikbasik were freed and able to form a new ­romantic relationship.

"He will have had no serious perpetrator intervention," said Dr Walsh. who has worked with domestic violence offenders for nearly two decades.  "Having no intervention would put other women associated with him at risk."

Dr Walsh said none of the possible risk mitigation measures proposed by Dr Triggs — including a management plan to assist with his rehabilitation, curfews, travel restrictions or regular reporting — gave her confidence he would not hurt other women.

"The fundamental cause is the way he is thinking and behaving in relation to the way he views women," she said. "He needs to be involved in a perpetrator intervention program and not go into an intimate partner relationship until the intervention program has got some clear evidence there has been a change in the way he views those relationships.  "Until that is assured, women aren’t safe around him."

Dr Triggs declined to comment last night.


Queensland 2015: Annastacia Palaszczuk yet to release economic policy

OPPOSITION Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has insisted Labor’s economic strategy is "ready", but says she will release it when she wants to.

Meanwhile, Ms Palaszczuk has declared voters have "every right to know" who will be premier if Campbell Newman loses Ashgrove — while refusing to say whether she will continue to lead the Opposition if Labor loses the election.

As voters enter day eight of the election campaign, they are yet to get a glimpse of the Opposition’s plan for managing the state’s finances and tackling debt.

"Our economic strategy is ready," she said in Townsville.  "We will announce it at our timing of our own choosing.  "It will be at our own choosing, when I am ready."

Ms Palaszczuk was repeatedly asked how Labor planned to pay down debt and manage the economy without resorting to privatisation or raising fees and charges, but would not say.

"Every single (one) of Campbell Newman’s election commitments is based on selling our assets," she said.  "Let me make it very clear to Queensland, we will not sell your assets."

Labor on Tuesday announced its latest policy. It plans to spend $139 million over three years to employ an extra 875 teachers.

Ms Palaszczuk also said Mr Newman must detail his succession plan.

"Voters, Queenslanders have every right to know who will be the premier if Campbell Newman does not win Ashgrove," she said.

But when asked whether she would remain Opposition Leader if Labor suffers defeat, she said: "I’m focused on being premier of this state."


13 January, 2015

Disclose or leave: Immigration Department workers face 'Organisational Suitability Assessments'

Thousands of Immigration Department public servants face the sack if they fail to comply with tough new security tests imposed by their new bosses.

Immigration's 8500 officials have been told they must complete an "Organisational Suitability Assessment" if they want to work at Border Force Australia, the new merged agency combining Immigration and Customs and Border Protection.

The move by the Customs bosses, who are taking up many of the key posts at the top of the merged entity, comes despite all Immigration public servants already holding the "baseline" security clearances that are standard across the Australian Public Service.

But the new requirements go further, probing into past activities in the private lives of Immigration's bureaucrats and those of their families, friends and other acquaintances.

The move comes as part of a general workplace crackdown on Immigration public servants. This also includes being breathalysed and drug tested in their offices under the tough workplace regime.

But a spokesman for the department said the organisational suitability tests were vital to a "unique operating environment" where there were "a range of additional agency-specific factors".

Public servants at the department will begin holding meetings from mid-January to discuss their bosses' decision, due to be implemented when the merged department is launched in July, with the new security environment set to be a hot topic at the gatherings.

There will also be a crackdown on second jobs, social media use and sloppy appearances among the department's public servants, as the Customs agency hierarchy tightens its grip on Immigration.

Holders of a baseline security clearance must declare any criminal or other legal matters in their past, changes to their personal circumstances and even any shift in political or religious belief or affiliation.

But under the organisational suitability rules, the public servants must disclose "criminal or high risk associations, conflicts of interest, criminal history and/or involvement in criminal or illegal activities, compliance with border-related laws, use of illicit substances [and] compliance with the Australian Public Service values".

In Customs, where OSA's have been in force since 2010, officers were told that a failure to take part in the process or getting an adverse ruling would result in employees losing their jobs, or at least being transferred to another public service department.

"For ACBPS [Australian Customs and Border Protection Service] officers, both an endorsed OSA and appropriate Commonwealth security clearance are considered conditions of engagement and essential qualifications," Customs officers are warned.

Immigration officials will now have to conform to an "integrity" framework, already adopted by Customs as part of its ongoing battle against its internal corruption problems, and seen by DIBP officials as another step in what is being referred to internally as the "Customisation" of their department.

A departmental spokeswoman confirmed in a statement that the organisational suitability rules would be a mandatory requirement for Immigration staffers but would not say how many Customs officials had completed the process.

"Due to ACBPS's [Customs'] unique operating environment, there are a range of additional agency-specific factors which must be examined to determine whether an individual or individual's circumstances pose a risk to the mission, resources or people of the ACBPS," the spokeswoman said.

"The OSA is used by the ACBPS to identify and mitigate these risks, and together with a Commonwealth security clearance, provides assurance that an individual is suitable to access ACBPS assets."


Charlie Hebdo attack prompts renewed calls for race-hate law changes in Australia

The deadly terror attack waged on the Paris headquarters of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has prompted renewed calls to revive abandoned plans to change Australia's race-hate laws.

The former NSW Solicitor-General Michael Sexton says those advocating free speech in the wake of last week's Paris attacks should also support the right of media organisations like Charlie Hebdo to print material which can insult or offend.

Currently, under Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act it is unlawful to "offend, insult, humiliate" a person or group of people on the basis of race, colour or ethnic origin.  "The journalists in Paris were killed because they published offensive material," Mr Sexton wrote in News Corp on Monday.

"They defenders of Section 18C no doubt deplore what happened but they would not approve of the publication of offensive cartoons."

Section 18C was used successfully against conservative columnist Andrew Bolt in 2011 over a column he wrote in 2009 in which he accused a group of Aborigines of seeking advantage because of their skin colour.  The judge found the piece was likely to have "offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated" those named.

In 2012, Tony Abbott vowed to repeal the section, which he labelled a "hurt feelings test" in a speech to the free market think tank Institute of Public Affairs.

Soon after being elected the Abbott government revealed plans to change the the act, removing the words "offend, insult and humiliate".  But after an outcry from ethnic groups, the Prime Minister later abandoned the plans saying it was more important to get Muslim groups on board with new anti-terror laws.

Family First Senator Bob Day subsequently introduced a bill into the Senate that, if passed, would remove the words "offend" and "insult" from the Act. The bill was co-sponsored by crossbencher, Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm and two Liberal senators: Dean Smith and Cory Bernardi.

But there are many Liberals, including the prominent Western Sydney MP Craig Laundy, who represent multicultural seats and oppose change.

Senator Bernardi told Fairfax Media on Monday people were "bullied" out of following through with the original plan to repeal the Act but "the time for being bullied is over - we cannot negotiate with the intolerant".  "Let's fight for fundamental freedoms and reject those who will pursue aims that are at odds with that," he said.

However, Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss on Monday said race-hate laws don't need to be changed for people to speak their minds about issues they feel are important.

"We should be bold and speak out about the things we want to speak out about but we can do that without changing section 18C," Mr Truss told AAP. "The government's come to a decision in relation to that issue and we're not proposing to change."

On the weekend, Mr Abbott said "we have to be prepared to call things as we see them".   "Of course from time to time people will be upset, offended, insulted, humiliated," he told Sydney Radio 2UE.

"As a politician I sometimes pick up the paper and think, 'My God, this is so unfair!' but it is all part of a free society," he said.  "Sure, we would like it to be polite but where it is not, so be it, because in the end the cornerstone of progress is free speech," he said.


These crimes have everything to do with Islam

When French president Francoise Hollande addressed the nation on Friday in the wake of terrorist attacks that left 20 dead, he uttered the predictable mantra: "These fanatics have nothing to do with the Muslim religion".

His comment is understandable given that France has more than five million Muslims, a stagnant economy, 24 per cent youth unemployment and endemic social alienation among young Muslims.

His comment is also nonsense. A de facto world war is under way and it has everything to do with Islam. It is not thousands of lone wolfs. It is not un-Islamic conduct. It involves thousands of Muslims acting on what they believe is their religious duty to subjugate non-believers, as outlined in the Koran.

And the problem is growing, not contracting. There was once a tradition among young Australians to travel overland from Singapore to London. That route has become a hell-hole:

Pakistan is dangerous. Afghanistan is a no-go area. Iran is an oppressive theocracy. Iraq is disintegrating. Syria is a disaster area. Lebanon is dangerous. In Turkey, for the first time, Australians travelling to Gallipoli will be going under a security alert.

All these Muslim countries used to be safe for transit. The intimidation being practised in the name of Islam by a small minority is a by-product of something much larger – the state-mandated conservatism that is systemic in the majority of Muslim societies. Most of them are dictatorships, monarchies, theocracies or failed states.

An investigation by Kings College London and the BBC World Service found that in a single month, November 2014, 5042 people were killed by jihadists in 664 separate attacks across 14 countries. That is one death every eight minutes.

It is ongoing. On Thursday, the Islamist group Boko Haram (which translates as "Western education is forbidden") is believed to have murdered  up to 2000 people in Nigeria. These crimes, far greater in scale than those in Paris, received only a fraction of the attention.

In the 35 years since the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, at least a million people have been killed in tens of thousands of jihad attacks, religious civil wars or wars between predominantly Muslim countries.  

In France, a form of dissimilation (to borrow a term from phonetics) is taking place. About 40 per cent of young Muslims are unemployed and thousands have embraced radical Islam as a form of social retaliation.

Surveys have found that between 16 and 21 per cent of respondents in France hold positive views of Islamic State. Given that France has more than five million Muslims, the social catchment of sympathy for jihad is about one million people.

This explains why France has 751 special security zones, an endless sequence of violent incidents involving young Muslim men, anti-Semitic incidents have become routine and Muslims represent 60 per cent of the prison population. Two of the three jihad killers in Paris had served time in prison.  

France and Australia are linked by the past week's events. Both countries have been drawn into an asymmetrical global jihad, fed by notoriety and thus self-sustaining.

In Australia, the pressures are much less severe in the Muslim diaspora but there are self-evident problems.

Here is a statistic to ponder: Australian Muslims are statistically more likely to engage in jihad than to enlist in the Australian Defence Forces.

As at June 30, 2014, there were 57,036 permanent members in the ADF, plus 24,028 in the reserves. When I asked Defence Media how many ADF personnel were Muslim, I received this response:

"As at 26 October, 2014, 100 ADF members have declared they are of Islamic faith … The reporting of religious faith is voluntary and, as such, the data provided may not be a fully accurate representation."

With about 500,000 Muslims in Australia, representing 2.1 per cent of the population, there would be about 1200 Muslims in the ADF if they served on a per capita basis. Instead, the number is miniscule, about 0.2 per cent.

In contrast, 20 Australian Muslims have been killed in fighting in the Syrian civil war, an estimated 60 are still in the combat zone, another 20 have returned from Syria, and an estimated 100 more have provided support for jihad. These figures are from the federal government.

Another 20 Muslims are serving prison terms in Australia for serious terrorism offences or are facing terrorism charges. Two more Muslims, Man Haron Monis and Abdul Numan Haider, were killed during attacks in Australia in which they both invoked Islamic State.

Obviously, if 220 Australian Muslims are known to have engaged in jihad or supported jihad, it follows that 500,000 Muslims, or 99.95 per cent, have not.

Equally obvious, the diverse Muslim diaspora cannot be treated as a dangerous monolith, given that Muslims are the primary victims of oppression by Muslims and the overwhelming majority of Muslims either prefer the peaceful precepts of the Koran or are not highly religious.

But the calculus of terrorism relies on the leveraging of small numbers. It only took three jihadists to occupy 90,000 French police and military personnel, at enormous cost to the state, with enormous global publicity. That will have been duly noted by jihadists.

Australia's security agency has thus become extremely busy. Last financial year, ASIO conducted 159,000 security assessments. This helps explain why the Lindt Café killer was taken off the watch list.

Because of the leveraging of small numbers, the deaths of 22 Australian Muslims in the cause of jihad represents serious social capital. In per-capita terms, it the equivalent of more than 1000 Australian soldiers being killed in Afghanistan. This dwarfs the death toll of 43 Australian military personnel killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars over the past decade, regarded as a heavy social cost.

In these terms, 22 is a large number and 220 is a very large number.


Sunday Style magazine forced to apologise over sexist ad for interns

This does seem a bit gross.  Porno interns.  Is it a brothel?

Interns: always having to fetch coffees and brownies for their bosses without getting paid, and while uncomfortably dressed in skimpy lingerie too. Uh, according to Murdoch's News Corp anyway.

Sunday Style, the company's weekly fashion and beauty insert, was forced to apologise on Friday after posting a bizarre job ad for intern positions.  

"We are on the hunt for fashion interns," went the magazine's advert, accompanied by a picture of a woman in lingerie posing on a bed. (Nope, not even a photocopier in sight).

The image was quickly deleted after criticism from Twitter and Instagram users, who called the ad "sexist" and "offensive".

The magazine - a liftout in The Sunday Telegraph and Herald Sun with a circulation of almost 900,000 - later replaced the post with an apology for their "error in judgement".

"We made an error in judgement today with an image used in a recent Instagram post calling for interns that has since been taken down. We take our intern program seriously and apologise for any offence caused," the new post said.


12 January, 2015

Anti-Israel Australian media

They will twist anything to push their message of hate

Qanta Ahmed

On a recent trip to Australia I was booked by Ch7?s Weekend Sunrise to discuss Project Rozana, an Israeli-Palestinian initiative to train West Bank physicians (predominantly Palestinian Muslims)in Israel’s Hadassah hospital. As an ambassador for the Project, I was lock step with my ideals both as a physician and as an observing Muslim opposed to virulently anti-Semitic Islamism.

A veteran media commentator, my suspicions should have been raised when the producers didn’t indicate the nature of my interview, nor even confirm that I would be discussing Project Rozana. Minutes before live broadcast, the young segment producer Maddy still ‘didn’t know’ what the anchors would be asking.

The cameras began rolling and I described my experiences at The Technion, The RamBam Medical Center and at Hadassah Hospital, responding to the anchors’ evident curiosity. The close knit and fully integrated coexistence with which Israeli and Arab Palestinian scientists and physicians interact with their equally diverse Israeli and Arab Palestinian patients surprised my interviewers.

Later we discussed Islamism, a movement which as a Muslim I recognise masquerades as the great monotheism of Islam but is starkly totalitarian in ideology with a foundational tenet of subjugating democracy. More significantly, Islamism harbors cosmic enmity to all Jewish and by extension Israeli entities and institutions. It is because I am an observing Muslim that I can emphatically reject Islamism – neither anti-Semitism nor anti-Zionism have basis in Islam.

Ending the segment, the anchors were broadly smiling and engaged. This had been the last of 27 scheduled commitments for my eight-day visit. Satisfied I had been informative and shared a novel perspective, I moved to exit the studio.

An elegant woman stopped me in my tracks. Meeting her blue-gray eyes, I was surprised to find tears filling to the brim. Touching her heart, she said: ‘I am the senior producer of this segment. My name is Iman. I am very close to the Palestinian people of Gaza, but after hearing you speak, you have opened me to new ideas.’ She confirmed she was of Egyptian heritage and like me, also Muslim. Intrigued, I suggested coffee.

Tears promptly dissipating, Iman grabbed her wallet. Over lattes we compared notes, talked about the Project and spoke about Gaza. Iman mentioned that she had formed an independent documentary production company. Immediately, I invited her to collaborate with Project Rozana – by chance the Project is keen to do a documentary on Israeli medicine to reveal the kind of coexistence to which I had referred. We left on a high note. I felt my work in Australia had ended in the best possible way.

Hours later, I received the link of the broadcast (you can watch it here). The shock was physical as I witnessed my exploitation. At each description of the pluralism and egalitarianism I had witnessed in Israeli medicine, the screen split to show the rubble of decimated North Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war, or the launching of an Iron Dome interception missile.Then the screen split to the Security Wall, shown from the Palestinian, not Israeli side.

The war footage had clearly been assembled in advance of my live interview without prior knowledge of what I would say. In an unseen control room, to the producers’ signal, as I responded with words like ‘coexistence’, ‘integration’ or ‘pluralism’, a technician pulled the trigger and rolled the stock ‘Israel as a terrorist state’ footage; detonating my truthful and universal message.

I had been reduced to an instrument of rank media opportunism. Worse, it was possible the tearful Iman had been the architect of my on-air vivisection. Self-described as the senior producer and ‘very close to the Palestinians of Gaza’, Iman had withheld remarking on this footage during our 30 minute coffee.

