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

The original version of this blog is HERE. Dissecting Leftism is HERE (and mirrored here). The Blogroll. My Home Page. Email me (John Ray) here. Other mirror sites: Greenie Watch, Political Correctness Watch, Education Watch, Immigration Watch, Food & Health Skeptic, Gun Watch, Socialized Medicine, Eye on Britain, Recipes and Tongue Tied. For a list of backups viewable in China, see here. (Click "Refresh" on your browser if background colour is missing) See here or here for the archives of this site

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


31 July, 2013

'Caring' Greens unveil asylum policy to increase nation's refugee intake

The Greens would strip away all deterrents from refugee policy and aim to stop deaths at sea by dramatically increasing Australia's refugee intake and boosting the capacity of the United Nations refugee agency to process claims in Indonesia.

The pre-election policy to be released on Wednesday would also shut down detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, give work rights to those in the community and lift the ban on people in refugee-producing countries coming directly by air to seek asylum.

It would also appoint an Australian ambassador for refugee protection to help broker a regional co-operation response modelled on the approach of Malcolm Fraser with Vietnamese asylum seekers in the 1970s.

The policy has been criticised by Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison who says it "won't stop the boats". Meanwhile, bad weather had delayed the transfer of the first asylum seekers to Manus Island under the Rudd Government's agreement with Papua New Guinea.

Buoyed by polling showing only one in three voters trusts the major parties to "handle refugees with care", the Greens will market themselves as the only party offering "compassion, legality and the only model for saving refugee lives at sea that has ever really worked".

"If you want to stop the people-smuggling business, you have to undercut it, and that means providing a viable option that does not force refugees into the hands of people smugglers in the first place," says the party's spokeswoman on asylum, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Greens leader Christine Milne will propose a doubling of funding to the United Nations refugee agency to speed up assessment and resettlement of asylum seekers in Indonesia and Malaysia, and a 10,000 increase in Australia's refugee intake. One in three places in the 30,000 program would be set aside for refugees assessed by the UN agency in the region, including at least 3800 in Indonesia.

Senator Milne said the Parliamentary Budget Office has costed an increase in the humanitarian program to 30,000 at $2.5 billion over four years, a fraction of the amount spent on offshore processing.

A Galaxy poll commissioned by the Greens found that almost 50 per cent of voters did not trust either Labor or the Liberals "to put caring for refugees before political interest". The same proportion did not trust either of the major parties to "handle refugees with care".

"Both parties are moving so far to the right, it's difficult to imagine the next level of cruelty they could possibly engage in," Senator Milne told Fairfax Media. "They are bringing shame on Australia in a national and global sense."

Spending an extra $70 million a year to boost the UNHCR's capacity in the region was in line with recommendations of the Gillard government's expert panel and would "take pressure off people feeling like they have no other option than to be on boats".

The policy commits the Greens to restore Australia's migration zone "to match our land and sea territory"; to guarantee legal review and community detention options for refugees who receive adverse ASIO security assessments; and to replace the immigration minister with an independent guardian for unaccompanied children seeking asylum.

Coalition critical

But Mr Morrison said he did not agree with the Greens plan, telling ABC radio that with so many refugees worldwide, increasing the intake would not make a difference.

"We don't agree that increasing the intake at the end of the day when you've got less than one per cent of the world's refugees actually getting resettlement . . .  moving that dial by 4 or 5,000 either way is going to make any real difference," he said.

The Coalition's policy is to reduce the current humanitarian intake from 20,000 people a year to 13,750 a year, including 11,000 reserved for offshore applicants.

"Not one of those visas will be given to someone who has arrived illegally by boat," he told ABC Radio. 

Mr Morrison said the risk of the Greens policy is "you don't want to create Indonesia as a magnate for people to move into either".

He said the Coalition's "Operation Sovereign Borders" was designed to stop people coming to the region.

Earlier on Wednesday, Senator Milne criticised the major parties for their asylum seeker policies, saying it was not a military or border security issue but a humanitarian one.

She also said that deterrence did not work when it came to dealing with asylum seeker flows. "We've seen an absolutely horrible and farcical raising of the stakes," she told ABC Radio.

PNG solution

Under the Government's policy, all boat arrivals will be sent to Manus Island for processing and eventual settlement in Papua New Guinea if they are found to be refugees.

The first asylum seekers bound for Manus Island had been scheduled to leave Australia on Tuesday evening, arriving some time on Wednesday morning, but a spokesman for the Department of Immigration on Wednesday confirmed the transfer had been delayed due to poor weather.

Arrangements were being made for the group to be sent to PNG as soon as possible.

They will be the first arrivals since Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his PNG counterpart, Peter O'Neill, agreed to expand asylum seeker processing two weeks ago.

The initial group is likely to consist of only men, with women and children to be moved at a later date.

The fourth and final flight carrying equipment destined for Manus arrived in PNG earlier this week, with work continuing to expand the facility.

Immigration Minister Tony Burke said on Wednesday that it would take about a day for asylum seekers in Australia to be transferred to Manus Island. People will not be sent from Australia, however, until health checks are complete.

The minister said the facilities at Manus Island were not yet ready for family groups, as he wanted them separate from single adult males.

"At the moment, I'm only comfortable with single adult males going across," he told ABC radio. "I want to get the standards to a point where more can go across and I don’t believe it will take a long time to do that."


Carbon credits market is neither free nor worth anything

THE paradox du jour: people who like free markets don't want a carbon market, and the people who don't trust capitalism want emissions trading. So why are socialists fighting for a carbon market? Because this "market" is a bureaucrat's wet dream.

A free market is the voluntary exchange of goods and services. "Free" means being free to choose to buy or to not buy the product. At the end of a free trade, both parties have something they prefer.

A carbon market is a forced market. There is little intrinsic incentive to buy a certificate for a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. It says a lot about the voluntary value of a carbon credit that when given the option to pay $2 to offset their flight emissions, 88 per cent of people choose not to. A few do it as a form of green penance to assuage guilt, and others do it for their eco public relations campaign or branding.

To create demand for emissions permits, the government threatens onerous fines to force people to buy a product they otherwise don't need and most of the time would never even have thought of acquiring. Likewise, supply wouldn't exist without government approved agents. Potentially a company could sell fake credits (cheaper than the real ones) and what buyer could spot the difference? Indeed, in terms of penance or eco-branding, fake credits, as long as they were not audited, would "work" just as well as real ones.

Despite being called a commodity market, there is no commodity: the end result is air that belongs to no one in particular that has slightly less of a trace gas. Sometimes it is not even air with slightly less carbon dioxide, it is merely air that might have had more CO2, but doesn't. It depends on the unknowable intentions of factory owners in distant lands.

How strange, then, that this non-commodity was at one time projected to become the largest tradeable commodity in the world - bigger even than the global market for oil. In 2009, Bart Chilton, chairman of energy markets at the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, estimated global carbon markets would be worth $2 trillion within five years.

The UN may claim that carbon is "tracked and traded like any other commodity", but if I buy a tonne of tin, I either get a tonne of tin or I get $20,000 because I onsold it. Fraud is easy to spot.

Unfortunately, fraud has been a big, ongoing problem with emissions trading. This market needs auditors, and the auditors need auditing (the top two auditors in the EU emissions trading scheme were suspended in 2009 for irregularities). The EU has already lost €5 billion to carbon-trading value-added tax fraud. The mafia is laundering money in Italy through renewables schemes, and after one tax loophole was closed, market volume in Belgium dropped by up to 90 per cent.

The carbon market also depends on the honesty of people claiming: "We wouldn't have built that dam without that carbon credit." How would we know? The Xiaoxi dam in China was already under construction two years before the owners applied for credits "to build it".

Since an ETS exists by government fiat and has no intrinsic value without it, it is technically a fiat currency rather than a tradeable commodity. Supply and demand is set by bureaucrats in the EU. If the price is too high, politicians will issue more credits, and if it's too low they will delay them (as the EU is planning to do). Bureaucrats can also give exemptions to trade-affected industries (or their friends, and to their fans in marginal seats).

Those who say that a carbon market is "like" other derivatives markets are wrong. Derivatives markets are sometimes quite disconnected from actual products such as pork bellies or gold bars, but eventually the supply and demand for real goods will determine the price. In some places the size of the derivatives market exceeds that of the commodity market, but that's a reason to question those schemes, not to set up a market in an atmospheric nullity or something as frivolous as an "intention" not to build a dam.

So, who profits from the carbon market? The brokers in a carbon market - almost every large investment bank - make money on every trade. The global carbon market turned over $176bn in 2011. These groups have been lobbying for a market, not a tax, and the reasons are obvious.

Most of the key factors in a carbon market are misnamed. The market is not free. An essential plant fertiliser is called pollution. The aim of the market is not to make clean energy but to change global temperatures by an amount that rounded to the nearest degree, equals zero. The US has no market but has reduced emissions (largely thanks to shale gas), while any reductions in EU emissions were largely due to falling gross domestic product. Yet the government wants to join the EU scheme.

Ironically, the reason for having any carbon scheme at all comes from monopolistic research. There are virtually no grants specifically available for sceptical scientists, but funding galore for unsceptical ones.

We need a free market in science before we even discuss the need for a free market in carbon.

But don't hold your breath - the global warmers prove to be mostly global hypocrites.


Sir Lunchalot was corrupt

Among others

TWO former high-profile Labor MPs, Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, have been found by the NSW ICAC to have acted corruptly and referred for possible criminal charges. More to come.

Earlier, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he was "disgusted" by revelations that have been aired at the hearings of the Independent Commission Against Corruption into members of the NSW Labor Party and anyone found guilty of illegal behaviour should face the full force of the law.

"That's what I want to see happen," the Prime Minister said. "I've been disgusted by what I have seen in ICAC hearings so far and my view is anyone who is responsible for corruption or illegal behaviour should face the full force of the law."

Ahead of the release of three reports from ICAC today into former NSW Labor ministers, Mr Rudd said he would not tolerate corruption.

He hoped the federal intervention into the NSW branch of the Labor Party would help clean it up.

"I would say it was for no idle reason that I took a virtually unprecedented step of directing federal intervention in the NSW branch of the Labor party," Mr Rudd said.

"This set of reforms are anchored in one core principal - zero tolerance for corruption - and I expect that to be fully reflected in the intervention we have taken."

ICAC will today present three reports relating to the business dealings of Ian Macdonald, Eddie Obeid and Eric Roozendaal.

The findings of ICAC's Commissioner David Ipp are expected to be damning - and will reveal whether recommendations will be referred to the DPP for criminal charges.

Mr Rudd has demanded ALP reforms to loosen the hold of factional warlords in a bid to pre-empt a voter backlash should the ICAC recommend charges against former party figures.

The Prime Minister and ministerial colleagues, particularly those in western Sydney, will be careful to distance themselves and the party from central characters in the ICAC probe.

These are the three reports and five things you might need to know about each of them:

OPERATION JARILO: In which a massage didn't have a happy ending...

1. Sometimes referred to as the Tiffany Report or the "neck massage" incident after the former NSW resources minister Ian Macdonald met a woman in a Sydney hotel room who, ICAC heard, stripped down to her underwear. Mr Macdonald testified he had gone there for a neck massage and fallen asleep.

2. In July, 2009, the then head of state power company Country Energy, Craig Murray, was invited by Mr Macdonald to a dinner at Tuscany, a restaurant in Sydney's inner-west Italian quarter of Leichhardt. Mr Murray went with a fellow executive for back-up, a worthwhile precaution.

3. Suddenly Mr Medich and another businessman sat down at a table which had been added to the one Mr Murray was sitting at, and made an uninvited pitch for business from Country Energy as Mr Macdonald looked on.

4. Mr Macdonald ordered four bottles of wine costing $130 each, but because Country Energy had strict rules barring gifts from business suitors, Mr Murray had to pick up the $850 dinner bill.

5. ICAC heard Mr Gattellari, an associate of Mr Medich and involved with him in a separate murder case, later paid $400 for a hotel room where Mr Macdonald later turned up (See Tiffany).

OPERATION JASPER: In which properties miraculously increased in value...

1. Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid has declared his income was his pay as a member of the NSW Upper House but his sons ran a wide range of businesses, from cafes to roadside poles, and also had interests in coal leases.

2. Eddie Obeid, who had remarkable influence even as a back bencher, helped the career of Mr Macdonald, a left-winger, through his faction.

3. In 2007-08 the Obeids and acquaintances bought property in a valley about 250km north of Sydney as rural retreats. This changed in 2008 when Mr Macdonald agreed to open a mining area in the Bylong Valley for coal exploration, which greatly increased the value of the Obeid holdings.

4. Some of Eddie Obeid's profits, estimated to be in the several millions, from the property dealings went to the lease of a $300,000 Mercedes.

5. Mr Macdonald was given the nickname Sir Lunchalot because of his fondness for dining out, including his 2008 lunch of pork and beef and a magnum of pinot noir.

OPERATION INDUS: In which a remarkably cheap car was procured...

1. In May 2007 Amanda Roozendaal, wife of Labor MP and former treasurer Eric Roozendaal wrote off the family Honda and the search for a replacement led to Eddie Obeid, who passed the matter to son Moses who was able to find a $44,800 Honda which would cost the Roozendaals just $34,000.

2. The Roozendaals didn't have the ownership papers at first and it was only Mrs Roozendaal's car accident - and her decision not to stop to pay for the damage - that revealed the trail of people who on paper owned the car but had never seen, raising suspicions in ICAC they were used to pretend the Honda was cheaper because it was second hand.

3. There is at least one good citizen in this saga. A professional musician who had business in Surry Hills saw the bingle-and-run incident and took down the Honda's licence number to give to the owner of the parked car which had been hit. The Roozendaals had been driving their new car for just two days.

4. Mr Roozendaal, a former ALP state secretary, was a supporter of the Obeid faction known as the Terrigals after the NSW coastal resort town. The Terrigals ran the state party and their support was needed to get ministerial jobs, and to become Premier.

5. ICAC has investigated whether the provision of a cheap vehicle played a role in any consultation by the Obeids with Mr Roozendaal when he became State Treasurer.


Cleaning up NSW Labor is seen as crucial to Mr Rudd's chances at the upcoming federal poll. The government needs to hold on to a host of western Sydney seats to retain power.

On July 4, Mr Rudd gave NSW ALP secretary Sam Dastyari 30 days to report on cleaning up the branch, and sought changes including the expulsion of any member found to be corrupt or engaging in improper conduct.

But Liberal MP Jamie Briggs said the Rudd "intervention" was all for show, as many of the key powerbrokers pulling the strings within the ALP were still in senior positions.

He said many of those who helped Mr Rudd return to the Labor leadership had strong ties with the ALP secretariat and had since been promoted by the prime minister.


Court-ordered parole, suspended sentences may be dumped as Qld.  gets tough on criminals

CRIMINALS currently walking free from court face being sent to jail and others locked up for longer amid Government concerns crooks are being let out too early.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie told The Courier-Mail offenders who made no attempt to rehabilitate were being released, and he was not afraid to change the law to better protect the community.

The Government is looking at dumping court-ordered parole and suspended jail sentences which would see Queensland's prison population of about 6000 almost certainly increase.

Mr Bleijie said offenders were being given too many chances and judges could soon lose the power to decide when criminals are released from jail.

Highly placed sources told The Courier-Mail that the Attorney-General had lost faith in court-ordered parole, suspended sentences and the system's ability to deal with recidivist offenders.

Of the 53,952 prisoners sentenced in Queensland courts in the past three years, more than 41,000 received a wholly suspended jail sentence or received court-ordered parole.

Mr Bleijie admitted there were problems with the system.

"I am certainly questioning whether court-ordered parole and suspended sentences still have a place in our legal system," he said.

"I'm well aware of concern and anger in the community over offenders committing more crimes after either walking straight from court or getting let out of jail on court ordered parole."

Privately, prison boards and police have lamented the fact they have to release some prisoners into the community on court-ordered parole.

Sources say a 25-year-old man went from "maximum security to the street" this year, despite Corrective Services staff and the Parole Board believing he should not be released on the parole date set by a judge. Within a week of being released, the Gold Coast bikie was charged with allegedly firing a gun inside a taxi, attacking two drivers and a police officer.

Court-ordered parole is a release date set during sentencing by the sentencing judge. It can include immediate parole, which means an offender is sentenced but walks free straight away.

Under the current system, the Parole Board has no say on an offender's release if they are on court-ordered parole unless they commit a criminal offence in jail or there is an imminent risk.

Criminals aged between 18-24 years are causing the greatest headaches for policy makers, with internal Corrective Service statistics revealing 70 per cent of the cohort will return to jail at least one more time before they reach 35 years.

About 300 offenders a month are suspended and returned to prison for breaching their parole. In 2011-2012, the two regional Parole Boards suspended or cancelled 3548 court-ordered parole orders because offenders committed another offence or breached their parole orders.

Mr Bleijie said some offenders knew how to work the system. "For some, court-ordered parole means they just have to wait their sentence out, without even trying to rehabilitate themselves," he said.

"If offenders were only eligible for parole and had to prove themselves to the Parole Board, it might motivate them to rehabilitate and change their offending behaviour.

"We're committed to getting tough on crime and people who think they can get away with repeatedly thumbing their nose at the law.

"We are not afraid to change laws if they will better protect the community."

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman disputed Mr Bleijie's claim court-ordered parole was not working and asked how the Attorney-General would know given he scrapped the Sentence Advisory Council.

"The more you say no more second chances the more you push up recidivism," Mr O'Gorman said.

He predicted the judiciary would not be happy about any moves to limit their sentencing options.

Police Union president Ian Leavers said the Parole Board should be able to overrule a

court-ordered parole date if they thought a criminal should remain in prison.

"(It should be) until the Parole Board is satisfied they should be released or until they've served their full sentence, whatever comes first," Mr Leavers said.

Yesterday, Mr Bleijie ordered the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal against the sentences of three young offenders, aged 16, 15, and 12, who took part in a violent crime spree on the Gold Coast last year.

The 15 and 16-year-olds, who committed robberies, received two years probation and 40 hours community service. The 16-year-old driver received 18 months probation and was disqualified from driving for six months. No convictions were recorded.


30 July, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG offers a theory of why Kevvy did not get shot during his trip to Afghastiland.

Feminism as a form of racism

Below are some angry and foul-mouthed comments from Clementine Ford, an Australian feminist.  She is fired up about women getting more "recognition".   But how is that different from racism?  She sees herself not as an individual, but as a member of a valued group.  In her Fascist mind, people are divided into two groups: Men (evil) and women (virtuous):  Not all that different from Hitler.  Men by contrast don't think of themselves as primarily "men".  They think of themselves in much less broad categories.  My most common self-description, for instance, is "a born academic".  It never occurs to me to mention that I am a male.

And this refusal to treat people as just people, but instead  obsessing over what lies between their legs, is irritating. Feminist assertion tends to produce a backlash. Mostly men just shake their heads at it but, given anonymity, they may say what they really think of it and of the shrews who utter it.  Many people object to racism.  It is equally reasonable to object to feminism

Note her use of "we" in the last paragraph.  It could have come from a Hitler speech and is equally deluded and equally angry.  She just can't think of herself as an individual.  Her illusory "tribe" is all.  Women are in fact quite prone to hating one-another, as we see here.  And read here the scorn that a female literary critic heaps on Jane Austen!

When UK journalist and co-founder of The Women's Room Caroline Criado-Perez spearheaded a campaign to replace Charles Darwin’s image with Jane Austen’s on a British banknote, her efforts were rewarded by a sustained Twitter attack from some of the more repugnant turds excreted by society’s sulphurous bottom.

Within hours, Criado-Perez’ experience reinforced what female users of Twitter have known since its launch - that the social media site woefully fails to support the vast network of women who are subjected to abuse (often graphic and violent) simply for daring to have claim space in the ‘conversation’ that Twitter positions itself as being the locus of. She is now leading a campaign similar to the #fbrape one conducted a few months ago, with the intention of having Twitter become more accountable for the way their platform is used. Twitter has been threatened with a mass boycott on August 4 from prominent celebrities, MPs and writers should they continue to sidestep responsibility over the issue. (So far, Twitter UK general manager Tony Wang has responded by stating that they are looking at simplifying the process of reporting offensive tweets.)

The question of what can be done to counter gendered online abuse is routinely painted as a woman’s problem to solve with the most frequently offered directive being to ‘just ignore it’. Having experienced such unwelcome intrusions on repeated occasions, I am familiar with those responses aimed at discrediting the justifiable anger of being told, for example, that even though you’re too ugly to rape, you probably still deserve it. ‘Don’t pay attention to them’, such advice dictates. ‘You’re only giving them the attention they want.’ Or, ‘You have X number of followers, and this person only has a handful. Why are you abusing your power like this?’

Occasionally, I have been lectured on my attempts to ‘shut down free speech’ - as if it is my objection to sexual assault being used as a warning that threatens the fabric of society, and not the fact that some people still find it a useful tool of debate.

Criado-Perez quite rightly calls bullshit on this tactic, advocating instead a commitment to ‘shout back’. Ignoring abuse doesn’t make it go away. Believe me, I know. What it does is make you feel invaded, powerless and (if the troll in question seems to have a greater than usual insight into your online activities) vaguely paranoid. Too often, trolls are left untended simply because they are invisible. They are the Peeping Toms of the online world - they can peer through your windows, but you can’t see their faces. So to stop them from salivating over your distress, you become weathered against their hatred.

These misogynists ejaculate their rage all over the internet, using their threat of both a rutting penis and the denial of it to try and keep women in their place. It happened to Lindy West when she criticised the abundance of jokes about rape. It happened to Marion Bartoli when she won Wimbledon, and viewers decided she was too ugly and unf--kable to deserve this honour......

Well, women aren’t going to roll over and ignore it. We’re not going to enable their entitlement by keeping our mouths shut. Like Criado-Perez says, we’re shouting back - and if these misogynist troglodytes don’t like the sound of one banshee standing up for herself, they’re going to really hate it what it sounds like when millions of us do it together.


Coalition proposes tent city as Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison inspects Nauru riot damage

HOUSING thousands of people in tents and leaving refugees in Nauru's slum district on small welfare payments indefinitely are the centrepieces of the Coalition's offshore asylum policy.

After touring the Government's riot ravaged camp, Opposition immigration spokesman Scott

Morrison said he would immediately erect a 2000-person tent city under a Coalition government.

He said almost 5000 asylum seekers could eventually be housed on the tiny Pacific Island, which has a 17km ring road around its perimeter, under a five year plan that would be struck if the Coalition wins the election.

The plan would see Nauru's "Location," a slum disctrict housing more than 1000 people, refurbished to accommodate people with successful refugee claims.

They would move out of processing camps and live alongside residents of "Location" on meagre welfare benefits in line with living costs in Nauru, where average workers are paid $75 a week.

Anyone processed on Nauru who was found to be a refugee under a Coalition government would be invited to apply to move to countries other than Australia, Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said Nauru's intelligence capabilities would need to be boosted after he saw evidence the rioters who caused $60 million worth of damage to the government's camp had pre-planned the night of violence.

"They packed their bags and got their stuff out of their rooms before they burned the place down," he said.  "It underscores the need for better intelligence."

Shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison says he saw evidence that the rioters who caused $60 million worth of damage had planned the night of violence. Picture: Bradley Hunter
He said a Coalition government would train Nauruan security forces.

Welfare payments to refugees housed at "Location" would be in line with Nauru's cost of living to prevent tensions with locals, Mr Morrison said.

He said housing for the refugees would later be handed to Nauruans, many who live in tiny, rundown concrete boxes near Nauru's hospital. 

"There would be no guarantee or resettlement in Australia," he said. "People would be invited to make application for resettlement elsewhere. While they are doing that they would have accommodation, it would be like a bridging visa program in Nauru.

"You can provide the accommodation in terms of any allowances, they would have to be at Nauru levels, not Australian levels, you wouldn't want to create any tension around those sorts of things."

The Nauruan landholders had indicated to Mr Morrison it would vacate a camp known as "State House," which was used to house families under the Howard Government.

It has since hosted a school, government agencies and community groups and could house 2000 people with the tent city and capacity for around 900 in government's camp taking total accommodation to almost 5000.

The Opposition's pledge to leave people in Nauru indefinitely came as Immigration Minister Tony Burke said the first asylum seekers sent to PNG for resettlement would be flown to Manus Island this week.

A tent city is being built on the remote island for the almost 1300 asylum seekers who have arrived since the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced his policy lurch.

"I've always said they'll be sent when the health checks are complete," Mr Burke told Sky yesterday.

"The health checks take in the order of about two weeks so, you know, that two week period that I originally flagged would take us through to Friday."

He acknowledged it could be months before the camp is ready for families.


Regulator fired up over fuel discounts

No discounts for YOU, apparently

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission boss, Rod Sims, looks set to take legal action against the two major supermarket chains in an attempt to stop or at least curtail the controversial discount fuel dockets.

He heralded the possibility of taking action when the investigation into petrol dockets is completed in a few months.

If this is just a case of regulator bluff it is not working.

Having publicly reminded (read warned) the supermarket chains twice that these schemes are being being closely examined, the response from Woolworths and Coles has been to increase the size of the discount and the frequency of their use.

The latest offer (albeit a limited one) allows some supermarket shoppers to receive 45¢ a litre off petrol. When Sims started to get worried about the effects of fuel discount dockets the supermarkets were offering just 8¢ off a litre.

"Even at the level of 8¢ it would be difficult to see how an unsubsidised fuel retailer could compete on a sustainable basis," Sims said.

Fuel discounts are a particularly effective way for the supermarkets to entice loyalty and at the same time mine their customers for data.

If they were of only marginal benefit the supermarkets would have ditched them to appease the regulator, which is already fighting the two industry giants on their treatment of suppliers and potential abuse of market power.

The ACCC has always been sensitive to the perceptions of the general public and how the media portrays the effectiveness of its bite. The behaviour of the big supermarket chains is one that has caught the attention of the media and Canberra. Sims has long wanted to make some inroads into curtailing their power.

The treatment of suppliers was the obvious channel but getting them to break ranks and complain publicly has frustrated the regulator's investigation.

The non-supermarket aligned service stations should be another matter entirely. They should be desperate for redress. But they need to be careful given most independent service stations are also hooked up with independent supermarkets to provide some kind of (much smaller) discount.

The noisiest critic has been Metcash, whose new chief executive, Ian Morrice, recently suggested Coles and Woolworths ramped up the price of petrol to make their discounts appear more generous. But getting between consumers and a discount is always a tricky issue for the competition regulator. The possible breaches of competition legislation won't get support from the general public.

Thus the ACCC has to tiptoe around the issues and be doubly sure that the long-term detriment outweighs the short-term benefits.

It has to mount a successful legal argument that discount fuel dockets will retard non-supermarket service stations or smaller independent supermarkets - potentially putting them out of business and thereby reducing competition which would lead to increased prices over the longer term.

"The ACCC has no power to ban shopper docket offers," Sims says. "As an enforcement body, however, the ACCC can investigate market activity and, where appropriate, take court action seeking injunctions to stop the conduct and seeking penalties in appropriate cases."

Sims has certainly turned up the rhetoric - having mentioned it several times before and most recently at the Budget Estimates Committee hearing in February.

Perhaps his statement that the ACCC has no power to ban shopper dockets is a message to the government (whoever they may be by the end of the year) that legislation needs to be toughened.

The ACCC and the supermarkets are engaged in regular discourse (Sims will be seeing Wesfarmers in a few weeks) at which time his concerns about fuel dockets will be made clear. It appears more likely the supermarkets will respond to the challenge and argue their case in court.


Australians becoming less envious?

Australia is supposed to be the land of the tall poppy syndrome, where the successful are cut down to the same size as everyone else, quick smart. You're not supposed to stand out for intelligence, achievement or, worst of all, wealth.

Less prettily, tall poppy syndrome is "an Australasian modernism for envy, jealousy and covetousness that has been labelled a notable anti-talent", according to a pair of academics from Auckland University, V. Suchitra Mouly and Jayaram K. Sankaran.

But if conspicuous intelligence, achievement and wealth are so socially unacceptable, how do we explain the standout popularity of a pair of national leaders who embody all three?

Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull are the most persistently popular leaders in politics. Each is the preferred leader of his party, according to opinion polls. Yet they are manifestly intelligent. Neither need rely on memorised "talking points" to make a case.

Each has achievements outside politics, Rudd as a Mandarin-speaking diplomat and Turnbull as a barrister and businessman.

And both are monied, Turnbull in his own right while Rudd married one of Australia's most successful businesswomen. Both families count their worth in the tens of millions.

"If the tall poppy was working, then these people should be cut down because of it," says a political scientist at the Australian National University, Ian McAllister.

The Fairfax pollster, Nielsen's John Stirton, says: "It's fair to say that Turnbull has been the preferred Liberal leader since he lost the leadership", which was more than three years ago. As for Rudd, "there's a case that he was the most popular of the postwar prime ministers," says Stirton. And after losing the post in 2010, apart from an initial honeymoon for Julia Gillard, Rudd was so decisively the people's choice as Labor leader for so long that even the Labor caucus had to bow to reality.

What's going on here? Is the tall poppy syndrome a relic of a bygone Australia? Or is there some other factor at work?

"It's fascinating and, on the face of it, it implies that Australians have grown up a bit," suggests Rebecca Huntley, who studies public opinion for Ipsos Research in focus groups she convenes every seven weeks.

She offers two reasons why this might be so. One is economic. "People understand that we are at a crucial point about what sort of economy we evolve into, and about where education fits in. This is something people talk about.

"They want a contest of ideas, a proper, serious discussion between two alternatives."

Second is despair. "Perhaps things have been so bad in recent years that we need a different kind of leader. Rudd and Turnbull both benefit from being compared to leaders who are deeply unpopular," referring to Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.

"Whereas previously it was a problem to be a silvertail" - the Herald's editorial page cartoonist, Alan Moir, draws Turnbull as a plutocrat in a top hat and tails - "or being too smart for your own good" - a common stereotype of Rudd - "people are no longer worried and just want someone who's not a freaking idiot."

Neither Abbott nor Gillard is a "freaking idiot." Abbott is a Rhodes scholar and Gillard a lawyer. But both speak to the public in scripted "talking points" and use heavy-handed repetition in such an obvious way they demean people's intelligence.

Galaxy research pollster David Briggs also puts heavy emphasis on the explanation of popularity as a matter of contrast: "Rudd and Turnbull had both fallen considerably in their public satisfaction ratings at the time they were deposed. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, and in both cases voters never warmed to the people who replaced them.

"So what was the point of replacing them? Let's have the old ones back."

But does Rudd's and Turnbull's appeal also tell us something about a change in Australian society?

Towards the end of his prime ministership, John Howard told me that in an earlier Australia, a young man watching someone drive past in an expensive car might have felt resentful. But today, said Howard, he was more likely to think "that could be me one day".

Australians had become more "aspirational," he said, a view that gained increasing currency. And where Julia Gillard had "gone the class warfare" , it failed spectacularly to gain any traction.

If the tall poppy syndrome requires envy and resentment as its motive force, is it fading as these sentiments are retired from active service in Australian politics?

McAllister doubts it: "Egalitarianism is still there in Australia. When you ask people in surveys about redistribution of wealth, there is support for it, and there's less tolerance for inequality of wealth than . . . in other countries." In explaining the appeal of Rudd and Turnbull, he says: "I think it's that people see something else other than money and something other than people who got ahead."

And what is that "something else"?

McAllister, who conducts the Australian Electoral Study, says: "The values that voters respond to most strongly are leadership and integrity. I think they see something else they value in Rudd and Turnbull, and I think that makes them exempt from tall poppy syndrome."

If these analysts are right, leadership, integrity, even obvious intelligence are in demand as valued commodities for our leaders. Who said you never read any good news in the newspapers?


29 July, 2013

Carbon tax raises costs, cuts jobs, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry audit reveals

THE carbon tax has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from company profits and forced struggling manufacturing firms to shift production - and jobs - offshore.

A national survey of Australia's $110 billion food processing industry has revealed nearly 30 per cent of businesses reported cost increases of 5 per cent or more since the carbon tax was introduced.

And 67 per cent of companies - including many small businesses - have been unable to pass on these higher costs to their customers.

Instead, they have been forced absorb the price hit on their bottom line.

Another audit by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry reveals 82 per cent of businesses report the carbon tax has reduced profits - a year since the greenhouse scheme was introduced.

Around 30 firms were surveyed by AFGC with several deciding to shift production overseas to escape the carbon impost.

While higher energy bills is the biggest expense, the carbon tax has also added to rising packaging, transport and other expenses.

One food processing firm said the carbon tax had added nearly $5 million to operating expenses - including $500,000 in packaging and $240,000 in freight and storage fees.

Murray Goulburn, Australia's largest dairy firm, says the carbon tax has added $14 million to its annual expenses for the year to June 30.

Robert Poole, general manager, shareholder relations, said Murray Goulburn "cannot pass on these costs" because the price of dairy was "primarily" set by the global market.

But higher energy bills remains the biggest cost burden for manufacturing with nearly 50 per cent of those firms surveyed reporting their electricity bill had jumped 15 per cent or more.

One of Kevin Rudd's first decisions after ousting Julia Gillard as Prime Minister was to accelerate by a year plans to shift to a floating carbon price - in order to reduce the impact on business.

But AFGC chief executive Gary Dawson said it was already too late for a number of companies who are "reassessing their production planning in response to high costs".

"For a big energy user the additional cost of the carbon tax on their energy bill alone runs to millions of dollars a year so of course it forces an assessment of whether there are lower cost options (offshore)," Mr Dawson said.

ACCI chief economist Greg Evans lashed out at the carbon tax and other green programs which he said "have encouraged a de-industrialisation trend in the economy".

"We are already seeing an impact on jobs and investment in industries reliant on energy. This includes food processing, plastics and chemicals, metal manufacturing and oil refining, where we have seen successive announcements of winding back investment or relocating production facilities offshore," Mr Evans said.

Innovation and Industry Minister Kim Carr said the Government's decision to move from a fixed to a floating carbon price one year early "will link Australian businesses with international markets, reduce carbon liabilities from 1 July next year and provide certainty for firms looking to invest in Australia's future".

"The food processing sector stands to benefit substantially from the Asian Century and Labor will do everything it can to see business realise the opportunities on offer," Senator Carr said.


Economy set to bounce back

After big job losses at car makers and as the Rudd government wrestles with politically poisonous budget cuts, there is a glimmer of good economic news with a report suggesting manufacturing will bounce back from the mining investment boom.

The Grattan Institute report says that far from being permanently damaged, industries sensitive to the exchange rate, such as manufacturing, tourism, education and agriculture, "survived the boom in reasonable shape".

The findings come as the government prepares to reveal a downgrade in its economic forecasts and a fresh round of budget cuts perhaps as soon as this week.

The Rudd government's expenditure review committee is expected to finalise spending cuts on Monday, despite the political risks with the federal election this year.

The Reserve Bank may cut interest rates again when it meets next week. Another cut in rates, which are already at a half-century low of 2.75 per cent, would take the cash rate to the lowest level since the 1950s - and well below the so-called "emergency low" of 3 per cent that prevailed during the global financial crisis.

About 400 Holden workers took voluntary redundancy on Friday. The remaining 1700 workers at the Adelaide car assembly plant are considering a management proposal for reduced pay and conditions to keep the plant open.

The Grattan report, titled The Mining Boom: Impacts and Prospects, concedes Australia runs the risk of a recession as the resource investment boom fades. But it says "recession is far from inevitable", in part because Australia has avoided the high inflation that accompanied previous booms.

Figures released in the past week show that excluding the effect of the carbon price, Australia's annual inflation rate is less than 2 per cent, easily low enough to allow the Reserve to cut rates further.

The report says that rather than killing manufacturing, the mining boom "temporarily accelerated" its long-term decline as a share of gross domestic product.

Manufacturing has been sliding as a share of gross domestic product since the 1970s.