In my ignorance, I had unwittingly collaborated in my own exploitation by the Australian broadcaster who chose to cast me not as an anti-Islamist Muslim physician volunteering in pursuit of coexistence but as a vapid tool serving the malignant media construct of a two-dimensional anti-Semitic caricature of Zionism. This was a deliberate and opportunistic objectification of my identity as a Muslim and a physician, of the Jewish state reduced to an anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist mannequin, and of my political position as an opponent of Islamism; a position which entails significant personal and professional risk. This is neither journalism nor broadcasting; it’s pure pro-Hamas propaganda .

The producers hadn’t bothered to insert Hamas foot-soldiers which include recruited Palestinian children and youth who wage war on Israelis, nor reveal the damage wrought by its hundreds of rockets on Israeli civilians (of whom 23% are non Jewish – mostly Sunni Muslim), nor did Australians see the industrially rendered labyrinth of Hamas tunnels so central to the recent conflict. Weekend Sunrise prostituted my goodwill in the service of personal or official anti-Israeli and pro-Hamas propaganda.

This is what Israel faces, that which no other nation embattled with the lethal threat of Islamism wrestles: the battle over narrative. While Pakistan wages a far more indiscriminate campaign against Islamists in tribal areas, while Afghanistan has been under siege by the Taliban for a decade and a half, while Britain, Canada and America target, prosecute and eliminate Islamists, while Egypt wages war on Islamists and criminalizes their ideology, while Saudi Arabia incarcerates Islamists, while France defends Mali from Islamists, while Kenya and Nigeria flail against Islamists, only Israelis are to be dehumanized, judged apart from humanity as they face Islamist threats on every border. Only Israel must be denigrated, reviled and excoriated in her efforts to secure citizens and territories from the ambitions of genocidal anti-Semitic Islamism.

I felt intensely angry. To be whored out as I strive as an ambassador for a philanthropic mission with universal reach, to be debased as an instrument despite my decades long authority as a physician and Muslim humanist is nothing but obscene.

An on-air apology wouldn’t come amiss.


Climate change: Why some of us won't believe it's getting hotter

Peter Martin, Economics Editor of the Leftist "Age" newspaper  presents below an argument with all the usual Warmist holes in it.  Once again we find an argument from authority, with not a single actual climate datum mentioned.  It is his central contention below that  climate skeptics are ideologically motivated but it apparently has not occurred to him that Warmist scientists might be ideologically motivated!  Typical one-eyed Leftist reasoning. Awkward facts, such as the disablingly high temperatures reported in Sydney in 1790 (Yes. 1790, not 1970) don't swim into his view  at all.  But he would have to be an unusual economist to know anything about climate, of course.  He is just gullible -- and only the gullible would believe him

What is it about the temperature that some of us find so hard to accept?

The year just ended was one of the hottest on record. In NSW it was the absolute hottest, in Victoria the second-hottest, and in Australia the third hottest. Doesn't that tell us that it is regional variations we are looking at, not something global?

The measure is compiled by the Bureau of Meteorology. It dates back to 1910. A separate global reading prepared by the World Meteorological Organisation has 2014 the hottest year since international records began in 1880. Not a single year since 1985 has been below average and every one of the 10 hottest years has been since 1998.

That it's getting hotter is what economists call an empirical question – a matter of fact not worth arguing about, although it is certainly worth arguing about the reasons for the increase and what we may  do about it.

But that's not the way many Australians see it. I posted the Bureau of Meteorology's findings on Twitter on Tuesday and was told: "Not really". Apparently, "climate-wise we are in pretty good shape".

If the bureau had been displaying measures of the temperature on a specific day or a cricket commentator had been displaying the cricket score, there would be no quibbling. The discussion would centre about the reasons for the result and its implications.

But when it comes to the slowly rising temperature some of us won't even accept the readings. And that says something about us, or at least about those of us who won't accept what's in front of our faces.

I am not prepared to believe that these people are anti-science. Some of them are engineers, some mining company company executives. Like all of us, they depend on science in their everyday lives.

Nor am I prepared to believe they've led sheltered lives, although it's a popular theory. In the United States a survey of six months of coverage on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel found that 37 of its 40 mentions of climate change were misleading.

The misleading coverage included "broad dismissals of human-caused climate change, disparaging comments about individual scientists, rejections of climate science as a body of knowledge, and cherry-picking of data".

Fox News called global warming a "fraud", a "hoax" and "pseudo science".

Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal fared little better. 39 of its 48 references were misleading.

In Australia it's not as bad. Rupert Murdoch's The Australian gives more space to climate change than any other newspaper. Its articles are 47 per cent negative, 44 per cent neutral and 9 per cent positive, according to the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism.

It's impossible to read The Australian's articles without feeling at least a bit curious about climate change.

Another theory is that it's to do with psychology. Some people are more threatened by bad news than others, making them less able to accept that it's real.

And now a more sophisticated theory suggests that it's not about the facts at all. It's really a debate about the implications, disguised as a debate about the facts. Troy Campbell and Aaron Kay, a researcher and associate professor in neuroscience at Duke University in North Carolina find that belief in temperature forecasts is correlated with beliefs about government regulation and what those forecasts would mean for government regulation.

They assembled a panel of at least 40 Republicans and 40 Democrats and asked each whether they believed the consensus forecast about temperature increases. Half were told that climate change could be fought in a market friendly way, the other half that it would need heavy-handed regulation. Of the Republicans, the proportion who accepted the temperature forecast was 55 per cent when they were told climate change could be addressed by the free market and only 22 per cent when they were told it would need regulation.

(Democrats were about 70 per cent likely believe the temperature forecast and weren't much swayed by how climate change would be fought.)

The finding is important. It means that the first step in getting people to at least agree that it's getting hotter is to stop talking about how to prevent it. Muddying the two, as we do all the time, gets people's backs up.

It is getting hotter. Seven of Australia's 10 hottest years on record have been since the Sydney Olympics. Last year was 0.91C hotter than the long-term average. Last year's maximums were 1.16C hotter than long-term average maximums.  Warming is a fact. The Bureau of Meteorology accepts it, the government accepts it and it shouldn't be beyond our abilities to accept it.

Then we can talk about what to do.


Amnesty International and the Human Gripes Commission need a rethink

It should come as no surprise that Amnesty International supported the Lindt Cafe murderer, Man Haron Monis, in his application for asylum status in Australia.

This support, in 1997, reflected Amnesty's ideological position that the overwhelming majority of asylum seekers, including those who  destroyed their documents, are entitled to asylum status in Australia.

Amnesty could not reasonably have foreseen that it was giving support to a dangerous person but there are problems with self-appointed non-government organisations getting involved in the asylum seeker process.

I find it curious that since the Abbott government was elected it has been subject to an unending barrage of criticism over asylum-seeker policy by Amnesty and others even as the refugees quota has been increased, the number of undocumented arrivals has plummeted, the number of children in detention has steadily dwindled towards zero, the drownings at sea have ceased, detention centres are being closed and the number of people in detention has fallen.

In short, the disastrous policies of the previous Labor governments have, within a year, been replaced by a larger refugee stream which is much more orderly, more fair, and replaced the people-smuggling trade, a legal quagmire in the courts, a burgeoning number of detention centres and the practice of fait accompli.

You would not know this by reading the Amnesty Australia website on which can be found the extreme slogan: "Australia – sending people to torture since 2014."

One of Amnesty's organisers in Australia, Sam Hagaman, has used Twitter to engage in wide-ranging criticism of the government which go far beyond human rights issues. A sample of her more recent tweets include these:

"Take back half of News Corp tax rebate, easily fund our ABC."

"Put climate back on the G20 agenda ...  Please tell Tony Abbott to get out of the way."

"We're mapping every asylum-seeker turn-back, tow-back and arrival ..."

"Letterboxing the truth on offshore processing."

"Australia's offshore detention policy is kept secret from those who pay for it. YOU!"

There can be no doubt that the organisers and volunteers of Amnesty International are altruistically motivated to confront human rights abuses, but the organisation also has a wider political agenda.

Similarly, the Human Rights Commission is an organisation of noble intent but for many years it has engaged in a search for relevance in one of the least oppressive countries in the world, where its annual cost to taxpayers is $25 million a year.

Since the election of the Abbott government, despite all the progress listed above, the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Dr Gillian Triggs has been a consistent critic of government policy.

I was struck by her recommendation to remove a political refugee, John Basikbasik, from detention after seven years.

Dr Triggs thinks keeping Basikbasik out of the community is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, finding that a $350,000  payment be awarded.

Basikbasik entered Australia by boat in 1985, bypassing immigration. He has since built a long criminal record in this country. In 2000, he bashed his wife to death. In prison, he engaged in assaults. Upon release, he routinely breached bail conditions. Psychiatric assessments deemed him intractably violent. While in detention since 2007, he has incurred some 50 infractions, including an assault. He has fathered 14 children by four different women. He has not been deported to Indonesia because of a prior involvement with the West Papuan independence movement.

A psychiatrist's review in 2011 states that Mr Basikbasik's behavioural problems "are associated with his prolonged detention and that there is a risk that his mental health will deteriorate if his detention continues ...

"There is no information before me to indicate that the Commonwealth considered whether any risk which Mr Basikbasik posed to the community could be mitigated by a management plan to assist with his rehabilitation or by a requirement to reside at a specified location, with curfews, travel restrictions or regular reporting. It does not appear that it was necessary to detain Mr Basikbasik in an immigration detention centre."

In a recommendation in another detention case, Dr Triggs recommended a $300,000 compensation be made to a convicted serial swindler because he was detained while engaged in legal action.

This action, to avoid deportation, was described by a Federal Court as "frivolous, vexatious, embarrassing".

However, Dr Triggs thinks he deserves $350,000 and a written apology. She also banned the media from reporting his identity despite 14 different judges in the Queensland Supreme Court, Federal Court and High Court of Australia naming him, with none countenancing suppression orders.


New controversy brews over 'offensive' ginger beer brand using Hindu imagery

Ganesha is the Lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshipped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth.  So I don't see what is wrong with promoting that.  I have a large statue of Ganesha in my entrance hall, as a a matter of fact.  Various Indians have seen it but all have been merely amused

A brewery on Sydney's northern beaches is facing renewed criticism from some Hindus that the company reneged on an agreement to remove an insensitive label from its ginger beer.

Brookvale Union, which shares staff with the 4 Pines Brewing Company in Manly, faced calls in late 2013 to redesign the ginger beer packaging and remove an Indian-themed design that appeared to show a figure with the head of Hindu god Ganesh and the body of the goddess Lakshmi.

At the time, the brewery apologised and announced the label would be redesigned. Alterations were made to the design, which still has an Indian style and depicts an elephant's head on the body of a woman.

Yadu Singh, a Sydney-based cardiologist and the president of the Indian Australian Association of NSW, believes the changes didn't go far enough and he is calling on businesses to remove the product from their shelves.

"They have gone back on their word which they gave to us and many others, and they still have those pictures, even though they have made minor changes," Dr Singh said.

"Having a picture of a very prominent, respected and highly regarded deity of Hinduism [on] a beer bottle … this is offensive. "I have been in Australia since 1991; I haven't seen any beer bottles with Jesus Christ on [them]."

4 Pines Brewing Company co-founder Jaron Mitchell said the labels were redesigned on the advice of Dr Singh and other Australian Hindus who identified aspects of the design that needed to be changed.

Mr Mitchell said the elephant head depicted on the label was redesigned to remove any resemblance to the god Ganesh.  "It's just like an animal, it's not a godlike kind of a face," Mr Mitchell told Fairfax Media.

The revised figure has only two arms, and the image of a cow, which is a sacred animal in the Hindu faith, was replaced with a bowl of fruit.

"We're certainly not in the business of offending people," Mr Mitchell said.  "It's certainly not a unified Hindu opinion [that the image is offensive]. I know that because I've had Hindus say, 'look, don't listen to these guys'."

Rajan Zed, a Hindu leader in the US state of Nevada, has been raising international awareness of the labelling controversy.

"We Hindus being such a large group, about 1 billion, there is the possibility of some disagreements," Mr Zed said. But he added that most Hindus would be offended by the image of a deity being used to sell liquor.

Brookvale Union has urged anyone offended by the label to contact it directly.


11 January, 2015

"Renewable" investment down in Australia

Investments in renewable energy rose to record levels globally in 2014 but fell sharply in Australia because of uncertainty triggered by the Abbott government's review of the industry, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.

Worldwide investment in wind farms, solar photovoltaics and other clean energy sources jumped 16 per cent last year to $US310 billion ($383 billion), or more than five times the tally of a decade earlier. Solar investments accounted for almost half the total.

China led the way, with investment soaring almost one-third to $US89.5 billion, while US investment gained 8 per cent to $US51.8 billion, and Brazil's almost doubled to $US7.9 billion.

Australia, though, went the other way, with investment sinking 35 per cent to $US3.7 billion. BNEF said the amount was the "lowest since 2009, as wind and solar project developers delayed decisions while they awaited the government's response to its Renewable Energy Target review".

The Australian tally in fact masks a much steeper dive for large-scale renewable plants as small-scale solar PV largely held its own in 2014 even as state-based support schemes were wound back further.

"Four wind farms are currently under construction, but these signed contracts before the last RET review," said Darren Gladman, the acting policy director for the Clean Energy Council.

"No more projects in the country have imminent construction plans.

"Australia is not just at risk of falling behind the rest of the world on renewable energy, we have already slipped off the back of the wave. We have some of the best sun, wind and waves in the world, but this new research shows that we are squandering some of our huge natural advantages."

Fairfax Media sought comment from Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, who has sought to cut the country's renewable energy target from the current goal of 41 terawatt-hours annually by 2020 to as low as 27tWh.

So far, the Senate has blocked such a move but uncertainty over whether and when the goal will be reset has made it almost impossible to raise financing for new projects.

"Labor has offered to reopen negotiations around the RET in the interest of returning the policy to the bipartisanship that saw jobs in the industry triple while Labor was in government," said a spokeswoman for Mark Butler, the opposition spokesman for the environment.

"However, our negotiating principles remain the same – Labor will not support any proposal that decimates the industry, including reducing the RET by 40 per cent."


Candidate calls for return of cane at public schools

January 31 state election for Qld

PATRICIA Petersen is calling for a statewide ban on public smoking and a return to the cane.

The independent candidate for the state seat of Ipswich said she wanted to "make sure private and public schools are on par with one another in terms of discipline" and that a return of the cane would do exactly that.

She said that the behaviour of children in state schools had "significantly" deteriorated.

"We have children spitting and cursing at teachers. Many children in state schools have no respect whatsoever for authority figures, such as teachers," Ms Petersen said.

"A cane across an open hand delivered in a light, controlled and deliberate manner is immediate and effective. It is also a strong deterrent.

"Private schools can already use the cane but it was banned in public schools in 1989."

"People are avoiding going into the Ipswich and Brisbane CBDs because of cigarette smoking. It's bad for business," she said.

"Small businesses are losing money because of it. Most people these days are non-smokers."

She said that one option to accommodate smokers would be to introduce "smoking booths" similar to those found at Hong Kong airport.

"However, taxpayers shouldn't pay for it. A gold coin in a slot to allow them in would ensure that non-smokers aren't paying for the addictions of non-smokers," she said.

Ms Petersen said she was thrilled to be paying $16 on Sportsbet to win Ipswich.

"That is the best I have ever been and better than any Greens candidate," she said.  "In the past I have been 50-1 or 100-1."


Labor not haunted by Qld Health's past

They live in an eternal present

Labor insists it won't be haunted by the ghosts of its Queensland Health payroll debacle or the fake Tahitian prince as it tries to return to power in Queensland.

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Thursday the first new policy from either side during the election campaign - $110 million over four years to employ 400 new nurses across the state.

"What the nurses have been saying to me ... is they've been stretched to the bone," Ms Palaszczuk said in Townsville.  "They've been working harder than ever before."

The Labor leader was critical of the Newman government's decision to cut 4800 health positions, including 1800 nurses and midwives, since it was elected in 2012.

She also hit out at the government's prolonged and bitter contract disputes with the state's doctors.

But Ms Palaszczuk was put on the defensive when asked about Labor's role presiding over the $1.2 billion health payroll debacle in their last term in power and the "fake Tahitian prince" scandal.

Hohepa Morehu-Barlow, also known as Joel Barlow, defrauded $16 million from Queensland Health between 2007 and 2011 and explained his lavish lifestyle by saying he was Tahitian royalty.

"This is a fresh start for Queensland Health," Ms Palaszczuk said. "This is valuing our working professionals."

Ms Palaszczuk said the payroll saga had "all been dealt with".

She admitted she supported the government's move to implement local hospital and health boards, but a Labor Government would return more accountability to its health minister.

Ms Palaszczuk's announcement comes on the second full day of campaigning and before Mr Newman has announced any new LNP policies.

"Maybe they've run out of ideas?" Ms Palaszczuk said. "I have a lot more to come."

Mr Newman responded by talking up his own health policy of decentralising hospital administration, improving management, boosting funding and cutting waiting times.

He also took a swipe at Ms Palaszczuk's first policy announcement of the campaign.

"The path to better health care in Queensland is very clearly something this government has been working on and delivering on - there's more to be done," the premier said in Rockhampton.

"But it's not about the Labor Party approach, which is just to throw more money at it."


Qantas has been named the world's safest airline

Qantas has been named the world's safest airline, after a year when fatal air accidents soared above the 10-year average. In a report published by on Tuesday night, Qantas was lauded for amassing 'an extraordinary record of firsts' in safety and operations over its 94-year history.

The report comes after what was 'in no doubt' a bad year for airline safety, said, adding 2014 included some of the industry's most tragic and bizarre incidents. said the high number of deaths came despite the number of accidents for 2014 being at a record low 21 - one for every 1.3 million flights.

'Two of the crashes last year - MH370 and MH17 - were unprecedented in modern times and claimed 537 lives,' the report says.

'Flashback 50 years and there were a staggering 87 crashes killing 1,597 when airlines carried only 141 million passengers - five per cent of today's number.'

Qantas, which said was now also accepted as the world's most experienced airline, was praised as the leader in terms of real-time monitoring of its engines across its fleet using satellite communications.  'Doing so allows the airline to detect problems before they become a major safety issue,' the report says.

Making up the remainder of the top 10 in alphabetical order were Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Finnair, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.'s rating system takes into account a range of factors related to audits from aviations governing bodies as well as government audits and the airlines fatality record.


9 January, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the Charlie Hebdo massacre

Paris terror: Muslim leaders justify attack on Charlie Hebdo

AUSTRALIAN extremists have spread their vile hatred online justifying the horrific attack on a satirical magazine in Paris because they insulted the prophet.

Perth-based firebrand Junaid Thorne tweeted within hours of the attack that killed 12 at Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris that insulting someone’s prophet would cause a "backlash."

The self-styled Sheik, who has thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook, chillingly said those that want freedom of speech could expect other to exercise ‘freedom of action.’

"Insulting someone’s Prophet is very likely to stimulate some kind of response. It is not allowed under any context/religion."  "If you want to enjoy ‘freedom of speech’ with no limits, expect others to exercise ‘freedom of action."

Another Australian Islamic convert tweeted the magazine’s cartoonist got what they deserved because they drew a picture of Mohammed naked.  "This magazine #CharlieHebdo drew pictures of #Muhammed(saw) naked with his genitiles visable as such they got what they deserve, (SIC)" the man with more than 2000 followers said.

"Muslims should be proud of what the Mujahideen in France did a country which has done everything in it’s power to fight Islam".

Notorious UK based hate-cleric Anjem Choudary said freedom of expression did not extend to insulting the prophet.  "May Allah allow all Muslims & non-Muslims live together under divine law where the honour of citizens & Prophets is protected #ParisShooting,’’ Choudary said.

The murdered Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier was on a ‘’dead or alive’’ list in al-Qaeda’s English magazine. The jihadist propaganda magazine’s March 2013 edition called its followers to "defend the prophet."

The magazine also puts targets on academic Salman Rushdie and right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders who visited Australia in 2013.

Charbonnier was famously defiant to the threats once saying ‘I’d rather die standing than live kneeling.’


Labor party still soft on even the most dangerous Muslims

Remember how many times Labor told us they would deliver a surplus but did the opposite? I can’t because I can’t count that high. They’re at it again, but this time they're playing a more lethal game.

Last September, increased intelligence chatter was so hot our security agencies warned that Australia faced an imminent terror attack. Tony Abbott took Bill Shorten into his confidence and showed him what our spook chiefs knew. Clearly Bill was rattled by what he was shown.

For the first time he was at one with the PM.  "The Prime Minister and I are partners when it comes to matters of national security and protecting Australians. We are in this together," Shorten said.

"This is not a distant crisis for us. It is absolutely in our national interest that ISIL be defeated. I thank the Prime Minister for his willingness to engage with the opposition."

More meaningless, empty words.

We now have about 20 returned Jihadists roaming the streets courtesy of Labor’s watered down security laws. Without Labor’s backing these terrorists can’t be successfully prosecuted.

So much for a partnership in matters of national security.

Labor Senator Jacinta Collins led the charge to weaken our Foreign Fighters Bill  allowing trained and experienced Islamic terrorists to live and plot amongst us. This from the party infamous for destroying our national border security.

In an effort to secure bipartisanship on counter-terrorism, the government was forced by Labor’s Senate numbers to soften our security laws that originally banned travel to specific countries. Labor also wanted an amendment to the Foreign Fighters Bill that would have allowed Australians with family living in designated terror zones to travel freely.

Some in Labor wanted it softened further to allow travel for people who had friends in the region.

More holes than Swiss cheese.

Labor’s changes have made prosecution for travelling to banned destinations difficult because it’s impossible to prove whether jihadists in Syria, had gone to the no-go zone in al-Raqqa because movements inside the country’s terror zones are not monitored.

With growing numbers of returning Jihadists, Shorten’s office was contacted to ask whether Labor would back a toughening of terror laws to ban travel to entire countries. No comment.

Shorten knows what he said, but he’s not sure he agrees with it.


Returned fighters can be investigated

Julie Bishop has hosed down concerns that fighters who return to Australia could escape prosecution.

THE foreign minister has hosed down concerns a group of suspected jihadists who fought in the Middle East and returned to Australia could escape prosecution because of a legal loophole.

NEWS Corp Australia reports say up to 20 are back in the country and wandering free in the community.
Federal parliament passed counter-terrorism laws in October prohibiting travel to terrorist hot spots without a valid excuse, such as aid work or journalism.

But there are fears those who returned before the bans were introduced might escape censure.

Julie Bishop has declined to comment on specific cases, but maintained returned fighters can still be investigated and monitored.

"If we have the evidence they have been engaged in these activities they can still be investigated," Ms Bishop told Fairfax radio.

"They can still be persons of interest to our security agencies."

She acknowledged it was difficult to gather evidence of people's activities in Syria and Iraq because those were hostile environments.

"It's hard to get eyewitness accounts of people working with terrorist organisations overseas but we're doing all we can to ensure that those people ... who are security risks are thwarted," she told Sky News.

"We know from experience that once people become battle-hardened, experienced terrorists overseas, they could well come back here to try and carry out some sort of terrorist activity in their own country."


PM takes human rights chief to task
She's a stupid old bag

TONY Abbott has launched a blistering attack on the head of Australia's human rights watchdog, calling into question her judgment.

THE prime minister labelled as "pretty bizarre" a ruling by Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs that recommended the release from detention of a Papuan refugee who killed his de facto wife in 2000.

Ms Triggs also recommended John Basikbasik receive $350,000 in compensation for his arbitrary detention since 2007.  Successive immigration ministers have opted to leave Basikbasik in detention rather than release him into the community.

Mr Abbott said the ruling by Dr Triggs showed "extremely questionable" judgment.  "Decisions like this do, I think, tend to shake people's confidence in institutions like the Human Rights Commission," he told reporters in Adelaide on Thursday.

When asked whether he continued to have confidence in Dr Triggs, the prime minister said: "I'm not going to go into that." Dr Triggs, a Labor appointee, ends her role in June 2017.

In a report published late in 2014, Dr Triggs said successive ministers had breached Basikbasik's human rights by keeping him in detention after his seven-year manslaughter sentence had concluded.

Because he is a genuine refugee, Basikbasik cannot be deported back to Indonesia. He has a history of violent crimes and breaching bail conditions that dates back to 1985 when he arrived in Australia by canoe.

Former immigration minister Scott Morrison, who refused Basikbasik's request for a bridging visa in 2013, was dismissive of Dr Triggs.  She seemed to be "always arguing for a fair go for those who have forfeited that right by their own behaviour". "There seems to be no consequences for one's actions in the system she seems to believe in," the now social services minister told The Australian.

His successor, Peter Dutton, said suggestions "wife killers should be released back into the community with a cheque from the taxpayer are so far removed from the public view, it is just offensive".

Former Labor immigration minister Tony Burke would not be drawn into criticism of Dr Triggs, telling reporters she was principled and fearless.  He also saw her as someone who acted with complete probity.

Mr Burke defended his own role in keeping Basikbasik in detention, saying he was very confident he had acted according to law. So too did Chris Bowen, another Labor immigration minister, who said he had no regrets about denying Basikbasik a bridging visa in 2012.

The government has rejected a number of other decisions by Dr Triggs in recent months.  One involved paying $300,000 in compensation to a US-born convicted fraudster whom the government deported after he swindled $644,000 from taxpayers and banks.


8 January, 2015

Queensland Election 2015: Bookies tip Premier Newman to lose seat but party to win

January 31 state election for Qld

If the bookmakers have got it right, the Liberal National Party will win the election, Tim Nicholls will be new Premier and neither Clive Palmer nor Pauline Hanson will be represented in Queensland parliament.

If the bookmakers have got it right, the Liberal National Party will win the election, Tim Nicholls will be the new premier and neither Clive Palmer nor Pauline Hanson will be represented in Queensland parliament.

Early odds have the LNP at anywhere between $1.20 (Ladbrokes) and $1.29 (Luxbet) to win the election. ALP odds vary between $3.45 (Luxbet) and $4 (Ladbrokes).

One of the more interesting betting sheets sits with Sportsbet, which has Tim Nicholls ($1.90) favoured to become the next LNP leader, followed by Scott Emerson ($3), Lawrence Springborg ($7.50), Jeff Seeney ($9) and John-Paul Langbroek ($10).

Member for Mansfield Ian Walker, who some political analysts believe is a dark horse to take over the leadership, is not yet on the list.

As for current Premier Campbell Newman, Sportsbet has him at a long $3 to retain his seat of Ashgrove. ALP opponent Kate Jones is a $1.35 favourite to finish with the most votes.

Bob Katter seems to be saying a lot about his intention to hold the balance of power. But the bookies (Sportsbet) would have it differently. They've got the chances of a hung parliament at $5. A clear majority stands at $1.15.

Sportsbet has been one of the first to post odds on individual seats.

Those who don't think Palmer United Party will win a seat would be in the majority. He's at $1.35 to remain winless at state level, but there's some juicy odds for those who think he can win one seat ($6), two seats ($11), three seats ($15), four seats ($21) or more ($26).

Pauline Hanson who is running in the seat of Lockyer is still considered a $3.50 chance, although the LNP is favoured at $1.45 to retain the seat. The ALP is at $8.

Another independent considered to have a chance is Carl Judge in Yeerongpilly ($8), although the ALP is hot favourite ($1.15).


You will not be treated differently: Refugees told on Manus

Refugees who will soon leave detention on Manus Island to temporarily live on the outskirts of the island's only town have been told they will have to find jobs elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, leaving them in fear for their lives.

In a blunt speech by Papua New Guinean immigration authorities, the refugees have been told to make PNG their home, "or leave".  They also been told they will be treated no differently to PNG locals, who are unable to access "free internet" and are not given any form of "public welfare" from the government.

"When you have learnt PNG languages and thoroughly understand PNG culture, you will be permitted to leave the Refugee Transit Centre and start work – but not on Manus Province," the speech delivered by the country's Immigration and Citizenship Authority stipulates. "We will help you find a suitable job and to relocate to wherever that job is."

The refugees will also be given mobile phones and will be able to buy credit from their weekly allowance.

"You'll be given food to cook for yourself and a weekly allowance of K100 ($47.50). This is more than Papua New Guineans receive from their government," the speech says.  "... Your choices are simple: make Papua New Guinea your home, or leave."

But asylum seekers have told Fairfax Media that they fear for their safety in the community, given the level of hostility towards asylum seekers from PNG locals and the violence that erupted in the centre during February's riots, which killed one asylum seeker and badly injured scores of others.

There are currently 1044 asylum seekers being held in the offshore processing centre on Manus Island, many of whom have been held there for longer than 12 months. As of October last year, 71 people have been given a positive refugee status, while another 71 claims were found to be unsuccessful.

One asylum seeker who asked not to be named told Fairfax Media: "We were told that those people will be moved in January to the local community but once anyone go out [they] will not be given any security."

"We were shown the accommodation rooms. They were terrible," the asylum seeker said. "We were supposed to share those rooms with our friends. Each room has two beds with no aircon just small fans with no drinking water facility. Without any kind of other facilities such as TV, internet. This means we don't have any privacy."

In the temporary accommodation, the refugees will be given freedom of movement to and from the centre, with basic security provided.

The speech also says refugees will be able to practice their own religion; they will be able to bring their families to the country once they have established themselves; and after eight years residence will be able to apply for PNG citizenship.

Last year a Senate committee report made six recommendations as a result of the Manus riots, calling on the Abbott government to take responsibility for the attack, adhere to international human rights standards and help administer an effective investigation into the murder of Reza Barati by the Papua New Guinea police.


Teaching literacy a complex mix of methods

A recent report by the NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Studies suggests there are significant concerns that teachers are not fully equipped to teach reading.

The report is a result of an audit of teacher education courses with a view to finding out how and in what manner teachers are trained in university courses to teach reading to young children.

Of course, the teaching of reading is central to the role of a primary classroom teacher and for perhaps as long as a century the best way to teach reading has been the subject of research, investigation and analysis.

When a teacher introduces a learner to the intricacies of decoding text, they start with the fundamental principle, the alphabet, the symbols that unlock the puzzle of reading. This is followed by teaching the relationship between sound and symbol.

This is known in education as "teaching grapho-phonic relationships".

At times this is simple enough and some children need only to have this relationship pointed out, which is why some children seem to learn to read effortlessly and some children come to school already reading.

Of course, there are other learners who do not find this as straightforward.

Where this becomes more difficult is that the English alphabet presents the learner with 26 letters but 44 sounds. These extra sounds are made up of groups of letters together that make a new sound. So some young learners need to take some enormous steps to bring all this together in becoming literate.

Which is why most teachers, most curriculum documents and most educational systems recommend embedding this teaching in a varied set of strategies and within a context of engaging materials and books.

And of course to teach reading and writing in tandem in the early years.

The Board of Studies report questions whether teachers actually teach grapho-phonic relationships, and if they are trained to teach using this method while at university. In doing so, the board once again takes us around the merry-go-round of best methods in teaching early reading, a debate that has raged for more than 50 years and has resulted in hundreds of thousands of studies, which give very clear direction.

Driving much of the teacher education in this country and abroad is a report in 2000 of the US-based National Reading Panel  called "Teaching Children to Read", which provides directions in five key areas of teaching reading:  phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension.

Learners need to know about the sound symbol level of print, the meaning level, and finally understand the place of word class when making sense of print. This is known as the three-cueing systems and all teachers in schools and those in teacher education programs would be able to both describe these systems and implement classroom activities to engage those in early reading.

It has been reported recently that teaching reading is mired in theory, with too little focus on practical skills. The teacher needs to have the linguistic knowledge of the English language, and we all know what a difficult language system that is. Teacher educators would never make an excuse about the essential need for teachers to have this theoretical knowledge about language as system. Together with this, they need to have a strong overview of the myriad practical strategies for teaching reading built up from over 100 years of research across the world, and then teachers need to add the special essential ingredient to this knowledge of the individual learners in their classes.

No policy maker, teacher educator, principal or system manager would suggest theory does not have a place in the early reading classroom nor that practical knowledge has no place. What is required is a sophisticated weaving of this knowledge to each of the learners in their charge, and given the recent success of NAPLAN and other measures of reading in this country they are doing a fine job.

Catherine Snow from Harvard University has famously said: "Teaching reading IS rocket science." Reading is a complex set of behaviours applied by readers to myriad tasks when negotiating the printed word. Teaching is a profession and all teachers constantly engage in professional learning, inquiry into their own practice and sharing at a school, system and national level through professional learning communities. Suggesting that teachers are not prepared to do this seems mischievous at a time when education systems are under constant scrutiny and evaluation.


Domestic violence an equal opportunity killer

For me the most tragic image of 2014 was watching a father break down crying "My babies, my babies" at a memorial service for his children, two of eight child victims of a Cairns domestic house of horrors. The alleged killer was mother to seven of the children, and the aunt of another.

In Brisbane, another woman was charged in December over the deaths of two children, and the attempted murder of two others.

And we must not forget the mother who attempted to kill her newborn baby in Sydney just weeks before by dumping him down a stormwater drain. Fortunately he survived for six days before being discovered and rescued.