A survey of exchange rate rises in 16 countries similar to Australia shows manufacturing grew particularly rapidly after the exchange rate came down.

"Within three years, manufacturing exports as a share of GDP had risen by more than a third on average," the report finds.

"Therefore temporarily high exchange rates in economies comparable to Australia have not had long-lasting effects on export volumes and the added value of manufacturing," the report concludes. "Manufacturing exports usually bounce back rapidly and reach trend within a few years."

The president of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Andrew Dettmer, said he would "have to believe in the tooth fairy" to think that "once an industry has been devastated, suddenly a few economic indicators return and therefore it will somehow return to production".

Ford was leaving Australia and Holden was considering its future. "The international thinking is that once manufacturing dips 5 per cent of the total economy it is fundamentally lost," he said.

Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said there were reasons for optimism. "The currency has come off about 15 per cent since April. If it is held down or falls further, those companies that have been able to stay afloat will be very globally competitive," he said. Manufacturing constitutes about 8 per cent of the economy.

The report finds that neither the Howard nor the Rudd and Gillard governments saved enough of the proceeds of the boom.

"Tax decreases and spending increases have been larger than Australia can afford in the long run," it says. "Some spending was justified by the response to the global financial crisis and some has been invested, but underlying budget deficits now need to be repaired in more difficult times."


Productivity is more than industrial relations
It's not often that I agree with a unionist, especially one like ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver who has vocally advocated increased government intervention in the automotive industry. But Oliver's recent comments on productivity have some validity; specifically, the idea that productivity is more than just industrial relations.

While there are undoubtedly some issues that need addressing in industrial relations, focusing the productivity debate on unions and workers misses the biggest impediment to growth in this country - government.

It is not unions who have massively increased spending on recurrent, consumption programs at the expense of developing new infrastructure.

It is not workers who have introduced rafts of new environmental regulations and green tape that have impacted Australia's competitiveness.

It is not industrial relations that cause serious delays in the approval process for new projects.

The most recent Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry quarterly survey of small business found that 'Business Taxes and Government Charges continues to constitute the top barrier to investment for small businesses for the ninth successive quarter.'

In addition, between August 2011 and May 2013, Federal Government Regulations and State Government Regulations each featured in the top 10 limitations for small and medium business no less than seven times.

Rich countries occasionally ignore productivity issues. They focus instead on redistributing wealth (because business should supposedly be taxed more to 'pay their share') or regulating behaviour (because corporations have 'corporate social responsibilities').

However if we want to maintain and increase our standard of living, wages and real economic growth in the future, government activity has to be better targeted and the share of GDP that government takes must be reduced. We must grow the pie, not just slice it more finely.

It brings to mind something else that Oliver said: 'Productivity growth matters. The main driver of real economic growth, it's how we keep improving the standard of living for working people.'

As we are proving in our TARGET30 campaign: the real debate about future prosperity in this country begins with the role of government.


The cancer of government advertising strikes back

According to our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, government advertising is a 'cancer on democracy,' but when an election is on the line, the cancer strikes back with a vengeance. 

Our government is spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on what can only be described as blatantly partisan advertising, or what is now dubbed 'information campaigns.' 

The issue came to a head this week with the government's $2.5 million advertising campaign supposedly to convince asylum seekers that they won't be resettled in Australia by targeting Australian readers of The Daily Telegraph.  

The cancer has metastasised and infected other parts of government spending.   

Around $5.5 million has been spent advertising the Schoolkids Bonus - a payment which you don't need to apply for because it is automatically paid to eligible parents - which in turn renders the advertising campaign pointless. 

Famously, the government is continuing to spend $8 million telling us the Child Care Rebate is not means tested and that millionaires can get an annual $7,500 subsidy on their out-of-pocket child care expenses. 

Another $10 million is being spent to 'ensure that businesses, research institutions, individual employers and employees are aware' of the government's plan 'for Australian jobs' - which is really just a cleverly disguised plan for more protectionism and corporate welfare.  

Apparently the government needs to spend $10 million on its Medicare for All campaign 'to inform Australians about the benefits of Medicare and health-related services, including Medicare Locals, Medicare rebates and safety nets.' 

You may have seen advertising for the Better Schools education reform package. Reports place the cost of that campaign at $50 million.  

On top of all this spending (which is by no means a comprehensive list), don't forget the millions spent advertising the government's new Clean Energy Payments, the carbon tax compensation package. 

Despite the tens of millions government is spending on these advertising campaigns, it is important to note this is just a fraction of the multi-billion dollar cost of the policies they are telling us about.   

This suggests that government advertising may not be the 'cancer on democracy' that Prime Minister Rudd said it is. Rather, it is merely a symptom of a greater and more troubling cancer - that of excessive and unsustainable government spending.


28 July, 2013

Labor mulls boot camp for young job seekers

Young job seekers would be forced into tough army-style boot camps to qualify for the dole, under an election policy being considered by the Rudd government.

The Youth Start Boot Camp was tabled as a future election policy in a submission that has been leaked to Fairfax Media. It was put to the Labor government's powerful expenditure review committee by ministers Bill Shorten and Kate Ellis in May.

Senior government sources said the army-style camps - which are designed to impose strict disciplinary regimes - remained on the table as an election policy for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The idea was framed as a possible vote winner for the government and was slated to be announced before August 15, if accepted.

Fairfax has an outline of the written submission, which was discussed during a meeting of then Gillard government ministers putting up election campaign strategy proposals to the committee. Although the submission and initial meeting took place while Julia Gillard was prime minister, high-ranking government sources insist the proposal is still on the table.

Asked if the proposal was still under consideration, a spokeswoman for Mr Rudd said: "The government does not publicly discuss the submissions that come before the expenditure review committee of cabinet."

Mr Shorten, who is now Education Minister, and Ms Ellis, who remains Workplace Participation minister, also declined to comment.

But a senior government source said the submission was still alive. "Whatever the official word, this has not been taken off the table," the source said. "Not everything has been thrown out with the change of leadership."

The proposal calls for $70 million over four years to be reallocated from Jobs Services Australia providers into other programs to "assist young job seekers and provide campaigning opportunities".

Early school leavers aged between 15 and 21 are the target.

A wide variety of wilderness and adventure boot camps are in place across Australia, ranging from those teaching discipline, presentation and attitude to those aimed at young repeat offenders.

The Queensland government is testing an early intervention youth boot camp that will focus on young people at risk of long-term offending.

In Sydney, BoysTown mixes adventure-based learning, sport and outdoor activities with employment programs to help people aged 15 to 25.  More than 84 per cent of the youths in BoysTown programs have not completed year 10.  Nearly half have never had a job or came from families that had a history of welfare dependency.

"Employers tell us there are two major things that they look for: competence and character," said John Perry, BoysTown's employment, education and training manager.

A study by Monash University found 61 per cent of participants in BoysTown programs found full-time employment, and nearly 12 per cent found part-time or casual work.

The Brahminy Foundation's wilderness camp, 200 kilometres from Darwin, is for some of society's most troubled and unemployable youths, including some from NSW.

Founder Allan Brahminy said his camps were tough and intense. But he stressed there was a therapeutic element to the programs. They included stays of up to a year, with 21-day wilderness hikes comprising five days' kayaking and more than 100 kilometres of walking.

Mr Brahminy is negotiating with NSW Police and others to open a residence west of Bourke.

As he spoke to Fairfax Media on Friday, a troubled youth was digging his fourth hole one metre deep and one metre wide.

"We're not a holiday camp," he said, adding that his wilderness camps had "zero tolerance" for poor behaviour.

In the ministerial submission, the ministers highlighted in bold their proposal for a Youth Start Boot Camp and explained that: "Unemployed young people will participate in an army boot camp and pre-employment training."

Other options mooted were community work experience for unemployed youth, first job programs for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, and a combination of all of the measures including rigorous boot camps.

The submission complains about poor recognition for the existing program, which funds providers to deliver targeted assistance in the form of structured activities of up to 25 hours a week to build life, study and employment skills. It says there is "scant data on delivery rate and outcomes".

Boot camps were proposed as a better option.

"Youth unemployment is a growing problem that we need to address," the submission reads. "There are opportunities to partner with business, particularly big business, and to end intergenerational unemployment for young people."


Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison flags Coalition support for PNG solution

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says a Coalition government would be prepared to keep Labor's Papua New Guinea asylum seeker policy.

Mr Rudd announced on July 19 his plan to send asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea for assessment.

The arrangement sees asylum seekers who are assessed to be genuine refugees resettled in PNG.

When the policy was first announced, Mr Morrison said the Coalition would try to salvage parts of the proposal.

He told Insiders this morning that he remains sceptical about whether the plan can be implemented, but gave a stronger indication the Coalition would be prepared to keep it.

"We will salvage everything from this arrangement and we will do everything we have said we can do," he said.

"At the end of the day, it's implementation of policies that counts, not big, bold announcements."

Mr Morrison said the arrangement would only be a part of a much larger suite of policies that would be implemented, including intercepting boats and the use of temporary protection visas.

"The PM can't actually say that that (the PNG solution) can be achieved at the moment and he hasn't got an agreement for it ... he hasn't got any legislation in Papua New Guinea to back it up," Mr Morrison said.  "It is not a done deal. It is just not in that situation.

"The claim he's making at the moment is not one that he can substantiate.

"Why won't Kevin Rudd do this (the PNG solution) and turn-backs, why won't he do this and expand offshore processing on Nauru, why won't he do this and coordinate 15 agencies that are trying to work in this area?  "That's what we're saying."


Big black brawl in Melbourne

Police have arrested a 27-year-old man after a large brawl broke out in Melbourne's west early this morning.

Officers say more than 80 people were involved in the fight outside a function centre in Albion, where crowds had gathered to celebrate Liberia's independence day.

"People at the party informed us that... people from another African country had attended the scene and caused the trouble," Sergeant Mick Downe said.

Two men were rushed to Sunshine Hospital, one with facial injuries and the other with a stab would to his chest.

He has since been taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital and is in a serious condition.

Police arrived at the site at 3am but the fight was already over and the crowd had largely dispersed.

"No units were able to attend at the time because there was no units available... (we) had to get units from the city to come," Sergeant Downe said.

"The units attended en masse, about 15 units, the fighting had stopped at this stage."

He said police were not aware that the function was on.

Police arrested a 27-year-old man from Western Australia who is helping with their investigations.


America is not the land of opportunity. Australia is

Surveys of income mobility reveal that for all the rhetoric of being a "land of opportunity", America's poor have less chance of becoming rich than Australia's poor do.

The great mythology of America, of rags to riches, is actually statistically more likely to happen here. Australia, the land of the free.

A 2007 study by economist and federal Labor MP Andrew Leigh found the income of Australian sons are less determined by their fathers' pay packets than American sons.

Not only is Australia home to less extremes of wealth and poverty, it is also easier for Australians to move between the two extremes.

Australia has managed to achieve this despite our high influx of migration. In America, around one in ten Americans was born oversees. In Australia, it's one in four. We have managed to absorb great waves of immigration and come out the stronger for it.

It's harder to look at a person in the street in Australia and know, just by their ethnicity or the colour of their skin, how rich they are. According to the study by Leigh, it is this difference in the income mobility of immigrants in Australia that makes us so much more mobile than Americans.


27 July, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is having a laugh at Julia Gillard's strange desire to be black.

Arab values in multicultural Australia

Inaizi is an Arab surname so I think we can guess Harbi's religion.  And we know what that religion teaches about women.  So Harbi is a perfectly upright citizen by his own predatory values.  He probably feels quite hard done by.  "Harbi" does mean "unbeliever" so he may not be a Muslim but he has clearly absorbed the culture

HE is accused of making sleazy comments to female passengers, lying about his driving history, overcharging, snubbing a customer with a guide dog and running a cyclist off the road then deliberately reversing over his bike.

But, despite on paper being a candidate for Sydney's worst cabbie, Harbi Inaizi still thinks he should be able to keep his taxi licence.

The 48-year-old yesterday made a last-ditch plea in the Administrative Decisions Tribunal to overturn a decision to strip him of his cab licence.

Roads and Maritime Services took Mr Inaizi's licence away after a woman, referred to only as Tracey, came forward about his "inappropriate comments of a sexual nature" during a taxi trip last year.

She claimed when she got in his Silver Service cab the driver kept veering across the road while trying to look at her in the back seat.

She said he started asking, "do you have a man at home waiting for you?" before telling her he "had sex with a girl from New Zealand four months ago ... it was good".

"I f ... better at 47 than at 20," he allegedly said before his passenger asked him to stop and she jumped out of the taxi.

Mr Inaizi earlier appealed the ban, saying he needed to keep his licence because he had a family of five to support.

He claimed there was no proof he was the driver in the Tracey incident, despite GPS records showing his cab made the trip, and said he would never speak to a woman that way.

But, in a decision earlier this year, the tribunal believed the woman's version of events and declared the cabbie unfit to keep his licence.

Mr Inaizi had previously been given a warning after a series of complaints dotted throughout his decade-long taxi history.

In 2011 a woman complained the driver told her "no, don't do that - I like it" after she pulled down her skirt while getting into his cab.

He was accused of running into a cyclist then backing his cab over the man's bike and destroying it when the rider caught up to him.

He also failed to reveal a string of traffic offences, including three in one four-month period, on his licence renewal forms and kept driving his taxi after failing to return his suspended permit.

In a letter to the RMS, Mr Inaizi said he remembered the complaints and none of them were true, noting most of them came from ethnic minorities, not "Aussie people".

He said he told the other woman who complained that he liked "short fares" not "short skirts" and she had probably made up the comments.

Yesterday his lawyer David Wetmore said Mr Inaizi had never actually touched Tracey or "directly" suggested any sexual conduct.

The tribunal will give its final decision at a later date.


An inquiry will hear young African men are assaulted and taunted by police

Given the high rate of violent crime among Africans, the police SHOULD be paying close attention to them

VICTORIA Police officers stop young African males for no reason and subject them to assaults and racial taunts such as "rat", "terrorist" and "monkey", lawyers claim.

Racial profiling by members of the police force is endemic, staff from community legal centres around Melbourne will advise a Victoria Police inquiry.

Evidence to be submitted to the inquiry suggests young men of African descent are told by police "f--- you", "I will kill you" and "your Koran is 's---'."

One African man told staff at the young people's legal right's centre, Youthlaw, "they see that you're black, and they come straight for you".

Racist taunts shame our police force

The inquiry into police practices and cultural attitudes is part of the settlement of a race discrimination case in the Federal Court.

The action was initiated by six African men who claimed they were subject to racial profiling by police.

Evidence provided to the inquiry by Youthlaw suggests young men are picked up by police for no reason and then dumped some distance away.

Many are physically assaulted, the African Communities Foundation Australia will tell the inquiry.

One man reported he was stopped by police officers five times in 20 minutes for no reason, and another that he had been questioned 200 times in recent years.

The Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre will provide evidence going back to 2005 of innocent young people being punched and kneed by officers, beaten with torches or batons, grabbed around the neck, pushed and having their teeth knocked out.

The centre has received 65 complaints of alleged police misconduct since 2005.

Three-quarters of these complaints were from people of African descent. This group comprises only 4 per cent of the local population.

Anthony Kelly, executive officer of the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre, said racial profiling by Victoria Police was "endemic" because of a perceived "black crime stereotype".

Hugh de Kretser, executive director of the Human Rights Legal Centre, said police leaders were "trying to effect change but there is a lack of awareness about these racist subconscious attitudes".

Victoria Police communications officer Lisa Beechey said a response would be made by the end of the year.


Brain-dead politicians want new laws to cut the power of scalpers

People who buy from scalpers complain about high prices.  But without scalpers they would have to do without tickets altogether

NEW laws cracking down on ticket scalpers will be introduced to protect sports and music fans from dramatically inflated prices to events like the NRL Grand Final and Pink's rock concerts.

The O'Farrell government is close to finalising an aggressive new approach as the world's biggest online ticket exchange, the Swiss-based viagogo, ramps up operations in Australia to sell scalpers' tickets.

Viagogo began selling NRL grand final tickets this week at double the official price - even before tickets were released to the general public.

Tickets to rock star Pink's shows in Sydney are "sold out" through the official agent Ticketek, but dozens of different ticket options are available online, as long as you don't mind paying hundreds of dollars extra.

Cricket chiefs also face a fan backlash, with Ashes tickets to the first three days of the Sydney Test, which sold out in two hours last week, now selling on viagogo for twice the price.

An angry Sports Minister Graham Annesley has launched a stinging attack, telling The Daily Telegraph scalpers were "unscrupulous profiteers motivated only by greed".

Frustrated NRL bosses yesterday cancelled 100 grand final tickets that sprung up on eBay, where a scalper was trying to reap a quick $9500 profit by selling $165 tickets for $260 each.

But scalping is notoriously hard to police - one scalper claimed yesterday he purchased 20 State of Origin tickets from a team official before one of the matches in Brisbane last year. The scalper, who declined to be named, said he gained preferred access to grand final tickets this week by buying dozens of different NRL season ticket programs from different clubs throughout the year.

Under the proposed new laws, sports organisations and event promoters would be given the power to set and enforce their own terms and conditions on ticket sales to different events.

NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe said the promoters would be given the legal power to refuse entry to fans who purchased tickets in breach of the terms. Promoters would have the flexibility to allow fans to onsell tickets at a capped mark-up price or ban the practice all together.

Ticket sellers using websites such as eBay and viagogo would have to post a photograph of the ticket, clearly showing the seat number, enabling promoters to trace the source of scalped tickets.

"We're looking for a light approach from government by passing responsibility over to the sports codes and promoters," Mr Stowe said.

Sports organisations including the NRL, the Australian Rugby Union, Cricket Australia and the Football Federation of Australia are hailing the proposed laws as "best in class".

Ticket scalpers also targeted the recent Lions rugby tour and last week's Manchester United match in Sydney, which sold out in seven minutes late last year. FFA officials told the state government between 200 and 300 ManU match tickets were regularly on sale on eBay at inflated prices at any one time.

Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts and Mr Annesley, who pushed for anti-scalping laws as a former NRL employee, are planning to announce the crackdown during September's football finals series, although it is unlikely legislation would be passed in time for the grand final.

"We want to give fans a fair go at buying tickets, while also protecting fans from rip-offs and fraud," Mr Roberts said.

Mr Annesley said the government did not want to attack the secondary market providers, such as eBay, which helped genuine fans offload tickets if they were unable to attend the event.

Several official ticket agents, including Moshtix, Ticketmaster and Showbiz, believe the industry should be self-regulated, but required to provide important customer protections, such as tools to enable fans to transfer tickets to friends and sell-back tickets.

"I haven't seen the proposals but I don't believe governments should be involved in a free market," Showbiz chief executive Craig McMaster said.

eBay is also opposed, pointing to the 2010 Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council study into scalping which found additional consumer protection laws were not merited because reselling tickets in Australia "does not cause significant consumer detriment".

eBay argues that sometimes promoters limited tickets to the public due to commitments to sponsors and corporate partners, pointing to a Justin Bieber concert in the US in February in which only 7 per cent of tickets went on public sale.

Tanya Ilkiw, 22, a Sydney advertising executive, said she purchased tickets to electronic performer Flume on eBay in April because it was convenient and she paid no more than the official price.

"I trust sites like eBay or gumtree as opposed to purchasing on the street because you can track it," she said.

Some ticket operators say cracking down will drive "scalpers back to the pubs", wiping away protections that exist online. Anti-scalping laws in Queensland have proven to be ineffective - dozens of different ticket options are available for Pink's shows in Brisbane on, while Ticketek is only offering a limited number of $400 VIP packages.

Viagogo has eluded government control in other countries. When the British government banned the resale of Olympic tickets last year, it simply packed up its UK operation and moved to Zurich where it was exempt from the law.


South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi spells out his six F-word solutions to save Western civilisation

THE pillars of Western society are under threat, and Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has a plan to prop them up.

Mr Bernardi has written a Bible for conservatives based on the ‘f words’: Faith, Family, Flag, Free enterprise, Federation and Freedom.

“I believe we need to re-establish the primacy of the family, the social and economic virtues that seem to have been neglected for at least two generations, yet are as innate within the human spirit today as they have ever been,” he told The Advertiser.

TELL US: What do you think of Senator Bernardi’s solutions?

“Only by returning to conservative principles can our nation confidently confront the significant challenges that face us, endure times of hardship and prosperity with equanimity, and work towards an Australia which is dynamic, confident and growing in international stature.

“This will require a radical departure from the growing and all-pervasive acceptance that critical and discerning moral judgement is somehow unfair.”

Senator Bernardi is number one on the Liberal’s Senate ticket, but moved to the backbench after a furore over his views on same-sex marriage.

He is a prolific blogger and has written the book under the working title of The Conservative Revolution.

He said it details why the pillars are important and need to be restored and the “possible consequences if they are not”.

“I hope it will spark debate about our nation’s future and encourage people to become more active in contributing to public policy,” he said.

In today’s Advertiser Senator Bernardi also discusses some of the more controversial topics that have propelled him into the headlines.

While he has been accused of being anti-Islam - particular after he called for a ban on burqas - Senator Bernardi said his criticism of the religion is based around its fundamentalist principles, and that if he was born into a Muslim country he would be Muslim himself.

He said he was first confronted by women being “hidden away” when he was working in Northern Africa, which helped shape his views.

“(The burqa) is a flag of fundamentalism, a symbol of oppression. We had men in Afghanistan fighting to liberate women from this oppression yet we’re allowing it to flourish here,” he said.

During the lunchtime conversation he also spoke about his comments on polyamory and bestiality, saying his points - which seemed to link them to same-sex marriage - may have been “clumsily made” but were also “wilfully misinterpreted”.


26 July, 2013

Model of a clunky subsidy system

CLIMATE change might not be absolute crap, as Tony Abbott once suggested, but the modelling used to justify "climate action" typically is.

As pundits ponder what Australia's carbon price will be if a local emissions trading scheme gets under way next July, it is worth remembering we have no idea how curbing carbon emissions will affect the climate, let alone the economy.

Renowned economics professor Robert Pindyck of Massachusetts Institute of Technology has recently canvassed the value of so-called "integrated assessment models", which attempt to calculate the optimal social price for emitting a tonne of carbon given its ultimate impact on the climate and the economy.

"They are of little or no value for evaluating alternative climate-change policies" he concludes, "completely ad-hoc with no theoretical or empirical foundation."

The economic justification for Australia's carbon price -- be it a fixed or floating -- stems from one of various IAMs conducted here and abroad. Introducing Australia's response to climate change, the Gillard government warned that unless Australia and the world acted, average temperatures would increase across Australia by 2.2C-5C by 2070. The 2008 Garnaut review said Australia's gross national product would be about 2 per cent lower in 2050 and about 7 per cent down by 2100 from the economic damage of unmitigated climate change.

Statements such as these, Pindyck implies, create a "perception of knowledge and precision, but that perception is illusory and misleading". The problem is that "climate sensitivity" -- the speed and size of the response of temperatures to a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere -- and the "damage function", how the subsequent temperature changes affect the economy, are completely unknown.

Take the first. Since 1850 the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by about 40 per cent and will likely have doubled by 2050 unless countries change their energy habits. Science can say temperatures will increase, not when or by how much. As Pindyck observes, the "feedback loops" between CO2 and the climate are largely unknown, perhaps even unknowable. Drawing implications for economic growth -- assuming we know the sensitivity -- is even more heroic. The professor says "damage functions" are "completely made up".

"There is no economic theory that can tell us how temperature changes affect economic growth," he argues. A little amusingly, the official 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates arose from a survey of contemporary IAMs, which now tend to cite the IPCC's parameters as gospel. Given these difficulties, the G20's promise at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2C is an extraordinary example of vain statist ignorance.

On top of this, how do we value the welfare of future generations? Discounting their utility in the same way most economic models do -- reflecting how individuals tend to treat their own futures -- suggests inaction on climate change is the best policy. Of course, the fetish for phony precision is not unique to climate-change models but rife in economic analysis, from interest rate settings to social costs of smoking.

Simply because modellers cannot ascertain with any accuracy how carbon should be priced doesn't mean it should not be priced at all. Even conservative climate boffins reckon the science is well developed enough to detect a very small probability of a catastrophic rise in temperatures -- about 7C-8C on average -- by 2100. Pindyck, a professor famous among economics students for fleshing out the economic value of delay, argues that is enough to warrant action.

As individuals and businesses insure their premises against the small probability they will burn down, countries should pay a premium against a disastrous rise in global temperatures.

In Australia's case, it is too bad we are spending the proceeds of our carbon tax on prosperity-sapping handouts and corporate subsidies rather than using all the money to cut less efficient taxes.

That way, even if climate science turned out to be junk we would still be better off. Alternatively, we could have ploughed the permit revenues into developing an Australian nuclear industry. Is it not odd that a country with one-third of the world's accessible uranium reserves has only one paltry nuclear reactor?

To be sure, Canberra's carbon tax and proposed ETS is seriously flawed, given their limited scope and the raft of accompanying anti-market subsidies, restrictions and targets.

The sad part is that rather than axing the latter and using permit revenue wisely, Australia's free-market party proposes to replace an ETS with a clunky system of feckless subsidies.


Fine dodgers can lose house or car

Unpaid fines could cost fine dodgers their house or car under a law just passed by S.A. parliament

THE homes and vehicles of serial fine dodgers can be sold by the government to recoup money in extreme cases, even if they are not owned by the offender, now that new laws have been approved by Parliament in South Australia.

The laws allow officers of a new government fines recovery unit to sell a debtor's home or place of residence if they owe more than $10,000.  This includes properties that may be jointly owned by another person.

They can also clamp, impound or sell vehicles used to commit crimes that attract a fine, regardless of the owner.

This could mean employers, parents, children or partners of offenders could lose their car if someone they know or employ breaks the law and is caught while driving their vehicle.

The new laws, which passed Parliament's Upper House this afternoon, are expected to receive final approval from Lower House MPs before becoming law soon.

They create the Fines Enforcement and Recovery Office, which will employ about 85 full-time staff to recover unpaid fines, many of whom will be transferred from the Courts Administration Authority.

They will have the power to withdraw money from the bank accounts of serial fine dodgers or dock their weekly wages.

The total money owed to government has reached about $287 million.

The Law Society of SA has raised concerns that the laws will "unjustly impose a burden on someone who was not responsible for the debt".

In a letter to Attorney-General John Rau Society, president John White called on the government to retain its original policy that a debtor's house cannot be sold no matter how much was owed.

Greens MLC Tammy Franks tried to move an amendment to protect a person's primary place of residence from the measures, but it was voted down.

In relation to cars, the Law Society says the measures apply to any vehicle the offender "owns or is accustomed to drive or that was used in the commission of an offence".

"Plainly this allows the clamping, impounding and ultimate sale of vehicles that belong to someone other than the debtor," Mr White said.

Government Minister Gail Gago said "any vehicle involved in an offence that led to the debt (fine)" could be subject to the law "irrespective" of who owned the vehicle.

This could potentially apply to stolen cars, but that was "unlikely" in practice, she said.

Independent MLC John Darley said he did not support the legislation because the penalties it proposed were too harsh. However, it received the support of Liberal MPs.

During debate on the laws, it was revealed the value of unpaid fines owed to the State Government by South Australian debtors has risen to $287 million.

This includes court fees, victims of crime levies, police expiation notices, overdue council rates and parking fines.

About half the money owed is overdue. The remainder is being paid off under time-payment arrangements or must be paid soon but not yet overdue.

When Mr Rau announced he would introduce the laws in March, $267 million in unpaid fines was owed.

Opposition justice spokesman Stephen Wade said the current figure was more than double the $142 million owed six years ago, despite $171 million in debts being written off between 2010 and last year.

Mr Wade said Opposition calculations predicted that on current trends unpaid fines would top $416 million in four years.

The amount written off between 2008 and 2017 was predicted to be almost $510 million, he said.

"When the average increase in unpaid fines in recent years is more than $32 million per year, Labor has clearly sent up the white flag on fines," Mr Wade said.

"The rate at which the debt has been growing since this Bill was introduced is $6 million a month or $203,000 a day.

"It is distressing because the money that could have been collected could  have gone a long way to deliver much-needed services that South Australians have gone without."

In January last year the Government called in private debt collectors Dun &Bradstreet to recover more than $40 million in unpaid fines.

This morning Ms Gago confirmed only $2.1 million had been recovered over 12 months.

This was because many of the debts were now more than 10 years old and many debtors had changed address and could not be contacted.

Ms Gago said the more than $40 million was owed by about 50,000 people.

She said the Government would not be continuing the arrangement with Dun &Bradstreet.

The company was paid a commission of less than 50 per cent for its work.

Mr Rau has said the new fines enforcement taskforce is expected to recoup about $2.8 million in unpaid fines each year.

However, it is expected to spend $10.4 million each year from 2015-16.

This includes $1.4 million in new funding and $8.6 million in funding already going to the Courts Administration Authority.

The state's largest debtor owes $171,000.


Brisbane business wins Supreme Court case against Allianz over stormwater insurance rejection

FLOOD victims have been urged to check their insurance policies in the wake of a Supreme Court decision overturning an insurance company decision not to pay out.

In a ruling last week, a judge found that damage from water that backed up from swamped stormwater drains was covered by a Milton business's insurance policy, rejecting its insurer's bid not to pay out.

LMT Surgical, at the corner of Castlemaine and Black streets, near Suncorp Stadium, sued Allianz Australia, the country's fourth-largest insurer, for rejecting a payout on its industrial special risk policy, which covered water inundation but not flood.

The policy defined flood as the inundation of normally dry land by water "overflowing from the natural confines of any natural watercourse or lake, reservoir, canal or dam".
insurance court case

Allianz argued the water that did the damage was river flooding that came up stormwater pipes, which it said met the definition of a "canal" and so meant it did not have to pay out.

But Judge David J. Jackson said the flooding of the business was not from a canal.

"In my view the context of the flood exclusion `canal' does not include the pipes," he said.

Maurice Blackburn insurance lawyer Paul Watson said the flood exclusion wording in the Allianz policy was fairly standard even in homeowner policies, meaning homeowners could have a shot at challenging any insurance knock-backs.

Allianz controls 10 per cent of Queensland's general insurance market.

Flood victims have six years from the inundation date to take legal action.

"What this shows is insurers get it wrong and it's not hopeless for those who had their claims declined," Mr Watson said.

Insurance law expert Peter Mann, a partner in Clayton Utz, said the decision had "some precedent value" especially for nearby victims who had similarly worded policies.

Campbell Fuller, spokesman for the Insurance Council of Australia, said only that it was a "matter for the insurer involved".

Allianz Australia spokesman Nicholas Scofield said the company was reviewing the case and whether to appeal.  "We're considering the judgment and taking advice," Mr Scofield said.

LMT Surgical's director and legal representatives declined comment.

More than 20,000 homes and businesses in the Brisbane area were flooded in January 2011. Some were damaged by drain backflows rather than directly from overflows of rivers and creeks.

Maurice Blackburn is still pursuing a class action, "no-win, no fee" lawsuit against the state's dam operators for alleged negligence.

More than 4000 people have registered an interest in joining that suit, expected to be filed by year's end.


Weird flight attendant forced on Virgin airline by regulator

Australia's male flight attendants: let your hair grow long. But only if you've got a mental illness, and the medical evidence to prove it.

Virgin Australia has lost an appeal to stop a flight attendant, sacked for not conforming to the carrier's hairstyle bible, from getting his job back.

Flight attendant David Taleski now hopes to be back in the air by next week, his lawyer says.

Early this year, Mr Taleski won an unfair dismissal battle against Virgin, which the airline appealed.

The airline had struggled for 15 months to get Mr Taleski to comply with the company's personal grooming manual, The Look Book, before sacking him in October 2011.

But Mr Taleski provided medical evidence to the Fair Work Commission to show that he felt compelled to wear his hair long because he was suffering from a body-image disorder.

He had even taken to the skies in a wig to try to solve the impasse.

The struggle over Mr Taleski's hairstyle involved many meetings with senior airline management and at one point Virgin chief executive John Borghetti was asked to intervene.

The unfair dismissal case before the Fair Work Commission took a year, two failed marathon conciliations and reams of evidence, much of it relating to haircuts, The Look Book and wigs.

After Mr Taleski emerged victorious in January, the airline took the case back to the commission to appeal.

This morning, the commission's senior deputy president, Jennifer Acton, refused Virgin's appeal, writing in her judgment that she was not convinced there were any errors in January's decision to reinstate Mr Taleski.

"No significant errors of fact have been established and we do not consider it is in the public interest or otherwise to grant permission to appeal. We decline to grant Virgin permission to appeal in this matter," she wrote in her judgment.

The commission had heard evidence in the original hearing from a Virgin manager denying the haircuts authorised by The Look Book were too conservative and that it simply "reflected how a typical guest expects a male employee to look".

The manager conceded, though, that the manual "reflected the most conservative interpretation of what the typical guest would expect".

The trouble started in July 2010 when the attendant told his bosses he would be growing his hair longer than the stipulated collar-length for religious reasons, but soon afterwards said the new hairstyle was due to a medical condition that he was uncomfortable discussing.

During the next 13 months, Mr Taleski provided Virgin with five medical certificates which, he argued, proved he was suffering from body dysmorphia disorder, relating to the length of his hair.

But Virgin never accepted that the certificates provided a diagnosis that explained the attendant's persistent refusal to cut his hair.

After he was grounded because of his hair in April 2011, Mr Taleski suggested a slicked-back ponytail look as a compromise, only to be rebuffed by airline managers because The Look Book has no male ponytails.

The section in The Look Book for females, however, describes a ponytail as "sleek, practical and shows off healthy hair to its full advantage".

At haircut talks held with his bosses the following month, a new alternative style was also scotched after one manager formed a belief that Mr Taleski had used bobby pins to achieve his latest look.

The cabin crew member was allowed to return to the skies wearing a wig between July and October 2011, despite his worries the hairpiece would expose him to ridicule and interfere with his hair transplant.

But Virgin sacked Mr Taleski in October 2011 claiming that he had failed to provide medical evidence when asked for, that he persistently refused to conform to The Look Book, and had behaved improperly by trying to involve the airline's chief executive.

Fair Work commissioner Anna Lee Cribb in January found Mr Taleski's hairpiece could confirm with The Look Book because the manual was effectively silent on the matter of a wig.

She also found that the attendant had provided medical evidence to back his claims of body dysmorphia disorder and although Mr Taleski was not entitled to go over his managers' heads in the dispute, his conduct did not warrant dismissal.

She ordered Virgin to give Mr Taleski his job back.


25 July, 2013

Border emergency needs military: Abbott

PEOPLE smuggling is a national emergency that needs a senior military officer to control the response, the coalition says.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has announced that a coalition government will ask the defence force chief to appoint a three-star commander to lead a joint agency taskforce to deal with people smugglers and border protection.

Operation Sovereign Borders, as it would be known, would be established within 100 days of the coalition taking government and would involve all 12 agencies with direct involvement in border security.

The military commander in charge would report directly to the immigration minister.

Within its first 100 days a coalition government would also finalise and issue the protocols for Operation Relex II, to turn back asylum seeker boats when safe.

"This is one of the most serious external situations that we have faced in many a long year," Mr Abbott said on launching the policy in Brisbane on Thursday.

"It must be tackled with decisiveness, with urgency, with the appropriate level of seriousness.

"That's why we need to have a senior military officer in operational control of this very important national emergency."

Mr Abbott also pledged to quickly increase capacity at offshore processing centres.

He says the coalition will also lease and deploy additional vessels so that border protection patrol vessels can be relieved of passenger transfers.

Outspoken retired Major General Jim Molan joined Mr Abbott for the announcement, endorsing the policy and saying it set the stage for success.

He said he'd been brought on board to advise the opposition on how to conduct such operations.

"What I offer the coalition is a check on feasibility," he told reporters at the policy launch.