If something is to be learned from all of these incredibly sad cases, it is that domestic violence is an equal opportunity killer. Women are just as capable of killing in domestic circumstances as men, especially when children are involved.

This is borne out by the latest statistics from the Australian Institute of Criminology. These show that between 2008 and 2010, in family related murders of children, more than 45 per cent of the killers were the mother.

Last year, when I wrote about domestic violence against men, I was contacted by a solicitor friend who was keen to discuss the matter. He had been a police prosecutor for 10 years before going into practice for himself. He ruefully admitted that in those ten years he had never charged a woman with domestic violence, notwithstanding the fact over one third of domestic violence victims are men.

Upon reflection, he agreed there was an inherent bias in the way police treated female perpetrators of domestic violence.  They usually get a free pass.

The problem with this is that we know people who commit acts of domestic violence are likely to escalate their crimes over time, unless they are brought in check. It follows that every time Queensland Police give a woman a free pass on domestic violence, because she is a woman, they may be creating a future domestic killer.

Unfortunately, while our enlightenment about the dangers of domestic violence is growing, it is not matched by an equal enlightenment about who might actually commit that domestic violence.

Dr Elizabeth Celi, a psychologist and author on men's health, has some interesting insights into the issue. She says public awareness of domestic violence often falls short of portraying the whole story.

"Decades of rightly raising public awareness for female victims of domestic violence, have simultaneously lacked in accurate public education that women can also be abusive and violent, toward other women, men and children," she says.

She also points out that turning a blind eye to women who commit domestic violence puts children at risk.

"Children are affected by abusive and violent behaviour regardless of the perpetrator's gender. Our children don't deserve to be put at risk by overlooking women's abuse and violence."

It is time to admit that all domestic violence is to be deplored, irrespective of who commits it, or who is the victim.

It is also time for Queensland Police to change their ways. They have no right to effectively condone domestic violence against men and children by refusing to charge offenders if they are women. If the police are happy to charge women with armed robbery, drug trafficking or extortion, why are they not equally willing to charge them with domestic and interpersonal violence?

Equal opportunity for women must also mean equal responsibility for their actions, including their crimes.

Domestic violence is not a gender battleground, or at least it shouldn't be. It is about keeping people safe, especially children.

How many more children must suffer or die before we learn this lesson?


7 January, 2015

New high terror alert issued for Australians travelling to Indonesia

New travel advice has been issued for Australians travelling to Indonesia urging them to exercise caution due to the high threat of terrorist attacks.   The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade last updated travel advice for all areas of Indonesia, including the tourist hub of Bali, on Monday.

Australian tourists are being urged to exercise a high degree of caution while on holidays with the government continuing to receive information that indicates terrorists may be planning attacks.

'Terrorists have previously attacked or planned to attack such places, including nightclubs, bars, restaurants, international hotels, airports and places of worship in Bali, Jakarta and elsewhere in Indonesia,' DFAT said.  'These types of venues could be attacked again.'

The terrorist bombings on a Bali nightclub in 2002 killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

'You should take particular care to avoid places known to be terrorist targets,' DFAT said.

'Tourist areas and attractions throughout Indonesia and tourists travelling to or from these places, including those in tour groups or tour buses, could be targeted.'

It comes as the US government warned of a potential threat against US-associated hotels and bank in Surabaya, north west of Bali.

'Terrorist groups remain active throughout Indonesia despite police disruptions,' DFAT said.

'Police continue to conduct operations against these groups and have stated publicly that terrorist suspects remaining at large may seek to attack western targets.  'In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided at venues.'


No contraception, no dole

By former Australian Labor Party politician GARY JOHNS.  As so often happens, Gary has drifted Rightward over the years

IF a person’s sole source of income is the taxpayer, the person, as a condition of benefit, must have contraception. No contraception, no benefit.

This is not an affront to single mothers or absent fathers, or struggling parents. Such a measure will undoubtedly affect strugglers, it undoubtedly will affect Aboriginal and Islander people in great proportions, but the idea that someone can have the taxpayer, as of right, fund the choice to have a child is repugnant.

Large families of earlier generations were the result of the combination of absent contraception and the need to have many children, in order that some survive to care for parents in old age.

These conditions do not now apply. Infant mortality is minuscule in all sectors of society, and the taxpayer picks up the tab for aged care.

Therefore, there should be no taxpayer inducement to have children. Potential parents of poor means, poor skills or bad character will choose to have children. So be it. But no one should enter parenthood while on a benefit.

It is better to avoid having children until such time as parents can afford them. No amount of ‘‘intervention’’ after the fact can make up for the strife that many parents bring down on their ­children.

As commissioner Tim Carmody wrote in the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry report in 2013, ‘‘some families will never rise to the challenge or have the capacity or commitment needed to take responsibility for the children they bring into the world’’.

And so it was that taxpayers were confronted with two cases over Christmas. Both happened to be indigenous, but of course, many non-indigenous cases abound. The first, in Cairns, involved a single mother with nine children from five fathers.

The usual allegations of failure to support were levelled at authorities. Gracelyn Smallwood, the enduring indigenous north Queensland activist, wanted ‘‘a 24-hour culturally appropriate service’’ for such mothers.

Indeed, all manner of culturally appropriate support has been forthcoming, but as Carmody found, ‘‘the growing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care has severely outpaced the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers’’.

Better this woman had fewer children. Better men on benefits also could be prevented from having children.

Which recalls the second case, in Redfern, of contested parenting between the NSW Department of Family and Community Services and a grandmother for her daughter’s, and an absent father’s, six children.

Until June, the grandmother was caring for her six grandchildren and two of her daughters at different times, in a small two bedroom house in Redfern.

The department had taken the children and placed them in foster care.

The facts suggest the outcome was fraught, whatever the court’s decision about who ultimately cared for the children.

The grandmother, the mother and the absent father have been long-term alcoholics and drug abusers. But again, the large number of children made the burden intolerable.

The department outlined a long list of issues that faced the grandmother, for which it suggested multiple interventions.

These included help with her parenting; child protection counselling; drug and alcohol relapse prevention; literacy and numeracy assistance; respite care service; medical, dental and school appointments for the children; issues with the children’s behaviour; issues with people (including family members) staying overnight in the home; children spending time with the parents; children spending time outside the home; housing problems; fin­ancial problems; and other concerns about the safety or welfare of the children.

Other than that, everything was just fine.

The department had a long history of involvement with the grandmother from when she was 16, with her first child.

The grandmother had started drinking alcohol at age 12 and went on to use a range of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and heroin. The grandmother was not focused on her children when they were young. Indeed, her mother was the main carer of her first three children.

The mother acknowledged drinking alcohol to excess, being subjected to assaults by the father and leaving the children unsupervised. There had been a number of ‘‘risk of harm’’ reports related to both parents’ abuse of alcohol and poor supervision, for example, leaving the children unattended while they were at the local pub.

There was serious domestic violence between the parents.

Some families, some communities, some cultures breed strife. Governments cannot always fix it. Compulsory contraception for those on benefits would help crack intergenerational reproduction of strife. As for inadequate non-beneficiaries, we just have to grin and bear it.


Dangerous eccentric who doesn't believe in vaccinating children defends controversial tour to Australia

Sherri Tenpenny's not worth a dime

A prolific U.S. anti-vaccine campaigner who will be speaking at child health seminars across Australia has defended them after pro-immunisation parents labelled them as 'disgusting'.

Sherri Tenpenny, who has written books such as Saying No to Vaccines and Flu and Flu Vaccines: What's Coming Through That Needle?, will be touring in Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sydney in February and March.

But pro-vaccination campaigners have hit out at the Raising Healthy Children Naturally, and Birth, Baby and Beyond seminars.

Dr Tenpenny said she found the backlash on social media 'curious'.

'I planned to be in Australia for a holiday and was asked to speak with a few groups who are interested in discussing the pros and cons of vaccines,' she told Daily Mail Australia via email.

'It is curious why the public health, pro-vaccine community is so outraged over my visit and the opportunity to share information sourced from conventional medical journals.

'If vaccines were so effective, so protective and so incredibly safe, no one would be interested in these gatherings.  'The public health community should be willing to openly discuss they problems associated with vaccines, how to improve vaccine safety, and how to restore the health of those who have been vaccine-injured.'

As soon as next month, Australians will also get the chance to sit down and have dinner with the high-profile anti-vaccination campaigner, with tickets ranging from $125 to $200.

On her website, Dr Tenpenny writes she believes 'vaccines can cause more harm to the health of the individual' and is against 'a system that forces parents to inject their children, against their better judgment'.

Her views on immunisation are further demonstrated by the T-shirts sold on her site, which read: 'I didn't deny my children vaccines... I spared them' and 'Fact: 1 in 50 = Autism Overall, Fact: 1 in 25,000 = Unvaccinated, Prove Me Wrong'.

But Dr Tenpenny's visit have people so outraged they have vowed to write to local politicians to stop her from spreading her message, with Stop the AVN - a group who are for vaccines - leading the charge. 

Stop the AVN's Dave Hawkes told Daily Mail Australia the group's concern was Dr Tenpenny 'peddled misinformation'.  'She’s giving information that's not supported by evidence and marketing it to people with alternative views and possibly leaving them in danger by not vaccinating their young children,' he said.

Dr Hawkes - who has a PhD in HIV research - said it was also concerning that people who were joining Dr Tenpenny, like Isaac Goldman, were spruiking homeopathic vaccines, which are 'essentially water'.  'The evidence shows they don’t work… and leaves their kids susceptible,' Dr Hawkes said.

'Recently a seven-month-old child who was not vaccinated died from whooping cough.'

One of Stop the AVN's supporters wrote on social media she was going to write to federal politicians asking for their intervention.

'I'm writing to the Hon. Sussan Ley and Fiona Nash (health minister and assistant health minister). Vaccines are recommended by every state body in Australia. They are incentivised by our federal govt,' one woman said on Facebook.

While others have expressed their disgust on the social media pages of the venues holding the seminars.  'I am beyond disgusted that you are hosting an anti vaccination seminar in March... Children die each year in this country as a result of this misinformation, is the small amount of money you are going to get... worth it?' a Facebook user wrote on Melbourne's Bayview Eden page.

Another wrote: 'Cannot believe you are hosting an anti vaccine seminar in March, disgusting. Never staying here, ever.'

This comes after the Federal Court ruled against Homeopathy Plus, finding homeopathic vaccines were not scientifically proven to be effective, and said the health website had mislead people into thinking they could be used as a substitute for medical vaccines, News Corp reported.

National Centre of Immunisaiton Research and Surveillance director Peter McIntyre told Daily Mail Australia Dr Tenpenny was tapping into people's 'fear factor'.

'When we've got no disease to see, it's very easy to look at something like autism - unfortunately it's something we still don't understand - and start to suggest it has something to do with being vaccinated. You can understand why people would believe that,' he said.  'But there are hundreds of studies that disprove that.'

Professor McIntyre added there was no scientific evidence homeopathic vaccinations protected people against infectious diseases.  He said it was like asking someone if they wanted to be vaccinated with 'sterile water'.  'It’s just laughable really,' Professor McIntyre said.


Cripes!  Dangerous jellyfish in Brisbane

That means that the entire coast of Queensland is at risk.  Thank goodness for the Wynnum lagoon, I guess

A late afternoon ocean swim for a mother and her children turned into a complete nightmare which almost cost her young son his life.

Raelene Murphy and her two children Ruth, 9, and Sebastian, 6, were enjoying the 'warm bath water' at Wellington Point beach, Brisbane, at about 4pm on New Year's Eve.   But it wasn't long before Raelene realised she had been stung by a creature and when Sebastian came towards her in the knee-deep water he began to scream in pain.

Paramedics revived the young boy on the way to the hospital after he lost consciousness, the Brisbane Times reported.

'I took off my reef shoes and pulled the tentacles off my feet,' Raelene told Daily Mail Australia.  'The tentacle that was wrapped around my shoe was about 50cm long in total.'

She said her son must have walked straight into the creature as he was only about a metre away from her as he walked towards his mother after she was stung.

'Then I asked people nearby to take care of Sebastian and make sure he was OK because I was having problems breathing and I had pains in my chest,' she said.

Raelene was convinced that she was having a heart attack as the unbearable pain spread to her lower back, legs and arms.  'I thought I was dying and my son said he thought he was dying too,' she said.

'The first ambulance took my son who was vomiting, frothing at the mouth and his lips had turned blue.'

Sebastian needed three shots of adrenalin and one shot of morphine before being monitored in hospital for the night.  While Raelene received two shots of morphine for the excruciating pain to begin to subside.

'Sebastian is a very healthy and fit kid but if it was someone half his size - it would have been a very different situation,' his mother said.

'Initially we were terribly worried as he is quite a talented pianist and cellist, however, he will make a full recovery.'

Royal Life Saving Society national medical adviser Professor John Pearn and world marine stinger expert Lisa-ann Gershwin were sent a sample of the creature's tentacles and identified it as an irukandji morbakka fenneri, which is coincidentally the species Gershwin discovered in Moreton Bay and named in 2008.

'The specimen that stung Sebastian was unusual and the second most potent I've ever seen,' Dr Gershwin told the Brisbane Times.

This incident follows, Dr Gershwin's warning back in August that the dangerous creatures were around Broadwater beach on the Gold Coast and that the numbers would increase as the earth warmed.

Dr Gershwin said the Morbakka species was responsible for a diver being put on life supports off Cairns in 2000.

'In this case the woman saw the critter whack into her while she was diving, and then the specimen was captured by her dive buddy so the ID was pretty reliable,' she told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

A lifelong Wellington Point resident who has swum at the beach since she was child, Raelene wanted to share her story to warn others about the dangers of the beach as she had never heard of this specific creature ever sighted in the area.

'I don't want anyone else to go through it,' she told Daily Mail Australia. 'I would never have taken my son into the water and put him at risk if I had have known.  'I don't think we were unlucky we were stung, we are lucky to have survived and gained an appreciation of the sea and have been able to warn others.'

Redland council erected warning signs at Wellington Point within hours of being notified about the incident and were unaware of the species ever being sighted along the council's beaches.


6 January, 2015

A sweeping triumph for Greenies: Cyclist liberation in Queensland

This is dream legislation for Greenies.  They hate cars (except their own, of course) and this facilitates an alternative to cars.  But it goes way too far.  Cyclists should always be obliged to use cycle lanes where they are available.  I wouldn't be surprised if angry motorists knocked a few of them down over unnecessary but now legal obstruction.  Whoever put this legislation through must have bypassed all consultation

Since January 1, cyclists have been allowed to ride in any lane on a multi-lane road, ride across pedestrian crossings without dismounting and are no longer required to ride inside designated cycle lanes.

Cyclist Stewart Moore of Tarragindi said riders and drivers needed to learn how to better share the road.  "As soon as people start getting aware (of the rules) the whole road culture changes, and that has to happen over a period of time where we learn to better share the road," Mr Moore said. "Cyclists have to understand their role, and it goes the same for cars."

Mr Moore said many cyclists were not clear on the previous road rules, and the new changes have helped to formalise the situation.

Cyclist Tony O’Brien of Sunnybank Hills said the changes to cycling rules were "common sense", including allowing cyclists to ride their bikes across pedestrian and children’s crossings.

"We don’t make people get out of their car and push it across the road," he said.

However, RACQ executive manager of public policy Michael Roth said the rules had cleared up common misunderstandings about what cyclists were allowed to do.

"The new rules have made it clearer to understand what cyclists can do," Mr Roth said.

"But it’s important for the government to educate the public on the cycling rules."


* Cyclists are NOT obliged to ride in the bicycle lane, and can ride on the road instead.

* A cyclist is able to ride across a zebra or children’s crossing as long as they come to a complete stop before doing so.

* Cyclists can choose to take up the whole lane at a single-lane roundabout.

* Cars must give a minimum passing distance of at least 1m in a 60km/h zone, or 1.5m in a speed zone of above 60km/h.


Why halal certification is in turmoil

I put up yesterday Kirralie Smith's objections to the article by Chris Johnston below.  The first paragraph is largely untrue and would in my view support an action for defamation.  He supplies a nice picture of her though.  The issues concerned over Halal certification have at least now made it into the mainstream press -- JR

Kirralie Smith is a permaculture farmer from northern New South Wales and a mother of three. She is also the public face of the virulent campaign to boycott halal food and products.

Halal means permissible for Muslims to eat or use, and the Facebook page "'Boycott Halal in Australia" has 41,000 supporters.

Smith speaks at events organised by "Islam-critical" groups such as the Q Society, which has also been involved in local campaigns to stop mosques being built. Her "Halal Choices" website, she says, gets 80,000 visitors a month.

She says her objection is not to Islam itself but the extra cost she thinks is imposed on Australian consumers by companies paying to have products – everything from milk to pies and shampoo – certified halal.

Halal products are certified as being free from anything that Muslims are not allowed to eat or use (such as pork and alcohol). The products must be made and stored using machines that  are cleansed according to Islamic law.

Large processing plants will have Muslim staff members who are accredited in some instances to bless the factory. Halal slaughtering of animals in Australia is done after they are stunned.

Smith and her supporters claim halal certification is a scam by Muslim interests to raise money for mosques and therefore for "jihad." They base this assertion on media reports in France, Canada and the United States claiming certification funds had been paid to organisations linked to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Yet neither Smith nor her unofficial patron, the Q Society, could elaborate on the Australian situation. "To the best of our knowledge no one has yet undertaken similar research," says Q Society's national president Debbie Robinson.

Mohammed Eris, the treasurer of the Supreme Islamic Council of Halal Meat in Australia, says he is "saddened" to hear regular accusations that Muslim halal certifying bodies funnel money to terrorism. His organisation has the contract with Coles to certify supermarket products. "We are Australians," he says. "I love my footy, my cricket, my meat pies. Halal pies of course."

He says the council has funded youth groups and non-Muslim youth cancer organisations such as the Starlight Children's Foundation Australia which supports children with cancer and their families. "We practise our beliefs but with respect for the others around us."

The Australian Crime Commission told  recently that no links were found between the "legitimate halal certification industry" and the "financing of terrorist groups".

Still, Smith maintains halal certification is a religious tax and jihad is more subtle than terrorism.

A significant amount of products in Australian stores are halal certified including food from SPC, Sanitarium, Cadburys, Nestle, Kelloggs, Master Foods, Mainland, La Ionica and Kraft. Supermarket chains such as Coles, Woolworths, IGA and Ritchies pay for certification for some products, as do dairy factories and meat processors.

According to the Q Society, 75 per cent of poultry suppliers, the four major dairy companies, 60 per cent of sheep abattoirs and more than half of Australian cattle abattoirs produce certified goods.

Still, the Australian Food and Grocery Council says halal certification costs are "negligible" and "highly unlikely" to change pricing.

One of the main things that Smith and the anti-Halal movement objects to is foods or products that are deemed intrinsically halal  – such as white milk, honey and nuts – having halal certification.

She claims certifiers put undue pressure on companies, blackmailing them with the threat of being branded anti-Islam or racist if they don't comply.

So far, South Australian dairy company Fleurieu has dropped its halal status – due to perceived negative publicity on anti-Halal social media pages – losing a big deal with Emirates Airlines in the process. It paid only $1000 to be certified. The costs of certification vary between $1000 for a small company to $27,000 a month for a large abattoir.

Prominent brands such as Four 'N Twenty, Kelloggs, Byron Bay Cookies, Cadburys and Pauls have been targeted in online anti-Halal campaigns but have stood firm, all stating that halal certification means they can export their product to Muslim countries.

Yet, behind the headlines, the booming halal certification industry is wracked by upheaval and recriminations both domestically and in export markets, with allegations of bribes paid by Australian certifiers to an Indonesian Halal agency.

The new Indonesian government has dismantled Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) – the country's main Islamic body and halal controller –  which approves halal imports, shifting the goalposts significantly in a highly competitive $12 billion export industry.

The MUI has held a stranglehold on Australian halal exports by being able to dictate which Australian certifiers are favoured. But in one of the former Indonesian government's last acts, a new body – the Halal Product Assurance Organising Agency – was set up. It will be phased in over the next three years.

"The full impact on Australian exports will emerge only once detailed regulations are developed and implemented," an Australian department of agriculture spokesperson said. "The department will continue to work with the relevant halal-approving bodies in Indonesia to support Australian exports."

The bribery allegations were initially aired in Indonesian news magazine Tempo this year. Fairfax Media has established a Melbourne whistleblower wrote to three Australian government departments including the Federal Police in March telling them of corruption allegations between the MUI and Australian halal certifiers trying to firm up the lucrative export market in Indonesia.

The allegations include bribes paid to the MUI. Fairfax Media has seen an MUI contract sent to Australian certifiers requiring them to "contribute in activities for the halal product service in Indonesia".

A Department of Agriculture spokesman said: "The department is unable to comment on any investigation that may currently be underway."

Halal certification in Australia is dominated by four big Islamic groups – one in Melbourne and three in Sydney. They are the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, the unofficial peak body; the Halal Certification Authority Australia, the Supreme Islamic Council of Halal Meat in Australia and the Islamic Co-ordinating Council of Victoria.

There are 21 Islamic groups approved by the federal government to issue halal certificates but many – in regional areas – service only small meat processors. The big four, all classed as not-for-profit enterprises, do the bulk of the work across meat and non-meat products. 

Internationally, the halal market is valued in the trillions with 20 per cent annual growth, fuelled by a rising Muslim middle class in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia and the increasing reach of affluent Muslim travellers.

Big Australian certifiers are heavily regulated by the Australian Quarantine and Export Service (AQIS; a federal government body within the Department of Agriculture) but this covers only export products. Halal certification for domestic products, restaurants and butcher shops is unregulated. This is estimated to be about 10 per cent of the total halal market.

"I can make cheese in my little factory and get a local organisation to certify it halal," says Ahmed Kilani, who runs a Sydney halal consultancy and co-founded the website Muslim Village.

 "I could set up tomorrow to certify butchers and restaurants. I can charge whatever I want. Who certifies the certifier? It should be written into the law but it isn't."

Mohammed Khan, of certifiers Halal Australia, says he has been pushing the government for tighter domestic halal standards since 2008 with no traction. He says certain certifiers enjoy a state-by-state monopoly at the expense of other hopefuls.

In contrast, the big export certifiers are audited by the Australian government and also by Islamic governing bodies in countries that receive the products.

"These are mainstream organisations. They are not start ups," says Ahmed Kilani. Just "one local scandal," he says – misuse of funds or non-halal products being certified – could have a major economic impact.

"If a product is exported to say Indonesia or Saudi Arabia then the governments of those countries have whole departments full of scholars and food scientists looking closely at what happens. They are not going to give a backyarder permission to certify."

Under Islamic law, the money the certifiers earn is supposed to cover costs and if there is any left it goes to the Muslim community organisations that the certifying company is aligned with – mosques, schools and welfare groups.

Those who control the certification rights can also fund imams and bring preachers to Australia. Sydney-based Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) set up an Islamic school in Tarneit in Melbourne's west and an Islamic centre on Christmas Island for Malaysian Muslims, says chief executive officer Amjad Mahboob.

"The international halal market is huge," Mahboob says, "and Australia being a primary producer of food items means we are relied upon so it's very important the credibility of what we do is protected at all times."

Yet that credibility has sometimes been brittle. In 2003, a court case involving Shafiq Khan, an influential figure around Sydney's Supreme Islamic Council of Halal Meat in Australia, saw former supporters swear he had diverted without approval more than $1 million to charities, including his own Al-Faisal College, at the expense of constituent charities. Former Prime Minister John Howard opened the college in 2000. Mr Khan negotiated a settlement and agreed to return the money to the council.

In 2009, the Victorian Supreme Court found the Islamic Co-ordinating Council of Victoria (ICCV) had defamed a competitor in the lucrative halal trade, and ordered damages be paid.

Then in 2012 a Sydney Islamic school aligned to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils was ordered to pay back $9m in NSW government funding after it was found money had been allegedly diverted to the federation the peak body for halal certification in Australia. "It is a matter that is before the court," said Mahboob. "We are disputing the [NSW] minister's findings."

This year, in a Federal Court trademark case it was revealed two Sydney kebab shops got free fake certificates from a wholesaler, which if they'd opted to buy them elsewhere would have cost $5000 each.

In Melbourne and Sydney, the certifying industry has begun to move away from predominantly Middle Eastern interests  towards businesspeople from Turkey and the Balkans.

An investigator familiar with the industry said it was a "highly competitive"  and "very incestuous" market. "It is riven with factions," he said.

Credibility can also be an issue to those seeking a boycott on halal products can also face. Theirs is a campaign that has been hijacked to an extent by extreme right-wing groups such as Restore Australia, the Australian Defence League and the Patriots' Defence League.

Last year, a Queensland woman was charged with food tampering after stickers stating that halal food funds terrorism were attached to coffee in a supermarket. The woman charged bought the stickers from former One Nation candidate Mike Holt -- who has raised funds for a contentious campaign to stop a mosque being built in Bendigo.

Kirralie Smith, meanwhile, says she is being courted by all kinds of small political parties to stand for Parliament.

"All of the minor parties have asked me to represent them. 'You have to be our senator,' they say, 'you have to be our candidate'. The Christian parties, the right wing parties. I really like [right-wing Christian Democratic Party politician in Sydney] Fred Nile, I think he is great. He would love me to join his party."

Early in 2015, Q Society will present a petition to federal parliament demanding the Corporations Act 2001 be changed to mean only Muslims bear the cost of halal certification on everyday products.

When pressed on the lack of evidence that Australian consumers are being ripped off by halal cartels – and that money raised funds nefarious activities – Smith says her  "primary focus" is lack of choices for consumers and she is "happy to be wrong" in her claims.

"I understand it is complex. I felt deceived that companies pay halal certification fees and there was no way as a consumer and an ordinary mum that I knew."


Australia’s future teachers could be lacking basic literacy skills

They already are

A new study has highlighted alarmingly low levels of literacy among undergraduates studying high school teaching, with the results suggesting the graduating teachers could have worse literacy skills than some of their future students.

Some of the would-be teachers who participated in the study did not spell one word correctly out of a list of 20, while only one third managed to get more than 50 per cent of the answers right.

Not one of the 203 student teachers from an unnamed Australian university were able to spell all 20 words correctly.

Published by the Australian Journal of Teacher Education, the study listed some of the more frequently misspelled words. They included 'acquaintance', 'definite', 'exaggerate', and 'parallel'.

The study, conducted by Dr Brian Moon from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, also found the university students struggled with the definitions of particular words.

The word 'candid' was given definitions including 'something hidden', 'burned sugar', and 'cooked in sugar'. Hyperbole was thought to be 'a poem' or a type of Jamaican fruit, and kosher was defined as 'a type of bean' and 'a weapon'.

Dr Moon writes that some of these guesses show "a tendency for subject specialists to make guesses that reflected their narrow knowledge base."

Dr Moon said these poor literacy results are a big problem.  "Analysis of the results showed high rates of error on general spelling and vocabulary tasks," wrote Dr Moon.

"The raw evidence of student performance on spelling, vocabulary and writing tasks still suggests that some graduating teachers have literacy skills below the ability level of the students they will be hired to teach."

The study pointed out while the accuracy – or lack of – in the student spelling tests is an issue, a closer look at how the students attempted to spell showed a range of problems with their 'personal literacy competence'.

"While the occasional near miss is to be expected, many of the errors reported here point to significant - and probably longstanding - deficits in spelling, vocabulary, and punctuation," Dr Moon noted.

"Many undergraduate students appear to have literacy problems so fundamental that remediation in the late stages of their degree program cannot hope to overcome a lifetime of poor literacy performance."

Dr Moon suggests setting a higher - or different - university admission standard for teaching degrees, but also working to fix this literacy problems much sooner in their school and university careers.

The Federal Government is due to release a report on possible improvements to teacher education soon.


The army of death

To a certain extent, Australia’s jihadist contribution to the Islamic State cause in Syria and Iraq is a self-solving problem. Our brave soldiers of Allah are evidently such incompetent warriors that they are being killed at almost the same rate as they arrive.

"The overall number of Australians currently fighting with or supporting Islamic extremist groups in Syria and Iraq has remained consistent over recent months," ASIO deputy director-general Kerri Hartland told a Senate hearing earlier this month.

"However, this does not reflect a reduction in the number of Australian travellers. Instead it reflects the relatively high casualty rate for Australians, with the numbers of new arrivals roughly keeping pace with the fatalities."

Keep it up, lads. Danish jihadists may be slightly more intelligent, not only surviving in greater numbers but also running back to Denmark after realising that glorious martyrdom is not a great long-term career choice. This presents obvious problems for Danish authorities, who besides dealing with an already-agitated Islamic minority in their small nation – less than one-quarter of Australia’s population – must now cope with extremists made even crazier by their Syrian frolics.

Police in the Danish port town of Aarhus have opted for the total wimp approach with their jihad returnees. "Rather than jail time, they’re given medical care for their wounds, a therapist for post-traumatic stress, and even help with homework and job applications. Their parents are also offered counseling," reports Public Radio International.

So they are actually rewarding Islamic State extremists. It’s a "get ahead by removing heads" jihadi cuddle program.

"We see this as crime prevention," Jorgen Illum, the police commissioner in charge of the ridiculous program, told PRI. "We want to prevent young people from becoming radicalised to an extent that they might be a threat to the society."

Considering that they’ve already signed up for warfare, it might be a little too late to worry about further radicalisation. They’re already as radicalised as they can be. It might also be doubtful that Danish therapy and homework assistance can overcome some of the education programs being run for jihadists in Syria.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Maria Abi-Habib last week revealed the full horror of Islamic State’s training regimen for new recruits. For example, children as young as eight are given lessons in beheading – using captured Syrian soldiers as practice victims.

Abi-Habib spoke with former Islamic State fighter Jomah, who has since fled for Turkey. The 17-year-old described instructors bringing three terrified Syrians before the class and calling for volunteers to behead them."The youngest boys shot up their hands and several were chosen to participate,"Abi-Habib reports. "Afterward, the teachers ordered the students to pass around the severed heads."

"It was like learning to chop an onion,"Jomah recalled. "You grab him by the forehead and then slowly slice across the neck."

Good luck to any western authorities attempting to recalibrate blood-drenched graduates from Islamic State’s killbot colleges, although Jomah himself seems quite unmoved by his introduction to throat-slashing. "I’d become desensitised by that time," he said. "The beheading videos they’d shown us helped."

That’s nice of them.

Following 45 days of training and a 15-day post grad course, junior jihais are divided into roles that suit their particular levels of extremist madness: becoming suicide bombers, joining the battlefield, guarding military installations or serving as bodyguards. According to a 14-year-old ex-trainee interviewed by Abi-Habib,"the stupid ones were always chosen for suicide bombers." Which possibly explains the high Australian fatality rate.

Those Australians who survive their jihadi holidays and crawl back to our country face less friendly treatment than is dished out by the Danes. "Obviously you don’t go off fighting in foreign lands –not as a member of the Australian Defence Force – and come back and think you are not going to be on our radar," Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said last week. "And that’s because of the experiences that they have, and the skill set that they pick up by being involved in fighting elsewhere."

Stewart continued: "There is a potential for those within the community to commit terror, a criminal act and I don’t think we can drop our guard for one second."

This seems like a realistic approach. Even better, of course, would be to subject all returnees to the long jail sentences available under new counter-terrorism laws. Word of these laws is said to have convinced some jihadists to hide in Syria rather than return home, which is the best outcome of all.

Well, second best.


5 January, 2015

Australia’s Islamic leadership: condemning alcohol and regretting the death of a murderer

by Bernard Gaynor

Australia’s Islamic leadership: condemning alcohol and regretting the death of a murderer

Sometimes I despair for the future. It is difficult not to. Especially when supposed news organisations publish articles about the Lindt Café Islamic State murderer with the following quote:

"why exactly he took 17 people hostage inside a busy Sydney cafe with a gun and a fake bomb strapped to his chest, we may never know."

We all know why Man Haron Monis did these things. He was following the blueprint laid out by Mohammad.

What we cannot possibly answer is this: why is allowed to pretend to be a ‘news’ organisation? The only way anyone would know that what it publishes is allegedly ‘news’ is because it has the word ‘news’ in its web address. Otherwise, sensible people would simply assume they had stumbled upon the deluded musings of a bunch of 15 year old school girls and their cool, gay BFF. And sensible people would then flee from the site and never return.

I hate to say this, but very often makes the ABC look like a bunch of professionals. And that is scary.

At least the good news is that Tony Abbott has called for a complete, thorough and transparent investigation into Man Haron Monis and how and why he ended up here in Australia and was then able to walk into a café with a shotgun.

I support this inquiry.  If it does what it should.

But I will also point out that it is likely to cost millions. And at the end of it we will probably be told that, unfortunately, there is nothing much we can do in a peaceful, democratic society to stop the Man Haron Monises of the world from doing what they do. And that would be a complete waste. So, free of charge, here is all the Prime Minister needs to know.