"The result is the coalition, if elected, will be able to give more refined direction to the agencies and the agencies' plans, when they come back for government approval, can be better understood.

"That thoroughness is far, far better than policy on the run."

He noted Operation Sovereign Borders would be a military-led operation rather than a military operation.

"It's certainly not an unusual circumstance for the military to be used in this way," he said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has already dismissed Mr Abbott's new policy as another three word slogan: "Operation Sovereign something-or-other."

Mr Abbott pointed out that since Labor abolished the Howard government's border protection policies, 48,000 people have arrived on 800 boats and more than 1000 people have perished at sea.

Mr Abbott said that as a courtesy he had given Chief of Defence David Hurley and the Indonesian ambassador a heads-up about the announcement on Thursday morning.

He rejected suggestions he should have consulted with General Hurley while developing the policy.

"I'm very conscious of the proprieties here," he told reporters in Brisbane.

"The last thing I would want to do is get serving officers directly involved in advising the opposition."

General Hurley issued a statement saying that "contrary to media reporting" he did not advise Mr Abbott on the policy.

Mr Abbott said the coalition had informally consulted with serving officers as well as recently retired officers.

Asked about Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's claim that the opposition had misrepresented his comments from a private briefing about control of foreign aid, Mr Abbott said he had a "good relationship" with Mr O'Neill.

Earlier this week the opposition claimed Mr O'Neill had said he was now in control of Australia's foreign aid money for PNG.

"What we've said ... is based on Mr O'Neill's public statements," Mr Abbott said.

"Yes we had a private meeting with Prime Minister O'Neill and what he said in private was consistent with what he said in public."


Woman charged over anti-Islam stickers linked to One Nation candidate

A 26-year-old Kingston woman will appear in court on Friday charged over an anti-Islam sticker scandal that has embroiled One Nation's Fairfax candidate and lead to scathing criticism from the state government.

Earlier this month, a jar of coffee with its seal broken was allegedly found at a Woolworths supermarket at Underwood, south of Brisbane, featuring a sticker stating "Beware! Halal food funds terrorists".

The stickers can be purchased from Restore Australia, whose chief executive officer is One Nation candidate Mike Holt.

The Queensland One Nation candidate remains unapologetic for selling the stickers.

But Queensland Multicultural Affairs Minister Glen Elmes on Thursday condemned the merchandise as “offensive, grotesque and designed to inflame hatred”.

Mr Elmes said the candidate ran a racist website through which people were encouraged to purchase the stickers carrying the slogan and put them on food products in supermarkets.

Doing so wasn’t “just racial discrimination”, Mr Elmes said, it was also vandalism.

“The full force of the law should be brought down on anyone found to be vandalising supermarket property and promoting racial discrimination through using the stickers,” he said.

However Mr Elmes also took aim at the Palmer United Party federal candidate for Hinkler and former LNP member, Rob Messenger.

He said Mr Messenger had written an anti-Muslim letter to newspapers that was “designed to inflame anti-Muslim sentiment" and that Mr Messenger and Mr Holt should both be dis-endorsed.

But Mr Messenger, who left the LNP in 2010 to serve out his term in Queensland Parliament as the Member for Burnett as an independent, said his former colleague had “completely misunderstood” the intention of his letter.

“I wrote my letter in response to the cold-blooding killing by two self-confessed Islamic extremists who were literally caught brazenly red-handed in what was a vile act of extremism,” he said.

“My letter essentially warned against all people, including those of the Islamic faith, remaining silent against extremism.

“The risk of a terror attack is so great that a policy of appeasement in the face of such extremism will fail.

“It is quite controversial letter, but he’s taken it out of context, and tried to apply to me that I was racist, and all the other ‘isms’.

“I was the only MP to speak out against neo-Nazis in Queensland – where was Mr Elmes on that issue?

Mr Holt has been selling an array of merchandise through his website, Restore Australia, for two months.

But the Sunshine Coast politician denies he is inflaming racist sentiments.

"I am not perpetuating anything, anti-Muslim sentiment is real," he said.

"I wanted to raise awareness that people buy all this food in good faith and they are not being told almost everything has a Halal tax which goes to Muslim organisations."

It emerged Mr Holt was selling the merchandise when a 26-year-old woman was charged on Wednesday.

Mr Holt said he knew of the woman, a follower of Restore Australia, but did not condone her alleged actions.

"I do state you shouldn’t do that but the young girl is keen to stop this Halal certification, she acted in good faith," he said.

The Kingston woman is due to appear in Beenleigh Magistrates Court on Friday, charged with contaminating or interfering with goods.

A police spokesman said there was absolutely no evidence to support the claims being spruiked on the stickers.

Mr Holt said he had sold about 24,000 stickers in the two months since the items were available, including to customers in Australia, the UK, New Zealand and Switzerland.

The One Nation candidate, who is married to a Thai woman, denied he was racist.

"Of course I’m not racist, how can you be racist against a religion," he said.


Academic's dismissal could face scrutiny

MACQUARIE University's sacking of Murry Salby, a scientist whose work casts doubt on the orthodox climate change thesis, may face scrutiny by the International Council for Science.

Distinguished physicist Marie-Lise Chanin, who is a French representative on the Paris-based council suggested the Salby case was a matter for the council's committee on "freedom and responsibility in the conduct of science".

"I am scandalised by what happened to Murry Salby," said Dr Chanin, a founding member of the Academy of Europe and an expert on the role of the stratosphere in climate.

Cases before that committee have included government threats to scientific freedom, detention of scientists and assassination attempts against physicists.

Macquarie, which recruited Dr Salby from the US in 2008 to fill its chair of climate science, this year refused him permission to travel to Europe to present research findings which he said countered "reckless claims" about the role of mankind in greenhouse gases.

"Modern changes of atmospheric CO2 and methane are -- contrary to popular belief -- not unprecedented," Dr Salby says in an email to supporters detailing his falling out with Macquarie.

He has been a critic of the government's Climate Commission, which includes two Macquarie academics among its members.

Asked about the case, Dr Salby said he could not say much because it was "headed to court".

The university said his sacking had nothing to do with scientific freedom. A Macquarie spokesman said Dr Salby was dismissed for "failure to fulfill his teaching obligations, repeatedly and consistently over several months" and for going to Europe anyway "despite repeated written instruction not to travel".

Contrary to policy, he used a Macquarie credit card to buy a ticket through an external travel agency, the spokesman said.

Dr Salby was refused permission because the trip clashed with his teaching duties, not because of the nature of the research findings he wanted to present, the spokesman said.

Dr Salby said the teaching was imposed "without discussion, in breach of my contract, and reduced my role to . . . menial support". Macquarie disputed this, saying that although Dr Salby was employed under a program to bring in research stars, standard conditions required "a commitment" to teaching.


How to impress like Clive Hamilton

Tony Thomas on phony Greenie credentials

A bit of a loser myself, I like perving on the credentials of my betters. For example, I noticed last year that the official biography of the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Dr Rajendra Pachauri, said that he “obtained...a Ph.D. in industrial engineering and a Ph.D. in economics.”

Wow, I thought, not one but two Ph.Ds, both from North Carolina State University, and both in 1974! I emailed the university to check, and got a prompt reply saying, “Yes, he earned two Ph.D’s.” Silly me, to have doubted it.

But 24 hours later, I got a follow-up from the uni press officer, obviously a decent chap, saying that he had checked more closely and his first reply was wrong . In fact Dr Pachauri was awarded only one Ph.D., for combined study in industrial engineering and economics, he said.

I alerted the IPCC about its misleading claim that Pachauri earned two Ph.D’s but the IPCC has, 18 months later, still not got around to correcting it. Busy people, I guess.

My next foray into credentialism involved everyone’s favorite guru, Dr Clive Hamilton AM FRSA.

Dr Clive AM FRSA is an Australian public intellectual, according to his own website and a host of other sources, including his publisher Allen & Unwin.

As a global warming alarmist, he is part of the Weber-barbecue-like tripod of Australian public intellectuals, the other two kettle legs being of course Dr Tim Flannery and Professor Robert Manne. I wondered, re Clive, who  ‘public intellectuals’ were. I guess Jean Paul Sartre’s definition, “the moral conscience of their age” seems the best fit. After all, Clive stood for the Greens in 2009 and his “AM” [Medal of the Order of Australia] is a clear-cut 2009 honor for his service to the Left on climate-change policy, sustainability and societal trends.

But what’s with that “FRSA”? It looks a bit like that top science gong, “Fellow of the Royal Society” but actually stands for “Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts”, a different UK body. Being an FRSA seems like something special, since it always seems to be tagged to Clive’s profiles.

However, FRSA is a title you can actually buy on-line. About 27,000 people have done this, the current fee being $A123 as a one-off and $A255 a year.

Last March I put in a test application for an FRSA, for convenience using the name Kim Jong Un, of Pyongyang. The RSA website promised a confirmation within 12 working days.

I got emailed back a form from a Michael Ambjorn, Head of Fellowship at the RSA London headquarters, saying “Although we don’t contact all referees, some may be contacted for a character reference request.” I nominated Clive, his bestie Robert Manne and  Ray Finkelstein QC, without knowing of course whether they would support or criticise Mr Kim’s application. “Watch this space”, I told Quadrant Online readers.

“So then what happened?” I hear you cry.  I’m afraid I baulked at the first hurdle, which was remitting the required $378 (Quadrant Online tends to be dismissive of its contributors’ expense claims).

The RSA however remained keen to get the money, and after a pause, I got a pleading letter from its Fellowship Development Coordinator Mark Hall:

“Dear Mr Jong Un,

We noted that you downloaded an application form to become a Fellow of the RSA, and I am just following up to find out if there is anything we can do to help you with your application.

I have included a reminder about the RSA below, but please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss Fellowship in more detail... "

There followed some hard-sell for Mr Jong Un about the advantages of meeting the other 27,000 Fellows, sharing skills for charity, generating ideas “that aim to have a positive social impact”, and so on. Again, I baulked at remitting the $378.

Then  I got a further RSA begging letter for Mr Jong Un, “just following up”, as Mark Hall put it. He invited Mr Jong Un to connect with recent Fellows such as Antoinette Saxer FRSA, who is “currently working on the upcoming Good Fashion Show which focuses on eco-ethical and responsible fashion. She talks about why eco-fashion inspires her and what she would like to connect to other Fellows.”

Well, OK, Mr Jong Un is a bit of a fashion icon with his funky, centre-parted hair-do, and he did star in a production of Grease when a teen at Berne International School.  He would doubtless appreciate my signing him up as a FRSA, but I felt guilty about further wasting Mark Hall’s time. I sent Mark a reply:

“Hi, Mark,

Thanks for your reminder. I have decided not to join your RSA after all as I am very busy smiting the double-dealing imperialist  running-dog lackeys in the United States.


Kim Jong-un, Dear Leader of the People's Democratic Republic of Korea.”

As Hamlet put it, the rest was silence.


24 July, 2013

Catholic sector seals 'Better Schools' deal

This is a cave-in by the Leftist federal government.  They wanted to buy control by tieing it to more money.  Rudd is giving the money but not getting control

CATHOLIC educators have agreed to sign the "Better Schools" agreement after Kevin Rudd offered an extra $600 million and undertook to rewrite a key section of the Gonski education changes Julia Gillard rushed through parliament in June.

As the August deadline approached for schools to finalise funding for next year the national Catholic education system, which teaches almost 750,00 school students or 20 per cent of Australia's school population, entered an “ongoing” agreement with Labor for the Gonski school funding reforms.

While accepting the agreement and welcoming the negotiations from the Prime Minister and new Education Minister, Bill Shorten, Catholic systems will continue to negotiate in some states because of different state funding arrangements.

The deal is a boost for the Rudd government's negotiations, which have now led to deals with NSW, Tasmania, South Australia, the ACT and with the independent schools.

It is expected the Liberal government of Victoria may also agree to the federal government's terms, especially after Catholics' concerns about ministerial intervention have been addressed. Negotiations are also continuing with Queensland and the Northern Territory, while Western Australia has yet to sign up.

The Catholic school administrators were highly critical of Ms Gillard's approach and the negotiations of former education minister, Peter Garrett, and the lack of parliamentary debate on the “historic” reforms which Ms Gillard described as a “crusade”.

The opposition has threatened not to honour the Gonski legislation and education deals if a majority of states do not agree.

The key concession to the Catholic education system is that the Catholic administrators will retain autonomy on funding decisions.

It's understood the government has agreed to change the legislation which Ms Gillard insisted be included as law and not just as regulations - either when parliament resumes or after the election.

Mr Rudd this afternoon formally announced the agreement in Melbourne under which Catholic schools would receive an additional $1.6 billion over six years - an increase of $600 million.

“That is a large additional shot in the arm,” he told reporters at Aquinas College in Melbourne.

“Today, because of the work that's been done, we now have almost two-thirds of the kids in Australia benefiting under the Better Schools plan, which will deliver extra funding and extra resources ... in most of the states of Australia,” Mr Rudd said.

“We've still some (states) who we've got to get across the line.”

Mr Rudd said he would meet Victorian Premier Denis Napthine later today.

“Our call is pretty basic: come on board, premier, this is a great plan for Australia,” Mr Rudd said.

Mr Shorten said today's announcement was “unreservedly good news” for students in Catholic schools and their parents.

The new funding model will now cover about 2.5 million of Australia's 3.5 million school students, he said.

Sydney Catholic Schools welcomed the agreement as a “positive outcome”.

“I am pleased that the uncertainty of the past 19 months is now behind us, and that the government has given our Catholic school system assurances of flexibility and autonomy to be able to continue to allocate precious resources where they are most needed and where they will have the greatest impact,” said Dan White, executive director of Sydney Catholic Schools.


Polls have changed, but Labor hasn't

Economist Ross Gittins sinks the boot in below.  He is usually pro-Left

Am I the only person to be amazed by the way - if the polls are to be believed - the swapping of a leader has transformed the Labor government's election prospects from dead in the water to level-pegging?

Is that all it takes? Can the mere replacement of an unpopular woman with a popular man make a world of difference? Does it transform Labor's six-year record in government from disastrous to fair enough?

(Admittedly, Kevin Rudd's reinstatement has been accompanied by a change of faces among senior ministers, but I doubt Labor's miraculous recovery in the polls owes much to that nice Mr Bowen replacing that terrible Mr Swan.)

It's possible Rudd's improvement in the polls won't last but, regardless, we're witnessing a fascinating case study in the power of personality and perception versus policy reality and objectively measured economic performance.

Talk about the triumph of presidential politics. Could the superior TV persona of Rudd count for so much? Does the resurrection of Rudd mean Labor's no longer perceived to have stuffed up the economy? Does the removal of That Woman suddenly throw the spotlight on Tony Abbott's less-than-sparkling TV persona?

(The punters' perceptions of the relative attractiveness of Rudd and Julia Gillard are opposite to those of most of the people who've had personal dealings with the two. And Abbott in the flesh can be charming.)

Until evidence emerges to the contrary, I'm prepared to accept the possibility Rudd is a reformed character. After all, for him to have failed to realise the need for changed behaviour during his years in the political wilderness he would need to be pretty dumb.

And there's precedent for party leaders changing their spots: Bob Menzies (weak in his first stint, masterful in his second) and John Howard (ditto).

What I can't accept is that the restoration of Rudd constitutes any significant change in substance as opposed to packaging; in Labor's policies or its long-established operational strengths and weaknesses.

Has it suddenly acquired the courage of its convictions? Have its ministers gone from being career political apparatchiks to true believers? Has it switched from relying on its spin doctors' chicanery to relying on diligent salesmanship, from its obsession with criticising its opponents to untiring explanation of its policies' merits?

The most obvious demonstration of Rudd's lack of significant policy change is his decision to "abolish" the carbon tax, but replace it with an emissions trading scheme. Really? Abbott is right: whatever you call it, it amounts to a tax (just as his planned "levy" to finance his nanny-subsidising paid parental leave scheme is nothing other than a tax).

Bringing forward the move from a fixed to a floating carbon price by just a year hardly constitutes a radical policy reversal. And even the supposed fall from $24.50 to $6 a tonne in the carbon price may prove smaller than expected if the Europeans act to get their price back to where it's high enough to change behaviour, or even if our dollar falls against the euro.

Rudd's regional resettlement arrangement is unlikely to calm the frenzy over boat people. And it would be surprising if his imminent announcement of a tripartite agreement to put flesh on his seven-point plan to raise productivity proves path-breaking.

Actually, the haste with which he's wheeling out his policy adjustments is reminiscent of Gillard's behaviour after she toppled him: do some quick patch-ups (on carbon, boat people and the mining tax) before rushing to the polls to take advantage of her (as it proved, non-existent) honeymoon with the voters.

And there's another, more worrying parallel with Gillard. She was foolhardy enough to take a Treasury projection of budget surplus many years into the future and elevate it to the status of a solemn promise. When the projection proved astray (as they usually do) she endured several years of searching for real or cosmetic budget savings before being forced to an ignominious admission of failure.

The new Treasurer could have seized the opportunity to step back from the debt-and-deficit trap his predecessor had fallen into, but what did he do? Seized Treasury's latest projection of a return to surplus in more than three years' time (!) and made it a promise. This when the economy has already slowed to less than this year's growth forecast.

If the policy patch-ups keep coming with such haste this week and next, know the announcement of an election date isn't far off. And when you hear the Treasurer is producing an "updated economic and fiscal outlook", know the election announcement is imminent.

The pre-election fiscal and economic outlook documents produced by the econocrats a week or so into the campaign are always immediately preceded by the government's own statement, just so any revisions to the outlook are announced by the pollies, not their bureaucratic servants.


PNG deal may be expanded to other countries

Immigration Minister Tony Burke has revealed the PNG asylum seeker deal could be replicated for other South Pacific countries heavily reliant on Australian aid money.

With the ink hardly dry on the new "Regional Resettlement Agreement" under which PNG will take all sea-borne arrivals and resettle those found to be refugees, Mr Burke said Canberra would expand the arrangement if requested.

"We're not out there actively, you know, selling it to other countries or anything like that," he said.
Manus Island sexual abuse alleged

A former security manager at Manus Island detention centre says Department of Immigration staff turned a blind eye to rapes and assaults, and warns "people will be killed" because detainees are stockpiling weapons.

"From time to time the countries come to us wanting us to assist with different things, particularly countries where we've had a significant foreign-aid history.

"Our starting point is that any nations that would want to be involved in an arrangement like this would have to be signatories to the Refugee Convention."

Among the relatively few options of countries that are both signatories to the Refugee Convention and receive Australian aid are the Philippines and Vanuatu.

The revelation came as the opposition accused Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of deliberate "slipperiness and sneakiness", claiming he had secretly relinquished control of Australia's half-billion-dollar annual aid budget to PNG in exchange for it taking Australia's asylum seekers.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and his foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, claimed the deal had been presented by Mr Rudd as the definitive answer to Australia's asylum-seeker problem but, in reality, was vague and was sealed only at the cost of surrendering value-for-money protections for Australian taxpayers.

The opposition, which separately met PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill last week after the deal was revealed, said it guaranteed none of the things Mr Rudd had claimed, while ceding to PNG discretion on how Australian tax dollars were spent.

"Prime Minister O'Neill has claimed, and certainly believes, that Kevin Rudd has agreed to hand over total control of the entire PNG aid budget from Australia to PNG - absolute and total control to Papua New Guinea," Ms Bishop said in Canberra.  PNG gets $507 million in Australian aid.

Under domestic pressure to justify the agreement, Mr O'Neill said it was a good deal because it would see fewer resettlements than many feared and because it gave the PNG government the power to set all priorities under which Australian aid was disbursed.

Mr Abbott, who has previously branded Mr Rudd the people smugglers' "best friend", denied he was now helping them out himself by spreading doubts about the strength of Australia's resolve to permanently deny all boat arrivals resettlement.

"The deal doesn't say what Mr Rudd said it meant. It does not say that everyone who comes to Australia illegally by boat will go to PNG and it does not say that everyone who goes to PNG will never come to Australia," he said.

"The test of whether Mr Rudd is fair dinkum is clear. Will every single illegal arrival by boat from [last] Friday end up in Manus and will they be sent now? Will they be sent within 24 or 48 hours of arriving in this country?"

Mr Burke slammed Mr Abbott's "test", saying that as a former health minister he would know it took weeks to conduct health checks and administer inoculations, especially for Manus Island.

Meanwhile, Mr Abbott was partially contradicted by his senior frontbencher and predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, who said it was "in Australia's national interest that this [Regional Resettlement Agreement] work".

"Do I hope it works? Yes, I do," Mr Turnbull told Fairfax Media, "but I have very grave doubts that Labor can manage it."


Tax system at risk: Treasury

A tax levied as a low percentage of turnover would probably have to be individually tailored but would work.  And the discretionary element in tax rulings is already large

It was revealed last year that Google's Australian arm paid just $74,000 in tax in 2011 despite estimates of its revenue from Australian ads reaching $2 billion. Photo: Glen Hunt

The Treasury has admitted it is virtually powerless to stop multinational companies such as Apple and Google dodging tax, saying Australia must focus its efforts on an international crackdown led by the G20 and the OECD.

It warned that many of the risks posed by profit shifting by multinationals were underpinned by "deeply entrenched features of Australia's corporate tax system and policy developments" beyond Australia's borders or control.

While Treasury acknowledged that data limitations made it difficult to quantify the erosion of the corporate tax base, it said the failure of international tax rules to keep pace with changes in global business posed "significant risk" to Australia's tax system.

Treasury's admission of its powerlessness comes despite a strong push by tax advocates for local policies that would force companies to disclose how much tax they paid in Australia - and around the world - in an effort to deter cheats.

It was revealed last year that Google's Australian arm paid just $74,000 in tax in 2011 despite estimates of its revenue from Australian ads reaching $2 billion. This meant a tax rate of .000037 per cent.

In a scoping paper, Treasury said Australia should endorse the OECD's plan to curb profit shifting - moving profit to another country to avoid tax - and work with tax authorities overseas to improve the exchange of information.

But while it committed to expanding the public release of tax statistics to include the international dealings of multinational enterprises, Treasury said its ability to prevent companies shifting profits overseas was limited.

"There are some actions Australia can and has taken unilaterally; these are primarily focused on improvements than can be made without significant divergence from international tax settings," it

said. "But the key focus of Australia's efforts should be working multilaterally through international organisations to modernise international tax rules."

Treasury's scoping paper comes amid a push by cash-strapped governments around the world to claw back tax dollars from multinational companies that use complex ownership structures to avoid paying tax.

In May, Fairfax Media revealed that all but one of Australia's top 20 listed companies had subsidiaries in low-tax or tax-free jurisdictions, including Hong Kong and Singapore. They included Australia's biggest company, the Commonwealth Bank.

And a report by the Uniting Church's justice and international mission unit found that two-thirds of the top 100 listed companies held subsidiaries in "secrecy jurisdictions" that have been targeted by tax authorities for their lax standards.

Mark Zirnsak, director of the justice unit and a member of a Treasury taskforce, said the Australian government could do more to improve transparency in the tax system.

"If Google was required by Australian law to disclose, on a country-by-country basis, what it reports, then you would find out where it had shifted profits," he said. "If company is shifting money off to a tax haven somewhere, this doesn't do anything at all. If you know you are doing something that's dodgy, and it's exposed, then it's going to act as a deterrent."

Finance ministers from G20 economies backed an OECD plan in Moscow at the weekend to close loopholes in the international tax system.


23 July, 2013

Rudd's PNG policy lifts Labor: Newspoll

KEVIN Rudd's tough new stance on asylum seekers has lifted Labor's ratings to its highest level since Julia Gillard's proposal for regional processing in East Timor during the 2010 election.

Mr Rudd announced on Friday that asylum seekers arriving by boat would not be settled in Australia.

Detainees who are found to be refugees could be permanently settled in PNG, while those found not to be refugees could be detained in PNG, returned home if possible or be sent to a third country.

The news has lifted Labor's standings, with the latest Newspoll, in The Australian newspaper on Tuesday, showing support for Labor rose six percentage points to 26 per cent, while the Coalition's dropped 14 points to 33 per cent, compared with February results.

The results were greatest in Sydney's western suburbs where there was a three percentage point rise among ALP voters who believe Labor is best able to handle the issue of asylum seekers.

There was a rise in coalition supporters who now favour the ALP, up from four per cent to seven per cent.

Labor supporters who believed the coalition was best able to handle the task also fell massively from 21 to five per cent.

"Coalition supporters remain overwhelmingly supportive of Tony Abbott's approach to asylum-seekers, with 71 per cent nominating the opposition as the best to handle the issue, down from 80 in February," The Australian said.

"Labor's 26 per cent is the highest in Newspoll surveys since August 2010 when it hit 29 per cent after Ms Gillard announced a plan to establish a regional asylum-seeker processing centre in Dili."


Rudd-effect on the wane as Abbott retains the people's trust

KEVIN Rudd might have turned around Labor's poll performance, but the mystical Rudd-effect may be waning.

According to an exclusive News Corp Australia poll of more than 26,000 readers, trust in Mr Rudd has gone backwards in the past three weeks.

Compared with a similar survey conducted following Prime Minister Rudd taking office on June 26, this week Mr Rudd is considered less trustworthy to sort out any of the major policies including immigration, health, education and the economy.

Almost two-thirds of respondents trust Opposition Leader Tony Abbott over Mr Rudd to sort out the economy and immigration policy.

Mr Rudd performed best in the area of education, where 27 per cent of respondents trusted him to address the problems. Mr Abbott claimed the trust of 51 per cent of respondents.

Mr Rudd has not been able to shake his negative image with "liar", "arrogant" and "fake" the most common words associated with him.

In comparison, Mr Abbott is considered "honest" and "trustworthy". While also considered "negative", this has not prevented the Opposition Leader from attracting support from 63.8 per cent of survey respondents, more than double the support that Mr Rudd enjoys.

But both Mr Abbott and Mr Rudd are struggling to win over Twitter with the Papua New Guinea immigration policy.

Since the announcement of the policy, Twitter conversations around both Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott have been extremely negative, according to News Corp Australia's Twitter analysis tool Poll Pulse.

Poll Pulse measures positive vs. negative sentiment on Twitter. Social monitoring service analyses Tweets containing relevant names and words. Topsy applies an algorithm which decides whether Tweets are positive, negative or neutral. The results are graphed on a scale of -50 (most negative) to 50 (most positive).

Friday's PNG announcement saw a major downturn in the tone of Twitter discussions around the Prime Minister. Mr Abbott's initial, and now qualified, support of the policy has also dragged him into the social media mire.

Today, three days following the announcement, Twitter chatter around both party leaders remains rooted in negative territory.


'Creepy' photos of distraught asylum seekers?

It is just such photos that deter illegals

The Department of Immigration has published photographs of distraught asylum seekers heading for Papua New Guinea, prompting anger on social media, as a missing asylum seeker boat has been found on its way to Christmas Island.

The asylum seekers pictured were on the first boat - carrying 81 mostly Iranian nationals - to arrive in Australia after the new policy of processing and resettling asylum seekers on PNG took effect.

According to the Immigration Department, the group of asylum seekers were told of the new deal between Australia and PNG at North West Point Immigration Detention Centre at Christmas Island.

In a video of the scene at Christmas Island, the woman with her head in her hands in the photo can be seen wiping her eyes.

Immigration Department acting regional manager Steven Karras said the group listened calmly to the message.  "It was apparent to me that they did understand what this message meant," he said.

"I'm sure they’re now thinking about whether it was wise to come in the first place. And I think in fact over the coming days … they will start to contemplate very seriously whether in fact returning home is a better option."

The move to publish the photographs was quickly questioned on Twitter. Asylum seeker NGO, House of Welcome, called the photos "creepy" and "upsetting".

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the pictures were shameful.

Immigration Department spokesman Sandi Logan said that the department believed the images were "entirely appropriate".

Mr Logan said the department had taken the necessary steps to protect the identity of the asylum seekers involved.

"The opportunity to demonstrate graphically to people considering getting on the next boat is an absolutely vital opportunity for us," he told Fairfax Media.

Mr Logan said that the department regularly documented transfers and made them public, as it thought it was important to be "transparent in the way that we operate".

Mr Logan also said the images helped with the "believability factor" -  getting the message of Australia's changed policy out to people smugglers and facilitators, those considering getting on a boat and disapora communities.  "This is about saving lives at sea," he said.

The woman who is pictured with her head in her hands had been briefed within the previous hour about the transfer to PNG and was waiting for initial checks, Mr Logan said.

It is not known if she was upset because of the PNG transfer or another reason.


Charges in Vic bus abuse on French tourist

THREE people in Melbourne will face court for threatening a French tourist last year during a bus incident that gained international attention.

The incident on a city bus last November had seen the young tourist be told to "speak English or die" and then threatened with having her breasts cut off.

But other shocked passengers filmed those who were threatening the woman and posted the mobile phone footage on YouTube, triggering a social media backlash.

The footage shows passengers continuing to taunt and threaten the woman and her friends for several minutes.

One man can even be heard shouting how everyone on the bus wanted to kill her and she "would have to get off eventually".

A bus window is smashed as several passengers leave the bus in disgust and keep yelling at the woman.

Victoria Police announced on Monday that three people had been tracked down, interviewed and would be charged on summons.

A police spokeswoman said the three suspects - two men aged 25 and 36, and a 22-year-old woman - will be charged with threatening to inflict serious injury, criminal damage, behaving in an insulting manner and other offences.

The victim of the attack, Fanny Desaintjores, 22, said last year that she had never experienced such hatred before during her three-month holiday.

But she also didn't think it reflected wider Australian attitudes towards foreigners.

"We find idiots everywhere, even in France," she wrote on YouTube in response to the posted video.

The accused trio will appear in Moorabbin Magistrates Court on October 1.


22 July, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG points out that Kevvy may be smarter than we thought.  Papua New Guinea is only a local boat-ride away from Australia.  So as soon as the Afghans and Pakistanis encounter the "Raskols" of Port Moresby, they will be crossing the Torres Strait into Australia

Leftist Government's proposed crackdown on fringe benefits tax for cars will see job cuts in Victoria

LABOR'S crackdown on the fringe benefits tax for cars would be dumped by the Coalition, Tony Abbott says, as jobs within the industry face the axe.

The Opposition says it will block the proposed changes to company-car tax rules which it says have already led to hundreds of job losses.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey made the announcement while visiting a Brisbane car dealership this afternoon.

"(We) can announce today the Coalition will oppose this and will not proceed with this,” Mr Abbott said. “It must not go ahead and it won’t go ahead under the Coalition.

"This greedy grab from the government is costing sales today and costing jobs today. Over the last few days of a $1.8 billion hit on motoring … it’s clear that this is a serious blow to an industry under pressure.”

Mr Abbott said changes to fringe benefits tax rules were "a bad idea badly thought through that will badly damage a sector of our economy".

He said Labor’s crackdown had already been felt across Australia and that in just 48 hours there had been 75 jobs made redundant at NLC leading, a trading halt on McMillan Shakespeare, and Qantas freezing motor vehicle purchases.

He said it was estimated that 35 per cent of all salary packaged vehicles are made by local manufacturers Toyota, Ford and Holden.


Qld. State Government will consider mandatory jail terms for people who assault police officers

THEY'VE punched and kicked, urinated on and even dangled police officers from balconies - and then they've walked from court and gone home.

The State Government will look into sentences handed to people who attack police officers to see whether they should again increase penalties.

Police Minister Jack Dempsey said he would push for mandatory jail terms if the review showed offenders were getting off lightly.

More than 2600 Queensland police officers were attacked during the 2011-12 financial year - an average of seven a day.

Of those, 713 were serious assaults, 17 led to charges of assault occasioning bodily harm and three resulted in assault occasioning grievous bodily harm charges.

In one case, a Townsville man avoided jail after pushing a female officer down a flight of stairs and urinating on her.

The constable had been trying to help a drunken Ellian Stewart Terare, 25, when he pushed her, dancing and laughing as he urinated on her feet and pants.  He was sentenced in April to three months' jail, wholly suspended for 12 months, with a $550 fine.  Police have lodged an appeal, saying the sentence was inadequate.

In another instance, a violent rapist who had previously been jailed on 11 occasions walked from court after pleading guilty to eight offences - including the serious assault of a police officer.

Bowman Charles Davidson, 38, became enraged when police arrived at his Caboolture home to question him about dodging a train fare and he wrestled an officer over his balcony railing.

He had been in custody for 11 months when a judge last year sentenced him to two years' jail for the eight offences, but released him on immediate parole.

In other cases:

* Mackay woman Cinnamon Woods was 18 and grossly intoxicated when she kneed a police officer in the face, breaking his nose, as he and a paramedic tried to help her. She was given a four-month suspended jail term and ordered to pay the policeman $750 in compensation.

* Beauty and the Geek contestant Tamika Chesser was fined $800 but not convicted after she punched a police officer during a drunken night out in Surfers Paradise in 2011.

* British engineer Jarrad Peter Sadler was spared a conviction and given a $350 fine for punching a female police officer in the back because of concerns a harsher penalty would prevent him from gaining Australian residency.

Mr Dempsey said the State Government last year doubled the maximum penalty for serious assaults on police officers from seven to 14 years and introduced a new offence for the murder of a police officer - a charge carrying a 25-year non-parole period.

"I believe a large majority of the community sees any attack on a police officer as a disgraceful act," he said.

"We will revisit the statistics later this year to see if change to penalties has had a positive impact, both on sentencing and lower assault figures.  "If it has not, we will consider tougher sentences, including minimum mandatory options."


Labor prepares for High Court challenge on asylum-seeker plan

FOREIGN Minister Bob Carr has declared a re-elected Labor government would be prepared to legislate its new asylum-seeker solution in preparation for a possible High Court challenge.

Senator Carr also left open the prospect of the government seeking to broker similar bilateral deals with other Pacific nations to provide further assurance that asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat were settled in third countries.

Senator Carr today criticised the High Court's decision to overturn the so-called Malaysian solution in August 2011 as "forward leaning" and warned that it was up to the government of the day - with the backing of federal parliament - to make the final decisions on where asylum seekers were processed.

"I think the position of the vast majority of the Australian people is that, subject to some room for judicial oversight and review, it is the executive government backed by the parliament that ought to make the final decision on whether people be processed on Australian soil or somewhere else," he said.

Senator Carr confirmed that if Labor won the election it might be necessary to legislate the scheme "in response to a High Court decision". But he stressed the government had taken steps to ensure its new plan was on strong legal ground.

"We've designed this with the High Court response to the Malaysian arrangement very much in mind," he said. "We believe that this is legally very robust."

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said he was confident the deal would withstand a High Court challenge.

"We have given very careful consideration to this arrangement with Papua New Guinea. We have the advantage of recent decisions of the High Court on which to base the course that we are adopting here,” he told the Ten Network’s Meet the Press program.

"This arrangement with Papua New Guinea complies with our international obligations under the refugees convention and it complies with Australian law.”

Appearing on Sky News' Australian Agenda program, Senator Carr argued that a re-elected Labor government would be able to claim a mandate for its new plan to resettle asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea.

He said this would give Labor a strong chance of passing its scheme through the parliament and succeeding where the Malaysian people swap deal failed.

"The Opposition have said that they support it," he said. "Were we to win the election and it be considered necessary or prudent to have it go to the parliament then we'd be able to count on their support."

Senator Carr also said that there was no limit to the number of asylum seekers that could be resettled in PNG and that it would apply equally to women and unaccompanied minors.

He flagged the prospect of further Pacific nations signing up to the deal, saying the issue would come up in talks during his visit to the Solomon Islands next Tuesday and Wednesday.

"I won't be twisting arms, but I'm sure this will figure in conversation," he said. "They'll be looking at what Peter O'Neill has done for PNG in this and inevitably considering whether it makes sense for them. We're happy at that point to begin talking to them."