We need to stop the bleeding hearts from allowing people who believe that Mohammad was a good guy from coming into our country. And then these problems will disappear.  It’s that simple.

Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen and we’ll get a bunch of multicultural mumbo-jumbo.

And I will say bollocks to that right here and now. Peaceful and democratic does not mean unable to do anything to defend oneself. Mr Monis was only here because, under governments both Liberal and Labor, bleeding heart public servants decided that security was less important than stupidity.

I will say that again.  Our nation has made a virtue of stupidity.

As a result, people who hold the same beliefs as the Taliban and Osama bin Laden have been allowed to settle in Australia, claim social security payments and then plot and plan the death and destruction of the rest of us. They have even been able to write foul and abusive letters to the families of slain Aussie Diggers. And get away with it.

Given that, it is no surprise that they have now started taking lethal pot shots at innocent civilians.

This is the entirely logical outcome of the public policy settings of the last decades based on the assumption that multiculturalism is infallible.

And like they say in the movies, assumptions are the brothers of words starting with f and ending in up.

That is exactly what we have seen over the past few days.

And with ‘news’ organisations like running around and setting the public agenda, not much is likely to change in the future. Because, for the most part, the journalists are a bunch bleeding heart morons with a death wish for this nation.

They can’t even report the news. They make up fairy tales instead. Like the ‘fact’ that the leadership of the Islamic community has condemned the ‘Lone Wolf’ Monis.

It has done no such thing. Instead, it has tailored its message for the audience. The Islamic community has been exhorted to withstand the heat and informed that ANIC regrets the way the siege ended. It’s the rest of Australia that’s been told the siege was not Islam at work.

And Monis had more social media followers than Australia’s Grand Mufti. So I don’t really know who the Grand Mufti speaks for anyway.

We can see the media’s bulldust when we look at the webpage of the Australian National Imam’s Council (ANIC).

For your information, ANIC are the same bunch of imams that wrote to the Federal Senate in October to tell our nation’s parliament that laws prohibiting the advocacy of terror infringed their religious freedom.

Not that you would know that. That little admission was not deemed ‘newsworthy’.

Yet it is the smoking gun, fired by the nation’s most senior Islamic cleric, that proves Islam is a violent ideology. No other religious organisation felt compelled to tell our 76 Federal Senators not to vote for new anti-terror laws because it impacted on their religious freedoms. I’m guessing that’s because none of the other religious organisations follow a religion that advocates terror. But, you never know, maybe the Islamic leadership were simply trying to defend their peaceful beliefs from the nutters out there offering to ride with oppressed hijab wearing women on the local bus.

Anyway, ANIC’s press releases over the last 8 days are very revealing.

In short, one has condemned a fake imam. And the other has expressed regret at Man Haron Monis’ demise. One has condemned alcohol. And the other has told the Islamic community to remain strong after one of its members murdered two Australians at Christmas time.

As this link shows, ANIC had a go at a fake imam on 10 December. His name is Mostafa Rashed. And he preached that you can drink alcohol as long as you don’t get drunk.

It is a message so outrageous that Australia’s Islamic leadership were compelled to act. Rashed has been named, shamed and condemned. And, guess what? The Koran was even quoted.

But can you find any press releases on ANIC’s website naming, shaming and condemning Monis? Or even quoting from the Koran about why coffee shop slaughter is not halal?

No. No. No and No.

There’s not one having a go at him for sending abusive letters to the families of Australian Diggers.

Not one having a go at him for being a fake sheikh.

Not one having a go at him for setting his ex-wife on fire.

There is not even a press release having a go at Monis after he was charged with 40 criminal sexual offences. For your interest, there is a press release praising marriage laws in Lebanon. They allow old men to make brides of nine year old girls.

In fact, there is no press release having a go at Monis for killing two people in the Lindt Café either.

There is a press release, however, expressing regret at the way the siege ended. I suppose that makes sense. After all, every Muslim in the Lindt Café was slain. That’s Islamophobia for you and it would also explain why ANIC then told the Islamic community to call the Multicultural hotline if they feel the slightest bit threatened by all the racist Australians out there.

So there you have it. Australia’s Islamic leadership have shown the capability and intent to name, shame and condemn fake imams when they break Islamic law. On alcohol. But not when other fake sheikhs make national news headlines for murder. Or sexual offences. Or sending letters to the families of Australia’s war dead.

ANIC obviously thinks that prohibition of alcohol is more important than coffee shop killings. That’s moderate Islam for you.

Now there’s a real news story. And that’s why you will never see it on


Fairfax rags support Muslim protection racket

Kirralee Smith’s introduction to Fairfax style journalism was a rude awakening for a country mum with a legitimate halal beef. She explains here:

"Sunday 28th December 2014 was either a very slow news day or halal certification rackets are finally getting the attention they deserve. Chris Johnston of The Age in Melbourne wrote a story called "Stewing over certifying halal" that was published in the print and online versions of The Age and Sun Herald.

"While it appeared in the "Extra" section of the print versions it was one of the top two trending stories online. And I use the word ‘story’ in the context of fiction and fairy tales.

"I gave Chris Johnston a very long and detailed interview over the phone quite a few weeks ago. I explained to him several times that I founded and direct Halal Choices – an online website and facebook page that aims to give Australian consumers accurate information about the halal certification status of products to give each person the ability to make an informed choice.

"Notice the word CHOICES. It was a deliberate decision to make that a part of our name. We believe most Australians are more than capable of making responsible choices but they need information to be able to do so.

"The catalyst for starting the website was that many companies, especially the big ones, like Cadbury, Nestle, Mars, Kelloggs and Sanitarium don’t respect the consumer enough to give them the choice. Close to 500 companies or brands on Australian supermarket shelves neglect to make plain and clear that they pay halal certification fees. It is not marked on the label and often it is quite difficult to find evidence on the website.

"Chris Johnston is described as a "Senior Writer" for The Age. I was under the impression that would mean experience, fairness and the reporting of facts. However Chris Johnston made a decision to write a piece of fiction about me.

"The opening statement of his story is, "Kirralie Smith is a permaculture farmer from northern NSW and a mother of three. She is also the public face of the virulent campaign to boycott halal food and products."

"Well, he got my name right. And I do live in NSW.

"Calling me a permaculture farmer is ridiculous and I told him so several times. I have recently moved to a farm and we have aspirations to follow some permaculture principles. I made it clear that that part of my life has nothing to do with Halal Choices.

"I began Halal Choices in 2010. I moved to our farm 3 months ago! He was persistent in trying to get a photographer to my house to capture me farming. I refused, stating over and over again, that it had nothing to do with the report and no-one was coming to my house. He clearly had an agenda from the outset and was most unhappy I would not cooperate.

"Primarily I am a proud and happy wife and mother of three. That is who I am! I love my role as wife and mum and it is this that drives me to pursue Halal Choices for Australian consumers. I believe we all deserve the right to choose whether or not we want to participate with and fund Islamic religious practices. If you do, fine, it is your choice. But if you don’t, for whatever reason, you also should be able to choose. Islamic religious practices do not need to be imposed upon everyday Australians and we certainly don’t need to fund them.

"As for being ‘the public face of a virulent campaign to boycott halal food and products’ all Mr Johnston has done is prove his gross incompetence or deliberately deceptive agenda.

"There is a facebook page called "Boycott Halal in Australia." I do not run it. I am not an admin. I don’t have any influence with the group other than they like or share some of my posts. I don’t represent or lead boycotts at all. I promote information and choices. Chris Johnston has been deliberately misleading in writing such a nasty, opinion based, harmful description of me in his opening paragraph and trying to pass it off as fact.

"But it says far more about him than it does about me.
"Even after asking him to correct this and apologise he changed a few words to make it more factual but the sentiment remains and no apology issued.

"The word virulent is especially nasty. It means, "(of a disease or poison) extremely severe or harmful in its effects." In exposing his agenda to harm my reputation it confirms that the media is afraid of an intelligent and rational debate when it comes to giving accurate and extensive information about halal certification. It seems easier to try and stifle debate with petty name-calling and insults.

"He reports that I am concerned about the extra costs imposed on consumers. I explained to him that is certainly a factor BUT not our main concern. It is the deception and corruption which are much bigger factors. He omitted very key points as well as this. Yes halal certification has been linked to funding terrorism overseas and as yet there has been no thorough investigation into the Australian situation.

"What he omitted from my concerns is that nearly all the money raised goes to mosques in Australia, to build more mosques, Islamic schools and to support Islamic charities. Those pursuits need to be funded by the Islamic community, not every day Australians who are not even aware of it because the information is not on the label. We deserve a CHOICE!

"Mr Johnston reports that Fleurieu Milk lost their lucrative deal with Emirates as result of dropping halal certification. This is what many news agencies also reported in mid November. However, as of the 9th December Nick Hutchinson from Fleurieu said that the contract stills stands, it had not ceased at all.

"To his credit Chris Johnston did mention some of the corruption in the industry but was very careful not to target or demonise anyone else, even though I had passed on quite a few of the reports myself. I guess one house-wife, mother-of-three, aspiring-permaculture-farmer- villain is enough for any fairy tale about choices magically turning into boycotts.

"Be careful what you take in from the media. The apple might look bright and juicy but it could be laced with poison."


The 2UE/2GB merger and how it may affect the news you hear

2UE & 2GB have been solid commercial rivals for close to 90yrs. As of today, two of Australia's oldest radio stations have the same ownership. Go back a decade or two and what’s happened today would be as unimaginable as Channels 7 and 9 merging or Parramatta and Manly becoming the same team – but this is a move for survival.

Both stations need to reduce costs to maintain profitability, as the share of advertising revenue going to radio is not keeping pace with rising operational expenses.

That said, I think people who think 2UE will cease being a talk station are misreading the market.

Despite all that the management has done to the station over the years, 2UE’s share of 4 or 5% listenership likes what’s there – and if 2UE wasn’t a talk station, they may go elsewhere and probably not to 2GB. It’s too great a risk for to many listeners for the new partnership.

2UE has a cumulative audience across the week of about 270k versus 2GB’s 520k. That’s a stack of people to risk let going elsewhere.

My prediction; 2UE will remain a low-cost but better-managed talk station.  The best hope will be the end of the era of constant changes to the 2UE line-up. Talk radio is about familiar voices.

I’ve felt for UE programme directors Peter Brennan and Clinton Maynard who’ve had to watch as decisions were made ‘around them’ by consultants and so-called experts, often to the detriment of the station.  Even in the 3 years that I worked at the station, 14 changes to the primetime line-up were made – versus 2GB, which had made only one.

By contrast, 2UE’s weekend stars, George Moore and Paul B Kidd have been doing their great show for over a decade - largely untouched – and they are constantly number 1 in town. Not bad for two blokes on the number 7 station. There’s definitely something to that!

Sadly, the newsrooms again will probably end up feeling the impact of the merger the most. Radio newsrooms everywhere are under-resourced and the staff flog their guts out to cover the happenings in the country’s largest and wildest city.

Some sales and administration functions of the stations will probably be combined and that too will cause job losses.

Another prediction; 2CH will have to be sold but will continue to be operated by MRN but ‘controlled’ (as defined by legislation) by someone other than the present ownership – perhaps a friend of the present owner.

2CH has successfully ticked along as a budget operation for years. For much of the 90s (pre-Alan Jones) at 2GB, it was 2CH that actually propped-up the rest of the company financially.

2CH’s biggest fan is John Singleton who has always been very fond and supportive of the station.

22 years ago when 2MMM and 2DAY FM in Sydney merged, it stunned the radio industry. "How could two bitter rivals co-exist?" people asked. And, they’d only been up against each other for a decade!

Strange days indeed.


Green-left ruining living standards

GINA Rinehart has hit out at "haters" and the left-wing "propaganda" she says will stop at nothing to "ruin" the mining operations that keep Australia wealthy.

The West Australian, our nation’s richest person with an estimated fortune of about $20 billion, has also criticised the "notoriously expensive" bur­eaucracy and "time consuming over-regulation" holding back crucial business opportunities.

And she said she doesn’t agree with a recent move by the Barnett Government to offer an assistance package to the state’s junior iron ore miners struggling because of the price crash.

"The haters are quite happy to take all the benefits of mining – and spend all the tax revenue from the industry, but in the next breath they want us closed down. It’s just plainly irrational," Ms Rinehart told The Sunday Times.

"I cop a lot of the flak for being pro-mining and pro-free enterprise, both necessary to raise living standards in our country.

"When the green-left can’t win on facts, they get personal. "They will try at anything to ruin those people and companies they see as those who don’t support their propaganda.

"The mining and related ­industries need to speak up for themselves and that responsibility shouldn’t fall to just a few."

She said mining created jobs for about 250,000 Australians "in places where there may otherwise not be work".

Ms Rinehart spoke to The Sunday Times after her Roy Hill iron ore project in the Pilbara was named the Asia-Pac­ific Deal of the Year by Project Finance International.

"Despite what many in the media seem to believe, getting a mega project like Roy Hill this far takes enormous risk, personal effort, and perseverance," she said.

"Roy Hill is one of the largest mainland construction projects anywhere in Australia.  "There’s been many years of work, studies and investment to get to here but some still think you just get a tenement and, presto, it all happens, and money starts to roll in. Nothing could be further from reality."

Ms Rinehart said Roy Hill was the "last of the big projects in the immediate pipeline for WA". She said it was on track to complete its first iron ore shipment in September, but the biggest problem would be the cyclone season.

"We are ahead of our already aggressive schedules," she said. "Australian projects are not renowned for making their schedules so our achievements are sending a strong message to Asia that Aussies can do it."

The falling iron ore price, which recently hit a five-year low of $US68 a tonne, doesn’t concern Ms Rinehart.  But, she said Australia must act "urgently" to cut bureaucracy costs.

"Roy Hill is better placed than many with our low-cost business model," she said.  "We are a project for a generation as well, so we look to the long-term iron ore pricing.

"There will always be a market for iron ore but like everything – at a competitive price, and Australia needs to recognise this and act to lower its costs, starting with urgently and significantly cutting the costs of bureaucracy.

"Everyone talks about our declining productivity, but too few consider the time wasted and productivity loss caused by very costly and time consuming over-regulation."

Ms Rinehart said all levels of government "must wake-up and give Australia a chance".

"People are not going to buy our resources just because they love Aussies," she said.  "We face competition from emerging nations who can supply sometimes higher-grade ore at lower prices.  "Common sense tells you what is going to happen unless governments wise up and act.

"Just to get to here today, my team at Roy Hill has had to navigate more than 3000 regulatory hurdles. Some of them require thousands of pages of paperwork taking months and years to comply."

Ms Rinehart said governments "shouldn’t be bailing out businesses"; instead they "should be getting out of the way".

The Barnett Government recently said it would provide a 50 per cent rebate on iron ore royalties for up to 12 months, subject to the iron ore price remaining below an average of $US73 a tonne over the period.


4 January, 2015

Labor’s long decline from glory to gutless

Piers Akerman

It’s Day Two of Year Two for the Abbott Coalition government but there is no indication that the motley collection of senate crossbenchers or even the once-grand Labor Party has any intention of letting the government govern.

It might seem incredible to most intelligent people but Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said last May there was no budget emergency.

He is, of course, capable of extraordinary stupidity, having once gone resolutely on the record saying in 2012 of his then leader prime minister Julia Gillard: "I haven’t seen what she said, but let me say I support what it is that she’s said."

Right. As it happens, Gillard was in Turkey talking about whether her hand-picked speaker, Peter Slipper, should return to the speaker’s throne while remaining the subject of civil claims of sexual harassment.

It mattered nought for Shorten. He was behind Gillard, on her side, in her pocket, whatever the issue was and no matter what she thought.

It is easy then to understand why an individual of such vacuity might — after being part of a series of dysfunctional governments that repeatedly promised budget surpluses and failed to deliver anything but deficits — hold such an irrational view of the state of the economy.

Of course Shorten, having stated that there was no budget emergency, did not stop there. Like most fools, he went further, saying: "Australia is fundamentally strong, and so is the legacy Labor left behind."

Having the effrontery to claim that the smoking ruin of an economy Labor left in its wake was "fundamentally strong" was funnier than any of the gags in this year’s Christmas crackers. It’s just a pity that the line was so tragically wrong.

Re-reading Shorten’s Budget reply speech now, seven months on, is soul-destroying but it’s worth revisiting in the light of comments made by the last three responsible former prime ministers coinciding with the release of cabinet papers from 1988 and 1989.

Having experienced the blighted Labor leadership of Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and now Bill Shorten, it is difficult to contemplate a time when Labor was actually led by individuals who accepted that they were accountable for their deeds and policies.