Meanwhile, climate change minister Mark Butler admits there's some discomfort within Labor ranks about Mr Rudd's asylum-seeker policy.

Mr Butler, a member of the Labor left, said it was however accepted that the boat people issue could not be allowed to continue on as it had been.

"There would be people within the Labor movement and the Labor party and the broader community who would feel uncomfortable with this," he told Sky News.

"In my discussions with some people over the last couple of days, although there is a level of discomfort about some aspects of this, there is also a very strong and clear recognition that something very different needs to be done."

Under the policy announced on Friday, all asylum seekers arriving by boat will be transferred to PNG for processing.

If found to be asylum seekers, they will be settled in PNG not Australia. If not found to be asylum seekers, they will be returned to their home country or a third country.

Mr Butler said the numbers arriving, the ruthlessness of people smugglers in endangering even very small children on leaky boats and the numbers being lost indicated this could not continue.

"Yes there is a level of discomfort I am sure in parts of the Labor Party and the Labor movement but there is a very strong recognition that this sort of game changer is needed to start to arrest the numbers of people coming over from Indonesia is particular," he said.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said if elected, an Abbott government would try to make the deal with PNG work.

However, they couldn't strike such a deal from opposition, he added.

Mr Hockey also alleged people sent to PNG by Labor could end up on Centrelink and Medicare "for the rest of their lives" and that the advertising blitz to promote its deal before an election was "outrageous".

"Mr Rudd said back in 2007 that government advertising just before an election is a 'cancer' and he wanted to stop it," he told Network Ten on Sunday.

"Well, the cancer is alive and well under Kevin Rudd."


Conservative party conference adopts proposal for 'cracker night' in Queensland

A FIREWORKS night to rival Guy Fawkes Day is on the agenda in Queensland, and it's all in the name of tourism.

The Liberal National Party, after a close vote, adopted the proposal on the last day of its three-day state conference in Brisbane.

The plan was hatched by the younger party members, many of whom were not alive to see the maimings associated with firecrackers before sales were banned in the 1970s.

Young LNP state president Hermann Vorster urged the government to now adopt the policy and believes the "Cracker Night" could be a boon for tourism.

"I think more than anything this is about sending a message that we don't necessarily subscribe to the notion of the nanny-state," Mr Vorster said.

"If something is safe and can be done in a reasonable way and it is in keeping with reasonable expectations, then I guess we ask, as the Young LNP, why not?"

Mr Vorster had the support of Senator Ian MacDonald who believes the handling of fireworks could teach parents and children to be more careful and take responsibility.

"I don't want to confess that I'm old enough to have remembered when we had Guy Fawkes night, but it was great fun," he said.

Despite their success with "Cracker Night", the young Libs didn't have enough support to get two other controversial policies across the line.

Random illicit drug testing for long term unemployed and welfare recipients was voted down, as well as removing Australian content quotas for free-to-air television.

The party agreed to ban all sports gambling on free-to-air television and increase mobile coverage to address blackspots.

The party faithfull gave a long and warm welcome to Premier Campbell Newman, who started his speech with "Queensland is a place where all your dreams come true."

His 30-minute address covered achievements over the last 16 months, such as reducing red tape and approving major projects.


21 July, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is mocking Rudd's asylum seeker brainwave.

Kevin Rudd's plan to send boat people to the third world

ASYLUM seekers trying to get to Australia could be stopped at the door and permanently resettled in developing countries under a secret deal being negotiated to ease the regional refugee crisis mounting on our shores.

The Daily Telegraph understands high-level discussions have been held between Australia, Indonesia and PNG for a radical new plan for Australia to continue to process boat arrivals but resettle legitimate refugees in other countries.

The Daily Telegraph understands the plan to resettle will form the major plank of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's response to the failed border protection policy to reduce the intake of asylum seekers to Australia, expected to be announced within days.

Discussions are believed to have also been held with the US and Canada - which, like Australia, are a destination country for economic refugees - about the broader global problem and the need to share the burden to other countries.

Speculation has centred on the possible expansion of processing facilities in PNG.  However, The Telegraph understands the deal being negotiated would mean asylum seekers would  not only be processed in other countries - they would then be settled there as permanent refugees.

The significant breakthrough on a regional solution is believed to have the backing of Indonesia and could significantly cut the intake of asylum seekers to Australia.

It would also serve as a major disincentive for asylum seekers taking the journey to Australia in the first place, as they could find themselves settled in other countries in the region if their claims to refugee status are successful.

It is understood the plan had been discussed on Mr Rudd's recent visits to Indonesia and PNG. He is expected to announce his border protection plan within days.

Meanwhile, ABC reported last night Indonesia had made it harder for people from Iran to enter the country, a move which could slow the flow of people on their way to seeking asylum in Australia.

Indonesia's Justice and Human Rights Department has confirmed the country would stop people from Iran obtaining a visa on arrival.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would not comment on the specific option, instead saying he planned to "wait and see what the Government comes up with".   "I think the public are entitled to be very skeptical of Mr Rudd when it comes to these policy issues," he said in Bundaberg this morning.

"Let's face it, Mr Rudd put the people smugglers back into business back in August of 2008 when the government he then led abolished the Howard Government's successful Pacific Solution."

When asked whether the Coalition had ever considered a similar option, Mr Abbott pointed to temporary protection visas and offshore processing as options.


Australians want opportunity, not equality

In an article about Labor MP Andrew Leigh's latest book, Battlers and Billionaires, economics editor of The Sydney Morning Herald Ross Gittins claims that Australian egalitarianism has become a 'façade.'

According to Gittins, evidence of increasing income inequality shows that Australia is slipping from its egalitarian moorings. Since the late 1970s, the share of income going to the top 1% of earners has increased from 5% to approximately 9%, while Australia now has the 9th highest level of inequality among 34 leading industrialised nations.

Leigh's stories of Australian streets where the typical house sells for more than $7 million and a Porsche 911 or a Maserati Quattroporte is de rigueur are certainly powerful fodder for class warriors.

However, concerns about rising income inequality are misplaced.

At the heart of Australian egalitarianism is the ideal of a fair go for all: Everyone should have the opportunity to improve their position in society with the right combination of ambition and natural ability.

This ideal stretches back to the anti-authoritarian and egalitarian ethos of Henry Lawson's Australia. And with 91% of us saying that it is a fundamental Australian value, it still defines the way we see the relationship between society and the individual.

But guaranteeing what Gittins calls a 'reasonably equal distribution between households' is not a fair go; it is equality of outcomes.

Rather than ensuring that everyone has the tools to play the game of life to the best of their abilities, equality of outcomes effectively means rigging the game so that everyone ends up with the same results.

Not surprisingly, this ersatz version of Australian egalitarianism is out of step with community attitudes. An overwhelming majority (85%) of Australians think that a person's income 'should depend on how hard they work and how talented they are.'

A focus on equality of outcomes is not just at odds with Australian values; it also distracts us from what we should really be concerned about.

The average number of European sports cars in garages in Vaucluse, Toorak and Peppermint Grove has little bearing on whether Australia lives up to the ideal of a fair go.

As the late, great Helen Hughes stressed, the real test of whether Australia can 'hold its head up as a country that has a fair-go for all' is whether the most disadvantaged Australians can escape poverty and unemployment and take advantage of the abundant economic opportunities enjoyed by most Australians.


Workplace rights taken to the extreme

When the Fair Work Act was unveiled it took a while for the effects of the new general protections provisions to become known. Passed with the best of intentions, Labor's general protections provisions were intended to ensure that employers did not violate the rights of their employees, or punish them for enforcing their rights.  

Unfortunately the provisions have created a lawyer's picnic in the workplace. Take radio presenter Mel Greig's case against Southern Cross Austereo, owner of 2day FM, where Greig is employed.

Greig, along with her co-host Michael Christian, were responsible for the prank call made to a London Hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for morning sickness in December last year. Three days later, Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse that spoke to Greig and Christian, committed suicide, citing the Melbourne DJs in her decision to end her own life.

Greig has now filed a general protections claim alleging her employer failed to provide a safe workplace. Meanwhile, her co-host has since returned to work and received the station's 'Next Top Jock' award.  

While we should have sympathy for Greig, who has received counselling and remains on paid sick leave, it doesn't necessarily follow that she ought to receive compensation.

General protections laws prohibit employers from taking adverse actions against the employee where the employee is enforcing a 'workplace right.' An obvious example would be where a worker is demoted for becoming a union member. 

But recently we've seen a steady increase in the scope of claims for employee protections, each of which increase business costs and create workplaces fraught with legal complexities.

Thanks to the poor construction of the laws, general protections claims can be difficult for employers to defend. They carry a reverse onus of proof, meaning that once the employee has established an action and can point to a workplace right, the employer must prove that their actions were not for a 'prohibited' reason. Normally the employee would need to demonstrate this link.  

As the old adage goes, hard cases make bad law. With the new bullying legislation soon to be introduced, the balance of workplace protections could become unworkable. 


Complaints aside, ICT graduates in demand, say teachers

(ICT = Information and Communications Technology)

While ICT workers rail against employers offshoring work and using overseas staff on 457 visas for destroying opportunities in the sector, academics insist their graduates are finding jobs as easily as ever.

Leon Sterling, dean of the ICT faculty at Swinburne University and head of the Australian Council of Deans of ICT, said debate about the issue was "distorted by a small minority of loud voices".

Professor Sterling said outsourcing did not spell bad news for new starters but instead led to the creation of additional opportunities.

"Far from removing jobs, there are more jobs," he said. "People may be nervous, as a result of getting the message that there are no jobs in ICT, but it’s not true."

His comments follow the release last week of the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency’s ICT Workforce Study, which called for more young people to be funnelled into the sector to avoid a major skills shortage.

AWPA chief executive Robin Shreeve said use of more overseas workers on 457 visas was likely if the sector did not receive a big influx of new blood. The number of ICT workers holding 457 visas rose from 5327 to 9271 in the past two years. The number of tertiary ICT graduates dropped from 9093 in 2003 to 4547 in 2012, despite concerted efforts by academia and industry bodies to talk up the advantages of a technology career to school leavers.

About 90 per cent of Swinburne’s 2012 graduates had found employment in the sector, Professor Sterling said.

It’s a similar story at the University of Queensland, according to Paul Strooper, the head of the IT and electrical engineering school.

"There will always be offshoring of jobs but they’re not the sort of jobs we train people for here," Professor Strooper said. Most UQ students had jobs before graduation, he said, with companies wanting to employ graduates often arriving too late.

University of Wollongong bachelor of IT graduate Mark Darragh went from university to a full-time job last July.

Employed as a systems engineer at Suncorp in Sydney, he undertook a final year internship with the bank, which led to the offer of a graduate role.

Being open to all possibilities within the sector was the key to success, Mr Darragh said.

“You don’t want to have a silo approach…come in open minded, you have more opportunities,” he said. “IT is a very broad field.”

Another Wollongong 2012 alumnus said her path to employment had been less smooth. She obtained her current IT support officer role after two months of searching but said the position was not secure.

“I’m currently in the process of looking for another job but have been finding it difficult,” she said.

“I am concerned as I hear in the news about so many IT positions being off-shored to other countries when there are people like me who are more than capable of carrying out the duties.”

Other classmates were still job hunting, the graduate added.


19 July, 2013

Kevin Rudd faces uphill election battle on asylum seeker issue

AFTER his quick political fix on the carbon tax, Kevin Rudd must now turn his attention to the tougher problem of asylum seeker policy.  But this could prove a unsolvable dilemma.

Rudd was always planning to announce a crackdown on refugees soon after seizing back the nation's top job.

The new Prime Minister knows he has to find some way of distancing himself from the policy failure that is emphasised every time another boatload of asylum seekers arrives in Australian waters.

The latest deaths at sea after another boat disaster have only heightened the urgency for Rudd to convince voters he has a solution.

At a policy level, the Government needs to find a way of meeting its aim of stopping asylum seekers arriving by boat.

But at a political level, Labor needs to ensure the debate does not dominate the election campaign.

Labor has learned through bitter experience that it has little to gain from electoral battles over border protection.

The Coalition already has an natural advantage on the issue because voters tend to trust them more on national security.

When his opponents can point to a history of stemming boat arrivals the last time they were in government, Rudd's task is even tougher.

So Rudd is under immense pressure to neutralise the Coalition's campaign on asylum seeker boat arrivals before calling the election.  But that is easier said than done.

The Prime Minister's chief problem could come down to one of believability.  He has changed his position on asylum seeker policy before.

And the government he was a part of has gone through a series of policy contortions without finding a solution.

Unauthorised boat arrivals ballooned under Rudd's last time in power, after he dismantled the Howard government's Pacific Solution and moved asylum seekers into the community.

Rudd has since blamed other "push" factors of conflicts in other countries increasing the numbers of people willing to risk their lives on a boat to escape persecution.

The closest he has come to admitting to a mistake was "in perhaps not being quick enough to respond to the new change in external circumstances with an outflow from Sri Lanka from a civil war in 2009-10".

He has not accepted that changes in Australian laws when he was the leader have acted as "pull" factors by making Australia a more marketable destination for people smugglers.

But this is the focus of the Opposition's criticism that, in the reported words of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Australia needs to take "the sugar off the table" for people smugglers.

Julia Gillard appeared to admit the Rudd government had made mistakes on border protection when she rolled him as prime minister.

Asylum seeker policy was one of the three areas where Gillard said the government had "lost its way" and required a change of leader.

But after Gillard's failed ideas of sending asylum seekers to East Timor and swapping them with refugees in Malaysia - and a series of capitulations to the Opposition by reopening processing centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island - the Government has little credibility left.

Rudd's political effort so far has been twofold.  First, he has accused Opposition Leader Tony Abbott of lying when he says he can stop the boats.

Rudd used his first press conference after becoming prime minister to lambast Mr Abbott for using meaningless three-word slogans, and raise the spectre of a conflict with Indonesia if a Coalition government enacted its threat to turn around boats at sea.

Rudd is now entering the second phase of his attempt to take the sting out of the issue for Labor.

He has flagged new policies to make it harder for asylum seekers to be assessed as refugees in Australia, suggested he could change Australia's application of the Refugee Convention, and will push for better regional co-operation on people smuggling.

He has raised concerns in recent trips to Indonesia and PNG, and he could make another visit to Jakarta to take part in a planned summit with source countries including Iran, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

We are likely to soon see the Government announce a tougher process for weeding out economic refugees from those genuinely in fear of persecution.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr has been laying the groundwork for his change, and has recently claimed the vast majority of recent asylum seekers are "economic migrants".

But none of these options is likely to have any immediate impact on the rate of boat arrivals.  Labor has made similar suggestions before.  Now the Government is running out of time.




PEOPLE cheer Kevin Rudd because they cannot believe a Prime Minister would trick them so brazenly.  But never has Mr Rudd - a genius at seeming, a disaster at doing - been as brazen as he was this week.

No, he did not "terminate" Labor's carbon tax.

No, his planned emissions trading scheme cannot start next year - or not without spending billions he does not have to buy off the hostile Greens.

No, it won't save families $380 each year.

No, your electricity bills might in fact soar, not fall.

In fact, Mr Rudd will be the second Labor Prime Minister to go to an election promising "there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead".

If re-elected he will be the second Labor Prime Minister to claim "changed circumstances" made him break his solemn word.

On Tuesday, Mr Rudd made the following false claims, or almost certainly undeliverable promises in announcing he'd move to an emissions trading scheme one year earlier than Labor planned:

"The Government has decided to terminate the carbon tax ... From July 1 next year Australia will move to an emissions trading scheme ...

"The modelling from Treasury shows that in the financial year 2014-15 an average family will receive a cost of living relief to the value of $380 per year ...

"We expect the change that we are bringing in will see the price on carbon fall from an expected $25.40 a tonne by next July to around $6 a tonne."

Not one of those claims can be trusted. Some are outright fabrications. Here are the facts.

First, it is very unlikely Mr Rudd could get his plan through Parliament in time, because the Senate, in which Labor can be out-voted by the Coalition with the Greens, stays until June 30 next year.

The Coalition is against this switch to an emissions trading system, in which the European Commission effectively sets our carbon price by manipulating its market in permits to emit carbon dioxide.

Europe's price is now an unusually low $6, but European politicians plan to ramp it up.

The Greens are opposed for different reasons. For one, they don't want the carbon price to fall by as much as Labor promises.

"The Greens do not support making it cheaper for the big polluters to pollute," Greens leader Christine Milne said.

IF the Coalition sticks to its guns, Mr Rudd's plan is dead - unless it can bribe the Greens with billions of dollars of more dud green schemes just like the ones Mr Rudd says he needs to cut.

Second, Mr Rudd is dead wrong in claiming his change would save families $380 "per year", as he stated five times on Tuesday. In fact, he is merely bringing forward by one year Labor's planned switch to emissions trading, so any savings are also for just one year, as Treasurer Chris Bowen tried to point out to him: "It is a one-year figure based on the Treasury's view of the carbon price."

Third, Mr Rudd's claim of $380 in savings for each family is a wild exaggeration at best.

That figure assumes that our carbon price will next year drop to the $6 set by Europe's trading system today.

But the European Commission this month voted to increase that $6 price, with analysts at Point Carbon expecting it to perhaps double in the near future. Add the likely depreciation of the Australian dollar, and half Mr Rudd's $380 in claimed savings could be wiped out.

In fact, in a few years we might not be saving but instead spending a lot, lot more.

Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on 2GB this week not only conceded the obvious - that the price set by Europe could well rise - but refused to rule out it rising to a level much higher than our carbon tax today.

Indeed, the Government's own Budget, released just two months ago, worked on a "modelled price of $38 at 2019-20" - which the Government needs to pay for its hugely expensive disability scheme and Gonski education changes.

People with short memories may find it unbelievable that a Prime Minister could tell them such untruths with such moral conviction.

But Mr Rudd has long traded on seeming something he is not. He is a genius at seeming to fix what he's actually broken, like border laws.

And here he is again, pretending to fix a tax that pretended to stop a global warming Mr Rudd pretends is dangerous, even though it's now paused for more than 15 years.

Pretending, too, that he'll save you money when he's costing you a fortune.

The King of Seeming in an Age of Seeming. Not worse than Julia Gillard, but a greater indictment of Australia and our times.


A solar slum

IT'S the residential "solar farm" fracturing friendships in a quiet Gold Coast street and the council can't stop one popping up in your suburb.

Despite already having 23 solar panels on his roof, Hope Island retiree Graham Drew has caused a furore by erecting a purpose-built frame along the length of his property to hold a further 40 panels.

At least five neighbouring households have repeatedly raised safety and aesthetic concerns with council but it says it is powerless to act as the structure was approved by an independent certifier and the city's planning scheme does not regulate the installation of solar panels.

Property owner Kate Lockyer, whose home overlooks the panels, said the "eyesore" would have an enormous impact on the resale value of her house.

"The view from our kitchen window, dining room and decks has been destroyed," she said.  "We can barely look into the yard in full sun because of the glare radiating from this solar monstrosity.  "People shouldn't be allowed to build things like this in a standard suburban block . . . it makes a mockery of building regulations and local building codes."

Another neighbour, Norma Serradura, said she was more concerned about safety than esthetics.  "I'm not anti-solar panels. We have 20 ourselves but the difference is they're on our roof," she said.

"The frame is already showing some movement and flexing. If it came off in a severe storm it would cause serious damage to nearby homes and put lives at risk.  "He has essentially created a massive wind sail . . . it's a potential death kite."

Mr Drew said he had invested in the panels to "make a few bucks" but laughed at claims he had boasted about earning $100,000 a year from selling the power back to the electricity grid. "Geez, I wish it was," the 73-year-old said.

"There aren't monstrous amounts of money in it. If there was I'd have acres of it . . . it's just going to give me a bit of cashflow to help my super(annuation) keep up with inflation.

"It's not an eyesore. It's a very tastefully constructed patio roof that has solar panels on it.  "It's not impeding anyone's view ... I had even planned to build the frame with steel but changed it to timber to blend in."

Council records show the approved building plan was for a "metal structure (patio) with solar panels as roof cover" but after council told the independent certifier the structure had been built of timber with metal purlins attached to the panels, he discontinued his services.

Mr Drew then engaged another certifier, who signed off on the project.  "I've put this up 100 per cent legally ... as for safety concerns, a brick shithouse is not going to push it over," he said.

Division 3 councillor Cameron Caldwell said while he sympathised with Mr Drew's neighbours, the council's ability to regulate solar panel installations was limited.

"Given the circumstances that have arisen, this could be a matter for investigation by the State Government for possible legislative change," he said.


Governments fail to reach deal on education funding despite optimistic phone calls

HOPES of a Queensland deal on Gonski seem to have been dashed with state Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek saying he sees no point in meeting his Commonwealth counterpart again.

Mr Langbroek had initially been positive about a potential deal after holding a phone hook-up with federal Education Minister Bill Shorten yesterday afternoon.

But it is understood things changed after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's office sent a letter to Premier Campbell Newman's director-general Jon Grayson suggesting a funding model adjustment and a revised offer.

"The impact of this adjustment, and the new funding profile for Queensland, is a reduction to its base funding of $1.3 billion over 2014-19," the letter states.

But it did not address Mr Newman's concerns including his request for the increased bureaucracy involved in the reforms to be wound back.

Just hours after the Premier's department received the letter, Mr Langbroek issued a statement saying he saw no point in meeting Mr Shorten again. Mr Shorten, however, said he would push on with negotiations despite Mr Langbroek's declaration.

"We're not going to walk away from the negotiating table because of some intemperate language from Mr Langbroek," Mr Shorten said.

"Our priority has always been to get more resources into Queensland schools so that Queensland kids get the best start in life."

He said his offer to fly to Brisbane and meet with Mr Langbroek remained.


17 July, 2013

Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr warns of new breed of asylum seeker, driven by economic factors

Big backpedal now Viets are coming.  Viets mostly vote conservative.  Muslims vote Leftist

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Bob Carr fears asylum-seeker numbers could double unless a new approach is found to stop the influx of boats.

Senator Carr's warning comes as a new breed of asylum seekers - not linked to conflict zones - is heading to Australia.

Senator Carr told a function in Sydney last night that the numbers would continue to grow - and be driven by economic factors - unless Australia found new solutions to stem the flow.

"The nature of the challenge has changed for us," he said. "It's no longer a tiny number, it's 3000 or more a month - that's 40,000 a year - it could go higher, and that's 20 per cent of the Australian migrant intake.

"And I just think people with humanitarian instincts, we've got to start thinking about fresh answers on this because if it can be 40,000 a year without a major upset in the region ... then that 50,000 a year, 40,000 a year could very easily double."

Senator Carr said it was a "different quality of the problem" faced by Australian between 2001 and 2004.

"It really is," he said. "We've got a capacity to turn Australians xenophobic against immigration because of the mounting numbers and the fact that - yes I will insist on this - we're getting many advise that it is economic pressure (and) economic aspirations (driving the arrivals)."

The latest boat, carrying 84 people, sailed directly from Vietnam, where there has been no conflict for 30 years.

Already this year, 759 Vietnamese boat people have come to Australia - the largest group to turn up since just after the Vietnam War - and more than four times the total number that has arrived in the three previous years.

The unexpected influx will put increasing pressure on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to toughen up his asylum-seeker policies.

More than 17,000 boatpeople arrived last year, but already 14,500 have landed on our shores this year.

The new Vietnamese rush came as Mr Rudd left PNG with no breakthrough on the asylum crisis. There had been speculation of a new deal but Mr Rudd said the countries would "continue to strengthen and to further our practical co-operation against our common enemy, people smugglers".

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa left open the prospect of accepting the Opposition's tow-back boat policy yesterday and said a conference to combating people smuggling would take place next month.

He also dealt the Government a blow after it had seized on Indonesia's insistence no country should take "unilateral action" as evidence it would reject the Opposition's policy.

"Well, I think the first point that must be underscored is that when we used the term 'unilateral action' it is not to deny the fact that there are things that countries can do at the national level," Mr Natalegawa said.

"We have had good communication, including with the Opposition party in terms of where they wish to take the discussion forward."


Indonesia says it is 'willing to talk' with Opposition on turn-back-the-boats policy

A FRESH wave of Vietnamese boat people is reaching Australia, with the latest vessel carrying 84 intercepted within sight of the WA resort town of Broome as Indonesia's foreign minister left open the prospect of accepting the Opposition's boat turn back policy.

The group is believed to have sailed directly from Vietnam, with 759 Vietnamese arriving this year and 937 since 2010, almost half the post-war influx in the late 1970s and early '80s.

Immigration officials are concerned young girls could be being trafficked and that the people-smuggling trade between Vietnam and Australia had links to drugs, with concern also yesterday that two Vietnamese asylum seekers escaped from Northern Detention Centre near Darwin during the weekend.

HMAS Maitland took the group to Broome and they were to be taken to Curtin Detention Centre for health, security and identity checks.

The new Vietnamese rush came as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd left PNG securing only further talks with the country on regional responses and little breakthrough on the asylum crisis.

There had been speculation of a new deal but Mr Rudd said the countries would "continue to strengthen and to further our practical co-operation against our common enemy, people smugglers."

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa left open the prospect of accepting the Opposition's tow-back policy yesterday and said a conference to discuss combating people smuggling, agreed to when Mr Rudd was in Jakarta, would take place next month.

He also dealt the government a blow after it had seized on Indonesia's insistence no country should take "unilateral action" as evidence it would not accept the Opposition's policy.

"Well I think the first point that must be underscored is that when we used the term unilateral action it is not to deny the fact that there are things that countries can do at the national level," Mr Natalegawa said.

He added: "We have had good communication, including with the Opposition party in terms of where they wish to take the discussion forward. So I am sure when the time comes, if the time comes, there will be a lot more communications going back and forth in trying to better comprehend and better understand what the Opposition has meant by policies that have introduced."

Mr Rudd's visit to PNG came just days after a baby boy from Sri Lanka drowned and eight other asylum seekers vanished from a vessel that sank north of Christmas Island on Friday night.

It is understood at least two children are among the asylum seekers missing, presumed dead.

Australian authorities have also conducted another dramatic rescue after HMAS Bathurst found a captainless vessel carrying 67 people at 11am Sunday.

The passengers told the crew their skipper had plunged from the vessel around 6am and that another crew member had leapt off several hours later but had been recovered alive.

HMAS Bathurst, another navy vessel and a RAAF plane scoured the ocean 113 nautical miles north of Christmas Island.

The captain was spotted alive by the surveillance plane around 6pm and rescued by the crew of HMAS Bathurst, with asylum seekers already on board identifying him.

Authorities were baffled about why the pair plunged from the vessel, with speculation they may have believed they were to be picked up and returned to Indonesia as part of the people-smuggling operation.

About 2000 asylum seekers have arrived in the first 14 days of July, with Opposition Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison saying: "Kevin Rudd is on track to beat even Julia Gillard's record for the most arrivals in a month, with people turning up at the rate of almost 1000 per week."


Rudd's priority protecting Labor, not the planet

LET'S be very plain, as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd would put it: The great Labor crusade against climate change has been abandoned for the sake of short-term electoral gain.

What once had been the "the great moral question of our generation" has been reduced to an election bribe.

Mr Rudd's policy revisionism today was about making a neutered version of the climate change crusade an election positive by promising it would deliver further help to household finances.

The priority was switched from protecting future Australian generations from disastrous global warming to protecting Labor from an electoral roasting.

The climate change crusade was ended in the most brutal way. It was "terminated," in Mr Rudd's word.

This will annoy the Greens but will hearten most Labor MPs struggling to justify a scheme which the Labor Government itself called - for almost three years - a carbon tax.

Those Labor MPs will not regret shucking off the electorally damaging carbon price scheme forced on it by the Greens during creation of the minority government.

Mostly it will annoy the Tony Abbott Opposition which has seen it's "great big tax" line taken from it and used against it. It's now the Opposition which is being accused of a "great big tax" to fund its Direct Action scheme for subsidised carbon emissions reduction by business.

That wasn't the only political purloining.

Mr Rudd has effectively acknowledged carbon pricing has been a burden on household and business budgets, much as Mr Abbott has been saying.

The Prime Minister today said extra assistance was needed "at a time of economic transition and structural change in the global economy". Which is pretty well what Mr Abbott has been saying.

The Rudd version of an early, floating price on carbon would help households by around $380 a year, while the Opposition's direction would cost $1200 in taxes. Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey has called those calculations "lies" but clearly the debate has shifted substantially.


Newman Government explores establishing shale gas industry in Queensland

QUEENSLAND could have its own shale gas industry within two years, the State Government says. Government briefing notes for Environment Minister Andrew Powell show there are 16 shale gas exploration programs in the state.

But it warns any development would need numerous wells and an extensive expansion of the gas pipeline network to be viable. It would also use the controversial process known as fracking, which will put the fledgling industry on course for a battle with environmentalists.

The departmental briefing said the extraction of gas "can mobilise naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMs) into water extracted from the well".

It said NORMs were limited in Australian geology but the issue would need monitoring by the companies involved.

The main areas for exploration are the Cooper, Galilee, Eromanga and Maryborough basins. The Cooper Basin is already well developed and is considered the most likely to have the infrastructure to handle the development.

The Maryborough Basin may be the most difficult, with a growing concern among the community to coal and gas development. Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer are exploring for coal in the district.

"Operators have advised that up-scale and production (of shale gas) will likely commence in 2015," the ministerial briefing note said.

It said the process used would drill as deep as 2000m, which "significantly reduces risks of interconnectivity with aquifers".

It said up to 16 million litres would be needed for one well, compared with the 1 million used by CSG. However, most shale gas wells are dry and do not harvest the levels of groundwater CSG wells do.

An APPEA spokesman said similar to the production of natural gas from coal, any water sourced could potentially be re-injected underground or used to drought-proof regional Queensland properties. But, according to the State Government, exploration "is occurring in basins where water availability is limited".

Anti-CSG activist Drew Hutton said the American experience showed there were strong community concerns with shale gas, especially with the impact of fracking.

He said his organisation, Lock the Gate, had the same concerns with shale gas as it did with CSG, including its potential health impacts and possible water contamination.

"We are concerned about shale gas activities along the Cooper River, in western Queensland, because of its potential effects on the Lake Eyre Basin and in the Maryborough-Bundaberg area, which is good farm land," Mr Hutton said.


16 July, 2013

The Federal Government's rushed Fair Work amendments are a heavy burden on business

RECENT Federal Government amendments to the controversial Fair Work system are a huge disappointment to business.

Australia has witnessed a Government that has pandered to union overreach that could easily be likened to a scorched earth policy or class warfare.

Incredibly, the Government used the last weeks of Parliament to add to the business community's burden. Changes that compound an already unbalanced set of industrial relations laws include:

* Expanded parental leave rights

* Forced consultation on changes to rosters

* Penalty rate principles enshrined in law

* A national bullying jurisdiction

* Expanded union right of entry to lunch rooms and funding union access to remote sites.

It is outrageous that this Government has pushed through laws so close to the federal election and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland believes enough is enough.

Since the introduction of the Fair Work Act in 2009, Queensland employers have been telling CCIQ that they have experienced real difficulties under the ALP regime.

Increases in minimum wages and the cost of award rates and conditions have been some of the most common observations of the negative effect of the Fair Work Act. Australia now has the highest minimum wage of any OECD country. When coupled with penalty rates, Australia has, in many respects, outpriced itself to the detriment of our financial sustainability and international competitiveness.

Further compounding this is that Australian workplaces have lost the ability to have flexible working arrangements something that has, in turn, eroded our productivity and business profitability.

The ability of employers to put in place flexible arrangements has been one of the greatest casualties of the Fair Work Act. These arrangements are in nearly all instances a win-win to both the employer and the employee, yet are not supported by unions or the Labor Government.

In respect to both unfair dismissal and general protections claims, CCIQ strongly believes more needs to be done to restore the balance between employers and employees, and prevent employers having to go to the time and expense of defending themselves against baseless or vexatious claims.

The capacity to make decisions about staffing arrangements goes to the heart of an employer's ability to run their workplace and decisions should not require the payment of "go away money". There has to be a meaningful small business exemption from unfair dismissal claims of up to 49 employees.

On the same managerial prerogative theme, business is deeply concerned by the increase in union activity in Queensland workplaces. CCIQ supports the right of employees to join unions and to actively participate as union members. However, we do not consider that unions should be seeking to interfere in matters that go beyond the employer-employee relationship, or unnecessarily entering the workplace.

Queensland employers cannot afford continued inaction on workplace relations - and they certainly cannot afford the cost of additional changes that the Federal Government has made in its recent amendments.

Yet at the same time the Coalition's workplace relations policy does little to deliver the tangible changes that businesses are seeking.

The Federal Opposition has recognised that Australia must move away from the inflexibility and overall lack of balance that characterises the current regime, which seeks to protect employees against the worst case of employer - to the detriment of the majority who do the right thing by their workers.

Changes they have flagged around individual flexibility arrangements, union entry and getting rid of minimum engagement periods are a welcome start. However, these changes do not go anywhere near far enough.

The commitment to have a Productivity Commission review of workplace relations policy in 2015, is simply too far away for many employers for whom the increasing cost of wages and conditions is becoming a heavy burden that puts the continuing viability of their business at risk.

What Queensland businesses need now are urgent amendments that ameliorate the significant problems with Australia's workplace relations laws. We are imposing a handbrake on our country's efficiency, confidence and economic activity - yet, astonishingly, we are not doing anything about it for fear of the past or because of pandering to factional interests.


Tony Abbott pours scorn on the concept of an ETS

TONY Abbott has dismissed emissions trading schemes as markets for the "non-delivery of an invisible substance".

The Coalition Leader's criticism of the widely accepted, market-based method of trying to curb carbon emissions came as Labor prepares to switch from a carbon tax to an ETS one year earlier than originally planned.

Treasurer Chris Bowen said today the Rudd government's decision to move early from a fixed to a floating carbon price was a response to changes in the Australian economy and a concession families could do with hip-pocket relief.

But Mr Abbott, who has campaigned against a carbon tax, said the change meant nothing.

“It's more fake change from Kevin Rudd. The one thing he has done is he has admitted that what the Coalition was saying about the carbon tax was right all along,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“This is not a true market, just ask yourself what an ETS is all about, it's a so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one.”

Under an ETS, companies trade permits allowing the right to discharge emissions. Permit buyers effectively pay a charge for polluting, providing an economic incentive for reducing emissions.

Mr Bowen today conceded the costs of switching to an ETS next year will be “significant”, as he again refused to rule out a cut to industry assistance programs.

However the Treasurer rejected opposition claims the hole punched in the budget by fast-tracking to an ETS would be in the order of $6 billion.

“We are responding to two things, we are responding to the change in the Australian economy, the rapid transition away from the mining boom and the need to stimulate non-mining investment,” Mr Bowen told ABC radio.

“And we are responding to people's concerns about cost of living - it is an acknowledgement families can do with cost of living relief,” he said.

The Treasurer said the cost of making the move to an internationally-linked ETS sooner was “significant”, but rejected Coalition claims of a revenue shortfall $6 billion.

“The opposition doesn't know what it's talking about, we'll be putting out the Treasury figures, the Treasury figures make it very clear what the cost is and how it is going to be paid for,” he said.

“It's obviously a significant cost but it's not what the opposition are suggesting.”

Mr Bowen said the household compensation would remain, but refused to rule out changes to the industry assistance package.

“Yes there are industry assistance measures that are predicated on a certain price, but I am not pre-empting what are going to do in the package,” Mr Bowen told Sky News.

He warned the government had made “tough choices” to find savings to offset the revenue shortfall, but stressed Labor was committed to the schoolkids bonus.

“The schoolkids bonus is a very important measure, it's very important to the government and it will remain very important to the government,” he said.

Mr Abbott said the ETS was “still a tax”.

“He won't admit it but you will keep the carbon tax under Kevin Rudd. If you vote for the Coalition, the carbon tax is gone, lock stock and barrel. Not rebadged, not renamed but abolished,” the Opposition Leader told the Nine Network.