Shorten, who said last April that he subscribed to "thoughtful responsibility" and was cognisant of "what needs to done and going about the job of doing it" has done just the opposite — unlike prime ministers Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard.

Throughout last year — and with increasing frequency as his term as treasury secretary came to an end last month — Martin Parkinson sounded the alarm about Labor’s lack of budgetary strategy.

He warned that Australia was living beyond its means, with too much government spending on health, welfare and education.

He called for "politically tough decisions" like those in the 1980s to ­address the "structural problem at the heart of the budget".

What a difference 25 years has made to the Labor Party.

In the 1980s, when Hawke was PM and Keating the treasurer, the Labor government picked up the challenge of reform which had begun even earlier when Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser and his treasurer John Howard commissioned the ground-breaking Campbell Report into the nation’s financial system.

When Labor began implementing some of the report’s important recommendations, the opposition, under Howard, gave the government its political backing and ensured those measures were put in place.

Recalling those times in an interview with The Australian, Howard said: "The lesson is that at crucial times you do need an acceptance on both sides … that bipartisanship around measures that are clearly in the ­nation’s long-term interest is essential if the long-term interest is to be promoted.

"There was only one sustained period — and even then not on everything — of bipartisanship ­between government and opposition on economics and that was the period we’ve been talking about (the 80s).

"Most of the reforms they undertook I supported (such as) tariff reform, financial deregulation and most of Labor’s fiscal consolidation … I did argue that Hawke should have gone further on reform in some areas.

"So, politically, adopting that (bipartisan) position made it easier for the government of the day."

Former treasurer and prime minister Keating endorsed that bipartisanship and agreed that the ­opposition should support the government’s program, provided it was credible and in the national interest.

Australia needed to address the underlying structural problem in the Budget as spending in some areas had become unsustainable, he said. This required a vision, political courage, and the capacity to make a compelling ­argument to voters.

"Policy ambition and urgency, that’s the lesson for today," he told The Australian.

"Without policy ambition, and without the core of the government believing changes are absolutely necessary and competently selling them, and doing it with urgency, then these sorts of tasks can’t be undertaken."

Hawke said there was a need to educate the electorate about the economic challenges facing the country and to convince voters of the need for reform.

He said the deteriorating budget bottom line had to be addressed ­because governments "can’t just keep pushing up taxes".

Somewhere over the past quarter of a century the Labor Party has lost all the residual wisdom displayed during the Hawke-Keating era.


CFMEU slapped with fines after bullying inspectors

BUILDING inspectors tasked with stamping out illegal union behaviour on worksites should enjoy the same protections as police officers against harassment and intimidation.

The finding from a Federal Court judge emerged as he fined the militant building union and 10 of its officials more than $200,000 for illegal worksite entry and intimidatory behaviour towards Fair Work building ­inspectors in Adelaide.

The case involved four occasions of unauthorised entry by Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union officials, including an aggressive attack on an inspector that was captured on video and examined by the royal commission investigating trade union governance and ­corruption.

Organiser John Perkovic faces the prospect of criminal charges for his actions at the Ibis Hotel site in May.

The exchange, filmed by ­another Fair Work inspector and the union, shows Mr Perkovic standing close to inspector ­Seamus Flynn and shouting he was a "f. king piece of shit" and a "c. t’’.

"You’re shitting yellow, you piece of shit," Mr Perkovic yelled. "You f. kin’ coward, I’d f. kin’ take you to school, you f. kin’ piece of shit."

He and a colleague had earlier responded to requests to show their entry permits by telling the site manager to "f. k off’’, "f. k yourself" and "grow some balls".

Judge Richard White said ­assaults against police and other law enforcement officials were ­regarded as serious criminal ­offences warranting severe penalties, and he believed penalties for attacks on building inspectors should be treated similarly.

"Inspectors should be able to discharge their duties without harassment, bullying or intimidation from anyone, let alone from persons who are present on a site only in the exercise of a right of entry granted for a limited purpose," he said.

Royal commissioner Dyson Heydon last month recommended South Australian and federal prosecutors consider laying criminal charges against Mr Perkovic, questioning whether his behaviour was legitimate use of industrial muscle or "the ­triumph of barbarism".

Justice White described the CFMEU’s record of industrial law contraventions as "dismal" and indicative of an indifferent attitude. The union has been ­ordered to pay $180,000, with fines of up to $5000 laid against Mr Perkovic and each of the other union ­officials.


British asylum-seeker compensation claim rejected

A BRITISH citizen who smuggled himself to Australia almost five years ago deserves $140,000 compensation for his "arbitrary" detention while he pursued futile court action, the Australian Human Rights Commission has urged.

Samad Ali Jafari, a dual-­citizen of Britain and Afghanistan, did not disclose his British citizenship or the fact he had previously visited Australia after ­arriving on Christmas Island and requesting asylum on April 15, 2010. The truth emerged three months later, after his fingerprints were checked against border control records.

The Department of Immigration refused his visa application, arguing he could easily escape persecution by returning to Britain. An independent reviewer agreed, but his deportation was further delayed by an unsuccessful appeal to the Federal Magistrates Court.

Under the strain of boat arrivals, the Gillard government in October 2011 transferred thousands of asylum-seekers to live in the community on bridging visas. Mr Jafari was considered for this but rejected because of the government’s desire to deport him as soon as his "futile" court action was rejected.

Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs, in her ­report of the case, wrote: "Mr ­Jafari was detained for over two years and the commonwealth has not explained why he was not able to reside in the community or in a less restrictive form of detention — if necessary, with appropriate conditions imposed to mitigate any identified risks — while his immigration status was initially resolved and for the ­period of his judicial review proceedings were ongoing."

The Immigration Department rejected the recommended payout, claiming his treatment was legal and did not offend his human rights.

The commission’s recommendations are not binding on the ­department.

"Mr Jafari was not honest and open in his dealings with Aus­tralian authorities.

"He arrived by boat at Christmas Island and failed to disclose his prior travel to Australia. Mr Jafari was a naturalised citizen of the United Kingdom and had resided in the UK for up to seven years between 2001-09. Both of these facts were never disclosed to the department.’’


Auditors to blitz troubled national rental scheme

FEDERAL auditors have confirmed they are poised to begin a sweeping audit of the troubled National Rental Affordability Scheme, which has been plagued with computer glitches, delays and claims of fraud during the year.

The scheme has also been ruthlessly exploited by univer­sities and property developers to build housing for foreign students instead of low-income working Australians. It is believed the audit will focus more on the way the scheme is run by the Department of Social Services than the issues with its design.

The audit office has been eyeing a probe of the NRAS for some time, with the scheme listed among a range of prospective ­audits, but The Weekend Australian has learned it is now about to be "actioned".

The audit’s terms of reference are being finalised, but documents on the Australian National Audit Office website referring to a possible investigation suggest a broad remit.

"An audit would examine aspects of DSS’s management of the NRAS in line with policy ­objectives, legislative requirements and the National Affordable Housing Agreement, as well as changes made to the scheme’s operations in 2014,’’ the office’s planning documents say.

The audit is not the only official probe into the Rudd-era social housing program.

Victoria Police is investigating allegations of fraud surrounding NRAS entitlements sold to charities in Victoria by a NSW developer. The incentives turned out to be useless as they could not be transferred.

The confirmation of the audit ends a troubled year for the NRAS program, which despite its flaws has been used to construct many thousands of reduced-­rental accommodation units and houses for low-income workers.

The $4.5 billion scheme provides a $10,000-a-year-per-dwelling incentive for owners prepared to install a tenant at 20 per cent below market rent.

The fact the incentive was the same rate for a unit as a house, and that the government at the time favoured large projects by big ­developers, allowed universities to seize on the program to boost their stocks of housing for foreign ­students.

The government has since sought to close that loophole, and has moved to stamp out an illegitimate trade in incentives where developers would stockpile incentives and then sell them to others for a profit.

Problems with the scheme continue to surface, however, with the restrictions on transferring entitlements leading indirectly to the fraud allegations in Ballarat, where several charities paid a bounty of $15,000 per incentive to a developer only to find the ­incentives could not be shifted to their projects because of the crackdown.

Then the bungled rollout of a new computer system in the ­department resulted in delayed payment of incentives in the latter part of this year, meaning that some investors had to seek permission from the tax office to file their returns late for the 2013-14 ­financial year.


2 January, 2015

Liberal Party MP promotes natural gas rather than coal as the future for developing nations

NSW Liberal MP Angus Taylor, who was elected the member for Hume in the 2013 election, says gas is the better way to reduce carbon emissions and supply countries such as China and India with the energy they need to continue their rise.

Mr Taylor, a Rhodes scholar and former partner at McKinsey, told Fairfax Media that the fastest way for the world to reduce carbon emissions while containing energy prices "is to build new natural gas generators, instead of coal generators, in the developing world".

"This is an enormous economic and environmental opportunity for Australia – as a supplier of relatively cheap, secure, lower-emission natural gas," he said.

"The IPCC itself accepts that gas can drive sharp reductions in emissions," he said.

Mr Taylor said Australia's impact on reducing global emissions through encouraging gas-fired power in the developing world would "dwarf any domestic emissions reductions efforts".

Economist Frank Jotzo said Australia is uniquely placed to exploit all changes in global energy demand. "Australia is not just rich in coal, Australia is rich in gas, Australia is rich in uranium, Australia is rich in renewable energy potential," he said.

He said natural gas was an option but not the end game for the developing world.  "Gas is about half the carbon intensity for coal for electricity generation so it can be a useful transition fuel on the way to a low-carbon energy system," he said.

However he said because gas is expensive, developing countries were investing in renewables and also coal.  "India is the standout, where expansion of power generation is happening in coal or solar," he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in December that Australia's natural gas exports increased by nearly 20 per cent last year, making it the third largest exporter of LNG in the world.   But natural gas is Australia's fifth largest export item behind iron ore, coal, gold and education services.

Australian company Origin Energy will begin exports of natural gas to China and Japan in mid-2015.  When both its production plants are fully operational, it will be capable of producing 9 million tonnes per annum (mtpa).

Under existing supply contracts, 7.6 mtpa will be sold to China's Sinopec and 1 mtpa to Japan's Kansai Electric.

A company spokesman said: "Each tonne of emissions produced in Australia as part of LNG production reduces emissions in China by four tonnes when it's used in place of coal to generate electricity."

Recently, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said any honest conversation about reducing Australia's domestic emissions had to include a debate about nuclear power, describing it as an "obvious direction" for a country blessed with uranium supplies.


Focus of Immigration Department moves from resettlement to enforcement

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton wants to create the "hardest borders possible" for criminals, as he prepares to merge the immigration and customs departments into the Australian Border Force to focus heavily on weaponry and force rather than processing and settlement.

In his first announcement as Immigration Minister this week, Mr Dutton said customs officers would be able to carry guns and personal protection equipment at all Australian airports. The decision, which came into effect on Wednesday, was made to ensure officers could be respond to a number of potential "border-related threats" across an "evolving transnational crime and national security environment".

"The government is committed to ensuring that the future Australian Border Force is as well trained and well equipped as possible, to ensure that the public is protected from the range of new and emerging threats our nation faces at the border," a spokesman for Mr Dutton said.

But the overhaul of the Immigration Department to guard the country's borders, rather than focus on settlement and migration, is causing rifts.

Fairfax Media understands tensions within the department are rising before the two departments merge. More than five senior immigration staff recently left the department after former Customs chief executive Michael Pezzullo was announced as immigration secretary in October.

Former deputy secretary Mark Cormack has since left the department, while another former deputy secretary, Elizabeth Cosson, moved to the Health Fepartment. Dr Wendy Southern, who was deputy secretary of immigration policy and chairwoman of the Irregular migration research advisory group, has also left.

The department confirmed a "small number" of senior executive staff had recently left the department.

"It is common for senior executives in the Australian Public Service to transfer from one agency to another. The senior executives concerned leave the department with the best wishes and full support of the secretary," said a departmental spokesman.

This week, Mr Dutton described the Australian Border Force as "a single frontline operational border agency with statutory responsibilities to enforce our customs and immigration laws".

"Its focus will be getting on with the job of border protection and building a system where criminals are faced with the hardest borders possible, but legitimate traders and travellers are unimpeded by border processes," a spokesman for Mr Dutton said.

And in a sign of the renewed focus of the department, during an Australian Strategic Policy Institute speech on December 4, Mr Pezzullo said as secretary he was charged with "protecting our borders".

"I prefer to see borders in a very different way. I see them as mediating between the imperatives of the global order, with its bias towards the flow of people, goods, capital, data and knowledge, and the inherent territoriality and capacity for exclusion which comes with state sovereignty."


Alan Jones loses lengthy legal battle with Muslim leader Keysar Trad:  Tribunal rules that calling Lebanese men ‘vermin’ and ‘mongrels’ constituted racial vilification

Jonesy was clearly a bit too sweeping. "Some" is a magic word.  He should use it more often

Alan Jones has lost his lengthy legal battle with the Muslim leader Keysar Trad and been ordered to pay him $10,000 plus costs after a tribunal ruled that calling Lebanese men "vermin" and "mongrels" constituted racial vilification.

In a 2005 broadcast on his popular 2GB morning radio program, Jones described Lebanese men as "idiots" who hated "our country and heritage".

The inflammatory comments went to air when Jones read a letter he said he had received from a listener. The letter, which he also commented on, was in response to a story on Nine’s A Current Affair program the night before about young men taunting police and showing disrespect for the Anzac tradition.

The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal said in its judgment: "The assertion is made that these men simply rape, pillage and plunder a nation that’s taken them in. They are then described in sub-human terms as ‘vermin infest[ing] our shores’.

"These words, which are highly insulting and inflammatory, portray Lebanese men in an extremely negative way, suggesting that they rape and are warlike and violent. The words ‘vermin’ also carry the inference that they are unwanted parasites. Lebanese males are a threat – a ‘national security problem in the making’."

The tribunal said although Jones claimed to be reading from a listener’s letter he was responsible for the statements that were read out.

"It was Mr Jones who had the ultimate choice as to which letters and emails to read out and who to speak to," it said. "There is no doubt that Mr Jones endorsed the views of the correspondent."

The tribunal found that because of Jones’ high profile and status "his opinions are respected and carry significant weight with his listeners".

An allegation by Trad that the letter was written by Jones himself or a member of his staff was never proven but 2GB’s owner, Harbour Radio, failed to produce evidence the letter existed.

On 19 December the tribunal found Trad’s complaint of racial vilification against Jones and 2GB was substantiated and ordered them to pay the applicant damages of $10,000.

The tribunal also ordered 2GB to undertake a critical review of its 2005 programs and policies on the prevention of racial vilification "with a view to developing and implementing revised programs and policies aimed at eliminating unlawful racial vilification".

In its judgment, the tribunal rejected Harbour Radio’s assertion that it provided regular training to all presenters and production teams and that in 2004 – before the incident – Jones had attended training which covered the offence of racial vilification.

"This evidence is very general and does not satisfy us that Mr Jones has received professional training in relation to what does and does not amount to racial vilification," the tribunal found.

Trad’s battle to hold Jones responsible has been a long one with many twists and turns. In 2009 the tribunal found that part of his complaint of racial vilification under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) against Jones and Harbour Radio had been substantiated and ordered they pay him $10,000.

But subsequent legal challenges by Jones and Harbour Radio resulted in the tribunal’s order being set aside and in November 2013 Trad was ordered to repay the $10,000.


Iron ore caps year of decline as Morgan Stanley says worst is over

Iron ore is poised to cap the biggest annual decline in at least five years as surging supplies from the world's biggest producers outstrips demand growth in China, with the raw material dropping for four straight quarters in 2014.     

Ore with 62 per cent content delivered to Qingdao, China, lost 47 per cent this year to $US71.15 a dry tonne on Tuesday, according Metal Bulletin.

The commodity fell to $US66.84 on December 23, the lowest level since June 2009, before rebounding with four daily gains to complete the longest run of advances since July.

This month prices are just 0.2 per cent lower.     

"In terms of price downside, the worst is probably over," said Tom Price, an analyst at Morgan Stanley in London. "The major factor that undercut ore prices in 2014 was the Australian-led supply surge."     

The steel-making ingredient entered a bear market in March as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto expanded low-cost supplies, betting that increased volumes would offset lower prices while forcing less-competitive mines to close.

Concern that China is slowing, with the biggest buyer set for the weakest expansion in almost a quarter century, exacerbated the rout.

Some are less optimistic than Morgan Stanley: The raw material may drop to below $US60 next year, according to Citigroup and Roubini Global Economics.     

The market shifted to a surplus in mid-2014 and that excess will widen to about 300 million tonnes by 2017, Goldman Sachs Group analysts Fawzi Hanano and Eugene King said in a November 6 report.