“The best thing to do is to get rid of it altogether. Mr Rudd vindicated everything we have been saying about the carbon tax,” Mr Abbott said.

Greens leader Christine Milne, who negotiated the original carbon pricing package with the Gillard government, warned the Prime Minister against taking the axe to green schemes.

“I am really concerned with where the government is going to get the money it's a $4 billion to $5 billion hit on the budget,” Senator Milne said.

“I want to see the clean technology fund maintained, the biodiversity fund maintained, low carbon communities - enabling people who live in those communities to be more energy efficient - I want to make sure the Climate Change Authority stays,” she said.

“I am really concerned Labor will slash them, they've already taken the knife to the biodiversity fund this year,” Senator Milne said.


Now, Australia tightens work visa to restrict skilled immigration

It isn't just the US that is creating difficulties for skilled immigrants. Australia is, and so is Canada. Australia has tightened its work visa programme that could hurt Indian IT companies, driving up costs for them and compelling local hiring in the near term.

The country's senate late last month made changes to the 457 visa programme (for skilled immigrants) that requires companies to prove that they have considered local hires and advertised in newspapers before sponsoring workers from outside of Australia.

Indian IT companies like Infosys, TCSBSE 2.11 % and Tech MahindraBSE -0.29 % (Satyam) have 8%-9% of their revenues coming from the region. The country's largest software exporter TCS services over 40 clients from Australia and New Zealand, including Telstra, Australian Gas Light Company, Qantas, Foxtel and Lloyds.

Infosys' Australian and New Zealand operations have over 2,000 people to deliver IT-enabled business solutions to clients. Infosys, which also services Telstra, is said to have recently won another small contract from the telecom company. Media reports have said Telstra has moved 170 jobs to Infosys. In 2009, Telstra awarded a $450-million application and development maintenance contract that was shared by InfosysBSE -1.83 % and EDS.

Many changes have been effected to 457 visas effective July 1 following a crackdown on visas issued in areas that don't seem to be experiencing skills shortages.

"While most employers are using the subclass 457 appropriately, there is a concern that certain employers in some industries are sourcing their skilled labour needs outside of Australia without first checking the availability of labour locally. While not unlawful, these actions are not in line with the principles of the subclass 457 program," says the Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship website.

"While the UK imposed a bond on Indian visitors, the Australian press has also been alleging the misuse of visa by one of the large Indian IT companies . While we have been expecting protectionist noises to go up given the tough employment scenarios in lot of local markets, this could impact execution ability and cost structures in the near term," wrote Surendra Goyal and Rishi Iyer of Citi Research in a recent note on Indian IT services.

Sajan Poovayya, managing partner in law firm Poovayya & Co, said the medium-term impact might be significant for the large IT players. "The changes proposed in the 457 regime will necessitate increased local hiring that will have a direct impact on costs. For players, who have significant US and Australian presence, a combination of the tight H-1 B and 457 regimes may add further stress to their bottomlines," he said.

Sajai Singh, partner in law firm J Sagar Associates, said the slow economic recovery has put pressure on governments to generate more local jobs. "I think the whole idea of body shopping is under scrutiny as hiring overseas employees had made locals redundant. This may force IT companies to rework their business model and increase their offshoring component," he said.

Canadian government too

The Canadian government too is taking steps to tighten the provisions of their programme to ensure that only genuine skill shortages are being filled by temporary overseas labour. In April, the government announced changes that will require employers to pay temporary foreign workers at the prevailing wage and have a plan to transition to a Canadian workforce over time.

Royal Bank of Canada faced criticisms after media reported on an outsourcing arrangement for technology services that affected some bank employees. Infosys CEO S D Shibulal on Friday said the immigration walls being raised by the US, Australia and Canada will compel Indian IT companies to make changes to deal with them.


Car park operator's tactics face court scrutiny

This is the man whose firm, a simple car park operator, has become one of the most complained about in Sydney.

It is a firm that has stoked so much anxiety through the city that the Department of Fair Trading has had to assign a permanent member of staff to deal with the outrage.

And next week it will face its day in court, with Paul Gyles, and business partner Victor Nudler's Australian National Car Parks to face hearings on charges of harassment over parking fines.

From its office in a street in Annandale, ANCP sends a multitude of letters to people they allege have breached the conditions of the car parks it manages.

It manages these car parks for stores such as for Woolworths and Aldi and, until recently, McDonald's in locations from Cabramatta to Nelson Bay.

And it has won a reputation for voraciousness that has worn down the patience of NSW authorities, who have received almost 4000 enquiries and complaints about the firm over the past three years.

A number of these complaints were from Julie Fehon, who lives in Warriewood on the northern beaches. She was rushing when she pulled into the Peninsula/Bungan Plaza car park in Mona Vale in December 2009.

Mrs Fehon was suffering a severe medical condition and needed to see a specialist. The car park required a displayed ticket, so she bought one and put it on her dashboard before she entered the surgery.

When she came out she found she had a $66 ticket for parking in a disabled bay.

But she did not know it was a disabled bay - there was no sign and no wheelchair symbol on the surface. (Later, she returned to the spot to photograph it as evidence.)

"I would never have parked in a handicapped spot," Mrs Fehon said.  "The space next to it was vacant. It is not a car park where it is ever hard to find a park."

She assumed if she wrote to the company that gave her the ticket it would waive the penalty.

But her first letter to ANCP, the operator of the car park that had given her the ticket, was met with a form response, insisting that if she did not pay within 14 days it had "the right to commence legal action".

A second letter brought a similar form response.  A third triggered a reply from a solicitor, Michael Roper, requesting a total payment of $173 on behalf of his client, ANCP.

More correspondence followed. Mrs Fehon would write specific appeals; she would receive form letters in response.

These form letters included two on official-looking letterhead from a debt company known as Australian Recoveries and Collections. (The letters did not say that ARC's major shareholders were Mr Gyles and Mr Nudler.)

By this stage Mrs Fehon's husband was encouraging her to pay the fine and forgo the stress. But the intransigence of the company had got under her skin.

Fiona Allan, another woman who believed she was wrongly ticketed and ended up in a frustrating back-and-forth with ANCP put it this way: "I have a strong sense of justice and I didn't feel that what had happened was just or fair."

Eventually, offered a $66 settlement by ARC, Mrs Fehon paid up. According to Fair Trading, the department received 1011 complaints and 2328 enquiries about ANCP last year; and has received 410 complaints and 292 enquiries about the company so far this year.

The complaints peaked after ANCP won a court case in May last year allowing it access to the names and addresses of car owners it alleged had breached its terms.

In November, the O'Farrell government passed laws preventing Roads and Maritime Services from handing out personal information to private parking operators.

Next week, ANCP's case on charges of harassment begins in the Parramatta Local Court.

ANCP did not respond for this article. Neither did Aldi, while a spokeswoman for McDonald's said the company no longer contracts out to ANCP. A spokeswoman for Woolworths said: "Woolworths uses ANCP at just a handful of sites and only as a last resort."


15 July, 2013

"Genes" a reason poor kids struggle at school, says Australian government report

Rather amazing to see the unspeakable spoken, albeit with a lot of hedging

RICH kids do better at school and poor children struggle due to genetic "inherited abilities", the Federal Government's top policy research agency says.

In a controversial new report released today, the Productivity Commission cites "parents' cognitive abilities and inherited genes" as one of five main reasons why kids from low-income families lag behind those from wealthy homes.

Genes are listed before access to books and computers, parental attention and aspirations, and even schools.

In a section entitled "inherited abilities", the 246-page staff working paper states that "one explanation for differences in educational attainment between children of low and high socio-economic backgrounds is parents' cognitive abilities and inherited genes".

Citing a British study, it suggests that "inherited cognitive abilities" explain one-fifth of the gap in test scores between children from the richest and poorest families, once environmental factors are taken into account.

"Genetic explanations for children's success at school is a controversial and complex area because of interactions between genes and the environment," the report says.

"Evidence is now emerging that the same genetic endowment can result in different outcomes depending on the environment".

The Productivity Commission notes that Australia has one of the highest rates of joblessness among families in the developed world, with nearly one in five families unemployed.

It cites two research studies showing that unemployed parents have "poorer parenting skills", with their children 13.4 per cent more likely to lie or fight, and 7.6 per cent more likely to be bullied.

The Productivity Commission also links learning success to "character traits such as perseverance, motivation and self-esteem".

The report on "Deep and Persistent Disadvantage in Australia", made public today, says poor children are "behind the eight-ball" when they start school and the gap widens as they grow older.

Poorer children may have less access to books, computers or study space than kids from well-off families, it says.

And parents' aspirations and attitudes to education "vary strongly with socio-economic position".

Better educated parents tend to spend more time reading to children and helping with homework, the report says.

"Evidence on why some disadvantaged children 'buck the trend' to succeed in later life suggests that the level of parental interest and parents' behaviour are important," it says.

"Attending school with higher-achieving or more advantaged peers seemed to be associated with a higher probability of bucking the trend.

"While inherited genes influence their development, the quality of family environments, and the availability of appropriate experiences at various stages of development, are crucial for building capabilities."

The Productivity Commission cites the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) international PISA tests of 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science.

"Results from the PISA show that economically advantaged parents are more likely to have read to their children regularly, sung songs, talked about what they had done during the day, and read signs aloud to their children," the report says.


Kevin Rudd to announce scrapping of carbon tax

KEVIN Rudd will announce plans to scrap the carbon tax within days as he clears the decks for an election.

The decision could slash electricity bills by up to $150 a year for families spending $2000 annually, assuming a floating price for carbon emissions as low as $6 per tonne.

Federal cabinet has agreed to fast-track the planned introduction of an emissions trading scheme to July 1, 2014.

In an attempt to neutralise Tony Abbott's anti-carbon tax crusade, the Prime Minister will announce the plan to "ease cost of living pressures for families".

Australia had previously planned to move from the current fixed-price carbon tax on the biggest polluters - much of which is passed on to consumers through higher utility prices - to an emissions trading scheme, where the price is determined by the market, by July 2015.

The planned shift from a fixed to a floating price threatens to blow a massive hole in the federal budget, costing billions of dollars a year.

The government will claim the shift is "revenue neutral", with tough spending cuts to offset reduced revenue.

The budget "razor gang" - Mr Rudd's expenditure review committee - has worked this week to find budget savings.

The fixed price, presently $24.15 per tonne, will be replaced with a floating price of between $6 and $10 per tonne.

Abbott 'sorry' for ousted Gillard

"Economic modelling will show this will ease cost of living pressures for families and create jobs," a government source said. "This is about transitioning the economy from a post mining boom world to a more competitive agenda."

Mr Rudd famously declared climate change "the greatest moral and economic challenge of our time" before scrapping plans to introduce emissions trading in 2010 after he was spooked by Tony Abbott's "great big new tax" campaign.


Tony Abbott says Labor's switch to an emissions trading scheme is a 'con job'

TONY Abbott has attacked Labor's carbon tax policy switch to an emissions trading scheme as a "con job", saying the government cannot be trusted on the issue.

But Treasurer Chris Bowen, who this morning confirmed the broad plans on Channel Ten's Meet The Press, said Labor had long believed in an emissions trading scheme - as did Mr Abbott.

As reported by News Limited newspapers and websites today, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will announce plans to scrap the carbon tax within days as he clears the decks for an election.

The decision could slash electricity bills by up to $150 a year for families spending $2000 annually, assuming a floating price for carbon emissions as low as $6 per tonne.

Federal cabinet has agreed to fast-track the planned introduction of an emissions trading scheme to July 1, 2014.

As the Greens labelled Mr Rudd a "fake" who acted "cowardly" on climate change after declaring it the "great moral challenge of our time", Mr Bowen today said the government would now hunt for savings to find the "several billion dollars" needed to fill the revenue hole from fast-tracking the switch.

He said the industry assistance package announced with the carbon tax would be "recalibrated" to match the changes.

But he dismissed suggestions he would be rolling out an austerity program to fund the policy change, saying the household assistance package was protected and any decisions would have cost of living at the "front of mind".

Mr Bowen said balancing the budget in 2015-16 required "sensible but tough decisions" and the government had moved to alter the policy to suit the changing economic conditions.

He confirmed the household savings could be as much as $150 annually for some households depending on how much power they use.

"Families will see a big benefit in what we are bringing forward," he said.

The Opposition Leader labelled the policy switch a "cob job", saying Labor cannot be trusted on the policy area.

"The re-election of the Labor government would mean that Australians will continue to pay the carbon tax," Mr Abbott said.

"Mr Rudd can change the name but whether it is fixed or floating, it is still a carbon tax.

"The announcement today that the Government will bring forward planned changes to the carbon tax by one year is just a Kevin Rudd con job - fixed or floating, it is still a carbon tax."

Mr Bowen said Mr Abbott wanted to tax Coles and Woolworths and other big companies to subsidise polluters, with the costs flowing through to shoppers.

"We are not going to be lectured by Mr Abbott on cost of living pressures when he is proposing a great big new tax," he said.

Greens Leader Christine Milne said Labor would not have done anything on climate change without the Greens.  "It is cowardly," she told ABC's Insiders program.

"If you believed that climate change was the greatest moral challenge or our time, and it is, we are living in a climate emergency, you would now not be moving to have the big polluters pay less.

"That is what Kevin Rudd is doing. It is all about politics and not policy."


Understanding the mysterious Aussie slang of nanger, nerpie, festy, munted and yassler

YOU might be a nanger or you could be a nerpie. Just hope you're not festy.

New research has exposed the mysterious and unique youth lingo and slang that lurks in the bars, schools and offices of each state of our vast country, usually leaving the rest of the nation baffled.

So before you head across state lines make sure you've got your basics right.

The uncouth of eastern Melbourne are nangers.

In Queensland, festy is not something pleasant.

Want a sandwich in South Australia? Ask for a piece.

Not a fan of something in NSW, you probably think it's a bit hectic.

If you've been called a nerpie in Western Australia, that's a good thing. Munted is not.

Tasmania is home to our nation's yasslers (people who talk a lot).

And in the Northern Territory nuff makes you likeable but being nuffest makes you stupid.

Julia Robinson, editor at the Australian National Dictionary Centre, said the early geographic isolation of Australia's settlements helped develop some of our unique region-specific terms.

Although slang constantly changes and people are now far more connected, where you live is still important in developing your own lingo - and labelling others from different areas.

Westies, for example, come from Western Sydney or the west of Melbourne. Chiggas come from Chigwell in Tasmania. Bogan likely originated from the Bogan River district in NSW but has since become a national favourite.

"Bogan first appeared in the 1985 surfing magazine Tracks. It was then popularised nationally by Kylie Mole on The Comedy Company in the late 1980s," Ms Robinson said.

"Language constantly changes as we adapt to our needs. We also love to invent."

The Barry Crockers (shockers) of the past may have had their day however.

Each generation creates new slang words as a way to define themselves, and demographer Mark McCrindle, who was behind the latest research, has found the emerging generation are not keen on rhyming slang.

"Fair dinkum and true blue are still well regarded, but dinky di and even crikey are considered too ocker," Mr McCrindle said.

He predicted the future of slang will be largely globalised, dominated by social media and technical terms.


14 July, 2013

Want to kill fewer people? Go nuclear

The record of deaths and diseases over the past 60 years shows nuclear power is safer than every other source of energy.

Most of us do not understand every quantum-level nut and bolt of nuclear power - we have physicists for that. That does not quite explain why many people still treat it like black magic.

Any suggestion that we use nuclear power virtually incites a pitchfork-waving mob who demand we have nothing to do with it, while relying on other energy sources that all kill more people.

Nuclear power is the safest source of energy by a long way. Solar power causes five to 10 times as many deaths (depending on the estimate of panel longevity) per unit of energy generated.

That can't be right, is most people's first instinct. Similarly, findings by a United Nations panel and the World Health Organisation that the Fukushima nuclear accident caused no deaths or illnesses, and is unlikely to affect the future health of anyone but a few emergency staff, were so widely ignored they must simply have been disbelieved.

Remember, this was the worst-case nuclear scenario of reactor meltdowns amid the catastrophe of one of the biggest earthquakes and tsunamis in history. The operator had a culture of corner-cutting and cover-ups. Even then, the record shows, the predictors of apocalypse got it badly wrong and the experts - nuclear physicists - got it right.

We also have decades of operational experience and research, which enable us to calculate every energy source's "death print". The data compiled by the WHO, the International Energy Agency, NASA, the Centres for Disease Control and the National Academy of Sciences in the US, and the Europe-wide ExternE project all points to a similar conclusion.

Counting the deaths from power-producing activities and associated pollution and environmental damage, coal is by far the most deadly (and most studies exclude speculative estimates of global warming impacts). The WHO attributes at least 1 million deaths a year to coalmining, transport and operating accidents and air, soil and water pollution. (By contrast, even the radiation exposure of wildlife in the Fukushima evacuation zone was "too low for observable acute effects".) In countries where coal is a big part of the energy mix, such as Australia, this increases healthcare costs by an estimated 10 per cent.

Coal supplies half the world's electricity, in spite of an estimated global death rate of about 100 lives per terawatt hour of power - much higher than all other sources. Oil is next with 36 deaths. The world uses the two deadliest power sources for 60 per cent of its energy needs. The fourth most dangerous source, natural gas, supplies 21 per cent, at a death rate of four per terawatt hour.

The dangers of fossil fuels are not a challenge to the thinking of environmentalists (I include myself) but the risks of some alternatives surely are.

Biofuel claims 12 lives for every terawatt hour, hydro 1.4 lives (largely because of rare but catastrophic dam failures), solar 0.44 lives (mostly through roof falls and electrocution) and wind 0.15 lives. Safest of all is nuclear, which supplies 17 per cent of global electricity, at 0.04 deaths per terawatt hour. Thus, for a given amount of energy, coal power kills about 2500 times as many people.

Ah, you might ask, what about Chernobyl, the full cancerous horror of which is yet to come? Well, the above calculations include the WHO's worst-case estimates of future Chernobyl deaths. Anti-nuclear advocates rely heavily on one disaster 27 years ago, when not one plant today is comparable to Chernobyl's fatally flawed design. It even lacked a proper containment vessel. Building of the Chernobyl plant began in 1970, just 14 years after the world's first commercial nuclear power station opened. To use Chernobyl as a guide to assessing current third-generation nuclear plants and the coming fourth generation is like judging today's vehicle safety on the basis of the Model T Ford first made in 1910, 14 years after the first commercially made car.

Why should Australia turn to nuclear power? First, as a country with nearly 40 per cent of accessible uranium reserves, which happily supplies the world, we are needlessly ignoring a huge domestic energy resource. Solar and wind power are effective for many applications but are not reliable sources of the massive baseload power we need.

Second, under the status quo, we unthinkingly accept Australian deaths from mining, transporting and burning vast amounts of materials and fuels and associated pollution.

The amounts of nuclear fuel and waste are minute, which cuts mining, transport and pollution risks compared with fossil fuel loads, toxic waste and environmental damage. A coal-fired plant produces almost 15,000 times as much waste as its nuclear equivalent. Unlike most fossil fuel pollution, nuclear waste can be stored securely underground in stable geological formations.

Third, the decay of uranium-bearing ores releases radon gas, creating natural areas of high radioactivity. (Parts of Australia have restricted access because of this.) Radon accumulates in buildings and is a leading cause of lung cancer, so nuclear power may save lives by reducing its environmental release.

Fourth, nuclear plants can power cost-effective, high-volume desalination, using the waste heat energy. The heat from high-temperature reactors may also be harnessed to produce the ultimate clean fuel, hydrogen, on the scale needed to replace oil as a transport fuel. Finally, the finite nature of oil and gas reserves - which are also essential for plastic and chemical production - pose a problem of energy security.

Nuclear power could preserve oil and gas for industrial production. This might even eliminate one trigger for the use of nuclear weapons: conflict over oil and gas resources. The genie of nuclear proliferation is out of the bottle and is not dependent on civilian power plants. We might as well reject oil because it fuels hugely destructive weapons of war.

We often have blind spots when it comes to the miracles of science, and nuclear power is one. The blindness becomes wilful when we have leaders who pander to, even exploit, public fears rather than promote a rational policy approach to big national challenges.

None of these challenges has a greater bearing on our future than harnessing energy on a sustainable, industrial scale. Our civilisation has been built on that and it is folly to let romantic, ill-informed and often hysterical notions of what is sustainable, green and safe decide national energy policy.


Tiny prehistoric bugs  could halt major coal seam gas project

A microscopic collection of worms and mites could play havoc with Santos' biggest coal seam gas project in the New South Wales Pilliga State Forest.

The ancient, subterranean creatures that live deep in an underground aquifer are only one millimetre long and thinner than a human hair.

They are known as stygofauna and they play an important role in filtering and determining the quality of groundwater.

The new evidence about the stygofauna is contained in one of 1,800 submissions to the Federal Government opposing Santos' plans to drill 18 gas wells in the Pilliga State Forest near Narrabri.

Santos had estimated the project could supply 25 per cent of New South Wales' gas needs.

The Government will now use its recently-passed "water trigger" laws to determine if Santos can go ahead with the drilling.

Hydro-biologist Dr Peter Serov, who found the two new species of stygofauna, says the creatures could be at risk because they are extremely sensitive to changes in water quality.

"There needs to be a lot more rigorous sampling and monitoring of both water chemistry and biodiversity across the region to determine what the ultimate ranges of these species are and what their environmental requirements are at this point in time," he said.

Dr Serov says stygofauna are highly specialised organisms that have been around for hundreds of millions of years.

"They are a group that have adapted over millions of years to occupy a very, very specialised niche," he said.

"Initially all of them would have been surface invertebrates, but due to the vast changes that the environment of Australia has gone through... they have colonised the subterranean environment and over time they've developed their own body forms to actually live exclusively in this situation."

"They have no colouration, they're usually totally clear or white, they have no eyes, they have specialised sensory organs that enable them to determine whether they're going up or down," Dr Serov said.

But Santos groundwater expert, Dr Peter Hancock, says he wants to know just where the tiny animals were found.

He says they may not exist in the deep aquifers that coal seam gas wells drill down to.

"The deeper coal seam aquifers are unlikely to have stygofauna in them. It's the shallow alluvial aquifers that are most likely to have them," he said.

But retiring New England Independent MP, Tony Windsor, who introduced the water trigger laws, says the scientific process must go ahead before the coal seam gas company moves in.

"We don't fully understand the scientific nature of some of these groundwater systems and until we do at a scientific level, I think the political process should step back and the industry process should step back until we get the science right and then make the decision," he said.


Horrors! Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels Causing Desert ‘Greening’

Rise in the level of carbon dioxide in the air is causing desert "greening" and has increased foliage cover by 11 percent.

Up until now the negative aspects of rising levels of carbon dioxide have been highlighted in almost all studies conducted on this matter. A new study, based on satellite observations, CSIRO, in collaboration with the Australian National University (ANU) reported that the rising levels of carbon dioxide have caused deserts to start greening and  increased foliage cover by 11 percent from 1982-2010 across parts of the arid areas studied in Australia, North America, the Middle East and Africa.

"In Australia, our native vegetation is superbly adapted to surviving in arid environments and it consequently uses water very efficiently," CSIRO research scientist, Dr Randall Donohue, said in a press statement. "Australian vegetation seems quite sensitive to CO2 fertilization."

While scientists have speculated that carbon dioxide may be causing such changes, this is the first study that confirmed the effects. For the study, researchers used a mathematical modeling together with satellite data adjusted to take out the observed effects of other influences such as rainfall, air temperature, the amount of light and land-use changes.

Elevated carbon dioxide levels affect the photosynthesis process of a leaf causing it to consume less water to convert sunlight into sugar. This leads to plants in arid environments increasing their number of leaves. This increase in the number of leaves can be easily detected by satellites since foliage cover is less in arid areas when compared to wet locations.

"On the face of it, elevated CO2 boosting the foliage in dry country is good news and could assist forestry and agriculture in such areas; however there will be secondary effects that are likely to influence water availability, the carbon cycle, fire regimes and biodiversity, for example," Dr Donohue concluded. "Ongoing research is required if we are to fully comprehend the potential extent and severity of such secondary effects."

The findings of the study were published in the journal US Geophysical Research Letters.


Rudd plan targets power prices

Lower energy prices through increased coal seam gas production and changes to the regulation of power prices will be pivotal to a seven-point productivity plan Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will take to the election.

The plan would require business and unions to work together in an Accord-style “pact” to boost productivity beyond the mining boom.

The push to boost coal seam gas will include less environmental regulation, pushing NSW to fast-track approval of two major developments and leaning on the Victorian government to lift an exploration moratorium.

Sources said the renewed push on power price regulation would most likely involve a post-election move to pressure NSW and Queensland to ­privatise their power assets and introduce retail competition.

Cabinet is discussing how to move the fixed carbon price to a much lower floating price on July 1, 2014, a year earlier than forecast.

In his first major speech since returning as Labor leader, Mr Rudd swung Labor’s policy pendulum back towards the business community and alarmed green groups as he identified energy prices as the No.?1 impediment to productivity and said he would look at streamlining the environmental approval process and reduce other ­regulations.

He took a swipe at the tactics of his predecessor, Julia Gillard, under whom relations with the business community plummeted, by saying he had worked hard over the past two weeks to forge a common productivity agenda between unions and business.

“I have done so because I have never believed in class warfare," he said.

Mr Rudd told the National Press Club on Thursday that the “Chinese resources boom was over" and that all parties must embrace a new “national competitiveness agenda" to achieve an annual increase in productivity of at least 2 per cent.
Concerns on high costs

“Australia is now an economy in transition, a transition from the previous decade of the China resources boom," he said. “To the decade ahead where we must now diversify our economy so that we don’t have all our eggs in one basket."

He acknowledged concerns such groups as the Business Council of Australia have been voicing for months about the costs of operating domestically, saying unless his agenda was embraced, “there is a danger that Australia will begin to price itself out of international business".

Mr Rudd’s plan adopts two Coalitions policies. One is reducing so-called green tape by streamlining the environmental approval process to remove duplication between state and federal government processes, something Ms Gillard promised and abandoned.

The Australian Financial Review revealed last week NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell wrote to Mr Rudd urging he revisit the issue. Mr Rudd said he had since had discussions with him.

The other is industrial relations changes to respond to “unintended rigidities". This includes taking the upper hand from unions when dictating wages and conditions that would apply to new developments, in particular giant resources projects.

“These projects reflect to the world the broader industrial, regulatory and investment circumstances existing in this country. We need to make them work and work well," he said.

Mr Rudd also flagged boosting education, skills and training, embracing new forms of infrastructure funding, improving the operating environment for small business, including facilitating its access to capital, and lifting business productivity. Mr Rudd said the business community must accept its share of the blame.

He cited the lack of trade and investment in the rapidly emerging power of Indonesia as a “classic example".

“This is a problem for Australian enterprise, not a problem created by Australian unions," he said.


12 July, 2013

Dissident scientist fired:  Shades of the old Soviet Union

How did Soviet values get transplanted to an Australian university?  No mystery.  The Soviets were Leftist; Universities are mostly Leftist.  Tolerance and free speech are alien to both

Last month we spotlighted here the devastating synopsis of the case against conventional climate alarmism by Macquarie University physicist Murry Salby, presented last spring in Germany.  It seems the Luca Brazis of the climate campaign have not taken this sitting down, and apparently Salby has been sacked from Macquarie.  Over on Australian science writer Joanne Nova’s blog, Salby gives an account of what has taken place.

It is a long account you can read in full at your leisure, but the overall point is that the university apparently regretted its hiring of Salby and reneged on its commitment of support for his research, is penalizing one of his graduate students, and has used technicalities to dismiss him.  Here’s the key section:
8. Under the resources Macquarie had agreed to provide, arrangements were made to present this new research at a scientific conference and in a lecture series at research centers in Europe.

9. Forms for research travel that were lodged with Macquarie included a description of the findings. Presentation of our research was then blocked by Macquarie. The obstruction was imposed after arrangements had been made at several venues (arranged then to conform to other restrictions imposed by Macquarie). Macquarie’s intervention would have silenced the release of our research.

10. Following the obstruction of research communication, as well as my earlier efforts to obtain compliance with my contract, Macquarie modified my professional duties. My role was then reduced to that of a student teaching assistant: Marking student papers for other staff – junior staff. I objected, pursuant to my appointment and provisions of my contract.

11. In February 2013, Macquarie then accused me of “misconduct”, cancelling my salary. It blocked access to my office, computer resources, even to personal equipment I had transferred from the US.

My Russian student was prohibited from speaking with me. She was isolated – left without competent supervision and the resources necessary to complete her PhD investigation, research that Macquarie approved when it lured her from Russia.

12. Obligations to present our new research on greenhouse gases (previously arranged), had to be fulfilled at personal expense.

It is likely that Tim Flannery, one of the leading climate campaign thugs who is also at Macquarie, is behind this purge.

I’m still convinced that I was correct when I said in my post on Salby last month that “I suspect there are a lot more Salbys out there in the sciences in academia.”  But his treatment shows how hazardous it can be to challenge the “consensus” if you aren’t tenured.  Which reminds me of a story on this point.

A few years ago a young lady I know, teaching in a top environmental engineering program at a top university, was approaching her tenure review.  She had a solid record of published peer reviewed technical papers on subjects having little to do with climate, and strong teaching evaluations.  But she had written one newspaper op-ed expressing skepticism about one aspect of the climate change narrative that came squarely in her field of special expertise.  This was enough for some faculty to argue her tenure should be denied.

If you know anything about science departments in leading universities, they are desperate for women faculty.  (At MIT, I am told the science departments are to look first for a woman for every new faculty vacancy.  Unofficially, of course, since an explicit policy like this would be illegal.)  Armed with this leverage, I told my friend that she should march into the dean and tell him bluntly—“If you want to give in to this crap, go right ahead.  I’m sure if I start calling around at lunchtime I can get five offers by the end of the day from other universities.”

I don’t know if she spoke to the dean thusly, but she got her tenure.


The devaluation of marriage is costing society

There is a disconnect in our national discussion about marriage. On the one hand we have had a very strong movement for same-sex marriage rights but on the other hand, there exists a general silence on the value and function of marriage in society.

If we are fighting for the right for all individuals to partake in an institution, is it not also critical that we discuss the inherent worth of that institution?

Marriage in Australia is on the decline as it is elsewhere. Social inequality is also increasing - now approaching the highs of the 1920s, according to Labor MP Andrew Leigh's Battlers and Billionaires, published just this month. Paediatric epidemiologist Fiona Stanley says: "If you want to have a future that is secure, successful and productive, you must invest in healthy mothers, healthy children and young people." One in six Australian children live below the poverty line, and one third of babies are born out of wedlock. The social justice argument for marriage is yet to be made however.

One reason for this is that high-quality de facto partnerships between men and women give the same benefits for children as traditional marriage does. But it's difficult to generalise about the effects on children of cohabiting relationships because results are entirely dependent on whether relationships are long term and stable, or fragile and part of a series.

But the fact that so many people are invested in the right to marry for same-sex couples suggests that marriage itself is still highly regarded. People are not fighting for the right of same-sex couples to cohabit or enter into civil unions, but to marry, indicating that the cultural significance in the social "fact" of marriage remains.

Despite this, media conversation around heterosexual marriage is generally coloured by cynicism and 1970s feminist-negativisms. Progressive public commentators do not like to admit that marriage is actually good for women and children, or that a happy marriage is associated with better well-being, longevity and lifetime health.

In February, Jill Filipovic of The Guardian wrote a piece condemning "outdated" notions of marriage, citing the "male as breadwinner myth" as central to her argument. Filipovic writes that "marriage confers tangible benefits to men, and far fewer to women … for women, it means more work and less pay, or the financially tenuous position of staying home full time and hoping your marriage (and only source of income) lasts". Filipovic's argument is based on the premise that a woman's economic position should always be independent from others. A woman's wealth should not be shared with her husband and vice versa, because independence and autonomy should at no point ever be compromised.

As a young woman about to have a baby, this argument does not compute. In the first few months of his life, my baby will be dependent on me, which means that I will be dependent on others, including my husband. That women are dependent at different times in their lives should not be stigmatised. Healthy interdependency in family relationships should not be constructed as the antithesis of feminism.

Filipovic argues that our society suffers from the "male as breadwinner myth". This "myth" reinforces an outdated gender role where a man works in order to provide for his family. Such a myth is believed to reinforce gender roles, and allows men to shirk their housework duties. This "male as breadwinner myth" is not just a product of popular journalism, however, it is echoed by serious feminist scholars such as Cordelia Fine, who argues in Delusions of Gender that "hard-wired accounts" portraying men as being intrinsically motivated to provide for their families are not only inaccurate, but harmful to women. They exist merely as an excuse for men to get out of doing childcare, cooking and cleaning.

This "myth" might be relevant in marriages between two university professors, who squabble over who gets to take the next research sabbatical overseas, but what Fine and Filipovic fail to acknowledge is that for a lot of women and children, having a male breadwinner around actually makes life a great deal easier. Whether such provisioning is hard-wired or not is irrelevant.

Although some women do not like to admit it,men give up a lot to be married, especially in an era of commitment-free sex. Internet forums are awash with men who voice grievances about the state of contemporary heterosexual marriage, but it has taken female advocates to bring this message to mainstream audiences. So for progressives who champion same-sex marriage but not male-female marriage, it may be timely to consider evidence which suggests that marriage may actually be conducive to health and well-being for both men and women. It may also be timely to consider that marriage may actually be a good thing for our children too.


DOCS plays 'Russian roulette' with lives

And its not getting better

The failure to intervene and save the life of two-year-old boy Zoran Ivanovski was akin to playing Russian roulette, according to a senior caseworker at the Department of Community Services.

The boy's death in August last year from multiple blunt force injuries, allegedly delivered by his mother, sparked industrial action by staff from his local DOCS office at Coniston, who described it as "tragic and avoidable".

"We play Russian roulette with every case that comes before us. To some degree that's always been a reality for us, but it's getting worse," the caseworker said.

"Unfortunately for this child, a decision was made that nobody could take the case, that it couldn't be allocated at that time."

The caseworker said the south coast Community Services office, which was repeatedly warned about the risks posed to the two-year-old, was decimated by a government freeze on the use of temporary staff to fill vacant positions.

Fairfax Media later revealed the boy was not visited by child protection workers despite multiple reports from concerned carers at Towradgi Preschool, who saw fresh bruises and bites each time he attended.

The toddler's plight was discussed at a meeting of child protection workers a day before he died, but his case was not allocated to a caseworker because others were considered a higher priority.

The caseworker said the failure to replace employees was dealt with by getting rid of one child protection team, which had only two caseworkers left in it, by moving those staff into two vacant Out-of-Home Care positions. It reduced the number of child protection teams from four to three.

He also said there had been a freeze on the use of people from the organisation's temporary staff database to fill gaps left by staff going on leave or acting in management positions.

A spokesman for Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward maintained her office's previous position that vacancy rates had remained at their lowest level in many years.

"Caseworker numbers go up and down all the time, they always have," the spokesman said. "There is no freeze on recruiting caseworkers in the Wollongong area, or in any areas across the state. There never has been.

"The government has not cut frontline child protection caseworker positions. The minister has instructed the director-general that the government expects budgeted frontline caseworker positions be filled."

The mother accused of murdering her two-year-old was expected to apply for bail on Wednesday but the case was adjourned.

Speaking for the first time since the death, Zoran's father Kire Ivanovski said he was "devastated".

Mr Ivanovski said all he had left to remember his son were a few photos. "He'll always be in my heart but now I just have his photos," he said. "I'll always see him as a little baby. But I'll never forget him."

Mr Ivanovski said his "beautiful baby boy" had been a well-behaved child who loved playing with toy trucks and cars.


Man kicked off NT bus because his Victoria's Secret model singlet was too sexy

A YOUNG man has been refused passage on a Darwin bus because the driver deemed his singlet to be too racy.