Producers led by BHP and Rio have embarked on $US120 billion of spending on new mines since 2011, Goldman said.                          

The rout has hurt producers' shares, while hurting government revenues in Australia, the world's largest exporter.

Rio Tinto lost 16 per cent in local trading this year, while BHP tumbled 22 per cent and Fortescue Metals Group sank 53 per cent.     

Australia this month cut its iron ore estimate for next year by 33 per cent, forecasting that prices will average $US63 a tonne, according to the Department of Industry.

That compares with $US94 a ton forecast in September by the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, which is now part of the department.     

Iron ore's 47 per cent loss this year compares with the 16 per cent retreat in the Bloomberg Commodity Index.

While the gauge tracks 22 raw material including crude oil, gold and crops, it doesn't include iron ore. The biggest decliner in the index is Brent crude, which dropped 47 per cent in 2014 in the global oil rout.


1 January, 2015

Pensioners, unemployed, sport, schools and solariums to be hit by laws on New Year's Day

Thousands of seniors could lose access to the valuable Commonwealth seniors health care card from New Year's Day, as the income test for the seniors card becomes a lot stricter.

Account-based pensions and superannuation income streams will no longer be exempt from the seniors card income test.

Retired couples with an income of more than $80,000 a year or singles who earn more than $50,000 a year could lose access to the concession card, which provides discounts on utility and medical bills, pharmaceuticals and transport, as well as an $886 yearly payment.

The unemployed will also be subject to stricter conditions on their Centrelink benefits, which have already been tightened during 2014.

Since July, employers have been able to report to Centrelink employees who have failed to attend work. The move resulted in a 54 per cent increase in welfare payment suspensions, the Department of Human Services said.

Under the new laws from January 1 the number of suspensions looks set to rise again. If a person misses an appointment with their employer, their Centrelink support payment will be suspended until they attend another one.

From July the laws will become even tougher. Income support will be suspended if a person fails to provide an adequate excuse for missing an appointment.

"This is the same standard of behaviour that is expected of a worker if they can't make it to work, and it is an important principle that the same standard applies to job seekers in receipt of taxpayer-funded income support," Assistant Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker said.

In NSW, solariums will be closed on December 31, following years of criticism by health care bodies.  "There is irrefutable scientific evidence that exposure to UV radiation in solaria is a high risk for melanoma and other skin cancers," the Cancer Council said.  Solarium owners believe the laws will only encourage a black market of tanning bed operators.

In the sporting world, Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's efforts to curb the doping market will step up a gear with amendments to the ASADA act.  Sportspeople will be forbidden from associating with anyone in a professional capacity who has been banned, criminally convicted or disciplined by any doping body.

ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt will also maintain a publicly available "violations list" of people who commit doping offences.

ASADA will also become responsible for the prosecution of offenders, because the previous system of having individual sports target doping cheats was found to be too cumbersome.

While ASADA will gain a broader spectrum, other sectors will have theirs slashed.

Schools, sporting clubs and other organisations that use microphones in the 700 MHz spectrum will have to re-equip themselves when the estimated 150,000 wireless microphones in that range become illegal on January 1.  The spectrum is privately owned now by Telstra and Optus, after the former labour government sold it for more than $1 billion in 2013.

The sale might have boosted the government's budget temporarily, but one that will increase the coffers for years to come is the 50 per cent increase in the cost of a permanent partner visa for immigrants.

From New Year's Day Australians who marry or fall in love with a foreigner will have to pay  up to $6865 for the right for them to live and work legally in the country. That fee is up from $4575 in 2014. The move is expected to bring in $373.6 million in revenue over the next four years.


First coal-seam gas loaded for export from Australia

The world's first coal-seam-gas to LNG facility starts up.  Greenies hate coal seam gas, of course, but both the Queensland and Federal government support it

BG Group began loading the first cargo of LNG from its Queensland Curtis LNG (QCLNG) facility to the vessel Methane Rita Andrea December 28. The second cargo of LNG from the facility will be loaded onto the Methane Mickie Harper, which is expected in Gladstone in the first week of January.

QCLNG is the world's first LNG project to be supplied by coal seam gas. The start of production from the plant's first LNG train is the result of more than four years of development and construction on Curtis Island.

The project will expand further with the startup of the second train in the third quarter of 2015. At plateau production, expected during 2016, QCLNG will have an output of around 8 million metric tons of LNG a year.

Andrew Gould, interim Executive Chairman, said, "This is an immense achievement which demonstrates the company's ability to deliver a highly complex LNG project. The start-up of QCLNG is testament to the hard work, skill and dedication of all our employees, partners and customers including the thousands of individuals who have been involved in physically building the plant.

The ongoing support from both the State Government of Queensland and the local councils of our upstream region and in Gladstone has also been pivotal in this development. We thank them all."


Work and pay prospects for graduates deteriorated in 2014, a survey shows

More evidence that a university education is now not worth it for many.  Catching up for years of lost earnings is now increasingly unlikely

Recent university graduates are more likely to be out of full-time work than ever before and starting salaries for graduates have stagnated, new figures show.

The latest annual survey by Graduate Careers Australia shows that full-time employment rates and the earnings advantage of completing a degree both hit record lows in 2014 for recent graduates.

Thirty-two per cent of university graduates who wanted a full-time job had not found one four months after completing a degree in 2014 - up from 29 per cent last year and topping the previous record set in 1992.

"These figures are really concerning," said Grattan Institute higher education program director Andrew Norton. "They are worse than the 1990s recession but without the recession."

Mr Norton said the decline was most likely due to the growing number of students enrolling at university and a reluctance among employers to take on new workers since the global financial crisis.

Undergraduate university enrolments have soared by 23 per cent, or 110,000 students, since 2009 following the uncapping of student places.

In 2008, before the global economic downturn, 85 per cent of university graduates had found a full-time job four months after finishing their degree, compared with just 68 per cent this year.

More than 100,000 recent graduates completed the Australian Graduate Survey (AGS).

"These figures indicate that the labour market prospects of new bachelor degree graduates, which fell in the 2009 AGS as a result of the global financial crisis and did not change notably between 2010 and 2012 before falling again in 2013, have again fallen," the report says.

Recent pharmacy, medicine and mining engineering graduates were most likely to have full-time jobs, whereas social sciences, chemistry and psychology graduates were among the most likely to be unemployed or underemployed.

Employment opportunities have deteriorated significantly for recent law graduates. A quarter of law graduates were seeking permanent employment in 2014 four months after finishing their degree, up from nine per cent in 2008.

The GCA report stresses that the medium and long-term job prospects for graduates remain strong despite the tough employment market for new graduates. Only 3.2 per cent of university graduates are unemployed compared to 8.2 per cent for those with no post-secondary qualifications according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

The latest figures also show that starting salaries for graduates have declined when compared to wage of an average Australian male.

The median starting salary for a bachelor degree holder aged under 25 was $52,500 in 2014 or 74 per cent of male average weekly earnings. This is the lowest proportion relative to the average male wage since records began in 1977 and is significantly down from the recent peak of 83 per cent in 2009.

The median graduate starting salary rose by just $50, or 0.1 per cent, from 2013 while the wage of an average male rose by $411 or 0.6 per cent.

The higher earnings potential for university graduates, which remains significant over a lifetime, has been a key selling point for the Abbott government in its bid to deregulate university fees. Education Minister Christopher Pyne has repeatedly cited the figure that university graduates will earn 75 per cent more over a lifetime than school leavers.

New male graduates earned a median salary of $55,000 in 2014 while new female graduates started work on a median salary of $52,000. The difference is largely explained by the fact men are more likely to choose degrees which lead to high starting salaries - such as engineering - than women, according to the GCA report.


Customs staff to be armed at airports, new Immigration Minister announces

Customs officers will be armed at airports in the new year, the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has announced as he cements his plan to crack down on crime gangs and drug traffickers in his new portfolio.

As of next year customs and border protection officers will be permitted to carry "personal defensive equipment", which includes firearms, while on duty at Australian airports, Mr Dutton announced on Tuesday in his first media release as Immigration Minister.

"This measure will not only increase the capability of our future Border Force officers, it will also add another layer of deterrence at our borders, and will ensure that the travelling public is as safe as possible," Mr Dutton said.

"This government is serious about border protection. People smugglers, transnational crime gangs and narcotic traffickers should be under no illusion. The government is committed to enhancing our nation's border protection arrangements.

"The border of the future will be far more complex than the environment we face today, however, and so the Australian Border Force must be well trained and well equipped if they are to deal with the range of new and emerging threats our nation faces."

The announcement comes as the immigration department prepares to merge with the Customs Service in July next year as the Australian Border Force, with increasing focus on deterrence at Australia's borders and continuing the Abbott government's resolve to "stop the boats".

One day after the former health minister was sworn in as the Immigration Minister this month he took to Facebook to list his priorities as the incoming minister.

"If you're an illegal bikie, if you're part of an outlaw motorcycle gang involved in organised criminal activity, you've just made it to the top of my list," wrote Mr Dutton on his fan page.

"Coming to Australia is a privilege and if you're coming here harming Australians, ripping off our welfare system, committing serious crimes, then you're at the top of my list for deporting."


What a silly old year 2014 has been for Left commentators

HAS there ever been a year so ­afflicted with massive exaggeration, wide-scale false prophecy, appalling judgment, wilful omission and narcissism? You be the judge, on a monthly basis.


In a faux encyclical, Fairfax Media religious reporter Barney Zwartz praises Pope Francis and calls for Cardinal George Pell to step down as archbishop of Sydney. Soon after, Francis promotes Pell to a senior role in the Vatican and Zwartz retires.

ABC presenter Jonathan Green declares he will never be able to convince himself that Tony Abbott is "a man of intelligence … while he keeps wearing those blue ties". In The Canberra Times, Jenna Price discusses her "diseased uterus" and announces an intention to send immigration minister Scott Morrison one tampon a month. Price is an academic who teaches journalism.


Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper is launched, stating its intention to be read by wealthy inner-city professional types who have Netflix accounts and are "lighthouse consumers". In fact, it’s just another boring rant against the Coalition — an upmarket version of the Green Left Weekly. The Age’s Martin Flanagan asserts that Rupert Murdoch "has become Catholic". He provides no evidence for his claim. In The Sydney Morning Herald, Mike Carlton describes Tony Abbott as "pure Vladimir Putin", overlooking the fact Abbott does not lock up opponents.


On the ABC’s Q&A, Guardian Australia editor Katharine Viner depicts Australia as "a globally infamous human rights abuser". Like North Korea or Syria, presumably. Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs objects to criticism of her organisation’s $60,000 Christmas party. The learned professor maintains she does not intend to "do things in some sort of shabby way" or "want to be in the village hall in Koo Wee Rup". That’s a Victorian town where there are no "lighthouses" and few, if any, read The Saturday Paper. Hardly a place for human rights professionals.


Melbourne writer Helen Garner ventures to the Victorian town of Castlemaine to express solidarity with fellow leftists Arnold Zable, Robert Manne and Rai Gaita. All are opposed to the construction of a chicken factory in nearby Baringhup. You see, Gaita has said the "rhythm" of his "sentences" can be traced to his home town of Baringhup and he and his comrades do not want the land interfered with. Fair dinkum.

Film director Anna Broinowski talks about her recent visit to North Korea where she "had to educate" the communist regime "about coal-seam gas" as it educated her on "how to make a propaganda film". She expresses no objection to human rights abuses in the totalitarian state.


Monash University academic and ABC TV presenter Waleed Aly appears on Channel 10’s The Project. Invited to describe the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram, he fails to refer to its identification with the Islamist cause.

Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser identifies with the conspiracy theory that Israel consciously bombed the USS Liberty in 1967. Artist Maria Fernanda Cardoso argues that "spiders are artists themselves" since "they know how to make visual display … while mating". She received a taxpayer-funded grant from the Australia Council to study the artistic merit of insect sex organs.


Carlton bags the Abbott government as a "gang of punishers and straighteners (sic), of cutters and slashers, run by the sort of bossy former private school prefects who enjoy enforcing dress codes at golf clubs". Carlton attended Barker College on Sydney’s north shore, where he wrote appalling poetry in the private school’s magazine.

Guardian Australia journalist David Marr prophesises that "there is a very real possibility that the Arab world is going to respond to Australia’s unique stand on East Jerusalem by saying: ‘Well we won’t buy your wheat.’ " It didn’t.


It’s time for false historical comparisons again. Palmer United Party supremo Clive Palmer labels Queensland Premier Campbell Newman a Nazi. Just like Heinrich Himmler, apparently. Fraser says that returning asylum-seekers to Sri Lanka is "redolent of handing Jews to Nazis in the 1930s".

Australian National University professor Hugh White has another look at his crystal ball and sees a "most worrying parallel between 1914 and 2014". There wasn’t, consequently a third world war did not begin.


Carlton steps down as a Sydney Morning Herald columnist after refusing to accept a suspension for abusing his readers, one whom he labelled a "Jewish bigot".

He dir­ected another reader to "kiss my arse", an offer that was declined. Human Rights Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane says he is "agnostic" as to whether Carlton’s abuse is offensive.

But what if a conservative, say, had called someone a Muslim bigot?

Writer Frank Moorhouse attends outgoing ASIO director-general David Irvine’s address at the National Press Club where Irvine warns about the danger of lone-wolf terrorists. Moorhouse senses the "dangerous ‘for-us-or-against-us’ paradigm resting in the PM’s term Team Australia".


Man Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan says he is "ashamed to be Australian". He indicates his concern that the Prime Minister has supported the coal industry. Flanagan seems unaware that coalmines pay company tax and royalties that help to fund the artistic community. Jane Caro reckons that "traditional marriage … was a form of prostitution". Anne Summers mourns the (greatly exaggerated) death of Mungo MacCallum, who hears of his passing while enjoying lunch.

The Age’s columnist Jonathan Holmes says there is no evidence to support the view that his employer runs lots of anti-Catholic diatribes.

The Age’s editor subsequently spikes a letter from reader Chris Curtis documenting 15 articles containing what he terms "anti-Catholic bigotry".


The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe debunks the Abbott government’s national security legislation, which is supported by Labor, with a smirk, saying: "This is very much taking a sledgehammer to crack a walnut." Activist journalist Margo Kingston announces she has received a scholarship from Macquarie University to write about, wait for it, herself. It’s not clear whether Kingston’s analysis of herself will be assessed by herself. But, why not? After all, Kingston is the world expert on Kingston.


Not to be outdone in the narcissism stakes, former failed Labor leader Mark Latham uses his Australian Financial Review column to write about himself. He employs the words "I", "I’ve", "me" and "my" on no fewer than 20 occasions while whingeing about something that allegedly happened to him in 2007. Cate Blanchett puts in an Oscar-worthy performance at Gough Whitlam’s memorial service. She claims to have received "free" tertiary education under the Whitlam government, seemingly unaware that her campus days were paid for by taxpayers. In reviews of Whitlam’s time as PM, there is virtually no mention of his opposition to Vietnamese refugees, support for the Soviet incorporation of the Baltic States or decision to accept cash for Labor’s 1975 election campaign from Saddam Hussein’s regime.


The Left intelligentsia responds to Man Haron Monis’s Sydney siege with denial. Monis calls himself an Islamist terrorist but many commentators, especially on the ABC, choose not to believe him. Writing in The Conversation on December 16, academic Clarke Jones decries the "hype about terrorism", declaring that if you took out the words "terrorism", "Islamic" and "Islamic State", the siege would have received scant attention. He seems to accept that the words "siege" and "hostage" could still have been used. Fancy that. The year ends with ABC chairman Jim Spigelman declaringthat critics want ABC personnel with whom they disagree "taken out at dawn and hung (sic)". Enough said.


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

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

My son Joe

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative

Bureaucracy: "One of the constant laments of doctors and nurses working with NSW Health is the incredible and increasing bureaucracy," she said. "It is completely obstructive to providing a service."

Revered Labour Party leader Gough Whitlam was/is a very erudite man so he cannot have been unaware of the similarities of his famous phrase “the Party, the platform, the people” with an earlier slogan: "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer". It's basically the same slogan in reverse order.

Australia's original inhabitants were a race of pygmies, some of whom survived into modern times in the mountainous regions of the Atherton tableland in far North Queensland. See also here. Below is a picture of one of them taken in 2007, when she was 105 years old and 3'7" tall

Julia Gillard, a failed feminist flop. She was given the job of Prime Minister of Australia but her feminist preaching was so unpopular that she was booted out of the job by her own Leftist party. Her signature "achievements" were the carbon tax and the mining tax, both of which were repealed by the next government

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)

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