Twenty-two year old Daniel Willis attempted to board a bus with his girlfriend on Sunday afternoon but the driver told him he would not let him on "because you can't get on with that singlet".

Mr Willis' tank top depicts a Victoria's Secret model posing in her underwear, which he bought from a surf shop in NSW.

"It's not offensive - I'm a real beachy person and it's just a print on the front of a beachy singlet," he said. "No one has ever said anything bad about it before.

"Victoria's Secret models are on television and (billboards) all the time. Maybe (the bus driver) is living a bit in the past. It's the 21st century and times have moved on."

In the end Mr Willis and his girlfriend were forced to walk to their destination.


11 July, 2013

Storm in a teacup (1)

OPPOSITION leader Tony Abbott has come under fire after telling a female journalist to ?calm down? when questioned on claims for travel expenses he was asked to repay following his Battlelines book tour.

Guardian Australia journalist Bridie Jabour was seeking a comment from Mr Abbott at a pie factory press conference this morning when the incident occurred.

Mr Abbott, who was accompanied by Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, was more than happy to don a cap and white coat in one of his trademark shopfloor photo ops but he was less willing to answer questions on the expenses he was forced to repay that were incurred while promoting his book Battlelines.

Ms Jabour's response on Twitter later was short and sweet. All i have to say is: Calmer than you are. #biglebowski #calmdownbridie

The hashtag created by Ms Jabour in response, #calmdownbridie, was Tweeted almost 2000 times over the course of the day.  The episode culminated in globally renowned ‘God’ account @TheTweetOfGod tweeting Abbott: “Attention @TonyAbbottMHR: this is God. Calm down, sweetie.”

The God user has 833,000 followers on Twitter while Abbott struggles along with 140,000 followers.  Kevin Rudd? He has more followers than God, with almost 1.3 million.


Storm in a teacup (2)

FOOTAGE of Kevin Rudd patting the head of a disabled woman has left a disability advocate "shaking with rage".

Comedian Stella Young, who is also a disability campaigner, said the PM's behaviour showed Australians had a long way to go to change patronising and disrespectful attitudes.

The clip, part of a story on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) on ABC's 7.30 Report on Tuesday night, showed Mr Rudd posing for a photo with a woman in a wheelchair before patting or ruffling her hair.

Ms Young says disabled and short-statured people are considered cute or a novelty and aren't treated with the dignity and respect afforded to others.  "When you face those attitudes on the bus or on the train or at the supermarket, it's pretty awful," Ms Young said.  "But when you're faced with these attitudes by the prime minister of the nation, it's absolutely gobsmacking."

She said Mr Rudd's actions were probably unintentional, but was surprised he hadn't been briefed on how to interact with disabled people.  "If you could show me video evidence of Kevin Rudd patting the head of an adult non-disabled woman, I'll eat my words," Ms Young said.

"(But) can you imagine him patting one of his female parliamentary colleagues on the head? Absolutely not. A woman in his local community? I don't think so."

Changing patronising and condescending attitudes is as important as improving physical access for disabled people, Ms Young says.


Plenty of words but still no plan to protect borders

OF all the policy failures, disappointments and mistakes under the federal Labor governments of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, the inability to adequately protect Australia's maritime borders from boats commanded by people smugglers has been the greatest source of disappointment and anger with the public.

After inheriting a policy from John Howard which was having maximum impact by deterring almost all people smugglers and adventurous asylum seekers, the first Rudd administration set about winding back both the harsher elements of the Coalition's approach and dismantling the core of the national response.

Mr Howard had already started taking the uncompromising elements out of his plan, scaling back some of the inhospitable detention centres and placing many children and families into community accommodation.

Mr Rudd, with strong public backing, went further and set about getting all young people out of detention and closed down off shore processing. He also took away the prohibitive temporary protection visas, giving those granted asylum full access to work and family reunion.

Mr Howard's tow-back policy, implemented after a spike in arrivals in 2002/03, was used sparingly but to great effect. By turning around a handful of vessels, the lottery was weighted against the people smugglers and their clients. The armed forces might not have liked it - and neither did the Indonesians - but as some retired officers have said in recent days, it can be done with a degree of difficulty.

Mr Rudd's new response is to dismiss Tony Abbott's plans to revive what Mr Howard did as unworkable in changed circumstances, to admit mistakes in not adjusting to what he says were evolving international conditions in 2009 and arrange a regional summit through the good offices of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The Australian public, alarmed and frustrated at the thousands of asylum seekers arriving on boats being intercepted at the rate of more than one a day, wants more than just talk. Mr Rudd must in the days and weeks left before the election spell out a comprehensive plan.

Immigration Minister Tony Burke has given the government's current position some clarity, including an admission of failure on the ill-thought out Malaysian plan. The next step has to clarity around the way ahead. The public knows where we've been on this.

At the same time Mr Abbott needs to give more detail and explanation of his approach to solving these problems. He might have found comfort in his three line mantra while he was facing Ms Gillard but the arrival of Mr Rudd back on the scene has changed the game.

Yesterday's Newspoll take the major parties back to where they were at the 2010 election and makes what was a very lops-sided contest a real and unpredictable competition. Mr Rudd is within striking distance, having won himself back into the hearts of many voters - some of whom seem foolishly ready to either forget or forgive what were grievous policy failures and mistakes between 2007 and 2010.

Mr Abbott cannot - and should not - get away with the wishful claim that because Mr Howard did it, he could do it again. If that was his guiding principle, he would be embracing genuine and urgently necessary workplace reform and not squibbing it for three more years. Mr Abbott and his immigrations spokesman Scott Morrison protest their position is well known but the backstop to any hard questions is that because it worked under the last Coalition Government, it will work again. We do need greater certainty about what Mr Abbott will do and how these plans meet the changes that have occurred in our region since 2007.

If Mr Abbott doesn't flesh out his plans and priorities across the board - not just in relation to asylum seekers - he could see the gap between his standing and that of Mr Rudd grow even greater and allow the Labor Party to sneak back into office with a cheap coat of paint and some tricked up rhetoric. Mr Abbott has often said this election is vital to the nation's future. He has to demonstrate he takes that sentiment seriously and bring the electorate into his confidence. The voters are ready for some plain speaking.


Rudd has got the unions on the run

Labor's Steve Georganas was part of Julia Gillard's thumping, 71-31 crushing of Kevin Rudd in the February 2012 leadership ballot.

But even then he felt the tug of self-interest, quietly explaining to colleagues: "She deserved 12 months to turn things around."

Towards the end of that period, the affable Georganas had seen enough and was instrumental in persuading Gillard's marquee supporters in South Australia, Penny Wong and Mark Butler, to switch back to Rudd.

Polling had identified Hindmarsh as a near-certain gain for the Coalition in a looming anti-Labor landslide.

The inner-Adelaide seat had been hard-won by Georganas in 2004 by just 108 votes, but consolidation since meant a swing of more than 6 per cent was required to see it change hands.

Around the country, however, Labor seats on that margin, even some with twice that buffer, particularly in NSW, had been considered genuinely vulnerable such was the walloping coming Labor's way.

Until now that is.  The return of Rudd has worked better even than was hoped, injecting new life into the contest and suggesting an unlikely win for Labor is at least possible.

Rudd's approach has been calculated, conscientious and cunning - the product of long months of contemplation on the backbench.

It has allowed him to hit the ground running - clocking up nearly 22,000 kilometres of travel, and allowing a series of important and symbolic policy announcements in his first fortnight back.

His prime target has been "old politics" but that can be divided into two hemispheres: Tony Abbott's negativity and Labor's sullied brand.

Where Gillard felt she was forced to combat Abbott's aggression with a fight of her own, Rudd has risen above the fray, positioning himself as the new, constructive way forward, and casting the bitter partisan divisions of the past as the country's real enemy. Like Bob Hawke in 1983, who campaigned on the slogan "bringing Australia together", Rudd wants to leverage the patriotism and feel-good factor of a yearning for national unity over social division.

It's a strategy that is already paying off in spades, propelling Rudd to a huge 22-point lead over Abbott as preferred PM, according to a Newspoll that also puts the two sides level-pegging on 50-50 after preferences.

Abbott looks unnerved, briefly resembling Goodfellas mobster Jimmy Two Times during a tense news conference on Tuesday:

"I always said it was going to be a contest. I always said it was going to be a contest and you know, it's the clearest possible choice. It's the clearest possible choice. It's the clearest possible contest."

The other leg to Rudd's approach has been the attack on union domination of Labor, its so-called faceless men. That started with the spectacular assault on the notoriously fetid culture of the NSW branch via a lightning 30-day federal intervention.

And it was followed this week by an extraordinary revamp of Labor's parliamentary machinery to make it impossible for leaders to be knifed as he was in 2010 (and as he just did to Gillard a fortnight ago).

This was Rudd the Labor movement outsider, taking on a century of vested interests that, his instincts tell him, voters loathe and, his memory tells him, cannot be trusted to stick with him.

Rudd's authority has never been higher than it is right now, yet it may go higher. The party has come back to him on bended knee, desperate for the salvation only he seems capable of.

He is delivering on his part of the bargain, instantly rocketing a dysfunctional, riven rabble back into competitor status. But his price for those who tore him down will be prohibitive.

The people's prime minister is not just lending his party access to the authority he enjoys in voter-land, he's entrenching that public involvement via a series of reforms that will fundamentally alter the balance of power within Labor.

They mean a leader once chosen cannot be removed until the next election and, even then, only in the event of a loss at the polls. In other words, it is not merely the ALP membership that is being empowered, it is the people too.

Yet for all the silo-shattering impact on the cosseted power of unions and their factional agents in the parliamentary Labor Party, the real work of addressing Labor's undemocratic core remains.

This is the next big task and those considering the rule change at a caucus on July 22 are already worrying about what an unremovable Rudd may do if he somehow wins in 2013, then comes after them.

These fears are well-founded. Unions buy their influence in the ALP through affiliation. This dubious process allows them to pay the ALP subscription for a set, but entirely fictional, number of their own members, then deploy those votes as a bloc.

This murky practice runs counter to the push for transparency and is particularly odious given the ALP receives millions of taxpayer dollars to run election campaigns.

Georganas' seat is looking a whole lot safer under Rudd but the price for the unions who backed him and his colleagues in preselections may be high indeed.


10 July, 2013

The Queensland Government hopes to open Palm Island, in the state's north, to tourism

Palm island is indeed wasted on a people who have turned it into a hellhole.  It should be put to better use.  It is not the ancestral home of most of the blacks living there so there should be no objection to relocating the troublemakers

PALM Island - once rated the most violent place on earth outside a war zone - may be the state's next tourism hotspot.

Premier Campbell Newman has ordered State Cabinet help make the infamous riot township off the coast of Townsville into a popular tourist destination.

The decision was prompted following Mr Newman's recent five-hour tour of the island - his first visit to the troubled community.

The briefing notes, obtained exclusively by The Courier-Mail in a Right to Information request, show he felt "greatly inspired by the potential" of Palm Island after his February visit.

Mr Newman instructed Cabinet to do whatever they can to "ultimately lead to better opportunities for the people of Palm Island".

Palm Island is an idyllic tropical island paradise fringed by white sandy beaches, coral, and waters teeming with fish.

Home to a 2000-strong Aboriginal population, the former mission is notorious for the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee and mob riots in 2004 - and a malaise of high unemployment, violence, and welfare dependency.

The RTI request revealed the strife-torn community has obtained $1.2 million for a new ferry landing.  Under the Premier's support, it is earmarked for another $1.7 million to build a retail precinct, cultural zone, foreshore upgrade and eco-tourism development.

"I am now asking that all ministers in the Queensland Government provide assistance where possible to support the council's plan to drive economic development," Mr Newman wrote in a letter to Tourism Minister Jann Stuckey, dated March 12 this year.

"I am keen for you to explore what can be delivered (perhaps consider a pilot program) within the next few years to give tourists visiting Palm Island a unique experience of its local culture and hospitality."

Ms Stuckey said last night she had been in touch with Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council to express the Government's support for economic and tourism development on the island.

Palm Island Mayor Alf Lacey said his council had no illusions about the difficult task to reinvent the strife-torn township.

"We've got no plans to make it like Hamilton Island or Gold Coast," said Cr Lacey.  "We want tourists to come visit, go fishing, spear mud crabs, ride horses on the beach, do artwork, and experience the authentic Australian culture."

Cr Lacey said the island was no longer the "most violent place outside a combat zone", as it was listed in the Guinness Book of Records in 1998.

"It's time for Palm to find new feet, go on a new journey, make economic gains. Too long we've been on the taxpayer purse strings," he said.

Palm Island has an average crime rate of three offences a day, latest figures show.  The Queensland Police Service online crime site reveals 1018 offences - or one for every two residents - on the former mission in the past 12 months.  Most offences are for liquor (222), assault (203), unlawful entry (95), drugs (86) and weapons (three).  There have been five homicides, not including the infamous Mulrunji death-in-custody, out of 9241 offences over the past decade.

Tourism expert Judy Freeman said it was extremely difficult to make a success out of indigenous tourism.

"There are just so many obstacles," said Mrs Freeman, an indigenous tourism consultant and founder of Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Cairns.

"Do they really want tourists? This sort of venture can divide a community.  "And are there enough people to actually run the business? This is not going to be an overnight success. It needs a lot of energy and funding to keep it afloat beyond a three-year electoral cycle."

Palm Island, about 65km north of Townsville, can only be accessed by air or sea and is a 20-minute charter flight or two-hour ferry ride one-way from the city.

Island delights:

 *  White sandy beaches, small bays and steep forested mountains with waters teeming with fish, crabs and lobster

 *  Palm Island arts centre with vivid artwork depicting the dugong, crocodile and spirit totems of the island's different tribal clans

 *  Visitors stay in a 11-room motel, featuring double bedrooms with ensuite, surrounded by razor-wire security fencing

 *  Coolgaree bar and bistro sells coffee and lunches and mid-strength beer from 5pm to 9pm with beautiful views over the ocean

 *  Guests are advised to follow community protocols and not roam the streets alone at night because of potential assaults or attack from packs of wild dogs


Heat builds on Kevin Rudd over asylum boat tow-backs

LABOR is facing increasing pressure to reconsider turning back asylum-seeker boats and stare down threats of self-harm from passengers demanding they be taken to Australia.

Former high-level military officers have declared that turning back asylum-seeker boats en route to Australia is possible and would send a message to Jakarta that it needed to crack down on the people-smuggling trade.

Immigration Minister Tony Burke yesterday warned asylum-seekers who seized control of ships at sea by any means should face a criminal investigation and potential rejection of their asylum applications. His warning came after The Australian revealed that an attempt to return a group of asylum-seekers to Indonesia was aborted last week when they threatened to kill themselves. The group had been picked up in international waters by a Maltese-flagged oil and chemical tanker, the Sichem Hawk.

As Opposition Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison raised the issue of the Tampa in 2001 and flagged using Australia's elite SAS troops to secure vessels being confronted with such threats, Tony Abbott reiterated the Coalition would turn back boats where it was safe to do so.

"What we will ensure is that we are not played for mugs by the people smugglers and their customers. We will not be played for mugs," the Opposition Leader said. If it wins government at the election later this year, the Coalition will reintroduce the Howard-era policy of towing asylum-seeker boats back to Indonesian waters.

A joint communique issued after talks between Kevin Rudd and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last week - warning against "unilateral actions which might jeopardise such a comprehensive regional approach and which might cause operational or other difficulties to any party" - did not mention the Coalition but has been interpreted as criticism of its proposed tow-back policy.

Mr Burke said Mr Morrison had acknowledged "that when they say they'll tow the boats to Indonesia, they'll actually only go to the edge of Indonesian territory". And Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said that under John Howard only five or six of the 250 boats that arrived when he was prime minister were successfully turned back.

"Most of the other times when they tried to turn back boats, they couldn't," Mr Clare said. "The boat was sabotaged and the people (aboard) ended up going to Nauru or Christmas Island. The second problem is it's not safe."

But Mr Abbott told the ABC's 7.30 program last night that Indonesia had never explicitly approved the Howard government's turning around of asylum-seeker boats. "I'm not saying it's hazard-free but what has been done in the past can be done in the future," he said. He said the most dangerous thing of all was to do nothing, leading to more deaths at sea.

Former senior military officers yesterday insisted that because boats had been turned back before, it could be done again.

Retired major general Jim Molan told The Australian turning back the boats would send a strong signal to Jakarta that Australia was serious about stopping them.

General Molan, who served in Jakarta for five years and worked closely with the Indonesian national security system, said Indonesia could stop the boats fairly quickly if it wanted to. "The main reason to (send back boats) is as a signal to everyone involved, especially the Indonesian government," he said. "Indonesia just needs to know that the Australian government is serious about what it's doing."

Former navy chief Vice Admiral David Ritchie told The Australian that while the practice would be risky, it could be done. If the government told the navy to turn the boats back the navy would do it and do it well, he said.

He said attempts were made to sabotage boats in the past but that did not stop the process working.

"Of course (sabotage) is going to happen," he said. "Those people are desperate to get to Australia and you're trying to stop them so they'll do whatever they can."

Admiral Ritchie said he would probably agree with those who argued that Indonesia could not legally protest against boats being turned back by Australia if the people smugglers were using Indonesian-flagged boats with Indonesian crews.

General Molan said the most effective measure against the flow of boats was for Indonesia to use its existing laws against people smugglers. Indonesia had clamped down very effectively on terrorism within its borders and could do the same for the people-smuggling trade, he said. "They are not interested in doing it at the moment," he said. "Our challenge is to make them interested in doing it.

"We make them interested in doing it by encouraging them, by working co-operatively, by showing our resolve and by impressing on them the magnitude of the problem for Australia."

Current navy chief, Ray Griggs, who commanded a frigate during the 2001 border protection operations, has warned that turning back boats could prove dangerous for both the Australian crews and the people smugglers.

Vice Admiral Griggs is also known to be concerned about high levels of post traumatic stress among crews on border protection operations, particularly those who have had to repeatedly recover bodies from the ocean after asylum boat sinkings.

Former Australian Defence Force chief Chris Barrie said yesterday that because the opposition had so publicly declared its turn back the boats policy, it would be very difficult to do and the consequences could be "terrible".

Admiral Barrie said the people smugglers were very likely to sabotage boats by sinking them or setting fire to them.

He said the Howard government's policy was brought into effect without being "declared" and caught the people-smugglers by surprise. While it had worked for a time in the past, it would be very difficult and risky to do now, he said. "All of the safety conditions for saving life at sea must be met before you could even consider implementing such a policy," Admiral Barrie said.


Taxis in Queensland will soon be wired for sound with recordings to be introduced next year

HUMAN Rights campaigners have criticised a Government move to allow taxi drivers to make audio recordings of passengers.  State Transport Minister Scott Emerson will introduce legislation next year in a move he says will improve safety.

It follows a 2005 move that saw video cameras in Queensland cabs.

But President of the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties Michael Cope said audio recordings were not justified and were only being introduced as a "debt collection" measure.

Speaking on ABC Radio this morning he said: "The issue is the collection of vast amounts of personal data without justification.

"The problem is there is no evidence to support the proposition that recording audio in taxi cabs would reduce assaults.

"We say it will be consistently used to collect fares and there is no other business that is allowed to use audio recordings to collect debts.  "Where does it stop?"

Mr Cope also suggested it was a concern that taxi drivers would have so much personal information about their passengers, including a phone number, address, picture and audio recording.

Mr Emerson said capturing sound inside cabs would act as a further deterrent to assaults against taxi drivers and passengers.

"We won't stand for attacks on taxi drivers, but audio recordings and cameras can deter and ensure additional evidence when a crime is committed," he said.

He said the recording would be encrypted and stored on a hard drive in the taxi.

However, the recordings will be automatically overwritten after 72 hours, up from 32 hours currently allowable for the storage of video recordings.

"This Government is committed to providing all Queensland taxi drivers with a safe work environment however this must be balanced with passengers' and taxi drivers' right to privacy," Mr Emerson said.

Queensland Taxi Council CEO Benjamin Wash said the introduction of audio recording would bring Queensland cabs into line with safety innovations used across the world.

But most other states in Australia currently do not allow the capture of audio, except in a "distress situation" when an alarm automatically triggers the recording.


Rudd takes power to change leaders off faceless men and hands it to Labor rank-and-file

Gough Whitlam had problems with "faceless men" too

KEVIN Rudd has torn apart more than 100 years of Labor Party tradition to remove the power of the faceless men who knifed him in 2010.

Instead, the power to remove and install a new leader will be in the hands of rank-and-file members of the party, making it nearly impossible for a party leader to be removed.

The changes would likely have stopped Mr Rudd from removing Julia Gillard as leader two weeks ago and also stopped her from knifing Mr Rudd in 2010.

"You want to be able to say to the Australian people, you vote for this guy, you vote for this woman, they end up staying on for the duration of the term," Mr Rudd said.

"This rule change is clear. If a leader of the Australian Labor Party takes the party to the election and they are returned to form the government of the nation, that person remains as leader of the party and the government for the duration of that term."

MPs will be recalled to Canberra to vote on the proposals in a special Caucus meeting on July 22.

The changes are almost certain to pass, with one of the powerbrokers who tried to prevent Mr Rudd's return to power saying the party could not afford to rebuff him now.

"I think most people would understand the consequences of a rejection of the proposal," the Labor faction boss said.  "It would be catastrophic for Kevin."

Mr Rudd announced his plans last night after discussing them with his Cabinet.

But some MPs are angry that they were not consulted before the announcement.

The Prime Minister faces claims he is motivated by vengeance.  But he denied he was using the shake-up to get back at those who dumped him just over three years ago.  "It's a principle that goes way beyond my individual circumstances, Julia's individual circumstances," he said.

Under the changes, rank-and-file members would get 50 per cent of the votes in a leadership contest, making it difficult for MPs to conspire against a popular prime minister.

Plotters would need support from three quarters of the Caucus to call on a leadership spill, instead of the current one third required, if the leader did not resign or allow a challenge.

Mr Rudd said the changes would prevent Labor powerbrokers confronting the leader "one day or one night and saying 'OK sunshine, it's over'."  This would bring an end to Labor's revolving door of leadership and attract people to join the Labor Party, he said.

In a sweetener for the Caucus, MPs will once again be granted the right to elect ministers that Mr Rudd took off them when he was last prime minister.

A full ballot of members would take up to 30 days, in a move that could effectively place the leadership in limbo.

The deputy leader would act as a caretaker leader if the position was vacant.

As part of the overhaul, the leadership will automatically be put to a vote if Labor loses the election. Mr Rudd would not say whether he would stand for renomination if that happened.


9 July, 2013

Waste Watch

Why have one when you can have two for twice the price?

That's the attitude our government usually takes towards our federation, with the Commonwealth government time and time again duplicating bureaucracies federally in order to manage state responsibilities.

The latest example, a new Commonwealth government approval process for coal seam gas  projects that essentially duplicates existing state regulations, will cost taxpayers $10 million a year and employ 50 new staff.

This is not to say our state governments are doing a good job at reducing expenditure.

Echoing Sydney's rainbow pedestrian crossing, the Queensland Government has spent $19 million on a racetrack in Toowoomba: $12 million to lay down a drought-proof synthetic track and another $7 million to rip it up again and lay the natural stuff.

And as part of sandbagging efforts in Mackay (the political kind), the Queensland government spent $7.4 million on another racetrack to prop up the re-election prospects of the local MP. 'Wastetrack' might be a better word for it.

Despite the Commonwealth's substantial debt and deficit, our politicians will announce novel and imaginative ways to spend more of your money on projects of dubious value during the upcoming federal election campaign.

They are already giving it a red hot go.

The Commonwealth has provided a $250,000 grant towards the 'Mortels Sheepskin Tourist Centre' which will have displays for tourists 'focussing on the history of sheepskin manufacturing'. No doubt it is destined to become one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

But credit where credit is due. One welcome development is the announcement that the Australian Electoral Commission will scrap its national tally room for a saving of $1.2 million a year.

The above is  a press release from  the  Centre for Independent Studies, dated 8th.   Enquiries to  Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Dangers in push for university education equality

    by: Kevin Donnelly

DOES every secondary student, regardless of ability, motivation or intelligence, have the right to go to university, and does increased participation, especially from disadvantaged students, compromise standards?

Newly appointed Higher Education Minister Kim Carr appears to say "no" to the first part of the question and "yes" to the second. In a recent interview Carr is quoted as saying that the dramatic increase in enrolments since the ALP government introduced a demand-driven system may have compromised quality.

Carr states, "given the strength of growth in demand, it is appropriate to (think about) quality and excellence" and "we need to consider refocusing government investment to get the best possible use of public money".

Carr's reservations are in striking contrast to Julia Gillard's belief, when education minister, that millions must be spent increasing the proportion of disadvantaged students entering university from 16 per cent to 20 per cent by 2020, and that increased enrolments would not lead to falling standards.

In a March 2009 speech in response to the Bradley review of higher education, Gillard argues that equity is an important moral issue and that the "hoary old conservative argument that equity and standards are incompatible is nothing but a myth".

In addition to establishing a National Centre for Student Equity and offering universities additional funding linked to enrolling greater numbers of disadvantaged students, Gillard argued in favour of positive discrimination for university selection.

Gillard is wrong. However unpopular it might seem, not all students have the ability or intelligence to cope with or benefit from a university education.

As US academic Charles Murray argues in Real Education, "academic achievement is tied to academic ability" and not all students have the same level of ability.

Take the subject of English. As someone who taught in Victorian secondary schools for 18 years, marked Year 12 papers and was a member of the Panel of Examiners, the reality is that students' language ability ranges from very poor to excellent as measured on a scale of 1 to 10.

Those students at the lower end of the scale find it impossible to cope with the demands of a university course as proven by the number of universities around Australia that now have bridging courses and remedial classes in areas like essay writing.

And concerns about falling standards are nothing new. A 2002 study titled Changes in Academic Work, involving interviewing academics at 12 universities, concludes that "almost one out of two of our respondents thought that the intellectual quality of incoming students had declined, and that this was a change for the worse".

The federal Labor government's decision to impose quotas for disadvantaged students only compounds the problem. As noted by the Group of Eight's Policy Note No 3, February 2012, the push for improved equity has led to a dramatic increase in the number of students with Australian Tertiary Admission Rank scores of 50 or less entering university.

Between 2008-11, offers to students with ATARs less than 50 doubled, representing "nearly 20 per cent of all growth in offers to school leavers". As a result, in teacher training courses, for example, it's not unusual for students with ATARs as low as 50 to be accepted.

Gillard's argument that all students are entitled to a university education, in addition to compromising standards, is guilty of privileging academic studies over vocational education and training.

ALP governments and the cultural Left, since the late 60s and early 70s when technical schools were closed around Australia, have long argued that a university education is the preferred option.

Ignored is that an apprenticeship or trade can be a valued, rewarding and challenging career. Also ignored is that the fact a working class student might prefer a trade to a degree does not prove the education system is elitist and inequitable.

The fact that trade and skills courses have been treated so poorly in terms of prestige and funding explains why, compared to many other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, Australia has such a low level of participation.

Based on 2010 figures the percentage of population aged 25-64 with vocational qualifications in Australia is just under 20 per cent compared with Finland, one of the top performers in international mathematics and science tests, where the figure is closer to 40 per cent.

While attractive to those on the cultural Left whose mantra is equity and equality of outcomes, the argument that universities should be open to all belies a levelling down, egalitarian philosophy that is counterproductive.

Far better is an education system based on meritocracy where only those considered capable are allowed entry. The alternative, as argued by the author and philosopher Iris Murdoch, is to promote a non-selective system, one that makes "the teaching of accuracy and truthfulness harder at all levels" and that will "produce people who imagine they are educated when they are not".


Schools defend right to expel homosexuals

A bid to overturn controversial laws allowing private schools to expel students simply because they are gay has been rejected by some faith-based schools as a threat to their religious freedom.

Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich will soon introduce a private member's bill to State Parliament to abolish the law, which he says could be used against highly vulnerable teenagers.  "It is already so hard to come to grips with your sexuality," said Mr Greenwich, who is gay.

Under the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, it is unlawful for education authorities to refuse admission to, or expel, a student for being gay, lesbian or transgender.

Private schools and colleges are explicitly exempt from this law.

The bid to remove those exemptions is expected to be opposed by most religious school authorities, who told The Sun-Herald that, while there are few, if any, examples of students being expelled on the basis of their sexuality, it was important to retain the exemption to preserve their religious freedom.

The exemption is similar to many that exist in federal anti-discrimination laws for religious organisations, including schools.

Ian Baker, acting executive director of the NSW Catholic Education Commission, said the fact that so few, if any, cases of students being expelled were widely known was testament to the fact schools tended to treat such students with sensitivity.

"It speaks for itself," he said. "It's exercised with great caution and consideration. The objective is not to punish, but to protect the rights of those families who send their child to a school based on a religious faith.

"We couldn't agree to the exemptions being removed unless we could be assured that there's an alternative way of guaranteeing freedom of religion, which is an internationally recognised human right."

Laurie Scandrett, chief executive of the Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation, agreed: "Most private schools have a religious ethos, they stand for something, and if these exemptions were removed that would break down the ability of these schools to maintain whatever their particular ethos is."

But Justin Koonin, from the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said he questioned why schools wanted the laws if they did not use them. "It's not just that the student can be expelled, they can be discriminated against within the school environment, and the school doesn't have to do anything about it."

In a submission to the recent Senate inquiry into federal anti-discrimination laws, the Human Rights Council of Australia argued that organisations that are wholly or partially funded with public funds, including religious schools, should not be granted exemptions on religious grounds. "It is reasonable for the state to require public funds to be expended and applied wholly in accordance with principles of nondiscrimination," it said.

The most recent national report on same-sex-attracted young people found school was the most common place they experienced abuse.

While in opposition in 2011, Greg Smith, now NSW Attorney-General, was open to reviewing the law.

"I personally think it is something that should be reviewed, looked at with a view to perhaps changing it. Times have changed," he said.

Mr Smith is on leave but a spokesman for the acting Minister for Justice, Brad Hazzard, said the "government will consider Mr Greenwich's bill following its introduction as it does with all private member's bills".

Not all religious education authorities were opposed to removing the exemptions, though.

"While Jewish schools jealously guard against any incursion into our ability to teach the Jewish religion in a manner consistent with its tenets, and consider those tenets and that ability fundamental to our existence," said Len Hain, executive director of the Australian Council of Jewish Schools, "we do not see any practical limitation, or the imposition of any practical burden on that ability from the amendments deleting the specific exclusions to the Anti-Discrimination Act."


Qld. Government heads to Supreme Court in bid to block pay rise for public servants

Great to hear!

PROTESTERS have marched on the Government's executive building in George Street to voice their dissent at the LNP's move to block an interim pay rise for public servants just days after awarding MPs a $57,000 pay rise.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek and his fellow ministers this morning defended the pay rise as they headed into a Cabinet meeting.

"What people need to realise is that when you factor in the changes to our allowances and the payments to the parties that have been halved, there's no net cost to the taxpayer," he said.

Mr Langbroek said public servants were being let down by their union leaders.  "They're the ones who are resisting the attempts to sort out a deal at the industrial relations commission," he said.

Transport Minister Scott Emerson would not say whether he would support a Private Members' Bill that will be introduced by Katter MP Shane Knuth aimed stopping the pay rise.

"The pay is linked by the tribunal to the Federal Parliament. It's up to parliament to make that decision," Mr Emerson said.

 PROTESTERS have marched on the Government's executive building in George Street to voice their dissent at the LNP's move to block an interim pay rise for public servants just days after awarding MPs a $57,000 pay rise.

The group chanted "LNP listen up, Queensland has had enough" as Cabinet met inside.

Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams told the crowd the government should have acted 12 months ago and never awarded MPs the 41 per cent pay rise.

"This single increase is more than the average Queenslander earns in a whole year," Mr Battams said.  "It's about time they did to themselves what they have been doing to us for 18 months."

He described the move to block an interim 2.2 per cent pay rise for public servants as the height of hypocrisy.


8 July, 2013

Ministers passed buck as men died

AS the home insulation death toll continued to climb in 2009 and 2010, state and federal Labor ranks were locked in a tit-for-tat battle of letters, with both claiming the other was not doing enough to fix the debacle.

Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the death of the third young man, 22-year-old Mitchell Sweeney, could have been prevented had former Bligh government minister Cameron Dick and then-federal environment minister Peter Garrett stopped "buck-passing" through a series of letters beginning in October 2009.

"While three boys died, governments couldn't work out who was going to implement safety measures," he said.

State coroner Michael Barnes last week found the bungled home insulation scheme was rushed and that any dangers should have been "foreseen and mitigated". Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised for the program.

Rueben Barnes, 16, Matthew James Fuller, 25, and Mr Sweeney were killed while working in Queensland as part of the doomed scheme, launched in 2009.

Mr Fuller was electrocuted in October 2009, Mr Barnes in November that year and Mr Sweeney in February 2010.

During that same period of time, letters, used as evidence in the coronial inquest, were exchanged between Mr Dick and Mr Garrett, with both sides urging the other to step in and take action.

"The buck-passing between the two (levels of government) had to stop," Mr Bleijie said. "That should have stopped. Someone should have taken responsibility for it and just got on with the job, or shut the program down earlier, and then we possibly could have prevented, particularly, the third young man's death."

The first letter from Mr Garrett to Mr Dick, dated October 28, 2009, asked the former Bligh government to consider setting up a coronial inquest to "ensure that the full circumstances of the incident (were) investigated".

On November 20, Mr Dick wrote to Mr Garrett demanding "urgent action" and expressed concern about training requirements for subcontractors, who he believed could have been "employing untrained workers, exposing them to unacceptable risks".

"It is clear from Queensland's experience that your Department needs to strengthen prequalification requirements and mandate safety training requirements for installers registered with the program," he wrote. "Such action should be taken immediately."

On February 18, 2010, he again wrote to the Federal Government insisting that the Queensland Electrical Safety Office had formed the view that "more (could) be done to protect workers and householders from the potential dangers that foil insulation poses".

In a letter from Mr Garrett to Mr Dick, dated February 26, he wrote that a "clear and consistent regulatory framework is required to address both the existing safety concerns and any future installations", adding that "Queensland is best placed to lead in this area".

"I request your urgent assistance to resolve this matter," he wrote.

On March 5, Mr Dick wrote to then-minister assisting the minister for climate change, Greg Combet, arguing the Federal Government needed to take the lead.

"Minister Garrett suggested that Queensland is best placed to lead the development of a clear and consistent regulatory framework," he said. "While Queensland stands ready to assist, my view is that the Commonwealth Government needs to lead in relation to legacy issues arising out of the old Home Insulation Program, as well as all aspects of the new scheme."

Yesterday, Mr Dick said he stood by the comments he made in the letters, which he also used to detail the steps the state had taken at the time to minimise future risk.

"At the time, I made it clear to departmental officers that they should take all necessary steps to ensure Queenslanders were protected and in particular that the laws protecting workers were enforced," he said.

Mr Garrett could not be reached for comment.


Labor unveils hard line on asylum seekers who destroy passports

Long overdue

ASYLUM seekers who fly to Indonesia and dump their passports and identity papers before boarding people-smuggling boats to Australia will have their applications "sent to the back of the queue".

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will also unveil before the election a tougher test for refugee applications, and there are hopes of expanding the fly-home deportation policy for bogus asylum seekers that exists with Sri Lanka to new countries, including Indonesia.

But the get-tough approach will be balanced with an immediate order to free as many children as possible as the number of minors in detention climbs to 1800.

Under the new rules, which come into force immediately, applicants with identification papers will be dealt with first while those who destroy their papers or refuse to co-operate will be considered last.

Why we'll fight people smugglers

Immigration Minister Tony Burke confirmed the changes would apply to 20,000 asylum seekers who would now be processed after their applications had been kept in limbo for months. The changes did not require new legislation.

“If you refuse to co-operate in providing documents you're right at the back of the queue. That starts now," Mr Burke said.

But Labor's shift in asylum-seeker policy falls short of the Coalition's previously announced position that there would be a "strong presumption that illegal boat people who have destroyed their documents not be given refugee status".In an exclusive column for The Sunday Telegraph today, Foreign Minister Bob Carr warned Australia's immigration policy risked being outsourced to criminals.

Senator Carr said: "If this persists we would see arrivals of close to 40,000 a year. That would be equivalent to nearly 20 per cent of our annual migration program - 20 per cent of our intake now being delivered by people smugglers.

"Do people smugglers screen out customers and only take those fleeing persecution? Don't be ridiculous. They're interested in $10,000 a head.

"Are we really prepared to allow criminal rackets to control a significant slice of our immigration program? To see that 40,000 figure rise higher?"

There are hopes a deal could be struck with Indonesia and other countries to deport failed asylum seekers, like the one already in place with Sri Lanka.

Senator Carr and Mr Burke signalled a willingness to consider the ideas of Jesuit law professor Father Frank Brennan, a confidant of Mr Rudd, who proposed flying failed asylum seekers "safely" back to Indonesia. While that would require a deal with Indonesia, Mr Burke said the scheme was working well with Sri Lanka, with 1200 flown back this year.

"If you don't activate our legal obligations I want you on a plane as quick as we can find one," Mr Burke said.

Senator Carr said: “Father Frank Brennan's contribution to the debate is welcome. With a humanitarian instinct and a concern for human rights, he recognises we need to break the people smugglers business model. That was behind his suggestion that Australia and Indonesia could enter into an arrangement to return asylum seekers from Australia to Indonesia for processing provided they had no fear of persecution in Indonesia.”

But he also confirmed he had ordered the release of 18 minors from a Tasmanian centre holding 300 children and teenagers.  "I want children out of detention," Mr Burke said.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison rejected Indonesia's attack on Tony Abbott's "unilateral" policy to turn back boats. "We will make the decisions on our sides of the border," he said. But he said the Coalition was unhappy with the current situation where Australian vessels were rescuing asylum seekers in Indonesian waters then processing them under Australian law.


Good teachers trump small classes: OECD adviser

I have  been saying this for years --JR

Australian children could be achieving the same stellar results in international testing as those from Korea and Finland within a generation if educators addressed equity challenges, boosted teacher quality and strengthened discipline, a world-leading education expert said.

Education policy adviser to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Andreas Schleicher said too much money had been spent reducing class sizes, instead of boosting teacher performance.

"If you have to make a choice between a great teacher and a small class, go for the great teacher," he said. "Australia has put its bets very much the other way around over the past decade."

The federal government has set the goal of having Australian students in the top five in the world in reading, science and maths by 2025, a target inscribed in the Gonski legislation.

Mr Schleicher said the target was "credible, reasonable and achievable".

But when speaking to senior education bureaucrats and academics in Sydney on Friday, he warned "this goal is shared by virtually every education system around the world".

To reach the target, Mr Schleicher said Australia had to address the social inequities the existing system reinforced.

Implementing the needs-based funding system recommended in the Gonski report, he said, would go a long way towards achieving that.

"The current approach to school funding in Australia is, to say the least, not entirely transparent," he said. "There's a lot of money going into the Australian system but it's really a matter of using that money well and aligning the resources better with the challenges being faced."

Federal Education Minister Bill Shorten met Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon on Friday, as well as representatives from the Catholic and independent school sectors, as the government continued in its push to sell the reforms.

The Victorian government said the conversation was productive and both parties had expressed goodwill to come to an agreement.

Mr Schleicher explained that, to address the performance disparity within Australian schools, teachers needed to be able to identify struggling students early. That, he said, was where NAPLAN testing should help.

"I think NAPLAN has really brought into the system a more rigorous approach to quality assurance."

He said Australia's performance could lift in the coming years as the impact of NAPLAN began to filter through.

OECD data also showed that Australian students were not as well-disciplined as other high-performing countries.

"Students complain about noise and disorder in classrooms and there is instruction time lost at the beginning of lessons."

Mr Schleicher said work also needed to be done to "attract the most talented teachers to the most challenging classrooms".

He said Australia's biggest problem was not training but continued professional development. "Many teachers feel left alone in the school, they don't get the feedback they need to improve their teaching."

Chief executive of the Department of Education and Communities's Office of Education Leslie Lobel said teacher quality reforms announced earlier this year "are very much about ongoing professional development".

"These things can't be done overnight but they are obviously being started and there's significant reform under way."

Making teaching more attractive was important, Mr Schleicher said, but increasing pay was not the answer. Australian teachers were paid well compared with those elsewhere and relatively well compared to professions with similar qualifications. "It's more about creating a more flexible, knowledge-based profession," he said.


The town with no crime

THERE is little need to lock your doors in Jericho, in central west Queensland between Emerald and Longreach.

It's been two years since the last break-in and more than a year since the local police officer had to deal with anything more dramatic than a traffic stop.

That's because for the past year, the 300-strong outback community has had virtually no crime.

A low-level drink-driving charge is the only offence that shows up in Jericho on the Queensland Police Service's new online crime-mapping database. And the culprit still feels guilty about blemishing the town's clean slate.

Standing not much more than 5ft tall in her stockman's hat and workboots, a slight, middle-aged woman has the dubious honour of being Jericho's only "criminal" in the past year.

She'd had three beers when the local police officer pulled her over, enough for her to register a low-range offence.

"I don't want light made of it," said the woman, who asked not to be named. "It's a serious offence. Losing my licence for two months was really tough in a place like this."

Barcaldine Regional Council Mayor Rob Chandler said while Jericho had dealt with disasters of biblical proportions - flooding in 2010 and 2011, bushfires in 2012 and now drought - crime was not something locals had to think about.

"I know the police say not to do it but I'm sure there are people from town who leave their keys in the car," he said. "I know of a couple of houses where you can't even lock them.

"When you've only got a couple of hundred people in town and a couple of strangers rock up, they're on to them straight away."

In the past decade, there have been around 100 crimes. A quarter were traffic offences, three were assaults and two stolen cars. Only 13 crimes are unsolved.

The one-pub town is built in the middle of a cattle-grazing district and is a popular destination for grey nomads and tourists wanting a taste of the Outback. And it boasts the smallest drive-in movie theatre in the southern hemisphere, with room for only 30 cars.

Megan Otto grew up in Sydney but found herself in Jericho raising a family on a property about 20km out of town.  "It's a really family-orientated community," she said.  "You can come into town and the children can go to the park and you know there is someone looking out for them."

Tracey Misson, who lives in town with her husband and two young children, said Jericho was a safe place to raise a family.  "I let my children out to play and know they'll be fine," she said. "Everyone knows who they are and who they belong to."

Inspector Mark Henderson said the one police officer covers 14,000sq km.

"Jericho is on the main highway from Rockhampton to the west," he said.  "A place like that with a crime rate like that comes about through a partnership between police and the local community.

"It's a real balancing act between showing authority and being a member of that community.  "They know every single one of the residents and more importantly, they know everyone that's not."


7 July, 2013

Amanda Vanstone furious as UK press lambast 'misogynist' Aussie politics

Colonialist condescension from the British Left.  No surprise there.  I commented on the rubbish last month

TO suggest Amanda Vanstone is angry would be an understatement.  The former South Australian senator from the Howard government is as mad as hell and she is not going to take it anymore.

Her fury is directed at the Fleet Street press in the UK and in particular opinion writers who for the last week have been making broad statements about the Australian male, all but describing them as resting on the evolution chain somewhere between homo erectus and homo neanderthalensis.

The apparent British summation has been coming after prime minister Julia Gillard was ousted as leader, a move many British commentators have blamed solely on the perceived misogynist nature of Australian men generally, and politicians specifically.

Much of the commentary has cited an opinion piece written by Ms Gillard's former Scottish-born media adviser John McTernan who said his boss was driven out of office by "deep-rooted misogynist forces in society" and the Aussie male had brought the country down.

Ms Vanstone arrived on holidays in the British capital this week and was disturbed by what she read each day and yesterday decided enough was enough and began ringing Fleet Street papers to offer a few choice words and offer a column "to set the record straight".

"As the longest serving female Cabinet minister I think I know a thing or two about it," Ms Vanstone told News Corp Australia yesterday.

"I am furious. It really is atrocious that they are making out Australia as a colony, a hick country, a back water where men guzzle beer all day and are rude about women. They are going on this misogynist thing as if that was the reason why she (Gillard) was ousted. That's not right and I want to set the record straight. They are perpetuating the myth.

"I was there in government and Cabinet, it's a bit blokey you know but what do you expect? When they are talking about rugby or whatever they are not being misogynist but what do you want them talking about, cake recipes? They maybe don't know any or are not interested. I mean this is the sort of thing you have everywhere in the world, its not particular to Australia and the British press are suggesting it is."

Ms Vanstone, travelling with her husband Tony, would be staying in the capital long enough to write opinion pieces and or letters to the editors of the British press to paint a "truer picture" of the Aussie bloke from a political perspective.


"Sexist" advertisement in trouble

The Sydney Morning Herald ran an ad in today's racing section "The Form" promoting the radio station's sports program with the headline, "Another reason to let her go shopping this weekend".

 You know, inferring that if the little woman goes shopping, her bloke'll be free to listen in peace, preferably in his shed, with a bottle of KB".

2UE's General Manager Chris Parker has apologised for the ad, saying, "we appreciate the advertisement has caused concern, and this was certainly not our intention".


$20 trillion shale oil find surrounding Coober Pedy 'can fuel Australia'

SOUTH Australia is sitting on oil potentially worth more than $20 trillion, independent reports claim - enough to turn Australia into a self-sufficient fuel producer.

Brisbane company Linc Energy yesterday released two reports, based on drilling and seismic exploration, estimating the amount of oil in the as yet untapped Arckaringa Basin surrounding Coober Pedy ranging from 3.5 billion to 233 billion barrels of oil.

At the higher end, this would be "several times bigger than all of the oil in Australia", Linc managing director Peter Bond said.

This has the potential to turn Australia from an oil importer to an oil exporter.

"If it comes in the way the reports are suggesting, it could well and truly bring Australia back to (oil) self-sufficiency," Mr Bond said.

State Mineral Resources Development Minister Tom Koutsantonis said there were exciting times ahead for SA's resources industry.
Australian oil strike

"Shale gas and shale oil will be a key part to securing Australia's energy security now and into the future," he said.

Linc has hired Barclays Bank to find an investment partner for the next stage of the project, costing $150-$300 million.

The company aims to drill up to six horizontal wells to further confirm its figures, but Mr Bond is confident the region will be home to oil production.

The need to build another oil and gas hub, like the Santos production facility at Moomba, depends on the size of the discovery.  "If it really takes off, that's when you start to look at Moomba-type pipelines."

Mr Bond said there was the potential for a US-style "shale oil" boom in SA.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week the US could pass Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer this year, thanks to the shale oil explosion.

Mr Bond said the potential in SA was "massive", but even at the lower end of estimates - about 3.5 billion barrels - it was still very large.  "If you look at the upper target, which is 103-233 billion barrels of oil, that's massive," he said.  "The opportunity of turning this into the next shale boom is very real.

"If the Arckaringa plays out the way we hope it will, and the way our independent reports have shown, it's one of the key prospective territories in the world at the moment." Mr Bond said each well could flow at 1000-2000 barrels per day.

"You put in 50 of them and that's a lot of oil," he said. "We have a very good idea that this will be an oil-producing asset."

Mr Bond said Linc had so far spent about $130 million in the Arckaringa Basin, drilling four deep wells and "a couple of dozen" shallower wells.


Conservatives  to pursue boat turnback policy

The opposition insists it will pursue its asylum seeker boat turnback policy over Indonesian objections, saying it worked for John Howard and will work again for Tony Abbott.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said Australia's interests must come first and that included turning back asylum seeker boats.

"As John Howard proved, you have got to have unilateral action on our side that works," he told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.

"There was no discussion about this between the Indonesian president and John Howard. There was no agreement. We took actions on our side of the line and that's what has always been our policy to do."

But Immigration Minister Tony Burke said the opposition was trying to photocopy the John Howard playbook as though what worked in 2001 would still work in 2013.

He said the opposition needed to come up with more than a slogan and a copy of a policy they knew could not work under the challenges of 2013.

Joining the debate, former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser said turning back the boats wouldn't work as Indonesia would not agree.

On Saturday morning, Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare revealed two more asylum seeker boats had been intercepted, one carrying 83 passengers and the other carrying 55.

This all follows the visit of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to Jakarta for talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on a range of topics including trade and asylum seekers using Indonesia as a jumping-off point to Australia.

In the joint communique on Friday, both leaders stressed "the importance of avoiding unilateral actions which might jeopardise a comprehensive regional approach and which might cause operational or other difficulties to any party".

That was interpreted as a clear diplomatic rebuke to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott over his "stop the boats" policy.

Mr Burke said the next step would be the summit to be hosted by President Yudhoyono.

"It will be out of that that we get to the next point which is a serious professional approach to a very significant regional problem. That's the way you have to deal with it, not with a slogan of turn back the boats," he said.

Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg said there would be no backdown.

"What President Yudhoyono does not want is for Indonesia's territorial integrity to be breached," he told Sky News.  "No one is proposing to do that."


5 July, 2013

Union push to pay young workers adult wages will kill off jobs, small businesses warn

JOB opportunities for thousands of young workers will dry up if unions are successful in a controversial claim to pay them adult wages.  Small businesses warned yesterday they would no longer employ and train teenage staff if they were forced to pay adult rates to workers as young as 18.

The jobs threat will hit young people in some of Sydney's most disadvantaged suburbs - such as Claymore and Airds - where youth unemployment is as high as 41 per cent.

Unions have launched a campaign including TV commercials to extend full adult pay rates to teenage workers.

The powerful Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association has started a retail industry test case in the Fair Work Commission in a bid to increase the weekly pay packet of 20-year-old retail worker from $615 to $683.

If successful, the union has promised to move to extend the full adult rate to both 18 and 19-year-olds covered by the general retail award.

About 120,000 people employed in the retail sector may be affected.

Chief executive officer of the NSW Business Chamber Stephen Cartwright accused the union of making it harder for young people to get their first job: "There are parts of NSW and Australia that have more than 30 per cent youth unemployment and the union's solution to this challenge is to price more teenagers out of the job market.

"Youth wages exist for a good reason - to provide that first important point of entry into the workforce and the development of basic employment skills that will be carried through a person's career.

"The unions should be working with business to reduce the barriers to employing young Australians, not making it harder."

Small business sector unhappy with govt

The Australian Retailers Association said attempts to abolish junior pay rates would affect job opportunities for "thousands" of young workers.

"Retailers in service industries will ask why they should bother training young people," executive director Russell Zimmerman said.

"They will take on new staff members who are mature."

SDA national secretary Joe de Bruyn has warned that, if the wage case is won, unions will then seek a similar increase for young people covered by other awards such as in the fast food industry.


Refugee claims reopen as Labor admits mistakes

IMMIGRATION officials have begun assessing asylum-seekers' refugee claims for the first time since processing was suspended almost 12 months ago, a move that created a backlog of more than 22,000 cases.

As Kevin Rudd prepared to fly to Jakarta today for talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that will cover trade and asylum-seekers, Immigration Minister Tony Burke yesterday admitted Labor had been too slow to act on people-smuggling as it took hold in 2009, and distanced the government from Julia Gillard's Malaysia Solution.

In an interview with The Australian yesterday, Mr Burke said asylum-seeker processing resumed on Monday and he flagged changes to the no-advantage test, a cornerstone of Labor's policy that requires boat arrivals to wait for at least as long as those seeking refugee status through official UN channels.

The Prime Minister last night joined his new Immigration Minister in admitting his government got things wrong in 2009 when it failed to stop the burgeoning people-smuggling trade.

Mr Rudd said Labor's softening of the Howard-era policies a year earlier, which most agree spurred the revival of the smuggling trade, was consistent with an election promise Labor made in opposition.

But that promise had been offered at a time when the international refugee situation was more benign.

"If we've made a mistake, let me just say this, it was in perhaps not being quick enough to respond to the new change in external circumstances, with an outflow from Sri Lanka from a civil war in 2009-10," Mr Rudd told the ABC's 7.30.

Mr Burke was more blunt, saying Labor "didn't get the policy right" in 2009. "At that point, we needed to change our policy settings to match and anticipate the changed international situation and we didn't," he said. "And that is where I believe the error was made."

Mr Burke played down suggestions the Malaysian people swap agreement, which was negotiated during Ms Gillard's prime ministership, might play a role in Labor's future asylum policy.

"Malaysia, for when it was announced, would have worked for the problem that we had in front of us then," Mr Burke said.

"The problem that we have as a result of it being blocked by the Liberal Party teaming up with the Greens, we have a situation now where the problem is much worse."

Mr Burke warned the opposition was making the same mistake Labor had made in 2009 by assuming that policies of the past were suited to the problems of the present. "The suggestion from Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison that you can simply photocopy the 2001 policy setting and they'll work for the modern world is just plain wrong and absurd," he said.

The remarks by the Prime Minister and the Immigration Minister are clear signs Labor is looking to fight back on the asylum-seeker issue, which has dragged down Labor's vote across the country, particularly in western Sydney, where Mr Burke holds his seat.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa last night made clear the Yudhoyono administration would not accept proposals for any Indonesia-focused "solution" to Australia's asylum-seekers problem at tomorrow's summit with Mr Rudd.

Mr Natalegawa underlined Jakarta's rejection of suggestions surfacing in Canberra this week that Mr Rudd might pursue options such as an Indonesian processing centre for asylum-seekers.

"Historically, various options have been put forward by Australia," he said after a briefing with President Yudhoyono on the agenda for the Bogor summit.

"There is the so-called Pacific Solution, Malaysia Solution, Timor Leste Solution and so on, but we are consistent that resolution of this problem cannot be carried by one country."

Indonesia would continue to press for an integrated approach to irregular immigration that engaged all countries: origin, transit and destination.

As part of Labor's renewed push on the issue, Mr Rudd yesterday wrote to Mr Abbott offering the Opposition Leader a series of high-level, confidential briefings with intelligence agencies on the subject of people-smuggling.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr has been leading the charge on behalf of the government, saying asylum-seeker boats are increasingly stocked with economic migrants rorting the refugee system.

Critics have said the government's claims are speculative as it cannot claim any real insight into who is arriving or why, as claims have not been processed.

Mr Burke said as Immigration Minister he was the ultimate decision-maker in refugee applications, meaning he was constrained in what he could say on the subject. But he had "absolutely no doubt" some were trying to game the system.

"The points that (Bob Carr) has raised match what's been said to me during briefings in terms of some of the key examples of people attempting to rort the system," Mr Burke said.

He flagged changes to the no-advantage test, saying he expected to offer a clearer definition of the principles behind it.

The test has been criticised as too vague, with critics pointing out that wait-times for Australian permanent residency visas vary from region to region, making its practical application difficult.


Australia's first Muslim frontbencher abused for taking oath on Koran

This is putting a religion of hate on the same plane as Christianity

The Prime Minister's new parliamentary secretary, Ed Husic, has been subjected to a torrent of abuse online for being sworn in to his position with a Koran.

Mr Husic became Australia's first Muslim frontbencher on Monday when he was appointed to Kevin Rudd's new-look ministry as parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister and parliamentary secretary for broadband.

"This is a wonderful day for multiculturalism, and everything it stands for in our country," Governor-General Quentin Bryce told Mr Husic during the swearing-in ceremony in Canberra on Monday.

However, after receiving dozens of messages of congratulations on his Facebook page, the comments quickly turned to disgust and outrage that he had chosen to be sworn in on the Muslim holy book.

One user, Anna Dean, claimed his decision to be sworn in on the Koran undermined "our culture and country and constitution in this way".

Another user, Carrie Forrest, accused him of disregarding Australia's constitution and pushing for sharia.

Mr Husic played down the abuse on Tuesday afternoon by saying that people were entitled in a democracy to question his choice to be sworn in using a Koran and the public should not necessarily jump "because of harsh words out of dark corners".

"[People] may have questions and they may have concerns and people are right to raise that," he said. "But I also think you’ll have, from time to time, people of the extremes. There are people that are definitely extreme ... and they will always try to seek ways in which to divide people. The important thing is [that] mainstream Australia wants everyone to work together."

He said he had been "heartened" by the huge number of congratulatory messages.

Mr Husic has previously said that he is a moderate Muslim who does not involve himself heavily with most of the religious customs and behaviours of the faith.

Asked about his religion in 2010, he told the ABC: "If someone asks me, 'Are you Muslim?' I say yes. And then if someone says, 'Well do you pray and go to a mosque and do all the other things that are associated with the faith?' I say no.

"I often get told that I describe myself as non-practising when in actual fact I don't go round saying that. Like I just say 'I'm Muslim.' "

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said people should respect Mr Husic’s choice. "I respect his choice," he told reporters in Melbourne. "I think the Australian people should as well."

President of the Anti-Discrimination Board and chairman of the NSW Community Relations Commission Stepan Kerkyasharian said it was "a sad day for any society" when someone is abused because of their religion.

He said Mr Husic could act as a valuable bridge between the Muslim community and would put Australia at an advantage in the international community.

"It should be an interesting and positive milestone that someone of migrant heritage has come to Australia and has now, through our democratic process, reached a position of leadership," he said.

Mr Husic, 43, the son of Bosnian Muslim migrants, became the first Muslim to be elected to Parliament when he won his western Sydney seat of Chifley in the 2010 election with 51.58 per cent of votes, almost double that of his next competitor.

In 2010, he was sworn into Federal Parliament alongside members from several religions. Kooyong member Josh Frydenberg and Melbourne Ports member Michael Danby were sworn in on the Jewish bible.

Lawyer and community rights advocate Mariam Veiszadeh said there was too often an assumption that being a good Australian citizen and a good Muslim were "mutually exclusive concepts".

"You can be a devout Jew and a good Australian parliamentarian who serves your country just as equally as you can be a practising Muslim and a good Australian citizen and politician," she said.

"It is ignorant for people to conflate irrelevant issues and it stems from the Muslim bashing that has been going on in this country for a decade."


Coalition delivers blow to local government referendum's 'Yes' campaign

Bipartisan support for the local government referendum appears to have collapsed with Coalition frontbencher Christopher Pyne advising the Australia Local Government Association to call on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to "pull" the upcoming vote.

This came after Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the referendum had been mishandled by the government, and encouraged voters to tick "No" if they had concerns about it.

Constitutional expert Professor George Williams has previously noted the referendum will only succeed if there is strong support from the Coalition.

Mr Abbott told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday that Labor had ignored the advice of the committee that explored the issue, and had failed to properly consult state governments.  "This thing has been done badly and undemocratically," he said.

Mr Abbott said what while there was a case for recognition of local government in the constitution, he had "enormous reservations about the way the government has done this". "And I say to the Australian people, if you don't understand it, don't vote for it."

In Adelaide Mr Pyne - who is not the Coalition's spokesman on the matter - said the government had not laid the groundwork for the referendum to pass.

Mr Pyne said Labor had instead created the referendum as a "distraction" from its troubles.  "My advice to the Australian Local Government Association is they should ask the Prime Minister to pull the referendum because I believe it will be defeated under the current circumstances and if it is defeated a third time, no government will want to return to it again," he said.

Mr Pyne added that people were confused about what was happening in Canberra, "let alone being asked to pass a change on the constitution".

The Coalition's spokesman on local government, Barnaby Joyce, told Sky News shortly after Mr Pyne made his comments that it was for the Local Government Association to "determine where the best chances lie" for the referendum.

While Senator Joyce has agreed to campaign for a "Yes" vote, he said its chances of success were being "clouded by complete chaos".

The referendum will ask voters whether or not they agree to the financial recognition of local government in the constitution, amending section 96, which deals with financial assistance to the states.

This would guarantee the federal government's ability to directly fund local government projects such as the Roads to Recovery program, as well as services such as childcare, sporting fields, swimming pools and libraries.

In May, former prime minister Julia Gillard announced the referendum would held in conjuction with the federal election on September 14.

It could still be held with a September 14 poll, or later. But now that the election date is due to change, there are question marks over the referendum.

A Morgan Poll conducted over the weekend of June 21-23 showed 47 per cent support for the "yes" case. A referendum needs a majority of voters in Australia and a majority of electors in four states to pass.

On Tuesday, Local Government Minister Catherine King said the government's position had not changed and that Labor would continue to support the referendum.

"It appears that the opposition has not been honest with the Australian people and is now playing politics with local communities, jeopardising the financial certainty that they need for essential community services," Ms King said.

"Today’s comments from Mr Abbott and Mr Pyne fly in the face of their on-the-record support for a referendum in the Parliament only a few weeks ago".

Greens leader Christine Milne said it was "disgraceful" that Mr Abbott was destroying support for the referendum but called on the public to "rise above" it.

"The Australian public should rise above Tony’s Abbott’s wrecking ball and support the recognition of local government in our Constitution,” Senator Milne said, adding that the Greens would campaign for a "Yes" vote.

"It’s disgraceful that Tony Abbott is destroying support for the local government referendum but it was obvious in the Parliament that the Coalition was going to do this."

The Coalition has previously registered reservations about the referendum.

When the Senate voted on it last month, seven Coalition MPs crossed the floor to vote against the bill and about a dozen others abstained.

Last month, the government also revealed that the campaign against recognising local government in the constitution would receive one twentieth of the public funding allocated to the "Yes" case - a move that also angered some within the Coalition ranks.

The "No" case will receive $500,000 while the "Yes" case will get $10 million, which Anthony Albanese argued was allocated based on the level of support in the Parliament.

In May, the referendum bill passed the lower house, 134 votes to 2.

Australia does not have a strong history of supporting referendums. Similar attempts to recognise local government in 1974 and 1988 were not successful and only eight referendums out of 44 have been successful since 1906.

The Local Government Association has been contacted for comment.


4 July, 2013

Rudd reborn - or is this a mere lap of honour?

Since Kevin Rudd regained the prime ministership the one question that continues to be debated in media and political circles is, "Has he changed?"

Of course, most leaders change and grow in the job, but perhaps it is what Kevin can't fix that risks making this a short and exhilarating ride towards regaining yet another job: leader of the opposition.

Three things stand out:

The first and most damning thing that Rudd can't change is disunity within the Labor Party. Try as he might to dismiss this as history, anyone remotely aware of his past knows that he's got problems on two sides. First, he's the poster child for disunity, with a track record vividly described by senior ministers as doing more than anyone (possibly Tony Abbott excepted) to bring down a sitting prime minister.

Second the very disunity that unseated him and then reinstated him, leaves him vulnerable to a tap on the shoulder when Bill Shorten and colleagues decide that he's past the use-by-date. Rudd might be the chosen leader but the Australian public know all too well that no matter whom they vote for as Labor leader, the factions will ultimately decide who stays and who goes.

Perhaps disunity can be papered over? Maybe for a short time but it's hard to imagine that there won't be a series of damaging leaks as payback for what Julia Gillard experienced in the 2010 campaign.

The second thing that Rudd can't change is temperament. It would be unfair to deeply analyse this in the media, however you be the judge of how many of six common signs of narcissistic leadership could apply to our Prime Minister:

 *      Prone to grandiose visions and to over-estimating their own capabilities (remember "the greatest moral challenge of our time").

 *      Hyper-sensitive to criticism and liable to fly into anger (be careful when serving him on a plane).

 *      Pursue power at all costs leading to infighting and suspicion which ultimately brings them down (enough said).

 *      Easily bored, change course often (swing to the left, swing to the right on boats).

 *      Lack empathy and trust but say the socially acceptable thing when in public (Is there a better example than saying he won't accept anyone criticising former PM Gillard).

 *      Gather only those who agree around them (was that eight cabinet ministers who have gone?)

Pressure exposes default behaviours and tends to amplify strengths until they become weaknesses. If even half of these narcissistic characteristics apply to PM Rudd then he'd best call the election as early as possible.

The third and final thing that Kevin can't fix is execution and that's not just the political execution of Australia's first female prime minister, but also the Labor government's inability since the 2007 election to deliver policies that actually work. From refugees to pink batts, Grocery Watch and Fuel Watch, to mining taxes that don't tax and surpluses that disappear, this isn't fixable, particularly with a vastly inexperienced cabinet.

All this sounds gloomy, both for Rudd's re-election and what might happen to Australia if he does win but what shouldn't be forgotten is that our shiny new PM is neither silly nor shy of confidence to take the fight to an Opposition Leader who must wish he'd been less effective at targeting Gillard.

Which leads to three things that Rudd can fix and capitalise on by calling an early election (assuming that grandiose visions, or inexperienced aides don't cloud his judgment and decide that the more people see of him the more will vote for him).

First he can apply the blowtorch to an Opposition that has been gifted an easy run from a media who have had plenty to write about from Labor's upheavals. Abbott has things he can't fix either and when subjected to pressure they will certainly show in ways that many in the Australian public won't like (and will start longing for Malcolm Turnbull).

Second, he can sell the message that Kevin is here to fix all the problems. Of course, he can't fix most of them but he can paper them over and the 24/7 media likes papering, particularly if it's colourful, such as a warning of war with Indonesia.

Finally, and probably most worrying for the Liberals, is that he can provide a palatable alternative. For all his failings and failures, Rudd is only a divisive figure to those who are close to him. "He's like an iceberg," suggested a colleague who has worked closely with him, "All white, bright and clean in public but totally different under the surface when cameras and journalists aren't around."

Whether Rudd can win is a fascinating question, but that wasn't the theme of this article. Rather the questions were "Can he change?" and "What can't he fix?". The answers seem pretty clear.

Yes, he can change to some extent but that still leaves things he can't fix and they'll become more evident as the honeymoon subsides.


Boats rancour must be cured

THE domestic political poison that contaminates asylum-seeker policy has seen its latest manifestation with Kevin Rudd's absurd claim that a change of government in Australia could risk armed conflict between Australia and Indonesia.

Rudd would know this is a blunder. He can be expected to change his language while insisting he is not retreating. It is a reminder of the sustained Australian ineptitude that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has stoically tolerated in recent years and the complacency in our attitudes towards Jakarta.

The destructiveness in the domestic debate virtually guarantees that Australia cannot stop the boats. The payback mentality is desperate and ferocious. The political purpose on both sides is to prove the other side cannot stem boat arrivals. By seeking to ensure each side is doomed to policy failure that mutual failure becomes a national failure.

Hopefully, Indonesia will have the maturity to handle Australia's immaturity on this issue. When Rudd travels to Indonesia this week he should be ruthlessly assessed by one test only: his ability to pursue Australia's national interest, not the Labor Party's election interest.

Tony Abbott has previously failed that test. But that failure does not constitute an exemption for Rudd. In 2011 Abbott deliberately destroyed Julia Gillard's main effort to halt the boats.

This was the Malaysian deal negotiated by former minister Chris Bowen based on a consensus of advice from our border control, immigration and national security officials.

Returning boat arrivals to Malaysia by plane within hours of their arrival would have been a lethal disincentive.

Abbott sabotaged the bill to re-establish this policy after the High Court's decision against it, with most judges embracing a false view of the Migration Act and a false reading of earlier parliamentary intentions.

It is probably the most irresponsible single action by Abbott in the 2010-13 parliament.

It guaranteed that Gillard would not stop the boats and this failure became integral to her removal as PM. Destroying the Malaysian policy was second only to his carbon tax campaign in Abbott's dismantling of Gillard's authority.

The Coalition's justification was human rights. It refused to accept the Malaysian policy for humanitarian reasons and it went further, insisting it would enter offshore processing deals only with nations that committed to the UN Refugee Convention.

It was obvious that Abbott, sooner or later, would pay a price for such sabotage in the name of humanitarianism.

An angry Gillard began a political campaign against Abbott's pledge in January last year that he would turn the boats back to Indonesia. "It is time for Australia to adopt turning the boats as its core policy," Abbott said.

He was influenced by three factors: official advice that turning boats, if possible, was the single most effective response; the fact that the Howard government did this for a time without formal political approval; and the obvious point that Indonesia could do more to stem the boats.

Labor has been deeply hostile to Abbott's policy because of the risks involved, its belief Indonesia will not agree and its view that Abbott is a hypocrite rejecting its own Malaysian policy but declaring he will turn boats on the water.

The stakes are high. If Abbott succeeded Labor would suffer the ignominy for years. Abbott and his spokesman, Scott Morrison have defined the terms: they will not infringe Indonesian sovereignty or territorial waters; there is no tow back to Indonesian ports; Abbott will fly to Jakarta within days of any election victory for talks with President Yudhoyono; and this is the sort of policy you only address from office, not opposition.

This highlights Rudd's advantage as incumbent. If Indonesia will acquiesce in turning some boats then why wouldn't Rudd try it first? Alternatively, will Rudd return from this week's Indonesian visit asserting he knows that President Yudhoyono won't wear Abbott's policy?

That would represent an unwise injection by Rudd of Indonesia into our election campaign. If combined with more warnings that Abbott's policy would risk armed conflict it would be a reckless danger to bilateral relations.

Rudd needs to be careful. Labor's management of Indonesian relations is unimpressive; witness his fiasco over the Oceanic Viking and Gillard's contemptuous ban on the live export trade, which personally dismayed the President and was an insult to the Indonesian nation.

Moreover, if Rudd maintains his line of attack, Abbott has the obvious reply: that Rudd has given up and thinks the boats cannot be stopped.

Morrison's message from his Indonesian visit is that "the (boat) problem is getting worse". In this situation Australia needs a decisive shift in policy.

The firm signal by the Rudd government of a tougher refugee determination process is an essential step: witness the public endorsement by Rudd and former minister Bowen of the position enunciated by Bob Carr that boat arrivals are mainly economic migrants.

This is largely accepted in the case of Sri Lankans with the evidence overwhelming in the case of Iranians. An analysis shows low rates of refugee approvals at the initial stage with the high approval rate (upwards of 90 per cent) the result of multiple appeal stages.

In a paper delivered last week, refugee activist and lawyer Frank Brennan confirmed the need for a fresh approach. Brennan advocated a policy of returning asylum-seekers to Indonesia based on mutual co-operation.

Brennan said: "The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees does not confer a right on asylum-seekers to enter the country of their choice or to choose the country which is to process their refugee claims."

He says the key provision is that contracting states cannot impose penalties on refugees because of "their illegal entry" provided they are "coming directly" from a territory where they were threatened.

In short, countries such as Australia have a "defensible view" to decide an asylum-seeker falls outside the scope for protection if such a person spends more than a short period in a third country.

Brennan said: "We are entitled to return safely to Indonesia persons who, when departing Indonesia for Australia, were no longer in direct flight but rather were engaged in secondary movement seeking a more favourable refugee status outcome or a more benign migration outcome." It is a critical point.

Brennan wants Australia to make its big play with Indonesia, not Malaysia. But that needs a new spirit of co-operation.


Businesses face unfair dismissal cases for sacking thieving staff. Yes, you read that right

Employee theft tends to be far more prevalent than is reported, with many business owners reluctant to report staff with whom they are likely to have developed a close personal relationship.

This type of theft has many guises. It includes theft of property, such as stationery or larger items like computers or power tools, as well as data theft and fraud. But how should small-business owners react in this situation?

Norman Ohl has established and sold a number of small businesses over the years and says he has had many cases – proven and unproven – of employee theft.

"The difficulty is that under current regulations a single case of theft is not grounds for dismissal,” he says. "So you must make an assessment and risk analysis on the level of cost to the business and devise a strategy based on risk.”

Ohl cites the example of a bookkeeper he once employed who was stealing from an operational cash float.

"This was probably going on for some time as a bookkeeper can cover this type of thing up,” he says. "I discovered a shortfall when a foreman rang me with a concern. I confronted the bookkeeper, who cried and pleaded with me not to call the police and not to sack her.”

Ohl says that while a dishonest bookkeeper is an unacceptable risk, if he had sacked her he would likely have faced an unfair dismissal case. Instead he gave her the choice to either resign or face criminal charges – her resignation was on his desk within 10 minutes.

"The real tragedy of this 'business decision' is the very real likelihood that she will go on to do it to some other poor bastard and, with this experience under her belt, will probably be a better thief,” Ohl says.

"When it comes to employee theft, the system is broken and the system dictates behaviour. The number of employees who have stolen from me over the years would be in the double digits.”

Andrew Douglas, principal with M+K Lawyers, says the bottom line is that any theft is a case for summary termination under Fair Work regulations. The problem, however, is in proving it was a theft.

"For most small-businesses owners it is an assumption rather than a fact that an employee has stolen from them,” Douglas says. "If they want to prosecute they need to find proof, otherwise the charge will be set aside.”

For example, Douglas says there is nothing wrong with installing surveillance cameras above tills to try to obtain proof.

"There are different varieties of theft and this will affect how you go about getting proof,” he says. "What you do find is usually the person doing the stealing is in a position of trust, such as in charge of accounts.”

There are ways to avoid employee theft, says Douglas. He advises dual signatories on cheques, have the banking done by different people every day, and dual cash handling.

"It's interesting that public companies have to report any thefts because of due diligence but small businesses tend to think of two things before they do,” Douglas says. "They think about whether it's worthwhile to report it and quite often they just let the employee go quietly, or they think about the reputational damage it may do to their business and decide not to prosecute because of it.”

David Henderson, of professional advisers ROCG, says employee theft is a difficult area to deal with. He has had a number of clients who have been affected and says workplace theft is more prevalent than many realise.

"We had one case where an employee was sacked and provided the opportunity to repay the funds after being caught with their hand in the till, with the police being involved if they didn't,” Henderson says.

"In this case the employee committed suicide the next week. This is an extreme example and the business closed within a year as they were devastated by it.”

Henderson says it is important to have the right controls and systems in place.

"If two people are working in concert it is difficult to spot a theft happening,” he says. "It also tends to go unreported because if you sack an employee for theft without pressing charges you may find yourself with an unfair dismissal case on your hands.”

Douglas says the sad part is that when the theft is detected, it is rarely found to be random. "Usually the person has stolen a little bit and when they've got away with it they steal a bit more and a bit more. Having better systems and controls in place can really help.”


'I'm glad my parents were hard on me'

My mother used to say a phrase I'll never forget.

As a teenager, there were times that I would refuse to do as she asked, would stomp my feet in anger, or argue that she didn't love me. But she would always reply, "Wait until you're a mother and you'll see why I worry about you so much.” After becoming a mother three times over, I practically laugh when I remember those words. I know what she means.

My parents always wanted the best for us four children. They tried their hardest to provide for us financially, keep a comfortable roof over our heads, give us the education that we deserved. We were pushed to understand the value of a dollar, the value of family, the value of hard work. We weren't allowed to talk back, we had to respect their authority at all times. I wasn't allowed to drink until I turned 18, and I wasn't allowed to date until I was out of high school.

At the time, I hated it. I hated the power they had over me. I hated the restrictions they had over my life. I hated the fact that they wouldn't let me 'have fun'. I thought all they wanted to do was control me.

I longed to have the lifestyle my friends had: going out on school nights, drinking alcohol at birthday parties, dabbling in dating, doing what typical teenagers did.

But I grew up and my outlook on life started to change. I turned 18, had a party with a few friends, had a couple drinks to celebrate, and that was basically it. I was busy studying at university, and having recently met my future husband, I didn't wish for that life any more. I still haven't changed, and it doesn't bother me one bit.

However, I know that not everyone feels the way I do.

It's hard to deny that there are many news reports of drinking-related violence and car accidents. The federal government is being pushed to raise the drinking age to 21, which has sparked some controversy. Some are on one side of the fence, arguing that this has been a long time coming, while others believe this change will do no good to curb the number of drinkers, the violence and car accidents.

The Alcohol Use and Harms in Australia Information Paper of 2009 states that "the age at which Australians are having their first drink is continuing to decrease", as around 90 per cent of young people have tried alcohol by the age of 14. It also reveals that 80 per cent of alcohol consumed by people aged 14–24 is consumed in ways that put the health of drinkers (and others) at risk. The figures show that about 70,000 people are involved in alcohol-related assaults per year, costing Australia $187 million.

I love a good drink just like everyone else. I love a beer when socialising with friends; I love sipping on white wine, too. But my parents, who I once believed were too 'hard' on me, taught me the importance of moderation.

And the values they instilled in me weren't just my attitudes towards alcohol. They taught me how important it is to show others respect: I said 'thank you' whenever my mother cooked me dinner, I always spoke politely when I asked for a favour. I was taught that these were the right things to do.

But hearing about the recent abuse on public transport has me incredibly disturbed. In a video filmed on a Perth train, a woman in her early 20s is seen refusing to move her books from the empty seat beside her. This leads to a vicious argument with an expectant mum who wants to sit down. And on a Melbourne train, Roger Stapleford, 56, was verbally and physically abused by two teenagers. One teenager refused to move her foot off the only vacant seat, so he chose to move it himself. This resulted in a drink being poured over him and a can thrown at his forehead, leaving a 5cm gash. Both videos were shocking to watch.

I know that all of us parents do the best we can. We aren't perfect; we make mistakes. I also know that sometimes we're afraid to do what's right for our children, opting to do what they want instead.

But I can tell you, from my own experience, being raised by 'tough' parents is something I'm very grateful for.

My parents taught me that you have to work hard to get what you want. Sometimes you'll have to follow rules that you don't like. Sometimes you'll come across people whose opinions you clash with, but you need to learn to accept those differences. You shouldn't disrespect others, and you shouldn't verbally or physically abuse them.

I know that my children and I won't always see eye to eye. I know they'll probably get angry when I refuse to let them go out late at night, when I tell them they're too young to date, or when I ask them to do their homework before playing video games.

But I also know I'll try to be the parent who isn't too lenient nor too strict; the sort of parent that gives my children independence but also unconditional support. The sort of parent that my children will respect, admire, and feel grateful to have.

And I hope that one day, when they've grown up and are raising their own children, they'll be glad I was hard on them too.


3 July, 2013

Rudd toughens boat stand

As I predicted -- JR

The federal government is exploring ways to send home asylum seekers deemed "economic migrants" as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd toughens approval processes in an attempt to harden Labor's credentials on boat arrivals.

As Mr Rudd announced his new cabinet, including Tony Burke as a new broom in the politically sensitive Immigration portfolio, the government was believed to be moving quickly on cutting the number of boat arrivals.

Fairfax Media understands that Australia is speaking to Iran and the UNHCR about how failed asylum seekers can be returned to that country.

At present, the Iranian government refuses to take them back, although hopes have been raised by the recent election of a more moderate regime after the rule of the hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr told the ABC on Monday: "The fact is, these people are middle-class Iranians. They're leaving their country because of the economic pressures - much of it produced, I guess, by the sanctions that apply to Iran because of the nuclear ambitions of its Supreme Leader and its Guardianship Council."

Of the 12,936 people who arrived by boat in the past six months, 4271 - nearly one-third - claim to have come from Iran, according to the latest Immigration Department figures. Among the others, 1765 said they were Afghan, 1706 Sri Lankan, 853 Pakistani and 644 Iraqi.

Mr Rudd plans to travel to Jakarta this week to meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Asylum seekers are expected to be among the top issues discussed at the talks.

The changes under Mr Rudd also include having Australian diplomatic missions gather detailed, up-to-the-minute information on conditions for potentially persecuted groups.

This is aimed at tackling concerns within government that the Refugee Review Tribunal is waving through applications from people

of particular ethnic and religious groups even though they come from regions where those groups are not persecuted.

Confidential government briefings are understood to cite numerous examples of economic migrants such as Sri Lankans who have been living in India for years before seeking asylum in Australia - although this doesn't rule them out as refugees.

The new cabinet was also expected to consider tightening the actual process for assessing people's' claims, called the refugee status determination system.

Senator Carr warned on Friday that Australia needed to be "more hard-edged" about how it assessed asylum claims and added that the government's changes meant the tribunal and courts would have less discretion.

Since he toppled Julia Gillard to reclaim the Labor leadership last week, Mr Rudd has come out swinging on the asylum-seeker issue, which along with the carbon tax is the Coalition's main point of attack against the government.

On Friday he accused Opposition Leader Tony Abbott of risking conflict with Indonesia over the Coalition's vow to turn back asylum-seeker boats - sparking outrage from the opposition.

The changes flagged by the government have been condemned by refugee advocates.

David Manne, the lawyer who sank the government's Malaysia "solution" in the High Court, said the government would "run the real risk of violating our fundamental obligations" under the Refugee Convention. "This suggestion all of a sudden that they're overly generous is a bolt from the blue," he said.

"It's contrary to the evidence and it's very serious for the government to be making these unsourced, unsubstantiated assertions about it's own, independent, statutory tribunal."

He criticised Senator Carr's claim that people of ethnic and religious majorities couldn't generally claim to be persecuted.

Iraqis fleeing Saddam Hussein were mostly Shiites - the majority religious group in that country.

A spokesman for the UNHCR said the organisation welcomed a review of the refugee status determination system if it ensured "the quality of decision making and adequacy of procedural safeguards".

"The integrity of the international protection system requires that protection be provided for those who are found to be refugees or otherwise in need of international protection, and ensuring that those who are not can return home in safety and dignity," he said.



The scathing LARRY PICKERING comments:

The mastermind of our broken borders, one K. Rudd, is not the most diplomatic of diplomats, yet on Thursday he will take Julia’s VIP jet to Indonesia in an attempt fix a problem that is, to him, no more than an electoral liability.

On the flight to Jakarta he will recharge his hairdryer, order two lightly toasted cerumen and avocado sandwiches and gaze out on a sparkling sea where thousands lie drowned by his own hand.
But Kevin is unrepentant, and back in his element. He nestles his pudgy frame into a fluffy leather recliner, flicks a forelock, adjusts his glasses and orders a video of his latest foray into a shopping mall of backslappers.

He momentarily closes his eyes to relive the past week of a devastatingly glorious victory over a hated foe.

He is awoken by a hostess on crosswind to Soekarno-Hatt Airport and sits up to find he has ejaculated in his new grey trackies. He utters the f word 25 times and rushes to the bathroom.

On the tarmac he is greeted by two Indonesian underlings and their wives. None speaks English and Kev isn’t game to try another foreign language. The last time he tried Mandarin in Beijing and asked for the nearest toilet they fetched him pie floater.

But seriously, Kevin sending himself to Jakarta to fix the boat problem is tantamount to sending an arsonist to fix a bush fire.
Gillard was ideologically driven, Kevin is Kevin driven and he can do no more than offer the Indonesians more patrol boats and more money. They will take it of course and Kev will return triumphant, proclaiming an electoral victory.

A few weeks later familiar looking patrol boats will turn up at Christmas Island full of more queue jumpers.

But Kevin never understood this boat disaster and he doesn’t now. His vanity won’t allow him to accept that he is responsible for it.

The people smugglers, up through the military to the Government itself, all profit from the insidious trade and it will demand a greater intellect than Kevin’s to stop it.
Between now and the election some will think Julia wasn’t so bad.


Nile bill to ignite debate over abortion

Good ol' Fred.  He never gives up

A controversial bill giving legal rights to an unborn child will be supported by the O'Farrell government under a deal with Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile in exchange for his support for crucial state budget legislation to privatise Newcastle Port.

The Reverend Nile said the government had promised to pass through the upper house "Zoe's Law", which creates a separate criminal offence for causing harm to or the destruction of a foetus and stemmed from the deaths of unborn children in driving accidents.

The government told Mr Nile it reserved the right to amend the bill in the lower house.  Upper house MPs were caught by surprise when the government supported an urgency motion to debate Zoe's Law on Thursday.

The day before, the government won Mr Nile's support for its ports bill, with the privatisation of Newcastle Port worth at least $700 million.

Mr Nile's bill is already creating disquiet in the O'Farrell government. Liberal MP Marie Ficarra told Parliament that, although she personally supported the bill, "government members are in a quandary about this bill."

She said no one expected to be debating it, and MPs were "deeply concerned" by it. "It is about valuing the life of a woman and her unborn child and the life of the foetus at all stages," Ms Ficarra said.

Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi said the bill was "extremely worrying" and a step in the wrong direction for the right of women to control their bodies.

"This bill clearly gives the foetus a personhood status and seems to be a wedge for the anti-abortion lobby," Ms Faruqi said. "It creates a distinct criminal offence that relates to the foetus and is unrelated to the woman."

Current law deals with vehicle accidents involving pregnant women by recognising the crime of aggravated injury to the woman if her foetus is harmed or dies.

The government refused to comment on any deal with Mr Nile.

Mr Nile said the government had not given him details of the amendments it might make in the lower house but said he would not accept changes to the bill's essence.  "The essence is to grant legal status to the unborn child in the womb," Mr Nile said.

He denied the bill was about abortion. "Some Labor women are nervous and saying I am trying to ban abortion, but I have put in an exemption to all medical procedures."

The bill was targeting vehicle accidents and "all violent acts" such as attacks on women by violent partners, he said.

A quarter of the O'Farrell cabinet is comprised of women, and the issue is likely to be highly contentious among Liberal moderates.

Brodie Donegan, the mother of Zoe, for whom the bill is named, previously told Fairfax Media she did not support Mr Nile's bill and he had not spoken to her about it.

Ms Donegan was eight months pregnant when she was run down by a drug-affected driver in 2009, and Zoe was stillborn.

The Labor government in 2005 amended the Crimes Act to expand the definition of grievous bodily harm to a woman to include the destruction of a foetus, after earlier rejecting a proposal to create a new criminal offence of killing an unborn child.


Freedom and smaller government

The size and role of government is at the heart of many problems that society is facing. From attacks on free speech to illegal immigration, from overzealous environmentalism to uncompetitive project and labour costs – all of these issues arise because government has moved away from its core roles.

Government’s primary responsibilities include things like defending our country, providing sufficient levels of public infrastructure and looking after those who cannot look after themselves.

Instead the government now provides us with electricity and internet services (filtered if that is your speed), fact checks politicians (allegedly impartially), and tells us when we can water our plants. Government funds inflatable rubber breasts to celebrate Canberra.

Was that what they had in mind at Federation? Government as a massive 10 breasted rubber whale balloon draped across everything?

The UK’s Institute of Economic Affairs looked at the impact of big government on economic growth and estimated that Australia’s GDP would be more than 120% higher than it is today but for the increases in the size of government since 1960.

In current terms that is more than $1.6 trillion dollars lost, not even spent and wasted, but never created at all, because of big government. Forget about increasing Newstart by $50 a week, can you imagine what $1.6 trillion could have done for our country?

This is why our TARGET30 campaign to reduce the size of government is so important. We don’t want to lose another $1.6 trillion dollars.

Certain tributes for the recently deposed Prime Minister Julia Gillard (axed by the deposed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd before her) mentioned how ‘productive’ the parliament had been at passing legislation.

532 new laws have been passed yet politicians have been rushing to pass more of them before parliament breaks for the election.

Does anyone think that Australia was dangerously under-governed before 2010?

If the legislation doesn’t pass before the election will the country descend into anarchy?

It’s as simple as this: our freedom requires small government.


2 July, 2013

Australian Human Rights Commission (HRC) attacks businessman because he criticized a new tax

The whole convoluted story is here and here but it is rather hard to follow so I will summarize:

The head of department store chain Myer, Bernie Brookes, said a new levy to support the national disability scheme would be bad for business and bad for the workers.

Even the HRC couldn't see how they could brand that criticism as "discrimination" but they are deeply in love with "disability" so they had to stick their oar in.  So in response, disability commissioner Graeme Innes -- an employee of the HRC -- started a campaign against Myer and Mr Brookes, accusing Myer of not hiring enough disabled people.  They had no reply to what he said about the tax but they wanted to get at him so they picked on another issue in an attempt to embarrass him.

Brookes and Myer have asked for the HRC to disown the Innes  campaign but the HRC is not backing down.  It is pure abuse of bureaucratic power in furtherance of a political cause.

Myer have now  asked the political boss of the HRC to intervene but that won't happen.  They are just trying to put the HRC on the spot and neuter the Innes campaign as pure politics and they have done that. There is only so much that a business under attack from a predatory bureaucracy can do  -- particularly when that bureaucracy is the one entrusted with enforcing high standards of speech and behaviour!

The old bag who runs the HRC,  Gillian Triggs, (Pic below) should be ashamed of herself.  She may object to me calling her an old bag but if she is happy with the standards displayed by her organization, I am happy with my standards.

Fitness makes you happier, more productive (?)

The results below were probably a "Hawthorne effect" or placebo effect.  It was most likely the enthusiasm of the specialist teachers that enlivened the students, not better exercises.  Note the third-last paragraph below

Sports teachers have a previously unsung role in the academic development of children, researchers have found - a position at odds with the gradual disappearance of specialist physical education teachers across the country.

A multimillion-dollar study into the effect of physical education for primary school children has found aerobic fitness levels have a direct correlation with literacy and numeracy test results.

There's a clear relationship, the fittest schools are the ones which got the best results.

Eight years ago, Dick Telford, the first sports scientist at the Australian Institute of Sport and now an elite running coach and adjunct associate professor at the Australian National University medical school, embarked on the Lifestyle of our Kids (LOOK) study.

His team secured $3 million in funding from the Commonwealth Education Trust to begin the most comprehensive study of its kind in the world.

They looked at two things: the effect of physical activity and the value of having specialist physical education in primary school.

They tested more than 850 year 2 students at Canberra primary schools. The children underwent numerous tests, including full body scans, blood tests, lifestyle questionnaires and hand-eye co-ordination measures. The tests were repeated each year through to year 6.

In 13 schools, Dr Telford's team installed specialist physical education teachers, provided free of charge by the not-for-profit Bluearth Foundation, to take two 50-minute classes a week.

The other 16 schools were the control group, where physical education was provided by classroom teachers.

Along the way, Dr Telford made the decision to also look at NAPLAN scores as part of the research.

"I started to prick up my ears to a few comments from the teachers saying they thought the kids were starting to concentrate better in class … that triggered my idea of measuring the NAPLAN. When I measured and found there was statistical significance, real results between the two groups, I must admit that was a bit of a surprise.

"There's a clear relationship, the fittest schools are the ones which got the best results."

Controlling for socio-economic factors, they were able to predict the average NAPLAN results in a primary school just by knowing the average fitness level of the children.

The study has produced reams of data, and will revisit the now-adolescent children this year to test again, something researchers aim to do every decade to measure long-term effects of the early health indicators and physical education.

But Dr Telford feels there is already evidence to justify reintroducing specialist PE teachers, even before seeing the long-term results of instilling an early enjoyment of physical activity.

"The Bluearth teachers, because of their training, they were able to really engage all the kids in the class."

Funding is an issue, as PE teachers are seen as the most expendable, but Dr Telford says there are ways to improve the situation.

"The way to do it is to have a specialist PE teacher, accessible to the generalist primary school teachers, to continually motivate them and professionally develop them… that's a real workable option."


'Chameleon' Rudd disgraceful, Howard tells Libs

Former prime minister John Howard has re-emerged to kick-start Tony Abbott's election campaign, taking aim at Kevin Rudd over border protection and accusing him of "disgracefully" jeopardising Australia's relationship with Indonesia.

In the latest sign that asylum seeker policy will be a key election battleground, Mr Howard appeared at a presidential-style rally in Melbourne on Saturday to slam Mr Rudd as "the great chameleon of Australian politics" and warn voters he had little credibility when it came to dealing with boat arrivals. He lashed out at Labor's resurrected leader for dismantling the Pacific Solution, and then for flip-flopping on border protection by urging the ALP not to "lurch to the right" in 2010, only to say last week that it shouldn't "lurch to the left".

"That tells you a great deal about Kevin Rudd," Mr Howard said of the man who ousted him from government in 2007. "It tells you that when it comes to policy, he is the great policy chameleon of Australian politics. He doesn't have a firm position - he has a position that he thinks is the most responsive and effective to the question of the moment. And there is no doubt in my mind that the greatest single policy failure of this government has been failure on border protection."

The comments come a day after Mr Rudd stepped up his attack on the Coalition's "stop the boats" policy, warning the idea - to turn back boats of asylum seekers "when it is safe to do so" - could spark a diplomatic conflict with Indonesia, which has previously signalled it might not co-operate.

In a move that dramatically raised the stakes before the election - and sparked claims of overreaching - Mr Rudd even referenced the Konfrontasi, a 1960s conflict with Malaysia that at one point pitted Australian forces against Indonesia.

A clearly incensed Mr Howard accused Mr Rudd of being "irresponsible" and damaging the relationship he spent years building.

"What the current prime minister has done to that relationship over the last two days is absolutely disgraceful," he said. "The dead giveaway was the use of the word Konfrontasi. If he was only talking about diplomatic difficulty, he would have never used that word."

Mr Howard was given a rousing reception as he introduced Mr Abbott, officially marking the Opposition Leader's campaign launch in Victoria. While Victoria has traditionally been the Coalition's weakest link, it is widely tipped to pick up at least three marginal ALP seats at the poll: Deakin, Corangamite and La Trobe.

Speaking in front of 2000 supporters Mr Abbott said the election would be "the clearest choice in a generation", as he compared Labor's turmoil over the past three years with the stability of his own team.

Border protection, scrapping the carbon tax, restoring the nation's finances, reducing business red tape and building Melbourne's east-west link were key election priorities, he said.

And in a sign of confidence he said: "I absolutely hope that in four or five years' time, people will say, yes, that Tony Abbott did all sorts of things, but by god, he was an infrastructure prime minister."

Earlier, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey and deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop both ridiculed Labor's decision to return to Mr Rudd.

Mr Hockey said he had seen many versions of Mr Rudd over the years including a "Kokoda Kevin" - a reference to the pair's walk along the Kokoda Track in 2006. "I apologise to the Australian people - I should have drowned him when I had the chance," Mr Hockey joked.


Conservatives to deport most foreign criminals

The federal Coalition has said that if it was elected, foreigners would have their visas cancelled automatically if convicted of crimes punishable by more than a year's prison in Australia - regardless of the length of their actual sentence - with a view to deporting them. Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said convicted refugees' cases would be considered on their circumstances but that they could be sent back to their countries or imprisoned indefinitely. No foreigner would have a right to appeal the decision to cancel their visas.

Most crimes carry a maximum sentence of more than one year's imprisonment.

Yet the Coalition's policy statement said: "This rule will not apply to a limited number of crimes as defined by [the Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification], including some minor public order offences or other miscellaneous offences."

The body's miscellaneous offences include commercial, industry and financial regulation offences. Crimes against the Corporations Act that are punishable by more than a year range from administrative errors to more serious offences such as insider trading and publishing false accounts.

Criminal defence lawyer Paul Galbally said that directors and secretaries of companies, including small businesses, could be found guilty of such crimes.

Mr Galbally said that lower-level offences could also carry maximum punishments of more than a year. "It's the public at large who are the shareholders and the public must have confidence in public companies and directors and the only way to ensure that is to ensure directors are abiding by their responsibilities," he said.

The policy distinguished between refugees and other foreigners in allowing white-collar criminals to stay in Australia.

A spokesman for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission declined to comment.

A spokesman for Mr Morrison has repeatedly refused to answer requests for more information on the exceptions to its rule.


1 July, 2013

More on Gillard's misandry

Some comments by Jeff Kennett immediately before Gillard's dismissal

SOON after the death of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, I was asked by a journalist about my recollections of her period in office.

I said that while some disagreed with her policies, the reality was that everyone knew the direction she was taking her government and what she was trying to achieve. There was a degree of consistency and certainty.

Then I was asked to name other leaders I respected. I named the former prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. I consider myself fortunate to have met Thatcher and Gandhi.

Ronald Reagan was a good leader with extraordinary communication skills and Bill Clinton was as intellectually capable a leader as anyone.

I was surprised later, when considering my answer, that I had nominated three women as outstanding leaders. But all had or have qualities I admire: a clear agenda, the consistency in what they believed in and the courage to withstand opposition and deliver.

But my selection was not based on gender. Merkel, Thatcher and Gandhi are, or were, talented politicians who achieved their leadership positions based on merit. None to my knowledge asked for or was given special treatment because of their gender. Which makes the current political play by our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, so appalling.

Public trust started to evaporate when Gillard broke her promise "that there will be no carbon tax in any government I lead". That led to a re-evaluation of the way in which she stole office from Kevin Rudd.

Since then, the community has been witness to a range of policy failures, political misjudgments and public brawling at ministerial level to a degree we have never witnessed before.

The loss of confidence in the Prime Minister and her Government has been self-inflicted. The public is not to blame, nor the media.

So, in an act of desperation, the Prime Minister launched a gender attack on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, an attack that has failed dismally, as this week's Newspoll illustrated so graphically.

When the first attack occurred in Parliament in October and Gillard accused Abbott of being a misogynist, I thought it was incorrect and grossly unfair. It was cowardly and not the act of a leader let alone a prime minister. Not something a Thatcher, Gandhi or Merkel ever resorted to.

And it was an attempt to divide Australians on gender lines and to belittle Abbott the individual.

But as Newspoll has shown, the community's reaction was to mark down the Prime Minister's authority even further.

Abbott is not only a husband of three daughters who, with his wife, Margaret, form a very normal family unit, but he has no issue working with women. Julie Bishop is his deputy leader and his chief-of-staff is Peta Credlin, a very competent political operator.

Gillard's attack was personal and deliberate. She thought she was playing to the Australian public but, as it has turned out, she was playing to a very small group of people, most of whom were her own supporters. And she confirmed she was not a leader of substance.

Abbott deserves credit for not returning the personal attacks delivered by the Prime Minister.

Her return to this area of attack - Abbott's relationship with women and the issue of abortion - was another attempt to divide the community.

It was another act of personal and political desperation that has simply alienated even more Australians.

Gillard was elected to govern all Australians but instead seems intent on dividing the country she is privileged to lead.

Someone described Jill Meagher's murderer, Adrian Bayley, as a misogynist.

I agree that is a correct use of the word. But Abbott is not a misogynist, and to describe him so is a disgrace that speaks more of Gillard's insecurities and failures.

Australians deserve a political leader they can trust, a leader who does not seek to divide the nation and who does not resort to gender attacks.

The public has a right and expectation to pass judgment on one of the darkest periods of political leadership this country has ever been subjected to.


Government underplays effect of carbon tax on households and businesses while overstating its environmental benefit

THE Federal Government has underplayed the effect of the carbon tax on households and businesses while overstating the environmental benefit.

The cost-of-living impact in the first 12 months of the tax will be a rise of 0.7 per cent, according to Westpac and NAB - exactly what Federal Treasury forecast.

Westpac senior economist Huw Mackay said: "I think consumers are probably pleasantly surprised by how modest the impost is."

But not modest enough for the Government.

It says in a new report, "How Australia's carbon price is working One Year On", that "Westpac and National Australia Bank economists have estimated that the carbon price has increased the Consumer Price Index by just 0.4 per cent".

The report, which bizarrely has an American family on the cover, continues: "This means the Household Assistance Package has left many millions of Australian families better off financially."

A Government spokesman on Climate Change said it was not misleading to use the 0.4 per cent figure even though it related to a period before the tax began.

Meanwhile, manufacturers, construction firms and service providers say profits have cooled due to Australia's effort to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2C.

"For most businesses the high fixed carbon tax has so far reduced profitability rather than encouraging change, while squeezing product development, innovation and jobs growth," said Innes Willox, CEO of the Australian Industry Group, which represents more than 60,000 businesses.

But the government report says: "Since the carbon price started, Australia's manufacturing industry has been investing in new equipment to improve energy efficiency and pollution."

These investments are "cleaning up Australian manufacturing and generating big savings for business".

The report also says there has been a five per cent decline in carbon pollution per unit of electricity because the tax has made greener power "more competitive when compared to higher-polluting coal-fired electricity generation".

"As a result, electricity generation is switching away from high-polluting fuels like brown coal."

Renewable energy output was up 30 per cent, it says. Generation from coal was down 14 per cent.

National Generators Forum executive director Tim Reardon said energy from coal was down "largely due to unforeseen technical outages". The increase in hydro was "due to a wet season - there's been no additional build".

The carbon price would need to be more than $100 per tonne to change the economics of generation, Mr Reardon said.

Energy Supply Association CEO Matthew Warren said: "If we didn't have a carbon price we would still see a drop in emissions."

Coalition spokesman on "Climate Action" Greg Hunt said: "If elected, the carbon tax will be repealed and won't make a second anniversary."


UN convention turns Australia into a magnet for asylum-seekers

by Greg Sheridan

IS the Refugee Convention itself now the problem? The convention dates from 1951 and was designed to deal with people fleeing persecution across land borders in Europe. It had the Holocaust in mind. The idea was that if someone, generally a government, was trying to kill you because of your race or religion and you fled to escape death, you would not then be forced back to your persecutor.

Sadly, like most things associated with the UN, it has grown into a sort of grotesque parody of itself, with vast unintended consequences.

The actual wording of the convention is not too bad. The obligations it imposes on signatories are reasonably limited. The main one is that a country may not return a refugee to the place from which he has fled persecution. Nothing John Howard did, nothing that Tony Abbott proposes, contravenes the convention.

It is clear, and sometimes explicit, in the convention's wording that it envisages people fleeing directly from persecution in one country to haven, temporary or permanent, in an adjacent neighbour. So how is it that, ostensibly under the auspices of the convention, there are now Iranians, Lebanese, Palestinians, Somalis, Afghans, Pakistanis and others arriving in Australia's north and claiming to be refugees?

No provision of the convention allows a refugee to "forum shop", that is, to use their status to claim immigration rights in any country they choose.

The convention talks of people directly fleeing persecution. But the folks arriving in Australia use, or misuse, a technicality in the convention.

Technically, they have not passed through another country which is a convention signatory. This is only possible because almost all of Southeast Asia is, very sensibly, not signed up to the convention. Only Cambodia, East Timor and The Philippines are signatories.

Therefore, if a person who wants to live in Australia can get on a direct flight to Indonesia, or even Malaysia, they can get to Australia without passing through any signatory countries. Given the flying range of jumbo jets, this is now possible for virtually anyone in the world. Of course, to do this means flying away from all sorts of convention signatory countries next door. Afghanistan, for instance, has a slew of signatory countries on or near its borders - Kyrgistan, Kazakhstan and lots of others. But who would want to live there?

Iran, similarly, has the signatory country Turkey, until recently a good friend of Iran's, virtually next door. And a whole swath of European and other convention signatories much closer than Australia. But if an Iranian flies direct to Malaysia, where he gets visa free entry, he can get to Australia without, technically, going through another signatory country.

This shouldn't really make any difference, because the only real obligation under the convention is not to return a genuine refugee to the land of his persecution. This is regarded as being now part of customary international law for all nations. And some countries that are signatories to the convention, such as China, do not observe this rule, as when it forces North Koreans attempting to flee back to their homeland.

But the convention operates now in three ways that are extremely bad for Australia.

First, because it is a treaty we have signed, it has been substantially imported into our domestic law. But because some of its language is imprecise and aspirational, an imperial judiciary can steal much of the power from the parliament by interpreting such language expansively.

Second, Australia's status as a signatory to the convention acts as an enormously powerful magnet, attracting all manner of aspirational immigrants, drawn by Australia's material riches and generous welfare, who can then use the convention to qualify for immigration status they would never get otherwise.

And third, it allows the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to play a wholly inappropriate part in our domestic politics. The UNHCR regional director was lambasting Australia this week for trying to control its borders by reducing the incentive of quick, permanent resettlement and endless welfare. Why isn't the UNHCR making a song and dance about getting Indonesia and Malaysia and the rest of Southeast Asia even to sign up to the convention? In truth there is not another country in Southeast Asia, or in Northeast Asia, remotely as generous to illegal arrivals claiming refugee status as Australia is.

All talk of Australia damaging its reputation by its treatment of illegal arrivals is nonsense. Insofar as we have a splenetic internal debate, in which the champions of faux compassion accuse everyone else of heartlessness, other nations will notice this debate and repeat some of our own criticisms of ourselves. But no sane comparison of the treatment of illegal arrivals in any nation in our region is remotely to Australia's disadvantage. We are the softest touch in the region, and everyone in the region knows it. Increasingly, everyone in the world knows it, which is why illegal immigration to Australia is becoming such a big, well financed, global, criminal business.

So, should we leave the convention altogether? I don't think so. It would be too difficult and controversial and we would still face the obligations of customary law anyway. But we should completely decouple domestic law from the convention. An Abbott government will face an enormous challenge in this area and will have to do a lot of tough legislating if it is to prevail.

The Liberals' one big strategic mistake so far was to block the Malaysia swap deal. This deal wouldn't have stopped the boats but the legislation the government offered would have allowed offshore processing anywhere an Australian government wanted it to happen. This sort of power will be vital if an Abbott government is to win the looming, epic battle of wills against the people-smuggling industry, and their Australian supporters. And by insisting Malaysia was no good because it was not a signatory to the convention, the Liberals reinforced the false moral authority of the convention, and of the UNHCR.


The grandmother of six-year-old girl has spoken out to condemn NSW child protection agency for returning the child to  her abusive mother, who went on to murder her

Liz Weippeart made the comments before the sentencing in two weeks' time of the child's mother, Kristi Abrahams, who has admitted to the murder.

Liz Weippeart suffered a double tragedy when her son Chris, Kiesha's father, died last November of what she described as "broken heart" after learning what the child endured at the hands of his estranged wife. Their first child, a baby boy, Aiden, died of sudden infant death syndrome.

Ms Weippeart - speaking at her home near Mount Druitt - said she cared for Kiesha with her son after her mother bit her on the shoulder when she was 15 months old. But DOCS made the decision to take Kiesha out of their care and return her to her mother, after pressure from Kristi, she said.

"They shouldn't have taken her out of my care. Why weren't we informed? Even the police say 'Why didn't DOCS contact you?"' she said.

"I think DOCS let this little girl slip through the system in a bad way. DOCS are the ones that have got to protect our children and they didn't protect Kiesha.  "They let an animal of a mother keep on doing this and then she abused her and then she killed her."

The court heard last week that Kiesha's resemblance to her father "annoyed Ms Abrahams and triggered her physical and verbal abuse".

She had previously been burnt with a cigarette, sustained fractures to her teeth and after death was placed in a suitcase for five days before she was burnt and buried in a shallow grave.

Ms Weippeart said: "You don't take your own child because she resembles her father. You don't ill-treat a child. She's just a disgusting person."

She said her son had told her he believed Abrahams was involved with the death.  "He always said to me, 'mum, I think she's done something to Kiesha'. About 72 hours after Kiesha went missing he said: 'Mum, something's happened to Kiesha. I can feel it.'

"If I'd known she'd been burnt with a cigarette she would still be alive. I've got a 13-year-old. I'm a smoker. You just don't go up and put a cigarette out on a child's face."

Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward declined to comment on the new claims until after sentencing. She said last week the tragedy happened in "the dying days of an appalling Labor administration".

The opposition spokeswoman on Family and Community Services, Linda Burney, said she was angry when she read the comment.

"I am very disturbed at the minister's attitude … The way in which community services is being run into the ground, the situation for children like Kiesha is more dangerous now than it was back then," she said.

Ms Weippeart said part of her died with the loss of her granddaughter. "I have got to live with this for the rest of my life. I am not the one sitting in jail that murdered and I reckon she had a lot to do with Christopher's death too. Dying of a broken heart."

Ms Weippeart will attend the sentencing on July 18 - the same day Kiesha was murdered in 2010.


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

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

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative